Archive | prayer

7 {real} reasons we don’t pray

7 (real) reasons we don't pray (from everlypleasant.com)

“To be a Christian without prayer is more impossible than to be alive without breathing.”

These are the famous words of Martin Luther, the seminal figure behind the Protestant Reformation. Either he missed the mark by a mile, or we’re in hot water. I’d venture to say most Christians don’t pray. Much.

I’m including myself in this “statistic.” I don’t know how much I pray in comparison with you or the average believer, but I know I don’t pray as much as I breathe, and don’t think of prayer as important as breath. The realization that I don’t pray “without ceasing,” caused me to ask myself this question: Have I been holding my breath for a long time, or am I dead? This is an important question to ask yourself, and a hard one. I think for me I have been living on short, shallow breaths for too long. Which is silly because I’m surrounded by good air.

The Bible (a book I claim to believe completely) talks a lot about prayer. It tells us that church is meant to be “a house of prayer for all nations.” It tells us that prayer changes things. It tells us that if we pray, we can be saved. Our perfect example, Jesus Christ, prayed very frequently and passionately while on earth. (I wrote about that a little in January.) If I believe all that, and, like my Sunday school teachers have often told me over the years, that the creator of the universe is sitting in heaven, looking down and waiting to hear from me, His beloved daughter, why don’t I pray?

I’ve heard (and made) an menagerie of excuses. We’re busy, we’re tired, we’re “not feeling it,” we don’t know how to start, we are overwhelmed, we are angry at God, we don’t have the right words, we feel unworthy. None of those excuses hold up next to The Bible, and, on top of that, I don’t think they are true. Sometimes, perhaps, but not often. Here are five real reasons I believe we don’t pray.

1. We think prayer is a gamble

Sometimes we pray that someone would be healed and they are healed. Sometimes we pray that someone would be healed and they die. Prayer is a gamble, right? Wrong.

The dictionary defines “gamble” (noun) as:

any matter or thing involving risk or hazardous uncertainty.
a venture in a game of chance for stakes, especially for high stakes.

Why pray when our chances are just as good without it? Why shake a Magic 8 ball? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just hope for the best, use good doctors and prepare for the worst? Not if you actually believe in God. Not if you actually believe in the prayer the Bible speaks of. The weird analogy from Sunday school about God sitting in a chair, staring at me is not far from the truth. Isaiah 65:4 says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” And 1 John 5:14-15: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

Now, God is not exactly like your mom or dad because he’s completely holy, eternal, all-powerful, etc., but He does compare Himself to a mother or a father many times in scripture. When you were a kid, did you ever ask your parents for anything? Did they always say the same thing? I doubt it. Does that mean asking them for something was a pointless gamble? Of course not.

 Prayer is not a gamble. Prayer is a conversation with good father who knows best, but also loves you dearly. Sometimes He says “no,” sometimes He says “yes,” but every answer is made of justice and love.

2. We think “unchanging” means unresponsive 

Verses like Malachi 3:6, (“For I the Lord do not change;”) and Hebrews 13:8 (“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”) give us the impression that God is a statue, formed in one way before the beginning of time and either unable or unwilling to adapt, shift or react. However, Malachi 3:6 goes on to say, “therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Why would God’s still, unchanging, unresponsive character be a comfort to the sons of Jacob? Because saying that God does not change does not mean He doesn’t respond, it means He doesn’t betray us. 

There really is no reason to pray to an idol. If they hear you, we will never know it. They cannot respond or change your life according to your requests. But God is not an idol. God is a father, remember? And not a father who walks out on you. A father whose love is unfailing and unchanging. His love is unconditional. He is constant.

Jesus is God and He never sinned, yet while He was on earth, He constantly responded to people. Scriptures give us insight into moments of Jesus feeling and expressing sadness, anger, frustration, grief, weakness, pain, joy and love. God is not a cold, marble sculpture but a perfectly constant friend. The former would be ridiculous to talk to, but the latter would be ridiculous not to.

