IMG_1226.JPGThe first real conversation between humanity and God is recorded in Genesis 3. God’s looking for Adam and Eve: 1) because they are hiding from him; 2) because they did what he asked them not to do; and 3) they are ashamed of what they have done and they now are self-conscious of their nakedness as well as being afraid of what God might do to them.

We don’t hide anymore. As I listen to the news about the upcoming movie, “50 shades of grey”, there’s no shame or embarrassment surrounding it. It’s like we’ve turned off our conscience. We want to return to a pre-sin state, but without the God who created that world. We don’t talk to him about our current state. We don’t ask him to forgive us. Instead, we turn off that part of our brain that tells us what is right and wrong. As a result, we live in our depravity.

I want to be fully awake to the reality of my sin. I don’t want to be numb. So, I’m going to hide (not because I want to live in shame, but because I’m fully awake to the way I do think); then I’m going to answer my God when he comes looking for me (and he always does); and in the conversation I find forgiveness and acceptance.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis‬ ‭3‬:‭8-13, 16-19‬ NIV)

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We can define prayer as a personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God. It means that prayer is profoundly altered by the amount and accuracy of that knowledge.

All prayer is responding to God. In all cases God is the initiator— “hearing” always precedes asking. God comes to us first or we would never reach out to him.

The Bible speaks of our relationship with God as knowing and being known (Gal 4:9; 1 Cor 13:12).

But now that you know God—or rather are known by God… (‭Galatians‬ ‭4‬:‭9‬ NIV) For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭12‬ NIV)

Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him.

The power of our prayers, then, lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge of God.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭1-2‬ NIV)

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A typical Wednesday for me is filled with connecting with people. Today is no different. I will be at the DMV, coffee with a couple from Redmond, talk with someone who is new to our church, meet with our service teams, speaking team, sisters campus pastor, our prayer pastor and two volunteer leaders in our church. And then tonight gather with hundreds of Westsiders for our First Wednesday service.

In the midst of a busy day, it is so easy to simply put your head down and get it done. But often that creates missed opportunities in the midst of the meetings and in the margins between those appointments. My prayer today is that I will see and hear what God wants to say to me and through me and that He will strengthen me for our First Wednesday service tonight. What is your prayer for today?

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Yesterday, Westside’s speaking team met to pray and discuss upcoming messages. As we worshiped and prayed the Spirit of God filled the place where we were meeting. We began praying against strongholds in our community and against powers of darkness that are pressing against God’s kids. He gave us a picture of darkness being pushed away by light as we prayed. I felt like whatever we did took ground for God’s kingdom.

I know it sounds so epic and mysterious and strange to some, but I’m reminded of Daniel who fasted and prayed for weeks and received a vision of an angel who was held back but was able to press through as Daniel continued to pray and fast.

This thing isn’t easy. Praying persistently and fasting are hard work. And so often we stop right before the miracle happens. Keep praying and believing church. Ground is being taken back.

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Most of us have called someone hoping it would go straight to voicemail. We didn’t really want to have a conversation, but we did have a message to leave.

I’ve never heard of someone going over to a friend’s house, knocking on the door, hoping no one was home. To be honest, that seems weird to me if you’ve done that. Were you hoping you could just tell them later, “Hey I stopped by, but you weren’t home.” Weird.

What if you knew they were home, but they didn’t answer your first knock? Do you just leave? What if you have something really important to tell them? What if it is life threatening? You don’t stop knocking do you, and, depending on the emergency, you most likely bust down the door.

That’s the picture Jesus paints for us when it comes to praying. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I don’t pray long enough. I’m not talking in minutes or hours, but days and years. Do I keep knocking until He answers? Often, I won’t get an answer and I’ll take that as the answer. But is silence really an answer? Should we take it as one? Silence is not a “no” or a “yes”. It’s just silence.

So, I’m determined to knock as long as it takes. If it takes a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime.

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Last night we circled the Redmond Airport three times as the pilot evaluated whether we could land or have to go back to Portland. The issue was low-lying fog. I guarantee you there were a lot of prayers that the fog would lift. But how many of us actually thought our prayers would lift the fog? Seriously? Do we believe that our prayers can have a direct impact on weather patterns? What about on our lives?

Elijah was this prophet in the Old Testament who prayed that it would not rain and it didn’t for three years. Then he prayed that it would rain and it did (1 Kings 18:41-46). James writes about Elijah and intentionally calls him a “human, just like us” (James 5:17). He’s making the point that the prayers of us all can have impact.

After 20 minutes of circling Redmond, after 20 minutes of intense prayer, the pilot turned the plane towards Redmond and we were able to land. I don’t know if our prayers had any impact or not. The pilot did not get on the P.A. and announce we experienced a miracle. But the fog lifted enough for the pilot to land. And we walked off the plane excited because we were not in Portland.

I am convinced that I must pray more often. Not out of some religious exercise, but because our prayers have impact, and consequently our lives can make a difference. But if we don’t pray something, nothing will happen – that is a guarantee.

IMG_1224-0.JPGBold Prayers. I’ve been thinking about what is impossible in my life and in the lives of those I love. I know with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), but I know this intellectually and theologically. What I know humanly and practically is life throws you curve balls and, in our humanity, we sometimes can’t see beyond the illness, the addiction, the brokenness, the loss of a job, kids running from God, and so forth.

Today, I’m asking God to help me see beyond my humanity. To see what could be when He gets involved. I’m not going to demand, but I’m going to boldly ask for some things that seem impossible to me right now. My mom’s blindness and arthritis. My dad’s health issues. The salvation of every one of my relatives who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. My good friend Steve Stern’s complete healing. For our high schools to experience the life changing love of God that is not manipulated by outside forces, but birthed through people God has placed there who have an authentic relationship with God. The foster care system in Central Oregon would be strengthened and God would somehow use us to bring healing to broken families.

Every one of these requests are outside my ability to solve on my own. I can play a part, and I must play a part, but they rely on the strength that is in God’s hands. I want to walk in step with His will.

Jesus, as Westside Church prays bold prayers today, would you give us a spirit of faith that transcends our circumstances and sees with your eyes. Help us to pray with that awareness, with courage and an authority that can only come from being in You. 

IMG_1224-0.JPGPast failure. It’s often a determiner of future possibilities. How we get up from failure (or don’t) can predict what God can do through us (or not) in the future. Think about Peter. He so desperately wanted to walk on the water with Jesus (Matthew 14:22-32). So he got out of the boat, stepped on that water, and started walking. What?!?!?! That’s incredible faith. Then the waves caught his attention, the storm distracted him, and he took his eyes off of Jesus and started to sink. Jesus called him, “little faith-man”. Ok, he didn’t actually came him names, but, in essence, that’s what he said.

How did Peter respond? Well we don’t hear much from him, except in the very next chapter we find him asking questions (Matthew 15:15). He’s still leaning in, and Jesus isn’t making it easy on him. Often, when faced with failure, we retreat. We go dark. Isolation. “Maybe everyone will forget my failure if they don’t see my face for a couple days.” Instead, Peter stays connected and in chapter 16 he makes one of the most profound statements any disciple of Jesus has ever made (Matthew 16:13-20).

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But this is what I know: nothing good can happen in my life, or the life of our church, if I don’t take a step out of the boat now and again. Great risk brings great reward. Some risks are worth taking.

As a church, God has asked us to extend His life and love to our community in non-traditional ways. Not only our multi-sites, but also investing into retirement communities, prisons, foster-care, individuals who have a dream of changing their community. I can confidently say, that right now, I am more willing to take risks than at any other time in my life, because I know that Jesus will meet us in the middle and breathe His life and love over all that we do. Let today’s fast be a symbol of the willingness you have to risk it all for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

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As Westside launches into this Seven day fast, I want to think about the region God has put us in. We are not here to conquer Central Oregon. There is no “us vs them” in God’s Kingdom work. It’s all about the love of Jesus – it really is. So, as I think about this land that I was born into (Redmond, 1970 by Dr. Unger), what comes to mind are several really amazing things:

1) Its beauty – I’ve traveled all over the world and our mountains, lakes, rivers, and deserts are one of the most diverse and majestic lands I’ve ever seen.

2) Its pace – I’m down in Los Angeles right now taking a class for my Masters degree, and let’s just say I’m really thankful for the pace we have in Central Oregon. It’s not just about how we drive, but how we think, what we prioritize, and how we live.

3) Its growth – I’m not sure what the actual statistics were back in 1970, but we had a much smaller population then we have now (my guess would be at least 70%). The reasons are numerous, but I’m sure our beauty and pace have something to do with it.

4) Lastly, I think about its people. Everywhere I go, I’m struck by goodness and brokenness. Both coexist in our region like salt and pepper on a good steak.

This morning, as part of the fast, we are reading Numbers 13:26-33 where the spies who went into the land God promised Moses and Israel came back with a report of what they found. It reminds me that we should take a moment and think about the land God has given each of us – the place where you live, where you work, where you play. What do you appreciate about that place and those people? What are the challenges you face? How might you pray for them?

Lord, I pray for Central Oregon. You know how much I love the place where I was raised and now pastor. You’ve given us this land and these people, not as a conquering territory, but as a people to whom you love and sent your Son. That everywhere Westsiders place their feet, would be established your grace and goodness. Give us this land as an inheritance, not in the physical, but in the spiritual. Break down barriers that exist in people’s minds and hearts. Give us the words to speak with boldness and kindness. Fill us with your Spirit so we can tear down strongholds that exist over this land. Strongholds that are keeping your people locked up in fear and addiction. And Lord I pray for the rain of your Spirit to fall on this land so everyone will know that you are a God that loves them and desires relationship with them. May your Church find favor here and everywhere you call us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

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For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭5‬:‭21‬ NIV)

Now that I know God loves me as His child and accepts me in my brokenness, this verse takes on a whole new meaning.

The way I live my life, the manner by which I walk through the difficulties and temptations, are in full view of God. He sees it all, everything. Nothing is hidden. That used to freak me out. How disappointed He must be in me. Not only does He see everything, He examines it, which means He weighs my choices, the ruts I find myself in, the consistent struggles I face.

But that word “examine” means a great deal more than just weighing my actions or pondering them. It actually means “to make level, to even out.” He doesn’t see everything in my life and then sits back and judges me. That’s how I use to see Rod and many still see God that way. But He actually takes initiative to help us, too even out the rough spots. He patiently endures our mistakes and sin, and comes alongside and gives us wisdom to live better.

I don’t know how you feel about that, but I am extremely overwhelmed with gratitude for His amazing grace and wisdom over my life.