Praying the Lord’s Prayer

All Christians pray. All Christians want to pray better. But the question is, how do we accomplish this worthy goal? Some believers want it so badly that they do whatever is necessary to grow in their prayer life. Many others have dedicated themselves to deeper prayer but have failed. How can we all succeed in our efforts for a meaningful prayer life? There is a way, not an easy way, for all believers to pray more and better. It is through the tried and tested way of praying the Lord’s prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is a beautiful, powerful and moving prayer. Most people know it by heart. It is very short as prayers go. It is a mere five verses and fifty-two words long in the ESV. Yet, it is weightier than many much longer biblical prayers, as wonderful as they are. Jesus packs a lot into this short prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is the model prayer from Jesus to his disciples. It was meant to be be prayed by his people. We see God’s people throughout the history of the church praying this prayer both in public and in their private prayers. The prayer can be prayed exactly as Jesus gave it or it can be a templet for ones more lengthy prayers. In other words, it provides us with the kind of things we ought to pray for and in the order we should pray them.

The Address

The first thing we find in this model prayer is to whom we are to address our prayers, “Our Father who is in heaven,” Our prayers are directed to God the Father. He is the one who is able and willing to answer them. The Fatherhood of God was a radical idea when Jesus used it. Jesus always referred to God as Father and taught his disciples to do the same. God is the heavenly Father of every believer in Jesus Christ, But how can the holy God be Father to an unholy people? If we know ourselves at all we know we are unholy. Jesus claimed that he was the Son of God, and therefore God was his Father in a unique way. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He is unique in his person and relationship to the Father. So in and through the cross and resurrection of Jesus we become children of God. This is the biblical teaching of adoption. God adopts us into his family through Jesus. Because we are in Christ, God is our heavenly Father.

When we pray the Lord’s prayer we begin by addressing God as Father because of Jesus, but we can also offer prayers to God about the amazing relationship we have with God as our heavenly Father. We can thank God that he is our heavenly Father and what that means to us. In this way we can enter the experiential presence of God as we begin to pray to him.

Seven Petitions

The Lord’s Prayer is comprised of seven petitions, seven brief petitions, seven nuggets of gold, seven precious gifts from God. A petition is a request made to an authority for a particular action. In prayer petitions are requests we make to God for him to act in certain ways we desire. God answers those requests according to his perfect and sovereign will. But how do we know God’s will? Can we know God’s will? We can by praying these seven petitions Jesus gave us.

The first petition in the Lord’s prayer is in Matthew 6:9, “Hallowed be your name.” This petition is not primarily a statement about who God is, though that is implied in these words. God is holy. It is a request that God’s name, or his person, would be considered holy. Not everyone considers God holy, in fact, most don’t. Therefore the burden of the prayer is that more people would consider God holy and worship him. It is also part of this petition that those who do consider God holy would grow in their love and adoration for him as holy. In fact, we can and should pray that we would consider God holy in a greater and deeper way. We can wrestle in prayer with God concerning what it truly means that God is holy. How is God holy? What does holy mean? How will my life look like as I grow in my understanding and worship of God as holy? Then we can pray for our family and friends by name that they would grow in their worship of God as holy. The possibilities are vast as to all we can pray for in this first petition.

The Bible says many times that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. People who have a true fear of the Lord revere him.They have due reverence for him. God’s being and his person are represented by his name. God’s person is who he is. God is holy. Those who disrespect God’s name have no reverence for him. The highest reverence we can have for God is to consider his name to be holy, to revere him as holy! A profound reverence for God comes through a profound love for him.

The second petition in the Lord’s prayer is in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come.” The central message of Jesus in his earthly ministry was the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God in this fallen and sinful world. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to bring the kingdom of God into the world. Everything he said or did was to that end. Therefore he taught his disciples of all ages of life and of the history of the church, to pray that his kingdom would come. The burden of the request, then, is threefold. First, we pray that more people would enter the kingdom. When we pray this for an unbeliever we are praying that they would trust in Jesus and be saved, thus entering the kingdom of God. It is important that we pray for the lost both individually and collectively.

Because God is not given his due reverence, worship and love, his people are sent on mission. The mission of God is encapsulated in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. The basic call is that we are to go make disciples of all nations. The mission of God has been ongoing for nearly two thousand years now. Disciples of Jesus have made disciples who make disciples. God is at work in the world! Therefore we pray that God’s kingdom would come into the lives of people who do not know him.

