Waiting on the Lord

I... Love... Traveling. I’ve been blessed to do a fair amount of it, too, in my 23 young years of life. Through all the planes, trains, and automobiles that have taken me from point A to point Z, there is one resounding truth: traveling means waiting. 

Earlier today, I sat at gate D7 at BWI, eating my foot-long from Subway, waiting until the all-knowing voice overhead told me what to do next. I don’t know much about that voice, but I do know that it has always eventually told me what to do.  After an excruciating (slight exaggeration) 15 minute wait, we all filed in line, boarded the plane, and waited.

Waiting while traveling is very similar to waiting on the Lord. We show up at a stage in life, knowing there is something next. Often we even know what that something is - but God wants us to wait.

In practice, waiting at the airport is MUCH easier than waiting on the Lord. But shouldn’t it be the opposite? A right and just God gets less trust from me than the “voice overhead” at the airport terminal?

We’re impatient; we want things to happen on our time in our way. So… let’s look at three key steps to waiting on the Lord, given to us by the prophet Isaiah.

  1. Define who you’re waiting for. We’re waiting for a word from our Creator, our all-powerful, eternal Lord. Let’s first remind ourselves of who He is so we can be diligent in waiting. See Isaiah 40:12, 15, 17-20, 24-29
  2. Surrender to Him. As Greg put it on Sunday, “every day is another day to show up and die to self.” The less we make it about us, the more we will be patient in waiting.
  3. Trust in God. And trust in God’s promise in Isaiah 40:31. Do you find yourself losing that trust or getting impatient? Start back at #1 and remind yourself of who you are waiting for.

Now my plane is about to land and I will have to wait at baggage claim, then wait in the taxi on the way to the hotel, and wait in line to check in. I don’t know how long the ride will be or how long the line will be, but I do know the next step is there, and I must set aside my impatience (surrender) and know I’ll make it eventually (trust).

Join me in waiting, won’t you?

Posted on March 27, 2014 .

4 Parts of Healthy Prayer

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When bad news comes our way, we all react in different ways. Some stress and obsess, others may avoid dealing with it all together. We learn from Hezekiah’s example in Isaiah 37 of a better way to deal with pain: to open it up and spread out our bad news before the Lord in intentional, thoughtful prayer.

That sounds great and all – but what if you don’t even know how to begin to bring it before the Lord? There are many ways to pray, but the ACTS model laid out below is a biblical prayer model that is easy to follow.

ADORATION: Praise God for his Almighty goodness and His eternal love for you.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26

Part of praying is giving God the glory he deserves. It is worshipful and helps remind us of His true nature: that He is capable of answering our prayers and loves us with a fierce love. In a crisis, it’s especially important to remain in a position of adoration. You might pray, “God, I know that my life is rough right now, but You are still God, above my crisis. You are eternal, sovereign, and good.”

CONFESSION: Humbly lay your wrongdoings at the foot of the cross and ask God for forgiveness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

This is the part we might shy away from. But just as the “adoration” portion expresses God’s true nature, the “confession” portion expresses our true nature and reinforces our need for God’s forgiveness. In receiving bad news, the last thing we might want to do is admit our own weaknesses, but it keeps our perspective that we ourselves are fallen. You might say, “God, I know I haven’t handled this news with mercy or forgiveness. Through it, I am seeing my true nature, and I ask for Your forgiveness for how I’ve been acting. Make me righteous again so that I can deal with this situation better.”

THANKSGIVING: Thank God for keeping His promises and for all of His blessings in your life.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Even in times of stress, thanksgiving is a way to tether ourselves to God’s goodness. It is easy to blame Him for our problems, but finding a way to be grateful through a hard time reminds you of God’s blessing over your life despite the current trial. “I am having a hard time seeing past this struggle, Father, but I know that You have blessed me beyond belief. I want to thank You for always keeping your promises, for being faithful, and for sending Jesus to save me from myself. I thank You for this trial, knowing that You are deepening my faith, even if I can’t see it yet.”

