Hello Again, It’s Me…(A Pondering on Silence In The Prayer Journey)

We all go through times while on the journey where the road is silent.
Other times our prayer life is full of answers and confirmations from God.  Dare I even say that within those silent miles upon the road, I would much rather hear a “No” from God.  By that I mean, my prayers of petition don’t always get answered the way I think that they should be answered.  Thus, in those times of deep silence, when all I want to hear is a word from God, I would even take the answer “no” than nothing at all.

Have you been to that place?
Please tell me that I’m not the only one who has experienced these times.
And within those moments, thoughts run through my head.
Thoughts like, “Is it me?”  “Is my faith too small?”  or, “What did I do to deserve this silence God?”  And then even sillier thoughts fill my mind.  Thoughts like, “God are you off doing something else, or solving somebody else’s problems?”  When all along I know God is present with me, He’s just not saying anything to me at that specific moment.

marriageI equate it to my marriage. 
My wife and I will have been married this year for 20 years (in the world around us, that’s like paleolithic ages for marriages).  I love my wife very deeply, and I know that she loves me the same way…and yes, we finish each other’s sandwiches. (We’ve watched Frozen WAY too many times)

Long story short, we talk a lot.  We share each others hopes, dream, aspirations and the hopes and dreams for our children.  We journey alongside each other through the good days and the not so good days.  That’s what marriage is, that’s what deep relational friendship demands.  We are there for each other.

Jesus and the Marriage: 
Jesus used this illustration of the Bride and Bridegroom in the bible.  He told of the virgins who waited for the bridegroom to arrive…some were wise and some were foolish.  Later on in the Bible, Paul uses this same topic of the bide and bridegroom to illustrated how husbands are to care for their wives to the point of laying down their lives for them, just as Christ did for us.  The bible is full of wedding illustrations and the necessity to not only love each other deeply, but to anticipate and long for Christ’s return.

Back to my Marriage: 
There are times when we talk a lot…but there are also times when we enjoy each other’s company in silence.  Nothing more needs to be said…because we know each other deeply, and we, at times, know what we are thinking.

That’s how I like to view those silent times with our Father in Heaven.
We are still very much in His presence, but no words are needed.  He knows our thoughts, and our hearts…and so He simply journeys alongside us.

It is in these sacred moments of silence that I feel we begin to know and feel the very heart of God.  No words can describe it.  No ceremony can contain it.  We simply join together in His presence.  There is no greater joy than this.  Nothing more holy.
walk2
So the next time you freak out when God doesn’t speak…just be silent.
The next time you fear He isn’t listening…pray for discernment to know He is journeying right next to you.  We don’t always need words, or to hear Him speak.  We walk in faith, knowing the Creator of the Universe journeys right beside you.  Revel in His presence.  Embrace His holiness.  Recognize that sometimes even in the silence, God is saying “Hello, It’s me, I’m still here…and I will never leave you or forsake you!”
-Amen and amen.

Easter Memories – Childhood Recollections…

I always have fond memories of the Easter season.
Growing up in the church, I don’t recall a time when I didn’t go to church.  Many times I sat through that dreaded (at least in the eyes of a child) 3 hours of the cross Good Friday service.  I also remember not being all that fond of early Sun-rise services either.  Waking up at the crack of dawn, even before the rooster would even begin to crow…the lights would twinkle in windows down the street as some rustled about in the early dawn.  Then we would hustle to a public outdoor service of some kind where the cold wind would always bite at my nose and send me to shivering later.  But there was always the reward of the warm glow of the Sunrise when it crested the mountain at the Eastern horizon.   Perhaps, in some way, that is why Easter sun-rise service has always been special to me.  I would shiver in the cold morning air UNTIL the Sun began to shine and cast its warming rays upon us once more.  It would remind me of the state I was in before knowing Christ – that cold and lonely place.  It was a place devoid of the Son, filled with selfishness and hurt…but when Christ’s love broke into my life and I accepted His forgiveness and grace – I could feel the warmth of His love.  It almost felt as I was wrapped in His warm embrace, and all was right with the world again.

Perhaps, as I reminisce of my many visits to those cold mornings of Easter Sunday, where we would sing “Up from the grave He arose“,  I too find myself being resurrected again.  I too identify with the empty tomb, for God’s glory has warmly shone into my life.  And when the glow of the rising Sun appears again, I see the hope of eternity once more in its rising.  No, not in the Sun itself, but in the Son-rise, a Messiah conquering death, a Savior delivering me once more from my sin-sick heart.

Death cannot keep his prey—
  Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away—
  Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
  Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Something more to Ponder.
What are you Easter memories?  Comment below and let the conversation continue!

Lenten Perspectives Day 2: Featuring Steve Simms

A Personal Admission Statement (for Lent)

by Steve Simms

 Success coaches make a big deal about the importance of having a personal mission statement. It’s a good thing to know (and write down) your purpose and the calling on your life. 

However, there is another statement that is far more important — a statement that clears the air of self-deception and denial — an admission statement. So, what do we need to admit?

The season of Lent focuses on that. It is a time for humility, for self-examination, for acknowledging our sin (and sins), and for genuine repentance. Lent reminds us of an unpopular truth, that we human beings are all sinners before the perfect and holy God. 

The mass of humanity (including Christians) objects to that fact. People say and believe things like: “I’m a good person,” or “I’m not a sinner.” But are those statements accurate about you and me and the rest of humanity? They aren’t according to the Bible.

Jesus said: “There is none good but the Father.” Romans states, “There is none righteous, no not one,” and “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Numerous Bible characters agreed with God’s assessment of their sinful nature and evil thoughts, words, and actions; by making bold admission statements. The prophet Isaiah said this about himself; “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” And Apostle Paul, wrote: “I am the chief of sinners,” and “I know that within me, that is within my flesh, dwells no good thing,” and “O wretched man that I am!”

The tax collector in the temple made a bold admission statement, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Meanwhile, the very religious Pharisee, trying very hard to be a good person, refused to make a sin admission statement. Instead the Pharisee prayed this self-congratulatory prayer; “God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

As long as we, like the Pharisee, believe that we are good people, we’ll never fully know the incredible depths of God’s grace toward us. Jesus put it this way, “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” If we think that we only needed a little bit of forgiveness, we will only have a little bit of love. However, when we realize that because of our personal sin, we need infinite forgiveness (that cost God the death of His Son), we’ll follow and obey the living God with glorious gratitude, passionate praise, and lavish love!

So how can we ever know the depths of our sin and the incredible cost to the Father to give us His grace? We can sincerely pray this prayer of King David. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me.” As we do we can allow God to show us our sin nature and the sins we have committed.

As we behold our wicked ways and see what an incredible degree of forgiveness that God lavishes on us, we will be undone like Isaiah. We will be overcome with thankfulness for Gods awesome mercy and forgiveness — grace greater than all our sin! Then, like the tax collector, we’ll began to make admission statements: “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Lent is a wonderful time to write your own, personal admission statement. 1 John 1:8-10 can help you with that. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

SteveSteve Simms is a Soldier in The Salvation Army in Nashville TN, a Speaker and Author of the Book:

Beyond Church: The Lost Word Of The Bible- Ekklesia

Devotional: “The Lifter Of My Head”

I have been there.  yell
That moment of shame.  That place of embarrassment.  It’s not a fun place to be, in that moment of red-faced, head-hanging sadness.  Perhaps it happens when you let words fly that were sharp as razor blades and those blades struck deep into the heart of someone you love…and all you wished that you could do was reel them back or reverse time and stop yourself from such utterances.  Perhaps it happened in the way you shouted at someone in a fit of road rage while driving…and your kids were in the car, and they saw you in a moment of absurd immaturity and hot-headedness.

I have traveled to those destinations, and I would pay anything never to return.
Perhaps you have traveled to these shameful places too.  The real question is, do we admit them to others and ourselves, or do we play it off as if it never happened and hope that the people we care for will also forget?

Then there are other moments when other people have shamed us, other events where we were made to look like fools and our tormentors were spiteful and cruel…and their harsh words dug it’s sharp blades into our very hearts…and now we’re wounded.  We carry around this hurt wherever we go, and we hang our heads in shame because of it.

Dear fellow ponderers, let me encourage you today.
If we sincerely seek to be forgiven, then God will forgive.
If we sincerely seek to be released from our hurt, God will provide the salve and healing.

Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

May God lift your heads today.
May we recognize that God wants for us to lift up our hearts and our heads to Him, and that we no longer have to live with the shame and guilt any longer.  He wants to come to us and to heal us.  He longs to make the wrongs – right and to fellowship with us, while replacing or shame and hurt with victory and joy.  The real question is – are we prepared to allow Him to lift our heads, or will we continue to go it alone all the while making our own feeble attempts at strength?

