Friday, April 27, 2012

The Power & Place of Prayer

Life has turned a corner, as April days, anointed with grace, remain authored by noble themes (a). Releasing the right to gasconade (b), I write to a variant tune. For I boast in the godly sincerity (c) of holy change, made complete by the challenge to fully embrace it. As vanilla twilights (d) amass, I am encouraged to press on into the fullness of faith, accepting the courage to step up and stay up (e). Filtering out any trace of “Me Monster (f)” from this blended brew, I write with the hope of triggering hope, especially on the heels of James Goll’s message on the power and place of prayer. To understand the power and place of prayer, we must first accept the truth that God cares more about the heart, intimacy and His love extended than insecurities that christen prayer as mundane, redundant and unnecessary. Prayer is the pre-requisite to perpetual faith. As A.J. Gordon (g) stated, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.

Clearly, prayer operates with a designed purpose and order; however, what good is accomplished if prayer is not accompanied by "follow-through"? For prayer to be supported by progressive action, the church in American must start taking the power and place of prayer seriously and strategically. If prayer is abandoned, then calling is compromised. If calling is compromised, then function withers into motions. And if there is one fear I will not tolerate, it is the fear of settling and being satisfied (h).

Let’s consider the athlete. An athlete cannot perform as effectively without specific warm-ups relative to the sport. As the warm-up relaxes the muscle and increases flexibility, the functions of the athlete become enhanced. Essentially, the warm-up boosts performance and amplifies the follow through.

 Now, let’s relate this to spiritual warfare. God serves as our ultimate conditioning coach, who desires to see flexibility (surrenderance) mature as faith muscle builds. As these two elements work in tandem, greater dependence on the Holy Spirit begins to solidify.

Like RoundUp (i), the duo of faith and submission can exterminate the worldly weeds that stunt spiritual fruit development. And when liquid levels run low, the sprayer can be pumped to better the progression of the fluid flow with greater accuracy.

So how does this pertain to prayer? Well, prayer is unique in the sense it is both the solution and the warm-up that tones our virtue, integrity and relationship with God. Prayer is the organic cleanser that extinguishes harassing principalities. Furthermore, pure prayer contradicts the ways of the comfortable Christian, by connecting heart to Scripture, deep to Deep and calling to suffering. It transforms an “Amen” to a bold declaration that we, as the body of Christ, will share in the hardships that break us. How can we experience true peace if there’s not a trial to substitute it with?

I bid farewell with a final charge: pump up the prayer! Believe in the Christ-filled victories that will come as He reinforces your spiritual stamina. Do not be afraid to serve the Lord with prayer that doesn’t quitj. God’s love is a downpour, and though we are mere mists, we can still relish joy of communing AND communicating with Him! The next time you dive into the Word, remember you are exercising every fiber of your heart, mind, soul and strength towards the perfection of God’s will. He never lets go, so why not do the same?

Footnotes: 

a. Psalm 45:1-2
b. Jactitation, brag, vaunt, fanfaronade
c. Psalm 45:2
d. Second favorite Owl City song
e. Damascus interventions can be premiere blessings
f. Brian Reagan at his finest
g. Thank you, James Goll
h. http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=7872378989454369912#editor/target=post;postID=1556872860140337259 (Originally written on July 21, 2008)
i. For a homemade solution, try white vinegar, salt and dishwashing liquid
j. See 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Romans 1:9, Psalm 35:15

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Friday, April 6, 2012

The Hunger Games & The Cross

Since the release of “The Hunger Games”last March, much buzz has surrounded both film and book. As views and revenues have increased, blogs seeking to crack the mystery of the franchise’s popularity have spiked. Like Katniss with respect to Capitol officials, the series has caught unprecedented fire, leaving an upbeat impression on most, including myself; however, as a disclaimer, my reactionary process will be honed, several cuts above par in comparison to that of teenage weenies everywhere. Unlike the virtual norm, this note will compare the heart of "The Hunger Games" to something other than politics and contemporary society. And as much as I would love to elaborate on my notion that "The Hunger Games" is a three-way cross being ancient Rome, "The Truman Show" and "Lord of the Flies", I will instead turn direction to a place seldom referenced to when discussing all things "Hunger Games". After all, it is Passion Week, and the greatest story of all time did not take place at Panem; it happened at the wonderful cross.

Before I perform this theological dive, let me capture some additional thoughts on this entertaining craze sweeping the nation. A great movie, like "The Hunger Games", allows the audience to associate screenplay to reality. For instance, many Americans can relate to the citizens of Panem. Life is tough, the government is rough and the future is most uncertain. Such was the case for Katniss and the world she knew. Among her peers, she learned how to survive in a hopeless environment, maturing as a humble fighter with a fervor for justice. Not only did she demonstrate courage and integrity, but her sacrificial love shined in bright contrast to the dark motives of her opposition. As observers, many of us can connect to the spirit and world of Katniss. For some, location bears significance. For others, family upbringing is the closest link. Regardless of the reason, the movie's ability to capture fiction in a real, non-fictional way stirs people to examine their place and purpose in turbulent times. As we know, the world is full of District 10's, 11's and 12's. And as we also know, in most places, the oppression of fear dominates the delicacy of hope, as inspired by the words of President Snow.

At the core of “The Hunger Games”, we find sacrifice, veiled into two disparate corners: on one end, the purity of Katniss; on the other, a praetorian Capitol bent on mass manipulation. For the powerful elite, atonement came through one victor and 23 tributes. Yet, Katniss conquered cultural definitions by courage, timely submission and steadfast character. Despite death lurking around every corner, she would not bow down to a corrupt civilization for the sake of “at-one-ment”. Thus, extrinsic and intrinsic evidence not only parallel modern veracity, but also appeals to our own sense of fear and hope. Ultimately, the summation of perseverance, relatability and sacrificial love provides a potent hook that elevates captivation.

As the case with Suzanne Collin's piquant volume, the author of Hebrews captures sacrificial love in transcending fashion. In Hebrews 9-10, the cross is revealed as the cornerstone of Christianity - a symbol of salvation sealed with a new covenant, inked by innocent blood. To redeem mankind from eternal separation from God, Christ gave his life as ransom, so that all people could worship Him:

"Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant." ~ Hebrews 9:13-15

Indeed, the pure power of the Resurrection story anchors itself to the most selfless love. Perhaps such higher love is the inspirational trigger that peaks interest in a story like "The Hunger Games". Beyond the "Hunger Games" survival strategies, there existed a desire, among the rising generation, to restore righteousness into the balance of living. The ministry of Christ takes this several steps further, by proclaiming the good news that we, as a redeemed and unified people, do not have to survive to live. We have already been given life! That is the whole point of why Easter is commemorated.

Katniss understood sacrifice as habit - how in order to save a life, one must be willing to surrender it. All four Gospels highlighted this truth (Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, John 12:25), and we, as believers, should act comparatively, with Christ our prized standard. No other sacrifice comes close to that of Jesus - a "once-for-all" act of sanctification. Christ gave his blood so that we wouldn't have to shed our own as penance. In other words, He was and is our tribute!

"Then he says, 'I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.' And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place." ~ Hebrews 10:17-20

So as others share opinions on why "The Hunger Games" is such a fad, take time to explore the connectors between Scripture and creative works that hold redemptive qualities, mirroring the message of the Gospel. In addition, begin expressing thanksgiving to God for His grace and mercy, for all the ways He has restored and renewed life for you. Furthermore, pray for those who are locked into exacting circumstances, who need the miracle of hope desperately. May God open eyes and hearts this Easter to see the beauty of reconciliation through every outlet He deems fitting, even an experience like “The Hunger Games”.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.