6.01.2020

Prayerful Protest for Floyd in Ferguson


On Saturday, I was once again able to join with Civil Righteousness as Christians gathered in Ferguson, this time in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and all that is currently transpiring. This was the first of a 21-day call to prayer and action referred to as the Isaiah 58 Fast, running from May 30 to June 19.

We came out to form The Wall, lining up on the opposite side of S. Florissant from the Ferguson fire and police stations to be a presence and to silently pray. Participants stood with white tape covering their mouths, a single word written on that tape to publicly express the cries of our hearts in prayer.

On this day, my word—my prayer—was "HOPE."

While I struggle to find one all-encompassing word for the pain so many of us feel and our many needs, as I prayed even for what that word should be, I felt how desperately hope is needed. To have this eruption not only in cities across the U.S. but even now in London, and right in the middle of the multi-faceted tensions of a pandemic, I feel it even more. And, far more significantly, I know that hope will only be found as people come to know Jesus Christ Himself, the only one who can truly heal our world as it ever louder groans.

After gathering up some photos, I settled into the line—and finally wept. I have found over the years that I must do something with these emotions, and have learned, sadly far too many times since 2014, that this must include prayer and lament with God's people. The moment I saw the announcement of this event the night before, I knew I was supposed to be there taking all this to the Lord.

As I stood on that street I've traveled many times since my childhood, hearing the honks and hollers of approval from people of all backgrounds for a protest—ANY protest at this point—I felt the full-on exhaustion from this repetition of history that continues to cost us all so much. In my mind rang sentiments from black friends and community members, ranging from, "I'm depressed," or, "I had to shut down this time," to all-out rage of various stripes.

Lord Jesus, come quickly. Oh God, bring us Your hope.

Church, we cannot be surprised where we are, and we cannot continue as we have and expect change. I echo the call of organizer Jonathan Tremaine Thomas for the body of Christ to be out demonstrating who God is. We need to be a true presence in our communities, bringing the light of Christ to drive out the darkness. Jesus came to Earth, God present among us. He left us His Spirit, the presence of God in us. Now we can bring His very presence into our communities as we unite and pray and serve.

Whatever emotions you may be processing, I encourage you to channel them through the truths of the Gospel and in light of the sacrificial Savior who loved us enough to die for us. By His blood we are one in Christ, and we can and must love each other and our neighbors. Seek opportunities for prayer and service, whether in St. Louis or in your own community. Share news of events like this, which are far less likely to receive media coverage. And, as always, listen in order to truly hear and learn in order to truly love. Actual dialogue plays a crucial part in loving like Jesus, and bringing His hope to a hopeless world.


Tape and markers...

...Weapons of war






Post gathering and time of Communion

You can view video of the entire event here:

Watch for more events and prayer gatherings to come on the Civil Righteousness website or follow their social media channels.

5.27.2020

The Dichotomy of True Comfort


"Comfort and Ease." This was the topic of discussion during this month's Theology at the Bottleworks (currently meeting via Zoom). We'd actually planned for this conversation before the pandemic shutdown hit here, and it seemed a perfect time to pick it back up now during what is, for many people in many ways, a particularly uncomfortable time.

Early on, our moderator gave us a couple of definitions which seemed somewhat contradictory. One was "a state of ease and freedom from pain or constraint," while the other was "a strengthening aid."

In processing differences in types of temporal comforts (material, consumable, relational, etc.), versus what I now find truly comforting in my own life, I notice what feels like a marked contradiction as well.

Ultimately the single most comforting place for me to be is in the presence of the Lord—talking to Him, listening to Him, realizing His love and care. Yet strangely, and as I frequently hear from others, I don't always find myself pursuing Him as strongly as one would expect if this is where such true comfort is found.

The question then is why not? I've heard all kinds of reasons, often involving time constraints (which are recently not such a problem for many of us). But for myself, I've come to realize one reason is this: As I go to Jesus, I really have to deal with things I might not want to—things I may even be actively trying to ignore. I have to work through deep issues and concerns, whether in the world or in myself. This, of course, can be incredibly UNcomfortable. But as He guides me through and begins to course-correct my understanding, I can also see that He is always with me, a "refuge and strength" and "very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46) And as I sink into that reality and begin to trust Him, I find incredible comfort—and most definitely a "strengthening aid."

During the conversation, it was intriguing how quickly several people indicated that, while comfort in itself may not be inherently wrong, merely pursuing a life of comfort was not seen as a positive. It was also a common concern that perhaps a growing interest in a return to personal comforts was taking priority for some during this time. After all, I noted, "freedom from constraint" is currently a rather hot cultural topic, perhaps especially in the States. It seems we often have, in part, a discomfort rooted in sheer inconvenience. But I question how this affects our love for our neighbor. Are we invested in our personal comfort—perhaps more colloquially our "rights"—over and above the comfort and care of all others?

Looking at Philippians 2:1-8, it's clear God calls us to a different way of thought and action than simply our own self comfort.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind."

Reading on, these words particularly stand out to me:

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

And how are we to do this? By having the sacrificial mind of our Lord:

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Jesus gave up every possible comfort, leaving His Father's side, coming to live with and serve broken people, even going to a torturous death before His return to life, all to give us the ultimate comfort of knowing God. We can have "freedom from constraint" in going to Him now, and we look forward to complete "freedom from pain" in a renewed world. This truth is our "strengthening aid," one meant not only to give comfort to us, but also giving us the ability to comfort others, even sacrificially as Jesus did.


Jesus shows us that our greatest comfort came through His ultimate "inconvenience," and His willingness to give up His own comfort is the foundational reason we can trust Him. In Christ, we find these seeming contradictions are actually complementary. And nothing could be more comforting.

5.18.2020

"Christ Meets Us in the Book "


On an Easter Sunday just a few years back, Pastor Sergei Marchenko preached a sermon titled "Sunday Afternoon." He wanted to consider the effects of Jesus' resurrection, and how Christ meets us "on the road, in the book and at the table."

It was the middle section that really caught my ear, and elicited a rightful applause. It's a joy for me to show people the many and varied ways we can see Christ in all of Scripture. I've shared several different versions of "Jesus is the True and Better." I also frequently recommend three books: "The Jesus Storybook Bible" for kids and up, "The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus" for pre-teens and up and "The True Story of the Whole World" for those at higher reading levels. Each book can help supplement the understanding that the whole Bible really is the story of Jesus.

Similar to but a bit longer than "Jesus is the True and Better," Pastor Sergei compiled a phenomenal overview of Christ throughout Scripture shared below with permission. You can also listen to the entire sermon here.

I truly love that none of the resources shared here are anywhere near comprehensive, and that every similar exposure and consideration deepens my love for my Lord and His Book.


Christ Meets Us in the Book

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Jesus takes them through the Bible to show them why they should not have been surprised that he died and rose again. The Bible is about Jesus. It is his book and he meets us there.

In Genesis he is the creator and the offspring promised to bruise the serpent’s head.

In Exodus he is the lamb whose blood on the doorframe caused the Lord to pass over the house and spare the firstborn of God’s people.

In Leviticus he is the holy high priest and the perfect sacrifice.

In Numbers he is the bronze serpent lifted high so that even a glance at him has the power to neutralize the venom in our veins.

In Deuteronomy he the great prophet who speaks on God’s authority. In Joshua he is the commander of the Lord’s army standing with his drawn sword in his hand.

In Judges he is the deliverer who saves his people out of the hand of those who plunder them.

In Ruth he the kinsman - redeemer.

In 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles he is the Prophet, Priest, and King.

In Ezra & Nehemiah he is the one who brings his people home, the restorer and rebuilder of the city of God.

In Esther he is the Invisible protector and preserver of his people.

In Job he is the mediator, the arbiter between God and man who can lay his hand on them both. He is of whom Job said: I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth.

Psalms are the songs of Jesus, songs about Jesus, and songs sung to Jesus.

In Proverbs & Ecclesiastes he is the wisdom of God.

In the Song of Solomon he is the bridegroom in love with his bride.

In Isaiah he is the suffering servant who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; upon whom was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with whose wounds we are healed.

In Jeremiah he is the righteous branch.

In Lamentations he weeps over the devastated city.

In Ezekiel he is the son of man.

In Daniel he is the fourth person in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In Hosea he is the faithful husband forgiving his adulterous wife.

In Joel he is the Sender of the Spirit. In Amos he is the restorer of the fortunes of Israel.

In Obadiah he is the just judge over his people’s enemies.

In Jonah he is the one who pities the great city.

In Micah he is the ancient ruler to be born in Bethlehem.

In Nahum he is the avenger of his people.

In Habakkuk he is the answer to the prophet’s questions.

In Zephaniah he is the LORD God in the midst of his people, a mighty one who will save, who rejoices over them with gladness, quiets them by his love, and exults over them with loud singing.

In Haggai he is the shaker of heaven and earth, the shaker of nations, who will fill his temple with glory.

In Zechariah he is the pierced Messiah.

In Malachi he is the sun of righteousness with healing in its wings.

And the disciples on the road to Emmaus only had the Old Testament. We have the whole Bible.

In the Gospels his life, death and resurrection are recorded.

In Acts his life, death, and resurrection are preached.

In the Epistles his life, death, and resurrection are explained and applied.

In Revelation his return is anticipated.

Jesus is the true hero of all Bible stories.

Every blessing in the Bible is ultimately given to us in Christ. Every curse is the Bible is ultimately borne by Christ for the sake of his people.

Every genealogy culminates in Christ. Every teaching has Jesus as its chief subject. Every poem whispers his name.

Every promise is "yes" and "amen" in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen and amen.

4.12.2020

Easter Sunday Worship 2020

Well, socially distanced though we be at the moment, we had the remarkable honor of helping to lead worship for an online service with Chatham Bible Church this Easter morning. The sermon is titled “Whispers from an Empty Tomb” from John 20:1-18. If you couldn't join us on this morning, we certainly invite you to do so now or anytime. Christ is Risen, indeed!

4.10.2020

Awake, O Sleeper! // Easter 2020


Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. -James 4:13–17

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. -Ephesians 5:14–17


On the evening of February 24, which now feels practically like a year ago, my husband and I simply stayed home. Unremarkable? Perhaps. But we really should have been at a local community center taking full advantage of a month-long membership nearing expiration.

That night we learned of a shooting at the center. An employee who’d helped us adjust our membership was dead. A day later, I shared some thoughts online, which included this statement: “The every day truth is we literally do not know what the next moment will bring.”

Just a few weeks later and the unthinkable began to affect us all—this global pandemic and simultaneous economic crisis that even we sci-fi fans didn’t ultimately believe could actually happen. Yet here we are, watching over a million worldwide become ill and thousands die, perhaps even people we know and love, as we “stay at home” and try to protect ourselves and others. And I realize again that stark reality: We do not know what tomorrow will bring. But despite this truth, we’re often so busy sleeping our way through life that we neglect to take seriously the most important things.

Thankfully, our Creator does take our lives, and our eternities, very seriously. Violence, disease and death entered our world because we neglected to listen even to God. For that, He could have rightfully returned the favor and simply neglected us. Instead, He is not only aware of the fears and pains we try to ignore, He came and experienced them Himself.

As we face a pandemic that both figuratively and sometimes literally takes our breath away, I’m reminded of Jesus’ struggle to breathe on the cross. A victim of this kind of crucifixion was hung in such a way that they were forced to push up by the feet in order to exact a full breath. With His feet nailed in place, this already impaired action was beyond excruciating.

I also imagine the moment Jesus returned to life. What was it like to take that first full, deep breath? No struggle or pain. He came out of the tomb completely restored and alive.

Those two little snapshots offer just a tiny picture of how seriously God takes our situation. The first is a picture of God suffering for us, taking the punishment and death we deserve on Himself. The second shows the defeat of death and a resurrection we also can have in renewed bodies and, ultimately, a world restored without death, debilitation or disease. This is just part of what the Lord offers to anyone who believes in Him.

So I ask sincerely: Do you believe?

You may live to 100 or die unexpectedly tomorrow, but every one of us has an expiration date. That next breath is not guaranteed. Our lives truly are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” So I urge you to fully believe in who Jesus Christ is, what He’s done and what that means for you. The whole Bible is His story. Take a look at those pages. Ask Him to show Himself to you.
If you need a Bible or have questions, never hesitate to ask.

Whatever you do, don’t sleep through this moment. This is that wake up call to be raised from death, just as Jesus was on that first Easter morning, and to make the best use of the very limited time God has given you here. For the Christian, this means us too.

I’m thankful the Lord has spared me so far through all these recent events so I could share this with you. I pray He’ll awaken you to respond to Him.

Stay safe. Be well. God bless you.

4.07.2020

#JesusChangedMyLife

Here's a quick story about how Jesus changed my life, and I pray He's changing yours as well. You can find more details on the My Story, His Doing page.

You're also invited to join Chatham Bible Church online this Easter Sunday and in the weeks ahead if you're not already connected with a church, and come by for a visit when this all blows over. Of course, our sermons are always available online if you ever want to have a listen. I hear that guy is pretty good.

Happy Easter!

3.27.2020

Praying for the Lou on 3.14


March 14, or 3.14, is known by many as Pi Day. In St. Louis, it's also affectionately referred to as #314Day, naturally because of our 314 area code.

But in 2020, conveniently on a Saturday, this date also got a brand new official designation as "Pray for the Lou" day, a God-given vision to simultaneously fill the streets of St. Louis in every one of its 79 neighborhoods with Christians united in prayer for our city. It was incredible to watch the Lord work to make this happen over the past few months, and to be a small part of the fantastic fulfillment of this amazing event, despite some seriously mounting odds.

It seems incredible now that this event took place not quite 2 weeks ago, and just as COVID-19 was knocking on STL's door. Given all that's transpired since (which also lent to a greater delay in posting than I'd hoped), it feels far longer. But the pandemic became yet one more reason to pray for this place we love.

Our own church experience had some unique qualities worth sharing. Chatham Bible Church, now located in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood, Missouri, has its roots in the city of Wellston, right on the City/County divide. So we chose early on to pick an area right alongside Wellston and pray there.

We were graciously hosted by the New City Fellowship West End Restore St. Louis offices, just south of Hamilton Heights, the neighborhood we designated to pray in and for. After a time of group prayer at New City, and guided by executive director Andrew Stern, we took the bus north to prayer walk in some specific spots.

New City Fellowship Offices in the West End neighborhood
Scripture and prayer before the walk
Our first stop was the former Hempstead School. Now a burnt out shell of a once beautiful building, the campus sits littered and desolate as the structure slowly falls apart, a stark reminder here of what once was and what now is. Andrew requested we break up in groups and circle the school three times to pray. Some of those prayers focused on education and educators, on children in the neighborhood, on area tutoring programs, on safety for these kids, on restoration that only Jesus can bring.




The littered alleyway at the back of the building


Knowledge is Power


Our next stop was at a community garden directly across the street from the home of a just turned 90-year-old woman who is a great witness in her ministry to her neighborhood. We prayed for a neighborhood resident, then circled the block in groups to pray for this woman's ministry, for the community gardens that can be places of gathering and hope, for jobs and wealth to return to a place that clearly once had more robust industry, for leaders and authorities to work together to help the neighborhood, for churches and ministries to be able to serve this area well, and for much more the Lord might do here. We then ended our time here in song back at that community garden.

