Prayer part 2

So I said in my last post that I would give my thoughts on prayer.

I do think that prayer is valuable.  I think the main point of prayer is to align your will with God’s will.  First of all, you have to believe and accept that God has a plan and that He has everything under control.  If you don’t believe that it would be pretty hard for you to want to align with His plan.

But when you look at the way Jesus teaches us to pray in the gospels we don’t see examples of asking for certain things.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptations,
but deliver us from evil.

-Matthew 6:9-13

The only part of that prayer that sees us asking for anything is when we ask to “give us this day our daily bread”.  And when you really think about it, you can survive off of less than you think.  It isn’t give us this day our daily all-you-can-eat-buffet.  So the majority of our prayer shouldn’t just be a long to-do list for God.  Jesus says that should be about 1/4th of your prayer.  The rest of the prayer calls us to praise God, ask for forgiveness and to pray for God’s will to be done in order to bring the kingdom of heaven to Earth.

So if we pray for something and it doesn’t happen, then we have to be at peace in the fact that God has things under control.  And that is hard sometimes!  Especially when you pray for someone to get better and they don’t, or for someone to stay safe on a trip and they don’t return.  These are “good” things so it is hard to deal with when it doesn’t happen.

So I think we should pray, but not necessarily for the reason of us asking for things.  We should pray in order to have that conversation/relationship with God so that maybe, just maybe, we can be a little more in tune with Him so that we can be more at peace and in-line with His plan.

– Jacob

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Prayer

So my young adult small group is currently reading through the book Gray Areas by Mike Glenn.  We are only two chapters in but last night we had great discussions for almost 2 hours.  Most of the discussion kind of got away from the topic of the chapter, but it was still great.

One question posed by another person was on the topic of prayer.  He wondered if God already has a will and is going to do what He is going to do, does it matter if we pray?  He gave examples of praying for someone to be safe on a trip or for someone to be healed and said if God has already decided that it is “their time” to go, will my praying really make a difference?  And if not, why should I even pray?  Others then listed examples from scripture where people prayed and seemingly “changed God’s mind”.  The most notable example of this is Exodus 32:1-14.

I personally think prayer is valuable and important and have my own reasoning behind it, but I wanted to hear from some other people before I give my input.  Do you think prayer changes things?  Is prayer for us?  Should we just let God’s will happen and go with the flow?

Leave your answer in the comments.

– Jacob

Response To The Poor

Recently I was presented with the question of what the proper response should be from Christians when dealing with the poor, specifically when you come across a homeless person who is asking for money.  I personally don’t give them money for two reasons.  1) I honestly don’t usually have cash on me to give away.  We live in a world where people rarely have cash on them.  2) Our society has perpetuated the thought that homeless people will use that money in the wrong way (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc…) and we are told that it would be best to make donations to local charities or soup kitchens that will use the money responsibly.

But Jesus doesn’t tell us to help those by donating to a large soup kitchen that will in turn help some of the poor.  Jesus calls us to help the poor directly.  Jesus says that anyone who helps the least of these is helping him.  Proverbs 21:13 also says that if “a man shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered”.  Those are powerful (and scary) words.  So what should our response be when we drive by someone holding a sign for money?

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So what is your personal response to homeless people and why?  I’m still wrestling with how I can care more for the homeless and would love to hear how other people approach the issue.

-Jacob

Job 38-41 (New Living Version)

The Lord Challenges Job

38 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom
    with such ignorant words?
3 Brace yourself like a man,
    because I have some questions for you,
    and you must answer them.

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know so much.
5 Who determined its dimensions
    and stretched out the surveying line?
6 What supports its foundations,
    and who laid its cornerstone
7 as the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

8 “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
    as it burst from the womb,
9 and as I clothed it with clouds
    and wrapped it in thick darkness?
10 For I locked it behind barred gates,
    limiting its shores.
11 I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
    Here your proud waves must stop!’

12 “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear
    and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
13 Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth,
    to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?
14 As the light approaches,
    the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal;
    it is robed in brilliant colors.
15 The light disturbs the wicked
    and stops the arm that is raised in violence.

16 “Have you explored the springs from which the seas come?
    Have you explored their depths?
17 Do you know where the gates of death are located?
    Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?
18 Do you realize the extent of the earth?
    Tell me about it if you know!

19 “Where does light come from,
    and where does darkness go?
20 Can you take each to its home?
    Do you know how to get there?
21 But of course you know all this!
For you were born before it was all created,
    and you are so very experienced!

22 “Have you visited the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of hail?
23 (I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble,
    for the day of battle and war.)
24 Where is the path to the source of light?
    Where is the home of the east wind?

25 “Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?
    Who laid out the path for the lightning?
26 Who makes the rain fall on barren land,
    in a desert where no one lives?
27 Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground
    and make the tender grass spring up?

28 “Does the rain have a father?
    Who gives birth to the dew?
29 Who is the mother of the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?
30 For the water turns to ice as hard as rock,
    and the surface of the water freezes.

31 “Can you direct the movement of the stars—
    binding the cluster of the Pleiades
    or loosening the cords of Orion?
32 Can you direct the sequence of the seasons
    or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
33 Do you know the laws of the universe?
    Can you use them to regulate the earth?

34 “Can you shout to the clouds
    and make it rain?
35 Can you make lightning appear
    and cause it to strike as you direct?
36 Who gives intuition to the heart
    and instinct to the mind?
37 Who is wise enough to count all the clouds?
    Who can tilt the water jars of heaven
38 when the parched ground is dry
    and the soil has hardened into clods?

39 “Can you stalk prey for a lioness
    and satisfy the young lions’ appetites
40 as they lie in their dens
    or crouch in the thicket?
41 Who provides food for the ravens
    when their young cry out to God
    and wander about in hunger?

The Lord’s Challenge Continues

39 “Do you know when the wild goats give birth?
    Have you watched as deer are born in the wild?
2 Do you know how many months they carry their young?
    Are you aware of the time of their delivery?
3 They crouch down to give birth to their young
    and deliver their offspring.
4 Their young grow up in the open fields,
    then leave home and never return.

5 “Who gives the wild donkey its freedom?
    Who untied its ropes?
6 I have placed it in the wilderness;
    its home is the wasteland.
7 It hates the noise of the city
    and has no driver to shout at it.
8 The mountains are its pastureland,
    where it searches for every blade of grass.

9 “Will the wild ox consent to being tamed?
    Will it spend the night in your stall?
10 Can you hitch a wild ox to a plow?
    Will it plow a field for you?
11 Given its strength, can you trust it?
    Can you leave and trust the ox to do your work?
12 Can you rely on it to bring home your grain
    and deliver it to your threshing floor?

13 “The ostrich flaps her wings grandly,
    but they are no match for the feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on top of the earth,
    letting them be warmed in the dust.
15 She doesn’t worry that a foot might crush them
    or a wild animal might destroy them.
16 She is harsh toward her young,
    as if they were not her own.
    She doesn’t care if they die.
17 For God has deprived her of wisdom.
    He has given her no understanding.
18 But whenever she jumps up to run,
    she passes the swiftest horse with its rider.

19 “Have you given the horse its strength
    or clothed its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Did you give it the ability to leap like a locust?
    Its majestic snorting is terrifying!
21 It paws the earth and rejoices in its strength
    when it charges out to battle.
22 It laughs at fear and is unafraid.
    It does not run from the sword.
23 The arrows rattle against it,
    and the spear and javelin flash.
24 It paws the ground fiercely
    and rushes forward into battle when the ram’s horn blows.
25 It snorts at the sound of the horn.
    It senses the battle in the distance.
    It quivers at the captain’s commands and the noise of battle.

26 “Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar
    and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Is it at your command that the eagle rises
    to the heights to make its nest?
28 It lives on the cliffs,
    making its home on a distant, rocky crag.
29 From there it hunts its prey,
    keeping watch with piercing eyes.
30 Its young gulp down blood.
    Where there’s a carcass, there you’ll find it.”

40 Then the Lord said to Job,

2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?
    You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”

Job Responds to the Lord

3 Then Job replied to the Lord,

4 “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers?
    I will cover my mouth with my hand.
5 I have said too much already.
    I have nothing more to say.”

The Lord Challenges Job Again

6 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

7 “Brace yourself like a man,
    because I have some questions for you,
    and you must answer them.

8 “Will you discredit my justice
    and condemn me just to prove you are right?
9 Are you as strong as God?
    Can you thunder with a voice like his?
10 All right, put on your glory and splendor,
    your honor and majesty.
11 Give vent to your anger.
    Let it overflow against the proud.
12 Humiliate the proud with a glance;
    walk on the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them in the dust.
    Imprison them in the world of the dead.
14 Then even I would praise you,
    for your own strength would save you.

15 “Take a look at Behemoth,
    which I made, just as I made you.
    It eats grass like an ox.
16 See its powerful loins
    and the muscles of its belly.
17 Its tail is as strong as a cedar.
    The sinews of its thighs are knit tightly together.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze.
    Its limbs are bars of iron.
19 It is a prime example of God’s handiwork,
    and only its Creator can threaten it.
20 The mountains offer it their best food,
    where all the wild animals play.
21 It lies under the lotus plants,
    hidden by the reeds in the marsh.
22 The lotus plants give it shade
    among the willows beside the stream.
23 It is not disturbed by the raging river,
    not concerned when the swelling Jordan rushes around it.
24 No one can catch it off guard
    or put a ring in its nose and lead it away.

The Lord’s Challenge Continues

41 “Can you catch Leviathan with a hook
    or put a noose around its jaw?
2 Can you tie it with a rope through the nose
    or pierce its jaw with a spike?
3 Will it beg you for mercy
    or implore you for pity?
4 Will it agree to work for you,
    to be your slave for life?
5 Can you make it a pet like a bird,
    or give it to your little girls to play with?
6 Will merchants try to buy it
    to sell it in their shops?
7 Will its hide be hurt by spears
    or its head by a harpoon?
8 If you lay a hand on it,
    you will certainly remember the battle that follows.
    You won’t try that again!
9 No, it is useless to try to capture it.
    The hunter who attempts it will be knocked down.
10 And since no one dares to disturb it,
    who then can stand up to me?
11 Who has given me anything that I need to pay back?
    Everything under heaven is mine.

12 “I want to emphasize Leviathan’s limbs
    and its enormous strength and graceful form.
13 Who can strip off its hide,
    and who can penetrate its double layer of armor?
14 Who could pry open its jaws?
    For its teeth are terrible!
15 Its scales are like rows of shields
    tightly sealed together.
16 They are so close together
    that no air can get between them.
17 Each scale sticks tight to the next.
    They interlock and cannot be penetrated.

18 “When it sneezes, it flashes light!
    Its eyes are like the red of dawn.
19 Lightning leaps from its mouth;
    flames of fire flash out.
20 Smoke streams from its nostrils
    like steam from a pot heated over burning rushes.
21 Its breath would kindle coals,
    for flames shoot from its mouth.

22 “The tremendous strength in Leviathan’s neck
    strikes terror wherever it goes.
23 Its flesh is hard and firm
    and cannot be penetrated.
24 Its heart is hard as rock,
    hard as a millstone.
25 When it rises, the mighty are afraid,
    gripped by terror.
26 No sword can stop it,
    no spear, dart, or javelin.
27 Iron is nothing but straw to that creature,
    and bronze is like rotten wood.
28 Arrows cannot make it flee.
    Stones shot from a sling are like bits of grass.
29 Clubs are like a blade of grass,
    and it laughs at the swish of javelins.
30 Its belly is covered with scales as sharp as glass.
    It plows up the ground as it drags through the mud.

31 “Leviathan makes the water boil with its commotion.
    It stirs the depths like a pot of ointment.
32 The water glistens in its wake,
    making the sea look white.
33 Nothing on earth is its equal,
    no other creature so fearless.
34 Of all the creatures, it is the proudest.
    It is the king of beasts.”

Worship Through Song

Last night I went to the Winter Jam 2013 concert with my youth group.  This is the third one that I’ve gone to with them since taking the job and I have to say that I was the least excited to go last night.  For starters, I’m not a huge Christian music guy.  I like Hillsong United and things like that, but not really the pop and rock Christian groups that are out there.  You may say that is wrong or I just haven’t heard the right stuff or whatever, but its just the way it is.  But at least the last two times there were people that I deemed semi-bearable to sit through.  This time I was really not looking forward to anybody.

With the headliner being the Newsboys (who I had assumed broke up long ago) and a spot from Thousand Foot Krutch I felt as if I was stepping into a time machine.  Those bands were ‘popular’ when I was in junior high.  How is it that they are still big enough to headline something like this? There were other bands that I thought I’d never heard of like Tenth Avenue North and Building 429 and a girl named Plumb so it goes without saying I thought I’d be pretty bored.  And as I’ve written before the music at these types of things can sometimes be pretty cheesy (I’m looking at you Newsong).

But every time I go to one of these things one band always changes my mind halfway through the night.  This time it was David Crowder.  Yes, I forgot he was going to be there until him and his Duck Dynasty looking crew walked on stage.  At this point I became somewhat engaged.  For starters, he was more in line with my style of music by giving the show a little Mumform & Sons feel.  But he lead the room in a smaller acoustic set of worship songs and hymns.  I was able to close my eyes and just sing praise to the God of creation.  And it was amazing to hear 10,000 other people doing the same.  That kind of stuff always gets me.

And then the Newsboys came out and did this:

I have to admit that was pretty cool.

-Jacob

Come To The Table

I spent this past weekend in Jerome, ID at a leadership retreat for my church.  We stayed at a monastery which was a first for me and I could not stop thinking about Nacho Libre any time that I saw one of the monks walking around.  I was tempted to take some toast back to my quarters.

Anyways, the speaker for the retreat was Dr. Dave Williams who was one of my professors from Barclay College.  I was excited just to spend some time with him and get away for the weekend.  What he talked about this past weekend really impacted me deeply.

We spent the entire weekend breaking down a passage found in Luke 24 about the road to Emmaus.  Take the time to read it is you are not familiar with it.

“13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”

These guys spent a good amount of time with Jesus.  They walked with him talking with him from when the sun was out until it was almost evening.  It even says that Jesus even explained all the scriptures that were written about him and they still did not understand that it was Jesus until that night at dinner when he broke bread.  A lot of times we can know about Jesus but not really know him. 

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This icon of the Holy Trinity was also used a lot this week to show a few things.  You may not be into using icons a lot in your worship or study of God, I know I am not, but I found this one to be a good reminder. These 3 beings represent the three pieces of the Godhead; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They are around a table, in communion with each other, but there is room for one more at the table.  That is a spot for you.  It is an invitation to come and be in communion with the creator of the universe and to join with Him.  You do not need to be perfect to come here.  Just humble yourself and pull up a chair.  You can know all you want about God, but you also need to be in relationship with Him and the best way to do that is to come up to this table.

-Jacob