Archive for January, 2013

Cause Thy Face To Shine

Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Psalm 80:3, 7, 19

These three verses are nearly identical and any time that the Lord thinks something is important enough to repeat it three times, we should probably sit up and pay attention.  These verses all ask the Lord to “turn us again” and to “cause thy face to shine.”

As Christians, we are caught between two opposite ways.  On the one hand, our spirit within us loves the Lord and wants to follow Him.  On the other hand, our flesh is still weak and still wants to please itself and wants to follow the world.  As Christians, we sometimes find ourselves trying to turn back toward the world.  When we turn toward the world (or toward ourselves), we have to turn away from the Lord.

When we think about His face shining on us, we can use the analogue of the sun.  When we face toward the sun, it shines on our faces.  When we turn our back to the sun, it stops shining on us.  The sun never stops shining, but the way we are facing determines if it’s shining on us or not.  When we feel that the Lord’s face is not shining on us, it is not because of Him, it is because of us.

We need Him to turn us back toward Himself so that we can feel the light of His face to shine upon us.  Maybe the Lord felt the need to mention this principle three times in the same chapter because, as humans, we are so weak and fail so often.  We need the Lord to turn us and we need Him to turn us often.

Sparrows and People

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?  But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7

Sometimes in life, we might get the feeling that the Lord has forgotten about us.  That might be due to the fact that we are going through some trial or tribulation.  It might be due to the fact that we have sinned and have not confessed it to the Lord, thus breaking our fellowship with Him.  It might be due to the fact that we are like the prodigal son, far from home and far from the Father.  But whatever the reason, it can be a fearful thing to feel abandoned by the Lord.  We know that he has promised to “never leave us nor forsake us.”  But our hearts and minds can occasionally get feeble.

That is where this passage comes in.  In these two short verses, the Lord Jesus gives us some wonderful and comforting reassurance.  He reminds us that, as common as they are, He has not forgotten even one of the sparrows.  There have been millions of sparrows, a seemingly insignificant bird.  Yet God remembers every one of them.  A little brown bird flying around a forest, maybe never even seen by human eyes – but it is seen by God.  It lives and dies, falling to the ground – an insignificant event.  Yet God sees it, remembers it and never forgets it.

“…ye are of more value than many sparrows.”  If God sees, knows, remembers and cares about every sparrow that ever lived, imagine how much more He loves and cares about us.  To think that the God of Heaven even knows us is an amazing thought.  But just stop to think about how much He loves us.  Jesus is a wonderful Lord.

Cruel and Heartless

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.  Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.  And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.

Luke 11:44-46

Jesus did not have anything good to say about the scribes, Pharisees or lawyers.  Here, He speaks to the lawyers and gives them one of the many things that they done wrong.  He says in verse 46 that they have “lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.”

The lawyers were the type to put a burden on person and then never help with the burden.  They bring down the law on people, telling them that they are guilty without giving them hope.  They are good at pointing out problems, but not at all good at helping fix them.

We all know this type of person.  They are quick to point out flaws, mistakes and weaknesses.  They are masters at finding sin in the lives of others and pointing it out.  They are masters of finding even the slightest flaws in the lives of others and making people feel terrible about them.  But they offer no help and no hope.

These lawyers were cruel and heartless, needlessly burdening people and never lifting a finger to help them.  As this passage shows, that kind of attitude brought a serious rebuke from the Lord Jesus.  We need to quick to help and slow to condemn.  Or, we need to be the opposite of these lawyers.


And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went it, and sat down to meat.  And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.  And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.

Luke 11:37-39

The old Pharisees.  Even today, two thousand years later, their name is synonymous with hypocrisy.  Even people who are unfamiliar with the Bible know of the Pharisees and their hypocrisy.  Here, a Pharisee sees Jesus eat something without washing His hands and was shocked.  He “marvelled” at it.  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing – Jesus was eating with unwashed hands.

Jesus, of course, knew all about this Pharisee and gave him a scathing response: “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.”  That is a classic Pharisee: beautiful on the outside with nothing on the inside.  Complete hypocrisy.

Being human, we all have some level of hypocrisy in us.  When confronted with that hypocrisy, we have three options: two bad and one good.

Some people decide that since they are nice on the outside and filthy on the inside, that they should just forget trying to clean the inside.  Instead, they just make the outside as filthy as the inside.  That is clearly the wrong approach.

Other people just work even harder to maintain the nice whitewashed outside while completely ignoring the filthy inside.  They might try to deflect the criticism of their own hypocrisy by pointing out the minute flaws they find in others.  That was the approach of the Pharisees and it was clearly the wrong one.

The right approach is to keep the outside clean but clean up the inside to match.  When we find hypocrisy in our lives, we need to get it out by coming to the Lord for forgiveness and cleansing.

Jesus, I Come (Hymn)

Jesus, I Come
William Sleeper (1887)

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessèd will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy throne,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

I love the message of this hymn: whatever our problem, we need to come to Jesus.  No matter where we are coming from, we need to come to Jesus.  That is the answer to whatever problem we may have: come to Jesus.  Wherever we may find ourselves today, we need to make it a point to come to Jesus.

God Wants So Much More

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?  Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luke 11:11-13

Our image of God sometimes get out of whack.  Sadly, there are many people who think of God as some kind of ogre who is watching for people to mess up so He can punish them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  To the Christian, God is our Father.  But even Christians sometimes lose sight of this simple fact.

