In all honesty, I haven’t had a lot on my mind lately. Over Thanksgiving break I’ve been house-sitting which has been a blessing and a curse, but mostly blessing. The hard part is being by myself, yet at the same time that is also the blessing—the silence is like an emotional/mental/spiritual detox. Yep, it’s just me and the dog I’m watching and frankly, I couldn’t ask for more.

Thanks to the tremendous amount of silence and stillness, I’ve been praying like nobody’s business (who else am I going to talk to?). I did spend some time with family on Thanksgiving Day, but I’ve mostly just been tending to the house and the dog and praying. I did venture out on Black Friday to a local coffee shop (there’s something about being in the company of strangers that’s oddly affirming of my humanity) and had a chance encounter with a friend I haven’t seen in months (though it felt like years). So really, nothing hugely fantastic has really happened over the last few days, but that’s ok: I’m learning to feel His pleasure in the little things.

I’ve still been recording my important thoughts as I have them although they have been much fewer as of late. I think I’m beginning to see a theme however. Much of the things that I ponder relate to ways that I can grow in genuineness but genuineness is never the point. That is, genuineness is a byproduct, not a goal. That’s it really. If I were to say that my main goal in life is to be genuine, then firstly, I wouldn’t be being honest with myself and secondly, I would have no idea what that would even look like. It just so happens though that when you live according to your convictions and humbly adapt to circumstances and ideas that you encounter, genuineness forms as a result of living unashamedly as yourself. As a Christian that’s only part of it though. Genuineness also comes from living unashamedly toward Christ. Something I’ve realized while I’ve been praying is that admission of weakness is not designed so that we would dwell on our needful state, but so that we would celebrate Christ’s power and life already at work in us. It’s the celebration of Christ in our lives that marks us as genuine Christians. Love, joy, peace, and righteousness in the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t ask for more.

“To conclude this series on prayer, I have asked fellow Jessup student Sara Lewis to share her insights on prayer and experience of God through it. Please give thought to what she has to say about the power and authority given to believers!”
— David Andrew

Walking in the Spirit

Only in the last couple of years have I experienced just a taste of what it means to sit in His presence, and every time only leaves me wanting more and wishing I had started sooner! It is never what I expect, always breaks me at my core, makes me aware of my smallness and desperate need for Him, yet always leaves me with what every soul has sought after since the beginning of time: peace and fulfillment.

That said, you’d think we’d all be tapping into this resource like free drugs, right?  (Maybe that’s a bad analogy).  I’d be ashamed to admit to the trivial, even dumb things I let get in the way of time spent in prayer.  The enemy doesn’t care what else I fill my time with, as long as the time is spent.  (If you haven’t already, please read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. I can’t stress its eye-opening importance enough!)

Why would the enemy spend so much effort in keeping us distracted?  Spinning our wheels?  What about us spending time in the presence of God is so detrimental to his cause?

Time spent in the presence of the Almighty God cannot leave a person unchanged.  The Spirit of that God dwells within us, and the more time spent communing with it, the stronger and more dominant it becomes, and the smaller we become.  I see people walking in the power of that relationship like Heidi Baker, Kim Walker, Brooke Fraser- people who can enter a room and darkness flees, simply by the power of the Spirit dwelling in them – and I don’t know about you, but that is something that stirs a hunger in me deeper than I can describe.  It is a power so beyond ourselves that we must be empty of ourselves and filled with Him.

This doesn’t happen by osmosis!  It’s available to us, but God waits because we must ask.  It takes time and effort. Even sacrifice.  (i.e., time spent online, watching a movie, hanging with friends… instead of finding a quiet place to invite God’s presence and ask Him to speak and change our hearts).

Here. A story to sum up my heart in this:  I was in Amsterdam 2 years ago on New Years Eve on a mission trip.  (if you understand the utter insanity New Years Eve in Amsterdam involves, and you know me, that would shock you)!  It was just after midnight in Daam Square, I was bundled in 293 layers and just trying not to get vodka, urine, or vomit splashed on me, and was filtering smoke-filled air through my scarf.  Thousands of people had flown in from all over the world just to be part of that massive party, and I was smack in the middle of it with my friends.