At the community garden

Praying for a neighbor



As it happens, Hamilton Heights is one of three city areas designated for the new St. Louis Cure Violence program, which is scheduled to start soon if everything can stay on track. It's also no accident that Cure Violence treats violence like a disease—an epidemic—going into neighborhoods with the idea of cutting it off at the source often using individuals with gang-related backgrounds to actively interrupt conflicts before they start or escalate. It seemed a given to pray with this parallel in mind in Hamilton Heights, as we ask the Lord to stop both the far too familiar threat of local violence and the unsettling new threat of a global disease.

After our time in Hamilton Heights, we made a special stop back in Wellston—right on Chatham Avenue and at the very building our church formerly occupied.


The building our church once occupied. I'd only seen it in photos before.
There is no pride in admitting that we are aware that the church body ultimately decided to move out of this area in the 60s due in part to racist motivation, which is clearly documented in old church records. And while none of us was around for those events, we took this opportunity to repent here, to ask forgiveness for the sin of abandonment some of us have felt strongly over the years as this reality came to our attention. We were reminded of our forgiveness in Christ by our gracious guide who joined us for this side excursion. We prayed that the Lord would make Himself known in this place by the church body that now occupies that building and through other believers here. We asked His guidance to know if we should serve in or around this area in the future, not as some attempt to make up for the past, which we certainly cannot do, but to bring glory to God and share His gospel. And we prayed for the Lord's blessing in and hope for this place.

A significant moment for our church
Several of us then headed to Cardinal Ritter College Prep's football field for a prayer rally with anyone who had prayer walked in any of the 79 neighborhoods. Again by no accident, and after months of the organizers trying to work out where this rally would be held, we ended up directly on the infamous Delmar Divide, well known for its overt split of wealth to the south and poverty to the north. The Lord put us in exactly the right position to pray for unity in our city. "What is divided will be united" was one distinct rallying cry.

Delmar runs right up to this field as seen in the background
As the temperature dropped, we had the opportunity to pray in this place together, to worship our Lord united in song and praise, to hear from pastors representing many different City and County churches, and to hear from the leadership of this event, including Kurt Wilson, to whom this vision was initially given, and Jonathan Tremaine Thomas, who also led the summer Fragrance Ferguson prayer event I previously covered.

Pastors gather before the rally
Kurt and J.T. lead in prayer






An enthusiastic crowd in the cold
Each pastor prayed over STL,
as seen led by Pastor Sergei Marchenko in the clip below.
The echoing cry, "For St. Louis' sake we will not keep silent."




Again, it was amazing to be a part of all this, and emotional to see it ultimately come together, especially given our connection to and involvement with those planning. From some small, early prayer gatherings to the closing "against-the-odds" worship rally, the Lord was clearly working.
  • This was a tremendous undertaking in itself, and it was incredible to watch the movement swell. Post last year's 10 Days of Prayer in STL we continue to see churches come together in our region. We saw many new area churches jumping on board, unexpected promotion, and hundreds of Christians who truly cared not only to share about this with others, but to come out on a dreary day when any of us might have otherwise stayed home, and for good reason...
  • The forecast called for a 100% chance of rain, and it was cold and pouring when we left our homes that morning. But we noted on the church bus that by the time we got out to prayer walk, we were experiencing mist at best. During the rally, the Lord kept the rain away until the very end.
  • It's now clear that just a few days later this entire event would have been both prohibited and dangerous. At this stage, all St. Patrick's Day weekend events had cancelled as increased cautions were just beginning. On March 16 gatherings were limited to 50 or fewer. By March 20 meeting sizes were limited to 10 or fewer, and the stay at home order came just 9 days after 3.14. God's perfect timing.
A sincere thanks to Kurt Wilson for being obedient to the Lord in this calling and for pursuing a vision which I know was often surprising even to him all along the way. This was a great blessing to this city and a significant bond to believers and churches at this remarkably crucial time—just before we would be effectively separated. Of course the Lord knew, and He will never cease to amaze us as we trust Him.

Now we wait again to see how our God responds to our cries as we enter a whole new and unexpected crisis through which He is already at work.

And once again I remind you to keep on praying, St. Louis. Keep up with Pray for the Lou and other ongoing area moves of prayer, many of which are now continuing online. Christian, keep praying wherever you are. In an unprecedented time, pray now like never before. Even socially distanced, we remain united in Christ. As He reminds us all of our ultimate need for Him, let's continue to ask and see what our Lord will do.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:4-7

3.09.2020

The Pursuit of God to Bring Us Into the Family of God


About a year ago I helped lead worship for a conference with a “one another" theme which joined predominately black and predominantly white churches together, at which I shared the following. Looking at my calendar, at some point I realized the date of this conference, which met not a mile from where I grew up, was on or near the anniversary of the day in 1997 when my life was about to take a dramatic turn, as there in my bedroom the Lord distinctly commanded me to stop the sin I was committing. I’ve shared before how I stubbornly tried to fight Him, but He persisted until I finally accepted the love of God in Jesus.

Ironically, on Easter last year in that very same house, I was informed by my mom, who was adopted as a baby, that she had just discovered some family members, blood related siblings we never knew about before. This is still a lot to process, and plenty more has been discovered since then. But I continue to find all of this coming together to reflect the picture of God’s pursuit of His people in many ways.

It does at times distress me to recall how I initially rejected the Lord’s love as I did, but I realize the story of God as Pursuer is true for everyone who comes to believe in Jesus. Perhaps (and hopefully) you aren’t as stubborn as me, but if you know Him this is your story too. He pursued each of us to His own shame and death, taking our sins on the cross with a love that will not let us go. (Romans 8:38-39)

At the same time, when He calls us into the Kingdom He also calls us into a broad and vast family, much like we saw at that conference and others like it. (1 Peter 2:9-10) We suddenly realize we have brothers and sisters, mom and dads, grandparents and cousins we never knew we had, and from more and varied backgrounds then we can possibly fathom.

We can also love because He first loved and pursued us. (1 John 4:7-21) We can be imagers of God in our pursuit of others to call them into that same Kingdom and family.

I don’t know what your experience of pursuit is, but I find it can often lend to rejection. It’s hard. And it makes me even more grateful for the Lord’s persistence in my own stubbornness even to this day.

But I’ve also had the honor and privilege to pursue others who did allow me to pursue them, and to witness miracles, including marriages unmistakably restored by the Lord. The same week of that conference I held a baby who serves as a continual reminder of such a miracle for which I cannot stop thanking Him.

As I shared at that conference, the Lord will pursue His people through His people to bring them into His Kingdom family. Anyone He wants to save and any situation He wants to restore will, indeed, be saved and restored.

Thank you, Lord, for your relentless love and persistence in bringing us home.

3.02.2020

"Upon a Life" a Hymn



"Upon a Life I have not lived,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death,
I stake my whole eternity."


I had the privilege to lead worship this weekend, and because we were focused on the belt of truth as discussed in Ephesians 6, took the opportunity to introduce to the church a song we'd not sung together before. Our whole set was focused on singing back many truths of our faith ("O Church Arise," "The Church's One Foundation," "This I Believe [The Creed]"), and especially singing of and to Jesus ("In Christ Alone," "Cornerstone"), who is Himself our ultimate Truth. The rich lyrics of this updated hymn seemed to fit well.

For those curious, this song was originally written by Horatius Bonar as part of a longer Communion hymn. You can download music and read additional commentary from the Indelible Grace artists who updated this tune on their Hymnbook page. Their work on this song, as so many, is much appreciated. Please enjoy a listen.

3.01.2020

...Eternal Stuff Really Does Matter - A Response to a Local Tragedy


In the wake of another local shooting in the last week—an event I missed in person solely by God's grace—I recently shared the following on social media. This was another clear reminder to me that the Lord has kept me here to keep telling you about who He is. And as we get ready for Pray for the Lou in the City of St. Louis on 3.14, it's yet another reminder of how desperately our entire region needs Jesus.

So, somewhat off the cuff, this is what I wrote...

Regarding the Community Center shooting: We just joined there for 1 month (winter swims!) and have a few days left. Both considered going last night, really should have, but didn’t tell each other until after the news hit. Now realizing we’ve encountered one or both of the individuals involved. One now injured. One dead.

