Teach Us To Pray

SP LP our father.verse2

Tomorrow morning I will be starting a series of messages on the Lord’s Prayer. When you pray “our Father” what are you saying, believing, doing?

The first thing I notice is the corporate nature of the prayer. We aren’t in this world alone.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he could have given them a theological dissertation based on familiar principles. But he didn’t. Instead he gave them the essential components of prayer.

And he starts with our Father—not simply Father. There are definitely times to get alone with God, but when the group came to Jesus, and the group asked to be taught how to pray, Jesus addressed their corporate need to pray.

I encountered a situation recently that drove this point home for me.

How many times when a friend or acquaintance shares a need, have you told them you would pray for them? You are sincere in your intention to pray, but life gets in the way and that opportunity for intercession is lost.

I don’t get many people coming to my door these days. So I was a bit surprised when the dogs began barking in their “oh boy, there’s someone at the door” way. With the reluctance that comes from dreading the annoyance of one more salesman, I went to the door.

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The woman at my door was quick to assure me she was not there to sell me anything. She gave me her name, told me she was from the women’s abuse shelter. She added that their group had the permission of the Sheriff and Chief of Police to be going door to door.

I apologized for not inviting her in, but my dogs are big and overly friendly. She seemed okay having the door between us. I introduced myself as the pastor of a local church that makes a point of regularly supporting the shelter.

We chatted and she was about to leave my door. This would be that moment when we say those words that roll off our tongues almost without thought: I’ll be praying for you.

But I couldn’t say them. Because I knew, with a knowing that comes from the Spirit, I needed to say, “Can I pray with you now?”

So I did. And her eyes got big. She put her hand on the screen and I put mine up to hers and we had a wonderfully blessed moment of connected prayer.

And then she was gone. But she will stay with me. Her name and face come to mind often and I pray, like Paul, as often as I remember her.

Now, I’m not telling you that story because I’m anything special. I’m telling you to encourage you to not miss those kinds of moments, those kinds of blessings—that kind of power.

The question that needs our response seems to be: how will we be open to the opportunities of corporate and connected prayer?

How can I pray with you today?

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Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 4, Day 7

Sunday: Lines of Communication

Text: 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.
19 Then I explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!” (Nehemiah 4:18-20, NLT)

Nehemiah knew the importance of prayer, of remembering, and of being ready. But all those things can be done by individuals.

WP Neh dev 4-7 together

Today’s word reminds us that we are in this together.

We understand Nehemiah’s concern that we, like the workers on the wall, are widely separated from each other. We live in a time when the opportunities for connection abound, but we have never been more alone.

WP Neh dev 4-7 trumpet

Just as the people needed to listen for the blast of the trumpet, we need to listen and come together.

We were created for relationship, with God and others. From one end of the Bible to the other we read that we are to be devoted to one another, and care for one another. The writer of Hebrews even admonishes the believers to not give up meeting together as some were in the habit of doing (see Hebrews 10:25).

We need to take advantage of the opportunities to worship and play, fellowship and study together, so that we will also be ready to do battle for and with one another.

WP Neh dev 4-7 love one another

Nehemiah Devotions Chapter 3, Day 5

Friday Rebuild (all materials present in the rubble for the task)

Text: The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenaah. (Nehemiah 3:1, NLT)

According to Warren Wiersbe’s study on Nehemiah, “Be Determined,” the word built is used six times in Nehemiah 3 and it means rebuilt. For this rebuilding no new material was needed. Instead the workers found the material in the rubble around them (Be Determined, p. 39).

How often do we put off doing the work while we wait for what we think we need: supplies, programs, people, funds?

Perhaps we could begin to see progress if we would use what is at our hand.

WP Neh 3-5 what's in your hand

When God wanted to use Moses, the reluctant servant came up with all kinds of excuses. God asked him what was in his hand. It was his staff, until he threw it on the ground, and then it became a serpent.

David defeated Goliath with the smooth stones he had in his pocket.

Jesus fed the multitude with the lunch of a child, five small rolls and two sardines.

What has he given you to use? What’s in your hand?

WP Neh 3-5 use what God has given

Nehemiah Devotions Chapter 3, Day 4

Thursday How will you be remembered?

Text: Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to work with the construction supervisors. (Nehemiah 3:5, NLT)

WP Neh 3-4 refusing to work

As you read through chapter three you will notice that people fall into one of two categories: those who worked or those who didn’t. The leaders of the people from Tekoa refused to work.

It says they refused to work with the construction supervisors. We’re not told if there was a problem or disagreement. We’re left to wonder and decide.

I think it’s to the people’s credit, however, that whatever the leaders’ reasons were for not working might have been, the people went to work anyway.

Can you hear them? “We’ll be out here getting the work done when you folks get things worked out.”

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The way these leaders hung back from the work reminds me of the women in the Philippian church, Euodia and Syntyche, who will forever be remembered for their inability to get along.

God has called us to join him in his work. How will we be remembered? As those who joined in and got things done or as ones who refused to get along?

WP Neh 3-4 working together

Writing Challenging Book Reviews

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I offered to read two books and review them.

There are many reasons I agree to do this. I like getting free books and I like connecting with new authors. I know how important it is to have a book reviewed.

But it’s not always easy. Sometimes I don’t care for the book, its story or the writing style. I’ve agreed to be honest, but there’s no need to be mean-spirited. Just because the book didn’t do anything for me doesn’t mean it won’t or can’t reach someone else.

Both of the books I read fell into the challenging review category.

jake tanner

The first book, The Chronicles of Jake Tanner, Hell’s Lane is co-authored by someone I respect as an writer and mentor, Kathy Bruin. I jumped at the opportunity to read and review.

The book was dark, contained language and content that might be offensive to some. I was not offended, but I felt this book would not fit most church libraries. How was I going to review it?

The first thing I did was contact Kathy. The thing I needed to know was who was the intended audience. Books don’t always preach to the choir. Sometimes they have to reach people who would be uncomfortable even being around organized religious folks. Kathy assured the goal was to start discussions of the issues of choices and consequences and how those choices can ultimately affect our eternal destiny.

This book could do that. I can and did write a review saying those things.

chasing happy

I was offered the opportunity to read the second book by the author. She was careful to preface her invitation by telling me the subject material was unique and not an easy sell.

The book is well written stylistically and the story is compelling. But the issue is the issue: the main character is attempting to come to terms with his bisexuality. The author has faced a lot of negative feedback from publishers who don’t want to touch the topic. And I think that’s a shame.

This book falls even better into the category of discussion starter, both for those who struggle and those who are trying to understand the struggle. The issue will not go away because we don’t address it, so why not use a well-written source to help those who are looking for answers?

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I have a friend who continually challenges me to get out of the “Christian Ghetto.” She believes there are people outside the comfort of the church who are hungering and thirsting, who need more than the standard fare of Christian-eze. Her sentiments were similar to those of a movie producer I heard speak at a Christian Writers Conference earlier this year.

So maybe these two books wouldn’t be typical of the books on your church library shelf, but maybe they should be somewhere in the church and opened for discussion.

Getting Ready for Reunion

WP HS 40 yrs

August 8 is rapidly approaching.

My 40th High School Reunion.

How can it be that?

Did I blink?

Did I slip into some kind of Brigadoon?

Am I really staring at turning 60 in two short years?

So many questions. So little time.

Some days I feel like I’ve lived five different lives, and then it’s like I haven’t lived at all.

One of the ways I sort through thoughts and feelings is to put the words out in front of me. I do my best thinking out loud.

Today’s Reunion Thought: Angst Revisited

WP HS no more angst

Definition: noun
1. a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish.

I will never forget walking up the sidewalk by what was then the practice field. It was wide and long…very long, and I was having trouble breathing.

I was sure I would never forgive my father for uprooting me from the place where I felt like I was finally starting to connect.

I didn’t know anyone here. I was sure no one would ever want to know me.

Mustn’t cry. But I wanted to cry and to run. Life was over. I was sure of it.

WP HS crowded halls

And so began the awkward angst-filled dance called High School. All the struggles with wanting to fit in, wanting to be liked and loved. The only moments when I didn’t feel alone were the moments when I happened to sit with a girlfriend in the bathroom weeping over the latest break-up. “What’s wrong with us?” we would cry.

Oh the battles with the monster “Enough.” Never smart enough. Never thin enough. Never enough.

WP HS coffee

It wasn’t until many years later when I got together with two friends from the ‘Burg and listened to them that I realized how un-unique my feelings were.

I’ve been doing some online reading about the experiences of others as they struggled with the whole reunion battle. Should I go? Why bother?

It seems the older we get the greater the need to look back. Who would have thought that what lies ahead would hold scarier moments than first loves won and lost, first jobs, and first wings of freedom.

Someone likened going to a reunion to getting a ‘do over.’ I can live with that. I’ve been living my do over for several years. And some of that process and growth has actually been helped by unexpected connections I’ve made on Facebook.

Here’s what I’ve decided: Life has been good. I have had my share of challenges, and enough disappointments, failures, and shame for three people–not that I was trying to hoard it. But my focus here on out is where it needs to be. I’m counting my blessings and thanking my God, especially that my dad yanked me away from where I was comfortable and planted me somewhere I could flourish.

So to the class of 1975, let’s enjoy this occasion.

WP HS 40 acronymn