Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Do We Know How To Pray?- Part 4

In this series on "The Lord's Prayer," I've been talking about how we are too selfish in the way we pray. The Lord's Prayer helps us to remember to pray: "Our Father." Our prayer is to be focused on God, not on ourselves. The God we pray to is holy, and has a name above all names. This God we pray to is the creator of all things, and has given us life and the world we live in.
Jesus then tells us to pray: "Thy kingdom come..."

The kingdom of God was central to the message of Jesus. When Jesus first appeared on the scene, He came “preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 4:43) But what does this mean?

It actually has 3 meanings; past, present, and future. In the past, we see the kingdom of God existing through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and existing through the prophets. But it also had present meaning for Jesus. Jesus wanted us to know that the Kingdom of God was a present reality in Christ; it was here and now. And yet, the Kingdom of God also had future implications. There was an aspect of the Kingdom of God to come. It had meaning for when the end times would come; when heaven and earth would be done away with and a new heaven would come about. So Jesus, in using this phrase, tries to help us understand how the Kingdom can be past, present, and future.

To be in the Kingdom is to obey God’s will. The beauty of this understanding is that the Kingdom is not nations and countries, but you and me. We are each a part of the Kingdom, and together make up the Kingdom. The Kingdom makes a demand of us to give ourselves over to God’s will. It requires selflessness on our part; we must give up our selfish desires and wishes to be able to seek God’s will. It is only when we can each give up our will together, and join together in seeking God’s will, that the Kingdom of God can be seen here on earth. Which brings us next to seeing how God’s will comes to earth as it is in heaven, which I will talk about in my next blog.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Do We Know How To Pray, Part 3

I want to continue today to look at "The Lord's Prayer," and what it says to us about prayer. Last time I left off talking about how this prayer teaches us that we are to pray "to the Father, through the Son (that’s why we close prayers 'in Jesus’ name'), by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Too often our prayers are about wishing for all the selfish things we hope would come true in our lives. Our lives are infected with selfishness. And if the Lord’s Prayer tells us anything about ourselves, it tells us that in every culture, selfishness is one of the most common bonds we share with everyone. We are concerned with the question: “What’s in it for me?” And Jesus tells us that it isn’t about us, it is about God and our relationship to God and our relationship with God.

In Matthew 6:8, Jesus reminds us: “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”/ God knows our needs and wishes. The purpose of prayer is not to be focused on our selfish needs, but to trust God, and be with God, and seek God more deeply. In His travels, Jesus encountered people who only cared about themselves and their own needs. And so in His teaching the disciples about prayer, and in teaching us to pray, Jesus begins the prayer, and continues every petition in this prayer, by directing our focus and attention towards God. Jesus is showing us that we can’t really pray if our focus is wrong.
The Bible is there to remind us that we can’t make it without God. In fact, we were not created to separate ourselves from God, but rather to be in close communion with God. If we spend our lives developing self-reliance from God, ultimately we are not going to make it. We may make it big on earth, according to the world’s terms, but we will lack real purpose and satisfaction in life. We will always have a void, a hole in our lives that won’t be filled, because that hole can only be filled with God’s Spirit. And in that day when heaven and earth as we know them pass away, and only heaven and hell exist, what will we do then? Jesus says it this way in Matthew 16:26- “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
The better our companionship with God, the better our companionship with others will be. That’s what this prayer does, it helps us to focus on God and our relationship with God. We cannot make it all alone. Jesus knew this, and in teaching us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and in starting the prayer this way “Abba—Father—Daddy,” He tells us that neither does God want any of us to seek to go it alone. God is a perfect Father; one who desires companionship with us, and reliance from us in Him.
As we pray in God's
name, we can know it is a name that we can rely on, and to whom we can speak.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do We Know How To Pray?: Part 2

In my last blog, I gave a general overview of the Lord's prayer. Today I want to start looking more in depth at what this prayer is really saying, and how Jesus is teaching us to pray. The Lord's Prayer opens with these wonderful words: “Our Father…” In this opening salutation, Jesus wants us to understand that we should call to God in a very personal way; we should know God in a very personal way. The word “Father” is the Aramaic word “Abba.” This word is very personal and intimate, because it can be translated as “daddy.”

In our culture today, one of the first words a baby speaks is the word “daddy.” In Jesus’ time and culture, that word was “abba.” This was a society in which the father was expected to be the spiritual leader of the entire household; a society in which the father provided for the majority of the needs of the family; a society where a family’s identification in the community was established primarily through the father.

When Jesus used this word “abba,” father, His purpose was to establish, to clarify, and then to invite each one of us to celebrate the wonderful relationship God wants to have with each one of us. Now this was a very new way of praying. This was not how the religious people of that time were accustomed to praying. One Christian writer remarking about this new kind of intimacy said: “What an incredible revolution Jesus started when He used this word ‘abba’ to describe our relationship with God.” For a community whose prayers had always reflected great distance between themselves and God, Jesus introduced to them the immediacy, and thus the intimacy of a caring God.

God is no longer to be thought of as someone who cannot be reached. God is to be thought of as a loving parent. As a parent, I would be greatly distressed if my children kept distant from me. It is the same with God. God created us, and loves us, and wants to have a special relationship with us. Jesus tells us straight out that this relationship is to be intimate and special like you should have with a loving earthly father.
But along with using such a personal name as
“abba” to help us understand the personalness of God, and of this prayer, this opening “Our Father” also seeks to help us understand the focus we are to have in our prayers. The focus is to be on God. Just as Jesus offered His prayers to the Father, so He tells us to direct our prayers to the Father. Our prayers are to be to the Father, through the Son (that’s why we close prayers “in Jesus’ name”), by the power of the Holy Spirit. And in praying this way, we are reminded that the focus is not on ourselves, but on the God to whom we are praying, and seeking, and relying on.
Next time I will continue on the relationship between praying to "our Father" and being selfish.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Do we know how to pray?

