Monthly Archives: July 2015

LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY

Lesson One

“Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples”, Luke 11:1

When I was the preacher in Seagraves, Texas, back in the 60’s, I met a remarkable man named Luther Savage. He was an old man who suffered from macular degeneration. Because of his affliction he could barely see. Yet Luther faithfully came to worship and always displayed a cheerful disposition. I will never forget the first time I heard this brother lead us in prayer. He had carefully thought out what he wanted to say and he did so with amazing eloquence. When Luther led prayer it usually took extra time, however, it was certainly time well spent. I always stand in amazement when I am in the presence of one of God’s prayer warriors!

A great number of the people who followed Jesus throughout his ministry were remarkable servants of God. Twelve of them were chosen to be the Lord’s apostles, Luke 6:12-16. Some of the women in His group financially supported the Lord and his disciples, Luke 8:3. Most importantly, the people who regularly followed Jesus were people who had a great faith in God. They were disciples of the Lord and they served as examples of godly living to others. Actually, they are also examples to those of us who are alive today. Most certainly they were people who prayed often. It is remarkable to me that these giants of the faith once asked Jesus to teach them to pray. It makes me wonder if we should be asking the same question.

Why would people of such strong faith, people who were sacrificing in order to follow Jesus, ask to be taught to pray? One would think, at the very least, the apostles would not need instruction on the topic. It seems to me they asked for this assistance because they had often heard the Master pray and they saw a difference in his prayer life and their own. They wanted to become more like Jesus when they prayed. So do I. How about you?

New converts learn quickly that offering meaningful prayers is a learned habit. Just because a person comes to faith in Jesus does not mean he knows how to pray. We should be grateful to Luke for recording the fact that John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray. Thus, even for disciples, prayer is a learned ability. The goal for this series of lessons on prayer is to help us, each and every one, to improve our prayer life. I fully expect to find my own prayer life improved and I pray you will experience the same. Therefore, for the next few weeks, we will be looking at prayer. I know for certain that I need to do a better job of praying to our Heavenly Father. How about you?

We will begin by looking at Jesus’ response to the disciples on the question of prayer. The Lord replied, “When you pray, say “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom comes. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us, and lead us not into temptation,” Luke 11:1-4. Contained in this slightly abbreviated form of what is often called the “Lord’s prayer” we can discover some rudimentary elements of prayer. Isn’t it wonderful to realize that when we pray we are actually talking to God? In like manner, when we read the Bible, God is talking to us. This vital two-way communication is needed if we are to experience a healthy spiritual life.

The rudiments of prayer found in Luke chapter eleven are:

  1. Address your prayer to our heavenly Father.
  2. Say words that honor (hallow) the name of God.
  3. Pray for the progress of the Kingdom of God, the church.
  4. Ask the Lord for the daily necessities of life. Specifically mentioned is our daily food.
  5. Ask for forgiveness of our sins. Matthew chapter six adds the request that we not be led into temptation. We will discuss this in a later lesson.
  6. Acknowledge the fact that, we ourselves, must forgive those who are indebted to us. In Matthew 6:14-15 amplified this idea by clearly stating that we are to forgive those who trespass against us. Otherwise, God will not forgive us our trespasses against Him.
  7. Later in His ministry, Jesus informed the disciples they were to pray in the name of Jesus, John 16:23-24.

Next week we will follow-up with the teaching Jesus offered His disciples in response to the question on prayer found in Luke 11:5-13. Would you join me right now and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all the blessings He has given us through Jesus Christ our Lord? You will be glad you did!

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DO NOT FRET

   Have you ever been distressed over the actions of wicked people? We are certainly living in a time when evil people seem to be on the increase. More and more people are rampaging through the streets shooting innocent people. These shootings are taking place all to often. Most people hate to see anyone murdered. It is especially distressing when a deranged person goes on a rampage and kills innocent people. Of course, we all want to see these terrorist actions stop.

   Then there are the terrible killings in Syria and Iraq. Groups like Isis give no thought to murdering innocent people. We live in dangerous times. For many people it is difficult to find solace when such unthinkable events take place. While we hate the terrible murders of innocent bystanders we must not let the perpetrators of these evil deeds dominate our thoughts. Doing so will cause our spiritual lives suffer.

