Friday, March 07, 2014

Your Checkered Past

If you're trying to find things to be thankful for during Lent, here's an idea: your personal history.


What you've gone through has made you who you are and brought you to where you are.

Even if it was painful, even if it included some ugly choices or mistakes that you wish you could change & need forgiveness for, you can still thank God for it because He's used it all to shape who He needs you to be.

Above all, thank Him for being with you through it all and for bringing you through it all.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Give Thanks for People

So for Lent, you're trying to develop your attitude of gratitude? Great. Giving thanks not only gives God His due credit, it helps give us perspective. Make it a point to give thanks daily and experts say you will become more positive. 


May I suggest keeping a gratitude diary? Force yourself to write down things you're grateful for. One benefit of a keeping a journal will be when you're down, reviewing it may help lift you back up by reminding you how much God's blest you.

But don't just thank God for things. Thank him for people. Thank God for people He's put in your life; who have been a blessing to you somehow, have taught you things or have meant something to you.

Mentors, examples, inspirations, helpers, just good company. Friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, whomever.

Oh, and here's an idea- if you're grateful for them, why not take a minute to pray for them? At least ask God to bless the and their families, even if you have no idea what any of their specific needs are for intercession. Just blessings.

Those blessings will multiply and you'll have even more to be thankful for!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ash Wednesday

Lord, You went to the cross so that we could be in relationship with You. These next 40 days, draw us closer to You in prayer, repentance, reading Your Word, and in loving, accepting, forgiving and serving others.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

"Liberal" Values are Biblical

Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed freeand break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungryand to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them,and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 


Compassion, helping the poor, evening the playing field- these are things God calls us to do, especially in the Old Testament prophets.

So why do the same "conservatives" who talk about "Christian heritage" & "family values" so opposed to helping the oppressed, so xenophobic, & seemingly so protective of a system that redistributes so much wealth to the most wealthy 2%?

Perhaps one of the fundamental differences between the right & the left is that progressives recognize that in a participatory representative democracy "We the people" ultimately ARE the government and therefore why not use government as a tool to live out our Biblical values? 

While the right wing is afraid of the government allowing gay marriage, abortion, teaching evolution or reversing global climate change- liberals want to use the collective resources of government to break the yokes of oppression, share bread with the hungry, provide housing to the homeless, clothing to the poor, & take care of orphans, widows, & aliens.

Seems to me that one view is negative, reactive, fearful and protective of self interest. Whereas the other view is positive, proactive, motivated by love and  altruism.

Food for thought for moderates & conservatives and preemptive justification for my fellow liberals for the next time someone claims that you can't really be Christians if you're not a Tea Party conservative.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rough Waters? Pray this.

How many times a day must You keep saying to me "oh you of little faith, why are you so afraid?"(Matt 8:26a) even though You're right here with me all along? Please still my storms, even the ones that are just in my head.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Global Warning

Okay, I admire your faith - you believe that God is in control, 


but to think that therefore our pollution isn't causing global warming?

That's like me thinking that I won't get cancer, emphysema, or heart disease even though I smoke because God is in control.

Please Christians, this is why secularists agnostics and atheists ridicule us and are so cynical and skeptical about religion in general. 

Sure God is sovereign, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be responsible stewards. Nor does it give up permission to not use our brains! 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Praying ROM 15:13- ACTS- Adoration

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13
For the longest time, I had the hardest time figuring out how to adore God (adoration is the A in ACTS). Basically its just to praise God. As a matter of fact, singing is a great way to do this. If you desperately need God, try praising Him. It reminds you of who and what He is. When you tell Him what's great about Him, you build your faith in Him because you remind yourself why He's worthy to be praised- this brings comfort and confidence. Wow- THE God of the universe loves me.

Christian author Rick Warren wrote that worship is one of the five purposes God created and designed us for. Genesis says we're "created in God's image," I've always figured that part of what that means is that we reflect His character. He IS hope. He IS joy. He IS peace, and 1 John 4:16 even says God IS love.

So let's take a minute to tell Him how great that is!


Lord, 

You are the God of all hope-
You give us Hope- those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31)

To be with You brings us joy-
You give us Joy- the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

You're the Prince of peace-
You give us Peace- Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. ( Isaiah 26:12)

You are love-
You love us, show us how to love others, and give us others to love- Your love endures forever (Psalm 136)

In Jesus' name we pray,
Amen

Yearbook Prayers

Here's an idea that occurred to me just the other day.

People use school yearbooks for lots of reasons. My father-in-law frequently refers to an alumni reunion book he has to remember people's names and to figure out who's related to whom in our small town. I've gone to my old high school and college yearbooks to remember how I knew someone who sent me a friend request on facebook. Many teachers ask for yearbooks from past years in order to connect names to faces of the students in their new classes. You may need to grab one just to keep track of who the friends are that your kids keep talking about.

Why not use them for prayer? Simply pick a page and run down the row of names and say a quick, "Lord bless them and their family," kind of prayer. If you know them, maybe you can pause a while and make some more specific requests on their behalf- but it doesn't have to be any more than a "I plead the blood of Jesus over," or "Dear God, please guard, bless or protect (name goes here)" kind of a a prayer.

Too general for ya? Too easy? Need something more complicated? Okay, break down the word "bless" into more focused prayers; B.L.E.S.S. can stand for Body, Labor, Emotions, Social, and Spiritual blessings. (See also 'How to BLESS your neighbors through prayer').

Public School Teachers and Coaches- maybe you can't violate the separation of church and state in your classroom, but you can sure as hell pray for your students and athletes outside of class!

Private School Teachers and Coaches- what an awesome way to minister to your students by interceding for them! What a way to make your job more of a VOCATION and not merely an occupation.

Students- What an amazingly positive thing to do for your classmates and friends?

Parents- What an amazing way to get to know your kid's peers and classmates?

Curmudgeons- Hey, why waste time complaining about how they took prayer out of schools and pray FOR and pray OVER your local schools!? Why try in vain to use arguments to affect things, when you could ask God to send His Spirit into hearts and minds and lives to have real impact.

Prayer-Warriors- What a way to find people who need praying for? You may also think about using a phone book!

MAJOR Residual benefit; One of my professors once read us John 14:2-3 where Jesus promises, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." Then the professor told us that as teachers, our rooms in Heaven will be decorated with pictures. Pictures of our students.

If you want to have something to be thankful for, start praying over old yearbooks. If you're not a teacher, God will be showing you all the friends and classmates (and teachers and coaches) whom you were fortunate to have in your life. He will remind you of ways that he blessed you through them and ways that He used you to touch their lives too. Thank Him for them.

If you ARE or have ever been a teacher- holy COW! Will God show you a million reasons why you should shut up and stop feeling sorry for yourself. He will remind you of the many lessons which students have taught YOU over the years and the many ways that He has shaped you through your interactions with both students and colleagues. And yes, God may well prick your conscience some and put on your heart to pray for some of your former students and/or their families.

Oh, and if you don't have any yearbooks or just can't find any- no big. Just go back as far as you can in your head and try picturing or remembering as many names of as many classmates (or students, or former students) as you can and say a brief arrow-prayer for each one as you remember them. Great way to spend long periods waiting INSTEAD of worrying.

Me Ka Pule,
Pirate Ted

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Praying ROM 15:13- HOPE

May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13
In my darkest hours, I've asked God to make me a prisoner of hope. Philosophy professor and author Cornel West once wrote "I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope."

There are some circumstances that defy optimism. Age, disease, life. God doesn't prevent death, but He does offer eternal life in Heaven with Him. He doesn't prevent hardship or loss, but He does promise to get us through it.

I remind myself that no matter what my circumstances, God is with me and will get me through whatever it is I have to face.

