Jesus

Sloppy Prayers

two men staring at each other

Fickleness

Having raised five kids, I have first-hand experience with the fickleness of childish requests. It starts when they’re infants. They cry and cry for their bottle, but when you give it to them, they either won’t feed or will take a small amount and then use their tongue to push the nipple out of their mouths.

As your bundle of joy grows, so does their fickleness. “Jimmy, do you want to go to the store with me?” Mom says. No sooner does Mom cross the threshold of the store before her little tike says, “How soon can we go home? I’m bored.” 

And, yes, this fickleness continues. Adults learn to suppress their childishness, but fickleness is like an inflated beachball. You can hold it underwater for a while, but eventually, it will pop to the surface; that’s fickleness. 

Sloppy Prayers

The Bible has a different word for fickleness; it’s called being double-minded. In James 1:8, we find, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” In all his ways includes prayer. Many Christians pray sloppy prayers. They will pray sincerely but have no recollection of their prayer by the next day. Others ask the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9) for one outcome today and a different one tomorrow. We cannot receive what we ask for unless we ask in faith and then set our face like flint (Isaiah 50:7).

Sincere Prayer

We find in Habakkuk 2:1,3 an excellent example of how we should anticipate God’s answered prayer:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.


For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.

We cannot expect God to care about our needs if we don’t care. Prayers are sacred. Sincere prayer is instigated by the Holy Spirit, mediated by the Son of God, and actuated by Father God. Having a sloppy prayer life is setting ourselves up to be disciplined by God. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)

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Carrying Someone’s Water

person carrying keg tanks

To carry someone’s water” means serving, assisting, or performing menial or difficult tasks for some person, group, or organization. This term typically connotes a negative social sentiment. Of course, as Christians, we never should allow a negative social sentiment to impede our obedience to Jesus, our Master (Luke 17:13). But, today, I would like to consider a different meaning for carrying someone’s water. Let me explain.

Jesus Represented a Servant

As we know, during the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:7-23), Jesus “…laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” Jesus changed His garments so that He would represent a servant. And the act that He did was a task usually assigned to servants. He pickup up a bucket of water and carried it. He was, in truth, Jesus carried the water for His disciples. When He completed this task, He said:

For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[a] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. – John 13:15-16

From the example that Jesus gave us, we should see that Jesus hasn’t asked us to do something that He hadn’t done. With that said, there’s something beautiful, factually or allegorically, in the work of carrying someone’s water. Let’s take a quick peek in the book of Ruth, chapter two:

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”

Ruth 2:8-9 (ESV emphasis added)

Carrying Water

For anyone that likes romance stories, you should read the book of Ruth. For now, consider verses eight and nine. The marvelous documentary contained in Ruth has this tiny vignette:  And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.

We could preach a whole sermon on this single phrase, but let me say this: Without the young men carrying up water from the well, Boaz could not have given this exceptional privilege to Ruth. The Pulpit Commentary states:

But Boaz made Ruth free, and thus conferred on her a distinguishing privilege, that must have been at once most acceptable and most valuable.

When we look at Christ’s genealogy, we find Ruth (Matthew 1:5). Praise God for those men that carried water for Ruth! We never know how our task from Jesus, no matter how menial it may appear, might connect God’s miraculous to humanity’s needs.

[a] Or bondservant, or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

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Help, I Need Somebody

person standing near lighted firetruck

“Help, I need somebody!” were the words cried out by hundreds of people in New York City on September 11, 2001.

It’s difficult for me to comprehend that next year will be the 20th anniversary of 911. I’m sure that we each have our unique memories of the attack that took the lives of so many people and changed our nation forever. I worked in a high-rise in a large city, so I was among the people that stood at an office window, looking for a plane that might be headed for us. On my way home, I stopped to top off my gas tank in case we needed to leave in a hurry. At that gas station, each of us looked at one another, not in fear, but dazed.

We also share memories, images, and emotions from that day and the days that followed. The video of the 2nd plane purposely flying into the World Trade Center and the video of the Pentagon with its damage and shredded lawn are images we all share. And who can forget the footage of people running from the World Trade Center and the people jumping from that wrecked building? But not all ran away; the heroes, police, fire, EMTs, and civilians ran to the danger. They ran to save lives, many at the cost of their own lives – we should never forget their sacrifices.

Calamities and Atrocities are not Uncommon

Great calamities and terrible atrocities are not uncommon throughout the history of Adam. Our biggest mistake is to think those things won’t happen to us. With the 20th anniversary of 911 just a year away, there are millions of young people that have no memory of life in America before 911, before the Department of Homeland Security.

