Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Psalm of the Cross

Open your Bibles with me to Psalm 22.

This is the Psalm of the Cross, one of the most detailed prophecies in the Old Testament of the crucifixion of the Messiah.

The first two verses describe the Son forsaken by the Father. When you feel forsaken by God, how do you find any comfort, any courage to keep believing? Verses 3-5, by remembering God’s holiness, His trustworthiness. This is what the Lord prayed as He bore up under His Father’s forsaking of Him.

Verses 6-8 describe the mocking and taunting of the passers by. How do you deal with that, when you are the one getting dumped on? Verses 9-11, by putting your trust in God and counting on Him to deliver you

Verses 12-18 go through the physical suffering of crucifixion, the abuses by the soldiers and religious leaders

Verses 19-21 mark a turning point as the suffering Savior found His communion with the Father restored.

Hebrews 2:11-12 quotes this next verse, verse 22, showing that Jesus became like us so He could make us members of His family.

The second half of this Psalm is the Lord’s anticipation of the growth of the gospel through the church, as more people are saved through His work on the cross.

Look at the last phrase, down in verse 31 “He has done it.”

It is finishedThe gospel can be proclaimed because Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted, all the work is done, and salvation is available to all who will believe in Him.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is Meek Weak?

Both Nahum and Zephaniah talk about humility, meekness. I looked up “meek” in Webster’s dictionary, and here’s the definition it gave:

1) Patient and mild. Not inclined to anger or resentment.

2) Tamely submissive, easily imposed on;

3) Gentle or kind

Webster’s even gave what the world would define as meek: “too submissive; spineless; spiritless”

In the Old Testament the meekest man who ever lived was Moses and in the New Testament Jesus described Himself as meek. Neither one of those men were too submissive, spineless or spiritless, so what is Biblical meekness?

Vine’s Expository Dictionary describes Biblical meekness in this way: "Not just the way a person acts on the outside, but an inward grace of the soul that is pointed towards God. It is that quality in a person which accepts God’s dealings with him [or her] as good, so he [or she] doesn’t dispute with God or resist Him."

Meekness and humility are closely linked in the Bible. Only the humble heart can be meek, to not resist God.

Because of the nature of meekness, being meek towards God ends up translating into meekness with other people out of the sense that any suffering that comes with what other people do and say to you are allowed by God and used by God to chasten and purify you.

It’s getting a bit clearer why the world associates meekness with weakness, isn’t it?

But the Biblical sense of meekness is actually the fruit of power. Think about Jesus. He had the infinite resources of God at His command, but He held that power in check so that God’s will would always be done, God’s words would always be spoken, even when that meant personal sacrifice and suffering for Jesus, even to death.

The meek person stops thinking about him or herself, and being worried about what other people think. A meek person’s thoughts are oriented towards God.

When Jesus is your strength, your righteousness, your courage; when Jesus’ pleasure in you is your measure of success, when Jesus’ love for you is what makes you feel beautiful, then you can be humble and confident at the same time.

The meek person knows that in him or herself s/he is nothing, but in God s/he is everything. The world will never see you as God sees you, but for the meek person that’s okay, because you are content with God’s values and God’s view.

A.W. Tozer wrote;

“Artificiality is one curse that will drop away the moment we kneel at Jesus’ feet and surrender ourselves to His meekness. Then we will not care what people think of us so long as God is pleased...The rest Jesus offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend.”

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Prayer God Will Always Say Yes To (tenth in a series of ten)

Have you ever asked yourself “Will I ever be happy again?” The tenth prayer God always answers is “God, please bring good out of this bad situation” is one of the most powerful prayers you can every bring to God; and He will always answer Yes. But it’s also one of the toughest prayers to prayer. The reason is that when you and I are right in the middle of suffering, it’s very hard to calmly consider all the wonderful things that might come out of whatever’s happening.

But the fact is, in a Christian’s life, if it weren’t for the bad experiences – failure, humiliation, tragedy – sometimes the very best experiences would never have happened. Nothing is truly all bad unless we think it’s all bad. For a believer, there will always be something good that God can work out of what’s happening to you.

Overcoming adversity is not just a matter of willpower. Sometimes people can do that, but not always. The only Person Who can always overcome adversity and bring good out of it is God Himself. God alone has the power to bring good our of bad.

God will always answer “God, please help me get through this suffering,” by helping you, often in unexpected ways. God promises, to those who ask Him in prayer and are trying their best to do His will, that He will bring good out of every single misfortune you encounter in life, and will turn every instance of suffering into an opportunity for greater and deeper joy.

The Bible verse that this prayer is based on is found in Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good, for those who Love God and are called according to His purpose.

Maybe you’re wondering how can that possibly be true. How can losing your job be good? How can your house going into foreclosure be good? How can getting cancer, or losing a child, becoming permanently disabled, or any other hardship be good?

Maybe the main thing to understand is that we probably can’t fully grasp how God can pull good out of every bad situation, but we can know that He has already shown He that He can do it.

Think about the worst evil that has ever happened. The murder of God Himself, in the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son. The single greatest crime ever. And out of that worst of all sin came our redemption, salvation from sin. God did not allow people to remain hopeless and lost in sin, but instead brought untold good out of untold evil.

There’s a great lesson for you and me in that. If God is able to turn the worst kind of evil into the best kind of good, then He can certainly turn lesser kinds of evil into good as well. He can certainly take the bad things in your lives and mine, and bring some kind of blessing out of them.

Somehow, some way, God is able to orchestrate what freely happens in our world in order to produce the outcome that He desires without taking away even one little bit of our freedom to make moral choices.

The good may not always be obvious. You may not see it right away. You may not see it for a long time. But it will be there.
* Your suffering will make you more like the Lord Jesus.
* People will have an opportunity to love you and bring kindness into your life.
* Others you may never meet will be affected by your willingness to believe God and keep faith with Him.

God’s timing will be perfect in bringing the good out of what’s happening to you right now.


These thoughts on prayer are taken from the Catholic author Anthony DeStefano's delightful book, "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To: Divine Answers To Life's Most Difficult Problems."

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Prayer God Will Always Say Yes To (ninth in a series of ten)

Wouldn’t it be great if we could really have an Easy Button? We could keep it in our pocket and whenever there was a crisis, or a puzzling situation, or we needed an answer about something, we could just take it out and push.

Life is complicated. We try to get a handle on life by reading books about it, and consulting experts. You and I can work our way through a problem, figure out solutions, make decisions based on the facts as we know them...but coming up with the smart answer is not a guarantee for finding out the right answer. But being smart isn’t enough. What you and I really need is wisdom

Wisdom is more than the ability to make sensible decisions. It involves the ability to discern the truth in a situation, the ability to understand what may lie ahead and the willingness to do the right thing.

And that’s the rub. Often you and I don’t know what the future holds, and it’s very hard, from our limited vantage, to know what the right thing is to do.

But God is not limited. He always knows the future and He sees the truth in your situation, He sees details that even you may be missing, He sees all the ramifications, and He knows the right thing to do. God will always answer this prayer with generosity, “Lord, please give me wisdom.” He will give you the ability to understand things from His perspective and to desire what He desires.

God sees everything that is happening to you right now, in fact He is an active part of your situation. He is intensely interested in what’s going on because He loves you and has your best interests at heart.

When you ask God for wisdom you are essentially asking God for the gift of Himself, because He is wisdom. When you are in union with God you have direct access to everything God has made available to you in Himself: peace, courage, love, truth and wisdom. He wants you to have these things, and He wants you to glorify Him by sharing these gifts with the other people in your life.

Will God give you a direct answer to a direct question? Like, “Please, God, give me wisdom in juggling my career and raising my children?” The answer is yes so long as you are asking to serve God more effectively, and not to serve yourself, or something else. Will He show you how to get out of debt? Yes, He will lead you to the best answer possible to that question so long as your purpose is to serve Him more effectively.

It’s not that other motivations are necessarily wrong. It’s that the focus of God’s wisdom is not to be on myself, but to be on God. His purpose is always going to be to draw you into a closer union with Himself, that’s in your best interests. His solutions may not be what you were interested in hearing. But they will be the wise solutions

The more you ask for wisdom, which is really asking for God’s perspective, the more you will notice a change in what you will see in a situation. You will begin to see possibilities and solutions you’d never thought of before. You will find yourself willing to consider decisions you had been closed to before.

The last thing about wisdom is this
James 1:5-8 says “If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won't correct you for asking. But when you ask for somet you must have faith and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like an ocean wave tossed around in a storm. If you are that kind of person, you can't make up your mind, and you surely can't be trusted. So don't expect the Lord to give you anything at all.”

Wisdom is not just knowing the right thing to do, it’s doing it. In order to receive God’s wisdom you must already be prepared to follow through with what He shows you. If you feel you have been earnestly asking God for His wisdom and you feel like He’s shown you nothing, then maybe this is the roadblock: you aren’t ready yet to put His words into action.


These thoughts on prayer are taken from the Catholic author Anthony DeStefano's delightful book, "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To: Divine Answers To Life's Most Difficult Problems."

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Prayer God Will Always Say Yes To (eighth in a series of ten)

It is God’s nature to bless whenever He can. God is generous, and He is delighted when you and I want to be generous – in fact, it is God’s intention to make us like Him in generosity, so He will always answer the prayer “God, please outdo me in generosity.”

There has been a lot of debate about material blessing among Christians. On the one side are those who view money and wealth as something very bad, even evil. This view holds that God does not like rich people at all, and that money is something the Bible condemns.

On the other hand, there are those who say that money is a wonderful thing, that God loves rich people and wants everyone to be rich.

Who’s right? What does the Bible say?

It doesn’t take long to find out that God is pretty tough on the rich. “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10) “Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth, where moth and rust corrupts and where thieves break in and steal, but rather store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.”

But did you notice that none of those verses condemn money itself. It’s not a sin to have money. But having money can be dangerous.

Money can
1) ... make us feel like we have everything we need to be happy and fulfilled, so we don’t really need God.
2) ... make us spiritually complacent, secure in our wealth. That’s a false security
3) ... makes us feel superior to other people because we have it, that must mean there’s something better about us

For some people being rich is probably the worst thing that could happen to them, spiritually, if they are prone to these areas of temptation.

But God entrusted His Son into the hands of a very wealthy man: Joseph of Arimathea. He was so rich he had influence with both the Sanhedrin and with Herod. He was the only one who could have gotten them to give up Jesus’ body. He had enough money to bury Jesus with dignity, and put Him in a new tomb, in fulfillment of Scripture.

King David was another famous rich person. His willingness to give out of his personal wealth provided the downpayment on building the temple

The key to understanding the relationship between God and being rich is that money will be a blessing only if you view it as a gift from God to be shared.

What God wants is for you and me to be like Him, to have a spontaneously pure and giving heart, to share without hesitation.

The Bible also talks about being good stewards, being responsible as well as generous, you and I can’t spend what isn’t ours, what is supposed to cover our obligations. But we should try to do both, be responsible and generous, just as God is.

God will never be outdone in generosity. In fact this is the only area in which God invites us to test Him. In Malachi 3:8-10 God challenges us to give of our material wealth and “Test Me in this...see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.” If you are generous, you will be blessed by God. Maybe not always in terms of cold, hard cash, but you will always know God’s generosity to you.

Proverbs 19:17, Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed

Luke 6:38, Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

Matthew 10:42, And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

Psalm 41:1-3, Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land


These thoughts on prayer are taken from the Catholic author Anthony DeStefano's delightful book, "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To: Divine Answers To Life's Most Difficult Problems."

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation