The Hidden Prayer Room

I had a conversation regarding Ember with a good friend several days ago  — where we are now and where we are heading. I communicated my hope for the seats around the table to continue to diversify, as we converse around how we pray as the church in our region.

While I know that the Lord desires his church to pray together in unity, whatever that looks like, I also know that we are at the front edge of that reality in our region. But the truth is, whether or not anyone else shows up to the table, the Lord has specifically planted us [Ember and a number of other people/organizations peppered throughout our region] in this place. He has specifically asked us to workout, in practice, the word — my house will be called a house of prayer (Matthew 21).

So here we are. Working out this questions: How will we pray? What will it look like? What does it look like to pray across multiple biblical perspectives? How do we do this together?

As my friend and I continued, our conversation went deeper in many places, but the thing I took away was that I’m glad to be building a culture of prayer for a region. In my heart of hearts, whether or not our staff ever grows beyond its current size or adds any more hours of prayer throughout the week. I can say that we are working out the prophetic word of the Lord that his house will pray. And I am confident that the prayers offered from this little ember will impact the people of Oklahoma and beyond, whether realized or not. We can celebrate in the wins and partner with the hardships, because we are experiencing them in an incredibly practical, day-in-day-out kind of a way. The prayers lifted and the aroma of worship wafted from this place is partnering with what God is doing, in people we know and in people we may never personally know.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly
— Matthew 6

A wild, yet true reality.

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Assurance of Our Coming Redemption (Revelation 1:7)

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
— Revelation 1:7

What does it mean to behold something that is not right in front of me? With eyes of faith we must peer through the darkness of the night towards the morning light. Through loving meditation of the holy scriptures, in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, we can perceive Jesus who is our hope.

Jesus will return just as He said He would. It is not a metaphor or a fairy tale. Just as He ascended to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, so He will descend to the earth as the king of kings in a physical body. He is coming to make all the wrong things right. His appearing will be undeniable and will be clearly seen by all; both the living and the dead will witness His procession across the earth into Jerusalem.  This is the “great and terrible” day of the Lord; great for the saints, but terrifying for those who oppose Him. He comes to judge the living and the dead. He will reward those who put their faith in Him, but will cast those who oppose Him into the lake of fire. The Antichrist will lead the kings of the nations to overthrow God, but they will realize that they chose wrong.

So there will be mourning because of the severe judgements of God on the earth, but there will also be a mourning of the lovesick bride for Jesus. John is quoting Zechariah 12:10-14. He is assuring The Lord’s promise to Israel that they will recognize Jesus as the messiah and will cry out to Him. They will love Him and yearn for Him. And this promise is for all the tribes of earth. Though many will oppose God, there will also be many people among the nations that will be faithful to Jesus. He will be recognized as the desire of the Nations.

I live with a family of five; a mom and a dad with three boys, ages 4-12. This summer the couple went on a mission trip for two weeks and this was longest they had been away from their boys. When they returned home, the 4 year old was overwhelmed with emotion. He was excited, full of Joy, and crying with the ache of their absence; all these experiences at once. This is how I imagine my response will be when Jesus returns. Like finally seeing the finish line of a long and arduous marathon. He is our relief, the answer to all our questions. He is the only solution, the only satisfaction. We have a blessed assurance that our redemption draws near. Though there is injustice across the earth, our deliverance is coming soon.

Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

Three Reasons Why We Pray

It is not enough to work the disciplines of prayer with no vision of why you would pray. The journey of prayer is the highest call of delight and joy, yet it is through arduous paths of the valley. In the stillness of the secret place our barrenness is exposed with hours of straining to behold divine beauty; seasons of feeling nothing, times of facing our weakness. The silence is loud; as a cry is stirring and hunger is awakening. This is necessary to awaken our hearts and draw us out of the muck of the world. The Lord is taking us deeper into His heart as we reach and as we grow. In these seasons, we need vision. When we don’t find immediate satisfaction we need God to answer the questions, “why continue on?” “Is it worth it?” We need to pray Paul’s famous prayer in his letter to the Ephesians, “Lord give to me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You.” Any endeavor without vision will fail, as the proverb says, “a lack of vision cause the people to perish.” Indeed I would have lost heart and perished if I had not asked and wrestled through these questions. I continue to wrestle through these questions; strengthening my resolve to be steadfast in His grace. Our vision is not ethereal, but tangible. It is a person that is our hope, Jesus is our vision. There are three facets of His heart that are continually sustaining my heart in prayer. 

 Jesus is worthy because of who He is and what He does. Consider Him who sits on the throne. Around His throne are unending praises. Day and night it is proclaimed “Holy Holy Holy” He is totally other than! He is beauty! He is the source of all life; the creator of all things. Consider His cross. He is the Lamb slain before 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. In this dark night of faith, when I can’t see Him or feel Him; yet I strain to turn away from distraction to look at Him, He receives this as real love. 

God responds to prayer. The Lord moves at the sound of our voices; they are heard in the courtroom of heaven and have impact on the world around us. Prayer also transforms our own hearts. Let time and diligence in prayer testify to this. As we behold beauty, we are transformed.  

There is so much more to be said and yet even more that I have yet to grasp. I encourage you to respond to the Lord in His desire for you. He is saying “let me see your face, for it is lovely to me. Let me hear your voice, for it is sweet to me.” With every breath you take, you continually have His attention, His affection. He is patiently waiting, He is yearning for you to give Him your attention and affection. Even in your weakness, He desires you. And this is the only way you will find wholeness, so don’t wait until you “have it together.”  Every glance towards Him is written in the books of heaven, and will be our glory in the age to come. 

Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Room Director of Ember

Excerpt From "On Trusting God" – Psalm 91

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust” (Psalm 91).

This is reality. There is no other being in the whole of the cosmos that will not be shaken.

Take a moment and articulate in your own words to God that he is your refuge. Ask him to come and to remove any false refuge you have constructed apart from him. If you can trust him in this, communicate it out loud. Tell him that you trust him to come and remove what is false so that he alone will be left. If you have not yet arrived at this place, tell him so. He’s not intimidated by our weakness. But do communicate your desire to trust him. Invite him to show you the path to trusting fully in him as your refuge.

As he begins to give you practical ideas on how to trust in him in a given area, write it down. Thank God for showing you the path. Tell a friend how you plan to trust the Lord practically.

note: I’m currently in the process of writing and compiling some devotional resources. I thought it would be fun to include snapshots of my process, so you’ll be seeing little bits here and there. Enjoy!

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Crafting Atmospheres (Part One)

atmosphere

1. the gaseous envelope of a celestial body (such as a planet)

2. the whole mass of air surrounding the earth

3. the air of a locality the stuffy atmosphere of the waiting room

4. a surrounding influence or environment an atmosphere of hostility

5. a unit of pressure equal to the pressure of the air at sea level or approximately 14.7 pounds per square inch (101,325 pascals )

6. the overall aesthetic effect of a work of art

7. an intriguing or singular tone, effect, or appeal an inn with atmosphere
— Merriam Webster

I love the concept of atmosphere. Even more than that, I love to experience it.

Why?

Well… I think it goes back to my previous entry of how I was made…

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
— Genesis 1:1
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
— Genesis 1:27

God loves to craft a good atmosphere, so, I guess I must too.

It is so intimately connected to who we are, being made in His image, that it’s presented right at the beginning of everything and what is amazing is He didn’t just go and do all the work Himself. He laid the foundations and then told us to go and finish it.

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
— Genesis 1:28

Of course we fell from that grace… so He had to come and save our butts and finish it Himself… but in doing so, He also redeemed our original purpose and invited us to partner with Him to bring it to fulfillment… to those who believe and receive… to those who love Him…

So really… it’s all an allusion that we create or we build or we finish something... In reality, it’s more that we are learning what God has already finished because of who He is and we are following what we see. It’s a prophetic act. It’s available to all.

It’s kinda like a dad having a son sit on his lap while he mows the lawn on his riding lawn mower. From the kids perspective, he thinks, “Dad! Look what I did!” From the dad’s perspective, he just enjoyed being with his son.

Oh, there is the possibility for us to do things on our own. Pride and selfishness will carry us as far as our heart desires. Problem is, those things we go out and do on our own…

are always empty… lifeless…

There’s no atmosphere there… no wind…

God does not breathe on what’s not His. A mighty man of God who I worked with, Gregg Johnson, put it this way, “What’s God’s grows, what’s man’s just goes…”

So there is a choice. We can go out, craft and build on our own, something from our own imagination that we think will matter in this life, but really has no life or atmosphere, or we can look to our Father in heaven, seeing the multitude of blueprints that radiate from His glory and say like a child, “Oh! Oh Daddy! I want that Lego set! I want to build that! Please can I build that?!”

True creativity is found in His glory. True fulfillment is found in partnering with what is already fulfilled. Seeking to find fulfillment outside of who He is... can never be found, because He simply... Is...

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
— Hebrews 11:6

As for me, I was born fallen and fluttered in the wind for a few years, not fully understanding this wisdom. But now, by the grace of God, I’m still young and my greatest desire is to behold the glorious face of Jesus and say, “Oh Jesus, would you grant me that blueprint?! Your Lego sets are so much better than mine! I see Your testimony here! I see the possibilities! I see Your glory filling the earth! Can I please build that Lego set with you Daddy?!”

So… I choose daily, like Jesus, to partner with what I hear and see the Father doing.

He’s a good Father.

He will give what we ask…

… once we finally behold.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.
— John 5:19-20

to be continued...

Stephen Ibach — stephenibach.blog
Media Director of Ember

Wisdom and Folly Defined

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
— Matthew 25:1-13

In Matthew 25 Jesus is continuing His response to the initial question in the beginning of chapter 24. “Tell us when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus responds and expounds on the events leading up to His return and the signs of the times for that generation. He sets the tone for the intensity of the tribulation, that it will be greater than any other time frame in all of human history. The physical earth will be shaken as well as every sphere of society. Sin will reach to its full maturity and there will be a great falling away in the church due to mass deception. He explains how we are to respond with watchfulness and to be ready; fully engaged with what He is doing. As I write this, I am struck by the words of Jesus. I have spoken with many leaders who express the reason that they don’t talk about the end times and the negative trends revealed through the scripture is because it is irrelevant and not helpful to building community or advancing the gospel. Well, it seems that Jesus considered this information to be relavent and a necessary message in making disciples. And indeed the gospel would be incomplete without the final chapter of redemptive history. In His wisdom, as a friend, He is giving to us His plans and His heart that we may know how to respond to the unique dynamics of that day. 

One of the parables He uses to communicate what He is looking for in His Church, leading up to His return, is the one of ten virgins. Here the Lord communicates what He considers wise and foolish. All ten were “virgins” and were waiting for the bridegroom; so we can infer that all ten are “believers.” They know the bridegroom message and have said yes to Jesus. They all had lamps. Lamps carry the light for others to see, these are ministries that the virgins were given to steward. And not just official “ministries” but their lives as christians lived out in the world. Oil, from a Jewish and historical perspective, can represent the Holy Spirit and life with the Spirit. In this parable it speaks of intimacy with God through connectedness with His Spirit. All ten virgins were asleep while waiting for the Bridegroom. They were all walking through the mundane and routines that are unavoidable in this life. The difference comes with what they did in the waiting. Five of them took the time that it takes to get oil; while the other five spent their time shining their lamps or just did other things. Jesus said those who were wise took time and energy to cultivate intimacy on the inside, in the secret place. He said that the foolish did not focus on the inside, but were preoccupied with the external life. The wise were living before the eyes of God, while the foolish lived before the eyes of man. 

Midnight is the darkest time of the night. It is in the darkest hour of human history that the voice will be heard declaring that the bridegroom is coming. I long to be that voice! To be like John the Baptist who had lived his life in the wilderness, preparing his generation for Jesus’ first coming. He recognized Jesus and proclaimed, “behold, the Lamb of God!” I want to be that voice for His second coming. I believe that many across the earth will embody this voice for their generation. 

The wise had oil in their lamps and were ready to participate in the final consumation of the marriage supper of the lamb; The covenant of Jesus and His Bride. The foolish did not have enough oil and were not ready to participate in the most significant time frame of human history. The wise could not give their oil. Intimacy can not be imparted; it can only be cultivated in the relationship of the individual and Jesus. So the foolish were shut out. This reminds me of when Jesus spoke of many coming to Him saying all the wonderful things they did in His name, yet He will say “I never knew you.” Some commentators say that the foolish virgins were ones who fell away and cast into Hell; while others say that they enter into the kingdom, but do not participate in the move of God or the celebration. Honestly I am not sure which side I land on in these two stances, but neither one of those is where I want to be. 

Many, including my self, apply this not only to the end times, but also to the small moves of God leading up to that time frame. Looking back through history, we can see the Lord coming in manifest ways like tides of the ocean rolling in upon the shores. It is possible to miss what the the Lord is doing because you are not connected to Him in the day to day. He so yearns for partnership with us and He desires to do amazing things through our lives. I want to know what He is saying in every season and want to do what I see Him doing. When I see Him face to face, I want a familiarity from knowing Him in this life. Though He is beyond comprehension, there is much of Him that I can know today through an ongoing conversation that He has already initiated.

Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Room Director of Ember

Discipleship — Love your Life

It was about a year ago that I jumped on a plane to Portland, Oregon with my family and some friends to go spend some time with Paul Watson, author of Contagious Disciple Making and founder of the organization by the same name, Contagious Disciple Making, (CDM).

A Little Backstory

For Becky and me, the years leading up to Portland were filled with tension and wrestling through a simple, yet challenging question: what does it look like to be a disciple of Jesus in our context? What does it look like to share the good news of Jesus with people around us? We have been on many sides of this conversation, talking through scripture, strategy, purpose, heart posture. Between the two of us, over the years, we have prayed for healing for people in public, shared Jesus door to door, been on mission trips, shared prophetic impressions with strangers, been apart of groups who do the same. By the fall of 2015 we were in need of perspective. We read Paul’s book, Contagious Disciple Making, and knew we had to meet this guy — a phone call and a few plane tickets later…

I only do what I see the father doing

I won’t go into a detailed summary of the book. Pick it up on Amazon, it’s totally worth the investment. I will say, the thing that is so helpful for me about Paul’s perspective on discipleship is that it applies to anyone in any context. His thoughts don’t hinge upon a large budget, a mega church, a salaried pastor and worship leader, or the need to uproot and move to the middle east. What Paul proposes is that anyone can share the good news of Jesus simply by being present in their everyday experience and listening for what God is saying in the midst of normal life. It reminds me of Jesus’ words in the gospel of John.

Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
— John 5:19

Portland Take-Aways

What we really wanted was for Paul to give us a step-by-step plan for the next 5 years of how to be effective disciple makers in our context, which he did not give us, no matter how many times we begged him to do so.

Though during our time in Portland, Becky had a significant moment with God where he invited her into several action steps for a missional lifestyle, which we have since adopted for our family.

  1. Be near to me
  2. Love my words
  3. Love your life

Back to the basics

Be near to me
This is an easy one. Be near to me. As Brother Lawrence simply states in The Practice of the Presence of God,

There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God.
— The Practice of the Presence of God

The Lord has called us first and foremost to love him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. His desire is relationship, his desire is our nearness. Our primary role in communicating the gospel of Jesus is in fact drawing near to our precious savior, allowing our hearts and lives to be impacted by him, as we listen and respond to his words.

Love my words

Jesus communicates, in John 15, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The love language of God is obedience, it’s loving his words so much that we actually change our behavior, perspective, reality, in order to come into alignment with his words, his truth. There is no life of discipleship apart from obedience. It is wisdom to love his words and put them into practice. Only in adoring his words, will we obtain a lifestyle that will proliferate disciples of Jesus. Without his words, we are simply making disciples in our own image — yikes!  But imagine if we give ourselves fully to adoring the words of God and obedience to those words. There are no marching orders apart from this relational process.

Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name
— Psalm 86

Love your life

God called Becky and me to love our lives. What an odd thing to work out, right?  Ummm… I think I love my life? What does it mean to love my life? What does it look like for Becky to love her life? I interpret this word in the following way. In order to love my life, I must make space to do things in my life that I love to do. Yes? I do love my famiy, I do love my work, I love my friends, but what do I — or in the case of my family, we — love to do? What places do I find myself going? Do I find myself in a specific area of my city? Do I find myself in another city? Do I find myself participating in a particular hobby? Do I find myself at a particular coffee shop, restaurant, bar? And when I find myself these places, doing these things that I love doing… who do I find there? Who has the Lord already placed in the middle of the life that I love? You know what? As I’ve asked these questions… I’ve found myself around people who it makes sense for me to share my life with. I’ve found myself in dialogue with people about things that genuinely interest me, things that I love. And this is what else I’ve found. When I’m in places that I love, doing things that I love, enteracting with people who also love these places and these things, meaningful and spiritual conversation come naturally over time.

Final thoughts

In processing these thoughts, I by no means believe there is some magical method to share the grace and love of Jesus with another human being. The Lord has created us each uniquely, with unique loves and perspectives Rather, using these three lines as a filter for how I posture myself in discipleship has been a freeing and liberating process. It has helped me in sharing my journey as a follower of Jesus in a way that feels genuine rather than textbook, authentic rather than forced. I think it’s easy to search for a method, while missing the relational intention that Jesus has afforded us in this life with each person we intercept — be it brief or long lasting.

So here we go, intro to discipleship in three simple —not easy— steps…

Be near to me, love my words, and love your life.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember