I am afraid too many of us on that day will so desire to ascend to glory with our Lord but will find an enormous anchor tethered to our ankles.
I became a self-reliant leader over time, and in so doing, I was dependent upon limited resources. I had not really learned to rely on God and others.
The self-reliant leader is, first, not dependent upon the Holy Spirit. In his book Lion and Lamb, Brennan Manning wrote, "How vast are the resources of His power open to us who believe in Him!" This self-reliant leader is not resembling the gospel of Jesus Christ which has said all of this vast power of God has been available to you to depend upon.
Secondly, the self-reliant leader relies on limited resources in his lack of dependence upon others. Self-reliant leaders lead in isolation from others, and pride is the reason for all our isolation. Often those who lead alone find an interesting resistance in their heart and lfie. Perhaps they blame it on Satan, but that resistance is not Satan; it is God. For "God resists the proud, and he lifts up the humble." (James 4:6)
Great leaders are not self-reliant. They learn to rely wholly on God and also on others for strength.
Abba, I belong to You. Abba! I have allowed the fact I can address You with such intimacy and tenderness to become far too plain and pallid. It has been years since I have allowed myself to wonder and gawk at the fact You have given me a spirit of Sonship by which I can address you as "Abba Father!" (Rom. 8:15)
I have known for too long or too familiarly that "Abba" is the equivalent of our English "Daddy". I have known that children would slowly learn the term Abba to address their father with an intimate tenderness. I have known it was and has been a scandal to the pious and righteous that you would be addressed with such intimacy.
That You who created this world out of the power of your voice, You by whose beauty and glory the Grand Canyon is dwarfed, You who hold all things together in life-sustaining precision, would ask to be addressed in such tenderly intimate terms has truly become too common and plain to me.
This is my confession and my repentance today. May I recognize and rest today in the wonder of the intimate spirit within me, who can address you so tenderly as my Abba!
Last night, my hero passed away. Brennan Manning has had the strongest impact on my bedraggled heart. Sitting with him twice over hot dogs will be moments my heart will not easily forget. But far more important than hot dogs and baseball are his reflections on the outrageous love of God in all His grace and mercy that have wrecked my heart for good since 1999. My hero finally rests in Abba's embrace for his Father was very fond of him.
"If you asked a man who is poor in spirit to describe his prayer life, he might well answer, 'Most of the time my prayer consists in experiencing the absence of God in the hope of communion.'" - Brennan Manning
Brennan adds another dimension to our desired connection with God through successful prayer: the hope of communion. The man who is truly poor in spirit is there because he continues searching after and coming before God regardless of whether he experiences or FEELS connection with God each time. He keeps coming back because he has HOPE. He has a hope for communion. We cannot allow ourselves to be thwarted by the experience of absence when we approach God. I believe it will happen more often than not. On the other hand, as one who truly longs for God through it all, I have to continually go back to God with the HOPE of communion, and I must maintain that hope every time I approach the throne and lap of God the Abba.
Psalm 27:4 says,
"One thing I ask of the Lord this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple."
Matthew 5:3 says,
"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
God, I am sorry that I always take your grace for granted. I so frequently find myself living under cheap grace...grace with no cost. Sometimes I just live as though your grace was free to even you. I live like you did not pay a cost for the grace I get for free. I live like its free. It may be free for me to accept but it is only there for me to accept because you paid a phenomenal price for it. It is easy to focus on the grace being free to me, but when that's all I pay attention to, I begin to live my life under the banner of cheap grace and ride the coat tails of grace. Even if I don't say it aloud or even consciously think it, I live my life as if to say, 'God will forgive me; why not.....?" For that I apologize. I have taken your mercy and loving grace for granted. I need you! I need your grace.
I would like to walk about life with the "burning in my heart" like the men on the road to Emmaus desired. I want to walk with God and know that burning within my heart, but that very rarely feels the true case or state of my heart within me. A lot of the times I feel more like the people of Jerusalem described in Isaiah chapter 30. Verses 19-21 tell the people of Jerusalem they will weep no more and when they do cry out to God, He will hear them. Then he says, "Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction: yet the Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher."
There are many times we feel the darkness stronger than we do the joy and peace of God's presence. But as Brennan Manning says, "The loss became the moment of grace."
When we face the moments of darkness when God feels absent and not burning within our hearts, those are the times faith is really established. These are the places to look for God and learn to trust in His presence even when it does not feel like he is. God will not feel present all the time. This is a reality most of us are aware of, but most of us fear and worry in those times instead of trusting and realizing God's presence even then. Just because it is dark does not mean that God is not present. Just because our heart does not burn within our chest with Blessed Assurance does not mean God is actually absent. "Though the Lord may give us the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, the Teacher will not hide himself." Just because it is dark does not mean he is hiding.
