Tag Archives: pray

Why We Run from God’s Love

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Run-from-God-CoverSome days I avoid God. I’ll bet you do it too.

Sometimes my days are too chaotic.

Some days I can’t quite focus while praying.

Some days I’m not disciplined enough to stop.

But some days I’m flat out running away from God. Shame, fear, confusion, doubt, and a host of other reasons have kept me from seeking out the love of God. It’s easier to run away, to avoid God rather than owning up to my failures or to find out that God isn’t all I’ve been promised.

Doubting God’s love is a huge problem that I recently faced head on. I felt a burden to just start writing about my “runaway” tendencies with God in a brief eBook. It has been a healing book to write, and this week (Monday-Thursday) I’m giving it away on Kindle as my Christmas gift to you.

Download Why We Run from God’s Love

I’ve shared a brief preview below…

 

I was told as a child that I was a wicked debtor, doomed to be eternally tormented by God unless I took part in a divine transaction. I could go to court with Jesus on my side before God, the angry judge with the keys of hell jingling around his waist. Jesus paid my debt, standing by my side in the witness stand and pleading my case.

I skipped out of court because Jesus thwarted God’s plans of eternal hellfire for me.

It’s like Jesus became the brilliant defense attorney who figured out a way to beat the system. I wasn’t saved because of God’s love for me. I was saved because of a loophole. God was ready to torment me for eternity, so it sure seemed that he could save me or burn me. It’s all a transaction, a business deal, a covenant that he has been forced to accept.

In the midst of all of this, I read in the Bible that God loves me, and I struggle to believe it. “God so loved the world…” the scripture goes. That’s nice, but the court room drove home a very different narrative of wrath and anger. God was only willing to accept me after Jesus paid the terrifying price of his own life.

I know that Jesus saves. I also know that the image of a wrathful God in a courtroom overshadows the many truths in scripture about the love of God, the way God has adopted us as children, and the image of Jesus as a victor over death who has freed us from the grip of evil. I don’t know how to make all of the images come together into a coherent diagram or paragraph.

In all of this I see the beginning of my struggles to believe that God loves me. Wasn’t he ready to burn me for eternity before Jesus came around?

Read the rest for free this week (12/16-12/19):

Download Why We Run from God’s Love

 

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Why We Run from God’s Love by @edcyzewski is free on Kindle 12/16-12/19 http://amzn.to/1eh1f7Q

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Do you doubt God loves you? Explore these questions and more in Ed Cyzewski’s new eBook: Why We Run from God’s Love. It’s free on Kindle 12/16-12/19. 
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Taking Root: Creating Margins

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Taking Root is a series of meditations I’m writing and editing for Central Vineyard Church during the season of Lent. You can download the podcast version of each post by subscribing to my church’s podcast or visiting the podcast blog for each day of the series.

By Rob Hartman of Central Vineyard

I had my share of paper-writing assignments in high school. Typically, there would be a page limit or range. There was the 1 page paper (No problem), the 3-5 pager (Ugh), and the dreaded 10-pager (Yikes!).

Students at a particular loss for words sometimes employed ridiculously wide margins (Voila! eight pages become ten.), while the more verbose extended our margins outward until we’d gobbled up all the white space (Presto! Twelve pages become ten). Eventually, our instructors caught on and started specifying mandatory margin sizes. You can’t blame a kid for trying.

In our adult lives, we find ourselves negotiating margins of another kind. The paper is our lives. The ink represents our activities and obligations, and the margins are those periods of rest and refreshment. All of us need some margins in our lives. But, like my classmates, we differ in just how wide we want or need them to be. The challenge is to understand our own ideal margins and to then invite God to help us grow toward achieving that balance.

“Just Stop It”

It’s no secret that many of us live hectic, over-committed lives. In fact, it’s become something of a cliche.

  • We sit in traffic, honking and being honked at as our blood pressure spikes.
  • We bring work home with us or trudge back to the office after hours.
  • We spend our elusive weekend “downtime” doing errands, meeting up with friends, or serving in ministry.

Although some of this busyness is unavoidable, we also have a way seeking it out. We’re easily seduced into believing that a full life is one filled with non-stop activity. With this mentality as our default, the idea of widening our margins may seem boring or constraining. Can you imagine Nike rolling out a “Just Stop It” ad campaign?

Given our culture’s emphasis on freedom, achievement, and engagement, it’s important to be clear then that margins aren’t about arbitrary limits or constraints. Rather, margins are about rest, renewal, and freedom from the tyranny of busyness. Establishing margins means embracing the restful rhythm of the Sabbath (Gen 2:1-3; Ex 20:8-11).

