Monday, June 30, 2014

A Prayer for the Difficult Person in Your Life

All of us have people in our lives who challenge our civility, who make life harder for us, who rub us the wrong way, who push our buttons. And sometimes, more often than we would like to admit, we are the problem. Or at least we bear responsibility for a lot of it.

God’s word says "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18). Evidently it is not always possible, but we should try.

The Bible gives us guidelines about confronting when we think we've been wronged (Matthew 18:15-17), and speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4: 15). It tells us to confess our own sins (James 5:16) and forgive one another (Colossians 3:13). 

So this prayer is not a substitute for any of that.

But years ago I wrote out a fairly lengthy prayer that I have prayed many times when I've had a "difficult person" in my life. I've found that praying for someone softens my heart toward them, and is part of God's plan to humble me and possibly (but not always) to heal the relationship.

This is a prayer specifically when the difficult person is (or claims to be) a member of the Christian family.

Maybe it will be helpful to you. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What If You Believed in Vain?

Recently I attended a funeral where the officiating pastor gave an invitation to salvation. He told us Jesus came to give us abundant life. As we bowed in prayer, he promised all we had to do to receive this abundant life was “step over the line!” To do this, we were to raise our hands.

After the amen, the minister announced that many people had “stepped over the line.” “Whoo-hoo!” he shouted.

We have a great gospel to proclaim. Those who receive it are saved unto eternal life. But the Apostle Paul raises a very disturbing question about our faith: Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, my emphasis).

How is it possible to believe “in vain?”

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Three Stark Contrasts Between Religion and Christianity

Last time I spoke about discovering that religion and Christianity are two very different things. This came home to me again as I studied the story of the woman whom Jesus healed of a terrible back problem. It’s a long passage, but worth your time to read.

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. (Luke 13)

The way the religious establishment (in this case the lay-leader of a synagogue) responded to this healing illustrates three stark contrasts between religion and Christ.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Losing My Religion and Gaining My Savior

I grew up in a home where going to church and practicing religion were regarded as part of your civic duty. It’s what good people did. I was taught that it didn’t matter much what religion you chose – “all roads lead to the same place. Just get on one of them and stay on it.” So I did.

But then my father got very sick and we were unable to attend church on Sundays. After he died, we never went back. By then I didn’t care about civic duty. My religion left me empty and I was done with it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Wait on God While You Wait

I hate to wait. Slow traffic, grocery lines, plane delays, doctor’s offices – all drive me a little nuts.

Today I decided to get my hair cut. (Insert your own joke here. I still have some hair to cut, okay?) My favorite barber had another guy in the chair, and somebody was ahead of me. It turned out to be a forty-five minute wait.

But I’m learning to “wait on God” while I wait, so today I didn't fret and fidget like I usually do. I had a good prayer time with the Lord.

Why don’t we pray while we wait? Lots of reasons, I guess. It’s hard to pray with so many distractions. People talking, traffic noise, waiting room TV’s blaring. Plus, with the advent of the iPhone, it’s just as easy to text, surf the net, email, check the scores, or even catch up on reading.

Why not pray? Maybe “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is meant for just such opportunities.

So, while it's hard to pray in a room full of people, or during a hot, honking traffic jam, it can be done. In order to overcome the noise and the chaos of waiting, I think you need two things: a prayer plan, and a way to focus.