Friday, December 23, 2011

What Christmas Is All About

It's just a few days until Christmas, and of course this means many things to many people.  Presents, parties, family gatherings, shopping, Santa Claus, the birth of Jesus....  But what does it really mean?  What is Christmas really about?

The answer is rather simple, actually.  Simple enough for children to understand it and simple enough to be put in a short segment of a cartoon.  So in celebration of the season, and if you're wondering what it's all about, I give you the answer....

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Christian Defense Of Halloween

I am a born-again, conservative, evangelical Christian.  And I love Halloween.

Not exactly the common perspective and comment among such Christians, but frankly I get a little tired of hearing churches and Christians come down on the holiday.  I know there are plenty of sites and emails touting the horrible, pagan events surrounding Halloween and why Christians should run as far away as possible from these events.  But let me give some of my reasons why I hold a different opinion.

First, let's look at the origins of Halloween.  The name itself originates from "All-Hallow-E'en", or the evening before All Hallows Day.  Also called All Saints Day, this is a solemn holiday on November 1st celebrated by many Christian denominations.  The day commemorates all who have attained sainthood and hold a special place in Heaven.  The name Halloween was first used in the 16th century.

The events around Halloween are mostly attributed to the Celtic celebration of Samhain, though older origins have been suspected.  Samhain was seen as an end to the "light" part of the year and the beginning of the "dark" part of the year.  The day was not a celebration of the darkness, but a recognition of the transition from one part of the year to the other and usually involved bonfires to ward away the darkness and evil spirits.  Yes, modern Wiccans do still recognize the holiday, but as a way to honor and pay respect to people who have passed on, not to perform evil ceremonies.

Most of the traditions we now associate with Halloween were actually used to trick or ward off evil spirits, not encourage them!  Costumes and masks were used by the Gaels to trick ghosts and other evil beings into thinking that the people were actually some of their own kind, and therefore not anyone to try and harass or possess.  Pumpkin-carving originated with large turnips that were hollowed out and placed in windows with lit candles inside as a way to repel evil spirits (while turnips were common in Scotland and Ireland, where the practice began, immigrants to America used the larger and more common pumpkins as an alternative).  The practice of carving pumpkins was a harvest-time tradition in America and didn't become specifically associated with Halloween until the late 1800s.

So as you can see, the day of Halloween stems from a belief that evil and ghosts more easily walked the earth on this night of transition from light to darkness, and the desire of the people to protect themselves against such horrible things.  As Christians, we should very much support such ideas and traditions, as we also should seek to prevent and ward off evil influences.  Costumes, pumpkins, and other things associated with Halloween are supported by our fight against Satan and his minions.  There is NOTHING inherently evil about these things, and nothing against God.

What about all of the pagan symbols associated with Halloween?  Shouldn't we avoid it because of such things?  Yes, we should not support anything that is going to promote a view other than that the Bible is true, Jesus is the messiah, and God is the supreme power in the world.  We should worship only God, and nothing or no one else.  But is participating in Halloween supporting pagan rituals?  I hardly think so.  Anyone who can't discern between worshiping Gaia, casting a spell in a circle of candles, and dressing in a costume among friends needs to get a big dose of reality-check.

Okay, so what about the pagan origins of the holiday?  Yes, Samhain started among the pre-Christian Celts and Gaels.  So?  If we ignore or lambast Halloween because it has a few traditions that started among non-Christians and pagans, then we also need to get rid of our two big Christian celebrations:  Easter and Christmas.  Don't believe me?  Let's look at a few things very briefly. 

One of the biggest symbols of Easter in modern culture is the Easter egg.  Painted eggs date back to the ancient Zoroastrians many centuries before Christ was born.  Christians have looked at the egg as a symbol of new life, renewal, and resurrection.  However, similar beliefs of the symbolism of eggs were also held by ancient Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Gauls, and Chinese.  A rabbit associated with the date can have origins with the goddess Eostre. Notice her name?  The monk Bede wrote that Easter derives its name from this diety, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring.

Christmas has even more pagan influences!  First of all, the date is nowhere near when Jesus would have been born.  If you read and analyze the Biblical accounts, Christ was born in the Spring.  So why do we celebrate it in December?  Around that time of year the Winter solstice occurs, which was a major pagan holiday as the longest night of the year.  There are various debates as to why this time was chosen to celebrate Christ's birth, but many believe that it was a method of the church to entice pagans to celebrate Christ by associating their existing holidays with Christian ones.  The church couldn't get rid of the celebrations already established during this time, so they provided alternate ones.  The Roman holiday of Saturnalia is most commonly associated as the source of the date, and involved gift-giving and celebration.  The colors of red and green traditionally represent the fertility of males and incubation of females, a rather pagan viewpoint.  Red berries, mistletoe, holly, and wreaths all have pre-Christian origins among pagan beliefs.  Christmas trees were first used as such in the mid-15th century.  However, pagans commonly looked at evergreens as a symbol of everlasting life, and would use them in their celebrations.

Many traditional, conservative Christians are against Halloween because of the pagan origins and images.  Yet if we applied the same analysis and criticisms in the same way to other holidays we wouldn't be able to say "Easter", have Easter eggs, Christmas trees, Christmas presents, and a host of other things that we as Christians hold dear.  If we can adopt and use pagan traditions in other holidays, or even ignore where our "Christian" traditions come from, why can't we do this with Halloween?

What does Halloween mean to us in the 21st century?  Ask a child about the holiday and they'll say that it's all about dressing in costumes and getting free candy.  They have no idea at all about anything "evil".  Yes, some of the decorations and costumes have monsters, ghouls, ghosts, and other scary things.  But such images are not inherently evil, nor are spooky stories.  The Bible has numerous stories involving ghosts, witches, demons, and the dead coming back to life.  As long as we are not holding Frankenstein and vampires above God, it's merely harmless fun.

Let's be real, folks.  Halloween is harmless fun and even its origins are about repelling evil, not celebrating it or succumbing to it.  There is nothing wrong with a Christian participating.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Christianity Is Not A Religion

Recently I bought a new t-shirt. The front says "Christianity is not a religion." Now that alone caught my attention, and me look more closely. I have a bit of a non-traditional background, having come to faith in Christ when I was 28 years old. Raised Lutheran, I was an agnostic for many years and looked into other religions. When I was "saved" it was very personal to me. I was down on my knees by myself in my one-bedroom apartment and nobody knew anything for quite some time. So I've always seen my relationship with Jesus as just that....a relationship.

The back of the shirt gives more detail. "Religion is humans trying to work their way to God. Christianity is God coming to men and women through a relationship with Jesus Christ."

I see so many "religious" people who live by rules and laws set down in their religious creeds. Even many Christians worry more about the "dos" and "don'ts" of the Bible than they do about actually seeking time with God. We can do nothing in our deeds that will make God like us more or earn us a place in Heaven. The Bible is very clear that we have a place next to God through Christ and how we know Him, not because of any other actions.

There's the old trope that "it's not what you know but who you know." This is especially true with Christianity.
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven." Matthew 10:32-33

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him,
we will also live with him; 

 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us; 

2 Timothy 2:11-12

Sunday, October 2, 2011

God's Dog

We have a very sweet yellow lab named Yvaine (from the movie Stardust) who is my wife's baby.  She was picked out when only one and a half weeks old and my wife eagerly anticipated her joining our family.  Since then Yvaine has been babied and spoiled to the point where she thinks she's a 61 pound lap dog.

One of the things we love is that she really wants to be with us.  She's content to curl up on the couch or bed next to us (well, mostly my wife), just being close.  When my wife leaves the room, she gets up and follows.  When we come home she jumps up an down, happy to see us whether we've been gone for an hour or a week.  It's really a very simple relationship.  She loves us (again, mostly my wife) so much and without reservation, and wants to be as close to us as possible.

Why does our relationship with God have to be complicated?  He desires nothing more than to be close to us, and wants us to be close to Him.  Yet we run away, resist, decide that we don't have time, and a million other excuses.  I think that a dog's relationship with their owner is a good example of what our relationship with God should be.  Like Yvaine with us, we should want to follow Him around, stay close to Him, and simply be in His presence.  It's not that hard to understand, yet few of us do it.

If you're a good dog owner, you completely care for them.  Our pets don't have to worry about food, shelter, medical care, or really anything.  God is certainly better than we are, so he will take care of us as well.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
    “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matthew 6:25-33)

Let's take time to be with God.  Let's follow Him around, seek His presence, and let Him take care of us.  All he wants is our attention and love, and He will take care of us in return.  Pretty simple.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Geek Preachin'!

As a part of Fans For Christ I organize and lead church services at cons, usually giving the message.  The first time I did it I had a sermon that included some Star Wars references, but was that was not really my main focus.  In fact, I only used it because I had given the sermon in a traditional church once and had it handy. However, I realized the benefit of people being able to relate to the message illustrations.

Jesus and His Apostles (sounds like a boy-band, doesn't it? disrespect meant, Lord) used illustrations and analogies that their audiences could understand.  Look at the parables and stories in the Bible and you'll see that they mostly include references to farming, winemaking, soldiers, and athletics...all things that the people of that day and age understood and could relate to.  That's really my inspiration for my sermons.  I want to talk about the Bible in ways that makes sense to my audience, yet still is teaching God's Word.

Preachers do this all of the time in modern churches.  And what is one of the biggest topics for illustrations? Sports.  Football, basketball, baseball, hunting, fishing, and so on.  Personally I could care less about any of these things and my friends are often of a similar mindset.  When I go to places like Dragon*Con and ConNooga, the interests of the audience are even more shifted to Star Trek and Harry Potter and away from the Dallas Cowboys or deer season.  So why shouldn't I use those things in my sermons?

Want to see what this is like?  Fans For Christ now has a YouTube channel.  Some of the videos we've linked and are uploading are taken from services.  Others are me recreating messages that I've given in the past but didn't have recorded.  Take a look and see some geek preachin'!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011

Wow.  God really blessed Fans For Christ this year.  Some amazing things happened at Dragon*Con, and it's all due to the Spirit of God working through people. 

Rather than repeating verbatim, here's a link to the events this year.  Dragon*Con 2011 Report

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Setting Things In Motion

So it's another year and another Dragon*Con.  We just arrived today, met with many of our Fans For Christ members, and had a great time of prayer for the weekend to come.  This is our biggest event of the year, and we want Christ's presence to really shine.

Going to cons is an important ministry to me and my wife.  God has has graciously allowed us to use our hobbies and interests to serve Him.  Each time we come to a con we plant seeds, showing people how Christ can be a part of their lives and really central to their lives, yet they still can have fun and pursue their interests.  We can't make anyone change their hearts or their lives, but we can give them opportunities to learn about God and His grace.  Really we just set things in motion and let God do the rest.

So anyone reading this (both of you), pray for us this weekend, that we will be safe, have fun, and focus on God moving in people's lives.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Faith Precedes The Miracle

My family recently watched a fantasy movie, Voyage Of The Unicorn.  It was a fun, light-hearted family adventure that we tend to enjoy, involving faeries, elves, trolls, unicorns, dragons, and other fantastic creatures.  One of the points behind the movie was that believing is seeing.  You have to believe in something before you can really see it. 

Isn't that true with God?

One of the main lines repeated by one of the characters is "Faith precedes the miracle."  This is really a strong Biblical truth, isn't it?  If you look throughout the Bible you'll see that each time a miracle is performed, someone has to have faith and believe in it first.  From the parting of the Red Sea to Paul escaping from prison, the power of God requires a measure of faith before it can work.

Does this mean that God needs us in order for Him to work miracles?  No.  He can do it just fine without us and isn't beholden to any "power" we may seem to possess.  He wants to see whether or not we really believe in Him and His power.  Once we have faith, then we'll see His hand.

Remember that the next time you're looking for something special to happen in your life.  Have you had faith first?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Vanity, Thy Name Is Church

"Come to our church.  We have a beautiful building!"
"Oh, our praise band is great.  They really rock."
"You should hear how wonderfully our praise leader sings."
"We have Christmas trees all over the place during the holiday season."
"Yeah, our VBS is really cool this year."
"I just love the multimedia the pastor uses in his sermons.  The video clips are really neat."

How many times do we hear these things, or similar phrases?  How many times have we said them ourselves?  There is nothing wrong with being proud of our church, enjoying the praise and singing, and being engaged by the PowerPoint.  However, I think that many people get to focused on these things to the exclusion of God.

How many times do you hear things like, "Come to our church.  God is really moving there."  "The Holy Spirit really filled our church this week."  "Our praise group sings songs with a really Godly spirit."

We need to get away from the vanity of how our churches look and sound.  We need to get back to God!  Concentrating on whether or not God is working in the people of the church.  If we don't focus on Christ, and if we don't really pay attention as to whether or not He is present, it doesn't matter what the appearance of the building is.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Remembering Where God Is

Today was a really bad day.  For details see my other blog.  But in summary both of our cars went kaput within a couple of hours of each other for unrelated reasons.  This hit us pretty hard, and will end up with us having only one vehicle.  We also very much believe that this was no coincidence, but was Satan's attack.

All of this got me really down, as I struggled with the frustrations.  My wife, son and I prayed, seeking God's guidance and protection. Then my son brought in his Bible.  This week he had been in vacation Bible school, where the theme was Psalms 139.  He didn't remember all of it, so we read it aloud together.

It was pretty profound to me, and really showed me something about God.  No matter what we do, where we are, or what's going on, He knows and He's right there with us.  It's such a simple truth, but one that we often forget.  I've read this Psalm several times before, but hadn't remembered exactly which one it was.  Reading the words I became teary-eyed, realizing that through all of this God is there.  God was there before it happened and knew it was going to happen.  He knew about all of this before I was ever born!

When you need some encouragement, and need to remember where God is, read Psalms 139.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Every Day

Most Christians were active on the internet this past Sunday because it was Easter.  I saw blog entries, emails, and a whole bunch of comments and posts on Facebook.  But my wife said something that made me think, and made me hold off on posting about Easter until now.  She wondered why people get so excited about Easter and then go back to putting God second the rest of the year.  And she has a great point. 

Now please don't get me wrong.  Christ's resurrection is the keystone of Christianity.  If Jesus has not risen from the dead then all of our other beliefs are false as He wasn't actually the son of God and everything he said can be called into question.  Easter is the celebration of this resurrection, and so should be a big celebration for us as Christians.  But how many people focus on Easter and ignore the other 363 days of the year (I'm not counting Christmas, which is also usually a big focus)?

Think about it for a minute.  We sing, celebrate, and praise God on Easter above all other days.  And well we should!  But if we put Jesus on the back burner the rest of the year, how much does Easter really mean to us?  What significance is His sacrifice if we go around practically ignoring it most of the year?  And how much of a miracle is a risen savior if we're not remembering that every day?

I'm as guilty of sin and forgetting God as any other person.  But I'm hoping that I'll keep the Easter spirit alive in my heart all year long.  Try it yourself.  Live Easter every day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Go Where The Rain Is

Let's say that you're thirsty.  I mean, spending-a-month-in-the-desert-and-dehydrated thirsty.  You haven't seen any rain to quench your thirst and cool you down.  You look up and see some rain on the top of a mountain.  You could sit there where you are and wait for the rain to come to you, or you could make the difficult climb and go up the mountain and to the rain clouds.

What do you do?

If you sit there and wait, it's easy and little effort, but the rain may or may not actually come down to where you are.  If you climb the mountain it will be difficult and exhausting, but you know that you'll get the rain.  You're dying of thirst, so do you sit there or climb?

Faith and our relationship with God are like this.  Sometimes it seems like we're in a drought and wonder where the spiritual rain is. Where are the blessings?  Where is God?  We can see others being blessed, so why not us? 

Well, why are you sitting there waiting for it to happen?  Make the difficult journey and go to where the rain and the blessings are.  Walk closer to God and climb the spiritual mountain.  Sitting around won't do anything, so you have to change what you're doing.

Anyone up for some mountain climbing?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rubber Band

I heard this on the radio as I was getting ready for church and thought that it was worth sharing.

"Faith is like a rubber band.  It's only useful when it's stretched."

Think about that! It's very true.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Consequences Of Sin

I think everyone realizes that sin is bad, and we all know passages such as "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).  But I wonder if people really and truly understand how far-reaching the consequences of sin can be.  In my own extended family I've had the unfortunate "pleasure" of seeing this for real.

In my wife's family there is a married couple who have four young children.  Over the last couple of years the wife has had multiple affairs and has lied to cover her indiscretions.  Yes, this is bad, and an obvious breaking of God's commandment against adultery.  Even simply the lies are against God's Word.  She has been very selfish in her actions, and though her husband hasn't always been the best of people and the most attentive spouse or father, he hasn't gone to the extent that she has. But let's look at the spiral this has caused.

Her children are being pulled between the parents and are being affected by those stresses.
Her mother and father have had their jobs affected by the stress of dealing with her.
Her hidden sin has affected the church around her.
Her Christian witness has been ruined and she cannot effectively serve in church.
Her family doesn't trust her at all.
Her sister doesn't want to be around her.
And that's just the beginning.  At a quick count I can think of at least 13 people in her immediate family alone that have been directly impacted by her poor choices and sinful actions.

God has set up "rules" and guidelines, defining certain actions as sinful.  This isn't because He wants to be a dictator and run our lives.  It's because He knows that these actions have far-reaching consequences and can destroy not only us but those we know and the lives we touch.

Before you act selfishly and act against God, really think hard about who you are really affecting.  It's more than just yourself.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Christians Unfit Foster Parents?

Recently a court in England denied a couple the right to foster a child because of their Christian beliefs.  Seriously!  Read about it here.

But Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation "should take precedence" over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.
They said that if children were placed with carers who objected to homosexuality and same-sex relationships, "there may well be a conflict with the local authority's duty to 'safeguard and promote the welfare' of looked-after children".

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, said: "Thankfully, Mr and Mrs Johns' out-dated views aren't just out of step with the majority of people in modern Britain, but those of many Christians too.  

But the Christian Legal Centre reacted to the ruling with dismay and warned that "fostering by Christians is now in doubt".
The organisation said the judgment "sends out the clear message that orthodox Christian ethical beliefs are potentially harmful to children and that Christian parents with mainstream Christian views are not suitable to be considered as potential foster parents".

You know, I realize that Christianity is under attack and more and more people discriminate against Christians.  But this is getting ridiculous and rather frightening.  Basically this case was looking at religious rights versus homosexual rights.  And the judges were rather firm in saying that homosexuality trumps religious rights.

We need to pray and pray hard.  Stories like this are becoming more common as the teachings of the Bible are called into question and considered intolerant and hateful.  If we're not careful we are certainly on the road to Christian views being against the law and considered hate crimes.  Christians need to stick together, seek God, and pray for our world.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lust Or Love?

Here's a weird question.  Do you love God, or do you lust for him?  Bear with me for a second on this one. 

Let's look at what the two things are.  Think about lust first.  That's usually used in a sexual connotation, but can be used for any strong, overwhelming desire.  Related to God, that's good, right?  But how long does lust last?  Normally it's something intense but brief.  You lust, have the feeling fulfilled, then move on.  Lust isn't lasting, and won't sustain a relationship.  Eventually the lust fades and then you find other desires.  Lust implies primal feelings that are beyond your control and don't involve a lot of thought.

Love can be passionate and deep, but it's also thoughtful and long-lasting.  True love is something that grows with time, not fades (as lust does).  When you lust for something you usually feel for it with a specific part of you (mental or physical).  When you love something you do it with all of yourself.  Love sustains you for years or a lifetime, and becomes something that you build your life around.

Now look at your relationship with Jesus.  Do you strongly desire Him, pray and have the prayer answered, and then get distracted by other interests?  That's lust.  Do you want to spend time with Him and get to know Him better?  Do you want Him in your life in both good and bad times?  That's love.

Which is it with you?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Astromechs For Jesus!

This past weekend my family and I were at ConNooga in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  We were there mainly to represent our group, Fans For Christ.  But of course with us being geeks we had fun looking around and talking to people. 

One of the groups I've talked to for a few years is the R2 Builders Club.  These are people who as a hobby build their own astromechs as seen in the Star Wars movies.  I've been fascinated by them and thought it would be so incredibly cool to have one of my own.  Because one droid can cost a few thousand dollars or more (depending on materials and complexity), my wife has said I couldn't do it.  But this year our FFC table was right next to the R2 Builders, so I got to talk to them even more and get to know them personally as well.  My wife met some of their wives, and she finally gave me the okay to join.

Woo-hoo!  So now I'm going to slowly start the process of working to build my own droid, specifically R2-B1 (briefly seen in The Phantom Menace). 

 This is going to involve work, time, and money, but I'm really looking forward to it. When I'm done, I'll have a functional, mobile R2 unit.

However, I was also thinking "why am I doing this?"  What is the ultimate purpose?  And most of all, how can I use this to glorify God?  Yeah, that seems a bit odd, but I want to use this hobby to witness to people for Jesus or somehow draw attention to our group, Fans For Christ.  One way I can do this is have the droid at our FFC table, which will of course bring people over to us out of curiosity. But I also plan to look for other ways to use R2-B1 as a witnessing tool.  How?  Haven't figured that out yet as this only came to me yesterday, but I don't plan on giving up on it.  If God has allowed me to meet other Christians doing this and has softened my wife's heart (thanks, darlin'!), then I need to give back to Him and find a way to use it for His glory.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Faith In The Chair

If you're reading this, odds are that you are sitting down on something.  Even if you're standing, at some point you sit down on something.  When you did, did you think about the seat?  Did you look down at it and wonder if it would hold you?  Did you worry that it wouldn't support you?  Did you consider that it might break and you would fall down? 

Chances are that you answered no to all of these questions.  You had complete confidence in the chair and faith that it would do what it was supposed to do.  Because that chair had supported you before or even looked like it would, you believed in it's ability. 

Why do we doubt God?  How many times to we wonder "Is He going to take care of me?"  "Will he actually help me out of this?"  "Can I really count on Him?"  Despite all evidence to the contrary we doubt God's ability to do what He says He will do.  Despite all of the times that He has helped us in the past, we wrestle with whether or not He will help us in the future.

So tell me, which do you have more faith in.  God or your chair?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why Are We Surprised?

You know it's happened to you.  You really want or need something, so you pray and ask God to bless you with the request.  Then He answers it and you stand amazed.  Wow!  He actually did it!  He actually listened to you and he was actually able to accomplish it!  Something that seemed impossible, and now it's done!  You can't believe it!

Why not?  Why so surprised?

The Bible contains numerous promises that God makes to us.  Why are we astounded when He actually does what He said He was going to do?

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

He gives strength to the weary
   and increases the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:29)

These are only a small sampling of the dozens of things God says He will do for us, to us, and through us.  When we pray we should do so with confidence and security that as long as we are in His will and praying according to His teachings, the prayers WILL be answered.  Yet we are often surprised and shake our head in almost disbelief. 

Why do we doubt?  We're the ones who break promises, not God.  When our prayers are answered we should smile, praise Him, and just nod knowingly.  We should end each prayer with assurance, wondering not "if" but rather "when".  Answers to prayers may not be in the way that we want, but we should have confidence that they are a foregone conclusion.  If they aren't, then God is a liar and not worthy of our faith.  But we know that isn't true, so we should take great strength in that knowledge.

God love us.  He always fulfills His promises.  And though we should be grateful, we should never be surprised when He does this.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nothing Without Prayer

At my monthly pastor's prayer meeting one of the other pastors brought up a point that I had never really considered.  God never acts without prayer being done first.  James was talking about the fact that prayer is so vitally important to how God works, and how we need to really stress prayer as a godly act.  When God's people pray, things happen, and happen in a big way.  As we want and desire to see God work and perform miracles, we need to start the process with prayer.

And this line of thinking had me reviewing what I know of in the Bible.  I cannot think of a single time that God acted or performed a miracle in the Bible where prayer did not happen first.  Eve's creation?  Started with Adam seeking God.  Moses saving the Israelites?  He prayed first.  Any of Jesus' actions?  Even He prayed.  It's not that God can't do things without us, and it's not that we "convince" God to act. But He wants to see that we really do want Him.   God wants to know that we are seeking and looking for Him to work.  Sometimes He withholds His blessings, favor, and actions until we ask Him for them.

Think about that the next time you are waiting on God to do something in your life.  Have you prayed first?  And the next time something unexpected happens that can only come from God, think about who has been praying for you.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Harmonious Prayer

On the first Friday of every month pastors from all over my county gather together for prayer.  Because of my involvement as a minister through Fans For Christ and my own church, I attend these meetings.  We have black, white, and Asian pastors.  They include Baptists, Methodists, Messianic Jews, traditionalists, charismatics, and just about every other type of Protestant you can think of.  At these meetings we spend an our together simply praying.

Everyone prays in their own way and style.  Some are quite and kneel.  Some raise hands up and are shouting to the Lord.  Some speak in tongues.  Some walk around and physically touch others as they pray for them.  There are loud voices, soft voices, crying, begging, name it!

Today we had that meeting and in the middle of it I stopped my own prayers and simply listened to the prayers around me.  I heard all of those voices, tones, and styles surrounding me, and I began to hear them blend together.  The tongues merged with the traditional prayers.  The lamentations merged with the praise.  And it reminded me of a chorus of singers, where the altos, tenors, baritones, sopranos and all other ranges blend together to make a harmonious sound.  This variety of voices comes together to make a beautiful harmony that they couldn't produce alone.

