When I’m discouraged by circumstances,

I’m always confident of what’s best for me and those I love.   ShepherdDave, leaning on his own understanding.  My biggest need is not changed circumstances, but a changed heart: fresh conviction of the sin of independence: unbelief in His promise to work all things together for my good, and His glory: unbelief in the perfectness of His plan for me.   Discouragement is not a picture of humility, but of evil, wicked pride.

–ShepherdDave, needing prayer for the Spirit to freshly convict, so he is transformed afresh to DumbSheepDave, so the pre-believers around him are wowed by his joy and peace in the face of rugged circumstances, or conclude he’s crazy for being so joyful and peaceful (please pray now)

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I’d rate my circumstances a two,

on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being tops.  Okay, maybe a one.  In the past, I have rated my circumstances a 3 or 3.5 in my monthly report to GospelFriendships boardmembers, and to the folks at WHM on my monthly report as supportcoach to new missionaries.   So, why the downgrade?  Not due to finances: God’s been moving folks to give extra at year-end, and finances are looking up.

For a long time now, I think I’ve been living in denial of how harrrd my circumstances are.  I tend to suck it up and keep going, making the best of things.   What’s so hard about my circumstances?

I have chronic sensitivities to many foods (garlic, onion, pepper, to name a few), mold, wireless signals, auto exhaust, and most chemicals.  And we live off of a busy intersection.  These sensitivities affect my digestive tract, which produces insomnia, and/or leaves me feeling lousy.  I’ve lived with this for 45 years, and been to every kind of medical specialist and alternative practitioner in many locales, tried multitudes of various therapies, drugs, supplements, sleep-clinics.  Nada.

My sleep/energy the past two years is the best it’s been over the past forty years, but I go to extreme measures each day just to get eight hours of sleep at night, and even then, my sleep is interrupted three times on a good night, and I’m up for several hours on a bad night, going through the following day sleep-deprived, feeling awful, wanting to die and be with Jesus.  My extremely restricted diet of certain organic-only foods, combined with exercise, sauna, keeping our windows closed all year, multiple air cleaners, anti-wireless strategies, not eating out, and a bunch of other strategies, have contributed to this improved sleep.   But my gut never ever stops throbbing.  Most humans would be depressed at the thought of having to modify their lifestyle in such drastic ways, and feel entitled to extreme-hardship pay.   It’s just what I have to do to get half-decent sleep, feel decently, so I’ve not usually dwelled on the hardships, tended to look at more positive things.   This denial has resulted in my unwittingly giving believers and pre-believers around me a false impression of normalcy, when in fact, my life is extremely challenging, complicated, and at times downright depressing.  Poor Janet has had to live with all this most of her married life.  Our oldest daughter strongly suspects that I’m mildly bipolar, and after reading up on the diagnosis, it makes sense to me.

I can tell you this.  It’s really hard to believe/trust/rest in Jesus, when you feel awful.  The times I feel good, are incredibly awesome, and life seems incredibly easy, with my mind razor sharp, reflexes quick, and with oodles of energy.   When I feel awful, I’m learning to thank Jesus for my feeling miserable, telling Him, “Whatever it takes to get me more dependent on You, that’s what I want, Lord, because that’s when I’m the happiest.  Thank You for these perfect circumstances, custom designed for me, exactly what I need, to be retrained in a better way to live.”  I’m convinced that my suffering, combined with the prayers of GospelFriendships Pray-ers for my faith life, have resulted in an amazing difference in my life, a remarkable Jesus-dependency at times, that I’ve long-dreamed of having.  I’m still a toddler in Jesus-dependency, but praise God I’m not where I usedtabe, and life is good, because of Him, and the Pray-ers who’ve prayed for more Jesus-dependency in my life.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.  If Jesus can provide this for me, He can do it for anyone.   I am not special.   He is special, and able to change anyone, even someone as stiff-necked, thick-headed, and spiritually-learned-disabled as I.

–WeakDave, having the best years of his life, and thankful for friends who have prayed for him

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Answered prayer for one of my heroes.