As Christians, we are "called to hope" (Ephesians 4:4). While explaining the Spiritual 'Armor of God' in Ephesians 6:17, Paul says to put on the helmet of hope-in-salvation. If you keep in mind the ultimate hope we have of eternal life with God, thanks to the free gift of salvation through the sacrifice made by His Son Jesus on the cross- if you "fix your eyes upon Jesus," no matter how dark and ugly your present is, your future remains bright.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Praying ROM 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13
I used to like to write Advent devotions here on PPP. The last few years have just gotten to be too crazy-busy to make that work. Each of the candles on an Advent wreath represents a different virtue. There's the Prophet's candle of Hope, the Bethlehem candle of Peace, the Angel's candle of Love and the Shepherd's candle of Joy.

This past Advent, I'd been praying Romans 15:13 a lot. Mostly for myself, due to all the stress, depression and anxiety I'd been struggling with. But also for others. I genuinely wanted to share God's hope, peace, and joy with others whom I perceived really needed them.

In past Advent posts here, I've tried to explain or expound on each of these gifts. This time, I think I'd like to mash this list up with another list- the ACTS formula of praying (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). 

We'll see how that goes, (if it goes for that matter, tomorrow's the first day of a new semester). Tonight, though, I just want to share something about just one of these four; which one is most important.

When my wife and I taught at Los Angeles Lutheran High, we coached cheerleading. For a while she coached Varsity and I coached Junior High. Eventually, I coached both toward the end. Of course LHS had a fight song that cheerleaders danced to at pep rallies, but we also had a school song, an slower anthem. The tradition at LA was for kids to gather at the end of football games, point one arm to heaven and join in the song.

I don't remember all of the lyrics, but one line sticks with me- "may faith be ever more thy fame and love be thy rule."

For some Christians,  our religion is all about all kinds of rules. Believe this, don't believe that, do this, don't you DARE do that. It leads to a lot of fear and judgement, misunderstanding and competition. For my money the whole Bible boils down to one rule. This is what Jesus said-

John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love oneanother. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So assuming I write at least four more posts in the next week or so about Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, keep in mind what Saint Paul wrote-

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Lutheran High's School Song would make a pretty good mission statement, and for that matter, a pretty good epitaph for one's tombstone- I certainly want it to be true for this blog: May faith be ever more my fame, and love be my RULE.




Personal request for prayer-cover

Last Sunday I was installed as President of our church council. I'm not bragging to you, if anything I'm humbled to have been voted on, although its almost more of a volunteer position since so few people even want to serve on the church council. At any rate, while presumably the responsibility will be pretty mundane, even banal, I take it pretty seriously. Although, one former president has shared stories with me of anger, vandalism and threats that he received. I don't foresee any major controversies for us in the next year or two.


At any rate, if you're a regular reader of this blog or a "friend" of the facebook page, I'd still like to ask you to pray for me. Please ask Him to grant me wisdom, patience, deference, humility and whatever else He thinks I should have for this role. 

Please also pray for St. John Charter Oak; that we would live up to our mission statement "offering with open arms, the love of Christ." 

Thank you all. 
Me ka pule*,
Pirate Ted

("*Me Ka Pule" means "with prayers," in Hawaiian in case anybody was wonderin')
The prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16)

Blog Resolutions

Been thinking.

Been thinking I need to actually utilize this blog more.
Perhaps as I haven't tons of time anymore, it will be shorter entries rather than full-blown essays & devotions.

Been thinking, while I certainly still lean left politically & I'm not about to suddenly going to go quietly into the night, I'm thinking I may need to spend a little less time raging against the machine and more time reaching out to others regardless of party lines.

Post-Partisan
I've noticed that while Liberals and Libertarians disagree about the 2nd Amendment, they tend to both be worried about the 4th. So why fight about what we disagree about, when we could fight together for what we agree about?

I'll be up front with you- When I read Jesus' words, especially in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, and St. Paul's words in Romans 12, I see something radically different than what televangelists, radio prophets and Republican politicians are espousing. My personal faith walk and what Prof. Cornell West calls "deep-democracy" are both very important to me.

