The challenge for me in my walk with God has been to put my faith in him. What’s spurred this confession? Oddly a very poor Nicholas Cage movie version of “Left Behind.” It got me thinking, would I be left. Sure, I’ve accepted Christ as my savior, over and over again, but have I meant it? Or is it something that I’ve just thought I should do and was right. My walk with God has been up and down, left right, sometimes with jerks and gut checks, and at other times with great blessings.
The latest sermon series at Radiant Church Ann Arbor is entitled “Pray First.” What are the sermon’s about? How to put prayer first in our lives and the impact it will have our walk with God. How is this challenging? Well for someone who has struggled to find a space for God in the personal sphere of my life, I understand the need to do it. I understand the need to read the bible and the applications and implications it has in my personal attitude toward people and in general, but it always happens, I’ll start….1, 2, 3 days later I’m off doing what I’ve been doing. I guess it could be called a lack of personal discipline and personal conviction and a feeling of spiritual ineptitude.
Most of the people I know and hang out with grew up in churched homes, learning the bible. My family, we went to church, but it was not a getup and go Sunday morning thing, too many kids, too much time, it was mostly holidays, the occasional sunday, but the experience didn’t mean anything for me at that age, there was no organized children’s programs to speak of, no memory verses that I can recall, not that it makes much different as my brain is pretty much a black hole, what goes it, unless it keeps to the edges and gets used just kind of gets sucked into oblivion made even worse with the introduction of the smart phone into my personal life. Church, as I know it today, didn’t happen until late in my Junior High School years, and even then it was less about the church and more that I was able to get plugged in and do something that was interesting to me…video (more on that at a later date). Ever since High School when youth group members would quote bible passages, I’ve felt as though I was behind everyone, like it was something that I should know and didn’t. I don’t know where that feeling comes from, no one has ever looked at me and asked, don’t you know that verse, or anything like that…so i suppose it comes from a pride issue of wanting desperately for people to accept me and think highly of me, so I’ve taken care to keep myself guarded, never letting anyone get too knowledgeable of what I do or don’t know or what I actually think or feel. I think it also comes with a bit of immaturity in my faith: I’ve never allowed that mustard seed that was planted so many years ago to grow, never fully sewed it, never provided it the nourishment it needed; the reading and praying, that would have allowed it to flourish into something that consumed me and provided me with new life. Today I start to face that challenge and this is part of it.
Something that brought this to mind was watching a basil plant that I’ve had since the beginning of July. I bought the plant when it was beautiful and green, full of life. After a few days the leaves began to droop and the soil was hard, so I gave it some water and back to life it came, but then the nats came, and began to lay eggs in the soil, so we the basil was put outside and neglected. Soon the leaves were brown and dry, and there it sat on the porch, something appearing to be dead and gone, until the rains came and with them, new life. I was amazed that this plant had come back from what was certain death, it was new again, sprouting from where the dead had been. It now sits on my porch, green and full, continuing to grow and flourish and when its been a couple days since the rain, I’ll give it water and it will continue to grow.
The new life in Christ gives, does the same thing to the soul as the water to the plant, it restores and give strength. Will you drink the healing water?
Worship. Clear the mind. Offer yourself to Him. Take a drink of His healing water. Pray.
Pray First has been a reminder of how I need to get myself in a position to be the spiritual voice and guidance that my family needs. One of the ways that I’ve learned to as a tool to assist me in this development is SOAP.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth [a]in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident [b]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not [c]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and[d]crawling creatures.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for [e]a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,who is blessed [f]forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is [g]unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing [h]indecent acts and receiving in [i]their own persons the due penalty of their error.
28 And just as they did not see fit [j]to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, [k]haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Verse 21 in this passage is giving me that gut check. I’ve been blessed with different talents that make me who I am and allow me to do what I do in my personal passions and in my spiritual passions, but often I don’t place credit where it needs to be placed, on Him.
I need to put God first. In work, in home life, God needs to receive the glory and praise for what I am able to do on a daily basis. He needs to be the water for my life to provide the cleansing waters for my soul. For if he is not my heart will become darkened and just like the basil will wither and die.
My Heart – Lord and gracious father, thank you for being my everything. For giving me the ability to have new life and be green again. My prayer today is that you continue to remind me to look to you before anything else and provide for the lightening of my heart. Praise be to the king of kings, for you are my everything, may I look to You in times of trouble as the light in the darkness.
I long for your assistance in raising my daughter to know you and your ways and to understand the glory and the power that You are and to feel the breath of Your word as it fills her. Longing to lead this family that we’re creating is something that needs to be at the front of my focus with You and that begins with loving my wife as she deserves and in a way that shows Your love. Often I forget that I need to be the one to lead us spiritually and that starts here as it’s the only way that I can comfort and provide for them in all of life’s aspects.
Lord, you know our struggles with the portable church and the setup of everything on a weekly basis. How much longer will we continue in this process. We continue to look to You, may our prayers be heard for we long for the building that we can call our own and the opportunities that I will bring. I pray for our leadership, Pastors Jeremy and Celeste that they will find peace in knowing that Your plan will be made known and that they continue to feel the blessing they’ve been on so many of us who serve on a daily basis.
From time to time you throw us unexpected curve balls, the things we don’t see coming, family member’s deaths, friends parents passing away and the blessings that those who aren’t in our lives daily can be. Thank you Father for the friends that I have on the technical team at Radiant. Thank you for James, who had every right in my book, to not serve today and for Braxton who gives and gives time and time again, bless them as they go about their days this week, may they feel your presence at work, school or home. Be the comfort to Braxton’s friend Chris, who is going things that I can’t even comprehend trying to deal with at this moment, while attempting to find a comfort and understanding surrounding his father’s passing.
Finally, Lord, be with those who are leading our government. This election season has only seen an increase in the tensions that are growing. Provide wisdom to make the right decisions and to say the right words. It may take years for some decisions to come down and be made known, may they be guided by Your hand and not the enemy.
Thank you for sending Your son for me. Amen.
Thank you for staying with me if you did.