I believe that's how God sees these prayers.  He doesn't care what our church affiliation or backgrounds are.  To Him it just matters that all of these different voices are lifted up to Him for a single purpose and a single worship.  The differences begin to vanish as the sounds change from cacophony to harmony.  That is the true glory of the Kingdom of God.  When believers from all faiths put aside their differences and focus on their similarities.  When they realize that they all serve Jesus and can come together as one single body to do His will.  That's when God is fully glorified and when His desires can be done.

I pray that such unity can spread across this country and the world.  What could Christians really do if we all prayed as one and lifted our voices to God in harmony?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

God--The Adventure Hero!

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today:

"Life is an adventure. And you know, the adventure never really begins until everything goes wrong...And then you get to watch the Lord work." -Pastor Jay Stark

I love this quote and it got me thinking about adventure stories and heroes.  For example, let's look at that classic adventurer, Indiana Jones.  We know that he's pretty amazing and can do some spectacular things:  running away from huge boulders, climbing along the underside of a truck while it's moving, falling out of a crashing plane with a rubber raft as a parachute, guiding a runaway mine cart along broken tracks, racing speedboats through the canals of Venice, defeating ancient death-traps...and let's not forget the whip!  Indy accomplishes things that no normal person could ever do and pulls victory out of certain defeat.

But all of these great feats come when he's in danger and when things seem to be going wrong.  Remember that Indy is also a college professor.  How many amazing things do you think he performs in front of his students?  Now this isn't a comment against teachers.  I've taught college Biology, so I count myself as one.  But I can't recall anything happening in a class or lab that would be beyond the capabilities of just about anyone to handle.  I also never faced danger in the classroom.  If Dr. Jones had stayed in his classroom, he would have been much safer but we also wouldn't be telling stories about him.

God is the same way.  If everything is going smoothly and there are no challenges, there is no way for His miracles to show.  What kind of miracle can happen when everyone is well, there is plenty of money in the bank, and the car is working fine?  But when things start to fall apart and everything seems hopeless...that's when our Heavenly Adventure Hero can show what He's made of!  So the next time things seem bleak, remember that those times are there so that God can show how awesome He is!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rearranging Your House

Over the last week my wife and I have been rearranging our house.  About 4 years ago when we moved we went for a relatively large house to a smaller one, losing several hundred square feet.  We've always been a little unhappy with the space, even though it's a nice house, and often have talked about wishing for a new home.  This is also the longest we've lived in one home in the 13 years we've been together, so we're feeling a little antsy and kind of wanting to move.  But there is no real chance of that happening soon, so we're trying to make the best of it.

As we started rearranging the house, switching furniture from one room to another, moving pictures, and so on, we discovered that we have a lot more open space.  What once seemed like a cramped home has suddenly opened up and feels roomy.  We look around and are amazed at what some new paint, slipcovers on the furniture, and a different arrangement can do to make us like our home.  We really haven't added or taken away things in the house, just changed where they were placed.  And that has made a world of difference in feeling content in our home.

This morning when I was praying God spoke to me about this issue.  I've also been struggling with being content in my job and our life.  I often wish that God has something else in store for me.  That he would help me find a different job, more money, and so on.  But for whatever reasons (and only He knows what they are), God wants us here at this time.  Since my desires don't seem to be in line with His, I've been struggling with personal contentment.  This morning He spoke to me and made me realize that it was no different than contentment with our house.

As I said, we really didn't add or take away from our home.  We used what we had and rearranged where we put them.  And that made a huge difference, increasing our satisfaction in our home.  So what if I did that internally?  What if I slapped a coat of spiritual paint on my heart and rearranged my priorities and activities?  By re-evaluating and rearranging my spiritual house, perhaps I could be content where God has me placed.

I'm not saying that suddenly everything is copacetic in my heart.  But it was a great awakening to me, and I'm glad that God spoke to me.  I don't necessarily have to add or take away from myself to be content.  God has already placed the things in our life we need to be happy.  When we're struggling with finding that contentment, we should look at rearranging things in our life.  We don't need to add things or even get rid of things (though we may need to get rid of sinful behaviors or add spiritual ones).  Like it took with my home, just looking at things in our life in a different way may help us find that peace that God wants for us.