Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Making the The Lord's Prayer Real In Our Lives

This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." - Matthew 6:9-13

There was a season where I only prayed the Lord's prayer every day. I had reached the end of knowing what to pray and decided to just put the Lord's prayer on repeat. 

But recently I've been thinking about Jesus' command on how to pray and what if we lived this prayer. The Lord's Prayer has the potential to completely change us and, if we live it, the world. 

"Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."

In Love Wins Rob Bell talks about bringing heaven to earth and making life a little less like hell for people. Stephen Colbert describes hell as being separated from God's love. People describe heaven as a place of peace. Where sickness and pain and hurt and poverty and hunger and evil is abolished and God's love is everywhere. What is God's will in heaven that we are to bring to earth? God sent his son as a means to reconcile the world back to him. Jesus' time on earth was spent bringing healing, reconciliation, redemption, peace. Jesus said repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is here. Repent, turn from your selfishness, from your sin, so you can enter into the love of God. In the love of God comes healing, peace, restoration, that we are to share with the world around us because of those things that God has birthed in us. Bringing heaven to earth is not just about converting and evangelizing to as many people as possible, but by brining the life changing love that Christ offers to reconcile people to each other and to God, through healing and restoration. 

"Give us Today our Daily bread."

I don't remember who posted it, but I saw someone tweet about our daily bread being just that, daily. It's what got me thinking about the Lord's Prayer. Give us today our daily bread. Jesus wants us to recognize that our reliance on God is daily. Not just when things are going poorly, but daily. There are moments when all I can ask is God help me get through today. But that should be our every day. Jesus is far too often our last option, our last resort when all our resources and energies fail. But God should be our daily dependance and where we turn to first. 

We also spend much of our time asking God about the future. What's the next step? Who am I suppose to marry? When will we have kids? What's my next career move? Jesus said not to focus and worry about tomorrow because today has enough for us to worry and focus on. We should be asking God, what do you want of me today. What's in store for today. 

The last note on daily bread is the bread itself. Bread isn't sexy. Sure, bread comes in a variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes, but ultimately it's just bread. I think most of the time we would rather ask God to give us today our daily steak or our daily lobster. We want God to do something big and flashy or use us to do something big and flashy for him. But God's commands, while not always easy, are simple. It's the bread that we need each day. 

"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

This is a verse where I would like it to read "Lord help us forgive our debtors as you have forgiven us our debts." It would be easier because it wouldn't be a conditional prayer. Lord forgive us in the same way that we forgive those who have wronged us. I need God's forgiveness. Daily! And if that's dependent on how I forgive others, then I'm in a heap of trouble! Now, I don't believe that God's forgiveness is conditional to my forgiving of others. But what if I lived like it was? 

Just let that sink in for a moment.

The wages of sin are death and God's forgiveness, God's love covers you and takes you off of death row. We have wronged God to the point where the punishment is death and God has forgiven us that debt and we are called to show that same grace and forgiveness. If we put that into practice, it's revolutionary! That's a kind of forgiveness that could change the world if every christian lived their life forgiving people in such a radical way. Even if we prayed with that kind of grace to people and groups who have wronged us unintentionally! I forgive you and want you to find and have life! 

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

Jesus says God is our father, and we are called to bring heaven to earth, rely on God every day, and forgive radically! And then Jesus says we need to make sure we ask God to help lead us away from temptation that could cause us to sin. Paul said he did not want to sin but what he doesn't want to do, he does. Sin and temptation is everywhere. And without the self-control that only comes from spending time with and being in God's presence, we will fall more often than not. Jesus understood that even if we could wrap our heads around the ideas of needing God to be our supply every day, and bringing heaven to earth, and radical forgiveness, that if we didn't have self-control and weren't looking to God to help us out of situations that could destroy us, we would fall and shortchange what God wants to do in our lives. 

The Lord's Prayer is revolutionary if we take it to heart and live it out and not just let it be something we memorize and throw out in Sunday School. The power in this prayer could change the world. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

That Black Hole Between Here and Heaven

On Monday I started my new life as a stay at home dad.

This is not what I was hoping for. This is not what my wife was hoping for. This is not what hundreds of people having been praying for. But alas, it happened.

Please don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way. I love Emily so much and I love having the ability and opportunity to stay at home with her. Amanda and I are blessed that one of us gets to stay home with her. But I don't want to sugar this...

The miracle we and others were expecting, that God would show up and show off and provide me a job that would cover our expenses and Amanda would get to stay home, like she desires, when that didn't happen, it upset me. I was mad. I was mad at God. If we're being honest, I'm probably still mad at God.

Look, if God never wants to answer another one of my prayers for as long as I live, so be it. God had done so much for me before I was even born and I am already blessed beyond belief. So I'm not mad that my prayers went unanswered.

But seeing the pain that my wife is going through. The hurt of having to leave her baby every day. The stress about interrupting and changing sleep patterns, and milk supply verses Emily's demand and the possibility that she might become reliant on a bottle. To watch my wife struggle and hurt upsets me. It makes me says "Damn it, God! Why?"

This one prayer request. This five year old prayer request. It just seems to hit the ceiling, never making it to God's ear. Or it's getting sucked into a black hole between here and heaven. Those are the only logical explanations, right?

But the Bible is full of moments where the protagonist should jump up and shout "Damn it, God!" Abraham, Joseph (take your pick of moments), Moses, David, even Jesus. Maybe they did have those moments but the writers of their stories knew that having Biblical characters swear wasn't very Christian. Or maybe their resolve was deeper than mine (obviously, Jesus had more faith and resolve than I do). Is my lack of faith, my so easily disappointed nature, keeping me from the blessings of God? Is that where my prayers are being sucked into oblivion?

But Moses had to spend 40 years in the desert, with quite possibly the worst version of a family reunion imaginable, and he never got to enter the promise land. And he died knowing that once in the promised land, the Israelites were going to turn their back on God. Joseph had to do time in prison. And being in charge of prison, while a prisoner, still means you're in prison and so, life is not that great. Jesus died on a cross. So maybe 5 years without a full-time job but always having the funds to pay my bills isn't a situation to really compare myself with Moses, Joseph, or Jesus (again, obviously not really comparing myself with Jesus).

Sometimes life seems unfair, and in this moment, things seem really unfair to my wife. Even though we could both acknowledge the blessings in our life and recognize how lucky we are that one of us gets to be home, it's not the situation that we were hoping for. And we both started fasting on the day she went back to work, so I'm not sure why either of us thought this week was going to be cakewalk.

I said earlier that I was mad at God. That's a tough thing to admit. I didn't really have those words in my head until I verbally found myself blaming God for not changing our situation last week. I still love God. I still believe in God. I still believe that he could intervene in our life and in our situation as I type this. And I still believe that even if he doesn't, he's still good and has a plan.

I think admitting I'm mad, or was mad, and probably will again in the future find myself mad at God is ok. If God's ways and thoughts are so much higher than mine and I can only see through a mirror dimly, then I can't really understand God well enough to get what he's up to most of the time. And in my frustration, I get mad because I don't understand. It's like when I was trying to get Emily to take a bottle at first. It wasn't normal or what she wanted, so she screamed and cried and was super upset and didn't take the bottle. She didn't understand that I had what she wanted all along. And now she knows and understands that the bottle is good and takes it without a problem. And in the same way I get mad and frustrated and cry, and curse at God because I don't understand. All I can do is pray and trust that he does have a plan and is still watching out for us. I have to believe that he still hears. Even when it seems like my prayers are getting sucked into space.

Friday, January 9, 2015

What We Can Learn About God From The Sea

People connect with nature. It's ingrained in us. When we climb to the top of a mountain or see a beautiful sunset, we take pictures and comment about the beauty. Even those without a belief in God recognize the beauty of nature. You don't hear people say, man I really hated that sunrise today. People would stare at that person like they'd lost their mind. What's not to like?

"This week, choose one facet of creation that you love - birds, trees, weather soil, water, light, children, sex, aging, sleep. Observe it, think about it, learn about it every chance you can, with this question in mind: if that element of creation were your only Bible, what would it tell you about God?"

I'm sure this sounds like some hippy dippy nonsense to a lot of people, but I love the idea that Brian McLaren lays out in the first chapter of We Make The Road By Walking. Instantly my mind went to the sea.

Whether locally overlooking the river as I run or walk the dog, or walking along the beach, looking at the ocean, I love the view and perspective of staring out into the distance over the water. And as I think about the parallels between God and the ocean, my mind begins to wonder and churn.

God is big and can invade the tiniest parts of our world.

From the ocean to the sea to the river, flowing into streams and into our water systems that we use for cleaning and drinking, water is everywhere. We, as humans, are mostly water. God is big like the ocean, everywhere and ever present. But God is also personal and intimate like the water in our homes. God flows in and out of every area and aspect of our lives. Even when we don't acknowledge that He's present, God's still there.

God is powerful.

One of my memories from my childhood is family vacations to the beach. My dad would take my siblings and me out into the water where we would try to catch waves and body surf. As a kid that wave would grab you and if you weren't prepared, it would drag you straight under sending nasty salt water straight up your nose! Occasionally, the tide would be pulling so far in one direction that after 20 minutes you wouldn't even be able to see your family because you had been dragged, almost unaware, farther down the ocean. The thing about the tide and the waves, is most of the time it doesn't look like anything's happening that could move you in such a powerful way. God has the power to completely overwhelm us. He has the power to overtake us and turn our lives upside down. He has the power to move us and take us place we didn't know we were going. But a lot of times, his power doesn't look like much. And he's working, even when we can't see it (something I need to remind myself of all the time).

God is refreshing.

A glass of water when you're thirsty. Jumping into the pool on a hot summer day. Taking a hot bath or shower after a long stressful day. At the right moment water can cool us down, help us forget about the stress of a day, and rejuvenate us. I love a hot shower. Especially right after a winter time run when I'm freezing. Nothing feels better than just standing and letting that hot water hit my body. The peace of God can take our stress away. It's refreshing. That's why Jesus called us to take his yoke. Because it's light. It eases our load that we waste too much time trying to carry.

This is just a short list and I could probably keep going and compile a super comprehensive list. But it's good to take a moment and reflect on how God is reflecting his character through his creation. While humans might be made an the image of God, his nature and character is reflected in all of creation.

Monday, January 5, 2015

We Make The Road By Walking

Having gotten Brian McLaren's new book for Christmas, I decided to add it to my morning devotions. One chapter a week for the next year. One chapter in and I can tell it's going to be a good read and a great addition to my bible reading. I love the questions and meditation points at the end of each chapter create a a means to dwell on what you've read and on the character of God. It's also looking like it will give me a ton to blog about! 

So this is my "word of warning" to expect lots of blogs to come out of this book!