Easter - 2018

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reformation: Catholic and Protestant!

 Martin Luther made a significant contribution to the reformation. He is usually credited with starting the reforms within the church but God used several people to bring about significant changes. These changes would divide the church for over four hundred years. Holt describes this as: “Northern Europe broke away from the South and East in a wrenching struggle that was to divide Europe for more than four hundred years." Divisions were strong and at times bloody. The results brought about change that re-established a clear path for spiritual formation and restored relationship with God.

Luther realized the problem of the church was spiritual and that this problem was keeping people from knowing God and experiencing spiritual formation. “He understood for the first time that God's righteousness was a free gift, not a human achievement” Luther never wanted to forsake the Catholic church or establish a new denomination. Luther truly sought to bring about change and reform. Luther's understanding was, “that the people are justified (made right with God) by grace through faith.” Through his understanding and the use of this knowledge as a guide and rule, Luther examined basic truths through this new lens of un-merited favor (grace) from God.

I find it interesting how as the ages of time pass through church history, we see this reoccurring need to see the church called back to a piety of holiness for God. In our previous chapters there is a reoccurring fragmentation of commitment on the part of believers. The culture seems to embrace the church beliefs, but over time the next generations reduce commitments to God. The idea that the church and it's zeal belonged to the past generation was commonly accepted. 
Luther calls the people to a new zeal in that “the gospel has set us free from sin, death, and Satan and that it also sets us free to serve our neighbors.” This teaching is revolutionary to Luther's time. Yet in past eras, some of the same teachings exist, including the proclamation of the Gospel and sacrifical service as a means of development in a person's walk with Christ. Holt notes: “It is in his Large Catechism that Luther sets out one of his most basic spiritual teachings that the Christian life is a daily baptism, a daily dying and rising with Christ in repentance and forgiveness.” It is a believers quest to be completely and totally immersed in Jesus Christ. The renewal call is resonate of the Jesus Prayer and that of Augustine. No doubt, Luther would have been influenced by these and many others writers of the past. It interesting that the church as a whole had forgotten or neglected to apply past experience. This could be why the saying, “those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.” 
In addition, Luther and Zwingli had a major disagreement over the Lord's supper. Both men are seeking reform for the church they love, and both are seeking an increase in spirituality. One would assume that a sacrament of remembering Christ and the proclamation of the Lord's Death would be a matter of unity. Surprisingly, the sacrament would be the source of division between the two reformation leaders. Zwingli brings importance to overcoming the human ignorance by teaching the bible. Holt notes that Zwingli addressed the “aesthetic, sacramental, and mystical dimensions of the Catholic tradition were put aside for the sake of a Bible-based rationalism, which was to affect many parts of the Reformed tradition.” Luther did not seek to break away from the Catholic church, whereas Zwingli was committed to reform and to the scriptures even if the break from the Church universal was necessary. Therefore, a difference in philosophy will lead in a break of unity, even over sacraments such as the Lord Supper.

John Calvin is a mystery to me. His teaching on predestination are offensive and are usually the most misunderstood. Yet many will hold to these teachings higher than the Scriptures themselves. Holt describes Calvin as: “The starting point for Calvin's spirituality was not predestination but the mystical union of the believer with Christ.”7 It is in this point that I would embrace Calvin's teachings. Holt also notes that Calvin “asserted that we are saved not by works but for them.”8 In both of these teachings there is opportunity for Spiritual formation. How amazing that we consistently allow the enemy to twist and manipulate so as to bring confusion and chaos on even the most sincere teachings. 
Ignatius of Loyola is becoming a favorite of the classic individuals for spiritual formation. His ideas of embracing the disciplines of the faith while allowing imagination and artistic creativity to enhance one's discernment from God is effective. He was a reformer for the pilgrimage to actual locations for spiritual formation. Ignatius was also a leader. He desires for people of the church to experience God. He wrote the Spiritual Exercises and encouraged the use of a spiritual director. Holt states: “The paradoxical feature of the Exercises is their appeal to the affections and emotions to accomplish their purpose, while remaining very rational.”9 These exercises and a noble attention to purity creates in a believer a clear leading of the Holy Spirit for how to follow Jesus.

The reformation era was a a tumultuous time for the church. Yet, the people of God grew and the numbers of Christ-like followers flourished through the dedication to God's revelation and to God's truth. The commitment of the body of believers was rekindled from desperate mediocrity. The hostilities of change would separate the differences of the Catholic and Protestant faiths for 400 years. Looking through the lens of history, we see a truth in piety that encourages every generation that follows. The division was great, yet God uses both, Catholic and Protestant to a renewed relationship with Him.

It is a reminder to remain faithful in Christ in all we do. You know I love ya, Don

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005). 99.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pride is the Folly of Fools...I am one of the fools!

Catherine of Genoa reminds us of how our wisdom can puff us up and bring us to a place of confidence only to reveal that the "our" in the equation is foolish pride. There are too many times in my life that I can think of when I thought I was the one that knew the most only to quickly discover I did not know anything in comparison to others int he room and especially to God. I think Catherine would agree with the old saying, "There are always better fish in the pond."

One of these times for me was as I entered into College at Pacific Christian College. In High School, I was playing piano and organ in most every church. I usually played a wedding a weekend. It was not uncommon for me to play for one or two funerals a month. It was good money and I was pretty good at what I was offering. I also was part-time at a church as a choir director and we had shared in several fun worship offerings. The greatest part of being the hired piano/organist was that I was young and the only one around. Then, I entered into college. I was no longer the only one and the competition was much high. It only took a few days for me to realize how small I was and that I was not as good as everyone in my High School years had lead me to believe.

Another time was when I got to meet George Herbert Bush. It was a Monday Morning and I was asked to be a special ambassador for Sevier County, TN to welcome the former president to our town. He and Mrs. Bush we scheduled to watch a Lee Greenwood show that evening. I was excited. I took the day off, I got my best suit on and I headed to the regional airport for their plane to arrive. I stood next to the Governor of Tennessee and the Mayor and shook the President and the First Lady's hands as they stepped off of the plane to welcome them. It was a great day and I thought I was someone special. As I got into the car and drove out of the airport parking lot, I was overcome with conviction from the Holy Spirit. I sat there and the Holy Spirit said to me, "You didn't get that excited to meet me yesterday in services and I am the Creator of the Universe." I was cut to the heart and it changed me. That was over ten years ago, but since that day my Sunday Morning experience starts on Saturday afternoon and I make every effort to prepare and be excited to meet with God in Sunday Worship.

I know that God is with us every moment of everyday. I know that we enter into His presence only in awareness in a corporate setting during a church worship service, but that His presence is always with us. What Catherine reminds me is that our God is more than I can comprehend and when I pay attention, he reveals himself in the greatest of ways. It is like Catherine states: "God's love wills to stand naked and without any cover since it has nothing to hide."

Learning to lean on God takes every effort...doing it together is what hold us to a greater power. You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Finding the Peace and Direction!

 Last summer during our introduction to Spiritual Formation class with Dr. Jody Owens I was introduced to “The Jesus Prayer.” It is the simple words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is a simple declaration of faith as well as a plea for mercy and grace. The presentation of the prayer is to follow the formula that repeats the phrase over and over in rhythm with one's breathing and heartbeat. It serves as a reminder of a believer's dependance on Jesus while also seeking a plea of Mercy from Jesus.

After Dr. Owens introduced it to the class, we were encouraged to go to a place on the Johnson Campus and experience the prayer as an offering with God. I remember that it was Thursday morning and I was able to gain access to the Glass Memorial Chapel. This was the main chapel when I was a undergrad student at Johnson. I sat in the same pew which I was assigned as an undergrad and started to recite the prayer. Recently, I have been praying for a new direction. The Holy Spirit led me to start singing as we had sung 14 years earlier and I started to sing the old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” while reciting “The Jesus Prayer” in between the verses. I surrendered to God and I laid out my desire. 
I began singing, “God is so good” and while I was singing the Holy Spirit interrupted me prayer. The interruption was not an audible voice, but a clear direction. The direction I received was as if God said, “If I am faithful, I have provided you with great opportunities in the past, and I am so good, then why would I stop being faithful, providing opportunities, and being good?” The amazing comfort of the prayer, the location, the renewal of the mind through his grace exposed me to how powerful “The Jesus Prayer” truly is. I discovered in those few minutes that God is a God that looks beyond my faults and failures. He is the One that has always used my service for his purposes. I also learned that I needed mercy. God's favor reminded me that it was not about “me” or my wishes but that the surrender of ministry is to surrender the “me” to God purposes in life, service, and ministry. 
Is there magic in the words?” Absolutely not! What the prayer does is quiet the mind, body, and heart so that the soul might be central in the prayer offered. Declaring Jesus as the son of God is a statement which contradicts the world around us. The use of this “apophatic” practice is “to direct personal encounter with God without images.” The images of the prayer are that of a blind man on the side of the road calling out to Jesus to come and have mercy on him. The use of this prayer combined with the natural rhythm of breathing with study brings the believer to a place of hearing from the Holy Spirit so as to receive and engage in divine direction. The wonderful aspect of the results is that the answer that God is faithful, that God is a great provider, and God will continue to be a good God is not new information or that it provided a new revelation. The message accomplished in my heart a divine mystery of trust. 
Trust is difficult when we seek independence with our lives. I certainly am not immune to an independent will. Thus, the prayer declaring that Jesus is the Son of God and then pleading for him to grant me mercy is a reversal of my independence. The learning experienced in the chapel that summer day was a reminder of my dependance on God in surrendering to him. I find a great comfort in knowing God will not bring about judgement in my prayer, instead he will offer mercy.

Holt states about the Hail Mary the following: “the mind operates on two levels: the repetition of the Hail Mary is a way of centering the attention, while the mysteries are imaginatively relived.” With my experience with The Jesus Prayer, I believe it applies even more. I do not see a need to pray to Mary. Yes, she was a special young lady. She grew to be the mother of God's Son. However, I do not see her as divine or as a deity. I do not see Holt believing that Mary should be prayed to either, he is simply explaining the Rosary and how it works. What is noted is the prayer offering of the Rosary and The Jesus Prayer produce results that focus the mind so as to reveal God's love. The Jesus Prayer certainly works in the same fashion.

Since the opportunity last summer morning in the chapel, I have had opportunities to use the prayer. At night if I cannot sleep, it is a simple tool which brings about comfort with the inevitable dosing off in sleep. I have recited in my mind as I sit in a difficult or long meeting. There is comfort in the words of declaration of faith that Jesus is the Son of God and that he will hear us when we ask for mercy. As sinners, we need his forgiveness on an individual level. The Jesus Prayer reminds the believer of his mercy, while the Holy Spirit humbles and places the believer in a submissive spirit to hear and connect with God.

"Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen"  You know I love ya, Don

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Temptations are Useful....the proof is in the resistance!

Now this is a quote that I can resonate with: "Our life on this earth is warfare." This was said by Thomas 'a Kempis from his writings in, "The Imitation of Christ." I agree that this life is hard and that we are at war. The temptations of this world are not to be taken lightly. These pesky temptations lead me astray and away from the God I love. I don't want anything to do with them and I certainly rebuke them out of my life. War against the temptations are the only means for survival against evil that dwells within my sinful nature. War against temptations is also the only way to fight off the evil one and his evil snares that so easily entangle my progress.

Here is quote that surprised me: "Temptations can be useful to us even though they seem to cause us nothing but pain." My first surprise was that the words came from the same man that declared war. How can you reconcile that life is a war against temptations and then state that these same temptations are good? My second surprise was in the idea that these horrible tugs in my flesh that I have tried to rid my life of are actually something that I am supposed to appreciate as useful. But, I kept reading and my thoughts were enlightened with the third quote. I see a new understanding of God's favor. Thomas wrote, "Temptation reveals our instability and our lack of trust in God; temptations reveal who we are."

This explanation helped me come to terms with never escaping temptations. Temptations are the piece to the puzzle that are not sin, but the piece to the puzzle that defines the "who" in our commitment to God. I do think God allows temptations to come our way, but I do not believe God sits on the throne planning ways to cause us to stumble. God is much like a parent watching his/her child take their first steps. God is not pushing us down, but watching to see what we will do next. So, why does he allow temptations come, because it is the means for growth. The athlete must suffer grueling struggle in order to build up muscle. The musician makes many mistakes in rehearsal for through the rehearsal the mistakes are made correct through repetition and a beautiful concert emerges. The artist struggles with colors and application in order to find a clean production of an amazing sight to behold.

Thomas has helped me come to a new appreciation for the struggle of temptation. It is for the purpose of learning to resist temptation and draw closer to God. Our resistance to the temptation is to walk with the Lord. The resistance is the proof I am serious in my faith and there in lies the value because the more I resist, the more I rely on God for my existence. The reliance on God is then complimented in (1) striving for others, (2) living as less is more, (3) living without recognition or importance, and (4) allowing God's will to completely fill me.

It is true there is value in temptation and I don't truly want to live without the existence of temptation, but I desire to live a life of resistance to temptation. You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Early Church and The Globalization of the Good News

 The globalization of the church in the first 300 years of existence is an amazing story of God's perfect plan. In the perfect time of history God incarnate stepped out of eternity into history so as to be our salvation. It is in the historical moment of a world dominated by the Roman Empire that God chooses to step in to make himself known. The increased awareness of God, through Jesus is God's purpose of a restored relationship with his creation. It brings people to a place of humble hearts seeking to know God. 
Jesus is more than a historical figure. Bradley Holt states: “They saw Jesus as the Promised One, not only as Messiah (anointed king) but as suffering servant, crucified for all, and as Lord, raised from the dead." Jesus is the central key to all the other views in God's revelation. It is in this view that the theologians and great leaders of the spiritual formation within these early years heard the Holy Spirit and sought after God and knowing God more. These wonderful “God-fearers” stretched out a foundational desire for God that remains a call to all Christ-followers today.

The gifts of the spirit were discovered in the joy of knowing God. Paul address these gifts as opportunities to demonstrate God's love. The Corinthian church was using the gifts to lord it over others within the group. Holt summarizes Paul's teaching with; “Paul suggests love not as an alternative gift to others but as a 'more excellent way' in which the gifts are to be evaluated and exercised.” It is in this love that all things are made complete. 
A good modern example is the worship wars of the 1990's. The style of worship was never the true issue. What became the issue was opinions of people in what they thought was formation to pleasing God verses true spiritual formation in knowing God. The underlining lack of love that so dominated change in music established war lines that divided God-fearers and established a very difficult time on God's kingdom. The issue may have had a small part in the style. The bigger issue was in change from what was important to the ones fighting the battle against knowing God through grace and truth.

An illustration that occurred often in these worship wars were the tactics that were used to remove the organ. The “why” was proclaimed that we need to bring new people into the church and the old organ style is a turn off. That very well may have been true, but the lack of love for the people that had so diligently worked and rehearsed demonstrated rejection of the individuals that invested their life efforts. They retorted by starting a retaliation we now label as worship wars. The same was true of the move from projectors to screens. We had worked hard to raise money that was dedicated to purchase new hymnals to add new songs so as to bring in new people. The way we accomplished the purchase of the hymnals was to dedicate the hymnals to the memory of a specific person. It wasn't very long before screens were introduced and the hymnals in memory of “mr. perfect elder” were headed to a box in the storage room. The people that remember “mr. perfect elders” cried out, “we can't do that” and again a lack of love was demonstrated by both sides. 
Preaching styles, church directories, music, Sunday schools, Vacation Bible Schools, and missionary technique all change. Change is a constant in the church. God has established the church to be a living organism within the world he created. It is interesting to learn in these early years of the church change also existed. It is important to learn that these early believers struggled with discernment and change the same as we do. The revealing survival for the change is the Holy Spirit given ability to love. All Christ-followers are able to embrace love as a gift given to every believer.

Those within the early years that embraced the love also discovered how the life of the the believer is to train for the purpose of preparation for a great goal of spiritual formation. Holt describes these practices as, “characterized by self-denial for the sake of the true self.” There is no doubt that the writer of Hebrews greatly influenced this thought of running the race by keeping our eyes focused on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. The early believers established successful Christian living through out the ages by, “saying no to a good thing for the sake of saying yes to a better one.” Any great athlete or artist would agree with this assessment of their craft. The denial of desire or the easy route is enhanced by the willingness to strive for the greater desire that is achieved by the choice of the harder route.

The word to describe this training as preparation for a contest is, “asceticism.” The moral, ethical, and proactive choice to live as Jesus lived is to train for the a great goal laid for us in being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The means by which a person is transformed is diverse and there are several techniques available. From the early years of the church to the modern church, these practices and disciplines brought a change and growth to the lives the Christ-followers by the mean of transformation to a closer walk with God. This dedication to training and development of denying the lower good for a better good grants “self-confidence while enabling people to serve others.”

The challenge for the modern believer is that the church today is living in mediocrity. We are complacent in our faith and are not striving as we once did in the area of denying the lower good for the greater good. The church is willing to compromise in order to gain great numbers for attendance and for evangelism, but the result is large number so of people that are spiritually Luke warm. It is the call of God that we embrace these disciplines again and strive for the greater good in knowing God more in every moment. It is then that he will bring about a great transformation within the hearts of those who believe.

Let us run the race marked out for us with a dedication to the Truth and to Grace! - You know I love ya, Don

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blaise Pascal Greatness and Wretchedness: Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde

I have always admired Pascal for his contributions to math. It humbles me to think that one of the world's foremost brains on math was so dedicated to living a life filled with virtue. I am touched by the teaching on a "duel" nature. It is better for me to state that my study on the "Holiness Tradition" has also knocked me down a peg or two. There is a stark reality in these classic masters of Spiritual Formation teach on living "virtue."

Pascal states, "Our greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in us some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness." I totally agree there are two elements in myself that bring great contradictions that roar in my head, heart, and strength. To what degree is this a nature, I am not sure...but I do know that both of these elements exist in my personality. I am more inclined to stated that I am a fallen creature because of my sinful heart that desires to think only of itself. It is the call of my creator that reminds me of the greatness that he created within me and that God's call is what motivates me to be more like him. It is also his call that lifts me up and heightens my awareness of what he has created me to be.

"It is vain that you seek within yourselves the cure for your miseries" was a another statement that resonated in my heart as I traveled this chapter. God has willingly united himself to me so as to bring me out of my sinful nature into a life restored to my creator. In God's willingness I experience his favor. I experience grace, while my heart is humbled and in turn he grants me a cure for my miseries. I do not have to beat myself up or denigrate my emotions because the reality is that I am unable to redeem myself. My redemption comes through Jesus Christ. He is the one the has paid my debt and I surrender my all (the great and the wretched) so that he can lift me and demonstrate where my help comes from. It is in this new relationship that I can fully experience life as one united with God by grace and not by my nature.

Therefore, I seek to find the light that Pascal refers to by the grace that God has demonstrated in uniting with me. Thus, I declare to all I meet that Jesus is the means by which we are saved. I am granted courage and strength to stand for justice, fight for those who are unable to fight for themselves, and live a generous life as he has so generously given to me because my nature (great and wretched) has taken the back set and his grace and truth is guiding me.

Learning to live with more virtue...you know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Basis, Example, & Promise of Christian Spiritual Formation

Jesus is the Logos of God. Jesus as the word of God establishes all being into existence and grants the essence of life to all that exist. As I study the scriptures this reality becomes more and more apparent as the truth of Jesus as the word of God is weaved through-out each biblical story and teaching. Bradley Holt states: “Jesus is central to Christian spiritual formation. In short, Jesus is the basis, the example, and the promise of Christian spiritual formation." The understanding of the truth impresses one to live a rule of life based on the treasures of faith, hope, and love.

God has granted us the revelation of himself through the bible. This collection of books reminds us that in the Old Testament believers looked for the coming Messiah, and after Jesus' life, death, burial and resurrection the New Testament believers looked back to the Messiah who had come. As a result of this historical review, it is certain that mankind's ability to achieve equality with God's will never be attainable. Thus, a messiah was necessary as one who would stand in our place to pay the price for sin. The message of Jesus is just as relevant today as it was throughout all history.

The ancient text reveal that God has a plan for a restored relationship with his creation. Holt comments on God's plan with the description: “It is the grace of God that initiates our relationship to God, and it is the grace of God that energizes us to activity, not to create the relationship but to exercise it, to give the relationship the attention that gives the possibility of growth." In other words, it is the creation's task to receive the favor and the gift. It is God's love that has initiated the relationship. The question becomes are we, as believers, willing to exercise the opportunity to develop a genuine relationship. 
A restored relationship with the Creator is established in three essential foundational realities that Jesus is the basis, the example, and the promise of Christian spiritual formation. Jesus refers to himself as the only means to get to the Father and that he is way, the truth, and the life. Living as Jesus lived is the basis for spiritual formation and is readily received, but hard to practice. The believer must put truth under this foundational basis and live as if life depends on the truth. It is the truth of Jesus where the foundational building blocks of spiritual formation stand, but the difficulty is in the practice of such truth in our everyday living. 
It is harder to follow the example of Jesus in our spiritual formation than believing in Jesus as the “basis” in our spiritual formation. The willingness to be sacrificial in life, in generosity, and in listening for the goal of spiritual formation is hard. This element is where the rubber meets the road as the saying states. Holt states it as, “Jesus provides an example of spiritual practice by integrating his inner and outer life.” Jesus was willing to give of himself so as to allow God to rule as the supreme father of his inner and outer life. Jesus was willing to get up early, he was willing to listen to God even in the hardness of the cross, and he was willing to act against the fleshly desires of sin while fighting against the evil in the world. It is his commitment to habitual practice of the spiritual disciplines that Jesus uses to demonstrate the power of God. The struggle emerges in the believers' heart because it is a struggle to create a habitual practice. 
The third element is Jesus as the promise of Christian spiritual formation. The promise in this context is a noun. It is to seek spiritual formation through which the risen Lord is alive and working among the believers throughout history. Jesus is the declared assurance that God will be faithful to bring to completion that which he started in the first place. Holt's summation is, “Jesus is able to be the promise because he is alive today and will bring the world its consummation.” Thus, this element that Jesus is the promise is that which makes spiritual formation a reality for those who seek to establish Jesus as the basis for spiritual formation, and are willing to habitually practice the example of Jesus in spiritual formation. 

Therefore, the ancient words of the scriptures are the basis, the example, and the promise of the Logos of God. That Jesus is the word of God in the flesh and is the revealed God as creator of all life. It is the study of the Word that brings to fruition the believer's spiritual formation. I seriously doubt that the average believer takes into account how important these elements are to the growth of faith, hope and love. Yet, the elements are present in the heart of every sincere believer. The lack of awareness does not diminish the importance of each of the elements in spiritual formation. 

As a matter of reflection, the awareness of these elements heightens one's abilities in habitually practicing the spiritual disciplines. Holt provides the example that, “prayer can open our ears to hear by directing our thoughts to God and by helping us to be willing to hear, sometimes when we are too distracted or too self-centered to want to hear. Willingness and attentiveness are the attitudes we want to develop as we approach the Word.” Thus, we develop our spiritual disciplines, as in this example of prayer, by committing to an habitual practice of the discipline for the purpose of spiritual formation. Those who heard from God and wrote the books of the bible were habitually committed and passed along for our modern study the opportunity to approach God through the Word, or Logos. The noteworthy by product is the growth in a willingness and attentiveness to God. The elements of Jesus as the basis, the example, and the promise of spiritual formation reveals Jesus in each of the books of the bible. My reflection on this reality heightens my awareness in the truth of Jesus as the word of God and that he is weaved throughout each biblical story and teaching for the purpose of developing my spiritual formation.

Seeking to grow and be closer ... You know I love ya, Don

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Is it difficult to be myself before God?

Is it difficult to be myself before God?

I would answer that I do not find it hard to be myself with God when I am honest about who I am in God. Another way to state it is that when I am pure before God, I do not have a hard time to be honest before him. As I have stated in other posts, I was raised in a believing family and we attended a healthy church that taught from the bible. So, it would be abnormal for me to deny that God exists or to try and deny that which is true to my DNA. I cannot deny that which he has done and I have seen. Our God is all knowing, all powerful, and all present. Thus, I would have a harder time denying that God already knows my issues before I present them to him because of who I am in him.

Luther states that prayer refers to prayer as stating what is in our hearts and from my experiences, God has all knowledge of what is in my heart. So, to deny honesty to him would not be in my mode of action. BUT, what is in my mode of action is to be come complacent in my sin and then I deny "who" I am in God. That is to hedge around my sin or as my six year old daughter says, "I don't want to talk about it." I know that God knows and I know that I know, but a complacent believer just denies it exists and on a spiritual level states, "I do not want to talk about it." Yes, this is a form of un-honesty, but....

I can be myself before God as long as we talk about the things I am willing to talk about. Where I find the traction for my prayer life is when I submit myself to talking about what God wants to talk about. It is also then, that I am willing to hear the "yes" to my petitions and I am willing receive the "no" to my petitions as a response that is given in my best interest. I believe this would be best stated in our modern culture as possessing a "transparency" with God.

I can truly say at this point in my spiritual walk, I am honest with God and feel I am transparent with his spirit, yet as soon as I type these words there are areas of my life that are not as transparent and honest as I would like them to be. That is why I find so much hope in the Martin Luther's words, "Prayer is made vigorous by petitioning; urgent by supplication; by thanksgiving, pleasing and acceptable." God knows me better than I know myself and he works on my honesty and transparency, he is also very patient with the areas that I am not willing to deal with. It is in my trust and faith in him that He is able accomplish the most in completing the work that he started in me.

You know I pray for you and I love ya, Don