Tag Archives: temptation

Teach Us To Pray

These are my speaking notes from this morning’s worship services. And during the  prayer time I DELIBERATELY left out the Lord’s Prayer. After a hymn, I started my sermon…

Anyone notice anything different about our service today?

We didn’t use the Lord’s Prayer to end our prayer time!

It’s not that I forgot it…

I wanted to see if anyone would notice.

You see, too often we end up doing religious things and say religious words during our worship services that just don’t mean anything to anyone anymore.

And the Lord’s Prayer is far too important for that.

Let’s turn to one of the two places in Scripture where we find the Lord’s Prayer, and Jesus’ teaching about it, recorded for us…

[READ: LUKE 11:1-13]

11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father, hallowed be your name,
your  kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

How did you first learn to pray?

Maybe you’re like me and the kids in children’s time… “Now I lay me down to sleep…”

We talked with the kids and said it was like talking to your Dad…

And that’s exactly how Jesus started to teach his disciples…

1st part… FATHER…

Jesus isn’t just starting this prayer with a religious term. In fact, the very first word of this prayer was enough to catch the Jewish people of his day off guard.

To talk to God, one used a title like “Almighty and most holy, awesome Creator…” or “Eternal and Magnificent Lord…” And Jesus doesn’t do that. He teaches his disciples to look at God as their father.

God is someone with whom they can be in close, intimate, approachable relationship.

NOT ONLY THAT, but when you spoke of someone, you then also spoke of their reputation…

We do that nowadays, don’t we?

‘O, that’s Alice, you know, she’s the one who left her husband…’

‘Hi Patrick, pretty good game you pitched there the other day!’

 ‘Dear Brittany, you are such an AWESOME singer… I just love you!’

And that’s how we start praying to our Father, God… We speak of our love and admiration, our respect and HIS reputation… how we really see him.

It’s NEVER: “Dear God, gimme…”

Rather, “Father, You’re awesome… I love you… You are the One…”

2nd part…Your kingdom come…

As we step into the next part, Jesus teaches us to remind ourselves and remind God of exactly who has the authority of ruling our lives… In the Lord’s Prayer we learn to proclaim that GOD’S the king of our lives… and we pray for Him as king to have HIS way in HIS kingdom… And that always begins with the one who’s praying the prayer…

If you’re going to pray the Lord’s Prayer… you’d better make sure you’re allowing him to be your king… your ruler… and you are doing things HIS way… REGARDLESS of what everyone else is doing… REGARDLESS of how popular or unpopular it makes you!

“God, You are the holy one and I hope and pray that things will happen down here just exactly the way you want them to be… because you are our king and lord.”

3rd part…Give us our daily bread…

In the first 2 parts Jesus has us talking to God and about God… The pronouns are all second person, singular… “your name… Your kingdom… your will…”

Now we move to a different focus… NOW we get to us… All the pronouns are first person now…

But notice that they’re first person PLURAL… not singular…

Now preacher, I haven’t had English class in a long time… what are you talking about with pronouns and singular and plural and persons?

OK… I mean this…

In the first part of the Lord’s Prayer, GOD is the focus and we talk ABOUT Him.

In the second part of the Lord’s Prayer WE are the focus and we talk about OUR needs… NOT Me, not You… US.

There’s no “I” or “ME” or “MINE” in this prayer.

I’m reminded of the poem:

You cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer and even once say ‘I’;

You cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer and even once say ‘My’;

Nor can you pray the Lord’s Prayer and not pray for another,

For when you pray for daily bread, you must include your sister and your brother;

For others are included in each and every plea;

From the beginning to the end of it,

It does not once say ‘Me!’

(From an email from “Peter Wales” Sat, 24 Jul 2004 22:07:01 +0930)

ANYWAY… Jesus teaches us to look at God as our provider… of all our NEEDS… He doesn’t include our wants… he doesn’t include the needs for thirty years away… but rather that we look to God for what we need today.

Throughout Scripture, we hear that same message…

  • “be content with what God provides.”
  • “Contentment with godliness is great gain.”
  • “Having food and clothing, let us be content.”

Sometimes our unhappiness is because we’re so focused on what we DON’T have, that We can’t possibly be happy with what God provides…. Jesus teaches us to ask for what we need today… and to trust God as our provider.

