Posts Tagged ‘God’

What breaks your heart? Are you moved by poverty? Is it racial discrimination that brings your blood to a boil? Do you hate seeing corruption everywhere you turn? Does your heart stir for orphans, or maybe it’s abuse victims that cause you turmoil? Most likely, all of these things bother you at some level, but is there something that really breaks your heart?

Our youth group recently watched a video of Bill Hybels speaking at a leadership conference. He was talking about what he calls our “Holy Discontent”, which is basically the one thing that really breaks our hearts and consumes us. Hybels says that great things can happen when you are absolutely wrecked by something. Not just mildly offended by something, or semi-interested in a cause, but absolutely wrecked by injustice. I may not agree with all of the things that Bill Hybels says, but I do believe that God wants us to get involved with His mission to rescue people. There are many ways to get involved, but you or I cannot do all of them. If we each work toward finding that which breaks our heart, and then allow that passion to grow into action, we can start to really help people. If we are all doing our share, we can really do great things for others. I believe that finding the injustice that breaks our heart the most is the first step in finding our calling.

What can we do if we all work together?

If I can find my one heartbreaker and focus my attention on that one thing, and if you could find yours and focus on it, and the next person could find theirs… and so on, how much do you think we could accomplish? God wants us to be intently involved in His story. He has gifted all of us and set within us a brokenness over one thing or another. Do you know what that thing is? Do you know what breaks your heart?

I’ve heard that a lot, and as a Christian, I’ve said that a lot.  “II pray for you” is the Christian knee-jerk reaction to hearing anything from anyone.

  • You need a job, I’m praying for you.
  • Sick grandma, I’m praying for you, and her, and any other random family members who might be affected.
  • Hey, you lost a limb in a strange farm equipment accident, I’ll be in touch with the Big Guy, maybe He’ll get you a new one.

There is nothing wrong with praying for others.  Prayers of intercession (the ‘hey, look at me, I know big words’ way of saying prayers that help others) are an amazing way to support people.  Why would you not pray for those around you who need help?  All of us know people who have needs.  Whether those needs are physical or spiritual, we are all close to people who could use some prayer.  God is a big God, and why not spend some time talking with Him about the issues on our minds?  I love praying for other people’s needs.  It really helps me take focus off myself, and it reminds me that God is in control.

You know what else is a kind gesture to those in need?  Helping them.  It’s a novel concept, I know.  Some of you are probably staring blankly at the screen, trying to understand what that even means.  ‘Helping them? I’m not sure what he’s getting at.  I mean I said I’d pray for them, what else can I do?’

Not that prayer isn't good, but these kids might need some physical help we can provide right now.

When I see people around me who have needs, I pray for them, but I try to help them when I am able.  If they are feeling low, I offer an ear or a hug, or both.  If they need some money, I offer to help out.  I allow myself to be open to the needs of those around me so that I can be used to reach into their lives.  I get to use my gifts to help others, and I love it.

Where is the love?

Apple Inc. has made so much money during the recession that it is poised to beat ExxonMobile as the most profitable company on the planet.  This is not a statement against Apple, but a question posed to those of us who helped make that happen.  The unemployment rate is just above 9%.  Costs of goods and services are skyrocketing, and yet we spent so much money on unnecessary gadgets this year that we pushed a company that only makes unnecessary gadgets into a position to become the most profitable company in existence.

I have no problems with buying iWhatevers or iShinyThing#3 but where is our neighborly love?  Why must we force social programs onto the shoulders of our government?  If we, as ordinary people, took some time and helped those around us (volunteering at shelters, donating food and clothing, adopting and fostering children…) we wouldn’t need so many government programs.  There are so many people in the world with their legitimate needs left unmet, and so many people with so much excess in their lives, why don’t we give a little bit away to help those around us?

Prayer is an amazing way to help those around us, but we need to realize that sometimes there are practical solutions that we can provide to others.

James 2:15-16 - Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Dear God

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Christian Living
Tags: ,

Dear God,

Thank You for all of the good things You’ve done for me. Thank You for all of my blessings. Please forgive me for the wrongs that I have done, to You and to others. Please help my sick family members and help my buddy’s dad find a job. Please help me to be more awesome. Thank You for being more awesome than I could ever be. Amen


If You invited me to be a friend, why am I praying you a pen pal letter? Should I be asking you about how your summer is going, and what you plan to do when school starts back up? Should I ask you about camp, You probably have some really cool camp stories. Anyway, just thought I’d touch base. Life has been crazy but I don’t really have time to talk about it right now. Summer’s almost over. Tell everyone I said hi.

Dear God, I hope you like this. I made it for you in art class

I hope God really isn’t offended by that. Not because it’s sarcastic or something like that. I hope He isn’t offended because that’s how a lot of my prayers go. If I look back at most of my prayers, it seems to me that I am just too vague and lame. I am not “real” with God.  I acknowledge God as who He is, but talk to Him like He is only generally interested in me. I pray my little prayer and then I go about my business. Am I really praying if I do that? Is there some sort of disconnect if I don’t treat my relationship with God with any real reverence? Am I alone in thinking that my prayers are feeble and childish? I need to re-evaluate my prayer life, and tap into the true relationship I’m supposed to have with God. Maybe you do, too, but I know I do.

There is a lot of discussion about the legitimacy of the institutional church lately. There are intense debates occurring in print and online. I have read books and blogs written by people who suggest that we get rid of all remnants of the institutional church. I have also had discussions with some people who believe the church as we know it is fundamentally, biblically flawed. I follow blogs and twitter feeds that share ideas by people who feel strongly about their beliefs regardless of which side of the issue they fall upon. I believe that those who want to get rid of worship services are trying to do what they think is right, but I have to disagree with them on this issue.

Reading sections of the New Testament, those who want to dismantle the church find verses that (when cropped to cut out the parts that they don’t want to talk about) support their notions that the church (usually identified as the “institutional church” to make it sound like it’s a literal prison) is anti-biblical. This is the panacea for all those who find fault with a pastor or a congregation, or a worship team’s decibel level. No more scrambling to find the perfect church (which doesn’t exist). Hey, I don’t have to go to church at all because Paul wrote a letter telling the church of Corinth that all people should be able to use their gifts in their meetings. If you find that passage, please stop reading as soon as you get to the part where it says that everyone should use their gifts, because after that verse, Paul says that women should be quiet and not interrupt the men. Paul says women should not speak in church because they are distracting. When you ask those who want to destroy the institutional church about that section, immediately following the one about everyone getting a chance to speak, they say that the women thing is only written to that specific church at that specific time. The other stuff is timeless though. Interesting. I guess we can all just take what we want to take out of Scripture and make it say what we want it to say.

I do not have all of the answers. What I am saying is just because something is not brought up in the New Testament, that does not believe it is ant-biblical. In his book, “Pagan Christianity”, Frank Viola derides the institutional church because there is nothing in the New Testament about believers meeting in buildings, and that a pastor leading a congregation did not exist for the first Christians. These may be accurate facts, but if there were no Sunday schools, or youth groups, or worship teams in the Bible, does that mean that they are inherently wrong? Do those things, or can those things, bring value to God’s people? Can they bring hope, or love, encouragement or challenge, knowledge or wisdom? Just because they are not part of Christianity two thousand years ago does not mean that they are worthless, or worse yet, heresy.

I believe that there is value in the church system. If you are only getting your faith from a sermon on Sunday morning, I think you are missing a big part of your faith. I believe that personal quiet times with God grows a person’s faith deeply. But for those who do read the Bible and pray throughout the week, Sunday morning church services are amazing boosts. Pastors are paid to devote their time to study and pray so they can help teach, encourage and challenge a congregation.

I went to college and paid professors to teach me things that I could not have learned from books directly. I paid them to spend their time to plan lessons and to challenge me to grow. That did not take the place of personal study and homework, though. I could not have passed without studying on my own or doing work outside of the classroom, but I could not have learned as much as I did without going to class either. I feel church is very similar. I think that we should look at church the same way. Our faith cannot come from a pastor, alone. But we should not discount the gathering of saints on a Sunday morning, or a Sunday night, or a Saturday night, or whenever that congregation meets. To do that is to cut off the body from a vital part of faith. Belonging to a congregation can be a great experience. In a congregation, people can learn how to live with other people with other personalities. People can learn how to faithfully and biblically handle conflict, how to serve and to follow others. In a congregation, we learn how to put others first, how to listen.

I know that this is a touchy subject for a lot of people. I believe that God is working in the hearts of those on both sides of the issue, and I know that His glory will still shine in the world regardless of where we meet. I’m sure some of you reading this will have strong opinions about what I have said. Feel free to comment, but please try to keep from tearing people down.

I have not been teaching lately. With the wedding coming up, and some important details still in the air, I have delegated a lot of my youth group leading to other leaders. The young adult group that I lead is on a hiatus for the summer, as well. Therefore, I am not teaching right now. This break started a couple of weeks ago, but already something is noticeably different.

Image: smokedsalmon /

Hello??? Am I just teaching myself here?

I feel like my relationship with God has changed, or has at least dwindled some. The funny thing is, I have been reading my Bible more often and my prayer life is as good as, if not better than, it has been over the past few months. I was kind of at a loss about what was happening, until I talked to an old friend of mine the other day.

He told me that faith is a very interesting thing. It is something that only increases as you give it away. He told me that it was normal to feel a little out of it right now. He told me that my break from teaching right now is what’s causing my supposed slump. It isn’t that my faith is weaker, but just that it’s different. I’ve been teaching the young adult group for about five years and both that group and the youth group for around three. My faith has grown into something that I love sharing and teaching. So now that I’m not teaching anyone, it feels like something is wrong. I don’t believe that there is actually anything wrong with my faith right now (not compared to when I was teaching twice a week), but that I just need to learn how to deal with this aspect of my faith.

I know myself as a creature of habit, and I generally try to find patterns in things so that I can find the most efficient way to do any task. Once I get the pattern down, I can just hammer out whatever it is I need to do. While I was teaching, I had my faith organized to work within my schedule and my life. I am starting to think that my problem lies within my pattern based life. Maybe I do need this shake-up to take stock in where I am with God. Maybe He wants me to change how I interact with Him, and how I show Him to those around me? Have you ever been in a situation where God has changed some part of your walk so that you can refocus on Him? If so, how did it work out?

Things in my life don’t always go as planned.  If I had things my way I’d be a full-time youth or young pastor right now.  Well, maybe I’d be a rock star, or maybe  even an Apache pilot.  I would not be still working in IT.  I like computers, but I love people.  I enjoy meeting people, growing relationships and helping people.  I believe that’s why I enjoy ministry so much.  The crazy schedules and events, the to-do lists, all of that stuff takes a huge toll on my life, but the rewards are worth the price.  Seeing teenagers and young adults grow is why I do what I do.  Like I said before, I would love to be a full-time youth or young adult pastor, but I’m content with the way my life is right now.  Would I like my life to look different, of course I would, but that’s not what God wants for my life right now.
Image: graur codrin /

If only this is what computer work really was

Sometimes we look to God as if everything He does for us should make us happy.  I don’t believe that though.  I don’t think it’s biblical at all, actually.  God doesn’t always shield us from danger or tribulation.  Jesus says in Matthew 10, “…anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”  Those are some strong words from Jesus.  What I believe He is saying is that following Him is not easy.  I also believe that to think that stronger faith equals an easier life is just wrong.  The apostle, Paul, knew this better than most.  In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes, “…Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Paul knew that his suffering was the cost of his ministry, and he counted it as joy to suffer for Christ.  His resolve was strong, and his faith even stronger.  He knew that faith did not always lead to a trouble free life, but Paul knew what was truly important, following Jesus.  A life of faith and obedience can (and does) lead to a hard life.  We have to die to ourselves, daily (sometimes even hourly, or even minute by minute) to allow God to work in our hearts and in our minds.  Sometimes that process is easy, but usually there is struggle and pain involved.  Our joy comes from God, not from worldly happiness.  We will lose things we don’t necessarily want to lose.  We will battle our own wills, our personal idols, our desires and even our childhood dreams.  We will have to bury our own ideas of comfort and stability to know that true comfort and stability come from God.

I have been thinking a lot about prayer lately. With the devastating tsunami wreaking havoc around Japan, lots of people have been praying and encouraging others to pray. I love hearing people talk about prayer. I believe that we have the open ear of the omnipotent God. He who created existence allows us lowly buffoons to talk to Him. What an amazing privilege and what an astounding honor.

Image: graur razvan ionut /

Image: graur razvan ionut /

But, how are we supposed to pray? For what are we supposed to pray? For whom are we supposed to pray?

Those are my questions to myself, and I guess, my questions to you. I believe that we have a responisibility in our prayer life. I believe that prayer is a very personal and intimate thing. Even in corporate prayer, there is a bond that forms between people when we talk with God as a group. It is a beautiful thing, prayer. As beautiful as it is powerful.

Jesus modeled prayer for us in Matthew 6: 9-13 “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.

I like to use that as a guideline, but there are other things I feel the need to pray about. In fact, it feels like I have lots of other things that need prayer.

  • My relationships need prayer, sometimes a lot of prayer.
  • The young adult group I lead needs prayer
  • The youth group I lead needs prayer
  • I have issues that I face in my own life that also need prayer

I sometimes feel like I ask for too much, like a kid who isn’t happy with their new bike because I really want the blue one. Sometimes I feel as though I keep asking for help and forgiveness about the same things over and over again. Sometimes I think God is bored with my prayers, or maybe I’m missing something.

I would really love to hear your thoughts on prayer. I would really love to start a small discussion about how we pray. Am I alone in looking at prayer as a great mystery? What do you think? How do you pray?