Archives For Providence


Let me start with my story so that you can understand where I am coming from. First, I have to give a disclaimer. I was taught to be careful when disclosing information about my past as it might give license for people to justify their actions. Sort of a “Well Robbie went through it so can I” mentality. I think the readers of this post know better than that so please do not misinterpret my story as license. Secondly, I am not sure why I am telling all of you this now as many of you are finding this out for the first time. I guess because I have seen a few of my own youth struggle and have heard of so many others that I feel it is probably time to share my story. I have been ashamed of my past and have told very few people but now I am no longer ashamed because the past is what has made me into the man I am right now. In the words of Paul:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

I hope this post (albeit long) will help you if your child is using drugs or if you are using drugs and are reading this. I certainly did not get mixed-up heavy into drugs but nonetheless…

My Story

I was in the sixth grade when I first tried marijuana.

Let that sink in a bit.

I was 12 years old. Some neighborhood buddies and I had skipped school and we had gone into the woods when a guy pulled out this little bag filled with what looked like grass clippings to me. I remember he pulled out this weird looking pipe and put the “grass clippings” into this pipe and inhaled as he lit it. The stuff smelled like body odor with a hint of the smell when one burns leaves. It was my turn to take a “hit” from the pipe. I inhaled and coughed my brains out. I felt nothing… My friends were acting like idiots while I felt nothing.

The next time I tried it was when I was in the 8th grade. My buddy and I went to the top of a hill by the elementary school I attended and I tried it again. Only this time I felt something. I felt good. I felt relaxed. It was amazing. They tell you “Nothing beats the feeling of your first high” and you really don’t understand what that means until you experience it. From that moment on, I was hooked.

I would smoke on and off maybe once or twice a week but I remember longing for the moments where I would be able to smoke weed the next time. After my 8th grade year I moved to Chattanooga and I thought maybe my bad times were behind me but sometimes your past catches up with you and you find the same people just in a different context. I continued smoking on and off. I started attending a Christian high-school and I thought my past was behind me.

I met some Christians who smoked weed as well and my past was not behind me.

The last time I smoked weed was the fall of 1998. I met this girl whose father was a youth minister and I became a Christian and suddenly weed was not important to me. I am not sure if I was addicted to it because I usually did it with other people and it was more social for me. But I did like it. I could share countless stories of staying up at night, running from the police, my parents finding out and all sorts of other stories. I tried LSD once and drank some alcohol but weed was my drug of choice. I did it to escape. I did it because it felt good. I did it because my friends did it.

Shortly after that, I received the news that one of my best friends growing up (who I smoked with) overdosed and died from drug use. I never got to say goodbye.

I was walking in San Francisco this past weekend leaving a Giants-Braves game and I caught a whiff of weed someone was smoking among the crowd. Even almost 15 years without touching the stuff my body had tingles and my mind traced back to those many days.

So why this post? Why my story? I hope to give you advice on what to do based on experience with what my parents did but also watching and learning from others.


First off, don’t panic. I saw a stat that said that teen marijuana use is actually more than teen cigarette use. I know that your child using drugs is difficult and somewhat hard to fathom but your child needs your careful, objective and loving guidance and that takes some discernment and patience. I knew of a guy whose parents sent him off to rehab because he had tried some weed. Maybe there was more to the story but it seems it would have been better for them to discern then to panic and make rash decisions.  That does not mean minimize what they have done but don’t maximize it either.

Secondly, understand this could be a long road. Depending on their drug (mine was small in comparison) they could be in for a long road to recovery. Especially if meth, heroine, crack, cocaine and other highly addictive drugs are involved. It takes some patience, love and support to walk them through this. Remember, you are wrestling against evil and dark forces and every part of them does not want you to win. Seek the Lord’s counsel and help.

Thirdly, trust has to be earned. They broke trust when they started using drugs and it has to be earned and gained in order for them to have certain privileges. So the questioning of who they are talking to, where they are going, what are the text messages, let me see the Facebook, what did you do at school, and others are legitimate exercises to learn and earn trust.

Fourth, context is key to help. What I mean by that is what helped me was finding the right friends and purging myself of old ones. As harsh as that sounds I knew that if I was going to be clean I had to remove the unclean context. They were close friends but I knew that they would find new ones and maybe down the road when I was more mature and the time was right we could be friends again. I don’t understand why people who struggle with drugs go back to their druggie friends. That’s like saying you hate cold weather and want to rid yourself of it so you buy a house in Fairbanks, Alaska. Makes no sense. Context is key.

Fifth, find a support group, specifically one that is Christian. Ideally your home church network should be that support group but you also need to network among those parents who are struggling in a similar manner. Nobody wants to be alone and it helps to have fellow travelers who have been there and done that and can share the wounds and the victories.

Sixth, love your child unconditionally. They may scream at you. They may run away. They may struggle for years. They may cost you thousands of dollars. They may do unthinkable amounts of evil. But you love them. Unconditionally as Christ loved you. That doesn’t mean they go undisciplined or that they drain your savings but it means you relentlessly pursue them until they live a life of glorification to God. Sometimes we lose the ones we love the most but more often than not teenagers find healing and sobriety from relentless parents and a relentless God.

I hope this helps and has encouraged and strengthened you. What would you add?



I am going to read the bible through in 90 days and occasionally I want to post a devotional message from it. today I read Genesis 1-16 and a thought came to me at the close of my reading.

Hagar is Sarai’s servant who was given to Abram so that a child could be born to Abram and Sarai (Gen. 16:1-3). The problem is that this turned Sarai’s inability to conceive as a recipe for jealousy and bitterness towards Hagar and she “dealt harshly” with her and eventually Hagar fled (16:4-7). Hagar met the angel of the Lord (the text actually records that the angel of the Lord “found” her. Sometimes we find God and sometimes God finds us) and was told that she was with child and was going to bear a donkey of a man whose name will be Ishmael (16:7-12). What is recorded next is worthy of special attention:

13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

Beer-lahai-roi is Hebrew for, “well of the living who sees me.” Hagar was comforted by the fact that God saw her in the midst of a wandering in the wilderness. God is the one who “sees” us and notices us. Throughout the Genesis 1-16 reading God has paid special attention to his creation. He saw that man was alone (2:18) and created woman for him. God saw that Adam and Eve sinned (3:8-9) and punished man. God saw the wickedness of Cain (4), the corruption of the Earth (6), the righteousness of Noah(6:8), the pride of the nations building a tower (11) and on and on. We serve a God who “sees” everything…good and bad.


  • Sometimes we pursue God while other times God pursues us.
  • God notices our affliction.
  • God notices our sin.
  • God is concerned about the redemption of mankind.
  • God is concerned about his covenant.

Any thoughts?

Divine Encounters

November 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

I work at the YMCA Monday-Tuesday from 5am-8am to make a little extra cash on the side and it helps pay for my membership.  In the few months I have been there I have experienced a few divine encounters that have left me in mourning at how people hurt.  I call them divine encounters not because I meet the divine face-to-face but because I believe God places me in that situation to be present with someone in their deep anguish.

In walks Doug (not his real name but we will call him Doug).  Doug has come to the Y now for a couple of months and he always has the greatest smile on his face and greets me with the warmth only a Krispe Kreme doughnut could bring.  Whenever I say, “How are you doing?” I know that his usual “I am doing really well” is an honest answer not rehearsed for trite conversation.  He means it. Today Doug was leaving the Y and wanted some coffee but he was waiting on the fresh decaffeinated coffee I was brewing.  So I made short conversation.

“Beautiful day isn’t it?” With a smile he said, “Absolutely gorgeous.  I am going to go play a round of golf after this.”  “I wish I could go,” I said.  “I used to play a lot but with four kids six and under golfing is one of those things that is taken off the list.  I got to have my priorities.  I am a dad first.”

What he said next I was not ready for…

“You definitely have your priorities straight.  I lost two kids in the span of nine months so cherish each moment that you have with them because you never know when it will be your last.”

My heart broke.  I wanted to cry, give him a hug and pray with him on the spot.  The amount of pain this man has endured cannot be expressed in words.  All I could say was, “I am so sorry.”

I stepped away and did a few things then I walked back because I couldn’t let the awkwardness of that conversation get between an opportunity to just be present with this man so I asked him, “How long ago was this?”  I acted like I was cleaning something beside the coffee so I could mask the desire to be close to this man.

“My youngest son died of colon cancer when he was only 21.  That was back in 1997.  Then nine months almost to the day later my oldest son died in a car accident.”

“I am so sorry,” I muttered in obvious nervousness since I really did not know what to say.  “I guess you play golf as a release?”  He answered, “Yeah but the important thing is that I have to be around people.”  The next question I asked floored me, “Did you have any other kids?”  He said, “No, that was it.”

That was it…

Three words that evoked more pain, anguish and sorrow than I have ever experienced.  In a span of nine months this man goes from having a wonderful family full of promise to just he and his wife.  I prayed for Doug.  I now have perspective when each day he tells me that he is doing really well.  I now understand that people have different levels of pain that they experience and we all assume that everybody is OK.

Doug is a great guy.  I hope he gets to see his boys some day.

Pretty sure I met Job this morning.

There have been times where you’ve written them off. “They’re teenagers. What’d you expect them to do?”

And there have been times when they’ve written themselves off, “I’m just a teenager. What I can really do?”

But we hope for them.

We hope that these teens will figure out this thing called life (because we’ve got it figured out, right?).

We hope that we can awaken a faith deep within them that will sustain them in the toughest of times and circumstances.

But I kind of hope a lot of things.

I hope that I never meet “that fish” in the Amazon. (Y’all know what I’m talking about…)

I hope that one day my jaw doesn’t get stuck and fall out into my hands when I try to move it.

That kind of hope is kind of like junk food: it just doesn’t do a lot of good, because it doesn’t have any substance to it.

We might as well face it: they are hopeless (and so are we) if we don’t connect them to the Source of hope.

Somehow we have to connect these kids to the power of the Word of God and to its Author.

Imagine hearing of God’s power for the first time.

This is hard for most of us who grew up in the church to do…that is until I use my neuralizer!!!


That’s right. I just went all Men in Black on ya. Winning.

Imagine hearing stories like when God parted the Red Sea.

Whoa?!! You mean to tell me that God did WHAT?

Or how about the story of Noah?

Seriously? God put all of the animals on this giant boat, floated them for 40 days and landed them on a mountain? Wow, you can’t be serious…

But best of all, there’s the story of Jesus.

You mean God loved so much that He gave His Son for me? Jesus went to the cross to save a jerk like me? He wants a relationship with me? He loves me? He wants to forgive me? He wants me to go to heaven?

I think my neuralizer’s busted, because that one just still doesn’t sink in.

The truth is, I think sometimes we take God’s power for granted. We hear story after story from His Word, and hear time after time how powerful that He is, yet we forget who we’re dealing with!

We take verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and connect it to our performances on the football field instead of connecting it to Christ’s power to conquer our every day struggles.

My girlfriend broke up with me.

I feel alone.

My parents are getting a divorce.

I’ve been thinking about killing myself.

The Bible is God’s résumé. We cannot forget that!

It’s the paperwork to show us that He’s qualified for the job. It’s His accomplishments. His experience. A list of reasons why He qualifies.

He wants to be your God. His Son wants to be your Savior.

May we NEVER take it for granted. May our ears never tire of hearing Him. May our hearts never become calloused to His power. May our lives never become dull to His touch.

He is who He says He is. He does what He says He does.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Philip Jenkins is the Youth Minister at the Mt. Juliet church of Christ in Mt. Juliet, TN.  He is married to Laura and they are expecting their first child.  Philip is an amazing friend, minister and encourager and I know you have been blessed by his words.

Life does exist after 30

January 18, 2011 — 7 Comments

I have delayed writing this post much like I delay going to the dentist, doctor or even a car repair shop.  It is the self-discovery that I dread and the inevitable bad news that comes from a doctor’s office or a repair shop that I loathe.  Nevertheless I drudge on through because it is only through self-discovery where we truly find the living God who dwells in our past, present and future.  Last Friday I turned 30 and it was a wonderful experience that capped off a week of a softball party and a surprise birthday party.  I feel both loved and supported by so many individuals and I truly am a man most blessed by God.  I would like to share some lessons I have learned in my life in the first 30 years that will help you live your teens and twenties to its fullest potential.  I will try to avoid trite sayings that preachers use but I find that those sayings are regretabbly unavoidable…

  1. It’s not all about you. If there is one word that could characterize my first 30 years it would be the word, “narcissism.”  I know we all are a little selfish at times but it seems that I struggled with this more than most people.  In my teenage years  if there was a worldly pleasure easily accessible to me than I took advantage (without disclosing much just let me say, for the record, that I have not always been a moral person).  If I had to walk over someone to benefit my cause then I did it.  If someone neglected me, punished me or ridiculed me then they were ignored, ostracized or even punished for lambasting my integrity.  As I recall some dark periods of my past I can’t help but to think much of my pain was avoidable if I just realize that it was not about me.
  2. Life is a roller-coaster. Different seasons call for different experiences and the ever-changing ebb and flow of life brings about conflicting narratives that tug on a person’s soul.  Early in our marriage (December 29, 2003) Heather had a miscarriage and we were devastated at our loss.  Amelia (our second-born) was born with a whole in her lung, Kaleb had RSV as a child and recently my youngest broke his leg.  Mix that with financial troubles (some self-inflicted…see point #1) and economic hardships and life can be very hectic.  God created us to weather serious storms in our lives and it seems that while a current struggle may be significant we should always look at the trial with a lens of perspective.  Some people flip-out over the small things but lately I have learned to not worry as much and it has made me a better husband, father, son, friend and minister.
  3. Not much is happenstance. I look back at my life and believe in the providence of God.  I place my finger on significant events in my life and ask the million-dollar question, “Why did __________ happen like that?”  A friend of mine overdosed years after I moved and I ask, “Why was that not me?”  After dropping off a high-school girlfriend my car spun out of control in the rain in the direction of a 20 foot drop-off.  “Why did my car stop right before the edge?”  A girl in college just recently got out of a relationship and I did too and I asked her out.  “Why did Heather  say yes?”  Not much is happenstance…not much is chance…we are merely paint on the canvas of the divine painter.
  4. “God is not made by human hands…” Paul said that in Acts 17:24 to the men of Athens and I believe it strongly to this day.  I have shifted in theology since I first arrived at Freed-Hardeman in 1999.  I used to think I had everything figured out and that I could put God in this neatly packaged box and if someone needed me to explain who God is/was then I would open this box and show them who God was.  That worked until I realized that God was doing some amazing things that confronted (opposed) my preconceived notion of how God operated.  Scripture used to be information for me to dissect, translate and pattern for people to understand.  Now I still believe in good exegesis I think we can almost treat Scripture as an idol instead of its intended purpose as transformation (Psalm 1; Rom. 12:1-2).  God is not solely bound to leafs of paper but is living, active and powerful.  Scripture, at best, is an attempt by God to describe an infinite concept using finite terms.  That is why no perfect description of heaven exists…it cannot be contained by human vernacular but God paints the best picture he believes we can understand.
  5. Life is never over. Abraham got his call to ministry when he was 75 years old!  We never should get to the point where we think God is through with me I shall now die.  As a minister I see at Main Street God using people who are infants and who are 90 years old!!!  God uses us for his purposes in every season of our life no matter what age we are.  Sarah laughed because she thought she was too old, Jeremiah was afraid because he thought he was too young and God essentially told both of them that nothing is impossible with God.

So here I am, 30 years old and ready to do whatever God wants me to do wherever he sends me.  I am not wise, but I am wiser than I once was.  I am not experienced but I am a little more experienced than I once was.  Regardless…I am content.

I came across this verse today in my reading and thought that it was not happenstance.  A lot happened to Joseph that could have caused him to be bitter and angry but because of God’s providence Joseph did some amazing things.

“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt…” (Gen 41:46a).

Looking into Cisterns

January 17, 2011 — 2 Comments

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it” (Genesis 27:23-24).

Most people know this story where Joseph is left to die in a cistern by his older brothers.  We could argue he had it coming (read Gen. 37:1-11) but at the end of the day nobody deserves the treatment Joseph received at the hand of his enraged and jealous brothers.  Joseph is sold to Potiphar and through providential circumstances years down the road he reunites with his brothers in a story only God could write.  Joseph famoulsy assured his brothers:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (50:20).

I am not here to discuss what the biblical writer recorded but what you don’t see in the text.  I wonder how many cisterns Joseph came across in his life as he stopped and recalled the painful experience.  I wonder if he jumped down into the very same cistern he was left to die in and prayed to God thanking him for the painful experience in his life.  I wonder if Joseph’s brothers felt remorse every time they passed a cistern thinking to themselves, “How could I have been so stupid?”  Every time they see a cistern is a moment of regret and for Joseph it is a moment of joy.  A preacher once told me, “The same sun that melts butter is the same sun that hardens clay” and I wonder if it made Joseph strong and the brothers weak.

Much of this is conjecture but I bet cisterns were a topic of conversation for the brothers for years.

What about you?  What are the cisterns (to allegorize) in your life that serve as reminders that God will always be at work among you?  Do you ever look at the stupid decisions you made and wonder what was going through your mind at the time?

How could I have done _________________

Why did I say _________________

Why didn’t I _____________________

The cisterns of our lives serve as reminders that God has done, is doing and will do amazing things in your life.  The same God that forgave Abraham, Jacob, David and Peter can and does forgive you.  The cisterns in our lives should serve as pivotal points where we turn towards God and boldly proclaim that His providence has directed our lives to this point.

So what cisterns are roaming about in your life?  How has God worked through those difficult moments?  What can you do to celebrate God right now?

They say, “time passes by so quickly” and today I am painfully aware of that fact.  Kaleb Christopher Mackenzie turned five today.  I know you probably are feeling what I am feeling and your response is, “I can’t believe he is five!”  We can’t either!  In the shower this morning I told Kaleb he was five years old today and he responded, “Am I five right now?”  I assured him that he was five right now and he didn’t even believe it either but when he asked how old Garrett was (pictured above…his best friend) I told him that he was still five right now, Kaleb smiled with a gesture of approval that he was, in fact, five years old.  I remember the day all too well as the anticipation of our first child was more than we could handle.  At this point five years ago Heather was on the medications to increase her contractions and we were playing the waiting game for that little ball of joy.  As it turns out, he was a big, rather fat, ball of joy weighing in at ten pounds and five ounces.  We stayed at the hospital for a week or so because he had such a case of jaundice but  in the weeks and months to come he was probably the most loved baby I have ever seen. 

I still remember the late nights (mainly because I still have a few) with Kaleb giving him a bottle and rocking him to sleep.  Now he is in school, knows that an octagon has eight sides, and rehashed a story verbatim in which daddy said a bad word (yeah that’s a confession).  In some ways I feel like I have to share the story of Kaleb because it is a story so many people have participated in.  From the moment he has come in this world family and friends from Main Street have checked on him continuously almost as if he was their own.  Kaleb’s best life experiences are at the Lord’s church, his best friend goes to church with him, his mentors, role-models and heroes all attend the Lord’s church.  When I fear that my child will turn away from the faith I am often comforted that if he would at least he would know who he could turn to in difficult times.  Thank you Main Street for loving my son and being there for him…your not through yet, we still have a lot of work to do but my labor in ministry is a constant debt I repay to you for the love you have shown me (Rom. 13:8).   

This is where it gets emotional for me and bear with me as I share from my heart a little letter to Kaleb that he will not read until later in life but I wanted you to read it as well. 

Dear Kaleb,

You are five today and I could not be any more proud of what you have done in life up to this point.  You have given your mother and I joy for five years and we thank you for that.  On those long nights when daddy was away it was the thought of you and your smile that has kept me going.  I keep a small picture of you on my desk of when you were a little boy and I look at it and smile everyday.  I want you to know that no matter what you do or where you go that I love you more than you will ever know.  As long as there is air in my lungs to breathe and strength in my bones to move, I will make sure that you are taken care of.  But I also want you to know that if anything were to happen to me that you are already taken care of.  God brought you here when I couldn’t and has protected you these five years.  He will see you through.  Trust in him…trust in your friends at church…trust in the path that is paved before you.  Happy birthday son.  Have fun, be respectful, change the world!!!

With all the love a father can give,


Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting with the Rushing/Jenkins family as little Ellie Rushing (10 week old) had reconstructive surgery on her head to correct formation problems.  The surgery went well and she is doing fine but I wanted to recount some of the events so that you could see through a window of what it was like.  

Anytime a child is in the PICU or the NICU and has operations, procedures or treatments we look inward and think, “That’s not normal.”  I get an older person (as bad as it is) in the ICU struggling for life or even someone my age who comes down with cancer I can accept but when we start talking about children and infants there is something abnormal about it that does not settle well.  That’s the feeling Daniel and Keri Beth felt going in to the surgery as it just did not feel right but, like many other things, you move with the cards your dealt with and try to find the best possible outcome.  That is why they put their trust in God and in two capable surgeons. 

My wife and many others got up well before the sun canvassed the landscape and made their way down to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.  The surgery was set to start at 7:30am but I had to take Kaleb to school so I did not make it down there until close to 9.  When I arrived I saw a waiting room full of siblings, elders, friends and loved ones all there to support the family.  It was, as I told one person, a circus…but a good one.  People were enjoying conversation anticipating updates from the operating room all the while looking at a screen with Ellie’s name on it notifying us of her progress.  The surgery did not actually start until 10:15am.  Daniel told me when I first got there: “Man, it was the hardest thing for me to do…giving Ellie over to the doctor and placing her in his hands.”  I thought of the spiritual ramifications of that statement in how it is hard for us to give up a lot of what we love and do and place it in the hands of the living God.  What a lot of us do metaphorically Daniel and Keri Beth had to do literally. 

We had two formal prayers, one by Jim Willhite an elder and the other by myself after the surgery but I imagine most were in a continuous state of prayer much like Paul told us to in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  When the surgery was over they called the family to meet with the doctors in a briefing room and there was this nervous tension from many of us.  We did not talk much for we wanted to hear some good news and when we saw people coming out with tears of joy it was confirmed.  The facial expressions from Daniel and Keri Beth let me know how much of a relief it was for them.  Prayers were answered, one person relayed, and I thought to myself, regardless of the outcome prayers were answered. 

We ate a meal in the lunch room and then it was shortly after that Ellie was transferred to her room in the PICU.  One by one we got to see her as the minutes and hours rolled by.  In the waiting room there was a woman who had a 15-year-old son who was hit by a truck on his skateboard and he will have to be there a month as they reconstruct and fuse his spinal column.  Going to Ellie’s room was like walking down a hall of pain and suffering.  Children hooked up to every wire imaginable suffering enormous amounts of pain made me break down and realize how much hurt is out there.  These families who spend weeks and months wondering if their child will ever live the same again (or even live) often are left by themselves with nobody to feel with them.  While we rejoice over Ellie and thank God for His gracious care may we remind ourselves of those who are still struggling and are in need of His loving guidance and calming consolation. 

Father, we thank you for the work of your hand and the presence of your almighty power among us.  You have given us discernment with your work yesterday knowing that you are there for those who love you.  There are many experiencing pain and torment right now and I am reminded of the 15-year-old who has such a long road ahead of him as well as his parents.  They need you right now!  God you showered your grace on Daniel and Keri Beth and for that I am eternally thankful.  Guide Ellie’s spirit all the days of her life and establish your presence among her as one of your own.  We love you Father and are mindful of your work in the kingdom and in creation.  Amen.

I have been thinking a lot here lately about what prayer is and how it works specifically in the way we normally see it in corporate worship.  There is a dimension of prayer that we may never understand and for the secret things left for God (cf. Deut. 29:29) I cannot comprehend.  However, there are some aspects of prayer I think have either been neglected or over-exaggerated.  To be certain I would like to first mention, very briefly, different prayers mentioned in Scripture using the acrostic ACTS (from Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 494-95) . 

  • Adoration – the prayers in which we adore God for His wonderful attributes in who He is.  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9). 
  • Confession – adoring God naturally moves one to realize his or her state before God (Rom. 3:23) which means we are nothing without Him.  “Forgive us our debts” (Matt. 6:12) and “against You and You alone have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4) are examples of prayers of confession.  It is interesting to note that often you will find prayers of adoration and confession in the same context (see Isaiah 6:1-6). 
  • Thanksgiving –  These are prayers (not to be confused with adoration) thanking God for His work and providence in the church and the world.  “Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:17-18). 
  • Supplication – These are prayers that are requested based on the spiritual/physical needs of the community (Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:25). 

There is more to this but I just wanted to introduce it to you before I move on to what I have been struggling with.  In church services/bulletins/announcements typically what we do is mention people who we need to pray for who are struggling with cancer, operations, or some other type of ailment.  This is not only important for a church family but is mandated (James 5:16) as intercessory prayer is one of the vehicles that keeps a church growing spiritually and physically.  But I often wonder if we, at corporate worship, pray too often with prayers of supplication to the neglect of prayers of thanksgiving, adoration and dare I say confession?  I know this is not the case with every public prayer as there are many who pray continually for the forgiveness of sins and the gratitude that comes from that release.  I struggle with the idea of getting everybody to pray for supplication when a particular brother or sister is going through something (intercession) as if to try to win over God’s favor for this particular situation.  Sometimes it comes across as the more people you get to pray for this situation the more likely God will be on your side for what you are praying for.  I know there is some Biblical merit to this as scores of stories in the Old Testament reveal that if the nation of Israel were to pray more than perhaps God would have (and He did sometimes) relented from His wrath. 

Without bordering on deism, I would like to propose that it is a good thing to get as many people praying for you, for me, for the nation, for the church, for the sick, for the surgeries, for the spiritually lax, for all situations.  But if God does not deem it fit to answer your prayer the way you want it does that change who God is?  Most of us have prayed for something and it has not worked out for the best be it bad timing, bad intentions or some other plan altogether.  I remember praying fervently for a brother who had cancer that God would rescue him from the cancer because he had a beautiful wife and two young daughters but he still lost his battle.  Does that mean God was not listening?  Of course not.  I believe that God is concerned about us even when nobody is praying for us.  He does know our hearts and intentions even when nobody else does (1 Samuel 16:7).  Is it bad to get people to pray for your situation?  In the words of Paul, “May it never be!”  Don’t you think God wants to hear our yearnings, our issues, our struggles, our doubts, our fears and our desires?  We are called to pray for the sick that they may be healed, we are called to thank God for all that he is done even in the darkest circumstances and we pray that God, no matter the situational outcome, will be with us and comfort us.  We don’t need to pray God to win His favor on us as if we are trying to impress Him…if we are His children then He already loves us and favors us to begin with. 

So please, keep praying and would you pray for me as I pray for you?

Rarely do I read a book that captivates me to the point where I cannot put it down.  It was 11:05pm last night and I was on page 115 or so…I finished the book at 1:30am this morning reading about 120 pages in the process.  The book encapsulates themes of redemption, reconciliation, providence, suffering, theodicy and hope all in a narrative told by two men who come from very different backgrounds. 

Ron Hall is a white Texas man who finds success very quickly in selling expensive paintings and soon builds a 7-figure portfolio and while it seems everything he touches turns to success the opposite is true for his failing marriage. 

Juxtaposed with Ron’s success is Denver’s tragedy.  Growing up in the racial and oppressive cotton fields of Red River Parish Louisiana Denver dreamed of things bigger than himself but every time he turned the corner something unfair beset him.  So he ran away from the sharecropping slavery of the Bayou to the homeless streets of Fort Worth, Texas.  Little did he know a sweet lady by the name of Deborah Hall would soon unite him to Ron Hall and both would begin a journey that is nothing short than God-sent. 

This book is addictive and all true and a story that needs to be heard by people across the board.  It highlights false preconceptions about the homeless and testifies of the amazing power of relationships that restore marriages, churches and a broken community.  I highly recommend this book…