Why We Fast

In the past I’ve written articles on how to better fast and how to end a fast, but I have never talked about why we fast. I know from personal experience that I can be fasting and not know why. I can be focusing on all the wrong things instead of what fasting is truly accomplishing.

I should start by saying: fasting earns us nothing.

We don’t fast to get more favor from the Lord or to be “more pleasing” to Him. We can’t do anything that would add to what Jesus did on the cross. Our righteousness, goodness, and deservedness starts and ends at the cross. God doesn’t listen to our prayers more just because we’re fasting. We don’t get any access to God while fasting that we wouldn’t of had without it. We need to shake free from asceticism, the belief that we can reach a higher spiritual level by our works, and rest in the finished work of the cross.

I should also say: fasting informs God of nothing.

Often over-zealous Christians believe that fasting shows God the urgency of a situation they’re praying for. They believe if they toil for hours in prayer and fasting God will hear their request and answer. But those people often forget that He’s God. He knows everything. No one can tell Him something that He doesn’t already know. Unlike us, He realizes the importance (or lack thereof) of every situation. He knew about every circumstance before time began, and He knew His response to each and every prayer before any circumstance came to pass or before any prayer was prayed.

So we then do we fast? We fast for us.

When I say that we fast “for us”, I do not mean to say that we are the end to which we are fasting. Rather, we fast because we are constantly trying to substitute ourselves for God as the true end. We fast because our flesh hates God and wants nothing to do with Him. We fast because our desires are not for Him. We fast to create hunger for God by intentional weakness. The weaker our flesh and its desires become, the greater our spirit (and His Spirit’s influence) starts ruling our lives.

In past fasts, I’ve looked for one thing that I could give up, whether media, food, etc. I’ve treated fasting like I was offering a great sacrifice to God. In hindsight, I was looking for the very least I could do. The point of fasting is about becoming as weak as you can be. Again, it’s intentional weakness. I tell people that if your flesh isn’t terribly uncomfortable, agonizingly so, you’re not fasting right. I’m not talking about food either. It’s amazing how I can go without food for a week but I can’t go without reading the news for a day; that to leave my iPhone off all day is such a struggle and that my flesh longs for it. My flesh agonizes without it.

We often substitute what we are fasting with something else. I may fast lunch but I replace that time I’m eating with surfing the internet instead. I should be using the time I would normally eat lunch with to spend time with God. That’s how fasting is supposed to work. We strip (aka “fast”) all the meaningless things we can, making our flesh intentionally weak, so that we can draw near to God. 

I remember one day when God said, “Crumbs.” I asked “What are crumbs? What do you mean?” He responded, “Crumbs are all the little things in your life you eat that fill you up so that you’re not hungry for Me. You snack all day on crumbs so you never come to the feast I’ve prepared for you.”

Our lives are full of trivial things. We spend so much time on our phones, checking our social networks, watching the news, surfing the internet, and goofing off. While these things aren’t evil, they are crumbs that tend to feed our flesh and strengthen it to the point that we don’t desire God. There’s a feast of glory that God has prepared for us. Yet we rather eat the crumbs of our flesh and maybe a little food that comes from the table when we hear a sermon, but we never take a seat at the table. We never feast on God when we’re alone.

There is a feast in the Bible. Let us fast so we may partake at the table.

Goals For 2014

I started stating my goals on this blog last year. I liked the motivation and accountability it gave me so I decided to do it again. I changed most of my goals this year. I feel it’s really important to have changing goals every year. If our goals don’t change, then we either aren’t reaching high enough or not trying hard enough. All of my goals last year are ones I will continue to do. These goals are more about building habits and long-term practices in my life, instead of just being things I do for only twelve months.

Learn people skills

This past year, I have realized that I’m quite a polarizing person. Most people either like me or hate me. Very few are in the middle, and they are usually drifting to one of those two sides. There are things I do that turn people off to me, and I don’t even notice it. It’s clear on their faces and in their body language, but I don’t see it. It’s time I learn those things and learn how to curb the negative polarizing side of me. My work leadership is taking the charge in this (per my request and their knowledge of it) since many of these things exist in my workplace. It will be a good testing floor for my progress. Since leadership is about buy-in, listening, trust, and team, I must learn these things and make them a natural part of my life. I’m sure there are many core things in my heart (like rejection issues from 20 years ago) that I will have to face, but God is good and sovereign. He will cause me to come out of this acting more like Christ.

