Month: August, 2017

Deliver Us From Evil

 

Text:  Luke 24:44-49

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Originally in our series on the catechism’s teaching of the Ten Commandments we were going to split up “Lead us not into temptation” and “But deliver us from evil” but due to my trip and in an attempt to remain on schedule we have combined the two, so instead of my normal 20 minute sermon, this morning you get a 40 minute one… Relax, I’m just kidding.

No, the reason I decided to combine these two lessons is because they really belong together. In this petition we’re really asking for the same thing because temptation always comes before evil. We don’t just decide to rob a business on the spot. No one, all of a sudden, finds themselves cheating on their spouse. No, in order to get to that place of sin, temptation had to take you, no matter how light you might think the temptation was.

It hasn’t been too long ago that I spoke on this subject, so we’re going to look at it from Martin Luther’s point of view. First, he assures us that the Lord certainly doesn’t lead us into temptation, though, at times, He might not lead us away from it. Sometimes the best lessons are learned when we have fallen into sin because of our own bad choices.

To understand sin, sometimes we have to experience it. Our choice then is to learn from it or not. The experience can either help us to avoid sin or help us choose to succumb to it. In all cases, Christ wants to be your strength and your help in times of trouble. He wants us all to learn to rely on Him when our trials come upon us.

Every day we are attacked by the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. Every day we must be prepared to fight the battle for our soul. When we ask the Lord not to lead us into temptation, we’re asking Him to guard us from these things that lie in wait for us to trip us up.

Luther points out that Scripture really has two meanings for the word temptation. The first, as we have pointed out is the testing of our faith. Through our trials we can find the strength we need for the faith God requires.  James 1:2-3 points this out saying, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Again, in every trial you have choices to make. Will you let it build you up or will you let it destroy you? Will you call on God for your strength, or will you depend on the world to save you? Will you learn from your mistakes, or will you fall deeper into them? The choice is always yours. God is not your puppet master. He wishes you to learn from all your experiences good and bad.

The second meaning of the word for temptation in the Scriptures is the one we usually define it as, the attempt of our spiritual enemies to lure us away from God and His ways.  Mark warns us in chapter 14 of his Gospel, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The devil is always in a battle for your soul. He will constantly try to mislead you into false beliefs, despair and other great sins, as Luther says. He doesn’t care about how vulnerable you are or how much pain it causes you, he will do all he can to win your soul. That’s why God paved the way for our salvation with the blood of His only son. He knew the only way to overcome the ultimate evil is to have the power of the ultimate good with you. That is what belief in Jesus Christ affords you. That is what dependence on the one true God does for you. That is why forgiveness and absolution are so very important. Because only God can answer the call of the Savior. Only faith in Christ can give you the strength you need to overcome the world. Only by His grace given us through faith can we hope to resist and overcome the temptations we face every day.    1 Corinthians 10:12-13: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 

God knows that temptations to sin will always be there for us. The devil is relentless. But God will never leave you or forsake you in your times of temptation. He has given you the whole armor of God to protect you.  From Ephesians 6:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 

 

When it comes to sin and the temptations that come with it, our one true deliverer will always be Christ Jesus. This leads us into the next petition, “But deliver us from evil.”

Luther says this means that when we pray this section of the prayer the Lord Himself taught us, we are to “pray, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of the body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”

This section of the prayer is really a summary of everything that has led up to it. Jesus is saying that it really comes down to deliverance. Will you allow Christ to be your Savior, or will you continue to place your hopes in things of your own making? Will you allow your Father in heaven to rescue you or will you be content to see how many times you have to come up for air before you finally drown in waters of your own creation?

I strongly urge you to choose Christ. From Psalm 121, “The Lord will keep you from evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” And from 2 Thessalonians 3, “The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” And even here you have a choice. You can trust His Word or you can ignore it. The choice is up to you.

But, should you choose the ultimate good, your rescue from sin and death is assured.

Luther says, “In a world ruined by sin, the Lord keeps us from harm and helps us endure the troubles that He allows to come into our lives.”

I see life as like a series of lessons. Long ago, Adam and Eve wanted knowledge in the attempt to be more like God, really, to become their own gods. They wanted that power, so, by virtue of that one fateful day, we are being taught the difference between good and evil. Be careful what you ask for.

