Friday, July 22, 2011

Spiritual Retreat Part IV - the end

Here it is, the end!

Now, what are the qualities of a Life of Piety. What does it look like, feel like to be plugged into an intimate relationship with our Father?
Our investment in the relationship is met with Blessings we never imagined pouring out into our lives. Christ says “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) That’s what’s “in it for me.”
That abundant life through Life of Piety increases my

Awareness – I become more aware of myself, of Who and Whose I am.
Ephesians 2:10 “We are his workmanship, created for good works in Christ.” My understanding of that word translated “workmanship” means as if a work of art. We are his works of art, His songs, His sculptures created specifically for good works.

I also become more aware of others, who and whose they are.
I begin to see the guy who cuts me off, the rude co-worker not as an idiot, or a fool, but rather, perhaps as a broken person, a wounded person in need of the Good News.

God may have a role for me to play in the sharing of that news with them.
Desire – King David wrote a song: As a deer pants for water, so my soul pants for you Oh God.” Psalm 42:1

The more I experience total relationship with God, the more I want it AND, I want other’s to have it as well.

“A life of piety is powered by the fire of God’s love in our hearts.” (say twice)
Not my will, not my good deeds, not even my own love.

Philipians 2:13 is one of my new favorite versus so full of intrigue:
“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purposes.”

“It is God who works in you to will” My desire to get to know God, my very interest in Him in the first place is a gift from Him.
God created us, God loves us, chooses us, woos us, makes us hungry, teaches us, puts us to work, rewards us, We go home to live with Him forever when we’re done. That’s a good deal!

Action – “It is God who works in you to will and to ACT, according to his good purposes. Through relationship with our Father, we are blessed with a desire to ACT. The bible often refers to this as “bearing fruit.” Again from John 15:5 “I am the vine and you are the branches. He that abides in me and I in Him, He will bear much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.”

So what Actions are these that God has planned. When I’m in relationship with Him, He uses our closeness to reveal them to me. When it’s not about me anymore, I can smile, encourage, serve, pray, speak, and more as I am empowered and prompted to action for God.

Though many of my actions may seem small, there is a spiritual economy and, directed by God, the seeds I plant through my actions are spiritually nurtured and grow to change/save lives.

Just as a seek to empower my daughter through the power of my relationship with her to make the right choices in friends. I also seek to teach her how to restrain herself when appropriate.

Inaction – restraint, can often be as important as Action.

Direction – In an age of GPS, we can go our whole lives without ever having to refold a map. In relationship with God, I never have to rely on my own understanding or sense of spiritual direction. As Psalm 119:105 says: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” When I’m in communion on a daily basis with the God of the Universe, true north is clear, remember the WWJD bracelet craze? When we know our Father, the answer is almost always clear. The direction for my life is from him, I might turn left or right off the path every now and again, but I always know the way back to the path.

Naturalness – Some of us learn it on the playground…some of us learned it in the home. Either way, as men, we learned there are right ways and wrong ways to look and act. “Just be yourself” is often said, but often ignored.
Praise God that one of the first things He does as we enter into ever deepening relationship with Him is teach us that we are each works of art. Each a priceless treasure that is created to bring glory to Him. Who I am, my nature doesn’t have to be hidden.

I’m sure the inevitable argument with my daughter about makeup will arrive one day. As I think about it, I know that, in part, I will be saddened that she feels the need to put on a mask, in her natural state, she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.

God is calling us to be the men He created, not the men society thinks we should be. What does He see when He looks at us: His works of art, His warriors, His sons.

Courage – If it were up to me, I could be afraid of a lot of things. I’m kind of afraid of what might happen if I lose my job. I’m afraid of getting sick. I’m afraid that my wife or children might get hurt, or not turn out right. I’m afraid of public speaking.

Truth be told, fear is one of my biggest vices. But I have a power looking out for me, not just above me, but in me.

1st John 4:4 reminds me: “Greater is He that is IN you than is in the world.”

And I know that, when in relationship with this power, fear does not belong.

2 Tim 1:7 says “He has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, and love, and discipline.”

My true courage comes from living as the man I was created to be, and trusting God to take care of me in the here and now, and in the here-after.
Joy – We live in a society which is desperately seeking “happiness.” We have pills that offer it, and we have an epidemic disease called “depression” which is the total absence of happiness. Almost like we are under attack.

The bible promises many things, the happiness the world is seeking is not one of them. The bible promises something better than fleeting moments of being happy, it promises JOY.

In John 15:11 Jesus tells us “I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have, and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy.”

“I have told you these things so that you can have the SAME JOY I HAVE.” Not just any joy, Christ’s joy that comes in being a child of the King.
Talk about a lopsided relationship, I give God my heart, and He gives me His Kingdom and everything that goes with it.

I know I’ve given you a lot to meditate on. I want to share with you one more example of Life of Piety alive and operating in the world.
As I was growing up, my mother took me to church, but my father was a hostile atheist. He actively worked to tear down my mother’s faith, and my own. When I left home we were estranged. 7 years ago we learned he had Lou Gerigs disease, a neuro-muscular disease which causes the muscles to waste away, paralyzing and ultimately killing it’s victims.

By that time, God had brought me to the place where my role was perfectly clear, restore my relationship with my earthly father, and be Christ for him. We had many talks, and I wish I could say that before his death I saw him accept Christ as his savior. I can say, that the last thing he ever asked me to do, 2 weeks before he died, was to put a link to an internet bible on his computer desktop.

God doesn’t just have a plan for our lives, God has a fulfilling lifelong, personal relationship with Him for us if we will accept it and invest in it.

Life of Piety, a whole life lived, a whole heart given to relationship with God in Christ. It’s already there, waiting for you to accept it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Spiritual Retreat Part III

Here is part III of the talk I gave at the retreat I attended recently. Just one more to go after this one.

Ok – great. How do we build this relationship.

For me, first, before anything else, I had to realize that God is already there. He’s my Father, standing in the road, waiting for me to come home to be in relation with him. It was a relief to know that all I had to do was accept…not EARN the relationship.

What I can to is devote the time to ENHANCE the relationship and abide in it with Prayer – Searching the Scriptures – Meditation – Worship – Holy Communion – Spiritual Direction

Prayer – I was used to praying in church on Sunday, maybe at big meals
Think about your own children for a sec. If your own child only talked to you one day a week, they wouldn’t get the benefit of your understanding, your acceptance, your wisdom…and you’d miss THEM!

I want to hear my child’s fears, joys, requests, etc.

1st Thess. 5:17 offers a solution “Pray without ceasing.”
I’ve learned to pray with my eyes open, while I’m talking with someone, driving (and my wife said I should pray more while I’m watching the news). Any time...I always have His ear.

Searching the Scriptures- I have several favorite authors (Max Lucado, Phillip Yancy, John Eldridge) and I would love to meet each one and be their friend. I feel like I know their character from their books.
Likewise the heart and mind of God is woven in the pages of the Bible. It contains God’s thoughts.

Albert Einstein once said “I want to know God’s thoughts, all else is detail.”

In His word I find His thoughts about Himself, and I find myself as He reveals my purpose, my value.

Meditation – This isn’t the legs crossed burning incense saying Ommmmmm kind of meditation. This can take several forms:

Sometimes I’ll find a scripture that I repeat over and over to myself throughout the day, or paste it to my mirror, on my phone so it can penetrate my mind.

Other times it might be spending quite time, with my head cleared of others concerns listening for the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that “still small voice of God”

I’ve heard more than one influential pastor say that their prayer life involves their prayer to God, and then their silence, listening. I’ve found more often than not, when I do listen, a scripture will come to mind which applies to predicament or concern at the time. Let me tell you, for a guy who’s scoffed at a lot of people for saying that God “talked” to them I’ve had to recognize that God does “communicate” with His children in many and various ways, if we are quite and discerning enough to listen.

Worship – Whether I’m prostrate on the ground praying, kneeling, singing songs, clapping, raising my arms, attending church, tithing, I’m engaged in worship.

There are countless ways to express our Thanksgiving and love for God. In part, through worship I am reminded of my place in the spiritual hierarchy, GOD is on the throne…worshiping Him means I acknowledge Him there.

Also in part, worship to me is like the game you may have played with your child. You say I love you, and they say I love you more, and you say no I love YOU more. When we worship God, telling Him we love Him, Psalm 22:3 “God inhabits the praise of his people.” says He’s not just listening and receiving high on His throne, He’s there, saying I love you more. And we say we love YOU more, and He trumps with “I loved you FIRST.”

Holy Communion – We humans’ are designed to learn in many ways: We learn by reading, by watching, by hearing, and by DOING.

I’ve heard the crucifixion story many times, I’ve seen it in movies like Passion of Christ, But, when I bite into the bread, chew, and swallow, I feel his body broken for me.

When I drink the wine, I feel his blood spilled for me.

I share that humble drama with my brother’s and sister’s in Christ “In remembrance of Him” (Luke22:19) and feel restored in purity (relationship).
Spiritual Direction – If my AC breaks this summer, I’m going to call a trained, knowledgeable professional. When I’m lost in an unfamiliar city, I check a map. When I’m unsure of a spiritual issue, or unsure of life’s path, I can seek the direction and counsel of experts. This means spending time with mature Christians. I may annoy him but I try to visit with my pastor in his office, one on one, at least once every two months. Reading books by mature Christian authors is another source of spiritual direction (C.S. Lewis, Max Luccado, Phillip Yancy).

God gave some the gift of teaching and encouraging and we can utilize those people and take advantage of their insights and encouragements. Of course this can also include other Christian people…God doesn’t just use “experts,” he’ll use anyone available to share His truths.

Part IV, the end, tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spiritual Retreat Part II

Here is part two of "The Talk"

Attention – Time – Honesty – Deep Commitment – Sharing

Attention - Any married man knows that our wives crave (demand) our attention. If we fail to let them know we value them by paying attention to them, they hear “I don’t love you.”

The more attention I pay to God, the more the relationship flourishes, the more I learn, because the more He can reveal.

Time – My wife shared a quote she heard the other day “Love = Time” (probably a hint)

Kind of turns the old idea about quality over quantity on its head.
The average man in America spends 15 min./day with his children, 20 min/day with his spouse and ? min/sec a day with his God.

Any wonder our children have no direction, we have a 53% divorce rate, and our churches are in decline?

My best relationships are maintained and nurtured with TIME and I’ll mention time doing what in a second.

Honesty – Of course God knows the truth so why do we need to tell Him? True honest for me makes me vulnerable. I admit my fears, anger, and weaknesses before Him and His knowledge of me becomes real to me.

If I had prayed “Thy will be done” in my Mom’s death but never admitted to Him that I was pretty ticked off that He didn’t heal her, I would have Reverence for God, but not Relationship with my Father.

My daughter has full permission to be angry with me, and to tell me about it. Once when I wrongly accused her of not being honest with me she broke into huge tears and yelled, “You’re such a bad Daddy!” Far from hurting our relationship, that opened us up for reconciliation, and she saw my love for her could handle it.

In His relationship with us, can God want any less? (He deserves our reverence and craves relationship)

Deep Commitment – Exodus 20:5 says in part “…for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.” His first commandment on the stone tablets was “Thou shalt have no other God before me.” That means anything I worship other than him, money, TV, friends, work. Just as I expect my wife to keep her wedding vows to me and be committed to maintaining and building our relationship, God seeks for that same type of deep commitment in His and my relationship.

Sharing – Two heads are better than one. When my wife and I share in our bearing of each other’s burdens we have greater strength to face them.

Listen to this awesome source of strength Jesus promised us as we remain in relationship with him found in John 15: 4&5

“Abide in me and I in you. As the vine branch can not bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

In this relationship with God, we share our HEARTS with HIM. He gets our burdens, we bear the fruit. And God is glorified.

Part III tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spiritual Retreat Part I

Ok, I've been "gone" awhile. Summer break is supposed to be a "break" but it hasn't really panned out that way. But, I have been writing, just not in my blog. I spent oh, about 20 hours writing and practicing this "talk" for a spiritual retreat with 40+ men from which I just returned. Although I was given an outline, we were to make the talk "our own" and I did. I thought that since most of it is "mine" that it would not be such a cop out to share it here. It kind of encapsulates much of what I believe about just who a man is, in Christ.

And since this is a blog for my little one.....I guess I'm going to have to contemplate how many, if any, changes I would make to make it apply to women.

The great thing is, the talk was 25 min. long so, I get to post it over several blogs!

So without further pause (don't know how to spell adueu): PART I

Life of Piety (PART I)

I had just celebrated my 30th Birthday. Having been raised a Christian by my mother, that was the year I had decided I would really begin to serve the Lord. Just like Jesus had begun his ministry at the age of 30, I would begin my “real” service, form a “real relationship with Him.

Things were pretty good in my life at that time, I celebrated my 1st wedding anniversary, I had a 10 year old step-son, I was “happy.” Then one night I got one of those phone calls. Many of you have had one like it. One of those phone calls which divides your life into, life before and life since.

It was my grandmother who, with worry in her voice was calling to ask me to “call your mother…something’s wrong.”

“Something’s wrong” what could be wrong.

It only took a minute of talking and listening to my mother for my heart to sink to my feet. Her disjointed-nonsense speech made me imagine for a second that my Mother, who had never had a drink in her life had started with a whole bottle of Jack Daniels.

After a midnight race to Dallas I got her to the emergency room where she was immediately admitted to the hospital. Less than 24 hours after that call from my Grandmother, I learned that Mom had brain cancer.

Now, apparently there is brain cancer and “nasty” brain cancer. I learned this from a Neuro-surgeon after he evaluated Mom’s biopsy. “These are the nastiest tumors there are.” he shared: Aggressive, fast growing, devastating.

Two weeks after that phone call, my Mother was dead.

Something was wrong. That’s not how it was supposed to be. She was a good person, and, no offence to Billy Joel, good people don’t die young. My infant faith was shaken and I realized that I didn’t know God at all.

My name is Richard Hickam, and the title of this talk is Life of Piety.
What I had mistaken for a relationship with God was nothing more than a Sunday Morning church, meal time prayer acquaintance. He was welcome when He fit into my life…or when I had a problem. Other than that, he did not have my heart.
That shallow, surface level acquaintance couldn’t bear the weight of loss. Though I was shaken, My God was not. He was working in me powerfully wooing me, teaching me about the relationship with Him that I was meant for, that would pull me through life’s tragedies.

When I was a teen, I had a favorite Christian singer named Keith Green, one of my favorites of his had the first line:

“I’ll make my life a prayer to you.”

I thought that was a beautiful, intriguing sentiment, but totally impractical.
I’ve learned though that that is exactly what we are invited, called to do.
A life of piety is a whole life lived in deliberate, open communion and relationship with God. It means God is number 1 and all else is off the throne of our lives.
A life of piety, in which I give my whole heart to God is the first leg of a three legged stool upon which a Life of Grace is maintained. Not in and of itself enough to sustain that life, but note, it is the First leg. The leg we start with. An intimate, real relationship with my heavenly parent.

In college one of the most popular guys lived on the same floor in my dorm. He was friends with anyone and everyone. A servant to others before I understood what a servant was. Inside his room, above his door were two words.

I’m Third

He’d tell anyone who asked what that meant: “Father God first, other’s second, I’m third.”

Putting God first, maintaining his relationship with Him brought all his other relationships into focus.

Through parenting my own child, God has revealed so much about His longing for relationship with us.

My child is not designed to go it alone. She’s not equipped unless I and her mother equip her for life. She is designed for an intimate connection – relationship with her parents. It shapes her character, it shapes her relationships with others, and with herself.

All over the Bible it refers to us as children of God. Galations 4:5 says:
“God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Hear that – You who are redeemed are son’s of God by adoption.

As sons, we are designed, were created for an intimate father-son relationship with God, mirroring Christ’s relationship with His own father. Out of Christ’s intimacy with his Father flowed everything that He was, everything that he knew and said:

John 7:16 “The things I teach are not my own, but they come from Him who sent me.”

As in any relationship though, GIGO, garbage in, garbage out. The relationship is there, my acceptance and maintenance of it requires that I give it my best.

I want to share the characteristics of a life in piety with you. How do we nurture and grow this relationship? As you can imagine they mirror characteristics of our closest, most successful meaningful relationships on earth.

(Part II tomorrow)