Friday, August 30, 2013

A Study on The Lord's Prayer

Whenever I feel something on my heart for a few days, I know that's usually what the Lord wants me to blog about.  I don't come up with posts on my own, which is why I don't update this blog more often than I do.  I wait until I feel the nudge from the Lord telling me He wants me to share.

This time, it was regarding the Lord's Prayer.  It can be found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4.  In context, the Apostles wanted to know how to pray to God.  This was Yeshua's reply.  However rather than a passage of Scripture to religiously recite, Christ intended the Lord's Prayer as a template, a starting point, a springboard for discussion with God.

First, this prayer starts out with "Our Father."  I think we gloss over that part a little too quickly.  We're too "used" to thinking of God in this way.  But imagine the crowd in the first century hearing this prayer for the first time.  They knew God was THE Father of creation.  As Yeshua was the Son of God, surely God was HIS Father.  But quite deliberately, the Lord says "OUR Father."  He did not keep it exclusive and say "My Father."  He did not keep it impersonal by saying "The Father."  No, He went above and beyond, making God a personal Father to one and all.  "Our" includes Himself, which levels the playing field between the Son of God and the children of God.  The Father in Heaven is OUR Father.  Yeshua's and mine.

Christ did this all the time in the Gospels.  "...THY Father...will reward you." (Matt. 6:6)  Everywhere you look He says "My Father" and "your Father."  He is making a point that we are God's FAMILY.  Yes, He is the Father of creation, but He is also your Father.  A very important distinction.  Also, Christ is driving the point home that He Himself is our Brother.

"Which art in Heaven" is the next line.  Again, this is something we take for granted.  Yes, God is in Heaven, but He can hear you pray on earth.  He is omnipresent, and He knows that even now you're reading this blog.  He even led you here so you would read it.  Since we know that God is "Our Father", we now know where His Throne is located - in Heaven.  We know He's in another realm, because He's not among the "heavens" of the stars.  And yet, He can still hear this prayer.  Amazing.

Reminding us where God is seated naturally gives us a hunger to go there ourselves.  God is in Heaven.  I love God.  Therefore, I want to live in Heaven too.  But we also know that if God is in Heaven, He's not within that golden calf.  He's not made of wood, sitting upon that altar.  Reminding us that God is in Heaven tells us He is NOT a god fashioned by human hands.  He is NOT an idol.  He is elsewhere. He is in Heaven.

"Hallowed be Thy name" follows, and here, after we've established that God is our personal Father, living in Heaven, we come to the most important attribute about Him -- His name is holy.  Every promise in Scripture is made against the worth and merit of God's name - Yahweh.  If God promised it for His name's sake, it comes to pass.  When God makes a promise and backs it up with His name, He follows through on it.  He cannot defile His holy name.  His integrity and infallibility are on the line.  His majesty and His glory would come into question.  It is impossible for God to lie.  Everything that makes God GOD is bound within His name.  It is impossible for God to turn back on His Word.  The Word of the Lord stands forever.  And the name of God is the Name above all names.

Authority is connected with a name.  If we come in the name of the king, we have the king's authority.  The same goes for "name-dropping".  When you say you know so-in-so, you're essentially borrowing their glory.  People listen to you out of respect for so-in-so's name.   You become "somebody" by being associated with so-in-so.  Now think about God.  He's the highest Authority in the universe.  There is none higher.  Think of all the authority in THAT Name.  There is none like the name of Yahweh.  That is why it is holy.  That is also why it is so grievous when one takes the Lord's name in vain.  This is more than mere cussing, it is claiming to be a believer, yet defiling God's name by refusing to obey His Authority.  Remembering the holiness of God's name helps us to believe on His promises and respect His Law.  It keeps our fickle hearts in check and reminds us that God is not a man.

In the previous lines, we were just told God reigns in Heaven, yet here, we see "Your Kingdom come".  What does that mean, exactly?  Most people believe it is referring to Messiah's Kingdom, the Millennium which will happen after the Tribulation.  And it is.  However, as Scripture has proven to me many times, it is layered, and doesn't always have one specific meaning.

Notice how this text seems to flow as one thought - "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."  God's Kingdom "comes" when His will is done on earth.  His will is already done in Heaven, which is obviously His Kingdom, therefore, His spiritual Kingdom on earth is the same idea - doing God's will in the flesh just as they do in the Spirit.  This is why Yeshua told us the Kingdom of God was within us (Luke 17:21).  We have the choice to obey Him - or not to obey Him.  That power of free will is within us.  And when we freely do God's will, His Kingdom is come upon us.  There are many Scriptures to support this idea: John 15:14, 1 John 2:17, 1 John 5:14.

But this isn't just for God's will to be done on earth in a blanket sense.  Because Christ is teaching us to pray, this passage is telling us to PRAY God's will.  When we pray God's will, we bring His Kingdom to earth, just as it is in Heaven.  Where can you find God's will?  In God's Word.

