Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Sound of a Baby Crying

Of all the sounds in a church what is more beautiful than the sound of a baby crying?

The sound of a baby crying means that there are parents brave enough to bring their children to church.
It is the sound that parents weighed the inconvenience of packing up their child to giving their child the chance to be with God’s people and being with God’s people won.
It is the sound of a congregation who is willing to hear beyond a cry and hear the sound of opportunity and blessing.

The sound of a baby crying is…
        The sound of hope
        The sound of faith
        The sound of love

From the old and wrinkled hands of Sarah,
the sound of a baby crying meant that God had kept his promise.
From the basket floating among the bulrushes of the Nile,
the sound of a baby crying meant that God had sent a deliverer.
From the humble manger of Bethlehem,
the sound of a baby crying meant that God had sent his son.

For wherever is heard the sound of a baby crying…
There is hope.
There is faith.
There is love.

Of all the sounds in a church, tell me, what is more beautiful than the sound of a baby crying?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cat / Dog Theology

I have a cat, actually two of them.  I have a dog.  They are remarkably different.  Gerald Robison, in his book Cat and Dog Theology, relates these differences to our relationship with God.  One of those differences is how we respond to the care and attention of God.

When I come home from work and swing open the door my cats rarely acknowledge my presence.  In fact they often seem a bit annoyed that I have interrupted their busy schedule.  Usually reclining on the couch, they may give me one of those annoyed looks and then go back to whatever deep thoughts have occupied them for the last six hours.  When I go to the back door and call my dog he comes bounding up the steps with tongue and tail wagging simply delighted that I have safely returned home from whatever brave adventure I have been on.  Seeing me makes his day!

When I feed the cats they amble over to the bowl, sniff their food, and give me a look as is to say, "Is that the best you can do?"  When I feed my dog he goes head first into his bowl as if I have slaughtered the fatted calf for him.

I essentially treat them the same but their responses are so different.  My dog looks at me and says, "You feed me, you shelter me, you pet me - you must be god!"  My cat looks at me and says, "You feed me, you shelter me, you pet me - I must be god!" 

That comparison really got me thinking about how I respond to God's care and love for me.  Who do I see as the master?  How do I respond to his provision?  Too often, I must admit, I snub my nose at Him complaining why He couldn’t have done little better.  Too often I take His care and love for granted barely recognizing his presence in this world and in my life.  Too often I feel annoyed by Him and His interruptions in my life.  Too often I'm a cat when it comes to recognizing who God is.

This cat-like disposition we often have reveals itself in our approach to worship.  How many times have you slammed your alarm on Sunday morning wishing for another Saturday?  We grudgingly put on our church clothes and slink out the door and make the drive to church thinking more about what's going to happen Sunday afternoon rather than focusing on the time we have to actually thank God for what he's done for us the last six days.  We recline on our soft pews annoyed at the preacher's long-windedness, uninspired by the songs, and snoozing through the prayers.   When church is over we give God a snide look as if to say, "Aren’t you fortunate to get an hour of my time!"

What if we were more like dogs on Sunday morning?  We'd bound out of bed anticipating the time we can spend with our Master.  We'd drive to church with our tongues and tail wagging, overcome with excitement.  When the preacher mentions the Master's name we'd jump up and down.  We'd sing along with every song, no matter how we sounded.  We'd treasure every moment we had with the Master and when the hour was over we'd look up at our Master as if to say, "I can’t wait to be with you again!"

I suppose we'd all do well to see God though the eyes of our dogs.  To see Him as Master.  To recognize Him as God.  And to delight that he invites us to live with Him!  

It's been said that cats have staff, dogs have masters.  When it comes to our relationship with God, we all need to go to the dogs.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Some Thoughts on Prayer and Football

Many from our community are upset by the recent ruling in Pottsboro prohibiting public prayer before football games.  I'm a little hacked as well.  I’d like everyone to pray Christian prayers wherever "two or three are gathered."  But another part of me thinks there might be something not so bad about this.  Here's why:

(1) No Christian prayer before football games means no other kind of prayer as well.  I suppose if we allow a Christian minister to pray we would have to allow an Imam to lead a Muslim prayer or a monk to lead a Buddhist prayer, or an atheist to lead an atheist prayer or whatever they call their meditative time.   I would really not like any of that at all.

(2) To tell you the truth, I rarely feel that throwing in a prayer before a football game while people are juggling their popcorn and arranging those big foam fingers is hardly a religious experience.  I'm suspicious that these types of public prayers resemble those condemned by Jesus in Matthew 6.  Just to remind you Jesus says, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. " Matthew 6:5–6 (NLT)

Why do we want to pray at football games in the first place?  Now, I'm not saying that there can be absolutely no pure motive behind the practice, but I think it tends to be more of a "look at us, we're praying" type of prayer.   It comes off to me as more of a prayer that makes us feel good and makes us look good and I don't think that's the real purpose of prayer.  Maybe prohibiting these types of prayer will get us to go into those private times of prayer where we more often see Jesus praying.  He normally went off by himself to pray, sometimes even on other nights than Friday!

(3) Maybe people telling us not to pray will have the exact opposite result.  Maybe we will pray even more when that opportunity is taken away.  I know I need to pray more and my experience is that churches need to pray more as well.  In fact, if we call a prayer meeting I can count on a low attendance.  We recently had a back-to-school prayer at our church and had about 12.528% of our Sunday morning worship attendance (that figure is not precise, I just like adding decimal places).   A group I'm a part of celebrates National Day of Prayer and we get a whopping 100 people out to pray.  We even feed them hamburgers.  Speaking of prayer and hamburgers, isn’t it odd that we try to boost our prayer meetings by feeding people?  Prayer and feasting has replaced prayer and fasting.  Something just seems wrong about that.   Maybe no prayers at football games will get more people praying at other opportunities even when the kitchen is closed.

Again, I miss the good ole days when we all read from the "good book" and could all recite the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer.  But we live in different times and if we are going to change this world for Christ we're going to have to do a lot more than squeeze in a prayer before kickoff.  Besides, Christians have faced much more serious times and by the power of God they've come through.  I suspect that a people seeking God can make it through this as well.

Anyway, keep praying!