Even though it is dark, there is "a voice BEHIND you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" Faith happens in the dark, but it does not necessarily mean the light will be turned on. Faith simply means while it is dark you still trust God even if he NEVER turns the light on.
I had just lost my job, Tonya was in Zimbabwe, and a promised position was pulled from under me. So I left for a weekend to Bowman Lake up past the Yuba Gap. The only things I brought with me were a tent, a journal, a Bible, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen, a bit of food, and a six pack of beer. I had no idea what was going on in my life. I found my last journal entry from that trip... Interesting how these things are perfect encouragement today as well.
June 6 (Sunset…THE LAST BIG ONE…WHEN GOD SPEAKS)
I climbed up on the rock face behind my site to watch the sunset over the lake. Well, actually, the sun sets behind the mountain in front of my site, but I can still experience the sunset if I don’t see the sunset. I climbed up on top of the rock face and looked out over the lake at the mountains that spring up on the other side. I watched as the shadow cast from the mountains in front crept up the mountains behind my site. I just sat and watched for a while. It kind of reminded me of a canary being put to sleep. It was as if God were putting the mountains to sleep for the night.
You look at these mountains and they even LOOK old and tough. They look like they have put in a long day’s work. All day long I have watched these mountains in amazement. To amaze a guy in the 21st + century is a pretty daunting task. We need to be entertained by bigger and better things, and for years to this day, mountains have been bigger and better. Even now they are bigger and better than most things. They have succeeded in amazing me all day long, and that is no easy task. So they deserve the sleep and rest. So God put the mountains to sleep like a little canary.
You see the blanket draped over the cage, but you know there’s a bird in there. This is why after the shadow covers the mountains entirely, the moon will come up and cast its special light upon them to make them silhouettes. They just look like big black masses beyond the deep blue space of water, but you know there are mountains over there. They’re just sleeping!
While God was putting the mountains to sleep, he spoke to my heart words I needed to hear. I just sat and listened for a while. He sounded a bit like a conversation a friend of mine had with Brennan Manning a few years ago over cigarettes and coffee at the Anderson, IN Waffle House. My friend and I (along with others) had been digesting Brennan’s words for a couple years at that point. My friend had established a comedy/drama team based heavily on the writing of Brennan Manning and the songs of his ‘soul mate’, Rich Mullins. My friend asked Brennan for any advice to offer a group of young guys who wanted to serve God and spread his love through comedy and drama.
God spoke a similar message into my heart tonight. A bit more tenderly, but the same idea! He said:
“I know you’re worried and you’re scared. I know you are questioning why you left a profession you love to follow a path that had not lead back to that profession. I know you are scared about what you are going to do, and that you feel like your passion has been removed. I know all of this, but I have a new and different plan for you. You are going to do bigger and better things for me, but you are not ready yet. You have some passions in your heart you have not paid attention to. You have passions you do not know about yet. I will show those to you when you are ready, but you are not ready right now. In the time being, while I am preparing you and raising you up, get a job. Get a job, pay your bills and support your family. This job does not need to be a career or even something you are passionate about; I am preparing you for that and remember you are not ready yet. You will find what that is in time, but go on looking hard after me. I have bigger and better things for you outside student life. You will reach more people for me. You will bring glory to me through new things in the future, but for now you need to work and support your family. You need to pay your bills and continue learning. Look further for those passions you have ignored and the ones I will reveal to you in time.
I love you PC!
"To me a Christian is either a man who lives in Christ or a phony. You Christians do not appreciate that it is on this--the almost eternal testimony that you give of God--that we judge you. You ought to radiate Christ. Your faith ought to flow out to us like a river of life. You ought to infect us with a LOVE for him. It is then that God who was impossible becomes possible for the atheist and for those of us whose faith is wavering. We cannot help being struck, upset, and confused by a Christian who is truly Christlike. And we do not forgive him when he fails to be." - an atheist woman from Paris "Many who had already come close on the way to believing are frightened away by the bad lives of evil and false Christians. How many, my brothers, do you think there are who want to become Christians but are put off by the evil ways of Christians?" - St. Augustine
"It is symptomatic that, despite the church having been around for two thousand years, the mass of people still pass Christianity by. Why? Because the visible presence of Jesus Christ is rarely present in Christians as a whole." - Brennan Manning
"Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be." - Rob Bell