Check out this turn of events last night as I sought the Lord for wisdom and peace in the face of anxiety...
Here is the text from the Oswald Chambers devotional for July 7th:
Coming out of this devotional, my attitude is very different. I'm embracing Scriptural truth delivered precisely at the time and way that I need it.
But then, as I often do, I say to God, "This is great, I would love to hear from you from your own Word, from the Bible." So I open my Bible app, and I read this:
I mean, come on, I'm laying in bed wide awake with a sort of anxiety, God shows me truth directly applying to my hardships, then reminds me what He's given to me, and who is in control. At this point, I'm feeling amazing, and just 30 min. or so after feeling faced with insurmountable odds.
It doesn't end there.
I feel like there's one last thing I should check, at the end of the day, I was introduced via email to a guy that, I'm thinking now, might be worth looking into before I fall asleep.
I do a quick check, and after a couple of clicks, I find myself reading this article. If you're an entrepreneur, you need to read that article. But for me, this article addresses the precise issue that I'm wrestling with in the start-up at my firm, which is this, there is a typical team that is looked on to solve tech problems, and we don't have that team, so how do we proceed. The article, very pointedly, talks about a new kind of team--what are the chances of that?
So in under an hour, all of my anxieties are addressed, i'm reminded of who's in charge with incredible lasting wisdom to remember, and the cherry on top, i get a new framework to think about my business problem in a practical way, so practical, it reshapes my plans for the next day.
How's that for answer to prayer?!
Last night I had dinner with two guys, one visiting from out of town, my first time meeting him in person. As we got comfortable with each other, and sharing more intimate details of our faith, the stories started to come out. Wild stories about how God is doing real, practical things in our lives. I love these stories.
Stories like being ready to quit a project, only to be confronted by a homeless drunk stranger who speaks directly to that project.
Stories about vivid dreams that one can't shake for years, and which provides direction in one's work.
Stories about praying and hearing answers, and then sharing those answers only to get eery feedback that the answers are precisely accurate.
A number of these stories involve actual Scripture. And one story that I shared was about the early days of my time at Geneva Global, when a pastor friend called me to say he was praying for me, and kept getting the verse Proverbs 13:22 in his mind for me. That verse went on to launch me down a new way of thinking about my work.
Anyway, just this morning, I got an email from one of the guys at dinner, the subject line was simply "Wow!"
Turns out he woke up this morning, and the devotional that he gets delivered into his inbox each morning, well, this morning, it was about Proverbs 13:20.
Needless to say, his eyes were open, he read that devotion with perhaps extra care. As did I, because when this kind of repetition happens with a specific verse, it is often God using that to speak to us.
Someone can go calculate the chances of this happening, we can all agree that it's incredibly slim. And yet, I'm here to tell you this: when you believe in God, when you're in His Word, listening in prayer for His direction, this happens a whole lot more than you could imagine. Monthly if not weekly.
Seriously feeling as though this is one of the most (if not THE) most significant evolution in our marriage to date.
An Update 4 Day's Into This...
A teacher at Alma Heights Christian School in Pacifica, CA, reached out to me to talk to the high schoolers. I was super blessed by her invitation, and felt God prompt me to accept it followed by His preparing me to deliver a message. This is what I shared:
Pretty new to talking to students about my faith. Some were clearly engaged, while others were just as clearly sleeping. I trust God for any impact. Sowing seeds, letting someone else water, knowing God Himself is responsible for growth.
I was super encouraged that one student came up to me after the talk, after the room had cleared, to say he felt like I was speaking directly to him. He said he was nervous to come talk to me, but he just had to since he felt so clearly that I was speaking directly to him. He told me why he felt that way, and it was clear that the Holy Spirit had moved in that room. We exchanged info and I encouraged him and instructed him as best I could.
After I left, I got a message on Twitter then text messages from students--this is what they said:
can I ask for your opinion on homosexuality? do you think its wrong? last year i accepted who i was and i knew i was attracted to boys since i was little... i believe i was born like this and it wasn't my choice.
Your whole message resonated with me. i'm going through a rough patch with someone i've been dating. i feel like God has placed you in my life because i don't know what to do. How do you listen to God and hear his voice?
Suddenly my offer to be a brother in Christ to these students became very real. Amazingly, I felt very equipped to respond to the inquires I got, not because of my own wisdom, but because I was literally sitting with brothers in Christ when I got the questions, and was able to talk through them to confirm what I was thinking.
