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AN EXAMINATION OF THE LORD’S PRAYER — PART 2

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Prayer, Religion, Salvation, Truth with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2011 by willnotbesilent

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

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Welcome to the second installment of this study of the Lord’s Prayer. So far this examination has been quite exciting, and I hope you find the same interest in this topic as I have. Last post, we looked at the salutation of the prayer (“Our Father who is in Heaven”) and how we are children to an almighty God. Now we move on to the body of the prayer.

“Hallowed be Thy name”

The model prayer given to us by Jesus Christ is characterized by seven requests, of which this is the first.

That the prayer should contain seven requests is important to note. God loves numbers and gives various numbers a certain significance. In the case of seven, it is the number of divine perfection or completeness. We can learn from the occurrence of seven requests that this prayer which Jesus prayed as an example for his disciples was perfect and complete. A brief summary of the seven requests might appear as follows:

  1. May Your name be hallowed
  2. May Your kingdom come
  3. May Your will be done
  4. Provide us with our day-to-day needs
  5. Forgive our sins
  6. Do not lead us into temptation
  7. Deliver us from evil

Notice that the first three requests pertain to God Himself, and the last four pertain to us. Again, we see that we place God ahead of ourselves, seeking glorification of His name, promotion of His Kingdom, and the execution of His will before our own needs. We must place God before ourselves.

We could also make special mention of the fact that there are three requests pertaining to God, each request specific to each aspect of the Godhead. For the Father, that He his name be sacred and holy; for the Son, that His Kingdom might stand; and for the Holy Spirit, which is the will of God. These three requests address God in His completeness.

In this post we will discuss the first of the seven requests: “Hallowed be Your name”.

As previously mentioned, this request is the first, and Jesus placed this request first for a reason. He here illustrates that the foremost desire in our minds must be that God’s name be held in reverence. All we say and do should be for the glory of God, that His light might shine through us (Matthew 5:14-16, Philippians 2:15). More than any other desire we might have, we must place God’s glory above all things (I Corinthians 10:31).

When we speak of God’s name, we do not merely refer to the term we use for Him (Yaweh, Jehovah, God, etc). God’s name IS God – likewise, God IS His name. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, Moses asked who he should say sent him to the Israelites. God replied, “I AM.” (Exodus 3:14) This small phrase means everything. Essentially, I AM could be interpreted to mean, “He who was, is, and ever will be; the omnipresent, omnipotent power that exists through Himself and through which all things exist.” He is Himself, and His name is He. To honor God’s name is to honor God – to honor God is to honor His name. This honor does not come through the emptiness of Pharisaical false worship, but through the genuine obedience and heartfelt praise of His people and His own awesome works.

Next post, we will examine the second request of the prayer: “Your kingdom come”.

An Examination Of “The Lord’s Prayer” — Part 1

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Prayer, Religion, Truth with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2011 by willnotbesilent

Prayer is an integral aspect to the Christian walk. It is how we communicate our thanks, requests, and praise to Him. It is a personal thing, in which God and the individual praying have communion through Jesus Christ. Throughout the Bible, and particularly the New Testament, we read a great deal about prayers and praying. Jesus prayed, as did the apostles and the great men throughout Biblical history. We are encouraged to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Because it is so important, we should be sure to understand it. Jesus’ disciples understood this when they asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus responded to His disciples’ request with one of the most famous passages in Scripture.

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

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. — Luke 11:2-4

The Lord’s Prayer has long been held up as a model for concise, beautiful prayer. Indeed, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the example he gave them was the absolute opposite of what a Pharisee might have done. It is the embodiment of humility, worship, penitence, and perspective. Jesus even warns the disciples against the loud prayers of the Pharisees, who prayed on street corners and in public places so passersby would be impressed by their piety — but Jesus enjoins silent, even secret prayer. (Matthew 6:6) Prayer is an intimate thing between God and the petitioner, something between the two of them alone. Anyone who may happen to hear the prayer has no role in this interaction.

Even today, people, particularly Catholics, recite the Lord’s Prayer word for word. But that this is not how Jesus intended it is evident by the fact that Matthew and Luke have varying versions of this prayer, as well as Matthew 6:7, in which Jesus prefaced His example with a warning against “vain repetitions”, as the nations employ. Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and many other religions rely heavily on chants and repetitions. The worshipers of Baal (I Kings 18:26) and the worshipers of Diana (Acts 19:34) also used repetition, and as Scripture illustrates, their repetition did no good.

