Monday, April 30, 2007

Prayer Request & thoughts about "no pain, no gain."

We’ve had a very difficult time figuring out what church to attend, here in Costa Rica. The biggest problem is that the kids don’t like any church. There are two churches currently in contention. One is a mega church that’s right behind our house. The people are very nice and the worship is awesome. But the church has strict guidelines on who can do ministry, as such we wouldn’t likely get opportunities to practice ministering amongst Latinos. The second church is smaller and more humble—in a neighborhood called “the forgotten.” Unfortunately, it’s not close. It costs us about $20 in cab fare to get there and home again. This was the church we attended yesterday. While we were there, I asked the Lord for a word about which church to attend. I felt the Spirit challenge me to fast and pray for three days, in order to hear the Lord’s voice on this subject. I told the Lord that I really didn’t want to fast for three days. He challenged me with Paul’s admonition in 2 Tim 2:3-4, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.” I felt the Spirit challenge me to train like a soldier and to grow up. I definitely desire to please myself more than my commanding officer (Jesus).The problem is that I am pain averse. I eschew vigorous exercise or activities that require painful effort. I’m basically a pleasure seeker. I know that a meaningful life involves overcoming challenges and some hard work and I willingly accept this—up to a point. The problem is when the Lord wants me to take on a greater degree of challenge than I’m used to. I sometimes operate out of a mindset that I can punch a time card with the Lord; e.g., that after Sunday morning church obligations, I can spend the rest of the day watching T.V. I already fast on a regular basis and like to think that I shouldn’t have to do any more than what I’m already doing. This is a great discipline, but it precludes further growth. I want to grow in a theoretical sense. It’s a different story when that growth requires sacrifice. There is a scriptural principal that is important for maturity and joy in the Christian life, it is that we have the right to give up rights for the sake of the kingdom—including the right to eat whatever or whenever we want. (Paul taught this principle in 1 Cor. 8:4-9:27, saying that we must willingly give up the right to do anything that would cause another to stumble. Paul then uses himself as an example, saying that the other apostles made their living from the Gospel, but that he exercised his right to give up this right, to avoid putting a stumbling block between himself and those he ministered to.) When Lena and I gave up the right to drink alcohol, it caused some social discomfort among our Roman Catholic families; but after a couple of months it wasn’t an issue any longer. Now, there are times when I miss the romantic ambiance of a glass of wine; but the real cost of giving up alcohol in my life has been nil. It’s not a painful sacrifice for the Lord. The truth is that when we give up something for the Lord, the reward is always greater than the cost. (In the Corinthians passage mentioned above, Paul says, “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” I Cor. 9:23) As such, when I fast, I keep reminding myself that it’s not forever and to be patient—good food and spiritual blessings are imminent.

I want to ask my friends who read this, to pray with us about what church to attend and about hearing God's voice as a general attribute of our spiritual lives. I don’t just want to hear once. I want to hear constantly, to discern what God is saying and what is from the flesh. I want to partner with the Holy Spirit in what He is doing. There is a tendency, especially for North Americans, to tell the Lord what we’re going to do for Him. Then we pray that He blesses our plans. I want to hear His voice and do what He says to do, with certainty, every day. I want to grow up in the Lord, hear His voice, and see the kingdom advance powerfully.

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