Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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Moments in a Monastery – Part 8

VESPERS

As evening descends Vespers prepares us for the darkening of the day, celebrated in the lighting of lamps. Vespers with its last lingering rays of light is the complement to Lauds, with its celebration of the first rays of morning light. The word comes from the Greek ἑσπέρα (“hespera”) and the Latin vesper, meaning “evening.” Vespers is the sunset service, that memorizing and almost magical moment called twilight, the border time between day and dark. As the sun sets casting its colored glow, like a fire waning but still warming the pot of molten gold, we sit transfixed in time. Like the rest in a musical score it beckons us to stop, to sit and to soak. This is the stop between light and night, between going and slowing, between running and rest. It is my reminder of God’s spoken word to me, tied to a time when I was tempted to do what i wanted to. One night shortly before I left for Scotland I sat alone with my teenage son, who had just finished his junior year. We sat like typical men with hardly a word between the two, yet content in the stillness of our silent communication. It was into this silence that my son spoke 8 of the most powerful words ever pronounced: Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” You see prior to this I had been wrestling with God over what “MY” sabbatical would be. My plan was Greece and Turkey, touring the New Testament churches, but the more I tried to convince God of “MY” plan the more convicted I got that thats all it was, “MY” plan. It wasn’t bad it just wasn’t His best, it involved lots of doing but little being. I love how God is still willing to show, up even when we are selfish, and how He ruins our plans so we can prosper. My plans involved lots of sight seeing, His involved lots of Savior soaking. It was during this wrestling time, when I surrendered my ways and wants over to Him that the though of going to a Monastery first started to formulate. So by the time I came to sit with my son, the wrestling was over I had submitted my selfish sabbatical to the Savior and that’s when in the silence my son spoke “Dad have I ever told you my life verse?” “No” I answered, a little shocked that this had never surfaced before now, what kind of father was I! Psalm 46:10 he replied, do you know why, again I had know idea, obviously I train hard for the Father of the year award! Well he replied “sometimes you just need to sit with the Savior” It was like God spoke into my soul, using my son as his mouthpiece. Here were God’s gentle confirming and convicting words, to which my silent prayer was “God I get it” I think we have all been here, we get so buys planning that we miss the point. That moment when we have to stop and ask the difficult question “Where is God in the process of my plans?” For me the words of Psalm 46:10 were nothing new but they were necessary, I love the timely truths of God that steer our stubborn hearts. The bigness of His loving hands that bring us blessing, guiding and when necessary chiding us. While I was in Scotland these words like the golden gift of the setting sun surrounded me in their soft glow. Everyday I would sit and soak in their monumental message: “Be still and know that I am God” each word its own special sermon. Starting at the end we find where we must begin, God:

“Be still and know that I am God” here we come face to face with a fundamental truth, He is God not me, He is the Master not my moods, He must be the boss not my busyness, He must be the chorus of my praise not my complaining. Lord help my dreams to be your desires, help my wants to walk only in your ways, help my wishes to be based on your Word, and help my actions to conform to only your agenda.

Be still and know that I am
I Am is the name that God used when He spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).
God reveals His divine name, declaring His character and reinforcing that the issue is not who Moses is, but who is with him. So it is with me as it was with Moses, I need to encounter the great I AM in my ordinary everyday tasks and travels. Lord let me be mindful of your majesty, help me not to miss you in the morning, at midday or midnight. Lord help me to be aware an in awe of your constant compassionate care. Let me not forget your forgiveness or take your goodness and grace for granted, and make me ever mindful of your mercy. Let me not miss you in any of my moments, get me out of the way so I can experience more of you. Help me to walk in wonder instead of whining about your ways, as I journey with the I am of John:
I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
I am the Light of the World (John 8:12)
I am the Door (John 10:9)
I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14)
I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
I am the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)
I am the Vine (John 15:1,5)

Be still and know
More that knowledge I want to know, to see, to touch, to taste and to know that The Lord is good. I don’t just want to read about knowing I want knowing to be real. I want knowing you to be what people see when they know me. I want the words of the song “I want to know you more” to become the very lyrics of my life:
I WANT TO KNOW YOU MORE
In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour
I wait only for you
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more

I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

I am reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize
Pressing onward, pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more
I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

Be Still
More than just to slow I need to stop, to still my soul before the Savior. To take time to smell the richness of His roses with their aromatic aroma. For only when I stop do I appreciate the small, seemingly insignificant things. For when I speed ahead, forgetting to stop and still my soul before the Savior, I loose sight of what is significant. In the constant comings and going his blessings become a blur and I loose focus of the forgiving face of my the Father. I need to stop so I can let my bucket down into the well of His Word and drink deeply. To rest not in the racing of our frantic activity, but in the well of His forgiveness, where our failures can be washed afresh. Stopping long enough to see His long relentless loving pursuit. To spend time in the treasure of His truth.

Be
Be, this is the position I am called to occupy, that place of stillness before the Savior. Be is a verb denoting action, yet the action here is to be still. We are called to active stillness, a paradox of practice for our times. Sometimes the hardest activity is no activity, for this is not a call to accomplish a list for The Lord but to practice the persistent pursuit of His presence. This is knowing through relational resting, so when was the last time you sat with the Savior? “Be still and know that I am God” God’s gracious gift to me. To my son Chris, thank you for being the mouth piece of God, my prayer is that you will continue to let His Spirit speak in and through your life, so that you can always be a trumpet of truth in this troubled world. I love you son.


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Moments in a Monastery – Part 7

NONE

None is a call to worship that comes in the afternoon, that time of the day when the sun after reaching its peak starts its slow settling descend, and shadows start to build on the horizon. In None we encounter the tragedy and truth of the temporary, the reminder of the reality that things don’t last forever. As the day wanes and the shadows start to take shape this can be an unsettling time, yet it is endings that enhance the eternal, highlighted by the back drop of death. It is in this pre twilight hour, as eternity eclipses the temporary, that we start to see more clearly the things that should consume our cares. Instead of the temporary trinkets and toys that temp, clamoring for our attention as they consume our time. The temporary must turn our attention to those things that endure, lest we spend our sunsets chasing clouds that hold no hope of rain. None provides a pause for purpose, a time to evaluate the eternal, to ask what we are really living for? What is it that really commands and controls our choices? Yet it comes long enough before the end for us to both revisit and re-correct, to make sure our purpose is His path. A time to assay our lives so as not to continue in our blunder of chasing the trivial over the truth. Allowing the insignificant to consume our cares as it blurs and bolts out His call, slowly stealing our service to the Savior. In this life its easy to become consumed with the material more than the Master. To trade the truth for the temporary and allow the trivial to trump the significant. To forgo time with the Father in favor of the fleeting and finite things of this world. None reminds us of what matters, as it reconnects us to that moment when Jesus was on the cross and as the light failed, and darkness descended like a veil of death that He focused first on the Fathers will. That just as Jesus experienced the darkness of despair that we also will have times of trial. It is a reminder that choosing His call doesn’t remove rough times, or mean life will always be easy. Today by and large we have traded the call of Christ for comfort based Christianity, which builds its beliefs on the culture instead of conviction. We have fallen for a fallacy, choosing to forgo the facts we believe and live the lie. We are like fools in a fantasy, worshipping the deity of denial, diluting the truth till there is only a trickle. The reality is that we like our Savior will suffer, so we should expect to experiencing the harshness of hard times. There will be losses in this life, may be our health, jobs, relationships, whatever they may be we will lose things we love. Jesus experienced loss and in the crucible of the cross He chose to give up His spirit, letting go of His life for me. There are some things that we too must let go of if we are to discovering what lasts in the midst of life’s changes. In Africa when the bushmen are crossing an unknown and difficult part of the desert, when they do not know the water sources but know the local animals do, they set traps for the baboons. They do this by boring small holes in giant termite mounds while under the watchful eye of the local baboons. While being watched they drop several large seeds into the hole and then walk away and wait. Soon the baboons unable to contain their curiosity wonder over put their hand into the hole and take hold of the seeds. It is at this point that the bushmen rush in, startling the stranded baboon caught by the seeds still in his grasp. Unwilling to let go and release the seeds the baboon finds that his fist no longer fits through the hole. The baboon captured by curiosity and an unwillingness to let go is fed salt, till he is dying of thirst and will lead them to water. What traps him is the temptation to hold on, for if he would just let go he could be free. Many of us live life like baboons, blinded by our stubborn desire, trapped by that which we won’t let go of, stubbornly holding the seeds of slavery. Yet in order to take hold of that which God has for us there are some things that we need to let go. None with its pause for purpose brings us to that difficult question in life, “what do I need to let go of?” Jesus let go so we could be free, yet many of us are trading this freedom for silly seeds, caught and trapped by temporary things. Just as Jesus let go as He wrestled through the darkness of day so must we. We may try to avoid these difficult days, even denying there existence, pretending that pain is not part of God’s plan, but it is in these dark days that we discover and discern what really lasts in life. We all long for the majestic mountain top moments, where we can stand victorious, but it is the valleys of despair that we draw closest to God. Yes we are a culture that craves the comfortable and shuns suffering, but comfort has done little to change us. Its in the challenges that I have been changed, and the fires where I have been forged. Jacob wasn’t changed in the bright blue of day, but in the deep darkness of night where he struggled with the stranger. Emerging from the darkness different, limping yet loved, having had a face to face encounter with the eternal God. A man who emerged with a new name, Israel, forgiven and forged by the Father, Genesis 32. I don’t long to limp but I do long for The Lord and like Moses there will be times in this life when I will have to descend into the darkness, to commune with Him in the cloud of change, Exodus 20:21 “Moses approached the dark cloud where God was” Exodus 20:18 tells us that “When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was” There were two responses to the darkness, one remained at a distance the other ran to discover. One saw the power and was petrified, while the other saw the power and praised, one waited, one worshipped. Why, if we could draw close to God and worship would we wait, why would we hold back from holiness? Verse 18 gives us a clue to their choice, they focused on the fear instead of the Father, where Moses saw the majesty of God they saw mad. Sadly today this is why so many stay away from God, because they think He is unapproachable, they assume wrongly that He could never love them with all their sin. We so often forget the forgiveness of the Father, like the people of Israel who failed to see that it was God who delivered, saving them from slavery and supplying their needs. God had told Moses, in Chapter 19:4-5 “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wing’s and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” He called them a treasured possession yet they held back, preferring waiting to worship. How much of our lives do we waste through waiting, as we hold back from holiness? Spending our strength trying to build a bridge to comfort instead of embracing the dark cloud of change? In trying to avoiding the agony are we avoiding the Almighty? Don’t shy from suffering, for in the darkness you will discover your Dad. None reminds us that the comforts of this life will cave in around us, that no matter how much they tickle and trick the flesh they are but temporary. None reminds us of the wonder of worship and what really matters, our Master and His eternal plan. That we can in awe approach our Father, that choosing God isn’t always comfortable or pain free but it is profitable. Christ experienced the crushing consequence of choosing His Fathers plan, but along with the pain came the pleasure of pleasing Him. Life is not measured in the losses, but the love of The Lord and His cherished words, “well done, my good and faithful servant. So today in this time of None take notice of the temporary, with its distracting temptations, and choose to turn and trust in God’s eternal plan.