SUPPLICATION: Ask the Lord for what you need and the needs of others according to His will.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

Sometimes we fear asking the Lord for what we really need, but in a time of crisis, that goes out the window. We can easily come before the Lord and ask for His help because we know that we need it. But we often ask for our plan to work out and forget to ask Him to work through us and bring Himself glory. “Lord, I need You to fix this problem in front of me. It can only be done through Your strength - I know that I cannot control it or fix it myself. Let Your will reign over mine. Let my trust grow as I learn that Your ways are higher, and find a way in this mess to bring Yourself glory.”

 

- Have the gift of prayer? Get involved in our Prayer Ministry.

- Want to learn more about a healthy prayer life? Check out how to persevere in prayer through Navigate Discipleship.

Posted on March 19, 2014 .

A Day in the Life: Sarah Meehan de Solorzano, Missionary

My name is Sarah and I’m a BACC missionary serving in San Salvador, El Salvador. I’m the Missions Coordinator and the assistant for our college ministry for our church in El Salvador. My “typical days” can look very different if you look at a day when mission groups are with us in El Salvador (or a week before a mission group comes in fact) and when they are not. I would like to share a “typical day” when mission groups are not with us. If you want to know about a “typical day” with mission groups, well then, you will just have to come and see for yourself because we would love to have you! You can "Make the Trade" this summer!

So, in sharing my "typical day," I must say that each day is very different. There are different activities going on throughout the week at the Center, with the college ministry and with missions planning. Most of the time my schedule is absolutely crazy and need to be on my feet to be flexible to whatever God has in store each day. Like Isaiah says in Isaiah 55, “His plans and thoughts are higher than ours.” So here’s a “typical” peaceful day…

I’m an early riser to begin with and I wake up around 5:30-6:00 am. I like this time because no one is up yet and I can literally have quiet time with the Lord. I make a cup of strong coffee and eat a little snack then sit at our kitchen table with my Bible and some sort of study or daily reading that I’m going through. I spend time in prayer and study the Word.

Then the kiddos start to wake up. Our 2 year-old daughter Sophie usually gets up around 6:30-7:00 am. I make her breakfast and we sit down together. I haven’t gone back to El Salvador since we’ve had our son, Jorgito, so I assume that I’ll just be nursing him as needed as he is only 1 month old. Then I make breakfast for my husband and depending on his schedule, he’ll sit down to eat or he’ll take it with him if he has an early meeting. Sometimes I can start to make some preparations for lunch depending on what we plan on having that day.

I love to stay active, so I do exercise videos on my computer almost every day for about a half-an-hour while Sophie plays with her toys. Sometimes she likes to exercise a little with me. After exercising, I make breakfast for myself and it’s about 9am by this time. I give Sophie a bath and I take a shower also. Then I’m ready for work.

I have the blessing of working from home, so I open my laptop and I usually have tons of emails lined up to answer for local ministry and mission team coordination. I can spend hours straight just coordinating and planning just for all the missions trips. I keep a log of each team’s details. While I'm working, I multitask by doing laundry and cleaning the house. Then depending on what day it is, I may have a skype call with our head pastor and mission group leaders to talk about details of their trip. So I connect online with them for an hour or two. I like to take sporatic 15-minute breaks every once in a while to be able to interact and play with Sophie and Jorgito. (And of course, I’ll be available for Jorgito as he needs me. I have mastered multitask nursing and use of my laptop by the way!)

Then around 11:30 am or so, I start to cook lunch and finish any of the early preparations I had done. My husband, Jorge comes home to share a meal with his family. We enjoy the meal and just catch up on our days and what is going on.

Jorge then leaves around 1:30 pm or so, I can continue with the workday. Sophie goes down for her afternoon nap after lunch. Then I continue to work on mission team coordination and planning for our women’s college ministry. We have a fellowship dinner at my house once a week with a core group of nine women from our college ministry. So if it's a Tuesday, then I plan to have a time with some women from our college ministry where we pray, plan for evangelistic events, and just do life together.

When Sophie gets up from her nap, I take the kids to our neighborhood park where they can play on the swing sets and with other neighborhood children.

After the park, I start to make dinner for our women’s group (or for our family if its not a Tuesday). Depending on Jorge’s schedule if he doesn’t have a night meeting-he watches the kids during our women’s time, if not the kiddos are with us and the girls love up on them as we share and fellowship with one another.