As our Father, God wants not only good things for us, but He wants what is absolutely the best thing for us.  Our earthly fathers would also say that they want what is best for us.  But, unlike our human fathers, our Heavenly Father knows with absolute certainty what is best for us.

This context of this passage is Jesus talking to the disciples about prayer.  He talks about asking our earthly fathers for things and their responses.  If we ask them for bread, or a fish, or an egg, are our fathers going to give us a stone, serpent, or scorpion?  Of course not.  Our earthly fathers are kind to us and desire to help us.  Why would we expect our Heavenly Father to be any different?  On the contrary, He desires to help us far more than our human fathers.

God wants what is best for us and He knows what is best for us.  Why are we afraid to ask Him to meet our needs?

Ask, Ask Again, Ask Some More

I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.  And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11:8-10

This whole passage of Scripture is all about prayer.  It starts with the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray, continues with Jesus giving them “the Lord’s Prayer,” and ends with a parable about prayer.  In the parable, a man needs bread and goes to his friend at midnight.  The friend has no desire to get out of bed, but because the man just keeps coming, he finally obliges and gets him the bread.  That is the idea of verse 8.

In verses 9 and 10, Jesus gives us a great promise that many people have claimed over the years.  He tells us to ask, seek and knock.  If we will do those things, He will cause us to receive, to find and to have the door opened.  The promise is right there.  God’s Word does not lie.

If we want to have prayers answered, we are first going to have to pray.  If we don’t find an immediate answer, we need to pray again.  And then we need to keep praying until we get an answer.  Sometimes that answer will be a “no.”  But if it is, we will know.  It sounds elementary, but we can’t receive answers to prayer if there are no prayers.  We have the promise of answers if we will only pray.  How are our prayers today?

Forgiveness: Ours and Others

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:4

This verse is a part of “the Lord’s Prayer.”  If we are going to follow this model of prayer that the Lord laid out for us, we are going to have to pray verse 14.  Verse 14 is a tough verse to pray.  We all like the “forgive us our sins…” part.  That part is easy to pray.  We all have sins and we all need them forgiven.  But the next part is much more difficult: “for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.”  Think of that – we to ask for forgiveness in part because we forgive those who are indebted to us.  That is a “hard saying.”

I understand (and am thankful for) the fact that our forgiveness is based on the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His finished work on the cross.  But what if our forgiveness was based entirely on our willingness to forgive others?  How much would we be forgiven?  Would we be forgiven at all.  It’s like the story Jesus told about servant who was forgiven of an impossible multi-billion dollar equivalent debt, only to beat another servant over a few dollars.

It is easy to want forgiveness for ourselves, but it is an entirely different thing to give it to others.  But if we are going to pray for our own forgiveness without being willing to forgive others, we will find those prayers to be ineffectual.  When you think about it, it would be highly presumptuous and even hypocritical to expect to be forgiven but no to be forgiving.  But that is how many Christians live: forgiven but not forgiving.  Let it not be so with us.

Our Daily Bread

Give us day by day our daily bread.

Luke 11:3

This verse is part of what we commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer.”  In the model prayer that the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples (and to us), He tells us to ask the Father to “Give us day by day our daily bread.”  It’s important for us to consider this matter of “our daily bread.”

It could be viewed as physical “daily bread” or it could be viewed as spiritual “daily bread.”  Either way, we need it and we need it every single day.  We can’t go for too long without physical bread and we can’t go for too long without spiritual bread.  We need them both on a very regular basis and it is the Lord Who can provide them for us.

In a spiritual sense, we desperately need “our daily bread.”  We need a daily dose of God’s Word.  We need it consistently.  Just as we could survive but not thrive by eating one meal a day, we can spiritually survive on a little of God’s Word each day, but we definitely aren’t going to thrive.  We eat physical food several times a day, and we eat it in a variety of ways.  We can “eat” our spiritual food in much the same way.

We can have a full, quiet “meal” in the morning, reading the Bible and meditating on it.  We can “grab a quick snack” of a few verses here and there throughout the day.  We can chew on things at other times, thinking about passages that we have read or memorized.  But the point is, we should be getting as much of the Scriptures every day as possible.

We need our daily bread and we need it every day (and multiple times a day).  We need to pray for it.

Teach Us To Pray

And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, on of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

Luke 11:1

I have always thought that this a strange verse.  For a long time, I wondered why the disciples needed to be taught to pray.  Prayer is simply talking to God.  If you can talk, you can pray.  In some cases, when our spirit groans within us, we don’t even have to actually talk to pray.  Why would these disciples, who had followed Jesus and had talked to Him day after day after day, need to ask the Lord to teach them to pray?

I think that there are a couple of things that we can learn from this question.  First, we need to taught to pray.  How often do we go through the day and encounter situation after situation in which we completely neglect prayer.  When we see something on TV or hear something on the radio about some natural disaster, how often do we immediately stop to pray?  How often do we pray for wisdom when confronted with a seemingly routine decision?  We need to learn to pray.

Second, we need to be taught how to pray.  So often, prayer degenerates into a simple laundry list of things that we need and/or want.  We sometimes get a view of prayer that is little different from a child’s Christmas list.  At that point, our prayers start to become self-centered and riddled with pride and greed.  We most definitely need to learn how to pray as we ought.

The Lord’s answer to this request is commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer” and is found in the next three verses.  It gives us a model for prayer and gives us several things that we can use in our own prayers.  But it is always a good thing to ask the Lord to teach us to pray.