Response: Why We Pray

Today, the New York Daily News released a front page design and short video critiquing the Republican candidates’ response to yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, using it as part of the narrative for gun control. Proponents who share this viewpoint argue that it’s not enough to pray, that those prayers are meaningless unless there’s some type of action taking place afterwards. Some would even say that they rarely see any type of “follow through” from people who pray (i.e. Christians) and that people (i.e. politicians) should enact some type of legislation to prevent future atrocities and episodes (i.e. gun control) – never mind there’s a greater concern with this situation. While I’m not entirely “qualified” to discuss the theology of prayer, as a Christ-follower I do think the critique of “meaningless prayers” is offensive and inaccurate for a couple of reasons.

For one, I actually know of more people than not who don’t do nothing after praying. They don’t pray then go to sleep, or work, or school. Instead, they encourage. They speak out and speak to. They get involved and campaign and may even write a letter to their Congressman. If don’t believe me, I invite you to my church where I’ll be more than happy to introduce you to some of these individuals. Second, praying is doing something. For many people, it [prayer] provides hope. For some, guidance. For others, it actually is a way for them to get clarity and direction on how they can take action and what to do from here. It’s not just sitting around. It’s not just watching tv. It’s not scrolling through my feeds to get enough sound bites to come off as informed. It’s a deliberate, thought- and heart-filled action that believers are called to do, in seasons of praise and in seasons of need (James 5:13).

Prayer is so important that we should do it without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) and even more so that the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26)! God prays for us! Our prayers to God aren’t futile or meaningless just because we’re not in a public office to make change (or laws), just as your condolences aren’t meaningless if you attended a funeral for my daughter who was in a fatal car accident while riding her bicycle on the street (will you call for legislation for safer bike riding?) It’s much simpler – it’s a direct and accessible way of interacting with the Creator of the universe. It’s also, in the least, our way of doing something, anything, if there really isn’t much more we can do. When you chime in about how ineffective our prayers are or assume nothing more is being done, you are passively demeaning a deep, spiritual conviction we may have. Would you do that to a Buddhist in meditation? Would you do that to a new age healer? Would you go to the Muslims praying in their mosque?

As individuals, the least we can do is pray just as the least you can do is write a letter to Congress. After all, it’s not the greater institution that helps or heals or will enact change – it’s God within the people who are praying to and for Him to move. When we, the Christians who pray, come together under the Church, there is a change and transformation that takes place through our prayers.

“The problem, however, is that institutions can’t really help people. Only spiritual families will bring people to spiritual maturity where they themselves can reproduce.

Charles Simpson has made the point that institutions never save people. He has noted, for instance, that hospitals don’t save people; doctors and nurses do. Likewise, it’s not churches that save and restore people, but God working through the individual members of that church. Institutions and bureaucracies don’t care for individuals. But families do care for the individual. It makes a huge difference whether we build our churches to be institutions or families.” Mark Hoffman / The Joshua Principle 

I’ve seen and experienced incredible things with prayer and know how destructive things could have been without it. If you are still skeptical or don’t believe/agree with me, that’s okay. I’ll still be praying for you.

Response: Why We Pray

Redemption on the Horizon

Some of you know, many of you don’t. Grandmother (on Rheanna’s side) was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago. I was lucky enough to meet her while she was still coherent, but her condition has visibly worsened over the past few years. Last month, Rheanna and I took a trip to Idaho to visit her extended family and introduce Grandmother to her great granddaughter, #ShilohJo. Whether or not she could acknowledge who Shiloh was, the tenderness and care with which she held her showed that Grandmother was still Grandmother – a woman of class who is/was especially fond of babies and has nothing but love to give. If anyone is fortunate to have met her, it’s obvious as to where Rheanna’s compassionate heart comes from.

This image means a lot to me for the above reasons, but also because it represents more. There’s something special and unique when grandparents come into contact and interaction with their grandchildren in this precious way – a hint that the bonds of generational curses have begun to break off and redemption is on the horizon. It also alludes to a future generation waiting/needing to be released and advance the glory of His kingdom – not to wage war or to judge, but to love and transform. Let revival come.

Redemption on the Horizon

“All the people among whom you live shall see the work of the Lord.”

This verse (Exodus 34:10) made its way to my inbox via the Moravian Daily Texts. At first read, I became extremely encouraged and filled with a hope for what seems like, at times, a hopeless battle. It’s a promise to current and future generations of His presence and power – that all will knowingly or unknowingly bear witness to His goodness and glory.

But after reading through the rest of the email, I came to the closing prayer:

How amazing are your ways, O God. We marvel at your designs. In Christ you have shown us the awesome, divine presence that is ours. May our heavenly humanity be a witness to your earthly divinity. Amen.

Our heavenly humanity. I chewed on those words for a minute. Then it hit me. He doesn’t actually make Himself known by riding in on a white horse like a Disney prince. Nor does He move with our beckoning call like a puppet on stage. The implication of this verse is that we, as believers, are to be the instruments and facilitators of the manifestation of His work. That is when people bear witness to His glory.

Some time in the past, and even now when I don’t catch myself, I would have believed God to have done something if I prayed for it. Filled with excitement and eagerness as well as an immature understanding of who He is, I thought that He would have made Himself known through some “miraculous” happening and that’s how I’d experience His presence and power. After all, He gives us the desires of our heart, right?

While I do believe in miracles and that He does move in faith, I would say that a major flaw in my logic and initial read of this verse was and is my lack of conviction. What am I doing to best reflect and portray the loving kindness and compassion that Jesus has for humanity? Am I doing enough? Am I giving enough? When people think about me, do they set their hearts on the Lord?

I know the answer to all of these questions falls somewhere on the spectrum of “Maybe” to “I think so,” which means I’ve got a lot of work to do. And I believe we as Christ-followers do, too. We shouldn’t be known for conservative traditional views. We shouldn’t be picking fights based on political correctness or the nuances of Christian theology. We should be standing up for righteousness, caring for the widows and orphans, and healing a hurt and lost generation. We should be known for our love and compassion for people.

In the end, I want our charge to be that our heavenly humanity is indeed a witness to His earthly divinity. Through this will He be honored and glorified. Through this will all who live among us surely see the work of the Lord.

“All the people among whom you live shall see the work of the Lord.”

God and Country Crucified

I came across this podcast from The Village Church the other day and pulled out a couple of nuggets I wanted to share, each worthy of more than 140 characters, as well as encourage readers to listen to/watch this sermon. In a time where major cultural shifting is taking place and the Church needing to take more part in the conversations, it’s important to keep perspective of our role as the Church and our relationship with others.

“2 Chronicles 7 is not about getting America in step with the Church; 2 Chronicles 7 is about getting the Church out of step with America.”

“It’s much easier to preach God and country than Christ and him crucified”

“If you’re in Christ, the worst thing that can possibly happen to you has already happened; it’s coming face to face with the wrath of God in the judgement of your sins; If you’re in Christ, the best thing that can possibly happen to you is that you would be raised from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father and hear from Him ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for you.’ That has happened for you in Jesus Christ.” 

God and Country Crucified

How One Group of Friends is Rethinking Abortion, Women’s Health, and Planned Parenthood

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Every week, a group of 20-30 friends meet at the Van Meters’ house in San Diego. Someone from the group will usually prepare and bring dinner that everyone enjoys before diving into a discussion about the Bible, current news and events, life, and how to spur one another on in love and good deeds. In light of the recent videos highlighting Planned Parenthood’s involvement with abortion, which account for a supposedly 3% of the organization’s “services” to women (that is, the death of 327,000 babies), the home-group recently began asking themselves a question that not many seemed to be asking, “What can we do to help?”

As many argue about the true consequences of abortions conducted by Planned Parenthood, which ultimately don’t matter because the death of a baby is a death of a baby, or how the organization may provide other helpful health services for women, the home-group is approaching the conversation differently. Rather than picketing PP, they have identified a basic need for more pro-life pregnancy care clinics in San Diego that offer women the same, if not more, medical/health services than PP – and without having to consider abortion as an option.

Many women in lower-income communities actually have little to no option when it comes to medical clinics from which they can seek help. The East County Pregnancy Care Clinic, one of the leading organizations in San Diego that offers a safe alternative for pregnant women, has also recognized a need to fill these gaps and make medical services readily available for these women of any demographic, particularly in Southeast San Diego. However, the cost to open just one clinic is estimated to be $100,000. It would cost just as much to operate the clinic for only one year. On their own, the East County Pregnancy Care Clinic has already raised half of the amount, but they still need to double their efforts in order to open the new clinic.

This is where the home-group is stepping in.

Because of their heart for the matter, the home-group has started a fundraising campaign to come up with the additional $50,000 to open a new pro-life crisis pregnancy clinic in Southeast San Diego (and hopefully a little extra to go towards the $100,000 annual operating cost). In just a couple of weeks since the launching the campaign, they have already raised over $9,000, almost 20% of their goal. Opening a new center would mean that in an area where more than a handful of San Diego’s pregnant women reside, there would be direct access to safer services for women and their children. They would no longer feel pressured to solely rely on one option to obtain medical services for their pregnancy.

In a dialogue where women’s health concerns and choices come into question, the home-group is not necessarily looking to engage in battle with Planned Parenthood, though all involved are against abortion. Nor is the home-group against women’s rights. Instead, they see a need in the lack of resources available to pregnant women, in general. By opening a new pregnancy clinic in the area (the group also hopes to help open pregnancy clinics in other lacking regions throughout San Diego), the home-group is hoping to fill a need that would help alleviate that gap and ensure that pregnant women make the best informed decision for their families.

Visit the home-group’s fundraising page on Classy to find out more and to make a donation.
Click here to donate and help
How One Group of Friends is Rethinking Abortion, Women’s Health, and Planned Parenthood

Life’s Purpose

Every week, my office puts out a newsletter that lists daily activities and group exercises available to employees, such as workout classes and group runs.  Additionally, there are little snippets of motivational anecdotes intended to help better the lives of readers and encourage a more positive outlook on life.  This week’s motivational piece?

“The purpose in life is to be happy” as quoted by the Dalai Lama.

Of course, some folks are generally just happy people.  They wake up happy, they go to sleep happy.  Their happiness may even be too much for some to be around.  But most of us find happiness in things.  That is, there’s some thing that makes us happy.  Thus, through the law of transitivity, we can say that if the purpose in life is to be happy, then the purpose in life is to do things that make us happy.

Just yesterday (Sunday), Pastor Dave Hoffman touched upon this seemingly unanswerable question, what is the purpose of life?  From Colossians 1:9-12 he pulled out one very important fact – that we should be praying to grow in understanding and knowledge of His will for our lives (re: our purpose) .  If our purpose in life is built upon things which can be taken away or removed, then we are on very dangerous ground.  What happens when our purpose is to continually climb the corporate ladder, but we lose our job?  What happens when our purpose is to save money and buy a house, but the house is destroyed by some natural disaster?  What happens when our purpose is to live for our wives, husbands and children but they are taken away by the hand of Death?  Where then does our purpose and, ultimately, happiness come from?

Now, this doesn’t mean it’s wrong or immoral to strive for these things.  It’s okay to be ambitious and motivated in your job.  It’s okay to own a house and provide a safe refuge for your family and friends.  It’s also definitely okay to ensure that you lead your family and raise your children in the way of the Lord.  But when our purpose in life is dependent upon things which can be taken away at any moment, we have need to know that there is more to living and more to life’s purpose than just fulfilling our selfish desires.  Our purpose shouldn’t depend upon things that can fade away.  Instead, we should be grounded upon the unwavering foundation of Truth.

“11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”  (1 Corinthians 3:11-12)

“19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)



Life’s Purpose

“We are in danger…”

“We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save ourselves nor sanctify ourselves, God does that; but God will not give us good habits, He will not give us character, He will not make us walk aright. We have to do all that ourselves, we have to work out salvation God has worked in. ‘Add’ means to get into the habit of doing things, and in the initial stages it is difficult. To take the initiative is to make a beginning, to instruct yourself in the way you have to go.” – Oswald Chambers

Many times, we ask God to give us such and such and grant us this and that, but we forget, or rather ignore, that it is up to us to work out many of the things which we ask for – that the life we are called to live as Christians can be directed and guided only so far by God Himself. There is work to be done by us and only us. He cannot do it. There are many commands of action and doing that are found in the Bible – instructions that lead us into becoming leaders, teachers, and disciples. It’s time we stop making excuses and just get after it.