Why Not Get Divorced?

March 29, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: I know I’m a Christian, but I’m completely unhappy in this marriage. I don’t love my spouse anymore, and I don’t think my spouse really loves me. I’m miserable, and I deserve to be happy. I just want to get out and start over. Can you give me one good reason not to get divorced?

Answer: I can give several reasons, but I’ll give you three right off the top of my head.

1. God designed your marriage to be an illustration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important thing in the universe. If you take the gift of marriage which God gave you, and you choose to mar the illustration or to portray it inaccurately and misrepresent what it means by getting divorced, then you are telling the world that Jesus does not love His bride, the Church (Christians), with an everlasting, forgiving, unbreakable love. The reality is, in your own life, you have hurt Christ more than your spouse has hurt you, and Christ has been through far worse for you than anything you’ve had to endure in your marriage, yet He loves you eternally. You would be dishonoring the Savior Who died for you if you choose divorce. See Ephesians 5:22-32.

2. You will be breaking a solemn vow that you made before God. Unless you had some sort of whacky pagan wedding ceremony, you and your spouse promised each other that you would stay together until death, and the name of God was invoked. It is a dangerous and foolish thing to break a vow made before the holy God. See Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 and Numbers 30:2.

3. Your children. Children do not benefit from divorce. In most cases they either witness conflict or become a part of it, but, even in cases where the divorcing parents get along relatively well for the sake of the kids, it still sends a message that the two people they love most in the world did not love them enough to stay married, and it will affect them later on if not now.

There are many, many more reasons not to get divorced, including the fact that God hates it, and the choice to do it effectively places your happiness in a place of exaltation above God’s revealed will and the belief that He can overcome temporary unhappiness and misery with eternal joy when we patiently wait, obey, and trust Him.

Finally, I strongly recommend that you meet with someone for serious counseling who knows and understands what the Bible teaches about marriage before you go through with this. Once you announce your intention to be divorced or state that your marriage is making you miserable, you will attract a certain group of people that you love and trust, and who genuinely think they have your best interest at heart, and many if not most will encourage you to get divorced, and tell you that it’s not that bad. You owe it to yourself to speak with someone who will stand up for Christ and present His point of view to you, even if it’s not necessarily what you want to hear, or even if it comes from someone who doesn’t have as close a relationship with you as those who are telling you to go through with it.

The Woman at the Well Who Well Said

March 27, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Posted in John | 3 Comments
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If you’ve ever been a fan of old-school Western television shows or movies, you are probably familiar with the bigotry and prejudice that allegedly existed in the Old West against “half-breeds,” a pejorative term for the offspring of Anglo-Saxon people and Native Americans (who were known as “Indians,” but often pronounced as “Injuns” onscreen). These so-called half-breeds were often despised, shunned, or mistreated for no fault of their own. The half-breeds of Jesus’s day were called Samaritans. They were the descendants of the offspring of the settlers who came in to occupy the lands of the northern tribes of Israel after they were conquered by the Assyrians, and the Jewish people who remained there and intermarried with them. To say that the Jewish people in 1st Century Judea disliked them would be an understatement, but, of course, the love of Jesus transcended (and still does transcend today) the prejudices which exist between people of different ethnicities. Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman in John Chapter 4.

Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

John 4:16

Jesus turned the conversation in a direction that would lead to conviction. This is not usually difficult to do in evangelism although it can be uncomfortable. Jesus was not indicating that talking to women about spiritual matters was a waste of time. He was not misogynistic or chauvinistic. He knew that the request to meet her husband would lead her to a place of confession.

The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

John 4:17-18

The fact that she had five husbands probably meant that she had been divorced five times, although some of them may have died instead. Jesus apparently considered the second – fifth husbands to still be “husbands,” though, and the sixth man – merely a live-in sexual partner – was not a “husband.”

At this point in the conversation the woman did what many people to whom you are witnessing concerning the Gospel will want to do when the conversation gets too heated or personal for their liking: she changed the subject to religious worship preferences.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

John 4:19-20

Jesus responded using the same form of address that He used for Mary His mother at the wedding in Cana – a respectful but formal “Woman” – but He did not ignore her provocation.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

John 4:21-24

The Jewish religion was the correct and true revelation under the Old Covenant, but in Christ the importance of the earthly location of formal worship would be abolished. God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. He is not a “material” being, limited to meeting with His people only on one mountain at a time, or only in one building, one country, or one place.