Next, Christ tells us, "Give us this day our daily bread."  Again, as with Scripture and it's layers, this passage means both sustenance in the natural and sustenance in the spiritual.  We ask God, not only to provide our physical needs, but our spiritual needs as well.  We are leaky vessels.  What we ask God for today is not sufficient for tomorrow.  Therefore, we pray for our bread DAILY.  Yeshua called Himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).  Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).  Therefore, praying for our daily bread is reminding us that we must pray to God every single day, not just when it suits us.  Not just when we have a problem.  But every day.  We are spiritual beings just as we are physical beings, and as such, our soul hungers daily as well.  Do not starve it.

"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."  If we expect God to forgive our sins, we must also forgive the sins committed against us by our fellow man.  If you hold grudges, demand revenge, or refuse to give mercy, God is unlikely to forgive you.  One cannot profess to believe in Christ, daily made in His image, if we hate someone and do not forgive them.  Did Christ ever live like that?  No.  Forgiveness isn't allowing someone to use you as their doormat, but rather, letting go of the resentment in your heart so that you can move on.  You don't have to be their friend or have them in your life, but forgiving them ultimately helps you more than it helps them.  Hatred and bitterness only serve to harm yourself.  Forgive those who trespass against you, and let vengeance belong to the Lord (Romans 12:19).

"And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil" -  The word for "temptation" in this text is also the Greek word for "trial".  This is asking the Lord to deliver us from our trials and our temptations -- deliver us from the snares of the evil one.  Teach us, Lord, how to do this.  How did Christ do it in the wilderness?  By quoting Scripture.  Truly, Scripture is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  When we're living in the Kingdom of God by praying and obeying His will, we will not often fall into temptation.  But if we ever do, we can pray for God to deliver us from its evil.  This passage could also mean, "Don't leave us in our sins, but give us Your salvation."  This was done, by Yeshua on Calvary.

And then we come to the crescendo of this little prayer: "For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever."  I think we gloss over this line a little too fast as well.  Usually, it's recited as the closing of the prayer, kind of like "Sincerely yours" at the bottom of a letter.  But let's break it down and examine it.

To God belongs the Kingdom.  What Kingdom?  Heaven, of course.  The spiritual realm.  The universe.  Earth.  Our hearts.  His will.  God thought of it, God created it, and through Christ's purchase on the cross, legally inherited it.  Every kingdom that's ever existed is a sub-kingdom of THE Kingdom, ruled and reigned by God Almighty.  This drives home the fact that not only is God our personal Father, He is also the King of kings.  How mind-blowing is that?!  The One Who breathed the stars into existence also extends to us His mercy and grace.  The One Who imagined whales and grass and the color blue wants to be our One True Love.

And not only is He a King, but He has the Power.  He is omnipotent, able to do anything by His will alone.

He also has the Glory, as no one is like Him.  He is omniscient.  He knows it all because He created it all.

The ending of the Lord's Prayer was to remind us of God's magnificence.  Too often we belittle God and His wonder.  We anthropomorphize Him.  We bring Him down to our level.  We make Him into our image.  This must not be done.  In order to have a proper fear of Yahweh, Lord of Hosts, we must bring to remembrance His excellence and remind ourselves how glorious is our God.

Let us recap:

Whose is the Kingdom?  God's.
Whose is the Power?  God's.
Whose is the Glory?  God's.

For how long?

And ever.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Prayer Project - a New Book, Coming Soon!

In case you didn't know, I have been furiously writing a book behind the scenes called The Prayer Project.  It is NOT out yet, but it will be very soon.  I wanted to show off my new cover (yay!) that the Lord provided through prayer (double yay!) for FREE (triple YAY!).  This book will be published through Amazon, and should be available through both eBook and print.  It's not very long, clocking in at about 100 pages, so it's an easy read.  But it is a project very close to my heart, and I invite my readers to PRAY for it.

Ever since I began writing this book, my friends on Facebook have been praying for the content, for myself, for the cover, and even for the future readers.  Well, the content has been decided, the book has been written, the cover completed, and now, people to PRAY for the readers to be touched by God and rekindle their prayer lives!

Here's the blurb:

Prayer is, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood practices in Christianity. Believers from all walks of life admit to praying, and yet are disillusioned with God, disillusioned with prayer, and wonder if He actually hears them. Some have never prayed outside of church, while others have only prayed before a meal. Many have even said that prayer is useless.