Folks, alongside my general silliness, I talk about Jesus and prayer and such on here more than a little. Lots of reasons for that, but one is eternal stuff matters. What happens both today and after we die is a big deal. We find events like this shocking, especially when they feel “close to home,” and we absolutely should. But maybe we’re not shocked enough to really respond. The every day truth is we literally do not know what the next moment will bring.

So while disaster fatigue and fleeting comforts try to lull us to sleep, I’m praying for an awakening. I pray it for our region. I pray it for you.

Instead of letting this or the next disaster dull us, I pray they sharpen the eternal significance of every moment. I pray we begin to hear God’s voice over all others. That we can taste and see the Lord really is good in spite of the world’s mess. That we can see Jesus, who already faced down and defeated death. That every sense is affected by the truth of who Jesus is so we can love God and each other right and well.

"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." -Ephesians 5:14

More than anything else, I want this for you.

Don’t sleep through all this. I’m thankful I’m still here to tell you eternal stuff really does matter.

Art: Pixabay

12.21.2019

Christmas Makes Prayer Possible

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” -1 John 5:13-15

It’s not uncommon in our culture to hear words like “thoughts and prayers.” Related sentiments are often expressed with the best intentions and genuine care, especially following personal crisis or major catastrophe. But at times a sense of helplessness and hopelessness may lead to frustration with such words. When desires are not soon fulfilled the question may arise: What good does prayer really do?

The celebration of the birth of Jesus can also bring the birth of hope for such a question. The entire trajectory of this tiny baby’s life, ultimately leading to His death and astounding resurrection, was to show us who God is and make it possible to know Him very personally. That knowing includes being able to talk with Him anytime, expressing both fears and joys, needs and thanks.

In Jesus we see God act on our behalf, proving we can trust Him to act for us today. While we should take action when possible—either for ourselves or in the lives of others as God may even use us to respond to a request—prayer now becomes an extraordinary act in itself. This is communication with our very real God who has actually lived among us, experienced pain like us and can affect all the things we cannot. While the Lord makes very clear that His ways are not our ways, and He may not respond precisely when and how we expect, He does hear those who believe in Him and we can trust Him in any circumstance.

This year I’ve had the privilege to participate in some big prayer events in and around St. Louis, and I’ve clearly seen God respond to the prayers of His people in amazing ways. But we can also see this in simple, everyday communication as we trust the Lord and watch for His responses. We can begin to see He truly is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

While I am glad to pray for you anytime, my prayer for you this season is that you do trust in the name of Jesus, the Son of God who makes prayer possible, and experience the true comfort and joy of knowing and speaking with Him each day.

Art: unsplash.com

10.14.2019

10 Days of Prayer in St. Louis


I just spent 10 extraordinary days praying all across the St. Louis region, from South City to North City to far West County, and all points between. This was an unusual opportunity, and an incredible experience to share.

I was privileged earlier this year to join the organizers of 10 Days of Prayer St. Louis in prayer and planning for many months leading up to these 10 days in October. 10 Days is a movement that's been adopted and adapted in several cities, but this was the first time any such effort had taken place in St. Louis. Lead organizers here decided rather than creating special meetings for a 10 day period, why not find out who's already praying in our city and join them? And so we did. I was personally able to attend 15 individual events, and am beyond thankful for all I experienced in this time.

St. Louis, as you may know, is having a mix of good and bad happening in our city. We're making national headlines for our Stanley Cup winning Blues and having our Cardinals playing ball in October again (and in our sports enthusiasm we are remarkably united), while simultaneously gaining infamy for the horrific fact that several young children became shooting victims in our city this year. Beyond crime stats, we who live here are also well aware of the ways our city is divided—along ethnic, economical and even ecclesial lines, among many others. We desperately need these things to change.

So for these 10 Days we did war in prayer alongside many others who've been fighting the same battle for years. And for all our differences, I heard so many similar threads that weren't just sparked by a unified theme or prayer guide, but the fact that we love our city, and we want to see our city know and love Jesus, the only one who can ultimately make those changes we seek.

We worshiped. We repented. We walked and we wept. We prayed over places where strongholds still exist and saw powerful examples of the walls of division coming down. And every place we went, we saw the Lord at work in power through His people. We saw real desire for change, true hope for change, actual change in progress, and every bit of that rooted in Jesus Christ, our King. Because of Him, we do not lose heart.

Here are just a few moments captured from the events I was able to attend.

Day 1 meeting in a thrift shop ministry at Grand and Chippewa.
Here county residents prayed over city residents.

Day 2 Speak to the City event for the first time in the county at the far west edge.
Praying for our entire region.

Day 2 afternoon prayer outside Crave Coffeehouse after the rain.


On my drive here, I was reminded that we were not far from where a tornado hit in the 1800s, utterly destroying many areas of the town. And yet, the city had to come together to rebuild from that event. Lord, unite us to build this place back up, especially those areas that are currently laid so low. As you were laid low on the cross for our sin and returned to life, we want to see the new life you give infused into our city. Raise this place up in your power, Lord.

Day 3 prayer at the temporary home of Refuge and Restoration,
which plans to create a center in Dellwood.

Day 4 prayer walk in Bevo, praying especially for our Bosnian neighbors.

Day 4 night of worship and teaching at Memorial Pres. near Wash U.

Day 5 worship with staff at New City Fellowship offices.
This was followed by a prayer walk in the surrounding neighborhood.

Our prayer walk took us to areas with both dilapidated and restored homes,
areas of prostitution and a community garden planted by immigrants.
Hurt and hope all around this area.

Day 5 prayer with a small and quiet gathering near Brentwood...

...and a large and loud gathering in West County.
Many styles of worship expressed to our One Great God.

Day 6 in North City, with many on their knees in the pews.

Gathering in a circle for prayer to close the night...

...hand in hand before the Throne.

Day 7 in Maryland Heights.
We prayed for many of the estimated 4,000 congregations in our region by name.

Day 7 eve, on our knees in Creve Coeur.

As we prayed on day 6 for "our daily bread," the Lord brought to mind that we live in a city where many are starving. Some physically, yes, but many more mentally, emotionally and spiritually. God, let us in the Church not also inadvertently starve ourselves by ignoring you, because all this begins in the house of the Lord. We are to be the houses helping to feed our city, and, Jesus, you are the true and better Bread. You are the Bread of Life. Feed us with the Bread of your Word. Fill us with the Bread of your Presence, with your Spirit guiding us in ways we can serve our neighbors. Give this city manna that it's never seen before, Lord. Let this city taste and see you.

Day 8 with One City/Won City for prayer and worship
at the Holiday Inn downtown.

Day 9 with Pastoral Fellowship of St. Louis for a conference on Arsenal,
including some great stories of racial unity in Christ.

Day 10 with North County pastors praying over their people
at their fourth annual Unity Sunday service,
uniting several predominantly black and predominantly white congregations.
These photos and descriptions are mere glimpses into all that went on during these 10 Days, and they can't begin to express all the Lord is doing in me through this time. Just being in His presence with His people is always amazing, but I've also learned so much more of different traditions, different styles of prayer and worship. I got to meet many people who love Jesus and St. Louis as much as I do. We don't all look and act and pray the same way, but we ultimately want the same thing—to see God bring His glory and healing to our city.

Now that 10 Days of Prayer STL is behind us, we'll talk through what the Lord did here. More importantly, we'll look forward to what He has to come as we see Him answer our prayers. Now that many of our prayer movements know about one another, we hope this will continue to improve unity among the churches of our region. And we know there are new ideas in development, such as Pray for the Lou Day next year on 3/14 (that being in reference to our "314" area code).

Whether you're a resident of the St. Louis region or any other city, always be on the lookout for the things the Lord is doing where you live. And never ever stop lifting your city up to Him in prayer. By His cross, Jesus is making all things new, even now.