4th part…Forgive us like we forgive others…

The version we use in our worship services here is actually out of one of the very first English Bibles…

Our Methodist background is British… and when James, the new king of England (that is, new in 1603) had a government authorized translation of the Bible made which he approved of, a lot of the British Christians loved it and a lot of them did not… King James wasn’t known for his holiness or purity, and our spiritual ancestors REFUSED to pray the Lord’s Prayer out of the government’s Bible…

It would be like having the president you dislike the most (but don’t say that name out loud right now). If that president had folks create a new version of the Bible and then made a law that said that you HAD TO USE THAT version of the Bible and no other. Would you want to?

A lot of the folks in the early 17th Century felt the same way about the government’s authorized version of the Bible… the one we call the King James Bible, and so when they came to the Lord’s prayer, they used the wording from the older English Bible, rather than use the King James Version wording about debts and debtors.

That’s why we spit out words like ‘trespasses’ and that crazy phrase ‘those who trespass against us’… and we lose the meaning sometimes.

You know, the truth is, this has got to be the SCARIEST part of this prayer. You had better be aware of what you are asking God to do here…

We are essentially asking: ‘Dear God, I know that you want to forgive me… but please Lord, only give me as much forgiveness as I’ve given to the people around me who’ve messed up my life.’

No wonder Jesus makes such a big deal in Matthew 18  (verses 15-17) and other places about being reconciled with the people around us. You and I have to make a choice between hanging on to a grudge and unforgiveness or being forgiven by God… we can only hang on to one at a time… We ask God to only forgive us in the same way we forgive others…

Even in the prayer He taught us, Jesus reminds us that we need to be known as forgiving and gracious people…

5th part…Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil…

You know, in the book of James, we read how God will allow tests to prove us and see if we’re ready for the next chapter of our lives… Some of the translations call them tests, some translations call them temptations. Here, in the Lord’s Prayer, it’s using that Greek word we translate as “tests” but in the older Bibles it said “temptation” as a way of speaking about God allowing us to be tested… And that’s a good thing!

Sort of like a 16 year old WANTS to be tested in order to be able to move into the driving portion of their lives… No test means no license, which of course means no driving…

James goes on to say that the tempting part of the various tests is when we still have some evil desire in our hearts… that turns a test into a temptation for evil…

For instance, You could walk up to me and offer me a cigarette… and I have no desire in my heart or mind (or lungs) to smoke that cigarette, so I’m not going to even fall into that trap… I won’t take it. It’s not appealing for me… I don’t have that desire in my heart, so you can’t tempt me.

Now, when I was younger, and thought it was COOL to smoke, I was tempted big time and actually stole cigarettes from my mom… It was a temptation for me because I had an evil desire in my heart.

(Of course, it only took about two puffs for me to get sick and realize how addicted I am to oxygen… and cigarettes have never been a temptation since then.)

That’s what we’re asking here…

‘Oh God, don’t let me be tested in the areas I haven’t already surrendered to You… Help me to surrender those areas to You so I’m not even tempted at all by those things.’

And thus, even in the prayer he teaches, Jesus reminds us of our need to let God keep cleansing us and teaching us His ways so that we have pure hearts that are free from all of that evil that comes so naturally.

So those are the basics…

Luke records the essence of what Jesus taught… In Matthew’s gospel, we have the version of Jesus’ prayer that started being used in worship services… and over the centuries we even have tacked on a liturgical phrase that ends back where we began… giving the honor and glory back to God…

Some church traditions have taken Matthew’s intro where Jesus says, “Pray like this…” and have decided that the Lord’s Prayer is just an example… not something you ought to actually quote while you’re praying.

In part, they’re right… we don’t always have to use these exact words… we can use the example of this prayer to guide us in how we ought to pray in our own lives… outside of church… any time we want to talk to God…

But there’s also this passage in Luke where Jesus says specifically “When you pray, say this…” so I believe the Lord’s Prayer DOES have a part in our regular worship… as long as it never becomes just a memorized, meaningless bunch of words…

With that qualification… If you can pray this prayer honestly… from the heart… if you even dare…

Then I invite you to join me this morning, in praying the Lord’s Prayer together…

OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN,

        HALLOWED BE THY NAME.

THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE,

        ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

GIVE US THIS DAY, OUR DAILY BREAD,

        AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES,

                 AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US.

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION,

       BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL,

FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM AND THE POWER

       AND THE GLORY, FOREVER.

AMEN.

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Do Not Quarrel Along The Way

After Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, and they are all reconciled with one another, he sends them with his blessing to go home and get their families, and their father Jacob. But in Genesis 45:24 we read:

“Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel along the way.’”

My district superintendent used this passage about Joseph (Genesis 39-45) as the core of a pastor’s retreat I attended earlier this month. And I kid you not, I did not know that verse was in there! (I toyed with maybe God had just recently done an update, but I probably just missed it).

Even after all the reconciliation and reunion, the forgiveness and the blessings, and the hope of the future, Joseph still knew what his brothers were like and what they’d probably do once they headed home. And he reminded them not to get into the blaming and “I told you so” kinds of quarrelling. Am I reading more into it than is there? I don’t think so, because clear back in Genesis 42:22, Reuben, the oldest brother, had already headed down that path. He just didn’t know that Joseph could understand what he said. (“Then Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen…’”)

There are some people who think we Christians are supposed to be perfect all the time or else we’re not really Christians. Being a Christian means we’re forgiven of our past, but not necessarily immune from ever sinning again. Even after Jesus is Lord in our life and we claim to be his followers, we still mess up sometimes. That’s why Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery (after her accusers had all made themselves scarce) are so hopeful to me: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:11b)

Joseph knew his brothers would be tempted to fall back into the quarrelling. Jesus knows that we are likely to be tempted to fall back into our old ways. And Joseph, and Jesus, give that encouraging reminder that we don’t have to fall back into the old ways.

The thing is, the brothers had to rely on each other, while Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to help us when we’re tempted. We can call on him for help!

In fact, that’s where another of my favorite passages comes in:

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (First Corinthians 10:13)

After the forgiveness and reconciliation, with God, with our brothers and sisters, with family members, or whomever, there will still be an easy way to slide back into the old ways… the ways that broke relationship to start with. Sometimes, another person will be the one that re-breaks the relationship… but it doesn’t have to be us!

And when it comes to our spiritual relationship with our God, he ALWAYS makes sure that there is some way out of the temptation or the testing. IF we choose to take it!

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Patiently Perservere and Endure

James 1:2-4, in the New Living Translation, says: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Here where the NLT uses the word “endurance,” the KJV says “patience” and the NIV “perseverance.” Whatever word you use the idea is that (1) if you are a believer, then temptations & trials WILL come, and (2) when they DO come, God has made sure that you ARE able to patiently persevere and endure whatever comes your way. Add to that the promise found in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

Oh God, help me to remember these promises and to patiently persevere and endure through whatever trials and temptations come my way. Help me to quickly identify those temptations when I’m facing one. Help me to then see where the “way out” is in the very midst of that temptation. I want to be able to find, and use, the ‘escape hatch!’

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You Alone

I’m not much of a resolutions kind of person, but I have decided to reread the little book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis throughout 2015.

While I pretty much expect to go from front to back in order, I stumbled across a passage that caught my eye: book 3, chapter 59. I had marked it AND highlighted portions back in the late ’90s when I first read this book.

It’s in the form of a prayer from a person who is simply identified as “Disciple.” In other chapters, we read of Christ’s response, but it’s just the Disciple praying here.

He starts with a question:
“My Lord, God, what can I depend on in this life, or what is my greatest solace on earth? Is it not You, my God, Whose mercy is infinite? Where have things gone well with me without You, and where have things gone badly for me when you were with me?”

The Disciple then identifies that God alone is all he really desires and then he says:
“And so I come to the realization that I cannot fully trust in anyone to help me in my necessities save only You – my hope, my trust, my comfort, and my most faithful Friend.”

Section 2 continues:
“All persons look out for their own interests; You seek only my salvation and my benefit, turning all good things to my good. Even though You permit me to be tested by various temptations and all sorts of trials, You do so for my profit.”

But it’s the declaration that begins in section 3 is it really caught my eye. “Therefore, in You, O my God, I place all my hope and fly to You for refuge. On You, I cast all my troubles and anxieties; for all his uncertainty weakness and instability outside of you.

“Many friends cannot help me; influential people are of no avail; consulting the wise will not give me the answers I require; the books of the learned can bring me no inspiration; nor is there any precious substance to ransom me, no secret hiding place to shelter me. Only you yourself, my God, can stand by me, help me, comfort, counsel, teach and defend me.”

Later in section 4 there is this little prayerful declaration that strikes deep into my heart as I think and plan what I want to be like on New Year’s Day next year.
“To you, O Lord, the Father of mercy, I raise my eyes, and In You alone, my God, I put my trust. Bless and sanctify my soul with Your heavenly benediction; may it become a holy place where You may dwell – the place of Your eternal glory. Let nothing be found in this temple that may offend the eyes of Your Divine Majesty.”

You know, that’s enough to start a new resolution any day of the year, but it seems especially appropriate as we started new year!

Oh God, this is my prayer as well: Bless and sanctify my soul with Your heavenly benediction; may it become a holy place where You may dwell – the place of Your eternal glory.”

AMEN!

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Testing Time

Yesterday was a pretty phenomenal day here at Reynoldsville: First UMC. Our Bishop, Thomas J. Bickerton, and our District Superintendent, Sharon Schwab, were both on hand along with myself and the pastors who preceded me. Our 10:45 service was filled with music (handbells, choir, organ, piano solo) and it was sort of like old home day! We dedicated the new elevator (now 100% debt-free!) and then Bishop Bickerton gave an inspirational, Biblically grounded, challenge based on the lectionary readings from John 12 and Philippians 3. We closed with Holy Communion. THEN our newest small group, the “Sunday School Moms,” served a wonderful roast beef dinner for us all. WHAT A GREAT DAY!
But before all of that happened, our superintendent both preached and served communion to our 8:15 worship service. One of the key points she brought out was from 1 Corinthians 10:1-13: the idea of testing.

I’m not trying to give a crib sheet of notes about her sermon so that you or I can then go preach it word for word. Rather, I simply want to highlight one point she made (in two parts) and how that relates to me (and maybe more than just me).

The version of Scripture she read from used the word “test” or “tested” (etc.) several times throughout the passage. The version I happen to have in front of me right now is the New King James Version (NKJV) and the word in question is “tempt” or “tempted.”

Her point was two-fold. First, this passage uses two different terms in the Greek for the idea of test/tested/testing.

One word, found in verse 13 for instance, pretty much means exactly what you’d think of when you think of a test, a trial, or a temptation (peirazo, Strongs: 3985). Because of some enticement, there is now a choice to do good or to not do good. Sharon used the example of a teacher who helps you to know what you should study in an attempt to help make sure you can not only pass the upcoming academic test, but in hopes that you might actually do well!

The other word is translated in verse 9 as “overtempted” (Green, Jay. The Interlinear Bible, Sovereign Grace Publishers, Lafayette, Indiana: 1986). The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (abridged) (Bromiley, Geoffrey, ed. Eerdmans:1985, p. 822) describes this version of testing as more of a “putting God to the test” (ekpeirazo, Strongs: 1598)

This second kind of testing, she said, is more like the tests which that one teacher who always had the hardest questions, with almost trivial kinds of questions, liked to give. You were pretty much set up to fail from the very beginning.

The first kind of testing is the way God deals with us. If he has set up a ‘life lesson’ for us, then, according to 1 Corinthians 10:13, He has already made sure that we CAN pass the test. He has even put an escape hatch into every temptation and test that He allows to come our way. We can ALWAYS pass His tests!

The second kind of testing is more like the way the children of Israel dealt with God. Constant murmuring (“we’re free, but I’d trade that for Egypt’s onions in a heartbeat”) continually set up different standards all the time. There was always one more thing God ought to do in order for them to wholeheartedly follow Him.

That second kind of testing is SO wrong, according to this passage.

Sharon’s second point was to apply this to our own lives. What kind of tests do WE put up to test our kids, our bosses, our employees, our students, our teachers… Are we the kind of person that is Christ-like enough that we do not murmur and make unreasonable expectations of God or the people around us? Are our encounters with others the kind of experiences that help to build up another so that they are more able to face the future because of the uplifting encounter they just had with us?

Ultimately, it is testing time. We WILL have tests. We WILL be in a position to make encounters with us a test for others that they cannot pass or else that they find to be life-building.

Where do we come in between those two standards?

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