One improvement I will make when I talk to groups in the future is I will provide a handout or visual that includes my contact info, as well as a few trusted local resources if I know of any.
When you're walking with the King of Kings, you never know when a life is going to be changed in an instant.
Every week I get to a place where I'm desperate for the Word of God. Sometimes I don't get my fill and the desperation grows. I know that the longer I stay away, the more I'm doing things in my own power, in ways that make sense to me, and the risk of being outside of God's will scares me.
Eventually I succumb and collapse at the feet of God. He's so gracious He's always there to pick me up, invite me to sit on His lap, and gently instruct and guide me.
The point is that there are so many forces pulling me away from God. Yet, I'm already tuned into His Word, I've had a taste, I've submitted my life to Jesus, and there is no turning back. But staying there, well, its a daily battle.
The further I go into my faith, the more I see the miraculous unfolding in and around me, the more intense the battle rages. I get emails now from people who say my words or prayers or something I did brought them healing, it stirred up their interest in Jesus. I know this is God, just my making myself available to Him in some small way.
You'd think that with these kinds of things happening that I would be ever so committed. And in some ways I am, but in other ways I feel the opposing forces growing ever greater. I'm like the Stretch Armstrong doll being pulled to the limit, until I finally get the wisdom and courage to shout to the enemy "let go, out of here, in the name of Jesus!" Then I go springing toward the prevailing force, that of my savior.
Is this all about shaking my hand free from the enemy that's trying to pull me away? I think that, rather, its about choosing the hand that is outstretched to me so fully that I no longer have an open hand to the enemy.
This isn't easy. I mean, on one hand (excuse the pun) it IS EASY. But then again, no, it's not. This is a struggle because I am at war with my flesh. I am at war with the world. I become interested in the pleasures of the world. The comforts of it. Even the comforts of the church and what I see and hear preached.
Lord, help me, save me, show me YOUR WISDOM. Not the wisdom of men.
I saw this sermon by Francis Chan. This brother, well, just listen to what he says about the church in China. That desperation, that abandon of self, I crave that. I crave to give up my life for Jesus.
I was thinking this last night. Then I cracked open my Bible to pick up with my reading this morning, and the verse that I read is John Chapter 10. You should read it, anyway here's a verse that jumped out at me:
So, here I am, sitting before my computer, and before God, and before you, and I'm asking, "What does it mean for me to die to myself?" I have a couple ideas, here they are:
- Die to wasting time with mindless activity, and replace it with studying God's word.
- Die to over indulgence and comfort that robs early morning hours in prayer.
- Die to the sense that I can manufacture success, and bathe every effort in prayer.
- Die to the obsession with my self and own image, and seek instead of build up others.
- Die to free spending on things I don't need, and give more money away.
- Die to my instinct to criticize, and instead practice holding my tongue.
- Die to shortness with my wife, and practice assuming the best and active loving her.
- Die to the apathy I have that God is moving and drawing people all around me.
- Die to my lack of focus on learning songs of praise and memorizing Scripture.
- Die to judging those who wrong me, and instead pray for and seek to bless them.
- Die to the lust of the flesh and focus heartily on my wife, purity, cleansing in the Word.
- Die to avoiding service to the church and rather build it up right where I am.
- Die to favoring quick and dirty responses to the issues of the day versus being rooted in the bigger picture and more sustained faithful efforts.
I've had a taste of most of these things at times, and it is gut wrenching. I have a sense about the direction God wants me to go, the direction he's pulling me toward. I've gone down these paths, sometimes only to turn around the other direction. Or I go but look back. Or I go and lament going for a time, I grumble. Or I go, and sometimes, I embrace the great escape, the freedom, the power of overcoming the world, overcoming my own self, overcoming death for life, and in doing so, the Gospel and my faith comes alive.
Back in 2013 I started retreating to a mountain to pray in a way where I mainly tried to listen. I say tried because it didn't come easily at first, hard to stop the mind. But I often needed something I knew couldn't come from my own mind, I needed to hear from God. Well, now with a new baby, new job, living in a new city, and a growing sense God that had moved me into a new position of responsibility in His Kingdom for which I was ill prepared, I was desperate to get away again.