If Europe is one of the spiritually darkest places of the world, Amsterdam is the epicenter.  It felt heavy, oppressive, and “lost”. Not something I’m used to, having been raised in church!  It was as if my spirit was resisting the oppression with everything it had, and it left me feeling sick.  After midnight, we were watching fireworks from a rooftop and I couldn’t take it anymore; I was exhausted in every possible way. A guy friend on my team said he would take me to our hostel, and a hostel employee guided us.  What followed was an experience I will never forget, and as bad as it was, I hope I never do.

The streets were so crazy that fireworks were being lit into crowds, drugs and alcohol were flowing freely, (I got several offers…which I turned down), and the street was carpeted in firework wrappers and who knows what else. Safety was a concern, so my friend offered me his arm, and I held it with a death grip as we walked on around more corners, through more alleys, among more jostling crowds that never seemed to end.  I closed my eyes because I felt a strange, overwhelming heaviness, as if I was being suffocated.  I hit me that this was an environment so absent from God that it was as if I had entered enemy territory and I was a target.

Then, as if it could get worse, we entered the most famous red light district in the world.  (Later I found out our guide got a talking to, because he wasn’t supposed to take us that way).  A totally foreign thought entered my mind: “You’re going to die.  You won’t make it out of here.”  From a physical standpoint, that thought made no logical sense. Yet I understood it perfectly, and believed it.  I felt my lungs collapsing like something was pushing on them, and I couldn’t breathe.  I looked up in desperation and only saw those dark, A-line rooftops that lean in toward the street, tall and ugly in the glowing red lights and flickering of fireworks.  I remember thinking, “God!  Where are you?! What the heck is this?”  I heard clearly, “I never left You.”  I thought back, scared and wanting to cry, “But it’s so BIG!” (The world around me and whatever was suffocating me). I’d never felt so small and easily squashed in my life, nor had I realized how big evil could be in comparison.  But the verse we all know was suddenly spoken in my mind’s ear as clearly as any spoken phrase I’ve ever heard: “Greater is He that is in You than he that is in this world.”

There are those times when people quote familiar, well-loved Scriptures to us, and that’s nice.  This wasn’t that. It was said with authority, took me by surprise, and held everything in it that I needed to understand at that time:

  1. Yes, the “thing” around me was bigger than me.  But it’s not about me.
  2. The Spirit living inside me, the Spirit I am ushering into this place simply by setting foot there, is BIGGER, and it is a threat.
  3. I must realize the authority I am walking in or I’ll be useless.  All the enemy has is fear, and if He can keep me too afraid to fight back, he will win.

It took me a couple of years to unpack everything God showed me in that experience, and realize the lasting impact it would have on my perspective of the spiritual realm and the reality of our position in it!  Imagine something simple for a second: every believer in the world walking in the divine authority given to us through Jesus.  Realizing we carry His power within us.

No fear.

Holy. Stinkin. Cow.

To say our world would not be the same is a pathetic understatement.  Seeking after the face of God through listening prayer on a practical, daily level is easier said than done- I’m realistic- but come on.  Both present and eternal rewards far outweigh anything else that could take its place!  He loves when we seek Him- the results will not disappoint!

Sara Lewis is a marvelous pianist and a woman of great depth in and love for Christ. She also shares her thoughts and experiences on Tumblr!

“The following post is written by my friend Karsten—an unashamed man of God whose perspectives on faith and praxis have radically challenged and shaped my own. I pray you are blessed by his words. :)”
—David Andrew

Prayer. Such an overused word. We have “prayer meetings” and “prayer groups” and “prayer chains,” we say “I’ll pray for you” to our suffering Christian friends (then we usually don’t remember to). So what is this thing we all say we do, and why do we even bother doing it?

Conversation. I want to redefine for you what prayer is. For starters, it’s not talking. It’s communication. Let me tell you about my trip to In-N-Out.

I had been planning on doing it for awhile, and today I decided to make it happen. I was hungry, and I really wanted IN-N-OUT. I had been practicing conversation with God- talking to Him in my head, listening for responses; I was still convinced that most of what I was hearing was just my own thoughts. Nonetheless, I said to Jesus “Hey Jesus, want to go to In-n-Out with me? I’m buying.” Jesus said He was down. Sweet.

