Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to be Heard in Heaven

"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

It's such a small simple verse and yet it can seem virtually impossible to accomplish. Just how does one "pray without ceasing"? This question drove a young monk to consider how his menial tasks in the monastary such as cooking and washing dishes could become worship and the opportunity to be present with God. If God is always present--and he promises that he is--then how can we become conscious of the fact and live in that reality? Brother Andrew's thoughts are contained in a short book entitled, "The Practice of the Presence of God". This book along with two others are excellent and have shaped my views on how to pray without ceasing. In addition to "The Practice of the Presence of God", I would recommend "The Hour that Changes the World" by Dick Eastman and "Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home" by Richard Foster. More than any others these three books have formed my views on prayer.

Let me also suggest four streams in which it is helpful to pray:

#1--Passionately. If anything is worth doing--it is worth doing with all of our heart. To pray passionately means to pray with emotion and feeling. It is to feel the despair within the heart of the one for which we may be praying encouragement. It is to feel and then to pray from that feeling. We pray healing for the one suffering from cancer by imagining what it must be like to have cancer. Of course this is much harder than merely reciting a list of needs to God which is why we hardly ever do it--and perhaps why our prayers are often so ineffective.

#2--Relationaly. This week I saw a devotional by author John Eldridge that noted the different metaphors that describe our potential relationships with God. He lists six:

--Potter & Clay: Not much communication here--just breaking and molding.

--Shepherd & Sheep: Some communication happens but sheep aren't capable of much.

--Master & Servant: This is where most of us spend our lives--just trying to please the master--doing what we're told.

--Father & Child: I like this one. Pretty intimate. We can tell our dad all of our stuff and curl up in his lap and rest.

--Friends: This is a bit farther along in the relationship model. Friends share their lives.

--Bridegroom & Bride: Intimacy! Lovers! This where we can really learn to pray.

We can pray in each of these six metaphors but I think that you can see how communication would be different in each of the six depending on the relational intimacy. Where are you? Where would you like to be?

#3--Aggressively. Jesus tells us to "Ask", "Seek", and "Knock" in Matthew 7:7-11. Prayer is the stuff of asking--nothing more and nothing less. Do it aggressively!

#4--Yes! We need to learn to pray in agreement with all that God is saying to us. It is impossible to say, "No Lord!".

So, how do we pray without ceasing? I want to share with a very simple tool that I have been using for years in my attempt to pray without ceasing. I have a collection of colored beads that I carry on a keychain. Each bead represents a unique type of prayer. As often as I touch the beads on the keychain, I am reminded to pray. I pray the prayer represented by whatever bead I happen to touch. I have done this in many different ways. I have beads in my pocket. I have beads on my desk. I have beads in my car. I simply pull a bead from the collection and whatever the bead represents that's what I do. I would be happy to send you a set of these "prayer beads" if you would like them. You need only ask.

I include eleven types of prayer represented by eleven colors in these prayer beads:

GOLD: Worship. I think of the streets of gold in heaven and I'm drawn to worship God for who He is.

GREEN: Growth. I think of green grass that is healthy and growing. The green bead reminds me to pray that God would grow me four primary ways: Godliness, Relationships, Obedience, and Wisdom.

RED: Love. I think of red valentines with this bead. One of the most important aspects of prayer for me is simply rest in his love. I close my eyes if possible, relax, and attempt to feel and receive the love of God.

BLACK: Meditation. Much of what happens in my life can seem dark and meaningless. And yet I know that everything has a purpose. With this bead, I am reminded to ask the Father to reveal to me what he is doing in my life through the maze of seemingly unconnected circumstances. I am asking God to lift the darkness and to reveal to me the purpose of all that is happening in my life.

PURPLE: Intercession. Purple represents priestly royalty and reminds me that I am to do the work of a priest--the work of intercession. When I draw this bead, I want to become aware of everyone around me and to begin praying for their needs.

WHITE: Confession. The white bead represents purity--something that I can only find in Christ. This is a reminder to confess my known sins and to ask the Father to make me aware of everything else that falls short of his glory.

ORANGE: Sing. You may want to do this one quietly. I believe that God loves to hear his children sing. I often make up songs--simply singing my prayer. If you are able then sing out with all of your might making known the content of your heart.

BLUE: Deliverance. There are more prayers for deliverance in the Bible than any other prayer. The blue bead reminds me that I need to be lifted out of the deep waters. I need rescue all the time. Jesus taught us to pray in his model prayer, "Deliver us from evil".

