Tag: focus

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 3

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 3

While in the Army, I had the distinct honor of being an Infantry Squad Leader.  A Squad Leader is responsible for 2-3 teams that equal  from 9-12 men.  The size is generally 9 men, but can bolster up to 11 or 12 with the addition of  a weapons team, augmented to the squad.  Routinely, a Platoon Leader or Company Commander would select such squad for special missions that would separate the squad from the main company for days at a time.

This limited the team on resources and causes special security considerations.  In order to properly function and successfully complete the mission, with all personal alive and well, a lot of planning had to go into effect.  All of the resources, including; Ammo, food, water, transportation, medical emergencies and other contingencies, came from the resources of the Company Commander.  A squad by themselves would be left dependent on the resupply and emergency coordination’s planned out, prior to the separation of the units.  Failure to make these coordination’s, and the necessary planning involved, could be fatal to both units.

Squad Leaders and their team leaders take the orders of the commander and analyze his intent.  They then study the terrain, perform risk assessments and measure up the possibilities of success and failure.  They inventory their on-hand equipment, ammunitions, and weapons.  They look at the mission’s risk assessment and identify specialized equipment that may be needed to overcome obstacles and to give the squad the necessary tools needed in order minimize the risk, and to ensure mission success.  Then they present these finds to the commander and request the supplies and resources needed that the squad does not have.  The commander looks over the plan, and the requests and provides needed feedback and resources.  The commander does this to protect the squad and to ensure their best possible chance of success.  A good commander will not hold back anything that the squad needs in order to minimize friendly casualties, and ensure success.  However, the Squad Leader must make the request.

Coming from a military background, this is the importance of Luke 11:3.

Give us day by day our daily bread. (Luke 11:3)

This is more than just asking God for food.  This is a recognition that everything we need is supplied through His grace.  He is the source of our existence.  Without his provisions in life we would not be successful in our mission for His kingdom.  Just like a soldier needs daily provisions of food, water, and routine ammunitions and medical supplies, so to do we, as children of God need our daily provision.

We should not wait until we have an emergency.  We should analyze what our needs are and request the spiritual and physical resources we need on a daily basis.  Recognition of our needs keep us humble and submissive to the Spirit.  Matthew 6:33 tells us that we should seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. What things?  The things are your daily needs and provisions like food, and water, and shelter.  These are the things that are provided to everyone.  “That ye may be the children of your Father which in in heaven:  for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just an on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45).  What we should be seeking are the things that are not provided to just everyone.  We should be looking in to our communities and into our surroundings.

How do we fulfill the mission that was given to us for the Kingdom?  What do you need to be successful in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to those who are around you?  What provisions do you need to be a good and faithful servant?  What do you need to overcome to provide a good witness to those who are watching and listening to you and your life?  What daily nourishment do you need?  Some provisions I know we all need are:

  • Guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Spiritual Disciple
    • Prayer
    • Fasting
    • Daily Reading of Scripture
    • Teaching in Scripture
  • Personal Relationship growth with Jesus
  • Fellowship
  • Encouragement

These are just a few off the top of my head.  I am sure that as you sit and analyze your lifestyle, that you can get a more detailed and personalized list.  These are the things you need to be successful. These are the things you need to be asking for.  Yes you can still ask for healings, and financial security and all of the other things that we need to survive while here in this earth.  However; the focus of your prayers should not be selfishly motivated.  The focus on your prayers should be on things on the kingdom of Heaven.

We are just passing though.  In truth we do not know if we will be here the next day or not.  Psalm 144:4 puts it this way, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”  We should be mindful that our days here are numbered and that we only have a little bit of time to perform out tasks here on this earth.

More importantly, the days of those who are lost are numbered also.  They are like a vapor that is here one moment and then gone.  How selfish are we to spend this little bit of time seeking to pray for only our own needs when so many are dying all around us?  You see our Father knows the importance of our mission.  He wants us to be successful.  The Lord wants all men to come to repentance.  He does not want anyone to die.  He is patient and long suffering for our benefit.  Everything He does is oriented to saving the lost.  Shouldn’t we have the same heart?

We can also be secure in knowing that the provisions we ask for will be provided.  While Jesus was here on the earth, he never turned anyone away who needed his provisions.  He did not measure by race, religion, ethnic background, gender, or age.  In fact if you look back at the Old Testament, you will see how God continuously provided for his people.  He provided them security to grow to a nation, even under bondage in Egypt.  He provided food and water to a rebellious people in the wilderness.  He gave them strength and resources to conquer the promised land.  He led them throughout their history by:

  • A pillar of fire
  • His voice
  • His commandments
  • Prophets
  • Judges
  • Kings
  • The Messiah

God has always provided.  Even in the Christian faith the Lord has provided.  He has led the church to overcome.

  • Martyrdom
  • Infighting
  • Scandals
  • Genocides
  • False Doctrines

We can have confidence in looking back in what He has done for us.  We have been delivered from sicknesses, addictions, diseases, natural disasters, other hazardous events and relationships, even death itself, in some cases. The Lord provides what we need every day.

