Monthly Archives: December 2022

Encouragements and Affirmations

Dear God, I was talking with a friend recently about a vision they had of a visitation by you. They actually saw you walk into a room. It was actually Jesus and his mother Mary. Jesus was watching my friend working on a project like a proud parent–just delighted in the performance regardless of how “good” it was–while Mary only had eyes for Jesus, her God and her son. It told the person to not miss the moment of your encouragement and affirmation for them. Too often we miss the moments when you show up to affirm what we are doing. I wanted to make sure my friend didn’t miss you, your love, and your affirmation.

Of course, I’ve talked about different times you found biblical characters and affirmed them. Hagar after she ran away and then Hagar after Abraham sent her away to die with Ishmael. Jacob and his angel visitation. Naomi, at least for a while, missed what you had given her in Ruth. Mary and the shepherds, Simeon and Anna after Jesus’s birth, not to mention the wise men and their affirmation. Peter and the Holy Spirit’s anointing at Pentecost.

You’ve given me affirmations too. Just little encouragements at just the right time. Little things to help me see that I am on the right track. I will always remember the email I received about 20 months ago that encouraged me and has sustained me through the last very difficult 19 months. I recently found myself right in the middle of your plan regarding something that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t reluctantly taken a step of obedience in what I was feeling nudged by you to do.

You have also raised up friends, both old and new, to encourage me. We had dinner with another couple last night, and knowing them has been such an encouragement. We’ve met two other couples this week experiencing the same kind of pain my wife and I are experiencing as a couple. While it doesn’t lessen the pain, it gives all of us extra shoulders upon which to carry it.

Father, we are about to start 2023. I don’t know what it will hold. I don’t know what or if I will be typing to you 365 days from now. But I don’t need to know. I just want to love you, worship you, and learn how to love you better so I will be the best possibly worshipper of you when I arrive in heaven one day. So let your kingdom come and your will be done in this world, and use my life however you need to in accomplishing that. Give me this day my daily bread. Forgive me of my many sins, and show me how I need to forgive others–for their sake and for mine. Lead me away from temptations. Deliver me from the plans Satan has laid out for me. And you know my prayers and hopes for those I love. My family. My friends. My fellow citizens of this world. Move, Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. I pray all of this submitted to your authority over my life and this world.



Matthew 11:28

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 

Matthew 11:28

Dear God, this is the verse of the day for Bible Gateway, but it’s so easy to take it out of context. All of chapter 11 is one scene, and verse 28 is just Jesus’s closing words for the crowd. Here’s the rest of the scene–the reference for what Jesus is saying:

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 10 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,

‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    and he will prepare your way before you.’

11 “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! 12 And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. 13 For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. 14 And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. 15 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

16 “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,

17 ‘We played wedding songs,
    and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs,
    and you didn’t mourn.’

18 For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. 21 “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. 22 I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.

23 “And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.[g] For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. 24 I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.”

25 At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. 26 Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!

27 “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

So that’s quite a rant on Jesus’s part. He’s frustrated and he’s serious about it. What does it all come down to? I think it comes down to verse 20: 20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. That seems to be Jesus’s frustration–lack of repentance.

Oh, there is so much for which I need to repent. I harbor all kinds of sins in my heart. They can all relate back to selfishness. Whether it’s greed, laziness, lust, ignoring the needs of others, etc., it all comes back to my selfishness. It all comes back to me wanting to do things that benefit me and do them my way. The fascinating thing about indulging my sin is that it only brings burden. It doesn’t bring love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, and self control. Like a drug, it brings that momentary euphoria, but then it is quickly followed by emptiness and a longing for more. But repenting before you. Bringing my bag of garbage to you and leaving it at the foot of your cross… Well, that leads me to your yoke and burden, which is light. It’s not about me. It’s not about my advantage or comfort. It’s about your glory. It’s about your highest. And that is where my soul will find true rest.

Father, I’m sorry for my self-indulgence. As I go through this week of quasi-vacation, help me to still worship you and do the work you’ve laid out for me to do. Help me to love others. Help me to be exactly who you need me to be. Do it not only for the sake of the world, but do it for my sake as well.

I pray all of this in your holy name because I submit it to you and your authority,


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Posted by on December 28, 2022 in Matthew


It’s A Wonderful Life – Jesus Edition

Dear God, as I’ve seen a few “reaction videos” on YouTube recently with people watching It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed for the first time. It’s been fun to see it through their eyes. Each life touches so many others, but did a life ever touch more than Jesus’s life. His birth, life, death, and resurrection have touched billions and billions.

So what would the world be like today if Jesus had never been born? What would it be like if Judaism was limited to your select and the rest of us were just left to wander without knowing you? Frankly, there is zero chance I could even come close to guessing the answer to this question, but I can say that any time my head starts to entertain the possibilities it gets overwhelming and tragic. Emptiness is the word that comes to mind. Just flat out emptiness. What would my life be about? Why would I be taking up air and natural resources? American life would only be about the pursuit of happiness, at any cost.

Not only did Jesus give us this relationship with you, but he taught us so much while he was here. What would we have done over the last 2,000 years without that teaching? Love our enemies. Turn the other cheek. Lust = Adultery. Hate = Murder. He who is without sin cast the first stone. For God so loved the world… These were all things found nowhere else before the Gospels.

To be sure, people have use Jesus as an excuse for hate and oppression as well. They’ve used him as an excuse for war and genocide. There’s the phrase “lies, [darn] lies and statistics.” The same is true for Jesus’s teachings. I can pretty much manipulate them to say anything I want and confirm my own biases and agendas. It takes humble introspection to really evaluate and apply what Jesus taught in an authentic way and sometimes I fail at that.

Father, it is truly a wonderful life because you came into this world as Jesus. You left us your Holy Spirit after he ascended. You are the God who is near. You are the God who sees. You are the God who cares. You are the God who knows. You are the God who loves. You are amazing God. I simply don’t know what to say but thank you. Thank you, God, for what you’ve done and exactly how you’ve done it. I trust you that you are doing everything the way it needs to be done for your best for us even if I don’t understand it in the moment.

I pray all of this in your name, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,




“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

Dear God, I just watched a news story about Ukraine and I thought about those poor people. I just got an email from a friend at another nonprofit who is trying to help a woman not in her right mind. I could just sit here and list person after person who needs you. Needs your peace. The poor people in Ukraine. It’s Christmas Eve afternoon there right now and they have little chance for peace tonight. They are cold, hungry, and in constant danger. Can your favor rest on them? Can you give them peace?

By some freak of luck, I was born into a powerful country. I was born into Rome. While my life might always be in a low-grade danger from a fellow citizen, there is not much another country can do to me in this moment to hurt me. I didn’t earn this “peace,” but it is afforded to me by the luck of the draw.

Father, I’m not even sure what I’m praying for this morning except to say that my heart hurts for those who are suffering. Show me what to do. Show me how to do it. And please move through your people to bring peace to those on whom your favor rests. Give them your peace. And bring glory to you in the highest heaven.

I pray all of this in your name, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,


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Posted by on December 24, 2022 in Luke


“Oh, Holy Night”

“Oh, Holy Night”

[Verse 1]
O Holy night!The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night, O Holy night, O night divine!

[Verse 2]
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the Wise Men from Orient land
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend

[Verse 3]
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is Peace
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name, all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us Praise His Holy name
Christ is the Lord; O praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim
His power and glory evermore proclaim

Dear God, I heard someone ask yesterday what our favorite Christian Christmas song is (as opposed to secular), and I don’t know that this one is my favorite, but it’s what came to mind first. But I have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever paid that close to the lyrics beyond the first verse. But there is one line in there that always stands out to me: “The soul felt its worth.”

I guess that Jesus’s coming tells me everything I need to know about my worth to you. I read a nice editorial by a pastor who talked about the reciprocal nature of Christmas gift giving. As adults, we feel the need to exchange commensurate gifts. But children feel no such need for reciprocity when they receive a gift. I asked my seven-year-old I’m mentoring yesterday what he got his mother for Christmas and he told me he drew her a picture of a dog. So sweet, but the idea that he could even come close to his mother’s gift-giving capacity–regardless of how wealthy she is or isn’t–is ridiculous. The five-year-old who gets a bike for Christmas could never repay their parent. Christmas gifts are a one-way street.

