Back Away From the Cell Phone!

 

About ten years ago we would get up in the morning and immediately turn on the radio to check the weather. Had to figure out how to dress our kids for school. Not anymore. Now we look at our cell phone or tablet and see the weather any time we want. We can see weather school bus cancellations, email, news, sports and social media. 

But we don’t just check our devices only in the morning. We cling to them all day long, waiting for them to tell us something is going on even if it’s not. 

It’s like Star Trek when they had communicators attached constantly to their belts or on their uniforms. You could reach the Captain or the Away Team anywhere anytime. Unless of course the signal was jammed or otherwise messed up (really does sound like cell phones).

If we leave them behind we fret and worry about what we’re missing at any given moment. And they steal the time from all other parts of our day. 

Used to be the phone just rang at home to interrupt family dinner or conversation. We hated that. But now our devices interrupt everything and everyone in our lives and we let them do it. We can be having a heart to heart conversation but our phone will chirp in some way and our attention is diverted instantly. Interruptions take from our family, our work, our imagination, our rest, and our awareness of the world around us. And they interrupt God. 

If we happen to get a moment of downtime or have to wait in line we whip out our device and check something. We don’t even wait for the device to “ring” in some way. We check, in case something has happened somewhere, to someone, ANYONE! 

Times when we could listen for God’s still small voice in our busy lives or pray for someone are gone. Our tech has taken over. And some of us don’t even notice. 

I agree it’s good to keep in touch with people via tech. I’m glad to keep up with my wife and kids or friends. 

Less than 20 years ago, we only had one cell phone between my wife and myself (hard to believe now eh?). She went out with our baby and toddler in the car. She got a flat tire on a country road with little traffic. There was no one around. She was stuck and not being able to leave the kids drove on the flat tire to a house she could see. It turned out a very nasty dog lived there. The dog was snapping and growling as my wife sought help. She thought, “my kids are about to see me get eaten by a dog!” Thankfully, the dog’s owner called her off and let my wife phone for help. From that time on we got cell phones for each of us. We decided it was a safety issue.

Most of our communication doesn’t have to be constant.                                    Most is not urgent.

 

We could check email once or twice a day and not be seriously affected with most of the messages we get. Is social media ever urgent? (but it is fun, isn’t it?) We could check it once a day and spend the other time in prayer, Bible reading, listening for God’s voice or in face-to-face conversation with actual people. (yes, I know the people on your cell phone are actual, but they’re not face-to-face)

So, my question to myself and you is how could we limit the hold technology has on your hearts and put God first? Could you set aside device free time for God? Maybe you already do, I’d love to hear about it if you do.

Could there be an hour in the morning or evening without tech. Or could we say that when we get a few minutes of waiting time during the day we’ll talk to God instead of check your device? (Okay, maybe not talking to God out loud if we’re in line in the grocery store)

What would work for you? It’s not about guilt, it’s about practically deciding what could you do to improve your God time? It takes initiative and a decision.

My Sister-in-law Called

 

My sister-in-law telephoned me today. May not sound unusual to you but the only time she ever calls me is on my birthday. That’s not today.

She called because she’s a teacher in a school in the Cayman Islands and they did something she thought I’d want to hear about. 

They set up a room for prayer. 

 

She remembered me talking about such things and thought I’d be interested in hearing what they did. There were creative stations with bright colours, twinkling lights, drawings and prayers done creatively. 

And the most amazing thing, and she repeated this a couple of times,

the children were quiet and even reverential.”

 

This is not how her class behaves, EVER! But they came into the room, they spent time in prayer and they were impacted by the room and their own prayers. She couldn’t believe the way the children had behaved and prayed. She’d never seen anything like it she kept saying over and over.

I asked, “Did someone at the school get the idea from 24-7 Prayer?”

“No”, she’d never heard of that.

“Oh wait,” she looked at a note she had. “It came from something called Prayer Spaces in Schools”.  [ahhah! from 24-7 Prayer International]

I encouraged her to talk with her coworkers about how effective the prayer room had been and hoped that she had prayed as well.

Can I just say, when someone excitedly tells me, a convinced 24-7 prayer advocate, about 24-7 prayer events it’s a very cool thing.  Setting up a special space for prayer can be a great motivator, opportunity, resource for a family, an individual, a class or an entire school.

It takes prayer out of the picture of a few tired saints in a church parlour and it engages our imaginations with the Creator of the universe. It speaks to people  who like many of us are visual learners and artistic and who want to express their prayers in different than the usual ways. It creates an atmosphere of prayer where we encounter the Holy Spirit.

HT Prayer Spaces in Schools! Well done.

If you want to talk about setting up a prayer space in a school, get in touch with me I’d love to help or encourage! It’s been great fun in past schools!

But also check out, http://www.prayerspacesinschools.com/

Monday’s Encouraging Scripture!

Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31 NLT

[…because on Mondays we need the encouragement of the Lord!]

The Right Timing

Ever tried to do your quiet time before going to bed and then you wake up with your face literally in your Bible?  Night time devotions can work for some people but for many it’s too easy to fall asleep in the middle of reading or prayer.

A lot of people do devotions in the morning when they first get up. It’s akin to early morning exercise in starting the day off right. They figure then way you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day. That’s great if it works for you.

The Bible tells us that Jesus often went into the hills alone early in the morning or late at night to pray. (Matthew 14:23) Although that is a good example, it’s not a prescription of a time when we must do our God time.

I think you need to determine what time works best for you. It might be at lunchtime when you can set a lunch date with God. You can even take some of that hunger and direct it as hunger for God! A side benefit is that could help you eat less or better as well. 

Or are there times in your day when your schedule naturally has a break where praying and reflecting, conversing with God could work to make the day more God-focused and you more loving to the people around you. Maybe you even need it because of stress or difficult people. A break for prayer or Bible reading could help the rest of your day a lot!

If you have a regular time that works then enjoy it but if you struggle with timing then why not try a new time!

 

 

Encouraging Scripture for Monday!

{new feature – start off the week with  an encouraging scripture}

…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

The Open Road and Prayer

I get spring fever every year. The urge to drive somewhere, see the country, explore new regions, get away! There’s something special about getting away and the newness of spring always seems to awaken it within me. And  along with those travels are the finding of great new places to be with God.

As our surroundings change or as the beauty of creation is revealed we find free opportunities with God. It can be as simple as changing our setting to freshen our prayers. And God gets our attention in new ways when we’re out of our usual spaces.

Actually, it was very cool that over the years my lovely Bonnie and I have both felt the call of the open road together. A good thing for marriage – sharing moments of impetuousity (is that a word?).  And we’ve had great God times as we travel.

I remember sitting on the rocks at Killbear National Park just resting in God’s presence. Actually praying together and seeking God’s plan for youth ministry many years ago. Also, North Carolina when Bonnie attended a conference and I looked after our baby daughter. I had some great God times during her naps (the baby’s naps that is).

There’s the Third Street Church of God in Washington DC just blocks from the White House and down the street from all kinds of opulent embassies. A fantastic church where every morning they have a breakfast and worship service with people who are homeless or who need a meal. That was a favourite for us and many teens who made the drive with us. I’d rather eat and worship there than visit the White House anytime.

Or the time that we travelled with friends to Ann Arbor, Michigan to see Rich Mullins in concert. Had you suggested I would experience God in Ann Arbor, Michigan I would have thought you a little off. But that was such a God touched time.

The list goes on and on…

Romania, when I was alone and sick, which was really good despite how it sounds! Sickness is a good isolator and isolation along with quiet and prayer is powerful.

Webster’s Falls,

Trinidad,

North Sauble Beach,

The Cabot Trail.,

The kitchen in the lodge at Camp Ganadaoweh (which sadly no longer exits).

Haven’t so much done the call of the open road since having children. The call is there but it’s muffled by the need to find playgrounds and happy meals as the number of children has grown. We’re at 3 for anyone who’s counting. But as they grow older our options for travel and prayer grow too.

When’s the last time you found a special place to pray?

Actually as I think back the place doesn’t have to be that special.

 

If you were to even try to find a special place you might be so caught up in it that you could miss God. It’s the time with God that makes it special. A beach is nice, a mountain spectacular but add God and a connection with Him and it’s really special.

Look at the history of God’s people and the real sense of place they had. A place where they encountered the living God was worth remembering and telling the next generation about.

Wasn’t the Red Sea different for the Israelites after Moses led them through and God crushed the Egyptians?

Or that spot Jacob named Peniel where he wrestled with God it changed him and his people.

Or even think how millions of believers still flock to the Holy land to walk where Jesus walked.

Any place of connection with God is special.

There’s even the concept of pilgrimage.

 

That really is a road trip with God. It’s about the getting there rather than just the destination.

As opposed to the way your father would take you on road trips and it was all about getting there. He’d try for the most efficient route with the least stops. Even if you had to “go”, he’d respond with “Well, why didn’t you go before?” At least my dad did that.

Pilgrimage says the journey is as important as the destination. It’s in the journey that you follow God and draw close to Him.

Have you taken a road trip lately? Or found a special time with God somewhere specific? Why not try it, go somewhere new or even somewhere familiar and seek the face of God there?

Podcasts to Prepare You for Easter

Special times like Easter and Christmas can sometimes sneak up on us.

“What, Easter already!?” I haven’t had time to think about it. Umm, I guess I’d better…”

If you want help this week preparing your head and your heart for Easter let me recommend to you a series of podcasts from 24-7 Prayer. They do great podcasts in preparation for  seasons like Advent and Lent!

The podcasts tap into the heart of the 24-7 Prayer — Jesus!

This new series of Lenten podcasts is called Take Time. They are running from Palm Sunday up to Easter Sunday with contributors from 24-7 Prayer (www.24-7prayer.com) around the world.

You can catch up on them by starting with the Palm Sunday one and listening to the others to bring you up to date. Each day a new one is released.

You can find the podcasts at https://www.24-7prayer.com/podcasts/category/taketime

Intentionally Spending Time With God

Devotions, quiet time, Bible reading, God time, or however you describe making space for God do not happen accidentally. I don’t get out of bed in the morning and just happen to read my Bible. I don’t accidentally find I’ve memorized a Bible verse. I don’t find a quiet space in my home just casually or actually almost EVER! (if you have kids you know what I mean)

If I want to spend time with God I need to choose to do it
or make a plan to set aside time and space.

I was just looking at a sticker on the windshield of my car and noted that I’m about 1,000 km from my next oil change. So, when I get closer to that time I’ll make an appointment with my mechanic to get that and other items on my car looked after. Of course, that’s only every 8,000 km which is only a few times a year. But it’s necessary maintenance to keep my car running.

And spiritually I need more than a check a few times a year with a fill up of mechanical fluids. I need God’s input on my life all the time. So, just as intentionally I make an appointment with my mechanic I make an appointment with God. The cool thing is He’s never all booked up!

I set aside time often in the morning, but also sometimes in the afternoon or evening depending on what’s going on in my day. For many people, setting aside God time comes first and that’s a great way to do it! They set their alarm for a time in the morning to do devotions before their other obligations of the day kick in. If that’s you, good for you, that’s awesome!

personality and organization play a part

A big part of it for me is my personality and organization. I tend to do things differently on different days. But that makes it especially important that I set times to be with God since I don’t have a regular routine. And I mark God times in my calendar just as i do for other appointments. And I keep those appointments just like I do with other things in life.

Back in my young single days, I was a radio announcer on an evening show (7 to midnight) so my quiet time each day was between 1 and 2 am when i got home from my on air shift. I could have bagged out in front of the TV. But I chose to set that time aside for God. I wasn’t tired enough to sleep, it was quiet and so that became a part of my routine. There’s not much else to do at 2 am! But I still intentionally had to choose.

Do I ever set aside times of a day or longer?

Special times of God focus

Comparing specific God times to getting my oil changed every 8,000 km., makes me think of when I set aside special times with God. It could be a day or two away on retreat, taking a silent retreat or a time of fasting. I know some people who set aside a retreat with God once or twice a year.

It could be a pilgrimage to some place as a spiritual journey. Could be a set aside time to serve in a particular place or context. For example, we’ve gone on week or month long mission and service projects. Those are great times of serving, training and drawing close to God with long term impact. I’ve seen the direction of lives determined in times like that. But again they don’t just happen. Will talk more about that in future.

That kind of spiritual discipline give a different input and focus on God that I find especially helpful in my Christian life. And with the busyness of life, if I don’t set aside a day, week or a weekend for that kind of God focus then I won’t just find time for it.

What’s The Priesthood of All Believers Mean?

It means we don’t have a high priest who needs to lead us or intercede for us with God. (Hebrews 10:11-25, 1 Peter 2:5-9) We have access to God — unmediated, no help required, open access to God.

We can pray and talk directly to God anywhere, anytime, and in any number of ways. God wants to hear fro m us and we have access to Him. It’s like a dream come true — connection with the Creator of the universe, the One who understands ALL the stuff that we don’t. And there’s a lot of stuff. We can talk to God and listen to God, us, on our own, no help required, no special phone plan, no technology required. That’s it, just us and God conversing.

unmediated, no help required, open access to God

That’s where the idea is taken most often. But there’s more!

It also means we have responsibilities and opportunities too.

We don’t have to wait for a religious leader who has been somehow organizationally appointed to speak to God or to act on what he/she hears. We get to speak to God, to listen to God, to read the Bible and then the responsibility is to do what it says

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.
Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
James 1:22

And Jesus said, “But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish,
like a person who builds a house on sand.”
Matthew 7:26

It means we all minister, we all serve and obey.

We pray.
We show mercy.
We worship God individually and as part of the larger church community.
We dig into the Scriptures.
We hear the Holy Spirit lead us to truth and act upon what we hear.
We love God with 100% of our being.
And we love our neighbours as ourselves.

We don’t need a Pastor to preach the word to us to get fed. We are self-feeders.

So, we don’t need Pastors?

No, we do have pastors and other leaders too. They are given as  gifts and leaders according to the Bible. And as believers we enjoy teaching from a pastor or teacher absolutely. Part of being a priesthood of believers is being humble and teachable. We listen to teachers, pastors, apostles and anyone who has a word from God.

But, as self-feeders, we dig into the Bible and seek the Holy Spirit to help us learn what God wants us to learn from it. Then when we gather in our church community we each contribute things that build up the body as we grow and become more like Jesus.

We don’t turn to church staff to evangelize our friends. We have our own stories to tell of how Jesus has affected our lives. We need to share those stories with our friends and give them the opportunity to respond. We need to show them how we’ve become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and they can too.

We don’t rely on church staff or volunteers to teach our children. We are the primary disciplers of our children. Which means we also have to be caring for our own souls so we can hear from God for them.

We are the body of Christ, the priesthood of all believers and we spend time directly with God. We minister in His name as Christians. We have gifts and gather together to use them to benefit the world around us.

The priesthood of all believers is listening Lord, tell us what to do.