Repeating the Same Message Dilutes It’s Value

This is the industry standard for information today. Repeat, repeat, repeat, the message so many times that at some point it will finally sink into the person’s mind, unless of course you are one of those who hears the message the first time, then turns off every next repetition. There is actually a negative term for this, which some people call numbness of frequency.

I really get tired at times of people and organizations that continually repeat the same message over and over again on commercials, marketing, their blogs, twitter, facebook and the like. I really like to get to know some of these people I read or follow on a more personal level, but when all they can do is continue to repeat their party line, whatever that is to them, in some ways it dilutes the message they are trying to send out.

Obviously the message is important but finding ways to provide some variety, or allow others to get a more personal view of themselves goes a long way to providing trust and value. Just a little variety once in a while would be great. I try to keep this in mind myself whenever I write anything so my message is more about what is going on with me personally, i really don’t think my readers, whoever they are, want to read about Auburn football every single time they see a post from me, and I would love to read some variety from those people who have none, just sayin.

The Jackpot Prayer Request Machine of Today

Today we continued a series at Cornerstone called “Doctrine: What we Believe”, which speaks to what we as Christians believe, and how we are to go about living out those beliefs (see also How to Teach the Doctrine of Salvation on Sunday Morning for a previous week).  Today Josh Agerton spoke about prayer in the life of a Believer and related it back to our gum-ball machine approach we often have to prayer.  Put the quarter in the slot (the prayer), and what should happen is out pops the gum-ball (our answered prayer).

This is a brief overview or recap of that message, according to the notes I took anyway.  You can always download or listen to a copy of the podcast when it gets posted on Monday (Feb 28th) or you can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.

The Gum-ball Approach To Prayer: Transactional

Although this is how we often practice prayer, there isn’t a whole lot in scripture that backs up this method of prayer.  Scripture says we have a need for prayer, constant prayer that builds a relationship with God, that calls on God. That goes all the way back to Genesis 4:25-26, but when do we actually pray today? When things are going well, all the time, or just when we are in “need” of something? When things are going well, is our prayer life terrible and vice-versa?

This is perhaps because we see prayer as “transactional” in nature.  There is an action on two parts where I act, then God acts, making the prayer totally focused on ourselves, not God.  I’ve got my prayer, I just need say the right words, send it over the right way, and God will then act and shoot out the “right” response.

The Relational or Transformational Approach To Prayer: Experience

Our approach to prayer should be one of building a relationship with God through constant prayer, in a way that transforms our life.  This is what the apostles did in the book of Acts, they prayed. This wasn’t unique to the apostles though.  All over scripture we are told to “ask” and it will be given, but how closely do our prayers match up with God’s will?  We reach a crisis of faith that leads us to prayer and we “ask” for our answer to be given.

We pray for complete healing, and when that healing doesn’t come (especially in the time frame or way we desire), do we question God’s answer? Scripture clearly says our prayer is heard, but the prayer of Jesus in Luke 22:42 just before He is lead off to be executed is an amazing prayer.

22:41 And he [Jesus] withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Ultimately this is how we are to pray, and the reason is found in Luke 11.

11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.11 What father among you, if his son asks fort a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

As I have prayed for Deborah over the last several months I have tried to keep both of these sets of verses in mind, and I have tried to place them deep in my heart. Is praying like this easy? No way. It requires us to give up our own heart’s desire, something I have found very hard to do. I want my prayers answered the way I ask them to be answered, but deep down, I really want an all-knowing God to answer them to His glory and honor.

The Circular Prayer as Life Happens

This chart above was something Josh went over this morning but it was not meant to be a step by step process to prayer, more of an understanding of how we approach prayer and how God works through prayer (though I didn’t get the counterclockwise thing). I’m a visual person so I loved seeing this as Josh went over it. Basically, with continued, constant prayer, we will continue to build a relationship with God that leads back to God, not to ourselves.

It went like this from the chart above: God is enthroned –> life happens (sickness, job-loss, divorce) –> we have a need or burden –> we ask –> we enter a crisis of faith (I asked, why haven’t you answered yet God) –> faith (we are brought to faith with God) –> receiving (God manifests Himself in some way and you know and understand that God is indeed there) –> thanks and priase –> God is enthroned.

