Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 books I read in 2011

A plethora of "Christian celebrity" pastor types put up their list of top 10 books that they've read for the year. I'm not a Christian "celebrity," but for those open to hear from "D-Lister" (and I know that's even pushing it!), here are my top 10 books from this past year of which I commend to you.

1.) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This book was a page turner and I loved every page. Well written and truly redemptive in all senses of the word. The story of a world class runner turned WWII downed aviator. He barely survives 50 days at sea only to be captured and put in a POW camp. How about that for a bad day? Floating at sea for 50 days only to be discovered by Japanese. Wow. You'll be astounded at the journey, the camaraderie, the perseverance, and then the forgiveness of the story. My review here.

2.) Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian faithfulness and homosexuality by Wesley Hill. I did a quick review of it here. This book chronicles the struggle of a Christian dealing with same-sex attraction, but understanding that is not God's will for him. It really gives us a glimpse into the life of a believer who wants to remain faithful to Christ. In so doing, he takes heat from all sides: the pro-gay side; with those in the church who feel uncomfortable even discussing the issue; as well as those in the church who seem to have all the answers on why gay people are gay and how they can be fixed. Challenging and a good one for all of us to read. A great picture of sanctification: washed and waiting.

3.) When People are Big, God is Small. This one from Ed Welch is a brilliant but simple and practical guide to all of those who struggle with fear of man. It will draw your attention and your sense of need away from yourself and onto Christ. It is challenging, and at times offensive, but in a good way.

4.) The Trellis and the Vine. This book from Colin Marshall and Tony Payne challenges the reader to re-orient his view for how the church should work. Instead of having programs to fit perceived needs, programs should be centered around people. If people you have don't fit into the program (either those who would benefit or those who would lead them), then nix that program. Start with people, not with a program that may have outlived its usefulness. These lads really focus on the ministry of the Word from believer to believer, and not just ministry of the Word as it is preached on Sunday. Each member is a minister. A pastor's role is to equip members for ministry, which may or may not include ministry in a particular program. So much ministry is done one-to-one (these dudes are Australian so they say things a bit differently), which is good news. That kind of ministry is feasible given any budget or building limitations.

5.) No Bag for the Journey by Joseph Martin. A lad rides across the country on a bicycle before cell phones and emails and the like. More often than not Joseph Martin doesn't even know where he will be spending the night or what he'll be eating. God provided miraculously for him throughout this journey. Truly amazing story of faith and God's faithfulness. But my favorite part was the epilogue where he comes to know and embrace the reformation re-discovery of the gospel of grace. So neat to see a man who grew up in Tampa, went to the same Catholic school I went to, come to truly rest in the gospel. When I finished the book I immediately found him on facebook and let him know I was the step-grandchild of the mother of his best friend growing up. You'll want to meet this guy as well and pray for his journey as he continues to battle the liberal Episcopal church trying to cease their property.

6.) Generous Justice. I'm a Keller nut, so pretty much everything this lad writes I like. However, as someone who does not have a heart of mercy, but wants to be more practically and systematically merciful, this is quite helpful to non Keller-nuts too. It's also a helpful read because it places the mercy displayed by the church and individuals in a practically scriptural framework with a number of examples.

7.) The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Legend has it it there was at some point in time an astounding, fairly complex civilization in the heart of the amazon. And so that, with the allure of glory, fame, gold, and the sense of discovering something that many thought may not have existed has drawn in many glory-hounds. So many have died. This book focuses its attention primarily one man's fateful journey while the author risks his life to discover what happened and whether or not this city did really exist. Fascinating to say the least how such a city has brought so many men to their graves, and continued for centuries to do so.

8.) The King's Cross by Tim Keller. A commentary on Mark, but more than that. It's more like a series of sermons going through the gospel of Mark. I read much of it while down with the stomach flu so that's possibly why it didn't get as high a rating! Still, very helpful "walk-through" and application of the gospel of Mark.

9.) Gospel centered family by Tim Chester and Ed Moll. This is a short book designed to be studied and read in small groups or Sunday School. I loved it. Amy did too. So did/does our adult Sunday School class. It is practical enough to apply, but gospel centric enough to call for grace in grey areas. These authors attack idols graciously and truthfully. I appreciated the section on a family being missional and outward focused. That seems the last frontier yet to be tackled by most parenting books. Without this aspect, the family can easily become yet another idol.