Prayer:  
Dear Lord, lift my head today.  Thank You for restoring me so that I can have that right relationship with You!  Forgive me for the shame I have caused in my life, and heal me of the hurts others have caused in my heart.  Remind me of Your purposes for my life.  Grant me Your eyes to see others around me, and also remind me of how You see me.  Thank You Lord for your presence with me today.   -Amen.

Learning To Trust Again…

Perhaps you’ve been betrayed by those you trusted or called ‘friend’ or ‘family’.
Maybe you entrusted someone with personal information only a few would know, thinking that they would always keep it private…and they turned around and spoke ill of you while spilling your secrets to the world.  trust

They say that trust is earned, and that having true allies is often harder to maintain.
Friends, do you struggle with trust issues?
Do you have close confidants who not only listen to you, but tell it like it is?

blueprintMany times we take this imperfect blueprint of friendship, with all of its flaws, lies, broken trusts, and betrayals and we transpose it onto what we think we know about God.  We think that either God doesn’t listen to us, or perhaps He just doesn’t care that much for us.   We make assumptions that aren’t based upon God at all, but rather on the experiences of our world and those in it.  The truth is that God isn’t from this world, He is out of it, and as a matter of fact, He created this world.  Going even further, God ACTUALLY walked with Adam and Eve at the beginning of all things just to fellowship with them.  He truly cared about them.

Along the way, as you might already know the story, Adam and Eve disobeyed God…and broke His heart.   They were kicked out the garden, and you’d think that He would start to have trust issues with His creation, but instead He made covenant after covenant with the Adam and Eve’s ancestors.  He never stopped trusting and loving them.  As a matter of fact, His trust and love for us went so far as to send His One and Only Son – Jesus into the world to make things right for us…to set the story straight.  He never gave up on us…so much so that Jesus died in our place on the cross.
hold
I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I do know that God wants to tear down the imperfect blueprint that you might have about Him.  He won’t let go of you, and He has never stopped loving you.  The very, very big God of the Universe, comes down to your level and says “Here I am…and I’m not going anywhere because I love you!”  Perhaps you are very burdened today by the weight of so many hurts and problems.  Maybe it’s time to trust again…no, I don’t mean trusting others just yet, I mean start by trusting God to be there for you.  From this place of trust, healing can begin and He will restore your life and heal your broken heart.  (Psalm 147:3)

Prayer: 
Lord, I don’t know how to trust anymore.
I have been hurt by so many things in life and I feel helpless in this mess.
Thank you for loving me, even when I don’t love myself.  Help me to trust You.  I give you my hurts and my burdens…Lord, just be there for me…I want to trust again.  In Your name -Amen.

Something more for you to ponder today.
God Bless you!

What Are YOU Waiting For?

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Acts 9:8-9

We probably know the story.
Saul was a Pharisee, who lived out his religious convictions by punishing members of “The Way”.  He was a devout Jew, and was very popular amongst his peers.  He did what he thought was right…he did what he perceived to be God’s will.  But he was wrong.  On his to Damascus, God intervened.  His truth was the light that blinded Saul but it also seared his heart.  A divine course correction took place, and the person known as Saul died on that road.  No, he didn’t die physically, but the road marked out the conclusion of that identity, that mission, that chapter.  To many of his devout followers, he would be dead in their eyes for he was set on a new path by God, that of which they could neither follow or believe in.

Those with whom Saul traveled with led this now blind man into the city of Damascus where we waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Whole sermons and sermon series’ have been preached on with this story – mostly focused on that road and God’s intervention and even Ananias when he arrives…but what about the waiting period between the two chapters?  What happened within the span of those three days?  I believe the soul searching that took place with this blind man once named Saul is just as important and has a lot to teach us.  This is not necessarily reading between the lines of the text, this is merely speculating, extrapolating and mulling over this human metamorphosis.  A blind man named Saul – Christian persecutor and sometimes executor went into Damascus, a transformed man on a mission named Paul exited that city with divine purpose, intent and a new found passion in life.

