How to Defeat Anxiety

August 21, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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Fear is related to anxiety, and specifically the worrying that goes hand in hand with anxiety. Contentment is the remedy for anxiety. Here are some methods for defeating anxiety:

1. Recognize that God knows your circumstances.

And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Luke 12:22-28

2. Love God and love people.

And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Luke 12:29-34

Love people and not things. Use things, but do not love things. If you love people, you will use things. If you love things, you will use people.

3. Shift your worry to watchfulness.

And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Luke 12:39-40

It’s easier to be busy and productive when we believe there is a limited time to work.

4. Apply the Bible to what you see around you.

Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?

Luke 12:56

Measure every experience and circumstance against God’s Word. Do not “let go and let God.” Hold fast to what you believe and wrestle (respectfully) with God.

Luke 13 deals with theodicy. Theodicy refers to the problem of evil. Evil is in the world because of sin, but God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. He knows about all evil. Wherever suffering is taking place, He is there. He has the power to stop suffering. He is always good. So, here’s how theodicy is usually worded: If God is all good, why is there suffering in the world? There is suffering in the world because people are sinful, but if God is all good AND all powerful, why doesn’t He stop the suffering? The mistake here is that the wrong question is being asked. The question is not, if God is all good and all powerful, why is there suffering? The question is, why does a good God Who is all powerful allow anything good to happen to anyone at all?

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

Luke 13:1

Maybe some secret Roman agents had done this, or maybe it was just a sneak attack slaughter – an unprovoked terrorist attack, an incident of sheer evil.

And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 13:2-3

The question was not why God allowed the Romans to massacre the Gallileans; it was why hasn’t He allowed them to massacre you?

Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 13:4-5

When something evil happens, God allows it in part to remind people of the urgency of the need for repentancerepentancerepentance.

Misplaced Fear

July 29, 2019 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Luke 12:1

Popularity can be as dangerous as ostracism. As Christians, we must beware of becoming people-pleasers.

For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

Luke 12:2-4

The likelihood of death is not ususally the motivation for freedom from fear, but Jesus recognized that fear of God is the beginning of true wisdom.

But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Luke 12:5

Having dealt with the hypocrites, Jesus warned His disciples not to become hypocrites themselves. Hypocrisy is caused by fear of man.

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

Proverbs 29:25

Fear of God causes honesty.

And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

Luke 12:10

The Jewish religious leaders had blasphemed the Father when they rejectd the witness of His prophet, John the Baptist. They had blasphemed the Son (Jesus). After Jesus’s Ascension they would blaspheme the Holy Spirit as they stoned Stephen.

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast [him] out of the city, and stoned [him]: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Acts 7:52-59

And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Luke 12:15

Having warned the disciples about misplaced fear causing hypocrisy, Jesus went on to warn them that such fear also causes covetousness.

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

Luke 12:16

When Jesus speaks about a “rich man” we would not be wise to limit our thinking to those who live in mansions and ride in limousines. If we have indoor plumbing and an actual bed, or if we find ourselves having a tough time trusting God when we only have 3G reception, rather that 4G, on our phones, then the description of “rich man” covers you and me.

And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

Luke 12:17-18

Have you noticed a proliferation of rented storage units in your neighborhood lately?

And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

Luke 12:19

This is a dangersous way of preaching to your own soul: “Soul, you don’t have to be afraid any more. Even if God doesn’t provide, we’ve provided for ourselves.”

But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Luke 12:20-21

Recognizing that people all over the world – and people living right next to us! – need to hear the Gospel, we must remember that there will be a day of accounting (which may arrive much sooner than we think) when we will face God to answer for how we’ve invested the earthly and material blessings and treasures He’s entrusted to our care. Instead of being “rich toward the world,” be “rich toward God.” Be grateful and be anxious to share.

Doubling Down on the Hypocrites

July 15, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Luke | 3 Comments
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No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.

Luke 11:33

Jesus is the Light for Christians. He is the only thing that illuminates spiritual darkness. If you are going to have an impact for the Kingdom, you are going to have to bring out Jesus and shine Him into blinded minds.

The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.

Luke 11:34

The person with double vision – speaking from experience – does not see twice as much. If your eye be “double” then your “light” becomes darkness. Double-sightedness = spiritual blindness. Double-mindedness = instability.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 1:8

Double-heartedness = idolatry.

Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

Psalm 86:11

Here are some Biblical examples of people with “double vision” who wound up in the dark:

Samson – his name meant “Son of the Sun,” but he liked to look at things he shouldn’t look at and had divided affections between the Lord and his own lusts, and he wound up blind, pushing a mill stone.