So we pray for our daily bread knowing that the one we ask is who provides our daily bread.  We then have a greater understanding of the goodness of our Father, that even though in times past, when we did not ask for it he gave it.  We know that even though we were His enemy, that he loved us so much that he provided not only the daily things we needed to live, but; He did so to give us the chance to receive the salvation that he already provided for us in Jesus Christ.  We ask because we seek Him, of whom all blessings flow from.  We ask because we believe in Him, and in his Son.   We ask because we understand that our very existence is dependent upon His grace.

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Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 1

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 1

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“Is there something more? Am I missing something?” Came the question from a young man, whose name I will keep for my own treasure chest.  The reference was for what most people refer to as, “The Lord’s Prayer”.  This young man asked a very serious question, much like the disciples did of Jesus.  In 1st Thessalonians it tells us that we should pray without ceasing.  How can we indeed pray without ceasing is we do not know how to pray.  How do we talk to God?  What does a proper prayer life look like?  Is there some secret formula?

I hear all of these kinds of thoughts in the questions that I receive.  Is God listening? Does God even care?  How do I talk to God and get an answer?  Do I offend God with the way that I pray?  Does God love me? I told him yes, there is more to it, than it just being a model for prayer.

The significance of the teaching to pray itself is proof of the importance of prayer.  Especially if you take in consideration that it is God, himself that is giving the lesson.  Imagine that, the creator of the universe wants to communicate with us.  In the “Lord’s Prayer” we can see the benevolence of God towards man.  The Almighty God came down to earth and gave a special class on prayer.  We should probably study what Jesus was trying to tell us about the Father and how we should address the One Living God.

We as a people, who claim Christ as our Lord, have no idea how to talk to him.  I think that in the Lord’s Prayer we can find the answer to these questions.  We can not only use this model for how to pray, if we look closer, but also get an understanding of God in a very personal manner.

Examination of this model shows us the importance of prayer.  Looking at this model also gives us an attitude in prayer that expects results.  We can be confident in God’s hearing of our prayer and his timely answers. Jesus said in John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”  Then again, Jesus told Peter as they passed a withered fig tree, “Therefor I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].”(Mark 11:24)  As we see we are to pray expecting results, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

Now let us move into our verses with an open eye; considering what Jesus is trying to tell us, and how we should apply it to our lives.

1 And it came to pass, that , as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as john also taught his disciples.

How important is prayer?  Jesus, the Son of God, who was the Word in the flesh prayed on a regular basis.  Jewish custom is to pray a minimum of three times a day, although I don’t know of any commandment to do so, it would seem that the custom comes from the Book of Daniel.  Daniel was one of the Hebrews that were taken to serve in the king Darius’ palace when the Persians overtook Jerusalem.

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Daniel 6:10)

Something that might also catch our attention here that will lend to our latter discussion is that Daniel was kneeling.  Later in the New Testament, we see that Jesus also knelt.  Tradition has it that James the brother of Jesus knelt when he prayed, and prayed so often; that he developed callouses on his knees.  This is of great significance.  The posture of kneeling is unique in the world of religion at his time.  Pagan religious practices involved prayers that were offered while standing with the palms facing upward. Pagan prayers were done in public and associated with sacrifices made to idols.[i]  Here in our model, we see that they were kneeling, and in private.  Showing a level of humility and respect.  This also shows an intimacy with God, that others do not have. Notice that no sacrifice was necessary, even at this time, to speak with Jehovah.

King David in his Psalm 119:164 exclaims, “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgements.”  This gives us another reference to frequency, motivation, and purpose

Some times when scripture noted Jesus prayed:

  • Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
  • Matthew 11:25-26 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
  • Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  • Matthew 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
  • John 17:1-26 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
  • Luke 5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
  • Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
  • Luke 22:41-44 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
  • Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
  • Luke 9:18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
  • Luke 9:29 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This may be a direct reference to 1 Chronicles 16:11 – “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”

Note the phrase “he was praying in a certain place”.  “He” is in reference to Jesus.  Jesus was praying in a certain place.  This would give the idea that it was a specific place.  Whether it was a common spot for prayer, or not in not clear, but it is clear that the location was picked specifically to pray.  Jesus taught that prayer should be a time spent alone with the God the Father.  We should not seek to be seen by others, so that they can “see how holier than thou” we are. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6).  Jesus often would withdraw to be by himself to pray.  He separated himself from the crowds and even his disciples.

When I was a youth, I use to have a closet that I would pray in.  My closet was a walk-in closet that was in our 2-room apartment that my dad and I shared.  I put all my clothing on one side, moved a desk into the closet along the other side.  I had a stool that I would sit upon and there I would read scripture and journal my prayers.  Now, I have an office in my home that I use for study, and for prayer.  I get up early in the morning, read my scriptures, and I journal and pray.  God Himself proclaims, I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” (Proverbs 8:17).  Praying the first thing in the morning demonstrates love and affection towards God.

