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Thursday, August 20, 2015

How do We Live in the Tension?

Photo by Praisaeng courtesy of
A few weeks ago I was intrigued by a Facebook discussion sparked by an article about the gay marriage issue. Many people weighed in, some agreeing with the article's position, others strongly disagreeing. As I read the comments and followed the debate, I wanted to have the perfect comment to end the debate, to resolve the tension.

I admit, I want an easy-peasy, straightforward answer. I want both sides to walk away at peace with the other. I want resolution. However, beliefs and opinions are strong and opposing. Longings are powerful. Pain is difficult to overcome. There is no easy resolution. So we end up living in the tension. How do we navigate that?

How do we live out a Christian faith in a post-Christian (sometimes it even feels anti-Christian) culture?

I wish I had an easy answer. I wish I had the solution, however at this point, I am left with a few things I know and lots of questions.

I know God loves humankind -- more than we can possibly imagine. I know that God wants people to choose Him and to obey Him. I know that God chose, at incredibly immense cost to Himself, to allow people to chose for themselves whether or not to obey Him and that I need to give them the same freedom He does. I know that God wants me to love and demonstrate grace in the same way He has to me (oh, how poorly I do this!!!). I know that God has standards of right and wrong that He established for our well-being.

Still there is this tension, this place where we live that has no simple answers. How do we both live according to God's standards of right and wrong and love those who don't? How do become involved, intelligent, gracious citizens of a country where we have the freedom to influence public policy on matters that involve strongly held, but controversial, issues of faith and morality?

I don't know for sure. Yet, if we desire to be authentic in our faith and draw others to Christ, then I think we must come together with those who hold opposing views with respect and honesty. I think we must ask the hard questions and hear answers that we may not like and still respect the one who has spoken. We must find a way, not out of the tension, but through it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What does "In Jesus' Name Amen" Mean?

"Hello!  You have reached the Smith’s.  We’re not home right now.  Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”  Beep.  “Hi, this is Karla.  I got your message.  I’d love to go to the movies this Friday.  Shall we meet there at say, 5:15.  Wanna do supper after?  Give me a call.  You know the number.  In Jesus’ name, amen.  
Ummm (long awkward pause) I mean, ummm.  Bye.”  

Jesus told His disciples, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14 NIV) For many adding the words “In Jesus’ name I pray, amen” seems to be how we pray in Jesus’ name. Yet, for many, as the situation above so poignantly portrays, it has become a phrase that is attached to the end of our prayers that carries little meaning.  It almost seems to be a mantra that we spout without real thought our genuineness.
What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?  In recent years the phrase “What would Jesus do?” has been popularized, satirized, and by now often disregarded. Yet, the book from which it comes, In His Steps, raises a powerful question. If Jesus were here on earth, living in our world, working at our jobs, what would He do?  How would He handle things? I believe that this is the idea behind Jesus’ teaching in John 14:13-14. Although the name of Jesus is powerful, it is not a magic mantra to use to get God to give us our wish list. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are embracing the God-man Jesus. We are embracing all He was and all He taught. John helps us to understand this in his first epistle when he says, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14b NIV)  Praying in Jesus’ name is about asking for the things that are consistent with Jesus and His teachings, which are consistent with His character. 

Praying in Jesus’ name is really about asking and answering the question, “What is God’s will in this situation? What does God want to accomplish?” and then aligning our prayers with the answer. Yet, that seems daunting. How can we know what God desires? Scripture gives us many clues regarding God’s will for His people. By searching Scripture, by praying Scripture, by listening daily for God’s direction in our lives, we become more tuned in to what God is doing generally which helps us to be open and receptive to what God is doing in specific situations. As we align our will with God’s, and begin to pray in His will, we also discover what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name.”

I would love to hear your thoughts about praying in Jesus' name. Things you've learned or questions you've had.

How would you explain "praying in Jesus' name" to someone new to prayer? 
Have you ever rotely used "in Jesus' name" in an awkward situation?