Second, we can pray this prayer for ourselves and for other believers who have already entered the kingdom that we would experience the kingdom coming into our lives more and more. What we are praying is that we would grow in obedience to King Jesus as Lord and King of our lives. Since Jesus has saved us, we want to grow in obedience to his will. We want the kingdom and the King to reign in our hearts and lives. There is so much we can pray for in this way.

Third, we can pray that the kingdom would come in its ultimate consummation with Jesus’ second coming. The apostle John prayed this at the end of the book of Revelation, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). We do no know when Jesus is coming, but we can pray that it is soon. As we see the world around us becoming more wicked we long for Jesus to come and establish his kingdom of righteousness, truth and goodness in the world. Because we love and revere the Lord Jesus, we want to see more people love and revere him. We want to see more disciples. When we pray this prayer we are motivated to work to that end.

The third petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:10, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This petition is closely linked to the second. As the kingdom of God comes more and more in the world, God’s will is done more and more. God’s will is always done perfectly in heaven, but on earth the will of God is often not done. People resist and reject the will of God. So the burden of this request is that people would know and do the will of God as they enter and live in the kingdom of God. Before we can do the will of God we must first know the will of God. We all struggle to know the will of God. When we pray that God’s will be done we are also praying for God to help us know his will. There are so many other ways we can pray this prayer. This petition is only fully realized in the second coming of Jesus.

The fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Here the lord’s Prayer shifts from a God focus: God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will, to a disciples focus. The focus is on the physical needs of Jesus’ disciples. Daily bread can be any physical need we have to carry out the work on God in the world. This is not only a prayer for food, but for health and any other thing we need for life in this world. God supplies his people with everything they need to accomplish his will. Most of the prayer requests we here about are of the daily needs kind. It is a good idea to keep a list of these kind of prayer needs. These are not unimportant, but they are not the only kinds of things we pray for. The burden of this request is that God will provide what his people need to carry out his mission. The mission of God is their heartbeat.

The fifth petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This petition concerns the great need every person has for the forgiveness of their sins. Here sin is considered to be a debt we owe to God. When we sin against someone we incur a relational debt. It is a debt we cannot pay back to God. We must seek his forgiveness of that debt. The other side of this petition is that we must forgive the sin debt we have against others. Jesus challenges us in that the way we forgive others is the same way God forgives us. God practices forgiveness. If we are his children, we will practice forgiveness also. This petition is an opportunity to wrestle with many forgiveness struggles we experience in life. We wrestle with our own sins and the ways we’e been sinned against. The burden of this request is our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive.

The sixth petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:13, “Lead us not into temptation.” Temptation happens in this world. It comes from the world, the flesh and the devil. Temptation does not come from God (James 1:13). So why does Jesus tell us to pray that the Father would not lead us into temptation? God leads his people. The Lord Jesus, as the good shepherd, leads his sheep. We are to pray that as God leads us he would lead us away from sin and help us overcome temptation. This is the battle of spiritual warfare. We all face many temptations every day, yet most of us do not pray this prayer often enough. Jesus reminds us that this is something to take to God in prayer every time we pray. The burden of this request is struggle for victory over the temptations of life.

The seventh petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:13, “Deliver us from evil.” This petition is closely related to the previous one. We do not want to fall into temptation, which is an ever present possibility, but we want God to deliver us from evil. The text actually reads “the” evil, referring to the evil one, Satan. We need the help of God to overcome the work and deceptive influence of the devil. So we cry out to God in prayer for deliverance. Only he can help us. We can pray this for ourselves and for others. By praying this prayer we show our deep dependence on our heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The burden of this request is that the oppressive power and pervasive presence of Satan demands the rescue of God.

These seven petitions can be grouped into four kinds of prayer that we find throughout the Bible. They are the kinds of things that all the prayer warriors of the Bible prayed. The four kinds of prayer divide nicely into two equal groups of two each. The first two focus on God and the second two focus on the people of God. The four kinds of prayer are: (1) The Glory of God, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (2) The Mission of God. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (3) The Physical and Spiritual Needs of Gods People, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. (4) The Spiritual Conflict of God’s People, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

The seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer give us a pattern to follow as we pray. They speak to our real needs and our deepest needs. They provide us a way to keep our prayers on track and on point. It is easy to loose concentration or to struggle what to pray. Follow the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer for complete and powerful prayer life. Praying the Lord’s Prayer can radically transform our prayer lives. It is not an easy path to travel, but we can be fruitful in it as we trust the Lord. It will fulfill our deepest need for a closer walk with Jesus.

True Worship

Shout for joy all the earth!

Serve the Lord with Gladness!

Come into his presence with joyful singing!

Know that the Lord, He is God! He has made us and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and is courts with praise!

Give thanks to him;

Bless his name!

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness for all generations.”

(Psalm 100)

People are worshipers. All people everywhere are worshipers. God designed it deep into our hearts. We cannot not worship. But because we are fallen and sinful, we find many objects of worship that are not worthy of worship. But make no mistake about it, we will worship. Only the Lord God almighty is worthy of worship. God calls us to worship and actually seeks true worshipers, according to Jesus (John 4:23).

Psalm 100 is one such passage where God calls and commands us to worship him. Psalm 100 is a call to the public worship of the Lord. This is a beautiful psalm in the words the psalmist uses to call us to worship; but also it is a beautiful psalm in the way the psalmist calls us to worship. By the way he calls us to worship I mean the way he sets up the flow or structure of his praise poem.

Psalm 100 has four stanzas: (1) verses one and two, (2) verse three, (3) verse four, (4) verse five. We find seven commands related to worship in the first three stanzas and three concluding truths in the last (4th) stanza. In the first stanza (100:1-2) we have three commands: shout, serve and come. In the second stanza (100:3) we have one command, know. And in the third stanza (100:5) we have three commands: enter, give and bless.

The psalmist set up the psalm in chiastic form, which is a rhetorical or literary device in which words or ideas are repeated in reverse order for emphasis and meaning. The first goes with the last, the second with the next to last, and so forth. The central word or idea is the main idea. We see this form all over the Bible. This is what the seven commands looks like in this form in Psalm 100.

A – Shout

B – Serve

C – Come

D – Know

C’ – Enter

B’ – Give

A’ – Bless

First, the psalmist calls all the earth to shout for joy as they bless the name of the Lord (A – A’). Shouting for joy is an exuberant praise of the highest magnitude. We cannot express our joy in any higher way. Our joy in the Lord should be highly expressive. This kind of joy blesses the name of the Lord. When we think about blessing we normally think about receiving blessing from the Lord. But the idea of us blessing the Lord means we kneel in worship and adoration. We speak in the highest way about his name, which is his honor, authority and character. We are overcome with joy by the thought of who the Lord is and all he has done or us!

Second, the psalmist calls us to serve the Lord with gladness by giving thanks to him (B – B’). Here serving the Lord means to worship him, to bow before him. We do that with gladness. We are happy and joyful in our worship of the Lord. HIs presence in our lives and his blessings to us have excited our sense of gratitude to him. Our thanksgiving to the Lord must overflow with gladness. We cannot thank him enough. The attitude of thanksgiving is the heart of true worship.

Third, the psalmist calls us come into his presence with joyful singing as we enter his gates and courts (C – C’). The focus of this third level of worship is that of the journey of holiness. Under the old covenant the tabernacle and then the temple was the center of holiness. They were the dwelling place of the Lord, therefore the most holy place in the holy land. The further one went from the tabernacle/temple the less holy was the place. But coming to the festivals one came from a less holy place, outside the holy city, to a more holy place, the gates of the temple into its courts. In worshiping the Lord we move from the less holy to the more holy. We move from outside his presence to an encounter with his presence. Worshiping the Lord is a journey into his presence. We do that with joy in our hearts and songs on our lips.

Fourth, the psalmist calls us to the deepest level of worship. He calls us to know that the Lord id God (D). This is the central idea and the main focus. Knowing that the Lord is God speaks of an intimate relationship with him. We know him, we follow him, we love him. This relationship is revelational. God reveals himself to us in his word. We listen to his voice so that we know him. In this deepest intimacy we know three realities (100:3). First, he as made us, we did not make ourselves. This refers to creation and new creation. He created us and he redeems us. We are the work of his hands, the work of his grace. Second, we are his people. We have a covenant relationship with him. He called us into that relationship by making promises to us. Today, we are under the new covenant in his blood. The Lord Jesus sacrificed himself for us by his cross to purchase us by cleansing us from all our sins. We are his people, his children, Third, we are the sheep of his pasture. We are his sheep. We are totally dependent upon him for all our needs. He is our shepherd. He cares for us and feeds us by laying down his life for us and leading us into the green pastures of his word. We know our shepherd and he knows us. He calls us and we know his voice and follow him.

After the three stanzas of divine commands to worship the Lord, we see in the final stanza three concluding truths (100:5). These three truths are what we realize by obeying the seven commands to worship. The first truth is that the Lord id good. As we draw nearer to his presence in worship we realize his absolute goodness. When we meditate on his person and his works we see his goodness. His great goodness startles us and overwhelms us. The second truth is that the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever. The Hebrew word for steadfast love is variously translated as love, steadfast love, loyal love, mercy, kindness, and lovingkindness. This may be the single most important word in the Old Testament. It speaks of the deep and amazing love of God for is people, and what God does for us because of his love. The psalmist goes on to say that this love endures forever. It will never end. Nothing in all the universe will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39). And finally, the third truth we realize by obeying the commands to worship the Lord is that his faithfulness is to all generations. God is faithful. We can depend on him. We can trust him. He will never leave us nor forsake us. This truth brings great joy, peace and hope.

Conclusion: What can we say from Psalm 100 about the true public worship of the Lord? Three conclusions follow from this call to worship the Lord. First, the public worship of the Lord id communal. The plural words of the psalm show that the call to worship is not only a calls for private worship but primarily a communal call. We are to worship the Lord together. It is synergistic worship. The communal worship is greater than the sum of all our private worship. It is the command of God! Second, The public worship of God is joyful. When we are gripped with the greatness and goodness of our God, we joyfully enter his presence with gladness. Our hearts are so full of God that we shout and sing as an overflow of our joy in God. And thirdly, the public worship of God brings us into his presence. You can only worship God in his presence. He calls us into his presence through the salvation that is in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. In his presence there is wholeness and peace and flourishing. God is seeking true worshipers to experience his holy presence.

Go Deep with God

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, 

nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God.”

(1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

Apologetics is a branch of theology that seeks to defend the validity of the Christian faith from attacks and questions. There a number of questions or problems that are posed to those who are engaged in this field. One of the problems is called the hiddenness of God question. The question goes something like this, “If God is real, why is he not more obvious rather than hidden, as he seems to be?” Philosophers and apologists expend vast amounts of time and energy answering this question. But, in reality, the question is moot. God is not hidden. The Bible informs us that people in fact know God, but suppress the truth in their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-20). We also learns that Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). The reality is that God makes himself known. He reveals himself. People choose not to see him.

There are two types of divine revelation. The first is called General Revelation, which says that God reveals himself to all people at all times in a general non-saving way. The second type of divine revelation is called Special Revelation, which is found in holy Scripture and is sufficient for salvation and godliness. In the plan of God the Holy Spirit is the agent of revelation. He makes God known. The Spirit does this in a variety of ways in the course of a person’s day, and in the course of a person’s life. He is infinitely wise and totally sovereign. What we know about God is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The main way the Holy Sprit brings the revelation of God is through the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds and hearts of people who seek God in the Bible. The problem is that most people don’t seek God in truth (Romans 3:11). Many people are religious but may not truly seek God. For those who do, he will be found. As Jeremiah tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

People who seek God with all their hearts are gripped with the reality of God and must find him and know him. It is not an option. God is in their thinking much of the time. They are hungry people searching for a few crumbs. They are thirsty people seeking a few drops of water. When they find the truth of God in Scripture by the Holy Spirit, they drink it down and gobble it up. They want to go deep with God. No obstacle can deter them for long. Superficial surface religion is just not satisfying.

The relentless pursuit of God is the passion to know him and live in his truth. This passion to know him is rooted in our love for him. We love him because he first loved us and sent his Son as a propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins (1 John 4:10). We know that our relationship with God is not something we have because we are worthy, but because of his grace. God’s amazing sacrificing love is the gravitational force that draws us to himself. We want to know more about this God. We want to know this God personally.

When we go deep with God it changes our lives. We not only know him more and more, but we desire to serve him more and more. The old things and lifestyles that used to attract us no longer hold their sway over us. Obedience to the God we love is of primary importance. We may fail from time to time in our pursuit of living a godly life, but we persevere and continue growing in Christ. The person and purpose of God are our focus.

Going deep with God is not just for super Christians. There no super Christians. Going deep with God is for every believer in Jesus Christ. We can ask ourselves, “What defines my life?” And, “What drives my life?” These are critical questions. They determine the direction of our lives and what we’re all about. How do you answer these question? What is your life all about? Do you have a burning desire to go deep with God? If not, you can turn to him now. He loves you and wants you to pursue him for your good and his glory. If you’re a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in you. He is there to help you in your relationship with God and in your Christian walk. He is there to fan into flames your love for God. Whatever seems impossible in life is possible with God, with those who will go deep with God.

Finding True Happiness & Love

There are two things I believe about basic human desire. I believe that all people want to be happy. And I believe that all people want to be loved. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that everything we do in life is consciously or unconsciously designed to find happiness and love.

Sadly though, we humans have a great capacity to seek happiness and love in things that will not actually make us happy or bring us love. But the great thing is that God will provide us true happiness and love if we seek them in him.

If that’s so, how does it work? A lot of people for many centuries have expended great amounts of energy to find happiness and love without a high level of success. So, is this just another snake oil job?

The greatest man who ever lived can show us the path to these priceless treasures. Think about it. A man who was acquainted with grief, and yet had the deepest joy ever. And that same man was hated and unjustly murdered, yet had the highest love ever. Such a person as this must know the way to true happiness and love. He does. His name is Jesus.

The night before Jesus was to face a kangaroo court and be executed by a Roman Governor who knew he was innocent, he spoke to his closest friends in a private conversation. He wanted to encourage and comfort them because he knew what would happen the next day.

In the Gospel of John chapter 15, we listen in on some of that conversation Jesus gave to encourage his disciples. John 15:9-12 reads:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Jesus loves his disciples with a love that is so real, that even though later that night they desert him and deny him, he still loves them. This love that Jesus has for his disciples is as deep as the love the Father has for him. It is infinite. That’s not a word we can easily wrap our minds around, but it is the only word to use to describe the love of the Father for Jesus and the love of Jesus for his disciples.

The trajectory of Jesus’ encouragement in these verses is shaped in three directions: (1) Jesus loves his disciples like the Father loves him. (2) Experiencing the full dimensions of Jesus’ love (abiding in his love) is conditioned on a loving response to his love in obeying his commandments. (3) Recognizing and embracing Jesus’ love results in his disciples having a joyful experience of Jesus’ joy living in them.

The Power of the Love of Jesus

Jesus compares his love for his disciples with the love the Father has for him. The inter-trinitarian love of God is a love that knows no boundaries. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father with an infinite, eternal love through the Holy Spirit.  This love is a great mystery. Its dimensions are inexhaustible. Yet, Jesus compares that love with his love for the believer. Just to pause and contemplate that love for a few seconds overwhelms the mind and heart. This inexpressible love helps us in at least two ways.

First, the love of Jesus helps us during difficult times in our lives. Everybody faces pain, sorrow and suffering. It’s part of life. It is easy to become discouraged when we face difficulties. Jesus’ love for us helps us to persevere in the face of overwhelming circumstances. As we meditate on his love and the grace of his love, we are encouraged.

Second, the love of Jesus for us motivates us to respond with love to him. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:10,19 that we did not first love God, but that he first loved us. Our love is a response to his love. When we truly love him, we will want to live for him and obey his commands. As we grow in our love for Jesus, we grow in living in his will and fulling his plan. We then love other people and serve them in the name of Jesus.

Loving and Obeying Jesus

Because Jesus loves us, we are to abide in his love. What does that mean? How can we abide, remain, in his love? He tells us in the next verse. We abide in Jesus’ love by keeping his commandments just as Jesus kept the Father’s commandments and abides in his love. The experience of Jesus’ love comes in the response to his love.

Keeping Jesus’ commands is not burdensome. It’s not a way we earn his love. There is no way we can earn his love. Obedience is a loving response to his prior love for us. Keeping Jesus’ commands demonstrates our love for him. It is the outward manifestation of an inward longing for him. This is especially true when obedience is hard and challenges the limits of our comfort zone. We do not always succeed in obedience, but we always long for it.

The Joy of Jesus in the Heart

The realization of the dimensions of Jesus’ love moves us towards joy in him. He says here in this passage that it is actually his joy in us. Jesus lets us know what his love is like so that his joy may fill our hearts. The struggle for happiness is a mighty struggle. We all fight that battle every day. It is easy to get distracted and think that happiness can be found in the abundance of things or experiences. But the desire for happiness only finds its true fulfillment in a love relationship with Jesus.

How many ways do we try to find our happiness each day in the empty things of this life? Many of the things we seek do bring a measure of happiness. And some of them God does provide for our enjoyment. But no one or any thing can sufficiently fill our need for happiness as does a relationship with Jesus.

It is Jesus’ love that truly satisfies. And it is his love that frees us to really love others. In Jesus we can become humble givers and not merely selfish takers. Joy overflows in genuine relationship.

So take courage. If you are a follower of Jesus, he loves you. No matter your struggle, your desire for love and happiness is satisfied in knowing Jesus. If you are not a follower of Jesus, it would be a good move to trust him with your life. He died for your sin, he took your place. He showed his love. He gives his joy. He is the way to find authetnic happiness and love.

The Secret of Contentment

People struggle with contentment. People jump from one job to another trying to find the perfect work, or they jump from one relationship to another, or even from one fad diet to another. People struggle with contentment. But there is help. There is a secret for contentment, an open secret.

God commands us to be content, “Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have. . .” (Hebrews 13:5). Contentment is the best thing for us. It’s something most people desire. But real contentment is hard to accomplish. How can we be content, as God wants us to be, in all the difficult circumstances we face in life? Is that even possible? It is. We can claim the promise of God in Philippians 4:13, which reads, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Precious and Very Great Promises

We find in 2 Peter 1:4 that God’s promises are precious and very great. The promises of God are precious in that they are of infinite value. There is no price tag on them. You can’t buy them because the price is too high. God gives them to us. They are also very great. What word in this world can be greater than the word of God? Because of this it is important that we know them and claim them in our lives. God has given us his promises for our blessing and spiritual growth. So, in Philippians 4:13 we encounter one of these sweet promises. But what is the context of this promise? What does it mean?

The Scope of God’s Promises

The promise in Philippians 4:13 is a well known promise from God. People find great comfort and strength from this promise. It is set in the context of being content in life with what we have whether a little or a lot. Paul said that he has learned the secret of being content. Like Paul, we can be content because we know that God supplies what we need and that he will give us strength to face need with contentment. We can do it! We can be content because he give us the strength in our moment of need, whatever that need may be.

But this promise has wider application than that. It is important to understand every promise in its own context or we may claim something is from God that he never promised. We often see in the Bible superlative words like all, always, everything, nothing, nowhere and the like. They are universal positives or universal negatives. These words widen the scope of the promise, but they still must be kept within the boundaries of the context.

Therefore, the Bible says here in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through God’s strength, not just find contentment in times of lack. We can find contentment from God by claiming this promise, and that’s a great thing. But we can claim this promise for more.

We have to ask ourselves exactly what, “all things” means. Is God saying that we can do anything at all we desire to do? No, that’s not the intent of the promise. This promise has probably been claimed for many things that God never had in mind in the promise.

Paul is talking about the needs he faces as he travels around on gospel mission with God, doing his work and will. On his missionary journeys he would sometimes have enough to supply his and his team’s needs. At other times he did not have enough. He knew that he was in God’s hands and that he would supply. Therefore, Paul could be content because he can do all things with the strength God supplies. So, the all things in this passage refers to the things God calls us to do as we are on mission with him. God is promising that he will give us strength to do all the things, with contentment, that he calls us to do.

Strength from on High

We may struggle with certain things God calls us to do. God calls us to love our enemies, to witness to those who need to be saved, to love him with all our hearts and many other things. We see here that the commands of God are obeyed by the promises of God. We cannot obey the commands of God by our own strength . We need the strength he provides. The beautiful thing is that God promises to supply that strength. We must claim the promise and trust in him.

This promise helps us to see that we can only do what God calls us to do “through him who strengthens me.” The word, “him” refers to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the Father who strengthens us in the person and work of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a beautiful and precious promise about the concern and action that the Triune God has for us. If God did the most for us in sending his Son to die for our sins and raise from the dead for our eternal life, will he not give us all that we need to do his will (Romans 8:32)? God is for us in Jesus.

Struggle on the Journey

What are you struggling with that God has called you to do? Maybe just to trust him with something he has allowed to come into your life. The hard things we face have meaning in the mission of God. Meditate on this promise in light of your struggles. What is God calling you to do for his kingdom? Maybe you’re struggling with something you’ve failed to do for God or some sin that is plaguing you. Claim God’s strength for your life. Find joy and peace through your Heavenly Father who loves you and sent his Son to die for your sins. He has given you a promise of strength. Offer a prayer to him now of your faith in this promise. He will keep his promise. Strength is on its way. The secret of contentment is the secret of strength. “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

The God of All Peace

Fear, worry and anxiety can grip the heart of anyone in certain circumstances. But there are some people who face these negative emotions on an almost daily basis. No one enjoys these feelings, but there is help from the Lord. God makes a bold promise to his people Israel in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” These promises apply to believers today as the covenant people of God. This ancient promise is meant to bring us peace. Everybody wants peace and most people desire more than their experiencing now.