As we’ve seen with COVID-19, bad things happen. A new generation is growing up that has no memory of this world before the pandemic. People need to learn how Christians should live in this unstable world, which is just one reason why Sunday School, yes, Sunday School is so important. Children and Adults need to learn Truth, systematically. They need Biblical education, not a paraphrase designed to confuse rather than elevate God’s Word.

Jesus Calls us to run to the Danger

Jesus knew all of the bad things that were in store for humanity (Matthew 24:6-13), but He didn’t ask the Father to take us out of this world. He asked Father God, 

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” – John 17:24

This world is not our home. It’s little more than a tiny spot in the rearview mirror of the eternity that, as Christians, we safely abide in with God: 

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. – Colossians 1:27

Photo by Constante Ken Lim on Unsplash

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What am I to you?

person touching and pointing MacBook Pro

There are many people that have a personality disorder called narcissism. Here’s the definition of this condition:

Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.Mayo Clinic

If you’ve ever worked with or been in a relationship with a person that is afflicted with narcissism, then you know that it is beyond challenging. Yet, I wonder how many of us are spiritually narcissistic. Do we try to “use” Jesus? Do we charge into situations that require spiritual discernment but, instead, we start making commands “in the name of Jesus.” Most narcissists don’t know their condition until they are told they have that condition. Have we asked the Holy Spirit to show us if we are spiritually narcissistic? Has He been telling us, but we’ve thought, “That’s for someone else, not me.”

When I’m tinkering in my shop I sometimes listen to smooth jazz. One song they play is titled, “What am I to you? The last verse says:

When I look in your eyes
I can feel the butterflies
I’ll love you when you’re blue
But tell me darlin’ true
What am I to you?

Norah Jones

I can imagine that our Heavenly Father has this sentiment when He watches us (Psalm 121:5). He loves us (1 John 4:16), He gives joy to us (John 15:11), and He gave His only Son for us (John 3:16), but when we put our faith in things (Psalms 20:7) instead of Him, He may rightly ask, “What am I to you?”

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Guessing the Mind of God

Cheerful teenager playing with grandmother guess who game while making surprise in light living room

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He’s not breathing, and his eyes are glazed. The other guy quickly calls 911. “I think my friend is dead!” he yells. “What should I do?” The operator says, “Calm down. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There’s a silence, then a shot. Back on the phone, the guy says, “OK, now what?”

A car hit an elderly man. Once in the ambulance, the EMT asks, “Are you comfortable?” The man says, “I make a good living.”Readers Digest


Misunderstanding

Both jokes are based on misunderstanding. When it comes to God, we accept all of God knowing He has revealed only a small part of His infinite Self (Isaiah 55:8). God’s Word makes it clear to us that He has limited the revelation of Himself. And we know that across millennia God progressively revealed His names, and with each name, we have gained further insights into the “only God” (John 5:44). 

Because we can’t comprehend all of God, it is a fool’s errand for us to try to guess what God has not revealed. In math, if I show you 1,3,5,7 and ask you the next number, many of you will say 9, because nine would be the following “odd” number in that sequence. However, if I say dog, grass, cat, tree, baby, you may be unable to tell me the next item in this sequence because you don’t know the rules to extrapolate the next object. For this sequence, the following item is a playpen since this series represents animals and their hunting locations. 😉 I instituted the rules, but I didn’t share them with you.

What, Not How

When we try to tell God how He should do something, based on how He did something in the past, we are being foolish. Notice that I didn’t say “what” He should perform. God has given us promises and demonstrations for the building up of our faith. We, like David, can say:

The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!  1 Samuel 17:37 ESV

When a wall impedes the path that God has laid out for us, God may walk us through the wall, or He may remove the wall, or He may do something that we have never seen before. The “how” is unknown to us; guessing the “how” is crazy. Our faith in God incites confidence within us that He will make a way.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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We Are Known

grayscale photo of woman right hand on glass

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me – …”  – John 14:10

I watched a TV show where a guy said to a girl, “I’m not a good find; I’m just lonely.” I thought that was an insightful comment. I’m not implying that we must be lonely, but we must be willing to be lonely for Jesus. God is a jealous God, and He searches our hearts. When He does so, will He find intimate love for Him, or will He find our heart belongs to another?

We Are Known

Emotions aren’t trustworthy. It’s easy to feel lonely. It matters not if we are at home or in a cafe, by the sea or in a forest, with family or with colleagues. Loneliness is not a condition of geography or upholstery.

Loneliness is not separation from but a lack of connection to. We speak, but our words are not considered. We reveal, but we are not understood. We offer, but we are not accepted. We are asked, but no truth is desired or expected. How good it would be to be considered, to be understood, to be accepted, to be known. We find the refreshing we long for in the words of Jesus, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me…(John 14:10)” I have good news for all who are lonely, we are considered, we are understood, we are accepted, we are known because we are connected to Jesus!

