To Know the Father

Saturday, October 21                 

Jesus made a startling statement in John 14:7.  Speaking to his disciples just hours before his crucifixion, he said “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.  The “If” is a problem; it implies that they don’t know Jesus, nor do they know the Father.  These disciples had been with him for his entire ministry, more than three years.  His ministry with them is nearly over and they don’t know him?  They had seen his miracles and they had listened to his words.  They had performed miracles in his name.  They had received him as the Messiah; he was God.  What was Jesus saying here?  Think how this would hit the disciples.  Maybe it means simply that “to know me is to know the Father.”  In any case Jesus followed that statement with “From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”  That is just about as enigmatic as the first statement.  Jesus probably meant that their understanding would become complete after the resurrection, and particularly after the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit would come upon them.  This verse still is somewhat of a problem for me.  If you can help me, please do so.

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Faithful Workers

Friday, October 20                     

Unfortunately, the positive pattern described in yesterday’s blog doesn’t always happen.  Human beings with their remnants of the sin nature still hanging around, are susceptible to making bad choices.  Letting the cares of this world influence decisions will turn us away from the job assigned to us.  Neglecting the Word of God, a minimal and weak prayer life, or not dealing with a known sin can play havoc with God’s plans for our lives.  There are lots of N.T. passages that deal with this.  Col. 3:2-3.  “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  Heb. 12:1-2.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus . . .”  1 John 2:15.  “Do not love the world or anything in the world.”  Love is a key issue here.  When Jesus evaluated the Ephesian church in Rev. 2:1-7, his main criticism was that they had lost their first love.  If love is not the core of our faith and doesn’t motivate us to “good works,” we will never fulfill God’s purpose in saving us.  I don’t want to be like the man in the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30) who buried his talent in the ground and did not produce a profit.  Escaping hell fire is wonderful, but I don’t want to stand before my work supervisor empty handed.  I prefer to hear him say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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Tri-fold Purposes

Thursday, October 19               

When a person comes face to face with God and understands his inability to qualify for heaven, he has to choose—between trusting God for his salvation or rejecting it.  To him, the only issue is his own fate.  But God has more in mind than that.  When Christ made contact with Saul on the road to Damascus, he was interested in Saul’s salvation, but he was also concerned for thousands of Gentiles that needed the gospel.  Saul was to be his man to reach the Gentile world.  So when Saul was converted, God put him through a concentrated course in the Arabian desert to prepare him for his future work.  God does the same thing for us.  He is not content to spare us from eternal judgment and prepare us for heaven.  He has a job for us to do.  The sanctification process prepares us for the work ahead of us.  We learn humility, dependence on God, how to deal with adversity and persecution, how to pray, how to deal with sin, how to encourage our fellow believers, in short, how to live a godly life.  We develop godly traits “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17)  This entire process is virtually unknown at the point of conversion.  One’s eternal destiny is the first focus.  But then the focus expands.  God has redeemed us for purposes beyond our personal salvation.  It’s interesting that many new converts instinctively know that and want to share the good news with others—just as Andrew and Philip did (John 1:40-45).  So already the indwelling Holy Spirit is doing his job.  Underlying all this is a third purpose, more important even than the first two.  It all is to glorify God.  As John Piper would say, glorifying God is what gives us true happiness.

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A “Guilty” Plea

Wednesday, October 18                   

Mark 14:61-62.  When Jesus stood before his accusers, the high priest asked him point blank if he was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer could not have been more direct.  I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  This is an amazing thing.  The Jewish leaders had been trying to convict Jesus so they could put him to death.  Up to this point, they had been foiled over and over.  One time it was by using false witnesses, which failed because the witnesses had conflicting testimonies.  But those previous occasions were before Jesus’ time.  Now the time had come.  Jesus’ own testimony was put in terms that these religious authorities knew very well, straight out of their Scriptures.  The words “I am” identified him with the God of their Scriptures.  Daniel’s vision (Dan.7:13-14)  revealed more.  He saw “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”  And Psalm 110:1.  “The Lord says to my Lord: sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  This not only pictured Jesus as the Son of God in his future glory; it also called his enemies his “footstool.”  To the Jewish leaders it was a guilty plea.  To Jesus, it was the time to go to the cross.  It couldn’t have been better orchestrated.

