Teach me

Once upon a time, The Lord’s Prayer was prayed in schools across North America. Children learned it and recited it with regularity. And, while there is surely much argument surrounding such a practice, it certainly made our schools and our nation a better place for it.

Because it was something many of us learned as children, we are often wont to think of the words as childish. Something simple, for kids. We lump it into the category of milk rather than meat. But that was not at all Jesus’ intent.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Luke 11:1 (NIV)

Jesus responded to this request with what we have termed, The Lord’s Prayer. There is nothing immature or childish about the method Jesus gave to his disciples. These men were no longer new and immature followers. They had already been sent out on missionary journeys and had been healing and casting out demons in Jesus’ name.

“Lord, teach us to pray,” is a good prayer, and a very needful one, for Jesus Christ only can teach us, by his word and Spirit, how to pray. Lord, teach me what it is to pray; Lord, stir up and quicken me to the duty; Lord, direct me what to pray for; teach me what I should say.

Matthew Henry

I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard believers (not even new ones) say that they don’t know how to pray or they don’t know what to pray. And I can probably count on one hand the number of times someone has offered them the prayer that Jesus offered to his disciples.

Childish as it may seem to us, The Lord’s Prayer encompasses all we need as believers: a reminder of God as our Father and His holiness, the will for His kingdom to come to earth, the request that our daily needs be provided for, the forgiveness of our own sins along with the aid needed to forgive others, and a way out of the temptation we will surely find ourselves in.

Perhaps if we stopped trying to act like we think mature believers should act and start acting as the children of God we are, we as the Church, might find ourselves in a more advantageous position.

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

Luke 18:17 (NIV)

There is no shame in asking for help when we think we need it (and even when we don’t). When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, they were not rebuked, but given words for life. My grandfather, a great minister of the Gospel until the day he moved to heaven, once said in a message that the one word God loves to hear from us is a four-letter word.

H-E-L-P!

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. It takes courage to admit when we are not capable of doing something on our own. And God, in His love and mercy, will always be faithful to come to our aid.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Romans 8:26 (NIV)

So today, if you don’t know what to pray (or even if you do), start with Jesus’ example. Pray the prayer he gave us. Don’t just say it by rote, really pray it. Think about the words and the power within them. Ask Jesus to teach you what it is to pray.

Read: Judges 20-21, Luke 11:1-28

On trial

Read: Deuteronomy 11-13, Mark 13:1-13

I’ve never been on trial. I’ve never been to a trial. The closest I’ve been to trial is walking past the courthouse with my groceries. What I know of court and the process involved in a trial mostly comes from television. I take it all with a grain of salt because I assume that much of it is made to be much more dramatic than real life for the sake of cramming an entire case into forty-two minutes.

But one thing I do know is that, when a witness is to take the stand, a lawyer will prepare that witness. They will go over any and all questions that may be asked of them and refine responses in order to support a certain narrative and press a desired outcome.

Jesus has a discussion with his disciples about standing trial.

Mark 13-11

Notice he doesn’t say, “If you are arrested and brought to trial.” He says, “Whenever.” It’s a sure thing. This life we’ve been called to will most certainly earn us our day in front of a judge.

Right now, our judge is the rest of the world. Christians all around are being put on trial—both in the courtroom and out of it. We are being challenged on our faith and the very core of our beliefs. And the sad part is, in many instances, we’re losing our case.

Why? Because we’re not listening to our lawyer. He’s there prompting us, telling us what to say. Some of us ignore him or block him out. Others don’t even know he’s there, wanting to help.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him, But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 14:16-17 (NIV)

Counselor is another term for a lawyer, specifically a trial lawyer. So it makes sense that, if Jesus expected us to be on trial, he’d also provide the lawyer. Like anyone on trial, if we want to win, first we need to accept the help of our lawyer. Then we need to take our lawyer’s advice. He’s the expert. We’re not. In the case of our Counselor, the Holy Spirit, he actually speaks through us. If we let him.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 14:26 (NIV)

Accepting Jesus is the first part of our Christian walk. Accepting the Holy Spirit ensures that we are able to continue that walk and stand firm.

An eternal sin

Read: Numbers 3-4, Mark 3:22-35

Mark 3:28

It’s a nice thought, knowing that all of our sins and blasphemies will be forgiven us. On this verse alone, we could hinge our very existence. Jesus said it, after all. But that’s not all he said.

But whoever blasphemes against he Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.

Mark 3:39 (NIV)

Yikes! We tend to believe that nothing we could ever say or do is beyond forgiveness, but apparently there’s this one thing that would earn us eternal damnation. Why? Why is this one sin so much worse than anything else we could possibly do? Once we understand who the Holy Spirit is and what his purpose is in our lives, the answer becomes very clear. Let’s start with what Jesus had to say about the Spirit.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 14:15-17 (NIV)

In Jesus’ own words, he describes a Helper that will come to live with and in us. So we have a Counselor, a Helper. Great. Why is it such a big deal to speak against the Holy Spirit?

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Jon 14:26 (NIV)

Oh! Are you starting to get the picture? Without Jesus, in phyical form right in front of us, we need something or someone to give us a nudge in the right direction and remind us the right path we need to take. But there’s more!

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV)

Not only does the Holy Spirit help us, but he comes bearing gifts. Good gifts. No, not just good, great. Great gifts. The Spirit gives us gifts of wisdom and knowledge, faith, healing and miracles. Gifts of prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation. Without the Spirit none of these things exist. And, without the gifts of the Spirit, how can the body be edified?

For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

1 Corinthians 12:13 (NIV)

And there’s the verse that wraps it all together. Why is speaking against the Holy Spirit so unforgivable?

  1. The Holy Spirit was sent to help us when Jesus’ time on earth was complete. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, Jesus prepared the way for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is there to help us, to guide us, and to remind us of all Jesus taught and commanded us.
  2. The Holy Spirit is here for our edification. He gives us these incredible gifts so that we can communicate better with God and do His amazing works on His behalf.
  3. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the Holy Spirit is what holds us all together as one body. To blaspheme the Spirit is to speak against God, against Jesus, and against the entire body of Christ.

God has given us all that we need to succeed in the path He has set out for us, the Holy Spirit being our guide and Jesus, the Word, being the lamp that lights the way. Let us not fall into sin by reaching for one gift and not another, but let us take every advantage available to us so that we can live the full life intended for us.

The fellowship

I have heard many Christians who have walked away from one church, or the church altogether, blame other Christians for their spiritual state. The church didn’t do enough for them. The other members didn’t include them enough. No place was made for them. May excuses are given, but no responsibility is taken. Their cold spiritual climate is blamed on everyone but themselves.

This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.

1 John 1:5-7 (NLT)

This passage puts the responsibility on the individual to be a part of the body, not the body to make the individual a part of them. If we are living in the light… then we have fellowship with each other. Fellowship with the rest of the church is a natural part of a healthy relationship with Christ. Expecting that the church tend to your personal relationship with Jesus is backwards. Jesus first. Church second.

It is ignorant of us to put thing in the wrong order and then try to pass the blame around without ever accepting the responsibility we have to keep ourselves in the light. No one else can do that for you.

Instead of spending so much time looking for someone or something you can blame, why not use all that energy and put it toward your relationship with God? If we all put as much effort into our spiritual lives as we do placing blame, the church would be a much happier place and we wouldn’t have to worry about where the blame goes because there would be no reason for it.

Get into the light. Then get into fellowship. In that order. The church can help you, but they can’t do it all for you.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 47-48, 1 John 1

New strength

As many of us age, we may find ourselves longing for the strength of our youth. Our bodies no longer recover like they used to. Definition and tone has been lost to obscurity and perhaps a spare tire around the midsection. Once, hefting an entire load of groceries from the trunk and into the house seemed to take minimal effort. Now three trips are needed to make the haul. We want our old strength back. But until someone finally finds the legendary Fountain of Youth, that’s just not going to happen.

But what if, instead of regaining our old strength, we could gain an entirely new strength?

But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

I don’t think that Isaiah is talking about heading back to the gym with newfound energy, but when we wait on God, He will give us not only more strength, but new strength—one we never had before.

For I can do everything with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength I need.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

God doesn’t just give us the strength we want, He gives us the strength we need—the strength we need to accomplish His work and His will. He gives us the strength to put our focus on Him.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8b-9 (NLT)

This new strength that is found when we wait on the Lord gives us the ability to do the things that Paul talks about in these verses. Our new strength give us the ability to set our minds on the things of Christ and resist those things that are not of him.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 39-40, Philippians 4

Carefully protect

I can’t say for sure whether what follows is what Paul meant when he was talking about all the parts of the body of Christ, but as I was reading 1 Corinthians 12, this is what came to mind.

And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, while other parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.

1 Corinthians 12:23-24 (NLT)

Here’s how I came to see it: the outward parts of the body, the parts that are seen, are the five-fold ministers. The prophets, preachers, teacher, apostles, and evangelists. They are the most visible part of the church and, as such, actually protect the rest of the church from a lot of potential harm. Since they are the visible ones, they will take the brunt of an attack against the body.

Many people strive to be an outward part of the body. They want to be up front and centre, but they aren’t always prepared or even called to deal with the fallout of being the face of ministry. There are some that are called to be essentially faceless and nameless.

To be a nameless, faceless part of the body is not a slight against anyone. It is, if you look at it, a place of honour. There are those that God has put in front of you who will protect you. So long as you have no face and no name, you are more likely to have no enemy. And, any truthful minister will tell you, they can’t do their jobs without the nameless people working tirelessly behind them. The Church as a whole would not survive if it were made up entirely of public speakers.

Today I worked at the church and cleaned eleven toilets and five urinals. Tomorrow, I will step up onto the stage and lead worship. Today’s work, though far less glamorous, is no less important than tomorrow’s so long as they are both done unto the Lord with the purpose of strengthening the body of Christ.

Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. Here is a list of some of the members that God has places in the body of Christ:

first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who can get others to work together,
those who speak in unknown languages.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (NLT)

Paul goes on to say that you should desire the most helpful gifts. Sometimes the greatest and most honoured gifts in the body of Christ have nothing to do with standing on a stage. They are the ones done silently in the background under the careful protection of our leaders.

Our greatest position as believers in the body: helpers.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 1-2, 1 Corinthians 12

 

 

My place of safety

If you should ever find yourself in danger, what is your first response? Do you stand still calling out hoping for help? Do you wait and complain if help doesn’t come right away? Do you sit down and resign yourself to the situation? I hope not!

If you should ever find yourself in danger, your instinct would be to run. Find a safe place. Look for a refuge. Go there! Now!

Yet how often do we hear Christians say things like, I’ve been waiting on God, but nothing has happened. I guess He doesn’t want to help me. I have yet to discover scripture to back up any sort of statement that says God doesn’t want to help us. In Psalms, David writes over and over again of God’s unfailing love and the fact that He is a shelter, a refuge, a safe place.

You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me,
for you, O God, are my place of safety.

Psalm 59:9 (NLT)

O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
for you, O God, are my refuge,
the God who shows me unfailing love.

Psalm 59:17 (NLT)

Though David waits on God, that doesn’t mean he’s inactive. Look back at the times when he was in trouble, surrounded by his enemies. Never once did David just stand there in the middle of a battle field claiming to wait on God. There were times when he went into hiding for his own protection and there were times when he suited up and marched into battle. God was with him in hiding and fighting for him in the battle.

When you feel as though you’re surrounded by an enemy, that is not the time to sit down and give up on God. That is the time to look for your safe place. Your refuge.

REFUGE: Shelter or protection from danger or distress; a stronghold which protects by its strength or a sanctuary which secures safety by its sacredness; any place inaccessible to an enemy.

A refuge is not a moment in time. It’s a place. A place doesn’t come to you. You need to go to a place. Our safety and refuge is found in God. He has promised never to leave us, so when the enemy comes, we must go to Him. Don’t stand and wait. Run. Go to the place that is inaccessible to your enemy—God, your place of safety.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 59-61, Acts 28:16-31

Trust Him

The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

In just one verse—four lines—David gives us a progression of strength, trust, and humility.

It begins with trouble. There would be no reason to be looking for strength and a shield if all were well. David knows that God can and will be both to him—if he puts his trust in Him to be so.

