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Teaching with Questions

Linking up today with Five Minute Friday. Today’s writing prompt: QUESTION

Jesus was a question asker! As you read the gospels, it becomes obvious that was one of His favorite ways of interacting with the people around Him. Questions make us think, they force us to make decisions. And without these important steps, we will never grow.

One of my favorite passages where Jesus asks a question is found in John 6, one of the accounts of the feeding of five thousand. A large crowd had been gathered to hear Him teach, and Jesus didn’t want to send the people away hungry. Verse 6 says Jesus already knew what He was going to do, but this was a teaching moment, a time to impart some truth to His disciples, and He began with a question which the text tells us was a test. He addresses His question to Philip,”Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

Philip’s response makes makes it clear that his eyes were on their limited resources. His answer was in essence, “If we use all our money to buy bread, it still wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a bite.” I think it’s easy to see he failed the test!

Andrew was nearby and he responded to Jesus’ question with another question, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Still not the response Jesus was looking for.

At this point, Jesus moves forward with His plan, involving the disciples in the process. The large crowd not only leaves with satisfied stomachs but they’ve witnessed another miracle, a sign that Jesus truly is the Messiah they had been looking for. The disciples left with twelve baskets filled with the surplus, one for each of them to enjoy. And they also left will a clearer understanding of who Jesus truly was.

As I listened to our pastor’s sermon this past Sunday on John 6, and as I read the entire chapter earlier this week, I learned my own lesson. If Jesus used questions so often in His teaching, what better example is there to follow when I’m teaching? Whether in our small group at church where I’m on the teaching team or in the online posts for a Christian chronic illness support group I help lead, I want to be more alert to using this important teaching method that Jesus so clearly modeled for us.

God Over All We Don’t Know

Today, I’m trying to recover from two physically exhausting days of medical appointments and two nights where the pain kept me awake. Life with chronic illness can be difficult, especially when new symptoms start popping up and we don’t know the cause of them. Doctor’s appointments, lab work, medical tests – they can all be challenging when you’re already feeling at the end of your strength.

But as I was taking some time in prayer this morning, God gently spoke to my mind in the midst of all the unknowns to turn my eyes on what I DO KNOW. I may not know why the Lord has allowed this interruption in my plans or what the future holds. But I do know I’m not alone. No matter what today or the future holds, I know I can continue moving forward because the Lord is at my side.

  • I do know I can choose to draw close to God and find comfort in His presence and His Word.
  • I do know He is my loving Father, who wants the very best for me.
  • I do know He is my faithful God who always keeps His promises.
  • I do know His grace is sufficient for me in every situation He asks me to walk through.
  • I do know He invites me to cast all my cares on Him because He cares for me.
  • I do know He proved without a doubt how much He loves me when He paid the ultimate price of giving His Son Jesus Christ to make a way for me to draw near to Him in both good times and in times of need.
  • I do know He is God over all I don’t know, over every pain, fear, and unanswered question. Even when I don’t know all the answers I can rest in the assurance that my God does!

No matter what fears you’re battling today or what unanswered questions you have, you can know we serve a God who is God over ALL we don’t know.

I love this song that reminds us of this truth.

Thankful For Access to God’s Presence

In a recent discussion in our iConnect Bible Study group at our church, we were reflecting on how blessed we are to be living during this time in history. Because Jesus came to earth as Immanuel, God with us, lived a perfect life, died in our place to pay the penalty for our sin, and was resurrected and returned to the right hand of the Father in heaven, life is entirely different for those who have placed their faith in Him as Savior and Lord.

Last week, our Thankful Thursday post was on one blessing that is ours because of the era in which we live, the indwelling Holy Spirit who empowers, teaches, and guides us – and so much more. This week, I wanted to focus on another blessing we have thanks to the finished work of Jesus on the Cross and our salvation by grace through faith in our Redeemer.

This often forgotten blessing is spoken of in Matthew 2:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45, as well as referred to in Hebrews 9 and 10. And it marks the end of life under the old covenant and beginning of the new covenant of grace.

“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭15:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The curtain of the temple, also called the veil, was a curtain believed to be around 60 feet long and four inches thick (according to early Jewish tradition) and made of blue, purple, and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen (see Exodus 26:31). It’s purpose was to separate the part of the temple called the Most Holy Place, which held the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat – the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence – from the rest of the temple where men entered. This veil signified that man was separated by God because of sin. It marked the boundary between God’s pure holiness and the wickedness of mankind.

‭‭Only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Most Holy Place, going through this curtain, and even he could only enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Before entering, the High Priest was to bathe and put on special garments, then sacrifice a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family. The blood of the bull was to be sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant. Then the High Priest was to bring two goats for the sins of the people, one of which was to be sacrifices for their sins and its blood sprinkled on the Ark. The other goat was used as a scapegoat, which symbolically carried on itself all the sins of the people and was sent out and released into the wilderness.

If anyone else entered the Most Holy Place, or even if the High Priest entered on any day other than the Day of Atonement, that person would immediately die. It yearly sprinkling of the innocent sacrifice’s blood on the bowl on gold lid of the Ark provided atonement for the sin of mankind for another year.

The size and thickness of the veil and the fact that it was torn in two from top to bottom make it clear that no human being could have accomplished this. It reminds us that in Jesus the final and full sacrifice for sin has been paid. And it also signifies the end of the Old Covenant of the Law and the beginning of the New Covenant of Grace.

Hebrews tells us that this curtain or vail was symbolic of Christ Himself, that the veil was representative of His broken flesh on the Cross.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:19-22‬ ‭ESV‬

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m eternally grateful that there is no longer a heavy curtain separating me from the presence of my Heavenly Father. I’m grateful that Jesus, through His substitutionary death on the Cross, removed the barrier separating us from God. I’m especially thankful for His invitation to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in my time of need.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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Importunate Prayer

Do you ever go to a prayer meeting – or open our God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness Prayer Group page – and wonder why the requests seem so familiar? Why the same or similar requests keep coming up over and over again? In the case of our prayer group, one reason for this may be the fact that all of our members deal with chronic illnesses, which means new issues constantly need to be dealt with. Another, the fact that God uses our difficult circumstances to do a work in our lives that He counts as more important eternally than an immediate healing.

As I was praying about this characteristic of our times of prayer, I came across a concept I knew little about, that of importunate prayer.

In his book The Necessity of Prayer, E.M. Bounds defines importunate prayer and explains why it is important.

“He prays not at all, who does not press his plea. Cold prayers have no claim on heaven & no hearing in the courts above. Fire is the life of prayer, and heaven is reached by flaming importunity rising in an ascending scale.

“Importunate praying is the earnest, inward movement of the heart toward God. It is the throwing of the entire force of the spiritual man into the exercise of prayer. Forceless prayers have no power to overcome difficulties, no power to win marked results or to gain complete victories.”

Jesus spoke of the need for persistence in prayer in two parables that are recorded in the book of Luke. In Luke 11:5-8, immediately after teaching the disciples how to pray according to what we call the Lord’s Prayer, He shares a story about a person who goes to his friend for help feeding unexpected visitors.

“Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

In Luke 18:2-8, He shares a second parable to encourage us to not lose heart in prayer. This time, the story involves an unrighteous judge who did not fear God or respect people, and a widow who is seeking legal protection, which he gives her, not because he cares about the widow but because of her persistence in asking.

“In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'”

‭‭These parables don’t teach that God is reluctant to answer our prayers. He delights in answering the honest requests of our hearts. But at times, God’s timing is not the same as ours. At times, God wants to deal with an unconfessed sin in our lives before answering or to build some positive character quality in our lives that will only grow under pressure.

Importunate prayer is first and foremost prayer that keeps asking, that is persistent in asking a God who sometimes delays the answer, not because He is indifferent to our needs but rather because He wants us to learn how to walk in faith and consistency.

Importunate prayer is the opposite of lazy or lukewarm prayer. It is prayer that comes from a trusting and godly heart, a pure conscience, and a determination to keep praying until we have an assurance that God has heard and will answer. It is prayer that is built on the foundation of the goodness and faithfulness of our God, and persists in praying until an answer is received.

Five Minute Friday: GOAL

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post for Five Minute Friday. But this week’s writing prompt: GOAL, was too fitting for me to pass up. Recently, God has given me a new goal that has become my new purpose in life.

During May, I led a group of ladies in God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness through a mini-Bible study entitled Verse by Verse, Growing Closer to God. The study we used was written by Jodie Barrett and Donna Fender of Faithfully Following Ministries, and I had already planned to do the study so I volunteered to lead it in our group.

What I didn’t know at the time was that God was going to use this study to speak a very clear word to me personally, a word that has given me a new purpose in life.

As I went with our group of ladies through this study, I kept hearing one message over and over and over again. It was simply this: Your focus needs to be on finishing the work I have called you to do.

After losing our special needs and medically fragile son David last November, my husband and I had been sensing one long season of our lives was over and it was time for a new focus. For thirty-four years, meeting David’s needs had been the center of our lives around which everything else revolved. So both of us had been praying for God’s direction for the future. And during this mini-study, I found the direction I was seeking.

Writing has been a love of my life for several years, and it’s time to move forward with God’s plan in this area. In prayer, I’ve sensed two specific focuses for my writing, and I’m now in the process of taking my new Goal and turning it into a plan to make it more than just a wish. And it was time to put that decision down on paper.

I’m currently working on doing more articles for God-Living Girls and my blog, as well as in the planning stage of writing my first Bible study. Since I celebrated my seventy-first birthday earlier this year, I don’t know how many years I have to finish the work that God created me to do. But in this past month, doing that has become my burning desire.

A Miraculous Answer to Fervent Prayer

With the health problems I live with daily and my need for a walker to get around, my husband or I usually check the weather forecast before the two of us leave the house. If the odds of bad weather are high and the outing is one that can be postponed, I usually end up staying in the safety of our home for another day.

Acts 12:1-6 describes a situation where the odds for Peter were not very promising. His friend and fellow apostle James had just been beheaded, and Peter was in prison, chained to two guards with two more outside the cell for double protection. And this time, the arrest was officially made by the king who lived to please the Jews. Passover was causing a delay in Herod Agrippa I carrying out his plans, but it was nearly time for the planned release of the prisoner to the Jewish leaders who wanted Peter to suffer the same consequence of preaching in Jesus’ name that James had already suffered.

Yet God did the unexpected. God’s plan for Peter included such a miraculous deliverance that even those who were gathered to intercede for him were shocked at the answer to their prayers. https://biblia.com/bible/nasb95/Acts%2012.13-16

As I’ve heard this story taught in the past, the fact that those who were gathered praying for Peter were surprised when he showed up at their prayer meeting, so surprised that he was left standing at the gate knocking when the servant girl realized he was there, was given as evidence of their unbelief. A careful study of this passage shows me that’s probably not what was going on. Verse 5 makes it clear that these believers were fervently praying for Peter.

“Fervently” means they were praying with a right spirit, earnestly and without relaxing in their effort. That doesn’t sound to me like God’s view of their prayers is in agreement with this idea that their’s prayers somehow fell short of what pleases God, that their response reveals their prayers reflected unbelieving hearts.

It sounds like they were human, struggling with the recent death of one of their leaders and seeking to align their hearts with God’s will for Peter, whether it was his death or his deliverance. Their first thoughts appear to have been that Peter’s work was done and God had taken him home to be with Him, as He had Stephen (in Acts 7) and James (in Acts 12:1-2), and that the one at the gate was actually Peter’s angel, there to announce his departure.

Instead I see this as a rather humorous account of a miraculous intervention by God. If one of those gathered in prayer had simply responded to the knocking, they would have recognized God was at work in their midst. And as I read this passage, I had to stop and ask myself if my prayer qualifies as fervent. I learned I deinitely have room to grow in this area.

So what are the characteristics of fervent prayer?

  • Fervent Prayer is intense and earnest, coming from a heart seeking to please God.
  • Fervent Prayer perseveres until an answer is received.
  • Fervent Prayer involves genuine contact with the living God through faith.
  • Fervent Prayer seeks the will of God and not our will.
  • Fervent Prayer is based on the Word of God and the promises in the Word.
  • Fervent Prayer seeks God’s glory, never the glory of those who are praying.

In Acts 12, those gathered to intercede for Peter were praying with intensity and perseverance. I believe they were seeking understanding of God’s will in this particular situation, not assuming God would do what they wanted. They knew Jesus’ teaching about counting the cost of being a disciple, and they knew deliverance wasn’t God’s will in every situation.

I believe in the weakness of their humanity they were seeking to align their will with the will of God, to what would bring Him glory in this situation. But what they were missing was a clear revelation of the will of God in this particular situation. What they didn’t know is that this time God’s will was not the same as His will for Stephen and James. Peter still had work to finish, his purpose was not completed, so in this case there would be an amazing deliverance, one that was possible only with the power of God.

An interesting side note to this story. Peter’s deliverance was the fulfillment of a promise Jesus gave him of living until old age when He forgave, restored and called Peter to serve Him after he had denied Jesus three times. In John 21:18 Jesus said to Peter, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. ” When the angel came to set Peter free, on the night before he faced probable death, he had to be roused from a deep and peaceful sleep before the angel could carry out his instructions. According to extra-biblical history, Peter probably lived around twenty-four more years before he became a martyr for the faith.

Thankful for the Indwelling Holy Spirit

“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” Psalms‬ ‭18:28‬

Something unusual happened while we were at church one Sunday in May. We had watched a video teaching on the Bible study we were doing at that time, and I had just finished leading our discussion on the promise of God we were covering that week – when the lights went out. With stormy weather outside, our classroom was really dark. A couple minutes later, the lights came back on, and we were able to finish the class and leave for home.

This morning, as I was preparing to write this week’s Thankful Thursday post, this experience came to mind. While it was just a small inconvenience, it brought to memory God’s promise to enlighten our darkness. And one of the ways He does that in our daily lives is through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit comes to live within us when by faith through grace we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as the payment in full for our sins, receive His forgiveness, and accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. And from that moment on, we never have to walk in darkness.

I am currently working on writing a Bible study which I’ve given the working title The Holy Spirit: Stranger or Friend. For many of us, Jehovah our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Savior are parts of the Godhead we understand fairly well. In one of the lessons from the Bible study our iConnect Bible study class at church recently completed based on Max Lucado’s book Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives On The Promises Of God, we read the following quote.

“Ask a believer to answer the question ‘Who is God the Father?’ He has a reply. Or ‘Describe God the Son.’ She will not hesitate. But if you want to see believers hem, haw, and search for words, ask, ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’ Many believers settle for a two-thirds God.”

Yet there are more that a hundred references in the Bible to the Holy Spirit. From the Gospels, where Jesus says He will be returning to heaven but He will not leave them alone (https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.14.26.esv) through the book of Acts, and all the way to Revelation, we learn that the Holy Spirit is central to our lives as Christians.

Today, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit and the many things He does in our lives. Here are just a few of the functions and names of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is our Regenerator. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, He is the one who opens our heart and imparts life. “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” John‬ ‭3:5‬

The Holy Spirit is our Empowerer. He gives us power to be witnesses and complete the work He has called us to do. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke‬ ‭24:49‬

The Holy Spirit is our Helper. He encourages, consoles and comforts us when life becomes difficult. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” John‬ ‭14:16‬

The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. As the Spirit of Truth, He shows us the lies we are believing and instructs us in God’s truth. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭

The Holy Spirit is our Guide. He leads us down the path God has planned for our lives. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans‬ ‭8:14‬ ‭

The Holy Spiritis our Intercessor. He prays for us and His prayers always line up with the perfect will of God.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭

The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. He works in us to make us look more like Jesus. Like the apostle Peter, we too are among the elect, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…” 1 Peter‬ 1:2

There are many more functions and names of the Holy Spirit, but these seven give you a picture of His important place in our lives as Christians. And this week, I’m grateful for Who the Holy Spirit is and for all He does in our lives. How about you? Have you stopped in your busy day to thank God for the Holy Spirit? Who lives within you if you’ve accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life.