Category Archives: Truth-Seekers

Experiencing God

Mark, who is one of my best friends in the whole world and also ministry partner for 14 years, wrote this response yesterday to the question: “How do you come to know God.”


“I recently read some things by Mark Batterson that are helping me answer this question. When I worship I can’t focus on what’s wrong with me, but what is right with God. This allows me to experience Him. By the way, I have to remember that worship is a lifestyle that includes music but in no way is limited to that. When I have problems in my life my attitude and focus must be on Jesus. I cannot be the focus of my problems because I will never experience God if that is the case. My problems are actually opportunities for me to experience God.


Altering my prayer life from only “safe” prayers to include “dangerous” prayers. Praying “safe” prayers are not bad and I will continue to pray those types of prayers. However, for me to experience God the way He wants me to I need to pray “dangerous” prayers. Prayers that I know make me uncomfortable because in my own strength I cannot accomplish the request. Knowing that God is the only one who can move forward and do what He is asking of me…that is a dangerous prayer and will lead to a wild experience!”


You’re the man, Mark! And he referred to Mark Batterson who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. (Check out the link to his blog in the right column too!) Reading at least one of his books this year would be a wonderful goal. He has three:

  • In a Pit with a Lion On a Snowy Day
  • Wild Goose Chase
  • Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity (his latest)
  • Wow! This must be Mark-Day! What a great way to start a New Year…

    Knowing God

    Thank you for the responses, people!

    By the way--this blog is averaging 105 different people visiting every single day! Pretty cool. There have been 467 different individuals that have checked out the Ecipleship blog in the month of December (my first full month). So thanks for spreading the word whenever and however you can. It's sort of like an online church gathering every day!

    Here is a survey of the responses (in order of their popularity) to “how you really come to know God”:

    #1 — Through the devotional disciplines of reading the Word and prayer. The emphasis was made that it reveals the nature of God in light of my need and depravity.

    #2  — Through adversity and trials. The statement was made several times that it is where head knowledge turns into heart convictions…God becomes real through the testings of life. What a great reminder of what James 1 states, “Consider it all joy when you encounter trials of various kinds…” Hardships are truly blessings in disguise.

    #3 — Reflecting on God’s goodness and faithfulness. We see who God really is and the ways He has intersected our lives.

    #4 — Obedience. It is in doing, taking risks, putting trust to the test that we experience who God really is. Only on the other side of obedience to do we know God clearly.

    #5 — Learning from others. This is a “hip-hip-hurray!” for all pastors and teachers…and others who pour into the lives of those around them. This the Body of Christ dynamic that is essential to every believer. We need one another and find God through one another. I love it!

    #6 — Serving and working in partnership with God. This is mine and since it’s my blog, I get to add it. I experience the reality and character of God through serving Him and others. I learn so much about God and form a deep bond with Him in these experiences.

    RELATIONSHIP is the key in knowing God. Time, experiences together, sacrificing for another, laughing and enjoying one another — these are vital elements in relationships. And they are essential in knowing and loving God too.

    In 2010, choose what one thing you will do to deepen your knowledge and love for God.

    Happy New Year!

    Knowing God?

    I finished my blog yesterday with a statement I would like your help with today.

    Here’s the statement:

    I’m quite sure that God will sneak up on you some day soon and say, “I want you to do this ridiculous thing that looks like sheer lunacy. Will you do it?” What will you answer?

    It all depends upon how well you know God…how much you can trust in His infinite wisdom and undying love.

    Here’s where I would like your help. Tell me what it is that has helped you most to truly know God. [Just click on the little post-it on the top right and leave your comment.] You can be very brief, but be as specific as possible. It will be interesting to hear how we each find our life-giving connections with the Almighty. I will follow-up with some reflections tomorrow.

    Thanks for your help, everyone!

    What Will God Ask???

    A new season of time stands before us. There are so many unknowns about it. Will I still have my job at the end of the year? Will I lose anyone close to me in the months ahead? What tragedies await me just around the corner? What school-of-hard-knocks does God have planned for me now? What disease is lurking in my body that will show itself in the days ahead? Yes—there are so many unknowns. But not one of them is a surprise to God!

    Psalm 139:3-4, 16

    3 Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.

