Archive for the ‘New Testament’ Category

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Give us this Day…

October 5, 2012

Our Bread for the day

If we truly pray the first three petitions, and commit ourselves to live wholly for God, the natural and logical next request is for time to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done. So we ask for the day. We do not ask for day(s) or weeks or years, but we ask for one more day, that God would grant us the time to serve, to pray, to worship Him. Later in this chapter of Matthew Jesus instructs his disciples not to worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will take care of itself.” (6:34)

After we ask for the day, it is logical that we ask for sustenance to give (us) energy to fulfill such a life. Samuel Johnson once said in caring for the stomach that “Those who ignore the needs of their stomach are soon in no condition to care about anything else.” God has created us to be dependent on food. It points to our weakness, our ‘createdness’; God himself is dependent on nothing and no one. So when we pray this line we are acknowledging that we are in need, that rather than assuming that we can take care of ourselves, we are willing to humble ourselves to ask for something as simple as a piece of bread.

What does this line mean?

In the testimony of Christ in Luke 11, Jesus instructs His disciples on how to pray and tells them a parable of a man arriving late at night at a friend’s house, weary from a long journey. The man knocks on the door and asks for some bread, but the friend is in bed and unwilling to assist. Jesus says to His disciples, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” God knows our needs before we ask (Matt 6:8), and has sworn to “supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19) The key word here is need. We are commanded to as for those things which are necessary to live. We need bread daily, we require sustenance daily to live, and so we are commanded to ask, knowing that our Father in Heaven will supply our NEEDS.

What this line does not mean.

This line is not our divine credit card. God cares about us. His desire is that none should perish but that all should be saved, and he came for the purpose that we have life and that this life be abundant. However. He is interested in supplying our needs and equipping us for every good work, not in enabling our greed. Need and want are two different things. All of us have been children at one time, and those of us who have children are well acquainted with the phrase, “you may want that, but you don’t need it.” What we need to serve God and what we want to satisfy our own selfish desires are almost always two completely different things. The purpose of this prayer and of this line in particular is to focus us on finding our satisfaction in Him, rather than anything else. If we enjoy today, we acknowledge that He gave it to us, and if we enjoy a meal we acknowledge that He gave it to us.

This line does not say, sell us this day, our daily bread. Some people believe that God’s provision is for sale, little do they realize that He gives according to His grace. Some believe that, I don’t have to ask for it, if I behave the right way then I will get it as a reward. The Pharisees were far to proud to ask for something as simple as bread, they would have long grandiose prayers, and lived strict lives in hopes that God would take notice and repay. How thankful we should be that God does not operate this way, the price has been paid through Christ, and so we simply ask, “Father, Give…” and He gives according to His promise.

What if we already have a lot of bread? Well then we should still pray daily for God’s continued provision, in this economy we can all see examples of when abundance is here one day and gone the next. Is it wrong to want nice things? No. Is it wrong to want things that are above and beyond what you need? No. But when we seek these things instead of His Kingdom, and pray for these things over and above what we need to serve Him, we are missing the point of this prayer. Remember we are called to ask for bread not Bentleys.

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Pray in this way…

October 2, 2012

Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name…

Why God’s name should be ‘Hallowed’?

The Lords Prayer is a string of requests.  We have not because we ask not, but Jesus gives us the requests to ask. We are to request that God’s kingdom will come and that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven; we are to ask for our daily provision, we are to ask that our sins be forgiven, and for protection from Evil.  But before we begin praying for ourselves we are to request of God that His Name, be Hallowed, that His name be made Holy, set apart, sanctified.

God’s name should be set apart for two reasons.

1.         Because of Who he is.  This is the God Proclaimed throughout all of Scripture as Holy, Holy, Holy.  The Seraphim surrounding His Throne sing this out in Isaiah 6, The Creatures in Revelation 5 proclaim this reality “to Him who sits on the throne… be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.  When People have encounters with God whether Moses in Exodus 3, Isaiah in Isaiah 6, Job in Job 48, Saul on the Damascus Road, John in Revelation; the almost universal response is to acknowledge God’s uniqueness and Holiness by falling on ones face and proclaiming your own sin.  Indeed it is predicted that at His Name Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and that God is Lord over all.  So How do we approach this Awesome God in Prayer?

2.         Because of What He did.   The response to being confronted with God’s holiness is universal, shock and awe.  Yet now we draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we receive mercy. (Hebrews 4:16) How can we do this?  We are able to approach God, because we are made Holy through the sinless life, sacrificial death and saving resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.  We have been crucified with Him, we no longer live, but Christ lives within us.  Though full of imperfections we are made perfect in His sacrifice.  Christ bore our sins; and made our lives, though red with the crimson stain of sin, as white as snow.

