Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Times of Weakness

It is in times of weakness where I wish I could go back on the promises I made to the Lord. I wish that the covenants I entered into were void since God doesn't hold others to that particular conviction. I wish I was younger in the Lord and I didn't know certain things were not okay with God, so I could continue to sin in ignorance.

But thankfully, times of weakness are temporary. The convictions I have that I wished I didn't keep me from acting out my heart when it is following the flesh. That's when I need convictions the most. No one has to remind me it's wrong to steal when I have everything I want. No one has to remind me that I shouldn't lie if the truth I have to tell is so wonderful that lying would only be boring. But it is when my focus is off of Jesus and on the winds and the waves around me that I start to sink. And I need His hand to pull me up and His voice to accuse me of having little faith. But I do have a little.

I do desire a right relationship with God. But I also desire others to have one too. Sometimes, when I'm in a time of weakness and listening to the flesh, the thought that other people look to me and my walk with God help motivate me to put my flesh aside. I'm not afraid that I would be judged, well maybe a little, but I'm afraid that I may lead others to stumble. I don't want to do that.

I want to set a good example of a God following, Chist Loving, Spirit driven man. I want the younger guys in my life to see that it is possible and something they can attain. (If I can do it, anyone can.) I want the young ladies to see that it is possible and that they shouldn't seek a relationship with anyone who loves God less. I want to give them a standard to compare whatever cute guy they are interested in against to see if he really loves God or not.

I want to live and love my Christ.

Some people notice that after times of Spiritual Retreats and "Mountain times," they encounter a huge trial. I would also like to suggest the reverse. After a time of weakness, a time of testing, a trial, if you hold onto the Lord, there is a Spiritual strengthening like the angels ministering to Jesus in the desert.

I usually find that in times of weakness, when I notice that I am weak... the first hour in the Word is the hardest. But every hour after that is amazing!

"Be fruitful and multiply." -God

Friday, August 26, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night.

At evening, we got in the boat to sail across the sea. The wind was calm, but we caught a slight westward breeze that pushed us away from shore. Peter said at this rate, we'd be across in a couple of hours. I had just eaten a large meal so I stretched out on the bundles of fishing net and shut my eyes. Not a hour later, I wake up to a full fledge storm. It just came out of no where. Peter and Andrew are yelling out orders and the rest of us are straining to hear them over the wind and the waves crashing into the boat. James starts handing out oars and John is bailing water. I rush to the side and start paddling with all my might. The water is constantly spraying me in the face and a wave knocks me down. I almost drop my paddle. The darkness of the storm blocks out all view of land, although I looked across the sea before we left and could easily make out the mountains on the other side. We paddle and paddle and paddle for hours and hours and hours. My arms felt like jello. I take a few seconds longer to get up after each wave knocks me down and I'm drenched to the core. I've swallowed more water than John has been able to bail and it's starting to dawn on us that we might not make it. Peter and Andrew have stopped shouting and Andrew has his face in his hands. It's all over.

Matthew was the first one to see it. He was sitting right in front of me and I heard him scream. I look behind me to see what he's looking at and through the storm but the light of lightening, there is a figure on the sea. It disappears behind a wave and then appears again. Someone said ghost and we all panicked. We were all screaming and I heard someone mention jumping overboard. But just then the ghost spoke.

"Don't be afraid, it is I"

At once we recognized the voice. It was Jesus! He was walking on the water! Though our speech was frozen in our throats at first by fear, and now by awe, it was Peter who first spoke. He asked to walk on the water to Jesus, and Jesus said He could go! Then Peter actually jumps overboard and starts walking on water! He must truly be the greatest of the twelve. None of the rest of us even dared to ask. But then, as Peter is walking toward Jesus, up and down on the waves, he starts looking around. He looks at the wind and the waves and immediately, he began to sink. Jesus grabs him and helps him up and back into the boat. Just then, the storm stopped and we were at shore. It was the most amazing night in my entire life, but life with Jesus seems to be full of surprises. Just wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Closing Hour of Vacation

As the closing hour of my vacation draws near, I feel as though I am not any wiser or any closer to the Lord than when I left. But I'm at peace. I have not worried or stressed or fought back any complaints for the last three days. I don't know if I was really expecting a change of life direction with this time, but I didn't get one. Instead I feel like I've laid down my burdens and stretched a bit. I still don't know which ones, if any, I need to give up. I'm still not sure whether God is planning on lightening my load or giving me a stronger back. But I do know He has something in mind. Guessing at what it might be is foolishness since my imagination cannot compare to the blessings God has already planned for me. Am I blessed? I am. I am truly and undeservingly blessed. And it's not because I'm good, but because the one who loves me is Good. And in His goodness and love will I forever dwell. Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 1 of Not Existing

I told everyone I knew... everyone I interacted with daily anyways, that I was going to cease to exist for a few days. I prearranged to be free from obligations and turned off my phone and closed my facebook tab on my internet browser. The point was to quiet myself before God.

One of the first things I did was to look up the word bless in blueletterbible.org

It is a fascinating word. It's Hebrew word is Barak and it appears in the Bible as follows:
bless 302
salute 5
curse 4
blaspheme 2
blessing 2
praised 2
kneel down 2
congratulate 1
kneel 1
make to kneel 1
misc 8

I was surprised as it has been translated as curse four times! That's the opposite meaning of the word! I then looked up where it was translated as curse so I could check the context. They are all in the beginning of Job. Once when Job was sacrificing in case his kids accidently cursed God. Twice when Satan said that Job would curse God if bad stuff happened. And finally once when Job's wife told him to curse God and die.

I couldn't just put in the translation bless instead of curse without changing the meaning of the sentence. I was so confused and tired. It was the end of a Sunday and an especially long one at that. I hadn't slept long the few previous nights because of ministry opportunities and I was wanting to catch some z's. So I put away the computer, gout out my big white fluffy Z catcher and went to sleep.

I'm still not sure about how that word got translated as curse or why the author of Job used that word there. But I prayed about it. For most of today, since about midnight Sunday night until fivish Monday afternoon, I went back and forth from sleeping to praying to reading to eating to sleeping to praying all day long. I feel wonderfully rested and my body feels like it's recovering from a lot of physical activity... which I think is just the stress in my muscles relaxing. But just because I'm being quiet before the Lord does not mean I'm not getting spiritually attacked.

This morning... at least it may have been morning... I wasn't paying attention to time a lot, I was praying a prayer of petition when I heard a distinct spiritual no. (Meaning it wasn't audible.) At first, I thought it was God, but it sounded different. (John 10:4) That no also doesn't jive to what I understand to be God's character in the way He's been leading me recently in this particular avenue. I was really expecting more of a, "not now." So at first, as I thought it was God, I was disappointed with that answer, but as I thought about the harshness of the "voice" and the inconsistency of God's character, I was a bit skeptical. So I prayed asking for confirmation and started to sing (only in my heart, not audibly) a song of Praise to the Father, Son, and the Spirit of God, and the gruff voice that told me no started to scream and shrink away. It was not God after all, and whatever it was, it could not stand it when I praise my real God.

Now on the subject, if God tells me no, and I know it was from Him, I would accept it. No is a much easier answer than wait and I can deal with disappointment. I can deal with heartbreak. I can deal with emotional pain by the boatload, but waiting is quite a bit harder. I don't want to go without God's guidance either, so I would rather wait than assume a yes. When it is time, and God says Yes, I'll let you know, but if I'm wrong and God does end up saying no, I'll probably not exist for a while longer to seek His will some more.


I've been praying about a lot of things while I'm non-existent, and I'm not getting a bunch of answers. I know it's only been a day, but I'm impatient like that. I have had a lot of dreams though. Some were pleasant and some were attacks. I remember being chased through a building. I'm not sure what was chasing me, but I wasn't scared. I don't know why I didn't face it, but I seemed to be confident of where I was going and why. I think it was a trick of some sort, but I do remember crawling through an air duct and barely fitting. In another dream, I was helping someone. I can't remember who or what I was helping with, but it was something big and that person couldn't have done it alone.

Speaking of alone, I don't mind being it. I actually enjoyed not talking to anyone. I enjoyed keeping my mouth shut and soaking up God's Word and books about God's Word. I enjoyed praying myself to sleep and waking up in a state of prayer. I enjoyed not existing, but I know that I must not stay this way. This is a special time that I get to enjoy between my and my Jesus, and although I would love to have all my time be this special, we (both me and Jesus) are called to be in the World spreading the news of the Kingdom and growing up believers.

My ministry is to help Him do His ministry of seeking and saving. We work together. He doesn't need me, but chooses to bring me along to work beside Him. He is showing me how to be a good husband in ministry for when He provides me with a wife. (If you are my future wife and you're reading this, I just want you to know that I'm studying really hard.)

One thing that I've been praying about in my life is time away from ministry to spend with Jesus like I'm doing now. It's not good to be so busy with work you don't spend quality time with Jesus. I've been struggling with that lately, but what can I give up? I love everything I do and I want to do more. But it's only for a season. When I get married, I can't do that anymore. I will need to spend time with my wife... (I told you I'm studying hard.) She will need to be a priority so we can minister effectively together.

That part of me that I've identified as the flesh has been acting up lately. It's been screaming and yelling and making all sorts of fuss. I've been able to step back from it and keep it from influencing my actions and most of my speech, but I've been praying for God to take it out. That's part of this time away. I think it gained strength as I took on more and more responsibility. I'm praying on what to do. I would love to do everything and more, but there are only so many hours in a day and days in a week. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak... actually my flesh has been strong lately, but it's also been a brat. Today, since I didn't exist, it hasn't been too bad. It has no power on days of prayer. Why can't all my days be days of prayer?