Do we really know how to pray? We know how to ask for things. We know how to get frustrated when God doesn't give us what we want, the way we want it, and in the time we want it. But prayer is more about seeking God's wisdom, listening to God, and giving ourselves over to God. It is more than taking time out of our day for a particular "time" of prayer. It is about communing with God throughout the day. (For more on this you can see my blogs on "The Practice of the Presence of God," June 21, 2007 - October 24, 2007)
The disciples realized that they didn't know how to pray. So they specifically asked Jesus to teach them to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus' answer has become known as The Lord's Prayer. 9"This, then, is how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'"
It is a prayer that reminds us of the holiness of God and God's name, the importance of seeking God's will and God's purpose, the understanding that our basic needs are provided by God, our need to be forgiven and to forgive, and seeking God to help us from succombing to temptation. While it is good to know and pray this prayer, it should also be used as a guideline of what prayer is (a communing between us and our creator), and the kind of things we should pray for. Do you notice that there isn't any praying for material possessions, or for fame or success?
In my next blog I will continue this discussion. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Taking Away the Decorations

I know that Christmas is a couple weeks past, but I was thinking today about how there is a tendency to let the Christmas spirit fade away once we have taken the decorations away. I love the decorations of Christmas. It brings such a festive atmosphere, but can also bring a let down once they are put away.
However, stated in an article by Vern Farnum, called "De-Decorating," he says: 'De-decorating is our way of getting back in touch with the routine reality of daily life. As we take down the lights and signs of the Christmas season, I hope we will not box away our faith with the decorations. Instead, may we carry with us the lessons of the season as we step back into real world.' "
I believe this is true. First, if it were Christmas all year long, we would lose touch with the more simple aspects of life. Life can't be all decorations, and partying all year long. However, second, we do need to keep with us the love, hope, joy, and peace that Christmas reminds us of. We do need to make sure that we keep the lessons of Christmas (the coming of God into the world to save us from our sins) in the forefront of our minds.
So, as we have now left Christmas, may we seek to remember what Christmas has taught us, and keep this spirit in our every day lives.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Does God want us to be happy?

People seem to place a lot of weight on being happy in life. Even the greeting "How are you doing?" seems to imply whether you are happy or not. So many people work so that they can have the money to "enjoy" life. But there is an important fundamental question: Does God want us to be happy?
I think the answer to this question is "not necessarily." As C. S. Lewis once said, "God isn't concerned with if we are happy or not. God wants us to love, and be loved." But loving and being loved isn't the same as being happy. Because there is pain in life, there will still be love, but not necessarily happiness.
So what do we do with this? If God isn't overly concerned with our happiness, then we shouldn't be either. And the truth is, the less we worry about happiness, the better off we will be. We should have the thinking that the apostle Paul tries to tell us in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice." At the heart of rejoicing in understanding that God is with us in all circumstances. So whether we are happy or not, we rejoice because we know God walks with us.
Let us try and rejoice more, and worry less about happiness. In the end, God's blessings will carry us through. Let me know what you think (

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Epiphany , meaning 'appearance' or 'manifestation', is the day many Christians use to celebrate the "shining forth" or revelation of God in human form, in the person of Jesus. Some Christians commemorate the visitation of the Magi to the child Jesus on this day. As this is Epiphany Sunday, I wanted to talk a little about a wonderful revelation we find in the Christ child.

There comes a time in life when we realize that we aren’t always strong, or smart or we don’t always win the game. In fact, we often feel weak, and bumbling, and look at only our failures. And so when it comes to living our lives, we go through these periods where we don’t feel too great about ourselves; where we don’t think we have that much to offer.

But in Christ, we can understand a great truth… God can actually use us all the more when we are weak. The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:10- “For Christ’s sake, … when I am weak, then I am strong.”
There were many who thought Jesus to be weak and foolish. There were (and still are) many who don't understand Jesus' birth and death, and think Him weak (that God would even consider taking on flesh, and allowing humans to kill him). But the apostle Paul tells us something wonderful in 1 Corinthians 1:25, "God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength." And also in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”
As the magi traveled a long journey to receive the truth of the Christ child, understand this: whenever you feel weak, or humbled, or like a failure, know that in Jesus, your weakness can be used for something great when you partner with God. So don't fret, "if God is for you, who can be against you."

Thursday, January 03, 2008


We all want to be safe, protected, and secure. But so often the ways we look for this doesn't work. We think that if we have a good job, we will be secure. But what if we lose the job? We think that if we have good health, we are secure. But what about when our health fails us? We think that if we are financially secure, all will be well. But life is more than being secure in these ways. Our only real security can be found in the One who created us; God.
This last year I again decided to read the devotional "My Utmost for His Highest," by Oswald Chambers. On the last day of 2007 he talked about security. Let me share a little of what he wrote:
Security from Yesterday. "...At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise from remembering the yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God's grace is apt to be checked by the memory of yesterday's sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterday's, and He allows the memory of them in order to turn the past into a ministry..."
Security for To-morrow. " 'For the Lord will go before you.'...God's hand reaches back to the past and makes a clearing-house for conscience."
Security for To-day. " 'For you shall not go out with haste.' As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impertuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel with go before us..."
Security comes from knowing that God is the God of our yesterday, today, and tomorrow. With God on our side, we have nothing to fear. We can live each day knowing that God has our best in mind, and will guide us into a wonderful life that God has envisioned for us.