The Power of Prayer

Prayer

Before reading the story below I had never heard of Pahrump, Nevada. Google it and you’ll see a listing of “adult entertainment” that gives an indication of what might be its “claim to fame.”

Here’s the story:

In Pahrump, Nevada, the Diamond D brothel began construction on an expansion of their building to increase their ever-growing business.

In response, the local Baptist Church started a campaign to block the business from expanding, with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church.

Work on Diamond D’s project progressed until the week before the grand re-opening when lightning struck the building and burned it to the ground! After the brothel burned to the ground by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about “the power of prayer.”

But shortly thereafter, Jill Diamond, the owner/madam of Diamond D, sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church “was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business, either through direct or indirect divine actions or means.” 

In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and vociferously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise.

The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s reply, and at the opening hearing he commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork that we now have a brothel owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that thinks otherwise.”

The moral of this story is we’d better be careful about how and for what we pray. And if we really trust God to answer our prayer, when he answers the way we asked, we’d better be willing to say that that’s exactly what happened and to give him the credit.

God bless your day!

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Prayer Shaming

Prayer

In the wake of ongoing acts of terror that have become almost daily events in places around the world, it’s heartening to see responses of young people. Although perhaps a bit naïve in some respects, they are to be commended for speaking out about such important matters as prayer.

This past week I saw a Facebook posting from a group of Catholic High School students. It uses the increasingly popular format of numerous individual students, each holding one sheet of paper, with printed words that, viewed sequentially, form a message. The title of this one is “prayer shaming.” Each line represents the content of one or more hand held pages.

The secret of Christian living is love. Only love fills the empty spaces caused by evil.
Our generation doesn’t remember life before September 11 but we’ll never be able to forget life after it.
What’s terrifying about San Bernardino, Newtown, and so many others…
…is the shattering sameness of them.
It seems like every week there’s another report of death and destruction.
Many ask, “Where was God when that shooting happened?”
Until we realize that we’ve told God to leave.
So many have told God that he’s not welcome in public, on TV, in schools.
We’re told our “thoughts and prayers” shouldn’t be with the victims…
…that “prayers” should be reserved for “forgiveness.”
It’s as if a new trend is sweeping the country – “Prayer shaming.”
Football players are glorified for drugs and immoral actions.
But a football player talks about his faith and he’s judged.
On college campuses students are told to hide their faith so they don’t “offend” anyone.
So today, we as students of East Catholic High School – and as Americans – are taking a stand.
We encourage people of all faiths to stand together, and to pray.
Pray for the victims.
Pray for the families.
Pray for our First Amendment, that lets us all pray freely.
Pray for safety.
Pray for peace.
Pray that God is allowed back into our lives, without the prayer shame.
And pray that we may once again become one nation, under God, indivisible…
…with liberty and justice for all.

Possible or even probable collateral naivety aside, I say, “Right on, young friends in Christ!”

Inauguration Day

inauguration

Tomorrow, January 20, is Inauguration Day in America. Donald John Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. However, some may question that number.

Actually, Grover Cleveland is counted as both the 22nd and 24th President. He was elected, then lost, then won again four years later. The factual way to count U.S. Presidents is to say Donald Trump will be the 45th President but only the 44th person ever to take the oath of office.

Nearly one million people are estimated to be in Washington D.C. to witness the event in person. Tens of millions will view the ceremony across the country and around the world.

Interestingly, crowd size estimators use aerial images from satellites, helicopters and balloons, plus basic math. Three pieces of information are needed: the total area of the space, the proportion of the area that is occupied, and the density of the crowd. But I digress.

More important than the number of people who witness the inauguration, whether in person or via electronic media, is the meaning of the event. In many countries around the world, leadership transitions are less than peaceful. Historically, nations of the world have experienced change in leadership following a decisive battle, a horrific insurrection, or a regal beheading.

Not so in America. Notwithstanding protests from individuals and groups regarding the legitimacy of this presidential election, the fact remains that tomorrow we will witness the non-universal phenomenon of a mostly peaceful transition of presidential power.

Of course we’ve been told to expect demonstrators. That’s nothing new. We’ve also seen news reports predicting thousands of motorcyclists known as “Bikers for Trump” who are expected to provide unofficial security at the event. That’s not quite as common.

Tomorrow will come. Tomorrow will go. Your life and mine might not be discernibly different, at least for now. But like it or not, change will occur. Some change will be good, some not. It’s not a simple task to lead what is arguably the most powerful country in the world.

Regardless of whether our new president views prayer the way most Christians do, the best suggestion I can offer today is that we hold our new leader and our country in our prayers. Here’s one suggestion from Lutheran Service Book’s Prayer for Responsible Citizenship:

“Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve you faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

 

A Prayer for Responsible Citizenship

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One of the blessings of my nine years as president of our national church body is Lutheran Service Book, published January 1, 2005 by Concordia Publishing House. I’m thankful to the LCMS Commission on Worship for its excellent work in producing this highly valued hymnal.

A significant section of LSB is titled “Prayers, Intercessions, and Thanksgivings.” One prayer in that section seems particularly fitting for today, only five days before national Election Day:

A Prayer for Responsible Citizenship: Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

If you have not already done so, with that prayer on your lips and in your heart, exercise your privilege and responsibility as a citizen of our land to cast your vote on or before next Tuesday, September 8, for the next president and vice-president of the United States of America.

