Bold Yet Humble Prayers…

Tonight at my small group we were discussing The Circle Maker, which is a fantastic book about prayer… We watched an accompanying video, and then talked about various things that stood out to us, that we were struggling to understand or were just excited about. One of the biggest things we settled on discussing is, how do you pray bold expectant prayers, yet remain humble? What does that look or even sound like?.. Does that offend God?

We mulled over these questions, and did not necessarily come to any concrete answers…

How do we pray humbly before our God, yet approach with boldness?..
Is it even Biblical to approach with boldness?..
Is it even Biblical to pray expecting God to answer?…
Is it a cop out to say “if it is your will…” at the end?..
Is that our “back door” way of saving our faith so we have an explanation in case God did not answer?

HOW do you pray boldly to your Lord, Father, Savior, yet humbly?

There is a scripture in James 4 that talks about how we have not because we ask not…. and how even when we do ask we do not have because we do not have pure motives… How does that fit into it all?

Are there really prayers and miracles that God does not answer or grant because we do not pray for them?…

How does this fit into God knowing everything, yet granting us free will?… Is it really that dependent on us to pray in order for God to move?…

I definitely have a few thoughts on these things.. and I have a few vague passages of scripture I am going to have to go refresh my memory on… But, I think for right now, I need to mull over this and… Pray about it some more…

Tomorrow, we start our small group’s 21 days of prayer. I am excited, I am amazed at the things that happened in January when I did this prayer challenge… so, I am looking forward to the things God is going to do this time. However, mostly I am looking forward to becoming even more acquainted with the voice of God in the next 21 days. I mean, I am looking for some definite answers to things going on in my life, some direction and guidance.. and some miracles to happen. But, mostly I just want to feel to a much greater degree the familiarity to God’s voice in my life.

I want to learn what it means, what it looks like to pray bold, yet humble prayers before my God.

Valentine’s Eve Thoughts…

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day… I am single.

I think technically I am supposed to be some sort of combination of bitter, jaded, lonely, depressed, wallowing or anti-relationships…

Yet, I find myself none of these things.

I am content, happy, grateful, fulfilled, inspired, and loved.

Life is never easy, I say or mess things up all the time. I am too abrupt, too harsh, say things with the entirely wrong timing, miss opportunities to show love to others, and often hurt people with my selfishness.

I do not deserve the love and care of my family and friends. I am not deserving of the prayers and petitions uttered on my behalf, and I am certainly not even close to worthy to have a savior…

Yet, I have all of these things. How can I be anything but content, happy, grateful, fulfilled, inspired and feel completely and utterly loved?!

Let me tell you,
Life is hard,
                 Life is busy,
                                   Life is chaotic,
                                                         Life is messy,
                                                                             Life is painful,
                                                                                                  Life is worth every bit of the challenges.

I am sure one day I will have an amazing man who will blow me away, and I look forward to the Valentine’s Day when I have someone special to celebrate (much like birthdays) the love we share, but I find myself completely willing to let that day stay exactly in the timing it will be found in… I am content to let God go before me and lay all of those things in order. Tomorrow I am happy to be exactly where I am.

I have a hope and a future, and I know this, but until “someday” becomes today, I am content to be in my moment and not worry about tomorrow. I am genuinely happy for those who have a reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day with someone they love, I feel bad for those who feel like tomorrow is nothing but salt being rubbed in an open wound, and I rejoice with those who are happy to face tomorrow with a joy even in their singleness.

Catch this…
(How many times does it say God’s faithful love continues forever?..)

“Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the greatest God of all.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the most powerful Lord of all.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the only one who can do great miracles.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 By his understanding he made the heavens.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He spread out the earth on the waters.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He made the great lights in the sky.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He made the sun to rule over the day.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He made the moon and stars to rule over the night.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the One who killed the oldest son of each family in Egypt.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He brought the people of Israel out of Egypt.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He did it by reaching out his mighty hand and powerful arm.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the One who parted the Red Sea.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He brought Israel through the middle of it.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 But he swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the One who led his people through the desert.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He killed great kings.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He struck down mighty kings.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He killed Sihon, the king of the Amorites.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He killed Og, the king of Bashan.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He gave their land as a gift.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He gave it as a gift to his servant Israel.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the One who remembered us when things were going badly for us.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He set us free from our enemies.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He gives food to every creature.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
   His faithful love continues forever” (hint it’s 26 times in this one passage)

-Psalm 136

Be Still, Then Move…

“Moses answered the people. He said, ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand firm.  
You will see how the Lord will save you today
Do you see those Egyptians? You will never see them again.  
The Lord will fight for you. Just be still.’ 
Then the Lord spoke to Moses. He said, ‘Why are you crying out to me? 
Tell the people of Israel to move on.'”

– Exodus 14:13-15
I find this passage fascinating, simple, difficult, and totally fascinating.
Don’t be afraid.
Be confident.
Watch as the Lord saves you TODAY.
The Lord WILL fight for you.
JUST BE STILL.
Then, move on… move.. GO.
So fascinating. So incredibly simple in concept, so ridiculously difficult to carry out, and completely and utterly captivating in the idea and process.

Gay, Lesbian, Laws, and Christ…

There are so many times a day that I hear, see or read something having to do with the gay and lesbian community’s situation, stances, legislative pushes, marketing campaigns, protests or the opposing positions from various “conservative communities” on all of the same topics. I have been thinking for quite a while about where my stance, my feelings, and my beliefs fall in line with these “issues.”
A few (ok probably several) thoughts I have specifically in regards to the gay and lesbian or transgender “community,” all the media, and issues regarding this topic…
First, it breaks my heart when anyone (gay or otherwise) attach their main identity to one random thing, be it sexual orientation, race or gender etc…
Hear me:  
You were made for so much more than these shadows of who you are clinging onto as your identity. 
You were made for more.
I, like everyone else, have personal views on the things that I read or hear about (regardless of the topic), such as legalizing marriage for all, don’t ask don’t tell, Hollywood’s portrayals of gays and lesbians etc.. However, after thinking about these things for a while, I always come back to caring more about the individual’s state of salvation and brokenness, and not really caring about the laws, the public policies or the media’s dogging of the issue… If I am going to say I believe in the Bible and its Truths (capital T), and then if they come into conflict with the government’s laws, I have to choose the Biblical laws over the government’s.
While I understand that politics can really accomplish some good things, ultimately we are charged to fight the corruption of our society with the gospel, not the ballot box. We want to change their hearts and expose them to Christ. Really, laws are primarily to protect the weak or innocent from those who would harm them (i.e. do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not lie, etc.), laws are NOT about changing hearts. We DO need moral laws, and while realistically, you can outlaw some particularly destructive behaviors (especially those that harm others), you simply cannot outlaw temptation… There are some places where God’s law can encroach on the heart, but human law has no place (do not lust, do not covet, etc.). The political and legal fight on homosexuality (from both sides) tends to cross over the boundary of what only God can forbid (because He can read the heart) and what man should stay far away from (because we cannot read the heart).
“We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers. And it is for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy 1:9-11)