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

John 4:25-26 (emphasis added)

The Samaritan name for their expected “Messiah” was the Taheb, and they believed that, when he appeared, he would function primarily as a teacher. Jesus often discouraged His identification as the Messiah when He was ministering among Jewish people because of the political and military baggage associated with it in their minds. However, among the Samaritans He allowed and encouraged the affirmation that He was the Savior prophesied, typified, and foreshadowed in the Pentateuch, and He even used a form of the “I AM” statements generally recognized as prevalent in the Gospel of John.

Going Mad vs. Getting Mad

March 25, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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For a long time, I had only three daughters. Partly for this reason, King Lear (the Shakespearean play about a king with three daughters) became my favorite play. There is a line near the end of Act 1 where Lear, an old man who is tired of ruling but is not truly prepared to let go of his power, fears that his mental faculties are starting to severely decline. “O, let me not be mad,” he cries out to Heaven.

One of the most difficult things to face in life is the possibility of losing touch with reality. It can make even the strongest, most faithful men tremble with fear or lash out in frustration. The prophet Jeremiah was not advanced in years like the fictional Lear, but, in Chapter 15, we find him similarly ranting and raving and wondering if he was losing touch with reality. In Verse 10 he wants to know why people are cursing him out as though he were a nagging debt collector or a borrower who had ripped off his lenders.

From the previous 14 chapters we can see that the people were angry with Jeremiah because he spoke God’s truth and exposed their sin. Have you ever found yourself confused about your surroundings or the responses of the people you encounter? Have you ever wondered why your family or acquaintances were so put out with you for daring to obey God in their presence? None of us can completely control our mental faculties when we are stressed, but with God’s help we can always rely on Him to stand for us and with us if we have committed to proclaim His Word.

A Recipe for Importunate Prayer

March 22, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 3 Comments
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Prayer is an expression of faith. A lack of prayer – by which I mean private prayer time, praying when there is no one else around – shows a lack of faith. I once heard a preacher say that we need to pray in two different ways: with our with our boots on and with our boots off. “Boots-on” prayer is when we pray through our prayer lists. This is the hard work of prayer. “Boots-off” prayer is our worship of God in prayer, and it should not feel like hard work. It should be joyous. In the event that you find all of your time spent praying to be difficult or awkward, this is not, however, an excuse to stop doing it. Prayer is like most spiritual disciplines. Often our “have to” comes first, but if we are PERSISTENT, our “want to” will catch up to our “have to.”

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:2-4

Our preparation for prayer should include seeing needs, noting them down, reading the Bible, sticking our noses into the spiritual walk and lives of our friends, listening to people when they talk so we can pray about their desires, fears, and needs. Even the first part of our prayer ought to be preparation for the rest of our prayer, getting God-centered and God-focused, seeking to make our will conformed to God’s will, so that we can ask God for what He wants us to have with confidence and passion.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

Luke 11:5-8

Vance Havner used to jokingly remark how accurate this parable was in portraying unexpected company always seeming to show up at your house at the most miserable times. Notice the studied ambiguity whereby it’s unclear precisely whose “importunity” is being highlighted. It works either way. If it’s the borrower’s importunity, then it’s his “need” that is the cause of the friend rising at midnight. If it’s the lender’s importunity, then it’s his fear of shame in refusing the plea of his friend. We might define “importunity” as embarrassing insistence. Think of it like this: take need + urgency + persistence + shame and stir them all up in a pot and you’ll get “importunity.”

Let’s say the person who needs the bread at midnight is us. There is something we want, and we believe it is very, very important and that it is in God’s will, or maybe we want to know whether it IS in God’s will. The idea that we would pound on our neighbor’s door at midnight shows how crucial it is.

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Luke 11:9

The words translated as “ask” and “knock” have a connotation of persistent asking and knocking, so if even a grumpy sleepy person will respond to your “importunity” – your obvious need – when you stay after him long enough, how much MORE will your Heavenly Father respond to you, His child, when you are persistent?

This is NOT teaching that God is reluctant to help us, but if we bug Him enough, He will finally cave. It’s showing that persistence helps us to be more DEVOTED to Him.

Now let’s say that “importunity” Luke 11:8 refers to the feeling of the lender – the person whose door is taking a pounding at midnight – and he starts to feel embarrassed, perhaps a type of second-hand embarrassment for the person who considers him to be his friend, but also because of his own reluctance to help out, and what what a refusal to help would say about him.

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11:10

This is NOT teaching that we need to chide God, and say, “Lord, I can’t believe you won’t even make it so that I can pay my house note this month. I mean, COME ON, Lord, I really serve You, You know? After all I’ve done for You…” hoping that “God’s face will get kind of red and He will say, “I know, you’re right, what was I thinking..? Here you go – hey, psst, don’t tell anyone that I’m slow to answer prayers, all right? I have enough trouble getting people to come to Sunday School as it is!” That’s NOT the meaning of this passage.

However, we know from Scripture that God is zealous about His Name, and He is in the business of getting glory for Himself, and that one of the ways He does that is by answering prayer, so it is right and good – not as a manipulation tactic, but as a way of calling upon the promises of God – to speak to Him about His Own glory. Moses and other Old Testament patriarchs did this. “Lord, You’ve delivered us from Egypt when we had no hope, and You promised to bring us into the promised land, and it’s totally our fault – we’ve broken the Covenant, not You – but, Lord, You know what the heathen are gonna say. They’re gonna say You weren’t powerful enough to fully deliver, or You weren’t big enough to keep Your Word. Lord, don’t let us be the cause of Your glory seeming to be diminished.”

When we honestly pray for God to glorify Himself in answering our sincere petitions, God has authorized and encouraged us to be persistent about that.

The Days Will Come

March 19, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
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Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.

Jeremiah 30:2

Jeremiah Chapters 27-29 appear to be grouped together under the theme of Jeremiah’s battle against the false prophets. Chapters 30-33 seem to be grouped together as promises of restoration. They are yet another turning point in the Book of Jeremiah, and are in stark contrast to the vast majority of what comes before. They are intended to give comfort, encouragement, and hope to the future generations after the purging and refining which would take place in the years of the exile and captivity. The purpose of having Jeremiah record these in a “book” (a scroll that held official records or a document containing important information) written by Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, was so that God’s Words could be preserved and read years later by people who would look back and see God’s prophecies and the fulfillment of His promises.

For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.

Jeremiah 30:3

“The days will come” indicates that this was a promise for both Israel and Judah, and, though it is not a circumstantially identical promise for Christians today, it is certainly a “principle-promise” that we can claim. “Days will come,” whatever you are going through today, if you are a Christian, that will “come to pass,” because they did not “come to stay.” If you ever find yourself “trapped,” “stalled,” “stuck,” remember that God is the Deliverer. Your “captivity” may consist of “days,” but new days WILL come – and those days are in God’s hand, and He will bring a blessed change when the time is right. We must “wait upon the Lord” in both senses of the word “wait:” look to Him patiently and expectantly AND serve Him while we wait.

Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:

Jeremiah 30:6-8

There is some strange imagery here, but the reference to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and to a future heir of David reigning as king in Verse 9 lets us know that this prophecy is going beyond even the return of the exiles after 70 years, all the way to the time of the appearance of the Messiah.

There will be men acting like pregnant women in labor, clutching their groins in pain, white-faced, but Verse 7 says “he SHALL be saved out of it” (emphasis added). God will break the yoke and break the chains, and the only one they will be serving is God Himself, which is what they (and we) were created to do.

Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:16-17

Israel and Judah, which had been punished severely by their enemies, would see God punish those who had punished them. Note the poetic justice: the devourers would be devoured; the spoilers would be spoiled; the predators would be preyed upon. This is often God’s way. It’s not “karma” – some impersonal cosmic balancing scale. No, it’s personal – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, with what measure you mete, it shall be meted unto you. What you sow, that’s what you’ll reap. Be careful how you treat others.

God is zealous for His own name. The nations called Judah and Israel “Outcasts.” They had been “cast out” by their God, but God will not allow His name to be mocked forever. As Christians we ought to be accustomed to the role of outcasts in society, but we need to remember that we are accepted by God in Christ.

Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

Jeremiah 30:18

There are so many great promises and images of restoration in Jeremiah Chapter 30. Not only would the people be restored to safe homes, but in many cases their restored homes would be rebuilt right the “heap” of the wreckage of the old ones. The new houses would be better houses, higher houses. If you’ve got some wreckage in your past, you probably never want to see it again, but don’t discount the possibility that God may give you a victory right on top of it, and that He might even use that wreckage as part of the foundation of your future blessings or future ministry.

In Whose Name Do You Pray?

March 13, 2019 at 11:12 am | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: When I pray I usually end my prayer by saying something like, “in Jesus’s name,” but other people say, “In ‘Your’ name we pray.” Which one is right?

Answer: I’m not sure there’s a “right” or “wrong” to this one. I think it may depend on to Whom you are praying. Jesus, in His model prayer, taught us to pray to God the Father directly (Matthew 6:9). Of course, we only have access to the Father through the Son, Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit. However, you can also speak directly to Jesus in prayer. If you are praying privately, then you do not need to be concerned about formalities, but, on those occasions in which you may be called on to pray publicly, in my opinion it’s best to clarify which member(s) of the Trinity (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) to Whom you are praying, and to pray in the name of Jesus (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17), rather than just ending in an ambiguous, “in ‘Your’ name.” I wouldn’t be dogmatic on it, though. Certainly there is room for disagreement.

Prayer for Preparation, Provision, and Perfection

March 11, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:4 (emphasis added)

Previous definitions of prayer in these lessons included: talking to God; coming into God’s presence in order to submit to His will; and asking for God’s help. Now we can add that prayer is a restoration of fellowship with God.

Almost every time – if not every single time – you pray, you have sinned. When we pray, it is important to “confess” our sins – to get in agreement (I John 1:9) with God about our sin. Sin does not dissolve your RELATIONSHIP with God if you are a Christian, but it can hinder your FELLOWSHIP. “Forgive us our sins” is simple, but this does not mean that’s all we need to say. It means that there should be a simplicity about our admission that we were wrong and God is right. Elaborate prayers for forgiveness can easily turn into excuses, and, as Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe would sometimes write, an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:4 (emphasis added)

Let’s add another definition of prayer: Prayer is a ministry planning session with God. Not only is it somewhat hypocritical to expect forgiveness from God while refusing to forgive others, but one of the first steps in effective Christian ministry is taking an inventory of our own hearts. Bitterness in our hearts will grow into a trap that defiles us and those we are trying to help. In prayer we deal with the stuff that only God knows about us. That is a great freedom and a great privilege.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:4 (emphasis added)

Prayer is a key to sanctification. Look at Jesus’s instruction. He did not say to ask God to lead us away from SIN, but to lead us away even from TEMPTATION. The request for deliverance from evil has a connotation of being delivered from “the evil one,” referring to Satan. Evil is not a personal entity, but Satan is. This is not a prayer for deliverance from his claim on your soul. It is a prayer for deliverance from his influence.

It is very gracious for God to allow us a part in our own sanctification, and to ordain prayer as one of the means for us to do that. It is much more difficult to sin, or to contemplate in a speculative way the things that tempt us, while we are in direct contact with our Covenant Partner.

Prayer helps us in our preparation, with our provision, and on our way to perfection in Christ.

Jesus Saves the (Wedding) Day

March 7, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Posted in John | 4 Comments
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And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

John 2:1

“The third day” is probably referring to the third day after the call of Nathanael (John 1:45-51). Jesus performed the first miracle (sign) of His earthly ministry at a wedding in Cana – a wedding to which He had been INVITED. Jesus (not the pastor or officiant, not the groom, not even the bride!) should be the guest of honor at every wedding. During the wedding celebration, when the wine ran dry, threatening to put a damper on the festivities, and further threatening to embarrass the groom and his family who were charged in Jewish culture with having enough provisions to supply the invited guests for a week, Mary, who would have been a close friend of the family or families, came to Jesus with the problem.

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

John 2:4

Jesus’s response was a balance between filial respect and a declaration of His own authority – almost as if He knew that one day people would sinfully want to call Mary a redemptrix or mediatrix between human beings and God, or as if they would erroneously claim that she belonged in a similar category of deserved adoration, veneration, or even worship (idolatry/Mariolatry) as Jesus Himself.

Actually, Mary’s response to Jesus’s response is a good example of what everyone’s response should be: Whatever Jesus says to do, do it.

His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

John 2:5

Mary pointed to Jesus, not herself, and He solved the problem, not Mary.

And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

John 2:6

The Greek term translated as “firkin” referred to a container that held about 11-30 gallons, depending upon which commentator you favor. In English “firkin” originally meant a “fourth,” as in a fourth of a barrel (however helpful that may be without knowing the size of the barrel). The point is, though, that they were large containers, and Jesus had people fill them with water, and then miraculously turned the water into wine. There is an interesting contrast here when we remember that Moses turned water into blood (a sign of judgment), whereas Jesus turned it into wine (a symbol of blessings and joy).

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

John 2:11

The phrase “beginning of miracles” indicates that the tales of Jesus supposedly performing miracles in His childhood are myths. The word for “miracles” in the Greek is semeion, meaning that they were miracles performed for a purpose. They were acts of supernatural power done to point to eternal truths so that people “might believe.” “Signs” point to something greater, something more “sign”ificant.

Don’t be Duped or Deceived by the Diviners and Dreamers

March 5, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 4 Comments
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By Jeremiah 29 the captives have become settled in Babylon. The time frame is roughly 597 B.C. There were still some people in Jerusalem, including Jeremiah himself, but there were false prophets in both places, so Jeremiah sent a letter to the people in Babylon.

Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;

Jeremiah 29:1

There was no problem sending mail, even though this occurred during a time of unrest in Babylon’s rule. The Jewish people in Babylon were “captives,” but were still being allowed to live their own lives. They were supposed to be loyal to Nebuchadnezzar, but they could meet together and worship Yahweh if they wanted. They were allowed to keep some (probably most) of their earnings. “Exiles” would be almost as accurate a description of them as “captives” would.

Jeremiah’s instructions to them are sometimes characterized as “advice,” although “prophetic command” would be more correct.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

Jeremiah 29:4-7

He told them: Settle in, build houses. If you’re married, have another kid. If your kids are old enough, arrange a marriage – tell ’em to give you some grandkids.

It did not sound like this captivity/exile was going to be a short-term thing. Conspicuously absent from God’s instruction through Jeremiah were any exhortations to, “Resist the power! Start a rebellion! Go underground! Try to escape! Be lazy in your government job! Stay mobile!” No, this was a situation more like the ancient Israelites during the Egyptian years than during the Passover.

God did not even command them to pray for the fall of Nebuchadnezzar or their own release. He told them to pray for Babylon and for peace. He told them to support the nation where they lived. Today, we here in America live in an ungodly society. Pretty soon America may be considered a non-Christian nation (if it is not already, or if it ever was), but I hope that you are not hoping for anarchy. I hope you are praying for peace and stability in our government and in our land, so that it is safe for our children, and safe for us to preach the Gospel. I hope you are trusting God to make you a “good citizen,” even though we, as Christians, are aliens in this world with our real home in Heaven.

For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.

Jeremiah 29:8

Jeremiah warned the people not to be duped by the “double Ds:” diviners and dreamers. They were trying to deceive the people by telling them not to put down roots, and by telling them they were not going to be there for long.

For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:9

God knew the false prophets were lying. He did not give them their messages, nor speak to them at all.

For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:10-11

When you read through the Book of Jeremiah, and you get to this point, it seems odd that he would, after all of his prophecies of doom, gloom, judgment, and rebuke, be proclaiming a word of hope and a promise of restoration, but he was only doing so because it was true. Look at how God’s promises are purely unmerited grace, and are not tied to anything inherently good in the recipients of that grace: “I will visit you… I will perform MY good word… I will CAUSE [not allow or permit] you to return… I know the thoughts that I think TOWARD you… to give you an EXPECTED end…”

Their outcome was expected by God because He already knows the end from the beginning. Now it should have been expected by them, too. Their future was God’s future, because He had promised it.

Jeremiah 29:11 is an important verse, and it is encouraging, and it should be cherished, but do not wrench it out of its context and slap it on a coffee mug without properly understanding it. It was originally intended as an encouragement for the captives in late 5th Century Babylon. It does have a PRINCIPLE we can apply to us today. God HAS promised, accomplished, and is working out, the ultimate salvation of those who are in Christ Jesus by HIS grace and power. It is true that the thoughts He thinks toward us are superlatively amazing – because of the blood of Christ – but this is not a promise about somebody’s heart surgery, or new job, or real estate investment, or that perfect memory-making trip to your favorite vacation destination. It is not even, strictly speaking, a promise that your family member or loved one will be saved. These are God’s thoughts. He knows them and they are GOOD, but we do not know all His thoughts. We only know the ones He has revealed.

A Prayer Meeting for Need-Meeting

March 1, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Posted in Luke | 3 Comments
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And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

Luke 11:2 (emphasis added)

When we pray we can ask for God’s will to be done IN OUR LIVES and IN THE WORLD. These desires can be prayed separately or they can be combined. Jesus taught His disciples to pray for them in reference to “Thy Kingdom come,” so we recognize that we want to see God’s Kingdom advanced in this world, and that that it would be pointless – as a citizen of that Kingdom – to see ourselves “advanced” outside of it. Imagine a missionary going to China and praying for his own position to be improved to the exclusion of the people he came to reach for Christ’s Kingdom. That would obviously be wrong.

We can pray for our children, but not just for their health and their grades and their careers and their future spouses. Instead, we pray that those things will be working together to advance God’s Kingdom in this world. We can pray for our own health and our spouses and our jobs and our finances and our church and our influence and prosperity, but not so that we can be more comfortable. Instead, we pray that those things will be working together so that God’s Kingdom can be advanced in this world through us: “as in Heaven, so in earth.”

How is God’s will done in Heaven? With immediate obedience. With unquestioning loyalty. With fear and trembling. With exultant joy. With complete assurance. And with an eye toward future fulfillment. We look forward to the “sweet by and by,” but one of the things that’s going to make the by and by so sweet is that it’s going to come OUT OF the nasty now and now.

Simple definitions of prayer include: talking to God; coming into God’s presence in order to submit to His will; and asking for God’s help.

Give us day by day our daily bread.

Luke 11:3

From where did you get the food you ate this week? From the store? Indirectly, from your checking account? From your paycheck? From your job? From your employer? From your education and skills and experience? From your background/family? You could, in some sense, attribute your daily bread to all these sources, but Who was ruling over all these things and working them together just so you could eat and not die? God was, but was He obligated to do this? Is He obligated to keep doing it or to do it tomorrow? Jesus taught the disciples to pray as though they needed God every day, because He has not only ordained the situations and things we need to survive, but He has ordained prayer as the means by which we get those things. “Daily bread” may be seen as a synecdoche for all our daily “needs,” including our clothing, health, shelter, and other provisions.

It is important to remember, though, that Luke 11:2 is not an instruction to butter God up for Luke 11:3: “God, You are really awesome – and You are really nice – and You could really kick our butts if You wanted to – but we KNOW that Your name needs to be hallowed, and we’re really more concerned about your will than ours… NOW GIVE US WHAT WE WANT! OR AT LEAST WHAT WE NEED! No, the model prayer given by Jesus to His disciples is designed to be a truly God-centered prayer, not a man-centered prayer. “Lord, give us our daily bread, because if You do not give it to us, we recognize that we could not get it anywhere else.” The prayer calls it “DAILY” bread, not a year’s supply of bread in advance. “We trust You for today, and we now that You hold tomorrow in Your hands. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. You know what we ‘need’ better than we know what we need. Give us ‘day by day,’ don’t give us too much – keep us VERY close to You, Lord.”


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