Thursday, June 30, 2016

Persistent Prayer

Jesus taught us to be persistent in prayer, and to get his point across he told a parable about a man who was very persistent. I’ll call him Fred. Fred had some friends arrive from far away, and he had no food for them, so he went to George’s house to borrow some. George, along with his family, was fast asleep since it was the middle of night. Fred pounded on the door until he awoke George. George tried without opening the door to hush Fred up and send him on his way. That’s when Fred just pounded even louder and shamelessly asked for help. Finally, George gathered up all the food in sight and gave it to Fred, not because he liked him so much but simply to get rid of him (Luke 11:5-13). If we will respond to persistent people who we want to leave us alone, how much more will our Heavenly Father who loves us respond to our persistence.

The best way to describe the actions of Fred is that he shamelessly asked for help. He was persistent and refused to quit until his request was answered.  Jesus encouraged us to ask and keep on asking, to seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking, which is exactly what Fred did.

The fact that God gives to all of us certain things whether or not we ask is evident in the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45).  He gives not because we deserve them or have earned them but because he is good. There is, however, other things that are given because of persistence. If we pray a prayer once and then never remember to ask again, it is not very important, but if we pray every day for a need without letting up, we show persistence. Persistence shows we value the need and are extremely serious about what we are asking.

Persistence is an attitude, and when it comes to persistence in prayer, it is applauded by Jesus. Jesus encourages us to have the confidence and believe it will happen. Then look for it because you know it’s coming. If you don’t find it, just keep on knocking until the door opens. This is faith and confidence that God will honor your persistence.

When it comes to knocking on doors with persistence, I have a little experience in this area. Many years ago when I was working with my father in the sand and rock business, I went up in the mountains of California to get a load of decomposed granite. I had never been to the place before, so I was following the map. First, I was to go to a house and knock on the door, and then they would take me to the pit and load me. I found the house and went to the door, but before I made it to the door, out of nowhere came a very vicious German Shepherd dog that attacked me. Fortunately, it was winter, and I had on a coat and gloves. Each time he lunged at me I was able to push him back. I made it to the door, and I knocked, and it was no small knock; it was more like pounding. In between my knocking, the dog kept coming, and I kept on knocking and knocking. Finally, a lady came to the door in her housecoat, and I stepped in, and she stepped out, and I closed the door behind me and caught my breath.

I pounded on that door shamelessly because I had a reason and I fully expected an answer. That is precisely how we should be in prayer because God will reward those who are persistent. Don’t give up! Don’t quit! Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking until God answers that prayer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Yesterday was Father’s Day, and I tried to encourage the fathers in our congregation. One of the things that fathers face on a regular basis is temptation. Temptation is that thought or situation that tries to lure us away from our integrity, our faith and our family. Jesus taught us to pray each day to our Father to “lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4). This is not an inference that God leads us into temptation but about our need for God’s help to overcome temptation. All of life is full of temptation and has been for the great men and women of the Bible.

Temptation is the arena where we grow moral character and test our spiritual connection to God. Jesus’ ministry began with forty days in the wilderness where Satan tempted him, but he overcame by his dependence on God and the Word of God. Again in the Garden of Gethsemane when Satan tempted him with a shortcut to glory bypassing the agony and humiliation of the cross, Jesus overcame.

How many fathers are tempted sexually to be unfaithful to their wives whether by involvement with another woman or through pornography? Solomon describes the scene of a man being tempted by a woman who has intentions of seducing a man. She leads him astray with persuasive words, and he follows her like an ox going to the slaughter, and little does he know that it will cost him his life (Prov 7:21-27). I can’t tell you the heartache I have seen over the years as a pastor of those men who fell for her tempting lies. These men woke up alright, but it was too late, they had by then lost their marriages and many lost their families.

Temptation, when overcome, helps develop perseverance and build our integrity. When Daniel was taken captive to Babylon, he was enrolled in academic training for three years to learn the language and literature of the Babylonians so they could change his world view.  They started by changing Daniel’s name to Belteshazzar. They may have changed his name, but they didn’t change Daniel. They attempted to make him forget his faith, but they failed because Daniel remained true to his God. The same thing could be said of Joseph when tempted by Potiphar’s wife. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie Ten Boom stood up against Nazi oppression and remained true to their faith, and so do men of character every day.

As long as we live in this flesh we will be vulnerable to the power of temptation. Never fall prey to the idea that you have somehow acquired a power over temptation of your own. It is by the grace of God that we stand or fall. Only by our dependence on God and our daily acknowledgement of our need of his help will we overcome temptation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Abba Father

Once after hearing Jesus pray, the disciples asked him to teach them to pray like that. He did, and we call it the Lord’s Prayer, and it is the greatest prayer ever prayed. We call it the Lord’s Prayer, but in reality it would be more accurate to understand it as our prayer. It’s been called Lord’s Prayer since he prayed it, but it was a prayer given to us by the Lord as a model of prayer (Luke 11:1-4).

The prayer begins with Jesus telling us to address God as Father. Maybe that doesn’t shock you, but to those hearing Jesus for the first time, it was a jolt. They would have been completely astonished because the word Father was such an awkward way of addressing God. In the Old Testament God is referred to about 14 times as Father but only in an impersonal way such as Father of the nation.  However, when Jesus came on the scene that is the only way he addressed God. He said Abba, which means daddy but with more reverence, over 60 times. It was as if Jesus was saying “I want you to learn to address my father the same way I do—as Abba.

If you know your father as Abba, you have no fear of him. You don’t have to fear that he might react to you. Once you come to really know God as father, it is one of the strongest indications that you have come to know God. He becomes personal and real and when your prayers are addressed to the Father; you are expressing your love and admiration for your father.

My sons and daughter don’t address me as Boyd, but as Daddy. I am their father, and the word denotes respect and affection. It is what I called my father, and it is what I call my heavenly father. Referring to God as father also means you know he will take care of you. You know you are safe in his presence. I remember on one occasion when I was very young that my father taught my brother and me how to be better swimmers. He would take us out in deep water in a reservoir so the water was calm, but I still felt fear because I knew the water was so deep. As we swam along he could instruct me to slow down and conserve my strength and not fight the water. We swam far out into the reservoir, and I was getting tired. My father said, “Are you tired?” When I said, “Yes,” he responded, “Hang on to my shoulder and let me pull you back and just relax and rest now.” I did, and as he pulled back to shore I felt all the fear leave. The next time I swam out in that deep part, the fear was gone.

One year ago today my father died and went to be with Jesus. During the months of March and May I made two trips to California to be with him. In March he went with me everywhere. If I went to Walmart, he would go. He would ride the electric carts, and I would walk. It was a special week, one I will never forget. On one occasion I went to the mall to pick up some things, and we sat down at the food court and had a cup of coffee. There was a certain sadness about that moment I have never forgotten. We both knew the next day I was leaving and this was probably the last time we would have a cup coffee out like this. Believe me, when I sit down to have a cup of coffee with my boys or with my wife, I treasure it. The next time I came in May it was to be with him in the hospital. I stayed by his side night and day.

Later, my dad was in hospice care at home, and he deteriorated fast. A couple of days before he passed, my sister asked me to talk to him on the phone because he kept asking for me. I talked to him and told him to go on home and be with Jesus. He understood that I was releasing him to go home to heaven, and very shortly he did.

My father’s influence is all around my life. His example and his love and his faith in God have helped formed my life into what it is. I have a great advantage in knowing my heavenly father because of that. But, knowing my heavenly father is the greatest of all experiences that life has afforded me. I only came to know my father through Jesus his son, and that is the way you will come to know him.