The Evolution of a Christian Prayer Life

The heart and soul of a Christian life is our prayer life. Any Christian seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus, has an active prayer life. However, overtime, conscientious Christians learn to grow in their knowledge and depth of how to talk to God.

Here are descriptions of possible types and levels of praying that most of us may experience as we grow in our Christian faith:

  1. No active prayer life – praying spontaneously only when serious needs arise
  2. Periodic “routine” praying – “now I lay me down to sleep” – “Our Father who art in heaven… “
  3. Periodic private prayers – occasional, inconsistent but sincere prayers
  4. Social praying – an accepted public prayer, before a group
  5. Personal praying – a commitment to pray privately and regularly
  6. A complete prayer life – talking daily with God on a continuing  basis

The best model for praying, the Lord’s Prayer, was given to us by Jesus. It begins with praise and adoration, then asks for forgiveness, cautions about temptations and concludes with expressions of trust in the power and glory of God. Much can be learned by a thorough study of this prayer.

The Bible, in most every book, offers many beautiful prayers from the prophets and the gospel writers. In Psalms 103:1, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name”. Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” – and in Philippians 4:6, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.

Sometimes we fall into the habit of repetitive praying and fail to remember there are many types of prayers. Some of the most common prayers may focus on:  Thanksgiving, Forgiveness, Praise and Adoration, Intercessory, Resting, or Suffering prayers. There are two approaches to praying – Ritualistic praying and Informal praying. Both have a proper place and both are entirely acceptable to God.

God accepts all types and levels of praying from all peoples from every age, race, ethnic, religious or national background. He is open to the most simple to the most complex prayers we chose to submit. When and where we pray does not matter. In the midst of our greatest sins, God encourages us to pray. He always accepts and loves us as we are.

It is very human that some prayers center on the needs and feelings of the person praying. Others seek to express our concerns for the needs of others – both nearby and far away.   Sometimes we find ourselves “telling” God what needs to be done – fully realizing he already knows. It is very human- particularly when things are not going well- for us to ask God to intervene in the lives of people. I think this sincere asking is acceptable by God – but it seems rare for him to interfere with his created laws – accept when he decides a miracle is warranted. Miracles do happen – but sometimes they are delayed or changed by God. Under these special circumstances, mature Christians learn to trust in the fact that our heavenly Father is:  all powerful, all knowing, all present and all caring.

In the middle of all that our lives experience, we must remember that the lifelong goal of praying is to continue to strive to align our lives to the Will of our heavenly Father.

W.F. Peck

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Barriers to Understanding the Truths of Creation


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Why do so many God-fearing people reject new interpretations of scriptures relating to how the universe, the world and mankind were created by God? How does one define – what is true? What is truth? For each person – early in life, truths are based on what they have been taught to believe by parents and other authoritative persons. Later, what one views as truth – on important matters – this may change based on new information (data) and/or personal experiences.

Sometimes individuals resist believing changes in matters they hold very dear. They often allow their emotions rather than their intellect to control what they believe. Their truths are the same truths their families have held for generations and they will be defended at all costs. They may not be open to new information and will avoid addressing unfamiliar and complex ideas because their educational background limits what they are prepared to evaluate and attempt to believe.

The beautiful stories of beginnings given to us in the early chapters of the book of Genesis express broad and general information that people of the Old Testament could understand.  The powerful and central message was that “God created the Heavens and the Earth.” This landmark statement establishes the foundation and source of beginnings through the power and creative nature of our heavenly Father. Somehow, some way, the Holy Spirit gave to Moses and other early biblical writers, the next level of detail, seven sequential events that broadly describes how God created the universe, the earth and then all living creatures. These allegorical writings set the stage for later understandings of God’s creation processes. The detailed knowledge of how the world came into being could not possibly be understood by the first generations of ancient people. At this point in pre-history, science did not even exist as a known discipline. Over three thousand years of evolutionary history would be required by scientists to discover and understand the mechanics of how God put together the complete story of creation. To reach our current level of understanding, God would allow and help create multiple scientific fields of study such as: biology, physics, chemistry, geology and paleontology (to name a few) to evolve and identify the detailed pieces of God’s creation plan.

It has taken the International Scientific community over the last several hundred years to recognize and agree that: the Universe is 13 billion or more years in age, the earth is 3 to 4 billion years old and mankind struggled through several million years of evolution to become fully human. To be fully human, God’s upright, bipedal creatures had to slowly acquire brain sizes that finally attained the knowledge to discern the difference between right and wrong, the power to love and care and thus gain a human conscience. Most Christians believe the Holy Spirit was involved in this first awakening  of fully human beings. This broad and general description of God’s evolutionary process is recognized as fact – not just theory – by the overwhelming majority of informed scientists in every country in the world. Wow, what a marvelous beginning!

So today, turning a page to national statistics, we learn (in 2014) that only about 27% of our adult population have a bachelor’s degree or higher in some discipline. This means that about two-thirds (or more) of all students have not had any chance (maybe a little in high school) to be exposed to the details of this evolutionary process. In some rural areas, this percentage is even larger.

If these statistics are true, there is good reason to understand why so many fine Christian people reject or simply avoid scientific reports of God’s creation that seem to negate their traditional understandings and the literal words of the Bible. Many would conclude that accepting modern scientific creation explanations is a vote against the Biblical story. In reality, this is not true – one must learn to understand that God’s Word in the bible and later scientific interpretations are very compatible.

It may be helpful to reflect on the Christian values received from the Bible. While many of God’s important messages are wrapped in ancient historical stories, one must remember that God’s Word in the bible is about: purpose, meaning and God’s struggle to evolve a primitive civilization to believe in one God. The Bible was never meant to be a science book. To attempt to interpret scripture as a scientific explanation of creation is a mistake practiced by many good folks expecting the writers of the bible to literally explain the details of God’s complex creation process. It is only through intelligent and prayerful thinking that God’s people may begin to understand how the broad and beautiful report of beginnings, recorded in the book of Genesis, may be reconciled with the abundance of new and detailed facts which the scientific community has accumulated over the last millennium.

In the middle of intense debates about creation, some well-meaning Christians rationalize that understanding the truths of God’s creative processes are of little importance.  They suggest that the center of our Christian faith is given to us in the New Testament through the life, teachings and sacrifices of Jesus, and thus, the details of Creation do not seriously impact our Christian faith. I disagree with this conclusion.. If the Christian faith is about anything meaningful, it is about seeking to understand truths. The real creation story discovered by the full world scientific community is absolutely true – even if some of the details are not yet fully understood. It is the most exciting, logical and inspiring story anyone could ever imagine.

John Wesley, gave us the Wesleyan Quadrangle containing the proper elements for making serious decisions:  Reason, Tradition, Experience and Scripture. Surely, the more knowledgeable all Christians become regarding the real truths of God’s evolutionary creation, the more attractive the Christian faith should become for all intelligent and educated people. Think about this:  Why would a young college educated Christian want to be associated with a traditional church that hangs on to the literal words of the bible suggesting that the universe and mankind were created in seven, twenty-four hour days? And we wonder why many young adults are leaving or avoiding the churches of their parents.

As for all dedicated Christians who, for whatever reasons, do not have the fortune of advanced education, please study when you can, keep an open mind, and pray that God will help you to believe these scientists that have given us all so many beautiful, complex, and useful scientific inventions to enjoy. Although we trust but do not always understand their creation. God surely blessed us with many wonderful scientific discoveries long after the Bible was written.

Please know that all of this written presentation is meant to inform, wake up traditional thinkers, strengthen their Christian faith and hopefully help our traditional churches, in every denomination, to survive and grow. “O Lord, please help us all to accept these truths!”

Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

W.F. Peck, Jr.

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The Beginning of Human Life

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As Christians, we look to the biblical stories in the Old Testament seeking to understand God’s messages regarding how mankind first began. A literal reading and interpretation of the “Adam and Eve” story seems to produce more questions than answers regarding how mankind first evolved. Tradition labels their act of disobeying God as a negative experience with God reacting punitively against them and the symbolic serpent. One could easily surmise that their disobedience doomed the development of the human race – but the reverse interpretation makes more sense.