Wednesday, October 18                   A “Guilty” Plea

Mark 14:61-62.  When Jesus stood before his accusers, the high priest asked him point blank if he was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer could not have been more direct.  I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  This is an amazing thing.  The Jewish leaders had been trying to convict Jesus so they could put him to death.  Up to this point, they had been foiled over and over.  One time it was by using false witnesses, which failed because the witnesses had conflicting testimonies.  But those previous occasions were before Jesus’ time.  Now the time had come.  Jesus’ own testimony was put in terms that these religious authorities knew very well, straight out of their Scriptures.  The words “I am” identified him with the God of their Scriptures.  Daniel’s vision (Dan.7:13-14)  revealed more.  He saw “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”  And Psalm 110:1.  “The Lord says to my Lord: sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  This not only pictured Jesus as the Son of God in his future glory; it also called his enemies his “footstool.”  To the Jewish leaders it was a guilty plea.  To Jesus, it was the time to go to the cross.  It couldn’t have been better orchestrated.

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Tuesday, October 17                     Vehement Believing

Robert Murray McCheyne makes a comment that goes along with yesterday’s blog.  “Prayer does not so much consist of vehement pleading, as in vehement believing.”  The word “vehement” is equivalent to “fervent” in James 5:16.  McCheyne is right in focusing on belief  rather than on pleading.  Without believing, one is wasting his breath.  But I’m happy that he didn’t rule out pleading.  The N.T. advocates pleading or persisting in prayer.  God hears and sometimes answers prayers without pleading, but other times, for his own reasons, he doesn’t answer immediately.  If a person is right with God (righteous), he is always heard.  But, as Romans 11:33 says, his ways are past finding out.  So God may delay answering or he may answer in a different way than we might expect.  Even Jesus deferred to his Father’s will when praying in the Garden.  He said “yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Bottom line:  God will always answer a heart felt prayer of a righteous man.  I can’t think of a greater motivation

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Sharpen Those Tools!

Monday, October 16              

Tools need to be sharpened.  The other day Elizabeth commented that she had a hard time cutting a banana skin with one of our paring knives.  I had noticed that, too, but had done nothing about it.  It didn’t take too long to sharpen it up.  We had a nice little tool right there in a drawer.  I don’t think of myself as being slothful, but I admit to putting up with dull tools longer than I should.  I have several files and rasps, flat ones. half round ones, round ones.  I also have an emery wheel.  So I have the tools to sharpen other tools.  God has given us a lot of tools for our spiritual work, too, and they need to be kept sharp.  It’s so easy to let our spiritual tools get dull.  You don’t have to do a thing for that to happen.  Spiritual tools don’t get dull by over-use; they get dull by not being used.  The Bible is referred to as a sword.  It gets dull when we don’t use it.  You don’t have to listen to a preacher very long before you know how much he’s been in the Word.  This is also true in our prayer lives.  If my prayers are mere words, they are no more effective than those prayer wheels in India.  One of my favorite verses is James 5:16, not because I measure up, but because it is an encouragement to sharpen my tool.  “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (KJV)  I like that word “fervent.”  It means “heart felt”—no perfunctory words.  Then there’s the matter of living a righteous life, which involves dealing with sin.  Another way to sharpen spiritual tools.

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Problems in Prayer

Sunday, October 15                           

Believing God is not limited to the salvation experience.  Belief (faith), is still necessary while we remain on this earth.  In a way, this is more difficult than believing unto salvation.  The truths concerning salvation are settled issues, clearly spelled out and available upon believing.  But when we pray for a certain thing to happen, we don’t have the same certainty that God will be in accord with it.  He promised to meet our needs, for instance, but what we think we need may not be what we really need.  So there’s an uncertainty here that is not in the more explicit issues of salvation.  The Scripture gives us some prerequisites to prayer—being in fellowship with God, no known unconfessed sin, sincere, heart felt, etc.  Those would be somewhat easy to evaluate and deal with.  But then there is the matter of praying for the right things.  It’s not always easy to know how God views a certain situation.  We might think that we know what he wants.  For example, we know that salvation is provided for all men and that God is not willing that anyone should perish.  But then there’s the issue of free will.  So we pray for Aunt Susie to get saved and Aunt Susie is not interested.  Another issue is that God has his own agenda.  It might not be the right time for something to happen and we can’t understand why God is not doing something right now.  God is not a genie in a bottle.  He has his own ways.  As the Scripture points out, his ways are not our ways.  So specific prayer is a problem.  Yet we are to pray.  But with the caveat that God may over rule and move in a different way.  I appreciate Romans 8:26.  “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Holy Spirit intercedes for us . . .”

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