Saturday, April 29, 2006

Behold the power of prayer!

Do you pray? What do you pray? When do you pray? How do you pray? Most importantly, who do you pray to? I have heard a phrase recently that made my hair stand on end. It makes the back of my neck tingle every time I hear it. It seems common in Christian circles and that, more than anything, bothers me. Do you beleive in "the power of prayer"?
Can prayer move mountains? Does the laying of hands heal the sick? Though I invoke the ire of many pious televangelists, no, it does not. How many times have your prayers gone unanswered? How many times have you asked for healing only to watch a loved one die? I challenge any Christian to move a mountain with his or her faith or calm the seas with a command. How about parting the Red Sea? Can you raise the dead?
Did it work? I sincerely doubt it. No mortal has the power to make the mountain bow down or the sea to subside. It is not a gift God has given us. Nobody, regardless of the strength of their faith, commands the power of God.
Why can we not do these things? Jesus himself taught that we could "with the faith of a mustard seed". Are we truly so weak in our faith that God will not move through us? Yes, we are.
Once again I feel I will offend many Christians by saying so, but it is true. When people talk about the power of prayer, they forget about the God who gives their prayer power. My hands hold no power to heal the sick. I cannot raise the dead. Only God has that power. Only if I pray believing that God will use HIS power to heal will it happen. I must then realize that, though I am the one who asked for God's blessing, I had nothing to do with the miracle.
Why, then, can I not recognize this and change? Shouldn't this understanding enable me to put my faith where it needs to be and slay a fig tree or feed the masses? I suspect that this understanding may only make it harder to do that. It comes with a sense that I need only to change my thinking to bestow power unto myself. It's kind of a trap our minds set for us. Understanding leads to arrogance and actually denies faith.
If the people of the Bible could perform miracles, why can our faith not grow as theirs did? The answer is kind of painful. We do not and cannot know God. Jesus was God made flesh. He had a kind of relationship with God we cannot have in this life or the next. The deciples walked with Jesus and knew him personally. They had the kind of relationship with God we long to have but will only have in His kingdom. When the deciples asked Jesus why he taught in parables, he explained that the people could not understand his teachings because the people had not walked with Him as they had. They did not know him.
We are not the deciples. We are the crowd to whom he spoke in parables. I do not know if we can ever walk with Christ as the deciples did, but I do know that we are not doing it yet. We must take time every once in a while to remind ourselves that it is not Christianity we seek, but God. We must realize that we are mortal men and women are no more or less than anyone else on the street. Unfortunately it is easier said than done.
In all of this, I do not condemn prayer. Prayer is important because it brings us closer to God. I hope you pray daily. Just remember to whom your prayer is addressed.

God does not come because we pray. We pray because he is already there.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What ever happened to Judas?

Have you heard? New historical writings have been discovered and translated which are being regarded as the Gospel of Judas. The writings claim that Judas acted under orders from Jesus himself to hand him over to the pharases. Is it true? Could it be that Judas was not a traitor?
I think the more important questions are "Does this change my faith?" or "Does this change the importance of Jesus's sacrifice?" The answers are probably no. The important thing is that Jesus died. How and why become irrelevant. It does, however, cause us to question our understanding of the history surrounding his death.
We should always find a reasons to question our understanding of the bible and our faith. Too often, beleifs are based on false pretences. People believe things because they want to believe them or because they are afraid it is true. They believe them because someone behind a pulpit told them to. They believe because an obscure verse justifies their fear and hatered. They believe because they are afraid that not believing makes them unchristian.
Believing for these reasons DESTROYS faith.
We must not believe simply because a preist or pastor told us it was true. No matter how strong their faith is, they are not perfect. Worse yet, not all are trustworthy. A single bible verse is not enough to base a belief on. Often enough, verses are meant to be read in the context of the whole chapter. Chapters must be read in the context of the whole book. Single verses are easy to misinterperet.
Having run short of time, I have to wrap this up. Before you believe something, pray about it. STUDY it. Question it. Occasionally, take stock of your beliefs and remind yourself why you believe it. Was Judas a traitor? I don't know. Was it all God's plan anyway? Yes. Read the Gospel of Judas if you find it and pray. Pray hard.

Monday, April 03, 2006

What are Christians?

Last time I posted, I ranted, albietly somewhat incoherently, about what Christians are not. Christians are not judgemental. Christians are not hateful. Christians are not quick to anger. These things are very natural for people to be. There is something very unnatural about Christians. I would like to talk now about what Christians ARE. Christians are changed people. As my brother commented, we thank God for the change.
Christians are transformed by God. Christians talk about asking Jesus into their hearts. Jesus was the Son of God or, as believed by many people including myself, WAS God. God IS love. Conclusion: We invite the love of God into our hearts. This is the transormation of the Christian. Jesus taught that in order to fill the law of God, we must love God with all our heart, mind, body and spirit and love our neighbors as ourselves. When we live with genuine love in our hearts, we fill the law of God, not for concious will to do so, but because our hearts long to do it. We do the right thing because the right thing is the only thing we know to do. We don't ask "What would Jesus do?" because we don't have to.
When we act without love in our hearts, when we judge, when we give in to anger or hate, Christians feel a stong sense of guilt. To some, this is a conviction of the Holy Spirit. To me, this is remorse because we have walked away from God.We know we have acted without love and therefore have distanced himself from God. Christians long to be near to God, so we feel this sorrow. This remorse, this recognition of our distance from God, amounts to our repentance. We know that we have displeased God and we regret doing so. Christians don't need to be told they have sinned. They simply know it in their hearts.
Of course, this is the Christian in his or her ideal state. All Christians are human beings and are flawed people. Christians, true Christians, are changed and are ever reaching to reach a place closer to God. This, to me, is Heaven. When we are finally rid of the coporeal carapice that binds us to temptation, we finally reach a place with God and find eternal contentment in Him.