January 10, 2009

Northern Ireland

Hello to everyone!

As most of you probably know, I am in Northern Ireland right now. I am with a program called Lighthouse from Taylor that sends out multiple teams across the globe on short-term missions projects. We left on January 7 and will be back on January 28th.
Our team is working with a ministry called Project Evangelism headed by John Moxen. We are staying at the Murlough House in Dundrum, right outside of Belfast. We will be working with kids ranging from kindergarten to end of high school. Our programs consist of school assemblies, after-school VBS, and coffee bar outreach for teens during the nights. We also help the ministry at Murlough House, out of which Project Evangelism operates.
Our first couple days have been going great. Many of us (myself very much included) are still adjusting to the jet lag and trying to get on good sleeping patterns. We've had a lot of time to practice our dramas and prepare for our VBS program that starts on Monday. Tomorrow morning we'll be attending a local Presbyterian church in Belfast, and in the night we'll be working with a youth-group-type program.
Please continue to lift our team up in prayer as we go about our missions work. Also please pray for the missionaries we are working with and the kids that we will talk to and give the Gospel to. Pray that their hard hearts will be softened and receptive to the message. Pray that we would all be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in everything we do as we are here.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us both financially and through your prayers! Until next time...

January 4, 2009

Boiling Point

Welcome to 2009! Another chance to make (and break) new years' resolutions with hopes of going through with them next year! Bring on 2010!

Sorry, I'm being cynical already. I guess I'm just speaking from personal experience, and I tend to be very critical of myself.

In all honesty, though, I am very optimistic at this point. I'm really excited for what this year is going to bring... the end of my junior year of college, 2 missions trips to Northern Ireland and Dearborn, Michigan, a summer of inner city ministry in Los Angeles, my sister's wedding ceremony (which I get to perform... she's crazy, right?), the building of friendships, the continuing of youth ministry at Oneighty, and much, much more. God is opening up doors all over the place. He is always blessing me in so many areas of my life. He is like the dad that can't (or won't) stop buying his kids toys at the Toys 'R Us because his love for them is overwhelming.

And, yet... how much time do I truly and genuinely give back to Him? More specifically, how much time do I dedicate to prayer and solitude every week to bask in the presence of the Most High?

While preparing for my missions trip to Northern Ireland with a group from Taylor this month, I have been spending a considerable amount of time in prayer. I've been spending more time in prayer and solitude in the past couple weeks than I ever do when I'm not about to go on a missions trip. And I've never felt so encouraged and empowered by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. I feel like I'm on a constant spiritual high.

Now, I am not saying this at all to point all the attention on my spiritual life to show how good I am. Because in reality I am nowhere near the point where I should be. In fact, I am saying this because I've now realized how much prayer is absent in my life on a daily basis. While I have an amazing opportunity daily to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit and feel a transcendent power that only comes from God, I still do not take it. It's a free gift that I hardly take advantage of. I mean, sure, I pray a little here and there everyday, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fall-on-your-face-in-awe-of-God type of praying that leaves you breathless. I'm talking about the boiling point of prayer.

I'm working my way through a book called Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. While reading today, I came across this "boiling point" terminology and it hit me like a ton of bricks. All of a sudden I could vocalize and put-into-words what I've been feeling and what I long for when I'm not in that place. Sanders uses boiling point to describe Romans 12:11, which says: "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." The spiritual fervor that Paul talks about here is the boiling point of our faith. But just as any material or liquid is difficult to keep at boiling point, so it is with our faith.

Sanders says: "Most leaders know times of great spiritual excitement, of the burning heart, of special nearness to God and more than ordinary fruitfulness in service - but the problem is staying there! Verse 11 holds out the alluring possibility of living "aglow with the Spirit." We need not go off boil if the Spirit is the central furnace of our lives" (111). How true of a statement! I bet we can all point to times in our lives when we felt a spiritual fervor never before experienced. And yet, what happened to that feeling? How has it disappeared? We have let our spiritual temperature, so to speak, drop below the boiling point. Of course we do not do this intentionally, but our inaction has inevitably become our action that produces a spiritual cold.

Because we do not intentionally take steps to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives through passionate prayer, we allow our spiritual fervor to dissipate into a luke-warm, and sometimes frigid, farce of a communion with God.

We need to be seeking the Father in diligent prayer and humble petition for the Holy Spirit to overwhelm our lives. Luke 11:13 says, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" When we do this I sincerely believe we will experience the boiling point, the spiritual fervor, that Paul talked about in the Romans verse. And what a great experience that is!

I marvel at how much extra time I have everyday of my life, despite how much I might complain that I need more time. My desire for this year, my "new years resolution", is that I intentionally use a larger chunk of my day to find solitude and pray. This is not a legalistic, fundamentalistic obligation I feel. It is for the reward of the inexpressible joy and purpose I feel when I am at the boiling point of my faith. Think about how often Jesus left everything he was doing to find solitude and pray... It is truly incredible how easily we miss his teaching-by-modeling here. Jesus, who was and is God, probably did not need to do this. I mean, he's God, right? But he desired to be with His Father in holy conversation. And I don't think these were by any means cookie-cutter prayers either... These were prayers of sweat, blood, and tears that comforted, consoled, and empowered Jesus for his earthly ministry. These were prayers at the boiling point.

I truly hope that I can be in a constant state of daily passionate prayer. I have found that I need to set apart an extended amount of time (at least 1 hour), find a place of solitude, plug in some worship music, and just meet with God. Lately I have made sure to bring paper and pen with me as well because it is in these times that God reveals great truth about my life to me. I cherish these moments of boiling point spiritual fervor more than anything.

If you have felt the spiritual boiling point in your life, I pray that you will do everything in order to experience the Holy Spirit's furnace again, and that it becomes a constant in your life. If you feel that you have not experienced the boiling point in your spiritual journey, I urge you to pray and ask that God would overwhelm you with the Holy Spirit, keeping Luke 11:13 at the forefront of your mind. The experience of the Holy Spirit in your life is one that goes unmatched.

God is great. Here's to New Year's resolutions!

(I figured that I would continue to include the books at the end of my blogs that I reference to encourage reading the primary material yourself.)