When this pastor began asking folks outside his church to pray for Jesus to change him, and the church he had months earlier begun to pastor, and to open doors to friendships with pre-believers, he had no pre-believing friends, the church was going downhill and unresponsive to his preaching, and he battled daily discouragement, freely admitting that Jesus wasn’t enough for him.   Today, the church is beginning to turn around, and he now has a number of pre-believing friends outside the church, including this couple mentioned below in his weekly prayer update from Saturday.
–WeakDave, trying to get believers to hang out with pre-believers, and pastors to recruit prayer for themselves

Praying friends,

This is a quick call to prayer.  This morning I am meeting with the young unbelieving (for the moment) couple who are coming for pre-marital counseling.  Pray for the Spirit to come powerfully in our time together.  Pray that the openness that they have displayed so far will grow.  Pray that I would be sensitive to know when to push and when to simply step back and wait.  Pray that through this process that this couple would embrace Jesus, and that this would start a faith movement throughout their families.  You might also pray for me that I would believe that the Spirit could/would do such a thing.  I’m not very believing in that regard.

Also, I am playing golf with the prospective bride’s father Monday morning, just the two of us.  He basically thinks he is good enough for God’s acceptance, and I’ll have to admit he is a pretty good guy in most ways.  Yet, it is all up to him.  He is master of his own world.  Pray for good conversations.  Pray for boldness on my part to testify to what Jesus is doing in me, and pray that what Jesus is doing in me will naturally come out without me having to force it.  So, pray for the Spirit’s work in me, and also pray that the Spirit would open his heart to something much greater than what he can achieve on his own.

Thanks for your prayers.  I love knowing that when I go into battle for men’s/women’s hearts, I don’t go alone.

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How does Jesus retrain me,

in a better way to live — more Jesus-dependent?   By thwarting my agenda.

My agenda for sleep, optimal health, controlling my circumstances, reaching goals, fixing things, getting places rapidly and efficiently.  Independence/self-reliance.  Lovingly thwarting my agenda.  ShepherdDave thinks a loving God should bless his agenda.  Just the opposite, oftentimes.   Jesus made me for dependency, and I’m happiest when I’m DumbSheepDave, asking, thanking, curious, expectant, to see what my ShepherdJesus does next.   Kinda like playing a video game where I respond to whatever comes next, instead of feeling the need to design the video game.   Ahhhh, tis so sweet to be DumbSheepDave, trusting in his Sheperd’s perfect plan for him.

–ShepherdDave, needing prayer for the Spirit to freshly convict him of the sin of independence — being unsatisfied with Jesus and His performance, so he comes running back to Jesus, and dependency, so the pre-believers around him are wowed by the difference his ShepherdJesus makes in his life (please pray now)

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Jesus offers to join me in every opportunity,

challenge, problem, I face.   My typical response?  I don’t even consider Him.   Why?  World, flesh, devil want me to believe I can find happiness through human achievement.  Independence, not dependence.  Dependence is repulsive to a grown man.   So instead of the peace that passes understanding, and joy unspeakable, as DumbSheepDave, asking and thanking my ShepherdJesus about everything, curious and expectant to see what my ShepherdJesus will do next, I experience unnecessary intensity, stress, misery, as I attempt to deal with my opportunities, challenges, problems, on my own, with the weight of the world on the shoulders of ShepherdDave, who is to be pitied above all men, for though he has the name of Jesus, he has not the benefit of Jesus: Jesus-dependency.   ShepherdDave has no advantage over pre-believers, except for the promise of Heaven.   And pre-believers are not wowed by the Jesus in ShepherdDave, because there is so little of Jesus in him.

–ShepherdDave, needing prayer for fresh conviction of the sin of independence, so he experiences abundant LIFE as DumbSheepDave, having something pre-believers want (please pray now)

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Y director has a Gospel buddy.

Excerpts from the former-pastor-now-Y-director’s recent prayer update.  He loves his Y job, hanging out with so many pre-believers.

“The convert from last year I wrote about has become a sorta tag-team Gospel buddy with me.  He befriends people and starts the conversations toward God things, then directs them to me to answer harder questions about life, relationships, and theology.  Here’s part of his conversion story:”

‘As I grew into my thirties, I attempted to fill an empty void in my life with self-glorification, greed and vanity.  At one point I thought I was God.  I was making a lot of money, I had ever material possession I could ever want or need, and was living a self-absorbed-but-self-destructive lifestyle.   I was becoming like my dad, who has been filled with anger and rage for as long as I can remember.   I did not want to be him and knew I desperately needed help.