Each day we see the effects of evil and how it plays in our lives. Every day is a battle because of the choices we are forced to make given the knowledge that God allowed us to learn. As a result, we live each day learning the lessons the hard way, through trial and error.

But through these times our Lord continues to deliver us, even from our most grievous sins. Through it all God has provided us with the tools to overcome our failed attempts to rely on the world. As Acts 14:22 says, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

In this prayer God has outlined how our relationship of trust with Him should go. We are to trust Him to provide for our daily needs and we are to lean on His promised deliverance through confession and forgiveness. Finally, He is saying that he will instill in us a faith that will serve us all the way to heaven.

 

How much love does our God have for you? A love beyond measure. That is why He could not let us face temptation alone. That is why he sent us His Son to deliver us from the grasp of Satan. That is why He gave us His Word to guide us and His Holy Spirit to work through that Word the glorious gift of faith. That is why He promised to never leave you or forsake you even in your darkest times. Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,”

So, as we live in those former days, we have hope in the end of our sorrows. In the meantime, temptation and the sin that follows us will plague us and the devil will look for any and every opportunity to prey on our weaknesses.

Yet, through faith in Christ he will fail. As faulty as we are, we have strength beyond measure to overcome the devil because we bear through faith the power of the ultimate good. Though temptation may come, I plead with you to find your strength to overcome them in Christ your Savior. Let Him lead you to glory.

Heavenly Father, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Help us to learn the lessons you have for us and prevent us from learning the lessons the world has to give. Shield us from the arrows of ultimate evil and prevent us from falling into the depths of sin. In you we trust. Amen.

Forgive As We Forgive

 

Matthew 18:21-35

Grace, mercy and peace t you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Old Joe was dying. For years he’d been at odds with Bill, formerly one of his best friends. Wanting to strengthen things out, he sent word for Bill to come and see him. When Bill arrived, Joe told him that he was afraid to go into eternity with such bad feelings between them. Then, very reluctantly, and with great effort, Joe apologized for some of the things he had said and done. He also assured Bill that he forgave him for his offenses. Everything seemed fine until Bill turned to go. As he walked out of the room, Joe called out to him, “Now, just remember, if I get better, this doesn’t count.”

Today we continue on in our study of Luther’s Small Catechism, specifically on the Lord’s prayer, and today we study the phrase, “And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” and as with every section of this amazing prayer, there is a lot packed into its words.

First, let’s see what Luther has to say about this section of the prayer. He says, “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them.” Right away, Luther gets into what true forgiveness is, the complete wiping away of hostility, vengeance and even remembrance of past offenses.

A tall order to be sure for us hostile, vengeful and ever-remembering people. In fact, such a tall order that there is no hope of accomplishing it apart from the Holy Spirit’s work within us. God has the power to wipe our slate of sin clean, we, however, must put our unforgiveness in His mighty hands if we ever hope to accomplish such a seemingly insurmountable task.

Luther goes on to say in the same explanation, “We are neither worthy of such things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So, we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”

Imagine a friend who you KNEW would always forgive you just in the asking, every time, without a shred of doubt, no matter the size of your offence against them. In our earthly lives there are probably none to be found, yet this is what our Father in heaven does, every time, without a shred of doubt other than the doubt we have because of the enormity of the gift. Things like that just don’t happen in our worldliness.

And that’s what forgiveness is, a gift. That’s why we don’t like to give it to the people we feel have wronged us somehow. That’s why true forgiveness apart from the Holy Spirit is impossible. Why would we give a gift to someone who has hurt us?

Yet every day, we do to God what we hope no one ever does to us. We break His command to love each other no matter what. We daily trespass on God’s perfect will in favor of our own. We replace the guidance of the Holy Spirit with the temptations of the world. Everyday. Every one of us. Yet God keeps gifting us forgiveness just in the asking every time we ask for it. In fact, it was so important to Him that we would qualify for this gift that He sent His only Son to take on all of the sin of the world so that we might be seen clean as He is clean. Because of this most unselfish act, we are now seen through the prism of Christ and our sins have become as white as snow and as far from us as the East is from the West in God’s eyes. Now that’s a gift worth telling others about.

In this prayer, we confess that we sin every day and deserve nothing but punishment. Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

A vital part of forgiveness is confession, another thing we faulty earthlings have lots of trouble with. No one likes to do it because it’s an admission of guilt. It shows that we had a part to play in the grievance and, often, that’s a hard thing to admit, even to God. Yet, true forgiveness cannot come without it.

I think of this latest episode in Charlottesville. When President trump neglected to single out the very vial and evil acts of white supremacy, instead saying that there was fault on all sides for the unrest. People went insane. Somehow starting a riot and beating others with clubs is ok to some and not a sin to have to be given forgiveness for if it’s against an adversary that we perceive is more evil than we are. Riots are still going on to this day because people can’t see that hate is evil and something of which we should be ashamed of. Confession of sins is the furthest thing from their minds when people perceive they are doing good, even with hate and vengeance in their hearts. This is a symptom of our fallen condition, when we decide what is righteous and what is not. White supremacy and Nazism have no place in a civilized world and should be condemned, but so to must hate, vengeance and hostility. Love is always more powerful than hate. Forgiveness is always more powerful than vengeance. Confession is always more powerful than pride. Imagine what our world would look like if we simply started to confess our sins, forgive and listen.

In this petition, Luther says, “We ask that our Father in heaven would, for Christ’s sake, graciously forgive our sins.” Even for those times we have put our own righteousness before His. Even for those times we thought we were doing good by hating others.  

Psalm 51 conveys this most precious request saying, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! And Luke 18:13 says it all in very few words, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

So, other than the ability to ask for the great gift of forgiveness, why else does Jesus include this petition in the prayer He taught us. Luther would say it is because, in praying this prayer assured of our forgiveness because of it, we can approach God confidently and with a good conscience in all areas of our lives.

God would have us free from sin so that we might go about the work of His kingdom without being weighed down with the guilt and regret that is associated with sin. He would have us free from sin so that when we approach Him in prayer we can do so in the sure confidence that He both hears our prayers and answers them according to His perfect will. Luther says that we can approach God “With a confident and joyful heart that springs from nothing else than the certain knowledge of the forgiveness of sin.” From Psalm 32, “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Yet, because forgiveness is so Godly, we will always struggle to give it to people who have hurt us or wronged us in some way. This doesn’t change the fact, however, that God wishes us to do it with every opportunity. Instead of hating your enemy, He wishes you to love him. Instead of wishing for God to strike him down, he wishes for you to lead Him to righteousness.

In our Gospel lesson Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” Now, Scripture likes to paint a picture using numbers sometimes and in this case, Jesus is saying that our forgiveness should be without end. As God’s chosen people we are to strive to match the character of our God who forgives sins without fail, every time we ask.

When we forgive others, it shows others that we truly believe that God has forgiven us and that we believe that our forgiveness is complete. Luther says, “Just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence and wrong, shows malice toward us, and so on. If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you.”

And this brings us to our final challenge in today’s section of the Lord’s prayer. Jesus makes it clear here that we are to ask for God’s forgiveness in the same measure as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

In theological terms, this is called holding the office of the keys. Imagine a key to imprison and another to release from prison. At this time, Jesus was talking to His disciples, so many have mistakenly suggested that it was a power given by Christ to His disciples alone. Yet, it is included in Scripture because God wishes all to follow that same example. In the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, we recognize that the people of our congregations have power to forgive or condemn through Christ. These keys are then given to the pastor as a representative of the whole. When I forgive people their sins, it is not I doing it, but Christ. None of us, in ourselves, have the power to forgive sins. Yet Christ works within us to pass on His forgiveness to others.

This power is given because forgiveness is expected from us. As children of the one true God, we are expected to set an example in our Christian charity, included in this is the forgiveness we give even from grace.

Let’s look again at the final verse from this morning’s Gospel lesson: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother.”

In this story the king forgave much but the servant would not forgive at all. As a consequence, the slave was reinstated with his debt and thrown into debtor’s prison until such time as he could pay of his enormous obligation. So the Father will do to all those who lack forgiveness in their hearts.

Everyone here this morning has been wronged by someone at some time. Some of these sins against you have been very great indeed. And every time this has happened, you’ve been given a choice, to forgive or not to forgive. And if we’re honest, all of us have wronged others, some of these sins might be every bit as great as the one’s levied against us. And every time, those we have wronged have been given the same choice.

