Follow by Email

Popular Posts

Saturday, October 26, 2013

How Do We Pray?


How Do We Pray?



When one of the disciples asks Jesus to teach them how to pray Jesus answers by teaching them the Lord’s Prayer.  But then Jesus continues teaching them more about how to prayer through a story.


 Here is His story or parable about prayer.   “Suppose one of you has a friend who goes to his neighbor at midnight and says, ‘Neighbor lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey just dropped in and I have nothing to serve him for dinner.’  Then the neighbor inside the house answers, ‘Don’t bother me.  My door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed.  I can’t get up and give you anything.’”  (Luke 11:5-7) 


Jesus seems to be teaching here that prayer often occurs because of a sense of need.  In this story the neighbor would probably have never gone over to his friend’s home in the middle of the night to borrow food if he was hungry.  But the need seemed so much greater when his traveling friend needed dinner and he had nothing to give.  In ancient times it was very important be hospitable to a traveler.  How many times do we pray and ask for help or strength or money when we have nothing to give and someone in our care is in need? 


Even though the man’s neighbor insisted that he would not get out of bed and unbolt his door the man who wanted the bread didn’t listen to his excuses.  He just kept pounding on the door and begging and crying about how hungry his friend was after his long journey.  Jesus continues with the story.  “I tell you, even though the neighbor will not get up out of bed and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the friend’s boldness and persistence his neighbor finally got up out of bed and gave him as much as he needed.”  (Luke 11:8) 


What is Jesus trying to teach us in this story?  Is He teaching us that God is a reluctant God who must be wheedled out of things?  Or is He asking us to be bold and come to God and ask for what we need and pound on the door and know that if a reluctant neighbor would finally answer that of course God will answer? 


Jesus doesn’t stop teaching about prayer with this story.  He continues with these instructions on how we should pray.  Jesus says: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find: knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives and he who seeks finds: and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Luke 11: 9-10) 


Jesus’ words sound too good to be true.  He continues his teaching with more insights and truths.  Jesus wants us to trust our heavenly Father.  So He tells us:  “What father among you if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent: or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  (Luke 11:11-12) 


Jesus is saying that God does not hold out false hopes in prayer:  You as an earthly father would not do that and of course neither will your heavenly Father.  God, our heavenly Father means what He says.  He holds out His hands to us inviting us to ask and receive.


 But we are still not sure.  We remember so many times when we have prayed for something and God didn’t give it.  Or perhaps we didn’t receive it?  Just last month we prayed over and over again that our sick dog would get well.  Our vet did everything he could but our beloved dog died, leaving a big hole in our hearts.  So what does this mean?  Did God not answer our prayers?  Or did God answer with a “no” because He sees the beginning from the end and knows what is best? 


The apostle Paul had a physical problem – a thorn in his flesh.  Whether this was a real thorn or his “thorn”: represented some physical problem, we don’t know.  But we know that Paul either had a real thorn or a pain or illness that he had to live with- that God did not remove or heal.  Scripture says that Paul prayed three times asking God to remove this painful thorn and God did not remove it.  His answer was “no”.


 God answered by saying this to Paul:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor.12:9)  In the past God had revealed great revelations and visions to Paul and the Holy Spirit was moving with great power through Paul’s ministry.  Perhaps Paul would have become proud and arrogant if he had not had this physical problem to keep him humble.  God knew best. 


The Bible tells us that God answers our prayers and gives us what we ask for if it is in His will.  And God’s will is always good and loving.  Here is one of the many Scriptures that speak to this.  “And this is the confidence we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  (1 John 5:14)  Aren’t you glad that God has to approve what you and I ask for?  He doesn’t just give us a blank check but He tells us to ask and He will co-sign. 


We may ask for things that would not work together for good for reasons we can not understand at this time.  God promises to give his followers what will work together for good for them. (Romans 8:28)  We can learn to trust the providence of God since He is all knowing and all seeing and all loving.  Since our walk is a walk of faith, trusting the providence of God is one more way that we can learn to trust God.     


Scripture says: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.”  (James 1:6-8)


We are told to ask in faith.  God’s gifts are given on the basis of faith and not unbelief.  The problem is what do we do after we pray and ask?  We have faith that God will answer since God is faithful.  God loves to give His children good gifts.  When we ask, we take it for granted that He will answer because He promises that He will.  God loves to be trusted and faith lays hold of what He gives.  Jesus says: “Ask and it shall be given.”  Thank God and move out on it, trusting that God is answering.  


Scripture tells us that we are God’s children because we have been “born again” when we believed in Jesus as Savior.  (John 3:16)  We can not come into God’s presence on our own since we are sinners and God is holy.  But we can come to God through Jesus Christ because in Christ we are cleansed from all our sins.  So when we come to the Father God we come in the Name of Jesus and when we pray to God we pray in the Name of Jesus.  All of God’s promises to us are through Christ.      


When Jesus said “Seek and you shall find” it would seem that there might be an element of time involved in the seeking. Prayer is not just asking but it can be seeking and knocking too.  Seeking or searching is a process, a series of acts.  Something may be lost and we search for it.  We pray for insight, for understanding, and for help.  We may have to search or knock for a long time before we find, or wait for years before we receive.  Abraham and Sarah waited almost seventy years for the son God had promised them to be born.  In our modern generation we want to get what we ask for instantly.  But often we have to wait awhile for God’s answer to be fulfilled.  We, like Abraham, need to keep trusting while we are waiting.


It takes power to live a Christian life.  And God gives us this power by giving us the Holy Spirit when we believe in Jesus as our Savior.  We can open our lives to the Holy Spirit or we can shut Him out and try to run our own lives.  The Holy Spirit will be a river of life flowing out of us if we keep asking and believing that He is there working through us.  And if we don’t keep trusting God that mighty river can slow down and be a tiny stream in our lives.  Trusting God keeps the door open.


Our heavenly Father is here beside us with His hands outstretched towards us inviting us to believe and ask and seek and knock.  He is asking us to stand on His promises. Promising us that if we ask in His will even the most difficult problems will be taken care of.  And promising us that in the end there will be victory for things we have almost given up on if we believe His promises.  Scripture says:  “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are all “Yes” in Christ.  And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”  (2 Cor. 1:20).


  God’s promises to us are all “Yes” in Christ!  And we are to say “Amen” to (or to trust in) all of God’s promises!



Some of these ideas are taken from Ray C. Stedman’s article,” Prayer’s Certainties”. 







Saturday, October 19, 2013

An Invitation to Enter "His Rest"


An Invitation to Enter “His Rest”



We knew Joe and Linda from church.  Young and in love and excited about their faith.  They were newly married and were the leaders of our church youth group. But then Joe got a job teaching high school in a small town several hundred miles away. Our church threw them a going-away party and we helped them pack their car.  Linda was excited about the move since she thought it would be nice to live in a small town where they would know everyone.  She and Joe would be part of a loving community of kindly neighbors. 


But then two years later Joe and Linda were back from their small town and people were shaking their heads.  The first time I saw Joe I didn’t recognize him.  Our church had hired him as a gardener and when I saw him gardening and walked over to greet him he hid behind a tree.  There was fear all over his face. He was afraid of me – afraid of people.  We were shocked at how much he had changed in those two years.


Linda told us that Joe had suffered a mental breakdown while they were living in this  town.  The pastor of a church in the town didn’t like them for some reason and told all of his church members that Linda and Joe were bad people.  He preached against them from the pulpit and spread stories about them.  Soon the whole town had heard the pastor’s rumors and Linda and Joe were shunned by everyone – isolated – and treated as if they didn’t exist.  No one in this mean town would speak to Linda or Joe for the two years that they were there.  Two long years of hate - a hate that nearly destroyed them - and worse yet a hate from so called fellow Christians!  


During this dark time Linda had become ill and Joe had not been able to function.  When Linda was too sick to care for their new baby, no one was there to help.  Battered and broken in spirit this young couple came stumbling back home to live with their parents until they could get back on their feet.  We church members tried to reach out to them and love them back into our church.


But it took time for Joe to come around – to feel comfortable again with other people, especially good Christian people.  He needed lots of time to regain his bearings.  He would have flash backs and panic when he was among friends.  Become fearful that he might say the wrong thing. Worry that he would be attacked and rejected again.  And Linda kept wondering what was wrong with her personality – why so many people had rejected her.  Surely she must be a flawed person or a whole town wouldn’t have hated her so much.  They must have had a good reason to not speak to her?  She lost confidence in herself and was a shell of the friendly outgoing person she had once been.


I have never forgotten Joe and Linda.  Never forgotten how a church of judgmental Christians could bully this young couple – tear them down to almost nothing in just two short years.  Hate is an evil and powerful force!  Especially in the hands of people who call themselves Christians with values?  God commands His children to live lives of love and forgiveness.  And Scripture says that Christians are to be known by their love. (John 13:35)  I have to wonder about some Christians today who seem to be known by their never ending self righteous hate!   


When a whole town treated Linda and Joe as if they were failures they also began to think of themselves as failures.  Their self images were shattered and their very lives were almost destroyed  .We will probably never face a whole town full of people who treat us badly, but all of us at some time in our lives will probably face rejection from a few people that we care about.  And it will be emotionally painful.


 When a friend doesn’t want to see us anymore we may be like Linda and wonder if there is something wrong with us.  Sometimes our self image is built on what our friends think of us.  Or if we lose a job or a position we may think of ourselves as a failure. We must not give in to our feelings because feelings are changeable and fickle.  We need to give God our reputations and let Him be in charge of them and ask Him to deliver us from caring too much about what people think about us.  Scripture says that Satan is the accuser of believers (Rev.12:10) and he wants us to have a negative attitude about ourselves and to feel hopeless.


 But God has come to give us life and hope and a positive attitude.  If we ever find ourselves depressed and wondering if we are a failure we need to change our negative self image by reading what the Bible has to say about ourselves.  Yes, the Bible has a lot to say about us – about believers in Jesus – about followers of Christ.  Let’s start viewing our self image as God views it.  Let’s see what Scripture says about you and me, and who we really are!.


First of all the Bible says that God doesn’t see us as alone or all by ourselves but God sees us “in Christ”.  Scripture says that we believers are acceptable in the Beloved (the Beloved is Jesus).(Ephesians 1:6)  We are “in Christ” and we “can do all things through Christ” (Phil.4:13)  We are the branches and He is the Vine.  He chose us and we accepted Him.  Scripture says that Jesus will present us blameless and faultless to God, if we place our trust in Him.  (1 Cor. 1:7-8)   Scripture says that we are “joint heirs” with Christ.  We share His inheritance, His righteousness, (He gives us His own righteousness) and His holiness.(He gives us His holiness)   -We will see the fullness of this in heaven!  (Romans 8:17)


Because we believe in Christ we have His Spirit living in us and helping and guiding us.  We are to “live by faith”.  Have faith that Jesus’ Spirit is with us and give Him our lives – our problems – and ask for His guidance.  He will give us His guidance and His grace and power and joy.  Our self-image won’t be hung up so much on what other people think because Christ will give us freedom and boldness and confidence.  Knowing our position in Christ will give us confidence.  


When we are made right with God, we start to talk right and act right and think right.  The Holy Spirit is working in us and we are growing in Christ.  This is the “new and living way” mentioned in the Bible. (Heb.10:20)  Scripture says that we are more than conquerors through Christ.  (Romans 5:17)  We need to change our poor self image and start seeing ourselves as more than conquerors “in Christ”.  We need to learn to speak victoriously.  Move into our new identity in Christ. 


