His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


4 Comments

Dear Jesus…

child in lap

Dear Jesus, I give you this day, I give you my life today, one day at a time, as it’s the best I seem able to do. But this offer sounds silly to me, as I feel that my life, this day, is not even mine to give away. I believe it’s already yours; always has been. So what should be my prayer today?

Maybe this: Dear Jesus, thank you for this day that you will share with me, this day that is yours already, my life that is yours already, sharing these precious things with me. Thank you for being greater in my life, and for my self-centered self being less.

What will we do today, together? The joy of following your lead – this is truly living.


Leave a comment

Connected by Prayer

vine and branches

Instead of judging my friend and their annoying behavior, I decided to pray for them. Often, when I pray for someone who makes me annoyed or angry, I’m actually praying for myself. I ask for patience and understanding.

As I went through my day, frequently praying for my annoying friend, I realized I was truly praying FOR them, instead of me. I kept thinking that they are annoying for a reason – some pain in their life, perhaps. My prayers became filled with a compassion for my friend, rather than annoyance. And then the surprise opened up before me.

I started feeling a strong connection with my friend; some kind of spiritual connection, I believe. And I believe that connection was through Jesus. His vine and branch image came into my mind, where Jesus said, I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Our mutual connection with Jesus connects us to each other, spiritually. And I now believe that compassionate prayers FOR someone will strengthen those connections.


4 Comments

Prayer vs. Judgment

do not judge

I’ve been reading The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith, just finishing the chapter about judgment. I learned a seismic truth while reading this chapter and then talking about it in our small group last night.

Smith gives a quote by Philo of Alexandria, who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Being judgmental can come so naturally for me. It’s often irresistible. But when I look at my target, and realize that the behavior I wish to judge may be battle scars – my judgment melts into compassion. And given time, compassion feels a lot better than judgment.

Where judgment can lead to criticism, compassion leads me to prayer. And from my experience, prayer is far more helpful than judgment. Where feelings of judgment eat at my soul, compassion and prayer feed my soul. And my hope is that prayers will lead to healing of battle scars.


6 Comments

Healing my Wounds

wounded heart

This morning while praying, it became clear and obvious to me that I too am a wounded Christian. Why else would I sometimes be angry at certain churches and their behavior? My anger has it roots somewhere, and it must be in past wounds.

This morning I was wondering how the Holy Spirit within me feels about all this. Also, how can I let go of my anger?

I suspect God may also get angry at certain church behavior. But God’s anger does not affect His love. Like any good parent, no matter how bad the behavior, God still loves His children. That sense of God’s love for churches that cause me anger actually helps me begin to let go of the anger and take hold of the love. With the Spirit of God within me, He can love through me. I now know that I can feel sincere love for those who had hurt and angered me. For me, it may just take a little more time, to let go of my anger, and take hold of God’s love.

Are you a wounded Christian, carrying scars inflicted by churches or other Christians? Please consider joining the Facebook Group, For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing, where you can share your feelings, your stories, your healing.

May God bless us all with His overflowing love, which washes away all bad feelings.


2 Comments

An Appeal and a Prayer

surrender

One of my strongest desires is for unity within the churches of Jesus Christ. And in the name of unity, today I offer up an appeal to all Christians, and a prayer.

An Appeal

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (2)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (3)

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (4)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (5)

A Prayer

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one. (6)

May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (7)

I pray … that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (8)

(9)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (10)

1: (1 Corinthians 1:10)
2: (Ephesians 4:2-3)
3: (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
4: (Romans 15:5-7)
5: (Colossians 3:12-17)
6: (John 17:11b)
7: (John 17:23)
8: (John 17:20-21)
9: (John 17:17)
10: (Ephesians 3:14-21)
 
[This was first posted July 17, 2008]


Leave a comment

A God we can feel close to

close to God

As the coffee finally began to take effect this morning, I more easily focused my mind in prayer. I tried to empty my thoughts and open myself up to God, asking Him to fill me with His wishes. Does He want me to write a blog post this morning, work on the book, go in search of other blog posts that have a message He wants me to see, or something else?