Theological training

Las year, I wanted to grow theologically, meaning “knowledge”. I felt I didn’t do that well enough or at least not intentionally enough. This year I plan on starting actual ministry schooling through my church through the Global Church Learning Center. I’m excited to begin working on my BA-E. I’m sure it will be a lot of work but I’m grateful that I won’t be just learning knowledge, but also how to apply it and how to network.

I also desire to continue reading deeper theological books. I want to read my first systematic theology book this year. I really want to read Wanye Grudem’s Systematic Theology or the one written by John Frame.  I also want to read a longer and deep book on some theological point. Currently I’m looking at reading (the brand new) From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective.

I’m also excited to buy my first commentary next year. I’m looking forward to studying the Bible deeper than I ever have next year.

Write new songs

Last year was the first year that I didn’t have “write new songs” on my list of goals, and I didn’t write any (although I wrote parts of a few). I could go another year without writing. I’m not going to lie, writing songs for my church is one of the hardest things I do, yet one of the most rewarding. I decided that I wanted to focus on writing this year. I want there to be a set time every week that I write for a couple hours or so. I feel that is achievable with my busy schedule. However, I want to focus on what kind of songs I want to write.

  1. Congregational worship songs
    By the end of the year, I want to have written 2-3 songs that are melodic and memorable that my church loves to sing, while keeping the lyrical content fresh and highly theological and scriptural. I want to write songs that help people engage in worship but will also encourage them.
  2. Christmas songs
    It is my experience that most of our church members don’t fully engage in worship with traditional Christmas carols. I think that they may be too seasonal and familiar. I want to write songs this year for Advent 2014. Whether these songs are used in a Christmas production or just as worship songs during that season, I think it would help our church to have more Christmas songs that they can use to engage with God.

Currently, the worship ministry is planning on doing a songwriting workshop in the summer and also participating in the local (original song) music festival in November. I think these are going to be great helps and motivations for me to pursue songwriting with more focus and care than I have ever given it.

Lose weight

My wife will love this one. Thanks to some medical problems in 2013, I’ve lost almost 40 pounds, yet it will be easy to put it back on. After what I’m sure is years of my wife praying, I feel the Lord moving me to take better care of my body, so that I can do all He has called me to do with my family, work, and church.

Currently, I am planning on getting a few friends to join me and read/work through Rick Warren’s new book, The Daniel Plan. I have heard great things about it and I think it will be a good place to start. Thanks to the medical issues I’ve had, my diet has changed a good bit, but it needs to change more and I need to be more active. These are the two big things I look at changing early in the year.

The Eulogy of Bambi Manchester

I have the honor today of delivering my mother’s eulogy, to speak words about her life and help memories of her shine a little bit brighter. This is a daunting task. In thinking over her life, I wondered “how can I condense this woman’s spectacular life into just a few minutes of speech?” There’s no way I can do that justice. It would take me days to recount and talk about all her years. So rather than try to give a blanket summary, I’ve decided to focus on what defined my mom’s life: suffering. 

Anyone who knew my mom, even for a few minutes, understood that she suffered in multiple ways for decades. And while many here know some of the sufferings she went through, most have not known all of them, the reason why she suffered, or what was birthed because she suffered. This is what I want to talk about today.

Bambi Linn Ostendorf was born December 19th, 1958 at Charleston General Hospital in West Virginia. She was a funny kid who was always joking around. If you ever wonder where we, her children, got our humor from, now you know. She went through school and soon after graduating high school married a man named Gordon Tucker. They were married a few years before they achieved perfection: me. Just kidding. (Hey, I wrote the eulogy so I thought I’d embellish it a little bit…) Everything was good. They served at their local church, Trinity Assembly of God in Deltona. He was an usher and she was in the choir. Several years later they had Andrew and 20 months after him came Phillip. Three beautiful boys.

The night they came home with Phillip, Gordon looked at Bambi, denied any love for her, and walked out the door, divorcing her. This event changed her. It broke her. Everything she had trusted in, relied in, hoped in, seemed to crumble. The dreams she had of having a nice life, in a house with a good family was slipping from her fingers like how water does when you try to hold it. She didn’t give up. She mustered up strength, went back to college, and worked her hardest to get her life back on track.

