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Posts Tagged ‘Lord’s prayer’

[rewritten]

Let me begin with a question – What sins are you struggling with? You know, things you know are wrong, but continue to choose to do. Is there one in particular?

Perhaps you feel like you don’t even have control over it anymore; that you are a slave to your sin. Like Paul says in Romans 7:19 – “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want, is what I keep on doing.”

In the next few weeks, I want us to look at five specific steps that you can take to be free; to overcome your sin. These steps come from looking at Jesus as he faced the cross -primarily from Mark 14:26-72. Here he was tested as to whether he would stay true to God and go to the cross. And we learn from his example, how to overcome in our own areas of struggle.

We will also look at Peter as a contrast case. He was tested to see whether he would stay true to God by standing with Jesus, even if it got him killed. He did not overcome. We can also learn from, and identify with him.

I encourage you to keep in mind the area of weakness you have identified and as we go through this, apply it to your situation.

We begin with –

Step #1. Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says

We learn what God’s will is primarily through studying the Scriptures. As Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We especially need to learn from Jesus and the New Testament, since Jesus gives us the complete and final revelation of God’s will for us.

Once we begin to understand God’s will, it will become apparent that we don’t measure up.

It’s just like Jesus said, “The flesh is weak” – Mark 14:38. Weak that is, in terms of doing God’s will. We sin very easily, especially in a time of testing when we are put under pressure.

In humility we need to recognize this. As Paul said, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” – 1 Corinthians 10:12. As Proverbs says, “Pride goes before a fall” – Proverbs 16:18. Our pride will kill us.

But if in humility we are rigorously honest with ourselves – God can help us.

Peter’s failure. He was confused about God’s will. Before he got to Gethsemane, he didn’t think Jesus had to die on a cross. In fact, he rebuked Jesus when he said he had to die – Mark 8:33. Despite hearing Jesus’ repeated teaching, he thought Jesus would be a warrior Messiah and he would fight alongside him.

But not only is he confused, he was overconfident. He saw himself as strong. He said to Jesus, “Even though they all fall away (the other disciples), I will not.” – Mark 14:29. And he said, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” – Mark 14:31. Peter doesn’t acknowledge his weakness.

Jesus’ example. He knew God’s will for his life. Before he ever got to Jerusalem he told his disciples, “The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.” – Mark 10:33-34. (In our story Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 – Mark 14:27)

And Jesus was upfront that this would be hard. Just as he said to Peter and the others, “The flesh is weak” – Mark 14:28. Jesus didn’t want to die the shameful death of a criminal on the cross. He didn’t want to be abandoned by God. He didn’t want to come under the judgment of death. Mark tells us that he “began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.’” – 14:33-34. He knew it would be hard.

Step #2. Remain alert in prayer for times of testing and temptation

At Gethsemane Jesus told the disciples “keep alert and pray that you might not enter into testing” – Mark 14:38.

As we saw last week, Satan comes before God requesting permission to test us. He wants to test us in order to cause us to sin, so that he can condemn us before God. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that he “prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So, since we know that we are weak and the enemy is trying to destroy us, we should look to God in prayer (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2) and specifically we should ask to be spared testing and temptation. We need to counter Satan, by asking God, “do not lead us into testing but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13), as Jesus teaches in the Lord’s prayer, and as he told the disciples in our story. We are saying, ‘God, the enemy is powerful and I am weak. Have mercy on me. Don’t let me be tested, lest I sin against you.’

Now sometimes in mercy God will answer our prayers and we will be spared. And who doesn’t want to be spared going through difficult situations? Why wouldn’t we be praying this all the time?

But even if God allows us to go through testing, because he knows we can handle it, and he wants us to grow in character and godliness – we will be ready, being alert and prayerful. We will recognize what is going on when it confronts us.

Peter’s failure. He was not spiritually alert to what might come his way. In fact, he was literally asleep – Mark 14:37. Jesus found him asleep three times.

Although Satan had obtained permission to test him, as Jesus said in Luke 22:31, he didn’t ask God to spare him testing, asking for God’s mercy.

The final time that Jesus woke Peter up he said, “The hour has come” – Mark 14:41. It was too late to get ready. There Peter was in the test of his life – confused and unprepared.

Jesus’ example. Jesus was alert and knew what was coming. And so he prayed to be spared. He prayed that “the hour might pass from him” – Mark 14:35. He prayed fervently, three times, “remove this cup from me” – Mark 14:36, which is another form of the prayer “do not lead (me) into testing.” He asked for God’s mercy.

And when God didn’t intervene to offer up another way, he was ready and accepted the test.

Now sometimes in mercy God will hear us and answer our prayers. But God will not always spare us testing, as in the case of Peter and Jesus. They were both tested. When this happens, if we have watched and prayed ahead of time, at least the test will not catch us off guard. We will be alert and prayerful as we enter into it.

Let me end by asking –

Are you ready for a time of testing?

Are you acting ahead of time knowing that there will be tests and struggles ahead? So many times the battle is lost before we even get to the test, because we haven’t done what we could have done ahead of time.

  • Do you understand what God’s will is?
  • Are you aware of your areas of weaknesses in doing God’s will?
  • Are you alert in prayer?

These are specific things that you can do before a test, before Satan pressures you and entices you to give in to the weakness of your flesh. I encourage you to put them into practice this week.

William Higgins

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We’re talking about God today; who God is and what God is like. It’s a big topic and we are only delving into a part of it. 

God was seen as a Father in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 1:31; 8:5; Proverbs 3:12; Jeremiah 31:20; Jeremiah 3:19; Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 63:16; Psalm 103:13). But the prominence of “Father” as a, or perhaps the way of talking about God comes from the New Testament.

God as “Father” in the New Testament

The word “Father” is used 250 times in the New Testament as a reference to God. As one scholar calculates – 43% of all references to God in the New Testament call God “Father.” 

This emphasis on Father language comes from Jesus: 

  • For instance, Jesus uses “Father” 100 times in the Gospel of John as a reference to God.
  • And Jesus addressed God in prayer as “Father” every time he prayed, save one. This was in Mark 15:34 where on the cross he is quoting Psalm 22:1 and says, “My God, my God.” In every other recorded prayer that we have he uses “Father.” 

God as our Father

Now, Jesus’ Father language is certainly connected to the fact that he was God’s unique and beloved Son. And as God’s Son, Jesus called God, “Father.”

But even though he is in a class by himself with regard to being God’s Son, Jesus teaches that God can be our Father too!

When we become a Christian: 

  • we are born of God – John 1:12-13
  • we are children of God – Luke 11:11-13

According to Jesus, our relationship to God is like the relationship between a Father and a young child.

  • And so just as Jesus referred to God as Father, so we also can call God “Father.”
  • And just as Jesus prayed to God as Father, we also are taught to pray to God as “Father” in the Lord’s prayer. 

Now we have to be clear here . . .

God is not male! 

In a Harris poll from 2003, 37% of men and 46 % of women though that God was male. Of the different religious groups surveyed, 49% of Protestants thought that God was male.

  • But God has no gender. God is neither male nor female. It was in the pagan world that the gods had a gender, either male or female.
  • Scripturally, both male and female are created in the image of God, who is our Father – Genesis 1:27 
  • And there are also feminine metaphors for God in Scripture (Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 42:14; 49:15; 66:13; Jeremiah 31:20; Matthew 23:37)

So, when we name God as “Father” – we are referring to a social role with specific attributes. One that is captured by this name and is centrally important to God’s identity. What is at focus is the social role, not the gender. 

The point is that God acts toward us as a loving father acts toward his family. 

So, I want us to look at the attributes of this “father” role, and specifically . . .

The characteristics of our heavenly Father

. . . so we can see what it means to call God, “Father.” We’ll glean this from Jesus’ teaching in the first three gospels:

1. As Father, God is One who is powerful. Just as a small child marvels at what a human father or parent can do, so much more so with our heavenly Father.

  • Jesus spoke of the Father as “Lord of heaven and earth” – Luke 10:21. The Father has all power.
  • And as Jesus said in prayer, “Father, all things are possible for you” – Mark 14:36. God’s power is only limited by his own character and purpose.

2. As Father, God is One who loves us. 

  • The prodigal son’s father presents to us a picture of God as our Father. The Father is characterized by patience, steadfast love and compassion for his wayward son. Luke 15: 20 says, “while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” 
  • God cares for even the weakest among us. In Matthew 18:14, speaking of new Christians, Jesus says, “It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” 
  • Jesus teaches us that the Father loves even his enemies, caring for their needs – Matthew 5:45. So How much more does he love and care for his own children? 

3. As Father, God is One who is close to us, who is in relationship with us. 

  • Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” – Matthew 6:8. 
  • And he said that the Father sees us in secret. For instance while we are praying in a closet – Matthew 6:6.
  • The Aramaic word “Abba,” which Jesus used for father [although too much has been made of it – it doesn’t mean “daddy”] means “dear father” – Mark 14:36. 

4. As Father, God is One who has authority over us to teach us how to live. Just as earthly parents teach their children about right and wrong.

  • Jesus teaches us that we are to do the will of our Father in heaven – Matthew 7:21.
  • And we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – Matthew 6:10. We pray this because God’s will, not our will, is all important. God is the one who is in charge and we submit to him.

5. As Father, God is One who forgives us when we fail.

  • As Jesus tells us, “Your Father is merciful” – Luke 6:33.
  • And we pray to our Father, “forgive us our sins” – Luke 11:4.

6. As Father, God is One who gives us gifts. 

  • Indeed, the Father gives us “good gifts” – Matthew 7:11.  Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
  • These gifts include the Holy Spirit. As Luke 11:13 says it, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.” And these gifts include the coming kingdom. In Luke 12:32 Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This is our inheritance that God, our Father, gives to us.

7. As Father, God is One who provides for our material needs. 

  • Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” – Matthew 6:26
  • This is why we pray to our Father for “daily bread” – Matthew 6:11.

8. As Father, God is One who watches over and protects us. 

  • In the context of persecution, Jesus said about the Father’s watchful care, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered”- Matthew 10:30. We know that he watches over our very lives.
  • With regard to protection, we pray to our Father, “lead us not into testing, but deliver us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13. Our Father protects us from situations of testing that we can’t handle; that would overwhelm us; that are too difficult for us.

Having looked at all this we have to say that . . .

Human fathers are imperfect

Jesus certainly knew this. In fact, speaking of earthly fathers Jesus says, “you who are evil” in Luke 11:13, in comparison with our heavenly Father.

And many of us have had bad experiences with earthly fathers who were authoritarian, critical, abusive, distant, or not present for one reason or another. Perhaps we never knew our father. (Jesus’ own earthly father apparently died when he was young). And even the best earthly father is lacking. And so to use the language of Father for God can be jarring

But what I want to say is, to use the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48 . . . 

“Your heavenly Father is perfect” 

We come to understand what a true father is, not by looking at the imperfect copy of earthly fathers, and projecting that onto God. But by looking at the heavenly Father, the perfect original; the one who defines true fatherhood.

And so for many of us, we need to relearn what a true father is and find healing in this for the damage done by our earthly fathers. 

Our heavenly Father is all that we could have ever wanted and yearned for in our earthly fathers. And he exposes evil human fathers for what they are  – imposters; fakes. And then he invites us to own him as our true Father and to find healing in this.

And so let me end by simply saying to you . . .

  • Our heavenly Father is one who deserves to receive honor, just as the fifth commandment tells us to honor our earthly parents. But so much more so – for our Father in heaven’s power and character.
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we want to be in relationship with. We want to experience his love and closeness and to find forgiveness when we fail.
  • Our heavenly Father is one who is worthy of our obedience and submission.
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we want to emulate. As they say, like Father like child. We want to be merciful and loving to all, just as our Father is merciful and loves even his enemies. 
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we can truly trust to give us good gifts, to provide for us, to watch over us and to protect us.

What a privilege it is to be a child of God! I urge you, if you don’t know God as your Father, seek God out, so that you can have such a perfect Father in your life. And if you know God as your Father, look to God in all these ways, and receive all the blessings of his Fatherly care in your life. Let him be a Father to you.

William Higgins

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Let me begin by asking – “How often should we pray the Lord’s prayer?” Ever thought about this? One way to answer this is to ask:

  • How often do you need forgiveness?
  • Or, how often do you want to ask to be spared difficult times of testing?
  • Or even more specifically – how often do you need daily bread? (Hint – “daily”).

(more…)

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Prayer Book 07

This is my latest Prayer Book. If this is helpful in any way please use it! William

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We are looking at the final petition of the Lord’s prayer today. To understand this request we need to understand how  testing works – so I want to go over this briefly. First we look at . . .

Who is involved in testing

1. God. God “leads” us into testing. This comes to us from the Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:4). If God didn’t lead us into testing, there would be no need to ask for him not to do this. And, of course, there are numerous examples of God testing people in scripture – (e.g. Deuteronomy 8:2; Genesis 22:1; Job 1-2).  (more…)

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Forgive Us

Today we look at the fourth petition of the Lord’s prayer. It comes to us in two slightly different forms:

Matthew 6:12 – “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven those indebted to us”

Luke 11:4 – “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us”

(more…)

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Daily Bread

We are back to the Lord’s prayer today – talking about what it means to ask God for daily bread. We are moving into the second section of the prayer. Remember, section one focuses on God’s agenda, while section two focuses on our needs. And the petition for daily bread begins this second section.

(more…)

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