10.) The Forgotten 500. The story of 500 or so airmen stranded in Yugoslavia and the miraculous evacuation that saw none of them be lost to Nazi resistance. It was a sad tale in some ways because this story was intended never to be told due to politics and communistic infiltrating moles. The rescue was in fact only a plus. What I was most challenged by was the picture of hospitality shown by such peasants. They gave out of their meagerness to help homeless airmen. A fun, challenging, insightful and informative read. Two of my reflections are here and here

 Honorable Mentions: These are books that were still good reads, but didn't quite make the final cut.

The Idiot by Dosteyevski. I didn't enjoy this one as much as I did Crime and Punishment or the Brothers Karamazov, and it really didn't quite have the same redemption as the former, but it gave me a picture of Russia and its struggle at the common level with religious, gospel, and atheistic thinking. Some decent illustrations of the gospel here and there. I would still recommend it to someone interested in exploring the mind and writings of this prophetic man.

Radical by David Platt. A good challenge to us all who tend to see Jesus as our means to accomplish the American Dream. We need to be challenged to give and live more sacrificially. I liked the personal and practical touch. I've already reviewed it here. Would have liked some more emphasis on grace as motivator and the "radicalness" of being a good worker, husband, churchmen, neighbor, etc...Still, David Platt plays the role of prophet to a complacent church and we should listen.

The Glass Castle. Powerful memoir. Still wonder if it is all true. Ultimately as redemptive as it could be without the hope of the gospel, so it left me a bit saddened. It did help give me a picture of WV outside to the suburban Teays Valley.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Annual Bono Christmas Eve reflection

One of my, or at least my blog's Christmas traditions, is to post and reflect on this quote from U2 frontman Bono. It never gets old. Just like the Christmas story. Every part of it seems counter-intuitive to me: God in flesh, the use of shepherds (sketchy fellows), magi (also sketchy), that Jesus was laid in a manger. How crazy is that? Where dirty animals feed. The king of the universe laid where animals feed. I hope we never fail to realize how crazy that is. Blaise Paschal hit it on the nose in his Pensees  when he said it is not that God has hidden this message so high so that folks can't understand it, but so low, as many will look over it.

This reflection on Christmas occurred after Bono had just returned home, to Dublin, from a long tour with U2. On Christmas Eve Bono went to the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift was dean. Apparently he was given a really poor seat, one obstructed by a pillar, making it even more difficult for him to keep his eyes open…but it was there that Christmas story struck him like never before. He writes:

Here's Bono's quote:

“The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in s#@% and straw…a child… I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry … Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this.”

Excerpt taken from Bono: in conversation (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005), 124-5.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Make Jesus big and Santa small

Recently, as is custom this time of year, my three year old Connar is being accosted by a plethora of folks asking if he's excited by what Santa will bring him this year.

In response to his pre-school teacher the other day who told him, "5 more days till Santa comes," he changed the subject with, "One more day till I get to go Xmas caroling!" How cool.

Here are some of my takes-which may not be super popular in Suburbia-on Jesus and Santa.

Of course his, like mine and like your motivations, are far from perfect. But the truth of the matter is that kids can and do get just as-if not more-excited about Jesus during the Christmas season than they do Santa Claus. We just often don't afford them such opportunity. As parents, and as a covenant community, and larger body of Christ (I'm surprised at how many Christians talk up Santa to my kid!), we often try to "save room" for Santa. You see signs that say "Keep Christ in Christmas." But what I've noticed is many Christians live out the opposite: "Keep Santa in Xmas."

Suburban Xmas is often more culturally syncretistic than distinctly Christian. And that is sad.

First of all, I do want to say, I'm not anti-Santa. Christians have a right to include Santa in Xmas. I'm not arguing against the inclusion of Santa in any form. I'm arguing against a culturally conformed, unrestrained, non-prayerful inclusion of Santa.

I remember reading a Sinclair Ferguson book where he seemed quite proud of his job as a parent when his kid didn't even know who Santa was or what he looked like. That's more of a separatist mentality that I cannot embrace.

We have Santa hats. We actually have a dancing Santa figure, who sadly only dances now instead of sings. Connar watched The Polar Express the other day with some friends who brought it over. The underlying purpose of that movie is to preach Santa to his skeptics.

