Archives for category: prayer

Robots

I am, like many of us, quite wary of people who claim to have heard God speak to them.

As Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.”

That is, it’s way too easy for us to hear what we want to hear, and then attribute it to God.

However, I do believe God speaks.

Certainly, through Scripture — and not the “Bible roulette” kind of reading, where God’s Word becomes little more than tarot cards or tea leaves as we try to divine the future.

No, the kind of reading that engages us at the deepest level, where it grabs hold of our thoughts and to which we return again and again weeks after reading it. The kind of Bible reading that illuminates our understanding of how things are and the incomparable heart and character of God. The kind that challenges, upsets, and upends our way of thinking.

I also believe God speaks through His people.

Again, not through the blustery megaphone wielded like a sledgehammer or the arrogant presumptions of those who simply want to control others.

Often, I find that God speaks most powerfully through people when they don’t even realize He’s speaking through them.

A friend from our church community recently shared an amazing story about how God was at work in ordinary and unforeseen ways through him.

One of his friends, who we’ll call John — whose only religious background is Buddhist — had a dream in which someone came to him, handed him a book, and told him that if he wanted to be successful in life, he should read this.

When John opened the cover, he discovered it was the Bible.

My friend directed John to connect with a church in his area, and he has been taking steps toward faith.

However, God did not speak to John randomly, out of the blue (although I know God does speak powerfully through dreams, particularly in areas in which following Jesus is dangerous or against culture or law).

John revealed that it was a Facebook photo my friend had posted that got him thinking about what he wanted his life to be about.

That photo was from one of our church’s housebuilding trips across the border to Tijuana, Mexico. And as John saw this photo, it made him think that about sacrifice and service.

My friend is a phenomenal photographer with an amazing artistic eye. But he had no intention of proselytizing through his photo.

He was simply sharing with family and friends what our community was up to. And that natural discussion of how we’re joining what God is doing in our ordinary and everyday lives is, to me, an incredibly powerful witness.

May you walk so closely to Christ that you cannot help but hear His voice, and may He speak powerfully through you.

When faced with the raw devastation of the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, my words feel foolishly small.

The photos and videos of the destruction are utterly surreal. None, for me, more so than this one below. What begins as a seemingly harmless, ankle-deep flow of water quickly turns into a raging torrent, wiping out cars and even buildings:

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In a moment, Dong Yun Yoon lost his entire family on Monday when a military jet crashed into his home here in San Diego, killing his wife, two infant daughters and his mother-in-law who had recently come from Korea to help care for the newborn.

How does a person live through something like this?  During this interview on CNN, Dong Yun Yoon, surrounded by his church community, reveals his deep faith in Christ even as he reveals his broken heart.  When his voice breaks and he talks about his daughters, it is utterly crushing:

I can’t believe they’re not here right now.

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I hope everyone from Southern California is safe and sound today. I couldn’t believe the news about the earthquake — we used to live in Chino Hills, the epicenter of the quake. My heart aches to protect our daughter; understandably, she was very frightened by her first earthquake but here I am, thousands of miles and an ocean away in Japan.

If you are able to, please remember to keep our Japan team in prayer. We’re heading into the homestretch of our outreach here — I’ll be disconnected as we head out for a three-day children’s camp. Please pray for our team as we seek to share the love of God across language and culture barriers with kids who have no connection with Christ at all. And please lift up a special prayer on my behalf — I’m definitely feeling my age during this trip (and all of this before we even get to camp).

I’ve posted another update with photos at sdunited.org.

A Bigger Gospel

Reducing the entirety of the Gospel to the idea that Jesus died so that I can go to heaven has had some unfortunate consequences. Certainly, Christ died on the cross, bearing the weight of our sins upon Himself so that we can enter into right relationship with God. However, by behaving as if Jesus is essentially a get out of jail free card, we end up with Christians who can make statements like this:

Christ does not call Christians to ‘make the world more compassionate and a better place’. Christ calls us to proclaim the Gospel message of Christ Crucified for sinners. This message is not compatible with any other religion or spirituality.

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Becoming a dad is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. It has forced me to come to terms with my (massive) shortcomings, humbles me every single day and has brought me greater joy than I could have imagined. It seems like an eternity ago, but we used to catch our daughter singing the Blue’s Clues theme song to herself in her mirror, dancing and smiling, using whatever toy she happened to find as her mic. In fact, tonight, as we sat together to worship, we caught her watching herself in that same mirror, dancing and smiling, as we sang a praise song together.

Jason Evans wrote a great post awhile back, Making Lunch, in which he talks about how the everyday act of making lunch for his children has become an integral, fulfilling spiritual discipline in his life. J’s words remind me not only of the kind of community I’d like to be a part of, but the kind of father I hope to become:

I am now the father, the teacher of these two little ones. I often tell new parents, “Your children are your greatest disciples… Don’t forget that this is your calling, to disciple these children in the way of Jesus.”

It’s tempting to farm out this responsibility to the professionals at the church. Who hasn’t had a really long week at work and wouldn’t want to drop off the kids for a couple of hours for some me-time? Is it too much to ask youth pastors to perform a quick two-hour extreme makeover on our prodigal kids — after all, what do we pay them for anyways? However, the formation of the resurrected life of Christ in us is a much longer and slower journey, and requires the patient, loving, everyday guidance of those who were first entrusted with these children.

Maybe it starts with helping parents to see that following Jesus around is a worthwhile, fulfilling, honorable endeavor. For those who feel “unqualified” I am reminded of Eugene Peterson’s words, “Everyone is a beginner in this business. There are no experts… Spiritual formation is not something we master.”

When I see how our daughter is growing everyday in brightness and love for God, I am amazed — and deeply grateful — that my failures do not prevent Christ being formed in her. Her life reminds me of this high and holy calling to lead her, in the ordinary and in-between, on the path of following Jesus. When I struggle with the heavy weight of discouragement, I know that I need to reconnect with God, to pursue the life that makes me feel fully alive in Christ so that instead of having a tired, irritable grouch stomping around the place, our daughter can see me following Jesus through the mess, and His life (slowly) being formed in me and — hopefully — she will want to follow Him as well.

I’m heading out on a weekend retreat with our youth group. Please pray for me.

Here’s a little design I worked up for our retreat:

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If I’m not back by Sunday evening, please send a team into the woods looking for me.