Pastor's Blog

Listening to Jesus Might Upset You

It was supposed to be the first of many boring meetings about a 28-year transportation plan involving six counties in the Sacramento area. No votes. No money. Just initial information. It was the kind of stuff that made transportation engineers and  demographers salivate: reams of detailed projections for population growth, housing and jobs.

30 people showed up. 12 came with an agenda. “His presentation was baloney!” And, “This is a sham!” And “The plans are utopia!” These kind of comments silenced the presenter. The meeting ended. 12 people shouted down six counties.

We’ve all seen a crowd turn on a dime. What begins as peaceful curdles into hostile. Then the minds of individuals shut down, or, rather, they congeal into a kind of group-think (mob?). Few things are more scary than an unfocused, angry crowd. You never know what they’ll do. Neither do they until they do it.

This happened to Jesus in Luke 4. It was supposed to be a typical Sabbath synagogue service. The right forms would be followed. The scroll of Scripture would be unfurled and revered. Jesus made the right moves. He was there. He was reverent. He read what was given to Him. He was thoughtful.

But His application caused the chugging train of community goodwill to derail. “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.” (Luke 4.28) They wanted to kill Him. How quickly the worshippers in the synagogue turned into a mob!

Listening to Jesus is not like drinking Pepto Bismol. His words were never intended to merely affirm what we already know and pat us on the head for how we’re already living. Listening to Jesus can be like watching a video of your crime in court. Or listening to Jesus can be like finding out your cancer has been cured.

It all depends. Do you trust Jesus? He does know what He’s talking about … especially when He’s talking about you.

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with

On Living a Life of Prayer

I’ve tried the notebooks. Tried the journals. Tried the ‘Christian version’ of daily planners with nifty boxes for ongoing prayers.  I tried the prayer closet, using an actual walk-in closet made available when our daughter left home.

Then I forgot to write in my notebooks. I went days without journaling and felt guilty for my lack of discipline. The daily planner was good … when I remembered where I left it. The prayer closet worked well until the comfort of the cool dark room made it more of a nap closet; always startling to wake up in a prayer.

Over time I realized most personal prayer in my life happened with eyes wide open, while driving, before entering a room, before (sometimes in!) meetings, walking, on my bike, on the treadmill, in the shower, in the quiet of the early dark morning, while the rest of the house is asleep and I can hear my own breathing.

It seems prayer became more real to me the more I prayed. Sometimes those prayers were behind closed doors in quiet spaces. Sometimes they were prayers in parking lots, short bursts calling upon God to help me understand why I couldn’t break through a personal problem. Sometimes they are quiet, interior hopes lofted towards God during the last song before I preach His Word: “O God, be more than me and my preparation. You must be more than me, because I am  not nearly enough!”

Here’s my suggestion. Rather then feel guilty about how much you don’t pray, or how poorly: PRAY.

The energy you use berating yourself for your prayerlessness is energy wasted. Talk to God. Share with Him everything. Hold nothing back. Thank Him for the joys and wonders of your life. Plead with Him, intensely, for any area of your life. You may not receive immediate “answers.” After a while, though, you may begin to get some hints of understanding, or acceptance or (who knows?) renewal.

Above all else: pray.

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with

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