Today is my designated day of concentrated prayer. A day I set in place some time ago. Its a day that I enterceed for the needs of others, and open myself up to God in a way that is less about me, and more about God through me. Its a day I look forward to. Its also a day about remembering. Remembering God's work in my life and in the life of others.
I used to believe that one of the greatest affects of sin is forgetting. We tend to forget God's provisions. We take them for granted. We keep moving forward as soon as we have have been delievered. But forgetting can also release us to move forward. Forgetting is not such a bad thing. I know, I know. I am probabably contridicting myself in light of my previous posts, and there are some experieces that I will never forget. Do you think Abraham ever forgot about taking Isaac into the wilderness? No. Was it a defining moment? Yes. Did it shape every encounter from that point foward? To a degree, but probably not consciously.
I do believe God allows us to forget in the sense that if were to live in the constant state of remembering all things we as humans would have a hard time moving forward, and at the same time, the Lord has to remind his people of His past provisions to help them move forward in boldness. The Lord tells us that our sins He will remember no more and throw them as far as the East is from the West. That's pretty far. That's pretty good forgetting.
Now, if I could only remember where I left my cell phone.
Bring to rememberance all that Christ has taught us,and help us to forget the sins we have committed, and the pain we have experienced or caused. Help us to walk forward with the knowledge of your redemptive love and leave behind the temptations that so easily entangle our feet.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Posted by George Atkins at 6:11 AM
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
A friend of mine from another faith tradition questioned, not critically, the role of prayer in my life. Is it for intercession, praise, meditation? My answer was "Yes". All of thee above.
Most of what I have experienced and practiced is deal making with God, "If you get me out of this one I will be so good from now on." Then I read some Sadhu Sundar Sing. Read what he has to say about prayer.
When we see a crane standing motionless on the side of a tank or lake, we may suppose from his attitude that he is musing on the glory of God or the excellent quality of the water. But no such thing! He stand there motionless for hours, but the moment he catches sight of a frog or small fish he springs upon it and gulps it down. Just such is the attitude and method of many with regard to prayer and religious meditation. Seated by the shore of the boundless ocean of God, they give no thought to His majesty and love, or to His divine nature that cleanses from sin and satisfies the hungry soul, but are wrapped up in the thought of acquiring some specially desired object, by means of which they may more fully indulge in the delights of this fleeting world. Thus they turn away from the fountain of true peace, and, immersing themselves in the fading joys of this world, with them also die and pass away.
Equaly moving is CS Lewis's response to prayer in "Shadow Lands". When asked if prayer changes things, Lewis (played by Sr. Anthony Hopkins)replies " I don't know, but I know it changes me."
I have lived for so long without the kind of prayer that changes me. Without the kind of prayer that cleanses me from sin. I dare not live that kind of life any longer.
God used suffering to change me. Go figure! Suffering drove me to my knees. Actually it drove me straight to the ground, prostrate. It drove me to the top of a parking garage where I could be as vocal and I wanted to be. I remember the pain in the prayers. I remember the desparation. Most would want to forget that kind of pain, but I do not. Paul wanted to know Christ in the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his sufferings. It is within the pain we come to know God and God meets us. Not because that's the only place to meet us, but because its often the first or only place were we invite God to present.
Do I want the suffering to go away? Yes. Do I want the memory to leave? No. If so, I am afraid I will abandon the kind of prayer that truly changes me.
One day, after such prayer, I got up and heard the voice " So, will this last after things have calm down, or is this just for now?" I was cut to the quick. I can honestly say, its has continued, but not because I have made a deal with God, but because I can not go back now that I have tasted God's presence and power in such prayer.
Posted by George Atkins at 12:16 PM
Monday, June 22, 2009
My brothers and I grew up raising tropical fish. Actually, they did, I watched and over fed them till I got old enough to get my own tanks.
We kept all sorts of fish, but mostly fish known as African Cichlids, found in the rift lakes of Africa.
These fish are very colorful and hearty, but they do take some time to get acclimated to a new tank. They are very territorial and can be sensitive to the water chemistry. You can't simply dump them into the tank and hope it works out. Before adding a new fish, you should actually re-arrange the entire tank and do a partial water change before intorducing the new fish. This way the environment is new for everyone and the new fish has a chance to establish itself.
This process doesn't happen with people. When we move we're dumped into a new environment we have to figure out the culture and assimilate, to a certain degree. We have to get acclimated to the culture.
Fish disease and death is caused more by stress than anything else. What affect do you think stress has on humans? Something I think we completely underestimate and probably over medicate (I completely support medical intervention when appropriate, and at the same time I think we should be working towards alternatives such as reshaping our thinking as Paul encourages us in Romans).
Stress is an indicator that things are either not normal or different. Stress itself is not bad and can actually motivate us to greater levels of functioning. Too much stress can debilitate us and even cause death.
As I experience my families transition to a new town, each of us are experiencing stress in different ways. Each of us are getting acclimated at different rates. The key that I have found in being OK with the stress is to name it and recognize it, not deny it. In naming it I have found that it looses its power and allows me the grace to be OK with it.
