Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cliche'd prayer?

Pose, pretense, and posturing are primary dangers that threaten prayer. Ignorance is no impediment, and most emphatically not sin. The great temptation always crouching at the door of prayer is to use prayer as a way to avoid God: using God language to avoid God relationship; using the name of God as a screen behind which to hide from God. Clich├ęs are the usual verbal giveaways of prayer that is, in fact, nonprayer.
 --p.278 from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Prayer has to be one of the most paradoxical aspect for a Christian living. It should be the most basic and natural activity for a Christian. It's just talking to the Father who loves you dearly, and you can talk to Him about anything really. No need to craft your words and phrases. And yet, the words and phrases are vitally important, because otherwise you wouldn't actually be talking. You might be speaking or chanting, but you won't be talking. And when you are talking to someone as majestic as God, someone you love so much (at least you confess to do so), you cannot help but choose your words carefully. You engage your mind and heart as you speak — anyway, are we ever excused from doing that anyway no matter whom you are talking to? It seems to me that genuinely engaging with the Person you are talking to is what is difficult.

The biggest problem for me about praying remains to be not praying enough. But when I do pray, it isn't so hard for me, I can do it, except, it's awfully hard to pray genuinely.

(Image source: Ambrozjo)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Who am I?

If you want to know who I am and what makes me tick, don't for heaven't sake look up my IQ or give me a Myers-Briggs profile or set me down before a Rorschach test. Study me in the company of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
 -- p307, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

No, that's not my IQ.
In the past I was so curious to find out who I was, what I was like. I was a sucker for all those personality tests, IQ test, and all sorts of categorisation questionnaires that were freely available on the internet. When I got results I was a little bit more sure about myself and happier, even more proud for what I received by those tests.

But what really mattered, what was at the core of my being wasn't revealed by those tests. It was meant to be found in my relationship with the Triune God. How am I related to God the Father? Can I call Him my Father? Do I? How am I related to the Son? Is He my Lord and Saviour? How does my life look if He is my Lord and Saviour? How does my heart look like if He is? How am I related to the Holy Spirit? Do I know Him? Do I walk in step with Him?

IQ tests and the personality tests have their uses, of course. But if I am more interested in those results than how I am related to the Trinity, I have lost sight of what is most fundamental about me and the world.

(Image Credit: ryanrh)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

What is sin?

John (the Apostle) knows that we will never get love right if we don't get sin right, and the looming difficulty in getting sin right is our propensity to deny or minimize it. Euphemisms proliferate: mistake, bad call, poor judgment, error, wrong, negligent, slip, oversight, misstep, stupidity, screw-up, bungle, faux pas, and so on. But rarely, sin. We happen to live in a culture that has a low sense of sin. Here I distinguish sin from immorality or crime. Sin is a refused relationship with God that spills over into a wrong relationship with others - it is personal or it is nothing. Immorality and crime, on the other hand, are violations of rules or standards of the society, or violations of other people. Behavior is in question, not personal character. But sin is relational.
--p316, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson, italics mine

I don't think Peterson is offering a definition of sin here, but that italicised sentence gives a pretty good summary of what sin is. Worth pondering on.

What's your relationship status with God?

(Image credit: DanAndJennifer)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Resolutions: Being fatherly on the Father's Day

Although the consumerism of our day has hijacked most of its meaning and our letterboxes and inboxes are full of junk trying to get us buy stuff "for our fathers", the Father's Day is still a helpful reminder for all of us to express our appreciation for fathers and honour them for being one. Unfortunately, for many people in our society, this Father's Day would bring back painful memories and invoke sadness or anger for their abusiveness or absence.

This got me thinking, how should I celebrate my Father's Day? As a father myself now, my first impulse was "what can I get?" Tragic. I know. But I wonder how many of my fellow Australian fathers think the same thing. A new tool, gadget, toy, or a dvd set? A new shaver, perfume, tie, shirt, shoes, or even socks? A nice meal, beers, wines, or even whiskey? How about just a lazy day when I don't have to care about vacuuming or dishwashing, kids, or my personal hygiene? Whatever it is, my point is that it is so very easy for any of us to think self-centred.

There is nothing wrong for my kid (well, when he grows up a bit more) to buy nice gifts for me, and even now, it's nice and even heart-warming when my wife cares to let me enjoy the Father's Day and shows her approval of me as a father to our child. But, as a father myself, there's something insidious about focussing my thoughts on "what I can get this Father's Day." I don't know, maybe I'm just too much of a beginner as a father and haven't learned to forget about myself and serve my family more selflessly, self-forgetfully, even on a Father's Day.

But if my suspicion on our day's culture and society is correct, many of the fathers in Australia tend to think that we deserve to be treated with gifts, ease, carelessness, and time for ourselves, at least on this Day. Perhaps it is precisely what's needed for some fathers. I doubt it to be the case for most fathers. It certainly isn't the case for me.

I don't want to be like that. I don't want to think that I somehow "deserve" gifts, extra laziness, or the whole day for myself by myself, especially on THIS DAY.

I am probably not the worst father on earth, but I know I am not the best father I want to be, and I am beginning to understand the kind of fatherhood my heavenly Father has called me to is far greater, weightier, and higher than I knew before. I don't want to give wrong impressions that the fathers need to be a kind of superman who can and does all things right. I don't believe that's a biblical picture of a good father, unless you are the Heavenly Father. I just want to be a father who models after the Heavenly Father. And even though I myself will stumble and fall, my hope is that my stumbling and falling as well as my victories will, without ambiguity, show my child the grace of Jesus.

That's why I am making these resolutions.
I will not use the Father's Day as my excuse to be a worse father for 24 hours.
I will not make it my ambition to be a couch potato on the Father's Day.
I will not imagine that I somehow "deserve" gifts from my family members on a Father's Day.
Instead, on the Father's Day, I will meditate on God's relationship with me and His character as my Heavenly Father.
And I will do one thing that will help improve my character and self-control.
And I will think how I can serve my family better as a father.
And I will do one thing that will strengthen relationships within my family.

In short, by God's grace, I will be the best father I can be especially on the Father's Day.

(Photo credit: Hammonton Photography)