“HEAR NOW WHAT THE LORD SAYS”

BIBLE STUDY:

The Christian View Of Christian Spirituality –

For the entire past century and longer, the Christian view of spirituality has been on trial in my country.  Before Christ was born, Micah saw that his nation and every individual must find their real life, their spiritual life in trusting the Lord Jesus.

GALATIANS 5:16-26

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses, self-control. Against such, there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. !

AND IN LUKE 17:11-19…

IMMEDIATELY, in our study, THE SCENE CHANGES –

And it’s no longer a nation that must answer, but the individual. Micah.  He asks, “What must I bring – what can I offer God to avert His wrath?”

The LORD’s Case Against Israel –

The LORD speaking through the prophet, Micah here:

Micah 6:1-8 (NLT)

[1]  “Stand up and state your case against me.  Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints.  [2]  And now, O mountains, listen to the LORD’s complaint!  He has a case against his people.  He will bring charges against Israel.  

[3]  “Oh my people, what have I done to you?  How have I wearied you?  Answer me!  [4]  For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

[5]  Don’t you remember, my people, how King Balak of Moab tried to have you cursed and how Balaam son of Beor blessed you instead?  And remember your journey from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, when I, the LORD did everything I could to teach you about my faithfulness.”

[6]  What can we bring to the LORD?  Should we bring him burnt offerings?  Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves?  [7]  Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?  Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?

What then does the LORD Require?

It is a RELATIONSHIP, not rituals, not ‘things’ the LORD wants.

This is where TRUE WORSHIP begins.

  • True Worship obeys, and to obey is better than sacrifice!
  • True Worship impacts and it changes lives and influences others!

We worship God when we obey Him–when we honor God’s Name, that’s WORSHIP! 

Samuel told King Saul ( 1 Samuel 15:22), 

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

as much as in obeying the LORD?

To obey is better than sacrifice 

and to heed is better than the fat of rams…”

Therefore, true worship can only come from a heart of obedience.

In true worship, we become and behave like the One we worship.  It’s not just an act (like bringing sacrifices or coming to church), it’s a LIFE!

I know, it’s not easy for us to remember, because we are so conditioned by the surroundings and by tradition, to think of WORSHIP as an event once a week.  We tend to compartmentalize our lives into different areas–church life, personal life, family life, corporate life, and social life.  That’s what we do!  And when we come through those church doors during the week, we decide…that’s WORSHIP!–an event where we are on our best behavior.  Well at least for some of us.

But WORSHIP is more than that.  Jesus tells the Samaritan woman by the well–it has nothing to do with the PLACE but the PERSON of God.

If WORSHIP is an encounter with Christ, then it happens every day and everywhere.

Each time I choose to OBEY God and do His will in my life…when His Name is honored by my words and behavior, I am worshipping Him!  I’m talking about worshipping Him every day,  It’s not just about songs we sing in the car, but our thoughts, words, and behavior.

My Christian faith isn’t an individualistic faith–it’s not just about me and God, and nothing else.

Israel was BLESSED to become a BLESSING to the nations that surrounded them.  God’s BLESSING isn’t an end in itself–it’s a witness to a lost and dying world.

It changes lives!

The question, in Micah 6:8, “What does the LORD require of you?” showed God’s expectations that God expects Israel’s faith to have changed their society, their surrounding communities.

It’s interesting to read and hear what God said to the prophet Ezekiel about SODOM & GOMORRAH:

The poor and needy are always on God’s radar screen.  People are God’s concern.

Forgetfulness:  It Can Be Hard to Remember Things.

Spanish philosopher Geroge Santayana famously stated the great truth that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

One of the greatest mistakes God’s people made in relatuionship was to forget who they were and lost their sense of identity as the covenant people of God, gradually drifting away from living their lives as God had intended for them.

God had said to them in Deuteronomy 6:12,  “be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

This happened not once, but time and time again.

The writer of Hebrews included a WARNING for New Testament believers not to make the same mistake.  But as I write this blog-study, I sense we are all in need of being continually reminded.  Only then can we fully appreciate the weight and relevance of the question presented by Micah”

“What does the LORD require of you?”

Micah sees a vivid picture of the destruction that will come about of the people beginning with their rulers and reaching unto the women and the children.

WHY?

Because JUDGEMENT was coming because the people of God were no longer living as the People Of God.  Instead, there was corruption, oppression, bribery, and injustice and all the while God’s people weren’t able to see that something had gone radically wrong.

WHAT HAD GONE WRONG?

The people of God neglected their relationship with the LORD–so much so that their hearts’ affections were overtaken by other things.  And this, in turn, was the explanation for the change in their attitudes, the way they were daily living and how they treated others.

AND THE CURE?

Not so much dealing with the symptoms but to deal with the cause.  A change in behavior would be the unavoidable outcome, returning to a meaningful relationship with the LORD.

It happens to Christians too!

We can drift away and as soon as we become cut off from the source of our life we no longer are motivated in the same way to be distinctive, nor do we have the passion anymore to do so.

Have you lost your passion?  Maybe your passion isn’t what it once was for the things of Christ!  Your relationship has grown cold; there are holes big enough in your relationship as if moth-eaten.

Micah Tells Them God’s Requirements For Getting Back On Track.  Repairing the Holes.

It’s as we are renewed in our relationship with God our Father, that we not only remember who we are in Christ Jesus, but we also take on His nature.

ACTING JUSTLY –

It wasn’t happening in Micah’s day (Micah 6:11) – “Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?”

Here was a society that was cheating one another, not God’s way.

In Psalm 51:6, “Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”

In Proverbs 4:23. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

LOVING MERCY –

This isn’t just ‘having mercy’, but “loving mercy.”

Mercy is a rich and strong word, meaning loving-kindness in action.  There’s an element of unexpectedness about it.

Mercy conveys a sense of LOVE and KINDNESS that’s not expected.  It’s doing acts of kindness to others out of love.  Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, it was the one considered least likely to offer help who did so.  Or the story of the woman caught in adultery that teaches compassionate mercy scarcely revealed in Old Testament law.  Or the dying thief on a cross who believes.

It’s a way of life that reflects the LOVE of God for us.  It is taking on and living out Godly nature.

WALKING HUMBLY WITH GOD –

I love this quote I came across in my study this week:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s just thinking of yourself less.” 

by Kris V.

HUMILITY is a theme of the entire Bible.  But God gives a ‘greater’ grace.  Therefore it says in James 4:6,  “But He gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

And in Zephaniah 2:3,  Seek the Lord [inquire for Him, inquire of Him, and require Him as the foremost necessity of your life], all you humble of the land who have acted in compliance with His revealed will and have kept His commandments; seek righteousness, seek humility [inquire form them, require them as vital].  It may be you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.  (AMP)

Have this attitude within yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, He didn’t regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

We Walk (in the Spirit), HUMBLY when we come to Him in prayer.

I love the prayer that goes, “Dear Lord, so far today I am doing all right.  I have not gossiped, not cursed, lost my temper, and been greedy, nasty or self-indulgent.  However, I am about to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that.”

To WALK HUMBLY with God is to “live carefully” to acknowledge that we don’t have it altogether, so we go to God for help.

1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.”

To sum it all up, it’s not all about giving “things” to God.

More than “things,” God requires us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before Him.  We can give all kinds of gifts to our church, but God is interested in the QUALITY of our lives.

We need to reconsider the way we are living our daily lives.

We need to first acknowledge our sins and then be willing to submit to God’s Mercy.  It’s only through a humbling of ourselves that we will be allowed to walk with God.

The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly) giving Him glory for it.

May the LORD enable us through Christ Jesus Who is our strength to live according to His Word.

AMEN

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Ols and New Testament Words.

Commentary:  Sermon Central – Micah 6:1-8 [various contributors].

Photo/Images:  Google Image Source.

Bible Translations:   New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), Amplified Bible (AMP), New Living Translation (NLT).

 

Just Because You Say It Enough Times Doesn’t Make It True

Scripture Study:  Matthew 7:21-23

A Powerful Jesus Straight Talk Moment:

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

Saying that Jesus is LORD doesn’t make it so.

Let me say one thing very clear as I begin this study in Matthew,  Neither Jesus or I am talking about a works theology of earning His grace and salvation.  In fact, there may be some reading this who’ve tried that method.

Jesus indicates on the Day of Judgment…

Clearly, these are individuals who believe they’ve done a lot…

They believe that the stuff they’ve done is going to gain them entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  And it’s not little stuff either…it’s preaching…teaching…blogging…engaging in spiritual warfare with demons…it’s miracles!

Jesus isn’t talking to the crowd here, He’s talking to the Church.  He’s talking to people who defend themselves with these words:

  • “In Your name we prophesied!”
  • “In Your name, we cast out demons.”
  • “In Your name, we performed miracles!”

It sure seems to me that the problem here is the statement, “In Your name.” 

Jesus uses this statement 3 times in Verse 22.

My point is that doing stuff in “the name of Jesus” makes you feel good, but if you have no real relationship with Him…if He doesn’t really know you and you don’t really love Him…it’s worse than doing nothing at all, because it leaves you in a state of deception.  In my opinion, and it’s just ‘my opinion, it’s one of the most heretical and damning teachings of the Church today.  Its certainly one of the greatest tools that our enemy, Satan, uses to deceive people who have a loose association with Jesus in the Church today:

“Let the stuff you do become more important than the Leadership of Christ.”

“Let Him just be a name you speak and not a Savior you personally love and serve.”

David Platt, in his book “Follow Me” writes this:

I have a friend – let’s call him John – whose first experience to the concept of hell was during an episode of Tom and Jerry when he was young.

During one particularly vivid scene, Tom was sent to hell for something bad he had done to Jerry.  What was intended to be a humorous cartoon scared John to death, and he later found himself at church talking with an older man about what he had seen.

The churchman looked at John and said, “Well, you don’t want to go to hell, do you?”

“No,” he responded.

John paused.  After an awkward silence, he realized he was supposed to repeat after the man, and so he hesitantly responded, “Dear Jesus…”

“I know I’m a sinner and I know Jesus died on a cross for my sins,” the man said.

John followed suit.

“I ask you to come into my heart and to save me from my sin,” the man said.  John echoed what he had heard.

“AMEN,” the man concluded.

Then the nice, old gentleman looked at John and said, “Son, you are now saved from your sins, and you don’t ever have to worry about hell again!”

Surely what that man told my friend John in the church that day was not true.  Surely this isn’t what it means to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him.

And yet, this story represents the deception that has spread like wildfire across the contemporary Christian landscape:  “Just ask Jesus into your heart and repeat this prayer after me and you will be saved!”

Should it alarm us that the Bible never mentions such a prayer?  Should it concern us that nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever told to “ask Jesus into their heart” or to “invite Christ into their life”?

Yet this is exactly what many professing Christians have been encouraged to do, and they’ve been assured that as long, as they say, certain words. recite a particular prayer, and with every head bowed, every eye closed, (‘no peaky’), told to raise their hand, check a box, sign a card, or walked an aisle, they are Christians and their salvation in eternity is secure.

IT’S NOT TRUE!

We’ve taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so it looks and tastes better to the masses, and the results…are catastrophic.

According to Jesus, “Many…” scores of men and women believe they are saved when they are not.

In Matthew 7, Jesus isn’t talking to atheists and pagans.

He’s talking to people who are associated with Himself and His ministry.  They assume their eternity is safe and will be shocked one day that it’s not.  Even though they professed their belief in Jesus…even did all kinds of works in His name, they never really knew Him…and He never really knew them.

I don’t know about you but His response is heartbreaking.  It sometimes keeps me awake at night and it burdens my soul.

“I never knew you…depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible uses the word “evildoer” for “lawlessness.”

Maybe this straight talk reveals the truth of real SALVATION…and the real issue.  Remember, Jesus is using the word “EVILDOER” toward people who thought they were “good”…because they did good things.

The word Greek word “kakos” [bad, evil, wicked] reveals the inner character of a person.  The iniquity, the sin, the wickedness lives in us all.

