Thursday, July 26, 2018

Lord, Teach Us To Pray (Pt 4) July 26, 2018

There is a fierce battle going on for the human “will.”  People are constantly working to persuade other people or groups to think a different way than what they already think.  We see this with political campaigns, political action groups, companies as they advertise products, in education, etc.  Many claim to be attempting to open the minds of others and allow them to think for themselves, but in reality, they are often coercing people into doing things they do not wish to do.  To recognize this goes on in our world and to recognize some of the ways in which it takes place helps us to understand the tension between the will of God and the will of man in this earthly realm. This tension is so real we often see it even when we pray.

          The next line in the Lord’s Prayer is “Your will be done on Earth as in Heaven.”  The only thing Christians can properly pray for are those things which are in accordance with the will of God.  If we pray for something which contradicts God’s Word then we know it is not His will.  In such cases the answer is already no.  Criminals often do stupid things, but imagine the absurdity of one of them praying a prayer like this: “Lord I am about to rob this store at gunpoint, and I want you to keep me from getting caught tonight.  Please protect me and my partner in crime.  Please allow there to be a lot of money in the cash register and we pray that the clerk will be cooperative as we rob her.”  Does this sound utterly ridiculous?  Is such a criminal simply “Praying without Ceasing” like Thessalonians instructs?  What about a less extreme example?  What if someone prayed “Lord, I know I did not study for the test so please let me be able to see my friend’s paper and copy his answers.”  How about praying to not get caught for knowingly cheating on your income tax; for speeding; for lying; or just plain laziness!  We can pray, but we are wasting our time if we are unwilling to align our will to God’s will in that prayer and the first thing that must line up is our will with His will found in Scripture.  Dr. Albert Mohler has said “Christians should never ask what God’s will is in regards to a matter God has already spoken to in His Word.”

          All the troubles that exist in this world exist because of desire for man’s will to be done instead of God’s will.  If mankind could all unify and say “God’s will be done” the problems we have known would go away.  Does this sound like wishful thinking?  Too good to be true?  One day, this will actually be a reality right here on this earth during the millennial reign of Christ.  In the model prayer Jesus taught the disciples to elevate God’s will above man’s will as they foreshadowed the perfect world to come.

          God’s will is done in Heaven already as it should be.  Not one thing is out of order.  Psalm 18:30 tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect.”  God and God alone is perfect, consequently any way that is not God’s way is imperfect; sinful, and thus contributes to the problems of this world.  Finding God’s will is an apparent struggle for many people.  Many, in the modern era, view realizing it as a sort of mystic, visionary type of experience but historically this has not been the case.  In centuries past, people would have not understood the concept of “finding God’s will for my life” or for finding it in a certain situation.  To them, plain and simple, the will of God was right there in the Scripture.

          Overwhelmingly, God’s will is already revealed in a person’s life and situation.  Perhaps we can see this by pondering a few questions.  Who chose your parents?  Who chose when you would be born?  Who chose what country/state/town you would be born in?  Who chose your race, your eye color, hair color, your personality.  All those things and much more were chosen by God’s sovereign will.  If so much has been chosen for us what then is our responsibility?  Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes that the whole duty of man was to “Fear God and keep His commandments.”  We are also told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, obey His commandments, serve the Lord all our days, etc. etc. etc.  Paul wrote to the Romans in 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds that you may do that which is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.”  The good, perfect, and acceptable is the way God made things originally here on earth before the fall and how they are right now in Heaven.  The only place in the entire Universe where there is “subversion” to God’s will is right here on this present earth.

          The church of the Lord Jesus Christ, more than anything else, is to give the world around it a taste of what Heaven is like.  Christian families, who make up the church, are to give the world around it a taste of the wonder of God.  The unity of a husband and wife is to picture Christ’s relationship with His church.  Children are to be submissive to their parents just as God’s children are submissive to their Heavenly Father.

           How can I, a sinful person, know what a holy and righteous God requires of me?  Andrew Murray, who has written so extensively on prayer, writes “God’s children often do not really believe that it is possible to know God’s will.  Or if they do believe this, they do not take the time and trouble to find it out.  What we need is to see clearly in what way it is that the Father leads His waiting, teachable child to know that his petition is according to His will.  It is through God’s Holy Word, taken up and kept in the heart . . .”

