Prayer Week: Raindrops of Prayer

May 1 2014 is the National Day of Prayer. I’m posting on the subject of prayer all week; here’s a rerun from January.

Screenshot 2014-01-13 at 9.24.12 PMHow much potential does one raindrop hold? What about a snowflake? While one of each may not make much difference, we have all witnessed the outcome if those drops or flakes just keep coming.

At some point every analogy breaks down. There is power in prayer. We are told to pray without ceasing. Jesus himself arose early each morning and began praying even before daybreak. On occasion he prayed late into the night and at times all night long. We ask other Christians to pray with us, forming prayer chains and now publicizing our requests utilizing social media. While a flood or an avalanche of prayers make for powerful imagery, prayers may not add up in a cumulative manner that we can measure mathematically. We must pray for God’s will to be done and keep in mind that he understands our needs in ways we cannot comprehend. Prayer is a powerful weapon in the spiritual battle, but not a tool we use to manipulate God.

I like the raindrops of prayer idea, many prayers of the saints coming together to move like a powerful tidal wave. At some point every analogy breaks down, but try this one: a bear cub. Baby bear cubs are cute, cuddly, and basically defenseless. But when that cub calls out for Mama Bear…

That’s what prayer is like. 

Screenshot 2014-01-13 at 9.31.43 PM

Raindrops of Prayer

Screenshot 2014-01-13 at 9.24.12 PMHow much potential does one raindrop hold? What about a snowflake? While one of each may not make much difference, we have all witnessed the outcome if those drops or flakes just keep coming.

At some point every analogy breaks down. There is power in prayer. We are told to pray without ceasing. Jesus himself arose early each morning and began praying even before daybreak. On occasion he prayed late into the night and at times all night long. We ask other Christians to pray with us, forming prayer chains and now publicizing our requests utilizing social media. While a flood or an avalanche of prayers make for powerful imagery, prayers may not add up in a cumulative manner that we can measure mathematically. We must pray for God’s will to be done and keep in mind that he understands our needs in ways we cannot comprehend. Prayer is a powerful weapon in the spiritual battle, but not a tool we use to manipulate God.

I like the raindrops of prayer idea, many prayers of the saints coming together to move like a powerful tidal wave. At some point every analogy breaks down, but try this one: a bear cub. Baby bear cubs are cute, cuddly, and basically defenseless. But when that cub calls out for Mama Bear…

That’s what prayer is like. 

Screenshot 2014-01-13 at 9.31.43 PM

Exchange Day

Screenshot 2013-12-26 at 8.10.57 AMWe (collective we, as a nation/society we) have been Christmas shopping since October. We went out Thanksgiving Day, got up early on Black Friday and/or hit the Christmas Eve specials for one last hurrah. And now here we are: December 26th, the day after. It’s time to make those left-over ham sandwiches and take it all back. The Walmarts of the land will have an aisle or two handling nothing but returns. It’s a tradition as old gift giving itself; returning what you got in order to get what you really wanted.

I had a funny thought this morning; this may be a stretch, but hang in there. On Christmas Day we celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever known. Continue reading

A Seed Must Fall

wheatTruly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24 ESV)  I’ve heard that verse a couple of times this weekend, so it was fresh in mind when I started reading the Exodus this morning.  Let’s first put it in its proper context.

Nearly half of John’s Gospel deals with the events of the Passion week.  The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is recorded at the beginning of chapter 12, and this verse is spoken by Jesus in reference to his hour having come.  A seed must fall into the ground and die just as Jesus must go down into the earth by being placed in the grave.  John 12:24 is an illustration of how Jesus must die and be buried in order to rise again with new life.  By being obedient to the Father’s will, Jesus will produce much fruit for the Kingdom.  God speaks aloud in verse 27 and says that he has gloried Jesus’ name and will glorify it again. Continue reading

Theater as a Metaphor for Life

When I say theater I mean actors on a stage.  Watching a movie in a crowded room with a sticky floor is not the metaphor for life I’m thinking of.  

Imagine sitting down to watch a play.  The set looks great.  The costumes are wonderful.  It becomes clear very quickly that the actors have put in the time rehearsing scenes and memorizing lines.  But there is so much more going on that you – the spectator, the audience – do not see.  Backstage there are props and furniture pieces that haven’t come out yet.  There are people scurrying around in quiet darkness so as not to be seen or heard from the house.  There are people in the wings changing costumes and make up, and others in the booth controlling lights and sound.  The director may be sitting in the audience unnoticed while the stage manager runs around making sure everything happens that should happen.  During a scene with two people sharing a dialog, there could be 30 others working frantically on whatever is about to happen next.  If all goes well, what the audience sees is only what they mean for you to see. Continue reading

Who Loves You?

When I was a kid my favorite restaurant was McDonald’s.  When I saw a t.v. spot for the latest Happy Meal toy, there was nothing doing until I got one.  In time I had to decide between the Happy Meal and the Big Mac.  All through high school and into college McDonald’s was still my favorite, but during my college years I was introduced to Applebee’s.  I had a couple of friends that worked there at different times, and eventually I came to know pretty much everyone at our local restaurant on a first name basis.  At a different time in our life, my wife and I ate out just about every night and wound up at Applebee’s even if it was just for desert or to see our friends there.  We moved away, grew up a little bit, and now live about 45 minutes away from the nearest one.  Ruby Tuesday is now our favorite place to eat out.  We save it for special occasions, but their salad bar can’t be beat.  I’m a big fan of the bleu cheese crumbles.  We love Ruby Tuesday. Continue reading

I Preached on Baby Diapers

Father's Day, June 2010

I know what you’re thinking: the stress of working in full time ministry with a 14 month old at home has finally caused me to crack.  I reached a breaking point if my sermon is on changing diapers.  It’s not as bad as all that.  Let me explain.

Last week I preached this sermon on Galatians 4.  It’s about God adopting us into his family.  I had three well-defined points, as a good Baptist preacher should.  Today I preached that same sermon for our students in their Sunday a.m. chapel service.  I can’t take for granted that 6-12 graders know their Bible stories that way my church congregation does.  I cut some of the scripture citations and needed a more colorful analogy or two.  The first point in the sermon is that we are naturally the enemies of God.  He says “Do this” and instead we do that.  Adam and Eve are the first example, and not much has changed since.  I talked about how cute Johannah is; all our students know this to be true.  But when we’re changing a diaper, sometimes she quits being so cute.  If she sits up, rolls over, or otherwise tries to escape then everything takes longer.  We have to do things twice; or three times.  The students all smiled, nodded and laughed.  Then I pointed out that in my history class some of them are the same way.  I have to repeat myself and/or do things twice.  Sometimes three times.  That’s our nature.

It gets worse.  God sent his Son.  Like the father of the prodigal, God waits and watches down the road for us to come home.  The prodigal son (Luke 15) spent a fortune on good food, good wine and loose women.  Eventually he hit rock bottom, and desired the same slop that he fed pigs.  He had to learn that lesson the hard way.  You couldn’t have told him any different, and if the father had come looking for him any sooner, he would have ran as fast as he could in the other direction.  We were all wallowing (or are still wallowing) in our own filth.  We are slaves to sin, whatever sin you want to fill in the blank with.  If my daughter Johannah has filled her diaper, then she is basically sitting there in her own mess.  She stinks.  Yet when I reach for her she runs away.  She ducks and dodges.  Her natural impulse is to escape the diaper change.  Are we any different?  We wallow in our filthy sin, in our own mess, and push God away even as he wants to clean us.

God loved us when we were unlovable.  That’s the Gospel.  And if you have kids, had kids, or know parents with new kids, fell free to preach the Gospel according to dirty diapers.

On the Other Hand (Jesus is God)

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—  for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  -Romans 5: 12-17

In some ways, Jesus is like Adam. By one man’s transgression, sin entered the world.  And by one man’s righteousness, victory over sin entered the world.  Adam and Jesus are alike in that both are a type of “first man.”  At the same time, they are total opposites if you think about it.  Adam was the first man to sin; Jesus was the first man to live without sin.  Continue reading

Jesus, Sheep or Shepherd?

jesus_shepherdThe LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

The 23rd Psalm; a very familiar passage and perhaps the most quoted poetry from the Old Testament.  In John 10, Jesus explains that he is the good shepherd.  He is not a hireling, but loves the sheep, and would lay down his life for them.  He has been entrusted by the Father to care for the sheep.  And of course, we’re the sheep.

We’ve all seen pictures of Jesus holding a lamb.   But it’s more than a cute analogy.  Sheep must be cared for.  They have few natural defenses, and are very near sighted.  They need the shepherd.  We too are no match for the devil, often nearsighted (or blind), and desperately need the Good Shepherd.  Continue reading

The Wilderness of Sin

In Exodus 16  the Hebrews wandered into the Wilderness of Sin.  My Bible teacher and preacher friends shouldn’t even need me to make this analogy.  There it is.  They literally entered the wilderness in the region of Sin. 

It could have been the Mountain of Sin, the Valley of Sin, the Municipality of Sin, but no.  The place was known to people in the region as the Wilderness of Sin.  How often do we willingly wander through the Wilderness of Sin knowing full where we are and how to avoid it?  What an illustration, and the Bible has already made it for us.