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Jesus Loved Interruptions:

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Interruptions or Divine Appointments?

        Have you ever been in the middle of something important and had someone interrupt you? I once had a friend named Russ. He was a volunteer in a ministry I ran. Russ was an outgoing guy, with a huge heart for people. I loved visiting with him over a cup of coffee when I wasn’t in a hurry to go somewhere. One other thing about Russ, he could also talk the wallpaper off the wall. I remember Russ coming to my office one day. I was in the middle of a project with a deadline coming soon. I loved Russ, but I didn’t have time to sit and talk. He was asking for five minutes of my time, but I knew from experience that his five minutes would quickly turn into an hour. These interruptions would test my patience. He was much older than me, and would lecture me on the importance of taking time and putting people first. He reminded me that ministry is about people and not just about the work. It was hard for me to admit, but I learned a lot from him.

Russ asked me to do his memorial service before he passed away a few years ago. I miss my friend Russ – and his interruptions.

My Friend Russ, coffee and a donut.

        Pastors and Christian leaders can be driven people. We put our head down as we are working on a project, and don’t look up until the task before us is finished. It can be very exasperating when we are in “the zone” to have someone ask us for something, or disturb us. But these interruptions are often the work of God in our lives. These may look like someone simply looking for our attention. It may seem like an annoying irritation taking us away from what is important. But when we hate interruptions, and we don’t see them as divine appointments, we may well miss the plan of God for us.

C.S. Lewis famously said, “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.”

The Gospel of Luke chapter 8 tells of a day in the life of Jesus. Jesus was returning from the area known as the Gerasene’s where he had set the demoniac free. Upon his return there was a crowd already waiting for him. They pressed against him. Everyone wanted to get close to Jesus. They were there when he did the creative miracle and fed the five thousand. They had seen him heal the blind, the lame and the leper. They had heard his teachings. They all wanted something from him.

In verses 41-42 of Luke 8 we read, “And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” Jesus could have said he was too busy with the crowd to be bothered by one person, even if he was a ruler of the synagogue, but he didn’t. He set off towards the home of Jairus. But then he was interrupted yet again. It says in verses 43-44, “And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” This woman was part of the crowd pushing on Jesus. She moved through the crowd until she was close enough to touch Jesus and receive her healing. Jesus could have just kept going to Jairus’s home ignoring the woman, but he didn’t.

In verses 41-42 of Luke 8 we read, “And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” Jesus could have said he was too busy with the crowd to be bothered by one person, even if he was a ruler of the synagogue, but he didn’t. He set off towards the home of Jairus. But then he was interrupted yet again. It says in verses 43-44, “And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” This woman was part of the crowd pushing on Jesus. She moved through the crowd until she was close enough to touch Jesus and receive her healing. Jesus could have just kept going to Jairus’s home ignoring the woman, but he didn’t.

Here was an interruption followed by an interruption, but Jesus didn’t become frustrated. He called out the woman who had touched him and received the healing from an issue of blood. Jesus didn’t rebuke her, instead he ministered to her. Jairus was an important dignitary from the synagogue, so we can almost understand him allowing this interruption. However the woman with the issue of blood is not presented in the story as anyone important. Yet Jesus stopped what he was doing to care for her.

The next interruption came when people from Jairus’s home came to let them know his little girl was dead. Once again, Jesus was not disturbed by this yet another interruption. He continued the journey to the home of Jairus to heal his little girl. Neither of these miracles may have happened if Jesus had chosen to stay and minister to the crowd rather than to allow these interruptions. He had a choice of ministering to an individual, or continuing on with his plan to teach the crowd. But Jesus was aware of the moving of the Holy Spirit, and took these interruptions and recognized these divine appointments from God.

Do you have a Russ in your life? Are you a driven person who doesn’t like interruptions? I want to encourage you remember the example of Jesus and how he embraced interruptions. Change your thinking when it comes to interruptions. It may well be that the person disturbing you; the person infringing on your being “in the zone” may actually be a divine appointment set by God. As Russ taught me, so many years ago, put people first.