Lot – he was double-minded. He believed in God but wanted to live in the world. He ended up in a cave, in the dark, drunk, committing incest with his daughters.

Saul – he had a divided heart. He wanted to be the king but did not want God to be the King over him. He wound up in spiritual darkness, committing suicide on the battlefield.

And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.

Luke 11:37

Jesus would spend time with sinners, and and He was often harsh and condemning toward the religious leaders (Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers) because they would criticize Him and say, “Why are you hanging out with sinners? It makes you seem like a sinner, too.” This would be like asking a doctor why he’s always so sick since he’s always hanging out at hospitals, but we need to remember that Jesus loved the Pharisees and the religious hypocrites, too, and He did spend time with them also. He loves sinners, including “religious” sinners, but He does not brook their hypocrisy.

And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.

Luke 11:38

We do not know if this was a conscious action on the part of Jesus, designed to provoke a reaction, but it did cause a reaction for sure. Jesus responded with some very harsh rebukes.

And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?

Luke 11:39-40

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:21-22

How could Jesus call someone a fool and not sin, when, for us, such name-calling is tantamount to breaking the Sixth Commandment? The reason is that when when we get mad enough to call somebody a fool, or a jerk, or an idiot, we are committing the sin of unrighteous anger usually, and and hypocrisy always, but when Jesus did so in this instance He was pronouncing prophetic “woes,” or curses, in keeping with His Divine calling. And He was not done with the name-calling either:

But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Luke 11:42

They tithed out of even their spice racks, but they didn’t truly love God or His people, and they judged with their own judgments while ignoring God’s judgments.

Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

Luke 11:43

They paid for the best seats, and they wanted to be noticed and seen, because they were seeking worship for themselves insted of for God.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

Luke 11:44

The scribes were included in this third woe, which was especially insulting because they would go to great lengths to mark out graves and keep away from the defilement of dead bodies.

Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.

Luke 11:45

One of the lawyers who heard these woes suddenly became passively-aggressively “offended,” and, in doing so, bit off more than he could chew:

And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.

Luke 11:46

Jesus accused them of wanting to tell everyone else how to live, but not wanting to make it easier for anyone else to live right.

Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.

Luke 11:47

They were trying to rewrite history so that they could repeat it with impunity.

Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

Luke 11:48-52

They were fake teachers, adding to burdens instead of easing burdens. The scribes and Pharisees responded with anger.

And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.

Luke 11:53-54

They tried to “catch” the Words coming out of His mouth. They went hunting with traps.

 

And Sometimes Y

June 10, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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In elementary English, children learn that the vowels are A, E, I, O, U… “and sometimes Y.” In a previous lesson I looked at the “vowels of hell.” In addition to the devil’s “kingdom” being a.ctual, e.nergetic, i.ntelligent, o.rganized, and u.nited, I will now add that it is “sometimes y.oked.”

Yoked means attached. The kingdom of Satan is sometimes attached to a lost person (possession), or, as pointed out by Jesus, in some cases it is attached to a “movement.”

And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.

Luke 11:29

The sign of Jonah was that he was swallowed by a fish or a whale, and vomited up on dry land. When he preached, people repented. Jesus told the crowd that their generation was evil because they were seeking signs when the greater-than-Jonah was right there in front of them!

For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

Luke 11:30

Jonah was “buried” and “resurrected,” in a sense, but Jesus is greater. He actually died and actually come back to life.

The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Luke 11:32

There is a “movement” today which is sometimes (“sometimes Y”) yoked with satanic influence. This movement says that you don’t need to accept that Jesus is real unless you are seeing signs and wonders. Those of us who recognize this error in the charismatic and the “Word Faith” prosperity movement have to be careful, too, though, that we don’t fall prey to Satan’s influence in more subtle ways:
-“I lost my job, so what’s the point of continuing to go to church?”
-“I’ll start praying, but I better see some results.”

Let’s not be part of what Jesus called a “wicked” generation.

The Vowels of Hell

May 20, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 2 Comments
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When we pray, we can be specific. We can ask God for the Holy Spirit, and be confident that He will help us.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luke 11:13

There are times in the Bible when Jesus cast out demons, and it’s safe to say that casting out demons seems like it would always be a good thing… Well, apparently not to everyone, because when He did it in Luke Chapter 11 some people starting accusing Him of being on the same team as the demons.

But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.

Luke 11:15

Jesus used some pretty simple logic to show that this was a ridiculous and blasphemous accusation. First, why would the devil cast out devils? He’s in the oppression and possession business, not the exorcism business.

But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.

Luke 11:17-18

Jesus, while He was refuting the accusations of the skeptics with logic, also cleverly revealed some things for us about the devil’s “kingdom,” which we may categorize according the vowels of the English alphabet (although a little bit out of their usual order): A,O,E,I,U.

It is A.ctual. The devil is real and he has real power and has been allowed some limited scope of authority in this earth since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden.

It is O.rganized. Satan has an actual kingdom and he is trying to accomplish actual goals and he’s acting in furtherance of those goals. He’s not just running around randomly trying to get people hooked on meth, or trying to get them to sacrifice a goat. He wants to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants to try to rob God of glory. He wants to deceive people into believing lies and rejecting Christ, thereby playing a role in seeing them cast into hell.

Jesus’s next logical point was to turn the tables on the ones accusing Him of being in league with the devil.

And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.

Luke 11:19

This was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. There were plenty of Jewish exorcists around at that time. If the power of Beelzebub was required to cast out devils, then they, by their own reasoning, were promoting and working with Satan themselves.

Jesus’s third argument was to highlight their implicit admission that He did in fact have power over devils.

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

Luke 11:20

It did not make sense for them to claim He was a fraudulent messiah and more powerful than Satan at the same time. So Jesus laid it out for them with an illustration sometimes called “the parable of the strong man.” (Keep in mind the context as you study it, because there is a ton of bad theology and craziness about what the parable means and who exactly the “strong man” in the story is meant to represent.)

When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:

Luke 11:21

Satan has many people under his thumb, and he’s not just giving them away without a fight.

But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

Luke 11:22

Jesus is stronger than Satan and He can, and many times does, overcome him.

He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

Luke 11:23

There is a cosmic battle between good and evil. God is getting glory and Satan is trying to stop that – and you and I CAN NOT be neutral. We’re either on Jesus’s side or not, and if we’re not, we’re automatically on the devil’s side. There is a playing field, but there is no sideline and there are no bleachers for spectators.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.

Luke 11:24-25

Here are two more of the vowels I mentioned earlier:

E.nergetic. Unclean spirits, despite not readily finding places to rest, continue walking about, looking, until they find a suitable place to stir up fresh mischief.

I.ntelligent. Despite his foolhardy and unwinnable attempt at winning a battle against an unbeatable foe, and despite our reluctance to say anything complimentary about him, we must admit that Satan is no dummy. When unclean spirits are driven out of a home, and can not find a new one, they come back to see if they can re-establish their headquarters in familiar territory. Those who are set free from Satan’s dominion must receive God’s Spirit if they are to remain free.

Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

Luke 11:26

U.nited. An evil spirit is able to do what (sadly) Christians are often unable to do. He is able to team up with seven other, and even more diabolical, spirits and work together to completely destroy someone’s life. Thankfully, Jesus (but only Jesus) provides the victory over Satan and his entire legion of demonic minions – if only we will trust Him completely.

 

Prayers Answered with Pranks

April 22, 2019 at 11:18 am | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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Jesus continued teaching His disciples about the model for prayer with this concluding thought:

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

Luke 11:11-12

What do we make of this strange illustration which sounds so foreign to our modern ears? Can you imagine a child asking his father, “Dad, may I have some bread?” and the father responding with some sort of cruel practical joke? “Okay, Son, I have some bread for you right here… [reaches behind his back]… Ha! JK! It’s really a rock! Did you break your tooth?”

Or the son asking, “Dad, what do you have there? Is that a fish? I wanna see…” and the father responding, “Sure, Son, here you go… Whoa, it’s a snake – look out!”

It sounds ridiculous, and it just gets worse: “Dad, I’m hungry, how about an egg?” Dad: “Hmmm… I dunno – try this instead!” [hurls a scorpion at him].

Maybe I’m just obtuse, but this seems like a really tough passage of Scripture. The disciples were trying to make sense of the correct model for prayer and Jesus started going on about this crazy dad terrorizing his son. And I’ve read several commentaries which go to some length to assert that maybe a loaf of bread can look like a stone, and maybe a fish can sort of look like a snake. After all, neither have arms or legs, they say, so Jesus must have been teaching about deception, warning against being deceptive in prayer. And I’m certainly no scholar, so that might be the correct interpretation, but an egg being confused for a scorpion? Seriously?

I tend to think that Jesus was being humorous here (albeit with a serious point), and that we just don’t “get” the ancient Near-Eastern connotations with our Western modern mindset. I draw this conclusion because the next verse reveals what I believe to be Jesus’s point:

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luke 11:13

God is “our Father,” but he is not like “A father.” In other words, earthly fathers are evil. (If you are a father who is reading this, that is probably not very affirming, but that’s what it says.) Jesus wants us to talk to God the way a child talks to his dad, and, while an earthly dad is not always competent, appropriate, or trustworthy, even a really sketchy earthly dad who loves his child wouldn’t give the kid a scorpion or a snake in response to a serious request for food. Based on this line of reasoning how much MORE will God (the perfect Father) give His Spirit to those who ask HIM?

