May 23, 2013
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)
When the disciple’s asked Jesus this request they were not just asking Him the ‘how to’ of prayer. They were amazed at the large amounts of time Jesus prioritized for prayer. They were asking something like ‘teach us what you know about prayer that we obviously do not know that causes You to spend so very much time in prayer.’
STEP NUMBER THREE: Spend much time in prayer.
When you must know the will of another human being, what is the first step you take? Our first thought is usually that we must meet with that person and have a conversation with them. When a man is in love and decides he wants to marry a woman, his first thought is that he must meet with her and have a conversation with her.
When we seek to know the will of God, our first thought should be that we must meet with God and have a conversation with Him. Prayer is a conversation with God. If you do not know how to pray, think of prayer as simply meeting with and having a personal conversation with God.
Jesus responded to the apostles with a prayer that was not as much a prayer as it was an instruction about how to pray. When you are alone, use that prayer as an outline for your conversation with God. You will find yourself applying the second and third steps I have shared with you for knowing the will of God when Jesus instructs you to pray:
“Your kingdom come; Your will be done.”
May 14, 2013
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16)
We can be a philosopher and love truth. We can be a sincere seeker after truth and never find the truth we seek. According to Jesus when we come to know the truth by relationship, He himself will make us free (John 8: 30-36).
Jesus said in a prayer to His Father: “Thy Word is truth.” (John 17: 17) This means we should read the Bible as a lover and seeker of truth. Jesus made the claim that His teaching is the truth of God (John 7: 17). He even told us how we can prove that claim. The doing leads to the knowing. If we will personally do what He teaches we will know that His teaching cannot be the teaching of a man. It has to be the teaching of God.
There are times when we can devastate people with the truth. There are also times when the truth can cut through the denial of people and set them free from problems that are isolating them from reality and destroying them. It is then that we must speak the truth in love and ask if we have become their enemy for doing so.
When we are facing those kinds of challenges we must pray that: “God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves” (2 Timothy 2: 25). To repent means to think again and have a change of mind will and direction.
May your search for truth not only end but begin with the One who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
April 23, 2013
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 1-5)
According to Jesus relationships are a two way street. If you look at others under a microscope they will put you under a microscope and you will not like that. If you look at others through a telescope they will look at you through a telescope and you will be far more comfortable with that arrangement.
When you give to people whatever standard of measurement you use they will use when they give to you. It is your call. Will you give with a thimble or by the truckload?
This passage shows that Jesus had a sense of humor. Imagine a person with a one by six plank sticking out of their eye while they believe they are called to find specks of sawdust in the eyes of others.
Since this passage begins with the two words judge not many believe we’re never to judge others. Consider this passage carefully and you will understand it is not teaching that at all.
This teaching of Jesus is telling us to judge. It is telling us to judge ourselves first and as we relate to others decide if it is going to be a microscope or a telescope?
April 19, 2013
“But woe to him who is alone when he falls.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
Have you observed how much Jesus valued community? He taught: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV) He also gave a great teaching regarding prayer community: “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.” (Matthew 18:19, The Message)
When He made that observation about being present when two or three gather in His name he was not giving us a consolation for a poor attendance at a meeting. He was being descriptive and prescriptive about the reality that His risen presence is among us in a special way when just two or three of us come together in His name.
The man who was thought to be the wisest man on earth in his day also wrote about the value of community. Before he wrote the words quoted above he told us that two are better than one for when one falls the other will help him up and “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” This could mean that when two or three are in community the presence of God among them forms that threefold cord that cannot be quickly broken.
Are you in community? If you are not then follow the teaching of our Lord and the wise counsel of Solomon and seek the spiritual community you need. I’m not telling you to go to church. I am writing about that special relationship with two or three people where you have accountability and deep sharing of life and faith. If you cannot find one, start one. It only takes you and one other person.
April 14, 2013
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT)
When Alcoholics Anonymous started it was called “The Saint James Fellowship” because it was founded on this verse. The founders later changed the name to include people of all faiths and those with no faith. While millions of secular people apply the truths of this Scripture and experience healing, it is a shame that many believers never make these healing applications.
When you meet with another believer do you keep your sins in the closet? Do you give the impression that you don’t have a problem in the world? Do they do the same? That does not burden you to pray for each other. But if you trust them and share some of your sins with them they would be burdened to pray for you. They would also more than likely have what I call “reality contact” with you by sharing their sins and that would burden you to pray for them. The result of these mutual prayers would be mutual healing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote extensively about spiritual community, put it this way: “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So they remain alone with their sins, living in lies and hypocrisy… He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”
A paraphrase of James 5:16 is that honest prayers explode with power! It is a strategy of the evil one to isolate us into self imposed solitary confinement. Never let him isolate you into being a closet sinner; instead, find healing in confessing your sins and praying for one another.
March 24, 2013
“I would have despaired, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
The Apostle Paul concludes his great love chapter by profiling three eternal values: faith, hope and love. We know that love is an eternal value because God is love. We can also understand why faith is one of the three eternal values because faith brings us to God. But why is hope one of the three great eternal values?
God plants hope, or the conviction that something good exists in this world, in the heart of every human being. When you get into the lives of many people and understand their battles and challenges you cannot help but wonder how they could believe there is something good in this life.
When I was in college my dormitory was located at the end of Hope Street in Los Angeles adjacent to the Los Angeles Public Library. The same day I learned in a course that more than 25,000 people committed suicide in 1952 because they lost hope, a man committed suicide by jumping from the top of my dormitory.
The newspaper reporter who recorded the story was more eloquent than he knew when he wrote: “An unidentified man jumped to his death today from a tall building at the end of Hope Street.”
David knew that he would despair if he ever lost that conviction God put in his heart the Bible labels hope. Hope is an eternal value because it is meant to lead us to faith, and faith is to lead us to God.
Let your hope bring you to faith and your faith to God. And remember that people around you are despairing without that hope you have.
February 26, 2013
“And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work…For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 1:6; 2:13, NLT)
When Jesus met two of the apostles for the first time He asked them the question: “What do you want?” They were disciples of John the Baptist and John had instructed them to follow Jesus. They were following behind Jesus as He walked down a road. Jesus turned and asked them this question when He saw them.
Following Jesus can have a dynamic impact upon the way we answer that question. We often have a flawed “want to” when we meet Jesus. But as we follow Him He heals those flaws in the desires of our hearts. I remember a college student who met Jesus and was following Him for some time. As she expressed her excitement about the changes in her life she exclaimed, “I wonder where my want to went to!”
As we follow Jesus we discover that when He shows us what we should want we need more than just knowing what we should want. We need the power to do what we should want to do. As a pastor over many decades, I have been intrigued by the importance of this question. Why do some people earnestly desire to do the will of God while many others are apathetic?
According to Paul, it is God who gives us the unflawed “want to” and the dynamic power to obey Him and do what pleases Him. Would you like to follow Jesus and wonder where your “want to” went to? Begin every day by letting Jesus ask you, “What do you want?”
January 22, 2013
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you… for your fellowship in the gospel…” (Philippians 1: 3, 5)
As Paul begins this letter he uses a beautiful word when he writes: “… your fellowship in the gospel.” The basic meaning of the word is partnership, but Sam Shoemaker paraphrased it as: “two fellows in the same ship.”
I met with a man who was on the threshold of coming to faith. He had many, many problems. So, I said to him, “There is a word you’re going to be learning soon: “fellowship.” It means “two fellows in the same ship.” I want you to know, Charlie, I am in the ship with you!” As he took a long drag on his cigarette, with tears in his eyes he blew smoke in my face and said, “Well row, *bleep* it!”
Charlie was saying to me that he did not fully understand this new word but he wanted to know what difference it was going to make. Was I just going to take up room, or rock the boat or was I going to grab an oar and row?
I often said to others what I said to Charlie. But Charlie added to my paraphrase of this word. After Charlie, when I said those words I found myself asking, “What would it look like if I got in this person’s ship with them and rowed?”
When Jesus got in Peter’s little ship He surely made a difference. He filled Peter’s ship and his partner’s ship with fish (Luke 5: 1-11).
What difference does it make to others when you get in their ship with them? Think of the difference it could make because you are bringing Christ with you into their ship.
January 9, 2013
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
The greatest obstacle to inner healing is un-forgiveness. Those who work in ministries of healing claim that the lack of forgiveness on the part of a victim that has been terribly violated can retard their own inner healing.
Can you see why Jesus instructed His disciples to pray every day: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?” The original language has it, “As we have already forgiven our debtors.” Do you think Jesus knew how important it is to our inner healing that we should forgive those who sin against us?
Some are bothered by the way Jesus offers commentary on this petition in the disciple’s Prayer. He commented that if we do not forgive we are not forgiven. It almost sounds as if we are forgiven because we forgive. He defuses their confusion with a parable that is recorded in Chapter Eighteen of Matthew. A man is forgiven a very large debt in the millions of dollars. He does not have to go into debtor’s prison and see his wife and family sold into slavery.
But on the way home he meets a man who owes him twenty dollars. He grabs him by the throat and orders him to pay him every cent or he will have him put into debtor’s prison. Both events are observed and told to the one who forgave him the large debt. He is recalled and his forgiveness is revoked. Jesus comments on that story, that if we from our hearts do not forgive, we are not forgiven.
The point is that if we are a forgiven person we will be a forgiving person. If we are not a forgiving person we are not really a forgiven person.