Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
Your local six o’clock news.
If you can somehow manage to get through life without making an appearance on one of those shows, you’ve done alright for yourself. Your parents should be proud. Thursday evening, when I turned on my television, I saw two people from my church on one of those shows.
It reminded me of the importance of my job.
I live in a safe part of the world. A few weeks ago, some organization released a list of the safest towns in the state of Georgia. Mine was near the top of the list. Ours isn’t a violent community. There aren’t many serious crimes. No one gets murdered.
That all changed earlier this week.
The kid wanted to go to the store so that he could buy a pack of cigarettes. He asked his grandmother for a ride. When she said no he beat her to death with a baseball bat.
An 18-year-old kid, charged with beating his own grandmother to death. In our safe town.
News trucks from the Atlanta stations were here Thursday. Unless a tornado or an ice storm comes through, Atlanta news stations stay out of our town. There’s nothing to report. Nothing here can compete with the violence and corruption that has become a way of life 45 minutes up the road from our quiet and safe part of the world.
The two people from my church were just doing their job when I saw them on TV Thursday night. They both work in our legal system. There’s another man too. He didn’t make it on the news but he had to be among the first at the crime scene. All three people were just doing their jobs. Jobs they’ve been doing for a while. Jobs they do well. But still, when they sat in our sanctuary last Sunday, they didn’t know what the week held for them. They didn’t know that they would have to deal with an 18-year-old charged with murder. Not in our safe town.
When I saw them on the news, I hoped that they were okay. That they were prepared for coming face to face with total depravity like this. I knew that they would do their job well. I only hoped that I was doing mine well.
The people I preach to each week need more than life principles. They need more than an encouraging word to help them get through the week. They need to be reminded that sin has corrupted our world. They need to be pointed to the King who has conquered that corruption. I’m guessing that it can be tempting to question the goodness of God when you’re looking at a woman’s blood splattered on her wall.
I’ve been preaching though Esther. There’s a lot of bloodshed, corruption and depravity in that book. Words like God, Jesus and Holy Spirit are not mentioned in the entire book. But the presence of God is clearly seen on every page.
A lot like today.
It may be easy to question the presence of God at a crime scene or a court hearing. But just like in Esther’s day, Jesus is present (Matthew 1:23). He is good (Psalm 119:68). And he is in control (Colossians 1:15-19).
That’s one of the reasons why I take preaching so seriously. Each week, I stand before a group of people who are facing the unexpected. I don’t want them to go into the dark world we all live in with my life principles or emotional manipulation. They need something stronger.
And that’s why the preacher’s job is so important.
Each sermon and each counseling session should serve as a reminder to our people that, as we try to navigate our way through the shifting sands of this sin sick world, our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
I can’t wait to preach this Sunday.
The kid with the most points would be the winner. In spite of his efforts, when the game was over, my son finished way behind the other kids. Way, way behind. Detroit Lions behind.
I think it was his finest athletic accomplishment.
The object of the exercise was to jump over more obstacles than anyone else in the allotted time. Each player had to keep track of his own score. After a minute or two, when the game was over, he had to tell that score to the coach.
“Billy, how many did you jump over?”
“Wow! How about you, Shawn?”
It was clear that these kids had a bright future working as accountants for the mafia. Or Congress. Or both.
It came time for my son to answer his coach’s question.
“How many did you get?”
My son gave an honest answer and I was a proud father. It was like my son was just named to the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. Wait. Is that an honor? You get the point.
We’ve all been told that sports builds character. That’s a lie. Most often, sports builds characters. The character building is the job of parents. We can use sports as a tool but we must never use sports as our replacement. If we do, we will soon find out that we have raised dumb jocks instead of men and women of character.
Developing your kids into men and women of character is hard work. Sometimes it requires being the bad guy. It always requires teaching your child that there are things that are much more important than statistics. Things like truth.
Raising a dumb jock is easy. The majority of your work is done for you by your child’s sport and his coach. All you have to do is drive the car to practices and games. But if things go your way, you won’t have to pay for your kid to go to college. And that’s what it’s all about, right? We’re just trying to give our kids the best opportunities possible. Opportunities that we never had. What’s the harm in that?
How quickly we forget.
Every year there’s a news story about an athlete cheating, fathering 12 kids from 11 different mothers, hiding the beaten body of one of those mothers in the trunk of his car and driving a scooter through town with a blood alcohol content of 1.0. And that’s just at Auburn University.
Opportunity, it appears, can be overrated.
A former Buffalo Bills running back had plenty of opportunities. But that didn’t keep him from murdering his wife and another man. Allegedly.
The Atlanta Hawks franchise leader in steals had opportunities. Again, those opportunities didn’t help him to avoid getting drunk, slamming into another car and killing a mother of five.
Opportunities are great. I want my kids to have them. But if I haven’t first done the hard work of character development, my sons will not be ready when those opportunities arrive. Opportunity, in the hands of a dumb jock, is a dangerous thing.
One day our sons and daughters will stop playing. Even if they reach the highest level possible in their particular sport, they will still have to make the long walk down from that mountain top. That’s the thing about sports. Everyone walks away. From the eighth grader who didn’t make the team to the 12-time All Star who can’t raise his arm above his head anymore, there comes a time when every athlete realizes that he’s no longer good enough.
And that’s where the job you did as a parent all those years ago really comes into play.
When your kid walks away from his sport, will he do so as a dumb jock or as a man of character?
A dumb jock who has spent all of those ever important opportunities he heard so much about from his parents when he was a kid is headed for an identity crisis.
But a man of character is different. Because of what his parents taught him, he will know going in that there are many things in life bigger than the game. When the time comes, he’ll teach those things to his own kids. He’ll be there on the sidelines watching them put those lessons into practice.
And he’ll be proud.
Even if his kids come in last place.
Kids have a way of being honest. Too honest. Like when you’re at the doctor’s office with them and all you really want to do is lie.
We were there for a regular check-up and a few shots so that my son could start school next year. It had been about three years since his last visit so all of this was new to him. His questions came in rapid fire format.
“Why do the sick people have to sit on the other side of this room?”
“When are they going to call us?”
“Why is that lady in the corner cursing and what is Obamacare?”
A nurse entered the waiting area and called us to come back. She weighed my son and measured his height. She drew his blood and gave him a few tests to check his vision and hearing. Everything was going swimingly. Swimingly is British for good. Everything was going good.
While we waited for the doctor, there were more questions.
“Dad, why do they have a red X over a picture of a phone?”
“Because they don’t want you to use your phone in this room.”
“Because it’s rude.”
There was a pause.
“So why are you using your phone?”
They’re so cute at that age, aren’t they?
Finally, the doctor came in. This time, he was the one with all of the questions.
“Is he eating normal?”
“Is he sleeping okay?”
“Do you use a car seat?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
Now please sign our paper so I can grab my phone and my little Pharisee and get out of here.
Not so fast.
“When he rides his bike, does he wear a helmet?”
That was a tough one. The answer wasn’t tough. That was the easy part. No. No he doesn’t wear a helmet, Mr. Doctor. Since when are kids supposed to wear helmets? The tough part was trying to figure out a way to tell the doctor no in a way that sounded like yes. Quickly, I came up with a solution. I lied.
“Yes. Yes he does wear a helmet when he rides his bike. In fact, he even wears his helmet when he brushes his teeth, which he does five times a day. He also wears one during our regular family blood pressure screenings. Yes, he does wear a helmet, doctor. Next question.”
While I was saying yes, my son was saying something else. Without speaking. It’s called nonverbal communication. That’s when you somehow manage to say a lot without ever saying a word. His head was moving from left to right. He was saying no.
The doctor heard him loud and clear. He took his folder and lightly hit my son on the back of the head. I was afraid I would be next.
“If you fall off of your bike, it will hurt more than that just did. Are you going to wear a helmet from now on?”
More nonverbal communication from my little rule-keeper. This time he shook his head up and down. Yes.
I received a message of my own. Never lie in the doctor’s office. They have ways of finding you out. Even if they have to turn your own son against you.
While we waited on the nurse to come in and dismiss us, a foul odor filled the room. It was all my fault. My wife told me to stop. My son joined in on the rebuke.
“Yeah, dad. What are you going to do if the nurse walks in with it stinking like this?”
I paused to consider the lesson I had just learned about lying at the doctor’s office.
“I’ll just tell her that you did it.”
Old habits die hard.
Bob Hartman never choked on his own vomit. John Schlitt’s lifeless body was never found in a hotel room with a needle stuck in his arm. Too many rock stars die like that. But Bob Hartman and John Schlitt were never rock stars.
They were theologians with amplifiers.
I was in the seventh grade when I first heard Petra, Bob and John’s band. I didn’t know it at the time but the message I was hearing from them is one that I would carry with me, over 20 years later, every time I preached. And it is one that I would share with my sons too.
It’s always interesting to grow up and learn a few things only to look back and see that some of the teachers you had as a kid actually knew what they were talking about. I did that with a preacher named Sam Cathey. It seemed like he came to my church every year when I was a kid. All I remember is being captivated by his stories.
Several years later I found a few cassette tapes of his sermons. I started listening to him when I drove to my seminary classes on Monday mornings. In a lot of ways, I got all the seminary I needed from those cassette tapes. Sam knew what he was talking about.
And so did Petra.
They weren’t content with songs about giving Satan a bloody nose or songs that replaced “she” from a love song with “Jesus” and made it a Christian song. Instead they took classes. Theology classes. It payed off.
Petra sang a lot of songs about spiritual warfare. Most of their albums had at least a slight battle theme. By the early 90s when arena rock gave way to grunge and modern rock, their music started to wear thin on a lot of listeners. I was one of them. I once had almost every one of their albums in cassette form. I have no idea where those cassettes are today.
I miss them.
I few months ago I sat in front of my computer with a card in one hand and a blank stare on my face. I spend most of my days wishing that I had a $500 iTunes gift card. When I get one for $20, I have no idea what to do with it.
For old time’s sake, I made the digital purchase of an album I owned over 20 years ago. It was Petra’s This Means War! As I listened to it, I had that same feeling that I had when I was listening to those old Sam Cathey tapes. These guys really knew what they were talking about.
“This means war – and the battle’s still raging.
This means war – and though both sides are waging.
The Victor is sure and the victory’s secure.
But ’til judgement we all must endure.
This means war.”
Like I said, I think about those lyrics almost every time I get up to preach. Or before I start a counseling session. In a lot of ways, those old cassette tapes made me the man that I am today.
I played those albums for my sons a few weeks back. They were hooked. Just like I was back in the seventh grade. There’s something funny about seeing your five-year-old listening to Petra on his mom’s iPhone.
The boys I’m raising know all about Duane Allman. He introduced them to the guitar solo. John Mayer and Jack Johnson taught them what a love song is. Rick Allen, and a host of others, taught them that the rock and roll lifestyle comes with a price. Sometimes you pay with your arm. Sometimes, like in the case of Duane Allman, you pay with your life.
But I’m glad that my boys also know about Bob Hartman and John Schlitt. Two guys who were okay with not being rock stars. Two guys who took the time to mix a good lyric with a good melody and drum solo. Two guys who had a message that kicked off my theological education way back in the seventh grade. Two guys who are giving that same theological education to my sons.
Petra doesn’t tour or record albums anymore. They never won an MTV Video Music Award. They aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Once, I saw a guitar from the band hanging on the wall at the Atlanta Hard Rock Cafe. That’s about it when it comes to public adoration for Petra.
And I don’t think that Sam Cathey preaches as much as he used to. He never started a movement. I never heard him described with words like entrepreneur or visionary. He was just a preacher. But he was a preacher who took the time to get it right, just like Petra did.
It’s easy to confuse our following with our faithfulness. The two don’t always go together. If it’s a following that you want, you have to always be on the move, ahead of the cultural curve. Faithfulness is different. When faithfulness is your primary concern you have to be okay with never really saying anything new. Just the same old gospel message. And you have to keep on saying it, even if you never really gain that great of a following.
Our aim is too low if all we care about are Twitter followers and bigger crowds. One way or another, those things will go away. If you don’t believe me, just ask M.C. Hammer. But faithfulness leaves a lasting impact, even 30 years later when you’re all grown up and trying to get it right yourself.
Some of God’s people will have their names in lights. Most of us will not. But whether we win a Grammy or just preach to a few dozen people every week, it’s our faithfulness that really matters.
And it keeps on mattering.
Long after our job is done.
How can you get more kids to come to your church?
Just make a music video about sharing a big cigar with a puppet.
The rest should take care of itself.
On a side note, if this song isn’t stuck in your head for the rest of the day, The Friendship Puppet will be angry. Do not make The Friendship Puppet angry. You wouldn’t like The Friendship Puppet when he is angry.
The following is a not so fictional speech from the not so distant future.
“My fellow Americans,
We are a nation built on principles. Principles like love, justice, fairness and tolerance. Our nation started when people left their home country to pursue a better life here. Since that time, millions of others have followed with the same dream. The American dream is one where people are free to love who they choose and to express that love as they choose. It is a dream where ideas and lifestyles are tolerated and people are treated with fairness. It is a dream where justice comes crashing down on those wishing to stand in the way of that dream. It gives me great pride to see the American dream slowly becoming the American reality for so many people.
But, as you all know, there are those who are opposed to this American way of life. They gather one, two, even three times a week in buildings where they rely on an overly literal interpretation of an antiquated text to preach hate against those of us wishing to find our place in the new American reality.
It’s more than sermons. It’s also the members of these hate cults refusing to sell their goods to gay, lesbian, transgender and polygamous Americans who wish to express their love in marriage. As we so often see with acts of terror, it didn’t stop there. Recently there have been numerous leaders, some call them pastors, of these hate cults that some call churches who have refused to officiate gay, lesbian, transgender and polygamous wedding ceremonies.
Ours is a culture established on love and tolerance. Of all sectors in our society, we would least expect religious organizations to stand in the way of this. Most do not. They practice their religion freely but they have the decency to step away from their traditions when those traditions stand in the way of progress and the greater good. This is the pure and undefiled religion that great men like Jesus would approve of.
Sadly, there are some hate cults who spread their hate in the name of Jesus. For years they have been doing this while also enjoying tax exemptions. Let me be clear. We are a nation of freedom. But we are not a nation that supports hate by granting financial breaks to those terror cells which promote it.
So it is with great joy that I have taken action to stop this. I have tried to act with a Congress that is too bogged down in partisan politics. There is no time for such silliness when loving, hard working Americans are suffering. Americans like Jean Williams, Gayle Lafayette and Shawn Timmons are told that the church in the town where they grew up is ‘not the place’ for them to express their love in marriage. This is why I have acted on my own in the form of an executive order that I hope will do away with the hate that we have ignored for far too long in this country.
There are three phases to my plan; financial, instructional and correctional. First, churches and religious organizations which refuse to marry gay, lesbian, transgender and polygamous citizens will no longer enjoy a tax exempt status. Second, the leaders of such churches will be instructed through a series of mandatory training intensives overseen by the Ministry of Religious Matters. Those refusing the guidance of the Ministry of Religious Matters will move into the correctional phase where they will face a swift and just punishment for their crimes of hate.
My detractors will make their voices heard. They will argue that this executive order will do great harm to free speech and the freedom of religion. But they will forget one thing. They will forget the great harm that some speech and religion has done to so many citizens in this country who simply want a better life with the ones they love. Make no mistake, this executive order is not an attack on freedom. It is an attack on hate. Hate does much more harm to the democracy that we enjoy than any executive order could ever hope to do.
This is a step in the right direction for America. It may be painful for some but in the end it will make us stronger, fairer and more unified. Our nation cannot afford not to be unified. We must stand as one. You must not believe the words of those who tell us that the sky is falling, along with our liberties. You must trust those of us who are fighting on your behalf. You must pursue love and tolerance.
No matter the cost.
Thank you and God bless America.”
If I were the evil leader of a sinister group that was determined to destroy America, I’d give myself a cool name. Probably something like Lars. Lars von Hammer. I’d also do everything I could to destroy the countries that I didn’t like. The United States would be at the top of my list. That’s what evil leaders with names like Lars von Hammer do, right? They try to destroy the U.S.
At first I would think about an all out military assault. But then I would remember that I would be no match for the mighty United States armed forces. I’d continue to talk about my powerful weapons, even if I don’t really have them, and how strong my military is. But when it came down to the actual attack I’d have to go with a more unconventional approach.
I’d try to convince American government leaders that their real enemy was the American people, not me. That way, instead of worrying about me, politicians would be busy taking away the American people’s guns and monitoring their Facebook likes.
The American people would have to be targeted too. That wouldn’t be a problem. All I’d have to do is go after the American’s education system. Kids could learn that 2+2=5, if that’s what they want it to equal. And nobody would fail. Instead, students would be awarded a diploma just for hanging around. Within a generation, the nation would be led by 37-year-old tenth graders who think that 2+2=5 and who want a trophy for feeling that way.
My plan is coming together marvelously.
But there’s still the problem of the American military. That’s a tougher obstacle but one that could still be overcome. First, I would make sure that American armed forces were spread out all over the world. I would convince Americans that they really, really need to have a military base in Iceland. And Ireland. And that Sandals resort in Saint Lucia.
I don’t know what the military would do in those places. It doesn’t matter. Maybe they could guard borders to make sure that the Saint Lucian locals don’t wander into one of the resort buffets. All I would care about is that the American borders are unprotected. Hopefully everyone would believe that a fence with a hole in it and a sign reading “Keep Out” is all the protection the American borders need.
When money started to get tight because the American politicians were spending too much of it on free smart phones for voters, I mean the poor, I would recommend a drastic slash to the military budget and several base closings. Not the bases in Iceland, Ireland and that Sandals resort in Saint Lucia. The ones in Georgia, Virginia and California. I’m sure that everyone would believe me when I told them that a trimmed down military was a better military. Hey, I got them to believe that 2+2=5, didn’t I?
With the American government leaders busy monitoring their own citizens, the citizens busy monitoring their math skills that seem to be lagging further behind other nations and the military busy monitoring what they were going to do now that they’ve been laid off, America would be mine for the taking.
But there’s one problem.
As the evil leader of a sinister group that was determined to destroy America I wouldn’t be able to convince government officials to spy on their own people. And I wouldn’t have enough influence over the education system to dumb down that many potential opponents. I certainly wouldn’t have the power to weaken the military by taking away benefits, closing bases and spreading it too thin.
So what’s the evil leader of a sinister group that’s determined to destroy America to do?
I could run for U.S. Congress. For years they’ve been doing a fine job at everything I’ve just described. If you can’t beat them, join them and help them beat themselves.
Vote Lars von Hammer for U.S. Congress in 2016.
You might even get a free smart phone.
I was seated at a crowded table in an otherwise empty Pizza Hut. It was loud. The music of Journey boomed through the speakers of the restaurant’s jukebox. It was hard for us to hear each other talk. But there was one sentence that came out loud and clear.
“Yes! They’re playing Journey. I love oldies.”
I grew up listening to Journey. The Four Tops are oldies. Music I grew up listening to is not oldies. I felt old.
It’s been over ten years since that jukebox conversation in Pizza Hut and now I really feel old. Not Someone-Get-Me-A-Life-Alert-Bracelet old or I-Could-Really-Use-One-Of-Those-Hoveround-Scooters old. More like, I-Can’t-Believe-That-You-Just-Called-A-Song-That-Came-Out-5-Years-After-I-Graduated-College-Old-School old.
I’m okay with that. I have no plans on coloring my hair, buying a Corvette and piercing my ear. Old is good. As long as you’re okay with change. And the older I get, the more I change.
The older I get, the less I care about what’s on TV. It’s taken me a few years of research to figure this out but I already know the answer to the question that almost every family asks at night. “What’s on TV?” Nothing. Nothing is on TV. Well, unless singing contests, shows about detectives, jobless people who live in nice New York City apartments and the wives of B List NBA players are your thing. In that case, you’ve got the world at your fingertips. I’d rather read a book.
The older I get, the more skeptical I am of any bill signed into law containing the words, affordable, patriot, Americans, unity, the, and, a or safety. Just to name a few. Typically, the law does the exact opposite of what it leads you to believe it will do when you read the name of the bill. For example, the Affordable Care Act makes it harder for you to afford to go to the doctor. The Patriot Act makes it easier for the government to act like bullies towards patriots. The only exceptions are bills containing the word safety. They usually do lead to a certain degree of safety. The same kind you would experience in solitary confinement. But who wants to be that safe? Don’t answer that question.
The older I get, the more I laugh at baseball. What other sport requires the coach to dress exactly like the players? Why does a grown man need to wear cleats just to sit down for three hours, only getting up to change pitchers or to kick dirt on the umpire? You can kick dirt in church socks and sandals just as easily as you can while wearing cleats. Thankfully, the coach dressing like the players tradition does not exist in the NBA. No one needs to see a 60-year-old man in baggy shorts.
The older I get, the smarter my dad gets. The things he was telling me five years ago were called conspiracy theories. Today they’re called, “in other news.” Here’s what I mean.
Five Years Ago:
“Son, be careful what you do with that phone. They can track you.”
“Whatever. And who’s ‘they’?”
“Action 4 News has learned that Lady Gaga plans on picking up her new dog later on this week. In other news, President Obama listened to your last twelve phone conversations and wants you to know that he’s coming over for dinner tonight. Hamburgers are his favorite!”
The older I get, the more I realize what true toughness really is. Watching your wife give birth helps with that sort of thing. Linebackers in the NFL have nothing on mothers. A lot of what we call tough is really just drug induced stupidity followed by a drug induced recuperation period. But child birth is real toughness. Raising that child into an adult requires even more toughness.
The older I get, the slower I get. Not because my body and mind are making me slow down. Not yet, at least. It’s my family. They’re the one’s slowing me down. When I’m in a hurry to leave in the morning there are dirty dishes left over from breakfast and kids that want to wrestle. I’m learning how to slow down and take care of things like that. I’ve been in some form of church ministry for almost 20 years. I’ve seen a lot of heartache. I’ve seen a man wish with all of his heart that his kid was still around wanting to wrestle. I’ve seen a man long for the days when there was more than just his own bowl to clean up after breakfast. I can’t slow down the clock but I can slow down my schedule.
The older I get, the more I appreciate a good guitar solo.
The older I get, the more I appreciate a singer with a voice that sounds like he’s been through his share of troubles as opposed to a singer with a voice that sounds like he sang into a computer.
The older I get, the happier I get. After 21, we usually don’t like having birthdays. This makes no sense. Each new day is another reason to celebrate God’s grace. I went to school with two kids who quit having birthdays when they were 13. One because of a wreck and the other because of suicide. Birthdays are good. I’m not 29 and holding. I’m getting close to 40. That means I’ve experienced almost four decades of God’s grace. Four more would be nice.
A few weeks ago I walked into a Pizza Hut. You could barely hear the music. There was no jukebox. I looked everywhere for one. For old time’s sake, I wanted to put in a dollar and play a few songs. I would have kept it current too. Maybe something from the Foo Fighters.
When my song came on the jukebox, someone would have shouted, “Yes! The Foo Fighters! I love the oldies.”
On second thought, I’m glad that there wasn’t a jukebox in that Pizza Hut.
And I’m glad that I’m getting older.
My Monday mornings all start out the same.
Gambling on chicken fights in the church basement.
Wait. Did I really just write that? Note to self: Have my staff of ghostwriting interns edit out my reference to chicken fights before publishing this post.
My Monday mornings all start out the same.
Looking at a blank legal pad.
I take notes on legal pads for each week’s sermon. I write down my personal observations. I write out the passage I will be preaching on. I take notes from what others have written. And I pray. I pray lot.
There are some passages of Scripture that are so familiar to church people that they basically preach themselves. And then there’s the book of Esther.
Right now I’m preaching through the book of Esther. Looking at that blank yellow sheet of paper on Monday mornings can be intimidating. How will I preach about Esther, the hero of our story, going into the palace to give sexual pleasure to a perverted, pagan king?
Now you know why I pray so much.
But a funny thing happens during the week that I spend asking God to show me what to say. God reminds me of events from my life that relate to what I’m preaching on. He puts news stories in front of me that remind me that the Bible I’m preaching from is just as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago when it was written. That yellow legal pad doesn’t stay blank.
One time I heard a skeptic say that they didn’t mind people talking to God but it was when God started talking back that he began to worry.
Being a pastor can be hard. But hard tasks, ones like preaching through Esther, are blessings in disguise because they force me to talk to God. And when I talk to God, he talks back.
He never responds to me with a deep booming voice or a vision. It’s much more subtle. It’s a week’s worth of notes scribbled on a once empty yellow legal pad. It’s a lifetime of memories that remind me that we have a lot more in common with Esther and King Xerxes than we first thought. It’s the Holy Spirit, the same one who inspired the Bible, quietly pointing my attention to Jesus and helping me to grasp what he is saying through the passage.
Prayer is not a one way street. If understood biblically, it is a holy interaction between the Creator and his people. It is our confession that life is too hard on our own. But it is more than God simply listening to us. In his own way and in his own timing, it is God responding.
He doesn’t respond to me like he does because I’m a pastor. He responds the way he does because I am his. It has nothing to do with my job and everything to do with what Christ has done for me – transferring me from a child of wrath to a child of God (Ephesians 2:1-10).
The path of least resistance is awfully appealing. But it is more dangerous than it appears. With it comes a false sense of self-confidence that makes our inevitable crash and burn even more difficult (Proverbs 3).
But grace is abundant when we find ourselves in a position where our only two options are failure or prayer (2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Psalm 70).
I’m reminded of those options every Monday morning when I look at that blank yellow legal pad.
So I pray.
And God answers back.
That’s one of the things I like most about being a pastor.