But we try to focus on Jesus so much that Santa naturally gets pushed to the side. Where he belongs. There is only so much room. We do a kids Advent book called Beginning with God at Christmas. Solid. We listen to carols, sing them, sing them to others, try to talk about them (though just a bit). Xmas is a busy time. It's so busy, we don't have much time for Santa. We rarely ever even speak of him. What if your Xmas was so busy you didn't have much time for Santa?

Growing up my parents had a figurine of Santa bowing in worship to Jesus in the manger. So simple, yet so profound. That's really the model I like best, but one that seems missing to me so often in the lives of Christians. There are only so many times a child can be told about getting excited for Santa before he will only get excited for Santa and not for Jesus.

My kid is excitable. I'm excitable, so he can't help it. But he gets so much joy out of celebrating all things Jesus during this time, that I honestly don't feel the need to make Santa big. I tend to think other kids can get just as excited.

Connar can sit in Santa's lap, and I can take (not pay for) a picture if I feel like it. I just think we do our children a disservice by assuming that Santa is NEEDED during Xmas time for their enjoyment of the season. That's just a lie. He can be used and included, but he is not needed.

People say Christmas and Santa are for kids. That's really not accurate. It's for parents. The perpetuation of the Santa myth is done primarily for the sake of the parents. I've heard of folks say, "Don't steal my joy by telling them the truth about Santa." I think a good part of the perpetuation of the Santa myth is fueled by parents who aren't very excited about Jesus. They want to be excited and feel joy. But if you already have a joy so great as the shepherds, Mary, the Magi had at Jesus' coming, would it be that hard to make Santa less? Do you "need" Santa in the same way if you already have joy?

Many want to see kids get excited primarily in order for them to get excited. It's more selfishness than love. 

I think that's why its so hard for many to build up Jesus and move Santa down on the priority list. When we get angry, its often that an idol is being threatened. They usually don't come down easy. Family members will get offended when Jesus is made much of and Santa made less of. Of that you can be certain. But there is a greater cost. We will lose out on joy. I think many forfeit a greater joy this season when we make Santa bigger than Jesus.

Christians are free to include Santa in their Xmas celebration. Just because the Henderson presents come from the Henderson's, doesn't mean that I think your kids presents have to come from you. 

But I do think that you owe it to your self and your kids to talk Jesus up MORE than you do Santa. Try to see how often you mention Jesus and how often you mention Santa. Who gets mentioned more? I do think talking more about Jesus is a non-negotiable (of course this goes throughout the year!).

I'm not fearful of others trying to re-introduce Santa to my three year old. My incredibly awesome Uncle even apologized for it! I'm not worried when people mention it to him. I already see that he has a framework for thinking of Santa. He's a fun, fat, old dude who comes out around Xmas time each year. But he's no Jesus.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On shepherds and ladies

I was going through my advent devotional for today, available here, and stumbled over the shepherds. I guess you could say I've been picking up on the cues from scriptures lately that God really writes His story in a way that is altogether different from what we consider normal, respectable, upper class, or even pragmatic. 

The shepherds were the first witnesses to Jesus' birth. They could confirm this birth account. But ironically-or maybe not so ironically at all if we thought God's thoughts after Him-shepherds didn't get a vote in court because of their reputation of "confusing" their sheep with others sheep. Yet they are the first witnesses.

And consider the first witnesses at Jesus resurrection: ladies. They also couldn't testify in a court of law. Yet they are God's first witnesses, testifying to the veracity and fulfillment of Jesus' claims. 

It just shows us God thinks quite differently than we do. And He wouldn't have it any other way. The birth narrative, the resurrection narrative, as well as the narrative of Jesus' life, just isn't written the way a middle class suburban deity would write it. His reputation and fame probably "took a hit" because He used shepherds and ladies as to testify. But he was cool with that, and still is.

Let's be reminded that God's identification with these shepherds (handpicked to be Jesus' first eye-witnesses) gives us hope that He is still pleased to identify with such witnesses as us. Fortunately the one who ultimately wrote the birth narrative is still writing such a story, and still using such people. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hard work?

This year's Heisman (giving to nation's top/most influential football player) trophy winner was Robert Griffin III. I didn't watch the Heisman award ceremony, but heard just a snippet of his speech. But I think the snippet spoke volumes. So did ESPN.

He took a few long strides up to the stage and let out a laugh when he got there, making a joke about the Superman socks -- complete with capes on the back -- he was wearing before going into his acceptance speech.

"This is unbelievably believable," he said. "It's unbelievable because in the moment we're all amazed when great things happen. But it's believable because great things don't happen without hard work."

What I did notice was an emphasis on the role of hard work and how it enabled him to achieve this goal. Here are my takes on how Griffin's acceptance speech differed vastly from Tebow's.

1.) Praise. One praised His God for the drive, opportunity, skill, and ability to put in the hard work necessary. The other praised himself for his hard work, and his teammates' for their hard work in enabling him to win the award. It is interesting to me how it is more offensive to give credit to someone's God than to take credit and praise oneself. Usually in life, we call people who praise themselves arrogant, self-absorbed, or sometimes narcissistic. Yet most people were clearly more offended by Tebow's humility and deflection of praise.

2.) Credit where credit is due. The Heisman trophy winner is about perception. Again I didn't hear the whole speech, so he might have credited the media who threw its support behind Griffin the final few weeks. I tend to doubt that though. Most athletes don't recognize the media for giving them their fame but only for the media's not granting them fame or coverage. Without much of the media's coverage and backing, a QB from Baylor does not win out over a big name quarterback or running back at a big name school like Stanford or Alabama.

3.) Hard work? Whatever we do, whether playing football or operating a toll booth (that seems like one of the harder jobs), we are to work at it with all of our hearts; for in such cases, as in all cases, we are ultimately serving the Lord  (Col 3:23-24). Are those who win necessarily those who work the hardest? Did Griffin work harder than others with known 'work ethics'? Despite hard work, let's remember this is football. Each game can bring out a career or season ending injury. Peyton Manning, known for being one of the hardest working quarterbacks in the NFL, couldn't outwork God's providence. He didn't play a down this year because of neck surgery. Providence can always trump hard work when someone hits you below the knees like someone did to the seemingly untouchable, hard working, Patriots QB Tom Brady several years ago.

4.) Opportunity knocks. No matter the amount of hard work, there still comes a time where the opportunity, or lack thereof, will more often than not, trump hard work. For instance, if you had been born in some small village in India, undernourished, and lived in poverty, you would not be playing QB for the NFL. You would be fortunate to work hard and hope to eat and feed your family. Last time I checked, we didn't have a say on who our mothers and fathers would be. We didn't have a say on where or when we were born. We didn't have a say on our DNA make up. We didn't have a say on how athletic we would be, or how much IQ we would possess. If you have risen to the top of your profession-whether it be mother, athlete, real estate, medicine-hard work obviously played a part. But it only played A part. Your station of life, what you have to work with, plays A part as well. Whether it's an acceptance speech, or simply a prayer each night before you God to bed, don't forget the God who grants you the plethora of opportunities that allow your hard work to pay off.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I like my women a little on the trashy side

Yesterday I preached a sermon called "A Scandalous Christmas." The title change was a last minute change from my previous title: "I like mine a little on the trashy side." I had three people very close to me encourage in me that direction. Since I figured I could have been wrong to unnecessarily offend folks, I willingly, though somewhat begrudgingly, changed it.

And I'm glad I did. But what ended up being more controversial than the song-I still referenced the song "The Trashy Side"-was the fact that I attributed it to George Straight instead of Confederate Railroad. That might be the last country song reference I make. If I do, I will be sure to google its origin!

I first heard this passage preached-actually the only time I've heard it preached at mega-church Northland in Orlando, FL. I was in seminary at that time, perhaps 7 or 8 years ago. I couldn't believe how scandalous the genealogy really was. God didn't shy away from the scandalous and would use people such as I in His plan of redemption.

Then I forgot about the message. I don't think I necessarily ignored or forgot the truth altogether. But in some sense it didn't seem to resonate as much. I've had plenty of opportunities to preach during the advent season and even on Xmas Eve (this Xmas will be my first time preaching on Xmas Sunday), but never even thought about the passage again.

I don't think this is all that abnormal. While its not abnormal to forget such a passage as this, it is terrible.

Let me explain. We realize that our lives are messed up and sinful. Some of us look worse than others on the outside-though we're all in the same boat in reality. Then God says, "I can forgive your past, present, future, and offer you my righteousness in place of your sin and trash." And we're declared righteous and holy.

Then our life changes a bit, and we think we really ARE righteous and holy. We forget that we are DECLARED righteous and holy NOW, but that one day we will BE righteous and holy. But not now.

Someone told me that he preached this passage for Mother's Day and got quite an uproar from the church. Perhaps it wasn't the best timing on Mother's Day? But people get really offended when you talk about God's love for trashy people. And its God's people who seem to get most offended.

They forget how trashy they really are. Jesus is just as offensive to religious people as he is to irreligious people. As much as it might make us uncomfortable, we have to talk about God's love for those who are, according to the world's as well as the church's eyes, trashy. If we never talk about such people (and thus keep everyone feeling good and comfortable), we will never believe the truth that by faith God STILL washes such people. Prostitutes, adulterous, murderous people do by faith enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (I Cor 6:9-11). If we never talk about such folks, we will very quickly forget this truth.

When we're offended by the mention of God's love for prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, all of which he clearly displays in the scripture, then we can rest assured it's not out of an elevated concern for God's Holiness, but an idolatrous celebration of our own.

God doesn't stop showing love for trashy people even though His people, including myself, often have. But this Xmas, remember your Savior entered the trash to save-and continue to save-trashy people. And his character doesn't change. 

God does like His women and men a little on the trashy side.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Carols sung and Carols believed

I'm a huge fan of Christmas carols. I'm also a huge fan of the folks who take the standard Christmas carols and tweak them a bit. I mean, how many, "O come, O come Emmanuel's," can one hear before it seems like his Ipod is on "repeat?" So I'm thankful for the many good albums I've collected over the years, particularly for those free on noisetrade.com. Recently I've been really digging all of Joel Rake's Christmas music and some of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbor's Xmas album.

What amazes me with many of the Christmas carols is their rich lyrics. Aside from "Away in a Manger's" apocryphal description of Jesus not crying (hate that one), I'm blown away by almost all of them. I mean look at these:

Joy to the World:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing:

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

What amazes me the most are unbelievers who sing these songs, but simply don't believe that Jesus is who He says He is. To sing of something so sublime, but to think of it as little more than a fairy tale, is to me surprising at best, and disingenuous at worst. 

Nevertheless it reminds me of the times when I, as well as many other brothers and sisters in the Lord,  sing such great truths in our carols and hymns but don't actively believe what we're singing. For instance, when I sing, "My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee," how much of that do I believe? If I hold my tongue when I need to say something hard but remain quiet due to fear of man, have I really believed the truth that the gospel sets me free? If I refuse to love an enemy, have I really "bought in" to the saving and transforming power of the gospel? Thinking and feeling the lyrics are a great first step. But actually believing, and then living out the implications of the truth found in such great carols is something even harder. I think that only comes as we bring the carols with us throughout the week. They're too good to only think, feel, believe on Sunday.

The unbelief of a Christian is of a different variety altogether, but it should still shock us just as much. I think the church singing "Silent Night" is different than Faster Pussycat (an 80's hair band) singing "Silent Night" on Monster Ballad's Christmas album. Nevertheless, the unbelief of the "musical artist" (and I realize that is getting a little loose with the language), can still remind us of our unbelief and the disconnect between the gospel we sing and the gospel we live out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why churches and Christians should worship on Xmas Day

I guess it happens every so and so (maybe 7) number of years that Xmas Day falls on a Sunday. If you have a problem with me writing "Xmas," and plenty of Christians do (including several on a search committee I interviewed with a few years ago), let R.C. Sproul straighten things out for you. 

Anyhow, many churches wonder what to do when with Christmas falls on a Sunday? Some see great opportunity. Some see great difficulty because numbers will be down. Some wonder whether or not to move or cancel services.

According to Ed Stetzer, it does appear that many churches have elected to have corporate worship on this Christmas.

A recent LifeWay Research study of 1,000 Protestant pastors shows that 91 percent of Protestant pastors plan to have services on Christmas Day while 69 percent said they plan to host Christmas Eve services.

Here's why I think its a good idea to have worship this Sunday Dec 25th.

1.) If you believe that worship should be held on the first day of the week, as seems to the implied pattern in scripture (John 20:1,19; Acts 20:7; I Cor 16:2) , as well as the practice of most churches not called "Seventh-Day Adventist," then you probably should continue corporate worship that day.

2.) Our actions always teach something. Now of course those actions are always subject to interpretation unless one is given in conjunction. In other words, you can't simply assume what your actions teach. But let's consider what a service cancellation most likely teaches. What would be the main reason why people wouldn't want to come to church on Xmas Sunday morning? Family traditions. Presents. Family. That's what Xmas is often "about." If not Santa and presents, then it soon becomes about family. So by canceling a worship service because of, or so that, people can spend time with family, it seems to me that you're teaching "family first, Jesus second." According to Jesus, the order is actually reversed (Luke 14:26). What suburbanite doesn't need to not only hear this, but to practice this? Our families are often our idols. I know from experience: MY OWN! 

3.) In looking at some of the comments on Ed Stetzer's blog post, I noticed that some folks believed they were loving their pastors well by giving them Xmas Day off to spend time with family. My family and I (well at least Amy, but I can't imagine my 3 year old not being excited because he wants to be at church every day) are excited to be in church. Part of it is that we don't have family here. But part of it is that worship is our favorite time of the week. I don't say this because I think I'm holier or better than you if you don't. I'm just saying I WANT to be there. Last week my wife talked to a mother who said, "I'm so excited that Xmas falls on a Sunday. I can't wait!" We're not alone.

4.) What better way to elevate Jesus above presents, even above your family or family traditions, than by setting those aside in order to worship Jesus with your brothers and sisters in the faith? It gives you an opportunity to teach your children why you worship. It gives you a chance to declare before your extended family, that Jesus is your King. You will follow Him first even when it conflicts with family "obligations."

5.) Many Christians literally risk life and limb to come to worship. We don't need to feel guilty that we don't, but isn't our tendency only to worship when it doesn't involve risk or cost to us?

Just some of my thoughts on why church's should have worship on Xmas Day, and why I think Christians should seriously consider doing family stuff before or after worship. 

Here are some unhealthy motivations (we probably all need to repent from) for going to worship on Sunday Dec 25th

1.) You think your church is better than others. God will soon prove that He thinks the same way too.
2.) You just want to teach your kids that Xmas isn't about Santa or gifts, but don't consider the importance, need, desire for you to be there as well
3.) You are jealous and angry of the others getting a head start on the sticky-buns and sausage balls and the real fun.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Devotions Week #2

If you would like Redeemer's Week 2 advent devotions, you can download them here. This week's content centers around Jesus' work as a fully divine and human Redeemer. The applications focus on our Redeemer's love for us and then our loving response to Him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tell people you are praying for them

The other day I had the opportunity to talk with another pastor I hadn't talked to in a long time. In fact, I don't really ever remember meeting him. He said he met me, so I just agreed. I could be, and often am, wrong.

He recounted, "I remembered you speaking before presbytery and explaining that Hope Presbyterian couldn't afford to keep you on any longer. And so I spent some time in the back by myself praying for you. To see where you are is an answer to my prayers!"

I remember that day very well. It was kind of a sad day. But the Lord soon turned sadness into joy as I very soon received a call from Redeemer. 

This conversation taught, or at least reinforced to me a few things about prayer.

1.) Prayer is a way to play a part in someone's life 
For him to hear that I was enjoying my call and experience at Redeemer was a blessing to his soul. Somehow he played a part. Even though I didn't know him at all, he still played a part. How cool is prayer? It allows us to partner with other people whom we may not know well or at all.

2.) You should tell people you're praying for them. You really should. When I heard that this lad broke away from the "business" of the meeting and personally prayed for me, I was astounded. I was moved. Someone really took the time to do this for me? Wow. It showed love and really encouraged me. I like to know that people are praying for me. I'm probably not alone in this. 

Sometimes I think we're afraid to tell people we're praying for them because we would rather remain anonymous. Sometimes me might be afraid because we don't want to come off as prideful. If that's the case, then confess the pride, but don't let that stop you from encouraging your brother and sister in the faith who may really need encouragement that day. Be aware of false humility that keeps us from encouraging others and receiving encouragement. 

We have ample scriptural warrant to tell others we are praying. Paul regularly tells his churches that HE (Col 1:3, Phil 1:3) and OTHERS (Col 4:12) are praying. Don't worry about "sounding" prideful. He didn't.

When you're praying for someone, do yourself and them a favor: tell them. You and they will be glad you did.