Friday, June 27, 2008

The Model Prayer: Thoughts on how to pray



After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13

The 'Lord's Prayer' or better, “The Model Prayer”, is the prayer guide that Jesus gave to us in order to teach us how to pray. The model prayer describes a structure that we should strive to emulate when speaking with God. Furthermore, it provides an outline of what to pray for and it inherently provides priorities relating to our relationship with God through prayer.

The structure of Prayer

  1. Proper focus with humility and exaltation of God.
  2. Align your desires and will with His will.
  3. Suplication with dependence upon Him.
  4. Confession, repentance and forgiveness.
  5. Protection and guidance.
  6. Acknowledge and praise His pre-eminence over all creation.

Proper focus with humility and exaltation

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name
  1. The proper focus of our prayers should always be God the Father. Never should you pray to a person or saint (living or dead), or anything else (idol) that you could venerate.
  2. Humility and exaltation are found in 'hallowed be thy name'. Hallowed means to venerate. Venerate means to make holy. Also see Jude 1:25

Align your desires with His will

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
  1. God's will is always perfectly done (performed) in heaven. You must be willing to align yourself to His authority and desires and will for your life here on earth.

Suplication with dependence upon Him

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
  1. Paul said, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
  2. Dependence upon Him is is paramount above all else. Dependence upon self, outside of the Grace of God, is rooted in pride. This does not mean we should not take action based upon our knowledge and abilities. Recall David and Goliath: even though David spent years (assuredly) practicing with the sling, it was God that enabled him the victory.

Confession, repentance and forgiveness

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors..
  1. It is interesting to compare the differences in the priority Jesus gives to confession of sins during prayer as to priorities we learn from the average teacher. The average teacher (or preacher if you so chose), is dead set on telling you that the first thing you should do is make sure your sins are confessed, or “God won't hear you”. They're even sure to use the scripture to back themselves up, quoting Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” This scripture is taken completely out of context, and such an application does not fit in any way, shape or form the model prayer given by Jesus that we see here.
  2. So consider for a moment, the placement of confession, repentance and forgiveness in the model prayer: it's 4th in the list of priorities. Why is this? Because He has forgiven all our sins. Not just some of them today, and a few more tomorrow, but all. When we were made alive with Him, we were forgiven all of our sins; past, present and future.
  3. Confession, repentance and forgiveness (our forgiveness of others) is for us to restore our right relationship with God. God never moves away from us, we move away from Him.

Protection and guidance

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
  1. If God does not tempt any man, then what is the meaning of this phrase? It is a prayer of protection. A similar petition was made in Psalm 141:4: “Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.”
  2. Quite simply, God has the ability to protect you from suffering, should it be His will. However, through trials and tribulations, we are perfected.

Acknowledge His pre-eminence over all creation

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
  1. We end up at the end of our prayer in a similar place as when we began: acknowledging that God is in all, through all and in control of all, and that it is use that needs to be changed, not the desire or will of God. We must be willing to praise and worship Him in all things, and we must be willing to humble ourselves and our will to His desires and will for our life.


Overcoming Habitual Sin: How to be free from Bondage

There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains, because they had rebelled against the words of God and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; they stumbled and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke their bands apart. (Psalm 107:10-14)



What is an Habitual Sin, What is Bondage to Sin?
  • A specific, nameable thing that presents itself more as a habit, rather than an occasional failure.
  • Scripturally, a habitual sin is called bondage. We may also call it an addiction, but from the scriptural perspective, it is a bondage to sin. This is not just a bad habit, though someone in denial regarding their bondage may label it as such.
Within this context
  • It is something that you are aware of, but may feel helpless to be rid of.  Being drawn away by our own lusts is not necessarily bondage to sin.  But a person who is a slave to sin, or is bound to sin will be sometimes feel as if they're being pushed into sin.  And that is key difference: we all occasionally chose to sin, but bondage to sin actually feels as if you're being pushed into an action.
  • You make many attempts to rid yourself of the behavior, but you always end up doing it again.  In example, a pornographer will destroy his collection and then rebuild it.  An alcoholic will pour out the whiskey and wine only and eventually purchase more.  The smoker will throw away the cigarettes only to buy more in a few days.
Examples
The key here is "repetitive."  Just a s a slave is driven to work or perform for the master, a person in bondage to sin is driven into sin.  References verses are Ephesians 6:12, Luke 11:24, Mark 9:20-23
  • Repetitive participation in extra-marital or premarital sex.
  • Repetitive participation in pornography and impurity
  • Repetitive participation in the consumption of alcohol or drugs; aka, alcoholism and addictions.
  • Persistent attitude of pride, or other ungodly attitudes.
  • Persistent avoidance of God ordained responsibilities (slothfulness)
  • Persistent participation in anything that is (or the end result) is sin.
What are the root causes of Bondage?
An improper belief system
  • Bondage to sin is always, somewhere or somehow, based in a lie that is incorrectly accepted as a truth. As seen in the introduction verse, bondage is always related to rebelling against Gods word. In essence, this means that instead of believing and acting upon truth (Gods word), you believe and act upon a lie.
  • Hebrews 2:1-3 - For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
  • John 8:32 - "and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
Bondage to sin is never a result of believing truth, it is always a result of believing and acting upon a lie.
  • John 17:17 - "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."
  • We are released from bondage to sin when we reject the lie(s) is it based upon, and delivered into freedom when we choose to believe the truth of Gods word, and act upon those truths.  For example,  consider the repetitive sins I enumerated:  all of them revolve around generating our own peace, our own comfort.  The lie is that they can provide peace and comfort.  The truth is that only Jesus provide  true and lasting peace, John 14:26-27 - "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
It is failure to put on the armor of God
  • Ephesians 6:11 - Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
It has roots in demonic involvement
  • 1 Peter 5:8 - Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
  • Ephesians 6:12 - For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
It is a failure to actualize our freedom from sin
  • As Christians, we are made free from the power of sin through the work of Jesus Christ. Consider, however, that unless you believe in the work Christ (that it has the power to set you free) and actively choose to apply it to your life, then you will never receive the benefit of His work.
  • Romans 5:17-19 - For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
It is in our nature to occasionally sin, but as a child of God, it is not in our nature to remain in sin.


The Steps to Freedom can be found in Psalm 119:57-64

Acknowledge that God has not reined in your life and make God your core focus.
Psalm 119:57 - The LORD is my portion; I have promised to keep Your words.
  • Portion – Allotment, inheritance
    • Make God your portion in life, not things, not relationships, not pleasure.
  • Promise - a vow.
  • Keep your words – this means to guard the “matter of His word”, or to guard the “essence of His word”
  • All of us at one time or another have promised to keep Gods word: we’ve determined not to sin; or determined to say and do the right thing; we’ve all said in our heart, “I will do the right thing in this or that circumstance”. What you are effectively saying is that ‘you promise to keep Gods’ word’.
  • When you come to the realization that you have sinned, you are in effect saying, “I have promised to keep your words, but in this one thing I have failed.” In this verse, the Psalmist is acknowledging that he has sinned. This is further demonstrated in the next verse.
Ask forgiveness and confess for your sins
Psalm 119:58 - I sought Your favor with all my heart; Be gracious to me according to Your word.
  • I sought your favor – He is seeking the blessings of God, and by implication, he has asked for forgiveness of his sins; as seen by next phrase:
  • Be gracious to me according to your word – It is the mercy of God that forgives us, and the Grace of God that changes us and saves us. But the word ‘gracious’ implies, within current context, the totality of God’s mercies and grace. God has promised to be gracious to those that seek his face –
  • 2 Chronicles 7:14 … My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Repent of your sins
Psalm 119:59 - I considered my ways And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
  • Note that after he has confessed his sins and sought the graciousness of God, he then again considered his ways. After careful consideration of his “ways”, he ‘turned his feet to Gods’ testimonies.
  • Your testimonies - The words and actions of God.
Know and Keep God’s commandments
Psalms 119:60 I hastened and did not delay To keep Your commandments.
  • There’s not much to say about that; don’t be slothful; seek God with immediacy and with diligence.
Be Steadfast in your dedication to God and learn to Praise and Worship God
Psalm 119:61 - The cords of the wicked have encircled me, But I have not forgotten Your law.
  • Cords of the wicked - the bindings of evil, the thing(s) that keep and put you into bondage to sin. 
  • I have not forgotten your law - even in the face of turmoil and evil, he continued to seek Gods’ testimonies.
Give thanks to God
Psalm 119:62 - At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You Because of Your righteous ordinances.
  • At midnight I shall rise - He did not fail to make time to give thanks to God; he went out of his way and caused himself discomfort in order to give God thanksgiving, honor and glory.
  • because of your righteous ordinances - he gave thanks because of the things which brought him freedom 
Seek out and surround yourself with Godly friendship
Psalm 119:63 - I am a companion of all those who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts.
  • I am a companion - Godly friends and counsel are required in our lives and they help keep us on a straight path. This does not mean that we cannot spend time with our unbelieving friends and serve them through the power of the Holy Spirit. But it does mean we need core companionship that consist of Godly people.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:33 - Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals.
Acknowledge His provision, His Loving-kindness
Psalm 119:64 (a) The earth is full of Your loving-kindness, O LORD;
  • You must believe, proclaim and acknowledge the loving-kindness of God. Those who cannot see God’s loving-kindness are deceiving themselves of the most precious truth there is to know about God: how He chooses and desires to relate to us.
  • Believe that God is full of Loving kindness, and that He wants the best for you.  
Learn the word of God and believe His word
Psalm 119:64 (b) Teach me Your statutes.
  • Statutes - the Law of God, His precepts
  • Desire to know God.  Knowing His word teaches you who God is.
  • Base the foundation your life in the truth of God, not in your desires, not in your fears, not in your self protection. You must believe Gods' word and use it as the foundation from which to find freedom from sin.
Trust and Believe - ask for and seek Gods wisdom
  • Hebrews 11:6 - without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
  • James 1:5-7 - But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord ... 
Discipline your mind in against your sinful actions and discipline it to rest in God.
  • In all cases of recurring sin, the mind (the seat of your flesh patterns, your natural inclinations) has won the battle against the Spirit:
    • Galatians 5:16 - But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
    • Proverbs 23:7 - For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
Control your thoughts, train your mind in a new way (this is resisting the devil)
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 - We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ
  • Speculation – ideas and fantasy
  • lofty thing – The pride of life that exalts itself against God.
  • Captive to the obedience of Christ - Surrender your mind to Christ, surrender your thought life to Christ, bring your mind into submission to Christ.
  • While you are in the process of disciplining your mind and rejecting sin, your spirit is in the process of gaining strength. However, you must remember that discipline can take you only so far: it is the Spirit that must be the victor over sin in order for you to gain true freedom.
The Most Important Step: Submit, Resist and Draw
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  (James 4:7-8)

[ Also see my other post, Overcoming Bondage to Sin ]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trials, Tribulations and Burdens: How to Respond, Survive and Grow

