On Church Competition and The Brothers Karamazov

On Church Competition and The Brothers Karamazov

But my fear is Jesus might come back and be met with the same question asked by the Church in the novel, The Brothers Karamazov

Devastation or Desperation

I need to learn how to pray prayers of desperation. We as a country have no idea what it really means to be desperate; to pray desperate prayers. God calls us to desperation as one of only two ways to bring about transformation in this country. The only two ways are when we pray either desperation prayers or devastation prayers. We have already learned devastation prayer during 911. We learned that our country will certainly come together during devastation. When we were attacked, everyone came out to pray together to a God many of them never cared about before. But beyond those people were the Christians who had finally came together in a spirit of prayer, a unified prayer. But if that is the only way we pray in hopes of transformation of a country, I am not sure how much more we can handle devastating attacks on our country.

We have to learn to come to God out of desperation for him. How desperate are we for Jesus? How desperate am I for Jesus? We sing about it all the time, "I'm desperate for you. I'm lost without you." But how true is that?

Now when I say desperate for God, I don't mean desperate for him to help us and make things happen for us. I don't mean desperate for God to fix my back, get me a job, pay my bills, give me a car. I mean how desperate are we for GOD!!! Do we really want to be dependant upon God? Those kind of prayers bring transformation. God I am desperate for you. Not your actions...but desperate for YOU!!! We desire to be closer to your heart as people, as families, as churches, as communities, as cities, as a nation. Are we truly desperate for God? Are we seeking God's face or are actually just seeking God's hand?

We have to learn to pray desperate prayers. Ask God to teach us desperate prayer. We have to learn a LIFESTYLE of desperate prayer. This is not an annual event at the Day of Prayer or around the pole at school. We have to become people of prayer if we are to see our life transformed.

The Gift of Hardship

What is the thorn in my flesh?  I have recently discovered it to be a lot more than I have always pictured it to be.

I have always imagined it the incessant and irritating daily reminder of souls.  We often picture a glorified splinter, which reminds Paul, daily, that he is to be weak that God may bestow true power.  But there has to be much more to this thorn.

If it were only a glorified splinter, Paul would be a big baby to write in 2 Corinthians 12, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me."  Come on, would a big splinter be worthy of such pleading?

In those times, "thorns" were used as a military device, and it was certainly much more than a splinter.  It was much more like a big stake.  They would pound these stakes (not much bigger than a thick tent stake...but sharper and more jagged) into the ground all over the place in an open area they were retreating through.  This way, when the enemy came running through that field after them, they would be slowed down.  Big stakes protruding from the ground would slow any army down.

Now re-imagine the thorn in the flesh.  It takes on a little more intensity now.  So why would Jesus want to give Paul a thorn?  Well Paul was an amazing man who's testimony has been a root for the Christian faith.  He wrote most of the New Testament.  Now with accomplishments like that, can you imagine the arrogance he is capable of?  But he wasn't arrogant.  In fact, he was incredibly humble and vulnerable in his ministry.  I think it is for this reason he was given a thorn that so tormented him.

His torment brought Paul to this kind of humility that reached millions.  This thorn made him FEEL so weak that he could only depend on God.  We know this thorn cut deep into Paul, but was never removed.  It remained to continually bring Paul to brokenness and vulnerability, but it is this brokenness which forced Paul to rely so heavily on God.  Not by our strength; but God's.

The Message calls "the thorn in the flesh" the "gift of hardship".  I think it really can be anything for us.  We do not know exactly what Paul's "thorn" actually was, but we know what it did.  I think our "thorn" could be anything, as long as it does one thing...brings us to brokenness and vulnerability before a powerful God.

I wonder what my gift of hardship may be.  Peter Scazzero makes a list: "What might the 'gift of hardship' God has given you be?  A child with special needs?  A struggle with an addictive behavior that forces you to be vigilant every day and attend meetings regularly?  Emotional fragileness with a tendency to depression, anxiety, severe isolation, or loneliness as a single person or widow?  Scars on your soul from an abusive past?  Childhood patterns...a physical disability? Cancer?  Real temptations to anger, hate, resentments, bitterness, lust, pornography, or judgmental?"