Thursday, June 18, 2009

Your Biblical Microscope

Wow, it's been so long so I have posted on my blog. I mean it's been a whole two weeks and more. I apologize. I have let you all down and I feel awful about it. I promise I will try to do better next time. Deal?

Well, now that is out of the way, let's get straight to the point. I'm not messing around this time. We're getting right into it. Deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Good. Ok, here we go. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Pauls says this: "Test everything. Hold on to the good." Test EVERYTHING! If you haven't read Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis, you need to. He talks about this a little. Now, the Bible is God's holy, divine, perfect Word, right? We all know that. Simple. And that means that the rest is just commentary. All of the commentaries about the Bible. All of the Christian living books. All of the sermons about the Bible. This blog even. All of it is just commentary, which means it is NOT God' holy, divine, perfect Word. You with me so far? Because all of this commentary is not perfect or holy or divine, we should question it. Right? All of this commentary is trying to make sense of the Bible or articulate a biblical worldview. And in case you haven't figured it out by now, this commentary is written by humans, not God. So that means that this commentary is not perfect and thus should be tested to see if it fits the Bible and our beliefs. As responsible Christians, we should do as Paul says and test EVERYTHING under a biblical microscope to see if it holds up. And if we find some truth or good, we should hold onto it because we never know when or where we will find it again. It's precious!

I hope all of that was clear. My question to you and myself is"How strong is your biblical microscope?" I ask that because in order to test something, you need to know something first. I have been really challenged the past couple of weeks to really seek knowledge. I think it is Romans 12 that says "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." That's where it has to start. I believe the more you discover and know, the more you will fall in love with Jesus Christ. God has revealed Himself in a big way through the Scriptures and yet some of us take that for granted. You want to know Jesus and actually be COMMITTED to him, go read about Him in the Bible. And when you do, your Biblical microscope will get stronger. Instead of looking at things in 10x zoom, you can look at them in 20x magnification. You will not only be able to figure out what you believe, but you will be able to find what is truth and what is not.

It all starts with the Bible though. Especially in this world, we need to TEST EVERYTHING! There is so much garbage and bogus ideas out there that try to lead us astray. But if you have a powerful biblical microscope, you won't be easily shaken or led off course. Put everything under your microscope and find out for yourself what is biblical and what is not. I'm telling you though, these days you have to have a powerful biblical microscope. So, read your Bible. Use your biblical microscope. Test everything!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Evil Curtains

Who is man? That's the question that was asked at our Bible study tonight. Who is Man? We are going through a series from Focus on the Family called the Truth Project. Before you judge though, please know that I'm not a Focus on the Family supporter but this looked interesting so I thought I'd try it. And tonight's lesson was all about man and evil. Del Tuckett, at least I think that is his name, is the guy in the hour long videos we watch each week and tonight he explained his interpretation of man and evil, with biblical support of course. And he had a ton of great stuff in there, but I did not agree with a lot of it either. So I'll lay out my beef with him and then you can decide which view to take. And I do not claim my view is correct or completely sound either. Read this and then decide for yourself.

To preface this, the following is all my opinion and my take on what Del said. I acknowledge that I could have missed something. I know that I am biased to what I believe, who isn't? But I think, at least, and hope that I can briefly present his arguement fairly in a paragraph or so. Ready?

Del tried to argue that what the Bible claims as truth in this matter is far from what the world is telling us. True. I'm with ya there Del. Often the Truth and the world contradict each other. It's just the way it goes. A fallen world is naturally contradictory in many cases to its Creator, who is coincidentally not fallen. So Del argues, and this is only a piece of his argument that I am going to look at right now, that according to the Truth man's heart is "desperately wicked" because he is fallen. Another way to say desperately wicked is evil. Man's heart is evil. That's what he's saying. Do you believe that? Look at your own heart, now do you really believe that?

And the correct answer would be...HECK YES!! Absolutely man's heart is evil. I mean are you kidding me? Have you seen the destruction and violence that runs rampant in our cultures and throughout our world today? Man sucks. Man can do some pretty disgusting things to not only himself but the creation as well. Man. Is. Evil. Period. No doubt about it. Well done Del. And I am being serious here. Del's right on with this one, I believe.

But he shouldn't have stopped there. Because although we are disgusting, and I believe it is Isaiah that calls our sins dirty tampons, which is gross from what I hear, we have some good in us. We do. And I wish Del would have acknowledged that. But he didn't. So I will. We are pathetic. We are desperate. We are lost. But we are not too far gone. Del also said that because of man's innate, desperate, complete wickedness we are led or drawn to the grace of God. To which I say Amen! But he still missed something. And I think it starte with his low view of man. Maybe this is my idealism coming out too, but I cannot believe we are desperately, completely wicked. I just can't. I need to have at least some hope in man. Here's what I'm thinking.

We all know in Genesis that man was made in God's image. And every scholar on the planet has probably hypothesized and theorized as to what that means. I am not going to do that right now. But fom what you know about what it means to be God's image-bearers, think about what I'm about to say. I have to believe that although we are fallen creatures, the authority and power that comes with being God's image-bearers hasn't completely been pushed out of us to the point where we are absolutely wicked. No way! The innate goodness and perfection and potential that comes with being made in the image of God can't just disappear in one fell swoop. I refuse to believe that. Rather, I see it like this. Since the Fall, sin has been pushing back and holding back this potential we havee inside of us for perfection as God's image-bearers. Think of it as a curtain or window blinds or a veil. What's the purpose of a curtain or blinds or a veil? To cover something up or to keep something hidden, right? But the thing is, from my experience, there is no perfect cutrain, blinds, or veil. Blinds keep most of the sunlight out in the morning but there is still some sunlight that can get through. The same geos with curtains and veils.

With me so far? Ok, good. Now remember sin is the curtain or the blinds or the veil. Sin is holding us back. Sin is disguising our true selves. And let me tell you something, and I want to make this very clear, sin, this curtain, blinds, or veil, is unbreakable by human standards. We cannot rip this curtain or this veil or break these blinds. We can't. It's impossible. For us, that is. And yet I still believe that shades of goodness shine through every now and then without Jesus. Although humans are evil, there is still some good in us. There are millions of good people who aren't Christians. We all know this. There is good that does not come from the church believe it or not. And I think those are the times when, like the blinds, a thin shade of light gets through the sin that so easily entangles to the world. Humans do have the propensity to do good without Jesus even though it may be few and far between.

However, here's the really sweet part. JESUS, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS GOD, CAME TO EARTH. Eventually, He died on a cross to appease God's wrath and forgive our sins and then rose on the third day to be with the Father. And what He accomplished on the cross, for our purposes in this argument, was this: He tore the veil, both in the temple and in our hearts, that held us back. He unleashed our potential as God's image-bearers. But the things is, it all hinges upon Him. If we want to unleash our potential, Jesus needs to be with us. And only then can the kingdom attributes, otherwise known as fruit of the Spirit, be developed and matured in us to CHANGE THE WORLD. But again, it all depends on Jesus. Until we seek Him, our propensity for good is dismal.

Humans are evil. No questions asked there. That fact alone should lead us to the cross of forgiveness and grace. But what I'm saying is that all of creation is waiting and yearning to be liberated. Wait, or was that Paul who said that? Man has so much potential. And some of it seeps through the cracks of sin not by chance, absolutely not actually, but by this simple fact: Not even the gates of hell can hold us back. Sin cannot hold us down. It tries and does a really good job most of the time but there is something deep down in all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, that can't be put down or held back. So naturally you see glimpses of good in the world. Oh how I wish there were more glimpses. May we Christians be the frontrunners to bring the kingdom here on earth as much as possible!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dead or Alive: Part 2

I'm really tired for some reason so I'll make this short 'n sweet. I wanted to continue thinking about whether the Jesus I worship is dead or alive. And I think how you answer that question has a huge impact on your life, not only your relationship with Him. Allow me to briefly look at both answers to that question and the implications.

Dead. Most people will not answer that question this way. Most people will probably say that they most certainly worship a resurrected Savior. But if they do, their lives should reflect it. Amen? I have a hunch however that many people may believe that Jesus has risen and probably believe that they love a resurrected Savior but don't live like they do. Because if Christians really lived out what they believe, I believe that would change the world. But if your Jesus is dead you probably live a very safe and controlled life. Why? Because although you believe in Jesus, you don't really believe that He can take care of you NO MATTER WHAT. I mean if you really had the faith of even a mustard seed you might listen to what God puts on your heart more often. Since your Jesus is dead, you don't really believe that "Nothing is impossible with God" because quite frankly you have put Jesus into a box. Jesus is confined to a little round blue ball, also known as the earth, and therefore the only things you believe possible are those things you can observed or have experienced. And although you might believe Jesus really did create the universe like the Bible says, it is much more comfortable for you to think that the earth is the end of his creation, when in fact its just the beginning! Observation and experience define your faith, not hope or trust. If you can't touch it, taste it, hear it, feel it, smell it, or see it, chances are its not reality.

You are also much more comfortable with the idea of a dead Savior still lying in the tomb than a risen One even if the Christian world around you screams the opposite. Because in your mind, if Jesus really did rise from the dead, well, that changes everything. That changes how you have to live your life. That changes your experience of the world. That changes your capacity for experience. That changes your worldview and philosophy. You would much rather keep Jesus in the tomb because if He did rise then there is something/Someone bigger going on here than meets the eye. And the something/Someone that you can't see is also extremely, if not ridiculously, hard to put your faith in. Especially since this risen Savior proclaims the most radical, obnoxious, crazy, dangerous ideas and actions you have ever heard. Some of those things He said He can't possibly expect humans to do because you have seen the limitations of humanity and there is no way we could do it alone. But then He says His Spirit is going to be poured out for all to kind of take His place. But the crazy thing is that He also says that with this Spirit, we can do even greater things than Him, the miracle worker who walked on water and raised the dead. Ha. That is simply too much for you to believe. Instead, it makes you feel better to just leave Him in the tomb. A cage is a much better place for such a Radical Revolutionary.

Does that resonate with any of you? Sometimes I see myself falling into that very mindset that I very briefly outlined. But I will say this and then I'm done: buying into this mindset of caging Jesus and making excuses for inactivity and faithlessness throws Jesus right back into the tomb. When we plan our lives around safety and control, we are once again rolling that stone back in front of the tomb. And every time we refuse to follow this Radical Revolutionary to the depths of hell on earth, we are denying the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, nothing is impossible with God. We have victory over death and are grafted back into a direct connection to our Father through our Savior who preached the most dangerous gospel (good news) the world has ever heard. He preached that salvation has COME TO ALL WHO BELIEVE. Everyone has a shot. But once we have received this salvation and decided to follow this Savior, I believe we must do it with reckless abandon and not with a lukewarm, independent heart. To close for the night, check out a few of the things Jesus has to say:

Matthew 11:12: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it."

Matthew 16:18-19: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this roc I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven..."

Monday, May 25, 2009


As I read over my post from last night I noticed a lot of spelling errors and words left out. Pathetic. It was late but that's still no excuse. I will do better this time. I promise. But before I continue on with the line of thought from my last post, I want to clarify a few things.

Like I said, I love talking about Jesus and my discussion with my friend last night was really good. It was just what I needed in fact. But again as I read my previous post I feel like I may have sounded a little tough on the church. Let me clarify. Do I believe that there are problems in the church? Absolutely. The church has issues and problems and downfalls. I believe that in some aspects the church has been misguided and become lost. However, I also believe and know that the church is the bride of Christ. Jesus even says so. And that title or distinction demands respect, love, and even admiration. Think about it. What does it mean to be the bride of Christ? It is a precious, beloved position to be in to be certain. So, I don't want to come down hard on the bride of Jesus. I don't, really. But I do think that there are things that the church can work on. I have a vision of what I believe the church can and should look like and all I want to do is gently nudge her in that direction. To do that, I realize that I need to be careful. There are many things that I love about the church. Don't get me wrong. There are several churches and pastors that I believe are truly following Christ. But I desire and long for the bride of Christ to reach her full potential as she races after Christ, her Groom.

Make sense? I hope so.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Friends: Dead or Alive?

Ok, I'm pretty tired but I wanted to finish off this prayer week with another entry in this thing. Now there is certainly much more I can and want to say about prayer. However, I'm going to try to refrain because it's 2:00 in the morning and I would not possibly have enough space to cover it all. With that said, I wanted to share a pretty cool story that just happened and was happening these past few hours.

I went over to my friend's house tonight to catch up. We had not seen each other for quite some time and really haven't spoken all last semester. Which is weird for us because we are pretty good friends, actually we are really good friends. But we both live separate lives at college and things get busy. Understandable. But tonight we finally got a chance to catch up. And we did for a few hours tonight. But my story begins as I was driving over to his house. You see we are church friends. We became friends in and through the church. It was great. Really. But today especially I just really wanted a time where I could talk to someone about Jesus. I mean I don't get to talk about Him enough with others. Which is my fault. But I love Jesus with all that I am. And I love talking to Him and about Him, especially with others. So that's what I prayed in the car on the way over to my friend's house. I asked God for the courage and for an opportunity to talk about Jesus. And knowing our incredibly amazing God, guess what we talked about tonight. Yep. We talked about Jesus. We talked about the church and preaching and Scripture and passion and Love. It was really good. In fact, it was just what I needed. An answered prayer. What a Savior we have!

But that short short story is only the beginning. This conversation I had with my friend got me thinking, which sometimes is a bad idea, but this time I think it was good. As we were talking about Jesus and preaching and the church and pastors and about how I see some pastors who have lost the passion and the excitement of their ministry. We talked about how some pastors simply don't have an alive relationship with God. And that got me thinking. And I just want to share this idea and then maybe expound upon it in a later entry. But let me ask the question, where is your relationship with Jesus right now? Is it alive or is it dead? Is it thriving or is it becoming routine? Has your relationship with Jesus sparked a passion and excitement within you for His Word and Bread of Life or has it slowly been withered down into a set of meaningless feelings and rules that govern the way you live?

How bout another series of questions: What kind of Jesus do you worship? Do you worship a risen, living Savior or do you worship a dead Savior? Do you worship a Savior that is living and breathing inside of you and all around you in such a way that simply gives you a courage you may not otherwise know without Him because He has risen and claimed victory of death? Because of physical and spiritual resurrection of Jesus, nothing is impossible with God meaning you can do things you could never imagine if you're in it with Jesus. Or is your Savior dead and still lying in the tomb unable to ignite both power and passion in your life?

The Bible calls us friends of God. Which is a crazy idea in itself. But we are His friends nonetheless and I wonder in our churches and pastors if Jesus has died. I mean this identity as being friends of God carries some weight. But what if our greatest Friend has been killed all over again by routine and complacency and fluff?

I have thoughts but I don't have the answers. Jesus does though. Go to Him and talk it out with Him. May He come alive in our churches and in ourselves and in me. Release Him from your cages and routines and safety and let Him be the God He is. It may be scary. It may be uncomfortable and it may cause your heartache. But let me tell you, I guarantee if will be worth it. You will have such a more fulfilling, satisfying relationship with Jesus because instead of worshiping a dead guy, you are worshiping a living, breathing God. Amen. More to come later on this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The What, Why, How, Purpose,and Meaning of Prayer: Part 4

Matthew 7:7-11: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!"

If this were a sermon it would be entitled "Spoiled Children.." But I'm not going to explain that statement just yet. So, prayer. I was thinking today about my freshman year of college because I am now a SENIOR IN COLLEGE. Which is nuts. I'm going to be graduating in one year. Just one. It's crazy. But anyways, I was thinking back to my freshman year when my mom, who missed her first born son very very very very much, would do anything for me. I mean she missed me so much that every time I even attempted to make contact with her through e-mail or a phone call, it would be the highlight of her day. And when I came home to visit, I'm pretty sure her heart melted. I could get anything when I was home. My mom and dad always had my favorite dessert waiting for me as well as every meal planned out according to my food preferences. And when I left, yes, there were tears and much, probably too much, hugging. But that's the way my mom was. I could ask her for anything and she would give it to me. You name it, I could get it. She loved to spoil me.

And I think that our Heavenly Father is the same way. I want to be careful though to not diminish the majesty, splendor, and bigness of God but I really think that God loves to spoil His children. In fact, it even says so in the Bible! Raw, I know. Jesus says in His famous Sermon on the Mount, which by the way is revered by most to be one of the most insightful, divine compilation of words and ideas ever conceived, that those who ask will receive and a door will be opened for those who knock. And the crazy part about this teaching is that our Abba Father delights in giving us gifts. Think about that. The Creator of the Universe who created the galaxies that burn brighter, spin faster, and declare His glory more than we can even begin to comprehend loves and becomes joyful when He answers our simple little prayers.

Crazy huh? Our God actually enjoys answering our prayers and giving us good gifts. And if you think you've gotten a some good Christmas gifts, they're nothing compared to the gifts God gives us as His children. And believe me, God does answer prayers but the thing is, the answer is sometimes "No" or "Maybe later" or "Not right now." But those times when you actually pray for something legitimate and with the right motives and something that falls within the will of God, oh man, God loves it. Again not diminish His majesty, but I could just picture God sitting on His throne smiling, nodding His head, maybe doing a subtle fist pump while saying "Atta boy or Atta girl, I would absolutely love to give you that gift." God loves to spoil His children. As much joy as we may feel when we receive a good gift from God, I can imagine He gets more.

That was really brief but chew on that for a little while. What a God we have! What a Savior we have been given! WOW!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The What, Why, How, Purpose,and Meaning of Prayer: Part 3

Matthew 6:9-13: "This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

More on prayer. Are you excited? I certainly am. However, I have a big task in front of me. The Lord's Prayer. There is absolutely no way I can get all the way through this in the space I have so this will be a brief overview. For starters though, like my teacher Faye Chechowich said once, can you believe that 2,000 years after this prayer was first spoken, thousands, even millions, of people around the world recite this at least weekly if not daily. One little simple prayer has that impact and renown. Crazy isn't it? Yes, but we have a crazy God so it makes sense. But let's get into it shall we?

First thing I want to point out is this: Jesus did not say or command us to pray these exact words every Sunday at church. He just didn't. Read the text. He tells His disciples and the crowd listening that this is HOW they should pray. Jesus did not say, "Now, I command you all to pray this prayer at all your gatherings and services because this is the greatest of all prayers." Jesus doesn't say that. Not even close actually. I mean, I may get into trouble for saying this, but when you look at this prayer at first glance, it's really nothing special. When Jesus prays for Himself, His disciples, and all believers in John 17, THAT prayer is eloquent. That prayer tugs at the heart and probably got an enthusiastic "Oh yea," or "Amen brother," or "Yes Jesus." Read John 17 and I think you'll get what I'm talking about. So why have churches for two centuries now recited this prayer each and every Sunday? It is most certainly simple, eloquent, and straight to the point. It's easy. It's understandable. But maybe Jesus wanted us to look at the form over the content. I'm not discounting the power of this prayer at all, don't get me wrong. But I think that this prayer was supposed to be contemplated and studied for its form rather much more than its content.

Stay with me. What I'm saying is that Jesus presented this prayer to teach us HOW to pray rather than WHAT to pray. Consider the following formula I pulled out from this prayer. And no, this is not original, I stole or borrowed is probably a better term for it from my youth pastor. Perhaps, the how of prayer should be God, others, self.

This prayer starts out with Jesus' recognition and yearning desire for God's name to be renown and revered throughout the earth. He was simply throwing up praises to His Abba Father who He loved beyond our human comprehension. He wants us to think of our Abba Father first, not ourselves. Amen? And then Jesus goes on to say that He wants the Father's kingdom, the kingdom of God, to come where His will will be done on earth as it is heaven. Let me paraphrase if I can have that liberty. Jesus wanted the kingdom of God to reign on earth as it is in heaven, but He also wanted it to become a reality. Jesus wanted the Father's will to become a reality on earth as well because He knew that would be the best possible place for His people to be in. That's what I like to call the outward-ness of prayer. Jesus showed us that an outward mentality for others is as important as an inward mentality for yourselves in prayer. And finally Jesus wraps this prayer up asking, begging the Father to provide, forgive, and guide. Jesus was modeling for us that it is perfectly fine to ask God for the essentials for yourself. It's ok to come before your Heavenly Father in prayer and ask for food, forgiveness, and protection. But, it can't be the first priority during prayer. Again, God, others self.

Remember, prayer should be outward as well as inward. This, I believe, is what Jesus was getting at when He recited this prayer. He wasn't telling us to say these beautiful words in this exact order every Sunday. He was, however, showing us a formula for prayer. Why? Because prayer is one of the most confusing, mysterious gifts and tool God have given us. In a very crude sense, Jesus was dumbing it down for us so we can have a simple formula for prayer.

Think about what I've said. I will too. Read the text again. See if the Holy Spirit will awake in you a deeper understanding of this passage. I will too. Thank you Jesus. Grace and Peace.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The What, Why, How, Purpose,and Meaning of Prayer: Part 2

Last night, I went to a bonfire out by Taylor Lake with my Lighthouse team members who I went to Paraguay with. Let me tell you, it was so good to see all of them and come together as one group/body again. We went to Paraguay in January so it has been four months since that life-altering experience. We rarely get together anymore so it was incredibly uplifting to catch up with everyone again. And as I was reminiscing and talking to Sam, one of my team members, about Paraguay, it reminded me of prayer, specifically the power of prayer. You see, Sam and I were a team in Paraguay.

The first village we visited was Puerto Barra. As we pulled into the village, we were immediately greeted and followed by the Ache people. It seemed almost instantly that they warmed up to us and adopted us as members of their village. Their compassion, peace, and joy was and still is unmatched by any other group of people I have met. And the kids, oh man, the kids were amazing. Sweet, loving, compassionate, peaceful, joyful, adorable, eager. All characterize these people. And we got to know them really well in the three days we were with them. But the story I want to tell happened on the last day we were there. The Ache let us kind of take over the church service so we sang some songs in English and Ache and then I got up and preached from Luke 12 in English, which was then translated to Spanish and then Ache. And after the church service, Sam, who knew Spanish very well, and I went around to the Ache people and asked if we could pray for them. We were leaving in a couple hours and we did not want to leave them without again telling them about Jesus Christ. We must have prayed for 4 or 5 different families and individuals. At the end of each prayer session, all were in tears, Sam and I included. The Ache were so grateful for that simple act of compassion and love. I mean it was a simple prayer that some of them probably couldn't even understand because my Spanish especially was so bad. But that name. The name of Jesus Christ was heard in our prayers. And I think it was heard in their hearts as well.

So why do I say all that? Because I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that prayer is one of, if not the most powerful tools of ministry God has given us. Prayer has affected so many people for the glory of God. Just look at the Book of Psalms. You know what the psalms really are? Prayers or prayers meant to be sung. And even still today the Psalms are being read, meditated on, interpretted, and used to show people the obsessive, heartfelt love humans have for God. Prayer is such a powerful and simple tool to use that sometimes we take it for granted. The impact a simple prayer can have on someones day or even future can be unfathomable. We may never know the reprocutions or reverburations of our actions but if we step out in faith and trust that God will work through even our simple prayers for people, we will be astounded at the glory we will be able to bring Christ.

So, don't discount the power of prayer. If you, if I, simply take the initiative and time to pray over someone, it can make a world of difference for them. A prayer can tell them that somebody out there cares enough about them to say a few words to the Big Guy on their behalf. It doesn't need to be eloquent or full of big church words and phrases. It just need to be from the heart. From a heart bursting and bubbling over with the love of Christ that it has to pour it out on someone. Sometimes, a prayer can show that love in a fresh, creative way that will stick with a person for eternity. Don't be scared. Use prayer as a weapon as you and as I continue to storm the gates of hell. Amen.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The What, Why, How, Purpose,and Meaning of Prayer: Part 1

Today, Pastor Steve DeNeff talked about prayer, specifically prayer in the Spirit. And it got me thinking. So, this week I want to focus and meditate on prayer. Though I don't really understand prayer, in all honesty, I do want to dive into it this week and see where I come out. And to make sure I don't forget any thoughts or revelations I receive, I want to record how everything goes with prayer this week. First, my initial thoughts and perceptions about prayer. Some are original and some are stolen/borrowed. All are hopefully based upon Scripture. Ok, here we go.

Prayer. What a concept! What a gift! As I heard Dwight Knight say, prayer is the conversation between God and a subordinate. Interesting, I know. From that definition, Jesus never prayed. Technically. Rather, Jesus conversed and talked to His Abba Father but never prayed. I know to some that may sound like heresy because our translations of the Bible flat out say that Jesus prayed. Just so you know I really don't know I how feel about what Dwight said but it is an interesting idea, wouldn't you say? And maybe he's onto something. Who knows? Just think about it.

Next. What if prayer is more about us than about God? Believe me, I know and recognize the importance of praying to God and making a joyful noise to the Lord. I know about how important it is to live your life as a prayer, as the euphemism goes. I get that and I certainly think that is important. However, what if the purpose of prayer is primarily for us? Let me explain briefly. Maybe God created the concept of prayer for us because we humans have two basic needs: relationship and ultimate purpose. People like to talk. Especially about themselves or other people. And people also need to feel like there is something bigger than them out there. We need to feel like we are important and our lives are not entirely in our control, even if we want it to be sometimes. We want to believe that there's Something else out there. So, maybe God created prayer because we need to talk to our Creator. Maybe God created prayer for us to cast all of our worries, frustrations, concerns, and joys upon Him. Maybe He created prayer so that we can experience a glimpse of our future relationship with him in a way we can understand and enjoy. Maybe.

One more. I heard this from a sermon John Piper gave on prayer. To pray without ceasing to him meant to leave your cell phone or AIM screenname on at all times. That way, you can receive or send a message at all times. Thus, may I never stop praying. Why would I want to anyways? I have an open connection with my Father, the Creator of the Universe, who I love with all that I am. Why wouldn't I take advantage of that? And even still, His Spirit talks to Him too on my behalf. Those things I can't express or put into words, the Holy Spirit takes care of it and tells the Father. So, may I continually pray in the Spirit because, after all, as Paul said, I have no idea what I am supposed to pray for. Grace and Peace.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Letter from War

No, I'm not referring to Mark Schultz's Letters from War, although that is a good song. I just wanted to share and remember something I wrote to my roommate, who coincidentally is sitting 3 feet away from me as I write this, in a last ditch effort to get to him. You see, we have lived together for two years now and though we are alike in many ways, we are very different in many ways as well. I mean when you live with someone, you get to see a different side of them. My roommate and I have slowly grown apart, especially this year. Perhaps being at war is a bit of an exaggeration, but we are just two very different people with very different values and goals in life. So, this was my last attempt to try and present my faith to him. Take a look.

"Anyways, my prayer for you as you leave Taylor and move on with the rest of your life is simple: Live Everyday for Forever. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, actually, its not. Let me explain very briefly.

To live everyday for forever means that you never take one moment for granted. It means that you are completely aware that God may have something to reveal to you in this moment and you wouldn't miss it for the world. To live everyday for forever means that you don't just skate through life like it's compeltely up to you. Because ultimately its not. It means that you pray like it's all depending on God and live as if it's all depending on you. It means that you simply want a piece, a part in God's story so bad that you are constantly putting yourself in a position, a posture to be used by God in His grand story.

To live everyday for forever means that you have a view and a hope for the future glory that drives everything you do. It means that you realize that the new humanity is a body, a church, a people that are connected not necessarily by race, ethnicity, age, or language but by Jesus Christ who holds everything and everyone together. It means that because you believe in this new humanity, you are not remaining quiet. You are not staying silent. It means that instead, you are storming the gates of hell because you know that Christ has given us the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It means that you know Christianity is a verb, not a noun and that this body, this church that you belong to is a movement, not an institution or building with a cross on top of it.

To live everyday for forever means that you realize that we are living in an incredibly fertile and opportunistic time because the glimpse of the coming kingdom of God has been brought down, it has been inaugurated with Jesus Christ. Because you believe this, your faith has moved from knowledge and trust to action. Why? Because you can't contain yourself. It means that you have to somehow let this energy, this potential, this inertia out of you that has been building up in you. It means that you have to do something about the relentless love, power, and revelation you have experienced. You don't have a choice, it's completely out of your hands now. You HAVE TO let it out.

To live everyday for forever means that you don't want to be caught just sitting around doign nothing because you know Jesus could come back at any minute. And you are so obsessed with Him that you would rather be with His people showing His love, being His body, or living out your faith or on your knees in concentrated, fulfilling prayer to Him than doing nothing. It means that your obsession with Him may lead to hardship and struggles, which may lead to lack o food and drink. But the amazing thing about our God is this: He has freely given up His body, the bread of life, and blood for us. He has even told us that if we come to Him, we will never thirst again. To live everyday for forever means that you are constantly remembering and taking part in the Eucharist because you need Jesus. You want His essence to be a part of your essence. You need His body and blood to satisfy you and wash you white as snow. Why? So you can live everyday for forever. Amen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From Plagerism to Lesbians to Isaiah

Isaiah 62:1,6-7 "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth."

The current title, "Notes from a Watchman," is the third title I have had for this blog in the 30 hours or so that I have had it. Pathetic, I know. You see, the thing about me is this: I am a impulsive passionist. That's how I would describe myself at least. When I want something, I want it now. I don't want to look for better deals or wait until I have the money for it or sit around wondering what it would be like to have that. I don't beat around the bush, so to speak. I am straight to the point and brutally, or passionately, honest with anyone and everyone. One more thing about me: I am very opinionated. I have a lot of opinions and I am certainly not afraid to voice them. Whether that is a bad thing or a good thing, I don't know. I think a little of both.

So, this blog is my new thing. And I think this could be something I really enjoy. I love to write, to encourage, to teach, to admonish, and to spill my guts I guess you could say. Again, weird, I know. But, I think being an impulsive passionist and having a love for writing, well about the important stuff anyways, like JESUS, has led to me changing my title three times in 30 hours.

My first title was "Ramblings and Utterances." I liked it. Eloquent, but mysterious at the same time. Perfect title. The only thing was that someone else I knew used the word ramblings in their title. I couldn't plagerize his word, if that makes any sense. It just wouldn't be right.

Then my second title was "Whispers in the Wind." Again, eloquent and mysterious at the same time. In the description, I tied in the Greek word pnuema which is used for the Holy Spirit in the Bible and is translated as wind or breathe in English. But, at the same time, it did sound a little, how do I put this lightly, feminine and nostalgic. Just because I was curious, I googled "Whispers in the Wind." Guess what I found? Whispers in the Wind is actually an old book written by a guy named Frankie Jones about two lesbian girls. So, being the very masculine man I am, this title just wasn't an option. Don't read into that, I don't hate lesbians. Take it easy.

Anyways, the title I have now is perfect. I love it in fact. It's original and all-encompassing and, I think, somewhat though-provoking. And what do you know, it was inspired by Scripture. God's just amazing like that though. He even cares about the little details and intricacies of life, like the title of a blog. That's just one of the many reason why I am absolutely CRAZY about Him. What a God I serve?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wonder-seeking Rabbis

Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Jewish rabbi who lived during WWII. That one fact should astound you. He was a Jew and he actually lived through WWII. It was not without loss though. His entire family was killed by the Nazis in Germany. He escaped safely because he was a professor at Hebrew Union College. But, enough background info. If you would like to learn more about him, check him out on wikipedia or something or I strongly recommend you read his book I Asked for Wonder. It's sweet. But this guy said once, and I don't have the actual quote, but it goes something like this..."I did not seek to gain human understanding or knowledge, but instead I asked for wonder from God." Now, stop reading and think about that for a minute.

Let go of your preconceived notions about Judaism. After all, truth is truth. If you're still skeptic, read the Bible, especially Paul's letters. Paul pulls out truth and puts it in his letters wherever he can find it. But this blog entry is not about truth so that's as far as I'll go today. Maybe someday I'll go into more detail about that. Til then, read Paul's letters and Rob Bell also has said some stuff about that too.

"I asked for wonder..." I thought this was a fitting concept to think about to start this blog. There's nothing wrong with seeking knowledge, don't get me wrong. Seek the wisdom and direction of the Holy Spirit, who is by the way crazy, unpredictable, and not afraid to put you in uncomfortable, scary, awkward situations. Rather, I ask the question, what would happen if we actually asked God for wonder? What would happen if we actually asked God to reveal to us His power and love? What would happen if we actually asked God to blow us away with His wonder, even if that meant for us confusion, uncertainty, and risk?

So many times, we live like we don't even appreciate or dare I say respect God's wonder. What if we actually gave ourselves over to God's wonder rather than trying to figure everything out? I don't necessarily have the answers. I guess I'm more or less simply dreaming. But still, ask yourselves those questions.

I don't want this to turn into a novel so I'll leave with this thought. May I, may you, may we, give ourselves over to the wonder of God so that maybe, just maybe, we may hear the whispers and utterances from the One who is always Faithful.