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

You are not to have sexual relations with a male as you would with a woman. It’s detestable.” (Leviticus 18:22)
Through all of this, above all else, I care about the individual’s salvation, and whether or not Christ’s love is being shown to them (and I am not referring to the all things are acceptable or permissible type of love, I mean the authentic I’ll walk through anything and die for you kind of love and dedication). I care so much more about whether the person (regardless of the issue or the sin) is being reached out to, exactly where they are in their brokenness, than I do about whether the government says something is or is not acceptable. That is where my heart lands in the end every time. 
I think we (myself definitely included) forget so often, and too quickly how prevalent sin is in our lives.. in my own life. Regardless of the sin, pride, lust, adultery, drunkenness, homosexuality, lying, cutting etc.. etc.. Are you “born this way”?.. Quite frankly I have no idea, maybe, probably. But, that is not an argument to STAY living in sin, it merely means that regardless of the sin or the struggle you were born with, we ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. Due to the nature of how fallen, broken, and sinful we are, it is literally born in us because literally no one even has the chance of being perfect (It is by the grace of God that we are saved).
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings and birds and animals and reptiles. 
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:18-28)
The things I see regarding the issue of being gay or lesbian is this: it is not a new thing. It is not suddenly something we as humans are dealing with now, it is not more prevalent now than it was in years past, it is talked about numerous times throughout history (and in the Bible) as things humans have been dealing with for thousands of years.
Laws and policies are not going to help the situation or make it worse, laws are not where people’s salvation is won. I understand that everyone has their role to play in the body of Christ (head, foot, mouth, ear, hands etc..) and I am not saying anyone else should or should not pursue legislation or laws, all I am saying is that my personal place is firmly planted in the exclusive care about the person’s eternal salvation, not whether the government has deemed something appropriate or not. While I understand that this is a slippery slope, I am not actually making or explaining my position on any law or policy… What I am doing is explaining that when comparing someone’s heart, their soul, their salvation to a law or policy, I could careless about the law or policy. I only care about the individual’s salvation.
I talked with my dad about this topic, and he pointed out a few things that I think are worth mentioning, there is no evidence in scripture that becoming a believer “sets us free” from temptation. We find ZERO guarantees of being set free from ANY temptation in this natural life. It is very likely temptation of any kind will need to be resisted for the entirety of your life. What Jesus can do, is give them (us all) the wisdom to avoid the temptation (whether it be homosexuality, sexual temptations of any kind, alcohol, etc.. etc..), and the strength to resist that temptation (AND if they have been engaging in that sin and it has become a genuine spiritual bondage, Jesus CAN set them free from the bondage – temptation to sin, and bondage to that sin are NOT the same thing).
I also think it is SO important to point out, just because I am not tempted by the same sin as my neighbor does NOT make me more holy. It just makes me a different person. Different people have different weaknesses, but the fact is: we all have (and were probably born with) weaknesses to some kind of sin...
Also, please.. please hear me… A person who is a Christian and “living the normal life of a homosexual (i.e. regularly engaging in homosexual sin)” is just as problematic as a Christian who is constantly lying, constantly cheating on their spouse, constantly stealing or constantly doing any other sin… That is not to say they will lose their salvation, but the ramifications of their behavior WILL cause problems in their life, both naturally and spiritually (one of them being constantly separating us from real intimacy with God). Since Jesus calls us to holiness, continual, intentional sin of any kind is not OK, and can have serious consequences in our heart (including, I believe, that it could, not necessarily will, but could eventually hardening our hearts so that we just might abandon our faith). On the other hand, homosexual sin is no more or less wrong than any other sexual sin. All are wrong, and all have serious spiritual and natural consequences. 
Jesus calling us to a life of salvation in Him is a call to moral cleanliness, and the moral part is NOT optional. Responding to Jesus’ Lordship (meaning not just acknowledging He’s real and brings salvation, but that He is Lord) includes repentance of sin, all sin, including any and all sexual sin. Repentance means “to feel genuine remorse, and to turn away from.” However, the really neat part is that merely refraining from sin is NOT at all what makes us holy. Faith in Jesus alone makes us holy, and that holiness from Jesus then empowers us to resist temptation, and make moral decisions. 
In other words, real faith in Jesus cleanses our hearts, and makes us actually ABLE to resist temptation and lead genuinely moral lives. Praise the Lord it actually has little to nothing to do with us!

Life Recently…

I have started attending a new small group.. although “new” is sort of a misnomer since I have not attended a small group of any kind in almost two years. It was a really bizarre series of events that brought me to this small group, but events that I am very happy about and more than slightly amused by… The group consists of a great blend of guys and girls, which as much as I love my girlfriends, I literally have no guy friends here in DC (I even have very few guys at work!), and I greatly appreciate the chance to add some more Y chromosomes to my life regardless of the capacity to which they will be in my life.

Anyway, the small group is focusing on the book The Circle Maker by our pastor Mark Batterson. If you have not read or heard of this book, I highly recommend it… especially if you are struggling with prayer in any capacity or struggling with feeling stuck and like maybe God is not hearing you… This book does an absolutely wonderful job encouraging, building up, and inspiring you to want to become better at praying.. I never once had the feeling of “another thing to do or another thing I am failing at…” instead, as I read the book (the first time), I really felt inspired to make a much more concerted effort to pray and pray well. So, obviously this group will be doing a lot of reading, a lot of discussing, and a whole lot of praying… which I am really excited about.

It is things like this, people that I meet, and books that I read that keep my life interesting… It is challenges like the 21 days of prayer (which our small group will be doing another one soon), and the teaching of my pastors that really inspire me towards the next goal, the next challenge, and the next step in not only my faith, but also towards the me I was designed for.. I pray often as I lay in bed that I will be more who God wants me to be tomorrow than I was today… It is moments, things, and people like these that inspire and help exactly that to happen. I am constantly amazed at how God orchestrates things in my life that I was completely clueless of the purpose until I am smack dab in the middle… or completely on the other side feeling slightly dazed and confused because of the whirlwind of it all.