The inner wickedness and sin cannot be cured in a name association with Jesus or by doing “good works”, that would be like putting running shoes on a corpse.

In Luke’s gospel, someone asked Jesus. “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

And here’s His answer:

The narrow door (the gate) is the only way in, and once the owner of the house shuts it, it’s too late.

Here’s the picture:  The door’s shut, but people are knocking and pleading to get in.  But, it’s too late!

And the owner’s response to all the knocking…Luke 13:25 b.

“I don’t know you or where you come from.  Away from me all you evildoers.”

“We hung around you Jesus…we listened to your teaching…we ate and drank your meals.”

“Away from me…you never dealt with your sin…you never knew me…I never knew you.”

No wonder verse 28 records:

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth.”

The heartbreak is basing your life on the false hope that “Hey, Jesus is my friend”…but you never died to your sin, you never surrendered your life to His ownership, you never accepted His grace, and now it’s too late!

It all comes down to the truth:  If your heart isn’t open to understanding how much we need God’s grace, you can say a thousand prayers, be baptized over and over again, work your fingers to the bone in Church and you’ll still be lost.

Remember this scripture that the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

What Jesus is addressing in His straight talk in Matthew is the difference between those who know about Him and those who live in Him.  It’s the difference between working for Jesus to earn His favor and walking with Jesus out of an overflow of faith.

When you or I…or anyone else is “in Christ”, we haven’t “received a get out of Jail free card.”  We haven’t been redeemed because we just believe in something.  We’ve died to self and we now have Christ “IN” us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you are no different than you were before or you are no different than the rest of the world around you…

You’ve been DECEIVED and you are not a Christian.

The Barna Study Group Research, published on Agust 4, 2011 is revealing!

Almost half of all Americans claim to be “born again” Christians (I don’t know of any other kind! ).  Out of this group of “born again” Christians, researchers found that their beliefs and lifestyle weren’t indistinguishable from the rest of the world.  Many believe that “works” can earn them a place in heaven, others think that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and an ever-increasing number describe themselves as only marginally committed to Jesus.

After reading the study, I think the one thing that’s abundantly clear from these statistics:

There are a whole lot of people in the world that think they are Christian but are not!  There are a whole lot of people who think they’ve been born again, but are dangerously deceived!!

Now I understand the concept of different levels of spiritual maturity…babes in Christ versus grown-up followers, but Jesus didn’t come to make good people better, He came to raise dead people to life, and that can’t happen in someone’s life and it not be noticeable in attitudes and actions.

Here’s is an illustration I came upon in my reading this week that I think really fits here:

Imagine you and I set up a meeting for lunch at a local restaurant, and you arrive before I do.

You wait, and wait, and wait, but 30 minutes later, I still haven’t arrived.  When I finally show up, completely out of breath, I say to you, “I’m so sorry I’m late.  When I was driving over here, my car had a flat tire, and I pulled over on the side of the highway to fix it.  While I was fixing it, I accidentally stepped into the road, and a Mack truck going about 70 mph, suddenly hit me head-on.  It hurt, but I picked myself up, finished putting the spare tire on the car, and drove over here.”

If this were the I shared, you would know I was either deliberately lying or completely deceived.  

WHY?  Because if someone gets hit by a Mack truck going seventy miles per hour, that person is going to look very different than they did before.

Jesus isn’t a pussy-cat…

He’s the Lion of Judah and if you come face to face with Him, the Word of Creation, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe and He reaches down into the depth of your heart, saves you from the slavery of sin and transforms you to follow Him…you are going to look different…very different!

So what happens when the Mack truck of God’s glory and forgiveness hits us?

There’s repentance and baptism and resurrection of new life by the Holy Spirit.  And, we begin to look like Jesus in this world, according to 1 John 3:1-10.

DON’T BE DECEIVED!

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CREDITS:

Sources:  Interlinear Bible; Vinne’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine.

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New American Standard (NAS); New King James Version (NKJV).

 

Our God Is So Awesome!

I received a message on Facebook Messenger a few weeks ago from my great grandkids with a question for their great grandpa.  Well, it was actually from their mother since Jaxon is 5 years old and Talon is only 3,

THE QUESTION:  “I challenge you to answer the boy’s question in your next blog:  Why is God so cool?  And what about Jesus too?”

It has been a long time since I’ve used the slang word, “Cool”, so before answering their questions, I decided to go to the internet to see if the definition of the word had changed over the years:

“COOL is an acronym abbreviation or slang word meaning AWESOME, GREAT.” (thesaurusyourdictionary.com/cool/awesome – slangs]

Now I’m sure there are many books and commentary written to answer the question of why God is so awesome, so great, so “cool”, but the best book ever is written gives exhaustive reasoning to my great grandkids question is the word of God, the Bible.

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 38:4-8; Isaiah Chapter 40:3-8 (9-24); 1 Samuel 17:36; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Psalm 34:18-19.

The Book of Isaiah tells us that God described himself to the Israelites because their king (Hezekiah) was a fickled king who couldn’t make up his mind whether to be loyal to God or not, consequently, the people were questioning their relationship with God.  It was then that God thundered to the people who He really is.

Isaiah 40:9-12 (Amplified Bible)

[9] O you who bring good tidings to Zion, get up to the high mountain.  O you who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

[10]  Behold, the Lord God will come with might, and His arm will rule for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.  [11] He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arm.  He will carry them in His bosom and will gently lead those that have their young.  [12] Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, marked off the heavens with a [nine-inch] span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

The largest seas in the world are nothing but a handful of water in God’s hands.  That’s AWESOME!  And really “cool” to a five and three-year-old.

Yet, have you ever been in a ship out in the ocean where you can’t see land?  Makes you feel rather small and helpless.

But to God, all those seas are like water in the palm of His hand.

The distance between planets and stars is far in our observance.

How far are galaxies from other galaxies?  If you are traveling at the speed of light as Luke Skywalker was able to accomplish in the Star Wars movie series, you couldn’t reach the end of the universe in your lifetime.

But the Bible tells us that God measures the diameter of the universe with the span of His fingers.  Yet God knows how many grains of sand that are on that beach you collected shells on last Summer.  Now that’s really “cool’!

