For more of my thoughts on "Preacher" click here.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
For more of my thoughts on "Preacher" click here.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Monday, August 21, 2017
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
A lot of times in our lives, especially as Christians, we find ourselves encountering people who may be in times of trouble, and some who will actively ask “If you could please pray for me?” Usually we count these folks among our friends, close acquaintences, or co-workers. But would you pray for a stranger? Would you pray for someone who hurt you? Could you pray for an inmate?
Today’s (May 2, 2017) scripture reading is Acts 7:51-8:1
“Stephen said to the people, the elders and the scribes: ‘You stubborn people, with your pagan hearts and pagan ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? In the past they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers. You who had the Law brought to you by angels are the very ones who have not kept it.’
They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep. Saul entirely approved of the killing.”
Now, previously I’ve talked about Jesus’ famous prayer “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is one of his final words before dying on the cross for our sins, and this act calls for us as God’s children to unilateral forgiveness. But this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God we are talking about. Forgiveness is what He does; it’s easy for him…right?
What about Stephen? We see here Stephen standing up to the people of the day, despite the fact that they CLEARLY didn’t want to hear it, and was stoned to death for his witnessing the Glory of God. That is to say he was brutally murdered, bludgeoned to death with rocks. Not “a rock”…rocks, this took a while. You can imagine the pain he was experiencing, even as he called for the Lord to not hold their sin against them.
Where I work right now, we have over a thousand inmates, all of whom have been accused, some found guilty and convicted of some pretty hard crimes. We are talking murder, robbery, abuse, sexual assault of children and so forth. Could you pray for them? Could you stand there and ask God not to hold their sins against them? Could you look at the man convicted of sexually assaulting a child and say “I forgive you.” And stand as his advocate before the throne of God?
It’s hard. We have anger for that kind of thing; we have an intolerance of these heinous crimes. Imagine the worst crime committed by someone against you, whether it is an actual criminal offense or rather a social infraction; now imagine forgiving them. But that’s what God calls us to do. Stephen’s example is proof that we as mere mortals can do this. We can forgive, we should forgive, and further we SHOULD pray for those who have sinned against us.
Your prayer doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be just as simple as Stephen’s. If you want to get into more detail, you can, that’s well within your right.
Now that doesn’t mean you are wiping the slate clean before the throne. We can forgive, but a priest, absolves sins.
“Absolve: to set (someone) free from an obligation or the consequences of guilt”
“Forgive: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)”
Merriam Webster Dictionary
Our forgiveness, while not wiping the slate clean before the throne of God, does go a long way to make a case for someone with Christ. Further, it releases our own hearts from the burden of resentment. You know what it’s like to carry a grudge against someone, how that weighs on you. What if Stephen, or Christ, had decided to hold grudges rather than crosses?
So please know this, if you carry something on your heart, at least know that I forgive you. I can’t set it right, but I can stand there and say “Lord, Heavenly Father, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, please do not hold this person’s sin against them.”
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
It’s been more than a little bit since I’ve posted anything here, and that’s just because I’ve been really, really busy. That happens. My journey through faith is still continuing, I just haven’t had a real opportunity to update you faithful followers. So today I want to talk about something very specific:
Now, I’m not going to go into what I pray about, that’s between me and God. Rather I want to address how to approach prayer. When we pray, we are entering a direct dialog with God, we are going to him with our concerns, our wants, and our needs. If you find yourself confused on how to start off praying, if you’ve never really prayed before, don’t worry, Jesus himself gave us a template in Matthew 6:9-13
“9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’”
If that reads as very familiar, it’s because most churches pray this, the Lord’s Prayer, at least once per service or mass, because it is pretty spot on. I won’t break it down for you, that’s more for something like RCIA to cover, but it is sufficient to say that if you don’t know what to pray, start here.
More directly I want to talk about how to approach prayer. Hopefully you’ve either gotten a chance to read the book or see the film “War Room”. If you haven’t I encourage you to talk the time to check it out. Now the basic premise of the “War Room” is that is brings the suggestion of having a space somewhere in your home dedicated exclusively to prayer. I fully support this, however I’ll be the first to admit I have no such space in my own home. So in order to compensate I talked with my wife and we decided instead to keep “War Journals”. The idea is the same, we write down things that we think need God’s intercession on and refer to them when we go into our times of prayer. The “War” is the spiritual warfare that we are conducting against evil in the world.
Whether or not you have a prayer room or a prayer journal, the second part is more important, and that is dedicating time to prayer. I mean DEDICATE time to prayer, not fit it in where you can, if you can. No, you need to make a decision that you are going make that time just for your relationship with God. For me, this is when I first get up, after my shower. I usually spend 5:30am to 6ish, sometimes a little after, in prayer. Its…not always easy. I struggle sometimes, but I try. We have four kids right now, three of which are little, but its important to make that time for the Lord. If they are awake, I’ll take care of their immediate needs, and then they can join me in prayer. Or they can watch cartoons in the other room. It’s a pretty even split when it happens.
So, we have our prayer, we have our things to pray on, and we have our time to pray, what else could you possibly need?
How about the mindset to start praying? Often, when we approach God, we do so with our needs as our focus. It makes sense, that’s what we want/need and that’s where our head is going to be at. But I caution you against going from this ego-centric starting point, because while God understands and respects your needs, wants, and desires, He also is looking at a much, much bigger picture. A good case in point is praying for a new job. Happens, I think, to all of us at some point. We find ourselves in a situation where we need to examine our finances and find we are falling short, not to mention we are miserable in that job so we pray “Lord, give me a new job to better pay my bills.”
So your bills aren’t getting paid, that’s legit, but are you balancing your budget properly? Are you being a good steward with your financial blessings? You should examine that before you get bent out of shape because you didn’t get that raise. You are miserable at your job so you want a new one? That’s fair, but how are you approaching your current job? Are you a good and faithful employee? Are you kind and courteous to your co-workers? Or are you acting miserable and bringing the moral of the work place down.
Often God doesn’t put us where we want to go, He puts us where we need to be. When you approach God about finances, you may not get a “new job” but rather direction on how to make ends meet by extending on your current circumstances or capitalizing on some previously unused talents.
Basically don’t get upset if you don’t get astraight answer right away. God knows what He’s got in store for you.
Lastly, as you do your personal reflection before praying, look at what it is you really need. Go to the Wedding at Cana, for instance. The servants at the wedding went to Mary, explaining they were running out of wine fast. They identified the immediate need. The thing is, that had always been the problem, they didn’t have enough wine to start with. The manager of the servants (there’s always one) should have been looking at the people coming in and if he’d done just a little math would have realized a lot sooner that they were going to need more wine. So now one person’s lack of preparation or adapting to a situation became an emergency that could have shamed a newly wedded family. When the need was identified, they turned to God.
We talked about this not long ago in RCIA and one of my instructors said that “God needs you to tell Him what you need…” and I agree with that up to about 75%. God is fully aware of the needs of his children. Christ at the wedding for instance wasn’t shocked that the wine was running out, because being God he knew. He knew before the servants knew. He knew before anyone got up that morning. God knows what you need. But before you can go to him in prayer, YOU have to know what you need. You have to examine yourself and determine where you need God’s help. That’s a big part of it because that is a humbling experience, to need something from someone else. We like to want, we hate to need. We like to say “I want a new car because this one is a little old, and the engine knocks around a bit, and I have to do an oil change and new tires and…” but we hate it when our car is smoking on the side of the road and we need the grace and mercy of someone outside ourselves. We want a new job, because it can be stressful to stretch finances and make cuts, but we hate to need a new job because our car got repossessed and we are skipping meals and dealing without light or water until the next check comes.
God knows what you need. Are you ready to talk to Him about it?
Friday, February 17, 2017
Monday, January 9, 2017