Improve Your Serve!!

September 16, 2014

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant…”  Matthew 20: 25-26

The incident recorded in Matthew 20 (verses 20-28), precipitated by Mrs. Zebedee and her two sons, James and John, sets the stage for one the great teachings of Jesus Christ.  We can assume these two ‘sons of thunder’ (the nickname the Lord game them), who were partners with Simon Peter in the ‘Zebedee Seafood Corporation,’ were obviously the instigators of their mother’s request that they be seated on the right and the left of their Lord when He was crowned King.  When the other apostles griped about this, Jesus called them together.  In so many words, He told them the world plays the game of “Over-Under!” This is a world of credentials and status symbols that often say, “I am better than you,” or “I am over and above you.”

Acknowledging that the secular world is like that, Jesus tells them not to play the world’s little games.  To paraphrase, Jesus says, “this is not to happen among you. If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, you should join the ‘Order of the Towel’ – get a towel and basin, assume the position of a slave, and start washing feet.”   He uses Himself as an example when He says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:28)  Think of how He spent His last hours before He went to the cross, literally washing the feet of His disciples. There is no place in the church and body of Christ for the “Over-Under” philosophy of this world.

If you want to be great in the fellowship of Christ, you must improve your serve!

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook, p.86


One Day at a Time

September 9, 2014

Give us this day our daily bread…”  (Matthew 6:11)

The Lord is using the symbol of bread here to represent all our needs.  We are a veritable ‘Internet” of needs.  Our needs are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.  This first personal petition should not be limited to our need for food but for all the needs we have as creatures of God.

Observe that the concept ‘one day at a time’ is repeated twice in this petition of just seven words.  Alcoholics and drug addicts with years of sobriety tell me that when they took their first step, they could not even entertain the thought of being sober for more than one day.  This prayer of Jesus prescribes that we pray ‘this day’ and ‘daily’ when we present our creature needs to our Heavenly Father. This principle of one day at t time is a proven therapy that has made the difference between life and death for some of my closest friends who are celebrating many years of sobriety.  Observe how Jesus concludes His great teaching about values with the same emphasis later in Matthew 6:  “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.”  (Matthew 6:34, Living Bible)

We read in the book of Numbers that when God miraculously provided bread from Heaven (manna) in the wilderness, the Israelites were only permitted to collect enough manna for one day. That story, recorded in Numbers 11, is also applicable to the one-day-at-a-time principle Jesus prescribes in the prayer He taught.

When we apply the story of that great miracle to our daily devotions, we should make the application that we cannot hoard our experience of a word from God, or the blessings of a time in the presence of God.  We must have our souls and spirits nourished with heavenly manna every day, one day at a time.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


Prayer Partnering with God

July 1, 2014

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...”  Matthew 6:9-13)

The message of the Bible frequently sifts down to just two words: God first. From Genesis to Revelation, the bottom line interpretation and application of the commandments, character studies, allegories, parables, psalms, sermons, Gospels, Epistles and teachings of Jesus is simply “God first.”  The prayer Jesus taught us begins with that God-first emphasis when He instructs us to begin by asking God that His name, the essence of Who and what He is, might be honored and reverenced…

Prayer is not a matter of us persuading God to do our will. The very essence of prayer is an alignment between our wills and the will of God. Prayer is not a matter of us making God our partner and taking God into our plans.  Prayer is a matter of God making us His partners and taking us into His plans…

We are not to come into our prayer closets, or corporate worship, with a ‘shopping list’ and send God on errands for us.  When we pray, we should come into the presence of God with a blank sheet of paper and ask God to send us on errands for Him.  We should be like soldiers reporting for duty to their Commander in Chief.

Dick Woodward, A Prescription for Prayer

 

 


A Formula for Hearing

October 24, 2012

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”   (Luke 8:15)

This verse is taken from a very familiar parable of Jesus called “The Parable of the Sower, “ but I call it  – “Four Men in a pew, which one are you?”

Jesus is claiming that when the Word of God is taught, seventy-five percent of the time nothing happens.  The first man who hears is wearing a hard hat – the Word does not penetrate his mind.  When the word is not understood, nothing happens.

The second takes his Word on the rocks. The seed of the Word does not penetrate his heart, or his will.  If the Word of God does not penetrate the will, nothing happens.

The third man understands and fully intends to obey the Word but he loses the Word in the weeds of riches, pleasures and worries.  Again, nothing happens.

The fourth man understands, obeys and overcomes all the weeds above the soil and the rocks under the soil.  He perseveres through all this and produces a crop that is more than one hundred percent what was planted.

Jesus is giving us a formula for hearing when the Word of God is being taught or preached.  We must understand, obey and overcome all the obstacles that are trying to defeat us as we hear the Word of God.

Jesus is also challenging His disciples to realize that as they teach the Word of God unless they penetrate the understanding, the will, and the opposition of the evil one nothing happens.

He concluded this teaching with the challenge to be careful how we hear His Word and how others hear when we teach.