    4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, Thou dost know it all.

    16 Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

    Joseph and Mary understood the omniscient nature of God. They understood that God’s knowledge supersedes all time. He is in the past, present and future all at once! The Almighty is not bound by this arena of time in which we live. So—with absolute trust in the command of God to leave Bethlehem, they scurried out of town in the dark of night to avoid any witnesses to their departure. Joseph’s obedience was immediate and complete, even though it brought them even farther from their home in Nazareth.

    Egypt.

    This represents a place of pain, humiliation, despair, helplessness, enslavement, bondage, lostness…

    Egypt was not a positive place for an Israelite. Their forefathers and families were debased in this despicable land. Four hundred and thirty years of slavery was cruelly etched into the fabric of these chosen people. By the way, did you know that they also spent four hundred and thirty years in the Promised Land…and then four hundred and thirty years in Babylonian and Persian exile? They returned to Jerusalem in 430BC…that’s right! Four hundred and thirty years after returning to their land of promise, the Savior comes, only to be sent back into exile again!

    So when God tells Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt, it required a special faith in the knowledge, wisdom and trustworthiness of God.

    But they go.

    They go into exile. In Egypt. Because God told them to go.

    I’m quite sure that God will sneak up on you some day soon and say, “I want you to do this ridiculous thing that looks like sheer lunacy. Will you do it?” What will you answer?

    It all depends upon how well you know God…how much you can trust in His infinite wisdom and undying love.

    Will you go?

    My Ego Boost

    I’m feeling really good about myself today! I was just told that I’m like Joseph (son of Jacob)  in the Bible! I am described in these terms:

    You are forgiving. You make the best of bad situations and trust God to take care of your needs. You will not compromise your morals. You are trustworthy. Trials do not buckle you, you patiently wait for the Lord to deliver you.

    Too bad it was Facebook that told me! Yes–I took one of those online assessments (I rarely waste my time on them), but after waking this morning at 4AM, I decided I would do something silly. So–I got an ego boost!

    Here’s the problem–I know I’m not really like Joseph. Yes–there may be a few characteristics of his that show up in my life, but I’ve never really spent years unjustly in a prison like he did. So I’m not like Joseph. I’ve never been unjustly accused of adultery, so I’m not like Joseph. I haven’t had an opportunity to lead a nation in crisis, so I’m not like Joseph. It sounded nice, though.

    Here’s what I do know: I can be Ivan, redeemed, restored, and righteous because God chooses to live in me and work through me for His purposes. I can be faithful in whatever comes my way today, whether it is good or evil, happy or sad, just or unjust. Even Joseph could not have been Joseph if he didn’t yield himself to God. I want to do that today. And maybe…just maybe, twenty five years from now, I might be a little bit more like Joseph that I am today.

    Thanks, Facebook!

    Being Dangerous

    “If following Jesus does not feel dangerous, I should probably pause and check to see if it is Jesus I’m following.” This Gary Haugen statement is packed with fact.

    Fact #1 — We naturally like to be safe rather than dangerous. Unless we deliberately choose to be dangerous, we will be safe.

    Fact #2 — God-followers have always been called to danger. From Abraham being called to move from the most developed city of his day to a place he had never heard of nor ever been, all the way to Jesus’ disciples dispensing with their safe places to join the world-rattling adventure with Jesus, we are called to danger.

    Fact #3 — We cannot muster up the courage to be dangerous rather than safe. This orientation comes only through being so filled with heart and passion of God that we take on His likeness. That’s why, when the early church leaders lost their resolve, they prayed together and the Holy Spirit came upon them. They were infused with courage to continue their dangerous cause. (Acts 4)

    Fact #4 — God doesn’t call us to anything He has not subjected Himself to first. Christmas is all about danger. The Creator became created, the all-powerful One became a helpless baby in a feeding trough, the King of Kings became dependent on his mother’s providence. He who had it all became a homeless disadvantaged and hunted human being destined for a cruel cross.

    That’s why scripture declares to every God-follower, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” 1 Peter 4:1.

    If following Jesus does not feel dangerous, I should probably pause and check to see if it is Jesus I’m following.

    Empty Christians

    Many Christians can look good but be terribly empty. In modern American Christianity, we tend to have something that is more cultural than biblical. In place of authentic faith being lived out, we easily slip into a form of something religious but lack substantive power. We can look good on the outside, but are like whitewashed tombs on the inside.

    This morning, I read Hosea 10:12:

    I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
    and you will harvest a crop of love.
    Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
    for now is the time to seek the Lord,
    that he may come
    and shower righteousness upon you.’

    God desperately longs to shower you with His love and blessing, but we often place ourselves in a wasteland apart from God’s grace. In fact, Jude 21 states, “Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you.” How cool is that?

    Hosea mentions the “seeds of righteousness”. What are those? In this scripture’s context, it refers to:

    • Living without idols…those things we rely on that become our crutches. We go to these for security and providence instead of God [like today’s financial security, credit cards, nice cars, luxurious homes, toys and entertainment items that feed our pleasure quotient]. Plow up that hard ground of your heart.
    • Running passionately after God — making Him the first love of our life…“seek the LORD”
    • Living like Jesus would live with compassion for the needy, an awareness and commitment to the lost, and honoring God with a life of integrity. Action is more important than theoretical beliefs.

    I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to “live in such a way that God’s love can bless me”…today.

    Focus

    I’m a pretty simple minded person. Maybe it comes from carrying corn cobs to the kitchen stove when I was five, or milking cows most of my childhood, or spending hours in the fields throwing hay bails around. Whatever the case, I don’t think the gospel or the Christian life was meant to be so complicated. That’s why I’m always stirred when I read Jesus’ conversations on following after God — like a man plowing in the field that should not look back, or like seed planted on various kinds of soil. This is really easy stuff to understand.

    We tend to make things more complicated than they should be. And we’re often eager to “discuss” issues that are meaningless.

    So when Paul tells Timothy to keep people from wasting “their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God,” (1 Timothy 1:4) he’s primarily reminding us that a lot of things that sound spiritual are a big waste of time.

    We need FOCUS. We need to constantly focus on the things that really matter.

    Now–here are some great words from Spurgeon

    Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions.

    There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these:

    • Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
    • Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind?
    • Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit?
    • Am I growing in grace?
    • Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour?
    • Am I looking for the coming of the Lord, and watching as a servant should do who expects his master?
    • What more can I do for Jesus?

    Now that’s a great list to help us find some focus!

    It’s All About Love!

    I just finished meeting with the most gifted committed five young men ever! This a group of twenty-something leaders that I’ve pulled together recently into which I hope to pour some truth, wisdom, and encouragement. As Paul wrote to Timothy long ago, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” 2 Timothy 2:2. This is about sharing the goods and multiplying our efforts.

    Here’s the thing–I am so challenged by these guys! I love their pure passion, untainted commitment to Christ, can-do spirit, and energy for God-things. This old horse is getting fed and fueled. I’m benefiting big time! We take the masks off, share our lives, and talk about loving God and loving people.

    This morning we pondered 1Timothy 1:5 which states, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

    Bulls eye!

    It’s all about love. Just like Jesus said, the greatest commandment is to love God and love people. It’s so tempting to get distracted with meaningless things that look Christian and sound spiritual (1Timothy 1:3-4). But it’s counterproductive.

    Keep the main thing the main thing.

    I love you guys!!!

    Fog

    I dream of seeing the Lord add to our number everyday those who are being saved. He did that when the first church existed (Acts 2:47). He still wants to do it today. We’ve simply gotten lost in the fog of busy and often meaningless activity. The modern church needs to regain it’s…

    • Passion for broken people
    • Urgency about the eternal destiny of those around us
    • Commitment to live obediently to our commission
    • Courage (Holy Spirit given) to intersect with our world gently and purposefully

    LeRoy Eims once told a parable about a new shoe factory. Leaving the manager in charge, the owner left for period of years. When the owner returned, he found that the manager had produced great morale, well-educated employees, good equipment, and fabulous plans…but no new shoes had yet been manufactured. But a shoe factory is all about making shoes!

    The church is often thrilled about having happy people, good education, wonderful facilities, and noble plans. But if we fail to see new converts, we have failed in the Great Commission to “make disciples”. The first step of that is always new birth.

    Let’s face the truth and do something about it.