If anyone reading this is already married, make sure you take time to spend with your spouse. I cannot emphasize how important this is! After God, he/she must be your first priority, even before your kids! You cannot minister to your kids properly unless you and your spouse are working as one. Take time and spend it alone with your spouse! Call me if you need someone to watch your kids for you. I'll even do it for free if it's the only way you can get away. Also, in your time together, approach God together seeking His will and have it be a time between the three of you. You, your spouse, and the Almighty God! It's the best.

Oh, and for those of you who might worry that I don't exist... don't. I'm safe and cared after.

PS. I still haven't figured out the bless/curse thing yet. Google wasn't as helpful as I thought... either that or no one knows... or I just don't know what key words to search for.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Star Catcher

Step by step, the mountains approach. A half an hour ago, they looked exactly the same as they do now, but only two days ago, I didn't even know they existed. I heard about them, but I didn't see them.

Majestic. Awe-inspiring, Holding up the sky.

Man, I have to climb them!

Part of me wants to give up. Part of me wants to move off the trail and lie down and wiggle my toes in the long grass.

But I'm not going to.

I'm going to climb the mountains like I planned. I'm going to keep moving forward. I'm going to use my hands to climb and one day, with God's help, I'll stand at the top. I'll reach up and grab a star and put it in a bottle. It will be the light of my house. It will be a gift to my wife. It will be blessing that killed me to get it.

I will return a different man than I was when I left.

The old me, the one that wants to lie down and wiggle my toes in the grass, will cease to exist, and only Jonathan the mountain conquerer will be left. Jonathan the star catcher. Jonathan the light bringer. Jonathan the God truster.

One day. Just you wait and see.

One day.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Camping

Today, I became a drifter. I drifted with the current down the Feather River with beloved friends and enjoyed God's beauty and the serenity of His creation. Some people fished and there were actually fish jumping out of the water. I paddled and we got stuck once... I broke a paddle trying to get us free.

This was my first time river kayaking and I enjoyed it. I would do it again if given the opportunity.

But what I loved more was the friends and fellowship we shared. It's different doing things for the sake of doing the thing and doing things for the sake of doing something with friends. If I was going to kayak for the sake of kayak, I would have gone by myself and wouldn't have gotten so wet. But as it was, I had three people on my Kayak and there were many times when I just pulled my paddle and sat enjoying the day... until someone splashed me. Of course I splashed back.

God did not determine for us to travel though life alone. This doesn't mean look for that special someone, but love everyone that God puts in your path. He provides through people as much as He provides for people through you. Just being a friend, even if you don't feel like you did any good, sometimes, is what God is using to show that He cares.

So go camping, paddle down a river, and bring a friend along.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Rocks Cry Out

The rocks cried out a week after Jesus said they would. When He rode on a donkey into Jerusalem, the pharisees asked Him to tell the people to stop worshipping Him. He said that if they stopped the rocks would cry out. They did.

A week later, when Jesus hung on the cross, no one worshipped Him. They mocked Him of fled for their own lives. When He died on that cross, the rocks cried out in a giant earthquake and the veil was torn. Who heard their cry? A Roman Soldier who could then proclaim, "Truly this was the Son of God."

Three days later, when Jesus rose from the dead, the rocks cried out once again, releasing from their depths the dead who had died in faith.

One day, I will ascend to heaven. I will ascend to the Glory of my Master and I will leave behind pain and sickness and death itself. My home is not of this world. If my home was of this world, I would fight for it. Instead I stand in the gap. Preaching the Gospel until God takes me home... and after God takes me home, the rocks will cry out once again.

Monday, August 01, 2011

God is Faithful

My life recently has consisted of every good thing except a goodnight's sleep. I've had great ministry opportunities and challenges as well as fruit and fellowship. I've experienced joy as well as sorrow. I've struggled with sin and have claimed my victory in Christ.

I have learned a lot about love. Stuff I already knew. Stuff I understood, but didn't have words for.

Love is a strange thing. With the love of God, we can love both a complete stranger and that special someone. Our love for the stranger isn't diminished next to the love of that special someone, but it's different.

Love for a stranger is looking at and seeing Christ in that lonely face. Seeing the Jesus that I so desire to minister to behind that flesh and that mask of eyes. Going out of your way to help someone you don't know is not only right, but joyful. It's like singing songs into the wind. No one knows what you're doing, but you know God hears.

But love for that special someone is more constant. It's giving over of your life and disciplining your body to be a slave to your will for hours on end. It's finding joy in making that someone blessed at every expense. It's knowing that my own bodily desires are even further down the list of priorities and only after every need and want of this other person is satisfied, do my own desires even dare to show themselves.

Sleep is the present reward of trust and joy is the present reward of hope. Tonight, I shall lay my head down in sweet surrender, completely believing that my God is faithful.