I repeat again Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

An unforgiving spirit can bring with it the harshest of God’s judgements.

After the Civil war, Robert E Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she cried bitterly that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Yankee artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her in her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it. It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of your life.”

God is calling you today to come to forgiveness. He wants you to lay down that hurt, agony and pain by forgiving those who have trespassed against you, those who have harmed you, those who have betrayed you. Forgive that person with all of your heart and move on with the blessings of forgiveness you have been given by our gracious God.

We all need forgiveness. Forgiveness from each other and forgiveness from God. Where do you stand today? In need of forgiveness or in need of forgiving?

Father forgive our sins as we forgive others. Give us strength to forgive even in the hardest of circumstances. Help us by Your grace to shed the burden of hate and vengeance we so easily grasp onto and make us one with you in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Bible Study: Forgive As We Forgive

 

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 18:21-35

Jewish tradition limited forgiveness to three times.  Amos 1:3, 6, 9 and Job 33:29-30. What did Peter probably think of his comment when he made it?

What would you do to celebrate if all of your debts were canceled?

Why did the servant promise to pay back the debt knowing that both he and the king would know that this would be impossible?

Be honest; in what ways do you put a limit on forgiveness?

What is the value of forgiveness? Is this why we sometimes withhold it?

How much has God forgiven us? Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-13

How can the realization of how much we have been forgiven by God help fuel our ability and willingness to forgive someone?

How does unforgiveness serve as a prison of sorts? What does holding on to a grudge do to a person?

How is forgiveness like canceling a debt or declaring bankruptcy?

What did Jesus mean when He said we must forgive 70 X 7 times?

Forgiveness is hard enough, but can we truly forget? Genesis 41:51; Philippians 3:13

The king granted the first servant grace. Why? Psalm 45:2; Ephesians 2:4-10

 How is the king’s grace like God’s grace?

 When we receive this grace, what are we expected to do with it? 2 Corinthians 6:1-2; James 2:13; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 2 Peter 1:2-4

 Is there ever an occasion when we should not forgive?

How does Jesus point in verse 35 compare with Matthew 6:12?

Do we forgive others so God will forgive us, or does God forgive us so that we will have a forgiving attitude? Matthew 6:14-15

(Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

 

Text:  John 6:25-35

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

It’s been nice having Alexis in our home. All our kids have grown and are on their own and its sort of like were starting over, it seems like just yesterday that our own children were as small and energetic as Alexis is today. I look at them now and wonder how it all happened so fast.

Now I get to do with Alexis, all the things I did with her dad, aunt and uncle when they were young. I watch a lot more cartoons now. I’ve had to pick up my share of toys all over the house. Nearly every morning I take Alexis to daycare and pick her up again after work. It’s sort of like riding a bike. It was hard to get used to all over again but then the right muscles kick in and its old hat.

One of the greatest things I get to do again is sit at her bedside to say prayers with her. It’s so nice to see that young child innocence in the sincerity of her prayers. The untarnished faith of a child.

When I was her age my mom did the same for me. We’d start out with the Lord’s Prayer and then I’d give my personal petitions. In this prayer, my mom always insisted I thank God for all His blessings to me first before I asked for anything. In my personal prayers, I still do that today as a sign of respect. That’s why, when I was young, I had a little trouble with the Lord’s prayer because it doesn’t really say thank you outright.

IT wasn’t until I got older that I realized that “thank you” is implied right at the beginning when we acknowledge the holiness and greatness of God. It’s right there in the opening when we recognize Him for who He is and for what He has done to bring His kingdom to us.

So, now its ok for me to begin to ask for things like our daily bread where we do in the Lord’s prayer. Even in this we are acknowledging Him to be the source of all good and necessary things in our lives. I was also taught to ask for forgiveness before we asked for personal blessings and that comes later in the Lord’s Prayer but I digress. I know now that God’s not picky about the order, he just wants our prayers to be sincere.

So, how does Luther define just what daily bread is? He says that, “Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” You can almost imagine him thinking of all the good things God has given him while he was writing this, not wanting to miss anything.

Basically, He is asking God for all the good things that come to us in life.

When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re showing our dependence on God for the provision of all those things that we need to live a good and gracious life. With each new day comes a new dependency on God to provide for us. And as God always has been and always will be, He is good to His Word to us. Jesus gave us this reassurance of God’s provision in Matthew 6 when He said, “…do not be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all……..therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.”

That’s why Martin Luther, in his explanation says, “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without their prayers, even to evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” God provides to saint and sinner alike because of His love for all of His Creation. In this section of the Lord’s prayer we acknowledge this and say thank you for including us in Your blessings to Your many adopted children. So, if all things are provided, even to people who disbelieve or even curse God, why do we need to even include this in our prayer. Matthew 5:45 says, “He makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” So why pray if it’s going to happen anyway?

It’s very simple, Luther says, we do it because Christ asked us to. We do it realizing that our entire life depends on God’s provision. In our Psalm for this morning we read, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16) It is God’s joy to provide for His creation. In this section of the Lord’s Prayer we acknowledge this and thank Him because it is right and proper to do so.

As we then thank God for all His wonderful blessings to us we also recognize his rightful place at the head of our lives and families. We accept Him as the provider of all good things and we confess our dependence on Him with thanksgiving. Psalm 106 puts it so nicely saying, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast loves endures forever!”

And, in this prayer, we not only ask for those things to benefit or mortal bodies, but we also pray for those things which help us sustain our spiritual lives as well. A faith that can be strong even through the greatest of trials. A spirit that can endure even under the pressure of the greatest temptations. A prayer life that cannot be manipulated by our lack of time, and a worship that cannot be denied for lack of desire. Matthew 6:33 reminds us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

When you think about all God has done to sustain us in this life, it’s pretty overwhelming. We take for granted the air that we breath, or the water which quenches our thirst. We take for granted the rain that grows our crops or even the crops themselves. We undervalue the wind that shapes the soil and the sun which brings us warmth. We don’t appreciate enough the relationships we have been given or even the families we have been so blessed with. God works miracles every day that we take for granted because of His unending generosity. In this prayer, we thank Him for everyday things, miracles all.

But this prayer doesn’t stop at the getting, it moves on to the giving. If this prayer is to be said in all sincerity, it should also include in our minds a request for the want to share all that we have been given.

Luther says, “These words teach us not to be greedy or wasteful or to worry about the future but to live contentedly in the confidence that the Lord will give us what we need.” If we’re truly honest, I think that all of us can say that the Lord provides even more than we need to survive and live a long and happy life. With each blessing He gives, He considers you, not the owner, but the caretaker. He asks you to do the best with what you have been given and to help your neighbor with the abundance of those blessings.  1 Timothy 6:8 says that, “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” As followers of Christ we must learn to live like Christ in humility and grace thinking of others before ourselves.

Proverbs 30:8-9 says, Give me neither property nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” In our world, especially in the United States, we have become drunk on the abundance God has given us. Instead of helping our neighbor with that abundance, the world says that the man who dies with the most toys wins. This problem has become epidemic to the point that our abundance is making us forget about the God who has provided them.

As our neighbors suffer, we try to accumulate more and more so that we might never be without. What happens is that our focus become self-fulfilling and we turn our eyes away from the suffering so that our guilt might not change our minds.  Hebrews 13;16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” 

Just as in every part of this wonderful prayer, this single petition is a wealth of information towards how we are to dedicate our lives in prayer toward both our Savior and our neighbor. It is not just a simple prayer said word for word so might get everything covered. I believe it’s more like an outline of how to begin every section of prayer that will then expand into a more specific request for God’s grace and guidance.

God has given us this great gift in prayer to remind us of both His love for us and His willingness to guide us towards a better life of community and service.

His invitation to prayer brings about a beautiful discourse between the Creator of the universe and His creation. In word and thought we are given the opportunity to rejoice in our communion with Christ, give thanks for all our many blessings, follow the very will of our Heavenly Father and remind ourselves of the greatest gift in His sacrifice for our sake.

As believer’s in Jesus Christ we are given this amazing opportunity to pray a prayer that Christ Himself taught us. By way of the Holy Spirit we are directed in our words and guided in our thoughts as we lift our petitions for God’s mercy, grace and provision towards our Father’s willing ears.

In return, He answers all in His own perfect way according to His perfect timing leaving no room for error or misdirection. When we pray for our daily bread to be provided, He does so to our greatest benefit and towards the benefit of those we are blessed to help through the abundance we have been given.

I urge you all to embrace this gift of prayer you have been given. Pray constantly in your words and actions. Have faith that you are being heard by a God who loves you enough to sacrifice even Himself for our benefit.

Dear Lord, give us today our daily bread and guide us by your mercy to appreciate all you have given us. Help us to be generous as You are generous, loving as You are loving and thankful as you have taught us. Amen.

Bible Study: Thy Will Be Done

 

Bible Study Questions – James 4:11-17

James speaks critically about those who speak evil against or judge another brother, what is the difference between slander and constructive criticism? Proverbs 27:5-6; Ephesians 4:29

Here James is talking to Christians. What are some examples of how we wrongly judge other Christians?

Have you ever judged God? Why do we do this sometimes?

What do the following say about the Judge and the judgment: John 12:47-48; Hebrews 12:23, 13:4; Acts 10:38-42, 7:30-31; 2Timothy 4:1-8; Romans 2:14-16; 1 Peter 4:1-4; James 2:13, 5:9

From the following, in what context if any is it right to make judgments about others and how should it be done? Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:3

Slander closely relates to gossip. What should you do if a Christian starts slandering another Christian in your presence? A non-Christian?

In verse 13 it sounds as if James is critical of planning ahead. Is this true? What is he saying? Proverbs 20:18; Isaiah 32:8

The businessman makes a great plan in verse 13 but what is missing? What motivated him?

From James 4:14 &16-17, what does James say is wrong with this type of attitude?

From 4:15, what is the proper attitude for a believer to have towards the future and why?

Are there examples of planners in Bible? Genesis 24, 41; 1 Kings 5-7; Nehemiah 1-6; Acts 13-28

As you plan for the future, what kinds of wrong things motivate you? What are some of the things that should motivate you as you plan for the future?

From James 4:14 &16-17, what does James say is wrong with this type of attitude?

From 4:15, what is the proper attitude for a believer to have towards the future and why?

Is he merely talking about what we say about our future, or does the issue go deeper than that?

Is it enough if I say verse 13 and then add on a “if the Lord wills”? Are those four words the point? Then what is the point? What is the right decision/planning process (seek God’s first not after).

What is the point of the comparison with a mist in verse 14?

Is there ever a worthy reason to boast about yourself? Why or why not?

What kind of sin is James talking about in verse 17?

What is the main message of this section of Scripture and what did you need to hear the most?

Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources (i.e. Bible.org)

Thy Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven

Text:  John 6:35-40

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Every now and again, I get grumpy. Yes, I know, this is a big shock to all of you (he says tongue firmly pressing against cheek). Yep, it’s true. And when I think about all those times I let my frustration get the best of me, it was usually when my will wasn’t being done. I expected something to be done but it didn’t happen or I wanted something and I didn’t get it or I thought something should go a certain way but I was overruled. On and on, poor Pastor Dan, don’t people know that his way is always the best way? Can’t people see how great his ideas are?

Yes, I am guilty of this particular sin, especially when you add that sometimes I forget to consider what God’s will would be in the situation. And, I’m sure I am not alone. I bet many of you have faced similar trials in your life.

Many people suffer from this kind of self-righteous iniquity to greater and lesser degrees. Timothy McVeigh thought his will was best when he bombed a government building in Oklahoma City. Abortion doctors think their doing the right thing when they end the life of the unborn. Even some pastors think they’re doing the right thing by rewriting Scripture to fit the world’s desires. In every case, they are depending on their own will to be done, even when, like many terrorists, they do their evil in the name of their God.

And it’s an ugly feeling when our will isn’t being done isn’t it. When were stuck in traffic, we can feel that anger building. When our kids have made the same mistake for the umpteenth time our irritation rises. When our spouse can’t seem to understand our flawless logic, we become aggravated. It’s a tool that the devil uses with expert precision. He knows were a proud lot and that we want our will to be done in all things. We make it much too easy for him don’t we.

We do all of this, even knowing that God’s will is always perfect. Martin Luther calls God’s will good and gracious. The desire of a God who only wants the best for His adopted children. The grace of a God who loves us enough to provide a way out of our dilemma even though we deserve no such protection.

Martin Luther says God will is being done, “when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when he strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”

Have you ever stopped to imagine what life would be like without the protection God provides? Have you every envisioned a world free from the restraint the Lord puts on the devil’s evil plans? I would venture to guess that most of God’s mighty work goes unseen and unnoticed. I shudder at the thought that there would be no God in which a will exists.

And this wonderful section of the Lord’s prayer asks that His will be done here even as it is in heaven. In heaven, God’s will is always done and, being perfect, it always accomplishes the greatest reward. That’s what God wants even for us sinners, that our world would match the glories of heaven where God doesn’t have to compete with sin for our time. It’s a world where all self-centeredness has been eliminated. A world where the flawless will of God always overrules the self-destructing desire of His creation.

Luther says the good and gracious will of God is “that His name would be kept holy and that His kingdom would come, that His Word would be taught correctly and that sinners would be brought to faith in Christ and lead godly lives.”

1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that “God’s desires All people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

God’s desire is that we come to the truth that can only be found in His Word. His desire is that we all become holy by following His will. His desire is that His Word is taught correctly and without revision. His desire is that we would allow His kingdom to come by way of His Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts.

In other words, God wants the best things for us. It is His desire that we would join Him one day in paradise where there is no more frustration, no more self-righteousness, no more greed, or hostility. A place where everyone looks to His Son, our Redeemer and Savior and believes in Him. In short, God wants the very best for us and all he asks is that, in our time upon this imperfect world, we trust in Him to put His will before our own.

Because He knows the devil is very good at what he does. The devil, the world and our own sinful nature oppose the good and gracious will of God. His one desire is to win the competition for our souls. His only desire is that you separate yourself from the will of God and rely on your own. The devil knows that sin has corrupted our desire to do good. He knows our will naturally turns to evil because of the evil desires of the flesh. He’s hoping you depend on yourself because it means His work in your heart is done. As Paul told the Romans in chapter seven of his letter to them, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”

1 Peter 5:8 urges us to “be sober-minded and watchful because your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Every day the devil works to win you over, therefore we must be vigilant in our battle against him. The answer is to always follow the will of God, even if it means you might miss out on what your flesh desires, even if it means you must go without so that someone else may benefit.

Luther says, “As His name must be hallowed and His kingdom come whether we pray or not, so also His will must be done and succeed. This is true even though the devil with all his followers raise a giant riot, are angry and rage against it, and try to exterminate the Gospel completely. But for our own sakes we must pray that, even against their fury, His will be done without hindrance among us also. We pray so that they may not be able to accomplish anything and that we may remain firm against all violence and persecution and submit to God’s will.”

He could have written this yesterday and it would have made complete sense because, even today, there are those who oppose our faith, who call us all sorts of names because of our beliefs, who want to stamp out any influence God has left on this earth. They oppose the will of God because it doesn’t match their own. They feel if they can eliminate God, they can eliminate His influence and thus make their lives unjudged and carefree.

But as believers in truth, we know better. We know that our will only leads to destruction. Our will has no rules, no values, no morals.

We see it every day from those who oppose God. We see the hate and anger that comes when the will of the people isn’t being done. We see the frustration and annoyance toward those who express their faith in Christ. We see the venom from people when we claim God’s way is the only way.

Yet, even all that anger and hate is no match for our glorious God. As he has always done, he will break and hinder all the plans of the devil, the world and our own sinful nature, which try and destroy our faith in Jesus Christ. (Martin Luther). Romans 16:20 says, The God of peace will soon crush Satan under His feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be with us.”

We look at the world and it’s easy to see the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into by not following the will of God. Yet His strength is still present in those who surrender their lives to Him. His peace is in the hearts in all those who have yielded to the truth. His grace surrounds all those who bravely proclaim their trust in Him, and His Holy Spirit still guides all those who call on His leadership. By Word and Sacrament, we remain in His forgiveness and start each day anew under his watchful eye. He will support all those who place their faith in Him, Romans 8, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

It’s easy to become frustrated when our will isn’t being done. It’s part of our human nature that has become corrupted by our own selfish desires. But God’s will is that you be delivered from all that. His desire is that you lean on His grace which is more than we need in our times of trial.

From our Gospel lesson:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 

Jesus knew that the only way to overcome sin and death was to obey the will of His Father. And that is His wish for us, because our Father in heaven wishes for all of us to be with Him throughout eternity. So, look upon the Son as your example and follow the will of God in all things as we all pray His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen