Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

At first glance, I don’t really know what to do with this one. So, I did the only thing I know how to do. I turned to a Bible commentary. That proved to be no help.

I am not one who thinks that God leads us into those bad places. I do think, however, that he lets us go there so I can better understand him. I mean, how can I understand light if I haven’t experienced the dark? I would never understand it.

God is love and life. When I have those times away from Him I start to crave that connection. Right now that is where I am with God. It’s not that he has left me, or is sending the hard times, but my connection is weak.

I do believe in evil. I have some friends who don’t really want to believe that humans are evil, but I know that humans have that capacity. The Congo and other places where genocide reigns supreme are proof. Not to mention the recent tragedy in Norway. A guy blew up a bomb by a Norwegian Government district killing seven people. He then apparently went to an island where the ruling party was holding a summer camp for the youth of that party. He open fired, and last I heard he open fired on the attendees for an hour and a half. 85 people were killed there. People are still missing, so that number may rise.

I don’t know how someone faced with this could say that people are not capable of evil. Just thinking about it makes my stomach turn. God doesn’t say he will stop these events yet. Not to sound super cliché, but we live in a world that is broken. This is a symptom of that brokenness. While that will not bring back those lost, it gives me hope. Someday, Jesus will come back and banish the evil that causes people to do atrocious acts like this. Someday, God will deliver humanity from the evil that plagues this world and we will live in the kingdom that God had in mind from the beginning.

That doesn’t help us now, but remember how this prayer ends:
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
God is in control. While right now we suffer, he will deliver us from evil. That is a promise.

Until then, we need to pray. We need to try and live a life that is reflected in this prayer. We need to remember how God rescued us, and run to him like Stoyan runs to Jeff. We need to try to let go of our matches and allow room for God’s Kingdom. We need to be thankful for the blessings God has lavished on us, and try to turn those blessings out to those who have less. We need to forgive those who wrong us including ourselves, and remember that God forgives us too. God will not abandon us. He never has and never will. Beautiful, huh?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. I’m not very good at forgiving the people who hurt me. When my family’s landlady screwed us over it took me months to get over it. If I’m honest, some part of me still isn’t over it.

This goes deeper than just bad feelings toward her, but that bitterness has turned into one more barrier between me and other people. I have a hard time fully trusting people, because I am afraid that they will hurt me. So I hold the sins of others against people who have never hurt me. It’s a very unhealthy way to live.

That is not how I, as Christians, am called to live.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you; leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
This seems to me to work the other way too. If I have something against someone else, I will not be able to worship fully. I need to try and make peace first, then come back to God’s alter and lay my offering before Him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses

I have grown up in church. This line is nothing new to me. Even when I peaced out from God when I was in middle school I still knew this to be a truth in my life. So what is the big deal?
While I know that God forgives our sins, I don’t always remember or act like I am forgiven. Often times I ask forgiveness over and over again for the same sins. There are things in my past that I feel guilty about. That guilt rears its ugly head and can paralyze me from doing what I am called to do. I feel ashamed to go to God, and sometimes that is the only excuse I need to avoid him.
The thing is, I don’t need to do this. I mean, Jesus didn’t die and come back again so I can ask for forgiveness for the same thing time after time. Maybe it’s not God I need to ask forgiveness from. Maybe I need to forgive myself. God has already fulfilled that desire for forgiveness. He knows what I’ve done, but when he looks at me he doesn’t see what I’ve done. He sees what Jesus has done for me.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

It’s time for me to stop focusing on the past. God is doing a new thing and if I spend my life looking backwards I will never see the beauty in front of me. It’s time to start acting like a new creation. So instead I ask God to forgive my inability to forgive myself and ask him to focus my attention forward since that is where I am going.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

God has more than fulfilled this part of the prayer for me. I very rarely go to bed hungry. If you looked at me you would know that food is not something I have to worry about. I have more than enough.

What if that isn’t what this phrase is saying? What if it is less about my personal food allotment for the day, and more about the hunger in the world? From my perspective that explanation makes more sense than the idea that God only cares about me and my personal comfort.

In Exodus God provides the Israelites’ daily bread in the manna they would collect. Do you remember the rules God gave the Israelites about the manna? He told Moses that they could only collect enough to last their family the day, and they could get twice that on the day before Shabbat (the Sabbath). When the Israelites took more than they needed, the manna was rotten and maggot filled in the morning. They were incapable of storing up the food. God literally had to give them their daily bread.

Can you imagine being in that situation? I’m not just setting up a “we need to feed the world” tirade. I mean, honestly, can you imagine? The faith of the Israelites would be incredible. We have refrigerators and grocery stores. Our food can have preservatives added and can last for a long time. When we hear about bad weather we stockpile cans of vegetables, fruit and soup. Our food doesn’t have maggots in it after a day. We are so blessed. We have our daily bread.
Now, I could talk about all the Bible verses that deal with the need to take care of the orphans and widows. I could talk about the fact that Jesus himself makes reference to feeding the hungry, but I’m not going to really go into depth with that. We all have heard the prophets and Jesus tell us to love other people. We have all heard it so much that it is easy to tune out.

But it is worth mentioning that there are other Christians all over the world who are praying the same prayer. This line is not excluded, but is very present and more real for them than it is for us most of the time. Maybe we are the answer to their prayer. How can I continue to pray for God to give me my daily bread when they don’t get theirs? Maybe the prayer can remind me to let God use me to answer the same prayer in someone who really has nothing. Perhaps that is why it is plural; Give us this day our daily bread.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Don't Cry Because It Is Over

Last night the final movie in the series premiered, bringing the end of an era with it. I couldn't help but feel sad that this part of my childhood is now over. I, along with others in my generation, grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. They were like distant friends, or far away pen pals. We were forever looking forward to their next adventure. Now, there are no more shenanigans to anxiously wait in line to see or read.

I remember hearing about the books for the first time. I was in my fifth grade class and one of the boys sitting at my table was reading it. I was interested and he started telling me about them. I really wanted to read them, but my mom was pretty strict back then. I mean, she wouldn't let me watch Scooby Doo because it had too many references to evil in it. [I guess she was pretty heavily influenced by some people in our church about that sort of stuff.] Surprisingly, mom said I could read them with her.

Mom read the first few books at the same time as me, and then she started to read them aloud to me before bed. I loved that time. I would curl up next to her in her bed and would often fall asleep to her reading to me. She would use voices and make the story really come alive. It was great.

It took me a while to warm up to the movies. By necessity, they had to leave parts out of the books. Often the movies portrayed scenes differently than I imagined them. This made it hard, but once I got used to them I became a fan. I loved going to the midnight premiers of the movies. So many people showing their Harry Potter love. It was a wonderful sight.

Now, it’s time to say goodbye. We need to bid farewell to the excitement of a new book or movie. We also need to say goodbye to those characters who died in the last battle. Though we can always visit them in the earlier books and movies and that makes me smile. We also need to thank JK Rowling for making these last thirteen years so special. So for one last time I say…

Mischief Managed!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

I don't know how comfortable this one is for me. Do I really want to tell God every Sunday that I want His will to be done? More often than not I want to be the one in charge. It is scary to surrender my life and the direction I am going to God who shares his plan on a need to know basis. Often, I don't need to know. It makes me uncomfortable when my life is out of my control. But this is a pray that God loves to answer.

Matthew Paul Turner recently published a blog post about the need to be in control. Turner was responding to what he had heard Brian McLaren say about the Holy Spirit. McLaren compared the work the Holy Spirit does to a wild fire. The comparison is that the Holy Spirit gets rid of the old to make room for the new, just like a wild fire. Turner responded saying,

“Why did I feel conviction? Because I like holding the matches and burning what I deem to need burning. Because ultimately, I don’t trust God to burn up the right things. And God is slow. And sometimes God seems to do nothing at all. Which is why I so often like carrying my own matches.”

I can understand that. I don’t want to give up my matches either. Most of the time I want his kingdom to come, but my will to be done.

The thing is, that can’t happen. His kingdom is so counter-intuitive. I mean, who instinctively says that the first would be last? That isn’t how we are wired in this culture. We are always working for more. More money, more friends, more stuff, more pride, more, more, more. Jesus said you can’t serve two masters. I can’t really want my plan, and God’s plan. It has to be one or the other.

So which is it? Do I want his kingdom or my plan?  There is not and possible.  In my heart I say I want his kingdom to come. My actions say otherwise. I act as though I want my plans to work.

My friend Meredith O. said the other day that she heard someone give the analogy of a hand. She said that planning is ok, but it’s how you hold the plan that matters. There are two ways you can hold your plans. One is with a clenched fist. When God takes that plan, it hurts. He has to pry your fingers from around the plan you are clinging to for dear life. The other way to hold your plans is with an open hand. This way God can just pick it up and mold and change it to match his plan.

I think it is time for me to put down my matches and hold my plans with an open hand.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.

I was thinking about the Lord’s Prayer the other day and I have the nagging feeling that I should not be praying it right now. There are parts of it that I don’t really mean when I say it. There are parts that I whole heartedly agree with. For my own benefit I need to really break down the Lord’s Prayer and see what I am saying. I don’t want to lie to God, so I am going to take a break from saying the prayer and take it line by line over the next week or so. I’ll post my musings here. Starting… now.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.

First off, how often do we actually want God to be holy? By saying God's name is holy; Jesus gives us the identity of God. Think back to Jacob and the Angel. Jacob asks what the name of the being who was wrestling with him. The dude didn't give him a name, but rather blessed him. Jacob knew that knowing someone's name gives you power over them. In our culture that isn't really the case. You don't really have power over someone one if you know their name, but there is a connection. Knowing that God is Holy, and he is our Father, we have a connection with the Holy Father. That is something I don't think about often, but it is a beautiful thing.

That being said, do I act as though I am the child of a Holy Father? For that matter, how would an adopted child of a Holy Father act? I’m sure they wouldn’t be perfect, but they would try. That reminds me so much of Stoyan and the family from church who adopted him. Stoyan is a little 8 year old boy from Bulgaria that the Schuster family rescued this summer. One of my friends told me that the matriarch of the Schuster clan had said that Stoyan would have gone to the big kid orphanage soon. The Schusters really truly rescued that little angel from an awful fate. I think the little guy knows it too. Whenever he would see his new mommy or daddy he would run to them with a huge smile on his face.

Just like the Schusters rescued Stoyan, God rescued us from a horrible fate. I know that, but I don’t run to God with a huge smile on my face. Often times I run from God. That is not an appropriate response to the realization of the love that our Holy Father has for us. Hopefully God can work in my heart and show it the love that it needs to have that reaction. Someday I will be like Stoyan. Until then I can only pray for God’s help.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July

July Fourth is one of those holidays that make super uncomfortable.  I am not one to be super patriotic, and since this holiday makes people bleed red white and blue I feel out of place.  I am not one to sing God Bless America.  I will not shout I'm Proud to be an American for everyone to hear.  I do not really love my country like I feel like others love this country. 

I serve a God who is bigger than any country.  He is bigger than any government, military or even any ideology.  I feel as though many Americans worship our country on days like today.  It is all about the Star Spangled Banner and parades and what not.  When was the last time we had this big of a party for a religious holiday?  When Israel became too focused on their own greatness in the Hebrew Bible, God would remind them who is in charge.

Sometimes I fear America is becoming like the Ancient Israelites.  We feel that we have brought ourselves this far, yet we only got here because God let us.  There are so many parallels between then and now.  On our surface we are a devout and moral country.  Underneath, we are a decaying society.  I don't need to worship that, nor do I want to.

That being said, I am grateful to live in a country where I can express my opinion.  I don't know if other people feel that way.  I kinda hope I'm not alone.