When we make mistakes let’s confess them to God and receive His forgiveness.  Peter denied Christ three times and yet he pressed past that sin and God used him to bring many people into the kingdom.  And Matthew was a hated tax collector and probably cheated people.  But he turned from his sin and accepted God’s forgiveness and became one of the twelve disciples.  (Mark 2:14)  Let’s accept God’s forgiveness too and put our past in the past. Let’s not sit in judgment on ourselves for past sins after God has already forgiven us.  . 


All of the great men and women of God had weaknesses.  But they accepted God’s forgiveness and God used them.  Scripture says that “His (Jesus’) strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)  He will help us in our weaknesses and cover them with His strength.  Where we stop, He will begin.  Let’s do our best but give ourselves permission not to be perfect.


The world tries to push us into its mold.  And if we try to please everybody and struggle to live up to all that we are told that we should do and be we will end up exhausted and guilt ridden and depressed.   But God calls us to a different way of living.  He calls us to enjoy our lives and to “enter His rest”. (Heb.4:3) We can remember that our lives are hidden “in Christ”. Jesus speaks to us, His followers, and says:  “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:29)  


We can choose either way.  We can try to run our own lives and run ourselves ragged making the right impressions and pleasing everybody and feeling guilty about what we didn’t get done.  Or we can take Jesus’ yoke upon us and live our lives “in Him” and enter into His joy and “rest”. What will it be? 



Some of these Scriptures and ideas were taken from Joyce Meyers’ book, “Approval Addiction, Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone” 













Saturday, October 12, 2013

Our Pharisaical Fungus Infection

Our Pharisaical Fungus Infection



Way back in 1980, the then President, Jimmy Carter, observed that the United States was undergoing a “crisis of confidence” caused by the selfish, worship of consumerism.  He observed that “piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives that have no purpose or meaning.” Although many believed that Carter wasn’t a particularly successful President, his observations regarding the malaise besetting our culture were both very Christian and very astute.  Consumerism in its many forms has discouraged community and encouraged radical individualism.  It has also promoted harmful changes to our sex and marriage mores.  Radical consumerism, manifested in our media, has also been a factor in the gruesome rise of violence that is brutalizing our society.


The response of Evangelical Christians to this crisis of meaning and purpose has been puzzling. The history and traditions of the Evangelical church has been one of simplicity and frugality.  Historically, there was a rejection of the opulence of the Roman Catholic Church and a movement toward simplicity in worship and general Christian demeanor.  This was supported by Scripture (e.g., 2 Cor. 14:33).  This orientation carried into the 1960’s; “worldliness” was something that many Christians were taught to avoid. For example, we have Free Methodist female friends who vividly recall that they were taught to not own or wear jewelry because it was “worldly” and thus offensive to God. My wife and her friends still recall youth-group lectures regarding the necessity of modest clothing and the dangers inherent in enticing males by wearing “worldly and immodest” clothing. Such concern, even among Christians, seems ludicrous today. This all began to change in the 1970’s.


 Instead of acknowledging that the increase of consumerism was damaging the Body of Christ and alienating believers from each other and calling for a return to the Christian traditions of simplicity, self-denial and concern about sharing God’s love, the modern Evangelical church embraced consumerism in a whole-hearted manner.  Denominations and Pastors became obsessed with “Church growth,” employing behavioral science and consumerist marketing models to become “successful.” The work of the Holy Spirit has become eclipsed by materialistic schemes to “grow the faith,” largely by forming large and affluent “worship centers.” Most worship centers are in fact large theaters that employ the latest in electronic technology. Sunday services have become theatrical productions that have little to do with individual worship and piety.


Predictably, consumerist success led some Evangelical groups into a quest for power. Soon, Evangelical groups began to form alliances with political organizations. This brought increased power, recognition and prominence to these churches and denominations. It did not however, reduce the angst brought by our consumerist culture. In order to assuage the alienation felt by Christians and non-Christians alike in our consumerist society, Evangelical leaders began to focus attention upon sin.  Evidently, this has become a means of distracting the Body of Christ from the real cause of its alienation.  Note that this focus is not about sin in general, but on selected and very specific sins. So, for instance, little has been said about the misuse of power or the oppression of the poor, which are major themes in Scripture and major problems in our society.  Rather, Evangelicals have been fixated upon the sexual sins of homosexuality and abortion. To be sure, in terms of Scripture, these behaviors are sinful, but interestingly, they do not warrant the Biblical attention that other, more prevalent, sins do. Why then are Evangelicals fixated on these specific sins?


Part of the reason is that U.S. culture has had a very strong orientation towards individualism.  It is not surprising that Evangelical churches favor an individualist worldview. In doing so, it is easy to ignore that there are two types of sin in Scripture: i.e., corporate sin and individual sin. Certainly, “the sins of the nation” occupy a lot of God’s wrath in the Old Testament. This did not go away in the New Testament: God still holds nations accountable for their collective sin. Addressing sins such as oppression of the poor and powerless would force us to focus on collective sin. In the current consumerist church – political alignment atmosphere, this is inconvenient and evidently is not to be even a matter of consideration. 


Individual sin has less political - economic implications, so it is safer to condemn.  Interestingly, adultery, a major, individualistic sin in Scripture does not receive the magnitude of condemnation that the chosen “politically correct” sins do because it has become so commonplace.  In our recent presidential campaign a least one prospective candidate had adultery issues which were dismissed out of hand by Evangelical “leaders.”  Homosexuality and abortion are also sins which are products of modernity, which is also seen as more strongly embraced by a particular political party.  Accordingly, the opposing political party, in their alliance with the Evangelical churches has capitalized on utilizing legitimate Christian concern for political gain.  King Herod – the Roman puppet king of Israel – liked to cull out so called “lawbreakers” and “sinful people.”   He would be very familiar with this tactic and championed it as a means of keeping the troubled citizens of Israel happy. 


Our faith, which we are expected to contend for, that was entrusted to the saints (Jude 1:3), is now being converted into political statements and a series of “don’ts” and judgments.  This judgment of the Pharisees is gradually spreading like a malevolent fungus that is taking over the Evangelical church.  Instead of preaching the joy of God’s love and the wonders of His grace, we rail against very limited and specific sins. Small wonder younger people are no longer associating with Christianity. Condemnation is replacing love and as a consequence His church is becoming irrelevant clanging gongs and cymbals (cf., 1 Cor.13).   All we can say is” even so come quickly Lord Jesus” (Rev.22:20).    This article was written by Brendan Furnish










Saturday, October 5, 2013

Love Your Neighbor

Love Your Neighbor


“Love your neighbor,” the Bible tells us.  But this verse goes on to say: “Love your neighbor as yourself.  But if you bite and devour one another be careful that you are not consumed by one another.”  (Galatians 5:14-15)  Paul spoke these words to the church in Galatia.  Evidently the church in Galatia was squabbling and fighting. The members in the church were family in Christ and when one family member “bites and devours” another family member, he is destroying himself as well the verse is saying!  When we hurt the family we belong to we hurt ourselves as well!  And we hurt the heart of God who designed us to live in families.  We have a special duty to protect the unity of the family- both our spiritual and our physical family.     


When Jesus was on earth the Jews followed many hundreds of laws.  And no one could ever keep them all.  Once when Jesus was asked what the most important laws were, He answered that just two laws covered everything, making it simple.  And those two laws were: 1.) Love God with all your heart and 2.) Love your neighbor as yourself. 


It sounds easy but what if your neighbor is a bad person or does immoral acts!  Or she makes a lot of noise, throws wild parties and keeps you awake all night. Or he doesn’t believe the things that you hold dear and he votes for things that you think are very wrong.  Jesus is not saying to only love your neighbor if she is good enough to deserve your love.  Jesus simply says to love your neighbor!  Following Jesus was never meant to be easy!


God calls us to be peacemakers – peacemakers in today’s world where fighting and offensive disagreements seem to be going on all around us.  Joyce Meyers says that probably more damage is done by the spirit of offense than any other spirit.  It is the believer’s number one enemy.  And once an offense breaks out it can be like an infection – it can be contagious.  And we need to treat hateful arguments as we would an infection! Quarantine them –not pass their gossip on and keep them from spreading as much as possible.


Offensive anger is a peace stealer, a joy killer, a destroyer of community.  The upset it causes brings hatreds, bitterness, resentments, jealousies, loneliness, suicide, and many more human miseries.  Offensive anger destroys relationships and marriages.  It splits churches and communities.  At this moment in time the anger of a small group of congressmen has even shut down our United States government, causing untold misery.  So offensive anger even has the potential to destroy a great country! 


The stress from offensive anger also causes sickness.  Scripture says: “A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.”  (Proverbs 14:30)  God created us to live together in loving community but when we live “biting and devouring” one another, our health is sure to suffer along with everything else that is harmed.


We may even find offensive anger in our churches!  Sadly a friend of mine finally had to leave the church that she loved so much – the church she had belonged to all of her life.  The church that had been her loving family - it gradually began to change.  And the warm and loving environment began to cool.  The church members began preaching their hatred for the U.S. government right along with preaching about their love for Jesus Christ! 


Church members started arming themselves with military weapons to fight our government -the government they hated so much.  And year after year this hatred grew and grew.  This monster hatred continued growing along with the criticizing and the condemning and the judging!  Until the church group’s growing frenzy of hate – the never ending drum beat of hate –the blind and insane hate– turned reality into fantasy.  And finally the church member’s love for Jesus Christ was lost and gone and drowned out by their on going political hatreds and criticisms.


 And for my friend it all became too much.  She misses the way it used to be with her loving church family.  She is alone now and confused.  And now that she doesn’t have a church any longer, she is discouraged about her faith.  It makes me sick.  I wonder how many people have been turned away from Christ by this critical and divisive spirit.   


So how do we manage in a world where we find offensive anger everywhere?  The Word says, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone .”  (Romans `12:18)  And then the Bible also instructs us to: “Be angry and sin not.”  (Ephesians 4:26)  And the rest of that verse in Ephesians goes: “Do not let the sun go down in your anger.”  I think this verse is telling us that it is dangerous to hold onto our anger.  Get rid of it quickly- within the day.  Forgive and forget.  Let it go! Give it to God.  I have known people who hold onto their grudges year after year remembering each little offense and replaying each ugly word in their minds as if the argument had just happened.  This is terribly wrong. Our physical wounds heal over time and so should our emotional wounds!  God commands us to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. (Colossians 3:13)    


The scripture in Ephesians says: “Be angry and sin not.”  How do we obey these instructions in God’s Word?  We experience righteous anger when we see acts of cruelty or injustice performed.  And God is also angry when He sees these things.  But we are instructed to do what we can to correct injustice but not take our anger out on the other party.  Instead we are to give the ones who angered us to God who will take care of the them. Instead of fighting with the person who angers us we are to pray and give the situation to God.  Romans 12:19 tells us: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s anger, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge: I will repay.” says the Lord.”  We are to rest and let God take care of the situation.


Of course if the one who offended us commits a serious crime, we turn them over to the law.   But for non criminal offenses we are to turn the other cheek.  Over and over again in Scripture we are admonished not to sin in our anger.  It is so easy to sin when we are angry!  Scripture says: “And the servant of the Lord must not fight: but be gentle unto all people.”  (2 Tim. 2:24)  Our kindness will often keep offensive anger out.


Let’s remember that we are fighting a spiritual battle when fights and disputes come our way.  And we are to fight our spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. –  with a humble spirit and with the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God and the breastplate of righteousness which is Christ.  And with faith and peace and love. It’s a new way to fight. 


And we are to follow Jesus – especially stay close and follow Jesus when we are angry and having disagreements!  And when we follow Jesus, He warns us: “If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny (lose sight of himself and his own interests, ignore, disown, forget) himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it.  But whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”  (Mark 8:34-35)  It’s not easy to deny one’s self, to lose one’s life, or to take up one’s cross.  None of it is easy.  But no one said that it would be easy to follow Jesus!      .