Our relationship with God deepens when we risk being open and honest as we talk with Him. When we become convinced that God is really our friend we really know how He feels about us and that we can talk to Him about anything.
Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
One of the things that keeps us from being bold is the misconception that we have to be perfect. We fake it pretending to have our lives in order, smiling and saying all the right things. When we’re born again, God forgives us and sees us as righteous. I’m sure that each of us has been hesitant to say what we really thought, felt, needed, or longed for. It's at those times we need to open up but it’s hard to do unless you are in close a relationship, and in order to become close you have to be vulnerable. So if we want our prayer lives to go beyond where they are now we are going to have to risk opening up to our friend, God.
Be careful not to cover up your emotions in order to look like a “good Christian.” Without becoming open we are unable to rely fully on God. When we realize this we can passionately seek Him, obey in His strength, and confess with repentance, when we miss the mark.
We can look to Jesus as our example of being open. He permitted Himself to express a full range of emotions, positive ones like joy, love, and compassion and some we would consider negative like, anger, indignation, and impatience.
Jesus didn’t ignore His emotions or keep them hidden, He shared Himself openly. I think we should also be open with Him.
That’s not alway easy though. It’s easy to talk about expressing joy, but in real life we struggle with sin, injustice, pain, and temptation. These thing arouse feelings that aren’t comfortable. It seems riskier to be honest to when we feel isolated, guilty, irritated, intimidated, ashamed, angry, inadequate, rejected, or worthless.
Don't worry God can handle it.
Don’t Give Up: Tell God Exactly How You Feel
By Rick Warren
“I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak” (Job 7:11 GNT).
God can handle your emotions — he gave them to you, after all! He can handle your anger, doubt, fear, questions, grief, and even your complaints. Be honest; tell it to God. Get it off your shoulders. Spill your guts! Tell God exactly how you feel: “God, I hurt!” This is exactly what Job did.
Job was brutally honest with God: “I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak” (Job 7:11 GNT). He continued to unload in the verses that follow: “Why do you keep me under guard? Do you think I am a sea monster? I lie down and try to rest; I look for relief from my pain. But you — you terrify me with dreams; you send me visions and nightmares until I would rather be strangled than live in this miserable body. I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense. Why are people so important to you? Why pay attention to what they do? You inspect them every morning and test them every minute. Won’t you look away long enough for me to swallow my spit? Are you harmed by my sin, you jailer?” (Job 7:12-20 GNT).
If you were God, how would you react to that? Maybe get angry? Is that what God did? No! Because God understood Job. God understands you, too, and he understands your hurt. God isn’t surprised when you say, “God, I don’t like this. This stinks. It hurts!” Who do you think created those emotions? Who do you think gave you the capacity to get angry and express those feelings? God did. God is not surprised by your emotional state.
God let Job get it off his chest. It was a catharsis, a kind of cleansing so that Job could get clean and be healed.
The right response to unexplained tragedy is not “grin and bear it” or pious platitudes but honestly telling God your struggle. Lamentations 2:19 says, “Cry out in the night . . . Pour out your heart like water in prayer to the Lord” (NCV).
Job questioned God’s actions, but he never stopped trusting God. Did you know that trusting God with your feelings is an act of worship? “Job stood up, tore his robe in grief, and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20 GW).
Go ahead. Express all your feelings. Release your frustrations. God can handle it!
10 Real-Life Emotions Jesus Expressed
By Cindi McMenamin
(All Bold Mine)
Several years ago, I heard a wise person pray, “Break my heart, God, with what breaks Yours.” I’ve never forgotten that prayer request. And through the years I’ve often wondered if my emotions line up with God’s.
Do I get upset at the same situations that angered the heart of God or do I spend time and energy protesting what Jesus wouldn’t have bothered with? On the other end of the emotional spectrum, do I turn a blind eye at what moved Jesus to tears or fail to notice the people and situations that stirred His compassionate heart and caused Him to take action?
Jesus, God in the flesh, experienced a wide range of emotions during his 33 years on this earth. Scripture tells us what He felt and experienced, specifically, during his three-year public ministry. And while we might tend to think that being unemotional means being more spiritual or Spirit-controlled, Scripture clearly shows that Jesus exercised a healthy amount of emotion and self-control.
Here are 10 emotions Jesus expressed so you can see if your feelings and responses line up with His:
1. Joy–at pleasing His Father.
While Jesus is often referred to as “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”
Isaiah 53:3 (NLT2)3 He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
He was also one who knew joy.
John 15:10-11 (NLT2)10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy.
Yes, your joy will overflow!Jesus told His followers if they keep His commandments, they will abide in His love just as He has kept His Father’s commandments and abides in His Father’s love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full,” Jesus said. What joy was Jesus referring to? The joy that came from complete obedience to His Father. The joy that came from fulfilling His mission here on earth. The joy that came from pleasing His Father in Heaven.
Hebrews 12:2 (NLT2)2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
How can the word “joy” exist in the same sentence as the words “enduring the cross” and “scorning its shame”? Because Jesus knew not only the joy of complete obedience to His Father, but the joy of what was to come – the eternal reward, being reunited physically with His Father in Heaven, having secured for eternity the salvation of all who would believe.
Do you find delight in pleasant circumstances or knowing that all is well in your world? Or do you know deep joy by focusing on the eternal rewards of obedience to your Heavenly Father, sensing His smile as you surrender daily, and fixing your minds on what is to come
Colossians 3:2 (NLT2)2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
2. Exhaustion–from the demands of ministry.
Do you ever start to think I can’t face any more people or pressures right now? Do you find that to cope you need to slip away and have some quiet time to yourself? If you feel that way after trying to be all things to all people, then you need boundaries in your life and work and a reminder that you are not responsible for everything. But if you’re feeling that exhaustion and overwhelm because of a continual pouring out in ministry, Jesus did too. Even the Son of God had to withdraw by Himself from the crowds after an extended time of ministry in order to refuel and re-energize through rest and quiet communion with His Father
Matthew 14:13 (NLT2)13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.
Mark 6:31 (NLT2)31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
When you need to get away from people, is it because you’re tired of them? Or is it because you long to be with Your Father to refuel, refocus, and reprioritize? You can identify with the heart of Jesus when you pull away now and then to rest in and commune quietly with your Heavenly Father.
3. Anger–at the hypocrisy of the religious.
Instead of being angry with sinners and how they lived, Jesus was indignant toward the so-called “religious” who touted a spotless image on the outside, but cultivated critical, hardened hearts on the inside. Jesus used harsh words toward the religious elite of his day saying things like,
Matthew 23:31-33 (NLT2)31 “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.32 Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started.33 Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?
I’m thinking that might have been the equivalent of cussing today.
