MY PRAYER

Lord Jesus I come to you because I need some good serious learning from my God.

I am thinking about violence today, Lord. It’s overwhelming. It’s ubiquitous- in families, on the streets, in churches, at concerts and against all kinds of people. It’s on an international scale. We are fearful, anxious and angry.

I am thinking of you Lord who had every reason to be violent against your enemies, against those who were so set against you. Paul wrote somewhere that vengeance belongs to you but you never exercised it. Oh maybe against a few tables in the Temple but not against your adversaries. You wept over those who resisted you. You forgave a thief in his dying moments. You pardoned all your accusers and executioners. Somehow you are even going to restore your whole creation, the good, bad and ugly. Please give us some of your spirit to know how you are doing this.

When we consider your life it doesn’t seem that you were afraid. If anything, you looked evil in the eye and took it to the cross with you. You even let it take you to the cross. That was your own loving scheme to destroy the power of evil to hurt us. With just a word you drove the demonic powers to their ruin.

How is it that we have moved so far away from you? We’ve taken to protect our own little kingdoms instead of trusting yours first. Fear has caused us to amass more weapons of violence than ever. How did things get so bad?

Certainly there are ‘bad’ people out there but it seems that your goal was not to destroy them but to create a community that would be able to influence them, be agents of change for good in this world.

How often, Lord, did you tell us ‘fear not’ even for the people out to kill our bodies but couldn’t harm our souls. I’m not sure that assurance is planted in my own soul never mind taking it to the world. Have we gotten to the pointe of protecting ourselves so well that we think or act like we don’t need you?

And Lord, what about all this family abuse, sexual and otherwise. It’s rampant and now every day someone is being accused of assaulting others. Can we not find loving ways to combat this and other forms of evil? Is your church become impotent, prayer less, and loveless?

You know, Lord, that much of it starts with anger- plain ole simple egotistical anger. It’s in my own heart so I’m not judging others. Even conversations about violence bring anger to a boil in conversations that become heated arguments.

I feel like there are two kinds of people going into the Temple again to pray. One is standing and praying. Thank you Lord that I have this all figured out. Thank you for my righteous ways of violence against those who are my and your enemies. And the other person is simply praying, ‘Lord Jesus have mercy upon me, a sinner.’

Jesus, wasn’t there a time when you could have called 10,000 angels to come and rescue you and destroy your enemies but somehow you would rather trust you life to your Father. How did you do that? Can I do that?

Lord you could have come and taken the world by storm and simply destroyed your enemies but instead we are told you gave up all you power, your equal standing with God and humbled yourself to the point of becoming a servant and even further- to the place where you gave up your life. And in that same place we are told to have YOUR attitude, YOUR mind. Why does that make so many of us afraid? Why are we ruled by fear? Have we needed to replace the crucifix with some sort of gun or a tank or a nuclear bomb? That would look ridiculous and maybe that’s how it does look to you.

I fear Lord that you will leave us to ourselves with our greed, our boasts and guns and you will go to the poor, the vulnerable, the people who most trust you. Maybe you have already? Please don’t abandon us. There are many trusting people right here in our own nation, in our communities of faith who really want to know you and know your ways and know how you love so well. You are our fortress, our rock.

And Jesus, you tell us not to try to overcome evil with evil but rather with good. How can such good infiltrate the masses of terrorists seeking to destroy us? Maybe, just maybe we’ve not tried the good enough. The loving way seems weak and we have to entrust its results to you. Please help us towards that way, to beat our swords and egos into plowshares and instruments of peace and righteousness. It’s not about being strong is it? It’s about the power of love, isn’t it?

Jesus, I fear we have created a culture of violence that is hard to reverse and our little attempts seem so futile and risky. Violence seems to be our choice to resolve conflicts everywhere. Please help us all, perpetrators and victims to see this is not the way you set before us. We are to choose life, not death.

Lord, we need you grace to be sufficient in our weakness. I want to trust you more, be more expressive of your world conquering love, seek you more, plead with you more to be present to those involved in violence.

And all the while I want to pray for those who mourn, those who are too weak to even speak for themselves, like the little 18-month-old child and the unborn, those whose countries are on the brink of annihilation because the big nations are preparing for war.

And Lord please have mercy upon all your people in all your creation that they may have a resurrection to eternal peaceful life with you that they couldn’t have on this earth.

And Jesus, my own confession is that I am not all that peaceful. I think to live in your love but my first impulse at any kind of hurt is to be angry inside and on the outside. Please help me to establish your life in my life that I may speak and act as one who walks with the Prince of Peace.

I CHOOSE LOVE-the slippery slope of grace.

Some good folks I know are leaving the more conservative Presbyterian churches for communities more accepting of the LGBT way of life. I get that. People want to be with folks who are more accommodating to their particular understanding of God’s will in this matter. It is a most difficult issue for the Christian churches that are known by ‘what they are against’ than ‘what they are for’.

I am of the more conservative ilk myself and dislike very much that there are winners and losers in these matters. I think the only ‘losers’ in the time of Jesus were the people who were self-righteous, proud, and law/rule oriented.

So here’s what I want to suggest-A SLIPPERY SLOPE OF GRACE. Most people when they use that term are thinking of the negative connotations. They might suggest that a person who accepts unorthodox behaviors is going down the slippery slope of liberalism and even licentiousness. But that’s not how I take it to mean. The slippery slope of grace suggests a slide into the most loving way of Jesus. Think about it. Jesus left his status as God, took on the form of a servant and even to the point of dying on a cross. (See Phil. 2) That’s the slippery slope of grace to which I refer. It means that once we understand the love of Christ and start thinking in terms of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, well there is just no end to how far we can go in loving the people around us. Look. Once Martin Luther encountered grace, for all his faults, he started a revolution that shook the conservative status quo world of religion.

So, and here’s the subject that has changed in my life, I want to say yes to any monogamous relationship and that includes people who are heterosexual or homosexual.

We live in a ‘fallen’ world into which Jesus came to redeem us, all of us. The condition of our condition is such that all of us have wandered away from God in our thinking and living in many ways. Bitterness, anger, envy, hatred and greed are just a few ways that we see our departure from God’s love.

But here’s the thing- lest I stretch this blog too thin. We as believers in God and Christ want to be obedient to our consciences as best we understand God word and will and the ‘thing’ is that we may be WRONG. Yes, that’s right. We might have misinterpreted the Scriptures in these matters. Some theologians and pastors and lay-folk have admitted to such. And for conservative churches to give up that ‘territory’ is Bible Inerrancy Suicide. That’s unfortunate. It’s humbling. And it makes folks insecure that what they have known all along might be a wrong understanding.

That’s what love is about in my ‘trying to be humble’ estimation.

Now I know we need to be true to our consciences as guided by the word of God and that’s a good thing even though we might just not have the corner on truth that we think we have.

But if I have to choose between an understanding of truth and love I will choose love. At least as I am writing that’s that I believe to be the correct choice. I mean this when it comes to the way we live with one another and extend grace to one another. Perhaps that’s why the Bible says that ‘love covers a multitude of sins’, ours as well as other peoples’. (See 1Peter 4:8) And in this matter of LGBT I want to choose love. My wife says that “Love IS truth”. There are folks of different sexual persuasion than me who believe with all their hearts that they are within God’s will. They have my ‘amen’.

When I stand one day, by grace, before my Lord in glory I want to be judged (in this matter) not by how correct my doctrine was but rather how accurate my understanding of the love of Christ is. I remember that for all of us Jesus didn’t wait ‘til we had it all together. He died for us while every one of us was in the act of sinning against him. And if he did that for me then can I love anyone any less. And as Martin Luther was alleged to say, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.’ Though I do not pretend in any way to ascend to the status of Father Martin.

One final thought. The law, which was truth, came through Moses, and became a badge of honor for the Jews in the Covenant. But now that Christ has come, grace outmaneuvers the law to reconcile ALL of us to God.

Now some folks are going to cite several scriptures and I know them all and have used them in my own arguments. But there are many scriptures we can USE to our own interest without looking deeper into context, milieu and such. And I might be wrong in my own understandings but I choose love. See that’s what Jesus chose when he came to us. And it’s why many religious folks wouldn’t accept him as the Messiah. Jesus is the only truth that matters to me and his life represents the fullness of God’s love.

 

 

 

 

 

DOES PRAYER MOVE THE HEART AND ACTIONS OF GOD?

There is more to say about prayer but this question begs a response. And here are my initial thoughts.

Perhaps God desires to be moved, to be affected by our prayers, by our communion with God. God’s will includes being in cooperative loving relationship with us. Like a father and mother with their child, waiting to be ‘asked’ so that he or she may be given, is the loving God who waits for us. This is not to say that every prayer uttered to God will bring an affirmative response and when a ‘no’ comes I believe, for myself anyway, that I need to stay in that communion.

See we don’t know what the ultimate will of God is and therefore it might be presumptuous to think we cannot change what we do not know. But according to the Bible God desires us to pray effectively for a ‘good’ response. So I would say that prayer affects God.

I think we read in Scripture how Moses pleaded with God to spare the Israelites and God changed his mind. Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. (Exodus 32:14.) Or this in Hosea 11:8: My heart is turned within me: my compassion is aroused. There is also the story of King Hezekiah who, when told by God that he was going to die, pleaded for more years to live and God gave him those years. (Isaiah 38) You might say that this was already God’s intention and will but then I think that my own will as a dad with children is somehow affected in real-time by the requests of my children.

I realize there are passages in the Bible where it is said of God that God cannot or does not change but since we find both there in some kind of dialectical tension let’s consider that in some sense, that we may not fully understand, God allows God’s self to be changed in whatever human like attributes we may understand that concept.

God wants us to pray to God as in the parable of the wicked judge and the widow. In Luke 18 Jesus tells that story in order to encourage the disciples to pray and not give up. And he concludes by saying ‘will the son of man find faith when he returns?’ So faith therefore is asking, seeking, knocking for a response.

Recall the parable of the ‘friend at midnight’ from Luke 11. Jesus tells this parable to encourage his followers to keep asking God, seeking God and knocking on the gates of heaven for an answer. He concludes by saying God really wants to give his presence to us and I take it to thereby mean that in some way in prayer God and we are cooperating or relating.

See what Karl Barth has to write concerning our prayers affecting God. This quote comes from Philip Yancey in his book on Prayer.

“[Karl Barth, the 20th-century theologian who pounded home the theme of God’s sovereignty, saw no contradiction at all in a God who chooses to let prayers affect him.] He is a not deaf, he listens; more than that, he acts. He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not. Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence. That is what the word ‘answer’ means. … The fact that God yields to man’s petitions, changing his intentions in response to man’s prayer, is not a sign of weakness. He himself, in the glory of his majesty and power, has so willed it.”

Perhaps we might conclude that love always surrenders to the other. Love hears the other and connects with the other through heart and mind. If God is love God knows how best to relate to his people and this involves perhaps altering one’s plans. But first and foremost what I want to change is ME. I want God to change me more and more into his likeness so that what I request from God aligns so well with God’s will. At the very least we can say that prayer changes something and if that is the case the let us boldly approach God as our Sovereign Creator, Provider, and Friend.

Jesus told us that if we see him we see the Father. And in Jesus we see our God whose delight perhaps is to change circumstances in response to the sincere, heartfelt and unceasing prayers of his people. Why all things aren’t changed is in some respects a mystery  I surmise that some of us already know why God says ‘no’.