On a completely different note, my schedule is representing something that is ridiculously packed and busy once again. What is funny though is that I feel almost like I have returned home with this schedule… I am not entirely sure how or why a completely booked schedule feels familiar, especially when nothing in it is familiar or at all resembling what I used to fill my time with, but there is still something innately comforting in the controlled chaos. I love having to schedule time for people, I love adding to my calendar “Call (or skype) with ____” just so I know to reserve their time and make room for the ones that I love and cherish. I enjoy putting the time on my calendar that is dedicated to exercising. I enjoy marking the times I will be at church, and then fitting school work, food, sleeping, and any errands in between all the things that I value highly.

I love having a busy and packed schedule not because it keeps me busy… but because it causes me to siphon out the things that do not matter to me, like watching TV or going shopping for yet another piece of clothing that I likely do not need at all… or to lazily kill way too much time on facebook. It forces me into a much more defined and productive lifestyle.. The useless and unimportant things are set aside until they require enough time together to be worth putting the info into my calendar as a to-do item. Somehow the ridiculousness that is my packed schedule brings a familiar cadence to my life… which is ironic since any given day includes work, gym time, phone calls with various people catching up on life, homework, laundry, cooking, cleaning, errands, reviewing other people’s business plans/resumes/cover letters/marketing materials etc.., and my slowly progressing business.

I enjoy being productive.. but I enjoy even more using my controlled chaos as a means to get rid or reduce the unnecessary things that clutter my life and focusing on the people and things that truly matter.

On the Cusp…

Today is brought to you by the word…

Cusp:

point, apex: as  
a : a point of transition (as from one historical period to the next): turning point; also : edge, verge cusp of stardom>  
b : either horn of a crescent moon  
c : a fixed point on a mathematical curve at which a point tracing the curve would exactly reverse its direction of motion  
d : an ornamental pointed projection formed by or arising from the intersection of two arcs or foils e (1) : a point on the grinding surface of a tooth (2) : a fold or flap of a cardiac valve 
cus·pate adjective
cusped adjective
I feel like this word is important in my life right now… I have no idea why, but this word means something.. or will mean something. It describes exactly what I feel like is going on in my life

I feel as though I am running full steam ahead and about to jump off the cliff; I have yet to make the edge of the cliff, I cannot yet see what is below.. I am currently just before the edge.. just before the jump.. and just before the sailing through the air.

I am on the cusp.

Are you Born Again?…

It was a simple conversation followed by a couple knowing smiles, and my heart just swelled.

One of my co-workers walks past my desk usually a couple times a day on their way to and from the kitchen for coffee or tea. Thanks to my strategically placed cubical, I see virtually everyone who comes onto my floor, and I do not mind in the slightest saying hi, good morning, have a great day or just smiling at everyone who walks by. It is not a big interruption to my day, and often times it provides enough of a break from what I am focusing on to help me re-focus for another little while.

Anyway, this particular co-worker is always pleasant (like virtually all of them are) with a very genuine smile. Today was similar to the other days, except, just as they were about to reach the door to walk back down the stairs, they turned around and paused, then made their way back to my desk saying, “I have a question for you, which you do not have to answer if you are not comfortable…” I had no idea what was coming, and knowing the totally random range of things I get asked on a daily basis, I just laughed and responded with, “Okay.”

“Are you born again?”

I smiled, and just responded with a simple, “Yes I am.”

I got the sweetest knowing smile in response, then a satisfactory nod, and an “I thought so.”

That is when I laughed and asked what made them wonder that, and I got the biggest compliment I can recall in the last few months:

“I just thought so.”

With a satisfied smile, they turned and began walking away, at which point I called after them, “Are you?” They paused in the doorway, turned around, smiled again and said, “Yes.” and were gone through the door back to work.

I sat in silence for a few moments and just smiled, it was one of the most profoundly impacting conversations, yet entirely simple, “Are you born again?” It was clear, it was direct, it was void of non-nonchalance, and it avoided the common “are you a Christian?”.. it was deeper, it was specific, and it was more meaningful.

But, what impacted me the most was the knowing smile and the satisfactory look afterwards, almost as though they were glad to know they were correct in what they saw. As if something struck them as distinctly different, and they were glad to know that they had guess exactly right. For this, I am so thankful.

I am amazed at how my sweet savior works, and I am completely humbled that someone who passes by my desk a couple times a day and has fairly limited conversation with me knew exactly what they were seeing.

“Are you born again?”