Tag Archives: prayer

Thoughts on Thievery 


Twice this week our church building has been broken into. I’m frustrated.

I talk week in and week out about love, but when times like these come they test our resolve to love.

What should our response be in times like these? Should we seek justice? Should we roll over like a rug mat?

It’s hard to think straight. I feel violated having someone in my office, uninvited, rifling through my desk. Fortunately nothing of high value was stolen. Fortunately no one was hurt. But now there’s this uneasiness I feel in the area. I felt this same way years ago when my car was broken into in California.

It seems so cliche, but how would Jesus respond?

Things are things. People are created in the image of God. They are loved by Him. Their lives are valuable to Him. He yearns for their salvation.

Jesus would pray first. He wouldn’t verbally try to process things and get worked into a froth first like I often tend to do. He would pray first to find his source of strength and center.

He would pray for the salvation of the thieves. He would pray for love to abound in himself that they might know God through the undeserved love of the Son. He would pray for an opportunity to love them directly in word and deed.

Would He seek justice? Only if that would lead to their repentance.

Would he spend money on surveillance and security systems? It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure Jesus would be very concerned about a church building at all. Sometimes ownership of stuff distracts from the more meaningful purposes in life.

Are church buildings a good investment? In this culture they seem to be. We are much more urbanized than in centuries past. The closer the people are together, the larger the gatherings tend to be. The larger the gatherings, the greater the need for a gathering place. And it’s cold outside. Very cold. I’m thankful for a warm place to get together with my forever family.

Jesus came to this earth and functioned within the current religious and social culture of the day. I think he would do the same today – church buildings and all.

So, what is our response when we who are striving to live for Christ are violated in such a way? Pray. Pray for the people who broke in to find love and freedom from sin in Christ. Pray for ourselves that we may find peace and lose our need for vindication. Pray to see through the eyes of Christ and love with His heart and His Spirit within us.

May God bring life-change to those who broke into our building. May God bring a forgiving Spirit to our hearts and allow us to be an example to the rest of our community and the world. May God be glorified in all things.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.


You Get What You Ask For

Be careful what you pray for. You might just get it. 

When we pray, we are encouraged to pray for what we want and to be willing to follow the will of God whatever the outcome. But what if the will of God isn’t what He gives us? What if He gives us what we wanted even if that means he has to work a different outcome?

God had a plan for Israel, but they wanted a king, so he gave them one. It wasn’t exactly pleasant for the Israelites, but they got what they wanted, and eventually God worked out His will for them anyway. 

We just voted in a new president. Many churches prayed for the outcome of his election. Many Christians prayed specifically for Trump to win, but is that what the church needed? 

The American church is weak. The American church largely functions like a 40 year old bible nerd that still lives in his mom’s basement. 

Where is evangelism? Where are wonderful works of the Holy Spirit? Where are those strong in the faith who are able to speak truth without fear of their fellow man? Where are the “greater things than these” that Jesus promised we’d do?

Yes, there are preachers and some Christians who function this way, but this is not the norm. 

If the American church functions largely to put on Sunday morning bible classes and worship assemblies, then she has missed the call of the New Testament. 

The American church is full of people who claim to be Christians but don’t even know what Christ said about how to live. They look just like the world and cower at the concept of being blunt enough to tell others about the dangers of sin and the need for a savior. They don’t want to be seen as religious “nuts” and work hard to be cool according to the world’s standards. 

When has the church been strong? The church was strong under the persecution of the Jews, Pagans, and Romans in the first three centuries. The church is still strong in places where persecution is more than just a hateful glance or derogatory comment. The church is strong where there are threats of prison and death. 

Why? Because if you’re still going to choose the way of Christ in such circumstances, you’re going to have to be truly filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. There are no partial Christians in places like that. There are no “Sunday morning only” Christians in that culture. 

Perhaps what the American church needs is some persecution. Maybe she needs to lose some of her rights in this nation. Maybe her members need to be threatened in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. God has done it before. One day, He will do it again. 

I pray for President-Elect Trump and his staff. I pray for our nation. I pray especially for the church – that she begins to pray prayers more like Acts 4 – prayers of boldness and not protection; prayers of courage in the Spirit of Christ.

It’s well past time for Christians in this nation to come back to the Christ they claim with their lips but deny with their lifestyle. It’s time for the church to be a bastion of love in a world gone mad with fear and hatred. It’s time for the church to stop being “of convenience” and start being actually “of Christ”. 

What are you going to do to help the church be what Jesus calls her to be? Change starts with me, and it starts with you. 


What is the church of Christ?

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For over a hundred years there have been churches that refer to themselves as the Church of Christ. These churches have that sign on the door or out by the street, and many people recognize that there are certain things that make these churches unique.

However, the name that is used was never meant to be a name. It is and has always been a description of the people. The people are the church that belongs to Jesus, the Christ (Romans 16:16).

So what does the church that belongs to Jesus look like? The following is a list of ideas that Jesus presented which should be attributes of his followers. I encourage you to read this with your bible open following along with the passages referred to.

What is the church of Christ?

The church that belongs to Christ understands its need for forgiveness and is anxious to be able to extend that forgiveness to others. It is not a church that holds grudges. (Matthew 6:14-15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the Holy Spirit in the lives of each believer. They follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives as they live each day – not just on Sunday. This creates within them a fire, a passion, as they experience life in the presence of God who lives within them. (John 14:15-17, 26-27)

The church that belongs to Christ understands that belief in Jesus and connection with Him in baptism (immersion) are essential to salvation. They don’t try to argue this away. They accept it and are willing and eager to follow Jesus’ instructions and example in this manner. (Mark 16:15-16)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that unity with one another is essential to life in Him. They believe that this unity is key to their ability to evangelize to the world. They are not known for their division. (John 17:20-21)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that faith is essential to a person’s ability to follow Jesus. They recognize where their faith is weak and ask Jesus to strengthen their faith through the Spirit at work within them. They understand that without this faith it is impossible to please God. (Luke 17:5-6)

The church that belongs to Christ is a praying church. Prayer is seen as powerful and necessary to the connection and relationship between the church and God. They understand that it is through prayer that much of the power of Christ is released upon the world around them. They follow Jesus’ example of being constantly in prayer. (Luke 5:16; 11:1-13)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that He has called each one of us, no matter our past, to evangelism – to tell others about Him. This is not just the preacher’s job, but it is the role of each follower. A follower excited about his or her Savior cannot help but tell others about Him. (Mark 5:19)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that communion – partaking of the body and blood of Jesus – is essential to the life of the believer. They believe it is in communion with Jesus that relationship with Him is fostered as often as it is taken. (John 6:53-56)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t make it a practice to stand in judgment of others. They are accepting of all people because they recognize that all have sinned, and everyone has need for the same Savior. (Matthew 7:3-5)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the reign of God, His kingdom, in their lives each day. This is not relegated to once or twice a week in a certain building but is shown by a lifestyle devoted to following God in every decision and action daily. (Matthew 6:33)

The church that belongs to Christ is full of flawed people who haven’t got it all figured out. They are broken people who are trying their best to allow God to change them, but it is a daily process, and some days are better than others. This creates an atmosphere of equality among all people regardless of race, age, gender, or class. (Matthew 9:12-13)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to obey Him in all things. They see their obedience as part of their faith. (John 14:15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to show mercy and grace to all whom they come in contact with. They understand that they have been shown mercy and grace by Jesus and seek to reflect Him to others. (Matthew 5:7; 9:13)

The church that belongs to Christ is in the business of disciple-making. They aren’t interested in merely inviting someone to a weekend service. They want to help one another grow in their understanding and ability to follow the teachings of Jesus. (Matthew 28:18-20)

The church that belongs to Christ is compassionate. They seek to show that compassion in the world around them and seek nothing in return. (Luke 10:33-37)

The church that belongs to Christ is generous because it understands that everything it has has been given by the One who owns everything. It understands that the money and possessions it acquires are to be used to glorify God by helping others. It gives generously as an act of worship. (Mark 12:42-44)

The church that belongs to Christ focuses on what Jesus said are the most important ideas: Love God and Love your neighbor. This church is recognized by its love. The world all around knows there is something different about the church that belongs to Jesus because it loves like no other entity does – masses of followers banding together to be an example of love to everyone around them. (Matthew 22:35-40)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t worry about names on building or denominational association. This church is boundless. It has no borders. It is found in every church as people claim allegiance to the Savior who died and rose again. (John 10:16)

The church that belongs to Christ follows Jesus. No. Matter. What. (Matthew 10:38; 16:24-26)

This is the church of Christ. It’s not a name on a building but a way of life. It is all people who choose to follow Jesus – his examples and his teachings. Are you a part of that church?


On the Border of Response

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The world is a tumultuous place. Wars are raging and beginning all over the place. Innocent people are being killed for any and every reason. Laws are being broken in every nation. Nations are rising up against nations. Governments are being overthrown. How are we to act?

In our nation alone there is controversy on every front. From the Hobby Lobby fight to the flood at the border, our nation is becoming increasingly divided. Everyone has opinions on the hot-button topics like gun control, common core, abortion, immigration reform, military action on foreign soil, etc.

How are we, Christians, to respond to a world as conflicted as the one in which we live?

The first place we should be is on our knees in prayer. If you believe that God is not distant and that He cares for us and the rest of His creation, then you need to be asking Him to intervene.

2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

This is, I believe, our first response to a world as broken as ours. We need healing. We need forgiveness – not just as individuals but as a nation. We need repentance from all people including those (maybe especially those) in our governmental leadership.

The next thing we need to do is become aware. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but it doesn’t take a smart man to tell that the news sources from which we get most of our news are NOT unbiased. In fact, it is hard to find truly unbiased news from any source these days. If I tell you a bit of news then it is important to me because of my political or moral views on a particular issue. I am not unbiased. Therefore the news I share is not unbiased.

That being said we still need to know what is going on around us. These days we have the ability to read news information from a wide variety of sources. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds are inundated with the latest news from around the world. If we don’t know what is going on around us then how can we know how to engage the culture or influence change as needed? If we aren’t knowledgable then it is easy for us to be duped by the first wind of teaching to come by.

This includes your ability to know what your Father in Heaven has planned for you. The world is constantly trying to convince you of things that are contrary to the word of God. It is trying to teach you that these commands are barbaric and can’t have come from a god but from mere men. Search within the scriptures. Do not be ignorant of the world around you. You will find that those who love according to the Word of God have a life of fulfillment in this world and in the world to come.

Finally we are to be people of action. We need to be sharing the good news of grace and forgiveness through Jesus to all our friends and contacts. We need to be working daily to change the world by bringing one person at a time to Jesus. Don’t wait for the preacher. This is your calling. Matthew 28:18-20 is for you as well as me.

We also need to be people of action in how we influence our government. One of the greatest things about living in the USA is our ability to vote on almost everything. If you like what is going on then vote for more of the same. If you are disgruntled then vote to change things. You have been given a voice. As Christians this is a great opportunity for us to influence our nation. If we aren’t vocal with our votes then we are allowing the darkness to rule all around. Sometimes voting also happens with out participation or lack thereof. I’m not telling you which political way to vote, but you need to vote.

If this nation does decline – if the darkness grows and Christians are persecuted – then we still have hope in the fact that we are part of a bigger kingdom. The kingdom of God has no physical borders. It is not a matter of here or there but is within you. Live like kingdom citizens wherever you are no matter the outcome of your physical country.

So, change the world. And if it changes for the worse, then have hope in knowing that no one can ever take away your citizenship in the kingdom of God.


It’s Mine! You can’t have it!

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Grace. Christians talk about it a lot, but what is it? It is NOT simply a prayer. Though a prayer can be said with grace. It is not flawless elegance. It is not even that lady that died 30 years ago in “Christmas Vacation”. So what is grace?

Grace is one of the most beloved concepts in all of Christianity because it truly is what we all want. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

It is not getting something worse than we deserve. We wouldn’t use the term “grace” to refer to the times when we got in trouble for something we didn’t do. No, grace is getting something better than we deserve.

Imagine you were driving down the highway – speeding – and got pulled over by a highway patrol officer. What you deserve is a ticket. Grace is like that officer coming to your window and handing you a $100 bill and wishing you a nice day. You deserved punishment but got a gift instead.

We love this because this is the central idea behind the death and resurrection of Jesus. We deserve death because of our sins (Romans 6:23), but instead of death, we not only get forgiveness, but we get righteousness and life in the presence of God forever. We deserve death, but we get life. We deserve prison, but we get freedom. That is grace.

Wouldn’t you want that? Have you received that? It is exactly what Jesus offers.

When you become a Christian – putting off the old self by connecting with Jesus in his death and resurrection through baptism – you receive the grace of God. That grace is never ending. Even when you sin in the future you will still receive grace and forgiveness.

We all want to receive grace, and we praise God for the grace we have received, but do we give it like we’ve received it?

The last time you went to a sit-down restaurant how did the waiter or waitress do? Did you pay him or her what they deserved or did you give them grace?

When someone asked you for assistance on the street corner, did you drive on by or give them grace?

When your husband or wife made you angry did you lash out or love them anyway showing them grace?

We are called to love God and love others. God loves us by giving us grace. Should we give any less to those around us?

“But you don’t understand. They’re so annoying! They keep doing the same stupid thing over and over again. Surely I am justified in my frustration with them. Surely I don’t have to always treat them that way. Shouldn’t I be treated well?”

I have to wonder if God feels the same way about us when we continually sin against him and against others. Yet, he still gives us grace. He still loves us immeasurably. His love never fails. He never gives up on us.

So I challenge you. Love others like God loves you. Don’t keep all the grace for yourself. Give them grace. Be like Jesus. Even when they were crucifying Him He prayed for their forgiveness. May your attitude be the same as His.


Flowery Words and Censored Hearts

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If I were to write a letter to the president there is a certain amount of pomp and elegance I would provide to the letter out of respect for the office and the intelligence that is supposed to be represented there. I would also speak to someone like the president or the governor with a certain elegance and dignity. I don’t want them thinking I’m some ignorant fool, nor do I want to offend them with my relaxed style of speaking.

