Please, don’t ask me to pray . . . at least not for a while.

Please, don’t ask me to pray, at least not for a while.prayer3

After several blogs on prayer and knowing God (January 18, 2015, October 9, 2016, January 16, 2017), I am back at square one.  I have prayed for church leadership in America, and specifically for my fellowship, that they would show some concern for the well-being of their attendees, but churches continue to damage the hearing of people as though thumping base and pounding volumes will make people think the Holy Spirit is touching them.  Even non-believers are concerned about the volume of noise in our society, an ungodly culture which evangelicals are imitating.  (See How Sound Affects Our Health and Hear, Hear: The WHO Gives Lower Volumes a Ringing Endorsement.)

I have prayed for God to reveal Himself to family members who behave in ways that embarrass our Lord, but they seem oblivious to the commands and examples of the Bible.  I pray for my neighbor’s MS; I love him like a brother and cannot understand why God has not healed him.  I keep waiting to hear how he got up one morning and walked to the bathroom to shave before realizing that he should have needed his scooter to get there!  Imagine the amazement and celebration as he called to his wife and together they wondered at the fact that he was standing on his own.

I pray for others, family and friends, who do not even believe that Jesus arose from the dead.  I pray for relationships that seem already dead ended, stuck in place until we die.  I pray for those for whom no one else that I know of is praying and see no evidence that The God Who Is There cares about their plight.  I pray according to Scripture for our country that continues its slide into divisiveness, a trend more the result of social media than political parties; if we disagree, we just “defriend” and never hear other intelligent views different from our own.

So please, don’t ask me to pray, at least not for a while.

Do not misconstrue my consternation.  I know that God is there/here.  The historical evidence for the accuracy of the Biblical record is unchallengeable by any reasonable mind (May 17, 2015).  The truth of the resurrection is as certain as George Washington being our first president (August 16, 2015).

This confusion of mine over prayer is against a history of answered prayers.  I remember standing by a hospital bed in which Yolanda’s baby with meningitis lay wracked with fever; a group of us prayed and the next day one of the doctors was angry because he was convinced the labs and staff had messed up the tests; this perfectly healthy baby could not be the one he had examined the day before!  My own stroke recoveries are nothing short of miraculous; how many people do you know with six strokes who still appear to function normally every day?  Several times God seemed to speak to me or to people or situations around me, thoughts that seemed to come out of thin air, including “remembering” a verse of the Bible at a critical juncture in my life; one that I had never memorized.  And testimonies of hundreds of others recount supernatural interventions for which there are no other explanations.

Still, depressing discouragement sets in when the answers do not come.  Maybe He is simply saying, “No,” by not speaking.  Maybe my motives are mixed so that I can brag about my prayers getting answered (James 4:3).  Maybe there is unaccounted sin that makes the heavens like bronze (Psalm 89:30-32; Psalm 81:11-14).  Maybe He is just waiting for His time to be right (John 9:2-3).  Maybe there are simply things I do not understand.  Now there’s an original thought!  Imagine, I don’t understand!?

A couple weeks ago, speaking with a highly intelligent and expertly qualified therapist, we began discussing “blind spots.”  There was something in his description of deductive logic with which I disagreed, and I mused maybe it was simply a blind spot in my mind.  Trying as hard as I could, I could not see his reasoning.  A minor side point of our discussion, but a major point of understanding “blind spots.”

Blind Spots.jpgA blind spot is just that: you cannot see what is there!  I still cannot see his point, and he thinks he sees mine.  We simply disagree.  Maybe it is my blind spot, or maybe it is his, but one of us does not see something.  Imagine, maybe I don’t understand something about prayer.  Imagine, maybe I don’t understand much about The God Who Is There.  Imagine, I don’t even know how to pray. ☹

So please, don’t ask me to pray, at least not for a while.

But my heart aches for the relationships for which I pray, for my neighbors difficulties, for the family and friends who are missing God’s best for them, for the servants of our God who I present to Him, for church leaders’ deaf ears, for the attendees who are being damaged and misled about worship, for so many needs I cannot mention them all here.  And where else can I go but to The God Who Is There? (John 6:65-69)

So go ahead and ask me to pray, but don’t expect any miracle.  That’s for next Sunday’s blog.

An Extra Week of Sex (Part 4 of the Three Weeks of Sex)

The first part of this is again, uniquely a “guy article,” but the last part is for members of ‘the female species.’ 😉  And some of the uniquely male parts could be valuable for helping women understand men.  A wise friend recently reminded me there are three kinds of people in the world:
1) Those who know that they know (or understand).
2) Those who know that they do not know.
3) Those who do not know that they do not know.
The problem is to distinguish between the “1s” and the “3s” because someone who does not know that he/she does not know will think he/she knows.  “Oh, Iiee understand!”

Recall Eggerichs’ “blue and pink sunglasses and hearing aids.”  (See October 21, 2018)  There is no way in Heaven or hell that I could or will ever understand the experience of carrying another human inside my body.  Or of even having that capacity!  In the same way, there is no way that a woman can understand the nature of sexual temptations to which a man is subject.  I must accept that I was a #3 and now am a #2 regarding carrying a baby, and women must admit they begin as #3s when approaching this subject of masculine temptation.  Any other approach is a recipe for frustration, annoyance, and anger.

2018-12-04 A Fourth Week of SexA man can be a paragon of virtue and he will still have to face temptation just as Jesus did (Matthew 4, Luke 4).  However, very few of us men are as pure of motive or determined of purpose as our Lord.  There simply are not many Josephs around who would resist an attractive and powerful woman making an appeal for sex (Genesis 39).  Fortunately, there are not many “Potiphar’s wives” around either, as women usually have a much smaller appetite for sex that lasts many fewer years.

Keep in mind your attitude as a father toward your children.  How far would they have to run to get away from your love and forgiveness?  Incarceration or abusive behavior by a son will change the character of the relationship, but it is long hard struggle to actually “divorce” from a father’s love, or from Father’s love.  As men, we must allow the mercy of God and His grace to motivate us to living as Jesus lived, that is, in right relatedness to Father and to others around us, even our enemies (February 22, 2015).

The command to love one’s wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), and to love others as well, is contrary to human nature and takes supernatural power.  This kind of love constrains a man from feeding on pornography.  Treating a woman as an object for one’s own pleasure without considering the effects on the woman is a high point of selfish arrogance.  If when you consider viewing porn you remember, even for a moment, that you are looking at someone’s beloved daughter or mother or sister, its power is significantly diminished.

The idea women cannot grasp here (#3s) is the power of sexual urges that is able make a man deny the Presence of the Holy One (August 20, 2016).  This is every man’s battle!  How many women have sat brokenhearted in a counselor’s office and begged for understanding, “If he loves me . . . how could he look at her like that?  how could he care about her?  how could he enjoy porn?  how could he . . .???  But that understanding will never come because this is a uniquely “blue sunglasses” phenomenon.  Sorry, ladies, but even you are not as important to a Christian man as the Lord, and we men seem to be able to ignore Him at times.

However, men, the battle is winnable!  A man can reach a point at which he can overcome temptations and there are concrete steps we can take to win.  We will always feel the temptation.  The birds will always fly overhead, but we can become very proficient at preventing them from nesting.  (Another significant “guy phenomenon” is the desire to know what to do.  We really like to fix things!)  It is important to realize simply praying and reading the Bible, while helpful, is not enough.  There are specific mental disciplines, invoked in the Bible, involved in overcoming temptation.

  • The first step is recognizing when and where temptation occurs and making a plan to minimize its allure. If you know a lion is roaming about (1 Peter 5:8) you will behave differently.  There is an enemy who is watching for an opportunity to trip you up!  Read The Screwtape Letters for insight in this.

This could involve getting rid of one’s computer as one brother did.  A few years ago, I asked him if he could get email yet and he replied, “No, C.A., I’ll never have a computer again. I won’t have a smart phone that accesses the web. It’s safer for me here.”  He knows where his weakness was and rather than risk his spiritual wellness or his relationship with his wife, he will go the rest of the many years ahead of him without something most of us feel is essential.  While we may not need as extreme a solution, the idea is to get rid of “every weight and sin that clings so closely” to us (Hebrews 12:1).

  • The second step is to set our minds on the Presence of the Lord and whatever positive can replace the temptation (See attached Changing Your Thought Patterns). This calls for taking “every thought captive to obey Christ(2 Corinthians 10:5).  One could place a chair in a room for the Lord to make himself aware that Jesus IS there even when he seems alone.  Maybe paste of picture of your daughter in a corner of a computer screen or on your smart phone as its opening screen to remind you that every woman you see there is someone’s daughter.
  • Third is the long haul! This is the retraining of our mental habits.  “Spiritual growth is in large measure patterned on the nature of physical growth . . . There is much in our culture that infiltrates our attitudes unconsciously and makes us expect spiritual formation to happen instantaneously rather than through steady progress.” (Robert Mullholland, Invitation to a Journey)  Just as a child does not jump out of a crib and start running marathons, we need patience that the Lord is at work in us (Philippians 1:6) and not become discouraged by recurrent failures (Proverbs 24:16).

Lastly a small word of advice to girls and women, if you have any inclination to help men deal with their uniquely male temptations.  Some women dress with intentional provocation and selfish desire to be wanted by any man, and that is “a whole ‘nuther can o’ worms” for another blog.  This is not a “blame the victim” viewpoint, but encouragement to consider how you would dress and act around your father, and do so for Father.  You want to look nice for dad and want him to admire you, but common sense says you do not dress to tempt him to lust.  Many women simply dress and act out of ignorance for how difficult it is for a man to keep his eyes where they belong.

If you have to hold your blouse in when you bend over, change blouses next time or wear something under it.  Cover your midriff.  Do not wear leggings that show off every dimple of cellulite without some modest cover, and think about how much skin you will show walking up a set of stairs in your skirt or dress (1 Timothy 2:9).  Be aware that most men will not admit to feeling tempted, especially in our #MeToo moment, but be cautious in your friendships with men other than your husband, just as you would want him to be cautious in his friendships with other women.  This goes especially for working colleagues with whom some spouses spend more time than with their husbands or wives.  Remember it is every man’s battle, and some guys do not even want to fight it!  Simply become aware of how your attire and actions affect the men around you and dress and act to please your Father.

Steve Perry, Journey, Faithfully with lyrics.