That’s when it all started.

August 1991. Almost exactly one year after the divorce. Between school life and work life and home life, she squeeze in her scheduled mammogram and found out…she had breast cancer. God was merciful and gave her grace to overcome all her doubts, depression, questions, bitterness, and the like. She entered into remission and life seemed to be getting better, or at least a little more stable.

It was during this time that God would give her the greatest gift of her life: her husband Richard Manchester. God brought this man into her life, not only to be her husband and helpmate, but to be a father to her boys. In the years that followed, even as I was engaged, she often talked to me about him. She would tell me “Matt, God never told me that Richard would be perfect or that we would have an easy life. But He told that Richard would always love me and never leave me.”

I want to stop for a moment and say something. We are here today to celebrate and remember my mom, Bambi, but we honor her the most by stopping and honoring her husband Richard. Dad, I have watched you over the years take care of mom. The countless days and nights where she couldn’t get out of bed because of pain. You never left. When you promised to be with her “in sickness and in health”, you kept your word. Were you perfect? No. But did you love her and serve her till the end? YES. And I want to say to you as her son, but also now as a husband and father myself: thank you so much for everything you did. You have given me (as well as our church) a shining example of what it looks like for a husband to love and serve his wife. I want to stand today and applaud you for all your sacrifice. And I would ask all here to join me right now in honoring him.

Richard was great. He married Bambi, legally adopted us boys as his own, and then together they had two beautiful miracles: Reagan and Shelby. I say miracles because the doctors told mom that she should abort the twins. The chemo had ruined any chance for the girls to come out healthy and normal. But mom (along with dad) believed God and God was faithful to bring them forth with no issues.

For the next four years, Bambi would work as a home-health nurse. All those years of schooling while dealing with divorce and cancer seemed to be paying off. Times were good. We were having fun as a family. We as kids were constantly finding reasons to have our babysitters call 911. Life was normal again.

When most people are asked what Bambi’s greatest trial and suffering was, they without a second thought say “cancer”. And while cancer certain caused my mom great discomfort and pain, it took a far second place to that fateful morning on August 16, 1996..

Bambi was in Debary working, on her way to the doctors for an appointment before continuing the rest of her home health work, when another car turned in front of her and caused her to collide going over 40 miles per hours. Her dark green Dodge Shadow compacted to half it’s size. By the time Richard got there she was already in the ambulance in excruciating pain. It would be years before the doctors would realize she had muscle fibermilalga. My mom lived in constant pain from that moment to the day she died. The medication she had to take since that day was immense and it was usually just enough to help her get out of bed. Everyday was a waking nightmare of pain.

But as she was laying in the ambulance, waiting to be taken to the hospital, she heard God speak to her one of the clearest phrases she has ever heard from God: “I am going to give you plenty of time to seek Me.”  What would you do if you were in intense pain everyday? Bambi could of gave up. She could no longer work. She could barely get out of bed. She had (at the time) no quality of life. She could of dwelt in continual depression and become psychotic. She could of became bitter and offended with people and with God. Rather, and what makes her truly great in my book, is that she took her pain and used it to draw closer to God.

This began a season of seeking God that I have rarely seen in anybody else. She devoured everything she could concerning God. I have fond memories of every week or two going to Family Christian Bookstore in Daytona and every time leaving with a $300-400 receipt from books and worship cds. She bought every videotape the Brownsville Revival had to offer at that time. I told dad the other day that if it wasn’t for that season in her life of consuming the Bible and devoting herself to the spiritual disciplines, none of us kids would be where we are, serving the church as we do. And it all stemmed from the car accident.

