Does He Hear Us?

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I watched a movie recently where the protagonist (a minister) wrestled with questions concerning prayer. Is God listening to us? Can we know his thoughts on the matters that most trouble us? Is there only one way to pray? As he struggled to reconcile his faith with his feelings, I found myself resonating with his concerns. At the root, I kept returning to one question:

Does God still listen when we feel like we’re praying all wrong?

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In Spirit and Truth

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But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:23-24

In spirit and truth.

In response to a question about places of worship, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman of a coming shift in perspective. Soon (indeed, sooner than many of the day realized), true worship would no longer be identified with a specific location, neither at Jerusalem (where the Jews worshiped) nor Mount Gerizim (where the Samaritans worshiped). True worshipers would worship in spirit and truth.

But what does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?

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Simple and Ordinary

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For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
1 Corinthians 15:3-5

Christ died for sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day in fulfillment of the word of God. This is the gospel. This is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). This is enough.

Recently, I’ve given more thought to students in the church who don’t know Jesus. As I prepare lessons, I wonder how to help kids see that Jesus is better than anything else in life. I wonder how to connect the dots between what a student knows and what a student believes. I want lives to be changed, not just heads to be filled. So I try to use good illustrations and plan better lessons and answer questions well, yet I still feel like I’m missing something. I’m still unable to open a student’s ears to truth.

I find a similar difficulty in writing. I often approach the blog with a desire to be profound or novel in some way. I want to say something meaningful, something worth pondering or repeating. I want to stir up a love and a reverence for the Lord. So I consider phrases and consult editors and attempt to use pointed words, yet I still feel like I’m missing something. I’m still unable to open the reader’s eyes to truth.

I sometimes feel my words are too simple or too ordinary to get the work done, yet I forget that the effectiveness of the gospel isn’t contingent upon my eloquence or profundity. No quality or quantity of speaking or writing can make deaf ears hear or blind eyes see. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, can do both. He works through human words to awaken souls to life, empowering the gospel message as it is spoken or written. And while profundity and eloquence and wit can serve us well, Paul argues that the gospel message is enough on its own to change lives. He writes,

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5

While Paul did at times delve into deeper matters – and was not always easy to understand, according to 2 Peter 3:15-16 – he reminds the Corinthians that the gospel by itself is sufficient for the work. The Spirit moves through the simple message to transform lives for eternity. So we need not worry as we share the message of Christ with others. Words that may seem simple and ordinary to us still have the power to shake loose the shackles of darkness and to bring life to the dead. The gospel is enough for that student, it’s enough for that post, and it’s enough for you and me.


Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Thanks to Maci and Cortney for reading over this post in the editing process.

Words, Deeds, and True Obedience

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We live in a culture of busy Christians. I read stories of the stresses of pastoral ministry driving pastors away from the church and into sinful lifestyles. I hear the struggles of my fellow seminarians as they attempt to juggle the demands of school and ministry and work, often walking the edge of burnout as they long for rest. I understand the weight of many responsibilities, often feeling both burdened by the load yet unable to slow down. We whose lives are marked by busyness would do well to remind ourselves of Jesus’s words on the subject of obedience.

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Truth

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Someone recently asked me to consider the topic of truth. Is truth subjective, different for every individual? Is truth objective, unaffected by our agreement or disagreement with it? Does truth lie somewhere between the two points, possessing both subjective and objective qualities? As I considered my friend’s question, one thought took precedence in my mind: I think we often confuse opinion with truth.

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