Tag Archives: Church

Prayer

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. (Psalm 5:1-2 ESV)

Everyone asks God for something, at some time during their life. Most of these requests are for comfort, to make life easier, to fulfill some want, to remove some obstacle. How many people want God to peer into their deepest thoughts and emotions, to uncover and lay bare and expose the wounds caused by sin? No one wants such exposure.

Asking for God to hear the thinking of the heart in prayer is a major theme in the Psalms. Many Psalms are prayers, seeking God’s direction or forgiveness, the writer pouring out his heart before the LORD. This Psalm, like Psalm 4, seeks God’s attention at the beginning. “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!” (Psalm 4:1 ESV). Or Psalm 3, where he knows he is surrounded by enemies. “O LORD, how many are my foes” (Psalm 3:1 ESV). While many of King David’s circumstances fit these descriptions, he prophesied the feeling and thinking of Messiah, coming in flesh.

Spoken to God in the first person, Jesus laments the sin of His adversaries compared to His devotion to God. Groaning means to murmur or whisper. The Authorized Version translates the word groaning as “meditation.” Cry means to shout. The Psalmist is requesting God listen to His supplications when He whispers them or when He shouts. Jesus, even knowing God always hears, asks God to pay special attention to His whispered prayer thoughts and shouted frustrations.

Did Jesus ever shout? He was angry on a number of occasions. But, the Gospels give no indication, other than the anger of His actions and words, that He ever shouted. We view Jesus as cool and collected, never losing control, even in His anger. There are two instances in Scripture where Jesus confronted sin with violence. Jesus violently drove people away from the temple courts, once at the beginning and once at the end of His ministry, before His crucifixion.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (Psalm 2:13-16 ESV)

Jesus viewed the temple as the house of God, His Father’s house, and a place of prayer. When He travelled to Jerusalem He always taught and prayed in the temple. Temple means a sacred place. In this case it is the designated place where God dwells and where His people can come to worship Him.

Before he was given the plans for the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, Moses would pitch this tent outside of the camp. People would come to this place to seek the LORD. Moses would enter the tent and God would descend in a cloud and the LORD would speak to him. They worshipped as God spoke to Moses. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:11 ESV; see Exodus 33:7-11).

God wanted His people to build Him a sanctuary so He might live among His people. “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8 ESV). Instead of being outside of the camp God’s tent was built and stayed in the middle of the camp, surrounded by the twelve tribes of His people.

David wanted to build a permanent Temple in the middle of Jerusalem but was restrained by God. David had killed too many people, so God declared his son Solomon, a man of peace, would build the house of worship.

“You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever” (1 Chronicles 22:8-10 ESV).

Though Solomon was the son of David who built the house of the Lord, it is Jesus, the Son of David, who builds the eternal House of the Lord. Solomon used physical stones. Jesus uses living stones to build His house. “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV). Neither Jesus nor God tolerates sin in their eternal presence.

This temple Jesus cleansed was not just God’s house, the house of His Father. It was His house, a physical representation of a spiritual reality. God listens to His Son because He is sinless, the blessed righteous Man in whom are all who are His declared righteous. His Body and His Church is pure and is becoming pure and will for eternity, be pure.

 

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Peter’s Denial

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 54-60 – Parallel Passages: Matt. 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

Peter may be the leader of the group of disciples but he represented every person in his actions at Jesus’ arrest. Do his arrogant boasts of following Christ to prison and death represent all Christians? Do his rash reactions, like swinging a sword and cutting off the ear of one of the people who came to arrest Jesus, represent all Christians? Does his running away when confronted by the world represent all Christians? Peter, and the other disciples, abandoned Christ, just as He said they would. Only Mark and Matthew tell us Jesus’ disciples ran away in fear. “And they all left him and fled” (Mark 14:50 ESV; see Matthew 26:56). Jesus had already predicted that those who were with Him would scatter. During His last the Passover celebration He taught them about Himself and the coming of the Holy Spirit. He was leaving them and going back to His Father.

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33 ESV)

Jesus also tells them that their abandoning Him was prophesied long ago. “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’” (Mark 14:27 ESV; see Zechariah 13:7). Zechariah wrote his prophecy over 500 years earlier. Jesus does not condemn His disciples for what they will do but encourages them to not allow their fallen nature to overcome them. He tells them to take heart for He has overcome the world.

Peter, and those with him, will run away. We must be honest with ourselves, we would probably run away also, under the same circumstances. I would probably run away. One of characteristics of the fallen nature is the tug and pull away from righteousness even when the image of God within drives toward Him who is righteous. We are afraid of the world and have such little or nonexistent faith in God that when the world rears its violent head we may fight for a moment but eventually flee. No one, in and of themselves, is strong enough to stand against the force of the world directed by the venomous lies of the Deceiver. Only God is strong. We do not overcome the world. Jesus overcomes the world. We must be driven to the place where we recognize His strength in us under His control. This is what happens with Peter and the other disciples.

Once Jesus was arrested Peter and John followed at a distance. We assume John went because John records what happens. John is known to the High Priest and helps bring Peter into the courtyard where Jesus is being interrogated. Three times Peter is asked about his relationship with Jesus and three times he denies knowing Him.

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”

And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:54-60 ESV).

Three times in an hour, Peter denied knowing Christ even though he was the leader of the disciples. Two things happened. Jesus who was enduring the derisive grilling of those who hated Him turned and looked at Peter. Jesus knew Peter was there because Jesus was aware of everything that was happening and that would happen. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62 ESV). When Peter realized what he had done he broke down and wept. He saw the emptiness of his boasting and his actions grieved him.

Our sin and the realization of the consequences of our sin, should drive us to grief. But the life of the Christian does not stop with grief and mourning. Peter did not fade away but became the leader of the Church, the Body of Christ. Peter may have momentarily abandoned Jesus but Jesus will never abandon him, or us. Though Satan asked to sift him, and God gave Satan permission to do so, Jesus still prayed for Peter and told him what to do once the trial was over. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). Peter would live out his life in faith doing exactly what Christ instructed. Peter would strengthen all those who follow Christ throughout the ages.

Unity of Marriage

Studies in Genesis 2

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 ESV

These are not Adam’s first words. These are not Adam’s words at all. Adam does not have a father or mother but is the father of the entire population of humans. Eve is the mother of the entire population of humans. These are the words of God, written by the author of Genesis, declaring His purpose and direction for all who follow, who will be born.

There are three parts to this statement, each with eternal consequences. Each statement declares the eternal intent of God showing the relationship all who carry the image of God have with their Creator. Yet, this statement is proceeded by a “therefore.” Everything God has said and done impacts the statements which follow. God has shown methodical purpose in the work of creating the Earth, the plants, fish, birds and animals, and Man. He has intentionally made a garden, the home for those He created. He gave Man, and consequently all humans, the “image of God,” so He might have a relationship with them and they with Him. This was done by eternal design. He purposefully created the man first, and then the woman from a piece of the man. All He does is according to His design and purpose with no trial and error or mistake. With these thoughts let us briefly examine the three parts to this statement.

A “man shall leave his father and his mother.” To leave means to depart from. It can carry the meaning of abandoning but we would be hard pressed to think of God wanting anyone to so completely separate themselves from others as to abandon them. God will not abandon us though He will discipline and even punish us. Parents are to care for their children and, as parents grow older, children are to care for their parents. This is a natural consequence of growing and maturing to responsibly reproduce, build a family with responsible children who will grow and continue the design and purpose of God fill and subdue the earth.

The Authorized Version, the King James Version, uses the word “cleave” to describe what the man does when he leaves his father and mother. The word “cleave” is the phrase “hold fast” and means to stick to, or cling to something. The man is to “hold fast to his wife.” Marriage is the divinely dictated, ordained and approved foundation for the family.

The consequence of leaving and holding fast is that two are now considered one, “they shall become one flesh.” Where the woman was taken out of the man’s flesh, and the woman bears children who are of her flesh, so the father and mother of the children are in God’s sight a unit, one person. This is a spiritual truth represented by a physical reality that points to Christ and the Church, not to the eternal marriage of two physical people. This verse points to the unity of those who have the image of God with God by revealing the necessity of unity of husband and wife.

 

Facing Suffering

I am faced with a dilemma. How am I to face suffering when my life and expectations are to not suffer?

Throughout our world Christians face persecution and suffering because of their relationship with Christ. We tend to view persecution as overt and physical suffering, such as a government condemning to death a Christian who converts from Islam to Christianity. We, sitting in our safe, comfortable homes, feel little conflict when a man 12,000 miles away stands firm in his faith even to the point of death. Our consciences have been so seared with the blatant lies of the world which surround us we feel nothing, or perhaps only a simple, easily ignored, minor discomfort, on hearing such a story. We have no experiences with which to relate to those facing daily the hatred of the world.

Or do we? Persecution is also subtle, as innocuous as a boss or friend demanding unethical behavior and compromise from a known Christian. We are faced with an even more subtle attitude of tolerant intolerance. We are lulled into complacency by embracing the desirable things of a world at complete odds with God. Each desire is filled with a temptation which then coerces us to compromise a known value, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit but never jammed down our throats. God asks for obedience then expects us to exercise our minds, emotions and wills to do what He wants, think as He thinks, recognize His moral truth as His standard and act in obedience. We don’t because we do not comprehend the value of suffering for righteousness’ sake.

Worldly attitudes devalue Christ’s sacrifice, the gift of suffering experienced by the persecuted and our own worth. Christ told us we were worth His deep, agonizing suffering. He told us that to follow Him we also would suffer. We grieve and mourn over sin and grieve and mourn when those who are part of the Body of Christ endure intellectual abuse, emotional oppression and physical trauma because of Christ. With Paul we can say “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” [1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV].

Do we not?

No one wants to face suffering but such suffering for righteousness’ sake is the fertile ground God uses to grow the Church. We are not prepared in this country, or many places, to face or stand against someone, anyone, who has something against us because we belong to God. Instead of correcting our thinking, challenging and changing the way we think, we accept the thinking of the world which encourages through a skewed philosophy biased actions and unjust decisions.

When we think and act like the world we show how insignificant is our relationship with God. He created us in His image so our thinking would conform to truth unaffected by sin and rebellion. When confronted by the philosophy of the world our spirit, counseled and directed by the Spirit who resides within, knows there is something wrong. We may not be able to articulate the wrong, or explain how it is wrong, but we know.

However, when anything we do is perceived by the world as wrong when we know it is God’s express will, bringing the world’s displeasure from our righteous actions and attitudes, do we then submit to the world and agree we are wrong? Are we not convinced of God’s will? If we do no wrong why do we allow the world to convince us otherwise?

All who are His are owned by Him. This is an unpopular position. Our words, actions and attitudes are to focus upon Him who strengthens us, directs us and who gives us grace and a peace. This confounds the world. Do we compromise His moral will and character in order to please the world? Or do we please God and face with peace and grace the hatred of the world?

Only those operating under the same standard of justice can be reconciled. We are reconciled to God because we come under His justice and righteousness not the worlds. Being judged by those in the world will bring God’s judgment upon those in the world. Those who hold to a standard bent away from God will never be able to comprehend the actions, attitudes and words of a Christian. They may be curious, though.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. [1 Peter 3:14-16 ESV]

Live the gospel. All are called by God to obedience. And maybe those who persecute you will see Him.