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Don’t Give Up On Jesus

boy hit the ball running for the next base

Think back to when you first encountered Jesus. I don’t mean the first time you heard about Him or, if like so many, the first time you said you accepted Jesus, but you didn’t understand what you were doing. No, I mean the first time you fell to your knees or threw yourself on your bed, or bowed your head on the steering wheel of your car, and you responded to the presence of Jesus, the Messiah. Do you remember that? Have you had that experience?

An Encounter with Jesus

I remember the first time I honestly encountered Jesus, whether I was saved before then, I’m not sure and it doesn’t matter. For there was a day when Jesus called to me. The Holy Spirit showed me my condition and revealed hope to me. On that day, I was made alive in Jesus. I still had big problems, but Jesus led me through them. Let’s consider a person that had a desperate need for Jesus.

Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. – Mark 5:22-24

Hope is Built From Faith

Jairus was an important man. He had an image to maintain. Going to Jesus would send the wrong message, but Jairus had a need that was beyond something anyone could do. His daughter was dying and all hope was gone, except for the hope Jairus had in Jesus.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 KJV

The hope that Jairus had was constructed with faith. So, even while throngs of people were shouting and buffeting Jesus, Jesus put His attention on Jairus and accepted Jairus’ plea.

It would have been so easy for Jairus, when seeing the huge crowd, to turn back and give up hope, but he didn’t. We need to be like Jairus when we need help that only God can provide. 

Don’t Give Up

To make this personal, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Don’t give up on Jesus. Run to Him. Ignore all the reasons racing through your mind as to why all hope should be lost. Focus on Jesus. 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
– Author: Helen Howarth Lemmel (1922)

Don’t give up. Have hope. Take your need to Jesus.

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Err on the Side of Mercy

couple talking while moving in new apartment

It took nearly 6,000 years for people to come up with the phrase, “passing the buck,” but it happened in the first marriage, ever! Sadly, (for me) it was the man who did it. Even worse, when it comes to wives, we men haven’t learned much in 6,000 years!

The First Marital Squabble

We find the first marital squabble in history in the 3rd chapter of Genesis. What? You don’t believe me!? Without reviewing all of the serpent, fruit, sin parts of the account, here’s the Scripture. We find it in Genesis 3:12, “The man replied [to God], “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” You don’t think Adam got an earful from Eve for the next 900 years!

Susan: Stan, why was our debit card declined at Kroger’s? Do you have any idea what I had to go through to pay for OUR groceries?

Stan: Well, Dear, you need to understand. Everyone at work uses Bluetooth headphones, so I had to buy a pair. And Apple has the best, so I had to get an iPhone to work with my AirPods, and then there were some options I needed since I had an iPhone 11 Pro. It wasn’t my fault!”

We will just let Stan and Susan work through their misunderstanding, while we go back to Adam.

Vandalizing God’s Image

Adam was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). However, when Adam sinned, the impact was far more significant than a married couple’s argument; the image of God was vandalized by sin. So, for the next 6,000 years, not a single descendent of Adam saw what the sinless image of God looked like, not one! That is, not until Jesus (1 Peter 2:22).

It’s not acceptable what people did from the time of Adam up to the time of Jesus – creating idols, sacrificing children, mutilating themselves, marinating in every imaginable sin. Humanity’s lust for sin knows no bounds; still, until Jesus, no one observed how a sinless person behaved (1 Corinthians 13:12).

On rare occasions, a person would turn to God, but the memory of the one true God coming drifted into the mist, no longer remembering Adam’s account of “Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8)” Yes, Enoch pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:9), and Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23). Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph acted in faith in God (Hebrews 11:20-22). I could name others, but it would be a short list compared to the full genealogy of Adam.

Jesus Steps Into the History of Humanity

When, after millennia, Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh (John 1:14), stepped into the history of humanity, people didn’t know what to think of Him. Even His cousin, John the Baptist struggled (Luke 7:19). Christ’s apostles, too, struggled with the sinless Son of Man: 

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he [Jesus] cautioned them, saying,Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them,Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? – Mark 8:14-17

So, the next time you or I read, see, or hear of a person doing something profoundly awful, we should ask ourselves, “I wonder if anyone demonstrated Jesus to that person?” In the constant tug-of-war between nurture and nature, we need to remember that everyone is born with a sin-nature; none is righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). 

If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, then don’t hold that in. Let it out! Allow the lost to see Jesus in you. Let the whole world know that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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We are Secure

three men and one woman soldiers standing on rock during daytime

Today we are going to touch on an important truth briefly, and this brings some additional passages from God’s Word that we need to consider. First, here is today’s key verse:

“But suddenly, your ruthless enemies will be crushed
    like the finest of dust.
Your many attackers will be driven away
    like chaff before the wind.
Suddenly, in an instant,
     I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will act for you
with thunder and earthquake and great noise,
    with whirlwind and storm and consuming fire.

Isaiah 29:5-6 (NLT)

A bit of History

Sennacherib was the king of Assyria, a large domain the stretched from northern Iraq to southeastern Turkey. During the reign of Sennacherib, the capital of Assyria was in Nineveh – yep, the city to which God sent Jonah.

Sennacherib conquered the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was in Samaria, and soon set siege to Jerusalem in Judah. The prophecy we just read in Isaiah 29:5-6 was likely fulfilled during the time of King Hezekiah when God suddenly and miraculously delivered Jerusalem from Sennacherib’s attack (2 Kings 19:35-36).

Context

If we zoom out from verses five and six and read the whole chapter of Isaiah twenty-nine, we see that God is punishing the Jews. The Israelites had abandoned their love for God, their love of His Word. They had also left their purpose, which was to show God to all nations. Instead, they took refuge in the letter of the Law. If they just mechanically obeyed the commandments, then they could live their lives without living for and with God. So, the prophecy from God was predicting a time of punishment to bring them back to the intent and purpose of the Law of Moses:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.Deuteronomy 6:4-5

What About Us?

God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). Just as God punishes nations, He also disciplines His children. We know this from:

For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.Proverbs 3:12 (NLT)

For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.Hebrews 12:6 (NLT)

Every Christian receives correction from God. If God never corrects us, then we are not His children. Discipline is the responsibility of a father to his child, so it is a blessing when our Heavenly Father corrects us. And, I must say, God is sovereign, political correctness holds no sway over God’s chastening.

We Are Secure

So here is our Good News. Even when we are in the middle of God’s chastening, we remain in His hand. He will “never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)” If attacked, God defends us suddenly! “But suddenly, your ruthless enemies will be crushed…” This is how God works. We are safe in the palm of our God. When the enemy attacks or this world has us on the ropes, we are safe. As the lyrics say in Dottie Rambo’s song, “We are Sheltered in the Arms of God.”

I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender.
They’re leading me in the paths that I must trod.
I’ll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me
For I’m sheltered in the Arms of God.

Jesus redeemed us. As the redeemed children of the Most High God (Daniel 4:2), we should have no fear from this world. For we are pilgrims, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:24) The world can injure us but it can not harm us.

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Chaos has no Meaning

huge wave at daytime

The irony of cosmology is that its most basic tenant is that the universe is not chaos. In its article titled, “Why Carl Sagan is Truly Irreplaceable” the Smithsonian magazine makes this statement,

“…his boyish enthusiasm for understanding the universe we’re so lucky to live in.”

Carl Sagan, an avowed atheist, sought an understanding of the universe. His search implied that the universe is not chaos.

Chaos Provides no Benefit

In mathematics, it is impossible to create accurate, repeatable equations for pure chaos, for within chaos, there is no intelligence. That chaos is unintelligible has been a decades-long problem for scientists working in quantum mechanics. 

Most quantum processes seem to be chaotic, yet, slowly, science has made headway because they believed; they’ve had faith that there exists intelligence and logic within the quantum world. Why else would corporations spend billions of dollars to understand the quantum world? It is worthy of study because science has found incredible value in quantum mechanics. If it were chaos, there would be no point in studying it for chaos provides no benefit.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. – Genesis 1:1-3 (ESV emphasis added) 

Chaos has no Meaning

God spoke, and chaos transformed into order. The chaos of the cosmos became knowable, usable, valuable. Just one example: For millennia, sailors navigated by the intelligence in the stars. God’s transformation of chaos into meaning is only one of the infinite attributes of God.

Many times during Jesus’ earthly ministry, He demonstrated this Devine attribute. One that immediately comes to mind is when Jesus calmed the storm. The storm was so fierce that His apostles, who had lived their lives as fishermen, woke Jesus up because, humanly, all they saw was the chaos of the winds and waves sending them to destruction. We see Christ’s response in Mark 4:39 (ESV):

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea,Peace! Be still!And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Chaos Cannot Exist in God’s Presence

Chaos cannot exist in the presence of God. Why? Because nothing happens outside of God’s will; it is without meaning. The nature of chaos implies an activity that would be beyond the omniscience of God. If your life is chaotic, call on Jesus. Find your purpose (Mt 11:29), your peace (Jn 14:27), your protection (Mt 7:24) in Him!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I come to you now in the name of your beloved Son, Jesus. I ask You to intervene in the lives of Your children that feel as if they’ve been thrown into a clothes dryer for they are tumbling and buffeted on every side. Speak into their lives, I ask Father, bring purpose, peace, and protection to them; transform chaotic lives into meaningful, purposeful lives. Impart to them the employment they need, the church fellowship they need, their ministry that others need. I thank You for Your answers. Amen.

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