Verses 13-14 asks:  “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?  Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?  Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?”  [NIV Bible]

These verses tell us about God’s omniscience.  He’s ALL-KNOWING!

Where did God get His knowledge?  

Sometimes we’re impressed by people’s Ph.D.’s or those whose IQ is more than 200, but God’s IQ is infinite.  And here we are trying to make God fit into our prefabricated boxes instead of just opening ourselves up, dispensing with our vanity, and just asking Him to tell us about Himself.  Now that may be difficult to explain to a five and two-year-old boys, but reading out loud verses in the Bible with children about what an awesome God He is a good place to start.

Verse 15 declares:  “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”  [NIV]

Our God governs the universe and yet, He’s intimately involved in each of our lives.

Be careful not to think too highly of nations or those who govern.  Some people are tempted to elevate their leaders or governments to the level of God.  But the Scriptures tell us that they’re DUST particles on a scale–or found on a dust mop.

There are some educators today who relate God to the laws of science.  But God’s not a scientist who obeys scientific laws.

He’s the author and finisher of ALL laws and more.  This we see in Isaiah 38:1-8.

In case you don’t know what it means, turning back the sundial ten steps, it’s the same as adding two degrees–or forty minutes–to the length of day.  How “cool” is that?

In other words, our God not only created the universe, but He’s still actively in control of the universe.

He controls the movement of the planets and of time itself!  As it says in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

I think that’s where many Christians get stumped.  We know, in the abstract, that God can do anything, but we run into a problem that He’ll do anything for us.

The God of the Bible is a living Being–and a very personal one at that.

The Philistines worshipped gods as made of stone or wood.  The Israelites had forsaken God.  But to David, the Lord of all creation is a living God.

In 1 Samuel 17:36, David said to King Saul,  “I, your servant have killed both a lion and a bear!  Goliath the Philistine who is not circumcised will be like the lion or bear I killed.  He will die because he has stood against the living God!”  (International Children’s Bible).

The idea that God was real and alive had not entered the minds of the Philistines and most of Israel either.  They were worshipping gods of stone and wood; god’s devised by their own imaginations.

Isaiah 40:18-20 asks the question:

Maybe you’re thinking we don’t see Christians doing these things.  Wouldn’t it be a little weird to see your neighbor praying to his apple tree?  Or watch him peel an apple then offer it to a rock?  But that’s exactly what Isaiah’s talking about in ancient idolatry.

Today, there’s a different kind of idol worshipping.  Anytime you or I make a person, a god, an institution or anything else that’s equal to or higher than the LIVING GOD in our loyalties, our priorities, then we’re committing idolatry.  

That’s what IDOLATRY is; giving to anyone or anything the loyalty and devotion we should render to God and this includes anything that we feel deserves our time and resources more than our worship of God.

Did you know, we’re all born to be worshippers–even so-called atheists?  They may claim that they worship no god, but in God’s eyes they worship themselves or whatever it is that gives them pleasure.

If you think about it, Isaiah has a real sense of humor.  In verse 20 for instance, he’s saying, “Some of you are poor and you say that you don’t have gold to cover your idol.  Well if that’s the case, be careful of the wood you choose!  Your god may be eaten by termites.”  [paraphrased]

Then he says, “And by the way, be sure to nail your gods down or they may just fall off their pedestal and break!”

Well, God can’t be compared with a physical or human icon–a politician, movie star, or musician (the”American Idol”).  He’s very much alive, and He’s without faults, imperfections, or with failures.  All that He declares is accomplished.  And anything or anyone we put ahead of Him is bowing to deaf and dumb idols of ancient times.

Nevertheless, we do tend to put material things ahead of God.  Every time we make our jobs, our leisure time, our worries or our friends more important than our WORSHIP of God, we show that our view and estimation of God is lacking.

Isaiah 40:21-24 tells us,

  • Don’t you know? …Hasn’t it been told to you from the beginning?
  • It is HE who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants like grasshoppers (READ to your children the verses with “awe”!), (HE) who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in…

God is not only incomparably “awesome” compared to idols, but He’s incomparably great in His relations with the rulers of this world!

  • …Who makes princes into nobodies, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing  

How “cool” is all that, Jaxon and Talon?

Let me wrap up my observations with THREE POINTS:

#1.  God is all Powerful, all Knowing and He’s everywhere! 

“His arm rules for Him.”  

God’s arm, His Son Jesus Christ, shows us God’s power.  With Jesus, nothing is impossible – be it mountains moved, problems to solve, or bodies to be healed.

He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  Big words for a 3 and 5-year-old.  It means ALL powerful; Knows everything; He’s present everywhere, all at the same time.

#2.  God is a very personal LIVING Being.

“His reward is with Him.”

God is a very personal God whose greatest desire is a RELATIONSHIP with you.  He knows every pain (“owie”) you will have and sorrow as well as every joy and triumph that you’ll experience.  And He even listens to you–even if you don’t make sense.

#3.  God is the perfect loving Shepherd.

“He tends His flock like a shepherd.”

He shows you that He’s powerful…yet tender as a shepherd who will not abandon His sheep, and wherever He leads you, take you to His perfect PEACE.

 

 

 

Psalm 34:18, 19 reminds us,

Recognize that God is an AWESOME God in your daily lives.  And when you continually recognize and demonstrate His care for you, your children will follow.

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); or as noted in the text.

 

“Head” and “Heart” Knowledge: Is there a difference?

Someone once said that the difference of what is in our head and what is in our heart is the longest 12 inches known to man.  And living the Christian life and being able to get head knowledge down to the heart is the difference of whether you will live out your beliefs.

That said, there are a lot of things we know we shoulder that we shouldn’t do in our heads, but stopping or putting them into action begins that struggle within us.  I think that’s why people struggle to come to church consistently.

College kids leave the nest and go off to school with all their fears and anxiety that are never settled and all those questions go unanswered.   You have to be able to address your fears and have your questions answered.  It doesn’t all happen miraculously without your participation.

Hopefully, in this brief study, you and I can get honest about where we are with God by actively participating in God’s Word that takes His Word from head knowledge to your heart and answers questions you’re diligently seeking answers for.