‘In early 2010 after realizing that I was failing miserably in every aspect of my life, having nowhere else to turn, I prayed to God for guidance and help.   He delivered that to me in the form of a spiritual mentor and someone I now have the distinct privilege to call a friend.   I walked into this person’s office at our local YMCA in March 2010, loaded with questions about Christianity.  Over the months that followed I gradually learned who Jesus is and in the summer of 2010, accepted Him as my Savior, and my life is so much better.  I’m no longer alone in this world!  I don’t have to bear the burdens of life on my shoulders alone.  My wife has since joined me on this journey, and we are now raising our children ages seven and five, in a Jesus-centered home.’

The Y director also added, “I started another outreach class at our Y.  It is called ‘The Silver Screen & Pearly Gates.’ I’m showing movie clips and trying to draw out discussions regarding religious themes in the movies.   I happen to think there are a number of movies that scream for the real Gospel.  I’m following a course of thought that Lewis and Tolkein shared when they purposed to create myths to stir people’s hearts toward the ‘true myth.’ I think Hollywood does that without being conscious of it.”

–ShepherdDave, thanking Jesus for the many who pray for him to return to being DumbSheepDave, and who pray for the ministry of GospelFriendships (please pray now)

To read past email updates, or free subscribe: gospelfriendships.icontact.com or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

Independence is just as contagious as dependence/faith.

If I am surrounded by independents — pre-believers or believers, their independence subtly undermines my Jesus-dependence, and I begin to see independence as normal, natural.   News, movies, books, periodicals, all whisper, “Independence is normal: humans are supposed to be in charge of their own lives.”  Then prayer becomes an after-thought for me, something I do when nothing else works.   And my prayer is likely to be, “Jesus bless my agenda.”  Because I know what’s best for me and those I love, and my job is to get Jesus to see the need, and act: do my bidding.

And when I function as an independent, I have what independents have: human power.  Jesus makes little difference in my daily life: I’m just as stressed, hurried, intense, as the pre-believers around me.   They are not wowed by the Jesus in me, because there is so little of Him in me.

–ShepherdDave, needing prayer for fresh conviction of the sin of independence, so others are wowed by the difference ShepherdJesus makes in the life of DumbSheepDave (please pray now)

Financial update on GospelFriendships:

Each year about this time I update folks on the financial health of GospelFriendships.   We’ve been running a $5k deficit and I’m guessing we’ll end up that way by year end.   I took a pay cut last year, and will need to take another, if we end up short.   Some have surprised me in the past with additional year-end gifts, and some have made first-time gifts, and some have begun sending monthly support, and some have increased their monthly support, and many are simply unable to help.   I never know what to expect, but Jesus has always provided wonderfully for Janet and me, and I have no good reason to doubt Him this year.   I sensed He wanted me to let folks know.

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I love feeling superior to Penn State,

and Jerry Sandusky, love seeing others as evil/wicked, love feeling outraged at the failings/weaknesses/sins of others, so I feel superior, so I feel good about myself.   At least my flesh loves it.   ShepherdDave loves it.   CompetitiveDave loves it.   JudgeDave loves it.

But when the Spirit freshly opens my eyes to the ways I’m just like Jerry Sandusky, and other losers — not on the surface, but down deep on a root level — independent at my core, willful, agendified, leaning on my own understanding so I think I know what’s best for me, so I can engineer my circumstances toward happiness/LIFE, I’m freshly convicted of my sin of independence.   Jerry is more independent/evil/wicked than I am, but this doesn’t excuse my independence/evil/wickedness, which motivates me to pray, “God bless my agenda.”  Because I know what’s best for me, and don’t trust that Jesus does.  He’s my MagicGenieInTheSky.   And IndependentDave/ShepherdDave is never satisfied with Jesus and His performance imputed to Dave: he wants something more: some of his own.

In my Bible, as I’ve read through it in recent years, whenever I come to the words “evil” or “wicked”, I scratch them out and write in “independent”.   It’s changed the way I look at myself, God, others, and my circumstances.   He who has little sense of having been forgiven, Jesus said, has little love for Jesus, and others, especially those hardest to love: those with values most different from his own.   And only feels loved by God when things go his way.  Feels unloved by God when they don’t.

–ShepherdDave, needing prayer for fresh conviction of the sin of independence, so he’s freshly undone, and his undoneness is contagious, enabling him to love the pre-believers around him in ways that melt their hearts and cause them to want a ShepherdJesus for themselves (please pray now)

To read past email updates or free subscribe: gospelfriendships.icontact.com or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com