Tag Archives: theology

How’s Our Prayer Life?

It is my sincere hope that all of us pray to our Father in heaven, and pray often.  The Bible says to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), and we should remember that this verse is a command from God that he expects us to obey.  Prayer is not an optional thing if we want to be saved; since Christ is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9), we must obey the commands to pray often if we want to see Heaven.

We should also want the Lord to be pleased with our prayers and to answer them.  Have we ever stopped to consider what exactly it is that we pray for?  Have we ever thought about for whose benefit it is that we are praying for?  We should.  Consider the example of Solomon’s prayer and God’s response to it (1 Kings 3:5-14).  He did not ask that God give him a long life, or a lot of money.  He did not ask that God do something bad to his enemies.  Instead, he asked for wisdom and understanding to make the right judgment calls in life.  God was so impressed with this that he not only gave Solomon wisdom, but also granted to him all the things that he didn’t ask for.

We can pray to our heavenly Father about our jobs, our health, our school work, and our finances.  We have the example of a man God called honorable who prayed for these types of things (1 Chr. 4:9-10).  These aren’t bad things to pray about, and praying about such things is certainly better than not praying at all.  However, how many of these things will be with us a century from now?  None!

Let’s remember to pray also for the spiritual, the things that we can keep forever such as love, mercy, humility, understanding, meekness, patience, and honesty.  These are qualities of the heart that truly matter to God and will truly help us reach heaven.  They, rather than our successes in this world, are what matter in the long run.  Remember also that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), so we should pray for the spiritual and physical well-being of others more than for ourselves.
We should all want to get to heaven as our top priority, so let’s make sure we are aiming at the right target by asking for the best things to help us and everyone else get there.  Let’s seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness before all other things, and He will provide the rest (Matt. 6:33).

The Zeal of Phinehas

The New Testament, the law of God which applies to us today (Heb. 8:7-13), tells us that the Old Testament still has much value for the Christian.  The accounts of what happened to the Israelites provide instruction, admonition, encouragement, hope, and an example to us today (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:1-11).  Therefore, it is proper for modern seekers of God to study the Old Testament, because through it we can find out a lot about how our Creator looks at things.

For example, consider Phinehas (Num. 25:6-13), a little known man in the Old Testament who lived during the time of Moses.  While the Jews were wandering in the wilderness, one of them brought a foreign woman into the camp in front of everyone, presumably either to marry her or to fornicate with her.  While the idea of marrying a foreigner may seem trivial to us today – possibly due to the New Testament giving no prohibition between races (Gal. 3:28) – it was a sin under Old Testament law (Ex. 34:11-16; Deut. 7:3-4).  Phinehas apparently recognized this and was very upset that one of his Jewish brothers would so blatantly disobey his God, and so he picked up a spear, went into the man’s chamber, and killed both him and the woman.  As a result, God took away the plague he had thrown upon Israel, and even praised the actions of Phinehas.

What lessons can we learn from this?  First, let me make it clear that I am not advocating killing someone whom you see blatantly disobeying God’s Word.  While the Old Testament allowed that (Josh. 7) due to being the lawbook of a singular theocratic nation, the New Testament – the lawbook of Christians of all nations – tells us to deal with sinners among our brethren in a firm but non-violent way (Matt. 18:15-17; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 5; Eph. 5:11; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15; 2 John 9-11).  Under the New Testament, only the various secular governments have the authority from God to use capital punishment to punish evildoers (Rom. 13:1-4), and anyone – including Christians – who would purposely take a man’s life outside of governmental parameters would be guilty of sin (Gal. 5:19-21).

That said, what I would like us to consider is the zeal Phinehas must have possessed in order to do such a thing as take a man’s life because that man was sinning against God.  We need to remember that Phinehas was putting his own life in danger by going into that man’s tent and attacking him.  The man could have defended himself and maybe even taken Phinehas’ own life.  Yet, Phinehas cared so much about God’s Word being obeyed that he would not allow sin to be in his presence for one minute…and God praised him for that attitude.

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Pet. 2:12)

Do we have that attitude?  Do we hate sin that much?  When someone tells a dirty joke or uses foul language in your presence, do you have enough zeal for God to politely ask them to stop?  If your friends are involved in fornication, do you care enough about God and them to tell them that what they are doing is wrong?  Or do you look the other way and maybe even join in so that they won’t think you’re weird?  If that’s the case, where’s your zeal for God?  More importantly, where is God’s approval for you?

I hope we all can have Phinehas’ zeal for standing up for what is right in the sight of God.  It’s something to think about, and a goal for us to have.

Joy In The Midst Of Grief

This past Sunday afternoon, I received a call that no minister wants to receive.  A dear sister in Christ had just passed away after suffering from a grievous illness for many months, and her family was grieving at the house.  Would I please come and be with them?  Two months ago, I sat every day at the hospital with another family from the church who was watching their husband, father, and brother lose his battle with cancer, and I went to their house on another Sunday when I received the call that he had left this life.  Sitting with folks who have lost their mate, their closest companion, the parent who brought them into this world and nurtured and loved them all their lives, the grandparent who had spoiled them as children and had given them advice, privileges, and goodies that they would never get from Mom and Dad, and holding their hands while they mourn and listening to them grieve and weep…it’s hard.  It’s at these times that I feel the most helpless and inadequate.

I’m sure you know what I mean.  Many of you have been there, and will be again.  I’ve found that it’s best to simply be there, to provide that hand to hold, that shoulder to cry on, that listening ear.  Job’s friends sat with him during his darkest hour for an entire week, and none of them said a word during that entire time (Job 2:11-13).  In fact, it turned out that the most comfort they gave to Job was when they were silent; once they started talking, they just added to his pain and sorrow!  (Job 4-37)  What a great lesson for us!

Yet, in the midst of all this sorrow, pain, loss and feelings of helplessness, I cannot help but feel joy and happiness for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have left this life.  The apostle John wrote, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this:  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’  ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Rev. 14:13)  Those who die in the Lord are at peace now.  They are receiving comfort alongside Lazarus, Abraham, and the thief in Paradise (Luke 16:23-25; 23:39-43).  When Christ comes again, they will receive a new, imperishable body (1 Cor. 15:50-55) and rise again to meet him in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18).  When we all stand before God’s judgment seat, Death and Hades will have given them up (Rev. 20:11-13).  They will hear from the lips of their Savior and Lord, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34), and they will be ushered into eternal life (Matt. 25:46).

In this life, they suffered…but their suffering was preparing them for eternal glory in heaven (1 Cor. 4:16-5:5), a place they will be with an innumerable host of their fellow saints, a place where there is no more pain, sorrow, hunger, thirst, or weeping, a place where they will be with God and the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-4).  They will be in this wonderful place for all eternity not because they earned it or deserved it (Eph. 2:8-9).  No, they were sinners just like all of us (Rom. 3:23).  Heaven will be theirs because of God’s grace and mercy (Tit. 2:11-14; 3:3-7) which prompted him to send his Son to die for us (Rom. 5:6-11; 1 John 2:1-2).  Heaven will be theirs because they chose to obey God (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21-23).  Heaven will be theirs because of their faith in Jesus (John 3:16), a faith which prompted them to obey him (James 2:14-26).  Heaven will be theirs because Jesus told them to repent of their sins, and they believed and obeyed him (Luke 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:9-10).  Heaven will be theirs because Jesus told them to wash their sins away by being baptized into him, and they believed and obeyed him (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:11-13; Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Heaven will be theirs because when they were penitently baptized, the Lord added them to his body, the church of which he is the Savior (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-5; 5:23).  Heaven will be theirs because they walked in the light of God by confessing their sins and striving to put Christ first in all things through their obedience of his commands (1 John 1:7-9; Matt. 6:33; 28:18-20).

And Heaven can be ours as well.  God offers us the same salvation he offered them.  He gives us the same plan, the same grace, the same mercy, the same sacrifice, the same commandments.  When we pass on, our loved ones can also find joy in the midst of their grief (1 Thess. 4:13-18), because we were in the Lord when we left this life (Rev. 14:13).

Are we in the Lord?  God’s Word tells us how to be in him.  Are we doing what he has told us to do?  Are we prepared for eternity?