praying for people you hate

Category : revolutionary

Nothing is easier in this world than wanting bad things to happen to other people.  We seem to have a natural gift for this.  Even children quickly adopt this attitude, demanding that toys are taken away from “friends” or how quickly teenagers will say, “I wish you were dead.”

Of course it doesn’t get any easier when you’re an adult.  We hate our bosses.  We hate our politicians.  We hate, hate, hate.

In some cases it’s for good reasons.  Our bosses are evil.  Our politicians are corrupt.  And our neighbor likes country music.

The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah to come along – the person who would restore Israel to its former political and military might.  What they got was Jesus.  Jesus had no interest in military or political power.  He knew of something more.  Something that CS Lewis called “the deep magic”.

That deep magic is the transformative power of love.  And yes, I know, that sounds like a terrible cliché.  But stop and think for a moment.  Which would be better: an ex spouse falling off the face of the Earth?  Or having them change so much that they become a positive influence in their child’s life?  Is it better for a horrible boss to be fired?  Or change their ways so that they lead the company forward?  Would you rather your neighbor’s stereo break?  Or that they discover the joys of rock?

Our natural view is to want the “hated enemy” to be punished.  Or at the very least disappear.  But that’s not how the Kingdom operates.  It’s not how the world truly changes.  Jesus was onto something.  Jesus knew that if we all experienced the transformation that comes only through love, the world would experience a revolution.  We wouldn’t need to hate, because we would all benefit from a changed heart.

In one of the most famous lines from Star Wars, we hear that “hate leads to the dark side.”  If hate leads us to build giant, faceless, merciless armies, where does love lead us?

So as hard as it is to pray for our enemies.  Maybe it’s time we really tried to.

photo provided by flickr user livininoblivion

grace – it’s what’s for dinner!

Category : different, faith, living a life of faith, prayer, taking action

………

There are days I think I know why God acts the way he does.  I tell myself “well this is why God asked me to do that.”  Some days I’m right.  These are usually the moments when God says, “you must act now to help this person.”  And so I write a check.  Listen to their story.  Or buy them lunch.  I can see how living out my faith makes a difference.

But there are other moments where God says, “ACT!” and I can’t figure out why.  It doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in my life.  He asks us to be obedient and to do small things even when no one is looking, and I can’t help but wonder why.

At least until a few months ago.

At the time I was visiting a client for work and preparing for a meeting.  The meeting was going to be held in the only room large enough to house all the employees – the lunch room.  So while I was doing my thing, one of the employees walked into the room to have a snack.

It was just he and I.

He sat at a table on the opposite side of the room, and as he reached for his drink he stopped.  He bowed his head and said a prayer.  Something struck me in that moment.  For a long time I looked at grace as that awkward time before a meal when no one wants to make eye contact for fear of being asked to say it!  In my mind grace was something that was more ritual than necessity.  And I have a tenancy to balk at anything ritualized.

But watching this guy say grace, for no reason other than the fact that he was going to eat something, my opinion began to change.

In that moment I realized it can be something much more.  That something as simple as saying grace before drinking your pop can be used by God to touch others.  We never know who is watching us, and how God might plan on changing their lives.  That’s why it’s so important to live out a life of faith.  We never know who’s life we can touch simply by demonstrating our relationship with God.

So the next time you’re about to pass up an opportunity to live out your faith, don’t.  In fact I encourage you the next time you’re in a restruant to actually say grace.  You may change someone’s life.

God of the unexpected miracle

Category : God, bible, different, miracles, prayer

 

Sometimes we look at God as a giant slot machine.

All we need to do is pull on the handle marked “prayer” and out comes the jackpot.  But that’s not what happens.  While God answers many prayers, he doesn’t always answer them in the way we expect.

For instance, a common prayer might look like this:  “Lord – help me find the home of my dreams.”

When we make that prayer what we expect is to find the perfect house.  What may very well happen is that we suddenly discover we love living in our apartment or current house.  We don’t get the “thing.”  What we get is a new way of looking at what we already have.

This “unexpected miracle” plays out time and again in the Bible.  At one point Israel was under siege which was causing a horrible famine.  Things were so bad the Israelites turned to cannibalism.  This (rightly) infuriated the King.  But instead of trusting God, he blamed God and tried to kill Elisha (who was a prophet).

Yet when the King tried to retaliate against God he was confronted with something unexpected.  Elisha was promising that the famine would end and prices for food would drop to pre-famine levels.  Not only that, they would do it over night.  (Think about gas prices dropping from $4.50/gallon to $0.97 /gallon).

An officer with the King pointed out the obvious – even if the siege ended, they wouldn’t have enough food to immediately feed everyone.  This is logistics 101.

Yet God is the God of the unexpected.  And this miracle was no exception.  Israel prayed for a miracle, and what they got was an unexpected answer.  That night 4 men approached the Syrian camp.  When they arrived they found it to be empty.  There wasn’t a single soldier left.  But there was a ton of food.  In their haste to run away the Syrian’s had left all of their supplies.  God had managed to end the siege and provide food for the city.  Exactly what Elisha had predicted.

No one expected that miracle, but God acted any way.

I say all of this because it’s easy to believe God doesn’t answer prayers or provide miracles today.  Sometimes I even find myself wondering “where are all of God’s miracles?”  I have to actively remind myself that God answers prayers, just not always in the way I expect them.

Last week I experienced one of these unexpected miracles: my girlfriend’s phone broke.  Okay, so that wasn’t the miracle.  The miracle was how we got it fixed!

The phone broke late Wednesday night, and she needed it for work.  We didn’t exactly have the money to buy a new phone or to wait 2 weeks for a replacement phone to be mailed.  So we did something a bit strange – we prayed over the phone and asked that God would “fix” it so that it would work.

And yes, it feels very weird to pray out loud about a cell phone.  But I did it anyway.  I figured God can do anything, why couldn’t he fix a cell phone?

After we finished the prayer we turned it on and nothing happened.  We left the battery out over night hoping that would help.  Still nothing.  Feeling a little discouraged we ultimately decided to go to the cell phone store.  We had resigned ourselves to getting a new phone.  But as I said, God is a God of unexpected miracles.  When we got to the store they simply gave us a brand new phone as a replacement.  No hassle.  No arguing.  Not even a pressured sale to renew a service plan.  They just handed us the new phone, transferred the data, and we were out the door.

That miracle was not expected.  I fully believed God could fix the cell phone and make it work if he chose to do so.  But I expected the original phone to work, not to get a brand new replacement.

God didn’t meet my expectations.  Instead he showed me he is capable of answering prayers in ways I could never imagine.

I wonder about the ways God shows up in my life unexpectedly and I miss him because I have set expectations of what God should look like.  I am reminded that this is what happened to the Pharisees.  They expected God to be legalistic, demanding, and tough.  What they got was a man who hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes and spoke of revolutionary love.  They missed the amazing because they refused to believe in the unexpected.

I don’t want to miss out on God just because he didn’t meet my preconceived notions of who he should be and what he should look like.  I want to learn to expect the unexpected.