If you need a reminder of some important matters that may be helpful in your decision, I humbly offer my October 20, 2016 Perspectives article at https://jerrykieschnick.wordpress.com/.

God bless you and God bless America!

Dealing with Church Bullies

Church PewsLast week I shared an article by Thom Rainer identifying nine traits of church bullies. This week’s Perspectives focus is another article from the same author, who now moves “from descriptive to prescriptive.” Highlights of his article are below. To view the entire article, go to http://thomrainer.com/2015/04/nine-ways-deal-church-bullies/

How do we deal with church bullies? How do we prevent bullying? Here are nine suggestions:

  1. Fight bullying with the power of prayer. The most common targets of church bullies are the pastor and church staff. Ask humbly for people to pray for them daily.
  1. Seek to have an Acts 6 group in the church. Check out the manner in which the Jerusalem church dealt with murmuring and complaining.
  1. Have a high expectation church.Higher expectation churches tend to be more unified, more Great Commission focused, more biblically defined, and more servant oriented. High expectation churches don’t offer an environment conducive to bullying.
  1. Encourage members to speak and stand up to church bullies.Bullying thrives in a church where the majority remains in silent fear of church bullies. Bullies tend to back down when confronted by strong people in the church.
  1. Make certain the polity of the church does not become a useful instrument to church bullies.Many churches have ambiguous structures and lines of accountability. Bullies take advantage of the ambiguity and interpret things according to their nefarious needs.
  1. Be willing to exercise church discipline.Church discipline is a forgotten essential of many churches. Bullies need to know there are consequences for their actions, and church discipline may be one of them.
  1. Have a healthy process to put the best-qualified persons in positions of leadership in the church.Bullies often are able to push around less qualified people who have found themselves in positions of leadership.
  1. Have a healthy process to hire church staff. A unified church staff is a major roadblock for a church bully.
  1. Encourage a celebratory environment in the church.Joyous churches deter bullies. They like somber and divided churches.

Church bullying is more widespread than we often like to admit. Actually, last week’s article was forwarded to more people than any Perspectives article in a long time. That’s an indication that the article hit home with many of my readers, who very likely have encountered a church bully.

As stated last week, I encourage you to remember that church bullies, like you and like me, are “poor, miserable sinners” for whom Christ died. They, too, are in need of the forgiving and life changing grace of God.

Accordingly, our goal should not simply be to “run off” church bullies from our congregation, but to seek and pursue ways of helping bullies become blessings! That will not always work. Yet while such an endeavor is easier said than done, it’s certainly a worthy effort to consider!

God Said No

Credit: clker.com

Credit: clker.com

Here’s something I received this week from a friend. Perhaps it will be helpful to you, especially in times of doubt, difficulty, depression or despair.

I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, “No. It is not for me to take it away, but for you to give it up.”

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, “No. His spirit is whole. His body is only temporary.”

I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, “No. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations. It isn’t granted, it is learned.”

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, “No. I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.”

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, “No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, “No. You must grow on your own. But I will prune you to make you fruitful.”

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, “No. I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.”

I asked God to help me love others, as much as He loves me.
God said, “Aha! Finally you have the idea!”

God bless you abundantly!

Excellence in Leadership!

Tom CedelLast Friday night Terry and I joined over 500 of our nearest and dearest friends at the annual Concordia University Texas Excellence in Leadership Gala. Okay, not all in attendance were nearest and dearest friends. However, it was obvious that we all had much in common:

  • Attendees cared enough about Concordia University to spend a lot more than pocket change for a very nice dinner and more than a very nice contribution to benefit Concordia students.
  • All respected Dr. Tom Cedel, this year’s honoree, enough to offer three standing ovations and extended applause when he was introduced and at the end of his brief Christ-centered remarks.
  • We all joined in thanking Tom’s wife, Penny, who has worked faithfully at his side voluntarily representing Concordia locally and nationally as a cheerful ambassador of good will.

During Dr. Cedel’s 12 years as president of Concordia, the University has, among other things:

  • Moved from its 23-acre site in north central Austin to a 389-acre site near Lake Travis.
  • Doubled in enrollment. Ten times more students now graduate from Concordia each year.
  • Added several new undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  • Developed the Accelerated Degree program for part-time and adult returning students.
  • Formed partnerships with local school districts for teacher education programs.
  • Developed a nursing program that is one of the fastest growing in central Texas.
  • Achieved numerous academic and athletic milestones.
  • Grown in success in achieving its mission of Developing Christian Leaders.

Thanks to God for his healing hand through months of successful chemo and radiation treatment for Tom’s recent illness, discovered shortly after he announced his retirement last summer. Being chosen as honoree at the Excellence in Leadership Gala is an appropriate testimony to the gifts God has given Dr. Tom Cedel and the excellence with which he has used them to God’s glory!

Tom, Terry and I wish you and Penny the best, in the words of a toast learned from my father many years ago. I originally learned it in Spanish, but it’s spoken here in English: “May God bless you with his gifts of good health, much love, sufficient money and enough time to enjoy them all!”