   The truth is, wicked people often prosper and seem to have the upper hand over the righteous. It is easy to focus upon the sad state of affairs of our modern age. It is easy to wonder where God is in all of this mess. The truth is, evil men have prospered throughout the ages. They often seem to get away with evil deeds. But, they won’t get away with their iniquity. In Psalm 37:1-9 King David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, addresses this very problem. What David wrote will help us to cope with the difficulties we face when evil men seem to have the upper hand.

ADVICE CONCERNING EVILDOERS: Psalm 37:1-2

  1. Don’t allow evil men to dominate your thoughts: “Fret not yourself because of evil doers”, Psalm 37:1. In this context David speaks of evildoers who are being more successful than the followers of the Lord. However, the thoughts expressed by the Psalmist helps us to cope with the terrible deeds perpetrated against innocent people. First of all, we are told not to fret. The Hebrew word for fret is “charah”. It means “to burn or be kindled with anger” The word can also mean “furious, distresses, fret, or to rage”. The teaching of the Apostle Paul seems appropriate for this word. He said, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Ephesians 4:26. Paul gave us good advice when he wrote “Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” Philippians 4:8. He is not saying we should bury our heads in the sand but he is saying don’t let bad thoughts dominate your mind.
  2. Don’t envy the “success” of evil men: God will take care of them at the proper time. “Be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb”. To a large degree we cannot control the actions of those who are determined to do evil. Often they seem to be in charge of this world. However, they are not. The time will come when God will take appropriate action against all evildoers.

ADVICE FOR BELIEVERS: Psalm 37:3-9

  1. Trust in God and do good: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness,” Psalm 37:3. We just have to realize that God is in control of our lives when we follow Him. We just need trust Him and do good. Don’t you love the idea that we are to “befriend faithfulness”? Of course this speaks of our firm convictions. We know that “for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28. That is true even if we must die for our faith in Jesus. Yes, it is true! Death is a reward for those who love and obey God.
  2. Delight in the Lord: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart,” Psalm 37:4. What is your greatest delight? Is it your spouse? Your children? Your wealth? For the child of God our greatest delight is in God and Jesus Christ our savior. Such a mindset will carry us though any difficulty evildoers can bring before us. In addition, when we delight in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart. The question is, “What do we desire?” Jesus taught that we should seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Putting the spiritual ahead of the physical provides us with the ability to withstand the actions of evil men. We will not fear them, Hebrews 13:5-6 and we will stand ready to fight against the evil deeds of men in high places. Paul makes it clear that we are God’s warriors and we must fight against the devil and his helpers, Ephesians 6:10-18. It is our “delight” to do so.
  3. Be patient; the Lord will act: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” 37:5-7.The idea is: we must be patient and wait upon the Lord. We must commit ourselves to Him, trust Him and realize that, at the proper time, He will cause righteousness to shine as a light. We must wait on the Lord, He will take care of evildoers according to His own timetable.
  4. Refrain from anger:Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil,” 3:9. It is difficult for us to wait for evildoers to be punished. Sometimes it appears that they are winning the battle. When wickedness increases we must refrain from unrighteous anger. Doing so will only cause us to dwell upon evil thoughts. Instead, we are to “rejoice in the Lord always”, Philippians 4:4.
  5. Trust God to bless your faithfulness: “Those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land,” 37:9. King David spoke of the land of Israel but there is a land for the Christian as well. Our rest comes when we dwell with God in heaven. Never forget that we are only sojourners on this earth. Our citizenship is in heaven, the place we all long to be. In our heavenly home we will not have to deal with evildoers anymore.

   The message of Psalm 37 clear. Do not fret over evildoers. As God’s children, we need to trust in God and do good. We must realize that God is truly in charge of this world. He will punish the evildoers in due time.

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IT GROWS ON YOU!

When my wife, my children and I arrived as missionaries to the country of Thailand we found ourselves in a totally different environment than we could have ever imagined. Many things were different from how they were in America. Automobile steering wheels were on the opposite side of the car and everyone drove on the “wrong” side of the road. Roads in Bangkok were always full of cars, trucks, and an abundance of motorcycles. At first, there seemed to be no order to traffic. Everyone seemed to be driving wildly and out of control. However, we soon got used to the rules of the road. In time it sort of grew on us.

Even though we were now living in a very hot and humid part of the world our vehicle had no air conditioner. Houses had no central air and heating. The smells and the sights were totally different to what we were used to seeing. And, the food! Well, that took some getting used to also. After our bodies adjusted to the heat and after we tasted the wonderful food we found ourselves enjoying our life in Thailand. It sort of grew on us. I believe the transition to living in Asia was easier for our children than it was for us. In any case, before long we were comfortable and happy in our new environment.

The Thai people are a friendly and loveable people. That was evident from our very first day in Bangkok. The customs, however, took some time for us to learn. In the 70’s, when we moved to Asia, there was very little mission training offered by our brotherhood. So, everything was strange and unusual to us. Even a simple meeting with a Thai was different than in America. They greeted us by holding their hands together as if in prayer instead of offering a handshake as we do in America. This was no problem but it was different. However, it sort of grew on us.

Life in Thailand presented us with many new friends and loved ones. However, the truth is, if we had done proper research and study before moving there everything would have gone much smoother. In any case, moving to Bangkok provided us with blessings beyond measure. We thank God for the opportunity to live and work for the Lord in Thailand and in several other Asian countries as well.

The Christian life also brings shocking differences to our lives that requires a bit of getting used too doesn’t it? It is no longer about serving our own needs first because we are to put others ahead of ourselves. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Phil 2:4. The new lifestyle promoted by Christianity grows on those who diligently seek to learn and follow the ways of the Lord.

Once the Christian experience takes root and begins to grow we begin to understand and practice a multitude of things that we never did before becoming a child of God. For this process to take place requires that we study the word of God so that we can learn how to live our lives the way God wants us to live. This new life takes some getting used to but it is certainly a blessed way of living. After we become students of the word of God and apply His teaching to our lives we become equipped for service. We will become lights shining in a world of darkness.

Read the following from Psalm 119:11–16 (ESV).

11    I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  12    Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14    In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.    15    I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  16    I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

This passage suggests several blessings that happen when we study the word of God with proper motives. These blessings will enhance our faithful Christian walk.

  1. Put the word in your heart, From 2 Corinthians 3:3 we learn that God writes His word on the tablets of our hearts. When that happens, we will know the difference between what is right and what is wrong.
  2. Let His word teach you, v12. This is so important because “it is not in man who walks to direct his steps”, Jeremiah 10:23.
  3. Speak up for God, v13. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” Psalm 107:2. If we don’t speak God’s word who will? It is up to us to tell the sinful world the Gospel message.
  4. Regard the word of God as a treasure, v14. Where is your treasure? While it is nice to have wealth and comfort for the body, the word of God is of much greater value. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” Matthew 6:19-21.
  5. Meditate on the word, v15. Each of us needs to spend time thinking about how our lives correspond to the teachings of the Bible. King David informs us that believers, “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night,” Psalm 1:2.
  6. Fix your eyes on God’s ways, v15. Strange as it might sound, we can only see clearly when we fix our eyes upon God’s way of doing things. Job gives us an example of this when he said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes: how then could I gaze at a virgin?” Job 31:1. Our behavior is often determined by how we look at things!
  7. Delight in God’s word, v16. How do you feel about spending time in Bible study? Is it drudgery or is it joy? The Psalmist wrote, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth,” Psalm 119:103.
  8. Never forget God’s word, v16. Of all people, the nation of Israel should have remembered God’s word – but they didn’t. God said “My people have forgotten me days without number”, Jeremiah 2:32. Such forgetfulness leads one to forget God’s instructions. Later the prophet Hosea wrote, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you,” Hosea 4:6. If we don’t remember God’s teachings we will surely fall into sinful practices.

In Acts chapters three and four Peter and John healed a lame man in the name of Jesus. Afterwards, the leaders of Israel confronted them. The leaders took note of the fact that these men had been with Jesus, Acts 4:13. When we put His word in our hearts we can show unbelievers who challenge our faith that we have also been with Jesus. When we do this over and over again, this bold manner of life sort of grows on us. God bless you as you grow in knowledge and understanding of the word of God.

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