Imagine if you were to get up in the morning, and your spouse gets up with you.  You both go about your morning routine to get ready for work.  You shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and grab the keys to go to work.  Then you realize, hey, I don’t have my lunch.  So the first thing you say to your spouse is, “would you make me lunch for work?”  No- “good morning”, no- “I love you”, no- “I will miss you today”… Does this show that you value your spouse?  Does it show that you love your spouse?  No, it only shows your selfishness, arrogance, and lack of consideration.  Your love of God should not be second hand either.  I mean after all, he did sustain your life while you slept…

Sometimes I will burn frankincense oil or incents.  Yes, I know that we are not required to offer up sacrifices, but I just like the smell of frankincense and apparently, God does not mind it either.  It is just something that helps me address my mood in prayers, in addition, when I walk by the room later and smell the incense; it reminds me to pray.  Let’s face it, we all get busy and mismanage our time every now and then.  Having a reminder to just be still and know the Lord IS, is a great way to say, Thanks Lord.

when he ceased…

Do not overlook this phrase, “when he ceased”.  Prayer with the Lord should be our highest priority.  I mean this is Old Testament kind of stuff.  Take a look at Deuteronomy, “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find [him], if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”(v. 4:29). When we speak with God, He should have our attention.  Isn’t it frustrating when you are trying to talk to someone, and as you talk, you notice that whatever is on his or her phone is more important than what you are saying?  Therefore, when we pray we should not have other distractions.  This is probably the best reason for a “certain place” to pray.  Having as much as possible a place to be quiet and alone with the Father shows honor and respect.  Turn off the phone, the TV, and the radio.  Give the Lord your full attention; he deserves at least that much.  Now the flip side, notice the disciples waited.  They understood how important prayer is to Jesus.  They did not barge in and interrupt His communion with the Father.  Do others know the importance of prayer in your life?  If they do not, then you demonstrate that by prayer being important in your life, it should be a priority.  You do not need to tell everyone that it is important; they can observe it by our life of prayer.  Our prayer life can actually teach others the importance and manner of prayer.

That leads us to the last point in this verse, teaching others.  Discipleship is of utmost importance.  The primary thing a new disciple needs to know, is how to pray.  In Alcoholics Anonymous and new person getting sober is assigned a sponsor to help them I there new life of sobriety.  Unfortunately, this step is missing from Christianity.  We expect the new Christian to immediately be able to stand on their own, and be able to know how to talk to God.  What a terrible situation, we tell them that God will supply all their needs, and walk out of their lives without showing them how to talk with God.  That is like handing the keys to your car over to a 5 year old and telling them, “I will see you when you get there.” No one in his or her right mind would so such an irresponsible thing.  It is dangerous to the child, and anyone else along the way.

The problem is that, most of us have been treated the same way.  We were given the keys to the car with no instruction on how to drive it. Now we have a generation of disciples trying to disciple the next generation without proper experience or training themselves.  We should be teaching one another and encouraging one another.  Scripture says that the devil has come to seek and destroy.  We need to look out for one another.  Teaching how to study the scriptures and how to pray should be discipleship 101.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

1 Peter 4:10 – As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

John 17:17 – Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

In evidence of the few items we have covered, I believe it is safe to say that we should pray on a consistent and frequent basis.  With a primary motivation of praising God. Prayer should in private, as both evidenced and commanded by Jesus.  Prayer should have priority in our lives.  Prayer is so important to our walk with God that we should spend time in prayer throughout the day.  We must also bring up the new convert in this crucial instruction on communicating with God.

 

 

References:

“Prayer Practices in Daniel by Judith H. Newman.” Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/prayer-practices-in-daniel.

 

[i] Why does Daniel get down on his knees to pray three times a day with his windows opened toward Jerusalem (Dan 6:10)? The reason is that prayerful bodies matter in the book of Daniel. Though supposedly serving in the Persian king Darius’s government, in this tale Daniel disobeys the king’s law to worship him. Instead, Daniel follows his own religious law, developing habitual practices that involve his body. His posture of kneeling is unique in the book and offers a strong contrast to pagan religious practice in the Babylonian and Persian Empires, as well as the Greek Seleucid Empire, which threatened the Jerusalem temple at the time of the book’s composition. In Greek religion, praying individuals stood with hands outstretched, palms facing upward. Prayers were recited aloud in public accompanied by a sacrifice. In contrast, Daniel prays in isolation in an upper room, kneeling down in “service.” Daniel’s prayer signals his resistance to empire and his radically alternative allegiance. Rather than offer honor and praise to King Darius in a public space, he seeks mercy by confessing sin, praying, and praising his own God. “Prayer Practices in Daniel by Judith H. Newman.” Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/prayer-practices-in-daniel.

 

Pray in the Right Attitude

There are a lot of books and study packages and helpful hints on prayer that are readily available throughout the United States and the Internet. The way that they present themselves are like some kind of magic remedying, or sometimes special invocation used to get what we want out of God. It is clear by looking in the book of Matthew chapter 6 that the shoes always been a misunderstanding on how we should approach God in prayer. I think that is of special note, that the Lord himself thinks it’s a is so important that we understand how to pray, and how to seek the Lord, that he left as an example. This example is what we often referred to as the Lord’s prayer or the our father. We can find is prayer located in Matthew chapter 6 starting in verse 9.

 

Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version (KJV)

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this Day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Laura clearly leaves this prayer as an example of how we should praise, the type of praise and offering the should be offered in prayer, and one of our attitude in prayer. Something that we should also consider, is this prayer closely models the prayer that was prayed by King David, as he will made ready to relinquish his throne to his son Solomon. When David prayed he prayed in this manner.