As the pastor pointed out, the same is true with us. There is no way we can ever match you in gift-giving capacity. The only thing we can do is try to match sacrifice. You sacrificed everything for us. You gave us something we can never repay. What can I do, but accept your love, accept your gift, and then try as I might to return your love, much like a child might try to express love to a parent.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, you have shown me my soul’s worth to you. Thank you. Help me to be part of showing others what their souls are worth as well. Help me to be your ambassador into the world. You are my king. You are my father. You are my counselor. You are my comforter. You are my advocate. You are my savior. To you be all glory now and forever.

I pray all of this under your name and autority,


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Posted by on December 22, 2022 in Hymns and Songs



Luke 1:38-40

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.
Luke 1:38-40

Dear God, we all need support. In this case, it’s obvious Mary needed some. In this case, there were only two people in the world who could relate to what she was going through: Elizabeth and Zechariah. And she needed them. It’s a double blessing that you used a family member (one married to a priest, no less) to be her support.

Family can be such a tricky thing. Someone was telling me recently that they had had it with some family members and they were just going to move on without them and focus on their friends who didn’t give them so much grief. I reminded the person that friends don’t have the opportunity to hurt us like family members do, and it is easier to cut loose friends when they do hurt us. But there are also times when family is all we have.

I was talking with a woman yesterday about a friend she is trying to help. The person’s friend is seemingly an alcoholic and unable to care for herself. She’s divorced. I asked if she has children. Apparently, she has three, only one of which is talking to her and all of which are exhausted by her. She needs them to step up now.

Father, I do not claim to have done this right. I’ve made my share of mistakes in family relationships. I’ve been hurt by family. I’ve been blessed by family. Help me to be exactly who you need me to be for my family—as a father, husband, son, brother, and uncle. Make me who you need me to be.

I pray all of this by you Holy Name,


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Posted by on December 21, 2022 in Luke


Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Dear God, I heard someone ask another person in an interview recently, “If you were to find out that there was reincarnation and you learned that in a previous life you were someone famous from history, who would you want it to be?” Now, I absolutely do NOT believe in reincarnation so I’m not going there with this question, but if I could be someone in history, who would it be? Frankly, there’s no one, but I think one of the greatest men who ever lived is right here in this story. Joseph is THE man. And it starts with verse 19. Before there was an angel visit, there was Joseph’s sacrificial decision. In the midst of his hurt and feelings of betrayal, his fear and concern for his own future and survival, he decided to divorce her quietly so she would not be disgraced publicly. He continues to make remarkable decisions, but it all starts with this one. If he had done anything else–if he had shamed her publicly–it could have derailed your entire plan for Jesus.

What decisions am I willing to make though it might cost me dearly? For whom am I willing to sacrifice? I was talking with someone yesterday about pain that I carry all of the time. My hopes and my prayers for different loved ones. My leaning into the idea that maybe this is the path you have for them to walk to get them where you need them to be. Maybe you are using this at the same time to shape me and form me into the man you need me to be. To be clear, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to make anywhere near the sacrifice Joseph was asked to make–either explicitly by the angel or instinctively by his own heart. But whatever sacrifices I need to make, I want to do them with peace and acceptance. Maybe not joy. Joy doesn’t have to be part of it. It doesn’t have to make me feel good to do the right thing. But I can be at peace in you.

Father, you are my supply. I don’t want to take my eyes off of this moment. I don’t want to dwell on the past. I don’t want to be distracted by an unreal and unknown future. I just want to live in this moment. In this moment. I give you this moment. Show me was to do in the next.

I pray this all in your name,


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Posted by on December 17, 2022 in Matthew


“Some Nights” by Fun

“Some Nights” by Fun

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck
Some nights, I call it a draw
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they’d just fall off
But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for, oh-oh
(Oh-ooh-woah) what do I stand for?
(Oh-ooh-woah) what do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore

Oh, oh-ooh-woah
Oh-ooh-woah, oh
Oh, oh-ooh-woah
Oh-ooh-woah, oh

This is it, boys, this is war
What are we waiting for?
Why don’t we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype
Save that for the black and white
Try twice as hard, and I’m half as liked
But here they come again to jack my style

That’s alright (that’s alright)
I found a martyr in my bed tonight
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, who I am, who I am
Oh, who am I? Mmm, mmm-mmm

Well, some nights, I wish that this all would end
‘Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights, I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights, I always win (I always win)
But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for, oh-oh
(Oh-ooh-woah) what do I stand for?
(Oh-ooh-woah) what do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know

so this is it?
I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of that for this?
I miss my mom and dad for this?
No, when I see stars, when I see-
When I see stars, that’s all they are
When I hear songs
They sound like a swan, so come on
Oh come on, oh come on, oh come on

Well, this is it guys, that is all
Five minutes in, and I’m bored again
Ten years of this, I’m not sure if anybody understands
This one is not for the folks at home
Sorry to leave, Mom, I had to go
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?