Anywhere from 8:30 -9:00 pm we do our bedtime routine with our kids by brushing teeth, praying as a family, and reading stories, then put them to bed. Then Jorge and I have some downtime together and we talk, we watch TV and pray together.

 

Living for and by Him,

Sarah Meehan de Solorzano

Romans 11:36 / Colossians 1:16

 

Posted on February 19, 2014 .

A Day in the Life: Tomek Otremba, Missionary

I try to start off each day with a refreshing/refocusing time with Jesus in the morning. I really need that badly. Otherwise, my identity is in my work, rather than in Him. Of course, during that time I often get some kind of interruption: a call, text message, e-mail message or a visit from someone which that does not always help… that’s part of life.

You might think that life of a missionary looks different from yours, but I do the normal, everyday activities that you do. My wife and I get our kids, Krystian and Pollyanna, ready for school, then we get ourselves ready… sometimes we get to eat breakfast together:). 

The rest of day is filled with various meetings - scheduled and spontaneous - with a lot of different people. That is what I am here for: to make followers of Jesus, trusting that He will build His church. So throughout the day I try to meet with those I am reaching, those I am discipling and those I am equipping to disciple others. 

Discipleship happens there the same way it happens here: we disciple in Life Groups, in Missional Community, with our disciple-makers, with our neighbors, we visit them, we invite them over, we get together somewhere in town. We try to be friends with the people that we meet during the day (ex. car mechanic, lady in the store, students, neighbors) and try to lead the conversation toward Jesus.  However, some days are filled with a ton of interruptions like administrative work: e-mails, returning calls, etc. 

While meetings take up most days, some days I spend more time staying in touch with other leaders in the country - both those whom I am coaching and encouraging in their mission or those with whom we are working in partnership. So I would Skype with the two key leaders from Genesis Community - a church we planted in our previous city, to see how things are going and help them to sort through the issue of asking a new guy to join their leadership team. Another time I would meet up with a church planter in our region to plan our first national conference on Missional Communities - we want to spread a movement for it in our country.

Our kids are home by the afternoon and we debrief the day at school, help them with homework, and have a dinner together. We try to show God to our kids and disciple them in the ordinary things of life. We like to read biographies of different missionaries, play board games, watch a movie or play wii together. There is always this tension of meeting the needs of people around us and our own family. It seems like there is never enough time. In all this I try to keep in my mind that a healthy ministry births out of a healthy family, as I am tempted to be more available to others versus my own kids. I never want to end up having a great church with my own son and daughter hating it, because I was not there for them.

When evenings roll around, I try to spend time with my wife; sometimes it is just us catching up as a couple or we find time to spend with others. Again, keeping the right balance is not easy. I used to be "married to ministry" and that was wrong. I must preach to myself that Jesus is building His church and I am to love my wife - and I do! Out of that love we then pour our life into other people.

I want to live each day, trusting Jesus to do great things in spite of me, in me and through me for the sake of people living around us! In the process I fail many times… and that’s when the gospel comes in. I get to relearn that Jesus loves me just as I am and it’s not what I accomplish for Him but what He has accomplished for me. Why is this so key? Because preaching the gospel without living it out is hypocrisy. I am not the savior of Poland. Jesus is! 

Posted on February 13, 2014 .

In the Name of Love

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“I love you,” I whispered into the cordless phone hiding beneath my pillow.

“You really do?” came an excited, anxious buzz from the other end of the line.

I took a breath. “Of course I do. I really love you.” This time I said it stronger, more emphatically; this time I said it for me. I repeated it in my head to convince myself of the words. Because when you’re in love, you’re allowed to make love, right?

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As a sophomore and junior in high school I decided it was more fun to live in sin than it was to obey Jesus. I attended church and Bible study, so instead of hiding from those people, I changed the labeling of my actions. Instead of getting drunk, I called it “unwinding.” Instead of premarital sex, I called it “expressing my love.” Instead of taking the Lord’s name in vain, I called it “being emotional.” It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit cornered me at a youth retreat near the end of my junior year that I realized how far I had strayed from obeying God’s commands. I got really far off track- and it was all because I allowed myself to change the label of my actions.

Pat’s sermon on Sunday struck a chord with me. He talked through the exact mental process that I experienced. The same one that Isaiah calls the Israelites out for exemplifying. Pat talked us through Isaiah’s conversation with the Israelites. In Isaiah 5:20-23, Isaiah exclaims,

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!