Though she could no longer work, she started seeking God, asking Him what she could do. She became a youth worker and sunday school teacher. She then started and ran a hospitality ministry for our church. She was known as the “milk cake lady”. It wasn’t just baking for her, it was ministry. She started sewing again. She had learned sewing from her mother, Joann, and even used to make her own clothes. She sowed flags for church worship. (That got her the name of “banner lady”) She sowed handkerchiefs. She sowed bandannas.  But her most memorable things she sewed were her quilts. God would give her a picture of a quilt and she would go and make it, often praying over every stitch. Every quilt had its meaning and while mom did occasionally have dreams of starting a business and selling them…she often gave them away for free. Again, it was a ministry for her. She felt called to minister to women who were troubled, abused, forgotten, wayward, or hurt. She would talk to them, invite them over for tea (all the 5000 kinds that she had), share with them her story, pray for them, and often send them away with a present. I can’t count how many times I would hear her say “God woke me up to pray for someone last night and gave me a picture of a quilt for them. I need to go to Joann Fabrics and get the material.” Our $400 bookstore bill became a $400 fabric bill. She loved it. She loved being able to spend hours in prayer, talking to God, making these symbols of love.  She would spend years like this. Loving, serving, sewing, baking, praying. That’s who she was. During this time, she had learned to rest in God, to be just a child with her Father.

In August 2006, the family went down to Ft Lauderdale for a mini-vacation. For whatever reason, she decided to go jet-skiing. But as she was riding, she noticed that something was wrong. She went to the hospital and found out that the cancer was back and had eaten and disintegrated her entire right hip. At this point, she had been in remission for almost 15 years. But the cancer came back in force. She would spend the next 8 years fighting it, with rounds and rounds of chemo and other types of treatment. She was close to death many times and the church would pray and God would bring her back from the brink. Finally, the cancer moved into her brain and lungs, which led to her death on December 12th, 2013.

But what was the point of all that suffering? After all, if death was always the destination, why all the pain? Paul, in writing again to the church in Corinth, says in 2nd Corinthians 4:7-18 –

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

(jumping down to verse 16)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We humans are fickle creatures. We spend all our lives dressing up, decorating, and improving our “jars of clay.” We make them so ornate on the outside thinking that we are helping show people the beauty of Christ. But all people see is the beauty of us. The only way for people to see the treasure inside the jar is to crack it, to break it. The less attractive and put-together the jar is, the more people see the treasure inside it.

My mom was a very broken jar of clay. The treasure of Christ and the revelation from His Word that dwelt inside of her was great, and the more broken she became, the more we had the privilege of beholding the beauty of Christ in her life. She told Richard one day that if she had the chance to stop the car accident and live pain-free for the rest of her life, she wouldn’t do it…because of how it brought her closer to Jesus. She could of fought the breaking. She could of resisted the suffering. Rather, she embraced it.

Paul, later in the same letter would say:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV)

That’s what my mom did. She boasted in her weakness. She accepted it. Yes, she prayed for healing. She pleaded that the Lord would take all the pain and all the disease away. But she also took heart in James’ words:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

So while she believed that God could heal her completely, she also knew that He had a plan, a plan for her good, a plan for her completeness. So she embraced her suffering. She boasted of her weakness. In the end, Bambi didn’t die because cancer was strong. Rather, she died because she made herself intentionally weak. She knew the more that death was manifested in her body, the more that life would flow out into others.

I remember the last time she spoke publicly here at a ladies meeting. She had just found out she had brain cancer (which she knew was fatal). She sat right here. With a clouded mind, and stammering lips, she looked at the women who were there, and with shocking authority questioned them “If I can trust God with a tumor in my head that could paralyze me, can’t you trust God for your kids, your life, your marriage, your finances?” She should declare in her rock-solid faith, “In all the cancer and trials…I am only suffering light momentary afflictions. There’s an eternal weight of glory if I wait.” The more her “jar” broke apart, the more real and precious the treasure of Christ inside her became. She had one desire: to see the Lord. Not just to see Him in things (like in nature or in circumstances), but to see Him with her physical eyes, like Moses did. It wasn’t enough for her to come to church and have a nice life with a good family. She wanted God more than anything (though I must admit, a Coke and a good NCIS episode was next on the list). She longed for God and it was all the suffering in her life that cause Bambi to cling to Him.

As I end, I recently found a letter that mom wrote many years ago. I found it in one of her many journals and notepads. I don’t know when it was written or who it was written for or even why it was written. It was probably written 10-15 years ago, but the words ring true, and I think it would be just like Bambi to give us another small piece of treasure today.

Why? Why me? Have you ever asked those questions of God? Have you ever gotten an answer? If you are like me, you’ve not gotten one when you’ve asked possibly because we weren’t ready to accept the answer.