In my minds eye, I pictured all-mighty God, the creator of all that exists. And I believe what I felt was fear, fear of the Lord. Not a fear of harm. But getting so close to such immense power – there’s something a bit frightening about that. In a way, it’s like when my son gave us a tour of the nuclear power plant he works at – so much power it’s almost scary.

Anyway, in the midst of my sense of fear, my mind turned to Jesus. I can picture Jesus, with our shared humanity. And I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude. God so loves us that He sent His Son to be one of us. Where God feels too immense for me to feel close to, I can feel close to Jesus, my fellow human.

Maybe this is another reason God sent Jesus to share our humanity – so there would be a piece of Him that His human children can more easily snuggle up to in prayer. Jesus knows what I’m going through. He’s lived through many of the same temptations. He knows what it’s like to be human. And I’m so grateful. Thank you Lord.


Leave a comment

Writing with God

with God

Look, I’m not a trained writer. I don’t often know what I’m doing. But maybe that’s good, because the less I know, the more I rely on God.

It’s often hard for me to believe I’m writing a book. I mean, this thing is almost done, and it actually has a decent structure and is readable. For someone who never learned grammar in high school, it’s weird for me to look at this book and realize it came from my own hands.

But it’s not totally mine. This book is actually the product of prayer. I look to God in prayer, and the words for the book come into my mind. Are the words really from God or from me? I don’t know. I just know I couldn’t have done this without His help. He’s always there for me – just a thought away.

Thank you Lord.


Leave a comment

Creepy Christians?

Here are some of the ways I used to feel around Christians; see if these sound familiar to your experience:

  • I felt like Christians were constantly judging my behavior and actions.
  • It seemed to me like Christians thought they were better than everyone else.
  • I felt like Christians disliked me and everyone else who wasn’t a Christian.
  • I thought Christians were flat-out weird whenever I saw them praying in public, and I’d stay far away from them, as if I didn’t want to catch whatever sickness they had.
  • The worst was that I always felt like Christians were trying to pressure me to convert and take on their beliefs. Just leave me alone and let me be how I want to be!!! – that’s how I felt.

Than I became a Christian. I remember my sister saying, “Oh no, are you now a Jesus Freak?” The answer was yes. Yet even though I had become crazy about Jesus, I sure didn’t want to become creepy. Ever since I decided that I really like Jesus and believe in Him, I’ve been searching for the truth of what a real “Christian” should look like. In other words, how would Jesus have Christians appear to non-Christians?

For all who call themselves “Christian,” here’s some advice from the experts (note, I like to put Jesus’ words in red, since He’s the best expert on the subject):

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)

“But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men… But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:5, 6)

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men.” (Hebrews 12:14)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Be merciful to those who doubt.” (Jude 1:22)

All Christians should pay attention to the advice of the experts.


5 Comments

Do you remember Jesus?

Some churches celebrate communion, the Lord’s Supper, every Sunday. Yet, most churches I’m familiar with celebrate only once a month. Was this what Jesus had in mind? What is the truth of His intention for what we call the “Lord’s Supper?”

I was reading about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 this morning. There, and in the account of the supper in Luke, Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In Paul’s account, Jesus says, “…do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25)

Jesus wants us to remember him. He wants us to remember his body that was broken on our behalf. He wants us to remember his blood that was spilled as a penalty for the sins we have committed. But does he want us to remember only once a month? And does he want us to remember only when we go to church? And does he want us to remember only with the help of a duly ordained minister?

I choose to believe something other than what is commonly practiced in modern Christian churches. I choose to believe that Jesus wants us to remember him at every meal. That first “Lord’s Supper” was Jesus’ way of establishing a memory trigger for us. Jesus knew we would need help remembering what he went through for us. For me anyway, it’s easy to remember to pray and ask for help. But I don’t often focus my thoughts on Jesus’ sacrifice, and in doing so, offer prayers of thanks along with my prayers for help.

From now on, I choose to treat every meal as a “Lord’s Supper.” I choose to respond to the trigger I believe Jesus intended, and remember what Jesus did for you and me, at every meal. For the more often I remember, the more I will be grateful. And the more I am grateful, the stronger will be my love for Jesus. And the stronger my love, the better servant will I become.

Please share your thoughts on the Lord’s Supper. Am I way off base here? I want to learn the truth. Thank you.


11 Comments

Message to Atheists – what if I’m wrong?

I believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. But what if I’m wrong? What if I come to the end of my life and discover it was all a lie? What if the end is truly the end; no benevolent Father in heaven, no heaven, no after-life? What a drag that would be. All this effort to believe, worship and follow – all for nothing.

But would it really be for nothing? This morning I started wondering how I might feel if I discovered it were indeed all a lie. Since I was agnostic up to my late 30’s and an atheist during part of those earlier years, I had a baseline for evaluating how my faith has affected my life. What did that faith do to me? How did that faith change me; the faith that I was now considering as possibly based on a lie?

Here are some of the changes that faith has made in my life:

  • I don’t swear like I used to.
  • I don’t lie like I used to.
  • I’m not as arrogant as I used to be. I’m much more humble.
  • I’m willing to acknowledge when I’m wrong, instead of trying to blame someone or something else (I used to do this a lot).
  • Faith has taught me to be much more patient than I used to be.
  • I don’t worry about things like I used to. I just trust that God will make the right things happen.
  • I used to run away from relationships that didn’t serve my self-interests. But with faith, I’ve been more willing to accept circumstances that are not always pleasant.
  • Faith has given me the strength to resist the temptation to cheat on my spouse, and I’ve been tempted a lot.
  • I used to be afraid of death. But now, the only thing that concerns me about death is the welfare of those I will leave behind.
  • I don’t agonize over people who have wronged me. Instead I’m now able to forgive them and very effectively let go of the pain. My relationship with God has taught me to replace hate with forgiveness, sorrow and sympathy. And now, memories of past wrongs bring peace, not pain.

I could go on, but it all boils down to the following: my faith in God and Jesus Christ has taught me about humility, love, hope, and how to more easily relate to and accept others.

In looking at all this I realize that I like what my faith in God has done for me. So if I discover tomorrow that my faith is based on a lie, I will be crushed and greatly disappointed, but I will definitely not feel that I wasted my life on something false. No matter what, I’m happy with what faith has done to me.

************************************************

But dear Atheist, what if I’m right? What if you come to the end of your life and discover it’s not really the end? What if you discover all this propaganda about heaven and hell, about salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, about God; what if it’s all true?

C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia fame), is quoted as saying, “Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of NO importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

I don’t know about you, but I would rather be a Christian and be wrong, than an Atheist and be wrong. The potential outcome isn’t nearly as devastating.


2 Comments

Would Jesus hate?

There are some who believe God hates you and me. I have been on a letter-writing campaign, periodically submitting comments to the web site of the Westboro Baptist Church, the home of Pastor Fred Phelps, a person well-known as a preacher of hate. Hoping that others may gain something by seeing the comments I’ve submitted, I have been periodically posting these comments on this blog. What follows is an oldie but a goodie.

**************************************

Dear Mr. Phelps,

Please understand that if I didn’t sincerely care for the collective souls of the Westboro Baptist Church, I would not keep writing to you. By the way, it is not in my nature to care for people who I consider so filled with hate. My natural tendency would be to hate you right back (see, I’m not immune to hypocrisy). So the only explanation I can give you for my compassion is this: as with all good things, it comes from God. God has somehow softened my heart and truly filled me with care and compassion for all of you. That is why I keep writing.

You remain in my thoughts and prayers daily. And it was while praying for you that the idea for this letter came to me. God put it on my heart, and in my mind, to write again to you today. As with all things, His words convey the message that is on my heart, far better than any words I could come up with.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)

“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Matthew 19:21

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50)

“The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)

Treat others as you wish to be treated. Forgive others as God forgives us. In all things, do as Jesus did. Speak Gods words, not our own. Jesus being both God and human while He walked the earth, we will do well to speak as Jesus spoke while we still walk the earth. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is how we should act, feel and speak, if we are to truly follow Jesus.

And this brings me to what has been on my heart. Where did Jesus ever tell anyone that He hated them? He chastised people, to be sure. But He never once told someone He hated them. Nor did He tell anyone that God hated them. And neither should we!

You are not following Jesus! Please heed His warning:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Please Mr. Phelps! Honor your savior. I beg you to open your heart and see the truth behind your actions. But don’t listen to me; listen to Jesus, and follow Jesus.

Sincerely,

E.D. Jones


6 Comments

Misguided Worship; the Catholic Elevation of Mary

One of my past posts solicited the following comment: “Since Mary is the immaculate mother of Jesus and he was unable to deny her wishes on Earth (see wedding feast of Cana) she is the ideal intercessor!” I don’t know if this one comment represents the view of the entire Catholic Church, but it sparks some issues I would like to talk about.

First I would like to discuss this idea of Jesus taking direction from His mother, supposedly being “unable to deny her wishes.” Then I will try to compare the Catholic view of Mary with the biblical view (they are not one and the same). My intention is not to demean Mary in any way, but I do plan to focus on the truth; not according to the Catholic Church, but according to God.

*****************************************

Was Jesus truly unable to deny the wishes of his mother? What does the following tell you about Jesus’ relationship with Mary?

“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)

Jesus puts all who obey on the same level as His mother. He himself does not elevate her above anyone else. So why does the Catholic Church?

However, do Jesus’ words in the bible indicate that He was inclined to follow the direction of His mother, or did His guidance come from elsewhere? Please consider His own words…

“I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:28-29)

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50)

“The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)

“These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24)

“…the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31)

Jesus follows His Father, not His mother.

*****************************************

Regarding the Catholic view of Mary, one of her attributes is that she is an object of Catholic prayer. One of the most familiar Catholic prayers is directed toward her; “Hail Mary, full of grace…”

Does Jesus call us to pray to His mother? No. Jesus tells us to go directly to God…

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be 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 also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:9-12)

And…

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

In addition to being an object of prayer, Mary appears to be an object of worship. For me, it’s difficult if not impossible to separate worship from prayer. After all, prayer is an expression of worship. Praying to Mary is worshiping her.

What does God have to say about our worshipping other than Him? From the 10 Commandments:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:4-5a)

From this point in Exodus to the end of Revelation, we are told to worship only God…

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8-9)

Even an angel is not to be worshipped, and neither is Mary. Worship God!

I do not write this in order to criticize the Catholic Church. I write this out of concern for the souls of all who follow the ways of the Catholic Church. Jesus is concerned too…

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:7-9)


Leave a comment

What’s your perception of Christianity? Please comment…

This post is for you. Please tell me what you think about Christianity. What is your perception of Christianity? What aspects of Christianity don’t make sense to you? What don’t you like about it? What do you like about Christianity? What messages do Christians convey that appear to conflict with other things you may have heard about Christianity? What are some misconceptions about Christianity that you believe you or others may have? What are some questions you have about Christianity?

If any of these questions stir up feelings within you, please follow those feelings and submit a comment. If you would rather not comment in a way that becomes public, you can always just send me an email (see my email address at the top of the right-hand column of this page).

My purpose in asking these questions is not to draw out questions from you that I would then endeavor to answer myself. In all likelihood, I wouldn’t be able to answer many of your questions. I just want to know what people think about Christianity, and what kinds of questions they might have. However, if I see a question I believe I can answer, I just might write a post about it sometime in the future, (though I would write it in a way that keeps the originator of the question anonymous).

Thank you very much for your time and effort.

Sincerely,

E.D. Jones


1 Comment

Weak Faith = Weak Prayers

Have you ever noticed how you can gauge a person’s faith by how they pray? I’ve written about this before (“How would Jesus pray?”), but after just now receiving a particular prayer request, I can’t help but whine yet again.

I’m on a prayer chain at the church I attend. Tonight, after getting home from work and opening up email on my home computer, I found another in a continuous stream of prayer requesting messages. This one is for a certain person who has a medical problem and has been taken to the hospital. The request comes from their spouse, and what do you think they are asking for?

Let me see; first they want a “correct diagnosis of the problem.” Okay, the doctor can handle that. Then they ask for “effective treatment for physical healing.” Again, the doctor can probably handle that one as well. Next, they ask for “peace of mind for the family.” Well, I suppose the correct diagnosis and effective treatment will take care of the peace of mind. So far, I don’t see anything specifically for God. Oh wait, here’s one; the final request is for “a clear sense of God’s presence.” Last but not least I suppose.

I have to admit, I almost felt anger at this prayer request. It’s just so pathetic and weak. As I’ve written before (“Anything you want – just ask”), Jesus told us over and over again to ask for ANYTHING we want, and He will give it to us. So given that opportunity, the person submitting this prayer request asked for three things, before finally getting around to asking God for something only He can give.

Maybe look at it this way. If you went to the hospital in need of a complex surgical procedure, and you were given a choice of having a first year intern perform the surgery, or having the foremost specialist in the entire world do the surgery; who would you choose? By our lack of faith, too often we do not ask our foremost specialist for the kind of help that only He can give.

I did like their request to have a clear sense of God’s presence. And since I believe in what Jesus told us about asking for anything, I decided to ask for something that would bowl them over with God’s presence, the one thing that they should have asked for in the first place: I asked God for complete and spontaneous healing. Just for the fun of it, answer all four prayers with one holy healing. Maybe then they will understand the true power and love of God. And maybe then, they will no longer dishonor God with pitiful requests.

Please forgive me if I sound a bit harsh. A glass of red wine has a way of opening me up, so my true inner feelings spill out. And with that, good night and sweet dreams. (no matter what time it is when you read this, it’s bed time for me).

May God bless you and show you that He is capable of more than you can possibly image. Just ask Him, please.


Leave a comment

The answer’s not always yes

Please forgive me for ignoring something very important in the past three posts. I would like to thank seekhispurpose for pointing it out. In my enthusiasm to illustrate a power in prayer that I believe comes from praying with certainty and expectation, I ignored the fact that with our prayers, the answer is not always yes.

God doesn’t necessarily give us everything we ask for, no matter how strong our faith. When I look back at what I’ve written, I think I wrote those three posts for me as much as for anyone else. My faith in prayer feels weak sometimes. I feel that if I prayed with more faith in God’s love, I might experience more of His grace, in the form of answered prayers. Praying with doubts, as I sometimes do, is not a very good way to pray. I often feel like the father who responded to Jesus by saying something like, “Lord, I believe. Please help me in my unbelief.”

Yet even in our strongest moments of faith and belief, sometimes God says no. I don’t pretend to understand why God occasionally turns down our requests. Yet I do believe that His ways are as far above my ways, as heaven is above the earth.

I’m reminded of a time when I was helping with our church’s youth group. A close friend of many of the teenagers in our group had just died. Only a couple of days after his death, we got together for our regular weekly meeting. We didn’t start with a rowdy game, like we normally would have. Instead, we talked and listened and sat in silence.

One of the leaders told the kids something that has stuck with me. In comparing our relationship with God to a child’s relationship with their parent, he said something like this: “When you were a little child, like around 3 or 4 years old, did you always understand why your parents did the things they did? Now looking back, do you feel you understand more today? Do you think as you grow to become an adult yourself, you will understand your parents past actions even more?” After pausing, he concluded, “It’s like that with God. We are now like very little children to God. There is no way we can understand why He does certain things, or why He allows certain things to happen. Yet someday, maybe not until we are in heaven, we may understand.”

When the answer is no, I just try to accept the fact that I’m too little to understand God’s ways. It’s sometimes painful, like with a little child who is not able to have their way, but I believe I will be better for it, in the end.


Leave a comment

Is God Santa Claus?

How generous is God? Why does He appear generous with some, yet not with others? Since yesterday’s post about asking, (read it here), I’ve been thinking more about the generosity of God.

If you like, take a look at what I wrote yesterday, specifically at the words of Jesus? What kind of picture do His words paint for you? What kind of image of God do you get from these words?

I’ll tell you the image that came to my mind as I went walking during lunch today: I see God kind of hovering over me, with His arms full of great gifts. Gifts such as health, joy, healing for friends and all who I love, salvation for friends and loved ones, peace in troubled spots of this hate-filled world, prosperity; and my list goes on and on.

Yet God isn’t holding the gifts as if He’s hoarding them. The gifts are kind of over-flowing, ready to spill out and fall into my waiting hands. And He has a huge smile on His face and a twinkle in His eye. He’s excited and filled with anticipation; waiting for me to just ask. Now that I think about it, God is starting to look a lot like my image of Santa Claus. But maybe that’s not too far off the mark.

Here’s another way to think about it: what earthly parent doesn’t love to give their child gifts (in that question I’m only considering parents who are worthy of actually being parents)? Since we are made in His image, I strongly suspect God loves to give us gifts even more so. And the joy a parent experiences when giving to their children, is exceeded only by the joy God experiences when He gives to His children.

What do you want from God? Ask… and believe with certainty and expectation; and I believe the gifts will come tumbling forth, into your waiting arms. But as is often the case, the real question is; what do you believe?


8 Comments

Anything you want – just ask

What’s holding you back? Why don’t you have everything you want? Are you taking Jesus at His word?

“Ask and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Judging by how often Jesus encouraged us to ask, I don’t think He wanted us to be timid about it.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19)

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7)

“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23)

Ask… ask and believe… ask in His name. So why don’t you have everything you want? Why don’t I? I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days. I ask for quite a lot, and I sincerely believe I’m asking for things that are in line with what God wants; like healing for friends, salvation for loved ones. Yet what I ask for is not always granted. Why?

Did Jesus lie to us? I don’t believe that. Did He really not mean what He said? I don’t believe that either. The only thing that makes sense is that Jesus told the truth. So if my prayers are not being granted, I need to look at me for a fix.

The answer is simple, and we all know it: we need to ask with faith. We need to believe that God will give us what we ask for, and we need to ask in Jesus’ name. Okay, I believe and I ask in His name – but I still don’t have what I want.

Yet, do I really believe? That’s the real question I’ve been pondering the past couple of days. Do I really believe that God will give me anything I ask for? We’re talking anything here? Not just trivial stuff, but big stuff as well.

When I ask God to heal my friend of cancer, do I believe He will do it? I believe He’s capable, but I have to admit, most times when I ask for prayers of healing, deep down inside I don’t really expect God to do it. What kind of belief is that?

It’s like my son who recently came to me at 10:30 in the evening and asked, “You wouldn’t be willing to let me spend the night at David’s, would you?” He asked for what he wanted, but he didn’t expect me to give it to him (and I didn’t). Is that how we sometimes ask God for the things we want?

I ask you, next time you go to your Father in prayer, ask with certainty, ask with expectation. Don’t just believe, but expect God to answer. Don’t just believe, but depend on God to give you what you want. Rely on Him.

One final thought. It’s not just you I am thinking of; I’m also thinking about those who are not Christian. What kind of message do they see in how we pray? What kind of image of God do we paint for others to see? Do people see an all-powerful, gracious and generous God? Or do they see a weak, stingy God? Imaging if you will what the impact would be if all Christians asked and received whatever they asked for. What a powerful statement of God’s love, power and reality.

I’ve given one example of why I think we don’t receive what we ask for (we ask without certainty and expectation). Please add to this with ideas of your own.


1 Comment

An Appeal and a Prayer to Christian Churches

Church-bashing is not my desire, though it may appear to be when you look at some of the posts I’ve written. One of my strongest desires is for unity within the churches of Jesus Christ. And in the name of unity, today I offer up an appeal to all Christians, and a prayer.

An Appeal

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (2)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (3)

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (4)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (5)

A Prayer

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one. (6)

May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (7)

I pray … that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (8)

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (9)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (10)

1: (1 Corinthians 1:10)
2: (Ephesians 4:2-3)
3: (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
4: (Romans 15:5-7)
5: (Colossians 3:12-17)
6: (John 17:11b)
7: (John 17:23)
8: (John 17:20-21)
9: (John 17:17)
10: (Ephesians 3:14-21)


Leave a comment

Tripping over Hypocrisy

“The (Catholic) church does not feel authorized to change the will of its founder Jesus Christ.” So stated a Vatican spokesman in a recent Associated Press article I previously wrote about.

Oops! This from a church that harbors abundant examples of deviating from the will of Jesus Christ, many of which I’ve written about:

Do not call anyone on earth “father”

Are you good enough for communion?

ALL Sins are Forgiven!

Need Help? Go to the Source

Catholic Confession – A Manmade Obstacle

How easy it is to trip over the stone of hypocrisy. We should all be careful of what we say, and more careful of what we do. If we profess to embrace the words of Christ, we should be more mindful about living by them.

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2-3)


2 Comments

Christian Churches – A Broken Tool

“Today’s churches provide the foundation and mechanisms for achieving Jesus’ purpose for our lives; for advancing the commission He assigned to His disciples. Or do they? What does Jesus think about this tool that has been constructed to achieve His ends?” That’s how I ended yesterday’s post. It might be helpful to read that post since it serves as a kind of introduction to what I’m writing today.

As I tried to point out yesterday, Jesus did not give instruction for who is allowed to have specific responsibilities within a church. Today I would like to talk about church structure in general. Churches have structure, assigned responsibilities, codes of conduct, mission statements, committees, leader groups, and programs; lots of programs. How does all of this play into Jesus’ mission statement for us?

Jesus told us: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Did Jesus tell us how to accomplish our mission and if so, does His method include the creation of organized churches? Did He tell us to build big church buildings, with committees and assigned responsibilities and a large collection of programs? Read His word and you will find, as I did, that Jesus did not give instruction for such things.

Don’t think for a moment that Jesus didn’t provide us with the best method for achieving His great commission. He did. And as with most of what Jesus told us, the method is deceptively simple. In reading through His word, what comes across time and again as the one way to preach the gospel?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35) People will know we are Christian not by the grandness of the building we meet in, or the types of songs we sing while in our building, or by the fancy robes worn by those we call priest, pastor or minister. Others will know we are Christian by the love we express for each other; a love that so often is not apparent.

By our love for each other, be unified… as Jesus prayed to His Father:

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11b)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

Be unified by our love, and give the world reason to believe in Jesus. That’s how it’s done. And you don’t need a big organized church for that. In fact, all a church does is distract us from the simple reality of the power of love.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We don’t bear fruit or achieve His mission by taking a seat in a large organized church.

What’s my point? Just this: the church with all its rules, traditions, assigned responsibilities, committees, and programs is “meaningless, a chasing after the wind”, as Solomon poetically expressed in Ecclesiastes. When it comes to doing God’s work, spreading His word, and making disciples of all nations; the only thing that has meaning is love – love for God and Jesus, a love for each other; a love that brings us together in unity.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

For a much more in-depth look at the brokenness of the organized church, check out the Jesus4King – The Spiritual Revolution web site. I highly recommend it.