Monday, February 27, 2012

Prayer Bargaining pt 1

Prayer... As i said before, it's one of those things that has a lot of different ideas swirling around it. For the last 6 or 7 years, my view of prayer has been changing significantly. Six years ago i decided (stupidly) that prayer was pointless because i couldn't see any proof that it was working. (All i prayed for was a good day and for my left hand to get better.) Then, almost exactly 2 years ago this view of prayer led me to say that there was no possible way God could be real. (Nothing is further from the truth.) But now i've found myself longing to pray, but every time i do i find myself falling into this really bad habit of what i have come to call 'Bargaining with God'.
It’s not that it’s an evil thing to do, because it’s in the Bible and it works for the people that do it. However, I find myself constantly praying something like, “God, if I’m supposed to do a, let x happen, but if I’m not supposed to do a, let y happen.”
You might think, “oh, that’s like what Gideon did,” and yes, I’d have to agree with you. Judges 6:36-40 tells the story:
Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.” And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.” God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.
Which is exactly what I’ve found myself doing. “God, if you want me to do this, let this happen, and if you don’t, let this other thing happen.” I don’t know if it shows a lack of faith, demanding a sign, but it’s confusing. Another key example in the Bible is Genesis 24:12-14:
He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’—may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master.”
The story then goes on to explain that a girl came out, named Rebecca, and did everything the guy prayed for. She later became the mother of Jacob and Esau.
So my thing these days is to stop doing this with my prayers. What I need to do is just pray. No giving God requirements. His plans are higher than mine. His plans are holier than mine. His plans are better than mine. I mean, honestly, if I had had my way, I’d probably be playing baseball somewhere right now saying, “God look at all the money I’ve got. I don’t need You.” And then end up in hell when I die. I thank Him every time I think about it that He gave me a stroke so I would hit rock bottom and realize, “dang, I’m gonna be in big trouble if I die without You.”
So, after hearing my pastor preach, verse by verse, on what’s commonly known as “the Lord’s prayer,” which he dubbed “the disciples’ prayer,” due to the fact that it was our Lord teaching His followers how to pray, I decided to make a list of things to pray for every day. It went well for a few days, but soon I had stopped again. Things crowded it out and I would put it off and never get back to it. Never a good idea.
When I took a road trip back east at Christmas time, I decided to take the six sermons along so I could rejuvenate my prayer life. It worked. For like a week— if that.
So, after this past week I’ve decided to try again— differently. You see, I’ve started running again (after almost two years off) and I’ve realized that’s a great time, especially early in the morning, to just pray. There’s really no distractions while I’m out on the sidewalk. Just me and God for the most part. Especially at 6 a.m.
But, I’ve caught myself, especially this week, pulling the Abraham’s servant prayers again. I mean when he did it, there was no problem with what he was doing. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with mine either, but I think I should just settle with praying, “God, give me guidance and direction in x, y, and z in my life.”
Tonight, walking home from church, I decided to take an out of my way route and spend a good fifteen minutes just praying, out loud, to God. At least five times I caught myself doing the Abraham’s servant prayer, and then I’d say, “nevermind. Just give me guidance and direction please.”
It’s complicated but it’s true. I know there’s no real answer to anything here, but I figured I’d give you my thoughts. God wants you to pray for everything, even the little things. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “…Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Don’t just pray for big things. Pray for little things too. He wants to hear you speak to Him.
And just as a closing thought, I thought about this earlier today.  When I used to hang out with my best friend everyday, we’d always talk about girls we like. And, for some probably similar reason, it seems like that’s my favorite subject to talk to God about. A guy can never have too much Godly guidance on that topic.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Music Bumpin' Out My Car

So today I’ve been thinking about my driving habits. Nothing inherently wrong with them. It’s just that I’ve noticed people giving me dirty looks as I drive around town. It’s not that I’m breaking the law— because I’m not— I’m just bumping music loud and singing/rapping along to it. And, to clear it up at the start, it’s Christian music every single time.
I can’t stand the secular rap anymore— it puts me in a bad mood. Besides, as Tedashii said in the song Listening Choice, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with listening to non-christian music, but as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” I’d rather be building myself up with music than tearing myself down.
But, to get back to my driving habits, it seems that every time I’m driving around town someone gives me a dirty look that says, “Why are you playing that incessant racket??!?” I ignore the looks of course, because I’m too busy busting out a Shai Linne, Lecrae, or Trip Lee verse to care, but it makes me think. “Am I supposed to be blasting other people with my gospel centered rap music?”
My verdict, is “yes”. This is due to 2 Corinthians 5:10, which says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” It’s talking about stewardship of the stuff you own. If I’m gonna be called to account for how I use my stuff, I really should be blasting Christian music so others can hear it. (And yes, I do secretly hope, every time I’m at a red light, that the car next to me will have it’s windows rolled down). And yes, I’ve had people roll up their windows. And yes, I’ve gotten the dirty looks. But no, I won’t stop.
When I walk around town I rap the verses on the street. So when I have to drive, I feel like I should do the same. I’ve been saying for the past several months that you can’t be an evangelist in your car, but you can on your feet. Romans 10:15 doesn’t say, how beautiful are the cars of those who share the good news. It says, “how beautiful are the feet.” Therefore I would rather walk, but, if I must drive, you ain’t gonna stop me from getting some Christian influence in your ears. And if you decide to roll up your windows on a hot day instead of listening to some Christian music and feeling cool air, you’re just getting a brief image (though a very weak one) of what hell will be like if you don’t open up to the gospel one day.
I feel I’m ranting now, so I’m going to stop. Either way, enjoy my music or crank your own (as long as it’s Christian).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Missionary or Pastor?

So yesterday I was texting a friend— asking random questions— and a crazy idea I had in church one day was brought back to the forefront of my mind. The crazy idea is to become a pastor (my life goal) and go on missionary adventures to places that have never heard the gospel before; plant churches and disciple some leaders and then move on. Kind of like Paul and Silas.
This thought first came up in a sermon about Big Evangelism vs. Small Evangelism at my church. Big evangelism is going out to places that have never heard the gospel and preaching to them. Small evangelism is going door to door and telling friends, family, coworkers, and random people on the street about the gospel. My pastor said that our church would one day like to be able to send people out to other countries but that we can’t do it yet. And I got this weird thought that I definitely didn’t put there myself about going somewhere and preaching the gospel to people who’ve never heard it before— planting a church, discipling it’s people, and moving on, or coming back to my home church for a while.
Now, you must understand, I had completely forgotten about this idea until yesterday. And now I can’t stop thinking about it, so maybe if I write it down it will help a little.
You see, my friend yesterday asked me what I want to do after college, so I logically said, “be a pastor,” because that is all I want to do (besides be a husband/father). And then she asked me if I’ve ever considered going to another country to be a pastor. I quickly said yes, but I’ve never really seriously thought about it.
Which was 100 % true until after she asked it. Now my brain has been going back and forth for 24 hours.
That’s what you should do!
Your parents wouldn’t be able to deal with you living overseas.
It would be an adventure.
America is in plenty of need spiritually. Why go elsewhere?
Other places have never heard of Jesus.
I could plant a church in America and train up lots of other people to go overseas or plant more churches in America so the cycle continues.
But you hate the United States government.
True, but maybe that’s more reason to stay.
You want to be somewhere and risk persecution. Life on the edge is awesome!
Persecution will be in the United States soon enough.
And so it continues. Part of me would love to go overseas and be an evangelist. But another part feels called to the United States. Our society is going downhill fast. The founding fathers would turn in their graves if they could see a glimpse of America. Sex sex sex. Drugs. Free money. The list could go on. The country was founded on Christian principles and now our government is trying to destroy them. If they have their way I can see America making it illegal to be a Christian in the next ten years.
We need a revival.
That’s basically all there is to it, but at the same time I’ve felt called to go to another country and plant churches there. There are 6000 tribes and tongues that have never heard the gospel and Jesus will not come back until every tribe and tongue has been reached with the gospel. It’s clear in scripture. So part of me wants to go do this as well.
But, I really don’t think I can live long term in a foreign country. What I would 100% love to do (though not necessarily what I’m meant to do) is plant a church in the United States and train up more leaders there so I can leave it in good hands while I take a year or two to do the same in a foreign country. Then come home, share the news about the trip, retake my position at the church, and then like a year or so later do it again somewhere else. It’s kind of like what Paul did in Acts 13-16. Thirteen, he leaves for his first trip, setting several able bodied men in charge. Fourteen he’s on the trip. Fifteen he comes home and sets some stuff in order. Sixteen he heads out again— to a new place.
That’s how I feel right now. Who knows what will end up happening though? Besides God of course. My life’s in His hands.

Relationships and Valentine's Day

I sat alone— besides my laptop and an iced coffee— at the Starbucks I often frequented in between college classes. It was the first Valentine’s Day I’d spent alone in three years. Well actually, depending on how one looks at it, it was the third— I was alone the year before, though “in a relationship” with a girl who lived in another state; and I was alone two years ago though I had a serious crush on a girl who liked me back.
Valentine’s Day has always been a lonely event for me. You see I’ve only ever been in one legitimate relationship before. And that only lasting from the beginning of September until Columbus Day the next month. It was nice to know someone cared. But at the same time, after it ends, you question the truth of everything they said to you. If you truly loved me, why would break up with me like it’s no big deal?
But, to get away from that episode, I’m not bitter. Me and her are still good friends. I guess I got lucky— most people I talk to say that they can’t stand their exes. For me on the other hand, she is like a sister.
So, to get back to Starbucks, I was sitting at the table trying to figure out my life.
What to do after this semester of college— work for a year or start working on my bachelor’s degree? I knew what I wanted to do for my master’s degree, but besides that I was clueless. Writing was what I enjoyed the most— I wrote during ninety percent of my free time— but I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do for a living. Writers don’t make much cash and I need enough to one day be able to support a family. I don’t need more than that— because too much money takes my eyes off what is truly important. Off of what my master’s degree study was going to be— seminary study to be a pastor one day.
That was the only thing I even cared about at all. Glorifying God through my life and my words— written or spoken, book or sermon— was my goal. Maybe one day I would find a wife to share this venture with me, but until then I knew what I needed to do. School. Study. And pray.
Prayer. It’s one of those words that brings back memories of “unanswered” chants up to the sky. You see from age two I have had a very physically weak left side of my body. From a stroke. And, from age seven until probably fourteen, I would pray religiously for God to heal my hand. And, it never happened. NEVER.
The truth is that it was answered. God said “No” because He knew that it wasn’t the best thing for me, and all He wants for me is the best. His definition of best is a lot different than ours.
So, when I say school, study, and pray are what I knew I needed to do, I mean just that. By school, I need to finish my bachelor degree so I can move on to my masters. By study, I mean that I need to stay in the Word of God so I can better prepare myself for life. And by pray, I mean that I constantly need to tap into the free access I have to God and pray for His will. Prayer is the hardest one and I think I should listen to my pastor’s series on the disciple’s prayer every other month. I need to pray for will for education, will for life, and will for future wife. I mean, honestly I know what and who I’m looking for— the only thing I’m missing is a name.
Which again, takes me back to Starbucks. The door of the establishment opened and two lovebirds came in— in each other’s arms. If only I had someone, I thought for a second. Then a voice in my head spoke up, One day you will. Don’t sweat it right now. God’s plan is better than yours. That comforted me a lot.
You probably are curious about who and what I’m looking for. Well it’s very simple. The main thing is that she needs to love God more than anything— even me. If she can love God that much then her priorities are straight and life together will run smoother. She needs to love the lost people of the world just as much or more than I do. Not just caring for the poor and needy physically and economically; but spiritually as well— if not more so. And then third on the list would be that she would like writing/reading just as much as me.
It’s what I pray for every day I think about her.
Thus my thoughts went— the whole time I was at my favorite coffee shop.

Belated Valentine's Day Post

Happy Valentines Day everyone! Just wanted to share a valentines day story with you all.

"Once upon a time, probably around the year 2006, there was a man who loved a woman.
May not sound too out of the ordinary but it's true. This man was completely taken with this girl. Here's the thing though-- this girl was nothing to look at. In fact, according to society's standards, she was ugly-- overweight, pock marked face, and scarred from continuous cutting. However, this didn't stop the man from loving her. He saw something more in her, that even she didn't know was there.
One day, she was feeling especially low, and decided to go visit some "friends"-- who weren't really friends at all. They were desperate men who used women for what they could offer them. She had decided to become a prostitute in order to feel loved, not realizing there was a guy who loved her deeply despite who she was.
Well, to make a long graphic story short, she ended up murdering one of the guys who was using her because he kept calling her derogatory names and beating her. His friend decided to use a knife on her face and arms and legs-- completely mutilating her. When she finally got away, she ran right into the arms of a police officer.
He arrested her for murder and threw her in prison. The day of the trial came and the judge pronounced her guilty-- issuing the death penalty.
Just then the man who loved her came in and declared to the judge, "I'll pay any fine and take the death penalty for her! Just don't touch her."
The woman was completely confused. Who in the world was this guy? she wondered.
You see she had no idea the guy even knew her. All of a sudden he was ready to take her punishment. It wrapped her brain in knots.
The judge accepted the man's request. Pronouncing him guilty and her innocent. As she was led past him out of the courthouse, he said, "I love you. Don't ever forget that."
the end"

Well actually it's not the end. Look at Romans 5:8: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

You see, this woman represents you and me. We are all guilty of breaking the laws of God. Maybe you haven't murdered anyone, but your still guilty. Ever told a lie?Ever stolen something? Ever disobeyed tyour parents?

Look at James 2:10: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."

You and me and everyone else on earth is a sinner deserving Hell. Thank goodness for the guy who pays the fine and takes the death sentence though. Jesus Christ. He died so we could live. And then, he rose from the dead so He could make Christians His bride.

Look at 1 John 3:1: "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God."

Children of God, the Bride of Christ= the same thing. Jesus is God's son, so Christians are His sons/daughters-in-grace. Not in-law, because we aren't under law any more.

Take some time to praise God for loving you that much today. Or if you never have believed it for yourself, all that is required is belief in Christ and a repentence (turning) from sin.