My heart is breaking for my sister
And the con that she called “love”
And then I look into my nephew’s eyes
Man, you wouldn’t believe
The most amazing things
That can come from
Some terrible nights

Oh, oh-ooh-woah
Oh-ooh-woah, oh
Oh, oh-ooh-woah
Oh-ooh-woah, oh

The other night, you wouldn’t believe
The dream I just had about you and me
I called you up, but we both agree
It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance, oh
For the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance, oh

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Nathaniel Joseph Ruess / Andrew Dost / Jeffrey Bhasker / Jack Michael Antonoff

Dear God, I wanted to do this prayer a couple of days ago when I woke up with this song in my head, but…well, time just got away from me. It’s been hectic this week, I haven’t felt great physically, etc. Excuse, excuse, excuse. The truth is, I didn’t make praying to you in this way a priority the last couple of days. So here I am now. I need you. I miss you.

This song is interesting. It’s secular, and I have no illusions it’s not secular. But it speaks to that longing that we all have when we are wandering away from you. What do I stand for?

The lyrics of the song are poetic and cryptic. I don’t know exactly what they are saying, but I certainly see intimations. Attack life and you end up with enemies and loneliness. A martyr in my bed tonight? A one-night stand who gave meaning for a moment, but the moment is gone. “Some nights I wish this all would end, ’cause I could use some friends for a change.” What did the attacking of life get me? What did success get me?

Someone mocked me recently for the amount of volunteer work I do. They were a young person who has a pretty empty life. They are still pursuing the money and career. They are trying to attack life, but doing it seemingly fruitlessly. I see a lot of emptiness in them. And I’ll say, as I evaluate my level of volunteerism, it’s not like I do it compulsively. I say no to a lot of things. I go home and spend time with my wife. I take time for myself. But I certainly make sure I have it as part of my life balance.

The last part seems to be singing about his sister’s family. Bad husband (a “con”). Her son, a devastated nephew. So much pain. So much pain.

I was driving yesterday and I saw a family with a sign asking for money in front of Walmart. This doesn’t happen often in our small idyllic tourist town. The police usually snuff them out pretty quickly. But I thought about this family and imagined what their situation might be. How deep in the hole they probably are. What kind of effort and resources it would take to get them out of that situation–this one family. Then how many families there are in that situation. So much pain.

I was just speaking with a coworker about kids in the school and a staff member who is suffering emotionally from working with the students designated as disciplinary problems. There’s just so much wrong.

Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord Jesus, come! Come into our hearts individually. Bring revival to us. Help our marriages. Help our relationships with our children. Help us, Lord. And show us what to do to help others. But let it all start with our simple submission to you individually. Turning loose and worshipping you.

I pray this all in through your name and the power you have,


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Posted by on December 16, 2022 in Hymns and Songs


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Galatians 4:1-7

Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Galatians 4:1-7

Dear God, I’m not sure I’ve noticed this inheritance analogy before from Paul. At least, I don’t remember noticing it.

Being an heir to something is interesting. So much of life depends on who your parents happen to be and what their place is in the world. I was talking with a woman yesterday who was born to much less fortunate circumstances than me. Not only economically, but also from a parenting standpoint. She didn’t have parents on which she could depend. They had limitations. She loves them, but she has had to do much more for herself to get where she wanted to go in life than I have had to do.

But one thing your love through Jesus does is it levels the playing field for all of us. In the end, after this short life is over, we get to be your heirs. We get to be your child. I mean, we get to be your child here too, but here is so, so temporary. What comes next is unfathomable, and that’s where we get to be your child.