1 Chronicles 29:10 – 13 (KJV)

“wherefore David bless the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Nine, oh Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in heaven and in the years is thine; thine is the kingdom, oh Lord, and thou art exalted as head of all. Both riches and honor come to the of the, and out rainiest overall; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength into all. Now therefore, our God, we think the, and praise thy glorious name.”

It is no accident, that the Lord chose the model of prayer given in Matthew after the prayer of David given Chronicles. It is often said that David was a man after God’s own heart. This prayer shows how much David understood the Lord, and understood his place in the Lord’s will. First of all David in his heart knew that only God deserves the blessings of all creation. He understood that all power and all glory anything that we could ever achieve is done through God the father. He understood the relationship that God had with Israel. The relationship between God and Israel, God and King David, was very unique and was one built on love. If you look back through the histories of other cultures and their gods, you’ll see quite a different relationship. Other cultures and other religions do not have a loving God who provides everything for them for their benefit out of his good pleasure. This same unique relationship is carried over to us as believers in Christ. This love relationship is demonstrated in the death and the burial in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So then first we must understand that everything that we have is actually a gift from God. Everything that we own in reality belongs to God. When we speak of everything we are talking about our finances, livelihoods, health, and even the very breath we breathe. If we approach our prayer in the correct attitude, and we give God to credit is due to God, then we find ourselves not asking for petty little things that God already provides for us. Instead we enter into true worship with an understanding of the provisions that are already made by God. In seeking God in prayer, we should seek to return the love that he showed us.

Looking back at Matthew chapter 6 we can also see Jesus was very concerned about our attitude in prayer and why we choose to pray. That we should be seeking the father with all earnestness all sincerity in our heart. Jesus said, “take heed that you do not you’re on before men, to be seen of them”. He also said that we should not present ourselves out before meant just to be seen of men to be doing good things for God but we should be sincere and we should pray secretly in private because God once a one-on-one relationship with us and he once us to really spend time with him. The father does not want us to be superficial in our actions and our hopes and in our love for him. While the our father is a good model and learning how to pray it should not be a repetitious prayer. Instead the model of the Lord’s prayer shows we should love the Lord our God with all of our hearts. The our father also shows that we should have respect for God for the provisions he makes. We should be submissive to his will in our lives by actively seeking his will. We should be living a life that shows that we are his children, because he is a good father who provides far daily needs before we even ask. We do this by forgiving others like he forgave us. We should also acknowledge the fact that it is he who guides us and leads us to our daily lives protecting us from temptations and from the evil things there are around us those who seek to harm us.

Because he does all these things we can with joy in our hearts give praise to our heavenly father because he is the ultimate authority in the universe. He has all authority, provides everything we need, and he does it because he loves us like a good father should. Those of you who have children know that there’s nothing that you would not do for your children to provide for their safety for their health for their financial support, and even for the little toys that they want Christmas. Knowing this then, that your heavenly father who created everything, who owns everything, who wants to give everything to you, can and will provide everything you need if you’ll just come to him. There is no invocation there is no secret formula there is no special prayer. Instead there is a recognition of God for who he is, an understanding that he loves you, and that he is willing to give you good gifts. But of these gifts, the greatest gift that he wants to give you is eternal life in fellowship with him. This was provided the sacrifice that was made by Jesus Christ when he died on the cross to redeem your who and your whole life to the Father.  So the question is, if God love you so much to sacrifice his own son, how much more will he give you if seek him first, and you ask in faith, believing he can do whatever you ask.

So go to your closet, get on your knees, give credit where credit is do.  Be sincere with your Heavenly Father, seek his will, and when He answers, be faithful.

 

What Are We Doing With the Great Commission?

The spreading of the gospel is what created the church (Col. 1.5-6), and the primary message of the church is the gospel (1 Cor. 15.1-3).  By saying that, the spreading of the gospel is the primary message of the church, it is meant that we begin with the process of telling others the truth of Christ and salvation.  Salvation in Christ is not only believing, but accepting.  Accepting the Salvation offered through Jesus Christ means you HAVE BECOME A DISCIPLE.  Disciples MAKE disciples. This is what evangelism is, the start of that process.

Probably the most powerful verse in evangelism is what we call the great commission.  In this Jesus meets with his 12 disciples on a mountain and gives them one last bit of encouragement and a command.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  (Matthew 28.19-20).

A successful business has a business plan, and in that plan covers the vision and the goal for the business.  The Great Commission is that for the church.  It gives us our mission: What we are called to do; Our Vision: Where we hope to go; Our Plan: How we will get there: and Our Response:  What we need to do. We are told to “go”.  We should be a reaching church, ever expanding our message.  If you study things in nature, they are always growing, or they are dying.  If a tree stops growing then it rots from the inside-out.  This is the condition we see allot of local churches in today.

Jesus said, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you (John 20.21). This was God’s plan from the very beginning.  From the Old Testament on into the New Testament God demonstrated his plan of repentance and salvation through the word of mouth shared by men to men (mankind to mankind).  This spreading of the Word of God came through prophets, teachers, scribes, kings, Apostles and, finally, disciples.  In Acts 1.8 scripture tells us that we are to be witnesses of Jesus, starting in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  We read in the gospel of Mark that we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16.15).

We are not to be idle and wait for people to come to us.  We are to actively take the gospel to all nations, all peoples, all tongues.  This means we should reach out not only to foreign missions, but in our very neighborhoods.  We reach them by preaching, and teaching.  We have to teach them about the love of God and the salvation in Jesus Christ.  We have to proclaim what is acceptable to the Lord God.  We have to teach them how to apply these lessons in their life.  We are to baptize them in accordance to the profession of their belief in Christ.  Immediately we get them in an outward expression of faith, showing others that they are disciples of Christ Jesus.  Evangelism is never an end of means.  Evangelism is a starting point for the new convert.

Evangelism is part of a continuing cycle of growth in the Christian and in the local Church.  Evangelism is a beginning in once sense and the process is a continuing of growth in the other. Like a tree that grows from a single seed, it puts out roots, stretches for the sky, bathes in the Sun and grows up and puts out more seeds that are carried by the winds to new locations. Christians should focus everything in their lives to keeping the gospel message at the center of our mental, spiritual, and emotional life.  This is achieved through deliberate, prayer rooted in Christ, Spirit led, lovingly felt, fervent Personal Evangelism.

One of the deacons shared a story in my Sunday school class on Personal Evangelism.  He told of how a woman had come in to the church just before the service and asked for money for food.  One of the members went out and talked with the couple and believed that their situation was sincere.  The member gave them some money and told them that after they had eaten to come back to the church and join the service.  While that was a good and noble thing to do, it was a wasted opportunity.  What would have been so wrong with two or more members missing service and going with that couple, buying their meal or even some groceries and then sitting with them right then and sharing Christ? That would be keeping the gospel the center in the situation.  If we look at the examples of Jesus and the Apostles in the New Testament we see that they met the immediate need, but they also went further to identify the real spiritual need and offer a solution.  Yes we are to care for the widows, and orphans, and the poor and needy, but we need to care for their spiritual needs as well as the physical, medical, and financial needs.  We do this by sharing everything we know about Christ.

Evangelism is probably the best way to keep the message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ a reality in our lives.  If we are actively evangelizing and concentrating on spreading the gospel it is less likely we will be distracted by the world.  Having gospel conversations with unbelievers builds up our knowledge and confidence in the scriptures.  Being intellectually challenged drives us to seek a deeper understanding of Christ in the scriptures, in history, and in science.  We get to learn more about God’s character, his holiness and judgments, we gain a deeper understanding of how God works in man.  We have to think through how to explain all these concepts to different types of audiences.  This gives us better tools to study and trace God’s truths in scripture and see the evidence in life itself.

Soldiers are taught tasks and skills then immediately are made to go and teach other soldiers these newly learned skills.  This makes them learn the tasks and skill development on a deeper level than they would have ever know in just listening to lectures.  Philemon 1.6 says “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”  Knowing and explaining the gospel to someone who does not understand it or believe in it is different than having an academic understanding.  This process of personal evangelism enlightens the one teaching as well as the one receiving.   Brian Parks in his 9Marks Journal gives 6 Benefits of Evangelism fir Disciples:

  1. Evangelism helps keep the gospel central in our lives and churches
  2. Evangelism deepens our understanding of the most fundamental truths of Scripture
  3. Properly motivated evangelism grows our love for God and neighbor
  4. Evangelism prompts unexpected questions and objections from non-Christians, which can deepen our faith
  5. Evangelism protects us from mistakenly assuming that those around us are saved.
  6. Evangelism increases the likelihood of being persecuted for the gospel which leads to our growth

(“Six Benefits of Evangelism for Discipleship.” 9Marks, www.9marks.org/article/journalsix-benefits-evangelism-discipleship/.)

Evangelism by individual members has a direct effect on church growth.  If we look in the book of Acts there are several examples of how the local churches grew after a short period of active evangelism by its members.  Acts 11:19-26 tells us of how, that after persecution in Jerusalem, some believers went to Antioch and began telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus and how the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  It goes further to say that believers in Christ were first call Christians at Antioch.  The strength of the evangelism effort has a direct relation to the growth of the church.  The local church and its membership should be a vibrant and dynamic reality in the local community.

The early churches demonstrated a recognition of needs in the local area, and even in other distant churches.  Each member of the community was concerned about the welfare of the whole and the individual above themselves.  Resources were shared and this created a social-economic system the benefitted all those around the church area.  The effects of evangelism made it possible for these churches to grow and have a positive effect on their neighbors, their civil governments, and eventually the whole country and even the world.  The church is responsible for the widespread use of the tablet form of writing, what we call a book today.  The church is responsible for the advent of schools, hospitals, and vocational centers, for rehabilitation centers and even the Constitution of the United States, the freedom from slavery instituted in Britain and the U.S. came from church movements.  The “Ivy League” schools were originally schools of Biblical Study.  Personal Evangelism has had a great effect on the world.

Christian organizations supply food and clothing to poor, war torn communities all over the world.  Christian legal teams fight slavery, sexual trafficking, Christian and Jewish persecution, and abortion not only in the United States, but in places like Africa, Iraq, Israel and all across Europe.  Without evangelism efforts these Christian churches would not have the resources to send missionaries to local neighborhoods, much less to the foreign mission field.  God provides for these missionaries from the harvest of the evangelism effort.  The building up of the local churches and the resources that they share are affected by the evangelist efforts put forward in their own communities.  With all the good that we do in our neighborhood and in the world around us we must not forget that these are by-products of the spread of the gospel.  Evangelism is for making changes in people’s lives.

