Tag Archives: questions

Prayer Challenge

Title: The Prayer of Jesus (St John Passion - ...

Title: The Prayer of Jesus (St John Passion – 3) Painter: Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz (b.1956) Year: 1990 Characteristics: Oil on canvas, 245 x 137 cm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus made radical promises regarding prayer.

  Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. (Matthew 7:7)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

Jesus promised that his disciples could “ask whatever they wish” and God would make it so. Such bold promises challenge my observation of the church and the world. So many prayers seem to go unanswered or forgotten.

I am not talking about what I consider “childish” prayers, like winning the lottery or finding a parking spot at the shopping mall. I am thinking about those real prayers of the heart, when day-after-day you pray for the healing of a loved one. A friend is afflicted with cancer or an addiction, a spouse is battling depression or a child is traveling in the wrong crowd and we pray. We pray asking God to bring healing and peace to this person believing that this is God’s will for God’s people. Jesus certainly brought healing to those in need; healing and wholeness is what God desires for all of creation, especially his children.

Naturally if the person resists God’s healing, God will not force mercy. Often a person wrestling with addiction has to hit bottom before they can see how powerless they are in their addiction. God does not force healing.

Still many of us pray daily for God’s healing and we do not experience it. Oh, there are those occasions when miraculous healings occur. Thanks be to God! I have participated in prayer services where God’s power has restored the sick to health. Yet such answers seem almost arbitrary because others have not had the same prayers answered even when their faith was strong and their prayers persistent.

I do not know the answer to my own question, other than to look to Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed for his own cup of suffering to be taken away, yet the next day he walked to the cross and death. His prayer was real and deep. And though he did drink the cup, his prayers gave him the strength and power to walk to Golgotha . . . . and three days later, the empty tomb.

And that is what we each need: the strength and courage to walk the path God has given us. So, like Jesus, we pray, “your will be done.”  The final answer to all prayers comes in Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of new life in him.

Lord Jesus, your will be done in my life.

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The Path of Questions

Winter Wonderland Road by Andrew Young

Often our journey with Christ is like this snowy roadway, uncertain and slippery. We seek certainty and God gives us surprises and questions.

This morning in our Men’s Bible Study as we read Mark 2 and 3 together, I was struck by how many questions Jesus asked:

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? Mark 2:9

The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? Mark 2:19

Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill? Mark 3:4

How can Satan cast out Satan? Mark 3:23

Who are my mother and my brothers? Mark 3:33

I realized that several of these questions are rhetorical in nature. Jesus answered them himself in short order. Still he asked questions to push and to prod his listeners to think about their faith, to consider how their faith in God impacted their lives. The questions are something that we as readers of the gospel should take seriously.

As a pastor I am often asked questions by congregants about current theological issues. Such as, “Must someone confess Jesus Christ as Lord in order to go to heaven?” or “Is the Bible literally true when it says _________________?” I sometime like being the expert, the answer man. It seems to gives me a certain status or recognition. However there is a danger if I answer too quickly. I can possibly cut off the conversation one is having with God, wrestling with the question. The “chewing” on the question can push us to deeper trust and faith in God.

Jesus seemed to recognize this, often answering a question with a question. Clearly he was the “expert” who knew the answer, but he sought a deeper trust relationship with the questioner and also with us, the modern reader.  He showed us that his path is not like a superhighway, but  more often a winding path on a winter’s day.

So pay attention to the questions Jesus asked by asking yourself, “What is Jesus trying to teach me?” 

Lord Jesus, help me not to settle for easy answers, but to trust you to guide my wandering journey.

P.S.  Andy Young is my nephew in Seattle and has a great photo slide show on Facebook.

Salt of the Earth?

A Mountain of Salt

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt loses it taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot” (Matthew 5:13).  Such a metaphor raises all kinds of questions for me.  Salt seems so ordinary and mundane, something we take for granted.   Yes, it is necessary for making a fine meal, but it is the exotic spices and herbs that get the attention.  Salt brings out other  flavors, but who wants a dish with too much salt?

Years ago, on April 1st, my older sister pulled a practical joke on my siblings by mixing a large quantity of salt into the sugar bowl.  At breakfast, as they spooned sugar on to their cereal, she watched us carefully, saying nothing.  When they took their first bite and then spit it all out, she burst out laughing.   But my mother was not too pleased with the wasted cereal. My sister had to clean up the mess from too much salt. 

When Jesus spoke, salt was used in Jerusalem for temple sacrifices, “You shall not omit from your grain offering the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt” (Leviticus 2:13).  Could Jesus be inferring that our lives are to be an offering to God, a gift for God to use?  Could we be part of God’s covenant to renew and restore the earth?  Do I enhance God’s flavor in the world?

And just how does salt lose its saltiness?   Perhaps it means that the salt is polluted with impurities and stray matter.   In Exodus 30:35 God instructs the Israelites to make a prayer incense that includes salt, “seasoned with salt, pure and holy.”  I know that my own life at times becomes polluted in ways not pleasing to God.  How will I know when I have lost my saltiness?  Does the community have a role in helping me stay salty?

Jesus’ last phrase about salt being trample under foot makes me smile. In Minnesota there is plenty of salt being spread on roads, bridges, and sidewalks for us to trample upon.   Jesus did not concern his audience with the ice-melting properties of salt, but it is a critical part of our culture. Road salt covers my car after yesterday’s snowstorm, yet I am thankful for its ability to clear road ice. 

What thoughts comes to your mind when Jesus declares, “You are the salt of the earth“?

The Certainty of Questions

As the new lead pastor I have been asking lots of questions.  Who prepares the worship folders, the video slides, or the confirmation materials? Who plows the parking lot?  How much money is in the budget for mission outreach? Who cleans the bathrooms?   Like any new hire I am in the midst of a sharp learning curve, realizing everyday that there is more and more I don’t know.   That can be unnerving at times, especially when my personality is one that likes to appear very competent and knowledgable.  I hate looking foolish!

So I am struck by the amount of questions in this Sunday’s scripture lesson, Matthew 11:2-11.  First, John the Baptist has a question for Jesus, “Are you the promised Messiah that so many people are expecting, or should we start looking for someone else?”  Wow!   The fiery, intense John suddenly has cold feet about Jesus.   John questions whether he has prepared the way for the wrong guy. 

Second, Jesus asks the crowd questions about John, “What were you all expecting when you went out to hear John preach?”  Jesus challenges the expectations and assumptions of the people. Could it be that we allow our assumptions to dictate what God should do or be?   Do we at times assume that God’s ways should match our expectations?  Can questions break open a new perspective, a new vision?  Can doubt play a role in shaping faith?

What questions do you wrestle with as you seek to trust, live and serve?