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

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

Response: Redefining Divorce

In going through my morning blog rotation, I came across this article by Michael Howard about a married couple, the husband being a renown figure at Google and the wife being a prominent researcher, who attempted to study the effects (i.e. why and how it happens) and affects (i.e. implications) of divorce. Their result? Pretty much inconclusive.

Howard notes that “studies on the effects of divorce are plagued by spurious correlations, incalculable variables, and the near-impossibility of separating cause from effect,” a generalization with which I can agree. Although divorced persons could each have the same reasons for why they got divorced (e.g. finances, career, etc.), I think the whole thing is too deep and dynamic to study and provide any straightforward explanation. However, I do believe divorce is ultimately the result of a ceremony conducted only between people who are, without fail, going to change; their bond and vows destined to be as volatile as the day’s prominent news topic. There is nothing absolute to which their marriage is accountable.

In is his response with regards to how people’s loved ones could better help people assess their situation [of divorce], Astro Teller, husband of the researching duo, says, “in order for things to change, society as a whole would have to lighten up on the narrative.” My initial reaction to this was to respond with “why.” Why would we ever want to lighten that narrative? Shouldn’t we want to engage in a deeper conversation to get to the root of the issue so we can understand and prevent it?

I think Howard actually summarizes this notion in his statement leading up to Teller’s – “[The researchers] would like to see those people’s loved ones understand the situation differently.” And, to an extent, I agree. Rather than offering cliche statements of pity, we could be thinking deeper about the hows and whys of people’s feelings in divorce. I think that carefully employing empathy could be one of the best way to go about consoling, comforting, and having a discussion about the situation.

What stuck out to me most was when Howard says that “blindly encouraging the persistence of a broken marriage may come from good intentions, but it only serves to shame the couple whose divorce could very well be for the best.”

I personally don’t believe comforting equates to shaming especially when you consider the heart of the initiator. There are times when empathy and sympathy come from a sincere heart. A more important question I’d like to ask is why is there often the underlying sentiment that divorce is acceptable and that it’s “for the best” of those involved? Why are we okay with it being an option or an out for [a difficult] marriage? If the narrative for divorce needs to change, maybe we can first rethink it and then take a position where we don’t even allow it as a possibility, thus eliminating the need to redefine it.

Ultimately, I believe there’s another outcome besides divorce for a difficult marriage, one where the only option is that there are no other options – but a Hope – such a Hope that defines and determines the beginning, middle, and near-end of any marriage, if you let Him. If you find yourself asking who this Hope is or how you can find Him, leave a comment. I’d be more than happy to share the Good News with you!

Response: Redefining Divorce