About three months earlier I had gotten fed up with my relationship with God. I was tired of people telling me it was about “relationship” not “religion,” when everything about prayer and worship and church and “quiet time” felt so freaking religious! God of relationship huh? Alright, well prove it! I remember thinking “how do I get to know my friends? Well, I go for walks with them, have conversations with them, go out and get food with them… You know what? That’s what I’ll do! Alright God, I’m going to treat you like you are actually real, like you’re someone I can actually get to know. I’m going to go for a walk with you. I’m going to pretend you’re right next to me (because you are anyway) and I’m going to talk out loud as if I’m talking to you. Then, whatever I hear in my head as a response, I’m going to just go with it as if it’s you. And God, it better be you, because if it isn’t than I’ll probably drive myself crazy by listening to the voices in my head.” About a week after this I went on that first walk. I still think most of what I heard was just me, but I know some of it was Him. Now it was time to take that conversation to the next level.

I walked up to the counter and ordered two burgers: One double double animal style and one cheeseburger (I figured Jesus could handle the smaller burger). I sat down at a two person table, and set the other burger across from me at the table, then I began a conversation. Most of that conversation was something to the tune of “Jesus I feel like a retard right now.”

Jesus would say (in my head, where no one else could hear him) “I know. It’s ok. I like that you’re spending time with me.”

“Thanks Jesus.” Then I noticed an older couple sitting at the other end of the restaurant. They were both probably in their sixties and wore those awkward grandma sweaters with the random animals on them that you hope to receive yourself. As I looked at them I heard God say “prodigal son”. By this point, I knew I was in trouble. God doesn’t usually tell you something like that because he wants you to sit there and do nothing. No, I was going to have to go over there and share what God was saying with these total strangers. I was fearless, and 100% confident that I would walk over there, share what God was speaking, and revival would break out that very moment in In-n-Out! Ok, maybe I was actually terrified of being wrong and trying to talk God out of making me go over there.

I couldn’t talk Him out of it. God brought back to me a quote from a pastor named Shawn Bolz- “If you want to grow in your relationship with God, take the biggest risk possible at your level of faith.” I knew there was no getting out of it if I didn’t want to feel like crap for ignoring God the rest of the night, so I finally decided to get up and go over there. At this point I had “heard” all sorts of stuff from God about this situation. He was a lost son, he was into drugs, he was doing meth, his name was Jeff.

I walked up to them, and a million miles an hour I said “hi, sorry-to-bother-you-but-I-was-wondering-if-I-could-ask-you-something-and-if-I’m-wrong-I’ll-totally-go-away.” Sweater lady, a bit surprised and unsure, said “ok”.

“Do you have a son that you’re not on good terms with?”

The lady’s eyes got big as dollars. Shocked, she said “No…”

No. She said no. If I thought I talked fast before….

“OhI’mreallysorryI’mpracticinghearingGodandIguessIheardHimwrong,
I’mreallysorryI’llleaveyoualonenowhaveanicenight” and bam! I was out of there. I Rushed back to my seat, totally embarrassed.

“God, why did you let me do that!? I feel like such an idiot, and now those people are probably staring at me and my extra cheeseburger thinking I’m crazy. Why did you let that happen? I feel like such an idiot…” As I vented, it was as if heaven opened and God’s face began to shine down upon my whole being. I could feel His delight over me like warm sunlight. I knew in that moment how proud my Father really was of me. it was the most profound experience of how proud God is for me that I’ve ever had. To this day I know that it changed my life, and I am so glad I got it wrong that evening.

I was so embarrassed, that I left a few minutes after. I decided to take the cheeseburger, still not sure what I’d do with it since I was on my way to the prayer room and couldn’t let it sit in the car for 3 hours. As I drove, I felt God saying “turn right,” so although my confidence in my ability to hear Him was a bit low at that moment, I figured what the heck. A few traffic lights passed, and I felt Him say “turn left,” so I did. This wasn’t my normal route to church, and I wasn’t sure why He was taking me this way, but I went with it. I felt a “turn right” but it wasn’t quite yet. It was like God was going “closer…closer….NOW!” I turned into the Best Buy parking lot in the nice suburban part of town, and right as I did a homeless man on a bicycle rounded the same corner! I yelled out my window “Hey! Jesus told me to buy an extra cheeseburger and here you are! Do you want it?” He said “sure,” rode over, took the cheeseburger and left. The verse “why you have done to the least of these you have done to me” went through my head, and I heard Jesus clearly say “See! I told you I’d eat my cheeseburger!”

See, prayer was never about getting it right. It was never about getting forgiven, or getting your needs met, or asking for other people’s needs to get met. Prayer is when God lets you feel how proud He is of you at In-n-out. It’s when you and Jesus go give someone a cheeseburger. It’s singing your favorite worship song and knowing God’s Presence is there with you. Prayer is a journey. Prayer is a friendship. When the religious fetters fall off, your prayer life will soar.

