…on the front burner…
A few weeks ago, I went apart
I needed time to think, to reflect, to listen, and to talk with God about personal and ministry things weighing me down. So, I grabbed my tent, my sleeping bag, my fishing poles and my Bible and headed up into the Rocky Mountains for a three-day prayer retreat.
Three days with no one to talk to except God.
Three days with no one to listen to except God.
Three days with nothing to do except be with God. (Okay, so I did take my fishing poles. I was hoping for a Peter-like encounter with the Lord when Peter caught more fish than he could handle – I caught three trout in three days which hardly counts for much!)
And in a scary, exposed kind of way, I felt like I was at a three day weigh-in.
. Unlike the six minutes on the wrestling mat in front of everyone, weigh-in occurs in the locker room several hours before the grappling begins with just the wrestlers and their coaches. At the weigh-in each wrestler stands on the scale to verify that he is within the weight limit for his wrestling match. Standing on the scale and watching the telltale bobbing needle settle in on your weight, your coach finds out in one moment if you have been faithful in your dieting and exercising to make weight. Often, the very last ounces of clothing and inhaled air are shed so that you can “make weight.” Either you qualify or you don’t. And qualifying determines whether you get to wrestle or not. Ask any wrestler, the months of conditioning and the discipline of dieting from November through March (Thanksgiving, the Christmas holiday season, and Superbowl parties are cruel, cruel days to a wrestler on a grapefruit diet!) aren’t worth it if you don’t get a shot at wrestling.
So, up in the mountains alone with God I realized that this time wasn’t so much about my wrestling with God to get answers for my questions and concerns as much as my standing on the scale before the wrestling match. In one sense, it was like God saying, “Yea, we can wrestle over your stuff, but first, stand on the scale.” A couple of Scriptures came to mind:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
- I Timothy 4:16
You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.
- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (The Message)
Through the experiences of Jacob, Moses, Job, David, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul, I began reflecting on what it means to walk with God. To wrestle with God. They all paid a price physically, emotionally, and relationally in their grappling with God. Yet each one along the journey of life pursued his unique heart transformation in God before and after his wrestling match. Truthfully, I was sort of hoping that God would simply take away the issues troubling me. But I found that God gave me a different perspective about Himself in the midst of my issues. In many ways, the three day prayer retreat was nothing like I expected and yet everything that I needed right now to continue my journey of being transformed by Jesus.
Spiritual formation is not just a WorldVenture strategy we plan or an outcome we measure in others, it is an integral part of who we are individually and collectively. I don’t know what apart
looks like for you in your experience and context but I genuinely encourage you to continue your journey of being transformed by Jesus.
…good to know… more book recommendations...
A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders
by Reggie McNeal
Leadership is less about technique or motivation than it is about the leader's own heart, suggests Southern Baptist denominational leader McNeal in this careful and readable book. Through brief studies of the lives of Moses, David, Paul and Jesus, McNeal elucidates six factors in the shaping of a leader's heart, all of which begin with the letter c. Although somewhat formulaic, this approach yields fresh fruit, thanks to McNeal's well-integrated grasp of both his biblical sources and contemporary psychology and organizational theory. Among his cs are at least three that are rarely explored in more conventional Christian writing on leadership: the role of "culture" in preparing a leader for his or her specific ministry, the necessity of having a "community" that supports and complements the leader and the importance of "commonplace" experiences that happen out of the leadership limelight.
Too Busy Not To Pray: Slowing Down to Be With God
by Bill Hybels
Most of us have trouble finding time to pray. There's church and school and neighborhood and job and friends and recreation. And then the crises hit! Time for prayer seems an impossible luxury. As a pastor, Bill Hybels knows hundreds of people with schedules like this. Yet in his own life he has made the hard discovery that prayer doesn't happen on the run. He decided he was too busy not to pray. Hybels's accessible introduction to prayer has already helped over 400,000 readers develop a rich and regular prayer life in the midst of life's busyness. Now, in this revised and expanded 10th anniversary edition, he includes new insights from his years of ministry and his own spiritual journey. He shows how to slow down to pray, listen to God, respond to what we hear, practice the presence of God and overcome prayer barriers. His fun and practical book offers the resources we need for growing, ongoing experiences in prayer.
Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends
by Kevin Vanhoozer, Charles Anderson & Michael Sleasman
Everyday theology is the reflective and practical task of living each day as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. In other words, theology is not just for Sundays, and it's not just for professional theologians. Everyday Theology teaches all Christians how to get the theological lay of the land. It enables them to become more conscious of the culture they inhabit every day so that they can understand how it affects them and how they can affect it. If theology is the ministry of the Word to the world, everyday theologians need to know something about that world, and Everyday Theology shows them how to understand their culture make an impact on it. Engaging and full of fresh young voices, this book is the first in the new Cultural Exegesis series.
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