Misconceptions About Prayer

When it comes to prayer many of us have learned different things at different times that have led to a lot of misconceptions about what prayer is. We pray in groups and feel the pressure to perform because in those settings we are not really praying to God but we are speaking to one another. In those times of prayer we are concerned with saying something profound or something that will actually have an effect in the lives of those we are praying with. Over time we get focused on the outcome and forget that prayer is about a relationship with God and our communication with him. As a result we develop different misconceptions about what prayer is about and it leads us to a place of not really wanting to pray or seeing the purpose of it. Here are a few of the misconceptions I have seen:

Quoting Scripture Leads to More Effective Prayers
One misconception is that quoting scripture in our prayers makes them more powerful or more effective. This misconception comes from how we have experienced group prayer. Have you ever noticed that we tend to all pray based on the way the first person who prays in a group starts? So if the person quotes scripture we think we have to too. Since most of us can only think of John 3:16 on the spot, we sit there trying to figure out how we can make that verse fit our prayer. If you have ever prayed with Pastors we tend to use scripture in our prayers from time to time. Because we see a Pastor using scripture we begin to feel like quoting scripture in our prayers is what makes them more effective. So we stress out over whether we know enough scripture off the top of our heads to use in our prayer life. This eventually leads us to a place where our prayers are dry and repetitive instead of from our hearts. There is no where in the Bible that says we have to use scripture in our prayers. We are asked to come to God with an open heart and have an honest dialogue with him. If we want to use scriptures in our prayers to remind us of who God is and what his promises are to us, fine. But those scriptures are for us not for him. He already knows what he said so we don’t have to feel like we need to quote scripture to him in order for him to hear our prayers.

Effective Prayers Lead to the Answer You Want
We have this idea that if we just learn how to pray right, our prayers will be more effective. “More effective” is usually code for getting what we want. We all want to pray knowing that God will answer those prayers in the way we want him to answer them. But we figure we need to perform the right kind of prayer to get the answer we want. So we look for ways to pray better and angles we can take to get what we want. We hear of “prayer warriors” who seem to be really effective in prayer and we want to be just like them. The problem with all of this is that prayer is not about getting what we want. Instead prayer is about a relationship with God and a desire to have our wills aligned with his. For most of us, we look at how Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane when he said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26: 39). We take that to mean that we ask for what we want but then we hedge our bets by saying, “But God if you want to do something else then your will is ok too.” The reality is, Jesus was not hedging his bets or telling God he was ok with his will if he didn’t want to take the suffering away from him. He was really saying, “I want your will to happen no matter what. Since I am weak, please align my will to yours so I make sure I go through with the suffering ahead of me.” Effective prayer is ultimately about aligning our hearts and wills with Gods so much so that we stop asking for things that we want and starting praying for things that God wants.

As Long as I’m Thankful God Will Answer My Prayers
Some of us think that it is the attitude of our hearts that determine if God will do what we want him to or not. So we make sure we thank God for what he is going to do for us. In some way, we think that if we thank God ahead of time for something we want him to do he is obligated to do it out of politeness. After all, what are we thanking him for if he doesn’t come through and do it? We point to passages like Philippians 4 where it says in verses 6, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” and we figure that the passage is telling us to thank God ahead of time. The problem is, the word in that verse for thanksgiving is past tense. It literally means thank God for all the things he has already done. In doing this we can trust him more because we know he has been there for us in the past and will continue to be there for us in the future. Our thankfulness is a remembrance of who God is and what he has done and that is what leads to his “peace that passes all understanding.”

Get a Head Start on Praying for What You Need
Most of us are concerned with making sure our future is secure. There is nothing we can do to control the future so we worry about it and stress about it all the time. This spills over into our prayer life. We figure it takes a number of prayers for God to know we are serious so we better get a head start and pray and ask for everything we need for the future instead of always waiting until the last minute and hoping for a miracle. So we tend to pray “Costco Prayers” where we ask God for what we need for the month or year and then come back to him later for the next installment. Yet the Bible tells us that we are to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In other words, we are to pray for what we need just for that day not for the whole month or year. The reason God asks us to do this is to remind us of our dependency on him. If we got everything up front we would only remember our dependency on God once a month or once a year. Instead we need to be aware of that dependency on a moment by moment basis.

Prayer is something that all of us struggle with from time to time. We have misconceptions about prayer that come from our experiences with public prayer and some of our own anxiety when it comes to the things we worry about in this life. But prayer really is a time of communicating with God and getting to know his heart so well that our very wills are aligned with his so that we are more concerned with doing what he wants us to do than getting him to do what we think is best.


Wrestling with the Soul

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:26

I have had several talks with people lately and been reading a lot about the care of our souls. So many of us are good at doing the work of ministry but struggle when it comes to actually being a good minister. We have this thing where we substitute our work for the actual relationship we have with Christ and this causes many of us to go down the road of burn out and fatigue in ministry. How do we get a handle on our internal lives to help us to serve from a place of being filled up?

It seems to me there are two things working at the same time. On the one had we have the issue of desire and on the other hand we have the issue of our identity. These two things need to work together if we are to live from of place of taking care of our souls.

The issue of desire is an interesting one. Many of us like the idea of having a close relationship with Christ but few of of us want to do the work required to actually have it. We talk all around it and even attend courses and events to learn about how to have it, yet when it comes to actually doing what is necessary to have that close relationship with Christ, we have excuses or substitute things we think are of equal value in its place. We tend to want to take the easy road to relationship when there is nothing that can replace actually spending time with someone to get to know them. I see a similar thing in many couples who come to me for counseling. They all like the idea of marriage and what they can get out of it, but few really want to put the work in to have the marriage they want. So they take short cuts and stop communicating and start complaining when things don’t go their way. They all come into counseling looking for a short cut around the hard work it takes to maintain a relationship. In our spiritual lives, we too take short cuts all the time and then wonder why we don’t have the relationship with Christ that we all so desperately want. If we are going to take care of our souls and grow in our faith, we need to develop the desire and then respond to it in our pursuit of relationship with Christ.

The other issue that creeps up in our lives and effects how we serve and minister to others is our identity issues. To maintain spiritual health we need to be anchored in such a way that our lives are not thrown around by the things that come our way. When we are in a place of complete trust and we are taking care of our souls, we handle things in life with a depth of character that only a settled identity could have. But because of the fall and our humanness we struggle with two sides of a vicious coin. On the one side we have insecurity that says my identity is wrapped up in what others think of me and pride which says I am always right and others need to recognize how great I am. We tend to fluctuate between these things when we are driven by anxiety or need to feel we matter. The insecure side is looking for others to validate us and when they don’t come through we claim to be victims of some wrong and sulk and manipulate to get some sense of self from others. On the flip side if we are prideful we assume others are wrong and we get cynical and critical when others can’t seem to get with the program and see things from our perspective and act in our timing which is always right in our eyes. Cynicism and feeling sorry for ourselves are sure signs our life is not balanced and we are not taking care of our souls. Our call is walk in the middle of those two things and hold them in check because we know our identity is not found in what others say about us or how smart we are. Our identity is in a relationship and that relationship is with Christ.

The more we pay attention to our desire and settle the issue of our identity we set the stage for a soul that can be cared for and grow. As we seek to be authentic people whose back stage is the same as their front stage we learn that living life the way God intended is not just the right thing to do, but the only way to live.


Recognizing Who is in Your Boat

Today I read Exodus 39-40 and Mark 4:35-41. There is something incredible about the majesty and wonder of God. When we are in the presence of God and see him work in the situations in our lives, it silences all of our complaints and wonderings about why thing work the way they do. We need to spend more time in God’s presence so we experience more of his work in our lives.

I think its human nature to want to take short cuts. We want to find the easy way around things and look for the easiest way to get there. In our walk with God we want to experience his presence but we don’t want to do any of the work to make it happen even if the only work we have to do is spend time with him. We know it is a good thing to do but we want the miracles without any of the relationship. I think about the disciples who spent their whole lives with Jesus. They were constantly seeing miracles and hearing him teach. They saw him in his downtime and how he handled the stress of life. You would think at some point they would come to expect miracles out of Jesus. But again human nature gets the best of us and here they are in a boat in a storm. Jesus is sleeping peacefully and they are panicked over the waves and wind. I can only imagine what was going through their minds as they thought they might die on one hand and on the other, there was Jesus sleeping as if nothing was happening. I wonder if it ever crossed their minds that he knew something they didn’t or if they were just upset with him for not helping them do all they could to save their lives. Of course, then you have the other side with Jesus probably wondering, “When are these guys ever going to get it? They have been with me all this time and they still don’t get who I am. Can’t they even believe I have power over the wind?” I can picture their reaction after Jesus calms the wind. They were in awe, the novelty of having miracles happen in front of them never gets old. They may even have felt a little embarrassed over their panic and lack of faith.

In our lives we too struggle with the faith thing. We want to be near Jesus and now him well, but something in us doesn’t quite get it. We get caught up in the busyness of our lives and are focused on the waves and the wind that life brings our way and seem to forget we have Jesus in our boat quietly waiting for us to recognize he is there. When he does do miracles in our lives, we are in awe and thankful but we quickly forget when the next set of waves comes our way. We say we believe and know who Jesus is, yet we live as if we really don’t believe that. What does it cost to spend a little time with him everyday? A half hour more sleep in the morning? A little less TV at night? What is a relationship with him worth?

Lord, thank you for your presence in our lives. Forgive me for the times when I forget you are in my boat. Help me to live out my faith and do more than just say I believe. Please help my family through the current storm we are facing with Tyler and please free his mind. Amen.


Taking Care of Our Souls

I’ve just started reading a book by my friend Lance Witt entitled Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul. In the opening chapter of his book, he has a sentence that I think summarizes the issues most of us deal with when it comes to our spiritual formation. He says, “Having talked to some whose ministry has come crashing down around them, I can tell you the convergence of outward success, self-deception, soul neglect, and relational isolation creates the perfect storm for disaster.” These four things are important things for us to keep in mind as essentials when it comes to thinking about our own spiritual growth as leaders.

Outward Success
There is something about us that causes us to want to be successful in life. There is nothing wrong with doing our best and striving towards goals we have set in our lives. We are called to be good stewards of the things God has given us. The problem comes not when we do all we can to do our best to use the gifts God has given us. The problem comes when we actually start having success and begin to believe that we are the source of that success. When you and I get to this place we begin to believe what others tell us about ourselves and pride starts to set in. When that happens, we start to drift away from our close relationship with God because our ego has no need for any kind of dependence on anyone or anything. Meanwhile, our soul and character begins to be neglected and our interior life doesn’t have the strength to support the weight of our exterior life. When this happens we are set up to find some kind of relief from the pressure that success brings and many end up doing things that end our ministry. We have got to get beyond measuring how well we are doing by the numbers and successes of the things we do in the ministry and start to measure our success by our reflection on those successes and failures we have in ministry and how we have grown in and through each experience. The more our focus is on our interior life, the more we will have the character to handle the successes in our exterior life.

We all have a propensity towards fooling ourselves. There is something about the fall that allows us to talk ourselves into anything right or wrong. None of us likes to admit weakness or failure so we excuse those things away and don’t choose to work on what is most important. Without ruthless honesty about who we are and where we are at, we will never be able to truly grow to become more like Christ. It is in moments of self deception that we hide pieces of our lives in the dark corners of our soul and don’t want to shine a light in those directions for fear we might be exposed or look bad in front of others. The reality is, however, that the more we actually live in the light and let our weaknesses and dark spots show, that we actually experience the freedom and peace that we are all after in this world. The more I work to hide what is going on in my life, the more I get caught in playing a role and create more stress and tension in my life because I now have to remember and juggle this person who is not naturally who I am. I have talked with many people who have thought their sins where too great for anyone to know and that people would hate them if they knew what they were struggling with. These same people, when they chose to stop deceiving themselves and put their dark corners into the light, experienced a level of acceptance and grace that they never thought they would experience. Most people admire leaders who are transparent more than they do leaders who seem to be perfect. As humans we have a built in meter that tells us someone can’t be as perfect as they are presenting and we look for ways to expose it. If you hide in self deception, you will be found out eventually, and as you wait to be exposed, your life is filled with stress.

Soul Neglect
It is so easy in ministry to neglect our souls. We are so busy with the work of the ministry that we talk ourselves into thinking the work of the ministry is the same as taking care of our souls. When I was going into seminary I remember my dad telling me something that literally saved my soul. He said not to think that my study in class was a substitute for my time with God. He said if I didn’t take care of my soul and build my relationship with God I would end up dry and discouraged. I took his advice and was able to come through seminary ready for ministry. I knew plenty of other guys who didn’t heed that advice and burned out before they even got started. As leaders, we need to remember that our soul needs to be filled up and our relationship with God is the single most important thing to keep in tact as we seek to minister to others in His name. Neglect your soul and you have just hurt your congregation more than anything else.

Relational Isolation
This one issue is one of the biggest reasons leaders, and really any human being, fall. When we have no one in our lives to speak truth to us and to help us see ourselves and our choices from the perspective of reality rather than our well crafted rationalizations, we really are vulnerable. There is something about us as leaders that causes us to shy away from true relationships. We tend to believe the lie that people want a leader who has no faults and therefore we need to keep our distance from people if we are to keep our image up and ultimately our job. There is also a prideful side that causes us to think that we are the one’s who have arrived or are further along than the people we lead so we really don’t need the same level of accountability as the people we lead do. When we buy this lie we are missing out on an important aspect of how God created us. There is something about community that God built into everyone of us. He wants relationship with us and asks that we have relationship with others. When we are relationally isolated we literally lose something that God intended for each of us to have. When we lose that sense of connection and have no one who can see our lives and speak into them, we have no way of knowing how we are doing spiritually and can end up in a place where we talk ourselves into doing the wrong things for what we perceive as rational reasons. We all need the support and the accountability relationships bring if we are to grow as followers of Jesus Christ. Isolate relationally and that need to connect will come out in dysfunctional ways.

As we look at how to help one another to take care of our souls and to grow our lives and characters to look more like Jesus Christ, we have to look out for the things that can do the most damage. If we don’t manage our outward success, self deception, soul, and relationships our impulses and exterior pressures will manage us and drive us to a place of dryness and vulnerability. But the more we manage our souls and choose to live in the light in relationship with others the more we will experience the growth and stability we need as leaders and followers of Christ.

Thoughts on Helping Our Kids Grow Spiritually-Part 2

Credit: Free images from acobox.com
Developing the character of Christ and looking for ways to develop spiritual habits that connect our boys to Christ are challenging things to do with so many competing things in our boys lives. They are involved in church as well as school but we need to be the disciplers of our kids. To make this happen in our boys lives we have two things we do in this area.

First we want to have a time where our family engages in discussing what God is doing in our lives so they see that our faith is not merely a meeting we attend a couple of times a week but something we live out and integrate into our lives. So we make sure we eat lunch together after church on Sunday and we review what they learned in the children’s program that day and we share what we learned in big church. We are fortunate that our church puts the videos they use with our kids online along with a study guide for families to use to discuss the things they learned (http://saddleback.com/mediacenter/saddlebackkids/). I use my iPhone to view the video and the discussion guide and we have a great time sharing and looking for ways to apply the things we have learned.

Second we want the boys to see the power of scripture in their lives and to begin to develop the habit of spending a regular time with God in his word. So each boy has an iPod with the bible reading app on it. They have a daily reading plan and we have them read or listen through that plan. The great thing about the YouVersion Bible App (http://www.youversion.com/mobile/iphone) is that they can track along with it and it will read it to you. So they boys have an instant plan and can choose how they want to engage the text. I also created an internal blog on my Mac using Lion Server (you can use any kind of word program) where they journal what they have learned at least a couple times a week. Those journals are then available for everyone to see so we also learn from one another.

These two things have helped us to develop habits in our kids lives and to have spiritual conversations to help them to grow.

One of the things every kid needs to know is that they are unique and good at something. They also need to understand that the things that God has given them are not for the purpose of using them for themselves but to use for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” So our gifts are not for ourselves but for others. One of the things our boys need in their lives are the following:

They need to know they are loved unconditionally
They need to know we are proud of them.
They need to know they are good at something.

What we on regular basis is express our love verbally and let them know how proud we are of them, not just for their achievements, but because of who they are. If our boys are going to ever minister to others they need to be filled up with love and sense of who they are in Christ and we can model that through our love and expression of how special they are to us. We also point out the gifts that God has put in their hearts and has given them and help them to see ways they can develop and use those things to serve others.