Father, there is so much I don’t understand, but I am grateful to get to call you, “Father.” You aren’t just “God,” but you are my Father. Jesus, you are my Lord and my God along with the Father. Holy Spirit, you are my God as well, all part of the same God. You comfort and counsel me. I could use some comfort and counsel now. Please help me with the things that are on my heart.

I pray this all in the name of you, my Triune God,


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Posted by on December 13, 2022 in Galatians


“Rick Warren on the Year We Had” — Relevant Magazine

“Rick Warren on the Year we Had” Relevant Magazine

Dear God, it’s been almost two years since I started this prayer to you (January 2021). It’s been sitting here looking at me every time I see the “drafts” for my blog. When I first read this interview with Rick Warren I was struck by how much of you and your Holy Spirit there seemed to be in the article. Now, this morning as I sit and get ready to start this Saturday I felt compelled to revisit this interview and see what you might have to say to me through it two years later.

First, I guess it’s important to flash back to December 2020 (when the interview was published–so it was probably conducted in November) and try to remember where we were as a society. Some of the topics addressed in the interview were:

  • COVID restrictions and their impact on the church and society
  • George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement
  • High unemployment and a faltering stock market
  • For some there was isolation, educating children at home, etc.
  • We had been through shortages at the grocery store, but that was kind of over
  • The phrases “supply chain struggles,” “PPE,” “abundance of caution,” and others entered our vernacular
  • We were in the midst of determining who would be the next President of the United States after the November election

The first question they asked Pastor Warren was, “Why do you think COVID has been such a contentious issue for the Church in the U.S.?” The first part of his response kind of says it all: “COVID revealed a fundamental weakness in the Church. Most churches only have one purpose: worship. And if you take worship away, you’ve got nothing. They’re in a hurry to get back to worship because that’s all they’ve got.” He then went on to describe how his church responded.

I like his overall analysis. If you consider that the vast majority of Christians ONLY experience you on Sunday mornings then it makes sense that they didn’t want to give that up. For those who don’t spend regular time in contemplative prayer and scripture, missing their one touch point with you during the week was a big deal. In fact, now that I think about it, I might modify Pastor Warren’s answer to say, “COVID revealed a fundamental weakness in Christians. Most Christians only touch God on Sunday morning in worship. And if you take that away, they’ve got nothing. They’re in a hurry to get back to worship because that’s all they’ve got.” It reminds me of the parable of the sower and the four types of soil. Most Christians are supposed to be battling the thorns of the pursuit of wealth and cares of this world. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do right now by sitting down and praying to you.

The thing presented to Pastor Warren was, “But a lot of churches are nervous about the religious freedom aspect. They don’t want to wear masks. They don’t want to meet outdoors. They’re worried about religious discrimination.” Pastor Warren’s answer was pretty simple, and I agree: “They might have a discrimination case if theaters weren’t closed, football games weren’t closed, concerts weren’t [canceled]. But they are. We’re not being discriminated against. This is a safety issue. Regal Cinemas closed down 650 theaters. Disney laid off 28,000 people. We’re not being discriminated against.”

I think American Christians has no idea what discrimination looks like. I happen to be a tall, white male. I am so “majority” I am practically a minority. But I have a lot of friends and coworkers who are minorities and they tell me about how they are treated differently at the grocery store, at school, etc. I think about Christians being offended at some of the racial injustice issues and wonder if for a day we had to walk around with a “C” on our shirts identifying us as Christians and if we experienced the different treatment how much more would we be protesting. There were many Christians angry at the protests of police over racial injustice, but when the justice department and FBI treated one person in a way they deemed unfair they were ready to “defund” it. We simply have no idea what it looks like to be persecuted. In fact, we probably accidentally persecute others a lot more than we realize, and that includes me. I am not innocent, I’m sure.

Speaking of political unrest, the next question was, “We’re in an unprecedented era of political division; what’s that been like for you? Obviously many Christians are and have always been concerned about pro-life issues.” After commenting on people only caring about Black people if they are in the womb and not after they are born, he dove more to the point: “Christians today lack biblical discernment. They’re making decisions based on political values rather than biblical values. This is a real problem. The whole election, regardless who you voted for, revealed that most Christians don’t have a biblical worldview. They don’t vote from a biblical worldview. They vote from a political worldview. Their identity comes primarily from politics. It’s partisan.”

This reminds me of something I heard a couple of months ago when someone said that the church has made negotiable things (healthcare, environment, COVID response, etc.) non-negotiable, and we have made the non-negotiable (the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, etc.) negotiable. We’ve told our politicians to not negotiate on things that should be negotiable, and we have loosed them to do it through whatever means necessary (things that should be non-negotiable).

They asked him about hosting McCain and Obama for a Civil Forum at the church in 2008. “Do you think we’ll ever be able to get back to that level of civil, political discourse?” He replied, “It’s only going to happen when there’s a revival in our hearts…People don’t come back to God in good times. Go read Judges. Go read the whole history of when things are bad, then we come back to God. Every other time in history that America has had a disaster, we have banded together. If it’s a fire, if it’s a flood, if it’s a terrorist attack.”

Yeah, I had hoped COVID might draw us together, but I don’t think social media will allow that to happen anymore. I can’t help but wonder what 9/11 would have been like if Twitter, Facebook, etc. had been a large part of the equation. I honestly don’t know what it would take to draw us together now outside of a really, really huge disaster. But honestly, that’s not where my hope is. He mentions that the historical time when the church grew fastest was in its first 300 years–when it experienced the most persecution. Maybe all of us, including me, need to be broken all the way down to really know you. But I will add this quote from Pastor Warren, which is really good: “Christians, our job is to run into the pain. [speaking of first- and third-century plagues and people fleeing the cities] Christians moved into the city, moved into the urban areas to care for the sick and dying. In those pandemics, and in showing our hospitality, we invented this thing called the hospital. The Church invented the hospital during a pandemic. Government didn’t invent the hospital. Business didn’t invent the hospital. The Church invented the hospital, showing hospitality to people who were dying and caring for the sick.” Amen. I hope I could live up to that legacy.

The final question was about racial injustice: “The Church has struggled intensely with this year’s reckoning of racial injustice in America. Looking at our response, it hasn’t been pretty. How can Christians improve our response?” His response was long but really good and enlightening to me:

Of our 20 Saddleback campuses, most of those pastors aren’t white guys. They’re Hispanic, Asian, Black. They are Middle Eastern. But when I saw this happening, and the brutalization and racism coming back to the forefront, I thought, “OK, it’s not enough to simply be a multicultural church. We’ve been a multicultural church for 20 years. We have to be an anti-racist church.”

We have to be a pro-reconciliation, pro-justice church. I invited my Black staff to spend time with me. We did a Zoom call and I said, “Guys, I need you to just level with me. I don’t want to hear about when you experienced prejudice and rejection as a kid. I want to hear about how you’ve heard and felt it at Saddleback.”

It was a two-and-a-half hour meeting. It was brutal. It was painful. It was beautiful. It was healing. We all cried together. We did seven staff meetings, over two hours each. They shared their stories, and then I let the staff respond. There was weeping, and there was repentance.

I had a call with all the Black members of Saddleback. People said, “Rick, I love my church, I love you. But many times, I just feel like my church doesn’t understand. I’m the only Black woman in a small group of white women. Not one person has asked me: ‘How do you feel about these shootings?’ I have a son who’s about Ahmaud Aubrey’s age and it scares me.”

I’ve been pulled over like everybody else has. It always raises your fear level. But I’ve never been afraid somebody was going to throw me on the ground. I’ve never been afraid that somebody’s going to pull a gun on me me driving while white.

Our daughter used to date a man who was not White. We liked him and were supportive of the relationship, but we warned her that she needed to be prepared to experience racism in a way she never had before, both for herself and if they had children one day. I have a relative who has White children from his first marriage, but now his second marriage is to a lovely Black woman and they have two children together. I am sure he has experienced this issue in a whole new way. We as a majority can be so blind. I would have told you that there were no racial tensions in my high school which was probably about 60% White and 40% Hispanic with almost no “Other.” From my perspective, everyone got along great. But it’s interesting now to go to the reunions 35 years later and see that almost all of the attendees are White. Was there something I missed in the experience my Hispanic classmates had in school? Is there a reason they don’t want to come?

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, use all of this to remind me that 1.) the most important thing is to keep the soil of my heart tilled and my branch attached to your vine, and 2.) I still have so much to learn. Give me eyes to see. Give me ears to hear. Give me an open heart and no defensiveness.

I pray all of this by the name of the Triune God,



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