Jesus’ anger with how the religious leaders of his day spiritually oppressed others echoes God’s disdain for Israel’s “shepherds” in Ezekiel 34. Jesus even described false prophets as those who come in sheep’s clothing “but inwardly they are ferocious wolves”
Matthew 7:15 (NLT2)15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.
Do you feel anger toward leaders in the church and religious community who abuse their power, care more about their own comfort and image than that of other believers, and “fleece the flock” in the name of service to God? Are you enraged by anyone who would, in the name of Christ or spirituality, lead other believers astray or interfere with the discipleship and growth of a new believer? Do you loathe legalism to the point of calling it what it is? Jesus did. And He made no apologies for such.
4. Disgust–at greed, racism, and oppression of the poor.
Jesus was absolutely indignant toward the money changers in the temple. Not because “you shouldn’t sell stuff in church.” Not because “the church had become a marketplace” (as you may have heard while growing up in Sunday School). But because the religious leaders were financially oppressing and even cheating those who wished to honor God through a sacrifice in the temple. Their unlawful money-changing and price-fixing tactics in the Court of the Gentiles prevented non-Jews from honoring God with sacrifices. Their actions were downright racist and Jesus was disgusted with it. (See upcoming post “God Is Definitely Not A Racist)
John 2:13-17 (NLT2)13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
This exclusion, racism, and profiteering from the good intentions of others enraged Jesus into pulling an Indiana Jones-style cleanup act in the temple, complete with a handmade whip. Sharp words weren’t cutting it anymore. This time He overturned tables, threw chairs across the room, and left the place a decimated mess! Emotional? You bet. Out of control? No. More like unbridled righteous anger and zeal for the house of God that consumed Him.
Psalm 69:9 (NLT2)9 Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
Does oppression of the poor, exclusivity in worship, unethical handling of the church finances, or an attitude of racism in the church provoke that kind of disgust in you? Perhaps it should.
5. Sorrow–at the ravages of sin and death.
When Jesus’ close friend Lazarus died and his sister Mary said those words wrought with disappointment, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32), Jesus evidently felt sorrow. Certainly, Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead and that is why He let him die and remain in a tomb for four days (John 11:4-7, 14). Yet we read that, “When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” and “Jesus wept.” (verses 33-35). For Mary? At the thought that He disappointed her? For the loss of Lazarus?
Jesus saw the ravaging result of sin and He knew better than anyone that death was not a natural part of life, but the most unnatural thing anyone created in the image of God has to experience. It wasn’t God’s perfect plan. And coming face to face with the agony that humans experience from the sting of death moved Him to weep. Shortly thereafter, Jesus fulfilled His purpose for coming to this earth by dying on a cross to eradicate the sting of death and rising from the dead to conquer the grave.
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NLT2)54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory.55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Does the loss of a loved one, believer or not, move you to tears? Do you hold within you an ache for someone who has been ripped from your life? While we have the hope and assurance that those who are trusting Jesus alone for their salvation will live eternally, the temporary separation caused by death still grieves the heart of God.
Psalm 116:15 (NLT2)15 The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die.
If losing someone through death moves you to tears, it moved the Son of God to tears, too.
6. Compassion–for the lost and downtrodden.
I used to be critical of unbelievers who lived an ungodly lifestyle. Those who found themselves living on the streets were there because they had rejected Christ and made a series of bad choices, resulting in burned bridges and a lack of relationships, I concluded. Yet, Jesus had compassion on those who were suffering, whether it was from physical ailments;
Matthew 9:20-21 (NLT2)20 Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe,21 for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”
or the direct result of sin
John 9:1-3 (NLT2)1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.
Regardless of how they got where they did, Jesus saw people as created in the image of God and showed compassion on them–even the dirty, disfigured, leprous, rebellious, contagious, and forgotten.
When you see someone who is living with the consequences of their sin does it make you cringe or cry? Is your heart moved to pray for that person’s relief, healing, comfort, and salvation? Is your compassion strong enough to cause your hand to extend in action, help, or hope for another? That’s what Jesus would do.
7. Frustration–at slow learners and their lack of faith.
In Matthew 17, when a man brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus, claiming Jesus’ disciples couldn’t cast out the demon, Jesus’ harsh words were evidence of his growing frustration with people who had seen all the signs and should’ve known better than to doubt who He was: “‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment” (verses 14-20).
Jesus also expressed frustration at His own disciples who just didn’t get it. After teaching earlier in the day about the Kingdom of God and growing in faith, Jesus was awoken from a sound sleep by his disciples who were accusing Him of not caring if they drowned in a storm that was threatening to overturn their boat. Jesus responded by commanding the wind and waves to “Be still.” He then turned to His followers, in apparent frustration, and asked, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:35-41).
While you are following God’s command to disciple young believers, you can rest assured that Jesus understands your frustration when someone has been taught in the Word of God and given the best instruction available and still can’t apply their faith in a stressful situation.
8. Agony–at impending suffering.
When Jesus sweat blood and tears in the Garden of Gethsemane just before being arrested, it wasn’t out of fear of what was to come. It was more like agony, knowing He would bear the sins of the world on His shoulders, knowing He would endure the temporary separation from His Father’s enabling. And that caused Jesus to pray so intently, and in such agony, that He sweat blood and tears as He prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” In His humanity, He dreaded what was to come. But in His faith and pure obedience to His Father, His agony made for surrender: “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Do you dread an upcoming surgery? A chemotherapy session? A trial or interview in which you must revisit something painful or distressing? Jesus understands. Hebrews 4:15 assures us we have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses, and has not only “been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” but has also endured more suffering than we will ever have to experience ourselves.
9. Empathy–for the pain of others.
We have no record of Jesus feeling sorry for Himself or dwelling on any of His personal suffering. For instance, He didn’t talk for months about that trying time with the devil in the desert (John 4:1-11) or constantly put down the people whom He served who left Him once the handouts stopped. He didn’t rouse up personal support from His disciples after Judas betrayed Him. Instead, Jesus was empathetic toward others and the physical and emotional pain they were experiencing.
As much as Jesus suffered physically through His arrest, torture, and crucifixion, His heart and mind was on the emotional pain His mother was experiencing as she witnessed the torture and death of her firstborn son. Her care and provision, after His death, was paramount on His mind.
John 19:25-27 (NLT2)25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.
Do you hurt along with others when they hurt physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Jesus never minimized anyone’s pain, compared it to someone else’s, or told someone “don’t cry.” He hurt along with them.
10. Forgiveness–in the face of betrayal.
Prior to being arrested, Jesus told His disciples that all of them would fall away that night because of Him.
Matthew 26:31 (NLT2)31 On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
They essentially deserted Him during His darkest hour even though just hours earlier at dinner they had each claimed they would never leave His side. Yet, Jesus extended grace toward all of them after rising from the dead. He even made sure that he reiterated His love for Peter three times – the same number of times Peter denied His love and even knowledge of Jesus!