However the problem doesn't lie in prayer itself, but in how we pray.  Churches, unfortunately, don't often teach on what prayer is, why we should pray, and how it is done.  It is an unfortunate truth that knowledge of prayer is taken for granted, and often the believer is left on their own to figure it out.  This book endeavors to teach the basics of how we should approach the Throne of God, and what it truly means to pray for His will to be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

I will keep you posted when it is finally published!  \O/


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Study of Mary of Bethany

I have a heroine in the Bible, and that's Mary of Bethany. She is Lazarus' & Martha's sister. She's my "heroine", because I feel like I have a lot in common with her. We see her in Luke 10:38-42, when she's sitting at our Lord's feet and Martha is slaving away in the kitchen. Of course, Martha comes in wanting the Lord to rebuke her sister, when *she* is the one who ends up getting rebuked. I've always been somewhat of a dreamer, content to sit at the Lord's feet rather than slave away in the kitchen (or any other part of the house).

But as I was reading Scripture out of the book of John, I got a little insight that I'd never thought about before. It seemed to add another layer to her story, and brought it alive to me. I don't know if it was a revelation by the Spirit, or just my writer's heart "filling in the gaps", but just in case, use your discernment with my interpretation of her story.

When we first meet her, we realize that her place at Yeshua's feet is likely controversial. Even though He's sitting in her home, she's in a place usually reserved for disciples, and disciples of Rabbis in those days were men. But Christ lets her sit there and no one puts up a fuss.

I think Mary truly believed Christ was the Messiah. She (seemed) to be a dreamer, willing to forsake cooking (and likely cleaning) to sit at Yeshua's feet and learn of Him.

The siblings lived together, and I have always taken it to mean the women were never married and Lazarus took care of them. I've always viewed Martha as the older, more practical sister. Perhaps she'd been widowed. But because Mary (later in the story) has a flask of expensive perfume, I don't think she was ever married, as likely that was her dowry.

Sitting so close to Christ, it is obvious she greatly admired Him. Maybe even had a crush? Who knows what stars may have been before her eyes?

But in John 11, when Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus gets sick, they know Yeshua will come -- He's their good friend, and He heals the sick. He's even close by. He will come.

But for Christ's own purpose, He doesn't come "in time", and when He does come, Lazarus has been dead four days. We then see it is Martha who greets the Lord before He enters town. Mary does not. I've heard commentary that Martha is the more aggressive sister, and that Mary didn't come until Yeshua called to her. But... what if she was mad at Him?

She sat at His feet, she'd believed His words. She thought He was the Messiah, surely He would have known how poor her brother's health had suddenly become. But He hadn't come. Her heart was broken, not only because her brother died, but because the man she adored hadn't come through for her.

Likely with the death of their brother, the women were spun into a panic, wondering what they were going to do now? Mary had a flask of very expensive perfume. We learn (later in the story from Judas) that the perfume was worth a YEAR'S wage. It's likely the women, with no steady income now that Lazarus is dead, would have to sell the bottle, leaving Mary no dowry and no "wealth" with which to start a family.
What was the hope of her young life now? She'd have to sell her dowry to survive, and maybe no man would want her because she'd have nothing to give him.

Christ calls to her, and Martha goes to tell her. Mary doesn't hesitate -- she loves Yeshua after all -- and runs to meet Him, but only after He calls her. Maybe He does care. Maybe He will mourn with her. Maybe He will take care of her. Perhaps her future lies with Him.

But one look at Him and she collapses at His feet -- and here's where my heart broke in the story -- Christ becomes angry and troubled all of a sudden. Why? He knows Lazarus is dead -- He's God first of all, and Martha told Him second of all. But why was Mary's response to Him, weeping at His feet, that moved Him to act?

I believe He saw her heart -- and in her heart, where there once had been lofty dreams of Messiah, was now nothing but shards. Her faith was at an impasse. She knew He was the Messiah, but she felt betrayed and hurt that He hadn't come in time, that He thought less of her, that her hopes and dreams weren't important to Him.

I believe that is why He was overcome with emotion. He read her heart and decided to show her that wasn't the case at all. He had planned on raising Lazarus, that much is obvious, but now He was determined not only to resurrect His friend, but this woman's faith in Him as well.

When Lazarus was raised, Mary finally saw once and for all the power Christ had, and I believe that is the moment she believed He was God incarnate. This realization so overwhelmed her, that it drove her to do another shocking act but a few days later.

In John 12, we have the now-famous scene of Mary of Bethany anointing Christ's feet -- with the very same bottle of perfume that likely, she and Martha had been planning on selling after their brother's death. What had seemed hopeless a few days before, no future without her brother, no wealth for a family of her own, was now full of nothing BUT hope.

After the resurrection of her brother, Mary finally understood that in Christ, her future is secure. Material wealth no longer mattered, and He was the only One solely worthy of it all.

So she anointed Him with the perfume, which was everything she had to sacrifice, giving Christ the one (and only) anointing for His burial that He ever received. Perhaps it was an act of worship. Perhaps it was an act of repentance for doubting Him. Perhaps it was a sacrifice of praise. Perhaps it was done out of pure love. was all of the above.