The Nashville Christian School Shooting and a Pastor’s Heart

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Can you remember the first mass school shooting you heard about? The news was so shocking, it seemed to pierce our hearts, and it kidnapped our souls. This is something so depraved, so evil, it should never happen. How could anyone kill innocent children? Once again, my heart aches over this yet another senseless attack.

There was another recent school shooting. This one occurred at a private Christian school. It was not my intention to comment on this national calamity.  However, after seeing so much coverage, and reading so many articles on the school shooting at the Christian Covenant School in Nashville, TN, I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to say something.  If you have not heard this awful news, an adult transgender individual broke into a private Christian school and brutally murdered 3 adults and 3 children before being killed by police.

There are three points that need to be addressed surrounding this school shooting:

1. The first point is “This murderous rampage is about the killer’s heart, not the weapon.”

2.The second point is “We should NEVER romanticize the killer.”

3. Finally the last point is “We need more prayer, not less.”

Point number one is that this murderous rampage is about the killer’s heart, not the weapon. This transgender adult broke into a locked private school, and mercilessly killed 6 innocent people. I have no desire to wax political, but certain politicians will try to use this horrible event to brow beat everyone into giving up their guns. Guns were used in this mass murder. But it may be pointed out that in countries that have outlawed guns, there are still mass murders involving knives, bombs, vehicles, or other methods of killing. A gun is an inanimate object. It can be used for good, or evil. There is nothing inherently evil in a gun.

The Bible is very clear in its condemnation of murder. The ten commandments, given by God, says “Thou shalt not murder.” This killer had murder in their heart. They left many written documents talking about how they were misunderstood by Christian parents, and how they wouldn’t let them take on the gender of their choice. This person wanted to send a message. They wrote to their friend that they were going to do something big, where they would never come back. So really, this was a hate crime specifically against Christians, that was well thought out, and carefully planned.

This transgender individual chose a lifestyle contrary to what their parents wanted for them. Living a self-disciplined life is difficult today. Our society seems to put a premium on doing whatever feels good to the individual, and the idea of holiness, or living a Christian life, would be anathema to them. Living a holy life, is actually a spiritual discipline or tradition according to Richard J. Foster. This is something that can change our heart. Foster writes in Streams of Living Water: “Holiness is bodily spirituality. It affirms the goodness of the human body and seeks to bring it into working harmony with the spirit. It utilizes appropriate Spiritual Disciplines for training the body and mind in right living. It is in this sense, ascetical – but never for the sake of the asceticism always for the sake of the

training” (83).

When a person submits their heart and life to God, God will begin to change that person. He will soften their heart,and lead them to become more like Christ. A person who rebels against God will find their heart becoming harder and harder. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 (ESV) talks about how a person can have their conscience seared, like having a hot iron burn them. Scar tissue from a burn has all the nerves seared to the point where they no longer work. This passage says “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,” In other words, a person whose heart is hardened against God will be capable of doing things they would otherwise see as inconceivable. This transgendered person lashed out violently against innocent people. Their conscience was seared. They used guns, but it could have just as easily been a bomb, a knife, or a vehicle. It was the heart of this killer that was instrumental in murdering these innocents.

The second point is, “we should NEVER romanticize the killer.” This seems like a strange thing to say at first glance. However, while this horrible school shooting was still fresh, and the details just coming out there were certain trans-activists who were blaming the Christian school (and Christians in general). They made the killer out as a misunderstood hero. They say the Christians who disagree with them and don’t accept their behavior are at fault. i.e. they brought this on themselves.  These trans-activists wrote that the murderer was so desperate they had no other choice but to kill these people in order to draw attention. I’ve got news for them, there are a lot of better ways to get attention than to commit murder and then suicide by cop. This transgendered person was the monster, not the victim.