BUT…
What happened in those 3 days between blindness and commission?
What changes transpired there?
Is there something teachable in this narrative for you and for me?
I believe there is, so please allow me to share this with you now.
waiting3
“METAMORPHOSIS” 
3 Lessons from 3 Days of Blindness

1st Lesson:  Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching
Saul thought he was doing what God wanted him to do.
He was fighting for and defending his faith…but he was, in fact, persecuting Christ.  He had passionately taken up his cause with vim and vigor and knew he was in the right…then God turned his whole world upside down.  He was confronted with his own failures…he was confronted with his own mistakes, and it must have hurt.  Saul spends three days of blindness not eating and drinking.  It is a sobering response to the Theophany he had just experienced.  Within the words of Jesus, there was a course correction and for three days Saul had to have replayed that scene over and over in his head.  He must have prayed and fasted.  He must have explored every action that had led him to this place, like a movie playing in his head for three long days.

I find it interesting that 3 days pass.
3 Days that seem like a real death and a real resurrection.
3 days of emotional and philosophical death until God’s messenger arrives to offer new life again.  In a very real sense, Saul is in his chrysalis transforming and arriving at a new physical place.

Do we have chapters like this in our lives?
Has there ever been spiritual correction in your life that has hurt?
God doesn’t enjoy hurting us, it is more for our benefit and growth that these corrections take place.  There’s an old phrase – “no pain, no gain” and I think it applies here.  If we don’t experience some discomfort in life from time to time we might remain stagnant and planted in incorrect spiritual patterns.  God doesn’t want us to remain there, He sees in us the potential for something better, greater and far more substantive that what we have settled for now.  He wishes to adjust our paths, and help us grow into maturity within our faith.  But we have to be willing to accept these corrections which, hurt, but are meant to help us grow…and sometimes set us on a new, more holy path than what we have settled on.

2nd Lesson:  There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord
waiting4Abraham was an old man before God’s promise of being the father to many nations was actually fulfilled, and certainly Abraham tried to speed up the process with his wife’s handmaiden Hagar.  But the waiting was necessary.

David was anointed as king and successor to king Saul, but he did not become king right away, he had to endure hurts, the loss of his best friend when he had ran for his life.  But he did not stop being faithful to God – he persisted and eventually the waiting produced the crown in God’s appointed time.

Waiting on the Lord can be tiring and frustrating, and we may sometimes question if God will really show up in our lives and our situations, but in those moments of waiting we grow.  These times of waiting produces in us perseverance, endurance and fortitude.  You might not believe that you can wait on the Lord.  You may question your own strength, but rest assured you are not alone – the Holy Spirit is with you giving you the strength that you need.  When we wait, we must recognize our finite while we wait for the Infinite to enter our stories.  Saul waited for the appointed time.  He wasn’t told how long it would be.  He wasn’t told who would show up as God’s ambassador…he just simply waited.

Are you waiting right now for God to show up?
Are you growing frustrated with the “waiting game”?
Maybe we will someday declare as David did in Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him…”

Maybe we can declare this today!

3rd LessonThere is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present. waitinghospital
Have you ever visited a doctor’s office?
I am sure that you have.
Most of the time there are two places that you find yourself waiting.  First, you have to wait to be seen by the nurse on duty at the front desk as they take your insurance card and all of your vital information.  Sometimes they even take your blood pressure.  Then they call your name and the nurse takes you through the waiting room door into a hallway which leads to another, more intimate waiting room.  Sometimes the nurse asks you to take off your clothes and put on a gown…and then wait.  This is sometimes the longest wait that you may have at the doctor’s office.  That uncomfortable time dressed only in a thin paper gown, sitting on an examination table while some elevator music is droning on and on in the background.  But we cannot speed up that time.  We have to simply wait, even when it’s not comfortable or the most desirable thing to do – we still wait.  Finally the doctor in a white coat comes in and then we get down to business and the present can then be moved into the future.

If we believe that God sent Jesus to die for us, that Jesus resurrected and went to prepare a place for us, then we already understand what it means to wait.  We aren’t in some doctor’s waiting room or anything but we must acknowledge that Jesus promised to return one day – and so His people anxiously wait for his return
waiting5
But what about the little things of life?
What about the prayers we utter in the hope that God will answer them?
What happens in the in between time of God encounter and fulfillment?
We wait.
Sometimes we wait and wait.
Saul didn’t eat or drink for 3 days.
This parched, blind man waited for God’s fulfillment.
He didn’t know when it would happen, but it WAS going to happen.
He didn’t know WHO God was sending, but in the present moment he waited.

Many times we might feel stuck in the present while we wait for God.
We might grow frustrated and even weary in our waiting, but let me encourage you today:  The present waiting room of your life IS where God meets us.
We might not yet know it yet, but He is already present and with you right here and now.  We do not need to pine for the future in a “some day” mindset when we understand that God is sitting with us in our present waiting rooms.

Saul met God, then we he had to wait, then when God’s appointed ambassador arrived the commission was given and a much transformed Paul emerged to do the will of God.

Are you waiting right now for God?
Remember this while you wait:
-Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching.
-There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord.
-There is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present.
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Something more to ponder today.
God Bless you!  

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

Modern Day Psalm.

It’s been too long.
I have exchanged my prayerful conversations
for worry.
I have traded assurances
for fear…
when I should have stood firm,
instead I found
that my feet were slipping
into the depths of the murky mud.

I have become a husk of a man.
the shell
of what I used to be.
When I stopped looking up…
I began to sink.
When I stopped
trusting in You, O God
I began to lose it all.

Where can I go
Apart from you?
What I think in my mind
You already know it.
What I say with my lips
You understand it
and yet I wandered away
I wandered from You…
Why?
Why did I do that?

Could it be that my heart
was never truly in it?
Could it be that my faith
was an inch deep
but a mile wide?
In my distress…
In my darkest hours…
In my hopeless wanderings…
You heard me.
You not only heard,
but you answered me.
ME.

You answered me
in my circumstances
You answered me
through the voices
of brothers and sisters
You answered me
in the ways that cannot
be perceived by ear or sight…
You have been with me
through all of the storms.
I
was
never,
ever
alone.

You are truly my fortress.
You really are my Solid Rock.
I was not
washed away
because you would
not permit it
You would
not allow
it to encompass
and consume me.
I am alive
today only because
of You.

Look deep into
my heart dear Lord,
Find my love again for you.
Search me,
know me again.
Wash me clean.
Remove the blemishes,
Saturate my entire
existence with you
until there is
no differentiation
no beginning
and no end
to Your image
in me.

Messy Church – Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors…

Joseph  – Messy Church

This time our corps (church) did a messy church on the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.  The major theme was God providing and taking what was meant for evil and turning it into something good.  The following stations were used to illustration and reinforce the story as the station leader asked questions and prodded the participants to discuss and think about particular segments of Joseph’s life.  

Station 1:  Dream Pictures (10 Minutes) dreams
(Need:  cotton swabs, card paper, markers, colored film paper.)
Create a dream on paper with the materials at the table.
Talk about:  Talk about dreams, how God can speak to people through dreams, and how most of us have a dream for our lives.  We might find that as we follow our dream, God has very different plans for us that are even better than our dreams.

Questions:
Do you like to sleep in complete darkness or do you sleep with a night light or lamp?
What kind of dreams do you have?
Do you think that God can still speak to us in our dreams or is it just last night’s pizza?

Scripture – Genesis 37:5-8
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Ask:  Does it sound like Joseph’s brothers appreciated his dream?
Why do you think they were upset with Joseph?
Do you get along with you family and brother/sister(s)?
Close:
As we finish this station today remember that it is good to dream big dreams in life and that God wants to help you along the way.  God also wants to be there with you each step of the way!

coatStation 2:  Big Colored Coat (10 Minutes)
(Need:  outline of coat, colored crepe/tissue paper paper, glue)

prepare in advance strips of colored paper for the participants to organize onto their coat.  Emphasize the need to make it as beautiful as possible.

Talk About:
Talk about the beautiful coat that Jacob gave to Joseph as a present.  Ask everyone what their favorite piece of clothing is at the moment:  favorite shoes, shirt, jeans, jacket and why.

Scripture Genesis 37:3 – “Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.”

Questions:
Why did Jacob give Joseph the colorful coat?
Who are the people in your life that love you?  Name them.
How can we show love to others like Jacob showed love to his son Joseph?

Station 3  Gift Box Decoration (10 Minutes) boxes
(Need:  Small gift boxes, scraps of colorful material or wrapping paper, wrapped candies/chocolates)

Directions:  decorate small gift boxes using the colorful materials and wrapping paper.  Use a heart or cross design while using the materials as a symbol of love.  Select and place a wrapped candy/chocolate inside the decorated box.  The idea behind the box is to give the box and the candy away to someone to show how much you care for them.

Talk About:
Talk about presents from friends or members of your family and how you might want to give them a present just because you love them so much.
Ask:  What’s the best present you’ve ever been given?
What made it the best present?
Who gave you that present?

Scripture:  2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
What do you think is the writer meant when he said “this gift”?  Who do you think this gift is about?  Do you know that God loves you so very much that He sent Jesus to die for your sins?  We are going to close our time at this station with a quick word of prayer thanking God for giving us this wonderful gift of Salvation through Jesus.  (Pray)

Lastly say, “After Church today, or during this week, pray about who you should give this gift to.  Perhaps it will help cheer someone up, or used as a way to help heal a relationship or friendship that you have.  Pray about it and then give this little gift to someone who you feel needs it.

Station 4 Thumbprint People (10 Minutes)
(Need: Poster paint in different colors, sheets of paper, markers)
painttheone
Directions:  Make 12 thumbprints with poster paint.  When they’re dry, decorate them with markers, drawing eyes, mouths, beards, and clothes to be Joseph and his 11 brothers.

Talk About:
Talk about the way very different people make up a family and how hard it can be to live together when you feel very different from each other.  Talk about ways of getting along that you have found helpful.

Read Scripture as participants are decorating: Genesis 37:18-28 18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. 24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.[c] 27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

Ask:  Why do you think his brothers hated Joseph so much?
What was the name of the brother who stopped the other brothers from killing Joseph?
How do you get along with your siblings?  What are some ways that you can make peace when a fight breaks out?

Station 5: False Beards  (10 Minutes) beards
(Need: Scraps of dark brown, black fabric, scissors, dark wool and a darning needle –if needed- and thread)

Using your selection of fabric cut out a triangle big enough to fit on the chin as a beard.  Cut a mouth hole so that it comprises a moustache and beard.  Using the threat poke a hole on either side of the beard in order to tie it around the back of your head.  Wear your beard with pride!

Talk about:
Talk about the “hairy Ishmaelites”  who took Joseph off to Egypt and sold him as a slave:
Scripture:  Genesis 37:25-28
25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

beard3

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.  27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
beard2
Questions:
What do you think it was like for Joseph being sold into slavery?
What do you think those hairy Ishmaelites were like?
Do you think Joseph was afraid to be away from home?
Do you think God was with Joseph even when we was a prisoner and slave?
 

 

Celebration: (back to Chapel or Fellowship Room)
Need:  Artwork and colorful mosaics, Egypt pics…all decorations and songs link to the activities  of the stations.

We sang these songs for the celebration/closing:
Just a closer walk with Thee, Jehovah Jireh.

Say:  
Joseph had 11 brothers.  Maybe you sometimes quarrel with your brother or sister.  Well, Joseph and his brothers often quarreled, partly because Joseph’s brothers were jealous of the beautiful coat that their Dad, Jacob had given to Joseph.

Bring a bright coat or robe out of a box

Also, Joseph had dreams they didn’t like.  For example, he dreamed the sun and moon and 11 stars were bowing down to him.  His brothers thought he was showing off.  So the brothers plotted to kill Joseph.  They threw him down a dry well, but then instead of killing him, they decided to sell him into slavery when a caravan of slavers traveled by.  To cover up their crime, they killed an animal and poured its blood onto Joseph’s beautiful colored coat and told their father Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

Bring out a small knife from the box…
In Egypt, Joseph was sold as a slave and, although he was very hardworking, he was thrown in jail for something he didn’t do.  While he was in prison, he told some prisoners what their dreams meant, and later he told the Pharaoh what his dreams meant:  that the harvest would fail and there was going to be a famine, so Egypt would have to stock up on food.

Bring a small loaf of bread out of the box…

The famine came to the whole area – and Egypt was the only place with food, thanks to Joseph.  Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food, but they didn’t recognize joseph.  What would Joseph do?  Should he get his revenge on them for being so mean all those years ago?

No!  He told them who he was and forgave them.  “Even though you meant to harm me, God made it all turn out well so that everyone would be saved, “  he said.  So they brought Jacob their father, to Egypt and God reunited them all.

Bring a picture of a smiling face out of the box…or a family photo…

God can take things that go wrong and mend them and turn them to good.  He wants to bring us together as his Christian family.  Think of someone you’ve quarreled with recently.  Let’s say sorry to God and ask him to help us forgive them and to make up.

Closing Prayer:
Lord, thank you that we are one big family of your people throughout the world and throughout history.  Help us to live as one family, loving each other through thick and thin.  Amen.

Benediction:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
*Hold out your hands expecting a present.*

And the love of God
*Put your hands on your heart*

And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
*Hold hands*

Be with us all now and forever.  Amen!
*Raise hands together on the word ‘Amen’*

Adapted from the book:  Messy Church: Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centered Community.  Messy

Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*

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