Last Monday night, I found myself walking around one of NCC’s locations. For whatever reason, God impressed upon me the desire to pray at that specific place, so after the kids were on their way to bed, I jumped in the car. A half an hour later, I was walking around the building. The more I walked, the more people I thought about. The more people I thought about, the more I prayed. If I hadn’t been a little concerned that my late night walking was freaking out the neighbors, I could have walked around that place for hours.
More and more, the Holy Spirit seems to call out to me. To be honest, my attitude hasn’t really been all that conducive to hearing His voice, but He still calls. My obeying hasn’t been all that stellar, but He still calls.
Last Friday was a not-listening time. I wasn’t feeling great, and although it was my turn to lead 7:14 Prayer (You can join the 7:14 Prayer Journey and pick up a free copy of The Circle Maker here), I wasn’t in listen and obey mode. I walked into Ebenezers a few minutes early, but was without a word from God on which passage He wanted me to use. I sat down in the back, but still no word. I opened my Bible and flipped through the New Testament, but still no word. In a panic, I began to silently plead for God to give me something to say, but still no word.
At 7:13, Diana, one of the staff members who works hard to keep people like me on track, gave me the look. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the look that says, “I know that you are completely unprepared, but these people are waiting, and so is God.”
As I stood to walk to the front of the room, God said (not audibly, that probably would have done me in), “Colossians 3.” Turns out, I’m supposed to be dying to self: taking off the old man and putting on the new and redeemed man. I read the first 10 verses, and then, realizing that God just spoke to me through me, told everyone that God was doing an extreme makeover on my character, and opened up in prayer. Diana turned the music back on, signaling the beginning of personal prayer time, and I sat down. God spoke, but He made me sweat a little first.
Here’s where I am on this: When we obey, He pours out. Isn’t it great though, that even when we’re self-focused and hanging on to the old-self stuff, He remains persistent in His pursuit of change in out lives? He just keeps coming back; longing for the relationship that we so frequently take for granted. Even when we’re not in a listening and obeying frame of mind, He speaks.
Some days I obey. Some days, I can’t seem to get over myself. Every day, God comes back for more, and that is an awesome revelation.
I’m an intern. Actually, I’m a little cooler than an intern, because I have a cooler title: I’m a protege. Being a protege at National Community Church is a great gig. We get to learn more in one year than I have learned in the past five. We get to be coached and mentored by people who are completely sold out in life and service for Jesus. We get to hang out with amazing leaders from all over the country and the world, all while living in this incredible city. All of those opportunities are great, but probably one of my favorite perks is that we get an all access pass for free pastries from the “2nd Day Bin” at Ebenezers Coffee House. (Personally, I’m a big fan of the mini lemon bundt cakes.)
Being a protege comes with privileges, but it also comes with questions. Our church family asks questions like “Why did you quit your job to become an intern? How are you adjusting to life in the city? How’s your financial support look? How in the world did you pursued an amazing woman like Jessica to be your wife?” The last one is usually followed up with something like “Your children are beautiful: Your wife must have dominant genes.” All of these questions are great. I love being asked, and after seven months of practice, I’d like to think that I’m pretty comfortable with my answers. There is one question that has plagued me for quite some time: What’s next?
It’s a tough question, because answering the “what’s next” question forces me to ask another question: “What is the will of God for my life?” Ironically enough, tomorrow night, I’m speaking on that very question, which means that, in recent weeks and days, I’ve had to revisit it many times. Here’s what I’ve come up with: If I want to know the will of God, I need to know God.
Here’s a little background on my family: My wife and I were married five months to the day from our first date. We’ve been married for almost ten years. (The woman is laying up some treasures in Heaven.) Ten years ago, I was terrible at knowing what she was thinking. I’m still pretty bad, but I’m much better than I was. I can guess, to a decent degree of accuracy, if she’ll want to go out or stay in, have friends over or have a family night, buy a big screen television or save the money for something “practical” like food or diapers. I’m starting to figure her out, because I’ve been in a relationship with her for quite some time. I seek to understand her, not because our couch is lumpy, but because I love her. I want to know more about her, because I’m hopelessly in love with her. I seek to love her as Christ loves the Church. I’m not seeking to know what she wants me to do. I’m seeking to know her, and in knowing her, I know what she wants.
In a recent message, Heather Zempel said, “Our God is jealous for us. We should be zealous for Him.” Think about that. Creator God created us for community with Him. He was and is so jealous for us, that He sent His Son to die in our place. His jealousy drove Him to the cross, but it wasn’t jealousy alone. It was jealousy accompanied by unconditional, unrelenting love.
Put that on the back burner for a second, and consider that God didn’t just create us. He created everything: lemon bunt cake, people, communication. He created us to be in community with Him, and He created communication. If that is true, then why would His communication to us, of His perfect and personal will for our lives, be difficult to grasp and/or understand?
God has given us the Bible, in which He lays out His providential and moral will: We know what God is going to do, and how He expects us to live. He’s given us the Holy Spirit, living within us, who guides, directs, and empowers. He’s given us prayer; a direct line of communication to Him. He’s given us people in positions of leadership and spiritual maturity, so that we can have the benefit of good and Godly counsel.
If He has given me all of these avenues for success and understanding, then why am I still in the dark regarding His will? The answer is simple: He loves me, and I love me. There has to be less of me and more of Him. When I begin to jealously love Him the way that He so jealously loves me, I will know Him more. The more I know Him, the more my decisions will reflect His thoughts and ways.
God’s abundant life is out there waiting for each of us. We just have to have the courage to embrace a posture of humility, and chase after God with the same unrelenting love with which He pursues us.