Then comes the trust. Not just a bit of trust. Not just a portion. Not just a little. David’s entire heart goes into trusting God to come to his rescue. He knows from past experience that God will help him. And he also knows that he must get out of the way and not depend on his own strength to gain the victory.

The more we are able to trust in God and put ourselves aside, the more room we make for God to be victorious. If we only trust God with a portion of our troubles, we cannot blame Him if we don’t come out of it with complete victory. Trust in Him with your whole heart, then get out of the way and let Him work.

Because David was able to trust God with his entire being, God comes to his rescue and helps him. Instead of being filled with anxiety over the situation, David is filled with joy! When we are able to put all of our trust in God’s word, our worries will be replaced with joy. How can you be anxious when God says that the battle has already been won? When we trust wholeheartedly in God, we can be confident in His strength and ability rather than wavering in our own shortcomings and weakness.

Once the battle has been fought and won by God, David bursts out in songs of thanksgiving. He gives credit where it is due—taking none for himself and giving it all to God.

In short, this verse is all about humility. David recognises where he falls short. He knows that he cannot win on his own. Instead of striving alone, he puts his trust in the best place anyone can put their trust—the Lord God. God steps in and fills the gaps lending His strength to the situation. David is at peace and filled with joy. When the victory is won, he gives the credit and thanks to God.

The battle can only be won when God gets all of our trust. Then He can be our strength and shield, our help, and our joy. In all of that, what else is there to do but give Him our thanks?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 28-30, Acts 21:1-14

Be that hero!

Who’s your hero? Are you into super heros? Maybe Superman or Iron Man or Captain America. Maybe it’s the quarterback from your favourite football team or that awesome guitar player from your favourite band. Maybe it’s the writer of those books you can never seem to put down or even the character in those books. Whoever it is, you probably have a hero of some sort.

But what is a hero really?

HERO: A man or woman of distinguished valor, intrepidity or enterprise in danger; a great illustrious or extraordinary person.

In all of our admiring of great athletes, musicians, super heroes, and artists, do we take the time to admire another kind of extraordinary person?

The godly people in the land
are my true heros!
I take pleasure in them.

Psalm 16:3 (NLT)

These are the people who are truly deserving of our admiration. I can honestly say that I’ve got a few of these heros in my life.

The woman in Mexico who works two jobs to feed a bunch of kids that aren’t even hers. The young woman in Zambia who left her comfortable life behind to teach. The family who moved to Michigan to befriend a Muslim community. The single mom who’s teaching her boys to love, serve, and fear the Lord. The pastor who works on his day off just to be sure the job gets done.

These people are true heroes. They are each great and extraordinary in their own way. And they are all godly people. It is these kinds of people who are worthy of our praise and admiration. These are the people we should seek to emulate.

Let’s face it, you’re not and orphan from Krypton. You’re never going to make a flying suit and save the world. And I doubt you’ve never spent the better part of a century entombed in ice after being a guinea pig in a secret government science project. But you can do little things every day that make you a hero in the eyes of someone. In the words of Larry Boy, be that hero!

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 13-16, Acts 18

Preservation

Even though it may not feel like it, we do not live in the first generation that has been overcome with lies disguised as truth. David was struck with an agony many faithful Christians feel today. And never in my life has his words seemed so apt.

Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
The faithful have vanished from the earth.

Psalm 12:1 (NLT)

David’s cry is not so different from that which we are hearing from those churches that have remained faithful—even when it would seem that popular culture wants them to alter the foundation of their doctrine. Even when the words of Jesus himself are considered hateful.

When the world is full of lies, even though it may be easier, it is our responsibility as those who bear the name of Christ both to preserve and to proclaim the truth. Our trust must be in our God, not our government. Our government can’t (or maybe even won’t) save us, but God already has. It is that fact that should keep us on our path in pursuit of truth—God has already saved us!

Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
preserving them forever from this lying generation,
even though the wicked strut about
and evil is praised throughout the land.

Psalm 12:7-8 (NLT)

The pull of the world may be strong, but God is stronger. The lies may hide the truth, but the Truth lives longer.

Our help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124:8 (NLT)

When the wicked strut about, remember who your help is and where it comes from. God can and will preserve His Church. Trust in that.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 10-12, Acts 17:16-34