Burdens and troubles are a part of life, as Jesus said it best, " do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. " But what are we supposed to do when we are heavy-laden with burdens? What are we supposed to learn? And why are they part of life?
The following is a bible study I prepared either for a Sunday School lesson, or a Friday night bible study that I have in my home.
James 1:2-12
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
  • Definition: Burden / Heavy-laden
    • A heaviness of the heart
    • A heaviness of the spirit
    • A heaviness of the soul
    • Anything that weighs you down emotionally, spiritually, mentally.
    • You just know that there’s a weight upon you. It may be a result of something you have done, or something that God has sent.
Purpose of Burdens
  • God Given for the purpose of a giving a specific word to a person or people:
    • Zec 9:1 The burden of the word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrach, with Damascus as its resting place …
  • God Given for the purpose of giving a specific task to a person or people:
    • Num 11:11 So Moses said to the LORD, "Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me?
      • God placed the burden of the Hebrews on Moses shoulder for the purpose of saving them.
  • God given for the purpose of revealing sin:
    • Psalm 38:4 For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
  • God given for the purpose of testing our Faith
    • James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
      • Do you have strong faith?
      • Do you have weak faith?
      • Do you have wavering faith?
      • Untested faith is unreliable faith.
  • God given for the purpose of providing direction:
    • To witness to someone
    • To pray for someone
    • To give someone something
    • Conviction of Sin
    • To perform some task
How do you have your burden Lifted or Removed?
  • There is a difference between removing a burden and lifting a burden.
  • God will sometimes remove it entirely.
  • Other times, He will lift it and allow you to carry some of it. But He will only allow you to carry that part which is necessary for you grow.
    • 2Co 12:7-9 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Before He will Remove or Lift our Burdens, we must …
Reject the sin of pride and accept the blessings of a humble spirit that trusts in the Lord
  • James 4:6-7,10 ... Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. … Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
    • We must shed our pride in the burden we have found upon us.
    • We must submit ourselves to God and draw close to him.
    • We must acknowledge that we wrestle not against flesh and blood.
  • James 4:16-17 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
    • Do not rely (boast) in your abilities – Trust in the Lord with all your heart. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall make your paths straight.
Humble yourself before Him
  • Mat 11:28-30 (Jesus says) "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
    • Consider the invitation:
      • Come to Me – ALL
          • The Greek word used to translate into our word “all” is very interesting: it literally means “all”
          • 2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
        • It is necessary to realize that ONLY coming to Jesus with a burden doesn’t remove the burden.
        • Sometimes we just discuss (pray about) the burden with Him. Discussion is not the issue at hand, and it doesn’t resolve the problem. You will walk away from the discussion still burdened.
    • Consider the instructions
      • Take my yoke upon you
        • Consider the oxen yoked one to another.
          • It appears to be painful and frightening – you think you have to give something up that is precious to you.
        • The idea of the yoke is “submission”. Jesus is saying, “surrender to me and I will take the weight off your shoulders”. It is to become His slave; it is a surrender of your will.
        • Some people think that Jesus is a dumping ground for our burdens. We think if we fast and pray and cast it upon Him, he’ll take it. That’s not going to happen. You can fast and pray without surrendering your will to Jesus.
      • Learn from me
        • Learning is a process.
        • What do we have to learn? You have to learn:
          • Who He is.
          • He is trust worthy – which means we should believe His word.
          • His love.
          • His forgiveness and cleansing.
          • His chastisement. We are to learn that chastisement is motivated from His love. Jesus is not in the business of condemning. The Holy Spirit is in the business of convicting, never condemning.
          • That Jesus is in the business of transforming your life, not destroying it.
      • The conclusion:
        • He will not remove or lift your burden without taking you.
        • He will not remove or lift your burden without you submitting yourself and your will to His yoke.
        • He will not remove or lift your burden without you surrendering your will to Him.
Be willing to cast it upon the Lord AND trust in Him
  • Psalm 55:21-23 His speech was smoother than butter, But his heart was war; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords. Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. But You, O God, will bring them down to the pit of destruction; Men of bloodshed and deceit will not live out half their days. But I will trust in You.
    • What does “sustain” mean?
      • You don’t have to live with the burden
      • God will Uphold you
      • God will Provide for you
      • God will Motivate you
      • God will Equip you
      • God will Energize you
      • God will deal with you in a way that expresses His love.
Be willing to chose to let God bear your burden
  • Psalm 68:19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation.
Be willing to believe that there is nothing that is too heavy for God.
  • James 1:5-8 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
    • He will enable you to
      • Walk with the burden
      • Live with the burden
      • Sleep with the burden
      • You’ll be able to live peacefully in the midst of the burden
      • Talk about it
      • Think about it
      • Deal with it.
Be willing to accept that He may let you bear some of the Burden
  • 1Pe 5:6-10 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
Find Gods purpose in your burden
  • Abandon your self to God
  • Cast your cares upon the Lord
  • Learn from the Lord
  • Ask the Lord for Scripture that speaks to your burden and engraft it into you life
  • Abandon your anger
    • James 1:20-22 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
  • Memorizing scripture is like putting a post-it-note on your brain. While it is perfectly good and right to memorize scripture, it is better to have it “engrafted” (KJV) or “implanted” (NASB) into your soul. Things that are implanted or engrafted have had a special place dug out of that which receives the graft which is just the right size and shape to receive the thing to be engrafted. Consider the grafting trees one to another.
    • James 1:26-27 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
      • Be a doer of the word – Submit to the Lord through your trial, tribulation and burdens by surrendering your will to Him.

Plucking the T of TULIP.

Within Calvinism, there is the idea of the TULIP, an acronym that describes the fundamental axioms of Calvinism. The TULIP was constructed...