September 11, 2016 Acknowledging Dependence

Acknowledging Dependence

Among Apostle Paul’s ‘final instructions and benediction’ of 1 Thessalonians 5.12-25 is verse 17: “pray without ceasing”. How can we do this, since we must work to keep the roof over our heads and food in the frig? What about with sports and school and just hanging out with friends? What did Paul mean? Does this have anything to do with Deuteronomy 6.4-9? How are we to “pray without ceasing”? Did even Jesus practice this? Besides, what does “praying without ceasing” have to do with Spiritual Warfare?

A. Illustrations.

  1. Elijah was instructed to meet with God at His mountain, Horeb, in 1 Kings 19.9-16. Remember that Elijah was running from Jezebel the wicked wife of King Ahab, who had sworn to kill Elijah because his God had humiliated and/or killed the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah,”who [ate] at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kings 18.19-40).
  2. At Mount Horeb, God spoke to Elijah not through the powerful wind or earthquake or fire but through “a sound of a gentle blowing” (verse 12, NASB; “still small voice” in NKJV; “sound of a low whisper” in ESV). What do you make of the contrast? How is this an evidence of Spiritual Warfare? How, then, does this position Philippians 2.9-11?
  3. What is the essence of God’s question, “’What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19.13)? Like so many of us, Elijah repeats his actions and Jezebel’s intention to kill him (verse 14). But, God understands the real reason for summonsing Elijah and, ignoring Jezebel’s threat, instructs him to carry out certain solutions from God (verses 15-16).
  4. My contemporary application of this understanding is the CEO who must listen to God to deal with the external powerful “wind” of the economy and the competitive “earthquake” and/or the internal “fire” of corporate stresses from growth of size and complexity.       The Holy Spirit speaks with “a sound of a gentle blowing”. Elijah listened carefully; so must we.
  5. In another, the Prophet Nathan’s instructions to King David in 2 Samuel 7.1-3 help to explain Elijah’s complaint and my application. Whereas Elijah ran to God to save him from his fears, David had experienced God overcoming his fears through conquests. Now, at ease, David envisions a Temple for God’s Ark of the Covenant.
  6. How does Nathan’s instruction reveal “a sound of a gentle blowing” within David’s mind and that of the CEO? BTW, I believe we hear God’s voice more intuitively than audibly.
  7. Consider God’s words in Psalm 50.15, 91.14-16, Isaiah 30-.21 and Jeremiah 33.3 assuring of His readiness to answer our questions and assist with our deepest longings (Psalm 37.4).
  8. The following are examples of Biblical leaders who heard the voice of God (OT) and the Holy Spirit (NT):

B. So, how is the Model Prayer an example of “Praying without Ceasing”?

  1. Matthew 6.7-13 record Jesus’ instruction about succinctly worded prayers and about the acknowledgements of our prayers.
  2. God does not count the number of words; rather, He weighs our faith in our use of each acknowledgement. Consider Habakkuk 2.4 and Hebrews 11.6.
  3. How, then, does verse 8 frame the Model Prayer in verses 9-13?
  4. Driving this understanding deeper, why did Jesus say “Hallowed BE Your name” instead of “Hallowed IS Your name”? Obviously, Jesus knew that God’s name was already hallowed. What is He saying about “praying without ceasing” through this verb?
  5. Thus, how do you understand each acknowledgement of Matthew 6.9-13 as you state each in your own wording? What are you acknowledging? Do you sincerely mean it?
  6. How might you word the prayer in the jargon of your profession? Consider the following illustration, which I wrote in January 2016.

For Enterprise Leaders:

Our Founder, Who art in Heaven;

Hallowed be Your name!

Your vision come.

Your mission be done on Earth, as Your will is done in Heaven.

Give us today the customers we need, and forgive us for speaking ill about our customers, competitors, and suppliers, for we repent from speaking ill about them.

And, lead us away from the temptations of philosophies and strategies that change Your vision or mission, and deliver us from the power of satan that would confuse, conflict, and confound us.