SILVER: Petition. The silver bead reminds me to pray for everything that I might need--silver, gold, whatever. I use an acrostic here to guide this prayer. B-ody (the physical), L-abor (whatever I do), E-motions (whatever I feel), S-ocial relationships (whoever I know), and S-pirituality (who I am).

CLEAR: Holy Spirit. I am a leaky cup and I need constant refilling. This bead reminds me to pray for the constant filling of the Holy Spirit who empowers me.

YELLOW: Thanksgiving. We can never say "thanks" enough for all of the things that God does for us. Yellow reminds me of a bright sunshiny day for which I am truly thankful.

The purpose of this tool is to allow us to be reminded of the presence of God. It is not an idol and it is not magic. It is a symbolic reminder of our need to be in constant communication with God. Find a way to use it that allows you to grow in your faith. Change it, develop it, even learn to pray without it. Again, if you would like a set of these beads, let me know and I will drop a set in the mail for you.

Pray without ceasing!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mind Your Own Business

"This should be your ambition:  to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before.  As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others to meet your financial needs" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

This passage was in my quiet time this morning.  It's significant because within the last week I have decided to seek out a part-time job substitute teaching and then my long-range plan is to get my teaching certificate so that I can support myself and cease to receive a salary from my church.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Grace River in the News...

Grace River received a nice little article in our local paper.  Check it out here. 

Friday, July 16, 2010


Timberline Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Rivers and streams are constant reminders for me of the gracious work that God continues to do in all of us who are willing to receive it.  Just above the falls is Glass Lake.  To get there you climb up a trail (more like a rock face) just to the right of the waterfall.  Beyond that there is a hard-to-follow trail that leads to Sky Pond.

Tina is undefeated so far at mini-golf.  I'm not sure how she is doing it but she seems to be gifted in this area.  The boys and I will keep practicing until we can defeat her...lol.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How to Hear from God

"And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent" (1 Samuel 3:1).

I grew up with a God who was silent--at least that's the way that I learned it. I was told that it was very important that I do the "will of God" and yet I never learned how to discern God's seemingly mysterious will. The stories from Scripture are of a very personal God who speaks, who listens, and who relates to us in a way that can be understood. That's not the God that I grew up with. My God was silent. Ironically, the Bible makes sport of silent Gods--idols who need a creator, who need to be propped up so that they don't fall down, idols who have the image of a mouth, eyes, and ears but yet can neither speak, see, or hear.

And then I met Henry Blackaby--at least I met his writings. Dr. Blackaby's masterpiece, "Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God" is a must-read for anyone who wants to discover and accomplish the will of God. I first worked through the EG workbook when I was preparing to teach it to my youth group in Monterey, Tennessee. It was absolutely life-changing! In "Experiencing God", Henry Blackaby insists that our God still speaks and that he has always been speaking--it's just that we have forgotten how to listen. I won't outline the course of the book in this post but I will highly recommend that you get a copy and study it for yourself.

1 Samuel 3 details an interesting occurence of God speaking to a young boy named Samuel. God was about to do something new. He was rejecting the priestly ministry of Eli and his sons who had become corrupt and he was placing the mantle of ministry upon Samuel. Allow me to walk through the text with you and make some application.

"Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli" (v1). This is always a good place for us to begin. Like Samuel, we can find a place to, "minister to the Lord". This wasn't a perfect place for Samuel. The scripture records that Samuel's son's were doing evil things. You can read about it in chapter two. And yet Samuel was ministering to the LOrd--not to Eli, not to his sons, but to the Lord! Have you ever left a church because of people that you didn't approve of? Have you ever moved on because of people who didn't meet your standard? Fortunately for Samuel (in spite of the shortcomings of Eli's sons), he stuck around. We don't belong to the church that we necessarily like--we belong to the church that God calls us to! And none of us has the right to "move on" unless God clearly tells us to move on.

"And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent" (v1). Not unlike our day, people had perhaps grown accustomed to a silent God--a God who does not speak. Certainly in the churches that I have served, "visions have been infrequent" and "word from the Lord" has been rare. Let's see what happens.

"It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well)" (v2). Eli could not see well. How many of our church leaders "cannot see well"? I have to confess that there have been times when my eyesight has grown dim. There have been stages of my life where I was just going through the motions of ministry--doing the things that I knew to do without ever seeing any fresh visions. Some of the most religious people that I know are spiritually blind--doing religious work for all of the wrong reasons. You can always tell because God's work will produce God's results. Man's work will produce man's results. There is an undeniable difference between the two.

"and the lamp of God had not yet gone out" (v3). There is hope! God's light has not yet been extinguished. No matter how dead the church may appear to be--the lamp of God is still lit.

"And Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was" (v3). Don't miss the fact that young Samuel chose to dwell as close to God's presence as humanly possible. He slept near the ark. If we want to hear from God--maybe we should move closer to God. Look for God's activity and get there as fast as you can.

The rest of chapter three describes how God literally spoke to Samuel. Three times He called for him. Samuel at first believed that it was Eli calling him. It's interesting that Samuel could not tell the difference between the voice of the Lord and the voice of Eli. It was Eli who discerned that the Lord was calling Samuel. It was Eli who taught Samuel how to hear and how to respond to the voice of the Lord. Perhaps God spoke in a voice that mimicked Eli's because he was teaching an important lesson. Even though Eli is about to be judged by God--the voice that Samuel hears God speak through sounds like Eli's to him. God can and does speak through any voice that he chooses. Eli was the imperfect priest of God--and yet he was the priest of God. God continued to use his voice. Let me say it more clearly--God speaks through anyone he chooses--including sinful, prideful, wandering, and rebellious priests. We must learn to hear the voice of God even when it comes in a simple clay jar.

"Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him" (v7). I love the fact that we don't have to reach some spiritual milestone in order to hear from God. Samuel did not even know the Lord. He was certainly a seeker and yet he was not one of the spiritually elite. He was just a boy.

Eli taught Samuel a simple phrase to use in response to the voice that he was hearing, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening" (v9). One of the main reasons why we might not hear from God is because we are not yet listening. I tend to get caught up in just living my life and I find myself on autopilot. I quit making decisions and thinking about my circumstances--I just go through the motions of living. We have to wake up and listen! The voice of God may come in a still small voice and if we are not listening--then we will miss it.

I've found four biblical qualifiers for hearing from God. Maybe these will help you in your quest to hear from God. Look up the passages that that accompany each qualifier and ask the Holy Spirit to make application for you.

#1--Belong to God (John 8:47).

#2--Believe in God (Matthew 13:58).

#3--Bring to God (Matthew 7:7-8).

#4--Obey God (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Finally, let me give you a very practical resource that God gave to my wife, Tina several years ago. I'll give you a very brief outline. If you would like to know more than you can visit my wife's website and order the workbook that she has written. Her site is http://www.tinasamples.com/.

A great way to get off of autopilot and learn to listen to God in the details of life is through the acrostic "JOURNEY".

J-esus: Read a verse, a paragraph, or even a chapter from the Bible asking Jesus to speak to you through the words.

O-thers: Notice and listen to what others may be saying. Be present in each conversation as if God was present and speaking to you.

U-nusual events: There are no coincidences! Every event in your day may be the voice of God. Consider why things happen as they do.

R-esources: God blesses us with extra resources many times for a reason. Learn to ask God why He has given you resources? He may speak through them.

N-eeds: In the same way that God speaks through plenty--He also speaks through our lack. Consider why you have a need.

E-motions: The way you feel can be influenced by the Spirit of God. Allow Him to speak through your emotions.

Y-our response: This is the most important part. The voice of God always requires a response. What is He saying? What do you do about it?

I'll conclude by reminding you that the Bible is full of instances of God speaking to people. Let the Bible be your authority and your guide on this and all other issues. People have opinions--but God's word is truth. Read it--Believe it--Live it! Learning to hear from God for most of us is a process. Don't grow impatient and don't give up.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

All About Grace River...

Find out more about Grace River Church at:



Rivers and Rocks...

I had a powerful time of prayer this morning in the park.  The Spirit seemed really active in my heart and I am anticipating a great morning of worship.  God shared this with me from Psalm 78:13-16:

"For he divided the sea before them and led them through!  The water stood up like walls beside them!  In the daytime he led them by a cloud, and at night by a pillar of fire."

"He split open the rocks in the wilderness to give them plenty of water, as from a gushing spring.  He made streams pour from the rock, making the water flow down like a river!"

This is especially meaningful for me today because there are people that I care about that question the path that we are on.  Some question my motives.  Some question my health.  Some question my sanity...lol.  I have been refering often to the imagery of a cloud by day and a fire by night to represent the way that God is leading Grace River on our faith journey.  I continue to believe that this is something that God is orchestrating.  He is in control and He is accomplishing His purposes.  God has brought Grace River out of the Rock.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Freedom on the 4th!

Grace River experienced one of her best days yet at the park on the 4th of July.  We had our second highest attendance in our brief history of 118 people.  There were an additional 15-20 who joined us later on for our cookout.  The message was on the freedom that Christ brings and the worship matched up perfectly.  The highlight of the day was our very first baptism service at Grace River.  When we were all finished eight adults and three children had stepped into the very cold water of our newly purchased inflatable pool and had followed Jesus in obedience to His command to be baptized.  The afternoon was filled with food, fellowship, and lots of games.

I want to let you know about a new resource that one of our members has put together for us.  It's a blog called "Observing Grace" and it's purpose is to chronicle our history as our new church continues to grow and to experience God's grace.  You can find it at http://www.observing-grace.blogspot.com/.  Amy has compiled emails and pictures dating all the way back to our beginning in December of 2009.  If you are interested in following the Grace River journey, then you will want to check in often at "Observing Grace".

July marks our seventh month of existence as a church and I have to tell you that I am thrilled to see all that God is doing with us in these days.  As our service was developing on Sunday, a lady strolled past the back of the crowd and sat down on a picnic table to listen.  She left before I could meet her but I'm trusting that God gave her what she needed that day.  That's the beautiful thing about being in a public space like a park.  Anyone can show up--and they often do.  I've done outdoor services with other churches but I've never had the opportunity to be in the park week after week.  I believe that it is a perfect worship center for us as we seek to be all that God has called us to be--a safe place where anyone can come as they are and find hope and healing for their hurts, habits, and hangups.

Monday, July 05, 2010


"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1-2).

One of the basic tenents of the Christian faith is "freedom". Through Jesus' death and resurrection, He has provided a way for us who were once held captive to sin and the world's ways to be truly set free. Grace River Church is about freedom. Through Christ, we no longer are slaves to what we don't want to do and who we don't want to be. We are no longer captives to attitudes and actions that are unhealthy for us and that rob us of our God-given joy.

The law seems safer in that we know exactly what to do and how to do it. Freedom requires following the gentle urges of the Spirit of God. Freedom requires thinking and feeling and responding. When I was a kid there was not a speed limit in Montana. Each driver was given the freedom to determine what a safe speed was based on their own personal assessment of the road conditions. Your driving ability and the road conditions were the only basis that you had to determine the speed with which you would drive. Your were free to drive as fast as you liked. Of course, this freedom allowed stupidity to overule safety. A person could wreck their car or even kill themselves by not properly assessing the situation. People often abuse freedom by ignoring the Spirit's leading.

In Christ we are free from our hurts, habits, and hangups. We are free to spend our lives recovering under the Spirit's leadership. We are free to worship in a way that honors God. We are free to live with abandon while enjoying God in every moment of every day. We are free to laugh and we are free to cry. We are free to be exactly who God created us to be.

Friday, July 02, 2010

My Baptism...

I've decided to be baptised.

When I was five years old, I went forward during the altar call and gave my young life to Jesus.  I imagine that I did so for all of the reasons that a five-year-old would contemplate.  I loved Jesus.  I wanted to go to Heaven.  I wanted God to be pleased with me.  I wanted to make my mom and dad proud of me.

I don't really remember much about the day that I walked down the isle to take my dad by the hand.  I know that he had recently decided to become a pastor.  I know that it was early in his ministry.  I know that he was asking for people to come forward and that something in my heart said to go.  I'm certain that he prayed a prayer with me--though I don't actually remember.

I also don't remember being baptized but I know that it happened.  In fact, I was the first person that my father ever baptized.  I know because I possess the preaching Bible that my dad used in those days and my mom carefully wrote the names and dates of baptisms, weddings, and funerals in the front of that Bible.  My name appears first.

Much has happened in my spiritual journey and I have often considered being baptized again.  I've had mountain-top experiences at camps and retreats.  I encountered God in a transformational way in high school.  My call to ministry came following high school graduation.  I accepted my first church staff position the summer before my senior year in college.  I have suffered through the barren wastelands of life and I have also thrived in the lush gardens that life provides.  However, nothing compares to the journey that I have taken over the past nine months.  I truly feel like I have been rebirthed--given a new life--and I have for the first time really begun to live.  And so, I have decided to be baptized.

On Sunday morning, July 4th, I will talk about the biblical concept of "Freedom".  I'll describe my own journey to find that freedom.  And then I will ask my church to baptize me.  The old Dave has truly died and a brand new man has come into existance through the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And so, even as I was the first to be baptized by my father some 40 years ago, I will now also be the first to be baptized by Grace River Church.  To the Glory of God!