A trip back to Silicon Valley provided the perfect opportunity. I had heard of a mountain, the Fasting Prayer Mountain of the World to be exact, where people pray just about around the clock, where they have little huts one can sit in and pray all night or any length of time. Sign me up.
As the day approached, my heart quickened for this date away from everything with my creator. The day came and I texted a dozen or so men to join me in prayer; as they responded that they were doing just that I began to feel a surge in my spirit. I drove up with a dear brother who was all too eager to join me, and after a brief walk around we settled into the chapel at about 9p.
I read Revelation Chapter 4 to see again how John describes Gods throne in Heaven. I prayed a brief and completely vulnerable prayer, then said, "God, I'll be there listening all night, oh Lord, if you want to talk to me, I'm here."
And I just lay there on the floor of that chapel, content to be at the feet of the Master, content to submit to him, so simple really, and in that place I found great rest. Once in awhile I read from Scripture, but mainly I lay there and listened.
There were moments when I had a full vision before me, a great insight I believe. In the early morning I began to intercede on behalf of people who had asked for prayer. It became a sort of blur of laying on my face and stomach, praying, listening, reading, resting.
At 5:30a a woman came into the chapel, followed by a few others from around the camp, altogether we prayed in Korean I think. We sang in another language. It blew my mind that it was morning already, it felt like I had just arrived.
I walked out and left the prayer mountain passionate for Jesus. In awe really. As I pulled away I thought that it would be amazing to stay for a week, or a month, or more.
The internal rest from that time began to sink in deeper as I got further away. In fact, when I boarded the plane, I went right back to praying, listening, reading Scripture the whole trip cross country, maybe another seven hours. I had promised almost two dozen people I'd pray for them, and I intended to usher each of them into the presence of the Revelation 4 God with me.
As I did, God gave me a sense about each person and I wrote it down, 15 pages in total. I've learned that when God gives me a sense about a person in prayer, it's often best to pass that on, if possible, even at the risk of looking like a crazy religious fool.
As my plane landed back in Philadelphia, I wrote the following words about my experience on the prayer mountain, rather it flowed out of me in one current taking literally just a couple of minutes to write. I'm so humbled and so thankful that God is so available to me (and you too), a second before him makes a lifetime away pale in comparison (there is no comparison). I sincerely hope and pray you are drawn away on a mountain before the King of Kings.
Can feel restless, tired, even defeated but uncertain as to the cause. Desperate for clarity, or at least trust that simply laying at the feet of God will suffice, as promised. A tingle in the soul to walk upon your grounds. To hear the drum beat worship of those who love you ignorant of the hour. Settle into a posture on the floor lowering myself to be awash in you. Not fully aware that even in that moment you are present and usher me into a dreamlike state. I will never know that which you have done...at times full to the brim with understanding more than I can contain. Settled into your arms in a peaceful rest with nothing but comfort all around me. Oh, how I have yearned to just be here with you. Nothing more, my Lord. Then a drawing into your Word any truth will become more than I anticipated. And like that you rise me with the sun, a sfumato garden in my view dashed with greens and pinks. A yearning to pass thru to my wife, a delightful garden herself. Then a chorus in another language that I understand even though I don't. You look me in the eyes unmistakably and it reminds me of how Holy and worthy of my attention you are. Then you squat beside me, God of the Universe, let it be known that never is there a rush or worry or departure from my side. As I pull away in awe of you reminded again that I need not. Praise you Lord, Creator on High who lives and reigns then and now and forevermore.
At the New Canaan Society San Francisco Weekend Retreat in October '14 I saw this video played during a general session.
As the video played I started searching for the creators, and stumbled upon The Bible Project. I saw that they have a RAD plan to continue to create insightful, generally awesome videos that illustrate key concepts of the Bible.
So, I'm a fan, am glad to promote what these guys are doing, encourage support of their work, and will be sure to keep an eye on what they're up to.
There was a dusty copy of this book sitting in my parents bathroom for years, and I never picked it up.
Years later, having fallen into a group of men who meet on Friday mornings, calling themselves the New Canaan Society, I heard reference to Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" again. So, I picked up a copy.
Oswald writes in a very direct, matter-of-fact way, always expounding on a verse of Scripture. His thoughts are deep, often weaving together key concepts in the Christian faith. He has one devotional for each day of the year.