Remember back to Matthew 28:20, Jesus commanded that we are to teach the nations “all that I have commanded”, and to “observe all that I have commanded.”  The command is not just to have them confess Christ, but to teach them to be obedient to what Jesus has commanded.  Remember the Lord prefers obedience over sacrifice.  He must be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth.  Those who obey His commandments demonstrate the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Faith that saves has the sign of obedience.  Scripture tells us that we should not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of the mind.  The renewing of the mind is accomplished by the Spirit of God by the study of scripture and fellowship with Christ.  Is this what we are doing?

“How do we usually read this scripture, which is familiarly called The Great Commission? Ordinarily we read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you don’t want to go, you can sing in the choir as a substitute and let someone else go for you, teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Other people read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you don’t want to go, you can teach a Sunday School class on Sunday morning as a substitute for going and let someone else go for you teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Or, sometimes folks read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you are afraid to go or don’t want to go, you can paint on the church building as a substitute and let someone else go for you teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” There’s just one thing wrong with all these various renditions of the scripture as the church members ordinarily read it; it’s not in the Bible. No matter what you say when you get out your Bible, you m7ill still read Jesus saying to you, “go YE therefore and teach all nations.” It does not say anything about if you do not want to go or are afraid to go. It simply says, “GO!” I’m afraid that we in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ of America have not been going like Jesus Christ told us to go.” (“God’s Plan for World Evangelism.” Sermon 15a)

The sad thing is that most modern Christians have never won a soul to Christ.  In fact most church going Christians do not even try to share their faith, or even invite friends or family to their church for fear of rejection of ridicule.  The danger in this is that Jesus said that whoever is ashamed of me in from of men, him I will be ashamed of in front of my Father.  Many churches don’t even get out in their local cities and perform a corporate level of evangelism.  There is virtually no effort to train or hold church members accountable to participate in Sunday school recruitment or youth development or recruitment programs.  The lack of identifiable leadership in evangelism is often used as an excuse by the members of the congregation to avoid their obligation to share the gospel. The result is that local churches are closing their doors all over the United States.  Members are disenfranchised and quit.  They lack the vision and without a vision they eventually give up and die. The following statistics were released in 1993 from Michael Parrott of Spokane, WA.

EVANGELISTIC STATISTICS

Ninety-five percent of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.
Eighty percent of all Christians do not consistently witness for Christ.
Less than two percent are involved in the ministry of evangelism.
Seventy-one percent do not give toward the financing of the great Commission.

One particular denomination did a survey on its leadership ministries. The results are as follows:

  • 63% of the leadership in this denomination, including deacons and elders, have not led one stranger to Jesus in the last two years through the method of “Go Ye” evangelism.
  • 49% of the leadership ministries spend zero time in an average week ministering outside of the church.
  • 89% of the leadership ministries have zero time reserved on their list of weekly priorities for going out to evangelize.
  • 99% of the leadership ministries believe that every Christian, including leadership, has been commanded to preach the gospel to a lost world.
  • 97% believe that if the leadership had a greater conviction and involvement in evangelism, that it would be an example for the church to follow.
  • 96% of the leadership believe their churches would have grown faster if they would have been more involved in evangelism.

Because of this, our results in evangelism have been mediocre, at best.

(“Street Level Evangelism, Where is the Space for the Local Evangelist,” by Michael Parrott, Acts Evangelism, Spokane, WA, 1993, pp. 9-11.)

We should constantly analyze ourselves with regards to the “Great Commission”.  Are we effectively reaching our neighbors? Are we teaching those we reach?  Are we seeing lives changed because of the gospel message we proclaim?  What are we that we should not be doing?  What are we NOT doing that we should be doing to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ? The uppermost desire for every Christian should be to bring someone to Christ.  You can do the personal work that you are called to do as an individual Christian.  You can work and win a soul to Christ.  All it took was one man crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord!”  Jesus started by getting one disciple.  Then one disciple got another. All it takes is one person in your neighborhood to proclaim the gospel of Christ.

 

References

“Southern Baptist Convention.” Southern Baptist Convention The Baptist Faith and Message. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2017.

Foundations: An Overview of Systematic Theolog. Perf. R. C. Sproul. Series 11: Three In Persons. Right Now Media, n.d. Web. 28 July 2017.

Coleman, Robert Emerson, and Billy Graham. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Revell, 2008.

“God’s Plan of Salvation.” Bible.org, bible.org/article/gods-plan-salvation.

  1. C. Ryle, Practical Religion (Darlington: Evangelical, 2001), 73

Lindsey, Art, PhD. “The Priesthood of All Believers.” Institute for Faith, Works and Economics (2013): Print.PDF

The Biblical Evangelist, biblicalevangelist.org/index.php?id. 4 August 2017

Steele, David N., et al. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. P & R Publications, 2004.

Zagzebski, Linda. “Foreknowledge and Free Will.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 13 Apr. 2017, plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-will-foreknowledge/.

“Ezekiel 3:19 Commentary – John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.” Bible Study Tools,

“Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry.” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, II, no. 2, 2014. FALL, doi:The Gospel and Evangelism. www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/ezekiel-3-19.html.