It seems like Jesus was changing the subject when He brought up the Holy Spirit, but He really wasn’t. The Holy Spirit – to Old Covenant believers – was not a permanent indweller. Rather, He was given at specific times for specific ministries. When my kids ask for candy, I won’t give them a hand grenade, but I might give them an apple instead. I – despite being evil – WANT to give them good gifts, but I don’t always get it right when deciding what’s “good.” Our Heavenly Father, on the other hand, has given us the Holy Spirit, and He’s always good. The Bible says that He will guide us into all truth. We need to ask God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and we can be confident that He will help us.

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.

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.

A Prayer Meeting for Need-Meeting

March 1, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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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.”

How to Talk to God

February 15, 2019 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Luke | 6 Comments
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And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

Luke 11:1

Knowing that Jesus was God incarnate, and (incorrectly) thinking of prayer only as asking God for help with something we can’t do on our own, we might think it remarkable to find Jesus praying in the Gospels, but it really drives home the importance of prayer. Jesus’s prayer life must have been really phenomenal. If Jesus “had” to pray, how much more should we think that we absolutely MUST pray? “Teach us to pray,” said one of Jesus’s disciples. They didn’t ask Him to teach them how to preach, or how to do miracles, or even how to serve and minister. They asked Him how to PRAY.

Luke Chapter 11 contains a version of what is often called “The Lord’s Prayer,” but it is not a prayer that Jesus Himself prayed, and it was never intended as a magical formula to be repeated word for word. When I was in elementary public school we prayed “The Lord’s Prayer” and said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. From what I understand, times have really changed regarding prayer in schools, but it is designed to be a model, not a mantra. Perhaps I should add that it IS okay to repeat it word for word at times, but it is better to incorporate its principles into your PERSONAL prayers.

Praying is simply defined as talking to God, although we could probably come up with a more theologically impressive definition that incorporates words like “intercession” and “supplication” and “petition.” You normally develop a friendship with someone while talking to them. When we pray, does God talk back? It depends on what we mean by talking back, but I DO believe prayer involves both speaking and listening, and, most importantly, that Bible study and prayer go hand in hand, since the Bible is the one sure way to know what God has to say to us.

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

God is “our Father” in the sense that He created us, but, even more so for true Christians, in the special sense of the “new birth.”

Why do you think Jesus made a point of adding “which art in Heaven?” For one, it reminds us of God’s sovereignty. For another, it reminds us of our eternal home. It reminds us to have an eternal perspective. It reminds us of our citizenship. If we are praying out loud in the presence of others, it reinforces the idea for the listeners that we are praying to THE ONE TRUE GOD. It reminds us of His position OVER us – His power and our submission.

“Hallowed be thy name.” For God’s name to be “hallowed” means for it to be venerated, to be esteemed, to be considered and treated as holy, with reverence and respect. “Hallowed” is connected with the idea of holiness, so God’s name is set apart as different. It is to be treated with both love and awe. It is not to be trifled with – as the 3rd Commandment teaches us. God’s name is to be hallowed by us personally when we pray, and we should pray that it would be hallowed in this world. Blasphemy (taking God’s name in vain) was punishable by death in the Old Testament. Today it is almost the sine qua non for popular entertainment.

“Thy kingdom come.” Many times we are guilty of praying in direct contradiction of this model. We pray, “Lord, let my will here on earth be done in Heaven,” instead of asking God to cause His Heavenly will to be done here on earth – and especially in our own lives. We use prayer the way a pump is used on a sinking ship. It ought to be used as the plans for the ship, to help determine whether or not to set sail, whether to raise the sails with the hope that the wind will blow, the guiding of the rudder, the dropping and the raising of the anchor, and the preparation for the possibility that we may have to go down with the ship.

Here’s another simple definition of prayer: coming into God’s presence in order to submit to His will. In answering His disciple’s question, Jesus did not intend to give a word-for-word memory device, nor did He prescribe a posture of kneeling, standing, lifting of hands, or bowing the head. They wanted to know, “How do we think when we pray? What should we talk to God ABOUT? For what should we ask Him?”

Some of the best prayers in the Bible were answered in wonderful ways. Hannah prayed for a child and she got Samuel. Joshua prayed and Achan’s sin was uncovered. Jacob prayed and Esau didn’t get his revenge. But these prayers were made in submission to God’s will, and that needs to be our attitude in prayer also.

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