Pat broke down Isaiah’s “woes,” showing us that we do the same thing the Israelites were guilty of doing. We make the dark light; we make the sweet bitter. This explanation reminded me of a past packed with sin.

I took God’s sweet gift of love and made it a bitter, selfish, sinful action. In the name of “love” I was able to get what I wanted. And if someone did call me out for the sin I was living in, I was able to put the worldly spin on it, “I know, I feel so bad, but all these hormones and stuff… ya know… it’s just hard.” In that moment I was again able to explain away my sin.

As I sat in the service on Sunday, remembering all of this, I was ashamed. Not only because of a past I don’t like to remember, but because I realized the sinful teenager is now a sinful man. Instead of gossip, I call it “sharing a prayer request.” Instead of that R-rated movie being a bad influence on my mind, I call it being an opportunity to be culturally relevant. I sat in the service on Sunday examining all the ways I’ve relabeled my actions, and I grew continuously ashamed.

And then humbled.

I was humbled by Jesus’ choice to die over and over again for my sins. Jesus knew full well that I would have a constant battle with sin, and he chose to die for me anyway. In Jesus we have an opportunity to confess our sins, repent, and believe that he is Lord. As we turn to the person and work of Jesus, our blood stained sin is made white as snow.

So, even though I am a sinful man, Jesus died for me. Even though I constantly struggle with not choosing Him, he stands firm in his promise of salvation. All in the name of love. That’s humbling...

Posted on January 29, 2014 .

A Regular Dude

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Every Sunday we have a few things happen during our gatherings, and they often take place in this order: we worship through our offering, we sing one more song, a small video plays, and then the lights come up and Pat or Greg start into the message. Each one of these elements has a purpose and a roll. That little video that plays is what we like to call the “bumper video.” It serves as a smooth transition between that last song and when the speaker begins. But it’s far more than just something to distract us from the fact that the band is exiting the stage and the speaker is taking one last sip of water and clearing his throat before the lights come up. Its purpose is to prime our pump and get our brains focused on the topic that we’ll be addressing each week.

This past Sunday morning the bumper video was a very subtle one and could have easily slipped right past you. The video was just some ambient music with the sound of a heartbeat, and a normal guy standing in a field just outside of a subdivision. His hair was buzzed off, he had a five-o’clock shadow of a beard, and some text popped on the screen out of the book of Isaiah. That’s it. No grand motion graphics or explosions. Then the lights came up and Pat made this opening statement at the 11a.m. gathering:

"Isaiah was just a regular dude … he was married, had a couple kids, and he probably was a lot more normal than we think… and he wrote one of the most profound books in the whole Bible.”

The average human brain can take up to 15 minutes to really focus in on a topic, so considering this was Pat’s opening line, it’s safe to assume that many of us may have missed how giant this opening thought is. Isaiah… the guy that wrote a book that we’re going to spend the next four months digging in to. The guy who wrote some of the most powerful imagery of encounters with God (see Isaiah chapter 6) and made gigantic prophecies was an average guy. A “regular dude” as Pat put it. He was married, which meant he dealt with the same marital struggles that you and I deal with. He had kids, which means he probably stressed over how to raise them right and worried about their futures. He was normal. In a modern context, he was a guy who lived in a subdivision with buzzed hair and a need for a clean shave. (Thankfully they all maintained epic beards back then.)

So what? So why is it important that he was normal? Why did THIS little thought make it into the bumper video? Because it informs us of how God works both then and today. That he uses average people to do really epic things so that He can be glorified through it. He uses people like you and me. I believe that one of the greatest lies we get suckered into believing by the enemy is that we aren’t good enough, that God only uses a few folks and they all reach super-Christian status before God calls them. But Isaiah shows us that God picks normal folks.

So raise your hand if you’re normal. Hand raised? Then guess what, God can and will use you/me/us. We just have to quit making excuses, believing lies that we aren’t good enough, and say, “Here I am, send me.” If we’ll just let go and trust that God is capable of using normal folks, He’ll take us on an epic journey.

Posted on January 22, 2014 .