I don't recommend too many devotionals, mainly because I don't assume what works for me will work for others, but I do recommend Oswald. And the only reason I can give is that there are times when I simply open the book and what he has written speaks to me very clearly and in a way that is extraordinary. Let me give you two examples:
A mentor to me wrote me one day for an idea--he was set to give a talk at the New Canaan Society group and he wasn't sure how he wanted to approach it yet. So he texted me if I had any ideas. The day prior, I had taken one of the guys from Cityteam's addiction recovery program with me to a business meeting, and wanting to include him, I asked his opinion to which he blurted out Luke 17:21: "nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."
I remember thinking at the time that his response wasn't especially applicable to the meeting. But, as I pondered the verse more, I was amazed at the meaning of it, how while we are often searching to see where God is or how he's moving, all the while he is right in our midst!
And so, when my mentor wrote me for an idea about what to speak about, I texted back to him, "Luke 17:21." He replied something along the lines of that being a great verse and he might incorporate it.
The following day, it was Friday, October 19th, 2012, and I ushered into the New Canaan Society meeting that morning. There was my mentor all set to talk. But before he did, another man got up to open in prayer. As he did, he opened his Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" book and read the entry for that day, which highlighted what else but Luke 17:21. My mentor and I exchanged surprised looks, who could have imagined that this verse would come up again? That verse continued to come up in my life for a few weeks, so much so that it became alive to me and engrained in my heart. And what Oswald wrote about it spoke to me and my tendency to value practical activity in service of God more than a relationship with him.
On another day, June 1st, 2014 to be precise, I was running around coordinating the production of a large and busy hackathon at a technology incubator in Silicon Valley. Another man on the production team was suffering from an illness and I could tell he was worn out and stressed about many of the details. He sought my opinion throughout the day on how everything was going to get done, and I could sense his worry. Seeking a dose of Scripture and a few words to explain it, I pulled up Oswald's site and read the entry for that day. An excerpt of it reads:
It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake panic for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe in Him.
These words spoke to me greatly, and I followed up my reading of them with a couple minutes of prayer thanking God for his Word. Then I found the man who was worried and I pulled him aside to remind him that God was in control, that we were doing this for his Kingdom. We prayed together right there on the spot, and he thanked me for what I had done. He later come back to me and asked me to get before the entire hackathon to pray over the group ahead of the final day of presentations and the awards ceremony, which can be stressful. I gladly did this, and I used Oswald's writing for that day as a basis for my prayer. Once again, his words on this day have stuck with me, and have balanced my understanding of faith and work.
I was first introduced to Discovery Bible Study aka DBS at Cityteam. As I began to practice this deceptively simply study, I soon learned that its counter-intuitive for most seasoned believers (more on that later).
In short, DBS is the best way to study the Bible as a group that I've ever found. I'm not just saying this because I've "drunk the Kool-Aid," I've experimented with other studies, including well-known curriculum's, and keep coming back to DBS. DBS is a pared-down yet effective way to cover and more importantly learn to obey Scripture. This post is designed to give you an introduction to DBS, explain further why it works, and point you to tools I use:
First, a video introduction by Dave Hunt, Cityteam's VP of Discipleship in the US, on what a DBS group study looks like in 5 steps:
Now watch a second video by Dave Hunt, where he lays out the 3-column approach to the Bible study, where you write out Scripture, put it in your own words, and then create an "I will..." statement.
For a sample 3-Column Bible Study form, click here. Though, you can use a simple sheet of paper with two lines drawn on it, which is what I do.
As far as where you start in the Bible and how you proceed, there are several approaches. In foreign countries, places where the Bible is rarely if ever heard, Cityteam almost always starts in Genesis. However, in areas more exposed to the Gospel, like the United States, we are trying different approaches, such as topical studies. Here is a link to an outline of a topical study that I have used.
A solid 3rd-party review of this process by a Missions Frontiers magazine, published by the US Center for World Missions, can be found online here (read pages 4 thru 14).
Cityteam published a book that talks a lot about DBS with practical stories of how it works out in practice (and much more), called Miraculous Movements, which you can find online here.
Finally, if you want to learn how DBS was discovered by a process (actually "revealed by God" is a better way to describe it), you can read Dave Hunt's doctoral thesis paper online here, which gives a detailed account. I read it and, if you're into this kind of thing, I attest that it is informative and even riveting to read.