Monthly Archives: May, 2015

More Than A Story: Persistence

More Than A Story: Persistence

[Friend at Midnight: Luke 11:5-13 / Persistent Widow: Luke 18:1-8]

“Prayer is not an exercise. It is the life of the saint.” – Oswald Chambers

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17“Rejoice always; pray continually.” [NIV]

Pray without ceasing, pray constantly, never stop praying, continually be prayerful

     UnceasinglyAdialeiptós (ad-ee-al-ipe’-toce) – unceasingly, without remission, without intermission

Philippians 4:6“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” [NLT]

     Everythingpas (pas) – all, the whole, every kind of, each / every part that applies

Luke 11:8“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” [NASB]

     ShamelessnessAnaideia (an-ah’-ee-die-ah’) – shameless persistence, no shame, unembarrassed boldness, without embarrassment, shameless audacity, impudence, importunity, sheer persistence, refusal to take a denial – used only in Luke 11:8

   “stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors” [MSG]

Luke 18:5Yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming.” [HCSB]

Constant requests, continually coming, keep coming, constantly coming, unending pleas

     Beaten black-and-blue by her pounding [MSG]

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”
– Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God)

BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS

More Than A Story: Persistence

[Friend at Midnight: Luke 11:5-13 / Persistent Widow: Luke 18:1-8]

1) In the parable of the Friend at Midnight, the friend in need knocked and his friend answered, “Do not bother me…”

                What were his excuses?

                How is this different from how God responds to us?

                Has there ever been a time when you felt like you were bothering God? Why?

2) In Luke 11:9, the Bible says—ASK and it will be given, SEEK and you will find, KNOCK and it will be opened.

                What does this mean to you? What does this say about prayer?

                 How can we apply this to our lives?

3) Luke 18:7-8 says, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

               What does this mean?

               How does it involve you? What can you do to take steps in the right direction? What does this look like?

more than a story

More Than A Story is a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on the parables of Jesus.

Richness
Forgiveness
Persistence
Fruitfulness
Obedience
Humility
Compassion
Responsiveness
Repentance
Readiness
Faithfulness
Kingdom-Focused

Ketchup Woes

Yesterday I attended a family picnic and I got ketchup in my hair. My uncle made me a cheeseburger and I topped it with all the fixings – lettuce, tomato, onions, and ketchup. The wind was crazy. I believe what happened was ketchup dripped to my plate and the plate flew into my hair. I remember having to catch it a few times. When that ketchup was in my hair, I could not stop messing with my hair. It became my primary focus. I wanted so badly to get it out of my hair, though I’m sure if I didn’t know it was there I would have been none the wiser.

When we have problems in life we do the same thing too often. We know about the problem and we focus on the problem. We continue to think about the problem. We continue to consider the need to fix the problem. It almost becomes an obsession. If the problem is small, we spend our time figuring out how we will resolve the issue. If it is a bigger issue or something we do not have the means to fix alone, we continue to look at the problem as an impossible hurdle and depression sets in soon after. Sometimes we make ourselves sick as we continue to fixate on our current circumstances.

Just as I should not have been so focused on the ketchup in my hair (it was only a little ketchup and there is a thing called shampoo), we cannot be problem focused. We have a God Who is a God of the impossible. Our focus, whether we have no pressing problems or we are buried knee deep in problems, should always be on God. When He is our focus, when He is first in our life, then our circumstances, our struggles, our problems won’t control us, depress us, or weaken us. Remember, in our weakness, He is strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).

In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” Do you know what is so awesome about that verse? The word keep is “natsar” which means “to watch” or “guard.” The word for peace is “Shalom,” which means “completeness” or “peace.” The word for perfect is also “Shalom.” This verse says if we are fixed on God, if we trust in Him, we will be kept (watched, guarded) so that we are in completeness and peace.

Voice of God

One of the topics people discuss with me most is hearing from God. Many people expect to hear from God with an audible voice like in the movies. I guess they assume a voice like Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones will speak to them, and if they do not hear a voice, God is not speaking. The truth is many people do not hear an audible voice; God speak through His Creation, through His people, through events. Most importantly, God speaks through His Word and His Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is in your gut. You may be doing something you aren’t supposed to be doing and the Spirit will say, “What are you doing? I have better for you.” Perhaps you are looking in the mirror and seeing someone who does not look how you desire, but the Spirit reminds you, “You are Mine. You are My beloved.” Maybe you are sitting in church when you feel this great need to go sit beside someone and pray with them. Or you are at work and you are eating your lunch when God tells you to go share a passage with a fellow co-worker.

God speaks. Often when He speaks, we are not listening. Often when He speaks the noises of the world are so loud we aren’t paying attention. Often when He speaks, we are expecting some audible voice to come from the sky, but He is speaking to you in a totally different way. Today go to that quiet place, the place where you are able to have your listening ears on. Just sit silently. Ask Him to speak. Ask Him to move everything away and let it be all about Him. Just listen.

“This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’” – Jeremiah 33:2-3 [MSG]

Integrity

Honesty. Moral uprightness. Integrity. It is something you are not just given. It is something you earn. It is something you can lose in the blink of an eye. It is something of great importance. Often in our society today we don’t see its importance. We see people in the limelight fall from great heights, months go by and they are back on top. But understand this isn’t integrity—this is fame. In the real world, what you don’t see on television or read in the paper or online, when a person loses his or her moral authority, it is not so easy to reclaim.

Integrity is something to value—it is something that will help you to be of great use to God’s Kingdom. Recently I was told about a person who was walking around sharing the Good News with everyone she met. She understood the importance of the Great Commission. Yet her technique was forceful and judgmental, absent of love. Even more so, integrity was not a word one used to describe her. She spoke of God’s Word, but she lived something very different. The end result was people turning away.

Today I implore you to understand the importance of your integrity. Yes each of us will fall short, each of us will sin. But let us seek strength and encouragement from the Spirit so that we can be men and women of integrity, godly examples that reflect Christ. This is something we cannot do alone; we can only do this through Christ. But living a life of moral uprightness will share Christ with more people than your words. That is a true testimony.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.” – Psalm 15 [NIV]

Practice These Things

One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:8; Paul tells us in this verse where we are to focus or to dwell. The Greek word for dwell is “logizomai” which means to count, to decide, to think, to reason, to take into account. In today’s passage, Paul tells us what to practice, and he also reveals the results if practiced – “the God of peace will be with you.” Yes, God will be with you. But this verse says the “God of peace,” reminding us all that our God is a God of peace. He is the only way we can truly have peace, and He offers a peace beyond comprehension.

So what do we practice? Let us read this passage again. The first part of the passage says to REJOICE IN THE LORD. That’s the first thing to practice. Rejoicing. Rejoicing in the Lord. Some translations say “always be full of joy in the Lord” (NLT). The Message says, “Celebrate God all day, every day.” One way I practice this daily is through worship. Our life is to be a continual worship of our Lord and Savior. In everything we do—worship God. Praise Him. Celebrate Him!

The next part of the passage says to be anxious for nothing. Instead we are to PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. Prayer and Bible reading are the top ways our God communicates with us. We are to pray about everything, not just some things. Yes, that means we cannot pray about something too small. We should place everything in His hands. Just like our life should be continuous worship, our life should also be about continuous prayer. From when we wake up in the morning till our eyes close for the night, we can be in continuous communication with God. Brother Lawrence spoke to God while doing the dishes. I speak to Him as I sit at my desk at work. Prayer should not only be done once a day by your bed or in a church pew. Every day. Continuous. A life of prayer. Sometimes your mouth may not move, but your heart speaks—Oh the joy of recognizing you are in God’s presence every second of every day.

The verse continues, “with THANKSGIVING.” Did you know that it is impossible to thank God enough? As we thank God each day and live our lives with an attitude of gratitude, we humbly walk with Christ. We appreciate with what God has blessed us. We even love people more.

