Divine Enabling


From our Thanksgiving 2010 trip to the Dominican Republic

On this day of Thanksgiving, one gratitude I feel is for God’s enabling power. I put 2 Peter 1:3-4 into my own words the other day:

“I can do the work God gives me to do. I really do have everything I need for life in God through more deeply knowing the One Who has called me from out of His Own majesty and virtue. It is because of God’s own glorious goodness that I have such wonderful commitments from God so that I am able to enter into the communion of Father, Son and Spirit, living free from the lying promises of the culture around me.”

I am not powerless unless I distance myself from the Mighty One. My archenemy desires to diminish and discourage my confidence in God’s great goodness. If I listen to him, this is his only source of victory. I find myself angry that I would listen to His lies. He wants nothing but my loss and ruin.

Reminding myself of these realities is something I need. Sometimes I let myself get in a trap of wallowing around in my own thoughts and feelings without letting God and thoughts of/from Him to intervene. There is no life if I’m just living with my own thoughts about God. I need vital communion with and in my good God. He is for me, not against me. He is doing good work in me. His love for me has never once waned.

A Prayer for Empowerment


Bottled sand art by a local artisan in Petra, Jordan

I have come to love this prayer of Paul:

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spiritt of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:15-21 NIV)

In reflecting on it now, I’m struck by God’s “incomparably great power” for us through our trust. I need the Spirit to give me a greater facility in trusting God’s powerful presence and intervention. I still often default to anxiety which is rooted in a self-conscious, self-focused, self-limited perspective. “I don’t think I can do that…” becomes a dead-end to creativity, courage, hope, resourcefulness and so on.

“Father, I need what Paul asks here in opening my heart’s eyes wider and clearer to see the hopeful, fruitful future You’ve prepared for us, the riches You’ve invested in each of us and all of us as Your people—Your heirs, and the power beyond measure accessible to us through our living attentively dependent on Jesus. May I come to believe and practically trust that You still want to work among us on the same scale as Your mighty work in raising Jesus from the dead, seating Him in authority in Your heavenly dimension for all time.”

How does this prayer intersect with where you find yourself in life and ministry today?

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Why Go On Retreats?


[Update from the Dominican Republic. I arrived Friday afternoon and stayed the night at the home of a leader who will be in Journey Gen 1 here. He spoke no English. I'm useless with Spanish. It was a comedic conversation of one word efforts and lots of half-baked sign language! Today, we visited the Young Life camp here in Jarabacoa where we will host the Journey. It's beautiful. I'll try to post a picture or two here, perhaps after the retreat. Again, thank you for your prayers. And...I'm missing my youngest son, Christopher, who turns 13 today).

I recently read a book on the theme of retreats and came across this explanation of what a retreat can do for us:

“A retreat is, more than anything else, a time and space set apart in which to be very intentional about one’s relationship with God. It is a time not to do, but rather to be—to encounter God. It is a spiritual stock-taking: William Lonergan, in Laymen’s Retreats Explained, has written of the retreat experience as withdrawal from ordinary life, that by thought and prayer and under the expert guidance of a competent master, a man may reconsider the purpose of life here on earth, plan to employ such means as will make that end more secure, and strengthen his will to abide by those plans. (p.25)

If we can extrapolate from Lonergan’s noninclusive language (his book was published in 1930), we can see that there are three components to the spiritual task of the retreat: perspective (through withdrawal from ordinary activities), peace (a sense of who one is in relationship to God), and power (a plan through which one hopes to make changes in one’s life).” (Angell, Jeannette L. All Ground is Holy. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 1993, p. 16, emphasis mine.)

Perspective. Peace. Power. These have proven to be among the many fruits of regular spiritual retreat. If you haven’t taken a retreat recently, I’d encourage you to consider it.

(A repost from May 2010)

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A Good Word: Idolatry as a Mistake About Reality


A week ago, I posted some insights from Psalm 115 I titled “Transformed By What We Worship.” I talked some about idolatry and our tendency to assume that it is a “them” category. Below is a great word from Dallas Willard on the mistake of idolatry. I hope it helps you.

“Idolatry is a mistake about reality, and an error at the ‘worldview’ level. It arises from the crying need for human beings to gain control over their lives. That need is understandable, of course, and it must be met in some way. But idolatry tries to meet the need by assigning powers to an object of human imagination and artifice, powers that object does not actually possess. It usually thinks of the object as a living being–monstrous in appearance and nearly always an animal or something animal-like–for it must be capable of action. In modern life it is more likely to  be some sort of technical device or human arrangement (the government or the ‘market,’ perhaps) that we have come to trust. The ‘idol,’ then, is more than just the physical object, for it is supposed to have powers that, if humans appropriately serve it, will be used to benefit them. In the end the idol is always intended to be the servant of the idol-worshippers and their desires. Thus it is humans themselves who are the universal idol, and that is why Paul calls covetousness idolatry (Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5). In coveting I elevate myself to the position of having my way and getting the things I want–regardless of others.” (Dallas Willard. Knowing Christ Today. New York: HarperOne, 2009, p. 41-42)

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So Why Retreats?


Today I’m leading another “An Unhurried Day with Jesus” retreat in Irvine, CA. I recently read a book on the theme of retreats and came across this explanation of what a retreat can do for us:

“A retreat is, more than anything else, a time and space set apart in which to be very intentional about one’s relationship with God. It is a time not to do, but rather to be—to encounter God. It is a spiritual stock-taking: William Lonergan, in Laymen’s Retreats Explained, has written of the retreat experience as

withdrawal from ordinary life, that by thought and prayer and under the expert guidance of a competent master, a man may reconsider the purpose of life here on earth, plan to employ such means as will make that end more secure, and strengthen his will to abide by those plans. (p.25)

If we can extrapolate from Lonergan’s noninclusive language (his book was published in 1930), we can see that there are three components to the spiritual task of the retreat: perspective (through withdrawal from ordinary activities), peace (a sense of who one is in relationship to God), and power (a plan through which one hopes to make changes in one’s life).” (Angell, Jeannette L. All Ground is Holy. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 1993, p. 16.)

Perspective. Peace. Power. These have proven to be among the many fruits of regular spiritual retreat. If you haven’t taken a retreat recently, I’d encourage you to consider it.

Buy a copy of All Ground Is Holy: A Guide to the Christian Retreat on Amazon.com

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A Victory of Transforming Love


“We must not forget that, in the Roman Empire, Christ won, and won against tremendous odds. He won because the faith in Christ really changed the lives of countless weak men and made them bold as lions. He has taken poor creatures who could not even understand the language of moral philosophy and shaken the world through them.” (Elton Trueblood. The Predicament of Modern Man. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1944, pp. 62-63.)

But Christ and his way did not win by the usual path of overwhelming human power. He won the adoration and devotion of people, and their changed lives won over the world. The testimony of others was, “See how they love one another.” Is our faith community as transformed as those earliest Christ followers? Do our lives powerfully recommend the reality of Christ and His way—not only in words, but in lifestyle and character? Were we weak and now strong in Christ by grace?

The way of Christ won through those with little worldly capital to their credit. They were not sophisticated. They were not humanly impressive. They were not captains of industry. They were not world-class athletes. They were mostly poor, mostly small, mostly uneducated, mostly weak. It wasn’t their greatness that won the world, but Christ’s.

So what do I think contributes most to my own influence? Is it my physical stature? My education? My experience? These are certainly God-given, but my greatest source of spiritual influence is Christ making Himself more and more at home in my heart through tested faith. It is only as I am coming to more fully trust the goodness, the power and the real presence of Christ with me, in me and through me that my life has lasting influence.

For Reflection:

In what ways has Christ already changed your life from those earliest moments of entrusting yourself to Him? Take time to reflect and thank Him.

Where in your life do you feel need for further transformation—your spiritual habits, your response to temptations, your engagement in extending the word and compassion of Christ to others? Talk with God. Invite His Spirit to bring about the change for which your heart hungers.