Tag Archives: prayer

Gospel Goodbyes

gospel goodbyesI must admit that I am not very good at goodbyes. After spending time with my family or friends at a holiday event or summer vacation far from home, it is hard for me to bid farewell to these people I love so much.

Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Texas talks about the difficulty of leaving colleagues at a church he ministered at to begin work at another parish. What has helped him get through it, he says, is remembering the what he calls the “gospel goodbyes” that happened in the Book of Acts {“Multiplied + Divided,” Christianity Today, December 2017, 49).

The way that Paul framed his goodbyes to the church members he loved so much was to connect them to the good news of the gospel, that we will be together in the end in heaven with our Lord, who died and was raised that we might have eternal life with him. So it is never “We will never see you again,” but “See you next time, either here on earth or in heaven.”

Consider this “gospel goodbye”:

Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers (in Antioch). After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  —Acts 15:32-33

This gospel goodbye was characterized by a blessing of peace. The people of Antioch knew that Barsabbas and Silas had to move on from them to spread the word about Jesus. Barsabbas and Silas’ goodbye was made with encouraging words to those in Antioch to continue the faith there.

What a great example for us to follow to incorporate blessing, peace and encouragement in our goodbyes in the name of the Lord.

Now take a look at this “gospel goodbye”:

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. —Acts 18;27

Those Apollos was saying goodbye to helped him to get settled in his new place and made sure he would be welcome there. They did not stop him from carrying out his calling by asking him to stay with them. They made sure to support him in his new venture.

I think it is good for us in our own gospel goodbyes to realize that God’s plan for our loved ones is often beyond us and that our loved ones are doing their best work in the Lord in places that are not near us, but that that does not diminish our bond with them.

One of the most compelling goodbyes is this one between Paul and the elders of Ephesus as he leaves for his mission to Jerusalem:

When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. —Acts 20:36-38

You can feel the pain, but you can sense the overarching love among them. I like that the goodbye is accompanied with prayer. It is prayer that will continue to bind them together. And though they will not see Paul’s face again on this earth. They have the faith that they will see him again in the courts above, singing praises to the Lamb, who will wipe every tear of parting sorrow from their eyes.

I am reminded that even the word “goodbye” is a shortened version of “God be with you.” So each parting we experience in the end is a reminder that God is with us wherever we may be and he always will. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Types of Prayer

prayer typesWe all know how important prayer is in the Christian life. Then why is it so hard to do sometimes? One thought I had is that I find myself at a loss as to how to go about it. A prayer book from my alma mater, Valparaiso University, lays out 6 types of prayers to consider when you are not sure of how to start the prayer process. Take a look at these prayer patterns and think of ways to incorporate one or more of them into your schedule on a regular basis.

Examen prayer: This is the deliberate examination of God’s presence or absence in one’s life. The practice involves sitting quietly and asking the Holy Spirit to make you aware of Christ’s presence with you at that moment. Consider how you have not noticed or been mindful of Christ. Make confession of your unawareness of him. Ask for increased awareness of his presence, Give thanks for Christ’s presence with you.

Praying the Scriptures: In this practice, you identify a section of Scripture you wish to pray, like the Psalms. You find a quiet place to read the Scripture. You reflect on what the Scripture is saying to you and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you a greater understanding of God’s Word and its impact on your life.

Intercessory prayer: This type of prayer focuses on praying for the needs of others. In this approach you make a list of individuals and their specific needs. You organize your prayer into types of requests: for the sick, for those celebrating, for those going through hard times. Praying for others takes the focus off of yourself and puts anything that is going on in your own life in perspective.

Lectio Divina: We have mentioned this type of prayer before in this blog, but it is worth revisiting. It is a type of prayer from monastic tradition that involves reflecting on or ruminating over  a single verse, phrase or word from Scripture and letting the meaning of that selection wash over you and fill you with greater knowledge of God.

Silence prayer: Go to a quiet place to pray. In silence we become more receptive to the voice of God. We allow him to speak to us in the quietness and do not clutter our minds with our own words or opinions. Focus on your breathing. Let your mind center on an image for God like a cross or a candle. Calm your body down and feel God’s love surround you.

Walking the sacred path: Take a walk as a prayer. Walking a labyrinth or other path as a prayer has been the topic of a blog post before as well. The purpose of this type of prayer is to physically walk a designated path of some kind. Think of your prayer during your walk as a journey, with a beginning, a middle and and ed. Reflect on what you see. Really listen to the environment around you. Feel the motion of your body and walk with purpose as you pray. Imagine God walking with you. Let him speak to you along the way.

These are great ways to expand your prayer life and grow in your connection to God.

Spiritual Prepping

emergency kitBefore Hurricane Harvey and Irma hit, we witnessed all the preparations people were making to protect their homes and keep themselves safe. This is just one example of a burgeoning business called “prepping.” providing people with supplies to prepare for disasters of many kinds, both natural and man-made.

Janie B. Cheaney in “Ready for the Worst?” in the June 10, 2017 issue of World magazine, ponders this question: “What spiritual resources should you add to your emergency supply list?” (World Magazine, June 10, 2017, p. 14).

Surprisingly, the answer involves similar elements to our earthly emergency kits. Take a look:

Food: Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God in times of trouble and every day.

Water: Drown the old Adam in the waters of your baptism in hard times and be refreshed by the living water that only Christ can give.

Protective clothing: I think here about the armor of God from Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace fitted around your feet.

Back-up power: Be regenerated through prayer and gain new strength through your conversations with your Lord and Savior. i think of this prayer from St. Paul: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being (Ephesians 3:16).

Back-up heat: When you are feeling left out in the cold, draw on the warmth of God’s love from family, friends and your faith community. Listen to the warmth of Paul’s love for his fellow believers in these words: “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Philippians 4:1). That same warmth of love is available to you through your brothers and sisters in faith.

Be sure to pull out this prep kit the next time a spiritual emergency of any kind hits. You will be glad you did.

Even If

fiery furnaceA new song by MercyMe is getting a lot of air play on Christian radio lately. The song is “Even If” and it is based on this passage from Scripture from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” —Daniel 3:16-18

The faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was so strong that they knew that even if God did not save them from the fiery furnace, God was still their God and loved them.

So often we think of God as some sort of genie who dispenses wishes. It is like we are saying to God sometimes, “Our wish is your command.” But that, of course, is not how prayer works and how God works. God knows what is best for us and he knows what we need more than we do and he knows what will impact the world in the most profound way. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is yes. Sometimes it is no. Sometimes it is not now, but later. And sometimes it is yes, but in a way you will not expect.

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A Ritual of Thanks

thanks ritual

One of our our most pervasive rituals of thanks is gathering for a feast with family and friends.

When we were little and someone gave us something or complimented us, our parents prompted us with, “Now what do you say?” We would dutifully say thank you (perhaps rather meekly and/or begrudgingly) and run away.

As adults, we often continue to need prompting from our heavenly Father to say thank you. As the Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Scripture itself is encouraging us to develop a ritual of thanks in our lives. We are called to make thanksgiving a regular part of our every activity.

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Adiaphora

carpetingI have lately been contemplating the concept of adiaphora. Not only because it is fun to say, but because many of the things we spend a lot of our time thinking about in the Church oftentimes fall into the category of adiaphora.

In general for Christians, adiaphora means “matters not regarded as essential to faith, but nevertheless permissible or allowed in the church.”

Things like discussions of the floor covering in the sanctuary or the color of the paint on the walls of the fellowship hall, for example, are not essential to faith, but do constitute a large part of our time sometimes. Adiaphora.

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The Church in Action

church in actionAnd they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. —Acts 2:42-47

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The 7 Visible Marks

churchWhat is the church? It is a question that comes up more frequently these days amid technological and cultural shifts. Amazingly, Martin Luther actually wrestled with that same question 500 years ago. And thankfully for us, Martin Luther expressed what a church is by writing down what he called the seven visible marks of the church:

  1. The Word of God
  2. Baptism
  3. Holy Communion
  4. The Office of the Keys (Confession and Absolution)
  5. Called ministers
  6. Prayer, public praise and thanksgiving to God
  7. Bearing suffering patiently

Luther called these the seven principal parts of Christian sanctification or the seven holy possessions of the church.

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The Lukewarm Believer

bored believerI recently read this quote by Francis Chan in his wildly successful book, Crazy Love:

“Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love him with all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn’t really possible for the average person; it’s only for pastors and missionaries and radicals” (Crazy Love, p. 73).

Chan is a firm believer in the fact that the lukewarm believer is the biggest threat to the future growth of the Church. He goes straight to Jesus’ words in Revelation to back up this claim:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit out out of my mouth.” —Revelation 3:15

Pretty definitive language from our Lord that he does not like when we are wishy-washy in our faith. We can’t get by with being “godly enough,” Chain says (Crazy Love, p. 67). We must be all in.

How do we go about going all in as Christians? Chan has some ideas:

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Drive-Thru Prayer

DriveThruPrayerI saw this sign that said “Drive-Thru Prayer, This Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.” in front of a church in my neighborhood and just had to blog about it.

I find it interesting that in our society today everything can be “drive thru,” even prayer. Everything we do seems to be done on the way to something else and should be done quickly.

I mean no disrespect to this idea of having an evening when this church has a drive-thru prayer event and I am sure that if people want to, they can pull to the side and have a longer prayer with a parishioner.

But the concept to me begs the larger question of how we look at our spiritual disciplines.

Are they something that we do when we have an extra minute or two?

Are they something that we see as something that is secondary to our scheduled events and activities for the day, like games and practices and lunch out and work, etc.?

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