But one thing was sure... Christ read her heart again, and understood her act for exactly what it was. She'd made her choice, and her choice was Him. She loved Him with everything inside of her, and needed to show Him. She did it the only way she knew how, not only anointing Him for His burial, but also accepting Him as her Bridegroom, as she gave Him her dowry.

No other earthly man would do. Her dowry was now unimportant. She gave herself 100% to Christ. It makes me tear up just thinking about it. Her story with Him is one of the greatest love stories in the Bible -- and it's all of our stories. He loves all of us in this way, and allows us to be so personal with Him. His heart burns when we are angry, hurt, disappointed... And He longs to make things right. He longs to be our One-and-Only.

I cannot wait to meet Mary of Bethany in Glory. I think we'd have a lot to talk about. The Lord loved her so much. He loves ME so much.

But that day so long ago when Lazarus came forth, Christ became Mary's Hero, her Knight in Shining Armor, Her Lion of Judah, Her Beloved. From sitting at His feet, she knew His mission and what He'd come to do. But in that moment, she betrothed herself to Him.

I can't think of a single act of unselfish love in all the Gospels that likely touched Him more than that.

Interestingly enough, I found a parallel verse that seems to refer to Mary's devotion in Song of Solomon.  Considering my studies of Songs and Proverbs, this deeply intrigued me.  Mary's perfume was spikenard.

John 12:1-3 says:

Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

The parallel verse in Songs 1:12 says:

While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

I honestly believe this little verse in Songs is a prophecy of Mary's act, as the spikenard isn't the king's perfume, but "my" spikenard, meaning the spouse, the lily, the dove.  It doesn't specifically mention anointing the king with the perfume, but it does mention the smell, which John also records, while the king reclines at the table.  Amazing!

This parallel means Mary of Bethany is a type of the Church, as Song of Solomon is allegory between the Bridegroom and His Bride.  We should all take a lesson from her and betroth ourselves to Christ with every ounce of our devotion.

Praise the Lord.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Give Me Thine Heart - Devotional - Proverbs 23:26

“My son, give me thine heart and let thine eyes observe my ways.”
~~Proverbs 23:26

“My son…”

We begin this text with an entreaty to the offspring of the writer. With these two words, we can glean a depth of meaning. “My”, meaning, my own, not someone else’s child, but mine. Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. Not my neighbor, nor my friend, but my son. He who shall carry on after I am gone. He who bears my features as well as my name.

“…give me thine heart…”

What parent doesn’t wish for their children to love them? We shelter them, feed them, clothe them, and love them for no other reason than simply because they belong to us. Our love for them isn’t earned and it is not feigned, but rather, they learn to love us because we first loved them. A parent’s job is to teach their children how to love, how to share, how to be kind, and how to be generous toward others. Because we have shown them our love, we too wish to be loved of our children.

“…and let thine eyes observe my ways.”

Look! See! Watch me. As I am, so shall you be. As I give, you give likewise. As I behave, you do the same. As I love, you love as well. As I serve God, so too, should you. Take heed at my actions and mimic them yourself until you know what I know, until you stand where I stand. My son, do as I do.

In meditating on this text, we see it speaks of a parent teaching their son the way in which he should go. But dig a little deeper, and we see the Father Himself beckoning us closer.

“My son…”

God calls us as His sons and daughters, not as refugees, not as castaways, but as members of His family, bought and paid for by the blood of Calvary. He became flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone so that we could become spirit of His Spirit. Higher than the Heavenly host, we mere humans, made in His image, are now “sons” of the Most High God, bearing the very Name and likeness of the King of kings Himself.

“…give Me thine heart…”

God longs for us to truly love Him. It is the First Great Commandment. Our hearts should beat for only Him. Our souls should long for His Living Water. Our minds should meditate on His Law both day and night, and our strength should be found in Him alone. Because He first loved us and proved it by sending His Son to die in our stead, we should love Him in return. We should stand in utter awe at the Glory of the cross, where the beam of God's love crossed the beam of God's justice, privileging us to enter His Holy of holies through the torn veil of our Savior, into His manifest presence.

“…and let thine eyes observe My ways.”

In this, we have a merciful Father. We are not left wanting for an example to live by. Like any loving Parent, Yahweh Elohim gave us the ultimate example of how we should live, how we should love, and how we should worship and adore Him. Look to Christ, believer. Observe His ways. His ways are higher than ours, but we can still strive toward them. God is Light; in Him, there is no darkness at all. Anyone who claims to know Him should walk as Yeshua walked. God wants to take your hand. He wants to look into your eyes and say to you, “My son, My daughter, take heed at My actions and mimic them yourself until you know what I know, until you stand where I stand. My precious child, look! See! Do as I do.”