Wednesday, 23 February 2011

'For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory.'

What a finish to this great prayer, addressed to, not only the Christian's heavenly Father but also the real and one and only Master of the Universe.These words truly acknowledge the source of all things:'For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory!' It is not mine but Thine.It is not my Kingdom, or my power or my glory: or Billy Graham's or Brian McLaren's, or the Pope's,or the Archbishop's Kingdom, or the Kingdom of any of the great religious, political or intellectual people who have ever lived on this planet.

Neither is it Satan's, though he likes to think it is, or at least he tries to make people believe it through his bullying and deceptive ways. Though still powerful, like a wounded lion, he is still a defeated enemy. Jesus told his disciples :'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.'If we truly fear God all our other fears will disappear.

There is probably nothing sadder than seeing a church or one of God's own people build their own little Kingdom and live for their own glory.That church or man is deceived though they don't realise it.These words in the Lord's prayer teach us a great lesson and give us proper focus, and if we mean them will save us from such a sad predicament as building our own little kingdom, built with wood, hay and stubble - on a foundation of sand. Rather let us seek His Kingdom, His power, His glory and we'll get all we need in life thrown in.

Jesus, the Conqueror, reigns,
In glorious strength arrayed,
His kingdom over all maintains,
And bids the earth be glad.
Ye sons of men, rejoice
In Jesus' mighty love,
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice
To Him who rules above.

Extol His kingly power,
Kiss the exalted Son,
Who died, and lives, to die no more,
High on His Father's throne;
Our Advocate with God,
He undertakes our cause,
And spreads through all the earth abroad
The victory of His cross.

That bloody banner see,
And in your Captain's sight,
Fight the good fight of faith with me,
My fellow soldiers, fight!
In mighty phalanx joined,
To battle all proceed;
Armed with the unconquerable mind
Which was in Christ your Head.

Urge on your rapid course,
Ye blood besprinkled bands;
The heavenly kingdom suffers force,
'Tis seized by violent hands;
See there the starry crown
That glitters through the skies!
Satan, the world, and sin, tread down,
And take the glorious prize.

Through much distress and pain,
Through many a conflict here,
Through blood, ye must the entrance gain;
Yet, O disdain to fear!
Courage! your Captain cries,
Who all your toil foreknew
Toil ye shall have; yet all despise,
I have o'ercome for you.

The world cannot withstand
Its ancient conqueror,
The world must sink beneath
The hand which arms us for the war;
This is the victory!
Before our faith they fall;
Jesus hath died for you and me;
Believe, and conquer all!

Charles Wesley

Saturday, 19 February 2011

'But Deliver Us from Evil'

All Christians must realise that they are in a battle and have an enemy (also known as the evil one, Satan or the devil) to war against. Thank God that Christ is stronger than our enemy and even though he does his worst against us, as Paul declares,‘I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’(Romans 8).

We also have the armour of God that we must put on to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks which he will surely bring against us ( Ephes.6). Christ here gives us a general prayer to pray to our Father to deliver us from evil and by praying it in faith and sincerity we can be assured that he will hear our cry and work out his purposes in our life.Other key verses that promise deliverance are found in Acts and Joel where it states that 'he who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (delivered)'.

Why are we attacked by Satan? There are at least two reasons. The first reason is that we were made in the image of God and Satan hates us for that, even more so if we have been adopted into his family. The second reason is that if we have already battled in prayer, asking that God's Kingdom and will would be done on earth it would mean that Satan's kingdom would be getting smaller and his will thwarted. We have therefore made ourselves his enemies by combating against him and he will certainly want to attack us in order to stop us! Where will he attack us? He is a dirty fighter who knows every trick in the business and will attack us where we are weakest and also when we are weakest!He will attack us with doubts and fears and may even attack us physically through other people, as Christ himself warns his disciples he comes to 'kill,steal and destroy' John 10.10. But like Job we must be patient and hold unto our trust in God's faithfulness and goodness and through this we are assured of victory.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Edward Mote

Workman of God! O lose not heart,
But learn what God is like;
And in the darkest battlefield
Thou shalt know where to strike.