A Sabbath Sweet Spot

To say that most of us need a bit more margin does not mean one size fits all. Some people truly thrive on stimulation, socialization, or pressure. Others find that a few activity-packed weeks are enough to bring on panic attacks. What about you? Where is your sweet spot where the ink and the margin are in healthy balance?

This notion of a sweet spot isn’t just about the width of your margins; it’s also about what gives you life within those margins. Margins aren’t about “vegging out.” It’s about making time and space for life-giving activities that engage our minds, bodies, or both. It might be something outdoors or indoors. This, too, is shaped by your temperament: what gives you rest may cause tension for another person and vice versa.

Margins and Seasons

The two metaphors of margins and seasons-of-life can collide in interesting ways. Many of us will go to college, get married, have children, watch our children leave the nest, retire, and so on. Each of these events ushers in a new season of life. Not all of us will experience all of them, and those of us who do won’t necessarily do them all in the same order.

As our life seasons present unique opportunities and challenges, we’re likely to find our margins expanding and contracting accordingly. Parents of young families often find their margins stretched very thin, juggling work and family on only a few hours of sleep. In contrast, new empty-nesters typically find themselves adjusting to wider margins, sometimes wondering just what to do with themselves.

This is not to say that your life season will always dictate your margins, but the impact is undeniable. Understanding your season of life can provide insight into how and why your margins have changed.

We all need margins. They keep our lives from spilling over into a jumble of unintelligible chaos.

The Greenhouse

Think about work, school, church, play, and the social dimensions of your life. When have you felt stressed? Bored? When have you felt most “on” and joyfully engaged? Take a sheet of paper and draw one inch margins. Write every restful activity in the margins and every item on your “to do” list or work list in the center. What does this tell you about your need for margins?

 

As you pray today, is God calling you to accept thinner margins so that you can pursue a ministry or activity that will bring Him glory? Is God telling you to widen your margins so that you can experience a period of greater relaxation and refreshment?

The Art of Knowing When to Stop: Two Stories about Discipleship

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net

These two men were responsible. They had business to take care of, and they were not idle in addressing it. One was fixing his nets along the shore of Galilee, the other had to take care of his father’s burial.

Culturally speaking, the man tasked with burying his father was especially living in careful observance of the law. He was in the right place, doing what mattered.

The difference between the two men came when Jesus called, saying, “Follow me.” This wasn’t something that could be delayed. Jesus literally wanted them to drop what they were doing and to reorient their lives around him.

One man knew when to stop, dropping the lower priorities for the person who mattered most.

The other man asked for time so that he could wrap up his obligations and still follow Jesus.

Learning how to stop is difficult, especially when you think you’re doing everything right. Other priorities can interfere when the most important call comes to us.

Can we stop?

Are we cultivating practices that help us stop daily to hear God’s voice?

Are we ready to stop and respond when the call comes?

When We Turn Our Blessings into Curses

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straw

The final straw arrived last night—the one that breaks the camel’s back. Like an angry camel I flopped onto the ground flailing and spitting. Proverbially spitting that is.

Or are llamas the ones who spit?

Regardless of the spitting involved, I hit my limit last night. Enough things had gone wrong, enough projects had piled up, enough incidental circumstances had mounted to the point that I snapped.

The crazy thing is that under normal circumstances, the final straw was actually a pretty good thing tinged with a few problems. It was something that I would normally thank God for. But oh last night, I didn’t need one more thing to do. One more urgent deadline was too much after pushing to meet more deadlines than I could count. The constant urgency of one thing after another got to me.

I stomped out of the house because I needed to break my little pity party. I needed… Mediterranean food. I could try to tie this back to my camel metaphor (I mean, where else would a camel in Columbus go?), but I’ll just stop things there since I ate a lamb wrap.

A few hours later I had some perspective.

I hadn’t prayed about things. I’d just reacted. It was alright that I recognized a need for a change of scenery, but it took me far too long to realize that some of the things that had pushed me over the edge were essentially answers to my prayers.

I just didn’t expect those answers to my prayers to arrive along with all of this other junk.

So now I just feel like an ungrateful jerk who asks God for stuff and then doesn’t even recognize it when it arrives. In fact, I had the audacity to see his blessings as a problem.

I feel like I need to channel my inner Ann Voskamp and work on this gratitude thing. My spirit runs dry for want of gratitude and worship.

My mother-in-law once said that we overcome sin and the schemes of the enemy with worship. And if I was honest with myself, something that is not a guarantee, I’d have to say my “woe is me” attitude is a pretty good sign that I’ve been a tad self-absorbed lately.

I need to redirect my worship to where it belongs.

Facing Your Fears is Good for You

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elevatorI had to confront one of my fears a few weeks ago. It’s a bit too private to share all of the details on a blog, but if I had to list the top three things that freak me out, I’d say this is right up there. It’s the kind of fear that I can’t control, that I know can only be resolved through prayer that I’ve been too afraid to seek.

A few weeks ago, I decided to take action. I wasn’t facing anything life threatening or uncomfortable, but I was in a situation that made it really easy to face that fear. The freak out was pretty awesome: sweaty palms, beating heart, short breaths. I was a ball of fun at close quarters in the elevator that day.

And then something changed. I gained an understanding of the actual source of my fear, and I realized that I’d completely mischaracterized it. It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought, even if it still kind of freaks me out.

By staring into my fear, I discovered a weak point in its defenses, and you’d better believe I’m praying into that weak spot with everything I’ve got.

On Becoming Less Fearful

I had a chat with some classmates at my 10-year college reunion, and one guy asked how we’ve changed over the past 10 years. One friend said that he is now less fearful after working through so many hard times at his first job. He cares far less about what people think of him, and he is far more confident as takes risks and pursues challenges.

In a sense, his first job blasted him with so many sources of stress and anxiety that they soon lost their power. He saw them at their worst, and he realized that God was able to sustain him.

There are real things to fear in this world, but so much of what we fear is insubstantial, lacking teeth. The substantial parts of our fears may knock us around when we face them, but God is able to deliver us because Jesus is Lord over all.

Facing our fears often seems like a terrible at idea in the thick of things. However, we’ll never have a chance to experience God’s power and deliverance unless we own our fears and let him begin working in us.

I have found that deliverance is often a process, a series of stumbling steps forward. As I discovered in the elevator that day with my nervous faith, God can break through and begin to heal us when we face our fears.

The Essential Practice of Someone Who Follows Jesus

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prayIt was the worst thing that Peter could have imagined. And yet, he declared that he was ready to face it, giving up his life for the sake of his friend.

As Peter faced the predictions of Jesus about his coming death, Peter vowed to take them seriously. He’d had his doubts, but when Jesus predicted that his body would be broken and his blood spilled out, Peter would wouldn’t let him face it alone.

“I’m prepared to die with you!” he said.

Peter had thought through all of the worst-case scenarios and toughened himself up to face the end of his life.

However, Jesus didn’t ask him to die with him. While Peter would one day meet a similar fate of Jesus, that wouldn’t come for years and years down the road. Peter had worked himself up for no good cause.

Peter tried to show himself strong and committed in the face of the most terrible thing he could imagine. Then he fell asleep when Jesus asked him to sit, watch, and pray with him.

Though willing to face a sword, Peter couldn’t fight sleep. And when the moment for bravery and commitment arrived, he fled.

He’d spent so much time thinking about being strong, that he failed to sit and pray with Jesus. Peter thought Jesus wanted a follower who could stand next to him while he was whipped and killed.

Jesus just wanted someone to pray with him.

The Power of a Lame Prayer

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tableHaving gone to seminary, I sometimes think that I should be able to whip up some pretty sophisticated and profound prayers. It’s not that I took any classes on “Effective Prayers Before Meals” or “King David’s Greatest Hits.” I just think that with all of this theology crammed into my head, I should be able to formulate some really awesome prayers.

OK, I’ll be honest—theology really does change how we pray. However, theological training does not make one particularly better at seeking out God, listening to his Spirit, and speaking to him.

While my theology has helped me pray with more power, there are some prayers that I simply can’t improve. They seem sort of lame. What’s even more surprising to me is that a lame prayer can still be quite effective.

Here’s my lame prayer. At the start of each day I say something like this: “God, I offer myself and my work to you and your purposes.”

I suppose I could say more. Heck, I’m a writer. I could get that sucker up to 500 words in 20 minutes. What I have there always seems good enough because it drives at the heart of what needs to happen.

When we offer ourselves to God and open our lives to him, that’s often all he needs to get started.

That prayer isn’t a guarantee that every day will be good. I still need to keep myself on track, focus, and make good decisions. I can still make selfish decisions or lose my temper. I also need to pray a lot more than that simple sentence.

However, by offering my day to God and letting him work through me, I’ve also moved myself away from taking all of the credit. Pride is a huge struggle for writers, and I’m sure I don’t even know the half of my issues with it. If I finish my day and want to take all of the credit for my accomplishments, I know that I didn’t offer myself to God as an act of worship.

If I feel like God has carried me throughout my day and empowered me to do my work, then I have a deeper sense of fulfillment and joy because I’ve experienced God’s presence in my life and drawn glory to him.

The difference is subtle, but you’ll know it when you see it.

God wants to work in  and through us throughout the day. Sometimes it only takes a lame prayer to change everything.

How do you carve out time with God throughout the week?

Read more about creating spiritual “white space” to meet with God at Faith Barista today: How Ordinary You Holds Extraordinary Value.