 3. We’re terrified of disappointment 

So, prayer is not a gamble or a conversation with a gargoyle, but that doesn’t always mean we get what we want. And that terrifies us. What if we really pour out our hearts to God and beg Him for something and He says “no”? What if we ask for healing and see death or ask for revival and see burn-out?

Is our faith so unstable that a single “no” would make us question God’s existence or goodness? Or are we just afraid of the emotional turmoil we will face at the refusal? Either way, we are terrified of disappointment. This should not be. God’s ways are higher than our ways. He really does know best, so every “no” is as merciful as every “yes.” 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

4. We don’t want to admit what we want

Prayer sometimes seems like a rerun of previous conversations. I am going to ask for this, you are going to say that, yadayada. Why even begin?

Sometimes I think about praying for something, say, a paid writing job. And then I put words in God’s mouth and answer myself, “Just be faithful with what I’ve already given you.” You know what’s awful about this? That may not be God’s response today at all. He might say, “Wonderful idea! Here’s an email from a magazine editor right now!” I will never know if I don’t actually ask with faith and sincerity.

Sometimes we start to pray, “Lord, make me content in my singleness” when we should really be praying, “Lord, I’m so discontent right now, because I’m single. Please bring me a husband, if that’s your will! I’m losing patience and getting bummed out about this. Help!” But that would be admitting what we really want instead of keeping up appearances with God, right? Here’s a tip: be honest with God. HE ALREADY KNOWS.

Admit what you want and then put it in God’s hands. If it’s not best for you, He will let you know.

5. We are afraid of getting what we want

Sometimes I think about praying for patience with my siblings and then get superstitious. I don’t want to pray for patience! I think. Then He’ll really test me! The kids will be more trying than ever and I’ll learn my lesson the hard way. Or I realize pride is getting in the way of loving others, but I’m afraid to pray for humility, because that could be, well…humiliating 

Well, God is not a Magic 8 ball  or a vending machine and He’s not a voodoo doctor or Karma. The Bible says he’s my good shepherd, loving father, passionate groom and faithful friend. Prayers for humility and patience should not be prayed with fear, but with faith. Faith in His goodness (that everything He does or allows is ultimately for my good) and His mercy (that He will not destroy me, but uphold me.) If pride or impatience or anything else is getting in the way of loving God with your whole heart, He’s already waiting to take that away. Just ask.

6. It’s awkward 

This is a big one. Sometimes prayer is just plain awkward. It can feel one-sided, cold and weird. For years I had the urge to pray aloud, but could never bring myself to. It seemed like a good thing to do (many folks in the Bible, including Jesus, did this) but I thought it would feel like talking on the phone in the middle of a quiet restaurant.

However, I have learned to embrace the audible prayer! I pray aloud when I’m otherwise alone, be that in the car, on a walk or in the office. I also read scripture aloud. This helps my scatterbrain stay on topic. Imagine how confusing and distracting it would be to have a whole conversation with your best friend through mind reading power? Even if you had this superpower, you would still have all of your other random thoughts happening all the time. The line would surely get interrupted with items to add to your to-do list, memories of yesterday’s conversation, thoughts on things your eyes are seeing and your ears are hearing and those completely out of the blue ping-pong thoughts. Voicing your thoughts helps considerably.

Practice is key when it comes to getting comfortable praying. My generation is notorious for avoiding things that make them uncomfortable. Don’t be one of those people. Push through.

7. We don’t believe we need it

Originally, this post was just going to have six reasons we don’t pray, but seven is the number of perfection, is it not? When the post was halfway written, I was lying in bed praying about some issues in my heart when it hit me: the biggest reason we don’t pray is that we don’t actually believe we need prayer.

This is also called pride, something I encourage you to pray against. I prayed to be bought by the blood of Christ a long time ago. When I die, I know I’m going to Heaven. I don’t have any debilitating disease or major crisis in my life right now, so why pray? I live in America. I’ve never been hungry, thirsty or cold without access to food, drink and warm clothes. I have a wonderful family who takes care of me and makes me feel special, I have a good church full of good friends. I have health insurance, money in the bank and a security system around my home. Why pray?

Things are going pretty well, even when I don’t pray. I have everything I need and more. And besides, I am busy on my feet, if not on my knees. I am actively making sure things run smoothly in my life and the lives of those around me. Yay, me!

However, there’s a reason we kneel when we pray (or at least we used to.) Standing on your feet is a position of power, prestige and independence. We kneel when we pray because we kneel when we surrender, when we beg forgiveness, when we receive a blessing or a knighthood, when we request a hand in marriage (because no one actually deserves another person) and when we are too weak to stand. 

To kneel is to say, “I can’t even stand without your power and your permission, Lord Jesus.” 

We healthy, happy people need prayer because God made America and food and drink and warm clothes and health care and security and He can take it away. We need prayer because God made me and my past and my future and knows what I need better than I do, before I even need it. We need prayer because to be fat and happy and full of pride is to be malnourished in God’s kingdom and it is nearly impossible for the rich to enter the gates of heaven. I need prayer because without a word from God I am a blind, deaf, stupid person who thinks she knows how to operate the machine of life. Without prayer I am a joke, but with prayer I have a part to play.

“Humility” comes from the word “humus” meaning “earth” or “ground.” In other words, dirt. To be humble is to get off your high horse and sink your knees into the dirt, or as the folks of the Old Testament did, put your face to the ground and cover your head with earth.

In this “upside down kingdom” Jesus founded, we humble ourselves in order to rise. (“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:10) Will you stop what you’re doing and pray today? God gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6.) Our excuses pale next to our reasons to pray. Don’t let pride keep you from believing that.

3

on being “desperate”

 

desperate

Once upon a time, I swore I would never write about singleness. After all, nothing screams “desperate” quite like blogging about wishing you were married. However, in the past couple of years, I’ve received so much encouragement from my friends who are not ashamed of their relationship status and are bold enough to write about it, that I thought I could share my two cents without labeling myself too blatantly.

Since then, I’ve written about how singleness is not a disease and the real reason it’s hard being single. 

I defended myself in the first one. Singleness is not a disease…I am happy being single! In the second one, I confessed…it’s hard being single. Both are true. It seems that no matter how happy, fulfilled, busy, purposeful and content I am, there’s always an undercurrent of wishing I could marry. I don’t know yet if that’s a hidden form of discontent or a God-given instinct that will one day manifest itself in a real marriage or some of both, but it’s there nonetheless.

Still, the fear that I’ll seem “desperate” is so strong, it kicks the breath out of me at times. I feel like “single” is a name tag stuck in my hair. No amount of smiling and assuring people I’m happy will distract them from that sticky label.

What has surprised me most, however, is that as the years pass, I become happier and happier and more and more desperate. It’s true. The other night, I covered my face with my hands and cried real tears over this. I told God for the first time that I am, in fact, desperate. Desperate in the sense that I cannot shake this desire to be married, but it’s so much more than that. I’m desperate for God to write my story, whether it includes marriage or not.

Only He can fulfill me, only He knows what is best. I have become desperate, alright. Desperate to see Him move in my heart and my future. Desperate to know He’s working on this. Desperate to feel Him close when I feel lonely. Desperate to put all of this—the contentment and discontentment, the tears that come with a wrenching heart and the joy that makes me wonder why I’d ever want any other kind of life, all of this—into His competent hands.

I’m studying The Book of Numbers right now in my Bible study and it’s far from boring. Something really impressed me about Chapter 11, in which the wandering Israelites beg for meat. They “grumbled” and “wept” at the doors of their tents. In other words, they whined and complained to anyone who would listen, but they did not take their desires to God. When Moses could take no more, he addresses God in what sounds like an equally whiny and disrespectful speech:

Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” Numbers 11:11-15

His plea is sprinkled with questions of God’s faithfulness and the idea that the burden is entirely on Moses himself. You might think this is the point when God smites them all, Moses first. But that’s not the case. Though the people are punished, God takes mercy on Moses. He actually raises up seventy men to help bear the responsibilities as spiritual leader. God honors Moses for his honesty and the fact that he brought his weaknesses and needs to Him, instead of just complaining to his friends and family.

The people get what they asked for too, if you’re wondering. They get their meat. So much meat, that it oozes out of their nostrils (gross, huh?) and, “while it was still in their teeth,” it gives them a great plague and many die. The place where they fall is called Grave of Craving. Ouch.

That day in my Bible study notes, I jotted: “We can crave our way into the grave if we refuse to be satisfied by The Bread of Life.” 

Katie Davis, a missionary and woman of God I greatly admire, recently married. After living several years in Uganda as a single mom to fourteen, she finally has a husband (something she says she wanted all along) and a dad for her daughters. She writes,

“The Lord who knows my heart has been whispering to me of a new season for a long time, and my flesh has worried that this new season might take me out of my secret hiding place with Him, that somehow a physical, tangible relationship with another might take away from my relationship with my Builder, My Lover, My Life-Giver. Little did I know that this new relationship would only enhance the other.” (from Katie’s blog.)

My first thought was, “Yes! That’s what I want, too. I won’t settle for anything less than a marriage that enhances my relationship with God.” But later in the week, I started thinking about her words again, and I realized one horrific thing about my heart: There are moments when I would gladly trade my relationship with God for a “physical, tangle relationship.” And I don’t have the kind of relationship with “my Builder, My Lover, My Life-Giver” that would make me hesitant to receive a new relationship into my heart.

The words from the Rend Collective song came to mind almost immediately:

But I want to love You more
I need You God
But I want to need You more

I’m lost without
Your creative spark in me
I’m dead inside
Unless Your resurrection sings

I’m desperate for a desperate heart
I’m reaching out, I’m reaching

All that I am is dry bones
Without You Lord, a desert soul
I am broken but running
Towards You God, You make me whole

You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy

Maybe I am desperate, but not even close to as desperate as I want to become. 

4

bothering God

molly

When I was in high school, Spring Break meant very little to me. One thing I did love, however, was the fact that my friends who went to school were off for a whole week or more. One such friend was my cousin David. We were really close when we were younger and, one year, he came and spent Spring Break with my family at Eyrie Park. We dyed his hair bright red, which wasn’t appreciated by his private school, but that’s a story for another time. I believe it was during this stay that our fridge decided to give up the ghost. It was stormy outside while we moved all of our refrigerated items onto the big table in the den. During this process, I picked up our bulk-size bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and accidentally spilled the entire thing onto the pantry floor.

Somehow, I got distracted by the rest of the mess (melty things everywhere!) and my cousin and didn’t go back to clean up the chocolate for several minutes. When I did remember to retrace my steps, I found something horrifying. Or, rather, I found nothing. The chocolate was gone. But in it’s place was our little poodle, Molly.

Dogs aren’t supposed to eat chocolate. It’s considered poisonous to them. And Molly had a sensitive stomach to boot. That was the day I almost killed the dog.

We called the vet and she said to pour hydrogen peroxide down Molly’s throat if she wasn’t throwing up. We thought for sure she would vomit the whole thing out, her being so small and sensitive and the chocolate being so plentiful. We sat her some newspaper and watched her. And waited. And waited

Nothing. Not a burp. It was time to try the hydrogen peroxide. We were getting nervous. Especially me, murderess. We looked in our medicine cabinet and found the open bottle and poured the contents down her little throat with a turkey baster. And waited. And waited.

We had used up our hydrogen peroxide and Molly wasn’t flinching, so we put on raincoats and ventured out into the storm and started knocking on neighbor’s doors. It was late and raining and we don’t even know our neighbors all that well. But thankfully, one of them offered us their unopened bottle of hydrogen peroxide and we gladly accepted it and, if I recall, poured the entire thing into our beloved pup’s mouth.