For, it is Your righteous kingdom we seek, and Your power and wisdom we depend upon, and Your glory we desire to be our result forever and ever!

Amen!

C. What does “praying without ceasing” have to do with Spiritual Warfare?

  1. Paul answers in Ephesians 6.18-20, restating the wording as “pray at all times”.
  2. How does Romans 8.26-27 explain Paul’s “pray at all times in the Spirit”? How do these verses complete the thought of Romans 8.14? How does Isaiah 30.21 make this personal? What picture of this is given in Jeremiah 6.16? You might see this in Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. An interesting ending verse.

The Holy Spirit will lead away from and to overcome satan’s temptation and harm. Enjoy God’s reassuring and similar words in Isaiah 35.8-10.

Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2016. www.sozoclass.com

September 4, 2016 The Sword of the Spirit

Sword of the Spirit

How powerful are the words we speak? Jesus said His words were “spirit and life” (John 6.63). Was this because He was God (Isaiah 7.14)? No, because of the illustration of Luke 10.1-19; the disciples spoke one Word “Jesus’, (Spirit) to effect life! Thus, the name ‘Jesus” IS “Spirit and life”! Paul reminds us of this in Philippians 2:9-11. In verses, 12-13, Paul says that Jesus expects us to use His name for overcoming satan. There is great power when we say what God has said, as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3.16-17: the word of God IS God-breathed; thus, filled with His power! Ezekiel 37.1-14 illustrates this power, especially verses 9 & 10. John 1.9 generalizes about this Source of all knowledge, as Jesus focused in John 14.26. “Christ is described as the cosmological Logos, he presents Him as the epistemological Logos….He is also the ground of all human knowledge” (Ronald H. Nash, The Word of God and The Mind of Man, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, pp. 66-67).

Now, combine this knowledge with Paul’s declaration in Ephesians 6.12, that our daily struggles are against ‘spirits’ and not persons. Thus, we discover how the Word of God, the Bible, becomes an effective ‘sword’, and the only weapon needed, for fighting Spiritual Warfare, as Paul encourages in Ephesians 6.17. Matthew 4.1-11 gives us Jesus’ example for teaching us the protocol for effective use of the Sword. He, as a ‘Son of Man’ (Matthew 1.1-17; Luke 3.23-38), was subject to satan’s temptations to pride and lust (1 John 2.15-17) but did not give in (2 Corinthians 5.21; 1 Peter 2.22). Rather, He defeated the temptation by speaking “spirit and life”, not repeating the ‘death-results’ of satan’s words and ways, as Jesus identifies in John 10.10a. We must develop a vocabulary of ‘swords’ to thrust back at satan as we quench his fiery darts with our polished shields of faith (Ephesians 6.16)!

The power of words is in its Source. The Bible is “God’s word for God’s people; hear it, believe it, and live,” as my pastor says each week after reading the sermon text. Faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10.17). We need faith for God’s salvation and from satan’s destruction (John 3.16-21; Romans 10.9-10. His-stories of ‘who, what, when, and where’ from the Bible develop into the ‘how’ of faith through the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us to understand the ‘why’ of the story, thereby revealing God (Jeremiah 9.24; John 1.18; 1 Corinthians 2.6-16). The Source is God Himself!