For me, one time sticks out more than the most. It was the fall of 1991. I was a 32-year-old single mother of three young boys attending Daytona Beach Community College working toward obtaining my nursing degree. I had seen my marriage come to an abrupt and painful end the year before and was trying to put the pieces of my life back together again. As if that wasn’t enough to cope with, I had been diagnosed with breast cancer  approximately three months earlier. I had a lumpectomy between semesters and then started chemo and radiation treatments along with a new seventeen credit-hour semester. I had always prided myself with being strong and being able to withstand things that would break others, but the successive blows were starting to wear me down. This morning in particular was difficult. I was sick from chemo, tired from radiation, and stressed from school. As I was combing my hair, large amounts were coming out. That seemed to be the last straw. In tears, I looked upwards and said in a very frustrated and angry tone: “Haven’t I been through enough? What more do you want?” I received no answer, audible or otherwise, just the same quiet comfort that I sensed during the long nights over the past one and a half years.

Approximately two and a half years later I was working as a home health nurse specializing in peds and oncology. I had completed school, was in remission, had remarried, and was now the mother of three boys and twin girls. Life was stressful but without painful crises. One of my patients was a 21-year-old IV drug abuser dying of AIDS. She was angry, non-compliant, and unrealistic as to her prognosis. My job was to provide medical care and to instruct on ways to prolong her life through compliance. She was proving to be a very difficult patient.

On this particular morning I came to her home with the intention of administering the meds that were ordered and go on with what was to be a very busy day. She didn’t answer the door as usual but it was unlocked. I came in to find her sitting on the couch practically hysterical. Her long brown hair was tangled in a brush and clumps of hair were in her hands. Immediately all my frustrations with her disappeared. It wasn’t so long that I had forgotten the trauma of loosing my hair. For the next two hours I sat and held her and soothed her as I would have one of my own children. I eventually got around to the medical care that I was there to give, but not until her hair was combed, we had talked about wigs, and she was able to smile and laugh.

As I closed the door behind me that morning I clearly heard the voice of the Lord answer the question that I had angrily asked Him years earlier. He said it was because of her. Because Jesus desired to love her where she was and in the way she needed to be loved. Without having experienced that pain myself, I would have never been able to show the compassion that Jesus wanted to show her. She didn’t need a tract, she didn’t need a message, she needed Jesus with skin on.

Ten years later I’m finding myself asking some of the same questions. However this time I’m not priding myself on how strong I am but learning to love the weakness that God’s dealings can bring in one’s life. 2 Corinthians 12:9 speaks of a weakness (a frailty, a feebleness) that makes room for divine power, a miracle itself. I find it to be a great mystery why the Creator of the universe would not only love me enough to give His only Son for my eternal life, but that this same sovereign God would desire to use me as an instrument of His love to a hurting world.

Jeremiah 23:11 says that He knows the plans He has for you. They are plans for good, not bad. They are plans to give you a hope and a future. God proved His love for us forever as His Son willingly gave His life for us at Calvary 2000 years ago. Today, He offers us abundant life and the opportunity to be His hands extended. It’s not an easy call.

“It’s not an easy call.” Looking at my mom’s life, that is the understatement of the year. But look around today, look at what is just a portion of the people God used Bambi to touch with love and life. If she was here, she would look every one of you right in the eye and lovingly ask you, “Will you let God do what it takes to draw you close to Him? Will you let Him make you His hands extended?”

My mom did. She said yes to that call. And now, she is receiving her crown and Jesus is telling her “well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master.”

My mom had two final requests for when she passed. First she asked that Renee Modica would not try to resurrect her, and the second is that we would worship God passionately. So as the worship team is coming up, my sister Shelby will come and give us a call to worship. Thank you.

You can watch the memorial service here.

Review: Goals for 2013

As the year winds down, I like to look at the year that’s past and see how I did on the goals I made. I don’t know if anyone achieves their goals 100%, but I find the goal to be completed if I have made significant and lasting progress towards it.

Dig into theology

I felt I’ve handled this ok, but not well enough. Different beliefs (particularly those mentioned in the post) have solidified more since last year, but not because of ardent study on my part. That’s what I’m not happy about and I plan to change next year in a significant way.