Aren’t sure what the “correct” way to come to God in prayer is or don’t know the “right” way to pray? To pull a saying from Nike… just do it, but Paul probably said it best in Romans 8:25 “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Often times I write my prayers out since speaking them I just tend to fumble through it. Either way I know He hears my prayers and answers better than I could ask.

Concern, Timing, and the Attitude of Nehemiah

Sunday, we started a new eight week look at the book of Nehemiah.   A few years ago I completed a class study (about 4 months long) just on the book of Nehemiah, scripture by scripture.  Prior to that class I really had no idea who this man was or what he did. After the class I had such inspiration for how God had used Nehemiah and what he, through God, was able to accomplish for the people of Israel, that it has stuck with me ever since. Now, years later, I have certainly not rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, but I am still influenced each day by that study.

Now, I almost get to look at this series with fresh eyes and a new understanding of what God can do, with any of us, who have a passion and/or burden for the Lord and His work.  To get the series started, Rusty put out three points about Nehemiah and I thought I would share them here, starting with Chapter 1, verse 4.

Nehemiah Had Deep Concern

After hearing from his brother about the condition of Jerusalem, scripture says Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed.  Obviously over great concern for the state of the people of Israel, Nehemiah’s first step was to seek God.  Although he was a great man of physical action, this wasn’t his first step, it was to seek out God, and show his genuine concern for what had happened.

Frequently the first thing we want to do when we see an injustice or something of concern is jump in with everything we have.  As the Israelites had seen many times before, without God, much of what we do can be pointless, even if we are passionate about the issue at hand. When the Israelites refused to take the land, which God had promised to Abraham’s descendants, God punished them, not allowing them to take the land at that time.

They decided they were just going to go ahead and go anyway after being admonished by Moses, but then it was too late. In Deuteronomy 1:40-45 Moses recounts what happened. “And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, “Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies.” (v. 42)

The Timing Was Deliberate

As with the example above, the phrase “timing is everything” is not just an empty saying, in many cases, it really is everything.  Nehemiah didn’t just rush head first into a plan of action, he waiting on God’s timing.  The text says he waited “for some days”, for God’s timing.  It turns out Nehemiah waited about 4 months before putting God’s plan into action.

Often when we wait for God, we find God.  God is in the waiting.  Our 21st century culture knows almost nothing about waiting for anything anymore.  We are just about as instant a society as one could be now, so waiting on God’s timing is hard.  Do we not generally think our timing is God’s timing instead of the other way around today?  Many times, I know at least in my own walk, I often can only see what was God’s timing through the lens of history.

Looking back it is easier for me to see when the timing was purely my own and when what I deemed to be doing nothing, was actually waiting for God’s own timing.  Psalm 27:14 says “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord .”  A tall order for us today, but one Nehemiah did before he went on to build a wall, and renew the spiritual life of a broken nation of Israel.

Nehemiah had a Deferential Attitude

Perhaps one thing that made Nehemiah such a great tool for God was his attitude.  He was the greatest coach of all time, and it eventually translated into the people he lead to build the wall.  1 Corinthians 10:31 says “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  I love that verse.  We are not restricted in doing things for the glory of God on Sunday mornings, it says, “whatever” we do.

Nehemiah’s attitude was a game changer, he made the small picture big, the little things, huge, many times just with his attitude towards the work at hand, for the glory of God.  When we are in the midst of the struggle, we cannot always see the whole picture, but God can.  John Piper explains it in his classic book Desiring God that God can look through a wide angle lens or a narrow lens.  He can see both our own seemingly small struggles, and yet see the entire picture and how it turns out in the end, we often can’t, but we can have the attitude of Nehemiah.

I am looking forward to the next 7 weeks to see what God has in store for Nehemiah, and His local church here in Auburn.

Do Miracles Still Happen Today?

Yesterday, as part of the 8PE series called the Mystical Elephant, we had a discussion on the mystery of miracles. Those unique times in history when God visibly entered into someone’s life, and changed it forever by seemingly breaking God’s own laws of nature. Many scholars and skeptics alike view the impossibility of miracles or absence of miracles in our 21st century world proof of a fallible Christianity. Many scholars who do believe the miracles of scripture believe it was a unique time in history that has since finished, is completed, like the canonization, not something that takes place today.  Today, our miracles are trivial, they don’t need God, they happen ever day, on Twitter.

The list could go on and on, we all do it.  The miracles of Moses in Exodus, or the disciples and Jesus in the New Testament were earth shattering, but they also didn’t happen every day, all the time, as a common occurrence. The subject of miracles is so broad, so huge, that it was necessary to narrow it down for a meaningful discussion yesterday, and the focus stayed on one single miracle, the resurrection.

After many proofs and logical arguments that explain the proofs behind the resurrection (not how God raised Jesus from the dead, but that God did raised Jesus from the dead) Brian we into two examples from a friend of his and I wanted to share one of them with you.

Mexico in the Summer of 1997

Kathryn, my wife, and I were in a village going from door to door sharing the message of Christ and His LOVE. Kathryn had a divine encounter with a young man on the street. This young man told Kathryn that His sister needed to know about this “Jesus” and would she please go talk to his sister. Kathryn asked him to please take him to his sister and they would talk.

As they walked the young man and Kathryn continued their conversation. Once they arrived at the house Kathryn began to speak with the sister. Kathryn explained that the girl she, Kathryn, and the girl’s brother had been talking for awhile and the brother had said that it would be a good idea for Kathryn to speak to his sister. The girl began to cry uncontrollably.

Through her tears, the girl began to explain that her brother had been mute his entire life. Kathryn, overcome with the miracle before her eyes, continued to speak with the girl and explain that Christ loved her family so much, that he enabled her brother to speak so that he, the brother, could lead Kathryn to their home.

By the way, Kathryn didn’t speak spanish at the time and the girl didn’t speak english…

Do miracles still happen in our world today?  Did God just wind up His creation and sit back and let it play out, or is He an active participant in the lives of His creation?  Psalm 115:3 says it the best, “our God is in the heavens, and he does whatever He pleases.”  The photo? What does it remind you of? I took it, I was an eye witness, and it reminds me of beauty that only the miracle of God can create.

You can listen to the entire audio message or even download it to iTunes and listen to it on your iPod, iPhone, iPad, or mp3 player, what a miracle.

He Must Increase, but I Must Decrease :: John 3:30

This past Sunday we were privileged to have Brian bring the message to us and he spoke around John 3:30, He must increase, but I must decrease.  It was a thought-provoking message but it left the details on how we are to carry this out in our lives something for us to think about and tackle on our own.  There were and are many applications for this, but I started chasing my rabbit trying to think about why, and somehow landed on the song, “When Love Comes to Town” by U2.  If everything we do and have comes from the Lord, and our actions are to glorify the Lord, then how do we do this.

To do this, we must not take His glory for ourselves.  Not something very easy to accomplish, especially when you take today’s culture and modern technologies into consideration.  We do almost everything for ourselves, with ourselves in mind.

Driven and drilled into us from day one in our great country (for those who live in the U.S.), life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which sometimes seems like the pursuit of ourselves.  The American dream, to own a house, 2 cars, have 2.4 kids, a good career, and a full 401k.  For some reason, “when love comes to town” reminded me of the reason for Christmas and even moving on into Easter, and the love He showed for all of us when He became flesh, and is why He deserves the glory.

The point of this message (at least in my interpretation) was to bring the Christmas season series to a close and bridge into our new and upcoming series on bringing our spiritual life alive, but I think we use the example we were given and use love to accomplish this.  For God to increase, I must decrease, for me to decrease, I must do this out of love.  To me, matters of faith start from the heart.

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when they pierced his side
But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide

When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that train
When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that flame
Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down
But I did what I did before love came to town

As the year comes to a close, I always start thinking about a recap of where, what, when, and how of this year and what is coming up next year.  This year and leading into next year, to bring my spritual life “alive”, I must decrease. [I am not sure why we only do this at year-end instead of all year-long, but it just seems like a natural break where we mark a point in time that has an end and a beginning at 12:00 midnight at on December 31st.]