A. An Overview of the Bible.

  1. The Bible contains statements of God’s principles for righteousness and His promises for those who obey. He states this to Jeremiah in 7.23 and 23-24. Paul affirms this in Hebrews 11.6.
    1. God’s principles begin with the foundation of Genesis 1.1 (ESV): “In the beginning, God….”
    2. He continues with promises for Abraham and principles for mankind in Genesis 12.1-4, including a foretelling of the salvation of mankind at the Cross and Tomb (John 3.16; Romans 10.9-10).
    3. God enumerates and explains His principles for righteousness in the Decalogue of Exodus 20.1-17 and the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7, including the Model Prayer of Matthew 6.5-13. Is our Father’s Name to be ‘hallowed’ because of what Jesus says in the next verses? Remember that Jehovah+tsidkenu, jireh, raphe, rohi, nissi, shalom, and shammah cover all of life. Thus, is His name worthy of “hallow’? Notice Paul exclaims this in Ephesians 3.20-21.
  2. The Bible, then, illustrates leaders and followers who succeeded so long as they obeyed.
    1. In Genesis 17.1-22, Abraham talked with God about carrying out His plan in Genesis 12.1-4, and God called Abraham His ‘Friend’ (2 Chronicles 20.7; Isaiah 41.8).
    2. Moses depended upon God to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and to deposit them in the Land Promised to Abraham, illustrated in the defeat of Amalek (Exodus 17.8-16).
    3. The shepherd who became the greatest King of Israel, David, was a ‘man after [God’s] own heart’ (1Samuel 13.14) because David obeyed God wholeheartedly (1 Kings 14.8; 2 Chronicles 16.9a).
    4. These understood and enjoyed the essence of what Moses encourages the Israelites in Deuteronomy 28.1-14.
  3. But, there were leaders and followers who failed because they, apparently, did not read Deuteronomy 28.15-68.
    1. Notably, Solomon in his later years became deceived by the gods of the foreign wives he had married (1 Kings 11.1-11).
    2. King Manasseh did more evil than those before him in leading the Israelites to worship the heavenly hosts (Moon god, predecessor of Islam; 2 Kings 21.9, 11-12).
    3. Even King Uzziah became deceived by pride and ended his years alone (2 Chronicles 26.16-21).
    4. They should have remembered God’s words to Cain in Genesis 4.7. Success is found in ruling over sin, not giving in to it!
  4. Thus, the various Prophets were sent to warn the Israelites to return to God but without success (2 Kings 17.13-15). John the Baptist (Luke 1.17; Matthew 11.14) fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi 4.5-6. JB was the last of the Old Testament prophets and was to identify Messiah (Isaiah 40.3-5; Malachi 3.1-2; Matthew 3.1-3, 13-17; John 1.29-34).
  5. Jeremiah 44.1-30 illustrates the patience and firmness of God to honor His word. One lesson from this illustration is to follow the advice from God for which you asked! See Psalm 138.2. Read Solomon’s observation about words in Proverbs 18.20-21. Is your stomach aching or calm?
  6. Lastly, God sent His only ‘Begotten Son’ (1 John 4.9, NKJV; John 1.14) to free mankind from satan’s bondage (John 8.31-32) and “deliver us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1.3-5; 2 Peter 1.2-4). We, Jesus’ prophets, continue the task of reconciling lost mankind to God (1 Peter 2.9; 2 Corinthians 5.20; Matthew 28.18-20) before God calls an end to the opportunity of salvation (Revelation 4.1).

B. Bible Readership Statistics.

  1. As at January 2015, Barna Group reports that 28% of those surveyed read the Bible four to seven days each week, 17% once a month to once a week, 26% one-to-four times per year, 28% never, and one percent ‘not sure’ (www.statista.com).
  2. “Pew Research Center said Wednesday [160824] that 49 percent of what they term ‘nones’ left their church and religion because they ‘don’t believe.’ Another 20 percent said they don’t like organized religion. Other reasons included ‘common sense’ and a lack of belief in miracles….The survey is the latest from Pew that demonstrates a growing trend in America: more and more people are junking religion and many are giving up on God” (Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner, Pew: Americans giving up on God, miracles, August 24, 2016, http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pew-huge-surge-in-americans-who-no0longer-believe-in-god-miracles/articles/2600066).
  3. “Americans have a high interest and awareness of the Bible, but a majority believe the scripture has too little influence on a society some of them say is in moral decline, according to a recent poll for the American Bible Society” (www.deseretnews.com; April 9, 2013).
  4. “The number of those who are skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible—who believe that the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice”—has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% in just three years” (barna.org/The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014; April 8, 2014).
  5. “Digging into the population segmentation of Bible skeptics, we find that two-thirds are 48 or younger (28% Millennials, 36% Gen-Xers), and they are twice as likely to be male (68%) than female (32%). They are more likely to identify as Catholic than any other single denomination or affiliation (30%) and are the most-likely segment not to have attended church (87%) or prayed (63%) during the previous week. They are also most likely not to have made a commitment to Jesus that is important in their life today (76%)” (ibid).
  6. A greater travesty is that Christians were included in the survey! “‘The tyranny of political correctness is causing people to step away from their values,’ says Judge Wayne Mack, a justice of the peace in Montgomery County, Texas” (The Daily Signal, August 17, 2016).

C. Rationale for Obeying the Bible today.

  1. Simply stated, the Bible will be the test document for mankind at the Great White Throne Judgment of God Almighty (Revelation 20.11-15). Notice there that the judgment of unbelievers will be “according to what they had done” (ESV), especially as related to John 14.6 (John 3.16-21). Jesus emphasizes this in Matthew 12.36-37; again, the spoken word!
  2. This was Solomon’s summary, too, after examining existential philosophies, in Ecclesiastes 12.13-14. God EXPECTS mankind to obey His commandments! These are His criteria for separating good from evil (Jeremiah 15.19).
  3. This was the essence of Paul’s argument with the philosophers at Mars Hill, Athens, Greece. Notice, in Acts 17.22-31, his use of words in presenting the argument for the exclusivity of Jesus. Such ‘escape’ was Paul’s point in Galatians 1.4, too; we do not escape judgment through philosophies of relativism, secular-humanism, pluralism, etc. All these have resulted from Jeremiah 13.10: leaving God’s truth and following devolving lies from satan’s demons.
  4. Mankind has become ignorant, as God pointed out specifically about adulterous Israel, in Hosea 4.6. James (4.4) repeats this theme to Christ-followers, too. Ignorance is rampant, including among ‘people of the Book’!
  5. James (4.7) continues with the imperative: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (NASB). This is what God had encouraged Cain to do in Genesis 4.7. Paul gives more details and the necessary practical steps in Ephesians 6.10-19. You must do this; others can only stand with you; they cannot stand for you (unless you are a child before their ‘age of accountability’).
  6. In the “Bible sword drills’ of my childhood, the leader would command, ‘draw swords’, before naming the Bible verse to look up; then, give the start command, ‘charge’, to see which student could find the verse first. We probably need to renew this practice.

D. So, why Study the Bible?

  1. Solomon answers in Ecclesiastes (12.13-14) that there will be a future ‘judgment’ of mankind for their ‘whole duty’.
  2. Paul answers in Acts (17.22-31) that the ‘ignorant’ philosophies of any era will be ‘Judged’ by Jesus.
  3. John answers in Revelation (20.11-15) that God will ‘throw into the Lake of Fire’ all persons ‘according to what they have done’ against God or to earn their salvation, but whose names are ‘not found written in the Book of Life’ because they believed John 14.6
  4. Since there will be a Judgment by God, people should study the practices illustrated in the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit to discern the principle of God being taught, so that they may perform the principle in the contexts to which into which the Holy Spirit will be guiding their lives.
  5. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10.11: “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
  6. R. G. Lee preached a famous sermon about this titled ‘Payday Someday’. We should listen to it from time to time as a reminder.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNoMuCspTKE)

  The opportunities are great for Christians to walk their talk by reading and obeying their Bibles and living out God’s principles in all of their daily contexts, which is where the Holy Spirit has placed them to make an impact for God. Someone should know God better each day because of you (Isaiah 55.5)! Angels are waiting for your orders to complement your use of the Sword of the Spirit (Psalm 103.20; Hebrews 1.14)! Pick up the Sword and learn to use it in Spiritual Warfare (2 Corinthians 10.4-6)!

Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2016. www.sozoclass.com