Finally, she got off the paper and walked over to her bed and then the carpet and…let it all out. Of course, not on the paper! It was a bonafide mess but we were so relieved that Molly Moo would be okay. We had several more happy years of her company after that. It was a Spring Break to remember, and a victory–thanks to those neighbors who opened their doors into the rainy night.

This event often comes to mind when I read what I think is one of the strangest passages in the Bible:

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:6-10

Wait, wait. Is this suggesting that I’m supposed to be impudent toward God? That seems so wrong, and weird at that. Shouldn’t we feel guilty for bothering God?

I recently have been listening to a Vespers station on Pandora while I’m at work. (The Vespers are my favorite band right now, check them out!) A song by Punch Brothers came on that made me laugh. The song is from the perspective of a “backslider” who is only praying because he really wants to win the affections of a religious girl. The whole song is pretty clever, but this line stuck out to me:

‘Cause there’s this girl this girl this girl this girl this girl
And I’d be the happiest backslider in the world
If you would tell her it’s your will for us to be together
I would never bother you again

“This Girl” by Punch Brothers

Ain’t that the truth, though? If God would just grant us our every wish, we’d never bother Him again. And judging by the attitude of the man who was in bed with his children, (co-sleeping alert!) He would appreciate that.

But that’s not what the Bible says, is it? Ask, seek, knock, it says. Three verbs. That’s like knocking and ringing the bell and knocking again, louder.

I am still not entirely sure about being impudent, but I think the message is this: God wants to be bothered by us. Because when we knock on His door, He is not irritated that He has to get out of bed and rouse his children from sleep. We are His children. He is not slow to bless us. We are slow to knock.

Would you like to know that your little child was keeping something from you that you could be helping with? Would you like it if they never told you when they were hungry, even if it meant not having to hear them nag? Again, the analogy breaks down a bit because God does already know our needs and desires, but He wants the relationship of a father and a child, not an automatic payment plan and a recipient.

When I made a huge mistake and fed our dog five pounds of chocolate chips, we were desperate. And we were humble enough to trudge through the rain and desperately knock on the doors of near-strangers. And we were obedient enough to pour the whole bottle down her throat. And we were literally on our knees, pouring and waiting and praying because a life depended on it.

We asked and it was given to us. We sought and found. We knocked and it was opened to us.

“…how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13

This post is dedicated to Molly Elizabeth Dolly Kraft-Giles, 1999-2014. 

3

when God the Father seems overly protective

Though I sometimes suspect I’m turning into A Morning Person, I have to admit to a life-long hatred of alarm clocks. The sound my phone makes across the room when it’s time to get up for work is one of my least-favorite ditties ever to exist. In that inevitable moment, I forget that I am the one who told the alarm precisely when to go off and that, after all, it is just a piece of technology, not some demon set on ruining my life. I always give myself time for one “snooze” as I dive back under my comforter and appraise the day for nine minutes.

After forgiving God for allowing this injustice to happen so early in the morning, I begin to pray in short, sleepy spurts. What shall I do today, for The Kingdom? What are His plans for me? How can I glorify Him?

These prayers may sound quite pious for 6:30 AM, but I assure you they are merely the product of sleepy habit and a lot of grace. I cannot even say that my heart is necessarily “in it” at this point in the day (as is sometimes evidenced by my grouchy behavior once I leave my bedroom,) but it’s definitely a good way to start the day. I often look back on these little prayers around noon and think, “Well? Have I begun? Am I doing His work, or not?”

But do you know what irks me about these prayers? It’s the calm, consistent answer they so often receive. I can almost hear the smug tone in God’s voice at 6:33. There is no special assignment. There is no exciting task. It’s almost as if He replies with a small smile and a, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Day after day after boring day.

I hold my palms out in reverent prayer. WHATEVER you might want me to do, Lord, I’ll do. I’m available to you. I am willing.

“Okay,” He replies with that little smile. “Just keep doing what you’re doing for now.”

So, I know I’m being a bit sacrilegious by characterizing God the Father this way. After all, smugness isn’t exactly a fruit of His spirit. But this is the way I feel, sometimes. Like God is not using me. Instead, He’s just keeping me on a shelf, safe and still. I can almost see the dust collecting around my feet.

The truth is, at eighteen I thought I was ready. Everyone thought I was mature for my age. They applauded my wisdom and discretion. I wanted to be married, to adopt kids, to go back to Haiti do mission work. I wanted to be on the New York Times Bestseller’s list with a riveting scrutiny of society. It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid at times, or that I never felt unqualified, but those feelings never really go away. Big things will always make little people nervous. Why not just start now?

And God gave me that little smile. I think it was the first time I’d seen it. And he patted me on my little head and tucked me into my little bed and told me to grow up. And, like all little children do, I told Him I wasn’t sleepy and I didn’t want to go to bed! I wanted to stay up with the grown-ups and do grown-up things and have fun! And He chuckled a little as He turned out the light and pulled the door, as if to say. “That’s nice, Deary.”

So I pitched the riveting manuscript and was rejected. The guy who would’ve married me got turned down. The tickets to Haiti were never purchased. The alarm clock continued going off at the same time every morning and I continued to lie in bed, nine minutes at a time, wondering what the heck my purpose was.

Now I’m twenty-two and, I’ll admit, a bit weary of God’s overly protective tendency’s at times. I get the feeling He’s holding out on good things for me because He just wants me to be near all the time. To get to know Him better. To spend my hours with Him and talk with Him. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the launch? Where’s the applause from society that comes with great accomplishments? Where’s the fodder for my blog, for Pete’s sake? Nothing every happens to me! I shriek (and throw myself onto my bed with the grace of a prepubescent brat.)

God gives me that look like I don’t know best or something, and leaves me to my pouting.

Other girls get married. Other girls have babies. Other girls travel. Other girls get published. I was never jealous of the girls who had phones before me, cars before me, pierced ears before me…but this? Are they really more qualified? Why can’t I be an early bloomer? (Stomps Mary-janes indignantly.)

This may be an exaggerated description of my relationship with God. I would like to think there’s a little more mutual respect between us, and less whining. But the truth is, I do complain a lot, about my lot. Elisabeth Elliot says of Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure.”

My “lot” is what happens to me-my share of that which comes by the will of the Power that rules my destiny. My lot includes the circumstances of my birth, my upbringing, my job, my hardships, the people I work with, my marital status, hindrances, obstacles, accidents, and opportunities. Everything constitutes my lot. Nothing excepted. (Be Still My Heart, pg. 35)

Can I accept the fact that My Good Father secured the lot that is my singleness? That He designed me this way and set me on this path? Can I accept the fact that He ordained for my book to be rejected? That I’d have to break someone’s heart? That I’d have to learn from mistakes? That my friends would move on and move away without me?

One of my favorite stories from the Bible is about Mary and Martha. I think I love it because it’s about women, and sisters no less! And it takes place in their home and shows their personalities and, let’s face it, tells a story all women have experienced. Martha is cooking and cleaning because they have guests and she is ticked that Mary isn’t helping. She’s just sitting there, hanging out with Jesus. Hello! I  can imagine Martha thinking while she gives Mary a wide-eyed glanced over Jesus’ shoulder. A little help here?!

But Jesus is sort of related to the God I’ve been describing here. He has a way of snuffing out our self-righteous plans with a look or a word.

“Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 The VOICE.)

So what if I have an extended adolescence? So what if my life looks boring to other people? So what if I’ll never get to prove how good of a wife/mother/author/missionary I could’ve been at nineteen? God hasn’t been smug with me. He’s been patient. He’s given me years of chances to “choose that one thing” that cannot be taken away from me. I wanted to be Martha, working and doing big things for Jesus. I wanted to show the world how dedicated I was to Him. But it turns out He really doesn’t give a darn about what the world sees me do. He cares about my heart. If I cannot sing a serenade to Him, why do I think a solo concert in front of a big audience will bring Him glory?

I have a  feeling there is a Mother Theresa out there right now who hasn’t been discovered by the media and never will. An Elisabeth Elliot who doesn’t land a book deal. A Gladys Aylward who still hasn’t made it to China, despite her efforts.

God’s ways are not my ways. He actually does know better. So maybe I’m a slow learner, a late bloomer. Maybe I did need a little more time on my Papa’s lap, as my friend Jessiqua would say, before chasing my dreams. Maybe He’s preparing me for a greater work than I’ve ever cooked up on my own. And maybe it won’t win me fame or esteem. But maybe it will matter.

4

“I like your Christ”

Christians sometimes have a bad reputation because sometimes we live up to it. Though many Christ-followers have mimicked their leader by being generous, kind and self-sacrificing, others have worn the name of Christ while leading crusades against muslims, marching through military funerals ranting about doom or just generally being a jerk. For Christians who are concerned about our reflection on Christ to the world, nothing scares us quite so much as the idea that people are rejecting God-their only chance of hope in this life-because of our nasty attitude. The peaceful Indian leader, Gandhi, was a good man who missed out on a great God. Though I love his example and definitely believe he is someone we could all learn from, his quotes sometimes send shivers down my spine. Gandhi famously said,

Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians are not like him.

(Or, alternately: “I like your Christ, I dislike your Christians.” The quotes are somewhat debated, but the sentiment remains.) It is statements like this which frighten us most, and well they should! We need to be reminded, even if through harsh words from a Hindu, when we are not being Christ-like. Quotes like these spur us on to be better Christians, more like our Christ. They might pop into our minds when we’re talking to unbelieving friends, keeping us from gossiping or reminding us to control our tempers. They inspire us to love our neighbor by giving them a more accurate depiction of the love of God. However, I think we sometimes take this so seriously, we forget one very important part of our theology.

1

 

Though we are all innately evil (including those of us who come to know Christ,) people are never the enemy. Non-Christians are not my enemy and I am not their enemy. As a matter of fact, though we sometimes seem to have little in common and entirely different values, goals and agendas, we all have a common enemy.

Though Christians certainly need to learn some manners, our Facebook rants are not the source of all evil. Our hypocrisy and self-righteousness are sinful and may lead someone astray, but they are not what is sending souls to hell. All of these sins that pop up in our own lives (and I repeat: pride, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, gossip, bitterness, bad tempers, bad manners) are tools in the hand of the real enemy.  John calls him “the thief.”

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. John 10:10

If someone was wreaking havoc in your neighborhood, breaking into every home to rob, beat and murder you and your neighbors, would you not feel unified against this threat? Would you all sit down to have an argument or pity party about who left their door unlocked and who was unarmed? No! Everyone is being terrorized, everyone has a common enemy.

We must open our eyes to the real and present danger that is Satan. Guns are not the leading cause of death, nor cancer, drunk driving, illegal drugs or obesity. The leading and only cause of death is Satan. There was no death until he slithered in and death will be the last enemy conquered. You know what pulls kids away from church? Is it the style of our music or the inconsistencies in our lifestyles? Is it illicit behavior that’s now acceptable in high school? Pornography? Gang violence? Liberal media? Broken homes?

None of the above. The leading and only cause of people falling away from God is Satan. Likewise, he is also the cause of porn and violence and broken homes, but those are merely tools he uses to “steal, kill and destroy.”

So yes, be a nicer person. Look into your heart and make sure you are reflecting Christ in your lifestyle, words and actions. Let your friends and coworkers know that those who protest at funerals and leave nasty rants on Facebook have nothing to do with you and your God. But also keep in mind, we are not the enemy. And, when interacting with nonbelievers, remember that none of us are enemies at all. We share a common enemy. And then, do not neglect the next part of John 10:10, these words from our ideal and wonderful Christ,

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

4

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes