Monday, November 26, 2012

Notre Dame: BCS National Champions?

You may not know this, but I am a Notre Dame alum. GO IRISH!

You may not know this, but Notre Dame (heretofore know as "we") finished our regular season undefeated last week, with a win over our long-time rival USC.

And guess what? I prayed for it all to happen.

I'm not saying my prayer worked, per se...but who can say that it didn't?

Now, I shared my Notre Dame prayer life with some people of good spiritual repute, who told me that such prayer may be inappropriate. But I would like to interject that I pray it IF (and only if) it is in God's permissible will:

"Dear Lord, IF it be in your WILL for Notre Dame to win this game, bless it to be so...remove all obstacles (i.e. linebackers) and STRENGTHEN your servant (Everett Golson) that his arm may be strong and mighty. In your MATCHLESS name, amen."

Okay, I'm just kidding. I never prayed that particular prayer (at least not beyond the bold ellipses). And I have no idea about Golson's spiritual life. But, would it be so wrong if I did pray this prayer? Maybe.

God's servant Everett Golson
These are the scriptures that I commonly use (or could use) to defend my prayer over sporting events:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 
John 15:7

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.
Mark 11:24 

I look at Mark 11, and the context. And I'm not sure how to approach this, because note: nothing Christ does is trivial. Yet, on a day when He is hungry, He doesn't find figs on a fig tree. He curses that tree, and it withers. Upon noticing that the tree died, the disciples marvel and say: "JC! That tree you cursed withered!" And then we come to verse 24 (see above). The amazing thing about the withered tree incident is in Mark 11:13. Which tells us plainly why this particular tree had nothing to offer: 

Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.

I was once told that even when the figs are not ripe, there is a bud, or like a seed on the branch that a person can eat. Perhaps Christ came looking for just that small bud. I've heard that message. That God's not looking for us to be ripe, but some sort of production is expected, naturally, as His Spirit is in you (it's not called fruit of the Spirit for nothing!).

Die, tree! Die!
I like that message, and I think it's 100% valid (see Hosea 9 for a comparison of men to fig trees, and Luke 13 for a parable about fig trees)*; however, this incident was 1) not a parable, and 2) Jesus' response to the disciples wasn't that this tree had failed him in some way by not having the bud...but, rather, He went on to describe all the things we could do with a small amount of faith. Move a mountain into the sea? Why? What purpose does that serve? Maybe it's just an example. Or maybe it's a metaphor. But maybe I can actually ask for whatever I want. And it's not inappropriate, or messed up, or wrong. Maybe. 

I say "maybe" because scripture makes it clear in Romans 8: 26 - ...for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

And that's for everything. I'm definitely praying for the wrong thing. Always. When it really counts, as always, God steps in and makes the intercession. I know for sure that my prayers for Notre Dame are in no way close to the level of the prayers that are too deep for words. And part of that is because I don't even know what to care about the way I should. I pray for my friends, family, the church, the lost, the poor, the sad, the single...and Notre Dame, but is it any of it approaching the awesomeness of the groanings that are too deep for words? Probs not.

For now, until the Spirit leads me otherwise, I'm going to continue to pray for whatever I want, believing that God cares about what I care about. Whether I'm praying for a new job, a new car, new friends, a new apartment...or a BCS National Title. Either way (answered or unanswered), Jesus heard me.

And I'm good with just knowing that. For now.

*Hosea 9 juxtaposed against Luke 13 could be a blog all its own. For real!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life as a House

Have you ever seen the movie Life as a House? Remember cutie-pie Hayden Christenson? If you haven't seen the movie, or you forgot about Hayden (aka Darth Vader)...see it and remind yourself. It's a really great flick about a man who finds out that he's dying. And when he surveys his life, he realizes that he lives in a falling apart shack and that all the relationships in his life are broken. The house becomes representative of his life. So, he decides to tear down the old house, build a new one and heal relationships while he yet has breath in his body. 

It's a really old movie. When you're young, you miss all the nuance and meaning in a story. It's the same way with reading the Bible. It's why we can read a scripture and it mean one thing, and two years later, it'll mean more

I didn't watch the movie again (though now I really want to), but I was reading a scripture again, and it made me think: Life as a House

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19-22

That movie is NOT Christian, at all. However, it speaks to me. It speaks to the state that so many of us are in before we come to Christ: 
  1. The man is content to live in a dilapidated shack for over 20 years, separated from his family. To him the shack was okay. There was nothing wrong with the shack.
    • Likewise, before Christ, many of us were cool living in a "shack", separated from God. We were strangers and aliens, living separately, and it was FINE. And it was like that for a long time.
  2. Then the man realized he was dying, and it was a turning point.
    • I believe there is a turning point for everyone who comes to Christ; some are more obvious than others. Maybe you realize that spiritually, you're dying. Or maybe you just realize that something is missing; or maybe you realize that your faith isn't what you thought it was and there is more out there. Whatever the point, it turns you.
  3. Then he tears down his old house.
    •  I've been a Christian a long time. And I'll tell you that this is the hardest part of being one. In order to build a new house, in the same spot, and in order to build a new life, in the same spot...something extreme has to take place (Think Extreme Makeover: Life Edition). The old you has be be completely destroyed. It's the scariest part of Christianity. And it is where we develop the most trust issues. "Don't destroy my kitchen! Those are granite counter-tops!" That's the difference between us and the man in the story. He's "all in." He KNOWS he lived in a shack, and that even though he enjoyed it for 20+ years...he sees that he was in error, and he is ready for demolition. We think that only some things in our house were messed up, and we only need God to make some minor adjustments...but God doesn't make minor adjustments.
      Imagine this is YOU...

  4. He builds a new house, and in the building of it, restores relationship with his family. I feel like this one is best explained via a scripture: 
    • Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19. 
In the building of the house, reconciliation occurs. It made Ephesians 2:22 special to me. God is building me into a house...that He can live in. I mean, that's reconciliation at a totally different level. When I reconcile with a friend that I was at odds with, we shake hands, or we hug. And that's pretty much it. We're "cool" now. I don't hate you anymore. But God is like: "let's live together." But, spiritually it's way bigger than co-habitation. It's in-habitation (if that's a word...I don't think that it is). 

This is kind of a rambling blog, because I read Ephesians 2 and thought: Life as a House...Life as a House of GOD. I thought that was deep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Focused on Excellence: Lessons from David


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8

This is a much beloved scripture, and though I would say I love all scripture, I mean that only in the way that it is the Word of God, and therefore--because it is wisdom and power--I love it! But I dislike this scripture. I dislike it because whenever I'm feeling badly, I read it for encouragement. But instead of being encouraged I become frustrated because it's SO HARD to think about what is noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable when you're so overcome by: 
  1. The ignoble nature of your own actions
  2. Everything that seems to be going wrong in your life
  3. Your own impure thoughts and motivations
  4. The ugliness that is everywhere in this world (just read CNN comments)
  5. All the things you find contemptible
 All 10 things (the 5 good and the 5 bad) exist. However, the Bible calls for you to concentrate and focus on only the five good ones. It, in effect, requests that you have a one-track mind--which for many of us is negative. It seems like common sense; it is better to be singularly focused on the positive than to spend one second concerned with the aforementioned bullets of tragedy.

Which brings me to a lesson from David:

Text: 2 Samuel 12: 13 - 22
Context: David has been informed by Nathan (the prophet) that his sin with Bathsheba will cost him the life of his unborn son. David has been fasting and praying the whole time his son is sick, and then:

But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. 
2 Samuel 12:19-20

 People were perplexed! He had fasted and prayed and wept the entire time his son was sick, but now...?

He said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, 'Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.'
2 Samuel 12:22

I look at this, and I look at my top 5, and I realize: I'm not like David. At all. David did bad stuff, extremely bad stuff (for which there were grave consequences), but instead of dwelling on the ignoble nature of his actions, instead of blaming and lashing out...he focused on the grace of God. Stuff got real, and his focus went to God, to His grace, mercy, and faithfulness. And he went all in, appealing to the characteristics of God. I just realized that the noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things are most easily found in God! Part of my problem is that I was looking for them elsewhere. Looking for them in ME (laughable), and looking for them in other people (still laughing). 

But back to David...he has appealed to God, and God said "no." Now it's time for him to fall into my list of 5, right? That's where I would've been, all 5 would have washed over me like a wave. But David gets up, makes himself physical presentable for what? Worship. Takes himself to the house of the Lord and worships!???!!! It's almost incomprehensible to me (because I don't--yet--have a heart like David). His focus stayed on the thing he found to be excellent and praiseworthy: God. I focus on everything else. 

Classic mistake.

*Richard Gere was a super hot King David!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Prides comes before a...

Technically, it's still Fall. It truly feels like winter. But we're still able to say: "Winter is Coming" and chuckle in our very nerdy, I-read-all-five-books! kinda way. But in the months since summer officially ended, I have been grappling with the issue of pride.

Whenever I think of pride, a specific scripture comes to mind:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  
Romans 12:3

I'm going to break this down in strange way. But there are three things in this verse that got me. That really GOT me, because I've been acting crazy for a few months due to pride. Understand this: 

I think I'm awesome and important, and anything that threatens that perception of myself has to be KILLED. I wage war against it, because when I think I'm awesome and important, I feel really good.*

But, Paul says: 
  1. Think of yourself with sober judgment. Paul is like get real. He's asking you to take a step back and seriously and earnestly evaluate who and what you are, and  
  2. He tells us to do so in accordance with the faith God has distributed; Christians know that faith is our access to grace, and it is by grace that we are even able to stand. Without grace, there's nothing we can say or do to commend ourselves to God. So, if I am to take this real good look at myself, in accordance with my knowledge of God, then I have to assume that...
  3. I'm drunk when I think of myself more highly than I ought. I'm totally out of it when I view myself as this awesomely important, indispensable being who should be treated as such at all times.
I get mad easily at perceived slights, because like I said...I wage war against anything that injures my pride. And so, I'm constantly at war. Sigh. I want peace time. I'm not stupid...the prideful person falls. They end up losing things, and I don't want to lose anything. 

*The context of the Romans scripture refers to people getting really big heads over their spiritual gifts. I'm not saying I'm running around thinking my spiritual gift is better than someone else's. I'm still unsure what my spiritual gift is. I'm just taking some license to show how pride has been working in my heart.