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What is too Important to Forget About Memorial Day

I was pondering this afternoon what Memorial Day means to me. For a lot of folks, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are essentially indiscernible…even redundant.  But Memorial Day is not just about service, it is about ultimate sacrifice; remembering those who sacrificed their lives in service to our country.

On this weekend, we celebrate the reality that every good thing we enjoy about America came at a high price.  A high price for soldiers and for the families of soldiers. A price paid, not by you or me but by those who did not come back from conflicts and those who did not come back the same.

Taking a day to remember their sacrifice on Monday is the kind of discipline that makes us grateful rather than entitled and humble rather than proud.  Such remembering matures us, deepens us and invites us into something larger than ourselves.

I hope you will join me in taking a moment this weekend to take off your hat, pause, offer a prayer, remember and say thank you to God for the men and women who gave all.

Tell your children and your grandchildren about bravery, sacrifice and loyalty.  Let them know this is far bigger than a cookout, a baseball game and a family swim.

What we remember on Memorial Day is simply too important to forget.

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997

Early Marriage Tactical Error #2

(Louisville, Illinois circa 1985)

I had landed a job teaching and coaching at the Jr. High School of North Clay Unit 25 immediately upon my graduation from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  I taught seventh and eighth grade American history and coached baseball and basketball.  My teaching job paid about $12,000 each and every year and coaching drove my annual salary up to a stunning $14,000.  Even in 1985 that was not a lot of money.

Melissa and I had already decided she would stay home with our infant son Zec so I was the proverbial bread winner and we were clearly a few slices short of a loaf.  When summer came around, I was in the market for a summer job and quickly found one at the Epworth Campground just out of town.  My job was an interesting one.  When kids were not in camp, I was to mow and do general maintenance and when camp was in session, I played my guitar, sang and taught classes.  But most of that summer I went to work with no shirt, a pair of overalls and a Toronto Blue Jay’s baseball cap and returned home each evening a sweaty, sunburned mess.

On my first day, camp president Phil Poe asked if I knew how to operate a tractor and mower.  I told him I was raised in Southern Illinois and we both laughed.  What I neglected to tell him was that I was raised at 403 North Line Street in DuQuoin and had never been on a tractor in my life.  When I arrived alone at the shed, I climbed aboard  and looked fervently for the key to turn the ignition and the accelerator.  Finally, I walked back into town and found a guy who showed me how to operate the tractor and mower (after making me feel like an idiot for 45 minutes).  All in all it was a fair trade.  Later in the summer, a waterline broke underground and Phil asked if I knew how to dig it up and fix it.  I again told him I was raised in Southern Illinois and we both laughed (that one also resulted in a walk into town).

Since we only had one car (a 1969 Pontiac LeMans someone had given us), Melissa and Zec drove me to work each morning, brought me lunch at noon and picked me up at the end of each day.  During one particularly hot stretch of weather, the camp was abandoned except for me, the tractor and the mower.  I remember the morning being hotter than six kinds of smoke and all I could think about was the Coca-Cola poured over ice that Melissa would soon bring me.  I was counting the minutes.  When I saw that  muscle car rolling up the dust I was crazy excited.  Melissa got out of the car and had everything on a tray for me.  I spotted a sandwich, some chips and a cookie (blah, blah, blah) and then…there it was!  Perched majestically towering over the tray was my glass bottle of Coca-Cola.  I raced the tractor over to the car imagining I was Charles Ingal’s from Little House on the Prairie getting ready to have a big meal after chopping wood to keep his family warm or having saved our milk cow’s newborn calf.

Melissa looked so happy to present her picnic plate to me and I thanked her profusely…almost.  Right when I was about to shower her with thanks, I noticed there was no…ice.  She had not brought ice!  There is no way words could possibly describe my disappointment.  What was intended to be a gracious “thank you sweetheart” came out a terse “where is the ice?”  Melissa summarily put the tray behind the back tire and floored the accelerator leaving the lunch tray underneath roughly six inches of dust.  Only the neck of the lukewarm Coke bottle was visible to the naked eye.  I watched the dust roll until the car was out of sight in utter disbelief of what had just happened.

This unfortunate event I call early marriage tactical error number two.

PONTIAC

– Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

 

 

Early Marriage Tactical Error #1

(DuQuoin, Illinois circa 1984)

Melissa and I married young.  She was nineteen going on thirty-seven and I was twenty going on twelve and a half.  Despite our despairing maturity levels, Melissa had learned little about some of the basics of living.  We were married almost a year before I discovered she threw our bank statements and cancelled checks away with the junk mail.  Thinking back, it is clear we failed to negotiate responsibilities around the house.  I used my parent’s (Leave it to Beaver) arrangement as a default but since she grew up in a single household, she had no template at all.  We both had a few holes.

I had a teaching job interview coming up and had picked out my favorite outfit to wear.  Dress to impress.  It was a button-down light blue shirt and a pair of Levi’s Dockers.  For some odd reason, I assumed she knew how to do the laundry and the ironing; since my mom was particularly skilled in this area, I had high expectations.  No one had ever taught Melissa to iron, but to her credit, she did the best she could and when my favorite brownish-tan khakis were laid out for me to wear, there were two crisp creases, both on the left leg.  This would be a sensitive situation for even a mature person but that had little to do with me.  Thinking I was hilarious with my quick wit, I quipped “Melissa, most people only wear one crease per leg.”

I don’t remember her response at all but what I can tell you is we celebrated our thirtieth-fifth wedding anniversary today and she has never again ironed a single thing for me in those three and a half.  On the one or two occasions I have asked her to do so, she responds, “No one likes to do nice things for complainers.”

It doesn’t seem so hilarious now.

Hasn’t for thirty-four years…

iron

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois

United Methodist Mania (And what we can do about it)

Were I to assign one word to American culture circa 2018, it would be manic.  Manic derives from a Greek word meaning “inclined to madness.”  The adjective refers to “characterizing, denoting or afflicted by mania.”  The noun is a person afflicted with mania and synonyms include “anxious, hysterical, worried, demonic, unhinged, unbalanced and feverish.”  I think we all feel the manic tide in this age of vitriol, division, deep distrust and “winner take all politics;” kept at a frenzied pitch by a 24 hour media who has discovered there is good money in mania.   My concern is that the mania that fuels the media is inflicting continued and perhaps unrepairable damage on the United Methodist church.  I honestly don’t think we can take much more.  We are not united, it is not well with our souls and we are dying.  We have digressed into a microcosm of the hostile culture that encapsulates us.  If you don’t believe me, read almost any Facebook thread that anyone in our denomination writes about anything concerning our denomination.

Our decade’s long conflict over human sexuality and Biblical authority continue to keep us hemorrhaging and detract time, energy and resources from our collective mission.  An April 26, 1988 New York Times article covering the General Conference held in St. Louis that year was entitled, “Methodists Focus on Homosexuality.”  So now we return to St. Louis in 2019 to talk about…you guessed it, human sexuality.  It certainly feels like déjà vu all over again to me.  And the bleeding continues…

I have read dozens of articles, blogs and books attempting to ascertain the single cause of our denominational decline but we know the answer is found in a myriad of factors.  For me, four things are clear; 1) Liberal/progressive theology is not the only reason we are in decline 2) A move further toward the liberal/progressive theology will only exacerbate our decline 3) Adopting the Local Option (One Church Model) without a “Gracious Exit” will trigger an exodus that will throw us into years of litigation over the Trust Clause and 4) There is a whole lot more to turning a denomination around than having orthodox theology.

As a Council Member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and someone unabashedly on the orthodox side of the ball, I am often asked for advice as theologically conservative United Methodist pastors and congregations attempt to navigate these treacherous waters.

Here is the counsel I offer:

  1. Control Your Impulses Adding more heat to an already raging inferno is not helpful. Invoke the “do no harm” clause here.
  2. Fast and Pray If you have been delaying a life of prayer and fasting until something really urgent comes our way, I assure you this is it.
  3. Think Reorganization Everyone is throwing politically loaded words around like schism but I prefer the language of reorganization. Schism smacks of frenzy and knee-jerk reactions.  Reorganization feels like a space in which cooler heads and better decisions can prevail.
  4. Unleash the Mission American Methodism began as a revivalistic spring of living water! Our genius was to build an effective irrigation system.  Now the spring has slowed to a trickle and many of our energies and resources are spent on maintaining the ever rusting, anachronistic and deteriorating pipes and joints.  Our goal can’t be to preserve an institution, it must be to unleash our mission of making disciples.
  5. Wait to Decide (until there is something to decide) None of us truly know what will come out of the St. Louis General Conference. There is no point spending lots of time, effort and energy making decisions until there is something to decide upon.  It will only fuel the mania.  When there is something in front of us, we can each make clear headed, faith-filled and conscientious decisions based on facts.
  6. Refocus on the Local Church In the meantime, let’s refocus our collective energy to the work of the local church. Let’s bring people to Jesus, make disciples of them and send them out to bring people to Jesus.  We will not be able to effectively fight the devil and one another.
  7. Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best (and realize the worst may be the best) We can’t see twenty years down the road but God can. Let’s leave this to our processes and show some faith that things will unfold as they should.

I have some clear ideas concerning the future of the United Methodist church (and so do you).  I have a clear idea about which of the options coming before the General Conference I would prefer (and so do you).  I also have some clear ideas concerning possible scenarios I can and can’t live with (and so do you) but why not covenant to be prayerful, civil, gracious and above all Christian as we collectively traverse this most difficult stretch of highway?

Let’s turn down the heat, turn up the lights and let this thing play out.  I have to believe the God who has brought the United Methodist Church this far will not leave us now.

Shane Memphis

-Rev. Shane L, Bishop, a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

The Discipline of the Lord (Comes Swiftly and from the Left Side) 

The Discipline of the Lord

(Fort Worth, Texas circa 1969)

Dad is a southpaw.  There are two files in my memory that verify this fact.  One concerns the fact I could never use his baseball glove.  I could catch with it but I always threw like a girl.  (These days girls throw really well, so I have no idea what I threw like).  The other concerns the position in which I was held one fateful Sunday morning in Texas to receive the discipline of the Lord.

It was 1969.  I was seven years old.  The Miracle Mets would win the World Series, the world was going crazy and the Jesus Movement was just beginning to trickle into the Bible belt from the coasts.  Dad pastored a tiny Southern Baptist church outside Ft. Worth, Texas where he also attended seminary full-time and worked 40 hours a week stocking produce at the local Piggly Wiggly.  It was Sunday morning and the hymn selection was Count Your Blessings.  As we began to sing something incredible happened, I interpreted it to be miraculous.  A Charismatic impulse fell upon me, though it apparently missed the rest of the congregation.  (Not Baptist bashing here, it can happen to anybody).  Compelled beyond any mortal effort to resist, I jumped to a standing position on the top of my pew while the congregation remained seated.  With great grace, poise and beauty I began to count my blessings as I turned in 360 degree rotations.  The jig began with one finger jutting into the air and with each rotation I would add an additional finger.  Though I was certain the rest of the congregation was richly blessed by the fact I had just invented Liturgical Dance, my dad apparently was not.  (Being a fundamentalist and all).  Somewhere between my fifth and sixth blessing (while my back was momentarily turned to the pulpit) something most unfortunate occurred.  A misunderstanding really.  Dad darted from the pulpit, literally snatched me from the from the pew, tucked me under his left arm like a football and shot down the isle and out the back like a running back rambling toward the End Zone.  The congregation kept on singing.

When we exited the sanctuary, he spun me from his left to his right side and began inflicting the discipline of the Lord upon my scrawny, backside.  Unknowingly, the congregation continued to sing, Count your blessings…Smack…Name them one by one…Smack…Count your blessings see what God hath done…Smack.  (As to whether I was an inadvertent participant in the invention of percussion in modern worship is the topic of another story). After a brief and unbridled flurry of open handed instruction, he stood me on my feet, glared at me and ushered me into the church like a police officer ushers a convicted felon from a courtroom.  The cutting edge boy prophet of moments before was now paraded before the fickle assembly in absolute humiliation and returned to my mother on the front row.  (Who was no doubt enjoying an escapist daydream that I was the neighbor’s kid and she had never seen me before).  Dad summarily returned to the pulpit, re-channeled his energy and preached a rather fiery sermon.

I as look back, that day taught me two lessons I will never forget.  First, those on the cutting edge of organized religion are often misunderstood and two…the discipline of the Lord comes swiftly and from the left side.  Both have served me well…

Shane 2017 tie

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois

 

 

The Work of Mothers (Stuckey’s and the Pocket Knife)

The Work of Mothers
(A Stuckey’s in Oklahoma circa 1970)

When I was about eight, we were traveling cross country and stopped at a Stuckey’s for some gas. Stuckey’s were wonderful places with food, gas, shot glasses with the names of states on them and such high tech video offerings as “Pong” unfolding in green and black. I guess a Cracker Barrel store is about the closest we come today but can’t really even compare to the sheer over commercialized wonder of Stuckeys.

I was looking around the store and found a little pocket knife. It was a beauty; low quality blade forged of cheap metals, plastic casing and the name of a state printed on it. It was where form met function and function become art for a second grader.  With wide eyes and a thirst for adventure, I asked dad if I could have it.

Like an episode of “Kung Fu,” dad flashed back to his life when he was eight. By that time he was driving tractors, butchering hogs and hunting wild game with a shotgun. Uncharacteristically confused by nostalgia and blinded to the realization he was raising a late bloomer, dad bought the knife for me.

I walked back to the car feeling the euphoria that comes only to an armed man. It felt good to be packing heat and I found myself hoping for some type of disturbance calling for the swift and decisive action of an armed child missing both of his front teeth.

When we climbed into the car, I proudly showed mom, who said, “Fred, he is too young to have a pocketknife.” I smiled and confidently took the knife out of my pocket, pried it open and ran the blade completely through my thumb.

One of us got in a lot of trouble from mom.

 

ORIGINAL FOUR EARLY

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois

Musings on the Morality of Prayer (James 4)

I have been thinking about the moral aspect of prayer.  Morality is defined as principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong.  Logically speaking, if there is a right way to do something, there must be a wrong way.  Theologically speaking, we believe that God determines morality and as Christian people we believe God’s morality is communicated to us through scripture.  What are the Ten Commandments apart from a moral imperative to separate God’s people from the other people of the earth?  When we hold prayer to a moral standard, we must ask, “Is there a right and a wrong way to pray?”  I would answer this query very specifically, “Since Jesus told us the right way to pray; there must be a wrong way to pray.”   

There is an incredible and most disturbing story relayed to us in Genesis 22.  The fact that it was long considered a children’s story is straight up amazing to me.  The One God had promised a young, childless wanderer named Abram that he would be the father of a great nation and from his seed salvation would come to the world.  Decades later and now called Abraham (Father of Many), he is an old man and the promise lies unfulfilled; he has no legitimate heir.  Sin had invited complexity into his life and his attempts to move the promise forward in his own strength proved disastrous.  Surely the promise now seemed more a lingering memory than a pulsating future but Abraham still believed God despite all evidence to the contrary.  That belief was called faith and consistent with God’s sense of timing, about six minutes after things were mathematically impossible, the son of promise arrived and his name was Isaac, meaning laughter.  Heaven and earth laughed with joy.  All good right?

One day God and Abraham were talking, praying if you will, and God asked Abraham to offer Isaac to Him as a burnt offering.  The command stands in direct contrast to the nature of God, but still the command was given.  Shockingly, Abraham, who had just negotiated for the lives of the morally depraved people of Sodom and Gomorrah in chapter nineteen, did not attempt to negotiate for the life of his innocent son.  He awakened early, loaded up the supplies, packed his flint knife and traveled to the holy mountain (modern Jerusalem) with Isaac.  Abraham prepared the place of sacrifice and tied his beloved son to the altar.  A lifetime of promise, wandering, prosperity, deception, impatience, sin and obedience suddenly culminated into this one trembling moment in the time continuum of salvation history.  Did this impatient and pragmatic wanderer have the mettle to be the Father of a Great Nation?  Did Abraham love the promise more than the promise giver?  Does the he drive the knife downward or cast it aside?  It was a test of faith with an uncertain outcome as are all true tests of faith.  Abraham lifted the knife above him as his son looked into his father’s eyes.

I remember the first time I heard this story as a kid and was horrified every time my dad asked for me to go somewhere with him for six years.  “Do you want to go hiking son?”  “NO!”  If this story teaches us nothing else, we are reminded that the ways of God cannot be fully understood.  That is the thing about the Bible.  We get it like we get it.  Not always like we want it.  God’s morality is different than our own.  God will not be made into our own image.

Now to our text.  We know almost nothing about the book of James other than it made the sixty-six books that comprise the Bible…barely.  We don’t know who wrote it, when it was written or the historical context that led to its writing.  What we do know is that it was not a part of the earliest compilations of Scripture that later became the New Testament; it is more about morality than theology; more about works than grace and Martin Luther called it an “epistle of straw.”  But we do know the intended audience.  It is addressed to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire.  These were a “set apart” and persecuted people.  They would not declare Caesar to be Lord and they would not assimilate into the Roman melting pot, no matter how hot the Emperor’s fire.  The Jews were a people of prayer to the One God; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  THAT Abraham.  THAT Isaac.  Jewish teachings on prayer emerged from a very specific Jewish tradition who viewed prayer most uniquely.  Author Philip Yancey in his book Prayer writes about the prayer culture that produced Jesus.  “The Romans of the time prayed to their gods as one might finger a good luck charm, not really expecting much.  The skeptical Greeks derided prayer, their playwrights weaving foolish, ridiculous and even obscene prayers into their plays to provoke the audience to uproarious laughter.  Only the stubborn Jews, despite their tragic history of unanswered prayers, contended that a supreme and loving God ruled the earth, listened to their prayers and would someday respond.”  Always remember this when it comes to Jesus; he was born a Jew, he died a Jew and he was steeped in the prayer tradition of the Jews.

V. 1 What is causing all this fighting among you? Isn’t it your evil desires?

It is clear there was conflict in James’ church. It had to break the heart of Christ who prayed for unity in the church above all things.  Now, instead of fighting evil and spreading the Gospel, the church was fighting each other and spreading dissension.  They were still connected to the water source of God and attempting to offer ministry to the world but there was a major kink their water hose and the water was only trickling out.  It appears James’s battle front was established on the line of discipleship.  Some in the church had given their entire lives to Christ.  For them, being a part of what God was doing in this world was their number one core value and they passionately offered their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness to serve Christ and his church.  We would call these people disciples.  But others were only attempting to maneuver God into doing what they wanted Him to do for them.  They were “playing church” and worse yet “playing God” like one might play a slot machine today.  Those in the church who prayed only to manipulate the hand of God have their motives labeled as evil; unethical, immoral.

If evil sounds like a strong word to use here, it is a theologically appropriate one if we define evil as that which stands in direct opposition to the will of God.  If what we want is more important to us than what God wants, then our desires are evil, even if they are not intended for harm.  Selfishness is a serious evil precisely because it does not seem intrinsically evil.  Some people in James’ audience believed God existed to do their will.  Their prayers consisted of telling God what they wanted Him to do, when they wanted Him to do it and how they wanted it done.  Christ Church, hear me!  God is not a household servant in our employ, a genie in a bottle to grant us three wishes, a DJ to play our requests or a Santa Claus who exists to bring all the good boys and girls really cool presents.  God is God.  Holy.  Sovereign.  Immutable.  The desire for God to be lesser things is evil for it puts God in service of us rather than us in service of God.

V. 2 You want what you don’t have so you sin to get it

There were apparently some folks in James’ church who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer from God. ‘No” is a very proper response from a loving God to a prayer of petition. You see, God is not limited to time and space.  God can not only see the outcome of the decisions we have made in the past but can also see the outcomes of the decisions we will make in the future.  We can pray for something that may make good short-term sense to our limited perspectives but only God knows what is truly best.  If your prayer for the physical recovery of an elderly loved one is answered “no”, could it be that God knew that to go on living would mean months or years in a vegetative state?  If your prayer for a promising relationship to prosper is answered “no” could it be that God knows choosing that road, no matter how good it looks right now, would only be one of abandonment, sorrow and pain for you?  If your prayer for that new job is answered “no” could it be that God knows that job will do harm to your soul or has something better for you just around the corner?  We may never understand God’s response to our prayers but He never asks us to; He simply asks that we trust Him to know what is best.  We must trust God enough to take “no” for an answer.

2b-3 The reason you don’t have what you want is because you don’t ask God for it and even when you ask God you don’t get it because you have the wrong motive. You want only what gives you pleasure.

Jesus instructed us to ask for God for our needs.  When I ask God, I realize that he is God and I am not, I affirm that he has the power to provide and I submit my life to his ultimate control.  Prayer is a process of readying ourselves to be used by God; not readying God to be used by us.  God is not a vending machine who is obliged to spit out a Snickers bar or an old jukebox obliged to play “Walking the Floor” every time we put in the right amount of money and hit B6.  Have you ever noticed how people react when they put in their money, hit the code and the candy bar does not come out?  They push the coin return button and then frantically push it again and again.  When that does not work, I have seen people rock the machine, stick their hands up the shoot or start hitting the machine with their fist.  Many people treat God the same way!  Unlike a vending machine or an old jukebox, we must realize God is not broken when he answers a prayer with “no.”

V 4-5 Adulterers! Wanting the things of this world is to reject God. God is jealous for us.

As Abraham led the world from polytheism, the belief in many gods, towards monotheism, the belief in one God; adultery is a consistent metaphor used to denote human rejection of the One True God.  Over and over God is portrayed as a faithful and good husband and Israel is portrayed as an adulterous woman who wantonly pursues other lovers.  The Old Testament book of Hosea is a living metaphor were the prophet Hosea marries a prostitute named Gomer who is a serial adulterer and constantly rejects his faithful love.  Gomer pursues other lovers until they tire of her and Hosea keeps taking her back when no one else will have her.  Finally she has been sold into slavery and right about the time no one could blame Hosea for rejecting her forever, he buys back what is already his.  Hosea is a laughing stock but his faithfulness and steadfast love will not allow him to let Gomer go.  She is unfaithful but he is faithful because faithful is all he knows how to be!  You see, Hosea is not a cautionary tale; Hosea is a living metaphor.  That is how God is with us!  II Timothy 2: 13 reads, “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.”

In the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20, the Second Commandment is a prohibition on worshiping other gods.  It is followed by a Third Commandment which prohibits the making of idols.  An idol in ancient pagan religions was an object of manipulation.  Like politicians of the 1920’s the pagan gods were not only there to serve you; they were expected to entertain you as well!  The ancients prayed to their mischievous gods as good luck charms, priestesses told R-rated stories about their otherworldly and lewd escapades and then led the faithful to the sacred brothels for a little fund raising and encouraged them to upgrade their idols in the gift shop on the way out.

The God of Israel categorically refused to be treated in such way.  He would not be worshipped as a god among gods, nor would he sing, tell jokes or play the fool for the entertainment of humanity.  He was the one, true God.  He was holy, not promiscuous; He was righteous, not mischievous and he was spirit, not material.  God was “wholly other.”  He refused to serve as an object of manipulation.  You could embrace His will to your salvation or reject His will to your demise but he was no trifling object.  The first four of Ten Commandments clearly spell out the fact that God desires our whole hearts.  God declares himself to be a “jealous God who will not share our affection with any other God.”  God desires our exclusive love! “Who is like our God?”

V. 6-7 God gives strength to stand against evil desires. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. All Satan can do is advertise; he can’t make you buy anything. Temptation is not a sin, Jesus was tempted as was Abraham; temptation is a natural condition of living in a fallen world.   Here is the deal: We are all flawed.  There will always be something in our operating systems that wants to manipulate God.  We must resist it knowing that it will fle

Our motive in prayer is the moral aspect of prayer.  It should not surprise us that in a moral play like James there is an expectation that as we mature in the faith that we will become more honorable people with purer motives. James reminds us that when we stop being selfish, stop fighting with each other, stop wanting things that aren’t ours to have, stop lusting for what the world has to offer, stop trying to manipulate God and stop refusing to take “no” for an answer from God; THEN we are ready to pray.  The mature Christian comes to prayer with no motive other than to know and serve God.

The Morality of Prayer

  1. Submit to the authority of God
  2. Pray to come into union with the intentions of God
  3. Don’t attempt to manipulate God
  4. Take no for an answer when no is the answer

Abraham took a deep breath, blinked the sweat from his eyes, steadied his hands and drove the knife downward toward his beloved son.  An angel from heaven shouted, “Abraham, Abraham, lay down the knife for I know that you truly fear God.”  Abraham cast death away, untied his son, found a ram stuck in the thicket and offered sacrifice to the Lord.  In verse 15 God says, “Because you obeyed me, I will bless you richly.  I will multiply your descendants into countless millions, they will defeat their enemies and through you all nations on earth will be blessed.”  When Abraham submitted his will to the will of God, the promise was rebooted and put back on line.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”  Perhaps that is what Abraham and James were trying to tell us all along about the morality of prayer.  Put God’s will first and everything else will find its proper place.

Shane Praying.jpg

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.