Wednesday, May 31, 2017


“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” Psalm 110:10.

Even though we are allowed access to the throne of God through the work of Christ, we still exercise the fear of God. For believers, that means that we approach him with reverence and awe.  He is God.

Those who receive Christ as savior realize the tremendous blessing of the right to approach the throne of grace. We enjoy this privilege, but we do not abuse it. Those who love God know he is entitled to worship and reverence.

Within this proper relationship is the beginning of wisdom. You cannot be wise unless you first understand that there is a God and you are not him. Realizing this, you see the world in proper perspective. You see that God is sovereign, not yourself, and you live in peace knowing he is in control. You see that he directs your paths, so you can stop worrying. You know that he is all knowing and nothing surprises him, so you need not fear when you encounter something unexpected.

Fear of the Lord is also the beginning of wisdom because he is the source of all wisdom. Solomon is portrayed in the Bible as the wisest man ever. What was the source of his wisdom? It was God. God told Solomon “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” (1 Kings 3:12)

You may not be a wise as Solomon in his prime, but, if you pursue the Lord in reverence, you will increase in wisdom. The study of his word will allow the Holy Spirit to teach you the mind of God and the pursuit of prayer will keep you in communion with him.

I have observed many old saints through the years in my church. I have seen how many, in their last decades, were wise beyond measure. They could quote and apply scripture to any situation. They trusted God in all things. They discerned truth from error. They knew the will of God.

Be reverent and be wise.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Since God is one, each person of the Godhead must be involved in everything God does. Take creation, for example. Genesis 1:1 says God created the heavens and the earth. In speaking of Jesus, the Son, John 1:3 says that all things were made through him. Genesis 1:2 says the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


Who is Blessed?
Luke 11:27-28

The words “as he said these things” indicates the woman said this while Jesus was talking about by the power by which he cast out demons. In contrast to those who opposed Jesus in the preceding verses, this woman admired Jesus and his words.

The words “blessed is the womb that bore you” is a form of blessing among the Jews and others of the time. The commendation is not so much to Mary, but to Jesus. (Gill) Today, someone might tell you “your mother must be proud”.

The woman intended to magnify the excellence of Christ. There is no indication she knew Mary. She did not use Mary’s name. So, there is likely no connection here specifically to Mary.

There are some who refer to this verse as an indication that Mary has a special role in heaven, but the context show that Jesus’ response is actually a correction of the woman’s words. He said “blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it”. The use of the word “rather” means he is saying the more important blessing is on those who receive the gospel and are saved. Although Mary was blessed to be chosen to bear Jesus (1:48), she is more blessed to believe in him and receive eternal life.

Jesus also expands the scope of blessing. It is not just his mother who is blessed; it is every person on the planet that hears God’s word and keeps it.

Psalm 1:1-2 states much of the same truth. It says a person is blessed who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. This person leaves the wicked, the sinners and scoffers for God’s law. Jesus’ message is the same, but updated for the full message of the gospel. Those who hear the gospel and believe it receive the ultimate blessing of eternal life.

Sign Seekers

The blessing on those who believe is followed by a curse for those who seek more and more signs. This relates back to verse 16. Some accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. But other kept testing him by seeking more signs from heaven.

Jesus responded to that by saying “this generation” is not blessed, in contrast to those who believe. Instead, this generation is evil. (29) Jesus’ words, the words of God, are not enough for them. They want more and more signs. Really, they just have more excuses to reject Jesus. So, they are ripe for judgment.

Jesus has given many signs to the Jews already. He has healed the sick, cast out demons and fed a multitude of people from a kid’s sack lunch. He had just cast out a demon, as evidenced by a man speaking for the first time. Yet, none of this was enough.

It is likely they would not have believed no matter what sign Jesus gave them. They were not really seeking reasons to believe; they were rationalizing their unwillingness to believe.

Jesus said no sign would be given except the sign of Jonah. The Son of Man would be a sign to this generation as Jonah was a sign to Ninevah. As Jonah was in the fish for three days (Jonah 1:1-17), and then delivered as a sign of God’s power, Jesus would be in the tomb for three days and delivered (resurrected) from death.

Jesus himself is the sign. Specifically, the resurrected Jesus is the sign. We are to believe in him. We are to believe in his resurrection. His resurrection is God the Father’s declaration that Jesus is his Son. (Romans 1:4)

Paul understood the importance of the resurrection. He said it was a matter of first importance. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) He wrote about those who saw Jesus resurrected. Jesus appeared to the Twelve. He then appeared to more than 500 believers, most of whom were still alive at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. He appeared to James, then to all of the apostles. Last of all, he appeared to Paul after the ascension. (1 Corinthians 15)

Jesus made two comparisons of lesser to greater to stress his point. First, he said the queen of the South would condemn this generation, for she came and heard Solomon and believed that he was made king and given wisdom by God. She said “Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may executed justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:9-10) But, Jesus is greater than Solomon and this generation of Jews does not receive him.

The second comparison is of Nineveh. Jesus said Nineveh would also condemn them, because the people of Nineveh repented upon hearing Jonah preach, and Jesus is greater than Jonah, but the Jews did not repent and believe.

Spiritual Light & Spiritual Darkness

You have to be careful in reading this teaching. In another place, Jesus used a lamp as an example and the lamp stood for our witness. This is not the case here.

Instead, Jesus likened his coming and his preaching to a lamp. Oil lamps were common in Israel. When darkness came each evening, there were no electric lights. If you wanted to escape darkness, you lit one or more of these little lamps. So, Jesus used the lamp as a metaphor for spiritual light .

Jesus said no one hides a lamp after lighting it. (33)  It would make no sense to do so. Everyone in the crowd would find that an obvious statement. When our electricity goes out, we light a candle. We do not cover it with a basket. We set it on a table to light up the room.

Similarly, Jesus preached the message of salvation and God’s kingdom. He preached openly and performed signs\miracles openly. He was shining spiritual light into spiritual darkness. John wrote “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness…”  (John 1:4-5)

However, no matter how bright the light is, you cannot see it if your eye is bad, or blind. For example, one day this week I was walking down the hallway at work. The hall was lit by many fixtures. Sunlight streamed in through the doors. Yet, a man slowly and carefully made his way down the hall, holding onto the wall with one hand, tapping the floor with a cane held in the other hand, and taking tiny steps. He was blind. All the light in the world would not help him, for he could not see it. His eye was bad.

Jesus was referring to a person’s spiritual darkness. If you are full of spiritual darkness, you cannot see the spiritual light. Many of the Jews were in this place of spiritual darkness. Some did not want a Messiah that would upset their political or religious position. Some had sin they did not want to give up. Some were mad because they did not think Jesus acted as a Messiah should act. They were in danger of letting their spiritual darkness prevent them from seeing the light of Christ.

They were the ones John wrote about. He wrote “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:9-11

Paul wrote that “their foolish hearts were darkened”. (Romans 1:21)

I pray that you will not be one of these. Rather, you will put on your spiritual glasses and see the light of Christ. You will allow it to shine into your life and bring you to eternal life. You will allow him to transform every area of your life. You will eagerly anticipate the day when the age to come becomes the present age, when all will be light and there will be no darkness at all.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of god, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. Luke 12:8

Sunday, May 21, 2017


In this passage, Luke turns from Jesus’ teaching about prayer to his casting out a demon and encountering opposition. The emphasis is actually on the opposition. The telling of the miracle itself is brief. This is in keeping with the greater context of the narrative. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where he will be arrested and killed. As he gets closer to Jerusalem, the opposition to him increases. This story demonstrates it.

This particular demon inhabited a man and made him mute. (14) Mute means not speaking or able to speak. It is interesting the this story appears right after Jesus taught about prayer. He said for his disciples to speak to God in prayer. He presented the prayer as one we might say together, as a congregation. This man was mute, so he was unable to do that. He could not speak either praise or petition to God.

When Jesus cast the demon out, the man spoke. His speech was proof to all that the demon was gone and that Jesus had cast him out, whether they could see the demon or not. No one questioned that he had cast out a demon.

Casting out demons was not a new thing for Jesus at this point in his ministry. He had encountered the devil in the wilderness and prevailed. (Luke 4) He had cast out demons on several occasions and cast out a legion of demons on one occasion. (Luke 8) 1 John 3:8 says the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

Most of the people marveled. But, there were some detractors in the crowd. They were antagonistic toward Jesus. They accused Jesus of casting out the demon through the power of the prince of demons. They called this demon “Beelzebul”. (Note: I am using the English Standard Version. The New American Standard Bible also refers to Beelzebull. If you use the New International Version, it refers to “Beelzebub”.)

In 2 Kings 1:2, King Ahaziah got sick and sent a messenger to Ekron to inquire of their god Baal-zebub” whether he would survive the illness. Ekron was a city of the Philistines at that time, but was an old Canaanite city. It had a sanctuary devoted to Baal.

The name of the god of Ekron was probably “Baal-zebul”. That means “Baal is exalted”. It is thought the Jews intentionally corrupted the name to Baal-zebub as an insult, for that name means “Lord of the Flies”. That is where William Golding go the name of his 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies.

By the time of Jesus, however, the name was applied to the so called Prince of Demons, Satan, the Devil. So, the accusation is that Jesus is casting out demons by the head demon.This of course is a terrible blasphemy. To accuse the Son of God to act in the power of Satan is a terrible insult to Jesus. It is also a clear rejection of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God.

Jesus could have called down fire on the crowd, thus justly punishing this total disrespect for God and giving the sign from heaven that others wanted. Instead, he countered them with logic. He said that any kingdom or household that is divided will be conquered and fall. Therefore, Satan would not divide his kingdom by driving out his own demons. (18)

Jesus went on to condemn their inconsistency. There were Jews that had the power to cast out demons. When they did so, it was claimed to be the power of God. Jesus said, it is inconsistent to claim power from God in their case and the power of Satan in his case. Therefore, their own sons were their judges in this matter. (19)

Jesus also countered them by pointing out the consequences if what he claimed was true. If he cast out demons because he had the power of God, then the Kingdom of God had come upon them. (20) The saying “finger of God” is a way of saying the “power of God”.

All of the miracles of Jesus were signs that that the Kingdom of God had come. But the casting out of demons particularly showed that Christ had come to begin taking away the kingdom of Satan on earth, reclaiming it for God through the ministry of the Son of God. Each casting out of a demon was a defeat of Satan and a victory for Christ in the battle for earth and for humanity.

Jesus gave an example of this. He said a strong man with weapons guards his palace and protects his goods. (21) But, when a stronger man comes, that man defeat the first man, strip him of his armor and take his goods. (22) In this story, the devil is the strong man. There is another possible play on words here, for the Greek word for Beelzebul means “lord of the house”.

 Jesus is the stronger man. Satan is powerful; Jesus is more powerful.

The hymn written by Martin Luther is about this very battle. Here are the words.

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And tho’ this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs — No thanks to them — abideth:
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’ Him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

After telling this story, Jesus added two warnings. The first one was that there can be no neutrality in this war. He said “whoever is not with me is agains me”. (23) You must choose Christ or you have chosen Satan. You must gather to Christ or be scattered away from him.

The second warning has to do with what happens after a demon is cast out, but the person does not fill himself with Christ. Jesus said the spirit may not find another place to dwell, so it returns to the person from whom it was cast out. But, he also brings with him seven other spirits who are even more evil and they all possess the person. This leaves that person more miserable than he or she was before.

I do not know if this saying is meant to be literal, or literal for every occasion. But it does point out that you cannot conquer sin simply by trying to get rid of it. You must have your soul filled with the Holy Spirit and you must fill your mind with the things of God.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


As we saw in our study of the Lord’s Prayer in the book of Luke, Jesus taught us to pray “Give us each day our daily bread”. (Luke 11:3) He wants us to trust God to provide for our daily needs and, trusting God, to ask for them. And, of course, at the end of the day, we should thank God for his faithfulness in providing for our needs.

Anxiety comes from lack of faith in God to provide. In contrast, trusting and asking result in mental peace. That is why Paul writes “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be known to God”. (Philippians 4:6)

God does not want you to worry! He wants you to ask and trust.

Once you have made your request known in faith, you can relax. You will have peace. Paul went on to say “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:7)

The peace of God is supernatural. It “surpasses all understanding”. That is why some will question your peace. But this peace is a fact, it is a promise made in scripture.

Practice this and see that it is true. Ask, trust, and relax. 

And let the peace of God guard your mind from the attack of anxiety.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


After teaching the disciples the form of prayer, he went on to teach them about God’s response to prayer. He did this in a parable recorded at Luke 10:5-13. This parable only appears in Luke’s gospel.

In this parable a person has a friend arrive at his house around midnight. The friend likely traveled at night to avoid the heat. He may have had problems that caused him to arrive very late or even miscalculated how long the trip would take.

Even though the friend arrived very late, the duty of hospitality required the man to welcome him into his home. It also required him to provide food. The problem was, he had no food.

Since he had no food, the man went to his friend who lived nearby and knocked on the door. No one likes to have someone knock on their door at midnight. But he did knock and he asked to borrow three loaves of bread.

This story reminds me so much of my childhood, when most women stayed home with their children and, in our economic class at least, did not have cars. So, it was very common for a neighbor woman to knock at the door and ask for a cup of sugar or an egg or something like that. My own mother sent me on such errands several times.

On this occasion, though, the neighbor was already in bed. Probably, the big room was a family bedroom and the whole family was tucked in to sleep. If he got up to get the bread, the might wake up the children, which would mean then trying to get them back to sleep so he could go back to sleep himself. The man really did not want to get up. He gave two excuses: the door is shut and the children are asleep. It was not really that the man could not get up, but that he did not want to. It was inconvenient.

Jesus said the man would not normally get up and grant this request, but he would do it because of the man’s impudence. “Impudence” here means a lack of sensitivity to what is proper.

A parable normally has one main point. It often contains a comparison for emphasis. We do not look at every item of the parable for a symbol as we would with an allegory.

Since the context of the parable is Jesus’ teaching on prayer, we immediately understand that the man asleep with his children represents God the Father. This does not mean that God sleeps, or sleeps with his children, or is annoyed if we pray at night. Rather, it means that, as the neighbor has the means to provide for his friend, God has the means to provide for his disciples who ask.

Here is the comparison. The man only answered his friends’s request because the friend would not stop knocking on the door. God, however, is always available and always receptive to our prayers. And further, he gives good gifts. Jesus said, if we who are evil by nature give good gifts to our children, how much better gifts will God give? In fact, he will even give us the Holy Spirit.

Since God is willing to answer our prayers and able to provide for us, we should not hesitate to ask. For us, impudence means something like “holy boldness”. It is not irreverent or demanding. Jesus has already said to pray that God’s name is “hallowed” and that his kingdom come. But, we do not have to be timid or “beat around the bush”. For example, once when we were really struggling, I asked God for a certain sum of money I needed to pay our bills. He answered my prayer by sending a man to pay back part of the money he owned me for work and had never paid.

Jesus tells us to ask and God will give it to us, to seek and we will find and to knock and it will be opened to us. This is a parallelism, saying the same thing three times: ask God and he will answer and provide for our needs.

A second message in the parable is that we should be persistent in prayer. We should pray until we have an answer. This is not about God changing his mind, it is about our earnestness. It is about caring. It is one thing to dash off a one sentence prayer and then forget about it.  That does not show that we care much about it. But when we pray continually about something until God answers, it shows we really do care about this thing and we really want God to answer.

God is there, he is approachable and he cares.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

God would not exhort us so earnestly to pray, unless he was ready to grant our petitions. Let us blush at our sloth: he is more ready to give than we are to receive. (St. Augustine)

Sunday, May 07, 2017


The Lord Teaches About Prayer
Luke 11:1-4

This passage begins with Jesus praying. This was common for him. Luke has already shown us six times Jesus prayed. This time the disciples were watching and listening. Evidently, the disciples were not know for their prayer lives at this point. Back in Luke 5:33, a Pharisee criticized them, saying “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink”.

One of the reasons the disciples did not pray often was that Jesus, the Son of God, was with them 24 hours every day and they talked to him all the time. He explained that to the Pharisee in Luke 5.

At least one of the disciples wanted more, though. He asked Jesus to teach them to pray as John taught his disciples. (1) The Pharisees disciples prayed Old Covenant prayers. John disciples likely learned Old Covenant prayers slanting toward the coming of the Messiah. This disciple wanted a prayer that was for Jesus’ disciples.

This prayer is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, but you could call it the Disciples’ Prayer. It is a prayer the congregation of believers can pray and pray together in community.  It may also be prayed individually.

Another term used today for this prayer is The Model Prayer. The person teaching this will usually say something like this: this prayer is not meant to be recited as a chant, but is a model of how we pray. The version in Matthew does indeed record Jesus saying “pray then like this”. (Matthew 6:9) Luke writes that Jesus said “when you pray, say…”. (2)

They prayer is a good model, but it is more than that. It is a prayer Jesus gave to his followers. We should not chant it without thinking. That is true. But we can pray this prayer together. Notice the prayer uses the word “us”, not “I”. That is another evidence of this being a corporate prayer.

The first thing we see here is that Jesus says to address God as Father. Jesus is thought to have taught in Aramaic, the common language of the area. In Aramaic, the word for Father is “Abba”. In Greek, it is “Pater”. It is a term that acknowledges a loving, caring relationship between disciples and God. The Old Testament prayers do not usually address God as Father. This is, therefore, a significant change in prayer as the disciples had known it.

Jesus addressed God as Father, except once on the cross while he bore our sin. (There he said “my God.)  Jesus tells us to pray the same way, as God’s children. John 1:12 tells us that when we receive Christ, and believe on his name, he gives us the right to be called the children of God.

It is not a term of irreverence, however. Adults, as well as children, used the term referring to their fathers. God is still God, though he has allowed us great privilege in our relationship to him in Christ.

Reverence is shown by the next phrase, “hallowed be your name”. (2) In the Bible, the name of God refers to all that he is. It is not that God’s name is a magic word. It represents him. For example, when David said “we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7), he did not mean he trusted that name as a word, but he trusted God.

This is a request that God and God’s name be held in reverence and honored. That is is because God is holy. I don’t know about you, but I am often grieved to hear people use the name of the Lord without reverence. In American, even Christian people can be heard to say “oh my God”, not as a prayer, but as an exclamation of surprise or excitement. Any use of God’s name outside of reverence is, as the Commandments would say, in vain. And so we pray that God’s name would be held in high esteem all over the earth.

The second petition is “your kingdom come”. This can have two parts. First, we pray that the kingdom of God will be spread all over the earth by the preaching of the gospel. Each new believer is a citizen of God’s kingdom. Second, it is to pray for the consummation of the age that results in the visible rule of God. This is what John prayed at the end of the book of Revelation, when he said “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

The third petition turns to our needs. We pray “give us this day our daily bread”. (3) Even though most of us do not count on bread to be the major source of our nourishment, we pray for God to provide for all of our needs. Notice the use of “us”. When we pray this corporately, we not only ask God to provide for us individually, but for the needs of the whole congregation.

We show our trust in him by asking for provision for each day as it comes, not for enough to never want again.The example of this was shown in the wilderness when God provided manna every day and commanded the Israelites to only gather for one day except Friday, when they could gather for that day and the Sabbath. (Exodus 16)

The next petition is for forgiveness of sins. (4) This is not a prayer for salvation. Remember, this prayer is given to believing disciples. Rather it is a relational prayer. We confess our sins and ask for forgiveness daily to keep our close relationship with God. Sin always distances us from God.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You may have heard someone says the Christian life is a life of repentance. This means that we constantly confess our sins to God, repent of them, and ask for forgiveness to stay in fellowship with him.

This petition is different than the others in that it is tied to something we must do. Verse 4 says “for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us”. This sounds like a condition to forgiveness. But, it is more of a fact statement. We forgive who sin against us as people who are forgiven for sinning against God. “Indebted to us” here is a synonym for “sinned against us”.  God granted us mercy; we extend mercy to others.

Forgiving others is difficult. I have struggled with it many times. But Jesus said to do it, so I will leave you with that. If you want to obey him, you must forgive. If you want to demonstrate his mercy to sinners, demonstrate mercy to sinners.

Finally, the prayer in Luke’s version asks that the Father not lead us into temptation. What does this mean?

James gave us very clear instruction on this issue. He wrote:
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:12-15)

So, if God does not tempt us to sin, what does the petition “lead us not into temptation” mean? It is a request for mercy. For, although God does not tempt us to sin, he certainly allows us to encounter difficult times that could cause us to sin. This prayer is asking God to mercifully help us to avoid those tests and to help us through them when we must go through them.

Jesus himself asked the Father if he could avoid the cross. He prayed “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”. (Matthew 26:39) Yet, he did not sin, for he also prayed “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will”.

We also know from scripture that God is always faithful to provide a way of escape from sin. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Look back on the times you have fallen and you will see there was a chance to avoid it, a way of escape. You just did not take it because you succumbed to the temptation.

Many churches start their service with a prayer of repentance or a prayer for forgiveness. The congregation prays that prayer together, out loud. It is a corporate prayer.

This prayer first addresses God’s holiness and sovereignty. It then addresses our needs. That is a good way to pray, whether you pray this prayer or use it as a mode.