To Be Like Jesus Would Be Our Virtues:

VIRTUES by definition:  “Our behavior of keeping high standards.”

To be like Jesus would be to take His VIRTUES and live them in our lives for that’s God’s design for us.

To think like Jesus–it is our belief.  To believe something isn’t enough, you must believe it as a way of life.

How can we do that?

Setting our standards and moral lives to the standard God desires for us by living it out in our beliefs, producing disciplines that will keep us strong in our faith.  I don’t know about you, but thinking like Jesus–just saying that makes me feel inadequate.

I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but I have a past, I have issues, I have shortcomings, I have kids and family, I have weaknesses, I have attitudes.  All these things keep me from thinking like Jesus because all these things show my imperfections.  So what are we to do?

God tells us that we need a renewed mind [Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:2].

We can’t THINK like Jesus unless we have the mind of Christ, and the only way we can do that is let Jesus RENEW or CHANGE the way we think.

Our Bible Text:  Colossians 2:6-8

Setting Goals –

As we journey in our Christian walk with the Lord, our goal is to allow God to renew or change our thinking about the truths of God.

[Verse 6] “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.”

Christ has saved us from the penalty of our sins.  He adopted us into the family of God because of what Christ has done for us.  We had to go from knowing about Jesus to Jesus being the center of our lives.

REFLECTION:

There’s a big difference between knowing about Jesus and having a relationship with Jesus with Him being the center of your life and mine too!

For us to have the correct belief in God, we have to put God in His rightful place to have an understanding of what Jesus has done for us.

God is the catalyst if you want more of God in your life, and if you want to have more, you must have a relationship with Him.

To have a relationship with God you have to desire to be in the presence of God.  In the presence of God, God makes changes to our lives, and through those changes, He empowers us to live a life that’s not only abundantly full but with blessings overflowing in our lives which are pleasing to Him.

These are the central truths in our Christian faith.

One of them is that we understand who God is and how much He desires a relationship with us.

And, in 1 John 4:19 (AMP)

“We love because He first loved us.”

Because God bestowed on humanity a free will, man is not forced to love Him, but rather consciously and freely chooses the responses he makes to God’s love.  [Footnote: Bible Hub]

God the Father sent God the Son to die for each of us for our sins and Jesus sent God the Holy Spirit to empower our lives for service to Him.

So a key question at this point is…Who IS God?

The Bible opens up with Genesis 1:1 with the very first words from God to us:  IN THE BEGINNING GOD…  everything revolves around God creator, savior, master of the universe. There are of course questions we don’t have answers for–Where did God come from?  At the beginning before time as we know it, God was, God did, God created!  He doesn’t have to explain anything!

How He came about…He IS God and we aren’t.  He owes no explanation.

The Apostle Paul tells us “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”  (Romans 1:20 – NIV)

The question isn’t Is there a God?  We know that there is a God because we see His glory every day in our lives as we look around.  We see there’s a creator of all this and we are without excuse.  Scripture makes it clear that there will always be gods (small “g”) that people choose to follow and serve.

God makes no apology that He’s the God of God’s and there’s no one higher and nothing was created by an alternate god.

Here is a Statement of Truth we have to take deep in our heart:  I believe the God of the Bible is the only true God–God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

I don’t believe that’s blind faith.  I believe that’s faith-based upon the word of God and the anointing power of the Holy Spirit confirming it to our souls.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to understand all about the God I serve, because I take strength and comfort knowing that my God knows more than I can even think or fathom.  What a difference that would make in your life–just think how many struggles would go away if you realized you don’t have to have all the answers.  You can take comfort knowing that He is God and you aren’t.  You can rest knowing that He’s in charge and is in control.  And you have a desire that goes beyond your own abilities and you actively want to follow His will for your life.

What is His will?  He will show you if you’ll let Him.

Once you put that in perspective, God is put in the right perspective.  God loves you and wants to do what’s best for you.  He becomes your God and not one of many gods.

Once you believe the truth that there’s only one God; once you believe that the one God wants to have a personal relationship with you, you will begin to LIVE your belief.

You will live like God is near in your life…

You will live like God can control your life and you are happy to let Him…

You will live a life that has meaning and a purpose because you know God is in it!

Once you know that God that you serve, you LIVE instead of just existing!

PSALM 121 (NKJV)

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New King James Version (NKJV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV).

Music Video:  YouTube:  The Center Of Your Life by Charlie Hall.

 

Every Meal Has A Desired Outcome!

Scripture:  Luke 22:7-27  The Last Supper 

 

I just love the Food Network on television.  The one thing I’ve learned from watching the cook shows over the years is:

Every meal has a DESIRED outcome.

There’s something that the TV Cook intended to accomplish in preparing this meal.  What makes a birthday dinner special?  Or a wedding reception?  Or that special date with a special young girl back in 1964 when I prepared a juicy steak and twice-baked potatoes for the first time.  The MEAL can make all the difference.

Yet the very thing that can make a meal great can also ruin it!

The Three “R’s” of ruining a meal:

  1. RECIPE.
  2. RECEPTION.
  3. RELATIONSHIPS – Conflict and Competition.

The argument at the table

LUKE 22:24-27

The disciples all gathered together for the Passover meal in the upper room with Jesus.  They all wanted to be Numero uno, number one.  And what’s worse, each thought he was!  Each wanted to be Jesus’ right-hand man, His Chief of Staff!

“What is causing so much disharmony among the nations is the fact that some want to beat the big drum, few are willing to face the music, and no one wants to play second fiddle.”  ~ Henry Kissinger

The disciples had their own view of the Kingdom

Jesus followers wanted Jesus to be KING over the Jews, the Romans, the Greeks, and every political power.  They didn’t realize He already was.  He didn’t have to overthrow surrounding nations and governments in order to be King.  His Kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36).  He rules by spiritual relationship.  The disciples thought they should be leaders while Jesus is looking for lovers and lifters.

“Mop Bucket Attitude!” 

The LORD has a GREAT MEAL PLAN for us!

Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s Hamburger, wrote:

“I got my MBA long before my GED.  I even have a photograph of me in my MBA graduation outfit–a snappy knee-length work apron.  I guarantee you that I’m the only founder among America’s big companies whose picture in the corporate Annual report shows him wielding a mop and a plastic bucket!  It wasn’t a gag; it was a case of leading by example.  At Wendy’s, MBA does not mean Master of Business Administration.  It means Mop Bucket Attitude!”

In order not to ruin the great meal the Lord has planned for us (verse 30), we must go from…WHAT will I eat? to…HOW will I GIVE?

Luke 22:25 (NIV)

[25]  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.”

Earthly leaders normally lord it over their subjects, issue commands, give orders and tell people what to do and where to go.  They are the BOSS.

In Jesus’ day, it was a commonplace practice of rulers to make gestures of goodwill.  They might open the Coliseum and invite the public for free entertainment, or make their soldiers do some project for the common good.  These rulers called themselves “Benefactors”, or “Friends of the People”, one who does good, as if their sole aim was to rule for the good of the people and not their own gain.  They may do good things, but with an ulterior motive.

Followers of Jesus can’t be concerned with position or power.

Jesus said it:  “But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (verse 26).

In order not to ruin the great meal the Lord has a place for us (verse 30).  We must go from …WHERE will I SIT? …to HOW will I SERVE?

PLACE SETTING to PLACE SETTING–

It’s really unfortunate in today’s society that SERVICE has become associated with a business.  We use to have “Service Stations”, where an attendant pumped the gas, checked your oil, washed your windshield, checked the air in your tires, told you potential problems with your car, and all with a smile and for less than 50 cents a gallon!  NEVERMORE!  And yet we really do value good service.  We are willing to pay more if we know the service will be good.

Our habit of connecting service with business makes it hard for us to understand the Biblical language.  In the Bible, the word SERVICE means the kind of work a slave did for his master.  They didn’t get paid for it.

Just as we can have trouble understanding “service” and “business”, so the disciples had trouble bringing the words “servant” and “King” together.

Forgetting about “your place”, “your position”!

What did Jesus do in setting an example for His disciples?

He washed their feet!

What would Jesus do today?

He’d wash our feet.

You never stand taller when you are on your knees! You are never more in control than when you choose to serve:  “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:26-28).

The Communion Song to listen to in reflection of your position as a true believer and of God’s Planned Meal for us:

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CREDITS

Music Video:  The Communion Song by Jonathan Stockstill and Bethany Worship; YouTube.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search–settings, advanced search.

Bible Translations:  English Standard Version (ESV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

Dave Thomas Story:  Dave’s 5 Values – The Biography of Dave Thomas.

Eternal Security GUARANTEED!

At the core of every human being is the desire to be APPROVED–to be liked.  Our self-esteem is often set by the opinions of others around us.  And from those opinions, so many of us feel bad about ourselves.  That deep down inside our soul we have a sense of failure–failed either to please those around us, ourselves or our heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul seems to reinforce our own notions of failure in the first seven chapters of the Book of Romans in the Bible.

In my flesh, that is my old nature, Paul tells us,  “dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:5).

Paul sums it up at the end of the chapter by saying, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24)  Then he answers his own question without taking a breath:  “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25).

So it’s not through our own efforts, through our family line, through our associations or deeds that we receive acceptance–but it’s through the efforts of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we are rescued, cleansed and loved and then empowered and changed by that relationship.

Acceptance Brings Security Forever!

“I DON’T WANT TO GO!  DON’T MAKE ME LEAVE!”

One of the saddest stories I’ve read was about the biological mother of this young boy who had won a bitter legal battle to reclaim her son from his adoptive family.  When she arrived with her lawyer to take him from the only home he had ever known, the terrified 4-year-old little boy pleaded with those he knew as Mommy and Daddy not to give him up to this complete stranger.

“Don’t make me go,” he begged.  “Please, please don’t send me away!”

Without an understanding of the courts, lawyers and legal codes, the boy was removed and left to wonder what he had done to be banished from those who had always said they loved him.

Some Christians live with the terrifying insecurity that in God’s mind lurks a willingness to send them away if they fail or disappoint Him.  Despite their love of God, they fear that God will withdraw His love from them and remove them from His heavenly home forever.

In the Bible, however, God promises His children that once He sets His love on them, we can be secure in that love forever!

The place to begin to understand a believer’s security with God is with God,–for a believer’s security is not rooted in the believer, but in the believer’s God.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1 (GNT)

“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”

This one verse should be tattooed on everyone’s hand–printed on paper and posted on your fridge, and memorized by every believer.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how you’ve acted, who you are–how much you think you’ve failed–if you are truly in Christ, you are NOT condemned anymore.  Think about that, let it settle in.

God isn’t sitting in heaven with a big hammer in His hand, waiting for you to mess up so He can whap you on the head.  That’s hard for us to accept–quick to judge ourselves–so Paul goes on to tell us why this is a reality.

Romans 8:2-4 (AMP)

[2]  For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and death.

[3]  For God has done what the law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Slirit].  Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].  [Lev. 7:37]

[4]  So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit].

We are under a new authority–jurisdiction now–it’s like when you leave your residing country, you are no longer under your country’s laws, but the law of whatever country you go to.

By believing in Jesus Christ, you left the country called “the world” and have joined God’s kingdom–and are now under a new law–a law called “the law of the Spirit of life.”

So, in Christ, we are not condemned because we’ve been set free–[in verses 1-4]. 

Set free from what?

Romans 8:5-8

So set your mind on the Spirit–

That’s easier said than done–but it’s important to see the distinction.  I think one of Paul’s points is that we have been empowered and set free–the chains have been broken–so we can now choose which mind will control us.

Before I was a Christian my sinful nature controlled my mind.  There was a little tract being passed around at the time by the Billy Graham organization during his Crusades around the country called “Have you heard of the Spirit-filled life?”  Inside it showed the life of a person who doesn’t have Jesus–priorities, hope. actions–all out of whack with no order or purpose.  We are controlled–either by the sin nature or by the spirit nature–the Spirit of God.

A life controlled by Jesus has order and purpose.

