Red Ferrari

I don’t know anything about cars but I know a nice one when I see it. This was a nice one. It was a red Ferrari. When I looked at it, I saw a little bit of myself. Now before you bail out on me for comparing myself to a Ferrari, just hang on.

I don’t see cars like this where I live. It seemed to appear from nowhere just outside of my driver’s side window while I was stopped at a red light. When I pointed the car out to my sons, the questions started flowing. And they were questions that I didn’t have the answers to. But that’s never stopped me before.

“Dad, is that a fast car?”

“Oh you bet. It’s got twin dual cam headers.”

The three of us sat and gazed at that red sports car. It was almost like we felt honored to have such a fine vehicle visit our common town and to be so kind to share the same road with our humble Chevrolet. When the light turned green, a little piece of us died. The Ferrari would soon be out of our sight and out of our lives forever. I thought about racing, just to prolong the experience. Cooler heads prevailed.

I was going straight and the car was turning left. Well, the car wasn’t exactly turning left. It was being taken to the left. That beautiful red Ferrari was tied down to the back of a flat bed truck. And this wasn’t one of those trucks that carries rich people’s expensive cars across the country. This was the type of truck that some dude named Big Ed uses when he comes to pick up your gently used Toyota Tercel after you drive it off into a ditch.

That’s when I saw a little bit of myself and my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ in that Ferrari.

By God’s grace and through faith and repentance, we have been given much. God has given us eternal life. But he has also given us the resources we need to glorify and enjoy him in this life.

In Christ, we have power over evil, both the kind in our hearts and the kind in the world (Ephesians 6:10-20).

In Christ, we have joy (John 17:13).

In Christ, we have access to our Creator (Hebrews 4:14-16).

In Christ, we have peace and love and self-control and so much more (Galatians 5:22-24).

But we don’t use those gifts. Instead, we settle for getting through life on the back of some spiritual tow truck.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that God is going to bless you with a beautiful new Ferrari. And I’m not saying that Christians never have hard times or that we never deal with issues like depression or anxiety.  What I am saying is that our identity is not found in those things.

Too many Christians put a heavy emphasis on their sin while ignoring the righteousness that is theirs in Christ. An emphasis on personal sin is a good thing. It’s a necessary thing if you care to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. But it’s incomplete if it does not lead us to see our new identity in Christ.

Yes, Christian, you were a wretch. You were an enemy of God.

And yes, your struggle against sin is still very real.

But please do not forget that great exchange that took place by God’s grace. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, when God looks at you, he sees the perfect righteousness of his perfect Son (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You are no longer an orphan.

You are no longer an enemy of God.

You have been given eternal life.

You have been given hope and joy in this life.

And here’s the thing about God’s gifts. They are meant to be used. So ditch the flat bed truck and take your gift for a spin.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (ESV)

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We Need Pastors Who Bleed The Gospel

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We need pastors who bleed the gospel. We don’t need pastors who are pawns of some political party. We don’t need pastors who get their marching orders from their favorite political websites and TV stations. We don’t need pastors who are too afraid of getting fired.

We need pastors who, when beaten and bruised by their opponents, bleed the gospel.

That means that we need pastors who are more interested in following the examples of the Old Testament prophets than they are in turning a profit at next week’s offering. These are the pastors who will say the hard things, the things that were once obvious but no longer are.

A funny thing happened after Sunday night’s presidential debate. The people at Fox News and the Drudge Report were telling me that Trump won. Meanwhile, the folks at CNN and MSNBC were saying that Hillary won. That’s the thing about our current political climate. Love it or hate it, it does have a way of exposing allegiances. Sadly, on both sides of the aisle, there are those churches and pastors who have been exposed for being more aligned to a presidential candidate than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as a result, those pastors who are supposed to be speaking against evil end up swimming against the stream of scripture and common sense in order to keep their presidential hopeful propped up.

We don’t need pastors who act like pimps prostituting out their churches in order to give Hillary Clinton another campaign stop.

We don’t need pastors who consider it their duty to defend Donald Trump no matter what because, after all, his sins aren’t as bad as Hillary’s.

No, we need pastors who bleed the gospel.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton was your church secretary and she deleted a few thousand e-mails a week or so before being questioned by the police about some shady Internet dealings she’d been involved in. Most likely, she would be fired. But, for some reason, in the eyes of a lot of pastors, such actions do not disqualify her from being the president of the United States.

Imagine if your wife or daughter worked for Donald Trump. Imagine if she was the one he was talking to Billy Bush about assaulting all of those years ago. Would you still call it “locker room banter”? Would you still say it was just words? Not likely. What is more likely is that you would try to have him fired. But, for some reason, in the eyes of a lot of pastors, such conduct doesn’t disqualify him from being our next president. We’re not hiring a pastor-in-chief, they tell us.

One of the most disturbing things I have seen in my 41 years on this earth is the degree to which some church leaders will distort or even ignore scripture just to see their candidate elected.

For some, the fact that Hillary is a woman gives her the right to sanction the murder of babies under the banner of a woman’s right to choose.

For others, the fact that Donald isn’t Hillary gives him a free pass to do or say whatever he wants under the banner of making America great again.

Pastors, we have to be above this. We can’t scream, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” when one candidate blows it and call down fire from heaven to punish the sins of the candidate with whom we don’t agree. We must remain true to the scriptures. We must be consistent. But that’s hard to do when the blood of a political party runs through our veins.

We need pastors who bleed the gospel.

People won’t like it when you refuse to jump on one candidates bandwagon. I’ve been told that I’m what’s wrong with America. I’ve been told to stick to the Bible. It’s likely that we’ll hear worse. Don’t let that get you down. Never forget that preaching the word isn’t just done one day a week behind a pulpit.

We need pastors who bleed the gospel. Every day of the week.

That means that we need pastors who love the Trump supporters and the Clinton supporters while simultaneously opposing the godless policies and actions of both candidates. That’s easier said than done. Refusing to just play along and wave the flag of a political party or candidate might get you run out of town. It might lose you a few church members. Offerings may go down.

But that’s okay. Jesus called you to be a shepherd, not a hireling. A shepherd risks everything to protect the sheep. A hireling only looks out for his own interests and takes off running when the heat gets too thick.

Pastor, one day you will stand before Jesus to give an account for your life and ministry. You will not be questioned about whether or not your were liked? You will not be questioned about how appreciated you felt. You will not be questioned about what you did to swing the balance of the Supreme Court.

In so may words, you will get a question sort of like this one.

Did you bleed the gospel?

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 (ESV)

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Your Church Is More Influential Than You Think It Is

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The size of your church doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. What matters more is what your church teaches.

When Governor Nathan Deal was reminding us all of how religiously devout he is while in the process of preparing us for his veto of the religious liberty bill, he mentioned that he is a life long member of a faith-based community. The name of the faith-based community to which the Governor belongs is the First Baptist Church of Gainesville.

Now perhaps you’re wondering how a life-long member of a Baptist church could vote against something that would protect pastors. Well, just as simply having the word Republican after one’s name doesn’t make him a champion of liberty, having the word Baptist on the sign out front doesn’t mean that the people inside the building belong to the body of Christ. Words can be misleading.

The First Baptist Church of Gainesville belongs to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a denomination that doesn’t exactly have the high view of Scripture that many Baptists are known for. Bill Coates is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, Coates encouraged church goers to err on the side of love and grace and figure out a way to accept the new normal.

The First Baptist Church of Gainesville is not a particularly large church by megachurch standards. And many may assume that it is less influential than it actually is. Your church may not use curriculum from the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. This church may not have had any of their worship leaders invited to the Grammy’s. But when news broke yesterday of Nathan Deal’s decision to veto the religious freedom bill, the impact of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville was felt statewide. Perhaps even nation wide. As Al Mohler said, “If it can happen in Georgia it can happen anywhere.”

What your church believes matters much, much more than how many people go to your church. And while your church may not be in a large, influential city, it is still influential. That can be good news or bad news. If you are faithful to the Bible this means that you can, in varying degrees, expect to raise up disciples who value the word of God so much that they are willing to joyfully obey it no matter the cost.

But if you abandon the difficult texts or the controversial topics found in the Bible in favor of short sermons on how to better connect with strangers or how Jesus’ resurrection is really about how all of us can rise again from our disappointments if we just try a little harder or believe a little more you will most assuredly produce disciples also. Disciples of the culture’s whims. Disciples of convenience. Just not disciples of Christ.

This helps us to understand what Governor Deal meant when he said that his decision was based on the fact that, “the world is changing around us.” And we wouldn’t want to not change with the world now would we?

There will come a time when the people of our congregations will be pressed. It might be cancer. It might be persecution. It might be a difficult political decision. And what those people have been taught in their church will have a lot to say about what comes out of them during their difficult times.

No matter the size, your church is much more influential than you think it is.

On Easter Sunday I watched a bunch of kids in our church sing a song. Two of the kids on that stage belonged to me. But I am responsible for all of the kids on that stage. I have an obligation to teach them the Bible and encourage their parents in doing the same. Perhaps one of those kids will grow up to be a governor. Maybe not. Maybe she’ll grow up to be a mom or maybe he’ll grow up to teach at a school. Either way, they’ll be pressed.

And when they are, I hope that Christ-centered theology is what comes out rather than whatever it is that they have to say in that moment to keep up with the world.

Theology matters. The church must not abandon the Bible. Without it, we cease to become a church and instead become a factory that produces deceived religious folks who cave to the pressure of the world rather than standing on truth.

Maybe your church is small or far removed from an influential metropolitan area. That’s okay. If you are training up men and women who love Jesus and obey his word, you are far more influential than you may think. A church that settles for teaching members how to change with the world will never change the world. A church that strives for biblical faithfulness will in some way change the world while at the same time pleasing it’s Master. Faithfulness and obedience, not attendance records and influential members, are the instruments that the Master likes to use in accomplishing his will.

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra 7:10 (ESV)

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They Have Seen Better Days

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This afternoon I’ll preach at a Good Friday service. It’s not at the Georgia Dome. No one is selling tickets to it. No Grammy winners will be there. But there’s is a very strong chance that a lot of the people there have been called Grammy a time or two in their lives.

This Good Friday service will be at the nursing home in the community where I live and work. There will be people singing off key. To be fair, I’ll be one of them. There will be people there who can’t hear or see very well. There will be strange requests for strange songs I’ve never heard of before. But, like the other years that I have been a part of this service, I’m really going to like it.

Being at that nursing home on Good Friday reminds me that Jesus didn’t just die for me. He didn’t just die for the younger generation. The cross wasn’t exclusively for church kids. Jesus didn’t die only for the young, fit and popular crowd. He also died for the old, the feeble and the dying.

He died for the lady struggling to play the role of mother for her aging mother.

He died for nurses and administrators who refuse to cut corners, even if no one else would notice, because they do their work as unto the Lord.

He died for his Church and some of the people who belong to his Church spend a lot of their days in a nursing home. Some because that’s their place of employment. Others because it’s where illness has left them.

But Jesus didn’t just die for his Church. He rose again for it. And that gives us a living hope, no matter how dire our circumstances are here on earth.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

I’m guessing that five minutes or so after I’m done speaking to this group, most of them will forget what I said.

Their memory isn’t what it used to be.

They have seen better days.

But because of the grace of God and an empty Middle Eastern tomb, the folks in that nursing home who belong to Jesus have not yet seen the best days.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

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Do You Have Parent’s Syndrome?

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Parent’s Syndrome is a serious disease. Okay, it’s not really all that serious. And okay, it’s not even really a disease. I just made it up about 15 seconds ago. But I think that’s probably true of at least 78% of the drug commercials you see on TV and whoever is selling that stuff is making a lot of money. So as a service to you, and also in hopes of making a lot of money like the pharmaceutical companies, here are 15 signs that you suffer from Parent’s Syndrome.

  1. If you frequently walk into a room and forget why you walked into that room because you had to stop on the way to mend a broken heart that just lost a hard fought game, you are suffering from Parent’s Syndrome. Either that or you live in the Georgia Tech athletic dormitory.
  2. If you would rather have a tooth pulled in the back of a stranger’s van than step on a Lego, you know what it’s like to suffer from Parent’s Syndrome.
  3. If you call sleeping in waking up at 7:15 in the morning, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  4. If 63% of your friends know you as Billy’s Dad rather than your actual name, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  5. If you are a male over the age of 20 and you can recite the lyrics to two or more Taylor Swift songs, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  6. If you frequently use the words stinky, passy, binky and boo boo you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  7. If you and your spouse have ever gone to Wal-Mart without the kids and considered that a pretty hot date, you have a Level 3, Double Urgent case of Parent’s Syndrome.
  8. If you’ve ever used the phrase, “Who wants to go to Bee-Bop’s house?” you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  9. If you’ve ever put your kids in the bathtub and told them to  scrub for a few hours until they get real clean while daddy watches the football game, you have Parent’s Syndrome. And no, I’ve never done this. You can’t prove anything.
  10. If you can drive your car at the top legal speed on a major highway while tying your child’s shoe, you are a high functioning sufferer of Parent’s Syndrome.
  11. You suffer from Parent’s Syndrome if you’ve ever said, “No you cannot have a cookie for breakfast. Now be quiet and eat your Pop Tart and pizza!”
  12. If you’ve ever been awakened in the middle of the night by a small child standing over your bed, poking you in the face, you have Parent’s Syndrome. Either that or you need to move to a new neighborhood.
  13. If you’ve ever thought that your friends were mad at you because they bought your kids drums for Christmas, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  14. If you know what it’s like to have another person blow his nose on the shirt that you are currently wearing, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  15. And finally, if you’ve ever used a wire coat hanger to fish a stuffed animal out of a toilet, you have Parent’s Syndrome.

As it turns out, there is no medication for Parent’s Syndrome. So much for my big pay day. But this disease does have a cure. Over time, as your kids grow into adults and move into their own houses, the symptoms of Parent’s Syndrome will go away. But, in my medical opinion, you shouldn’t waste your time waiting on that day to arrive. Parent’s Syndrome is the best disease anyone could ever have.

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A Refresher On The Lesser Of Two Evils Approach

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The house my father grew up in didn’t have air conditioning. Instead, there were several strategically placed electric fans. This being before the days of warning labels and safety standards, about the only thing separating the blades of the fan from the fingers of a child was something that kind of resembled a punter’s face mask from the early 1960s. That is to say, not much.

One day my dad asked his mother what would happen if he stuck his finger in the fan. In her typical fashion, my grandmother said something along the lines of, “Stick your finger in there and find out.”

Not wanting to be disobedient, my dad stuck his finger in the fan.

To the best of my knowledge, that was the last time my dad ever stuck his finger in a fan. Lesson learned.

Conservative voters aren’t quite as astute as my father. They just keep on voting for the lesser of two evils. They can’t quit touching the fan and hoping for different results.

Now that it looks as though Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be facing one another in the general election, people have already started saying that not voting for the Donald is about the same as voting for Hillary. There is no perfect candidate. Pick the lesser of two evils and get along with life.

While I agree that there is no perfect candidate, this lesser of two evils approach begs the question. Where do we draw the line?

This year, voters will be choosing between a loud mouth crooked politician who supports Planned Parenthood and a loud mouth womanizing businessman who supports Planned Parenthood. Which one exactly is the lesser of two evils again? Oh, the loud mouth womanizing businessman who financially supported the loud mouth crooked politician is the lesser of two evils because he wants to build a wall. Got it.

Many have said that the rise of Bernie Sanders is evidence that our government education system, along with a little help from helicopter parents and participation trophies, has failed us. I agree.

But this works both ways.

The rise of Donald Trump is a result of media pundits with no real principle other than being mad at the other party.

If we truly want to make America great again, we need to look beyond the lunatic in the red hat and look in the mirror. We need to stop voting for a party and start voting on principle. The more we vote for the alleged lesser of two evils, the more principle we give away.

When our principles run no deeper than Anyone But The Democrat or I’m Fed Up, Donald Trump is what we get.

Over the years, conservatives have been given big government politicians, big government family dynasties and big government businessmen and been told to just go with the lesser of two evils. Now that’s gotten us a big government reality TV star.

But there is one thing we can be thankful for this election cycle. We should all be glad that another reality star didn’t decide to run for president on the Republican ticket. If Kim Kardashian decided to run as a Republican and said mean things to Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell, she’d already be measuring her solid gold drapes for the windows of the White House.

And those of us who recognized the absurdity of electing her as our next president would be told to simmer down and vote for the lesser of two evils. “She’s going to build a wall and make Kanye pay for it,” they might say.

So thank you Kim, for not running. My guess is that you’d probably run the country off a cliff within the first week of your presidency. Such an accomplishment will take President Trump a solid month.

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The System Is Rigged

The system is rigged.

Usually a judge will recuse himself from a trial if he knows the defendant. Not this judge. And this judge doesn’t just know the defendant. He’s helping him.

The system is rigged.

Here’s something you can count on. There will be a day of judgment for you. You may trick yourself into believing that it won’t happen but it will. This isn’t the stuff of crazy street preachers standing on corners holding signs that remind us that the end is near. Jesus himself warned of a day of judgment (Matthew 11:20-24). Whether you spend your days in Sunday School, strung out on meth or some combination of the two, you will one day stand before Jesus (Romans 14:12).

The thing that sets us apart is how we will be treated on that day. For non-believers, the day of judgement will be terrible. Jesus said that entire cities that have been wiped off the map because of their sin will have it better than those who stand before him with unrepentant hearts. Hell is the final and eternal destination of every person who refuses to repent.

But for Christians, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The day of judgment will be more like a reward ceremony for them.

That’s because the system is rigged.

The Judge who every human being who ever lived will one day stand before holds his people in his hand, guaranteeing their heavenly arrival.

[28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28 (ESV)

The Judge, before whom all people will one day give an account, is at this very moment, praying for his people.

[33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. [34] Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:33-34 (ESV)

And the One who will judge every human being in his prefect righteousness has given his people his perfect righteousness.

[21] For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

When I was a kid I heard a preacher say that on the day of judgment there would be a giant movie screen and the whole world would get to see every sin that I ever committed. You can imagine my excitement at that thought. Like many believers, I’ve spent most of my life fearing the day of judgement.

But for believers, there is no need to fear.

Because the system is rigged.

All in your favor.

And all for the Judge’s glory.

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How To Win A Debate (Even When You’re Wrong): Three Simple Steps

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Chances are that you’ll find yourself in a debate at some point. And you’ll want to win that debate. That’s the thing about disagreements, whether they come in the form of civilized discussions or all out arguments. Both sides want to win. Well, now you can. And you don’t have to go through the trouble of actually being right. Instead, just follow these simple steps.

1. Accuse your opponent of either being from or having ties to the south.

We all know what happened in the south years and years ago, don’t we? That’s right. The Dukes of Hazzard was filmed there. And that gives you all the opportunity you need to bludgeon your opponent.

Here’s how it works.

Opponent: “Yes, but Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers were against a strong, centralized federal government and national banking system.”

You: “Interesting. Especially since Thomas Jefferson was from the south, had slaves, watched The Dukes of Hazzard and had the words Ain’t Skeered written on the front of his jacked up truck.”

Bam! You win.

Don’t be afraid to be creative. And if you can’t manage to link your opponent or his ideas to the southern states, just settle for the next most effective option.

Compare him to Hitler.

2. Quote the Bible.

Perhaps you don’t own or even believe in the Bible. Not to worry. That shouldn’t stop you from using it to prove your point. Here are a few examples.

Opponent: “I’m against murder because all people are created in the image of God.”

You: “Interesting. Are you also against boiling goats in their mother’s milk because you know that’s in the Bible too?”

Never mind things like context and genre. Never mind that you could use excerpts from To Kill A Mockingbird out of context to make Harper Lee look like a Grand Wizard of the Klan. Remember, you’re concerned with winning, not being right.

Here’s another approach to using the Bible to help you achieve your goals of world domination through argumentativeness.

Opponent: “I’m against gay marriage so I decided not to bake a cake for their wedding. I don’t hate anyone. I’m just holding to my beliefs.”

You: “Interesting. What about your customers who are gluttons?” (Author’s note: In case you haven’t noticed, it would be helpful if all of your responses began with the words interesting or actually. It makes you sound smarter.)

Bam! You win again. Always get to the gluttony option as quickly as possible. This way, you can make the Bible’s mention of gluttony a virtual free pass for any other sin.

3. Tell stories about Yuma, your _____________________ (fill in the blank with transgenderedundocumented worker or some other such descriptions) friend.

This is the easiest one, even if you don’t know a transgendered, undocumented working fellow named Yuma. The story is what matters here.

Opponent: “What do you think about judges losing their job for refusing to perform weddings for transgendered, undocumented workers?”

You: “Interesting. It’s funny that you should ask because I think about my friend Yuma, a transgendered, undocumented worker from the country of Yugostan. I think about his quest for love. And work. And I think about how much you hate him and want to destroy his dreams of a simple, happy, tax-payer funded, undocumented life with his three husbands. You should be ashamed.”

So the next time you find yourself in a heated discussion about a controversial topic, stick to these simple steps and you’re sure to win. You may even get your own television news show.

Or a job writing speeches for the president.

When making sure your voice is heard matters more than the truth, the possibilities are limitless.

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Praying.

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Praying.

Sometimes that word can be a source of great hope. Like when you post something online about a tragedy in your life and you come back 15 minutes later to see 30 comments with one simple word.

Praying.

Praying.

Praying.

It can make you feel good. But does it actually do any good? In a lot of cases, the answer is no. But that’s not because God doesn’t care or he doesn’t have the power to change something. It’s because sometimes the one true God who is in Sovereign control of the universe isn’t the one who is being prayed to.

Sometimes the god who exists only to meet our needs and to make us feel better about ourselves is being prayed to.

Dear friendly, nameless being,

Make my name great.

Do everything you can to promote my kingdom and to see that my will is done, both here and in eternity. My wish is your command.

Don’t just settle for giving me what I need today. Give me more than I need. Give me everything that I want. 

Forgive me for whatever generic, harmless sins that other people may have caused me to commit. And forgive those people if you want but I’m not going to. 

I can handle temptation on my own. I control my own destiny. Evil can’t touch me if I surround myself with enough positive and encouraging goodness. When it comes to evil, assuming that evil even exists, I’ve got this. Devote your energy to someone else because I’m good.

Sometimes it’s the fundamentalist god who only answers to lofty sounding religious lingo that is being prayed to.

Dearest father who dwelleth in the most high heavens,

I am praying this prayer now in hopes that people will see me making thou name sound great while at the same time adding a little popularity boost to mine.

May your kingdom advance against all of the other kingdoms of this world (except for my own) and may your will be done in my home as well as in Washington D.C. Who cares about the neighbors?

Givest thou me the daily portion that you see fit. I am your humble servant. Christian breath mints will suffice (not really but that’s what I want my prayer audience to think so feel free to give me a bunch of stuff). 

Forgive us for our many sins of which I will not be naming mine here in front of everyone in fear that such specificity might not make my name sound as great as I would like for it to. Also, forgive those who have failed to live up to my standards for them. Thank you that I am not like them.

Thank you that temptation isn’t a problem for me. I haven’t committed a serious sin in well over 20 years. But others haven’t gotten to where I am. Deliver them from evil.

And sometimes people are just praying to their buddy, homeboy or boyfriend.

Dear Invisible Peer,

Fix stuff, give me stuff and take bad stuff away. Also, help me to get married before the rapture happens.

Word.

There is another way. The Jesus way. He took the time to teach his disciples how to pray, not so that we would follow that prayer word for word every time we pray but so that we would have a clear picture of what prayer is really all about. Here’s a hint. It’s not as much about us as we’d like to think. Instead, it’s about a holy God who likes to hear from his people. Prayer isn’t a tool that spiritual people use in an attempt to get God to change his mind. Prayer is a discipline of spiritually broken people who want God to change their heart. Here’s what Jesus’ example looks like.

 

“Pray then like this:

‘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 temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'”Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

But Jesus didn’t leave us with just a guideline. He also gave us the Holy Spirit because, no matter how spiritual you are or how long you’ve been in church or how often you pray, you still really don’t know what you’re doing. Neither do I. But the Spirit is there to help.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 (ESV)

What a picture. Our best efforts at prayer, just like our best efforts at most anything else, fall short. But the Spirit takes those broken prayers to the Father with passion and in a language too deep for us to understand. Prayer is far more powerful than you think.

Praying.

It’s good to know that people care enough to do that for you.

It’s even better when you know that they are praying to their Father in heaven with the assistance of the Holy Spirit instead of to some fake deity just so they can sound more spiritual.

The good news doesn’t stop there.

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34 (ESV)

Jesus didn’t stop working on your behalf when he rose from the grave. He is still approaching the Father on your behalf. Christian, you are being prayed for and it is someone far more important than your parents or pastor who is doing the praying.

You may feel alone. It may seem as though no one cares. Perhaps God seems distant. But if you asked Jesus what he is doing for you right now, he would give you a one word answer.

Praying.

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