Let me explain my point about romanticizing the murderer a little more. There were many tragic teenaged suicides in my twenty five years of serving as a chaplain in law enforcement. What made them even more tragic was when there were copycat suicides. The schools wanted to do right by the teenager who committed suicide, so they would make a big deal about them. They would bring up how tragic their death was. They might talk about how they were misunderstood or had a poet’s soul. They might plant a tree in their honor and hold special assemblies to memorialize them. The unfortunate result would be other teens who would want somehow to have the same kind of attention by taking their own lives in the same way. If we make this transgender killer out to be some kind of tragic hero, there will be others who desire the same kind of attention who will do similar acts of violence. We need to call this act what it was. This was a cowardly act by a violent person who hurt innocent, defenseless people. If we want to prevent future school shootings, we need to show the world this was an act of cowardice against powerless innocents, not a brave act of a desperate person. Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

The last point is, “we need more prayer, not less.” There have many bold (or should I call them arrogant) reporters and politicians who try to shame and silence Christians. They say they don’t want any more prayers without action. They say our prayers are useless. My first thought when I hear this is “How much worse would things have been if not for our prayers.”

Prayer is central to the life of the Christian. Richard J. Foster wrote about the Christians prayer life in his book, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer. He quoted Mother Teresa saying, “Before she died Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, ‘pray for me that I not loosen my grip on the hands of Jesus even under the guise of ministering to the poor” (64).  Action is important. But knee-jerk reaction is not the answer. We can act and make things worse by taking the wrong action. Outlawing guns because a gun was used, would be like outlawing cars because a drunk caused a fatal crash. We need to address the heart of the matter.

Unbelievers think that prayer is ineffectual and doesn’t do anything. They don’t believe in the power of prayer. But the Bible is very clear on the power of prayer. James 5:16b says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Prayer connects us to the power of God. Those who are not Christians may never understand why we choose to pray. 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) reminds us, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

        We can react the same way we have always reacted to school shootings. We can argue over gun control laws; we can talk with some kind of reverence about the murderers; and we can further isolate and push against Christians. But this has not worked so far.

We have pushed God out of the conversation in the United States. We have outlawed prayer in schools; we have outlawed the ten commandments; and we have embraced the religion of secular humanism. We have pushed back on the idea that we were created in the Image of God and therefore have human dignity. We have pushed back on the teaching of the Ten Commandments including the command against murder. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) tells us clearly, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

There are some alternatives we can take that can make a difference:

1. We can talk about what made the heart of the murderer so black that they could do such horrible things and how do we prevent it happening again.

2.  We can point out the cowardice in school shooters picking soft targets that couldn’t defend themselves. There is nothing noble or heroic about them.

3. We can bring God back into the conversation and seek his intervention.

Is the Church having a Love Affair with Arrogant Pastors?

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            The role of a pastor or Christian leader is a heady calling. We are privileged to serve the people of God and be His representative. It is a humbling experience to see lives transformed. We are honored to witness the hand of God moving in people’s lives, as we speak words of life and encouragement to them. There is a very real temptation to take on more credit than we deserve. A pastor may be a charismatic speaker and see incredible growth in a congregation but we need to remember it is God who brings the increase, not us.

Most recently I was listening to a podcast called, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” If you are not familiar with this story, Pastor Mark Driscoll pastored a mega church in Spokane WA, called Mars Hill. He was a powerfully gifted orator and drew a crowd anywhere he went. His church grew by leaps and bounds, and it seems most pastors wanted to be just like Mark Driscoll. He was a pioneer in one of the fastest growing church planting ministries in American history. Unfortunately, there were some internal conflicts and reports of bullying and accusations of hurtful arrogance on the part of Driscoll. The accusations eventually bubbled to the surfrace and came out publicly. When Driscoll unexpectedly stepped down as senior pastor, his church imploded. This is a powerful example of how power can go to the head of a pastor, and pride can lead to their downfall

(Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – link below)


            Spiritual formation may help inhibit the arrogance and egotism often prevalent in pastoral ministry, and help to integrate resiliency in ministry leadership. Richard Foster wrote a book back in 2011 called, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer. In this book, he quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning who famously wrote:

            Earth’s crammed with Heaven

            And every common bush afire with God;

            But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. (74)

It is so important for us to remember where our strength and help comes from. We are only successful because God gives us strength, talent, and even the very breath we breathe.

There are many things that can lead a ministry leader into pride and arrogance in the pulpit. High on that list is assumptions that the ministry would fail without them. They may work 7 days a week because they are afraid if they step away something may fail. Alan Fadling reminds us that when a person doesn’t stop working until everything gets done, they will never stop working. There is always more that needs to be accomplished. If there were more hours in the day, or more days in the week, the extra time would quickly be filled with more busy work. Some will say the work is too important to wait. Fadling says, “Sabbath can be a weekly reminder that our work is not sovereign, but God is” (122). Then he says, “Today is the day to enter into a weekly rhythm of ceasing my work one day in seven. Here I more deeply remember that God’s work always precedes mine” (122).

Pastors are extremely busy. There is a constant demand for our time and resources. Unfortunately the first thing to go is often taking a sabbath day off. There is so much to do, and all of it seems good and worthwhile. After all the Bible tells us to give our all in ministry, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16 KJV) It can be so tempting to think “God can’t do this work without me.” The truth Is God is wiser than we are. When we take a regular day for sabbath we step out on faith that God will continue working even when we are not.  We acknowledge that God is in control. We are telling God that we are wiser than He is when we get into a mindset that we are indispensable. Isaiah 5:21 reminds us, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!”

            Pride was the sin that caused Satan to think he could put his throne above God’s and that got him thrown out of Heaven. He tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the idea that they could become “like God” by simply eating the forbidden fruit. We are taught as young children to take pride in our work, and pride in ourselves. Pride and arrogance may seem annoying to those who witness it, but harmless. But pride and arrogance can be devastating for a minister.

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18:9-14. It says, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” We may think this parable is just for the legalistic pastors who think they are wiser than anyone else. But if you read the gospels, even the disciples were caught on at least one occasion having an argument over who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus told them the one who is humble as a little child is the greatest. If even the Apostles had to wrestle with pride and arrogance, who are we to think we are exempt from this temptation?

            There is another example of the consequences of relying on one’s own ability instead of on God in the Old Testament. King David was a mighty warrior, and was blessed by the Lord. He had a loyal army who could fight incredibly well. However, King David decided to number his people to determine how much power he actually had. Perhaps he was considering a draft and wanted to see how many he could call up to serve in his army. This displeased the Lord. 1 Chronicles 21:1 records this saying, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” We don’t know the circumstances of this numbering, but it is easy to speculate that David wanted a head count of how many people were at his disposal to force into military service. The point is, David had no reason to know these numbers if he trusted the Lord. God said He would fight for Israel, and by numbering the people, David was showing his own doubt and distrust of the Lord.

            Pride can be summarized as an arrogant attitude of self-sufficiency. We can demonstrate this in not taking a sabbath, and practicing other spiritual disciplines. We may think we are too busy to pray, or to spend time in the Word. We are promoting our own self-importance in neglecting these things. Spending time in prayer allows us to petition the Lord, and to listen to his direction. Studying God’s Word brings it into our spirit, and often God speaks to us directly through His Word. Taking a sabbath puts our trust back on God in that He will help us accomplish what we need to do in six days instead of seven. It takes away our self-exaltation and the philosophy that God needs “us” to accomplish his purposes and that He can’t use anyone else.

Christian leaders are expected to love God and love others. Someone once said, “The opposite of servant leadership is arrogance. Arrogant leadership is not spiritual leadership. And arrogant pastors are not spiritual pastors.” There are too many arrogant pastors in the United States (perhaps the world). Pastors who do not keep spiritual disciplines and especially regular sabbath are in danger of falling into pride and arrogancy. John Ortberg has famously said, “Better to be a loving person without knowing how you got there, than an expert no one can stand to be around.”

            People in our society are hurting. A pastor who has an intimate relationship with God having spent time in spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines will be better equipped to touch and minister to others with the kind of love that can reach the hurting people in our society. Spiritual formation leads us to become the kind of Christian leaders who will be able to break through the barriers that people put up and see them come to Christ where they will find a gentle savior who will give them rest for their souls.

            Have you been guilty of arrogance in the pulpit? Do you need to repent for your own pride? My encouragement to you is to keep a short account of sin. Go to God and quickly seek forgiveness when you recognize pride, and repent. To repent means to turn around and go the other way. Don’t continue in that sin. The best cure I have found for pride is spending time in the presence of God. That may mean getting quiet and still before the Lord. Ask the Lord what He would have you know, then shut down your mind and listen. Practice the spiritual discipline of lectio divina where you meditate on a passage from God’s Word. Take time for a regular sabbath. Many, if not all of the spiritual disciplines can accompany a sabbath. In modern society, you may have your sabbath on a Monday, or a Friday instead of the traditional Sunday. Take the sabbath and enjoy rest with the Lord, and recreation with family (more on that in a future blog). God bless you as you seek His face and seek to be transformed by His Holy Spirit.

Review of “A Testament of Devotion”

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By Thomas R. Kelly Copyright 1941, 1962, 1992

Once in a while you may read a book that really alters your perception of reality. It will have an impact on your faith, your convictions, and your relationship with God. This is such a book. A Testament of Devotion is not a very big book. It has a total of only 129 pages, but sometimes, dynamite comes in small packages. One could easily read it in less than a weekend, but I would not recommend it. It’s the kind of book that should be read slowly, and digested, with as few distractions as possible.

Thomas R. Kelly wrote a classic in this small volume. I believe it was first copyrighted in 1941, so it was certainly written to a different audience than what we have today. Yet, many of the truths in this book are simply timeless. It may be difficult to find, but it is well worth the search. I found a used copy on ebay. It was well loved and has lots of underlining, and dog-eared pages. Someone scribbled notes in the margins. I found myself adding my own highlighting of passages to come back and read again later. It is among the best things I have read outside of the Bible in a very long time.

I want to just give some highlights, while not giving away everything in the book. Kelly has a way with words that I admire. In the section on holy living, on page 34, he writes about the times we slip and fall in our walk. He eloquently writes, “If you slip and stumble and forget God for an hour, and assert your old proud self, and rely on your own clever wisdom, don’t spend too much time in anguished regrets and self-accusations but begin again, just where you are.”  Later on the same page he says, “Don’t grit your teeth and clench your fists and say, “I will! I will!” Relax. Take hands off. Submit yourself to God. Learn to live in the passive voice – a hard saying for Americans – and let life be willed through you. For “I will!” spells not obedience.” This is such good advice. Not to get too theological, but I think sometimes we slip and commit a sin, and then beat ourselves up over it for too long, rather than repenting, and moving on with what God has called us to do.

Many Christians today frown on any show of emotion when worshipping God. I don’t know where they get this from, as if being solemn, and looking like you have been sucking a green persimmon makes you some how holier than those around you. The Bible talks about how King David danced mightily before the Lord, and instead of being rebuked, it was said of him that he was a man after God’s own heart. Kelly talks about feeling the presence of the Lord, and the emotions that may go with this. He writes on page 70 of these periods of feeling the presence of God, “Sometimes these periods are acute and brief, too dazzling to report to anyone. Sometimes they are less elevated but more prolonged, with a milder sense of glory and of lift, yet as surely of a piece with the more acute experience.” I have experienced these moments with the Lord, as I have sought spiritual formation, and to partner with the Holy Spirit in this.

Sometimes we can get so full of ourselves that there isn’t room for much of anything else. Kelly warns against us having this kind of prideful attitude. He writes on page 72:

“Religion is not our concern: it is God’s concern. The sooner we stop thinking we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at, as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much the sooner do we discover that our task is to call men to be still and know, listen, hearken in quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine. Our task is to encourage others first to let go, to cease striving, to give over this fevered effort of the self-sufficient religionist trying to please an eternal deity. Count on God knocking on the doors of time. God is the Seeker, and not we alone.”

As you seek to draw closer to the Lord, I want to encourage you to find those quiet times with the Lord, spending time in silence. Bring your petitions to the Lord, but instead of ending your prayer at that point, ask the Lord what He would have you to know. Then take time in silence to listen for that still small voice.  I would also recommend you begin a library of good books on spiritual formation. Don’t substitute these for spending time in your Bible, but use them to supplement your devotion time. Become a well read follower of Jesus Christ. I invite you to return to this blog frequently as I hope to not only review books on spiritual formation that will help your growth in Christ, but to include articles by myself and guest writers to encourage and strengthen you.

God bless you my faithful friends.

Silence: A Lost Spiritual Discipline?

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How Practicing Silence Before the Lord can Lead to Spiritual Formation

Have you ever been out in the woods, away from all the noise of the city? Maybe you were camping, or fishing, or just taking a nature walk. There is something soothing about the quiet. Most of us are so used to the noise and busyness of our world that we tune most of it out. But have you ever noticed it is harder to have a conversation with someone in a noisy environment? It’s easy to feel like no one is paying attention to you when you are in a crowd. Do you think God ever feels that way when He is trying to get our attention? The spiritual discipline of silence is a largely forgotten practice.

There was a time when men and women would seek solitude when they prayed. They would shut out the world, its noise and demands. It is much harder today to get away in the age of cell phones, and always being available.

There are many spiritual practices that lead to spiritual formation. The list of spiritual practices may include scripture reading, meditation, silence, prayer, giving, sabbath keeping, and others. I want to talk to you a little bit about the spiritual discipline of silence.

A few years ago one of my professors, Dr. Gene Maynard from Epic Bible College in Sacramento, offered a class in Spiritual Formation. One of the projects was to go to a Christian camp and spend some time in practicing the spiritual discipline of silence. He gave us some instruction, and as I remember, we were asked to spend two hours without talking and just spending time with God. We were instructed to pray “Lord, what would you have me to know today?” and then still our minds and just listen for two hours. We were invited to do a nature walk, or just sit in a comfortable chair and be still. This seemed very intimidating at first, but it was so amazing! What an experience. I felt so close to God during this two hours. I loved it and try to get out in nature and repeat the experience as often as I can.

The world is loud, and noisy. Most of the time, there is so much noise, it is hard to hear the still small voice of God. In Quaker churches today, they have times of silence as part of their worship service.  They take the time to still themselves before God and listen. There is a passage in 1 Kings 19:11-13, that describes how God speaks in times of silence. Elisha had confronted the evil queen Jezebel, and she had threatened his life. He fled to the wilderness away from her. Here is where we pick up part of the story. It reads:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The noise and busyness of the world can create a cacophony of tumult. It is hard to hear the voice of the Lord with such a constant hullabaloo going on. Dallas Willard speaking at The Center for Personal and Relational Growth, in April 2019 put it this way: “God coaxes Elijah out of his cave of depression and onto the mountaintop: “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by” (1 Kings 19:11)” (21). God uses a still small voice with Elijah. He was not in the storm or in the fire – in all the noise and chaos. He reached Elijah with a whisper. If Elisha, the great prophet had to be quiet to hear God’s whisper, then we should do the same thing.

Richard Foster talks about being quiet before the Lord in his book “Sanctuary of the Soul.” He talks about how when we enter into a time of silence and meditative prayer, that is the time when everything begins screaming for our attention. He calls it having a noisy heart. He goes on to talk about how even our time of Christian worship has become of less help in shutting out noise and distraction. He writes:

Sadly, our Christian worship services are of no help here.  Today for the most part, they have become one huge production in distraction.  Worship meant to draw us into the presence of God has become little more than an organized way of keeping us from the presence of God.  So it is little wonder that when we are first learning meditative prayer, we need help in how to control a wandering mind. (104-105)

It’s hard to imagine worship being a distraction to us as Foster puts it. But if you have gone to a church where they have a full production in worship, with lights, fog machines, and very loud music, I can see his point. Peter Scazzero is the author of The Emotionally Healthy Church. Scazzero writes about cultivating a quiet time with the Lord. He says, “Cultivating an intentional life with our Lord requires intentionally focused time – for silence, prayer, meditation on Scripture, and reading. But we are surrounded by endless distractions and voices that call us away from sitting at the feet of Jesus. Yet it is our only hope for seeing through the illusions and pretense of our world and for providing leadership to those around us” (206).

The Quakers have long practiced silent meditation as a part of their worship.  For many of us, this is strange and a bit foreign, but if you have an open mind to what God is doing, it can enrich your daily devotions. Richard Foster talks about one of his professors who gave three specific words of instruction for worship from the Quaker tradition. The three words were “center down,” “seek to be gathered into the power of God” and the third was to be careful not to run ahead, or get too far behind the guiding of the Holy Spirit. Foster went on to define some of these “words” about our worship. He wrote, “To center down in a Quaker context means to let go of all distractions and feelings; to become fully present to what is happening here, now; to silence our mind, which is askew with meandering thoughts, and our mouth, which is full of many words” (51-52).

When we quiet ourselves, we pray and then allow God to speak to us, we may get specific direction. God may well have something in particular He wants us to do. We may not hear an audible voice, but God may well speak to our spirit with a still small voice. Foster suggests we spend time during devotions meditating on God’s Word, quieting our heart and mind, and then taking action. Foster writes, “We allow God’s great silence to still our noisy heart” (63). Interestingly, Foster says our spiritual formation is not just about meditation, but God also calls believers to take action after hearing from Him. Foster writes, “In the biblical witness we have this dual nature of meditation on stillness and action” (20). So according to Foster, our prayer, meditation, and listening for the voice of God should lead us to action. Once a person hears from God, they are to take action on what He has told them.

In summary, part of the goal of silence before the Lord is to still our own minds, to shut out the noise and busyness of the world, to enable us to hear the still small voice of God. This helps partner with the Holy Spirit in spiritual formation, making us more like Christ. Being silent  may be easier when taking time to do a nature walk, or just being away from the city. This is not always convenient, but we can certainly turn off our electronics during devotion time. Many spiritual disciplines rely on being still and quiet before the Lord. Tuning out the world, and all of its noise will help in focusing on the spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation. The quiet rest in the Lord will refresh us, and then following the call and direction from the Lord after being quiet will energize us.

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Welcome! I’m so glad you decided to visit.

There are Christians who have been followers of Jesus Christ for many years. They were on fire for God when they first got saved, and thought nothing could every change how they felt. Over time, that zeal seemed to wane. Secretly, now, they think they have lost that zeal, that closeness with the Lord they once had. They long for those days when they felt so close to the Lord. Perhaps you are wondering this yourself? Have you wondered what you can do to regain that intimacy you once had with the Lord? I have been there too. The missing key may well be spiritual formation. Many Christians since the time of Christ have asked some of the same questions. My hope is you will join me on this journey of discovery. We will examine how spiritual formation can be a game changer, as together we draw closer to Christ and we are transformed by Him.

I invite you to join me on a spiritual journey to become more and more like Christ. Spiritual formation is nothing but a fancy theological term. Spiritual formation is a more modern way of saying sanctification. Bruce Demarest gave a great definition of spiritual formation in his book, Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality. He wrote, “Spiritual formation is an ancient ministry of the church, concerned with the “forming” or “reshaping” of a believer’s character and action into the likeness of Christ” (22-24). 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) partially describes this process saying, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

There are two primary theories about how spiritual formation occurs. the first is that this is completely the work of the Holy Spirit. The Christian has no influence or ability to change this. The second theory is that the Christian can partner with the Holy Spirit in the work of spiritual formation by practicing spiritual disciplines. I fall in this second camp, as do many other scholars. There are many passages of scripture suggesting the main work of spiritual transformation is the job of the Holy Spirit, where Christians partner with the Holy Spirit in that work. By clarification, that work is not the saving grace of salvation which is completely the work of Christ and his shed blood.

There are many Christian people who have been a Christian for many years. Secretly, they think they seem to have lost that zeal, that closeness with the Lord they once had. Perhaps you have wondered what you can do to regain that intimacy you once had with the Lord. The missing key may well be spiritual formation. My hope is you will join me on this journey of discovery, as together we draw closer to Christ and are transformed by Him.