When Jesus taught his followers how to speak to the God he said, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

We often miss the power in that phrase. We simply recite the line without thinking. We view it as merely a request for Jesus to “come back.” We remove any meaning from God’s Kingdom and God’s will by treating them as unknowns. We make this into a prayer that we say with nothing to do with how we live.

But Jesus did not intended for this to be a throw away line. Jesus wanted this prayer to mold and guide us.

God has given us the Scriptures to reveal God’s character and God’s will. We have been given teachings on the Kingdom of God, and creative writing on what God’s Kingdom will look like when fully established on Earth. God’s will and Kingdom are not completely fuzzy concepts. Scripture reveals enough about God’s will and Kingdom for us to recognize when they are being realized in the world.

In addition to the Scriptures, the Spirit of God guides us in our understanding of God’s will and provides relational knowledge of God. The more that we know God, the more we will know what God wills in the world.

When we pray we are not just asking God to take care of everything, though there are situations when that is all that we feel we can do.  When we pray we are both asking for God’s intervention and aligning ourselves with God. As beings created in the image of God we have the ability, and responsibility, to act in a manner consistent with the will of God. While there are some glorious times of supernatural intervention, the answer to prayer normally comes in the form of a person. In other words, when we pray for God’s will to be done and Kingdom to come on Earth – our actions need to join with our request.

That brings us to a cup of water…  a fitting case study on World Water Day.

Chances are if you are reading this blog, you can easily get a cup of water in the next 10 minutes. That is not the reality for many people in our world. In fact, somewhere around one in three people alive today do not have access to safe drinking water. I do not mean that they have to wait in a line for it – I mean it is not an option for them. That reality translates into several tragedies, including around 4,000 children dying each day.

Does that look like the will of the God that is revealed in Jesus and the Spirit? Is that the Kingdom of God that we see revealed in the Scriptures? I think not.

When this currently reality does not fit the Kingdom of God we are called to pray for God’s will to be done, for there to be a new reality which reflects the Kingdom of God. We need to pray for God to intervene on behalf of people without water.

In addition to praying for the Kingdom, we are called to act according to the Kingdom. We are called to discern what direct actions we can take for the sake of God’s will being done on Earth.  There are other times when we are called to take a supportive role for those who are taking direct action. We need to intervene on behalf of people without water.

Act today! Follow this link to bring water to thousands of people by repairing existing water wells: The Adventure Project

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It is easy to see the impact of greed on a culture when the economy falters. We forget that greed was often embraced, even encouraged during the boom days of the past.

During both our economic ups and downs the scriptures have given us consistent warnings of the high price greed. The ancient book of Amos proclaims that our love of money and stuff will destroy our core relationships.

Relationship with Others:

Amos 2:6-8

This is what the Lord says:

“The people of Israel have sinned again and again,

and I will not let them go unpunished!

They sell honorable people for silver

and poor people for a pair of sandals.

They trample helpless people in the dust

and shove the oppressed out of the way.

Both father and son sleep with the same woman,

corrupting my holy name.

At their religious festivals,

they lounge in clothing their debtors put up as security.

In the house of their god,

they drink wine bought with unjust fines.

When we love stuff, we begin reducing other people to either a means to or an obstacle to getting more stuff. We can continue de-humanizing others to the point that we begin viewing people as just stuff, good stuff and bad stuff. We see this today in everything from neglected children, to work conflict, to sex and labor slavery.

Relationship with God:

Amos 5:21-24

“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.

I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.

I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.

Away with your noisy hymns of praise!

I will not listen to the music of your harps.

Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,

an endless river of righteous living.

Our loves direct out lives. When we love stuff we pattern our lives around stuff, not around God. As a result, our religious worship is empty. God is not interested in religious pomp and circumstance if our lives are not right. I am afraid that this is at the root of much of the superficial spirituality of our modern religions culture.

Relationship with Self:

Amos 4:1-3

Listen to me, you fat cows living in Samaria,

you women who oppress the poor

and crush the needy,

and who are always calling to your husbands,

“Bring us another drink!”

The Sovereign Lord has sworn this by his holiness:

“The time will come when you will be led away

with hooks in your noses.

Every last one of you will be dragged away

like a fish on a hook!

You will be led out through the ruins of the wall;

you will be thrown from your fortresses,”

says the Lord.

We become less than human when our lives revolve around stuff. While there will be divine judgment for greed, much of the punishment is self-imposed by living life outside of the design of the universe. We see this today in the empty eyes of teens who have every item that they want and in rampant chemical abuse found in wealthy communities.

While money and material goods are important, we must always keep them in right perspective. We can not allow the love of stuff to stifle our greatest calling to love God and to love others as we love ourselves.

In sixth grade, I noticed that two of my classmates drew large crowds by break dancing at football games. I decided that I would get in on the action, and I bought a book on “how to break dance.”

Yeah … that did not really work. I was not a break dancer.
We often fail when we focus on what other people instead of being who we are. This happens even, maybe especially, within Christianity.

We see an example of this in John 21:20-22

Peter and Jesus had just finished a remarkable conversation clarifying their relationship and Peter’s role in the mission.
Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple John.
Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

Most of us can relate to Peter in this story. We have taken our focus off of Jesus and our calling, and become consumed with looking at and evaluating others. Focusing on other people’s walk with God and their calling takes a few different expressions:
We Compare Ourselves to Others
We Copy Others
We Criticize Others

All of these expressions of  looking to others do damage to our calling and relationship with God.

I suspect that when we ask Jesus, “What about that person?”
Jesus still responds as he did to Peter, “What is that person’s calling and relationship with me calling to you? I will take care of them. You are called to follow me. Stay focused on me.”

May we be people who keep our focus upon Jesus and who he calls us to be.

I love my idealized self. The me that I imagine in my head is really amazing.

I have a far more difficult time loving the self who actually exists in the real world. The real me has weaknesses and flaws.

The story of Jesus shows us that God loves us, the real us, weak and flawed.

Tom Wright helped me see this in Jesus’ appearance to Peter in John 21:9-17, in ways that are not obvious in many of our English translations.

Setting of the Story: The smell of a charcoal fire burning was in the air as Jesus cooked breakfast. Peter had smelt a charcoal fire burning earlier in the Priests Courts where he had denied Jesus three times.

Jesus: Peter, do you love me?

Peter: Yes, Lord I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my lambs.

Jesus: Peter, do you love me.

Peter: Lord, I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my sheep.

Jesus: Peter, are you my friend?

Peter was grieved that he could not say more, and that Jesus had to adjust the question.

Peter: Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my sheep.

A couple of observations on this story:

First, Jesus meets Peter where he is. Surely, both men would have preferred for Peter to say that he loved Jesus. He could not do it.  Jesus accepted what Peter could give.  Likewise, Jesus graciously meets us were we are.

Second, Jesus’ forgiveness comes in the form of a commission for Peter. That pattern still holds true today. We are forgiven and we are sent. All authentic ministry is rooted in the forgiving love of God.

May we learn to accept the love of the God who has taken our denials and our imperfections and has graciously dealt with them in Jesus.

My faith became real to me in high school. In my excitement, I took in all the information about God I could get. If someone said that God said something, I took their word for it. I thought that was they way to growth – just accept what you are told.

Those were the days of the first Gulf War. I occasionally watched “bible prophecy” preachers on TV. They claimed that the war was fulfilling a long list of prophecies from the Bible. They insisted that the war was the beginning of the battle of Armageddon, and that Jesus’ return was just around the corner.

The preachers on TV said that it was all in the Bible. I wanted all the Bible that I could get, so I believed them.

Then I was faced with the reality of events. The predictions that the prophecy preachers made did not occur! Jesus didn’t return in 1991. The first Gulf War ended, and it was not the Armageddon of the Scriptures.

Then I was faced with the reality of what the Bible actually said. I majored in Bible in college, including a semester in Jerusalem. I discovered that the TV preacher’s favorite bible prophecies had nothing to do with the Gulf War.

Reality taught me some difficult, but important lessons. When a person declares that the Bible says something, it doesn’t always mean that is what the Bible really says. A preacher shouting that God says something, doesn’t always mean that is what God really says.

While I once believed that the most spiritual thing you can do was to accept everything you were told without question, I have learned that sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to ask questions about what you are told.

I am not referring to hostile, fearful agenda-driven questions. Those normally do more harm than good.

I am speaking of the questions that you ask when you hear things said about someone you love, the questions you ask when you hear things about someone you long to know more fully. I would not believe everything said about my wife. Nor will I believe everything said about God.

In that spirit, I have discovered one of the best spiritual disciplines and one of the greatest acts of worship is to question what we are taught about God. God will be delighted to meet you in your questions.

There is a growing number of people who have taken it upon themselves to “defend the truth.”

Now, I am all for truth – my metaphysics roll A Priori (Translation: I believe there is reality outside of a person’s experience.). However, there is something about the approach and the spirit of many of these “truth defenders” that seems off the mark. They often seem driven by fear, anger, or pride rather than by a love of what is true … or a love of the people they engage.

So how should we speak of truth?

The ancient writings of James provide a helpful guide for those who believe that true truth really does exist, and they want other people hold to it. James shows a right way to speak of truth.

Be Slow to Speak of Things Beyond You. James 3:1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Remember the Power of Words. James 3:5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.

Do Not Slander Another Person. James 3:10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Living the Truth is the Best Proof. James 3:13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.

Real Truth is Loving. James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.


This month Matthew Soerens taught our church staff about Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Matt works with churches on immigration issues through World Relief. He also co-authored the book Welcoming the Stranger (IVP).  Matt has a humble yet insightful view of this issue. I will spend a few post on immigration – inspired by his talks.

Why should Christians engage in Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

While a growing number of White Evangelicals support comprehensive immigration reform, others remain indifferent on the issue, and others oppose the concept.  I believe that people of faith should take part in reforming our national immigration policy because it strikes at the core of Christianity.

It is a Bible Issue – The  Scriptures explicitly teach on how the people of God, including on a government level, are to treat the foreigners in their land. There are several other texts that speak about general principles of love, mercy, compassion, justice and hospitality which must inform our approach to immigration.

It is a Jesus Issue – Jesus was an immigrant. That experience surely had an impact on him. The teaching of Jesus should influence our approach to immigration.  Jesus summarized and prioritized the teachings of the scriptures as “love your neighbor.” He clarified that “neighbor” includes people who are not like us.

It is a Church Issue – The Church of Jesus Christ goes beyond our local congregations. The Church includes all believers. Non-white congregations are the fastest growing segment of  the Church in America. Many of these ethnic churches suffer under our broken immigration system. We are to care for our brothers and sisters in the church.

It is a Mission Issue – Christians are called to make disciples of “all nations,” which means “all people groups.” The reality is that all people groups are coming to America. Their ability to hear and receptivity to the message of Jesus are, at some level, influenced by our national immigration policies and by the Church’s response to  immigration issues.

Next Post –  Immigration in America: Past and Present.

Matt’s Soeren’s Book: