Archive for February, 2015

Luke 11:24-32 — I make myself promises periodically to begin exercising and I am all into it for a while but when the weight loss doesn’t come, I get discouraged and quit. What little weight loss I am able to achieve by exercising goes out the window within a week or two of stopping. How easily discouraged I am about this extra 25-30 lbs that I carry around. It saddens me. I am sensitive about it. Guy friends can be the worst. Thinking they are being cute. Making little Buddha jokes here and there. I don’t want to be this way. You think I want to be this way? I want to lose this weight. I hate having this extra weight on me. As little as 10 years ago, I was a much slimmer man. Having this extra weight gets into your psyche. You begin to think it is the reason for all kinds of rejections in life. Maybe, you are not being called to the full-time ministry that you feel led toward because you’re overweight. Maybe, people don’t take you seriously because you’re fat. But yet, I try to eat healthier, exercise more often but it all gets discouraging when nothing happens. Old behaviors return because Satan tells me that it’s not doing any good to sacrifice time and effort to lose weight. Then, I settle into the discouraged state that nothing will ever change.

There are those who have battled addictions to alcohol, to drugs, that know this feeling just as intensely as I feel them. Trying to do better, but only to be defeated in the end. Man, it is tough to be in a body that doesn’t want to cooperate with your best intellectual plans.

Jesus’ speaks of a demon possessed man who gets rid of his demon and is better for a while but ultimately loses the battle is then possessed by multiple demons to the point that the man is far worse of than he was before. Jesus was illustrating an unfortunate human tendency. Our desire to reform our hearts often doesn’t last long. In Israel’s history (as we repeatedly in the Old Testament), almost as soon as one good king would pull down idols, a new king with an unrepentant heart would set them up again. Cycles of obedience to the Lord followed by cycles of disobedience marked the history of OT Israel throughout. It is not enough to be emptied of evil, we must then be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s new purpose in our lives.

It is very easy at 4:45am on a weekday morning in the wintertime to say for that first time since you started exercising that you are just going to sleep in this morning. It is a subtle thing. One day won’t matter. One day. I can get back to it tomorrow. You know in your heart that exercising makes you feel better regardless of whether you lose weight or not. I feel better from stretching and using my muscles and developing greater pulmonary endurance. I feel better for making my muscles stronger too. The benefits are there to be had. But one morning when its 7 degrees fahrenheit outside, you say this one morning won’t matter. I will get back to the plan tomorrow. One day becomes two. Two days become a week. A week becomes a month. Then, you are far away from what and where you wanted to be. Isn’t that true with spiritual temptations in life?

We can have our house swept clean spiritually speaking but yet we leave the door open to our pet sins. Flirting with that woman to whom you are not married can seem innocent enough. It makes you feel good when she winks at you or touches you. Next thing you know it becomes an obsession and adultery comes into your life. Fudging on your expense reports can lead to all out stealing from your company. Becoming so obsessed with your financial status in life can lead you to making moral compromises.

James May once said in his sermon, “Swept Clean and Garnished” that “Satan often works in some very subtle ways to cause us to slip a little. In these last days, the slopes that lead away from the throne of God seem very slippery indeed. It only takes a moment of time to slip into apathy, to slip into frustration, to slip into a comfort zone where we can’t grow, or to slip into a form of godliness, going through the motions of serving God, but it’s only a surface relationship and the power of God that once lived within us is now gone.” It is like a neighborhood that once was a beautiful place that has slowly disintegrated in a high crime area. We don’t even notice the compromises we make in our walk until we have drifted into full fledged distance from God. Is this you? Is this me? Are you fostering a sin in your life that if left unchecked will cause you destruction? The slope is slippery. One step begins the slide. One drink won’t matter. One of these pills won’t matter. One lunch with this woman won’t hurt anything. We begin the slide slowly. Romans 7:15 says it best, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Now that you are thoroughly depressed. Man, so am I. We all commit sins everyday. We do the very things that we know are bad for us and we rationalize away why we do not do the things we should do that are good for us. We need an intervention. We need Jesus Christ. We need God’s Word that tells us about Jesus Christ. We need God’s Word so that the Holy Spirit can convict us of our sins and that includes those sins that you are wanting to keep in your hip pocket. That favorite pet sin. Lord, I will give you everything else but this pet sin. I like it. Let me keep this one. The Holy Spirit will shine the light on it when we are in God’s Word. We need prayer. Constant prayer as we talked about a couple of days ago. James 4:8 tells us, “Draw closer to God and He will draw closer to you” One of key phrases that my senior pastor uses in our staff meetings and in general conversations with the staff is for us to “stay clean and close.” We cannot leave the backdoors of our lives open and unlocked at night. We must guard our hearts and souls. Don’t you find that anytime we do not exercise our spiritual muscles (reading, meditating, journaling on God’s Word, constantly in prayer) is when we become susceptible to evil in our lives. Just one step. And another. And another. We are not reading our Bible and we are not praying and evil temptations have more sway with us and we fall into sin and we don’t even notice it until the sin causes destruction.

Just as I easily do not get up one morning to exercise and it leads to not exercising at all, when we stray from the basics of spiritual discipline we drift away from God’s Word and do the very things we said we would never do. One day leads to two. Two days leads to three. Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. Stay clean and close. Exercise you spiritual muscles daily. Read God’s Word. Pray without ceasing. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal all the things that we need to see in our dark hearts. And above all, live in thanksgiving that we are made clean in Jesus Christ. In Him, we are made clean. In Him, we have new life. But we must give up our entire lives to Him not 97% and I keep these 3% of things that are my pet sins. We must be willing to lay bear our souls before Christ and ask Him to make us clean. We do this by staying close in His Word and seeking intimate relationship with Him daily through prayer. Clean and close. Clean and close always. Praying to God for the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and reveal to us those dark places that need cleaning.

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Luke 11:14-23 — One of my favorite shows of all time is Star Trek: The Next Generation. Although I loved the original series and grew up watching it in reruns on school day afternoons, the special effects now seem kind of hokie compared to Next Gen. The special effects in Next Gen are pretty spetacular and almost believable that the world could be as advanced as it seems in that show. Special effects in television shows and movies can make us believe that things that are virtually impossible to achieve in real life now as being commonplace in the future. One of my pet peeves with Star Trek: Next Generation as with all space travel shows and movies is the need to give the perception of spaceship motion by have bits of light fly by windows as a spaceship travels. It gives a sense of motion to a motionless TV or movie set, but it is not real. In space, there are no little stars that fly by as you travel. Sure, there are billions of stars out there but they are so small that they are just randomly floating everywhere. They are in specific positions in specific galaxies. No little bits of light floating by. Space is dark for the most part. A dark, black emptiness with no bits of light hanging in the darkness. This pet peeve about this issue almost makes me sometimes not want to watch those scenes from Next Gen where they have windows. LOL

This illustration is appropriate for the passage we move into today, Luke 11:14-23 because there are illusions created in this world to get us to believe certain things are happening when they are really not. And the opposite can be true as well, we sometimes attempt to explain away something that really did happen but we say it did not.

In this passage, the Pharisees tracking Jesus’ every move watch as He heals a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak because of the demonic possession. Immediately to discredit the healing, the Pharisees claim that Jesus was healing the man through the power of Satan. Jesus sees that they are getting desperate to discredit Him in any way they can. Jesus says if I was Satan’s man why would I cast out a demon from human being. That seem to defeat Satan’s purposes. If it is Satan’s purpose to terrorize, enslave and destroy then I why would Jesus cast out a demon. Jesus was demonstrating that He is Satan’s enemy. He was demonstrating that He is greater than Satan. In every instance of exorcism that Jesus performs the demons obey Him without question and in some cases verbally recognize Him as Lord. Jesus is greater than Satan for Satan Himself is subject to God. Satan is a created being just all angels are. Angels are greater beings that humans but they are less than God. Everything is less than and subject to God. There is no equal balance of good and evil. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is God. God is greater than Satan.

What does Star Trek have to do with this? Well, let’s tie it together. Star Trek though a wonderful show is fiction. They can make us believe things that are not real because the subject of the show is the distant future. They can make us believe with good special effects whatever they want us to believe or at least believe that such things are attainable. In the end it is fiction. It is something fashioned to entertain and make us believe in something that is not real.

We live in a world where there are false prophets everywhere trying to make us believe things about them and their closeness to God that are not real. We have seen through the course of history those who claim to be healers of men that are just out an out frauds. Benny Hinn comes to mind and others like Him. They have so discredited the miracles of real healing that no one believes in real miracles anymore. The Pharisees were trying to discredit Jesus’ miracles so that people would not believe in Him. They had their false prophets back then too. The Pharisees were trying to put Jesus in their line. But every miracle Jesus ever performed they tried to discredit. He heals a blind man who was validated by his parents and many witness that was blind from birth. Was Jesus a Benny Hinn to you? Many today because of the Benny Hinns of the world discredit Jesus’ miracles as fabrications of church because there have been so many out there that try to make us believe they have created a miracle when they really haven’t. However, with Jesus, there were open disputes in the Bible with the Pharisees about Jesus’ miracles but even those who opposed him could not deny that the miracles happened and that they were real. They then tried to discredit Him by saying He was Satan’s minion.

False prophets make it hard for us to believe in real miracles. Little errors in science fiction shows remind us that they are indeed fictions. There are things that are of humanity and of Satan that are ultimately flawed. Jesus though is the real deal. Frauds are often discovered, called out, and they fade from public view. Jesus remains. First century believers and believers throughout history have died for His name. First century believers actually witnessed many of these miracles and would have disputed the gospel authors if they did not believe in the authenticity of Christ’s miracles. They were willing to die for the only and only true Miracle Man. You and I as Christ followers should be willing to die for Jesus rather than compromise our belief in Him. Are you going to your death for a fraud? Are you going to die for a lie? Jesus was the real deal. It takes faith to believe He is the Son of God and in that faith comes the understanding of the validity of His miracles. False prophets come and go. Supposed healing men come and go. But Jesus remains.

He is not false. He is the real deal. He is not a fabrication of a sense of motion on a motionless movie set. He is not special effects. He is the Son of God. He is greater than Satan or any false prophet. He is not just one in a line of prophets. He is the real deal. All prophets are created beings except Him. He has existed eternally. He is the Eternal One and it is only through Him, the real authentic deal, that we find our eternal glory in Heaven. No smoke and mirrors. No illusions. No falsities passed off as truth. All other faiths have a position on Jesus because they must. Jesus is the real deal. He is the Son of God. He is God in the flesh.

Luke 11:1-13 — To the parents out there, have you ever had your child ask you if they could go out and play in the snow? And you tell them no, not now. And they repeat the process. And you do too. No, not now. No, not now. Children are often insanely persistent about asking permission about what they want to do. Can I have a cookie? Can you read me another bedtime story? Can I? Can I? Can I? Their persistence often wears us down as parents. Finally, we give in and give them what they want or let them do what they want. I know that when my kids were young, we would often mess with the kids by saying, it’s OK with me if its OK with your mom. And she would say, It’s OK with me if it is OK with your dad. Amazingly, the kids were willing to play the game and go scurrying back and forth between us for minutes on end. This is persistence personified. Persistence is the subject matter for our devotion today. Let’s look at vv. 5-10 of this passage. It also reminds you of stories about a mother who prayed for the salvation of her son for 20 years solid without fail daily. Do you have the persistence of a child wanting to go play in the snow when you pray?

Jesus, after teaching us how to pray in vv. 1-4, He goes on to teach a valuable spiritual lesson. Our prayer life should be consistent and persistent. We learn much about God and ourselves from persistent prayer. Jesus compares how our desire in prayer should be like a man persistently knocking on the door of his neighbor’s house when he has an urgent need. Persistence in prayer does three things for us I think. First, it shows that we are submitted to God. Second, it helps us to discern whether our prayers are self-centered or God-centered. Third, it demonstrates to us the power of God in our lives.

The level of our persistence in prayer is directly correlated to our submission to God. Do you pray only when called upon by others? Do you pray only when you have to? Do you pray only at the dinner table? Is your prayer life hit and miss and inconsistent? This passage is as convicting to me as it maybe to you. Our prayer life reflects how much stock we place in it. Do you really believe that God is listening? Do you really believe that God answers prayers? When we have a healthy and active prayer life it reflects how submitted we are to God. If your or my prayer life is hit and miss or just a perfunctory prayer life, it may be because you think you are the one in control of your life and not God. Maybe deep down inside you are not fully submitted to your Creator. Our prayer, when healthy, recognizes that we as humans are limited in knowledge and ability. We recognize that God is the omniscient, omnipresent, fully sovereign Creator of the universe and that we are submitted to Him. When we are persistent in prayer, we begin to recognize the proper order of things. God first. Us second. Not the other way around. When we come to that place of full submission to the Lord with no lingering strongholds of the areas of life that we think we personally control instead of giving it all to God, our prayer life will become more consistent, more persistent and, yes, more fruitful.

The second thing persistent prayer will allow us to see is whether our prayers are God-centered or self-centered. There was a satirical song about how we pray sometimes by Janis Joplin back in the day called “Mercedes Benz”. The chorus of the song goes like this:

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?

Is this song representative of your prayer life and mine. We pray for selfish things that we want like God is a vending machine. When our prayer life is not fully developed and persistent, these are the kind of prayers we pray. God I need. God please give me. If we are persistent in prayer we will find that we begin to drift away from these selfish kinds of prayers toward seeking God’s will. This is what we should be praying for when we pray. We are changed through persistent prayer. We pray not to change God but to change ourselves. We pray to seek God’s will, for God to reveal His will to us. Consistent and persistent prayer allows to see whether our prayers align with Scripture. The mother who prayed for 20 years for the salvation of her son is certainly aligned with Scripture. For the guy that is not content in his marriage praying for a way out of it through that cute chick at the gym is not in alignment with Scripture. Praying Janis Joplin Mercedes Benz prayers are not in alignment with Scirpture and not in alignment with God’s will. Those with poor prayer lives with pray these kinds of prayers. Consistent, persistent prayer allows us to see how selfish we can be at times. When we pray for another person’s eyes to be opened, consistent, persistent prayer about often leads to our eyes being opened about what that other person is going through. Prayer for a person to get paid back for what they have done to us often leads us to see that the other person is really a hurting soul that needs us to invest in their lives. Prayer changes us from self-seeking to God-seeking.

Finally, persistent, consistent prayer allows us to actually see God at work in our lives. When we are in constant prayer it raises our sensitivity to what God is doing in the world. When we don’t have a consistent, persistent prayer life we can’t see our prayers being answered. We can’t be sensitive to the ways that God answers prayers if we do not consistently, persistently pray. When we pray for God’s will in a situation, it actually attunes us to watch for what God does. As the old saying goes, you can’t win if you don’t play the game. Without consistent, persistent prayer we have no clue. Praying for your son’s salvation for 20 years will attune you to the little steps the little prods that God gives us along the way to salvation. You will be attuned to the softening of the heart. When we pray for God’s will, it turns our spiritual radar on. In our small group, we keep a journal of the prayers that we offer up to God during prayer time. It is amazing to go back several months later and see how God has answered prayers. It may not always be in the way that we thought God would do it but nonetheless we see the evidence of His answers. How can you turn a piece of steak into a healthy meal if you don’t put it on the grill? How can we see God at work if we don’t have a healthy prayer life.

Father, help us to improve our prayer lives. Help us to purposely find time each day to spend intimate time with you. Help us to learn to stay with you in prayer. Help us to submit ourselves totally to you and recognize your Sovereignty through prayer. Help us to pray without ceasing. Amen.

Luke 11:1-13 — As a person who at age 52 is struggling with his weight, I have a great desire to lose weight. It is my estimate that to feel my best and to get rid of this plump gut that I have acquired from years of abusing my body that I must lose about 25-30 lbs. One of my problems is that about the only time that I have daily is to get up at 4:45am each weekday morning and exercise. I have the tools for the process. I have a weight bench with weights. I have a treadmill with enough bells and whistles that I can walk and run from anywhere from 2 mph to 5 mph and from an incline of 0% to 12%. The treadmill has programs in it to vary speeds and inclines during the course of a workout. Since the beginning of the year, I had been pretty dedicated to the routine. However, for the last two weeks, since Elena and I went away and are now back from our weekend getaway at Valentine’s weekend, I have not exercised once since before we left. Sure, it has been cold and my exercise equipment is in the garage. That has been a major excuse. But, ya know, prior to this two weeks when it has been extremely cold outside side, I had been exercising inside by doing 60 sets of stair climbs (one trip up and one trip down being a set). Why is it that all of a sudden that I have quit and the excuse that I had previously figured out a way around now dominates as the reason I don’t get up and exercise. Why is that now for the last two weeks that I don’t overcome the excuses? I have now become ineffective in my exercise life because I have let the desire for sleep become greater than my desire to exercise. I have all the tools I need but for the last two weeks I have found reasons not to utilize them.

I think this illustration is perfect for the passage that we move into today. We will have to visit this passage for a couple of days because Jesus says a great deal about prayer in this passage. Jesus tells us how to exercise our prayer muscles in this passage.

As we are passing through Luke, we find passages that are extremely familiar to us. Today, when we move into Luke 11:1-13 we find another familiar passage. This one is familiar to us because it contains an abridged version of the Lord’s Prayer. It is not the full length version as appears in Matthew 6:9-13, but it only leaves out “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. This passage is about prayer. In the previous passage, we learned that Jesus wants not to be so busy with our service to Jesus that we forget to enjoy His presence. We should not be so busy with service to Him that we forget the reason we fell in love with Him in the first place. One of the ways that we keep our focus on our love of our Savior is through prayer. Here, Jesus teaches us how we should pray. He gives us the tools. He gives us the outline on how to pray. Just like in my garage, I have the tools for exercise, Jesus tells us about how we should pray when we pray. Jesus gives the tools on how to pray. Let’s look at what Jesus says should be in the content of every prayer that we offer up to God.

The first is “Our Father”. Jesus is saying that our prayers should recognize that God is our Heavenly Father. To conceptualize this, let’s think of our earthly fathers. Earthly fathers love and protect us. They teach us the meaning of life through our mistakes and our achievements. They love us even when we are wrong. They teach us that there are consequences of life that we have to deal with. They provide for us. They sacrifice so that we may have. God is our Heavenly Father who does these same things in a grander more perfect way. Our prayers should recognize Him as that Father figure, that wise one who has our best interest at heart, and the one who knows better than we about life and how we should live. Our prayers should begin with the recognition of the way the relationship is arranged. He is Father. We are child. All of our prayers should begin with the recognition that He is Lord and we are the subjects. He is great and we are not. He is universal. We are not. He is all knowing and we are not.

Second is “hallowed be thy name”. Hallowed is old English meaning holy. Holy of course means set apart. Thus, just the mere mention of the name of God invokes holiness. Even his name is holy. Wow! Thus, we must recognize in our prayers that God’s very name is holy. It is set apart and not to be used lightly. It is not a throw around, throw away word. Thus, when we invoke his name, we must be serious. Our prayers that mention God’s name must be serious not flippant. We must come to Him in prayer in reverence. Sure, we can laugh with God and joke around with God in our prayers (He gave us our sense of humor) but we must have serious intent when we pray. We must recognize that we are praying to our Father. When we invoke his name in prayer, it is entering into the chapel. It is time to focus. When we invoke His name in prayer, it is time to set the iPad, iPhone, laptop, and close your eyes and concentrate on the Holy One. It invokes a time of concentration on the One who is Holy.

Next, we must pray in some way, that we are looking forward to God’s kingdom coming (thy Kingdom come). Thy Kingdom Come. That is an imperative statement. It has urgency. Our prayers must incorporate an urgency of wanting God’s Kingdom to come. It means that we want to see God’s way reign supreme. Our prayers must reflect that yearning desire to have that wonderful day when all is perfected.

Next, Jesus says, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. Jesus is saying that our prayers should reflect that God’s perfect will exists in Heaven where everything is perfect and nothing is there to prevent His will from being carried out. In Heaven, his humble servant/saints do and act in perfect ways and through their humbly given servitude to God, Heaven is made a place of perfect godliness. Thus, in wishing that on earth, Jesus is saying that we should ask God to have His will on earth and not ours and those things are not in alignment with him are brought into alignment here on earth. We must pray in our prayers that God is in control of this thing. We must pray that His will, his perfection that we can’t begin to understand has it’s way. We must pray for what God wants. He sees the big picture. We do not. Then our prayers should not be so presumptious as to be about what we want, what our will is. They should most certainly be about what God wants.