Some random thoughts on how I can try to extend this into next year:

  • read more
  • do less for my reasons, more for His reasons
  • work as if no one will ever know or see the results of my labor but God Himself
  • remember I am working for His glory, not any one person
  • give more :: time, money, effort, support, attention
  • give up more :: control, of self…
  • don’t give up when… I feel like it
  • appreciate :: time, life more (not to be confused with Time Life)
  • serve more
  • make a don’t do list, and don’t do the things on my don’t do list

I like top ten lists but all the items above can be narrowed down to “love”, and I did what I did before love came to town.  Happy New Year everyone.

Grace Without Change is Just an Escape from Responsibility

This past Sunday was the last part of the “money” series at our church. I was so surprised with this series. It was informative, scriptural, and not the same typical money sermon series I was expecting and use to. The opening music from Worship Journey was something unique and different each week, like Pink Floyd’s “Money”, and the Beetles “Can’t Buy Me Love”.

Part of the message this Sunday was about God’s grace. The grace He has given us to make mistakes, learn from them, and move on. A quote that really caught my attention was:

Grace without change is just an escape from responsibility

I think that is a great way to put it. It doesn’t mean we can just keep living these same mistakes continuously without true repentance and change, sometimes we do need to make lifestyle or lifelong changes first. There are some of us who have made these changes long ago, but still struggle with the reasons. This is a great reminder of the freedom in God’s love, and the grace He has given to us all.

This series was a very refreshing look at one of the most talked about subjects in the Bible, money. I would encourage anyone who is interested to listen to the podcasts and see for themselves. Thanks Cornerstone.

24 Hours of Wise Words, Rusty's Challenge

Today we continued the series called Speak, a message about the power of words to shape our lives. This topic can really speak right to the heart of many of us since we all tend to use words.

Sometimes we use those words to hurt, and other times to build each other up, but do we even stop to recognize which words these are and what effect they have on others? A scripture reference from the message today was appropriately Proverbs 12:18, but if you do a little searching, there are so many scriptures that talk about how we use our words. I thought it was very interesting that our Tuesday Small Blogger Group studied James 3 last week, see Blogger Small Group, James 3, which devotes an entire section of the chapter on The Tongue Is a Fire.

Proverbs12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

It doesn’t take long to find many other very appropriate scripture references to how we use our words when we interact with others.

Rusty’s Challenge, Wise Words

So, Rusty, the Senior Pastor, challenged each of us to try to go at least 24 hours without saying a harsh or otherwise unwise word about, to, concerning, anyone else. At first, I thought, ahhh, no big deal, but I quickly realized that I sometimes have quite a cynical view of things and this might be a little harder than I thought.

On the way home from church I thought, what a great idea. It only took me about 10 minutes before I realized, whoops, guess I will start over again, so, it will start with this post.

How about you? Are you up for Rusty’s challenge.

Acceptable Words in Your Sight Lord

Speak at Cornerstone We just started a new series at our church called Speak, and I am really looking forward to the upcoming weeks as this series is going to deal with ways to communicate, how we speak to one another, how we pray and so forth.

Being a blogger of sorts, how we use our words is something that is always on my mind. We may or may not choose our words carefully, but our choice of words, speech, and overall communication we choose reflects our values, principles, and basically who we are as a person. Since communication in 2008 has a lot to do with the Internet, how we talk to each other and treat each other online can be of great importance as well, especially when we don’t have the ability to see body language, mannerisms, and many times speak in a more harsh texted tone.

The scripture chosen to be the backbone of this series is Psalms 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” In keeping with this, I thought about the different ways we communicate. Face to face, phone, text, email, blogging, and many others. One I have picked up recently is called Twitter is quite interesting since it is an ongoing record of what you have said to someone.

Something that was mentioned at the service is if you could listen to all your words in the day, what would it sound like. Well, Twitter is not a total of words spoken, but it is a snap shot of what you said to others in a day, so I am posting a digest of tweets (as they are called) on my personal journal blog each day so I can look back at the day in words. My first post is up and will be shown under the same heading each day, called Daily Twitter Updates for 2008-05-10, but the date will change of course. One thing that jumped right out at me after looking at the first post is how much I use a smile face. My son hates this, but I guess it is in my nature. Oh well, guess that is old school in me.

Hopefully I will be able to look back at the category for the twitter digests and see that I have learned something over the next series. What are your favorite ways to communicate? Have we lost the interest to communicate face to face because of the electronic communications?