Thoughts to build communion with God, community with the church and help collide with darkness

My desire is to post my thoughts with the hope that God's people can benefit from them and be prepared to work harder and and fight better. Our enjoyment of God is at stake. Father is anything but a boring, no fun, stick in the mud who wants everyone to wear a tie. He is the creator of the universe and he will blow your mind!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What is the difference between praying persistently and in repetition?

Ok, this is a great question. Several folks have asked me, based on last week's talk, the difference between asking persistently, which Jesus obviously teaches, and asking repeatedly like the Gentiles do.

Here it goes. Last week I said that our prayers must be concise. That is saying much in few words to avoid being like the Gentiles who think they will be heard because of their many words. Remember, Jesus reminds us that he knows what we need before we ask. The peoples of other religions of that day would ask thinking they had to get their god's attention. Remember the illustration of Elijah and the prophets of Baal? Elijah taunts them in a quite funny way saying, "maybe he is off relieving himself". Baal, taking a leak! Dude, that's funny.

Anyway, the point is that we don't have to get his attention, and we don't have to be repetitive in the same setting/prayer time in order to make sure he hears us, as if he were like Baal.

When Jesus teaches us to be persistent, it is with the intention of the story in Luke 18:1-8. Faith prays (read the story). Faith in Christ Jesus displays itself in asking persistently for what is just, right and good for God and his Kingdom (we are included in that).

If the semantics throw you off, then here it goes. The difference is that one attitude prays believing they must repeat themselves to make sure God hears. The person may not intentionally be trying to display a lack of faith, but that is exactly what is going on. Faith believes God knows already, and I can ask persistently without believing I need to get God's attention.

Persistence is asking without giving up. Repetition is asking because we think God did not hear us. Persistence is done in faith. Repetition is done in pride (believing that I need to be heard, so I make sure God does hear me by acting like a child who pulls at their parent's shirt to make sure the parent hears the all important request of the child).

So, ask without giving up, believing he knows the need already, and that we are asking for what is right, good and just.

Pray! You have access to ask anytime and anywhere to ask, with confidence, for God's things. God not only loves you and I; he likes us. So ask, seek and knock!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why go to church if I'm not supposed to consume it?

I thrive on observation, interpretation and application. This is how I study the scriptures, interpret the world around me and relate to people. It isn't difficult for me to go from seeing straight to application to myself very quickly. Sometimes it takes longer.

I'm constantly interpreting events and making life application, hopefully, from a solidly Christian, God-centered perspective.

So, when I say things like, "we do not come to church to consume a product", it comes from the process of reading the scriptures and observing life around me.

I say that to say that I really believe that statement from the very bottom of my being. It is not intended to have a surprise effect or be a "gun shot from the pulpit".

A friend asked me recently why we come to church if we are not to come in order to consume. Very good question. I gave a quick response, but for those who have asked this question as well, here is a little more.

Why go to church if I'm not to be a consumer of church?
1. We are property of Jesus, therefore we go to give him praise with all those who are his property as well.

2. Fellowship, not so much fellowship from the reception standpoint (that would be simply consuming), but fellowship from the other person's perspective. 1 John talks about the fact that if we have fellowship with Jesus we will have fellowship with others in the church. The context of that is that others need others. So, if I'm not engaged in the church, and I'm a Christian, I am robbing someone else of fellowship they may need. This is not to say that I am anything of radical importance, but if I am in Christ the Holy Spirit dwells in me and I am a part of the body of Christ and I have something to contribute to someone else. If I am absent, a piece of the body is missing that the rest need.

3. The Hebrews 10:25 Factor. Here, the writer of Hebrews says to NOT forsake the assembling together with other believers. His reason is found throughout the book. First, in chapter three he says that we are to encourage one another today as long as it is called today so that we will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. So we have some encouragement for another person that will help in their fight against sin. To be absent is to keep that encouragement from someone else. Now that is quite selfish.

Also, in chapter 10 the writer of Hebrews says that these people had joyfully accepted the plundering of their property in order to remain faithful to Christ and they did not shrink back from the faith because of persecution. These people who were persecuted were visited by their brothers and sisters while they were imprisoned. It was those present in the lives of others who knew their need and met it while they were being persecuted. There is nothing in that language that suggests anyone was in the church for their own consumption of resources or any product. It was not because the bald guys gives good talks. The encouragement to not forsake assembly was for the purpose of making sure we are fighting sin (sin in their case would be leaving the faith to save themselves) by encouraging one another in the midst of difficulty. And to turn back from the faith when difficult times come is a deadly (chapter 6), so don't forsake coming because someone needs to be encouraged to keep on keeping on and the person coming and encouraging will get encouraged by others, but they get encouragement as a byproduct of coming to be consumed not coming to consume.

It is never wrong to be in need of others, its human. It is wrong to meet our own need at the expense of other people without giving them anything they need. That is the hight of selfishness. This is the mentality of many in the church. Evidenced in their "church shopping." They may say, "I don't like the music here." "I don't like the preacher there." "I don't like the Sunday School there." "They expect me to do stuff and not just take up space."

So these people land in a place where all of their wants have been satisfied without giving anything of themselves to others.

4. Be imitators of God Ephesians 5:1. It is intended that the church be made up of people who imitate the Son of God, Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus did not come to consume the people he would save. He came to serve them. He, God, washed their stinking feet. He washed the stinking feet of the one who would betray him and the one who would deny him and the others who would run like deer from the stirring of the crowd. So, should I come to get when Jesus came to give and I have been told to imitate God?

I'll let you answer that one.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's easy to think one is superior then...

On my vacation a couple of weeks ago my family and I were sitting at a table in a restaurant eating, laughing and just enjoying vacation when Jennifer and I became aware that we were both listening in on a conversation at a table next to ours. Two men were were talking about church, and it was evident that they came from a tradition and perspective that I would not enjoy and pretty much avoid like the plague.

I found myself critiquing their tradition, style and strategy out loud with Jennifer, when, by what I believe to be the work of the Holy Spirit, I was cut to the heart about my attitude.

Here is the thought that I had:
These two men are talking about the faith. Not heresy. The faith. They are employing a strategy that may be old, out of date and repulsive to you, but they are talking about the faith. They love Christ enough to speak of him publicly. They love Christ enough to care about a strategy to reach the unreached. They have passion enough to attempt to make a difference. They are talking about the faith.

Now for all I believe I could critique them on, they love Christ. They were speaking of the faith that leads to life for all who believe. Faith in King Jesus.

Who am I? Nothing. I'm a fellow slave of Christ who has taken to a different strategy to display Jesus. Who am I to think less of my fellow slaves and their strategy to display the King? Nothing.

Just when I thought my way was best I was reminded that those in the body are growing up into Christ, who is the head of his body.

I am not superior in any way. I am not the head so as to be the author of strategy or style. I am just part of a much larger work. Rather than being arrogant, I should pray for brothers and do my best with my chosen strategy.

Humility is a great way to start over.