Next, Jesus says, “Give us this day, our daily bread”. This is the part of our prayers where we present our current needs to our Father. Wow, this one is so amazing when you break it down. Jesus is saying that we should ask God to “give us”. To be able to give something to someone, you must first own it. Thus, this “give us” is means that we must recognize that EVERYTHING comes from God when we pray. We are thus praying for God to “give us” something that belongs to Him. He then says “this day, our daily bread”. Jesus is saying that our prayers should be about asking God to “give us” that which He sees as sufficient for us at this moment. “This day”…give us from what is your that which is enough for me right now. God give me that which You see me ready to handle at this moment. “This day, our daily bread”…”Our daily bread”…our daily need. This phrase of “our daily bread” implies to me that we are dependent continuously on God for what we need. It is not something that we come once a lifetime, even once a decade, even once a year, even once a month, even once a year, but daily my friends. Everything comes from God and we are dependent on him to give us what we need for today and EACH day. Thus, when we pray our prayers to God we should recognize our complete and utter dependence on God and that he knows what is best for us, better than us, each and every day of our lives. We must go to Him each day. We must find time and space to exercise our prayer muscles. We must find daily time to make it important.

Next, Jesus says, “And forgive us our sins, as we also forgive those who sin against us.” Here, Jesus is saying that our prayers should be about offering up the things that we have done that have been displeasing to God and asking with an humble heart to remove that from us (being forgiven). He is also saying that we should bring those angers and frustrations with others to him and asking him to help to be forgiving of others shortcomings just as we are yet sinners. Thus our prayers should be humbly demonstrating to God that we are nowhere near his perfect love and that we need and want to strive for that. That we want to be not so proud of ourselves that we cannot admit our wrongs. Not to be so proud of ourselves that we hold on to the wrongs that are done to us. We give it all up to God and ask His holy, perfect help with the things that we go through in this sin-filled world our which we are sin-filled members. We do not harbor things inside and keep them for ourselves when we come to our Father in prayer. We must lay it all out there and give it to Him. We cannot hold back. Our pet little angers and frustrations can’t be held back. They must be given over to our Father and we must trust Him with all things.

Finally, Jesus says, “And lead us not into temptation” Jesus then says here that our prayers must include supplication for God to keep us from sin and that when we fail to obey him that He will give us a way out from our sin. Here, He is saying that our prayers should always end by requesting that God help us to be pure, to help steer us away from those things that are not of Him. Us being in a relationship with God angers the devil and he will try to snatch us away from God through tempting us and us choosing to succumb to those temptations. Our prayers should end with us asking for God’s guidance away from those situations, those feelings, those actions that would lead us down the path that the devil wants us to go – which is away from God. As well, our prayers should end with supplication to God, as our daddy, to deliver us from those temptations to which we have succumb. Take it away daddy. Take it away, Abba Father. Only our Heavenly Daddy can deliver us from that sin, our sin-filled life that the devil wants us to wallow in. Therefore, we end our prayers to God praying for protection from what is tempting us or his protection through delivering us from the sin we jumped into. We should end our prayers in total dependence on the Father in whose lap we are sitting when we pray.

Jesus has given us the tools we need. We must find the time to use these tools, these instructions. Have you ever thought that our prayers are not being answered because we are (1) not exercising – not praying. We can’t have answered prayers if we first do not pray. We have to the tools. We must make time to use them. Also, when I exercise if I do not stretch myself beyond my body’s current comfort zone and walk away from my exercise time sore and hurting, then have I really exercised at all. Sometimes we go through the motions in prayer. We don’t really believe in the power of prayer and so we do not stretch ourselves to truly believe in its power. We just pray perfunctory prayers with no heart and no meaning. If I was God, I would swat those prayers away like so many gnats. Meaningless prayer is not prayer. Shopping list prayers are often our prayers. It is like only doing exercises in the garage that only I like and not the ones that are tough and put me through grueling physical tests. When we present our shopping lists to God only and do not come to Him seeking His will but come to Him as if He were a vending machine, that is another gnat prayer to Him. He swats it away. We must come to Him seeking His guidance and His will. He is not Santa Claus. He is not a drive-thru window. He is our Holy and Mighty Father in heaven. Sure, we present our petitions to Him but we are not to demand the outcomes that we desire. We are to ask the Father to have His will in those situations. We are to seek understanding of His will and to seek the humility to accept whatever God’s sovereign will is in anything that we present to Him. Sometimes we will not understand His answers. Sometimes we will not recognize His answers. However, He is our Father and He knows what is best for us. As children growing up, we do not tell our earthly fathers what to do. Why do we treat our Heavenly Father this way? We must find out in prayer what our Father wants us to do and accept His will. He loves us and we must believe in His eternal experience vs. our limited experience that He knows what is best for us.