Not only is Karsten Kaz a really cool guy—he also just started blogging! Check it out yo! —>Karsten’s Blog

“In continuing this series on prayer, I wanted to focus on abiding in God’s presence. Writing on this subject, my friend Maria Viola offers her intimate, insightful perspective from her experience of God in the quite place.”
—David Andrew

The Quiet Place

We can learn to abide in God’s presence wherever we go, in any situation, in whatever we are doing. There is a starting point: being in the prayer closet. I cannot stress enough the importance of finding a hiding place, a quiet place to spend just with Jesus without any distractions. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NASB).

I want to abide in the presence of a person I love, know, and trust. I believe we could all say the same, so what does that look like? There’s no formula, but Matthew 6:6 gives us a wonderful model. First, find a place where you can pray: I have made a prayer room underneath my dorm room bed where I have strung up lights, have a couple pillows, a blanket hanging from my bed to hide me underneath, and my journal and Bible. Second, close your door: this will be one of the best ways to eliminate distraction and put your focus on Him. Close that door so you can pray and sing out loud, you can intercede where the Spirit leads, and wait in the presence that will fill your place of prayer. The Father, who is in that secret place with you, hears your requests and sees your need. Read these lyrics to Misty Edwards song Silence:

“Silence calls like the rain to a parched land
I drink You in again.
No longer thirsting for what could never satisfy
I’m thirsty, I’m thirsty for You.

In silence, You call.
In quiet, You hide.
In secret, You wait for a lovesick bride.

Jesus, I am here.
Jesus, I am Yours, and You are mine.
Jesus, I have come to steal Your heart again.

Silence calls like the waves ever crashing on my shore.
This broken heart hears a Voice calling me
to quiet places where You hide,
waiting for a lovesick bride to come and steal Your heart
with one glance of my heart, with one glance of my heart.

All I ever wanted is You
All I ever needed is You
In silence, in quiet~
Silence comes like the rain, like the rain.”

Go to the quiet place, to that secret place so that the God who makes all things new can commune with you and impart to you knowledge, wisdom, and His wonderful presence. Never give up on the quiet place where you meet with Him because He will always be there, whether you feel Him or not, because His promises are true and if He says that He is in the secret and He sees you in the secret then this is a true statement. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13 (NASB).
If you are not sure what to pray, then start with the prayer that Jesus taught right after telling us to go to the quiet place:

“Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB)

This is a good place to start. I pray that each of you would lose yourselves in His wonderful presence.

With love,
Maria

To kick off this series on prayer, I want to focus on the experience of prayer. To express this sentiment, I have asked my dear friend Rachel Jackson to pen a creative piece on her experience of prayer. So without further ado:

Prayer.

Oh, I know this place so well;
The place we come to meet.
Oh, I know the way He looks at me
When I dance before Him, free.

Oh I know the path so well;
The path we walk upon.
Oh, I know it won’t be very long
Till He sings to me His song.

Oh I know His song so well;
The voice that kissed my heart.
Oh, I know the work of art
That hooks me from the start.

Yes, I know this place so well.
The place where Savior speaks.
Oh, I know the Words He says to me
When I stand as one redeemed.

Oh, I know this place so well;
The place where hands are laced.
Oh, how His hands touch my face
In this Romantic Race.
~Rachel~

Rachel Elizabeth is one of the most genuine, passionate-for-God, and listening people I know. She blogs her own thoughts and experiences here.

So today I want to officially announce the print release of volume number two of my poetry! You can now order “Snapshots: Of the Coming Glory” as a print on demand book immediately through CreateSpace and Amazon!

Snapshots: Of the Coming Glory

I also want to announce a blog series I will be launching soon! God has been laying the subject of prayer heavily on my heart lately; and I have been inspired to run a series of guest blog posts about prayer. We’ll be talking about many different aspects of prayer ranging from the experience of it to abiding in it (and abiding in Jesus) to seeking out the fullness of God through it. The purpose of having guest writers is to encourage you that there are many, many saints traveling along the journey of faith and each one has a unique perspective on prayer as God has and continues to reveal different aspects of Himself to His children at different times and in different ways. I pray that you are blessed through this coming series. Until next time, be watchful for His coming, and may you be blessed by God’s presence until His physical return!