For this reason we pray that His name be set apart and made holy.  The world calls out to a myriad of idols and self help gurus, but we cry to the Holy God, who saw us, saved us and will secure us from want and sin, throughout all of eternity.

 

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Why should we pray the Lord’s Prayer?

September 21, 2012

Christ came so that we would have life, not only a good life but an abundant life.  Part of that abundant life is found in the discipline of prayer.  In Matthew 6 Jesus is in the middle of His “Sermon on the Mount,” a conversation concerning the role of the blessed in relation to: each other, to society, to the Law, and to God their Father.  Present were His disciples, 12 men in the presence of the Light of the world, yet still in the dark about how to live a blessed life pleasing to God through, working, fasting, giving, and praying.  This is where Jesus said; Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth…You are the salt of the earth… The light of the world… Love your enemies… when you give, sound no trumpet before you… and when you pray, Pray like this…

Prayer is a given for the followers of Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples “when you Pray..”  not “if you pray” or “should you pray” but when.  It is an assumption that the disciples will pray and that we will and should pray.  Jesus here, is instructing them how to pray.  We seek advice on “How To” do almost everything.  A quick search of Amazon.com reveals over 950,000 titles on How to do everything.  There are 20,000 books on how to do home improvements, 57,000 books on how to use electronics, 15,000 books on how to play sports, 5,200 books on how to take care of babies.  And Just in case you are curious there are 48 nonfiction books on How to Pray, by various authors some Christian and some of other faiths.

In Matthew we have the ultimate expert instructing us on how to pray.  Jesus was one with the Father, (John 10:30) and even with that unique oneness relationship He could do nothing apart from the Father.  Prayer was essential for Him as He lived his life, and embarked upon His Work.  If He had to pray, how much more are we in need of God’s help through prayer?

Jesus knew How to approach the Father, He was perfect without sin, He knew that we must learn to ask God for what we need.  Later in the next Chapter of Matthew, 7:7-11 Jesus describes the response of a father to the need of his children, “which one among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give what is good to those who ask him!”  “ask and it will be given to you; and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Why is this prayer important?  It is literally God’s instruction to his disciples and through them to us on how to approach Him in prayer, what we should say and what our attitude should be when we approach the Father in Prayer.

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Why should we pray?

September 20, 2012

Over the next several posts we are going to be examining prayer, specifically the Lord’s Prayer as found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:9-13.

First we will address the reason why we should pray.  Beyond the fact that we are commanded to pray, what should motivate us to engage in prayer:

For our Divine Relationship:

We are created for relationships.  This is evident in every one of our lives.  The fact that you are here listening to me is a key sign that you desire to be in a relationship with other people.  The church is nothing if it is not a community of believers seeking a relationship with God through His son Jesus.  By far the most important relationship you have is the one with your heavenly Father, God.   Just like any relationship you have, your relationship with Him is aided on communication.  He communicates to you through His word, through His Spirit, through his Preachers.  You communicate to Him through worship, worship in song, worship in His Church, and worship through Prayer.

Think of the relationships you have in your life.  How are they affected by communication, especially with the ones you love?  If I told you that I loved my wife, but I also confessed to you that despite the benefits of talking to her and communicating with her, she and I haven’t spoken in day, weeks, perhaps even months.  Despite my insistence that she and I were in love, and that we were in a relationship, how healthy could that relationship be if she and I never communicated?  Consider you relationship with God.  In his word we are told to Pray.  Jeremiah records God’s promise to him in Jeremiah 33:2-3 ” Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish, the Lord is his name, ‘Call unto Me and I will answer you, I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'”  We know that when we call on the Lord our God He hears us, “I Love the Lord,” The Psalmist says, “because he hears my voice, and my supplications (cries for mercy), because he has inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” (Ps. 116:1-2)

Among First marriages in America Statistics show that some 45-50% of marriages end in Divorce, (www.divrocestatistics.org ) Research done on the causes for divorce reveal, that “Lack of communication is one of the leading causes of divorce. A marriage is on the rocks when the lines of communication fail. You can’t have an effective relationship if either one of you won’t discuss your feelings, can’t talk about your mutual or personal issues, will keep your resentments simmering under wraps, and expect your partner to guess what the whole problem is about.” (http://www.buzzle.com/articles/common-causes-and-reasons-for-divorce.html)

How can you expect your relationship with the Father to flourish if you don’t communicate through prayer?  Are you Strong enough to go through this life on your own?

