Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Prayer for Light

Sunday I shared the thought that we must, as God's people, as Americans, as those saying we are followers of Jesus, "love the light more that the darkness."  The message was from the story of Nicodemus in John Chapter 3. I also shared and prayed a prayer that several people wanted me to "re-share."  So ... here it is!  It will make the most sense if you read the story of Nicodemus from John 3.

"Jesus ... I have read your word.  I (like Nicodemus) know you are from God.  I have accumulated lots of head knowledge.  But my nature wants to take over.  I've got it all figured out.  My brain, my control, my pride, my darkness wants to take over.  Please Lord ... shine your light.  Show me rebirth. Show me your truth.  Show me your light.  Let me fall in love with your light and let your light destroy my darkness.  I am worn down because I trust me and other people more than I trust you.  I remain unhealed because I don't believe.  Yet, I am thankful that you are loving enough to welcome me when I come to you in the cover of my darkness.  Let me see redemption, rebirth and help me share it faithfully.  In Jesus' name, AMEN!"

Monday, September 22, 2014


Last evening I heard a song (we hope to do it on Sunday) that expresses the sentiment of several of the people I spoke with yesterday.  There are two sides to the song.  On the one hand it talks about being worn down by the things life has thrown at the songwriter.  You can get to this state of mind easily if you begin to look around and see the hurts, the pains and things that defy a logical explanation.  I spoke at Calhoun Prison in Morgan, Georgia and saw the faces of about 200 men who have made choices that have had life-changing consequences for them and those they love.  They prayed for freedom, for families they no longer get to see and for dreams that are in limbo.  They are caught on the bad side of that physical law of inertia ... the tendency of an object to preserve its present state, whether still or moving.  They are stuck, tired and worn.  In a comical thought I reflected on the old Hee Haw show and one of their regular songs that had the line, "Pain, despair and agony on me, deep dark depression and excessive misery, if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all, pain, despair, and misery on me."

But there is a better side.  As Christians we can be at rest and stuck in depression just as much as anyone else.  I don't think that place or attitude honors God or expresses faith that God has done what he said in John 16:33 "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."  But we can also be moving toward God.  Paul called it new life.  The writer of Hebrews referred to unshakable eternal things.  Isaiah called it a new thing, springing up out of the dryness of despair and the defeat we often feel.  Jesus called it resurrection.

The part of this song I really like is the prayer to God to allow us to see a resurrection.  We petition the God who has overcome the world to show us (daily) the great things that flow from his hand and proceed from his Lordship over every event Satan tries to turn to evil.  So I pray for those men and for you ... "Lord ... break the bonds of inertia.  If we are stopped in this world move us toward yours.  If we are running toward things not of you, turn us and show us your way.  If we are worn down, show us that you are working your good stuff even in the midst of our weariness.  Let us rise up on wings of eagles, walk and not get tired and run and not get weary.  We pray this in the name of the one who changed everything ... Jesus Christ!  AMEN"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Who's In Your Herd?

Adam Hamilton preached a sermon about "Who's In Your Herd?"  He used a video I will use Sunday showing the value of the people we associate with.

So ... who's in YOUR herd?  Are the people you are hanging out with beneficial to you?  Do they have your interest at heart or are they out for themselves?  I often counsel people who tell me all the bad things going on around them.  They describe people who are toxic and damaging to their Christian walk and to their physical/spiritual/emotional health.  And they can be anyone.  They can be family members.  They can be so-called friends.  They can be work associates.  Who's in YOUR herd?

Jesus hung out with 12 disciples and another larger group of followers that included secret friends like Nicodemus (who helped with burial arrangements for Jesus), women like Julia (who seemed to be present in almost every major event of Jesus' adult life) and what is thought to be about 90 people.  This was Jesus' inner circle (just outside the close relationship with the 12).  This was Jesus' herd.

The crowds that followed Jesus were not part of the herd.  They were often spoken of negatively with Jesus using phrases like "an evil and adulterous generation," "seeking signs and wonders," "not true children of Abraham" (because they lacked Abraham's faith) and "standing off at a distance."

As I read and reflect on Jesus' herd I wonder if we seek to create herds and congregations that meet our convenience rather than Jesus' purpose.  Our herd should nurture (bear each others burdens).  Our herd should protect (take care of God's garden).  Our herd should be known for its resemblance of Jesus ("they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus" [Acts 4:13]).  Ask yourself a few questions ... does your herd challenge you? ... does your heard cause you to grow in Christ? ... does your heard seek you when you are lost? ... does your herd enjoy fellowship and breaking bread together?.  These are attributes of healthy Christian herds.  Who's in your herd?

Monday, September 8, 2014

What is There

There have been times when life's struggles are boiled down to the bare essentials.  I remember in Seminary when I was cooking one evening.  The menu was leftover Brunswick Stew (always better the second day) because it combined several of the leftovers we had.  Money, time and food were commodities that were scarce so we treasured hearty meals that could combine something good for us with something that was frugal.  I was reheating the stew in the ceramic crock pot that I had used to cook the stew the day before.  This would save time and I would have one less dish to wash.  My mouth was watering for the meal and I had even cooked cornbread as a side.  Then I found out something I never knew.  When you used a microwave to rapidly heat food in a ceramic crock pot, the crock pot couldn't handle the rapid increase in temperature.  As I moved the hot stew across the room the entire bottom came off the crock pot and a column of hot stew sped to the floor and exploded into every nook and cranny in the entire downstairs of that house.  I expect that old Methodist parsonage still has spots of stew we never found when we cleaned up.

I was sad we had lost our meal for several reasons.  First, it was about all we had ... plan B was ramen noodles.   We struggled for the food we had (something that was a new experience in the poverty of seminary) and the loss of even one meal was something that was felt financially and, that day, even emotionally.  Second, I liked Brunswick Stew ... it was a treat that was rare in those days of eating what we could scrounge up and afford.  Finally, the struggle for daily bread reminded all of us of the value of a good meal and the luxury of having a meal we actually liked.

I wonder if that part of the Lord's Prayer is all about appreciating whatever you have? When we pray "give us this day our daily bread" are we truly appreciative of God's gifts to us?  The air we breathe?  The food we have?  The roof over our heads?  Do we really believe we will thrive today on God, ourselves and what life sends our way?  "Lord, forgive me for expecting life without struggle.  Teach me, in the struggles I face every day, that I can learn, thrive and have joy, even when the pickins are meager.  Remind me that 90% of the world would love to have what I count as inadequate.  Remind me that the world owes me nothing and that You have given be far more than I ever needed because you are an extravagant God who blesses His children.  Grow my thankfulness and give me a heart for the needs of others, not my own (1 Cor. 10:24). AMEN!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


C.S. Lewis has an interesting perspective of hell.  In his book "The Great Divorce" Lewis presents hell as a place where everyone can get what they want and move wherever they want to move.  Only the places and possessions are of mundane quality.  How the people respond to this is interesting.

They move to a new neighborhood, get a new house, get new stuff but are in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction.  They want more and better "stuff."  They want more stuff than their neighbors.  They are constantly observing the things wrong with their neighbors so they pack up an move to what they believe is an ever-expanding world where they just move on to the next place where "the grass is greener."  Lewis says that what is really happening is that this fictional world is not expanding ... it is contracting.  It is constantly collapsing on itself until it reaches the point of all things from Satan ... total emptiness.

As I thought about this I had an epiphany I hope you can appreciate.  Maybe the reason Lewis reaches this conclusion is that Satan and hell are all about the powers of darkness.  Jesus and heaven are all about light.  In our faith, light has a source as all light has a source.  Light flows from power and energy.  Darkness is not power at all.  It has no source.  Darkness is the absence of energy and the absence of substance.  I think Lewis is onto something ... the ultimate destination of hell is into the nothingness from which it flows.  It might be why Jesus once said, Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30).  Yes, hell is real, harsh and horrific, but in relation to God's kingdom, hell and Satan are destined for the total darkness and emptiness from which they came.