In this awesome passage we find two negative commands with the reason for each command, and three promises. The first negative command is, “fear not.” This is a command found often in the Bible because people are so prone to fear. Fear is the kind of negative emotion that can grow in our hearts if we focus on it. God gives us the reason we should not fear and the way we dispel our fear when it takes root in us. The Lord tells us that we can quiet our fears because he is with us. Almighty God, the creator of the universe is actually with us! This realization of the presence of God can calm our fears. What does it mean to you that God is with you?

The second negative command is, “do not be dismayed.” Dismay is much like fear but perhaps more intense or urgent. Things can get out of control in life so that we feel an urgency to resolve the situation. Again, God gives us the way to dissipate this feeling. He relates to us the wonderful reality that he is our God. He belongs to us because we belong to him. He bought us with the price of his own blood. We can take comfort and find peace in the fact that we are the children of God. He loves us! The apostle John says in John 1:12-13, “But to all who did receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Believer in Jesus Christ are born of God. He is our God.

These two negative commands are followed by three promises. Each of the promises begins with the words, “I will.” “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” To those who are weak, God promises to strengthen. To those who are in need, God promises to help. And to those who have falling down, God promises to uphold with his righteous right hand. We all find ourselves weak, and in need, and with the feeling we are falling down in our lives. God promises to be with us in these moments as we trust his promises. Do you feel weak? Are you in need of help? Do you feel emotionally or spiritually that you are falling? God is there for you.

For these promises to work their way deep into our hearts we must meditate on them until God calms the storm in our hearts. This does not always come as quickly as we would like, but it will come as we focus on God and his word. Think about each word and phrase in this powerful promise. What do they mean to you? In them you can experience God speaking to you. He is with us , He is our God!

Attitude of Gratitude

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

(Luke 17:11-19)

Leprosy was a destructive and debilitating disease at the time of Jesus. Those who suffered with it were isolated from their families living in small leper communities with little hope of recovery. It was essentially a death sentence with a miserable existence until death finally arrived. The word that a healer named Jesus of Nazareth could heal the disease sparked some glimmer of hope in the hearts of many lepers. When a group of ten lepers heard that Jesus was in their vicinity, they made haste to seek mercy from him. To their glad surprise their cry for pity was not unheeded. Jesus instructed them to go show themselves to the priests, which was required by the law of Moses to verify they were indeed cleansed from the dread disease. But something truly amazing happened. When one of the lepers realized the glorious truth that he was healed, he returned back praising God to thank Jesus. He was a samaritan.

One out of ten returned with a grateful heart. He was genuinely thankful. He was amazed at the magnitude of his blessing. Real gratitude is always taken back at what has happened to them, or at the startling realization of the blessing they have lived with for some time. Those with an attitude of gratitude are overwhelmed by their blessing rather than just expecting what they have received. They can’t get over it. “Why was I given such a great blessing?” they might ask or think.

Thankfulness is an essential attitude for the believer in Jesus Christ to live a joyful and productive Christian life. Those who are consistently ungrateful are usually neither happy nor fruitful. It is important to know that God calls his people to be grateful which is part of the process of spiritual maturity. Gratitude is a grace that lives in the hearts of those who know and walk with the Lord. To be really grateful requires a level of insight and wisdom in living life well.

Gratitude is not a disposition of complaining. Those who are never or seldom satisfied are not truly thankful. Complaining is an attitude of continual dissatisfaction with the way things are. One never seems to arrive at where one wants to be or deserves to be. Paul says in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” While they are not without the struggles of life, the truly grateful person honestly sees the hand of God even in the difficult things of life without coming across as inauthentic.

Gratitude does not often take the simple things of life for granted. Thankfulness is known and felt in the mundane things of life. Every moment of life is a beautiful gift from the heart of God and should be treasured. Having that thought is one thing, but experiencing true gratitude is very much another thing. The burdens of life can so overwhelm us that we may easily overlook the simple gifts that pass through our days. It takes an intentional effort to milk the good out of every circumstance. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for that is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” God’s will for us is that we be thankful. Understanding the gift of God in every kind of circumstance is the path to true and deep thankfulness.

Also, gratitude avoids that ugly disposition of envy and jealously. Envy looks at another persons life and longs to have what they have, while, on the one hand not realizing what it might have cost that person to arrive where they are, and on the other hand, not appreciating what opportunities are before us in our own lives. Envy is myopic; it is short sighted and turned in on itself. Envy does not grasp the uniquely designed gifts of God for its particular situation and need. One cannot be truly thankful for the blessings of life while greedily looking at what another has. Gratitude is not only content with the good hand of God, but is astonished at the grace of God.

Gratitude seldom happens automatically but must be practiced. We train ourselves to look at life through the eyes of God. It is something we must work at. He loves us and wants the best for us, but he is infinitely wise so that we can, with thankfulness, trust what he brings into our lives. He is leading us toward the wonderful blessing of gratitude.

Praying in the Spirit

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

(Romans 8:26-27)

Prayer is the easiest thing in the world. Prayer is the hardest thing in the world. Children pray and great prayer warriors struggle. It is easy to talk about prayer but much harder to actually pray.

Prayer is the business of heaven, so we need heaven’s help. Our Heavenly Father who loves us has given us a helper, the Holy Spirit himself. We can look to and trust the Spirit as we pray knowing he will express our hearts to the Father according to his will. This knowledge frees us to pray with abandon.

The Light of Life

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

(Psalm 119:105)

Sometimes life feels like walking in the dark. Have you ever had that experience? Of course you have. We all have. Which way do I go? Which turn do I take? Will I bump into the wall or trip over something I can’t see?

We need a light. God is that light. He is the light of life in his word. Lamps provide a small light for the next few steps. Sometimes we need a lamp. The sun provides a large light for the path ahead. Sometimes we need a large light.

God’s word illuminates the next few steps and the long path ahead. But the light of the word of God must be in our hearts to guide us on the path of life. We need that light every day. Darkness can invade our lives at any moment. If we have the light of God’s word, we will not stumble and fall.

Burning Hearts

“They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures!?”

(Luke 24:32)

This verse holds a very special place in my heart. It has been my life and my ministry for many years. It encapsulates my own experience and my passion for Scripture. Of course, I did not receive a bodily appearance of the resurrected Lord Jesus. Yet, like many other people, I’ve experienced him non-the-less real, open the Scripture to me in an amazing and life changing way. It happens often, but I’m sad to say not every-time I engage the Word of God. It could, and that is my goal. But it is also my goal to help others experience that burning heart as the Lord Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, opens the Scripture to reveal fresh insights and a sense of the real presence of God.

This verse is set in the context of the resurrected Jesus appearing to two disciples on resurrection Sunday as they walked from Jerusalem to a small village, Emmaus. They were depressed, dejected and very disappointed. They had given themselves to Jesus of Nazareth as the long expected Messiah. They had followed him investing themselves and all they had totally to him and his ministry. Then, on that terrible day in Jerusalem, the Romans and the Jewish religious leaders had Jesus crucified. He was dead and put in a tomb. All of a sudden their world quickly came tumbling down. The shock was devastating.

As they made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus came along side of them and engaged them in conversation. While they walked along the road Jesus talked with them from Moses and all the prophets, showing them that all the Old Testament revealed the suffering and glory of the Messiah. When they arrived at the village Emmaus they were so enthralled with his teaching that they urged him to stay with them. As they sat at the table and Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke it they realized that it was Jesus and he vanished from their sight.

What these two disciples experienced that day many people over the centuries have experienced. It is not a one time experience. It is meant to be a daily experience as we prayerfully engage the Scriptures by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As we go about the natural experience of reading and thinking deeply about the Scripture, the Holy Spirit gives us a supernatural experience. He illuminates our hearts and minds to grasp the truths we are reading. The insights we gain causes our hearts to burn within us. The Bible becomes meaningful and relevant to life. We see things about God, about ourselves and our relationship to God. The more we engage the Scriptures this way the more and greater are the insights we receive. It is through this experience of burning hearts that we are more likely to apply what we’ve learned to our everyday lives. Another great blessing from this experience is that we are highly motivated to go back to the source of that experience, holy Scripture, again and again. We are like a starving person finding food.

Are you hungry for God? Do you long to know him more, love him more deeply and serve him more completely? Invest yourself, your time and your heart and soul to fellowshipping with him in his word. The rewards far outweigh the cost in time and energy. If your experience is less than I’ve described, stick with it, be prayerful, be patient. God desires to speak to you in his word! He will meet you there!