The Truth of the Moment: Recovering from a Spiritual Slump

If you’ve ever been in a play or any kind of production where you were required to recite memorized lines, you know the most terrifying thing to happen is to forget your lines. You freeze, palms begin to sweat, you get the deer-in-headlights look, heat begins to overwhelm your body, causing instantaneous beads of sweat to appear on your forehead.  It’s absolutely mortifying…so I’m told.

IMG_0785.JPGWith much of my youth and young adulthood occupied by acting in some form or another, both at Mississippi College and during my early seminary years with The Company, I have had my share of mental lapses.  Truly, there are few experiences to compare.  Correct me if you are the exception, but anyone who has done any kind of public speaking or acting can relate an experience such as I’ve described.  So, what do you do?

One of the most important lessons I was taught by my college theatre professor was that when you are in a scene and you forget your lines, momentarily stop. Now, take a breath and in your mind, gently pick up your focus and put it back in the middle of the scene. Where are you in the play?  What was just said?  Many times, this practice helps quickly trigger what you are supposed to say next.  Even if it doesn’t though, living in the scene where you are and as the character you are, can lead to a proper response that will allow your fellow actor(s) to help get the scene back on track.  This is called living in the “truth of the moment.”

Technically, in Method Acting, the truth of the moment essentially involves an actor, living authentically in the role he is playing (i.e. “becoming” the character by relating similar real experiences to the those of the character and then responding honestly according to those identifications).  Often, lines are forgotten because the actor is too caught up in the process of simply reciting memorized lines rather than living authentically in the moment.  Living in the truth of the moment is being honest and authentic in the scene you are playing so that, even if your lines are momentarily lost, gently putting your attention back in place, remembering who you are in the production, and reacting honestly in the scene can get you going again.  Quite often, the audience never even suspects it.

I have found myself in similar situations as a disciple of Jesus.  I may be trucking along fine, living out my role authentically and honestly, faithfully reading the Word and praying, when all of a sudden (so it seems), I hit a slump.  I forget who I am in the scene God has cast me in, I lose focus and begin to drift away from honestly and consistently abiding in Him (John 15).  I am in danger of completely wrecking the scene, distancing myself from the things of God and negatively affecting my testimony.  What do we do in those situations?  How do we recover without being bogged down in distraction, frustration and despair?

Live in the truth of the moment.

During these times of confusion, in the midst of all the noise and the myriad of lesser things vying for my affection, telling me who I am supposed to be, it is important that I stop, gently lift my spiritual focus and put it back where it needs to be.  If I’m lost in what God is telling me, unable to hear through the clutter, then what was the last thing I heard Him say?  I go back in my spiritual journal (read more about that practice here), and see what God had been dealing with me about.  I have to determine what the last thing was that I read in His Word that impacted me and start there.  I need to re-examine who He has made me to be in Christ?  Living in the truth of the moment assures me that I am remaining authentic, even though I am distracted, and allows me to keep moving forward!
What are some of the struggles you experience in learning to follow Christ?  What are some ways that help you stay focused on continued growth as a disciple?

Conversational Scripture Reading

Have you ever tried praying Scripture back to God? I’m talking about actually speaking the text back to Him using conversational pronouns (I may have just made that term up, but you get the point), for example, changing “He” and “the Lord” to “You”.  It makes for an amazing prayer and worship time.  Give it a shot.  Here’s a good one to start with: Psalm 18:1-3

Ummmm…just one word of warning: be careful to know the context.  Every passage in Scripture is not suitable for this kind of reading.  There are sometimes specific prophecies, instructions, etc. that were for a particular people at a particular time.  Pick the ones that are obviously more universal, in nature.  If you have questions about whether a specific passage fits the bill, shoot it to me and I’d be happy to try and help you figure it out.

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On Presidential Politics: The Aftermath

It was once told to me that if you have a pastor you don’t like, don’t waste time complaining.  Instead, pray for the one you have that he’ll become the one you want.  This will prevent you from dishonoring Christ, leaving too early or causing problems within the church.  I think that is very good advice.  I also think it applies to the President of the United States.  

If you don’t like the person elected, rather than engaging in UNPRODUCTIVE bad-mouthing, which only divides and brings shame to the name of Christ, spend that time PRODUCTIVELY praying for him to be the kind of president this country needs.  

Look, God is in the business of changing the hearts of man (and he’s changed some much more idealogical than the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave!), so if you think this is the wrong man, then sincerely pray for him.  Every time you’re ready to say something negative or post something cynical, pray instead…at that moment!  

I think it has much less to do with the “man” in office.  God can do whatever He likes with whomever He wills.  Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”  So, engage in spiritual battle for the sake of us all and, if your prayers are in line with the will of God, it will be done.  That’s the only way America will be changed and the only way America will be blessed.

Drive Through Prayer?

A church in Ft. Lauderdale has begun offering drive-thru prayer services for those in need. Good idea, right? After all, who couldn’t use a little prayer?

The Pentecostal congregation has been offering drive-thru prayer services every Friday for the last month, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Outreach Pastor Sol Levy says many who pass through have never been inside a church and are often at the end of their rope. The volunteers offer to pray with them on any issue, big or small, from a rough day at work to divorce and foreclosure.

Church leaders say the initiative is starting to gain popularity and has served about 150 people so far.

I fear initiatives like this because of the implications it has for promoting an easy, feel-goodism related to God. Where is the relationship? Where is the obedience to follow Christ? How about the call to deny yourself, take up yourself and follow Christ? I know, I know…some will say that these people coming for prayer aren’t there yet, so something should be offered to “reel them in.” I get it. I don’t buy it.

I’m afraid that all this will do is give them just enough “Jesus” to inoculate them from a real relationship with Him. Why should they ever follow a Jesus that calls them to total self-sacrifice when all they have to do is shoot through a window and place their “order”?

Still, some will say that you have to depend on the Holy Spirit to get them to that place. Exactly! Since it’s the Holy Spirit that draws in the first place, why offer something that needs to be preceded by a prayer of repentance and surrender anyway? I think it is important for us to think and re-think our (well-intentioned) methods of reaching people that, in the end, may cause them more spiritual damage and provide more spiritual baggage than they arrived with.

That’s my view. Feel free to let me know yours.

Return from the abyss

Whew! Been a while since I wrote here. Not sure why exactly. So busy, I guess. With my son playing football and me helping coach (probably pretty laughable), our time as a family seems so limited. I suppose the last thing I’ve wanted to do was sit in front of a computer longer than I have to and write.  An attempt at balance, though, is certainly called for and I’m hoping to get back to regular or at least semi-regular posting.

I did want to share something that might be a benefit to some. At The Gathering, we are trying really hard to make life-changing connections. Everybody wants and needs community and in our technological age, that can be both easier and harder at the same time.  While (as I’ve already pointed out) sitting in front of a computer for hours on end can rob you of valuable time spent with those with whom community could be built, it’s also a good opportunity (if approached cautiously) to help connect.  I think we have all been doing this techno-thing long enough that we know how this works…or doesn’t.

Having said that, along with our regular Facebook page where we connect, we’ve launched a Facebook Prayer page.  If you have some special needs that you’d like somebody to pray for, head over to Facebook.com/GatheringPrayer and post. If someone hits the like button, you know it’s been prayed for.  Also, share updates and comment on other requests (just know that it’s monitored and abuse of any kind will be deleted and blocked).  Hopefully, this will fall into the latter column of “helpful” in building an online community that can translate into real, live and meaningful relationship.  Oh, and please take a minute to go ahead and “like” that page so you can stay updated.

A Cry for Deliverance

               

     ”Enable me to recognize my death unto sin; When it tempts me, may I be deaf unto its voice. Deliver me from the invasion as well as the dominion of sin.”  

       ~ excerpt from The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

A Healthy Prayer on Blessings

“If it be consistent with thy eternal counsels, the purpose of thy grace, and the great ends of they glory, then bestow upon me the blessings of thy comforts; If not, let me resign myself to thy wiser determinations.”

~ from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Something’s Stirring at The Gathering

I’m not exactly sure what it is yet, but I get a strong sense that God is beginning to move within The Gathering, which could result in a revival, an awakening, and a growth spirt like we’ve never experienced before.  Why do I say that?  The telltale signs are all there:

1. Increased spiritual activity and attack. Personally, I have experienced a truly incredible level of spiritual attack recently which seems toworship be intensifying regularly.  The first part of John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”  That is his sole objective: abject destruction and death and he will stop at nothing to see his plan through.  That means that any time the Lord God begins to move, Satan also moves with increasing intensity.  I know I’m not alone in my feelings of spiritual attack.  Though it is never desired or enjoyed, it should be embraced with joy, knowing that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.  Satan’s attacks will always fall empty when the Spirit of the living God is on the move!

2.  Sin is taken seriously among a people. As we have been talking weekly about the message of 1 John, the fact that it really does matter how you live your life continues to surface.  God will not move among an unholy people (not talking of a perfect people, but a people who do not desire and strive for personal holiness).  A lifestyle that does not take sin seriously is a mockery of the sacrifice of Christ.  When a people of God understand this and begin to address sin within that body, God blesses them with His presence and the work of His Spirit.  We are beginning to do that in love and compassion, calling on each other to holy living for the glory of God and the good of the individual. Again, Satan wants to destroy and we cannot sit back and let him pick us off one by one.  We must love enough to confront and rescue one another from the destruction of sin.

3.  God raises people up in brokeness and a hunger to see Him move. I have had several people come to me in the last week alone all saying the same thing: “God is getting ready to move among us and we’re not spiritually ready…we need to pray!”  I couldn’t agree more and am worshipcolorthankful for God calling these individuals out and pray He will call us all to a place of brokeness and hunger.

I am calling on the people of The Gathering to that place of prayer.  I am calling us to cry out to God in desperation knowing that if He doesn’t move, we’re done for.  We will never grow, never minister at the level we’re called to and never experience all that He has for us.  I am calling on us to take a hard look in the mirror of our soul and honestly evaluate the condition of our hearts, praying the prayer of Psalm 139.  Make sure that you are not the stumbling block that causes Satan to have a victory he does not deserve.

I want to encourage you to come on Sunday ready to cry out to God together; As God leads, get together in small groups and pray.  Whatever God calls you to do, do it with courage and anticipation!  I cannot wait to see what God does within the people of The Gathering.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

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