So what’s left? What we have learned and received and heard and seen—God’s Truth—what is true and honorable and right and lovely, we are to embrace. Yes, EMBRACE GOD’S TRUTH! As you practice these things, as you live a life of worship and thanks and prayer, as you embrace God’s Truth, you truly do have God with you—and He is the God of peace. It is a peace beyond understanding. And it’s yours when you do life with God. It is not an instantaneous thing, but it is something you live when you walk in Christ and practice these things!

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” -Philippians 4:4-9 [NASB]

 

Paper Jam

As I was printing envelopes today, the printer stopped working. It continued to say that there was a jam. I looked inside the printer and I did not see a jam. I closed the door but it still said there was a paper jam. I turned the printer off and on. I continued to pace around the machine, asking it when it would start doing its job. Finally I looked closer. I realized that there was a jam in a section I never even viewed because it is against the wall. There was never a jam in that area. After five minutes of pacing and thinking there was no jam, I realized it was something I couldn’t see.

In Romans 3:23, the Bible says that we all fall short—we all sin. Sometimes the sin is in the open. Sometimes the sin is easy to be seen. Sometimes people point it out to us. Sometimes we wear it on our sleeve. Sometimes it is something that we have struggled with for years. But then there is other sin that often seeps into our lives in the crevices we do not really look at or consider. Our sin can be right in front of our face but sometimes it has become part of our normalcy and we don’t realize what has grown over time.

Today ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any sin that you may have buried beneath other things in your life. Ask for your eyes to be open to anything that you may have overlooked. When the Spirit reveals these things, take the time to bring each item before God. Ask for repentance. Ask for strength. Ask for encouragement. May He shine a light on your darkness so you can bring more light into your life and shine the Light for others.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:5-9 [NIV]

Sunglasses

I will admit I am forgetful. As a crutch, I use my Google calendar to remind me of everything both at work and at home. I make a grocery list to remember what food to buy, and then cannot even remember the list. I kept losing my prayer lists; my prayer list is now on my phone. If I don’t write something down, it is likely it will be lost in my memory bank. I would not call it a memory bank – it’s more like a black hole.

This morning while I was on the usual walk with my dogs, I soon realized as we changed directions that I forgot my sunglasses. The whole way home I was squinting because my oversensitive eyes could not face the beautiful morning light. I even grumbled a bit considering the headache that might follow as a result. All because I forgot my sunglasses.

What a surprise when I got home only to realize my sunglasses were in my pocket. I had my sunglasses the entire time!! The sunglasses I own are magnetic and when I grabbed for my keys, they unbeknownst to me followed along. I spent all that time wishing for the solution, when it was right with me. Sadly, that is how many of us are in life from time to time. God has the answer but we look elsewhere. God has provided what is needed but we are too blind to see (2 Corinthians 9:8, Philippians 4:19). God has a perfect plan but we only see the struggles, the pain, the heartache. God is with us through it all but we so often feel alone (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5). My friends, let us open our eyes. Let us look at what He has blessed us with and embrace what He has for us. Let us remind ourselves of what He has done, what He has said He will do, Who He is, and His promise to never leave. We each have all we need to accomplish what God has called us to do in life!

“For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.” – Psalm 33:4-5 [NIV]

Deadly Stew

When Elisha gathered around with the sons of the prophets, there was a famine. Barrenness, sickness, affliction and famine were seen as judgment from God for sin. As we read again and again, the curse of sin is judgment and death.

These people were in search for food. When they went around to gather something to eat, they gathered wild gourds. From the text, it did not seem that they knew what the food would bring. They simply wanted to fill their need for food. But when they added this unknown item into the stew, it became deadly. They cried out, “There is DEATH IN THE POT.” Elisha had to add flour to the stew for it to become safe to eat.

We often try to add things into our daily lives to fill voids. We are facing a famine – the curse of sin. Through Christ alone the curse is no longer. We grab anything we can to fill our needs; however, we do not always understand what we truly need. Elisha poured flour into the deadly stew. In the same way, we can seek to eat from the Word of God, and become blessed by the “meal” of Christ. Through prayer and God’s Word we are sanctified. In 1 Timothy 4:4-5 we read: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (NASB). It doesn’t matter how deadly the stew of your life has become; nothing is too dead for God to raise back to life. He will repair. He will revive. He will restore. He will redeem.

“One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the pot!’ And they could not eat it.” – 2 Kings 4:39-40 [ESV]

More Than a Story: Forgiveness

More Than a Story is a 12 week study of the parables of Jesus. This is the second week: FORGIVENESS.

[The Unforgiving Debtor: Matthew 18:21-35]

Unforgiveness is the POISON we drink hoping another will die

When you hold tight to an unforgiving spirit you slowly die to TRUTH and RIGHTEOUSNESS – PRISONER

Peter came and asked “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (v. 21b ESV)

He thought he was being extra generous with his forgiveness because Jewish law said to forgive a person three times.

Jesus answered “Seventy-seven times.”

“And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33 ESV)

Mercyeleeó (el-eh-eh’-o) – pity, have mercy on, show mercy, have compassion

These people begged for mercy:

  1. 26 says “the servant fell on his knees, imploring” the king
  2. 29 says “his servant fell down and pleaded with” the forgiven servant

Each of us is forgiven because of Jesus. Jesus paid the debt.

“But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”                – Matthew 6:15 [HCSB]

  • Remember how much you’ve been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Don’t try to get even (Romans 12:19)
  • Respond to evil with good (Luke 6:27)
  • Pray for those who persecute you (Luke 6:28)

“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 [NLT]

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

1) In Matthew 18:21-22, we read about Peter approaching Jesus with the question – “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive Him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answers, “Seventy-seven times.” What does that mean?

 2) Read Luke 17:3-4. This passage mentions something happening before the forgiveness happens. What does it mention? Should this be required to forgive something?

3) The passage from Matthew 18 says we must continue to forgive. What is hard about forgiving someone again and again?

 4) From where are we to forgive from? How can we do this?

5) Read Ephesians 4:32. How are we to forgive?

6) Share an example from your life when you needed to forgive.

            Were you able to easily forgive?

            What made it easier/difficult?

            How did you feel after you forgave the person/people?

 

more than a story

More Than A Story is a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on the parables of Jesus.

Richness
Forgiveness
Persistence
Fruitfulness
Obedience
Humility
Compassion
Responsiveness
Repentance
Readiness
Faithfulness
Kingdom-Focused

All Is Well

All is well. Shalom. That is what we read in 2 Kings 4 twice—both times from the Shunammite’s mouth. The prophet Elisha passed by her home often and the Shunammite wanted to make a room for him. What an awesome gesture to make a room for the man of God. If only we each made room like that for God in our lives.

The Shunammite was blessed by God with a son but one day while the son was with his father, he fell ill and died. The Shunammite woman had her son carried to the bed of the man of God. He was laid on the bed and she left. As she saddled the donkey, she was asked why she was headed to Elisha on this day. She said, “ALL IS WELL.” When she came upon Gehazi, she again said, “ALL IS WELL,” before she fell at Elisha’s feet.

All is well. Shalom. The word means completeness or peace. What a great thought—peace! But how can one have peace when their son lay dead?!? How can a person say, “All is well” when it doesn’t appear that everything is okay? This woman was without a son for so very long and now her prized son was dead. All is well. Shalom. Why? Because she had her eyes fixed on God and she allowed Him to move into her house and into her life. Her circumstances might have been painful, but all was well. She loved and feared the God of the impossible. He moved into her home—and he moved in her life. So too He can in yours. As the hymnist Horatio Spafford wrote, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

“And he said, ‘Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.’ She said, ‘All is well’ … Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’ And she answered, ‘All is well.’” – 2 Kings 4:23, 26 [ESV]