“Six Benefits of Evangelism for Discipleship.” 9Marks, www.9marks.org/article/journalsix-benefits-evangelism-discipleship/.

Unknown. “God’s Plan for World Evangelism.” Sermon 15a, www.white-fields.org/uploads/1/5/7/7/15776806/my_favorite_missionary_sermons_sermon_15a.pdf.

“Street Level Evangelism, Where is the Space for the Local Evangelist,” by Michael Parrott, Acts Evangelism, Spokane, WA, 1993, pp. 9-11.

Mark 12:28-31 The First Commandment

Mark 12:28-31 The First Commandment

If I were to ask 100 different Christians what they thought was the most important part of Christianity I would undoubtable get many different answers.  Some would say it is Faith, others study of the Bible, or Prayer.  Even others would say the Holy Spirit, or service in the church.  I am of the persuasion that while all of these are important, they are merely manifestations that come out of the most important aspect of your belief in Christ.

*******************Read the Passage Mark 12:28-31********************

In Mark 12:28-33 Jesus is asked this very question.  Jesus said that the first thing we should have is a directed love towards God.  We should be careful, that we don’t misunderstand this word love.  It is not a general kind of love.  It is not like when we say, “Oh I just love that dress, or I love this new car!”  It is not even like a when we say that we should “love all mankind”.

Jesus didn’t say that the most important commandment is to love God and to second, love animals.  Had he said that then we could take away that he was talking about a general kind of love, where we should express love for everything, love people, love animals, love the planet, love everything.  But “love” in itself is not the main topic Jesus is speaking of.

Even when he goes on to say that the second commandment is like it, to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Instead he is still stressing the importance of the first command.  Jesus is saying the main point is to LOVE GOD!  The second is like it because it is still loving God, man was made in the image of God.

1 John 4:20 says that if a man says he loves God and hates his brother, then he is a liar!

James 3:9-10 says, “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessings and cursing.  My brethren this ought not so to be.”

This love Jesus is speaking of is not a blanket that we throw over our shoulders and sing warm little campfire songs for.  It is a more specific kind of love.  It is even more specific than a love for a spouse, or a child.  Instead it is a living love directed explicitly at God above all other things, places, or persons.

You see, God is Love (1 John 4.8 ”He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”).  So then whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16).

How do we then love God?  Jesus tells us this also.  We love with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.  We demonstrate this with our love for one another.  This is all simple words and easy to say, but how do we put this in action?

Our natural state as fallen creatures is not to love God, but rather to regard him with suspicion and resist his authority.  Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to enter heaven you must be born again.  You have to know that you are fallen and in danger of judgement, and in danger of eternal separation from God.  Matthew 25:41 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”

But also as apostle Paul told us in the Colossians 1:20-22, that even though we were enemies with God, he had mercy on us and provided a sacrifice for our sins, in Jesus’ blood, to that we could be reconciled to God the Father.  So we were once alienated from God because of our evil nature.  But God Himself made a way for us to be with him.

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (Deuteronomy 30.6)

God himself gave us the way to love him, buy wiping out our record of sin.  By this I mean past, present, and future… This gives us the ability to love God with a pure heart and in good conscience, having a sincere faith.  Jesus has set us free, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” (Tutus 1.15)

God knows that we cannot love him of ourselves.  He provided the way through Jesus Christ.  Jesus suffered so that we would not have to suffer in our sin and bondage.

Psalms  22: 14-16 records a portion of his suffering, “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it has melted within Me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; you have brought Me to the dust of death.  For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation if the wicked has enclosed Me.  They pierced My hands and My feet;”

So knowing these things we desire to please him.  The question is not “What would Jesus do”, but “What would please Him?”  We put Him first in all things.  The psalmist said “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73.25)

We love the Lord with our all in all; as a result of salvation through Jesus.  This is the starting point, without this relationship with Jesus, we cannot love God.  The love of Jesus must be the key feature in our lives.

We love the Lord by eliminating competing loves.  Loving God must become the key feature in our lives.  Don’t compartmentalize God into on little piece of your life. 

Each one of us have 168 hours in a week.  In that week the average Christian devotes 7 hours in Church, Sunday School, and a small group devotion or study.  During each week if you sleep 8 hours a day, every day then you spend another 56 hours in sleep.  That leaves 105 hours that are spent in eating, school, work, shopping, social events, or other leisure activities.  The question is how much of that 105 hours is spent demonstrating an active love for God?(Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, 4/25/2017)

This isn’t just a temporary fasting. Not just a time where we skip a meal or that we don’t eat red meat for few weeks.  It is not even a deprivation of sleep from an all-night prayer meeting, or a week of revival.  It is instead a way of living for God. 

In fact the Lord said in Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and hot hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone were to ask your best friend, or your wife, or husband, or your children, “Tell me one thing about so-in-so…” and they could say, “That you really love God.”  Shouldn’t your life SHOW others that you truly love God!

This is a conscious choice.  We purpose ourselves for his service (Romans 12:11 says that we should be passionate in spirit, serving the Lord).  We do everything in life as if we are performing it whole heartedly for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).  In short we live “all out” for Him.  We hold nothing back from Him.  We are fully dedicated to His purposes.  We have to be wholehearted in our devotion to Him.  We are not ashamed of Him. 

Do you know that God knows that we are not perfect?  Do you know that he knows that sometimes, even on the way to church some of us have terrible arguments in the car?  Then we put on a smile and walk in the church like we just love everybody.  Then as soon as we walk out and start the car, our argument picks right back up from where it was.  Do you know that is wrong?  Sure we do.

We need to pray, and seek the Lord.  You know that as we humble ourselves and understand that we are not perfect, and hey no one else is either, and we realize again that Jesus still loves us.  He forgave us.  You know we can forgive others too.  We can love God by loving those around us.

We can even be so radical in our love for Him… that “We Love Our Neighbors, as we Love Ourselves!” (Mark 12:31) Do you know the best thing you can do for someone else is to let them see you LOVE God with all you have to love Him with?

In Matthew 25:34-40  we read “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat:  I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:  I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me:  I was sick, and ye visited me:  I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have don’t it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

If someone asked that question, if the asked about you… today… if they asked “tell me about so-in-so”; and they were pointing the finger at you… Could who they were asking say, “They really love God”?  Does your life show your love for God?  Does your language show that your love God?  Do your neighbors even know that you know who Jesus is?  If not, maybe you need to make a commitment today. 

Get things right with God today.  Come to the alter of his mercy and tell him.  Lord I have not been living like I love you.  I have not been doing the things that I should, or speaking up for you.  Lord people have no idea that you’re my God or my savior by the way I act, speak, or how I treat other people, not even other believers.  I want to make that right with you today.

Or maybe you’re here and you have never even considered the sacrifice that Jesus made for you; how he poured out his blood to make restitution for your wrong doings.  Maybe you need to come and tell him you believe in Him.  You believe that he sacrificed himself for you, so that you could learn how to truly live in love.

A New Year : Keep Your Focus!

Philippians 3:13-15

I remember when I was in the Basic Non-Commissioned Officer’s Coarse while stationed in the U.S. Army, at Hawaii. We had a 12 Mile forced march that we had to complete under 3 hours. Now this doesn’t seem to difficult at first mention. Especially if you consider that we were all Infantry soldiers, and this was a small distance for us. We got up early, as usual, and drew our weapons, and load bearing equipment. Now the load bearing equipment is what we wear that allows us to carry a bayonet, ammunition, and water on our person. This equipment with the Kevlar helmet on average is about 35 lbs. Then we add on our weapon and ruck sack (backpack).

The recommended weight allowance for an Infantry soldier is 60 lbs in total. However, as a leader we are expected to go farther, carry more and do it faster. So I was required to carry a 95 lbs rucksack. Now you begin to see, that even seasoned soldiers can be put to the test with such requirements, and as Sgt and a Infantry Squad Leader, I was very seasoned. The walk I will tell you is not hard, the pace is not hard. The weight, although common, is a burden.

12 miles can get to feeling very long, and 3 hours, gets to feel like forever, and yet doesn’t seem long enough time. Your mind can start to talk to you. But by keeping the end in mind, you step-by-step get through the hills and the valleys along the way to the finish line. Your heart sometimes feels like its will burst, the breeze sometimes feels like God is cheering you on. Focus is what gets you through. You walk, and you focus on the goal. You focus on your pace. You focus on your distance left to go.

Philippians tells us that Paul kept his focus. He focused on the goal. He said I forget those things which are behind, and I reach forward to the things that are before. Paul pressed toward the mark. He kept Jesus in front of his eyes the whole way! Throughout Paul’s ministry he was beaten, stoned, hungered, homeless, betrayed, thrown in prison, mocked, ridiculed, and attempts were made on his life ; all for Christ’s sake.

Paul was called by Jesus Christ, just as you are. The scriptures tell us that Paul focused on one thing, “Christ Crucified”. We must remember that in all things that Jesus was crucified for us, and for all those around us. We must keep in mind that Jesus was not only Crucified and was buried, but that He arose from the grave. The resurrection of Christ is our sign of acceptance. In Romans chapter 6 the scriptures tell us that we shall also be resurrected in the likeness of his resurrection! Brothers and sisters, death has no hold on us! We do not need to fear what man can do to us. He cannot touch our soul!

We can rest in the knowledge of what the Lord has brought us through this past year, and let it be an encouragement that He will see us through this year also. Yes there are some things that will happen that we may not understand or that we wont want to go through. Right about now, you’re going to expect me to say that the Lord will not give you more than you can handle, but I’m not going to say that. I will say that He said he will always be with you, even until the end of the age. I will remind you that He told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage”, more than once. I will remind you that the scriptures tell us that we should encourage one another, and that we should pray for one another, and that we should love one another. I will remind you that Jesus’ intercedes on your behalf!

I do know that He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it. I have the utmost expectations for this New Year, that it will be better than the last. Not because of who is president, but because my God is the God who appoints the kings of the earth. I know that even though there is going to be persecution, that the Lord’s message will be spread as a result. I do know that the Lord has stirred up the Spirit in Christians all over the world, and that He is soon to return. So I encourage you, when your rucksack gets too heavy, or when your feet are sore and want to stop, or when your weapon is to hard to raise, to keep your eyes on the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. If you share anything this year about your faith, share Christ Crucified. Share the hope that is within you. Let someone know what you know… the Truth. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, and have a great new year!