Read

This is something I started this year that I’m really happy about. I have read quite a few books (fiction and theology) and they have been helpful to my life this year. Here are a few that I have read this year:

  • Gospel Coach
  • Creature of the Word
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy
  • Divergent and Insurgent
  • The Giver
  • Doxology & Theology
  • Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars
  • Think

These are some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed. I’m in the middle of a few more now although I haven’t read that much in the last month or two. I need to take my own advice and read 10 minutes before going to bed.

Blog better

If I wrote no other post than Jeremiah & Judgment I would have been happy this year. I also started a new series called Rethink that has been received favorably. I haven’t written too much but I’m happy with what I have written this year. I’m also super excited that my wife started writing this year!

Learn leadership

This is a hard one for me to evaluate but I feel like I have significantly grown as a leader, even though the beginning of the year was rough. Yet, because of these experiences, books I’ve read, and situations that I’ve dealt with, I been able to grow more into the leader that I see in the Sermon on the Mount. Due to some issues, I wasn’t able to take the leadership course at work this year (though in hindsight, I count this as a blessing). This year has been extremely taxing on our little family, but I thank God that He has helped me lead us through it well enough so far.

I have much more ground to cover on this one, and I look forward to what is to come this next year.

A Million Graces

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I find myself remembering things I’m grateful for. However I (and, I believe, many of us) tend to only give thanks for notable events in my (our) lives. We thank God for healing/recovery from cancer, a life saved in a car wreck, a solid marriage and family, etc, but how often do we show our thankfulness/gratefulness for the million secret, trivial things that He does everyday?

So this Thanksgiving, I want to list a bunch of these “hidden graces” that I’m thankful for in my life. I won’t list all of them but hopefully enough. My prayer is that others will be stirred to thankful remembrance of His goodness in their lives. Some of these things may sound super trivial to some, but realize that God is sovereign over everything, and so anything that causes us to smile is caused solely by His goodness.

I’m thankful…

  • for a beautiful loving wife
  • every time my wife is moved to forgive me
  • for two beautiful daughters
  • every time my daughters do anything that cause me to smile
  • for grace in times of parental frustration and discipline
  • for the hope knowing that my daughters futures and salvation are in the Lord’s hands
  • that my wife can be a stay-at-home mom
  • for a roof over my head
  • that every month God has faithfully given us the finances to pay the rent (and utilities), even in times when I was out of work due to chronic sickness
  • for I job I enjoy that pays well so I don’t have to work two jobs
  • that my job is local and only five-minutes away
  • for my dad, brothers, and sister
  • for my mom
  • that my mom has lived this long
  • for the holidays when all the family can come together
  • for my church family that is constantly encouraging us
  • for the worship team that allows me to help serve/lead them
  • for a congregation that allows the worship team to have fun while leading worship
  • for the whole of church history that has given us what we have today including the Bible
  • for older saints who pour into my life
  • for younger saints who ask to be poured into
  • for an amazing pastoral staff
  • for a senior pastor who leads me and mentors me in leadership and life
  • that I’m trusted to lead a Sunday School class for high schoolers
  • for friends who care about me to tell me the truth and to accept who I truly am
  • for Chick-fil-a and Publix
  • to live in a nation where I’m not in fear of being killed in a church bombing each week
  • that my brother serves honorably in the Army
  • for a cool breeze and 72-degree weather
  • for Christmas
  • for sins being forgiven before being committed
  • for eternal security and hope

My Favorite Devotional Albums

Every once in a while, I like to share some music from my collection that I use regularly or for certain purposes. This time I wanted to share my favorite devotional worship albums. For me, personally, there is a big difference between a devotional album and a normal worship album. Here are a few of the differences:

  1. It must help me listen and focus
    This means that the devotional music I listen to must not distract me from listening to His Spirit. This is not the time for a big rock-worship venue’s cd with driving drums and electric guitar. Rather it needs to be simpler and quieter. Usually this music is playing in the background as I pray and as I read the Bible. It should be a help, not a hindrance.
  2. It must be stirring
    One of the most difficult challenges when praying is to remain awake and engaged. Even the disiciples had problems with this when they were praying. While the music I need is quiet and restful, I do not need something that will help me to sleep. It must be engaging and stirring to my spirit. The music should draw me. The words should ring (here and there) in my spirit. It should help me to pray and to pray passionately.
  3. It must be worshipful
    I look for albums that were created for and by serious worshipers. It helps me to feel someone else’s passion for (and worship of) God. This means that I don’t use just any instrumental cd, even though there are some great (and even stirring) ones, I want to listen to something made wholly (and therefore “holy”) for the Lord.

My top six albums

pablo

Pablo Perez – Majestic Splendor 
This has long been one of my favorites. I spent a summer with other youth leaders praying an hour, three times a day. This cd was played the most. Pablo also has some incredible instrumental cds.

bethel

Bethel Music – Without Words
This is the newest devotional cd in my collection. Bethel did an amazing job with this project. I currently have this playing in my car. It helps me engage with God when I go to and from work or church. It also helps that I don’t know many of the songs that they made instrumentals of, so I don’t play the karaoke game. Rather it lets my brain focus into praying and my spirit into listening.

phil

Phil Wickham – Give You My World
Most Christians know Phil Wickham now thanks to some amazing albums and songs he’s written, but few know of his first album (before his self-titled debut). It is still (in my opinion) his strongest work. There is something that is incredible simple and deep in it. Sadly this album is in very short stock. Find it and get it if you can!

isaac

Issac Meyer – Acoustic Rhythms
Isaac is one of the best acoustic guitar players I’ve ever heard. That he is a worshiper at IHOP-KC is an added bonus. My wife loves this cd. In fact, this album is a great station to have in iTunes Radio.

mike

Michael Gettel – Change My Heart Oh God (Piano)
This is the first devotional cd I ever had. Vineyard’s “Change My Heart Oh God” series is pretty great (not as good as their “Psalms” series or their “Acoustic Worship” series) but this cd is once of the best albums they have ever produced. The pianist, Michael Gettel, isn’t a showy piano player, but rather plays gently and fluidly in a style that is wholly his own. I heard that this album was the most-sought after for a piano score (songbook), but sadly the artist did not make one (although you can find the first track’s score in the songbook for “Change My Heart Oh God: Volume 3″).

rita

Rita Springer – Love Covers
I can’t express how much I love Rita Springer. Ever since I first heard her on a Vineyard Worship album, I’ve been enthralled by her passion for God and her unique voice. “Love Covers” is, in my opinion, her best album (while I think “Created To Worship” comes super close). This album was a limited print and hard to find. If you can get it, I highly recommend doing so.

Between Peter & Thomas

My mom has cancer.

My mom has terminal cancer.

Barring a miracle, my mom is (possibly, even very likely) on her death bed, living her last days.

My soul is conflicted about all of this. It ponders “should I believe?”, “should I prepare for her death?”, etc. In all my pondering, I have realized that there are two extremes that I have to stand/balance between.

Don’t doubt like Thomas

Thomas gets a really bad rap in scripture for doubting the promises, power, and resurrection of Jesus. I tend to find myself (sadly) joining Thomas in believing God for a miracle for my mom.

I grew up in a Pentecostal family. I have seen healings happen before my eyes. I am so grateful for being raised in this environment. It’s easy in the face of death and disease to throw in the towel and give up. But that’s not God’s will. Even if this situation ends with death, God is pleased by our faith and when we place our hope in Him and His ability to heal. I (we) must fight despair and defeat, and decide to “go to the grave” believing God for a miracle.

Don’t deny like Peter

Peter was one of the most passionate and greatest of the disciples. Yet, Jesus rebuked him as the devil. Why? Because when Jesus told Peter how He (Jesus) was going to die, Peter denied this possibility. Peter even tried to persuade Jesus from God’s plan. This earned Peter a serious rebuke.

This is good for me to remember. We must believe and have faith, but that doesn’t mean we deny reality. We can’t deny that God sometimes has a “seed fall to the ground and die.”  Many are left devastated when God doesn’t respond with a miracle and rather lets death take hold instead. They never prepare themselves like Job, “He gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” We must get to the place where we say “come what may, You are good and I love You.”

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I don’t know what this next two weeks hold, but I find myself in a place of realistic hope and belief. God will raise my mom up from this death bed, either physically or by giving her a new body in the resurrection. Regardless, He’s good and my mom will take joy in whatever the Lord chooses.

In the meantime, I’m going to pray like crazy for her healing as I prepare for her passing.