A Little Each Day

Before I had four small kids, I spent several hours a week at the gym. In some ways that was like training to be a Dad of active, excited, and seemingly perpetually caffeinated children- what do they put in milk these days? I could take an hour or two, and roam around to different machines, treadmills, or punching bags and feel like I got a good work out.

My schedule doesn’t lend itself to such leisurely training these days. Now approaching my mid thirties I realize that this hot body is going downhill fast and I’m beginning to resemble that mythical half horse half man creature called a Cantor. It’s both funny and sad. But I suppose there are worse mythical creatures to resemble. At risk of remaining in a Cantor state for the rest of my days, I have had to adjust my workouts. My new approach is working out at home at little bit, but a little bit every day. This morning was pushups before my shower. Yesterday it was sit-ups in the laundry room. Sometimes the kids will find me and hop on for added weight. These are not lengthy routines, but the key is being consistent.

I bring up the weird inner workings of my exercise life because I think the principal of a little bit every day is both doable and practical, and can be applied to Greg’s charge for our church family to “get to know God” this year. How are you going to get to know God better this year? How about by committing to a little bit – every day.

A little bit of what? For starters, a little bit of the Bible each day. The Bible is not just a good book of morals, but God’s living and active word. It is his perfect and inspired revelation to us, to teach us about Jesus and how to be like Jesus. Read and reflect on a little bit of Scripture each day. You could do this while your morning coffee is brewing, or just before you watch TV at night.

We also get to know God better by prayer. You may need to start by praying a little each day – it could be out loud, in your mind, or written in a journal – what is important is that you are intentional about it. Prayer has a way of helping us to focus on Jesus as we go about our day.

Community, of fellowship with God’s people, is another huge way we get to know God. Other brothers and sisters in Christ have a way of rounding out our rough edges and speaking truth into our messed up lives. Here we are able to share and carry burdens for one another. What does a little bit of this look like? Perhaps a quick text, tweet, or phone call. Perhaps a weekly time of connecting.

Getting to know God is a pursuit that takes a lifetime, and we will continue to get to know Him in heaven for eternity. That pursuit will never get old, boring, or worn out – because God is infinitely cool, unendingly interesting, and inexhaustibly loving. The good news is that we get to know this God now, and grow to be like Him, a little bit more every day.

Posted on January 8, 2014 .

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As Greg painstakingly described the sacrificial system in Jewish religious life, and its connection to Christmas, my mind went to a phrase: security clearance. I started making mental comparisons. A security clearance allows someone access to people, places and things that s/he would not otherwise be able to. For instance, with a security clearance, I can walk into the NSA with no trouble; without one, I get arrested.

The sacrifices that were offered on behalf of God’s people in the Jewish system enabled the High Priest, being a representative of the people, to gain access to the Holy of Holies (albeit only once a year). The sacrifices ensured that the confessed sins of the people, placed on the sacrificed animal and the scape goat, were all covered. The sacrifices were like a security clearance that enabled access to God and covered over wrongdoing. And this was all because God is holy and we as sinful humanity need a clearance to connect with God.

Jesus’ new covenant, a more permanent and enduring “security clearance” can also be contrasted with its earthly comparison because, unlike its earthly comparison, it is once and for all. Jesus’ blood of the new covenant not only covers over our sins, but removes them from God “as far as the east is from the west.”

There is a popular saying that Jesus is the reason for the season. As with such sayings, it is memorable because it rhymes. But it is more significant than its rhyme. Jesus is the reason for the season because for once God put on human clothes and entered the world in a physical body. In addition to all the church and family gatherings; in addition to all the gift-giving and merry-making is the fact that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” that makes Christmas, Christmas.

Oh how I pray that many more people would know the true meaning of Christmas, and how I pray that the millions who have not even heard of Jesus may hear and celebrate this significant event with us all.

Many years ago, I prayed this prayer on Boston radio, and it was picked up and shared widely. It is still a prayer worth praying this season: May we speak tenderly to each other amidst all the rush of the season and transform the shopping days till Christmas into the true Advent of Christ.  God became human, put on a body, entered our world, so that we may through his life, ministry, death and resurrection, be given a permanent security clearance to the Holy of Holies. That is great news worth celebrating and sharing . . .

Posted on December 18, 2013 .