Thrice blest is he to whom is giv’n
The instinct that can tell
That God is on the field, when He
Is most invisible.

Blest too is he who can divine
Where real right doth lie,
And dares to take the side that seems
Wrong to man’s blindfold eye.

Then learn to scorn the praise of men,
And learn to lose with God;
For Jesus won the world through shame,
And beckons thee His road.

For right is right, since God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.


Monday, 14 February 2011

'Lead us not into Temptation'

It might seem more sense to change this to 'let me not be led into temptation' because Scripture clearly states:
'When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone', otherwise Scripture would be contradicting itself.
The theologian Jim Packer ( author of ‘Knowing God’) however makes some insightful comments regarding this. The word ‘temptation’ may also be used to mean ‘test’ or ‘trial’. He uses the analogy of the driving test which has been instituted to show that the driver can do everything right and in that regard is a ‘temptation’ of sorts. Packer goes on ‘In God’s programme for the spiritual education and growth of Christians, the same applies. God does and must test us regularly , to prove what is in us and to show how far we have got….Thus he ‘‘tested’’ Abraham (RSV “tempt” AV “prove” ) by telling him to sacrifice Isaac and after the test promised him great blessing “because you have obeyed my voice”. (Gen 22)
Why should we then pray to God that we should not be tempted or tested? Packer notes three reasons
1. When God tests us for our good Satan seeks to exploit the situation for our harm. c.p.Satan with Jesus in the wilderness.
2.Temptation is no picnic and ‘no sane Christian can do no other than shrink from them. For both reasons Jesus was as right to start his prayer in Gethsemane with “Father, remove this cup” as he was to end it with “yet not my will but yours be done.”
3. Our track record of weakness, stupidity, vulnerability should make us humble enough to cry out “Lord if be possible, please no temptation.’ Packer goes on ‘only a fool will make it his preference .

Nevertheless we have the promise that ‘no temptation has overtaken us that is not common to man, but with the temptation God will provide a way of escape that we will be able to endure it.’ (2 Cor.). We may also resist the devil and he will flee from us while at the same time we should also ‘watch and pray lest we enter temptation’. The armour of God (Ephes. 6) has also been give to us to carefully put on in order to protect ourselves from the attacks of the evil. One thing that is for certain is that we should recognise is that we are no match for Satan in our own strength. He is the dirtiest, meanest fighter imaginable who will use all the tricks he has come up with since mankind was created. Christ fully wipped Satan in the wilderness, in Gethsemane and on the cross and it is only in Christ that we can defeat him.

The hymn by Martin Luther and video clip below I have posted before and feel it is appropriate again to post it in the context of this present discussion.

A safe stronghold our God is still,
A trusty shield and weapon;
He’ll help us clear from all the ill
That hath us now o’ertaken.
The ancient prince of hell
Hath risen with purpose fell;
Strong mail of craft and power
He weareth in this hour;
On earth is not his fellow.

With force of arms we nothing can,
Full soon were we down-ridden;
But for us fights the proper Man,
Whom God Himself hath bidden.
Ask ye, who is this same?
Christ Jesus is His Name,
The Lord Sabaoth’s Son;
He, and no other one,
Shall conquer in the battle.

And were this world all devils o’er,
And watching to devour us,
We lay it not to heart so sore;
Not they can overpower us.
And let the prince of ill
Look grim as e’er he will,
He harms us not a whit;
For why? — his doom is writ;
A word shall quickly slay him.

God’s Word, for all their craft and force,
One moment will not linger,
But, spite of hell, shall have its course;
Tis written by His finger.
And though they take our life,
Goods, honor, children, wife,
Yet is their profit small;
These things shall vanish all:
The City of God remaineth!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'

To be honest I never use the word trespasses here,instead I would use the word sins which has the same meaning.Having already spoken to God as Father,worshipped him as Lord of all,asked that his kingdom and will would be done on earth and requested that he would provide for our needs, we now can, on the authority of Jesus who told us to pray this prayer, ask him that our sins be forgiven.Once we have asked we can be assured that he will forgive us. What a joy that is! The richest or most famous person on earth for all their glory, without Christ can not know the joy of knowing their sins forgiven.How much do you think they would have to pay to know that? In fact no amount of money could pay the price for our sins,as the children's hymn makes clear:

'There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, he ( Christ) only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.'

But does God also forget- or does He always remember our sins so when we go to pray we still feel guilty and ashamed? Psalm 103 declares: 'As far as the East lies from the West so far has he removed our transgressions form us.' That's pretty far! God again says in Isaiah 44:'I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist' and the prophet Micah also states:'He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.'

Before I could drive a car I used to love sitting in the passenger's seat and look out at the sea as we would travel along a coast road. It brought a real sense of calm to my heart and I could then visualise all my sins in the depths of the Irish Sea or the Atlantic Ocean - never to be brought up again.I was forgiven by God and he wasn't going to bring them out to haunt me.It you don't live near the sea you might like to click on the photo above to make it larger then imagine your sins being cast by God into the depths of the sea.

There is an apocryphal story of a woman who lived in the south of Ireland who claimed to have had visions of Jesus. The Bishop got to hear of this and told her that the next time she had a vision of Jesus she was to ask him to tell her what sins the Bishop had confessed at his last Confession.Sure enough she had another vision and she requested that the Bishop come round to her house. He then asked her to tell him what Jesus had said when she asked him what sins the Bishop had last confessed. She replied: 'He said:"I don't remember".' So it is, as this story makes clear, God both forgives and forgets.

The Rev. William Still of Aberdeen was always concerned that many sincere Christians became too preoccupied with their past sins instead of focusing on their new life in Christ.In exposing the folly of this he gave the example of the a man who would normally keep himself clean and tidy but while gardening got his hands covered in muck. When he went inside he went straight to the tap and with soap and water washed the muck away.Did he then become preoccupied with the dirt on his hands and bemoan the fact his hands had been dirty? Of course not! And neither should we once we have asked for forgiveness: our sins like the dirt have been washed way and should be forgotten.

Having been forgiven so much it is our obligation then to forgive the sins of others as he has forgiven us.Stephen,like his Master before him, forgave those who stoned him to death, and from that Saul was later to become the great apostle Paul.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

'Give us this day our daily bread'

Here we are encouraged to ask our heavenly Father for our daily bread or daily necessities. These would include such things as our food,health, shelter, job etc.All good gifts come from God and we must look to him only for them and acknowledge our daily dependence on him.It is true that God is not only concerned about our spiritual well being but also our physical one.Sadly, extreme ascetics in order to try to get closer to God saw the physical body and natural things as evil. J.I.Packer calls such thinking hypo-spirituality and 'an unspiritual ego trip'.On the other hand an example of how concerned Jesus was about man's basic needs was seen when he fed the 5000 and 4000 during his earthly ministry.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

'Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be down on earth as it is in heaven.'

In this petition our Lord teaches us to become intercessors as we pray for his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth.Sometimes we hear ministers telling us to become specific in our prayers. Here Jesus teaches us to become almost childlike in our prayers. For instance we would smile if we hear a child pray:'Bless everyone in the world because we know you love everyone.'

This prayer encourages us to bring big petitions to God such as : 'Let your Kingdom come in Iran and Iraq' or 'Let your will be done in this country!'We are encouraged to pray as children because we are praying to our Father.

But as we think about this petition: to pray for his Kingdom and his will to come on earth it also implies that his kingdom would have to come in my life, my family, my street, my country, my continent. It therefore leaves nothing and no one out at all- everything is covered, with nothing too great that it can not be asked for. It is up to our Father to decide whether to act upon it.Jesus personified the Man who had fully the reign and will of God in his life and so desires that we as children of God should have the same.

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For his grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt.

Lord, I come to thee for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There thy blood-bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign.

While I am a pilgrim here,
Let thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey's end.

John Newton