The order becomes more evident the more time you spend in the relationship in Christ.  There’s a wonderful promise here in that even though we continue to live in bodies we live with a nature that’s opposed to God–one day our perishable bodies will put on an imperishable nature.  Like Jesus, we will have a perfect, indestructible body without a flesh nature–won’t that be wonderful?

So where then does our loyalty lie?

Romans 8:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, brother and sisters, we have an obligation–but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.  [13]  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

We have an obligation Paul says–it’s the idea of owing a debt to someone–like a mortgage to a bank.  God gave us life through the Spirit, so we are in debt to Him, He owns us–it’s a spiritual reality we need to make in an outward reality in our lives.  We are no longer indebted to our sinful nature–in fact, we need to put to death the flesh.  [vs. 12-13]

In our Godly relationship, closeness to God means we lose control but given a new nature (verses 14-17).

There is so much here in the above verses and the main point is this: the fleshly nature leads to death and fear–fear of punishment and condemnation.

But when we come to Christ Jesus, we don’t get condemned and we are welcomed into a special, close relationship.

“Abba” was the cry of a child to its daddy.

Not only that but we are now heirs to God’s riches–and boy does He have riches–not the kind you spend in a store, but the kind you live off of for the rest of eternity!

Also, looking at the end, there’s something to sharing in Christ’s sufferings that’s part of the process of becoming a child of God.  [vs. 17-b]

Look at what Paul says about it:

Having this new relationship with Christ Jesus means we will be changed.  Right now, creation itself has been waiting since the fall of mankind for the day when we receive new bodies.  It hasn’t happened yet–but it’s coming.

In the meantime, “eagerly wait for it with perseverance”, Paul says.

How–when we seem to be in constant battle with the flesh and spirit? 

Keep reading on:

There’s a lot of theology in these verses–“predestination and foreknowledge”–commentary, books, etc..

It’s at the bottom of an argument between Calvinism and Arminianism:

Calvinist believe God chose who He was going to save and we had little to do with it.  Armenians believe that we chose God and God had little to do with it,  My position, like a few others, is in the middle–I believe God knew beforehand those that would choose Him and so predestined them–that there is a balance between actions of God and actions on man when it comes to salvation.  What I want to focus on here is in verse 28.

Do people really believe this?  A more literal way to translate this would be:

“to them that love God, all things work together for good according to His [not our] purpose.”

In that case, this Scripture is true:

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Once that repentance happens, ALL THINGS work together for good.

The word, “work together” is a good one–it’s where we get the word synergy.  

Synergy is where more than one thing works together well–“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  [Dictionary.com]

An isolated event in ones’ life might seem bad at the time–like my visit to the hospital for four days last January from an acute respiratory infection.  But because my illness brought me to a hospital bed, I was able to share and comfort the hospital chaplain intern who came to tears sitting in a chair next to my bed over a rebellious daughter who was living in sin.  Through my sickness, God gave me the wisdom and confidence to be of some comfort.  It “worked together for good”

The word “good” means:  “BENEFIT”.  It’s not “good” like “virtue.”  

God isn’t saying “well you’re going to suffer but it’s a good thing to suffer.”  “No pain, no gain!”

There’s an actual benefit that God works through circumstances–yes there will be pain and suffering at times, but know that part of this relationship we have with Jesus means in the end, God will work even the bad to our benefit.

Now we might not see that benefit till we get to heaven–and that leads to Paul’s final major point in this chapter:

Belonging to God’s family means facing death, but receiving a rich inheritance.

God is on our side and we need fear no enemy–losing our job or sickness, or hardship or even death and taxes.

What a wonderful picture God is building–accepted into a new family (the family of God).  For ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD,  and God, who was our enemy, is now on our side–but it gets better!

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

So we can CONQUER in God.

The base word for “conquer” means “a means of success.”  Not only that but it’s a “super success.”  An individual, a group of people, can’t be a “conqueror” and be a failure at the same time.

Sin no longer has mastery, trials no longer hold terror, life is no longer something to be dreaded…BECAUSE we ARE conquerors.

Now that doesn’t mean we are free from suffering and pain, BUT we are always connected to the One who works for our benefit–NO MATTER WHAT!

Paul puts the cap on this wonderful chapter of promises with this:

What more could we ask for that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (vs. 38-39).

God so wants to convince His children that His eternality of His love for them that He devotes an entire chapter in His Word (Psalm 136) in which every one of the 26 verses repeats the PROMISE:

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

And so, if He ever stopped loving a believer in Christ Jesus, He would be lying about His LOVE of being “steadfast” and “forever.”  If God ever allowed anything to separate one believer from His love, He would be a liar.

What great confidence we have then,  There’s no one, nothing, no event, and at no time that you can be torn from God’s loves in Jesus.  There’s no reason to say, “Oh, God can’t love me anymore after what I’ve done.”

Oh yes, He can and does!    Far from separating from you, He wants to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

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~ CREDITS ~

Commentary:  Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., “Secure Forever” by Donald S. Whitney.

Bible Translations:  Good News Translation (GNT); New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV). Amplified Bible (AMP).

Images:  Google Image search.

And the Church Prayed

I think we sometimes appear to others around us as people of prayer.  After all, we attend church on a regular basis and that’s what “religious people” do.  But we’re not really.

A Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock to a supply cabinet.  She had been told the combination but couldn’t remember it.  Totally frustrated, she went to the pastor’s study and asked for help.  The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial.  After the first two numbers, he paused and stared blankly for a moment.  Finally, he said, “You know, I can’t remember the combination either.”  Then he folded his hands and looked heavenward and his lips moved silently.  Then he looked back at the lock, quickly turned to the final number and opened the lock.  The teacher was amazed.  “Pastor, I can’t believe you prayed and God gave you the combination,” she said.  “It’s really nothing,” he answered.  “The combination is written on a piece of paper taped to the ceiling.”

As a church, we don’t know quite what to do about prayer, or how to go about prayer, or even whether we should have any expectation of prayer working in our lives.

Prayer is a major element in the Bible.

This is a strange text from the Book of Acts,  chapter 12.  It begins like a Shakespearian Tragedy.

The church is being persecuted.

King Herod puts a Christin leader, John’s brother James to death.  Herod finds that the masses like this and it helps increase his popularity, so he has Peter arrested and scheduled for execution.

Then the tragedy turns very dramatically as an angel appears by waking him from his sleep leading him out of the prison.  It’s a real mystery event as even Peter doesn’t know if it’s real, or a vision, or just a dream.

The angel and Peter walk up to the gates of the prison and the iron gates open by themselves.

But then the event turns and begins to feel like a comedy.

The whole church is praying for Peter’s release, and the church’s response when they see Peter is to think, “That can’t be Peter–he’s in jail!  We’re here praying for his freedom so he can’t be free!”

Sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered so often, we find ourselves expecting God to do nothing when we pray.  Sometimes we don’t know what to pray for in a given situation, or how to pray. 

So looking at the Book of Acts, in particular, Chapter 12, it’s study can teach us all some important lessons about prayer.

The first lesson is, the Church should pray!

That’s simple and very logical.   Of course; you say the church should pray.  But I have to say that I wonder if we pray enough in our churches or in our own lives.  Paul says in his New Testament book, First Thessalonians,  “Pray without ceasing.”  Many of us will reverently bow our heads for a few moments and then stop.

Paul didn’t mean that we should be on our knees all the time or living like Monks in a monastery.  He meant that we should be in an attitude of prayer, so even while we’re talking with others around us, part of our mind is in communion with God.  And when we’re driving down the road, part of our mind should be in a quiet relationship with God.

But for many of us, prayer is a rare action.  It’s something we do much too infrequently.

“You are in my prayers”

We find ourselves in a conversation with others who tell us about how they are in the middle of problemed teenager situation, or they are waiting to hear back from doctors and the news might not be good, or they’re struggling to find a job and we give them what we think is comforting–but they aren’t in our prayers.  We say we’ll pray for them but we won’t.  I often will ask them right where they are if I can pray for them at the point of the request.  It helps them know they have my attention and it’s a good reminder for me to keep praying!

One of the things we see in this passage of Acts is that the Church prayed!

Praying is the most powerful thing that we can do as a church.  We need to pray as a community.

Prayer for me is often a private thing.  In the mornings when I’m reading my Bible, it becomes my prayer time as well in which I’m alone with my heavenly Father.  I like to call it ‘Father/son time’.

Hopefully, personal and private time prayer is something we all do, but we also need to pray in community.  It doesn’t have to be the entire church–it could be your small group or your Sunday School Class, or a few church members you contact via email.

The church finds strength as a praying community for one another.

Peter finds the church gathered together in prayer for him.

The strange thing is that even though the church is gathered specifically in prayer for him, a comic moment transpires as the church is caught off guard with the fact that God has heard and answered their prayers.  This brings us to another important lesson about prayer in the Book of Acts:

When we pray, we should expect God to respond!

Looking at the Bible you’ll find many times when prayers were answered.  Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction in finding a wife for Isaac, and God led him to Rebekah (Genesis 24:12-15).  

David prayed for strength and was able to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  

We tend to forget however, there are many times in the Bible that prayer seems to be left unanswered.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of that “thorn in the flesh.”  

Even Jesus prayed a prayer that was left unanswered.  Jesus cried out in the garden, “take the cup of suffering from me.”  He prayed that He wouldn’t have to suffer on the cross.  Instead, He had to suffer the pain of it.

Our own lives are full of unanswered prayers.  So much so, that we begin to live in expectation of our prayers being left unanswered.

And like Rhoda and the church in Acts 12, we reach a point where we are shocked and unbelieving when God answers prayer.  The thought process of why some prayers seem to go unanswered is a complex question.  It’s not a one size fits all sort of question to answer.

There are different reasons for different situations.

Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because our hearts aren’t right with God:  “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

In Proverbs 15:29, we read “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Sometimes, the problem with unanswered prayer is our time isn’t God’s time.

And what we often interpret as “unanswered prayer” is simply a matter of an answer that’s delayed.

In Jeremiah 42:2-7 we read where the people asked the prophet to speak to God for providing immediate direction in their lives–“We want it right now!”

Sometimes the answer comes for longer than simply ten days later.  It might be years later.

Sometimes we misunderstand prayer.

We pray out of selfish motives. 

True prayer is God-centered.

But we often turn our prayers into a self-centered activity.  I

n the New Testament Book of James, we’re told: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).  

The object of prayer is that God is glorified and not ourselves.  At times we think of prayer as Aladdin’s lamp to use in glorifying self.  We often think of God as a genie who is at our bidding and command.

Can we not pray for ourselves?

Of course, but we should pray for ourselves unselfishly.  Unselfish prayer for self is a prayer which seeks not self-centered comfort but Christ-centered conformity to God’s will.  Prayer isn’t an end in itself but a means to a greater end which is to glorify God!

The Bible promises us that God will hear our prayers.

The Bible never says that God will obey our orders and sometimes that’s the way we treat prayer.

In the Book of Acts, we don’t see Peter praying self-centered prayers.  He isn’t begging for his freedom.  He’s resting in the comfort of God.  He trusts God so much on the eve of his execution, he falls asleep and he sleeps so soundly that when the angel comes to wake him up, a gentle nudge won’t do.

When I was a young teenager, my mother would come into my room in the morning and wake me up for school–quietly coming to my bedside and gently rocking my shoulder she would say, “Mel, Mel, time to get up and out of bed and go.”  No–that wasn’t the way the angel woke up Peter.  The angel acted like my father.  When Dad would wake me up, he would crack the bedroom door and shout, “Mel.  Get out of bed right now and get to school!!”

Acts even says the angel had to hit Peter in the side to wake him up!  [Acts 12:7 – Interlinear Bible].

And you know, that in itself is really the best answer to prayer–not that God would do this or God would do that, but that He would give us such trust in Him that we could rest comfortably and calmly in His loving presence.

And the church should pray…

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CREDITS

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or as stated.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

Commentary:  Drumbeat of Love by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Contributions by Maynard Pittendreigh in researching commentary on Acts Chapter 12.