I’m not done praying

From my last post, I am still not going to get into the swamp we’ve all become stuck in. I still need to pray. So, I continue with my prayer of confession.

God of all mercy,
we confess that we have sinned against you,
opposing your will in our lives.
We have denied your goodness in each other,
in ourselves, and in the world you have created.
We repent of the evil that enslaves us,
the evil we have done,
and the evil done on our behalf.
Forgive, restore, and strengthen us
through our Savior Jesus Christ,
that we may abide in your love
and serve only your will. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

All the shouting and we forget something

We’ve just gone ballistic. Between World Vision and the Supreme Court case with Hobby Lobby, we’re just plain nuts.

I’ve done all I can to just read and evaluate and pray… but we’re just going nuts.

As I sit here watching Facebook and Twitter just explode with anger (as it did yesterday with the first World Vision decision), what has been lacking is any type of prayer. Even on my part. I am not more holy.

But I cannot jump into this melee.

So if no one else is willing to stop and repent… of the vitriol and so much more… I will.

In a famous letter to the editor in the time of G.K. Chesteron, a newspaper asked in an editorial, “What is the trouble with the world?”

Chesterton wrote this back, “Dear sirs, I am.”

We are blowing up at each other in the body of Christ. What is the trouble?

I submit: I am.

Psalm 103.8,10-12

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He has not dealt wit us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being, whose face is hidden from us by our sins, and whose mercy we forget in the blindness of our hearts: cleanse us from all our offenses, and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires, that with reverent and humble hearts we may draw near to you, confessing our faults, confiding in your grace, and finding in you our refuge and strength; through Jesus Christ your Son.

Book of Common Worship,
Louisville: Westminster/John Know Press, 1993

 

Book Review — The Hole in Our Gospel

I am grateful to Thomas Nelson for the review copy of The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.

Part autobiography, part biblical challenge, Stearns wants to raise our awareness to the needs of the poor in the world. More than that, he wants us to realize the amazing resources we already have at our disposal that would alleviate a lot of suffering, but we are sitting on our resources rather than using for the good of the Kingdom.

Stearns was a very successful CEO in the corporate world when World Vision came calling in 1998. They asked him to be president, leaving behind a very wealthy opportunity in his company. Stearns had been challenged along the way to do more for the gospel and for the poor in this world. After refusing the job, he ended up taking it and has led World Vision for the past 11 or 12 years.

The biblical challenge is clear. There is a need to bring justice to the poor of this world. There are solutions that can be brought to the poor through the Church. Yet, the American Church sits on incredible resources and does very little. Stearns’ statistics are bone-jarring. American Christians gave less to the Church in 2005 as a percentage of income than they did in 1931 during the Great Depression.

The book is not just a challenge to give. It is to open our eyes to the needs of the world. It doesn’t take billions of dollars to make a difference. It just takes each believer stepping up and doing something that will reach beyond their own world.

There are a couple of observations that bother me somewhat. First, Stearns had the luxury of moving from CEO to World Vision. His future is secure. In one sense, it is easy for a millionaire to talk to others about giving. A lot of talk I hear about stepping up to give comes from people of means. I do not mean this to be completely critical of Stearns. He sacrifices in his way. But these stories of Jesus dealing with people to make life changes seem to come from the top end of the pay scale.

The second observation is his examples of good churches and bad churches. He is very critical of American churches, but really only hits on the megachurches. He came from a megachurch as a member and probably attends a megachurch when he is home. He sees the massive wealth of those congregations and gets fed up with them spending it on themselves.

The “good” examples come from small churches… in Africa. He doesn’t find any good examples of small churches in America. I pastor a small church in America. Am I lumped in with the megachurches? How can I successfully answer the call to reach the poor of the world in my context? He doesn’t really address that.

Again, those are not meant to be overly critical. I am challenged by this book. I am all too aware of what is happening in this world and desire to see small incremental changes by every believer. If every believer WOULD make small incremental changes in their giving and focus, we could tackle some HUGE problems for villages in poorer parts of the world.

Compassion and Conservative Christians

Who knew? Obviously, no one had any idea “conservative” Christians could be compassionate… that is until someone like the New York Time officially recognizes that, hey, conservative Christians actually do some good! Okay, NOW, conservative Christians can be considered as compassionate. (It was like the media “discovering” Pentecostals in 2006, the 100th Anniversary of Azusa Street.)

Nicholas Kristof gives a slight tip of the hat to the compassion of conservative Christians, and their amazing generosity. He still needs to take his digs at that crowd. (But, hey, I still need to take my digs at him as well.)

Kristof does make an excellent point that is overlooked so often by many people:

A root problem is a liberal snobbishness toward faith-based organizations. Those doing the sneering typically give away far less money than evangelicals. They’re also less likely to spend vacations volunteering at, say, a school or a clinic in Rwanda.

The media may be finally waking up to the hard work, the generosity, and YES, the compassion of conservative Christians. Of course, there is no way they will attribute that phrase to George W. Bush and his work. Why be overly generous?

Still, it’s nice to see some kudos for some very hard work going on in Haiti, Africa, and other parts of the world.