When we write for school there is a certain amount of style that we are required to include in our poetry and prose so that people can follow along with what we’ve written. Even now, as I write this, there are rules I follow in order to make my writing readable.

However, I don’t expect my children to talk to me like that. I want respect from them. I like them to use the “magic words” of “please” and “thank you”. I want them to acknowledge my questions or directions with “yes sir” or “no sir”. But when they want to talk to me – just talk – I want to hear their heart. I don’t care if they speak with eloquence. I don’t want formalities. I just want to know what is on their mind. I want to hear them with love accepting them no matter how they speak about what is on their heart. I even want to hear when they are angry with me. I want to know why. And I love when they call me “daddy”.

Often I hear people talk about prayer and they say “I just don’t know how to pray. What if I don’t use the right words?”

There are no right words.
You don’t have to start with “Dear God” as if you were writing a letter to Him. He has never left you, and He knows when you are speaking to Him. You don’t have to close it out with “in Jesus name I pray, amen”. Praying “in Jesus name” is an attitude of the heart and not a colloquial phrase required for proper prayer.

You don’t have to use formal addresses like “Thee” and “Thou”. You don’t have to pray all the Christian catch-phrases you hear each Sunday. The only right words are the ones that come from your heart.

There is no required posture.
Often when we pray someone will invite people to bow their heads. This is done in reverence to the Almighty, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not the only posture of prayer. Sometimes I pray while looking around at the creation I’m standing in. I feel connected to God when I’m in awe of his mountains and trees and streams and wildlife. Sometimes I kneel when I pray. I’ve even prayed laying face down on the floor in desperation. Sometimes I look around the room and pray for those I see around me.

The only requirement is your heart.
There is a story in the bible that Jesus tells of a Pharisee (read: super religious guy) and a tax collector (read: scum of the earth – seriously, they thought of them like that back in Jesus’ day too). The Pharisee stood in the synagogue and prayed loudly thanking God for his self-perceived righteousness. He boasted in prayer as he used the fitting words to do his duty of prayer. Then the tax collector began to speak and didn’t look up to heaven or speak loudly. He beat his breast and simply said “have mercy on me, a sinner”. Jesus said that the tax collector went away justified that day for he poured out his heart to the Almighty, and the Almighty heard.

That’s what God wants from you. He wants to hear what’s on your heart. There are no right or wrong words. Just talk to Him. It might feel awkward at first, but keep at it. When you realize that God’s presence is always with you, then you will find prayer to be a refreshing connection with your Creator who loves you more than all of creation. You are his child. Talk to him like he is your daddy.


Hats Off Please!

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I recently shaved my head…again. I’ve been bald several times over the last few years, and I like it. It is wonderful to not have to worry about bed head or the wind messing up my hair. I like to wear hats, so no hat hair, but I do have to watch the rings on my head after wearing hats.

It’s easy to maintain. There are no barber fees just the cost of shaving cream and razors. It’s almost therapeutic to shave each day. But I DO have to worry about sunburn.

I don’t like to wear sunscreen. There’s something about that lotion that makes my skin feeling oily, and I’ve never liked the feeling. The ones that don’t leave my skin oily leave it feeling silky smooth. I don’t like that either – I’ve always associated skin like that with women. Plus, I tan normally and don’t burn, so it’s ok, right? I know I should wear sunscreen, and now that I’m bald I am very careful about how I take care of my exposed scalp. When I’m not wearing sunscreen I make sure I’m wearing a hat.

There is one time, though that wearing a hat is a bit confusing. It is when I pray. Do I take it off or not? Why do people take their hats off during prayer? Where does this idea come from?

I’m pretty sure it comes from 1 Corinthians 11:4

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.

On the outset it looks like this is exactly speaking of wearing hats during prayer or not. However, verse three gives a bit of context that is necessary for understanding verse four.

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Here in verse 3 the writer, Paul, defines who/what the head is. The head of man is Christ. Then he talks about covering the head. If verse three was written elsewhere then verse 4 could be easily explained as speaking of physical head coverings. But Paul gave a definition then used the terminology he just defined in the next verses. Verse 4 could read that “every man who prays or prophesies with Christ covered dishonors Christ.”

So, are we to pray without our hats or not? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us we should “pray without ceasing”. Seems to me that prayer time is not determined by our physical circumstances. God lives in us and not a temple. Therefore physical environments such as removing a hat cannot keep our prayers from reaching the Father.

Even though it may not be a problem to take off our hats during prayer time, there is still a large part of Christian culture that believes this should be done. Many people are taught in military and in other cultural circumstances that there are times to take off your hat to show respect. Even though taking your hat off during prayer is probably not what 1 Corinthians 11 is talking about, when with a group it is best to do it out of respect for those around you.

We have freedom in Christ. God is everywhere – especially in our hearts. Hats don’t stop that, but in all things respect for those around you shows love for them.

1 Corinthians 10:23
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.


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