With this blog and the next, I will temporarily be hitting the pause button in our series of going deeper into the Lord’s prayer. I believe you will see the timeliness of these next two heart messages that brought me to that decision. We’ll finish up the beautiful prayer that Jesus taught, in November.
Greetings Dear Friends,
When you read this, most probably the recent glorious Fall days of Northeast Ohio will have given way to the more seasonable rain and chill of late October. I will have just returned from a week of literally stepping “out of time”…reveling in the love and presence of kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. I will have also had the privilege of holding and snuggling extensively with my latest newborn great-grandson. What a truly precious gift that was.
It also was God ordered, because from the perspective of that sweet space I received a little wake-up call from the Lord. I recognized that ever so gradually, I was being pulled back into the vortex of overscheduling, overextending, and the mindset of over-busy-ness (if that is even a word).
Being recently retired from full-time employment, the new rhythms I have been establishing are indeed, freeing and fruitful. All the things I’ve put my mind to are good.
They are all good.
But…(I started asking myself)…am I supposed to be doing all of them all the time?
Are there not times when I’m supposed to be choosing between two goods?
Are there not times when I’m supposed to be choosing the greater good?
Reading this passage of Scripture I saw something very important:
Where are you in your life now? Are you doing much that is good? Are you trying to do it all?
Are you sure you’re supposed to be doing all that you’re doing?
Perhaps the Lord would assign simply a greater good for you to consider…at least for now.
When was the last time you checked in with Him?
Perhaps this week you can take some time, as I have, to just ask Him.
“Let us go…for that is why I came out.”
“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
These past days meditating on the Lord’s prayer, I’ve been fixated on the passage in Luke 7:18-28 concerning John the Baptist, and Jesus’ discussion with the people concerning him. John’s disciples had just left after relating his bewilderment in prison concerning just this issue: “Thy Kingdom come…”
John was asking, “Art thou he that should come? Or should we look for another?”
After answering them, Jesus’ also asked a question,…the same question - three times!
“What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?...
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet?”
I ask myself concerning this Kingdom: what would I have gone out in the wilderness to see?
Here is what Jesus answered:
“This is he, of whom it is written, ‘Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.’ For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Dear friends, this is us! This is us!
Let this wash over you as you speak the words of the Lord’s prayer into the heavenlies and into your own wilderness! Realize that we,…the least of us in the kingdom of God,… are greater than John.
This is true, only because today, we have the Indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit.
This is true because we also are called to “…prepare thy way before thee” in the wilderness of our chaotic times.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”
“And it came to pass, that as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
If you’re anything like me, you’ve known the Lord’s prayer from childhood. It is perhaps the best known prayer among Christians, as it is simple and comforting. In fact it is so familiar, there may even be times when you find yourself saying those beautiful words almost “casually” … only half thinking of what they mean.
Again, I’m speaking from personal experience. However, there was a point in my life when I came face to face with the deep theology and power in those words spoken by Jesus on the Mount of Beatitudes. In the next few blogs I would like to just stay with those words and allow you time to soak in their depth. Are you ready? Let us begin.
Jesus said: “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them; for your Father knoweth what ye have need of, before ye ask Him. After this manner therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.” Matthew 6:7-9
Our Father which art in heaven…
I’m writing this in September of 2017 and so far this month there have been four major hurricanes,… three of which have wreaked havoc upon the United States of America. Because of our advanced technology we have been able to sit in our comfortable homes and watch satellite images of a whirlwind so large that it encompassed the entire state of Florida in its approach. We cried and prayed for all those in its path as we watched in disbelief. Yet, this whirlwind does not even come close to displaying the magnificent, powerful transcendency of God in heaven…who is also our Father. The word Jesus used was Abba,… our Daddy.
Hallowed be thy name…
We speak this next phrase in our western culture, not realizing the privilege of approaching Him as Daddy. The Hebrews of Jesus’ day (and throughout the Old Testament) were in such awe and fear of our transcendent Creator, that they never, NEVER spoke His Name. They referred to YHWH as Ha Shem, “the Name.” Yet amazingly, with these words Jesus opened for us the portal of relationship without lessening the holiness of His Father’s Name.
Dear Friends, as you meditate on these two verses in the days ahead, please pause also to embrace another time when God Himself used the word hallowed:
“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day. Wherefore, the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:11
Greetings Dear Friends,
As I write this today, the air has turned a tad crisp and the trees are definitely starting to change colors. In my neighborhood the sounds of school buses depositing their treasured passengers back home have now replaced the distinct sounds of summer. Gratefully, I can rejoice in the fact that my windows can be open and the curtains billowing in the fall breeze. As thankful as I am for air conditioning in the heat, I can honestly say that I’m loving this!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I love… and about my love for the Lord.
Since writing the last blog, I’ve become so aware of the state of my soul and have asked myself:
“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches … As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:3-10
But Lord, what about my first love? How do I know it’s still first?
The following story called “The Little Fish” from the Indian Jesuit, Anthony de Mello, is a little parable about the awareness of God’s abiding love:
“Excuse me”, said an ocean fish. “You are older than I, so can you tell me where to find
this thing they call the ocean?’
“The ocean,” said the older fish “is the thing you are in now.”
“Oh, this? But this is water. What I’m seeking is the ocean,” said the disappointed fish as he swam away to search elsewhere.
“Stop searching, little fish, says de Mello.
“There isn’t anything to look for. All you have to do is look.”
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you” John 15:11-12.
Thank You, Lord Jesus. Thank You.
“This is love…” 2 John 6
For only God’s reasons, I have had a fascination these last months with John, the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ. It is believed that he was but a teenager when the Lord called him and his older brother James, (Sons of Thunder) to follow Him. They were fishermen by trade and worked closely…perhaps business partners, perhaps even cousins …with the brothers, Peter and Andrew.
I’ve caught glimpses in the Gospels of John’s growth during his years with Jesus, especially as seen in the Book he penned. I’ve pondered how he must have become a man overnight at Calvary, and how he received Mary into his home and care. I’ve been fascinated by the challenges he must have faced as Peter’s side-kick through the first chapters of Acts. Ah yes, and my heart has been warmed and warned by the admonishments of his three pastoral letters.
Now this month, my focus has turned to John as the last surviving apostle of Jesus’ original twelve. Tradition has it that this bishop and overseer of the church at Ephesus, had been brutally manhandled and then exiled with a life sentence of hard labor on Patmos. Yet this John, now an old man, was in worship on the Lord’s day.
I remember my reaction as I began reading Revelation, now totally immersed in the life and heart of this man. I remember literally sitting up straighter as I “connected the dots” that John’s own church at Ephesus was the first one being addressed in the second chapter of Revelation.
I tried to picture John on his face before the Lord. I tried to picture what it might have felt like to have the right Hand of God placed on him. Then I tried to picture John with a stylus in his shaking hands writing these words being dictated by “…One like the Son of Man, clothed with a long garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band…” (Revelation 1:13).
“To the angel of the church of EPHESUS write…I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and found them liars. And you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake, and you have not become weary” (Revelation 2:2-3).
But then I tried to picture John writing, “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Now my hands are shaking. There are many insights concerning the seven churches in Revelation. Yet they were seven actual churches in Asia at the time. The church at Ephesus was John’s church.
This was John, the one who spoke of himself as the disciple Jesus loved and as the one “…leaning on Jesus’ bosom…” at the last supper (John 13:23)! This church was John’s responsibility, and these were his people whom he had addressed as “dear friends” and “little children.” This was John on Patmos, having faced death for Jesus!! Yet, he was hearing the word from the Lord, “nevertheless...”
I was undone.
What about my first love? What about those I’m responsible for, those I’m influencing? What about you, dear readers? What about your first love?
Summer is drawing to a close. Take some time to just stop, repent if necessary, and ask the Lord to re-ignite the flame of your first love.
Remember…“We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Tradition has it that John ultimately was released from Patmos and returned to his flock at Ephesus. I feel certain he returned having regained the passion of his first love. How about you?