One of my chief goals with this blog (at least since 2007 or so) had been to show to my Liberal friends that not all Christians are Republicans and to my Christian friends that Liberals aren't actually going to Hell in any greater proportions than Conservatives are. From the looks of the Internet anyway, it seems to me that there are a lot more Progressives willing to be open about their faith and at least a few more right-wingers willing to concede that politics and religion aren't always monolithic.

Its still frustrating that folks around where I live don't get that global warming may have actually contributed to the recent polar vortex, they just think that the one's being disproved by the other. And it drives me crazy that I can't convince people that you'd reduce the number of abortions by reducing poverty or that even if the Bible prohibits homosexuality the 14th Amendment still prohibits discrimination- oh, and that the Bible also prohibits tattoos, horoscopes and shell fish.

Be all that as it may, I guess my feeling is that it would be more productive to talk about what I believe God wants us to do for others, rather than rail on what other believers seem to constantly rail on.

In other words, while I may still talk about politics here, I don't want it to be my sole focus. I'd rather have a soul-focus. I also want to be careful not to let it become too much of a stumbling block.

Ecumenical
I may have a deeply Lutheran background, but I've also got a pretty Existential one. I've got people I love and admire that are Quaker, Methodist, Catholic, FourSquare Pentecostal, Church of Christ, and no lots of non-Christians too. Not to mention non-LCMS Lutherans!

This blog has never towed the official synodical/denominational-line (thus the pirate theme). I want to make sure that readers and friends know that the conversations and debates sparked here and the prayers and devotions shared here are more about the "red-letters" than doctrinal committee documents.

Although, Lutherans (perhaps especially my fellow LCMS Lutherans) should not mistake discussion, acceptance, prayer and encouragement or even the mere lack of condemnation for condoning or promoting mistaken theology. Likewise, mentioning or even appreciating ideas from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics or even Atheists should not be assumed to be Synchronism or Universalism. I am, and hope God will always keep me Confessional, Trinitarian, Pauline and Christo-Centric, here I stand, I can do no other.

Available
Unlike right-wing Christians, I actually appreciate and try to respect the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. I try to be very careful not to take advantage of my position as a public school teacher to us my classes as captive audiences for prostalizinng. As a Christian, I don't believe in coercion or manipulation as forms of evangelism anyway- only the Holy Spirit can work faith on someone's heart. Sure, faith comes from hearing, but that hearing is voluntary- Jesus didn't force anyone to follow him.

Be this all as it may; I also believe in encouraging and mentoring the whole student, spiritually as well as intellectually (so long as they approach me outside of the classroom, and I don't force my faith on them). Having said that- I have tons of students and former students whom I've prayed for and have asked to pray for me. If any of the kids in my wife & my Sunday School class wanted help with Social Studies, Art or Photography- you can bet I'd be willing to tutor them. Likewise, if any of my students at school want to talk about religion with me outside of class, or share prayer concerns- I will always be here for them.

Is There a Point To All This?
So I've been thinking,  my prayer is that God will use this blog to bless others this year- not just left-wingers feeling alienated or marginalized by their fellow Christians who assume that you can't possibly be a real Christian if you don't agree with every right-wing political position. To seekers. To those who have yet to find a fellowship family (church-home), to those who don't quite fit into the traditional church-institutions, to those adrift on the seas of the internet.

Please keep reading. Look through my archives of posts over the last 7 years, skim through the devotional series I've posted, check out my Pinterest board, pray with me on Instapray, like the Prophet, Priest & Pirate Facebook page. I have this compulsion to talk about God. I want to know Him more. And I'm convinced He created us to support each other in this world. C.S. Lewis said that everyone is born with a God-shaped hole in their soul. My prayer is that Prophet/Priest/Pirate has something to offer you. If it does, I can't ask anymore than that you say a prayer or two on my behalf. God knows I need 'em. Thanks.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:11 & Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10:23-24