Paul says if you're stressed, pray about it, and God will give you peace, not as the world gives, but only as God gives. I would encourage you memorize Philippians 4:4-7.
Our approach to stress and anxiety can be a witness to God's power in our life.
May the Lord grant us peace, and use our lives to bring hope and encouragement to all those who know us.
Posted by George Atkins at 11:47 AM
Friday, June 5, 2009
The question I get more than any other from people is "What is God's will for my life?" It's usually set in the context of a job change, relationship, or any number of other circumstances requiring a decision. These situations often keep people paralyzed from going in any direction because they are afraid of making a wrong move. They want a guaranteed result. They want to be sure that the path they take will lead to beneficial results.
The reality is, I often get these questions from people who have not cultivated a relationship with God. They are not dedicated to prayer. They do not know God's word. They have not placed themselves with in a community of people who are doing the same thing. In short, they are simply winging it, and by coming to the "pastor" they are trying to take a short cut. I am honored that they consider me as a source of sage advice, and I am, but I have no more access to God's word or the Holy Spirit than they do. While I consider my vocation a calling, and not a career, I do not take that calling as a call to spiritual greatness, but a call to spiritual humility and service.
Romans 12:1-2 says "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
What is God's will? That we be faithful and obedient to the Gospel and not to the world. What does that mean in each situation? This can only be determined in the context of God's word, prayer, and wise counsel ( Wise counsel does not always mean your circle of friends who are willing to tell you what you want to hear). Then moving forward in faith. Is picking the right spouse, job, or car a matter of being obedient to God's will? Yes, and I believe God will show you the right path within the disciplines given, but that does not mean the path will be easy.
We read Romans 8:28 believing that God works all things together for our good because we love God, but we believe good is comfort, and safety. We shun the idea that good could be suffering and trials.
Paul dared to know Christ in the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his sufferings. Who dares to know such a Christ today? Not many, but those who do have a faith that can move mountains. They have a faith that puts them in touch with God's will, because they daily die to themselves and present themselves as living sacrifices.
Do you dare to know God's will? Do you dare to know God in the way Paul and Ruth know God? Or do you want to live your life winging it, being fearful, looking back and constantly asking "What if I had . . ?", or "If I had only . ."
Here is your prescription for knowing God's will. It may feel like flossing at first, but it will provide a lifetime of prevention.
1. Get up in the morning and start off on your face thanking God, confessing sin, interceding for others, asking for wisdom, and giving God glory.
2. Read your Bible. Use a study guide if necessary, but get your face in the book. God speaks to those who seek God out.
3. Get yourself in the company of people who know God and who are willing to speak truth.
4. Throughout the day simply repeat The Jesus Creed (Matt 12:29-31)- 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these."
5. Be thankful and gracious in all circumstances.
Let me know how it goes.
Start . . .Now!
Posted by George Atkins at 11:18 AM
Thursday, June 4, 2009
There are songs that are attached to specific events in one's life. Into the Mystic came into my life during a transitional period in which I was leaving a job to enter into the ministry. The song was often played on the CD player in the coffee shop, and I remember longing to be in ministry and being able to enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning without having to be interrupted by a customer. That day is now here, but something else is interrupting me. . Life.
I am at another crossroads of life, heading into a new ministry in land that is not my own. The fog horn is blowing, I hear it, and I don't have to fear it. I'm being pulled into the mystic.
This song has returned to me, and I am thankful. For a listen, go to my tunes below. its the first one.
Posted by George Atkins at 9:52 AM
Monday, June 1, 2009
We live in a world, and particularly a culture that wants to know how things are going to happen and when they're going to happen. We have people who are "trained" to forecast the weather, and stock market, but the best they can do is give an educated guess based upon previous data.
Often within the church we assimilate the understanding of predictions to our understanding of prophecy, which is not entirely false and yet, not entirely true. We often look at prophecy with our eyes squinted shut in doubt because so much "prophecy" does not come to fruition. We actually wait for it not to happen, unlike Nineveh who repented in expectation of prophecy coming to pass, which begs the question of Jonah, who's prophecy was it?
I have come to know and experience several prophets in my time, but they did not predict what I would have for lunch, or whom I would marry. They were preachers who rightly divided the Word of God and applied it to the cultural context they were preaching in to guide the people towards holy living. They simply preached the Word and stepped back and said "Thus saith the Lord". The weight of the prophecy then rests on the hearers to respond (James 1:19-27).
Can we predict or forecast how people will respond to our preaching? Somewhat, because we have a history of data to show us how God's people have responded in the past, but we can never know what exactly that response will be in the moment because we don't know how the Holy Spirit is going to work in a certain person's life at any given moment.
We can never be quite certain how the winds will shift or to what degree they will affect the weather. We can never be quite certain how human nature will affect the stock market. We can forecast, and predict. That's all we can do. And in our prophecy we can speak forth the Word of God, and pray that what the Lord calls us to share moves people closer to God.
This is why for me, each day is step of faith. Each moment, even now as I type, I ask God, what would you have me say and do that would bring you glory, and how are you calling me to respond to your glory? I can't live by forecasts and predictions (as much as I try), only by the Word of God.
Posted by George Atkins at 7:42 AM