Jesus commanded us to be different from the world by loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.
Matthew 5:43-44 (NLT2)43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
How much more difficult it is to love and forgive someone who at one time confessed their love for us and then betrayed us? Can you extend grace, love, and forgiveness even to those who have wronged you in a very personal way? When you do, you are expressing the same love, grace, and forgiveness that Jesus showed.
Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their walk with God and their relationships.
Question for my fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Have you ever wondered, although you received your salvation years and years ago, “what’s going to happen on judgement day?” Let me tell you today that your Judgement Day has come and gone. Jesus, although He never sinned, was judged in your place so that you don’t have to be judged.
Can I Be Sure I’ll Get into Heaven?
By Rick Warren
“Those who hear my words and believe in him who sent me have eternal life. They will not be judged” (John 5:24 GNT).
Jesus’ death and Resurrection release us from judgment.
You may imagine a day of judgment where you’re standing outside the gates of heaven in a really, really long line, and you’re slowly moving forward, one step at a time. As you get closer, you start to sweat and wonder, “Am I going to get in? Am I going to make it? Is God going to use a giant TV screen to show every dumb or evil thing I’ve ever done? Will my every sin be exposed?”
I have good news for you; it’s a promise of Jesus Christ. The Bible says in John 3:18 that those who believe in Jesus — his death and Resurrection — will not be judged.
Here’s the real picture: You’re standing in line waiting for the judgment. Jesus sees you and says, “I know you. We’ve been friends for years. You put your trust in me one year during Easter. Come with me. Get in the express lane. You get the fast track. You get to bypass the judgment.” Is that good news? Oh, yeah!
I have a friend named Buddy who said that, when he was a little kid, his Sunday school teacher taught him that God was sitting in heaven, writing down every bad thing that Buddy ever did. She actually made the class sing a song every week that went, “My Lord is writing all the time. Writing, writing, writing all the time.” Buddy said, “It scared me. I just thought, ‘I’m never going to make it to heaven. My list is getting longer and longer.’”
Is that the way God treats us when we come and put our faith in Christ? No! In fact, God is erasing, erasing, erasing all the time. Forgiving, forgiving, forgiving all the time. He’s sitting in heaven, hitting the “delete” button.
Why? Because the Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8 NIV) and love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV). If you put your trust in the love of Jesus Christ, your sins are wiped out.
“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NLT).
For more Daily Hope with Rick Warren, please visit pastorrick.com!
I published a post just a few days ago to help others and me deal with the sudden death of a mutual friend and member of our church family. That post, “Prayers For Those That Mourn”, was a compilation of suggested prayers for those going through the sorrow and grief of losing a loved one. While those prayers may provide some comfort to the pray-er and some brief temporary comfort to the bereaved, and I can say through my own personal experience, they will really not help them deal with the grief associated with their loss.
Although it has gotten easier I'm still grieving over the loss of my wife of more than forty years, who went to be with the Lord more than three years ago. I’ve counseled others who have lost loved ones, but I’ve never thought it was enough. This recent loss was so unexpected and tragic that I don't know what to say or when to say it.
I found the words to say to my friends, to others, and to myself who are struggling with grief.
The following are excerpts from the sermon, Good Grief, delivered by Kathleen Peterson pastor of Palos Heights United Methodist Church in Palos Heights, IL. The grief associated with the loss of her grandfather many years before this sermon, and how she worked through it, is evident.
I thank God that He knew that these times would come so He placed others in the church who have had similar experiences, and who He has given gifts that enable them to communicate His love for all His children.
While the emphasis of this post is the grief associated with the death of a loved one. It's applicable to grief associated with other losses; things like the loss of a job, a divorce, the separation of a child leaving home, or even a major financial loss.
This post is for my friends. May God bless you, comfort you, and give you His peace which passes all understanding during this most difficult of times.
Philippians 4:6-7 NLT Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
(Bold emphasis mine)
Isaiah 43:1-5 NIV But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
Revelation 7:16-17 NIV Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”
John 11:28-36 NIV After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
Grief is so complicated. My grandfather had died, and we knew he would die, but the way he died was hard to take. And our grief was filled, as it always is, with guilt – much guilt.
Now, why do I tell you all this? This experience of grief in my own life. Well, I share it with you because I think in many ways our experiences with grief are all the same. We all go through the same stages of shock, denial and guilt.
First we say: “It couldn’t happen.”
Then we say: “It didn’t happen.”
Then we say: “Oh, if only I had . . . Oh, why didn't I. . . . do this or that?” We somehow feel responsible for everything. We take the whole thing on our heads. We even imagine we somehow could have leaped into the breech and changed everything, if only . . .
When we experience a loss in our lives and have to go on living ourselves, we experience every emotion we know in that grief: anger, love, fear, hope, insecurity, abandonment – you name it. And we all have our losses. They come in many different forms. They come as separation, children leaving home, moving, conflict, job change, retirement, aging, disappointment. And these are all experiences in which we feel real grief, and all our strong emotions rise up in us and flow over us like the deep waters that Isaiah talks about going through.
And we wonder: If we start to cry, will we ever stop? Or will the flood tide take us with it. We hold back and hide our grief because we imagine that once we begin to really feel it, we won’t be able to bear it.
Many people hide their grief for years, and it gnaws away at them from the inside. Then comes the torrent: 2 months later, 5 years later, 20 years later. But eventually our grief catches up with us, and we know that thing could, and did, happen, and there was nothing we could do about it.
You know the scripture story about Jesus’ dear friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The 2 sisters had sent word to Jesus that their brother was dying. But Jesus had been busy and couldn’t come immediately. By the time He got there, Lazarus was dead. And as Jesus looked at those people He loved and saw their suffering, He felt all the same things you and I feel when someone we love dies. And He wept. The people said: “See how He loved him.” But others said: “If He loved him so much, why didn’t He save him from this death?” And that’s the question we all ask in that situation: If God loves us, why did He let this happen? Why didn’t He get here sooner? And why wasn’t our love enough to save this person?
“If only I had known,” we say. But do we think Jesus didn’t know? Do we really think the Lord didn’t know all of that? Not a sparrow falls without the Lord knowing it. He knows the number of all our days, and He is there.
Now that doesn’t mean things don’t go wrong or that there will not be evil that affects our lives and our deaths. The Lord has told us that there is evil. But He has also assured us that before it even happens He has already overcome all of it and is able to bring good out of all of it for those who love Him.
John 16:33 NIV I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
He is there before and during and after. “As you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you, and they shall not overwhelm you.” For the person who has died, no matter what the cause, there are green mansions on the other side, where the lawn is not so hard to mow. So let us be clear that when we grieve at the death of someone, we grieve mainly for ourselves, for our loss, because, as Paul said: “For me, to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:20-21 NIV I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
As we deal with our own pain and anger and guilt at our loss, as we really deal with it and express it, gradually we begin to see that these things separate us from the one we loved as much as the death itself. We have to go through these feelings and come out on the other side before we can again be close to that person. We have to go through these deep waters and let go of the bad grief before we can enter into the good grief.
After the pain and guilt and anger, then there is an awakening – a morning when you remember the good memories that bless and finally no longer burn. There’s a morning when we can let go of all our bad feelings about death and know that life goes on. Then the good memories can flood back into our lives again, stronger and stronger, giving us strength to go on. We can be close to that person again because we let go of the bad grief that was blocking out all the goodness we cherished of that person’s life.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and do you think anyone of us will be any less raised? “If we don’t know where our loved ones are,” Jesus says to us: “How can you not know, when I have told you? I have prepared a place for you, and if it were not so, I would have told you that too, He said.”
John 14:2-3 NIV My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
For all our “if onlys” the Lord says: “I knew that too, and I can make all things work together for good, if you can only let go of that and leave it in my hands.”
John 10:28 NIV I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
We must weep; it’s very important to express our grief. But then we can allow ourselves to be comforted. After the weeping at my grandfather’s funeral, my grandmother lifted up her hand as they were carrying out the casket and stood up and said in a loud voice: “There goes Harvey! Goodbye Harvey!” I’ll never forget it. Everyone was a bit shocked, that she could face the parting so openly. But to me she leaned down, with a twinkle behind the tears in her eyes and whispered: “He’s not really gone.”
What we will not part with, we have kept. And the Lord has promised that will never be taken from us.
We only grieve where we have loved. Seeing where we are called to love now, that enables us to live through grief. And one of the very good things about grief is that it teaches us a little better how to treasure and cherish what we love in the short time we’re given.
The hollow in your heart where pain dug so deeply, is the same place where you now have room to receive and truly cherish that much more joy. Those who have deeply grieved know the true depths and heights to which love can go. Blessed are those who mourn, because they shall be comforted and their joy shall be full.
Kathleen Peterson is pastor of Palos Heights United Methodist Church in Palos Heights, IL. (For the complete sermon click Good Grief
Before you get excited and stop reading, start making comments, sending an email calling me a heretic keep reading, and you will see what I mean.
This excerpt from Unconvinced: Exploring Faith As A Skeptic the YouVersion Reading Plan from North Point Ministries, Andy Stanley and the Starting Point Team, will explain.
Faith In The Person Jesus Not His Teaching
Throughout history, when leaders of popular movements died—like the prophet Muhammad and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—their followers would band together to keep their messages and missions alive.
But when Jesus was crucified, the movement he began came to a screeching halt. The mission died with him because he was the mission.
John 3:16 NIV For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus didn’t launch his movement around a new list of believe thats. At the center of his teaching was a single believe in. Jesus asked his followers to believe in him. Not his ideas. Him. This is reflected in arguably the most popular statement in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”
Jesus didn’t come to leave his followers with a collection of wise words and parables. From start to finish, the mission of Jesus was Jesus. So it should come as no surprise that when his disciples watched him die, they watched the movement die with him. Messiahs don’t die. Sons of God can’t be killed. But there he was. Nailed to a cross.
When Jesus died, no one believed he was who he had claimed to be.
There were no Christians left.
Yet, the disciples who deserted him after his death were the same ones who later risked their lives to tell others about him. And here we are discussing him two thousand years later. The hinge, the thing that made all the difference, was not something Jesus taught. It was something Jesus did—he came back to life.
Christians don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible says so. Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead because Matthew and John, eyewitnesses, said so.
Acts 2:32 NIV God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
We believe because Luke, a first-century doctor, investigated the events surrounding Jesus’ life and death and concluded that he rose from the dead. Even Paul, an infamous persecutor of Christians, came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God who rose from the dead.
Following Jesus requires faith. Specifically, it requires faith in Jesus. Not the teachings of Jesus—the person of Jesus. At the center of Christianity is an event attested to by eyewitnesses who lost faith when Jesus died but regained it when he rose from the dead. The foundation of Christianity is not a list of believe thats, but a single trust in.
Acts 2:22-24 NIV “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Some very dear friends of mine recently suffered the loss of a loved one. The loss was especially painful because it was sudden, tragic, and completely unexpected. The loss of a husband, father, grandfather, uncle, or friend is always difficult but when comes suddenly and tragically are shocked and numb. This person was an active member and an integral part of the church that I attend so our church family is just as shocked and bewildered as the family and friends. Now we feel and understand what the families and friends of those who have died from acts of violence, natural disasters, or accidents feel and have felt.
At times like these we don't know what to say or do for those suffering with grief and sorrow. If we’re honest we don't really know how or what to pray. Yes we try to remember prayers we’ve heard people pray when they’ve tried to comfort us in our grief. We try to remember the words of comfort that we’ve heard or read at memorials, funerals, and other celebrations, but nothing seems adequate. Perhaps it’s because none of those things really comforted us. We wonder why we can’t think of the words and we blame ourselves for not being able to provide that comfort, but what we’ve forgotten is that it’s not about us at all.
That’s why when I read, during my quiet time, I knew that it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me so that I could share it with my friends, my church family, and with you. We know that you can't find the words the Holy Spirit speaks through groans that we don’t understand.
Romans 8:26 NIV In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
But He also gives us words that we can understand, often through others, that express our sincere desires when we come to Him in prayer.
6 Prayers for the Dying (and the Mourning)
Design Editor, Crosswalk.com
We all will experience death one day, but that doesn't make it an easy thing to face. We can so easily fear the end of our lives, or focus our attention on things of this world instead of the glory to come in heaven, but we as believers can take comfort that God cares about our grief and Jesus understands our pain.
Like Job 14:5 says, "A man's days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set." God has a specific plan for each and every one of our lives, even if we might wish for a different outcome for ourselves or our loved ones. His plans are perfect and he desires the very best for each of his beloved children. We can find great peace in the presence of our Lord, even in our grief, our fear, our pain, and our final breaths.
Here are 6 prayers for the dying and the mourning:
A Prayer for Those Who Fear Dying
You are God, and I’m not. You sent Jesus to be my Savior, so I must need to be saved. I need you to forgive the things I’ve done wrong in life. I need you to give me a fresh start in life. I need you to help me know my purpose. I want to begin a relationship with you. I ask you to come into my life. I want to learn to trust you. I want to learn to love you. I want to learn to love other people the way you want me to. So I ask you today with humility and honesty and sincerity to please save me as I put my trust in you.
I pray this prayer in Jesus’ Name. Amen
A Prayer for Funerals
How remarkable it is to have a savior who weeps with me.
Back when I was in elementary school, I loved John 11:35 for its brevity. “Jesus wept.” My friends and I would giggle, pleased that we had discovered the second-shortest verse in the Bible. (The shortest verse, as we gleefully reminded each other, was Job 3:2, “He said.”) I didn’t pay much attention to the context of John 11: the story of how You were en route to the tomb of Your friend Lazarus, in the company of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, mere days after Lazarus’ death. I didn’t dwell long on the significance of Your tears.
How different that verse looks to me today. Today, as I see the casket topped with flowers that blur at the edges because my eyes go damp every time I look in their direction.
Today, as pastors and friends and family members speak about my loved one using the past tense instead of the present. Today, as the words of the hymns catch in my throat and render me mute. Today, as the hope I still hold to be true collides with the waves of sorrow suffocating me.
Today, “Jesus wept” means everything to me.
Today, I remember that You wept because someone dear to You and dear to people You loved had died. Even though You already knew the end of the story—even though You knew that death wouldn’t have the final word—still You wept. You didn’t stand aloof, offering textbook reassurances and condescending pats on the head. You heard the stories, clutched the shaking hands, walked to the tomb, and shed tears of your own. You grieved the loss, and You grieved with those who felt that same stinging loss.
Today, Jesus, I am thankful to worship a God who became human enough to weep with me.
A Prayer For All Our Tears
Today, I cry tears that mean a hundred things at once, happy and sorrowful and desperate and hopeful. I trust You to sort them out as You catch them, to hear and answer each prayer they represent.
I cry for those of us left behind, for the lonely ones with hollows in our hearts. I ask You to comfort us, give peace, restore hope, and lavish us with love, family, and belonging. In the depths of loss, meet us with Yourself.
I cry for the legacy this loved one leaves, for the ways the world has been made different by their presence, for the memories that become both more beautiful and more painful on this side of death. And I pray that the work You have accomplished in this remarkable life will grow deeper, wider, and stronger in the days to come, uninhibited by a weak opponent like death.
I cry for those who haven’t yet accepted Your invitation into eternal life, for those who grieve without hope today. I pray for awakening in their hearts, for a stirring that draws to You. I pray for more attendees at the grand reunion scheduled in the coming eternity.
I cry for all the ways the world has gone wrong, and for all the ways You’re making it right again. I ask that You make me part of Your work in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth.
I cry knowing You are here with me. And because You are here, even my tears have meaning.
A Prayer for When You Grieve a Lost Loved One
My heart is feels like a thousand knives are running through it. I am weary, spent, and just so sad. Please, help me! Hear my prayers. Hold me and my family up. Give us strength. Be present. Be persistent in your love. Carry us through this heartache. Sustain us. Bring us joy and hope.
In Your Name I pray, Amen.
A Prayer for Fear of the Sting of Death
As 1 Corinthians 15:54–55 says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Where is the sting of death for the believer? It is ripped out, because at the cross, Jesus took the stinger out of death. This is a great truth. As Christians, we no longer need to fear death because our souls will live on forever with Christ.
Dear Lord, we will face many terrifying events throughout this life, but may we never forget that the ultimate victory belongs to you. Through your sacrifice, death has been defeated. As we continue to walk in your truth, help us to set our eyes on Heavenly things
A Prayer for Those in the Midst of Tragedy
Our hearts are grieving with those who are hurting, for those who have lost loved ones, for those who have suffered such great tragedy at the hands of evil. We ask that you would be their Comforter, that you would cover them with your grace and mercy, surrounding them in peace during this dark time.
We thank you that you alone are our Refuge, our Strong Tower, our Defender, and our Peace. We thank you that no matter what we face, you are still on the throne, you are still in control, and that no evil can ever stand against you. It will be defeated, it will not win. For you alone have won the final victory, and the enemy’s days are numbered.
We ask that by your mighty power, you would bring down the forces of darkness, that you would thwart the plans of all those who plot to attack and destroy, that you would draw out of darkness those souls who need to know you as Savior and Lord. We praise you for your power to set the captives free. We know that only in You do we have the hope to face dark and uncertain times. For our future is secure through the sacrifice of Christ.
Thank you God that you are surely with us…thank you that you care…thank you that your Presence is close…and that you weep with those who weep. We need you. We know and believe beyond any doubt, that your power and love will never fail.
In the Mighty Name of Jesus,
the Name Above All Names,
Salvation has a three-fold nature in regards to its timing. It has a past, present, and future aspect to the believer in Christ. - From the devotionals of F.E. Marsh
Those who are Christ’s are saved from what they deserve as sinners, because Christ has died for them and borne in His body the curse that sin merits
Galatians 3:13 (NLT2)13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT2)21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 (NLT2)10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
Ephesians 2:8 (NLT2)8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT2)9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
Believers are being saved from the despotism of sin as they abide in Christ and look to Him who lives in the power of an endless life (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 7:25), and who, by the Holy Spirit, is able to work in us mightily, so that we can work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12 (NLT2)12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.
The Lord’s children will be saved from the disgrace of sin when Christ returns; hence we wait for Him as a Savior
Philippians 3:20 (NLT2)20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
For this we are kept
1 Peter 1:5 (NLT2)5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
And for this Christ will return
Hebrews 9:28 (NLT2)28 so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.
It is this aspect of salvation of which the Lord says, “It is nearer”
Romans 13:11 (NLT2)11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
What is Salvation? (Also: Why It's Needed and How to Get It)
When thinking about salvation it’s helpful to think about what we are saved from, what we are saved to, who we are saved by. It’s also helpful to think about our salvation as a past, present, and future happening.
What Are We Saved From?
In the Old Testament (OT), the primary Hebrew word which is translated as “save” or “salvation” often refers to deliverance in concrete real-life situations. In 2 Kings 19:19 Hezekiah prays for the Lord to save them from the Assyrians. Though there are massive spiritual implications to this, the deliverance he longs for is primarily in the present. Likewise in Psalm 54:1 when David asks for God to save him he is thinking foremost about being delivered from the hand of Saul who is tracking him down. The Old Testament establishes God as the Deliverer and Savior.
While the primary New Testament (NT) word for salvation on occasion points to deliverance from a physical threat the dominant meaning is deliverance from the consequences of sin and the clutches of death and Satan. The major theme of deliverance in the NT is deliverance from God’s wrath. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and Romans 5:9 speak of our being delivered from the wrath to come. John MacArthur summarizes well:
"The real problem is sin and guilt. That's the issue. God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from the consequence of our sin, and everybody falls into the category of sinner. It doesn't matter whether you're among the haves or the have-nots, whether you have great expectations or none at all, whether you're consumed by your passions or exhibit a degree of self-control and discipline-you are still a sinner. You have broken the law of God and He's angry about it. Unless something happens to change your condition, you're on your way to eternal hell. You need to be rescued from the consequences of your sin. Those are the principal issues the gospel solves."
We see, then, that salvation speaks of receiving deliverance from our greatest problem; namely, the many consequences of our sin against a holy God. So how does this salvation come about?
By Whom Are We Saved?
In Acts 16:30 a Philippian jailer asks a very important question. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The apostles did not hesitate in pointing to Jesus Christ as the only means by which men will be saved.
Acts 16:29-31 (NLT2)29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”
Those in the Old Testament looked to God alone as their Savior. This is picked up in the NT when Jesus Christ is referred to as our Lord and Savior.
God is the one who enacts salvation. The Scriptures are clear that the way of unbelief is to trust in self or in other things for salvation. Psalm 20 shows that the way of belief is to not trust in chariots or horses but to trust in the name of the Lord.
Psalm 20:7-8 (NLT2)7 Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God.8 Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm.
We are the ones who have gotten ourselves into the mess; therefore God alone is able to save.
1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT2)15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.
This means every sinner, if he/she is to be saved will be saved through Christ.
What Are We Saved To?
This is where the image of a salvage yard is somewhat helpful. When a salvage yard reclaims a wrecked car, they take possession of it, change it substantially, and repurpose it. Though far less utilitarian, this is true of believers. Some people think of salvation as God cleaning our slates, offering forgiveness, and giving us a second chance. It is so much more than this. Salvation is not only being saved from something it is also being saved to someone. We are saved from sin and brought to God.
The Scriptures speak of the many benefits of salvation.
We are rescued from bondage and brought into freedom.
John 8:34-36 (NLT2)34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
We were saved from wrath and brought into peace with God.
Romans 5:1 (NLT2)1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
These are only a few examples. The Bible consistently shows that where sin once brought havoc and wreckage, the gospel brings life. But of all the benefits of the gospel, the greatest one is that it brings us to God Himself. I appreciate these words of John Piper:
"Indeed there are ten thousand gifts that flow from the love of God. The gospel of Christ proclaims the news that he has purchased by his death ten thousand blessings for his bride. But none of these gifts will lead to final joy if they have not first led to God. And not one gospel blessing will be enjoyed by anyone for whom the gospel’s greatest gift was not the Lord himself." (Piper, God is the Gospel, 12)
We are saved for a relationship. God has overcome our greatest problems so that we could be brought into a relationship with Him. This is our greatest good. But how does this become ours? Is everyone saved because the work Christ has accomplished?
How Do We Receive Salvation?
When I bought an engagement ring for my wife, it did not make us engaged. I still had to pop the question and she still had to receive my gift. In the same way Christ has done what is necessary for us to be saved, but that gift is not appropriated apart from faith. This is what the Bible teaches in Ephesians 2. We are dead in our trespasses and sin, and God makes us alive. When our eyes are opened to the beauty of the gospel and the accomplishment of Christ our only fitting response is to respond in repentance and belief.
Repentance and belief are really two sides of the same coin. Repentance means that we are changing our mind about God and about ourselves. We are laying down our own foolish efforts to save ourselves. We are turning away from self-sufficiency. At the same time we are turning towards Christ. We trust that He alone is the one who can save us. We are entrusting ourselves to him.
This is why the Bible says it is by grace through faith.
Ephesians 2:8 (NLT2)8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Faith is simply that which links us to Christ. It’s that which reaches out and grabs ahold of the work of Christ. And, as it has often been said, a weak faith is able to lay ahold of a strong Christ. The most important aspect of our repentance and faith is not its own veracity. The most important aspect of our repentance and faith is its object. When we place our faith and trust in Christ the Bible says we are saved. “
Joel 2:32 (NLT2)32 But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved, for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape, just as the LORD has said. These will be among the survivors whom the LORD has called.
Acts 2:21 (NLT2)21 But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.’
Romans 10:13 (NLT2)13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
Past, Present, Future
The last thing to note about salvation is that the Bible speaks of it in past, present, and future terms. Christ has died in history on our behalf. So there is a sense in which we can say with Paul, “He has saved us,”
2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT2)9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
There is another sense in which we are being saved. Salvation has an impact on the present. We are still in the process of being saved.
1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT2)18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
We also see a future component to our salvation.
Romans 5:9 (NLT2)9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. (emphasis mine)
This is not to say that there is no security in salvation. The common thread in all of these tenses of salvation is union with Christ. It is here that our hope for salvation rests. Either we are in union with Christ or we are not. Whenever I think about standing before the Lord of the Universe I’m reminded of these poignant words by Mark Dever:
"A Christian, therefore, knows that if he were to die tonight and stand before God, and if God were to say, 'Why should I let you into my presence?' the Christian would say, 'You shouldn't let me in. I have sinned and owe you a debt that I cannot pay back.' But he wouldn't stop there. He would continue, 'Yet, because of your great promises and mercy, I depend on the blood of Jesus Christ shed as a substitute for me, paying my moral debt, satisfying your holy and righteous requirements, and removing your wrath against sin!'"
Mike Leake is the Lead Pastor at FBC Marionville in Marionville, Missouri. He is currently pursuing his M.Div. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mike is married to Nikki, and they have two children, Isaiah and Hannah. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeLeake.
Matthew 6:10 (NKJV) Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
In the Bible Study that I lead each Sunday we’re studying the book “The Prayer That Turns The World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto For Revolution” by R. Albert Mohler. Here is a little bit of the introduction to the book:
“The Lord’s Prayer is the most powerful prayer in the Bible, taught by Jesus to those closest to him. We desperately need to relearn its power and practice.
The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer have become so familiar that we often speak them without a thought, sometimes without any awareness that we are speaking at all. But to the disciples who first heard these words from Jesus, the prayer was a thunderbolt, a radical new way to pray that changed them and the course of history.
Far from a safe series of comforting words, the Lord’s Prayer makes extraordinary claims, topples every earthly power, and announces God’s reign over all things in heaven and on earth.”
A few weeks ago the study centered on the second request of the model prayer which was asking God to bring His kingdom and His will to the earth (the first request was asking God to “hallow”, or “make His name”, holy. (See The Prayer That Turned The World Upside Down - Session 4 - Your Kingdom Come). During our study we were able to come up with, what I think, is an excellent description of God’s kingdom in the earth today, and what it means for “His will to be done”.
What Is God’s Kingdom And What Does It Mean To Pray For Its Arrival?
First let’s look at the answer Jesus gave to the Pharisees when they asked Him when the kingdom of God would come.
Luke 17:20-21 NKJV Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Jesus’ answer was that the kingdom of God was not coming in the manner they were expecting. The kingdom would not come with spectacle or splendor; there would be no great and magnificent leader who came defeating the Romans; This kingdom would come silently and unseen,
In fact, Jesus says, the kingdom had already come and was right under their noses. Of course, He was not saying that the kingdom of God was in them, they actually opposed Jesus and had no real relationship with God. They would later plot His execution.
A better translation would be “in your midst” or “among you.” Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He brought the kingdom of God to earth. Jesus’ presence in their midst gave them a taste of the kingdom life, as attested by the miracles that He performed and the relationship of love that He developed with and taught to those who believed and followed Him.
The kingdom of God is not something that is part of the political systems of this world. No government on earth truly represents God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God must be understood as something that is already here on earth but not yet fully present. Our hope is not that the governments of this world will transform into the kingdom of God, but that the kingdom of God will come from heaven to earth in power and glory. In other words, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated but not yet consummated.
This kingdom arrived with the coming of Christ.
Matthew 3:1-3 (NKJV)1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.' "
Christians are part of that kingdom.
God’s kingdom is essentially his reign over his people for their good and his glory. God’s reign is not just his absolute sovereignty; is also a redemptive reign that transforms hearts and creates obedience.
It does not come through moral reform and social justice, which is a good thing but can lead to a very liberal view of lifestyle and sin. It does not come through political processes either which can also be good but taken to legalistic extermes. The Bible teaches that God’s kingdom only comes as God’s people preach God’s Word, which, coupled with God’s Spirit, produces life and obedience.
We don’t see the full expression of God’s kingdom today but Christians are citizens of that kingdom.
Colossians 1:13-14 (NKJV)13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
The full expression of the kingdom will come with the return of Christ to the earth.
Revelation 11:15 (NKJV) Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"
How Does God’s Will Get Done In His Kingdom?
Let’s first look at the definition of God’s will referenced by Jesus in His model prayer.
The “will of God” can be used in two different ways. First, Scripture can speak of God’s will of decree, or what we could call God’s sovereign will. When Scripture speaks of God’s will in this sense, it refers to his absolute, sovereign rule over all things.
Psalms 115:3 NKJV But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Second, Scripture uses the phrase “will of God” to refer to God’s commandments or His revealed will. The revealed will of God is what He expects of us. The Ten Commandments, for instance, are an excellent example of God’s revealed will. The call to repent and believe the gospel would be yet another example of God’s revealed will.
Acts 17:30-31 NKJV Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Jesus is not talking about God’s sovereign will because that is already set both in heaven and already on earth. Jesus is clearly referring to God’s revealed will. He is asking the Father to reshape the hearts of every people so that He obeyed and glorified. When we accept the gospel message and begin to obey God from the heart mankind will obey God on earth just as the angels do in heaven. Our will is no longer the main thing but God’s will becomes the thing that drives.us. We no longer want to make God do our will (which is practicing magic), but to bring our will into line with His (which is what it means to practice true religion).
It’s Really God’s Agenda
For the kingdom of God to come means that all other kingdoms (including our own!) must fade into oblivion. By praying “your kingdom come,” Jesus Teaches us that we are ultimately meant to value God’s agenda, not our own.
God's kingdom is not something that we can make happen. We can't do it through humanitarian efforts and good works. We can't do it pushing a particular political party or a particular government with the kingdom. Christians too often fall prey to the temptation that we can bring about the kingdom of God by political force or some other sociological means. But God's kingdom is not of this world. As Jesus teaches us in this prayer, we are dependent on God and God alone to bring the kingdom to every heart and every corner of the earth. We cannot manufacture God’s kingdom by our own efforts. Instead, we are called to be faithful in the Great Commission, trusting that God by his sovereign, supernatural grace will spread his redemptive reign to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
So what are we asking when we say “your kingdom come, your will be done”? We are asking for something wonderful and something dangerous all at the same time.
Earlier this month I wrote and published “Science And Christianity Are Not Mutually Exclusive”. There is a section in it that responds to the statement “I can’t believe in both science and God.” What follows in this post is an answer to the question “can miracles exist side by side with science. As you will see on reading the article that appeared on beliefnet.com that they can in fact co-exist. As I show in “Science And Christianity Are Not Mutually Exclusive” many of the greatest scientist in history were devout Christians.
As the article says wanting to understand a miracle is not a sign of unbelief just a form of wanting to understand God. However you must accept that you may never understand. As the Scriptures say some things will remain mysterious.
Deuteronomy 29:29 (NLT2) “The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.
The basic questions of who, what, when, where, why and how are as central to Biblical scholarship as they are to the physical sciences.
Can Miracles Exist Side By Side With Science?Miracles do not preclude science and faith from mixing.Many people are convinced that faith and science are at opposite ends of the spectrum. A person can have religion or reason, logic or spirituality. They cannot have both. They cannot believe in scientific theories such as the Big Bang or Natural Selection and still live in such a way that the Bible is central to their lives. Belief in Jesus Christ cannot be mixed with the Theory of Relativity or Quantum Mechanics, right?
There is little to no reason why faith and science cannot be mixed. Many of the greatest scientists in history were devout Christians, and nothing has changed in recent years that precludes this from continuing to be true. God created this world which means that God created the processes by which it functions. By forming creation, God also formed the laws of nature. When He made mankind with an innate curiosity, He created the underlying reason science exists. People become scientists because they want to know why. Why does the world function the way it does? Why are certain things impossible? What is possible that humans have not yet experienced?
Interestingly enough, similar questions form the underpinnings of Biblical scholarship and interpretation. What does the Bible really say? What does it mean when it says this? Why does it say this and not that? What would be different if it said something else? Who wrote this section? What does that authorship mean for the text? The basic questions of who, what, when, where, why and how are as central to Biblical scholarship as they are to the physical sciences.
The fact that the same interest in understanding underlies both the investigation into God’s Word and into natural laws still does not leave everyone convinced that science and faith can mesh together without compromising either one. Part of the reason for this is the existence of miracles.
Miracles are something that even ordinary Christians sometimes have trouble accepting. The idea that Christ truly fed 5,000 people with what was essentially a boy’s lunch or that Jesus actually walked on water are somewhat difficult for a rationally minded person to believe. There is nothing to compare those incredible actions with and so there is no way for logic to accept them as true. That does not mean that a modern Christian cannot or does not believe that the miracles of the Bible occurred, it simply means that those events may be a bit harder for the Christian to really wrap their mind around.
When it comes to miracles, the incredible feats of Christ and the Apostles are easier to accept than those that take place in modern times. When modern miracles occur, people who were not present for the miracle are usually painfully swift to dismiss it as a hoax or try and find a logical explanation for the event. The former is problematic as it casts the recipient of God’s grace and healing as a liar. The latter, however, is not necessarily a problem no matter how much some people would like to cast it as such. Wanting to understand miracles is a form of wanting to understand God. No human can ever manage to do so entirely, of course, but that does not mean it is not an admirable goal. Logic, reason and curiosity can be applied to the study of God’s word in the Bible. Why could they not be used to try and understand the miracles He performs on His faithful?
Loosely defined, a miracle is an event that is impossible to explain but happened regardless. The most common miracles described today are miraculous healings. Naturally, people all over the world want to understand how a woman could suddenly be healed of her cancer or a man cured of his Alzheimer’s disease. Are the physicians bad Christians because they hope to be able to unravel a cure that could save millions? Of course not! They may fail in their endeavor, but they may also succeed if God has decided that His miracle will be what guides a researcher to the correct answer.
Many of the things that modern Christians take for granted would be considered to be miracles in the second and third centuries. Modern houses are made of stones made from liquid that are laid in place by horseless chariots taller than trees. Men and women can soar like eagles in giant metal birds. People can throw their voices across the ocean by speaking into a box that glows like a star. Homes are lit and kept warm by tiny, tamed bolts of lightning that run through thin metal snakes in the walls. How would those everyday objects–concrete, airplanes, phones, electricity and wires– not be considered miracles by early Christians? They would be baffled by those occurrences, to say nothing of what they would think of modern medicine.
Miracles are things that people believe are impossible, but they may not be impossible forever. Humans are extremely curious creatures and are not very good at taking “no” for an answer. Many a man and woman would consider “it’s impossible” as nothing short of a personal insult or pointed challenge. Show them a miracle, and they wish to understand it. This attitude in and of itself is not necessarily unchristian, so long as those doing the investigating understand that they may never get the answers they seek. Some miracles are meant to simply stay miraculous. That does not diminish their value or negate the attempts of others to understand the miracle. Miracles are, quite frankly, everywhere. Some of them are simply ones that people encounter so often that they do not even realize they are surrounded by miracles. Earth is a rock covered in water hurtling through empty space around a giant nuclear explosion along with a number of other rocks without colliding with each other. Humans are made up of trillions of cells each with separate DNA strands that are forever being perfectly copied without a single mistake. Plants and animals live on the slopes of mountains that regularly split open and spew fire into the air. Ice, in defiance of all other rules of solids and liquids, floats instead of sinks which keeps rivers and lakes from freezing completely solid every winter. In nine months, a pair of cells each with only half the DNA it needs to survive transform into a fully formed human being. Miracles are everywhere. What else, after all, is life itself but a miracle?
The difference between Christianity and other religions is the difference between your ability and Jesus Christ’s ability to deliver, save, and make you righteous.
Ephesians 2:9-10 (NLT2)9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Romans 6:14 (NLT2) Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
Romans 11:6 (NLT2) And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.
Romans 3:20-22 (NLT2)20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT2) For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT2) For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
Rick Warren gives the testimony of a Chinese Christian that quickly and neatly sums it up in a nutshell.
How Can I Get out of This Mess?
By Rick Warren
“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25 NLT).
Here is the testimony of a Chinese Christian: “I walked through the road of life and had fallen into a great ditch. The ditch was filled with depression, discouragement, and sin. As I lay in that ditch, Mohammed came along and said, ‘It’s your fault you’re in the ditch. You offended Allah, and this is your just punishment.’ Then Marx came by and said, ‘You’re in the ditch because of class warfare. You must revolt.’ But after the government changed, I was still in my ditch. Then Buddha came along and said, ‘You’re not really in that ditch. You just think you’re there. It’s all an illusion of the mind. Be at peace.’ Then Confucius came by and said, ‘Here are the 10 steps of self-attainment by which you can get out of your ditch. If you will struggle, you will climb out eventually.’ But as much as I struggled and strained, I couldn’t get out of the ditch, because it was too deep.
“Then one day, Jesus Christ came by and saw me in my ditch. Without a word, he took off his white robe and got down in the muddy ditch with me. Then he lifted me up with his strong arms and got me out of the ditch. Thank God that Jesus did for me what I could not do for myself.”
Jesus did for you what you could not do for yourself.
If you want healing in your life, you have to believe that Christ can change you. Romans 7:24-25 says, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (NLT).
The answer to your problem is a person. Who’s going to be lord of your life? Who’s going to call the shots? You or Jesus Christ? When you’re mastered by him, you can master your problems.
God has the power you are lacking. He’ll help you out.
What does it mean for God to be Lord of your life?
Jesus did for you what you could not do for yourself. What do you need to trust him for today that is too big for you to handle on your own?
How does your life demonstrate that you believe God can change you?
This excerpt from a sermon preached by Bill Booknight titled “Almost Persuaded” should cause us all to pause at those times we start to look at our own righteous apart from Jesus. It is also a information to share with someone who believes that we must do good works to gain God’s favor and eternal life.
Matthew 19:16-22 NIV - Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The well-known pastor from Chicago, Bill Hybels, was on an airplane one day. The passenger beside him asked Bill what he did for a living. When he replied that he was a minister, an interesting conversation ensued. The man said, “I believe in God, but I don’t attend church. I don’t see why I need it. I am an honest guy, and I try to treat other people decently. One day when I die and meet God, I believe that my record will be acceptable to Him.”
Bill Hybels took a legal pad from his briefcase and said, “I agree with you that God will judge all people. Let’s do some preliminary figuring on how we might stack up before God. I’m going to draw a line across the middle of this page. Let’s say that this line represents a passing grade with God. Who is the best person you can think of, the one who grades out highest with God?”
The man thought for just a moment and replied, “Billy Graham.”
“Fine,” said Bill, “let’s put Billy Graham on our chart, but we must place him here where Billy Graham himself says he ought to be. Billy Graham has said repeatedly that he is a sinner who deserves to go to hell; but in fact he is going to heaven, only because Jesus paid for his sins on the cross. So, we must put Billy down here beneath the middle line.” Then Bill said, “I’m going to put my own name on this chart well beneath Billy Graham’s name. Like Billy, I’m a sinner whose only hope is the cross.”
Bill Hybels noticed that his new friend had suddenly become strangely quiet, perhaps anticipating the next question.
Bill turned to him and asked, “Brother, where should we put you on the chart? You don’t want to be ranked above Billy Graham, do you?”
After a considerable pause, the man replied, “You have certainly given me food for thought.”
Today is a day of decision and commitment. Don’t be like the rich young ruler who was almost persuaded. He walked away from the best offer on earth, and his life thereafter was a tale of sorrow. Today is a wonderful time to become a forgiven, redeemed child of God!
Dr. Bill Bouknight retired from the pastorate in 2007 after more than 40 years of serving churches in South Carolina and Tennessee.
If our growth as disciples of Jesus Christ happened without effort and cost, the country would be as overgrown with committed Christians as the South is with kudzu (a quick-growing eastern Asian climbing plant with reddish-purple flowers, used as a fodder crop and for erosion control. It has become a pest in the southeastern US).
If the churches of mainline Protestantism are to reach the pre-Christian population of North America, they must offer them a message that is clear, compelling, and grounded in the absolute truth of Scripture. In this volume Bouknight models such preaching, demonstrating how preaching that remains faithful to historic, orthodox Christian beliefs remains the only way to reach those who, weary of the non-answers given by this relativistic and skeptical age, hunger for a genuine experience of God.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.