Jesus just gave us the tools for prayer exercise in this passage. We must use the tools. We must pray daily just as I must exercise daily for my desire for weight loss to be effective. We must use the tools of prayer presented here just as I must use the tools that I have in my garage. We must use the tools properly for them to be any good to us. In my physical exercise, I must use the tools properly to get the benefit of exercise. I must follow Jesus’ instructions here on prayer to get the benefit and true understanding of what prayer is to be all about. Prayer. Use the tools. Use them properly.

Luke 10:38-42 — Ladies, have you ever had a birthday party for your child or a Super Bowl party for friends of your husband and yourself? You are scurrying around trying to get things cleaned, things cooked and kids’ faces cleaned, floors vacuumed and mopped, furniture dusted. Then people start arriving, you are busy passing out plates and napkins and supervising the food distribution, and making sure that the food trays stayed well-stocked. You spent the whole time in the kitchen or scurrying around the party that you forget to enjoy the party? Can you identify with that?

How ‘bout if you are an older brother and you have a younger sibling? You are the older one. You are the one that will get blamed for things not being done and your little brother seems to not care about the chores to be done. He is more interested in laying in the field and looking up at the clouds and making decisions as to what the clouds look like or he is chasing a butterfly all over the backyard? You are about to blow a fuse because your little brother is such a brat, but he is so very cute by nature that he never seems to get in trouble for anything. Then, you cute little brother catches the butterfly and runs in the house with it. You get so angry that you follow behind so that you can blast your little brother in front of your mother. But when you get inside, your mother is making over your little brother for having caught the butterfly. You explode. You are so tired of your little brother getting away with stuff and here is just another example. Think back to your youth. Were you the older brother or the little brother? Is this you? Can you identify? Can you relate?

In the last passage, we saw that Jesus instructs us to love our neighbors. We should be busy about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. This should be our calling. This should be our daily focus. Serving and loving. It’s what we do. It’s our DNA. It is the imprinted code within us as Christ followers to love and to serve. We should look for opportunities each day to show the love of Christ to those around us. I think it is important that Luke places this passage right after the previous one where Jesus calls us to serve. I think you can see why.

Mary and Martha both loved Jesus. On this occasion, they were both serving Him. But the older sister, Martha, thought that little sister’s style of serving was inferior to hers. She did not realize that in her desire to serve, she was actually neglecting her guest. Are you so busy doing things for Christ that you are not spending any time with Him? Our service to the Lord at times can be self-serving. Jesus did not blame Martha for being concerned about the household chores. He was only asking that she get her priorities straight. Service to Jesus Christ can become mere busywork that can become totally devoid of devotion to God.

Wow, that one can hit us between the eyes? Are you so busy trying to impress Jesus with your service that you forget to enjoy Him? Are you unwilling to make disciples for you fear that if you do not do everything that you will someone not be serving Jesus? Do you have a hard time letting go of the details to others because you feel that if you don’t do it yourself that you will have lost your way to serve Jesus? Do you get so busy in the details that you forget to simply let go and let God? Are you so busy trying to control things that you have pushed the Holy Spirit out of the way? Does this rob you of joy?

Similarly, do you feel as though that you have to do a checklist of things to earn Jesus’ favor? Your service is motivated by hell insurance rather than by the thanksgiving of salvation that simply pours out of your soul. Are you one that thinks your works will earn you a certain rank, will weigh the good deeds side of your scales with more coins that the bad deed side? When we are just trying to fill in our resume, serving others becomes void of any thanksgiving. When we are checklist servants, we are in it for us and not for those we serve.

Either way, the busy servant who loves Jesus and the self-centered checklist servant have something in common. They forget to lavish in the presence of Jesus. When the Pharisees rebuked Jesus for his disciples not fasting regularly, He told them that, basically, people don’t fast when they are at a wedding reception. They celebrate. Wedding celebrations only last a limited time and they should be enjoyed while they last. There will be plenty of time for fasting afterwards, He said.

Let us remember to take time to enjoy the presence of Jesus in our lives. Let take time to pray daily. Let us take time to just love on Him and be in Him. In our marriages, if we do not spend time intimately with our spouses (not just physically), our marriages become strained. We drift apart. If you do not invest time and attention in your spouse, the marriage suffers. We must be the same way about our intimate time with Jesus. We must take time to think about our salvation. We must take time to relive the memory of that moment, like that moment you first met the love of your life. Our salvation day should be a memory like that. That’s when everything became clear. That’s when we got it. That’s when we were filled with joy all over. We couldn’t wait to tell others about what Jesus had done in us at that moment. Never forget the joy of salvation. Our deeds should come as overflow from our salvation. Our deeds should be because we just can’t help ourselves in loving others. We can’t help ourselves from helping because we were sinners saved from an eternity in the fiery pit of hell by a Savior named Jesus Christ who gave His life for us as a sacrifice for our sin that condemned us to hell. We were bound for hell on the hell express. We were prisoners set to be executed. But yet we were set free by a pardon from Jesus. Jesus paid the price for our sins. We are set free. Do you ever remind yourself of that? Do you ever just sit and luxuriate in the love that Jesus Christ has for you? Do you remember the fact that you are no longer under the penalty of sin? Do you celebrate Jesus’ presence in your life today as you did when that moment of salvation came? Let us never forget to remember when. Let us never forget that our salvation is what leads to our service not the other way around. Our salvation leads to thanksgiving. It’s like looking at your spouse of 5 years, or 10 years, or 20 years or 50 years and remembering that day you met. It’s remembering the love. It’s remembering the giddiness. But you also look at your spouse and just thanking God that they are still by your side. They have seen you at your worst. They have seen your ugly side. They have seen your angry side. They have seen it all and they are still here. That is even a greater thing than the fact that they fell in love with you in the first place. The greater thing is that they STILL love you after all these years. That’s the miracle that you should see when you look at your spouse. That is what we should see to when we look at Jesus now after all these years…He is STILL here. He loves us so much. He knows EVERYTHING about us and STILL loves us! That’s miracle. That’s the thanksgiving. That’s where the outpouring comes from. That’s what drives us to serve. Jesus knows us and still loves us.

Father, we pray today. Let us not every to forgot to just love Jesus. Let us never get so caught up in serving that we forget why we serve. Help us to never get so caught up in the details of serving our Lord that we forget why we do it or that we forget the joy of why we are doing it. Help us to always take time to luxuriate in our Lord and Savior and think on what He has done for us and what He still does for us. We cannot be snatched from His hand because of His constant grace that covers us. Help me to always remember the day of my salvation and the joy that it brings. Help me to always remember that Jesus is still with me today still loving me despite all the crud that I am still fighting in my life. He accepts me because I am not perfect. He accepts me because He is perfect for me and in His love for me He makes me perfect for Him. Remember the love and the joy daily. Amen.

Love Can! Love Can! Love Can!

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

Luke 10:25-37 — Today, we move on to one of the most popular, well-known passages in the Bible, the Good Samaritan passage. The good Samaritan in this passage has become the catch phrase in our language for anyone who does a good deed for another particularly for someone that the person does not know. Even in our increasingly secular culture, the term “good samaritan” is a term that is universally understood. Even if you don’t understand the samaritan part of it, when the terms good and samaritan are used together, everyone knows what that means. It means to good deeds for strangers without expectation of payback. In today’s world, we have so polarized ourselves where we do not associate with those that cannot benefit us or that do not believe in the same way as we do that this story, this parable, is more important than ever.

I think there are three things that this parable teaches us. First, lack of love is easy to justify. In this disconnected, head buried in social media, and not venturing outside our homes much world in which we live. In this mass of people it’s easy to get lost in world in which we live. In this world in which we can go days without speaking to another person if we really tried world in which we live, it is easy not to feel any compassion for the troubles of another person. Virtually everyone is a stranger to us. It is easy not to care. It is easy to disconnect ourselves totally from the world around us. It is easy to say that it is someone else’s problem or that someone else will take care of that. It is easy to develop a heart with no compassion. It is easy to say that what happens in the world has no direct impact on me unless it actually does. It is easy to say that the murder of 21 Christians for being Christian is not my concern. It is easy to say that the lady you hear screaming next door because her husband is beating her is not my concern. It is easy to see a child being bullied and say it is not my concern. It is easy to see a man being beaten up because of his sexual orientation and say he deserved it. It is easy to see a homeless man on the side of the road and roll your windows up on your car to avoid contact. It is tougher to take action because it can get messy. It is tougher to hate or to be indifferent than it is to get our hands dirty in someone’s else life and their situation. Jesus call us to get messy. He calls us to care. He calls us to love others simply for the sake of His name. He calls us to love our neighbors, not just in the neighborhood where we live but everywhere because He loved us first. He loved us because God created us and for nothing that we did to deserve it.

The second thing it teaches us is that our neighbor is not defined by us. Our neighbors are anyone, anywhere, regardless of race, creed, color, social status, sexual orientation, or religious background. Our neighbor is anyone who is in need. Our neighbor can be someone whose lifestyle and beliefs are foreign to me or whose lifestyle and beliefs make my blood boil. My neighbor is a man who riots in Ferguson, MO just because someone said that a police shooting involving a white cop and a black suspect was racially motivated. My neighbor is a Muslim who does not stand up against the violence and bloodshed being perpetrated by ISIS but yet enjoys the freedom of practicing his religion here in the United States. My neighbor is the blatantly homosexual man. My neighbor is the Democrat that supports increasing government intervention in my life so as to ensure the accomplishment of his political agenda. My neighbor is the man who has no beliefs and just lives for the hedonistic pleasures of his life no matter who it hurts. We are called to love everyone. We call to show them compassion. We are called to love the unlovable. We are called to love first and ask questions later. We are called to love and show people the way to the cross. At the cross, they will be given the tools to see what they cannot see now. It is our job to love them and tell them of the cross.