Our relationship with God is like that of a father and his children. As a father myself, I am well aware of how annoying it can be when my children repeat something meaningless over and over and over. It gets old quickly! Soon I want them to simply be quiet and stop talking, rather than give them what they want. There is no reason not to place God in that same predicament when we fall into prayer patterns and vain repetition. God seeks earnestness. He wants us to come before him with our petitions, speaking from the heart with faith. “Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7) If we pray the same prayer, word for word, in a mindless chant, rather than having heart and meaning behind it, God only considers it empty words.

Another thing that Jesus illustrates through His model prayer is that it is not long-winded and flowery, as were the prayers of the Pharisees and, sadly, are many prayers we hear today in churches of all denominations. It is to the point, and in being so concise, multiplies the power and beauty of its words a thousandfold.

  • Our Father which art in Heaven.

As I mentioned earlier, our relationship with God is as that of a father and his children. Romans 8:15 says that we have received the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry, “Abba, Father.”  (“Abba” is simply a transliteration of the Chaldee word for “father”). In Galatians 4:5, Paul reminds us that we were redeemed that we might receive the adoption of sons. When Jesus teaches us to cry out to God as “Father”, He emphasizes that we share with Him a special relationship with God, a relationship of glory as well as subservience. At the time of Jesus’ walk on earth, the usual address of Jewish prayer was, “Oh Lord God of our fathers”. Jesus is turning that on its head by showing that, not only is God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but He is also OUR FATHER — not someone to regard in terror, but someone to whom we are free to run in times of trouble, who loves us and desires our good.

Jesus repeatedly made examples in which he compared God to a father (Luke 11:9-13, Luke 15:11-32), and repeatedly referred to God directly as the Father (Luke 6:36, John 6:37).

Now, we know that God did not beget Christ or Christians in the sense that our physical fathers begot us. Christ is an aspect of God — His Word — rather than an actual offspring or child, and has been with God since the beginning. Indeed, we are told that nothing exists that was not created THROUGH Jesus (John 1:3). Thus we know that God and Jesus, being one, have coexisted since past eternity. Christians, in similar manner, are not God’s children in the sense that you and I are the children of our own parents. Rather, our position as “begotten” or “sons” is something bestowed upon us by God Himself (Galatians 4:4-5).

God begets us when we obey Him. We are not His literal, biological children, but rather children of God through faith (Galatians 3:26). We are adopted as God’s children when we repent and obey. Notice that not until Jesus had “fulfilled all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) by being baptized by John the Baptizer did God announce, “This is my only begotten Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  Likewise, when we believe, repent, and are baptized into Christ, we become sons with Him (Romans 8:17).

“In Heaven” is a qualifier that sets God apart as a specific Father: The one who is in Heaven, the only one truly qualified to bear the title (Matthew 23:9). It signifies His majesty, placing Him high above all (Ephesians 4:6). Our prayer ascends to a place where we are not, to a Being far above us in every regard.

It denotes respect, as well as humility, acknowledging God’s far higher status and our own lowly, unworthy position. We come before God as sinners, penitent and humble — not proclaiming our own self-worth like the Pharisee in Jesus’ story (Luke 18:11). God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and magnificent beyond comprehension, while we are not even worthy of notice (Psalm 144:3).

We serve a mighty God. We must recognize Him as such.

 

In the next post on this topic, we will continue to examine “The Lord’s Prayer” and how it serves as a model for us to follow when we address our Lord. Remarks on this topic are welcome.

The Last Days: When Are They?

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, End Times, Religion, Salvation, Truth with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2011 by willnotbesilent

In this era of political upheaval all over the world, of constant wars, of famine, disease, earthquakes, storms, and more widespread abandonment of God’s principles, many people are proclaiming our era as “the Last Days”. There is a great deal of debate over this. The return of Jesus Christ has been predicted for countless dates for a thousand years or more. In the case of each prediction, people thought their society had reached a moral and spiritual zenith, and that surely Jesus would come to take His kingdom back. Indeed, even during the days of the apostles, people were waiting for Christ’s return, as illustrated in Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.

The question is, WHEN ARE THE LAST DAYS?

Some hold that the “Last Days” will begin once the “Rapture” has taken place, but as pointed out in my previous posts, the “Rapture” is a fallacy and a fraud. Some look for signs of the Antichrist, some mysterious individual possessed by the devil himself (We’ll go into the topic of the Antichrist in a following post). The most recent “prediction” for Christ’s return is May 21, 2011.

These folks who try to give an exact date are wasting their time. Jesus Himself said,

 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. — Mat 24:36
 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. — Mat 24:42
 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. — Mat 24:44

This is important to remember: ONLY GOD HIMSELF KNOWS WHEN JESUS WILL RETURN! Men cannot predict it through any means, whether theological, mathematical, or otherwise. God is the one and only being who knows when the Second Coming will take place. If anyone tells you Jesus is returning on a specific date, ignore them. They are mistaken, and arrogant to think they can discover what God has specifically kept secret.

But can we at least know when the Last Days are?

YES! In fact, we don’t need to speculate or wonder, because the Bible is very, very specific about exactly when the Last Days begin.

In Acts 2, when the apostles are baptized by the Holy Spirit (verses 1-4), they begin preaching to the crowds that have filled Jerusalem for the Day of Pentacost. When the people hear these uneducated Galileans preaching in various languages, they are skeptical, suggesting the apostles are drunk (verse 13). At this point, Peter speaks for all the apostles:

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, “Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ” — Acts 2:14-21

STOP! In quoting Joel, Peter says that all THIS which the people are seeing, only days after Jesus has ascended to sit at God’s right hand, is a sign of the Last Days!

The Last Days began roughly 2000 years ago, when the Holy Spirit was poured out and the Kingdom of Christ was established through the apostles. A sign of the Last Days is the opportunity for salvation through Jesus Christ.

So why are we wondering if we are in the Last Days when the they have been in full swing for millennia? Because false prophets have been preaching lies, telling us to expect a Rapture and support a political state of Israel, to watch for a mystical Antichrist and wait for a spaceship-esque New Jerusalem to descend from the sky. In actuality, THE LAST DAYS ARE NOW, which is why we are told to be vigilant and faithful. This is why we can expect Jesus to return when we least expect it.

So with this in mind, let’s focus on spreading the truth of the Gospel and preparing ourselves as a bride prepares herself for the groom. We don’t know when He’ll knock. But when He does, let’s make sure we’re ready, rather than simply wondering when He will return.

PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD!

Writing On The Earth

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Law, Religion, Truth with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by willnotbesilent

For a little change of pace, let’s back away from blasting tradition and just take a look at something fascinating in Scripture.

We’re all familiar with the story of the adulteress who was brought before Jesus in John 8:2-11:

And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her? And this they said, trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. But when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.

Now here’s the Sixty-Four Million Dollar Question: What did Jesus write on the ground that affected the surrounding Pharisees so badly that they couldn’t stick around?

The account of John doesn’t tell us, of course, but amazingly enough, the answer is in Scripture!

O Jehovah, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be put to shame. They that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken Jehovah, the fountain of living waters. — Jeremiah 17:13 [emphasis mine]

What does it mean to be written in the earth? Well, what does it mean to be written in heaven?

Nevertheless in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. — Luke 10:20

We all know that to have one’s name written in heaven is to be a partaker in salvation. Therefore, one can logically conclude that to have your name written in the earth bears the exact opposite connotation — condemnation.

JESUS WAS WRITING THE NAMES OF THE ADULTERESS’ ACCUSERS!

All the Pharisees, being intimately familiar with the writings of Jeremiah, knew exactly what Jesus was doing as He stooped and one by one wrote their names in the dirt. His words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” only emphasized his message: The Pharisees had forsaken Jehovah, the fountain of living waters — they themselves had committed adultery against God. And here they were, seeking to kill someone guilty of a crime they themselves had committed! Once again, Jesus was pointing out their blatant hypocrisy and reminding them of the condemnation they all faced.

Imagine how disturbing it would be if you were one of the adulteress’ accusers, familiar with the writings of Jeremiah, and you watched Jesus methodically write your name in the dirt, along with the names of all your cohorts. No wonder they left as their names appeared on the ground.

And then the story ends with the ultimate display of mercy. Jesus, the only one present who had no sin, who had every right to cast the first stone, finally rose to His feet.

“Woman, where are they? Did no man condemn thee?”

The woman, perhaps stunned that she wasn’t being stoned at this very moment, could only murmur, “No man, Lord.”

To which Jesus replied in all the love of a Father to a penitent child, “Neither to I condemn thee. Go thy way. From henceforward sin no more.”

Understanding what Jesus was writing in the earth lends a whole new perspective to the story that only magnifies the amazing omniscience, wisdom, and mercy of God. This is what Christianity is all about.

Now here’s the question we should all ask ourselves: If we had been present for the event of John 8:2-11, would Jesus have been writing OUR names in the ground?

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