We Pray

I once had a professor tell the class, “I am not really sure how prayer works. But what I do know is that it really does work.”

Think about it for a minute. God, the God who created you and me, along with countless galaxies, the same God who is so big and vast and beyond our wildest imaginations…that same God cares enough to listen to our prayers. Not only does He care to listen, but He loves to listen. He delights in hearing from us.

Is your mind blown yet? How about this one…The same God who tells the planets to keep on spinning takes the time to listen and care about you when you pray and ask, “Lord, please help me find my keys.”

Yep. There is no problem too big or too small for Him. Our trivial problems don’t annoy God, He loves it when His kids talk to Him.

We can do nothing in this life, that is of any beneficial significance, apart from prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to “pray without ceasing.” The reason for this command is that our power and strength do not come from within ourselves. Instead, God is the source of any strength, any power, and any good that we can do. 1 John 5:14-15 reminds us that God hears our prayers and answers them.

God moves and works in concert with our prayers, but only when our prayers are in-line with His own perfect will. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly.” This is a stark reminder that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

But, if God were to only act whenever His people prayed correctly (in accordance with His will) then many things would never actually come to fruition. That why God acts independently and is subject to no other being’s actions. God is free to act on His own. As the almighty, most Holy God there is none above Him.

With that said, God does delight greatly in the prayers of His people. (Proverbs 15:8) Psalm 145:18-19 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.”

It is very apparent all throughout the Bible that God both desires and delights in the prayers of His people. There are so many examples of God moving and working because of the prayers of His people. For example, in Acts, chapter 12 records a prayer meeting of believers who were praying for Peter’s release from prison. The result? A recently released Peter knocks on the door before their prayer meeting was even over with! God not only listens to prayer, He also answers prayer.

Prayer is our communication with God, it is the way that we talk with our creator and savior. There is no other thing; no program, philosophy, or natural strength that can surpass its power in our lives.

We know that God does not have to listen to our prayer, He is not bound by our words. And yet, He chooses to listen to us.

God listens, and prayer works. Praise Him for that simple and yet profound truth.

So, what do we do?

What do we do when we face uncertain times? We pray.

What do we do when the car breaks again and we don’t have money to fix it? We pray.

What do we do when we are frustrated with our overbearing boss? We pray.

What do we do when we feel distant from God? We pray.

What do we do when we look at the empty seats on a Sunday morning? We pray.

What do we do when tears come to our eyes when we think about our son, or daughter, or friend, or sibling, or spouse, or co-worker who does not know Jesus and His love?

We pray and know that God is listening.

Beyond The Walls

Things were a bit different in 1958.

Gas cost 25 cents! The average cost of a new house was $12,750! A gallon of milk only cost $1, and the average monthly rent was only $92! Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Dastun cars went on sale in the U.S. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Jerry Lee Lewis were the most popular artists. Candid Camera and The Ed Sullivan Show were on black and white televisions.

It was in this world that a small group of people meeting in a small school in a small suburb of Chicago decided to form a church.

This coming week my church is anticipating celebrating its 60th anniversary of faithful service to our wonderful Savior.

It is such an honor to be a small part of the legacy of this church that has, for so long, been so committed to missions, youth, care for others, service to the community, and love for God.

This January, in anticipation of our 60th anniversary, we, as a church, committed to a theme for the year, “Beyond The Walls.”

beyond walls poster.jpg

The theme itself is a bit layered. First, we want to be sure that we are going beyond the physical walls of our building in order to share the good news of Jesus’ love with anyone and everyone that we meet. For 60 years we have been in the same geographical location (the church bought land across the street from the school it initially met in and built on that land.) And so, since we have been present in this community for so long we want to be sure that we are, and continue to be, committed to getting beyond the physical space that we call our church building. We want to be known as a church that gives to and loves its community.

Secondly, we understand that we, as a group of believers, need to continually pray that God would give us the boldness to get beyond our own emotional and spiritual walls that we ourselves have set up. Often times past experiences, frustrations, and fears cause us to put up barriers in our own lives in order to hide behind. When we put these barriers in place we actually end up becoming less effective in our love and service. So, we are praying that God gives us the courage to break down these walls in our own lives in order to better love and better share the good news.

As I think about all the people who have come and gone from this church I cannot help but think of just how good God is and how wonderful His family, the Church (worldwide) is as well. Over the years I, and others, have seen God use this church in order to transform lives, marriages, families, and communities. This church has sent out many missionaries, especially for its size, to go and serve all across the world. We may not be a huge church, but by God’s grace, He has allowed us to have a global impact. That is certainly something to celebrate.

The neat thing about this church, and any church for that matter, is the intergenerational connectedness that takes place. Older generations set examples and provide wisdom that younger generations can need to learn from. At the same time, younger generations provide encouragement, enthusiasm, as well as new and fresh perspective. Both, older and younger generations, would do well to learn from one another. The church is a unique place for this to take place, and it is exciting to watch happen!

The Apostle Paul repeatedly talks about the church as a metaphorical body. (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1) We all need each other in order to function properly. The hand needs the arm, and the arm needs the legs, and the legs need the pinky toe. I need you and you need me. And we all need Jesus.

So, this week, praise God and thank Him for your church and how He has created it to be uniquely special in His kingdom. Praise God for His faithfulness to your local body of believers.

May we all, regardless of where we are, pray that God might give us the boldness to go “Beyond The Walls” in our lives in order to better love Him and love others! I pray that God would use my church, and yours as well, in order to impact this world for His good!

The Problem of Evil

Evil will, one day, be completely eliminated. This is the good news hope that we can share.

We live on a really amazing, beautiful, and an incredible planet. All of Creation sings and reflects the beauty and glory of its maker.

Nature is awesome. Except when it’s not. Natural disasters are responsible for an average of 97,954 deaths this decade.

People are awesome. Except when they are not. Intentional homicides are responsible for approximately 135,000 deaths per year worldwide.

People are still awesome. Except when they really, really are not. According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 45 to 50 Million abortions per year. (There is a horrifying year-to-date counter at http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/)

Open up any social media platform and you will quickly see that our world is filled to the brim of terrible things, events, and terrible people.

Why?

Why is there evil in our world?

This is a question that has been asked for centuries. If there is a good and perfect God who is in control, then why is there still evil in the world?

Apologists (those who work to give an answer for the faith based on 1 Peter 3:15-16) have been faced with this question many times. There are many good books, articles, and debates that clearly and comprehensively tackle the “Problem of Evil.” If you are looking for a more complete answer to the “Problem of Evil” there are many good books that you could check out. C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain is a good place to start.

But apologists aren’t the only ones who face, or have ever wondered about this question. Chances are that you have already been asked a question like this one. Or, perhaps, you yourself have pondered this question many times.

Well, what I offer you today certainly is not a comprehensive guide. However, I do hope that these few points can provide a bit of clarity as to why and how there is evil in the world. And, more importantly, how God views evil and what He is doing about it.

-What the Bible says-

-God did not create evil, He hates evil. There was no place for imperfection in His perfect creation. (Gen. 1:31)

-God gives mankind freedom to make their own choices. Often times mankind’s choices result in evil. (Gen. 2:16-17 & 3:1-7)

-When sin entered into the world it brought everything we consider evil, death, suffering, unfairness, sickness, pain, etc. This evil impact everything and everyone man, woman, even the earth creation itself. (Gen. 3:14-19, Romans 8:21-23)

-God always has and always will work to contain evil. It’s not as bad as it could be. (Gen. 3:21, Deut. 9:5, & Jonah 3:6-10)

-God has always had a plan to defeat evil once and for all. (Gen. 3:15, Mark 10:35, Romans 5:6-8, Colossians 1:21-22)

-Jesus hasn’t come back yet because He cares for and loves people. (2 Peter 3:9-10)

-God has been and will be successful in His plan to defeat evil. (2 Corinth. 5:17, Rev. 21:1-5)

-Important things to remember-

-God did not create robots, He created free thinking people that can choose either Him or something else.

-The world is a place full of evil and suffering as a result of those bad choices called sin.

-We ought to view sin and evil just as God does. We should despise it. (Proverbs 8:13)

-Jesus defeated sin, death, and evil when He died on the cross. Evil will be completely eliminated in the New Heaven and New Earth. This is the good news hope that we can share.