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30
Dec

What Does “Father in Heaven” Imply?

praying_teen

I WILL SPEAK for me.

I probably need to spend more time thinking about what I’m actually saying in my private prayers.

“Father in heaven…”

If I am not very careful, the phrase may constitute little more than a thoughtless, repetitive expression.

Strangely enough, I don’t talk to my earthly father that way, but I tend to do so with my heavenly Father.

Does He ever get weary of my redundancy?

What am I really saying when I articulate the words, “Father in heaven…”?

First, “Father” means I am a member of God’s family.

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

Just as a suit which I put on envelops me and identifies my appearance, my immersion in water (Romans 6:3-4; cf. 1 Peter 3:20-21) was the culminating act of faith by which God added me to His spiritual household (1 Timothy 3:15) and identified me as His kin.

Second, “Father” means I am a recipient of God’s special provision.

“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being 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” (Matthew 7:9-11)?

If I, as an earthly father, endeavor to meet the dietary needs and requests of my child, how much more (cf. Ephesians 3:20) will my heavenly Father accommodate the requirements (cf. Philippians 4:19James 1:17) of my life (cf. Psalm 37:25)?

Third, “Father” means I am the beneficiary of God’s loving discipline.

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5-6; cf. Proverbs 3:11-12).

Because God is my Father in heaven, He, on occasion disciplines me for my long term good (cf. Hebrews 12:9-11). He wields the rod (Psalm 89:32Proverbs 22:15) of pain and corrects me as an expression of His special relationship (Hebrews 12:8) with me.

“Father in heaven…”

The phrase ought to be more than some rote recital of words. It should be an indelible imprint on my heart–that I have a Father who…

  • takes me in as his own
  • gives me all that I need
  • chastens me to help me mature.

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”  –Mike

23
Dec

What About Nicodemus?

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I HAVE A not-so-private confession.

I don’t know that I’ve ever said a good thing about the Pharisees.

Pharisees have always been easy prey. From my rather one-sided perspective, they–in totality–were the religious bottom-feeders of ancient Jewish sects. They were constantly peering over Jesus’ shoulder trying to find fault with His teachings and practices.

They claimed Jesus ate with the wrong people (Matthew 9:11); that His power could be attributed to demonic forces (9:34;12:24); that His disciples, and He by extension, were guilty of breaking sacred tradition (15:2); that He endorsed withholding income taxes from the Roman IRS (Luke 23:2); that He violated the Sabbath (John 9:16); and that, perhaps worst of all, He was not from God.

Jesus, the most loving man who ever walked the earth, called them “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “white-washed tombs,” and “serpents” (cf. Matthew 23).

If He could denounce them with such bold and unpalatable metaphors, then surely I could do the same in my sermons and Bible classes. And so I admit it, Pharisees have always been my first choice as go-to verbal punching bags.

The problem is–not all Pharisee’s were the wicked men I’ve always portrayed them to be.

Despite my enthusiastic willingness to stereotype all Pharisees as religious charlatans, not all of them could or should be so characterized.

Take the curious example of Nicodemus:

  • John 3 records a very respectful home Bible study between our Lord and a notable Pharisee (John 3:1ff). There was no acidic rancor, no deceptive or misleading questions, and no obvious condescension–in fact, quite the opposite. Nicodemus began his lesson with the Lord in a very respectful, honorable fashion. He said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Don’t miss that–Nicodemus admitted, at the very least, that Jesus’ power came from above. Granted, he didn’t fully recognize the Lord’s identity, nor did he initially catch on to what was being said about the new birth, but his questions (John 3:4, 9) didn’t bear the obvious marks of Pharisaic hostility.
  • John 7 chronicles how the Pharisees at large sought to arrest Jesus because of His Messianic claims and the fact that many had believed on him (John 7:10ff). On this occasion, Nicodemus not only intervened on the Lord’s behalf, but he pointed out that his peers were about to break the very Law which they claimed to uphold. John writes in John 7:50, “Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’” While Nicodemus may have displayed a certain caution on this occasion, the fact remains that he did defend Jesus.
  • John 19 recounts how two men were involved in preparing Jesus’ dead body for burial (John 19:38ff; cf. Acts 9:37Mark 15:46John 20:7). One of those men, not surprisingly, was Nicodemus. Unlike the twelve who ran for their lives when the events of the crucifixion began to unfold (Matthew 26:56), this once seemingly discreet Pharisee came right out into the open and took part in this benevolent endeavor.

It’s a safe interpretation to say that many, perhaps even the majority of Pharisees, were closed-minded about the Lord. But it is not accurate to say that all Pharisees were so inclined. Nicodemus was a precious exception.

19
Dec

Is Help on the Way?

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LONG AGO, IN the days of sailing ships, a terrible storm arose and a ship was lost in a very deserted area.

Only one crewman survived, washed up on a small, uninhabited island.

In his desperation, the castaway daily prayed to God for help and deliverance from his lonely existence.

Each day, he looked for a passing ship and saw nothing.

Eventually, he managed to build a very crude hut in which he stored the few things he had recovered from the wreck, and those things he was able to make to help him.

One day, as the sailor was returning from his daily search for food, he saw a column of smoke.

As he ran to it, he say that it was arising from his hut, which was in flames.

All was lost.

Now, not only was he alone, but he had nothing to help him in his struggle for survival.

He was stunned and overcome with grief and despair.

He fell into a deep depression and spent many a sleepless night wondering what was to become of him and questioning whether life itself was even worth the effort.

Then one morning, he arose early and went down to the sea.

There, to his amazement, he saw a ship lying offshore, and a small rowboat coming toward him.

When this once-marooned man met the ship’s captain, he asked him, “How did you know to send help?  How did you know I was here?”

The captain replied, “Why, we saw your smoke signal last week.  But, by the time we could turn our ship around and sail against the wind, it had taken us several days to get to you.  But here we are.”

Calamity may strike, but we must remember that God can use that calamity as a means to bring greater blessing to our lives.

Right now, you may feel as if your life has gone up in smoke.  You may feel as if your heart is going through fiery trials.

I want you to know that your trial may be used by God as the very instrument that will bring you closer to Him and bring blessing from His hand.

That reality would eventually become true in Job’s life.

God drew Job closer to Himself than ever before.

God will use our times of testing and trials to bring us even closer to Himself.  Steven J. Lawson, “I Just Want to Lie Down and Die,” When All Hell Breaks Loose, 69-70

“Then Job answered the LORD and said, ‘I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:1-2).

18
Dec

INCARNATE 12.17.19

Anxious

13
Dec

Leadership 2

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ALTHOUGH SAUL WAS not a good king, he was a necessary king.

He was necessary because he became the ultimate picture of how kings should not be and how they should rule.

Saul was…superficial.

But how is superficiality to be defined?

Superficial comes from two Latin words, super and facia, which means “upon the face” or “face value.”

We are superficial when what we appear to be is all there is to us.

When what others see in us is all  they get in us, we are not so much transparent as superficial…

Great leadership is that which, when touched, quickly tells us it is too deep to be touched.

Below the apparent surface of great leadership are deep souls whose understanding threatens to swallow us.

Yet the more we probe great leaders, the more we become aware that their insights are bottomless–their wisdom is too vast to outline or format.

David was such a leader.

He was much more than he appeared to be.

Saul, by contrast, was only what he appeared to be–no more, no less.  Calvin Miller, “Fostering an Honest Servant Image,” The Empowered Leader, 9-10.

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  1 Samuel 17:13-50

31 Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. 32 Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

38 So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off.

40 Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. 41 So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. 42 And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained[d] him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. 43 So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”

45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

48 So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him.