Thursday, February 25, 2016

Good Thoughts and Good Prayers

Recently, I heard a person tell a friend navigating a hard time, “I’m sending good thoughts your way.” She was very well intentioned. I assume that she wanted the hurting friend to know she cared for her. She hoped to express empathy for the friend even if not always present, hence, the sending of good thoughts.

I wonder if Christians understand prayer that way. We think that praying is sending nice thoughts towards someone. Prayer is an interpersonal, telepathic sentiment of sorts.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with nice thoughts, Jesus teaches that Christian prayer is more than good thoughts. In the gospel of Luke, one of Jesus’ disciples asks Jesus to teach him to pray. Jesus tells him, “When you pray say, Father…” Jesus tells His disciples to call on God in prayer like calling on a parent. Jesus goes on to tell his disciples to ask God to rule in their lives, provide food, forgive sins, and direct them away from temptation. Later Jesus encourages this type of petitioning by saying, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened,” (Luke 11).

So, according to Jesus, prayer involves calling on God like an intimate caregiver, for just about everything in our lives. More than nice thoughts, Christian prayer involves bringing all thoughts before God. We send all thoughts God’s way, trusting that God is our provision in all things.

As you go through the coming week, take your thoughts to God in prayer. Ask for provision. Ask for healing. Ask God to be with a friend who is hurting. As you do, Jesus will redefine what it means to “send nice thoughts your way.” Jesus will also reveal that He is powerful enough to take nice thoughts and make a real difference.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Knowing Who You Are...and Who Jesus Is

A chaplain I know visited a patient at a local hospital.  The patient had recently received a very bad diagnosis and had a hard time processing the news.  In the midst of this difficult situation, a doctor stepped into the room to brief the patient.  The doctor didn’t have the best bedside manner and unintentionally upset the patient.  In response, the chaplain stopped the doctor, saying, “This isn’t a good time.”

The doctor looked indignant and asked, “Do you know who I am?”  The chaplain said, “I know exactly who you are.  This still isn’t a good time.”  The chaplain thought that Christian ministry and the patient’s emotional well being trumped the doctor’s status.  The doctor left the room a bit perplexed.

Sometimes, our Christian walk can the attitude of that doctor?  We think our experience or talents entitles us to a certain amount of status and respect.   Then, the words of the scriptures or the preaching of the church confronts us.  We ask, “Do you know who I am?”  The Holy Spirit says, “I know exactly who you are.  You are a person being made into the image of Jesus.  Do you know who Jesus is?”

In the Gospel of Luke, asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”  Peter answers, “God’s messiah.”  According to the Gospels, Jesus is more concerned with His people learning who He is rather than adjusting to the status us of his followers.

As you go through the coming week, ask the Lord reveal who He is to you.   Ask the Lord to make you into His image rather than asking the Lord, “Do you know who I am?”  As you do, you will learn more and more about the goodness of Jesus.  You’ll also feel more secure in who Jesus is making you to be.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Valentine's Day and the Love of God

This Sunday is Valentine’s Day. Most people can agree that Valentine’s Day is a mixed bag. For some, it is a day to appreciate and celebrate their love for/with their significant other. For others, it is an event raising the world’s awareness about their single-ness. For still others, Valentine’s Day is one big commemoration of a loved one’s failures. In other words, Valentine’s Day is great for some, but not for others.

That is the way it goes with human love. Love is good and important and worth our attention – even worth the risk. But, because humans are involved, people get hurt. Human love falls short of the love we all long for and aspire to.

That is why it is important to remember the love of God on days like Valentine’s Day. While human love can fall short, the love of God does not. In his letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Again: human love can and does fail. The love of God does not.

As you celebrate (or don’t celebrate) Valentine’s Day this Sunday, remember the love of God. There is a love that runs deeper and spreads far wider than the ups and downs and ins and outs human love has to offer. It is a love that satisfies on an eternal level. That love will comfort and sustain us when human love fails. It will also help us love others better on days like Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Proper Perspective on the Super Bowl

As a kid, I loved watching the Super Bowl. Many times, I loved the game so much I ruined the viewing experience. In the days leading up to the big game, I obsessed. I studied the team I wanted to win. I bet friends that “my team” would win. I insisted “their team” would lose. I talked a lot of trash. My anticipation of the Super Bowl built and built and built.

When game time actually arrived, I became a nervous wreck. I paced back and forth, terrified “my team” would lose. I got in arguments with friends rooting for the “other” team. I snapped at people who tried to talk to me. When things didn’t go my way, I ended up in tears. What should have been fun ended up being stressful, sad and maybe a little embarrassing.

People have a way of doing that with the things we love. We take something good and put so much emphasis on it that it turns bad. We put so much emphasis on our possessions they become a status symbol. We place so much attention on food and beverages that they become an addiction. We focus so much on an important relationship, they become controlling and abusive. What should be a really great things end being ruined by our obsession with it.

Jesus calls us away from such imbalance, inviting us to keep things in perspective. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” (6:33). It is not as if “all these things” are bad in and of themselves. “Things” are simply healthiest when Christ and His Kingdom are put first and they are put second.

As you watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, keep it in perspective. Recognize that Jesus is Lord and football is fun. Then, enjoy the game to the fullest. Hoop, holler and cheer for you team. Enjoy the cheese dip and soak up the time with friends. As you do, you will be free to enjoy a truly great thing (like the Super Bowl). You will also honor the only one who can truly satisfy you in the process (Jesus).