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Casting upon a Caring God…

August 27, 2012

1 Peter is one of my favorite books in the Bible, so rich and so full of powerful applicable theology.

One of the most powerful verses or sets of verses in the book come as Peter is concluding his letter to the elect exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Capadoccia and Bythinia, Chapter 5:6-7.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Believers must humble themselves under God’s might hand, regardless of how that hand is made manifest.  They might experience that hand in judgment through persecution, or deliverance through protection.  Regardless of how His hand is experienced, the believers response is one of humility.  They accomplish this act of humility by casting their anxieties on God.  Peter has provided the reader with the “what” (humility), and the “how” (casting), but now he moves in short order to provide the “why.”  Believers approach God and rely on Him because He cares for them.  This simple profound truth animates the entire text of 1 Peter, indeed it is seen through out the scriptures.  This type of care is seen in the gospel of John 10:13; where Jesus tells of the hired hand that abandons the sheep because he does not care for them.  In contrast, the shepherd would leave the flock to pursue even one lost sheep.  This caring and concern is in view in this passage.

God cares for His people from beginning to end, throughout all circumstances.  We do not rely on an unsympathetic God, or one who is distant or emotionally uninvolved.  No, Peter systematically displays the myriad of ways in which God cares for His people.   Listing them below grants us the ability to grasp the scope of Peter’s depiction of God’s manifold care for His people:

-1:3 God has caused us to be born again to a new hope.

-1:4 God has given us an inheritance

-1:5 God guards us

-1:9 God grants us the salvation of our souls

-1:18 God ransoms us from futile ways

-2:5 God Builds us up

-2:8-9 God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light

-2:10 God makes us His people and gives us mercy

-2:21 Christ suffered for us, providing us an example

-4:11, 13 God allows us to take part in the glory of Christ

-5:4 God will give us an unfading crown of glory

-5:7 God cares for us

-5:10 God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

In the face of this litany, Peter asks his readers to cast their anxieties on God; this is an ultimate act of humility.  We are to be humble because God cares for us.  We are to display our humility by casting our anxieties on Him.  These truths form the essence of 1 Peter.

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The Unanswered Cry: Lord, Lord! But didn’t we…

August 3, 2012

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21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

“To be active in religious affairs is no substitute for obeying God.”

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been reorienting His disciples to a new reality, that the Kingdom of Heaven was upon them, and that they were to seek it above all else. These truths stood in marked contrast to the attitudes of the world which sought to receive temporary solutions to permanent problems. The world still seeks the quick fix. A law to follow, a checklist to finish, magic words to say; would that they could only live the way the wish and cry out Lord Lord when it suits them. But Jesus is testifying to a greater truth, that beyond the broad road of conflict their lies the difficult path of compassion; above the low road of worldly satisfaction there is the higher rocky trail of salvation. Fundamentally this text testifies to the fact that one must do more that simply declare Jesus as Lord to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (“For even the demons believe and shutter” James 2:19) It is not enough to proclaim Him Lord if you are not willing to let your life reflect the reality of that proclamation.

The Blessed, Happy life that Jesus calls us to, in the Sermon, is one that is constricted compared to the loose ways of the world. We achieve blessing by being poor in spirit among those rich in arrogance; by mourning among the indifferent; by being meek amidst the mighty; by finding God more appetizing than the world; by being merciful to the undeserving; having a clean heart in a filthy world; by being a people of peace on a planet of warriors, and finally by being a people persecuted among the privileged. None of those things are easy, each confession of blessing is a testimony to a rough and difficult life amidst a world of ease. But Jesus looks out across the crowd of His disciples and “those simply seeking him for signs and wonders” and He declares that it is not enough that the recognize Him; they must follow Him.

During His ministry Jesus encountered people who were willing to do much to gain His blessing; they would testify to His greatness, they would call Him teacher, but when it came time for them to lay down what they had, they clinched their fists around their possessions instead of grasping His hand. (“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matt 16:25) They were willing to do anything except truly giving themselves over into the hands of One who made them.

Consider Judas, among the crowd that day, who went out with the disciples to perform miracles and proclaim the Kingdom come, and yet he soon displayed his true loyalties turning his eyes on perishing silver and betraying his savior. Consider the rich young ruler, who approached Jesus as a Rabbi, but upon hearing the cost of the cross fled in despair, unwilling to part with what he valued greater than Christ. It is not enough to approach Christ, it is not enough to simply confess, we must “believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and we will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