The third thing it teaches us is that love requires action. Love compels us to action. In the Book of James, he tells us that we must be doers of the Word not just speakers of it. He says that we should take action based on our love. To say that you are going to pray for the homeless man as you walk by but do not give him your coat makes our faith worthless. We must be compelled by love. We must be so burdened by our love for others that we leap into action. We can walk by on the other side and is that love? We can stop and look at the victim and walk away but is that love? Only when we pick up the victim and take him to the inn are we really expressing our love. Otherwise, our love is just conceptual. Otherwise our love is just an intellectual exercise. It was once said to me and I am sure the person quoted someone else when he said it but “you cannot share the gospel with a hungry man until you feed him.” We must meet needs not because the meeting of the need ensure a token is place on our scale of good vs bad. We must meet needs because we care compelled by thanksgiving for our own salvation that we are led by the Holy Spirit to love on others. We must be compelled by love to fight injustice. We must be compelled by love to fight for the rights of others who are downtrodden and beaten down by evil. Love should compel us to be the one who gets his hand dirty. Love should compel us to break out of our cocoon of isolation and our perfectly sterile environments to change the world in the name of the love of Jesus Christ. We must be compelled by love to get outside of ourselves. Love compels us to stand against injustice. Love compels us to reach down and help our fellow man up out of the mud. Love compels us to help. Love compels us to get our hands dirty. Love can. Love can. Jesus love us. Jesus loved the sinners as wells as the saints. Jesus even loved his persecutors. Jesus changed the world through love. Love can.

Love can. Love can.

Luke 10:17-24 — Today we will look at the remainder of this passage in vv. 21-24. The thing that comes to mind when reading these words is the movie, God’s Not Dead. In that movie, there is an arrogant, self-absorbed professor who requires his students to write on a piece of paper at the beginning of the movie that God is dead. His presumption is that God is a myth created by man to control one another’s behavior rather than there being an actual supreme being that was pre-existent to the creation of the universe. In the movie, a young student is willing to stand up for his Christian beliefs. We spend an entire semester with this student as he battles his professor on whether God exists or not.

The professor is an example of the today’s intellectual elite that prides itself in its humanism. They pride themselves in having evolved past the primitive belief in God. They see God as a construct made by man himself to bring order to a chaotic world and to explain things that could not be explained at the time. This intellectual elitism or more commonly known as atheism prides itself in man’s discoveries of the universe. Knowledge itself becomes their god. Man becomes god. Man determines what is moral and what is right. We should no longer believe that man is inherently evil and requires guidance of a supreme being. Man is his own judge.

Jesus thanks God here for the fact that spiritual truth is often hidden from the people who consider themselves wise like the professor in the movie. Many of life’s rewards are reserved for those who are smartest, most good looking, most wealthy, most athletic, etc. However, the kingdom of God is only available to those who are humble enough to believe that God exists, that Jesus was God in the flesh acting in His function of the Son on earth. Regardless of position or ability, we come to Jesus Christ through faith and humility. We come to Him through child-like faith. There are no other qualifications for membership in the family of Jesus Christ. Sure, as we have discussed here before, our faith is one of reason and we can prove all these different things about Jesus the man. It can get you 95% of the way there, but we must make that final leap of faith that Jesus is God.

Apologetics, the defense of the Christian faith, can allow us to believe that there is an Intelligent Designer and Creator of the universe. Apologetics can help us defend our faith and help us stengthen our reason about our faith. However, you do not have to be a believer to argue in defense of the Christian faith. To be a member of Christ’s followers, we must go beyond reason to reach the final conclusion. I must have the faith of a child to understand who Jesus is and what He represents to us. It takes faith to understand that He is more than just some prophet in a long line of prophets, more than a wise philosopher on the order of Buddha, more than a political revolutionary on the order of Ghandi. It takes faith to see Him more than a man. Jesus here praises God for the fact that it does take faith. That faith is hidden from those who have pride in themselves. It was Paul that said that Scripture is folly to those who have not be saved. It is only when we accept Christ as our personal Savior that the truth of Scripture is made clear to us. It is only when we accept Christ as our Savior that we begun to understand that which non-believers spend lifetimes debunking.

Isn’t ironic that as time marches on the things that are thought to be untrue about the Bible continue to be proven true with our own archelogical discoveries of truths previously unknown to us. With every discovery of something new about the universe it becomes more and more clear that there is a God who designed all of this. We pride ourselves in our level of knowledge in the 21st century but we do know diddly. God is only revealing to us what we are ready for at this point in time. We are not expanding knowledge. God is only revealing it to us bit by bit. We are not pushing the envelope only discovering what God has already created. There is a God my friend. Yes, Jesus Christ is existed. But it takes faith to understand that Jesus Christ is Lord and all things were created through Him. He will bring low the wise and exalt the humble. No one will know the Father except through the one and only Son. All it takes is faith that you and I are sinners and that Jesus is God in the flesh who lived that only perfect life and is the only right and perfect sacrifice for sin that reconciles us to God.

But it is all folly to the wise. We all are wired to believe that there is an afterlife. So, are you willing to believe in man who thinks all roads lead to heaven and that Jesus is not the only way to heaven, are you willing to believe that if you just do more good and than evil that you will get there? Are you willing to believe in co-exist stickers? Are you willing to bet your eternity on man-made constructs? Are you willing to bet that Jesus is just one of many ways to heaven? Are you willing to call Him a lunatic or liar when you believe other than that He is the only way to the Father? Are you willing to bet your eternity on it and call it enlightened reason? If all what you believe is true, then let me be a fool. Let me be thought a fool here and be exalted in the hereafter when I meet my judgment. Let me be foolish here and justified in heaven. Let me be a fool here and be exalted in the choirs of eternity that praise God. Let me be a fool and considered unwise here. Let me be a Christ follower here and join Him in eternity. What’s your choice?