Note before the post: On Sunday night I taught at the opening night of four nights of refreshing meetings at a church about 35 minutes from us, hoping for revival, tied in to the Feast of the Tabernacles (this is the third series of meetings we have done, each located around one of the feasts). Based on the number of people who have told me in the last two days that the teaching I gave really blessed them I offer a link to it here for any of you who would like to listen (it is in mp3 format). It uses the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), and Joshua and the Israelites, as a basis for sharing what God has been recently showing me on the yielded and surrendered life.
Sunday Teaching: Sept. 26, 2010
Prayer Request: Today begins something for me which is overdue, but which I have some real hope for. I have pastored for almost 11 years now without taking any significant break in time to kind of give God a "blank page" to write on (free of having a Sunday teaching, church admin, etc., in the back of my mind). At the encouragement of others, and hopefully by the leading of God, I am doing that now, and I have different men taking the next four services for me, as well as people handling the bulk of the different administrative tasks. I can't thank them enough for their heart to help me in this (the plan at this point is for me to return to the pulpit on 10/31).
I am asking, if you feel led, for your prayer cover for this time. I need to hear from God. I need renewed clarity and assurance on many things—from theological things, to direction, to vision, to provision for my family, to the future, to decisions the church faces, etc. I need His guiding not just for the future, but even for this time of retreat and prayer. Some have called this my "vacation." I chuckle. It will probably be a very directed and focused time of study and seeking, though I do hope to rest as well (and to take some special family time). I don't know if I will blog at all during this time, or if I will blog more than ever as a perfect release and way to record, and share, things He shows me as I travel with Him. I'll just have to see.
If you feel led to be a part of a covering in prayer for this time, I am including specifics below. If not, I totally understand—I am not a good intercessor or prayer warrior, though I covet those who are! Please, just follow God's leading, and if, while praying, you feel He shares something with you for either Mary Ann or me, don't hesitate to email it to me at emar at tcsn dot net (unfortunately, I need to spell it out to avoid computer spamming)—or, you can comment me, and I won't publish it publicly on the blog if you ask me not to.
1) Direction for how God would lead this time.
2) Direction for what I am supposed to return to, and how I am supposed to return to it as (both ministry and personal—I want to streamline and simplify my life so that each part of it counts and matters, to "redeem the time" wisely).
4) Intimacy with God in worship, study, and a clarity in hearing His voice.
5) A renewed revelation of who I am in Him, what that means for me, and what, exactly, He is asking me to do and what He isn't asking me to do.
6) Courage to do whatever He asks me to do, and courage to be whatever He asks me to be, no matter if everyone, or no one, follows.
7) Rest for both me and for Mary Ann (she is trying to fill her Children's Church slots during this time so that she, too, can rest a little from that and partner with me in this time---she will still be homeschooling, and there is never a break from all the routine things of life we both must do, and as you all must do also).
8) A spiritual cover and protection. I do not think the enemy wants me to have this time and would love to see me distracted, discouraged, etc. I don't want to make any decisions, or follow any voice, other than His.
9) Theological clarity. I feel sometimes like I am driving along a road, just getting glimpses through the trees, of something majestic and mighty on the other side of the forest. I feel like there are some truths about yielding and surrender and how to finish my life strong and eternally focused that are close, but I have yet to fully apprehend.
10) Clarity on what my role as a pastor is supposed to look like, as well as my other roles: youth leader, administrator, husband, father, friend, brother, neighbor, child of God, etc. I need wisdom in being these different things, and I especially don't know what the ministry ones especially are supposed to look like.
11) Revelation on God's ultimate purpose, the Kingdom of God, and the yielded, surrendered life..
12) Revelation on spiritual authority.
Some Thoughts/Things I am Wrestling With to Give Your Prayers Background and Insight: I don't want to define my roles by some cultural "expectation" we have built that God has not given, and I don't want to look back one day over decades of pastoring and feel like I just "did church." I don't want routine worship. I don't want routine teaching. I don't want routine, hollow, Spirit-less services. Nor, am I seeking experience or emotion. I simply want God to fall all over us and a region, and I don't believe it is going to happen the way I am going right now and the way the body of Christ in general, and I start with me, is treating church and our calling and who we are in Him, and who He is in us. And, I don't know how to do it different . . . and I am afraid of how that might even look, or how we might react to what God might say.
Sometimes I look around and wonder how many of us, myself included as first and foremost, really believe what we say we do—and I mean "believe" in the way God means it, when He accused the Israelites of not believing in Him when they turned from their destiny in the promised land. I think that they would have been shocked to realize He felt they didn't believe in Him, and it makes me wonder just how much is wrapped up in the word "believe" the way GOD means it . . . and isn't what He thinks all that matters? How, I wonder, do we awaken the body, myself first, to the reality of what we claim to believe—the reality of either eternity with or without God, the reality of the Creator of the Universe living in us and waiting to live through us, the reality of the fire that will test all of our work and show what was eternal and what was just fluff, the reality of spiritual warfare, the reality of the power and need for prayer?
What is happening, I wonder, when churches can't even sustain prayer meetings, and only 25 people represent FOUR collected churches at revival meetings? What is happening? What has to happen? How does a pastor do this? If it is the Holy Spirit's job, then what is our role in it? How do we build each other up to what He calls us to, without breaking each other down with condemnation and guilt?
Why are Christians so often so self focused? Where is the joy and the peace, and how do we experience that and still be taking up our cross, denying ourselves, and following Him and the path He walked and walks? Why do we look so different from the church in Acts, which is supposed to be our model, which was CONTINUALLY together in prayer, fellowship, teaching—and saw people flocking to it and signs and wonders accompanying it . . . if this is our model, then why does it sometimes feel like there should be apologies for even asking people to gather for more than a Sunday morning service?
Where is, starting with me, the broken humility before God that causes us to love (and not judge) all others better than ourselves? Where is, starting with me, the overwhelming awe and wonder at God that causes us to fall before Him and simply cry out and worship Him as worthy of all we have, including our lives? What is God asking of me, and what part have I played in the whole thing?
These are some of the questions I am asking, and at the same time I am praising God for the wonderful people He has surrounded me with—people who do love Him, who love on each other, and who love me and my family. I thank Him for them, and for you who read this all and who share this journey with me. Thanks for your prayers and love. I long to finish strong, and I treasure your prayers along the way.