          Too often our prayers have become a form or a duty.  Even many Bible-believing Christians pray without any real expectancy of God’s answer.  Prayer meetings have been removed from the week’s events or are poorly attended and the leaders think they can arrange God’s blessings without asking for them!  We as believers are to live and to pray so much in the sphere of God’s name, God’s Kingdom, and God’s glory that we may be bod in saying “Thy will be done.”  It has often been said “Prayer changes things,” but most of all prayer changes us!  As we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we also pray for His will to be done perfectly on this earth, just as it is perfectly done in Heaven.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Lord, Teach Us To Pray (Pt. 3) July 19, 2018

          As we look across the pages of history we see the kingdoms of the world rising and falling through the centuries.  Historians tell us that the world has known twenty-one great civilizations, but all of them have only endured for a time/season and then passed away.  Egypt, for instance, was once a mighty world power; today it is weak.  It can hardly contend with the tiny state of Israel.  Babylon was once mighty, but today it has passed into history and its former territory is divided. Syria, once strong, has become an archeological curiosity.  Greece and Rome have fallen.  What about the “Former Soviet Union?” (the key word is “former”)  America, now at the pinnacle of world power, and like every world power that has come before it, will not be able to escape the law/judgment of God.

          Proverbs 14:34 says “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace/reproach to any people.”  Do we ever hear anyone in government calling for “righteousness?”  Instead what we hear are calls for better voter turnout, gun control, passage of more laws, term limits for politicians, impeachment, etc. as though these things are the answer, but the Bible says it is righteousness that exalts a nation. 

          Both nations and individuals sink because of sin.  In the Book of Daniel there is a remarkable evaluation of a kingdom just before God destroys it.  In frightening fashion, God writes His evaluation on the wall.  Daniel 5:22-28 reads “And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN; this is the interpretation of each word.  MENE; God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it, TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting, PERES [plural of UPHARSIN}: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.  Then Belshazzar gave the command and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.”  We read in 5:18, 20-22 “O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor . . . But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.  Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys.  They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses.  But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.”

          It does not make any difference at what moment of human history you wish to consider, there are always chaotic events, disasters, atrocities, war, etc.  We are not to allow these things to bring us down or get us off track.  In Mat. 24:6 Jesus taught, there would always be wars and rumors of even more wars, nevertheless His followers were not to be troubled by them.  Earthly kingdoms will perish for certain, but God’s Kingdom will be established and it is an eternal kingdom over which Christ will rule and reign forever!

          The next phrase in the Lord’s Prayer is “Thy Kingdom Come” (Mat. 6:10a).  That should be the daily prayer on the hearts of every believer.  We can never be satisfied with this earthly realm.  We are always desiring the perfect rule and reign which is in store.  It should be abundantly evident from the chaotic, imperfect, sin-filled world that we see today, that there is overwhelming need for something much better.  Even unbelievers should recognize this, but often they do not.

          The establishment of Christ’s eternal kingdom is not merely wishful thinking, but biblical reality.  He taught this truth to His own disciples.  It is reality not yet seen.  Too often, even believers get too comfortable here.  One of the biggest challenges for some believers is to yearn for the kingdom in the midst of comfortable lives.  However, our comfortable lives can change very quickly and often do.  In times past it was, no doubt, easier for a great many people to long for the coming, promised kingdom.  In their extreme poverty, bondage to slavery, susceptibility to disease, genocide, etc. they could easily hope for something better.  But, in modern days it is much harder for Americans to yearn in the same way while they set in an air conditioned room in a LazyBoy recliner watching a big-screen TV!  For people in our age, it might be impossible to yearn for God’s kingdom because we are uncomfortable.  We have then to do it from a spiritual vantage point.  What I mean to say is, sinfulness needs to sicken us to the point that we long to live in a world without sin.  St. Augustine’s famous work The City of God talks about two cities representing two kingdoms; the City of God and the City of Man.  One kingdom seemed real but wasn’t and the other did not seem real but was.  You see, the problem of this world comes down to this.  The world sees the going thing as the coming thing and the coming thing as the going thing.  The answer for the world is more laws, more development, more study, more reconciliation, more education, and all it really is, is more of the same.  But the empty promises of the future are their hope!  While they press ahead, they tend to believe God is dead, or irrelevant, a crutch, a necessity of the past that is no longer needed, etc.  But they have it all backwards!  That is exactly Augustine’s point!