Prior to Adam and Eve’s defiance of God’s directives, they are described as mere happy, naïve and comfortable children, or angels or partly evolved homo sapiens with little understanding of who they really were or who they were destined to become. God chose the events needed to create fully human kind through a beautiful allegorical story that allowed our first symbolic humans (Adam and Eve) to make decisions that opened their eyes (for the first time) and awaken  them to recognize the differences between right and wrong. In Genesis, chapter three, God says: “they became like me (god) with the power to decide what is right and what is wrong!” This is the positive interpretation of this ancient story and it fits well with our modern understanding of how up-right, bipedal hominids over thousands of years, evolved brain sizes and cultural relationships that came to fruition when God breathed his Holy Spirit into his developing creatures and they became fully human! Human life truly began when the first humans realized they were in direct relationship with God as well as with one another. 

Whether we like it or not, God chose to create humans as imperfect beings with the freedom to make good or bad decisions. Mankind could not exist without the power to exercise a “free will”. This was not man’s decision – it was God’s decision. To suggest that “the devil made us this way” – is to conclude that God was not fully in charge of man’s creation. Surely, we do not believe this!

From this creation event forward, the Old Testament presents numerous stories, generally organized chronologically, that picture God’s struggles to teach his wayward people how to grow in their understanding of a “one God  (Yahweh) concept”. We are allowed to witness multiple triumphs and failures in the Old Testament as God’s chosen people slowly move, over more than two thousand years, from paganism to the one and only true God. His people finally are blessed with the presence of God through the life, teachings, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.

This inspiring interpretation of human beginnings in the early chapters of the book of Genesis provides a sensible and solid foundation for the building of the Christian faith.

Written by W.F. Peck

Modern Beliefs About Creation

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Modern day Christians need to adjust their theological understandings of the biblical story of beginnings as new scientific facts are uncovered. We have all been raised and “schooled” to accept the traditional and cultural interpretations of the early chapters of the book of Genesis – that is, God created the universe and the earth in a short period of time (one week).

Current scientific facts clearly disclose that the universe, and later, planet earth, to be billions of years old. Are these scientific facts reliable? Have they been proven beyond any doubt to be accurate? Yes they have! But rather than trying to understand a set of complex scientific proofs, most layman would opt to believe what a majority of competent scientists believe. International statistics consistently report that 95% of all informed scientists – across the entire world- believe in these evolutionary facts. Additionally, most educated adults accept these scientific facts as being true, even though they may not understand the technical details. Also, the vast majority of our most highly educated clergy (in all denominations) believe in the evolutionary process.

So do these new scientific discoveries undermine or discount the value of the Bible? Of course not! God has continued to reveal more and more about his beautiful creation every year through modern science. God’s biblical messages regarding creation are still true. Although modern knowledge of the processes have been refined- God is still at the center of Creation!

Even so, many traditional Christians still have trouble accepting new scientific information. Most layman do not understand the scientific processes – that appear to contradict the Bible. Well, can we agree that many of God’s best messages are often hidden behind the literal words of the Bible – in metaphorical or allegorical stories? Jesus used similar teaching methods through parables. If one cannot accept this premise, then surely one will find interpretations of certain scriptures to be troublesome. Please remember, St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the founding fathers of Christian theology – in about 300AD – stated: “When scientific facts appear to be in conflict with scripture, it is time to reinterpret scripture.” Traditional thinking has not been wrong, it simply requires intelligent updating.

Since some would suggest that none of this discussion impacts our central beliefs regarding the life and teachings of Jesus, why worry about it? I disagree. Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. If Christianity is to remain viable in the lives of human kind, it must be about truth. Our young people are progressively exposed to more and more scientific information. They are smart, analytical and perceptive. Their school training is complex and comprehensive and includes studies of scientific creation. They are far ahead of most mature adults in their learning. It only takes a few years of college training or experience in the work place for them to discover many new truths about God and his creation. How can we expect them to remain loyal to their traditional family churches that tend to hide from or give lip service to scientific truths? This topic is crucial to keeping our traditional churches viable and growing for future generations.

As I view it, there are five (5) related reasons why scientific truths are ignored or suppressed by many Christian churches:

1). Many pastors cling tenaciously to the literal interpretation of all scriptures because it fits well with the educational level of the majority of their church members. Tis far easier to promote peace and harmony than intellectual analysis.

2). Many pastors, who intellectually believe in scientific evolution, will admit it privately, but stay away from it in their public pronouncements. Why is this? Pastors have to weigh carefully what they say from the pulpit – regarding nontraditional matters, for fear of confusing or losing many loyal church members. In my view, they are placating the older traditional members while risking the loss of their now grown children. Carefully planned and objectively presented educational programs are the answer.

3). Knowledge of Scientific Evolution is very complex and continuously changing. Even the scientific community cannot provide clear and simple answers to many creation questions. Most people do not have the educational background to grasp highly technical concepts. Our public libraries offer dozens of well written books on scientific creation, written by both theologians and scientists, that most layman can understand. Unfortunately, most senior citizens do not care or will not change their traditional beliefs regarding creation.

4). The fundamental movement across America attracts many people who prefer a simple, literal and traditional interpretation of all scriptures. It seems sad and wasteful for so much time and energy to be expended defending outdated and inaccurate interpretations of scripture.

5). Scholars (on both sides – scientific and religious) have for centuries had great difficulties blending our beautiful Christian beliefs with new and ever changing scientific knowledge. This must be done. Substantial progress has been made in the last few years toward understanding God’s real processes of creation. Fully understood, the scientific explanations for God’s processes of creation are exciting, rational and inspiring. The future of our wonderful, traditional churches may be dependent on this encouraging trend.

 

Written by W.F. Peck

Homosexuality and the Christian Faith

 

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For those of us who profess to be Christians, the Bible is our best resource on how God expects his people to think and live. We are guided by the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, the beatitudes and the teachings of Jesus from the New Testament.

As a young boy in a rural community in southwest Fulton County, Georgia, I walked several miles to elementary school along one side of the road, and our black neighbors children walked to their separate schools on the other side of the road. We spoke and were respectful, but we did not associate socially. There were no conflicts, we thought this arrangement was very normal. Several decades later, I attended Ga. Tech in an all-white, male only, student population. This all changed in the late fifties, but it was a normal tradition while I attended Tech through 1954.

We have all lived through several cultural traditions that seemed at the time to be normal, correct and in keeping with God’s will. However, we must confess that over time, traditions change and we learn to adjust what we think is right or wrong. Please examine attachment 1 – a list of historical traditions. Remember, it took the best minds of the Christian church over two hundred years to admit that Copernicus was correct that the earth orbits around the sun rather than the ancient tradition that the earth was the center of our solar system. Please recall, that our beautiful democratic nation existed for more than one hundred years under the premise that – all peoples are created equal – before women in 1920 were allowed to own property, hold a bank account and to vote. It was a tradition, back then, that society should be dominated and controlled by the male population.

We have all been brought up believing in a series of traditions that for the most part served us well. For many years during my younger life, I was taught to believe that homosexuals were misfits, abnormal and unacceptable members of society. I was culturally conditioned to believe that homosexuality was evil and outside God’s will. Please note the attached list of alleged problems associated with homosexuality (attachment 2). It would seem, however, that in today’s world these are outdated statements.

Well, what does the Bible say about homosexuality? We find statements in I Corinthians, and Romans in the New Testament and Leviticus in the Old Testament that homosexuality is a sin. To the extent that any evidence exists that deviate sexual conduct is associated with homosexuality, I agree, it is a sin! But one must carefully evaluate the conclusions of the medical profession regarding homosexuality before passing judgment on it as a sin. Please note the attached summary, gained from the medical profession regarding homosexuality (attachment 3). If these statements are true, then regardless of what the Bible says – homosexuality is not a sin! To classify as a sin, any act or condition must meet the test of free will – a deliberate act against the will of God.

In the midst of these considerations, one might ask the question: “What would Jesus say about homosexuality?” I’m not sure, but I think he might say:

  • Anyone who is not guilty of sin, let him cast the first stone.
  • Judge not that ye be not judged.
  • God is the only one who should judge a person’s sins, beliefs and conduct.
  • Inclusion offers hope for redemption, exclusion isolates and condemns.
  • Be sure one is correctly plowing his own fields, before he seeks to teach others how to plow.
  • “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and tingling symbol. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and though I have all faith so that I can move mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

So how shall our Christian churches address the sensitive issues of homosexuality with so many different perspectives among its loyal and sincere members? First, our United Methodist Church accepts and supports any and all homosexuals as full members of our faith. Thus far, the major controversial restrictions appear to be:

  • Ordained ministers may not marry persons of the same gender.
  • Homosexuals may not become ordained ministers.

Harsh punishments apply to any ministers that ignore or disobey these strict church doctrines.

As time passes, sides are being drawn within the clergy and also the active laity, with some defending the current church doctrine and others feeling a less rigid position is needed. Some church leaders have concluded that strong unyielding positions on both sides could lead to a structural split in the Methodist church at large.

With due respect for both sides, one has to ask: “What would be accomplished by dividing a large and very successful church organization into smaller parts? Is there a way to seek a logical reconciliation that will satisfy a majority – fully recognizing that compromises must be made? Are we “head locked” by tradition or shall we seek the power of the Holy Spirit as our guide? There is no doubt about it – traditions die slowly and beliefs and past history often cloud our vision of the future. I have no magic or simple answers but here are my final thoughts:

  • God cares for and loves all people – the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the normal and the not normal, and the able and the disabled.
  • Must all church doctrine be rigid without flexibility?
  • Should our church leadership listen more to their hearts than to some selected, ancient Biblical text. Paul was not always correct in his assessment of rules for living.
  • Within reasonable bounds, could the church leadership find ways to accommodate both sides by giving some latitude to individual pastors and their church congregations?
  • I believe in playing win/win – not win/lose. When we play win/lose on serious issues – everybody loses.
  • As an active layman, I seek to judge others by their character and their conduct – irrespective of their race, gender, theological beliefs or sexual orientation.
  • Hey, I’m old and mostly a “theological traditionalist” – but praise God, I’m still growing and learning and looking for new and more inspiring interpretations of God’s Word.
  • It is my sincere prayer that compromise shall prevail and any thoughts of splitting will be avoided. Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”.

How Important is it for Modern Christians to Believe in Miracles?

 

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Miracles happened in Jesus’earthly life, and have continued to occur through out history. It is part of our Christian faith to pray for miracles for healing of our love ones. But is it possible we may (sometimes) be praying for the wrong things? Rather than praying for God to intervene against his natural laws, should we be praying for strength, courage and guidance for all parties? Do some people lose faith in God because he selects not to intervene and heal illnesses that are (normally) impossible to heal? Would you allow an unanswered prayer – for healing – to interfere with your Christian faith?

My Christian faith and belief in Jesus Christ are not centered or dependent on miracles. Jesus’ miracles were especially needed in the first century A.D. to convince his polytheistic followers that he was the true Son of the only God.

The center of my Christian faith is based on “the life and the  mind of the human Jesus.”His life models the way to live and demonstrates how imperfect humans may reach out and upward and make decisions to give of themselves with love and caring for the needs of others.

Miracles today, reveal the power and activity of God continuously in the world, but for me, they are secondary to the central message of Jesus Christ. The power of God is real but I am more moved by the love, compassion and forgiveness of God rather than a dependence on or fear of his power.

Finally, I am convinced that the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ is real. It is backed by multiple historical reports of the Gospels as well as other historical records. There is no doubt in my mind that the miracle of the resurrection occurred and it stands forever as the foundation of our Christian faith.