Simple Adoration and the Great Commission

The story of Mary anointing Jesus at Bethany is well known. She poured out a costly perfume, anointing Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume filled the room with its pleasing aroma. She was judged and criticized for being wasteful, but Jesus speaks in her defense. And this is why this story is so well known. Jesus honors Mary and her sacrificial devotion; He says that this will be told with the gospel as it spreads across the earth throughout history. What Mary did is worth our consideration; for this was pleasing to Jesus and is linked with the Gospel being preached throughout the nations.

 Mary is not remembered and honored for doing great exploits; we have no record of her leading someone to the Lord or working any kind of miracle. I am sure she did, but this is not what the Lord wanted to communicate through her story. It was her love, her sacrificial devotion that Jesus praised and has been recorded. What sort of response does Jesus desire of us? This was my question for several years after the Lord called me into the kingdom. The Father gave up His only son, Jesus gave all of Himself, and the Holy came to dwell within the human frame. The triune God Who is transcendent and beautiful in holiness, gave all of Himself for me. Like Mary, I yearned to give Him what He desired, to give Him everything. She knew that He was about to die, that He was about to be broken. She came to Him with all that she had, her future inheritance, and broke it open as a fragrant offering of adoration. She came to Him in Her brokenness because He made Himself accessible to the broken through His humility of becoming a man and dying on the cross. This is what Jesus desires of us; this is what pleases Him. Anybody can come with their brokenness and give all; rich or poor, young or old, educated or uneducated. We can all move His heart. It is adoring Jesus in the quiet and adoring Him in our obedience that releases a pleasing fragrance; It is the fragrance of Christ released through weak and broken people. The nature of Jesus is diffused through the aroma of meekness. 

I believe the Lord is calling a busy church back to the stillness of sitting at His feet. He is calling us into our destiny; for all of eternity adoring Jesus will be our indescribable joy. He is breaking our pride with His humility. It is through gazing upon beauty that we experience deep transformation. It is simple, but takes time and focus. A lifestyle of worship will cost you everything, but you will lack nothing; for God Himself is your inheritance. As we see an acceleration of the Gospel reaching the nations with impact, we are also seeing an unprecedented rise of houses of prayer and worship across the nations. Simple adoration of Jesus shifts the atmosphere and prepares the way for the word of God to pierce hearts. The fragrance of a worship expels the stench of the enemy. There is a spiritual battle over the sons of men.The enemy blinds the hearts and minds of men like a fog of confusion; we need the Holy Spirit to move like the wind, so the people could receive the Word of God. Persuasive words and good strategy alone can not breakthrough the fog. Through adoring Jesus we prepare the way for God to move and shift the atmosphere. If we yield to the spirit, we will witness an unprecedented movement of effective laborers thrusted into the harvest. 

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Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

Prayer is Friendship with God

What comes to mind when you think of prayer?...... Do you see scheduled times of the day, lists, or perhaps you see an activity like falling on your knees? Do you see the person of Jesus, eager to talk with you?

Be honest with yourself as you consider these questions. Most of us know the "right answers," yet many of us walk away from this subject either discouraged because we think that we could be doing, or maybe feeling really good because we are doing all our scheduled times and engaged most of the time.

I think that we have over complicated the subject of prayer. Henri Nouwen, a respected author in the contemplative life, reflected on Paul's exhortation to pray without ceasing. He points out that the initial language of this verse gives this impression of "resting in His Presence." This idea totally impacted my approach to a life of prayer. We often think that the goal is to be consciously focused on God non stop. This sounds great, but is realistically impossible. Rather this language is simply an awareness of Immanuel "God with us."

This makes me think of my closest friendships. For me there is a comfort in having someone around, especially someone I enjoy. We have many moments of very focused intentional time, but if that was all we did, I would be exhausted. There is a lot of time that I spend with people close to me while doing different activities. I will be working on one thing while they are doing something else. We don't have to strive for a connection in our friendship, we simply find enjoyment in being together.

Prayer is a relationship with a real person who wants friendship. Jesus wants to talk with us, He wants to laugh at youtube videos with us, to cry with us watching the lion king, and to do the most mundane tasks with us. The vision of prayer is simply a continual awareness of Immanuel (God with us).

Schedules and lists are very helpful. There truly is a necessity of rhythms of focused time with God; just as it is necessary to regularly have intentional conversations with friends, in order to stay engaged in each other's lives.

I want to encourage you not to grade your prayer life. The Lord does not have a checklist with you. He already enjoys you and calls you friend. Know that, like a friend, He really does enjoy hearing from you and about you. He is always present and experiencing life with us; desiring us to be present and experiencing Him.

Try inviting the Holy Spirit to show you what friendship looks like.

I would love to hear any thoughts you have on what it looks like to walk in friendship with God. zack@emberhq.com

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Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

My 3 Rhythms for Personal Retreat | Phil Rice

My [Phil Rice] Rhythms of Retreat

I had a conversation with a friend recently that led me to write out my own personal rhythms of retreat. This being the beginning of a new year, I thought this would afford us the opportunity for meaningful conversation.

I categorize my rhythms of retreat into 3 parts — daily, weekly, yearly. These rhythms have been crafted over a number of years and are always changing to meet the needs of a given season of time. I’ve also included some assessment tools that I gleaned from Tim Ferriss [found in The 4 Hour Workweek] that I have found exceedingly helpful.

Why are Rhythms of Retreat important to Practical Spirituality?

This is probably no shocker to anyone who has journeyed with me for any length of time. But I believe that our personal rhythms of rest and recovery [retreat] directly impact practical spirituality and the overarching momentum we bring to our life — mentally, physically, and of course… spiritually.

So here we go!

 

Rhythms of Retreat — Individual Assessment

Daily Rhythms – What daily rhythm(s) will brings me joy [renewal] in this season?

  • Must bring energy/inspiration/encouragement/clarity
  • Must be easily added to schedule
  • Examples: early morning with coffee, morning run, reading poetry, meditation, morning/evening walk
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — morning rhythm of hot lemon water, Wendell Berry poetry, and some silent space to commune with God

Weekly Rhythms – What weekly rhythm will bring me joy [renewal] in this season?

  • Must bring energy/inspiration/encouragement/clarity
  • Must be consistent
  • Examples: extra early time [or extra late time] for self care – extended reading, doing a project, working in the garage, extended drive, extended time of meditation, extended time alone with God – if you’re an extrovert, just add a few people to these experiences 
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — Monday evening yoga class with friends

Quarterly [Yearly] Rhythms – How should I retreat in this season?

  • Create quarterly [yearly] rhythms of retreat.
  • These can be just a single day at the coffee shop or a 3-4 day trip to more beautiful scenery [or even at a local airbnb].
  • Fill this space with that which things that bring you joy[renewal], along with time to plan for the coming quarter.
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — a couple day retreat filled with reading [like, major kindle binge reading… stack em up!], access to a hot tub [if at all possible], yoga, extended quiet space for God to bring impression to my heart for the coming season
  • Note: Becky and I both try to get 1-2 of these in a year [alone… meaning… without spouse or kids]. Even if you can only swing 1x per year for each of you… totally worth it. Becky always comes back from these feeling refreshed and envisioned for not only herself, but also for our family. This rhythm for families is a total game changer. Dudes [men], it’s totally worth it. Give your wife a weekend to herself [at least] and watch it impact your family culture. You’re welcome.

 

Inventory for Quarterly [Yearly] Retreat

Observation

  1. Joy/Delight | What 20% of my responsibilities cause 80% of my overall level of joy/delight?
  2. Anxiety/Stress | What 20% of my responsibilities cause 80% of my overall level of anxiety/stress?

Practical Steps

  1. What practical ways over the next quarter [year] can I can increase my amount of joy/delight based on my answer to question 1? (activities, rhythms)
  1. What practical ways over the next quarter [year] can I mitigate the amount of stress based on my answer to question 2?
  1. Write a list over the course of your retreat of the craziest ideas [personal goals, life-giving thoughts, refreshing activities, wildest dreams] that come to mind. Toward the end of your retreat, or when you are back to normal life, take some time to determine which ideas [or some version of an idea] are plausible and exciting to think about executing in this coming season or over the coming year. Take these ideas add them to your calendar with actionable steps.

 

Thoughts?

Any of this resonate? I’d love to continue the conversation and hear your thoughts.

Thanks for journeying alongside,
Phil Rice

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Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

3 Reasons why we Pray

What is the purpose of prayer? If God already knows and is sovereign in His leadership; what is the point?

Most people have a desire to grow in prayer and to be a part of a community that prays. I have interacted with many christians who express this desire; but struggle to cultivate a lifestyle that goes beyond a simple discipline built into a schedule. I can relate to this sentiment and I do not claim to have mastered a lifestyle of undistracted fellowship. I believe this is possible though, to come to the place in relationship with God that is a continual communion. So I can but only share with you where I am in this journey; reflections on the Holy Scriptures and inspirations from the lives of saints throughout history. 

There are many amazing resources and systems available that can be used to help develop a deeper life in prayer. Yet I believe that the most important thing is not necessarily "how" we pray, but "why" we pray. Without vision we will just check off lists that will either bolster our pride or fill us with shame; rather than having a flowing heart in prayer. 

There are 3 reasons why we pray:

Jesus is worthy because of who He is and what He does. Take a moment and just think about who God is and how he reveals himself in scripture. Around His throne are unending praises. Day and night it is proclaimed “Holy Holy Holy" He is unlike anyone or anything. He is perfect! He is beauty! He is the source of all life; the creator of all things. Consider His cross. He is the Lamb slain befor the foundations of the earth were laid. He is the living sacrifice. He has given all of Himself unto death so that those who were once enemies of God become His children, His bride. He has saved us from Hell and given us eternal life.

He enjoys me in my weakness. Because He is love. Because of His righteous blood that was shed. He can see and relate to us in our weakness. My weak voice, in my brokenness, moves His heart. Every glance of my eye towards Him causes Him to be undone. Though I am distracted much of the time; He sees my reach for Him, and receives it as love that is real. Our coming to God in prayer alwaysbrings a smile to His face. 

God responds to prayer. The Lord moves at the sound of our voices. As we pray, our voices are actually heard in the courtroom of heaven and have impact on the world around us.  As we take time in prayer, through consistency and diligence, our own hearts are transformed over time. Let time and diligence in prayer testify to this. As we behold beauty, we are transformed.

These on not the only reasons why; but in my opinion, they are the primary reasons. My personal journey with the Lord was initiated with a vision for a life in prayer and has continued to sustain me. Even when I struggle to connect with God for various reasons, going back to the "why" always motivates my heart. 

Do these reasons resonate with your heart? What are some reasons why you pray? I would love to hear your thoughts

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Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

Find Your Voice

Ember is a prayer and creative company. As a staff and leadership, we are personally committed to experiencing Jesus in prayer and expressing His heart and mind to the world around us. We foster an environment and provide resources that gives space for people to experience God. We come alongside anyone searching to help them workout the message burning in their hearts; and how God has created them to communicate His message. 

The Lord has placed a message in every person; it may change through the years, but we all carry within us a witness to the beauty of Jesus. I consider Jesus to be like a multifaceted diamond. Whatever angle you look at, you are seeing a different facet of who He is. We are all uniquely formed; experiencing and perceiving Jesus from different angles. As we seek out the Lord in His Word, with the Holy Spirit, through prayer and worship; experiential revelation of Jesus fills our understanding. 

The Lord has created us in His image; and I believe every person was created to be creative. We were made to express His beauty; together as the family of God. Each of us has a unique way of communicating the exceeding greatness of the worthiness of Jesus. The ways to creatively express Jesus are endless, just as He Himself is limitless. For all of eternity the saints of God will declare His worth and never exhaust the knowledge of Him. Today the world is aching to know God, though many don't realize it. The world in darkness is painfully waiting for the light of the knowledge of Jesus to shine. Jesus is the solution to every problem afflicting humanity. We are the carriers of His light. We shine through expressing the beauty of Jesus. 

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Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

His Story is Our Story

Right here in Norman, Oklahoma, a small city tucked away in the midwest, we are joining with the worship movement that will usher in the return of Jesus.

While spending time in Isaiah 42, one morning before a prayer set, I was overcome by the revelation that “this is my story.” I love reading the Bible and seeing myself in it. Through the Word we are able to see our destiny as the people of God.

In verses 10-13 the church is singing praises to God from every place on the earth. Jesus said that the gospel will be preached with the power of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28) among every people group(Matthew 24:14). This will be the biggest harvest of souls in one generation; far surpassing any other time in history. It will be in the midst of unprecedented tribulation on the earth (Matthew 24:21.) The Church’s destiny is victory; for in the midst of the shaking, she will be unmoved in her devotion to Jesus. Rather than getting caught up in the confusion of the chaos in the world, believers will have their eyes fixed on the glorious beauty of Jesus. Revelation produces worship; the more we behold the beauty of God, the more praises erupt from our hearts. From the smallest places to the biggest, every voice will join the chorus. In this passage we can see Jesus responding to the worship movement on the earth; He comes in response to the song of love from His Bride. When He comes, He brings forth deliverance and righteousness. 

As I went into the prayer set that morning, I was undone by this story. This is what we are doing at Ember. This is what Jesus is calling the Church into. Rather than responding to the troubling events of our day with fear and lashing out with retaliation; we are looking to the one who is mighty to save. Our worship pulls on the strings of His heart. Praise is our warfare. It looks foolish to the world because they have yet to see who we are singing to.

This is also a principle for our daily lives as we face trials of many kinds. If we posture our hearts to meditate upon and behold the beauty of Jesus, He will anchor our souls in peace. God will bring the breakthrough, no matter the situation, through our declaring His goodness.

He is faithful! He is good! He is able! God is mighty to save!

Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice,
The villages that Kedar inhabits.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing,
Let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory to the Lord,
And declare His praise in the coastlands.
13 The Lord shall go forth like a mighty man;
He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war.
He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud;
He shall prevail against His enemies.

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Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

DWG (dreams with God): brokenness

My dream:

I was sitting on concrete curb and felt someone sit by me. It was Him. His presence is soothing… I always feel at ease around Him.

“Cheryl, let me show you something about brokenness.”

He and I turned to see a painter with a blank canvas. We watched as a flowers and luscious greenery emerged from the once white empty space. It was mesmerizing, quick, effortless. The painter completed his work and it was breathtaking. A wave of contentment washed over me. Before I could say something to Him, gloppy black paint splattered onto the new painting from out of nowhere. My mouth hung open as I realized the result of the black paint- the picture was ruined. He and I sat in silence as I tried to find words to express my disappointment. My mind raced to understand why He had shown me this.

“This is what happens when shattered people continue to walk in broken patterns without healing little one: even the beautiful things I want to give them will be tainted. This isn’t fullness. There is more.”

My interpretation:

Choosing to walk in brokenness and refuse God’s invitation to healing is choosing less. It is walking around the mountain instead of climbing it to find fullness on the other side. Oftentimes I try to get around the deeper things happening in my heart in order to avoid the pain there… but pain demands to be felt and brokenness will manifest in ugly ways when it’s not taken to the Lord. Bitterness, anger, not forgiving others, are all reactions to wounds we’ve received from others. These things taint life and hurt our relationship with God and others. Even mistrust and cynicism stem from hopes that have been deferred over and over again. This is the black paint of our lives: when we don’t go to Jesus with our pain.

These are the things that can detract from being thankful, having hope, and experiencing joy in the Lord. We miss the beauty of God’s goodness all around us when we are suffocated by unaddressed issues in our heart.

This dream was an invitation to bring a broken heart to the Lord and allow Him to speak to places of hurt. It’s an invitation to let Him and other believers into places of shame, resentment, guilt, condemnation, and more and allow oneself to be seen in need of help. The right people won’t condemn you; they will speak the Truth over you and pray for your heart to be restored.

At the end of the day, this can be a difficult, time consuming process. It’s no easy thing to bare your heart before God and His people, but I’m devoted to doing just that.

Why?

Because:

I don’t want to go through life and not experience the fullness Jesus died for

I don’t want to miss the beauty of who He is

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Cheryl Cochran — cherylcochranblog.wordpress.com
Prayer Room Manager of Ember