          In one of His parables Jesus compared Himself to a nobleman who went into a far country to receive a kingdom and was then to come back.  In the meantime, however the nobleman left gifts in the hands of his servants, charging them to be faithful and to be ready to give a good accounting at his return (Luke 19:11-27).  On another occasion, after the resurrection, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).  He answered, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His authority [in other words, He is saying, ‘you are right about the fact(s) of the kingdom; but it is not your business to know when.]  Right after that pronouncement He ways ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

          Our greatest desire should be to see the Lord reigning as the King in His Kingdom.  More times than not, our prayers are self-centered and focused on our needs, our plans, our dreams, our understandings, etc.  People are often like tiny infants who know no other world than the world of their immediate surroundings and have no concern for anything that does not directly affect them and bring them exactly what they want just as quickly as possible.  How does a person get from being a selfish infant to a giving adult?  In one word; the answer is maturity.  The greatest opposition to the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of this present world, which Satan rules and Satan desperately seeks to keep human beings immature like infants, only aware of their most immediate needs and oblivious to the big picture.

          The “Kingdom of God” was always at the heart of the message Jesus taught.  According to Luke 4:43 He came to “Preach the Kingdom of God.”  Even in the closing words of Scripture, there is a final appeal for “Thy Kingdom Come” when in Rev. 22:20 we read “Surely I am coming quickly.  Amen.  Even so, come Lord Jesus!”  The Kingdom for which we are to pray, and of which we now have a taste, is of infinite value.  In Mat. 13:44-46 Jesus taught “Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold all that he had and bought it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field.”  How much do you value the Kingdom?  Enough to pray for “His Kingdom Come” on a daily basis?  What does the thought of God’s Kingdom really mean to you today?  All earthly powers are fading fast.  It is time to get on board with the coming of “Thy Kingdom.”  Neither you nor I, nor the world, nor even Satan himself has an ounce of power to stop it.  So you might as well go with it.  It is coming quickly!


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, July 12, 2018

: Lord, Teach Us To Pray (Pt. 2) - July 12, 2018

Names are important.  Names mean something.  Names are inseparably, and even mysteriously, tied to one’s identity.  In Alex Haley’s Roots, one of the most memorable scenes of the miniseries is when the slave “Kunta Kentei” was beaten/whipped repeatedly told “Your name is Toby.”  He would then be asked “What is your name?”  He would respond each time with exasperation, “I am Kunta Kentei.”  Kunta Kentei knew that to surrender His name meant to surrender his identity. 

          Names of people, names of places, and names of things help us communicate with one another.  Names distinguish one thing from another.  Names signify honor and dishonor.  Names can be common or rare.  Names can be funny or sad.  People can go by their initials, a middle name, or a nickname.  Some names are fitting and some names are not.  The Bible teaches that having a good name is better than great riches” Any way you look at it names are important. God’s name is also important. The various names of God, given in Scripture reveal much about Him.  When Jesus taught His disciples to pray they were to remember, and honor, the “name” of God. 

          The next phrase in the Lord’s Prayer is “Hallowed be Your name.”  The word “hallowed is a word that does not have a lot of meaning in the language of today.  “Hallowed” sounds simply like archaic King James language, however many modern Bible translators have not changed the word “hallowed” because there is not really a modern equivalent.  The word “holy” captures the meaning in part, but not completely; as do words like reverend, magnificent, majestic, etc.

          In Isaiah 6 we read the account of Isaiah’s call.  “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.  Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’  And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.  So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ (Is. 6:1-5)  In English we might say something is “big,” “bigger,” or “biggest.”  We might say something is “bad,” really bad or “the worst.”  But in the Hebrew language it is not conveyed that way.  Things are repeated for emphasis.  When something was repeated 3 times it meant it was “as much as it could be.”  So, in Isaiah 6, what is being conveyed is that God is the holiest He can possibly be.  Furthermore, the number 3 carries a lot of significance in the Bible.  “Three” is one of the numbers that signify completeness.  We know that God is 3 persons.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – 3 yet 1.

          In The Lord’s Prayer Jesus is teaching God is to be recognized as being as holy as He can possibly be; to be revered, and seen in all His splendor and magnificence.  God is totally “set apart” from all that is wrong, deficient, and bad in the world.  When someone accuses God of being unfair, unjust, or even evil, they are proclaiming their own ignorance of the God of the Bible and His complete holiness.  When tragedies like a mass shooting at a Florida school, a Las Vegas concert, or a Texas church happen, people make many assumptions and statements about why God allows them to occur.  The vague knowledge many people have of God makes it impossible for them to cope with the problem of evil in the world.  They do not know God personally nor are they aware of His attributes.  They simply find fault with a God they do not even know.  The underlying presupposition is that God should always want what we want and when things happen contrary to what we want then God must either not be real or must not be good like we assume ourselves to be.  We are told unequivocally in Scripture that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  Further, we are told that even His name (signifying all that He is) should be “hallowed.”  He is to be reverenced in every circumstance even when our finite minds cannot comprehend what is happening.

          There are a lot of names of God mentioned in Scripture (hundreds in fact) and we learn something about God from each and every one.  In Greek Mythology, Roman culture, and in Egyptian lore, there were multiple “gods” who oversaw different things.  In Christianity there is only one God, but He has all the attributes and characteristics!  When we “hallow” His name, we are therefore honoring God in relation to some aspect of His character.  Every name we encounter in Scripture gives us insight into who God is and what He is like.  For instance, the name “Elohim” acknowledges God as Creator.  In the first verse of the Bible (Gen. 1:1) we learn that “In the beginning, [Elohim] created the Heavens and the Earth.”  Of all the ignorant, sinful things that mankind is guilty of, one might think they could at least acknowledge Him as their Creator, but that has proven too much to ask.  Man is so sinful, that he cannot even get through the first verse of Scripture without saying “Now wait a minute!”

          Another name is “El Elyon.”  This name means “God most High” and refers to Him in relation to His rule over the Heavens and the earth.  “El Elyon” first appears in the account of Abraham’s meeting with Melchizedek.  It is God’s Sovereign rule over creation.

          Another important name of God mentioned in Scripture is “Jehovah.”  It is through this name “Jehovah” that God reveals Himself as “redeemer.”  In Genesis we learn of God’s plan to destroy the Earth with a flood because of mankind’s wickedness, but with equal determination He planned to save Noah and his family.  God the Creator, told Noah to take into the ark two of every variety of animal.  Then Jehovah the Redeemer, also told him to take in seven of every clean animal.  Who is it that saves?  Jehovah saves!  It is Jehovah who promised redemption to the fallen Adam and Eve in the garden.  It is Jehovah who spoke to Noah.  Jehovah appeared to Abraham promising a redeemer through his seed.  Jehovah even taught Abraham the new name “Jehovah Jireh,” which means, “The Lord will provide!”

          “Adonai” is another important name of God we encounter and it means “Lord.”  We say “Jesus is Adonai (Lord)!  You cannot “hallow” God’s name unless He is your Lord and master!  The greatest name of all for God is “Jesus Christ.”  In Him all other names are combined.  In Him the characteristics of God are made manifest and perfected.  The Bible tells us in Phil. 2:10 “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Before you can “hallow” His name, you must know Him as your Lord and Savior.  Jesus taught in this model prayer that the ideal for prayer included acknowledging the sacred name of God which encompasses all His characteristics and attributes.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Lord, Teach Us to Pray - (Pt. 1) -July 5, 2018

I do not think I have ever met a person who was completely satisfied with his/her prayer life.  There seems to always be room for improvement.  Our prayer lives are, at a minimum, revealing concerning our ongoing walk with God.  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life.”

          Jesus’ disciples were unsure and confused when it came to prayer, especially in light of the fact Jesus had just told them how not to pray in Mat. 6:5-8. In Luke’s parallel account (Luke 11:1) we read “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”  In response to this request, Jesus gives the words to the most famous prayer ever given.  It is called “The Lord’s Prayer,” “The Model Prayer,” or sometimes “The Disciples’ Prayer” since it was given originally to the disciples.  The full prayer is found in Mat. 6:9-13.

          One might ask why the disciples needed to be taught how to pray.  All people should already know how to pray – right?  Not necessarily.  There is more to it than simply bowing the head, folding the hands, and saying words.  The actual words that are said are important, but even more important than the words themselves are the deep spiritual truths which underlie the words spoken.  These are truths that are never to be forgotten when we pray.  The Lord’s Prayer has, at its foundation, the character of God and our proper relationship with Him as His creatures.

          Many have asked the question “Is the Lord’s Prayer simply to be recited ‘as is’ or is it merely a framework?”  Jesus was teaching His disciples essentially to “Pray like this,” not necessarily to “Pray these exact words.”  Andrew Murray, the voluminous writer on the subject of prayer said “It is a form of prayer that becomes the model and inspiration for all other prayer, and yet always draws us back to itself as the deepest utterance of our souls before God.”

          The first words of the prayer are “Our Father in Heaven.”  God is to be addressed not merely as “God” but as “Our Father.”  Very simply, we see a closeness to God like a father and child, not some distant far-away impersonal being.  It is an amazing privilege to have this level of access.  The very first thing Jesus taught them is “You have access to God like a child has access to a parent.”  No Old Testament Jew ever addressed God in such terms.  God was much more distant to them.  Only two words into the model prayer and Jesus has already said something revolutionary and earth-shattering to any adherent of Judaism!

          The phrase “Our Father” is a term of tender affection.  It is translated basically as “Abba” or “Father.”  It means, in its most literal terms, “Daddy.”  Jesus could have used the normal word for father “Pater” but instead used the Aramaic word “Abba.” Which is much more personal and affectionate.  “Abba” was the address of a small child to his father.  When a child was weaned, it learned to say “Abba” and “Imma” (daddy and mother).  To the Jewish mind a prayer addressing God as “daddy” would not only be improper, it would have been sacrilegious, irreverent, and just plain wrong to the highest degree.  Consider for a moment if you were to meet with the President of the United States, how would you address him?  You would probably say something like “Mr. President,” “Sir,” “President Trump,” or “Mr. Trump.”  You would not call him by his first name, nor a nickname, and certainly not “daddy.”  But, if you were one of his own children you would walk right into the oval office and address this man, the President of the United States and leader of the free world, as “daddy.”  What Jesus was teaching was mind-blowing to the Jews.  He was saying to believers that you have the high and distinguished privilege of calling the God of the whole universe, creator of all things, sovereign over everything, as “daddy.”

          God indeed cares for us like a daddy would.  We find this sort of affectionate language in Scripture.  We read in Hosea 11:3-4, 8 of the love and care of a father for his children when it says “I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them.  I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.  I stopped and fed them . . . My heart churns within me; My sympathy is stirred.”  The point being made here is that if God is your Father, He will take care of you.  Later in Matthew 6 Jesus asked His disciples rhetorically “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more that clothing?” (Mat. 6:25)  In 6:21-32 He says “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek.  For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”  (Mat. 6:31-32)

          Christians are not on the outside looking in.  We are on the inside.  We are the children of the living God!  Paul wrote to the Ephesian church in Eph. 5:1 “Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly beloved children.”  Not as slaves, employees, subjects, strangers, foreigners, or unloved people, rather as “beloved children!”

          God is our Father who resides in Heaven.  Heaven is not as distant as we may think, yet it is far removed from the sin of the earthly realm.  For believers, all access to Heaven is available to us and God is the supplier.  When I was younger I had a friend whose dad worked for Frito Lay.  He got all kinds of snacks that the packages had been slightly damaged, barely out of their freshness dates, etc. On their kitchen counter were stands like you might see in a concession stand with rows of chips and snack cakes clipped to it.  I was immediately envious that he had something in his home I wished I had in mine!  In our home we kept our limited variety of Little Debbie cakes seemingly hidden away in the cabinet as though they were restricted (and basically were).  But my friend appeared to have all-you-could-eat chips and snack cakes at his fingertips 24/7!  To a boy of about 13 or 14 that seemed like a dream too good to be true, but there it was before my hungry eyes!  My friend had these things for one reason.  He had access!  Because of his dad’s job with Frito Lay he could enjoy an unlimited supply of goodies.  Our Father in Heaven has given us blessings to the degree that He, by comparison, makes snack cakes look like mud pies!  Ephesians 1:3 tells us that “God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places.”  “Heaven” is ‘ouranos meaning “vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it.”

          God is “transcendent.”  He “transcends” everything and everyone.  He is holy and righteous, set apart from all which is unholy.  The traditional tall ceiling in churches are not just for beauty but to signify the transcendence of God.  The transcendent  God of the universe is in Heaven and on His throne and we can come boldly and confidently to Him any time we want to and say “daddy.”  In such a simple phrase as “Our Father Who is in Heaven” there is a rich portion of theology.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor