Sermon – Starting Over part 2 – January 22 2017

startingover-image1Prayer is a discipline and the most incredible privilege we have.

Jesus displayed a disciplined prayer life throughout his time on earth. He would rise early in the morning or retreat from the crowd to be alone in prayer. As His disciples witnessed this, one of them came and asked him to teach them to pray, so Jesus taught them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11. These few lines carry all we need to know about prayer. Jesus begins the prayer with a statement that must have shaken their religious traditions; “Father, hallowed be your name.” We are invited to address God as our heavenly father, but we must never forget that he is the all holy, uncreated creator of the universe, hallowed be His name.

Then in verse 3 the prayer continues; “give us each day our daily bread”. Jesus said that we are to pray to our heavenly father asking him to the provision we need for each day and then trusting him for the day thereafter. Can you imagine your child coming to you and asking for food, and then asking for a weeks’ worth of food so that they can store it up in their room, just in case you don’t happen to be there tomorrow? Jesus encourages us to pray with faith and confidence that our heavenly father knows our every need for each day.

Looking further in chapter 11 and to verse 5, we read another parable that Jesus taught his disciples (read Luke 11:5-8).

As always, Jesus uses an example that the people would clearly follow. The friend who had the unexpected visitor is unashamed in his asking, he persists in his request and Jesus said that because of his shameless audacity the friend will get up and give him what he needs. The key is the boldness of the friend outside the door, he is bold in his ask because he is secure in his relationship with his friend.

This is the way we can come before the throne of God. We can and must be bold in our coming before our Heavenly Father (Read; Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:19). We can only be bold because of the cross. God opened the way for us to come directly to his throne and he invited us to come boldly before him, without reservation.

As Jesus concludes the short parable, he continues to teach in Luke 11 verse 9.The Greek verb tense literally means;  keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. There is an invitation by Jesus to persistence in prayer, but there is also a difference between these three verbs.

Asking is face to face communication; we can come directly, with no intermediary, petitioning God.

Seeking is taking time to find something. Spending time in prayer. Prayer is very often a searching and discovering of the will of God.

Knocking is persistence; not giving up even when we feel our prayers aren’t being heard.

We must keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking, not because God is hard of hearing but because in the process God is transforming us as we discover the plans and purposes of God.

In our efforts to become people of prayer we can easily become defeated because of the false teaching that everything in the universe is already set, and things cannot be changed (the ancient philosophy of Stoicism).

If things cannot be changed, why pray? But the Bible teaches that we work together with God through our prayers in changing the future of people and nations. The truth is that we have a tremendous responsibility to pray. Prayer changes things and we are called to change the world through prayer. Erwin Lutzer the pastor emeritus of the Moody Church wrote; “The sovereign purposes of God are uniquely connected to the extraordinary and united prayer of God’s people”.

Jesus said in John 15:7; “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” But Jesus doesn’t end there, he goes on to say; “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Answered prayer is always to the Fathers glory. God delights to answer our prayers because it is for His glory!

Children know more about prayer than we do, Children do not get confused with reasoning and theology, they simply ask their Heavenly Father for what they need. Childlike faith is the foundation of a healthy prayer life.

What are you asking God for specifically today? Do you believe that God is going to give you above and beyond what you are asking for? In your praying, are you praying persistently? If we understood the power and privilege that we have in prayer, our prayer meetings would be full and our times of prayer would be extended.

Developing the Discipline of daily prayer must be a priority for us. Prayer is a privilege bought for us by the blood of Jesus.  Through prayer marriages are healed, through prayer physical bodies are healed, through prayer the lost are saved, through prayer financial needs are met, and so much more.

4 keys to prayer,

  • Pray specifically; What is the miracle that you need from God today?
  • Pray persistently; Keep knocking, keep seeking, keep asking; persistent prayer makes a difference
  • Pray expectantly; expect God to answer your prayer because He delights to answer your prayers.
  • Pray thankfully; Sometimes part of the step of faith is to thank God for his answer even before we see the miracle. Be thankful when God answers your prayers.

Let us become a people of prayer for the glory of God.

Jesus is the Bread of Life February 7, 2016

Bread Of Life Title.2

Mark 8:11-21

Have experienced a miracle?

Maybe eyesight or hearing restored, cancer taken away? Those certainly are miracles, but what about the car accident you avoided because you were briefly delayed, the financial provision that came in at just the right time, the person who came into your life for a short season and gave you the encouragement you needed to carry on. Those are all miracles, but we don’t often recognize them as such. What about the miracles we don’t know about, the times God protected you or provided for you without your knowledge.

As Christians we have all experienced many miracles.

In Mark 8 verse 11, we read that the Pharisees came to test Jesus, to see if he would prove himself by performing some sign. But we read that Jesus sighed deeply. He was frustrated that although he had given so many signs, they still did not see. Their hearts were hardened. Jesus did not have time for the Pharisees and their intentional hard heartedness, so they got back in the boat and left. The disciples began to get hungry and realized that they did not have much food, whose responsibility was it to bring the food? Here they were on a journey in the Sea of Galilee, not knowing where Jesus is going to go next, without any food.

Jesus knows what they are discussing and responds with a strange warning; “15 Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

The disciples were obviously confused, they thought he was referring to the fact that they had no bread. Jesus often spoke in parables and sometimes confusing metaphors, maybe this was another one. But Jesus was trying to take their attention away from their physical need that was consuming their thinking. How often God needs to do that? Take our minds off the thing that is consuming our attention, the temporal thing, and allow us to focus on the bigger picture. Jesus was getting them to focus on the bigger picture.

The yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod – what was Jesus talking about here? Jesus was warning them of false teachers and those who had a false understanding of who Jesus was. A small amount of yeast affects the whole loaf just like a small amount of doubt and fear affects a whole church and a whole community. Let us be very careful of those who spread fear and doubt. We serve a living God who is still at work in the world today to bring about his plans for his ultimate Glory. Jesus showed that he was more than adequate to provide for their immediate needs. And he still does today.

Jesus starts questioning the disciples and asks 7 questions, but the first five, he shoots out not expecting or requiring an answer to them (Mark 8:17-18). Jesus is like a parent scolding a child.

In asking these questions, Jesus quotes Jeremiah 5:21 and says; “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” Jesus was not accusing them of being deaf and blind, rather he was pointing to his miracles. He was reminding them of who he was and what he was capable of doing. Looking back in Mark 7, we see that before the miracle of the feeding of the 4000, Jesus had healed a man who was deaf and mute. Then there was another miracle, right after this account of Jesus rebuking his disciples, Jesus heals the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22).

But Jesus goes on and asks them questions about the two miracles of the large crowds that he fed only a few days before.

Jesus probably lowered his voice and in what might have sounded like a sigh, he says; “Do you still not understand?

The disciples had seen incredible miracles, they had seen Jesus feed thousands with a small amount of food. They had seen him restore healing, cast out demons, they had seen him walk on water. They should have understood that Jesus could do anything, but what Jesus was trying to get them to understand was that miracles are not meant for simply the physical provision or correction of something that was out of alignment. Jesus wanted them to be thinking on a spiritual level. Do they know who Jesus is?

And we are not much different. We may experience a miracle, God provides, God opens a door for us, God blesses us, and in a few weeks we forget what God has done, we forget the miracle.

Christians are the beneficiaries of the greatest miracle, the greatest story of all of History, the Good News.

Jesus died and rose again from the dead in order to reconcile us to God. As a result we don’t have to live in fear and uncertainty. The world is a scary place if we don’t know Jesus. If we don’t see and hear what he has done, and what he is still doing.

So why does God do miracles? To make us more comfortable? To help us out of a difficult situation?

Does God do miracles because He realized he made a mistake and quickly has to correct it? No God doesn’t do that. God allows situations in our lives, desperate situations, situations that only He could take care of, in order for us to see His glory, His mercy and His power.

God is less concerned about our personal comfort here on earth than he is concerned about us spending eternity with him.

Through miracles God displays His glory, through miracles God grows our faith and trust in Him. God sends miracles so that we can worship Him.

Tell someone what God has done for you. Your story is your testimony, you need to share your testimony to point others to the glory of God.