Archive for February, 2009

Knock.Ask.Seek

February 26, 2009

Prayer has been an allusive discipline to me.  When I first became  a Christian, I used to journal my prayers which consisted of list upon list of people I was thankful for, people who I was asking God to bless, and things I wanted or thought I needed.  I don’t remember how long this lasted, but it was definitely not more than a year after the point in my life where I understood Jesus as the Son of God and the Redeemer of all creation.  At some point I think someone told me that prayer is more like a conversation with God.  This seemed to me to be a much easier way to think of prayer and I tried very hard to pray in this way.  But for some reason that has also been short-lived.  It’s hard to have a conversation with someone you can’t see in the flesh or hear audibly with your ear drums.  Somewhere along the way, someone recommended the book Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  And I read it.  And it was good.  I liked how he talked about being in prayer to God at all times.  He seemed to have figured out how to “praywithout ceasing.”  I remember where he wrote about praying while he did the dishes at the monastery.  It is almost as if the very act of being was a prayer to God.  I have tried to walk in that but it did not last either though admittedly due in part to my lack of discipline. 

Over the past year I have been challenged in prayer.  At the beginning of this year long period, I was going through a book called Discipleship Essentials, by Greg Ogden, with a friend of mine and somewhere in there (I don’t have it in front of me) there is a part where it talks about prayer and focuses on Matthew 7.7-8 which reads,

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

But there was something that didn’t make sense to me.  Hand in hand with this passage, was the Parable of the Persistent Widow found in Luke 18.1-8. 

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

 4“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ”

 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

These two ideas seemed to contradict themselves.  Ask and you shall receive, but you have to ask a billion times to change God’s mind with your persistence.  Now I realize that part of what is going on in this parable is the fact that Jesus is saying something along the lines of,

“If this unjust, uncaring judge will grant the widow her request, how much more would God who is the very definition of love, justice, and peace grant your requests!”

But that doesn’t seem to add up either when you take into consideration the fact that we often pray for God to heal people of cancer and other sickness and it doesn’t happen.  This has more to do with “the problem of pain.”  It is things like this that cause me to wonder.  Does God answer our request but just not in the way we had hoped?  Maybe those individuals were more in need of a healing that could not be seen by human eyes.  But then that just seems like a cop out.  And to make things more complicated, we have this gem :

2You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  (James 4.2-3, emphasis added)

But there is another reason the “Knock…seek…ask…” verse did not sit well with me.  It seemed to me that, like the persistent widow above, asking for something over and over again was an indication of a lack of faith.  I wanted to just be able to ask for it once and have faith that God would grant my request.  To my dismay, the verb tense of the Greek words translated in Matthew 7.7 indicate a constant knocking, seeking, and asking.

I wasn’t sure why at the time, but this just didn’t sit well with me.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could not reconcile this fact.  But lately I have realized something that I think will be revolutionary for my prayer life.  I think that I did not like the idea that prayer requires a constant knocking, asking, seeking because

each time I ask

        I am admiting over and over again

                             that the thing I desire or need

                                              is beyond me and out of my control.

Every time I ask for something, a small piece of the little ‘g’ god I allow myself to be dies.  Every time I ask for something I realize how much I need God.  There is a part of me that still doesn’t like that.  But now my little attempts to rebel against my Beloved have been shown for what they really are.  I am saddened by them, but thankful to have eyes to see it for what it is.

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Perfect Love

February 24, 2009

Holiness is something that I have heard about since I became a Christian at age 13.  It seemed impossible to fully understand, but yet I learned early on it was something a Christian should strive for. 

Be holy as I am holy. (Lev 11.44, as quoted in 1 Peter 1.16).

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12.14)

Okay…so I am to “be holy.”  Anyone else wondered what exactly that means?  I know that I was brought up in my Christian faith to believe it was something akin to perfection in word and deed as a reflection of a heart towards God.  Sounds good right?  But while there might be some truth there I think it is slightly skewed and causes us to become self righteous individuals who attempt to earn God’s grace and acceptance (that we already have mind you). 

So what is it?

I went to dinner with some friends last night to celebrate my acceptance to Princeton.  I had a lovely dinner and the conversation was scattered across the board.  We talked about movies, books, reform theology, and hell.  And from the discussion of hell we somehow ended up touching on the holiness of God.  I got a little riled up (no surprise there) and spoke against the perfectionism that I had served for so long.  The definition of holiness came out as “one who is set apart” and I thought how can God be set apart?  As I write this I am thinking maybe it could be that God is set apart from all the little ‘g’ gods.  But then a friend of mine said something about love.  And a connection took place in my brain. 

Could it be that a call to holiness is a call to love as God loves?

Could it be that holiness is to love perfectly

What do you think?

The Eyes of Your Heart

February 22, 2009

In Ephesians 1, Paul wrote

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (vv. 18-19a)

I read Ephesians 1 this morning.  I feel as though I am abiding in Christ much more lately.  The pressures of this world are still there and have increased in some respects, but they don’t seem as pressing somehow.  As I read the verses above I had a flashback.  I saw myself sitting at the kitchen table at the apartment I shared with a friend of mine during my last year of college.  It was a renovated carriage house so it was kinda shabby, but it was my first real place away from home since I lived in the dorms for my first 3 years of my time as an undergrad.  So I see myself sitting there, reading the Bible and realize that the moment I am remembering is when I read this same passage almost 6 years ago.  And I remember praying

Please enlighten the eyes of my heart, God.

And while I have not yet arrived I can definitely say that God has answered that prayer.  What a wonderful thing to realize!

Gracious God, Thank you for that memory!  Thank you for patiently teaching my heart to hope!  Thank you for the inheritance and the power that I have access to because of your redemption.    Thank you for you.

Part of the Problem

February 21, 2009

It seems that everyone, including myself, wants to get everything as cheap as possible.  This seems logical and is even spiritualized as being a good steward of the God’s money.  But with some of the reading I have done lately (i.e., Everything must Change, The Irresistible Revolution, etc.) before I buy something at an unbelievably low price I have started to ask myself, “At whose cost?”  As in who had to pay for the cheapness of this item before it ended up at this store for $2.99?  Did a beautiful 7-year-old girl in malaysia work long hours in a sweat shop so I could have this item for such a cheap price?  Was she forced to give up going to school because her mother and father and older brother work at the same sweat shop but are paid such meager wages that her income is needed just to get by?  Did a young Brazilian boy walk miles through the forests to harvest bananas so that I can eat them year round while he is forced to place himself in danger for money that I would

     throw
              in a
                  wishing well?

I have more material goods than I need as it is.  And I am willing to pay three times what Wal-mart is charging if it means that all the folks along the way will be paid more fairly for their labor.

I was talking with a couple folks about this recently and one lady asked, “But won’t that just reduce the amount of money going to the folks who already don’t get paid enough?”  I thought about this for a moment and realized that while this may be true at first and if I am the only one taking a stand, if we all decided to control the only thing we really have control over, the overlords who pocket 90% of the profits would start to feel the effect in their pockets and would be forced to change their ways.  What is the one thing I can control? 

ME.

And even that’s a farce to a certain degree since there are things I want to do and I don’t do them and the things I dont want to do, I do anyway (echoing Paul). 

BOTTOM LINE: I am part of the problem. 

There are a lot of things I can’t change.  I can’t change where Walmart buys their goods.  I can’t change what country those goods come from.  I can’t change how much Walmart pays for these goods.  And I can’t change how much the seller charges for them.  I can’t change what the seller pays his employees and I can’t change the conditions under which the employees work. 

But I can change me.

I CAN change whether or not I shop at Walmart.  I CAN change what type of products I buy with the money God has entrusted me with.  I CAN buy less of things at higher prices to try and ensure people are treated with dignity and respect.  And if enough of us did that, we could change the world. 

Do you believe that?

I have not thorougly investigated each of these websites yet.  I have collected them from a few different places (to include The Irresistible Revolution) and am posting them here in hopes of providing myself and others a list resource for discerning where to spend the money God has entrusted to us. 

Cheap isn’t always better.  Think about it.

Human Rights Links
Global Exchange
Sweat Shop Watch
CorpWatch
Human Rights Watch
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Amnesty International
Not for Sale Campaign (added 3/7/09)
Free2Work (added 3/7/09)

Fair Trade Links
Trade as One
Presbyterian Coffee Project
Equal Exchange
Sweat Free T-Shirts
A Greater Gift/Serrv
World of Good
Fairest Buy (added 3/7/09)

Environmentally Friendly Stuff
Reusable Bags
Electric Sstewardship (For PCUSA Churches)
Eco-Palms (Palm fronds for Palm Sunday)

Other
Just Living

**If you know of other websites that speak to these topics, please leave them in the comments.  And if you know that any of these organizations are questionable, please let me know.  Thanks.**

PTS

February 17, 2009

Princeton here I come!  : )

Found out today that I was accepted to Princeton Theological Seminary.  I am super stoked about it.  : )

Now to figure out everything else…    : )