Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Amos’

Devotional Podcast #4: “Thank God for Unanswered Prayer”

January 17, 2018

As someone who’s interested in Christian apologetics, I used to think that unanswered prayer posed a bigger “challenge” to Christianity than I do today. I explain why in this podcast. The gist is this: I know my own heart to some extent. I often don’t know what’s good for me. And I often want things that ultimately cause me harm. Our Father, by contrast, only wants to give us “good things,” as Jesus says. So we can trust him.

Devotional Text: Matthew 7:7-11

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Wednesday, January 17, and this is the fourth podcast of my new series of devotional podcasts. I’m posting new podcasts in this series every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’ll also post my Sunday sermons whenever I get around to it. So stay tuned.

You’re listening to the song “Beautiful One,” by the band Daniel Amos, sometimes known as DA, from their 1986 album Fearful Symmetry. It’s hard not to hear echoes of the Beatles’ song “Across the Universe.”

Years ago—eleven, to be exact—I attended a debate in Atlanta between Christopher Hitchens, a well-known British political commentator, author, and journalist, and Timothy Jackson, one of my professors at the Candler School of Theology. At the time, the late Mr. Hitchens was staging debates with religious people as part of a publicity tour for his new book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Hitchens was a quick wit and a famously fierce debater, and, although you wouldn’t know it from the boisterous reactions of Hitchens partisans in the audience—it was his book tour, after all—my guy, Dr. Jackson, won the debate… handily. In fact, the debate sparked my interest in Christian apologetics—the art of defending the Christian faith—that remains to this day. It’s hard to remember this now, but I started my blog in 2009 in part to address skeptical questions about the Christian faith.

One such question is the challenge posed by unanswered prayer. How do we square the fact of unanswered prayer with Jesus’ own words on the subject—for example, Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Or John 14:13: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

There are many good answers to this question, but I like this analogy from science: Chaos theory teaches us that a butterfly flapping its wings in China could be “magnified through a ripple effect so as to determine the path of a hurricane in the South Pacific.”[1] So even a seemingly small event like a butterfly flapping its wings can change the course of history in ways that we can’t predict. Now think about our prayer petitions: the things we ask God to do for us will likely be far more significant than a butterfly flapping its wings; and only God can foresee whether the consequences of granting our petition will ultimately be good for us, for everyone else, and for the rest of Creation.

My point is, if God doesn’t grant our petition, we can trust that he knows best; we certainly don’t. As pastor Tim Keller puts it, “God gives us what we would have asked for, if we knew everything that God knows.”

I like that answer… I do! But it’s still a little academic.

How about this answer: Often God doesn’t give us—his children—what we ask for because God wants us to be happy—I mean, deeply happy; with a lasting kind of happiness, an invulnerable kind of joy. And we simply don’t know what we need in order to achieve that kind of happiness. But God does.

In that same passage from Matthew chapter 7 that I referred to a moment ago, Jesus says, “[W]hich one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”[2]

Notice Jesus says that our Father will give us “good things.” I hate to say it, but I’m not convinced I want good things much of the time!

Don’t get me wrong: I want things! For example, I desperately want recognition… I want people to praise me… I want people to appreciate me… I want people to show me how much they love me.

And you might say, “What do you want? A medal?” Yes! That’s a good start!

And if I don’t get a medal, I’d be willing to settle for lots of money! I’m not hard to please!

My point is, the things I want… even if I got them, they would never be enough. I would never be satisfied. God knows that!

So thank God for unanswered prayer! I mean that literally… Thank God! Our Father only wants to give his children good things. See, I’m the one asking for stones, and my Father gives me bread instead. I’m the one asking for a serpent, and my Father gives me a fish instead. Or, from Luke’s gospel, I’m the one asking for a scorpion, and my Father gives me an egg instead. Thank God!

God wants us to be happy… Our problem is our willingness to settle for something far less than happiness. Listen to the way C.S. Lewis puts it in The Problem of Pain:

George Macdonald, in a passage I cannot now find, represents God as saying to men, ‘You must be strong with my strength and blessed with my blessedness, for I have no other to give you.’ That is the conclusion of the whole matter. God gives what He has, not what He has not: He gives the happiness that there is, not the happiness that is not. To be God—to be like God and to share His goodness in creaturely response—to be miserable—these are the only three alternatives. If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows—the only food that any possible universe ever can grow—then we must starve eternally.[3]

“O God, I’m weary from hunger. I don’t want to starve any longer. Give me your bread of life. Give me your Son Jesus! Give me Jesus, and I’ll be satisfied. Amen.”

That’s a prayer that God will answer every time!

1. Timothy Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (New York: Dutton, 2013), 100.

2. Matthew 7:9-10 ESV

3. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 47.

Daniel Amos’s “Joel”

July 29, 2013

At my last service in Vinebranch last month, I had the pleasure of performing one of my favorite songs—”Joel” by Daniel Amos—with a group of my favorite musicians. They even let me improvise a guitar solo!

Saying goodbye with an Office-style movie

June 18, 2013

 

My own daughter made this for me! Can you believe it?

My own daughter made this for me! Can you believe it?

Stephanie Newton and John Ramminger, not to mention all the people in front of the camera, helped to put together this going-away video, which was shown in Vinebranch last Sunday. Enjoy!

Hendrix never heard of him, but he’s still great

May 8, 2013
Do you think Paul McCartney would have gone in a Christian bookstore to buy Phil's music? Yes, this is Paul McCartney with his vocal twin, Phil Keaggy. I wish I could hear what they were playing!

Yes, this is Paul McCartney with his vocal doppelgänger, Phil Keaggy. I wish I could hear what they were playing!

Christianity Today tells me that singer-songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire Phil Keaggy received the prestigious Golden Note Award from ASCAP. I’ve never heard of it, either. While it’s obviously not a Grammy or anything, it’s nice to see Keaggy getting some recognition. His was the first concert I went to, in the spring of 1984, beating out the Kinks by a few months. He was with a full band, and he rocked hard.

He also served as my introduction to that strange, fascinating early-’80s world of Christian rock, which was being transformed even then into an “industry” called Contemporary Christian Music.

One reason you’ve probably never heard of Keaggy is that the only place you could get his records back then was in Christian bookstores. These were very intimidating places for people outside the tiny sliver of evangelical Christendom to whom these stores marketed themselves. I remember walking by a Christian bookstore in a strip shopping center with my friend Jason, to whom I had raved about the Keaggy concert. “Let’s go in here and see if they have any Keaggy albums.”

Jason took a few steps inside the store—and you would think he was a vampire exposed to the sunlight. He ran outside. “That was too creepy,” he said. I’m sure he was right. These stores often had a strange, unwelcoming, almost cult-like vibe.

Unlike some of my Christian friends from youth group, I never tried to abandon “secular” music. (Ask me now if I even believe in the category!) But I did become a regular customer of these bookstores. And I purchased many great albums by bands and artists like the 77’s, Daniel Amos, Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, and early Resurrection Band. If I could go back in time, I would buy many more—before they went out of print forever.

That’s the problem: the great stuff is often out of print. I did a check on Amazon and iTunes: you can no longer buy or download some essential albums by Keaggy from the ’70s, such as What a Day or Love Broke Thru. (I scored both in a bargain-basement sale at a used record store many years ago.) I guess that’s what eBay is for. And YouTube…

Another essential Keaggy album is Sunday’s Child, 1988’s homage to Rubber Soul-era Beatles and glorious mid-’60s rock, which is still in print, at least for download.

There is an interesting urban legend about Jimi Hendrix’s calling Phil Keaggy “the greatest guitarist ever,” which Snopes covers at length here.