What Jesus is saying here is that we are to live in the light of the future reality that there is a Day coming when all will be revealed; a Day when we will stand before our Lord and the book of our life will be opened, and the truth will come out. This fact should give us pause. Each and every one of us must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, awaiting the Day of God’s judgement. To prepare for that Day, we are to ask, seek and knock; we are to believe that Jesus’ words are true. We are to live our lives bearing witness to the reality of that the truth we have heard has not only impacted our minds but changed our hearts. We must rely on God, rely on God, rely on God; we cannot trust in our own confessions, we can not trust in our own works. For if our hearts are not right with God, even if we prophesy in His name, do wonders in his name, cast out evil in His name, it will not matter. So ask yourself, when that Day comes will I push aside my sin and try and win God over with all I have done “in His name?” Or, will I lay myself bare before Him, and come to Him empty handed, poor in spirit, meekly seeking entrance to the Kingdom having displayed a life lived on the narrow road declaring “All I have is Christ”?

So to sum up, what are some take aways from this passage and from what we’ve discussed above? God prizes obedience over sacrifice, He always has, and He always will. He calls us to live according to all He has taught, and He calls us to repent and live a new life according to His will. So if you are living within un-repentant sin in your life and you are justifying it by saying, ‘its ok, surely God will accept me, I mean I go to church every Sunday, I teach Sunday school, I go on mission trips, Ive even led people to the Lord, surely all that will out-weigh my sin.’ IF that is your inner monologue, then you should question your citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven; for that is the same works-righteousness that fails every time. That is the wide road taken by Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, some Catholics, some protestants, and the vast majority of Americans who believe that ‘if I live a good life, then I’ll get into heaven.’ The ONLY way to enter the kingdom is through the narrow gate of Christ. The only work that we can present before God in order to enter His kingdom is the work of His Son on the cross, and our unqualified obedience to all that God has called us to in light of that wondrous work.

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All That Glitters: The context of the Golden Rule…

July 27, 2012

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“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

There are some verses in scripture that seem to transcend the bounds of the body of Christ. Matthew 7:12 is one of these texts that could most likely be quoted by anyone the street regardless of their religious affiliation. Known as the “Golden Rule” it serves to guide discussions from the playground to the boardroom; but what does this verse, which claims to be the sum of Biblical teaching, really mean in its context?

Charles Quarles, in his book The Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church gives some invaluable insight into the power of this text within its context.

“Strong evidence suggests that the “therefore” [in verse 12] looks both to and beyond the immediate preceding verses. The mention of “the law and the prophets” in both 7:11 and 5:17 intentionally form an inclusio that brackets this major section of the sermon. Consequently 7:12 summarizes and concludes Jesus’ interpretation and application of the law (5:17-48), His instruction related to deeds of righteousness (6:1-18), and His instruction for life in this world including both one’s relationship to possessions (6:19-34) and to people (7:1-6), as well as 7:7-11

[“This principle is known to many as the ‘Golden Rule’ a name for the principle that dates to at least as early as the end of the middle ages. Contrary to popular opinion, this name was not inspired by the preciousness of this important moral principle. This name relates to accounts claiming that the Emperor Alexander Severus had Matt 7:12 inscribed in gold on the wall of his throne room.”]

“Jesus described this principle as “the law and the prophets.” The point is that verse 12 is the summation of the essence of the character God required of His people in the OT. THis statement is similar to Matt 22:34-40 in which Jesus answered the question, ‘Which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus pointed to Deut 6:5 and Lev. 19:18, which called for love for God and love for others respectively. Jesus then concluded, “all the law and the prophets depend on these two commands.”(Matt 22:40)”

The Christian life is not easy, and we as Christians are not called to do easy things. The admonition to do unto others as we would have them do unto us is a mission that embodies the whole of the Bible’s teaching on the way we should live. And this mission is surrounded by verses that testify to its difficulty. Verses 7:11 teach the necessity of our persistent reliance on God for the good things necessary to accomplish what He has called us to. Absent His aid, and absent His good gifts we are incapable of fulfilling Matthew 7:12. This is the beauty of the life that God has called us to, in that He has not called us to a life that He will not equip us to carry out. John Broadus noted, “the real novelty of Christian ethics lies in the fact that Christianity offers not only instruction in moral duty, but spiritual help in acting accordingly.” “Jesus not only commanded His disciples [and by extension us] to live in accord with the Golden Rule; He also empowered them to do so through the new exodus, the new creation, and the new covenant.” Verses 13-14 testify to the difficulty of the Golden Rule in that so few actually carry it out. It is much easier to ignore others and live an inconsistent life, pointing out specks in others despite the logs in your own life, but God has called His disciples to the narrow road, a “way that is hard” but leads to life. Few choose His road, few find it. And as we look around we can see ample evidence that few have chosen the narrow Golden road of obedience, most are comfortable on the freeway of selfish desires that leads to destruction