Parables On Prayer

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Luke 18:1-8

Whether legal or not, kids have been praying in school for as long as anyone can remember. We prayed that the school would burn down the night before the math exams. We prayed the teacher would break her leg on the way to our house to talk to Mom. We prayed that dad would not notice the D on our report card. We prayed the music teacher would not ask us to sing the scale. We prayed the most popular classmate would ask us to the prom. We prayed the bus carrying the rival team would go into the ditch. We prayed for good marks so we could go to summer camp. We prayed for laryngitis so we would not have to dress like a tree and recite that silly Arbor Day poem. Oh, yes, we prayed in school.

A number of years ago while on vacation we visited a church that had a rather long prayer list. They thought it would be helpful to identify the reason for each one being on the list. In this way people could pray for specific needs and problems, rather than praying in vague generalities. There were all the usual things: hospitalized, bereaved, facing surgery. But beside the name of one man on the list was written “pain in the neck.” Most churches have a member or two who deserves that description, but few put it in print! And it does seem sometimes that only prayer can cure that affliction.

Luke starts off this section with the words, “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” This is an important opening for us. We know the story comes from Jesus. We know the story is for His disciples. We know the point of the lesson – pray and not give up. A parable is a short, simple story designed to communicate a spiritual truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. It is usually a figure of speech in which truth is illustrated by a comparison or example drawn from everyday experiences. A parable is often no more than figurative language in the form of a story to illustrate a particular truth. The Greek word for parable literally means “a laying by the side of” or “a casting alongside,” thus “a comparison or likeness.”

What is needed for life today is not swift legs for the “rat race” but a listening, prayerful heart for every Christian. In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. The beauty of a parable was that the story didn’t necessarily have to be true (in other words, it could have been made up). But it always conveyed a truth for the listener. Now, in this story, the judge could have been a Roman who was neither a believer or a man who carried about the people he served.

And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.’ Odd, we are never told what the issue is that the woman wants settled. We make the assumption that since she demands “justice” she is in the right. But “justice” is really moot in this story. The moral is clearly “persistence.” For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. Jesus ends the parable with the question, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

God’s part is up to God. I have nothing to do with that. But my part is to assume that God is already at work, even if I cannot discern it, for God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. My role is to start out, keep on going, never give up, and see what happens.

Yogi Berra, former New York Yankees baseball player, addressed the graduates at Montclair State University: First, never give up, because it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Second, when you come to a fork in the road, take it. Third, don’t always follow the crowd. Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
Fourth, stay alert. You can observe a lot just by watching. Fifth, and last, remember that whatever you do in your life, 90 percent of it is mental. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to run our race with perseverance and never give up. Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich, records that he studied 500 of the wealthiest men in the world and concluded that all wealthy men are persistent. When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems you can not hold on a minute longer, never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. I have a friend who took his little 6-year-old boy fishing with him one day. They put out the line and then went up to the cabin. After an hour, they went back down to the river to see if they had caught anything. Sure enough, there were several fish on the line. The boy said, “I knew there would be, Daddy.” The father asked, “How did you know?” He replied, “Because I prayed about it.” So they baited the hooks again and put out the line and went back to the cabin for supper. Afterward, they went back to the river; again, there were fish on the line. The boy said, “I knew it.” The father said, “How?” “I prayed again.” So they put the line back into the river and went to the cabin. Before bedtime, they went down again. This time there were no fish. The child said, “I knew there wouldn’t be” and the father asked, “How did you know?” The boy said, “Because I didn’t pray this time.” The father asked, “And why didn’t you pray?” And the boy said, “Because I remembered that we forgot to bait the hooks.”

James writes, You want something but don’t get it. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (4:1) Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:16-18

Predestined Of God

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Romans 8:28-30

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son….We hear the word “predestined” thrown around a great deal. The most difficult thing in understanding predestination is in understanding God.
God who is everywhere at the same time. How can you be everywhere at the same time, parents would like to know? God is all knowing. God knows everything, the past, the present and the future. God knows what we do, what we are thinking, everything.

Now, those abilities of God puts God in a unique position, to “predestine.”
It doesn’t mean that God selects or chooses everything for us. God simply knows what our choice will be. You and I make the choice, we choose, God merely knows what that choice will be before we are even born.

Think about it for one moment, John tells us in the Book of Revelation, “and the Book was open.” We refer to that Book as the “Lambs Book of Life.” All of the names of those who are saved are written in that Book. The names are already written! How can that be? Because God is God.

Never misunderstand words like “elect” or “chosen” for predestine. God chose the children of Israel to be evangelist to the world. They thought that it was exclusive. Any Church that becomes exclusive dies and is replaced by God. The use of the word “elect” is used to refer to God’s people, those who have accepted Him. Never let us forget that God first chose us. Jesus said, (John 15:16) You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. According to the Scriptures election is not of works but of grace.

“It is a good thing that God chose me before I was born, because he surely would not have afterwards!” Election is God’s deciding who gets on the plane bound for heaven. Predestination is his charting the route the plane will take, the schedule, the accommodations both during and after the flight, and each passenger’s safety. With God as the pilot of the plane and the plane itself, all who board the plane make it to heaven. Predestination means God himself makes sure the elect actually board the plane. Their response of faith in Christ is like checking in at the gate with a boarding pass. The gospel call, in contrast, is like advertising for the trip. The church is commissioned to get the word to the whole world. Unfortunately most people treat God’s free offer as “junk mail” and throw it in the trash. However, those whom God has elected to salvation he also moves to accept his free offer. Many are called, but few are chosen. Yet all who are chosen are predestined to end up in heaven.

God knowing the future allows us a special friend. Sometimes God prepares us for what is to come our way. Sometimes things happen and we wonder, was that just for me – it was.

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

The Mysterious Chemistry of Parental Love

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Matthew 7:9-12

A woman and her four-year-old son where at church. Her son yells out, “Mommy I have to go potty.” She says, “Shhhh, we don’t say that. We say ‘I have to whisper’.” Her son says, “Okay.” The very next week the little boy and his father where at church. His son leans over and says, “Daddy, I have to whisper.” His dad says, “Just whisper in my ear.”

Hagar the Horrible, that intrepid Viking from the comics, is talking to his buddy: “When MY son grows up I want him to have all the things I never had!” Just then Hagar’s wife, Helga, interrupts and says, “Like common sense,
good table manners, frequent baths, clean underwear, a sunny disposition…”

An elderly man in Florida calls his son in New York one November day. The father says to the son, “I hate to tell you, but we’ve got some troubles here in the house. Your mother and I can’t stand each other anymore, and we’re getting a divorce. I’ve had it! I want to live out the rest of my years in peace.
I’m telling you now, so you and your sister won’t go into shock later when I move out.” He hangs up, and the son immediately calls his sister in the Hamptons and tells her the news. The sister says, “I’ll handle this.” She calls Florida and says to her father, “Don’t do ANYTHING until we get there!
We’ll be there Wednesday night.” The father agrees, “All right.” He hangs up the phone and calls out to his wife, “Okay, they’re coming for Thanksgiving.
Now, what are we going to tell them for Christmas?”

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, “What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. “Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.” “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” “Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” “Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” “Love is hugging. Love is kissing. Love is saying no.” “Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” As Paul writes, And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13)

There are two lasting gifts we give to our children. The first gift is the gift of having roots. A man named Manoah, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, no razor may be used on his head.” The woman said he looked like an angel of God, very awesome. Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: “O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again….(Judg 13:2) The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) Encouragement in a family is like a peanut butter sandwich–the more you spread, the better the sandwich sticks together. We do not develop habits of genuine love automatically. We learn by watching effective role models – most specifically by observing how our parents express love for each other day in and day out.” Eli was a high priest with whom the prophet Samuel lived. Eli was a deeply pious man whose service to the Lord was unblemished. However, he was a lax father who had no control over his two sons, Phinehas and Hophni. Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Prov 22:6) We learn our faith because parents teach the faith. We learn our values because parents live and teach the values. We learn how to be a human being by watching our parents be human.

The second gift is the gift of wings. To give a child wings means loving that child enough to discipline the child. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.(Prov 13:24) The Bible is filled with stories of God disciplining His children. …because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12:6) The word disciple comes out of the word discipline. Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. (Prov 29:17) Discipline helps the child to learn the boundaries of life. To give a child wings means teaching that child that they are accountable to the world and to God. In the Jewish faith there is an age of accountability. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. (Luke 2:42) For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Cor 7:14)

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12) Paul writes that to “honor your father and mother” is the first is the first commandment with a promise in the Bible. How we treat our parents who have loved and cared for us so that life may go well with us and that we may enjoy a long life on the earth, is God divine plan for our lives. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:10)

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? You, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, just think of how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

What Pentecost Brings

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Acts 2:15-16

Harley Sheffield gained celebrity status through an unusual mishap. He was part of the 15,000-mile relay that carried the Olympic torch to the 100th gathering of the games in Atlanta. His section of the relay went over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington on May 7, 1996. While carrying the flame in a special stand on his bicycle, the rear tire blew out, Sheffield lost control of his bike, and the Olympic flame went out. People gasped in disbelief but the attenders of the torch knew exactly what to do. They simply reached into the van that accompanied the traveling torch, pulled out a new torch and lighted it from the “mother flame” which always stays in the van. The processional continued and Sheffield earned a spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

What happened on that Washington bridge happens all of the time in our Christian pilgrimage. We stumble and the flame of spiritual zeal is dowsed. We stare at the extinguished torch and wonder if we can ever again burn with spiritual passion. But when we turn in repentance we find that the Holy Spirit has been with us all of the time and He carries the “mother flame” that can never go out. Our zeal can be re-ignited and the standard of Christ can once again burn brightly in our lives.

I am convinced that most of us do not understand the Holy Spirit. Emmanuel – God with us. He who resided in Heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, willingly descended into our world. He breathed our air, felt our pain, knew our sorrows, and died for our sins. He didn’t come to frighten us, but to show us the way to warmth and safety.

When someone understands the truth about Christ, it is always a divine miracle. Remember Peter’s great confession? Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16). How did he know? Jesus said, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (verse 17). There is no way to recognize Jesus Christ for who He is apart from a miracle of God to open spiritually blind eyes. But when Christ opens the eyes of a soul, suddenly truth becomes recognizable.

The Holy Spirit is the Church! If the Holy Spirit were suddenly taken out of the world, ninety-five percent of the world would go on as usual. We cannot do “The Lord’s Work” without “The Lord.”

Windows 95 displays an icon–a picture–on the screen that is entitled: “MY COMPUTER” which, when activated, reveals the contents of the computer. God has given us an inner source to help us know what is in our sanctuary, our life. The Holy Spirit is the revealer of the contents of our lives. He continually shows us how God sees us.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

Working with jigsaw puzzles can be very frustrating, or very relaxing. So it is with life! Some people accept the spontaneous nature of life and fit the pieces together in a relaxed, joyous way. Others find the irregular pieces of life almost more than they can bear, and give up trying to make a beautiful picture of it. How do we fit in the many pieces of our busy lives — jobs, family, church, spiritual growth hobbies — our myriad activities and priorities? Are your activities, thoughts, attitudes, words, actions, lifestyle and friends compatible with your ultimate goals? Patience and persistence are necessary. Study the pieces and their possible relationship. If one piece doesn’t fit, try another. Many people in the first century of the Church thought that Christians were crazy! Sometimes we have to stand back to get a new perspective, or leave it alone for a time and do something else. Our lives consist of many odd-shaped multicolored pieces. We can’t force them to fit where they don’t belong, but with Divine Guidance we can find the right place for every single piece. God can and will help you to “get it all together.”

Joel writes, In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. There is a “marking” point in all of our lives where we make a change. For some of us it was when we were “born again.” For others it was a “Damascus Road” experience. And for still others it was our baptism.

Paul says, …every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God. (Rom 14:11) To “recapitulate” is to surrender. To recapitulate means to “put the Head back on. God’s commissioning is in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for commission is “oconamea.” Think about it, God economized by choosing you! Some people complain about our service and ask me ‘where’s the beef?’ I look at their lives and ask ‘where’s the fruit?’

Each soul has its secret place deep within. Where none may enter in but God. Every time we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” we mean that we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it. If a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, his witness will not be optional or mandatory–it will be inevitable. Ps 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

A missionary came to the church. I seek your counsel in a decision which must be made and which will have great ramifications whichever way the decision goes. Let me tell you my story: “A friend of mine who is a doctor from Seoul, Korea wrote me some time ago, explaining his decision to relocate to our city. He asked me to find him a place where he could both live and have his practice. You know how hard it is to find any place much less one suitable for such a person. Nevertheless, I looked and finally found a location. I wrote to the doctor and informed him that the only place I could find was old and run down, in much need of repair, in a terrible neighborhood, and could only be purchased at an enormous price. To my surprise, the doctor sent word to secure the property and sent also the down payment needed. I went to the owner who gladly received the down payment and agreed to vacate the premises. In a couple of days the previous owner was still there and asked for an extension so that he would be able to find suitable lodging. I agreed to give him another week. But at the end of the week, he was still there. then a month went by, two months, six months, a year — and he’s still there! He and his family all have new clothes and eat the best of foods. When I come around, he just laughs at me. Now, my question is: what should be done?”

With one accord, the church elders all agreed that the man should be evicted, by force if necessary, from the dwelling. “Thank you for your advice,” said Brother Kim. “Now, let me remind you that almost two thousand years ago Jesus came to buy you with an enormous price — although you were in ruins and your life was a shamble. He sent his Holy Spirit as a down payment, and he desires to take up residence in your heart. Isn’t it about time we evicted the old man and let Jesus take up full residence?”