Helping our boys have a global worldview and a heart for people and the gospel is something that is important to us. In our boys Kids Small Group experience they were able to share their testimonies with a younger group of kids and really got to process what it meant for them that Christ was their savior. Part of helping them to be open to sharing this with their friends is to help them to remember the things God is doing and has done in their lives and to also help them develop a biblical worldview so they know how to respond to the challenges they will face on a daily basis. To help with this we use the things they may view on television through commercials or their cartoons to talk about whether those things are presenting a biblical perspective or not. One thing I learned from our Pastor was to have the boys be able to point out which of the aspects of lust (lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, pride of life) does each commercial appeal to. It actually makes commercial bearable and a teachable moment at the same time! In addition to having these world view discussions, we try to remember all of the times we have seen God show up in our lives. Remembering those things is a theme expressed throughout the scriptures and is something that parents are commanded to do with their kids in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” One of the things we are going to start doing is recording the ways we have seen God show up in our lives and write them on stones that we will put in a pot that we will pull out and review often. Helping our boys to reflect and remember is a crucial part to helping them have a biblical worldview.

As you can see nothing here is rocket science. These are just some basic things we are trying to do with our kids to help them always remember God’s presence in their lives and to help to grow to have a love for God that is greater than their love for anything else. We are not perfect at this and have times where we are not as consistent as we want to be. But having a plan has helped us to stay focused on what is important! What are some ways you help your kids grow spiritually?

Thoughts on Helping Our Kids Grow Spiritually-Part 1

Credit: Free images from acobox.com
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to raise spiritually healthy kids. I have three boys at home, two of which have Aspergers (a high functioning form of Autism). Cheryl and I are challenged on a regular basis to figure out ways to keep them engaged spiritually and looking for ways to help them process things from a biblical perspective. I find that many approaches to raising biblically healthy kids usually are either too complex to make them practical or involve making sure your kids attend the church regularly. Now all of these approaches are valid and have some good points to them, but in the day to day of a busy home with kids who are being asked to do more and more when it comes to school work, how do we practically develop the habits necessary to help them integrate their faith into their lives?

At the church I attend we have the five purposes as a paradigm for things to aim at as it relates to spiritual growth. Those five things are worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and mission and they come from the Great Commandment (Matthew 22) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28). These five things serve as the basis for what our children’s small groups process uses to train our kids. As Cheryl and I thought through this process we decided to look for ways we could make these five things visible in our own home and reinforce what they are already learning in their small group. Here are some things we have been doing on a regular basis:

We want to help our kids connect their lives to God and learn that worship is about bringing the moment by moment things of their lives to Him. As Romans 12:2 says,“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Beyond talking to them about life and processing the things that are happening from a biblical worldview, we started praying a blessing over them every night as a part of our bedtime ritual. I will pray with each boy separately and pray Numbers 6:25-27 “ May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. I also pray Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” I will then pray for the events of the next day and for their character. We started this about 4 years ago and today the kids are always making sure that I don’t forget to this. It has created a teachable moment and a way to worship God together on a daily basis.

Helping our boys learn to do relationships is quite a challenge especially when we have two boys who don’t understand all of the nuances of relating to people because of their Aspergers. Yet we want to make sure they know how to handle conflict and how to resolve the issues that can creep up in relationships. Beyond processing what happens in relationships on a regular basis we have set up two things we want them to catch: Confession and Forgiveness. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The ability to see a wrong that they have committed and confessing that to the person they have wronged is a huge piece of being able to have deep fellowship with others. Most conflict in relationships is due to the fact that people don’t know how and refuse to admit their part and apologize for it. Confession deals with the guilt we carry around in life and frees us from being ruled by it. Forgiveness is all about releasing the resentment we might have towards someone else. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” We are to forgive as God through Christ has forgiven us. So we teach the boys to handle confession and forgiveness like this:

Confession: “I’m sorry I did ____________. Will you Forgive me?”
Forgiveness: “I forgive you for doing that. We are ok”

In doing this we are hoping that they catch the fact that they need to quickly release the guilt and resentment they could have in life and that relationships with others are worth healing and making right.

In Part 2, we will discuss the other three purpose areas and how we are trying to help our boys to see those things and live them out in their own lives. These are just starting points but we have seen some cool things start to happen in their lives as a result. What are some things you have done in the areas of worship and fellowship to help your kids grow?

The Situations of Life

Today I read Jeremiah 30-31 and the next chapter in Soulful Spirituality. How we handle situations in life have dramatic impacts on our own spiritual development and the spiritual development of others. What we perceive to be movements of God or words of wisdom from him can sometimes be nothing more than our attempts to speak into being something we desperately want to happen or in some ways to rescue God from what we perceive as bad PR. We long so much for change to happen, especially in times where life feels like it is not working right, that cause ourselves to hear a voice that we quickly qualify as the voice of God.

In Jeremiah’s day the people were living in despair over their captivity to Babylon. They couldn’t understand how this could be anything close to God’s will and their souls which had been far away from God up to that point did not have the capacity to view the situation from his perspective because they had little perspective on their own lives and how they had failed to live up to what God had commanded. So various “prophets” started speaking for God on things they perceived would happen which all related to quick and early relief from their present sufferings. As you would suspect this message was popular among the people and they chose to listen to these men instead of listening to the minority voice which was really the only voice from God (Jeremiah) who was speaking about long term suffering with a great long term outcome.

Somehow we don’t do well dealing with what we perceive is bad news in life. We tend to think that true spirituality and connection to God should equal spiritual ecstasy and for lack of a better term, good luck, when it comes to how we experience life. Most of us like to live in the world of cause and effect where we feel that certain things we do for God should have certain positive effects in our lives. The reality is, real life, authentic living, happens not only in the spiritual highs of life but in the spiritual lows as well. Our character and our sense of being fully alive in this world is the balance between these two things. In Benner’s book he talks about the spirit being the transcendent fire in our belly that drives us forward and gives us a spiritual high of sorts while the soul is the container that brings a sense of reality and grounding to life that allows us to grow in and through difficult times in life. Have spirit at the expense of soul and you have people consumed by their longings and desires that causes them to flame out or live reckless lives. Have soul at the expense of spirit and you have a life of despair, depression, and melancholy that causes them to live a lifeless and drab life. Our lives are meant to be lived in the balance between the two. Where we live life with passion but do so with a full understanding and embrace of the realities that face us everyday. This allows us to accept both good and bad from God and see both as opportunities to grow spiritually. When this happens cause and effect are not as important as how we live in the midst of life’s circumstances and how they grow our character. It allows us to be at home in our own skin and develop a depth that anchors us to God regardless of the circumstances of life. That kind of grounding allows us to deal with the reality of a message like Jeremiah delivered with a sense of hope and perspective that allows us to function within that reality.

Lord, help me to live an authentic life that balances my spirit and soul in such a way that I am rooted and anchored in you. Help me to take things as they come and strive to constantly hear your true voice in the midst of life’s circumstances. Amen.

Do Others Feel the Love?

Today I read Job 26-27, Mark 15-16, and RPJ Chapter 40. Relationships and how we treat other people says a lot about our faith and where we put our trust. Many times we may be well intentioned in what we are doing but we put the task or the principle in front of the person/people we are interacting with. When we do that, we end up hurting or using people to get to the end we have in mind. I think about Job who had to defend his own innocence to his friends who should have been comforting him instead of defending their perception of God. For some reason they felt his theology was off and felt they should spend their time correcting him instead of just being with him and supporting and praying him through the process of pain he was in. The Pharisees were more concerned about their position and maintaining all they had built up than they were with Jesus as a person. Their demand that he be crucified showed the extent people will go to in order to defend their own status or what they feel are their rights. Right in the book of Mark it says that Pilate knew that they wanted him dead because of their envy. It was obvious to everyone but them. In fact I bet they felt they had good theological grounds for demanding his death. Why do we get so caught up in ourselves that we forget to love others as Jesus commanded us to? Why can’t we seem to think of the other person before we respond?

This why it is such a powerful statement that Jesus makes that they will know we are his followers by our love. Do I love others enough for them to see the gospel in my interactions with them? Or, do they sense when I feel like they are interrupting what I really want to accomplish at the moment? Something as simple as loving others, which sounds too simple when we hear it, is one of the most difficult and profound things we could ever take on. And I know that I cannot be that person on a consistent basis without being so in tune with the Holy Spirit that I actually see the other person as God sees him/her. On this election day there are many Christians who have placed their hope and trust in the political system and they will be devastated if things don’t go their way today. Just as Israel put their trust in being rescued by Egypt in the Old Testament it feels like God is saying to us as he said to them, I am your only salvation. You are to put your faith, trust, and love only in me. When I do that I am free to love others as God loves them and begin to see the world through his eyes realizing that all of this stuff is temporary and my role is to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ whether times are good or bad. That sharing starts with my life. Do they know I am a follower of Jesus Christ by my love? Or, do they know only because I told them?

Lord, help me to see others through your eyes. Make me a person of love who sees people as a priority not as an interruption. Please help me to harness my good intentions especially if those intentions are put in front of loving others. I want people to know I am your follower by the way I love them. Amen.