Friday, May 15, 2015

Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Prayer or Why Would Jesus Need to Pray?

May 16, 2015
Sabbath School Bible Study
Larry R Evans


It was John Wesley who said,
Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.  God does nothing but in answer to prayer.
And note this statement from E.M. Bounds
A prayerless Christian will never learn God’s truth; a prayerless ministry will never be able to teach God’s truth.  . . . The best, the greatest offering is an offering of prayer. –E.M. Bounds in Power Through Prayer, p. 78.
Our reluctance to spend time in prayer is astonishing in light of who God is, who we are and what God is offering.  Note the insights of David:
   Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
   Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
   Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
    Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chron. 29:11-13, NIV)
The disciples observed Jesus in prayer and within them arose the desire to pray as Jesus did.

It was from hours spent with God that He came forth, morning by morning, to bring the light of heaven to men. The disciples had come to connect His hours of prayer with the power of His words and works. Now, as they listened to His supplication, their hearts were awed and humbled. As He ceased praying, it was with a conviction of their own deep need that they exclaimed, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1. (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp.102-103)
There are many ways of addressing this week’s lesson but given our time, I thought it would be best for us to give special focus to what we often refer to as, “The Lord’s Prayer.”  The prayer was given twice by Jesus—once to the multitude in the “Sermon on the Mount” and some months later to disciples.  We will take a “brief” look at five parts of the prayer: To whom it is addressed, thanksgiving, our wants, our confession and our claim for His mercy.  We highly recommend a reflective study of the chapter in Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, by Ellen G White, pp. 102-122.  Our study is not restricted to this reference but it provides many excellent insights. Our primary Bible passages are found in Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:5-15).

Questions for Reflection

1.              Jesus begins the prayer with “Father” to give emphasis to the disciplinary tactics that a father uses to get his children to do what he wants them to do. (Lk 11:2; Matt 6:9) True or False?

2.              The word “hallowed” (“hallowed be your name”)comes from the same word used for Halloween which means “’scary’ and/or ‘to approach with fear’”(Lk 11:2; Matt 6:9).  True or False?

3.              Our wants are important to God. (Lk 11:3; Matt 6:11) True or False?

4.              Confession comes later in the prayer because it is not as important as “hallowing” the name of God. (Lk 11:4; Matt 6:12) True or False?

5.              To pray “lead us not into temptation” means that we won’t have temptations if we sincerely request this in our prayers.  ( Lk 11:4; Matt 6:13) True or False?

Brief Comments on the Questions

1.            Jesus begins the prayer with “Father” to give emphasis to the disciplinary tactics that a father uses to get his children to do what he wants them to do. (Lk 11:2; Matt 6:9) False

The word translated for Father is Jesus’ favorite word and is recorded at least 170 times in the four gospels. his corresponds to the Aramaic abba, the address of a child to its parent. It is the word that communicates warmth, respect and a close relationship.  Using such a term reminds us we are addressing a Person and not just an inanimate power. “The very first step in approaching God is to know and believe the love that He has to us (1 John 4:16); for it is through the drawing of His love that we are led to come to Him.” (MB, pp. 104-105)

2.            The word “hallowed” (“hallowed be your name”) comes from the same word used for Halloween which means “’scary’ and/or ‘to approach with fear’”(Lk 11:2; Matt 6:9). False

Hallowed means ‘made holy’, ‘reverenced.’ The name in antiquity stood for far more than it does with us. It summed up a person’s whole character, all that was known or revealed about him. The requests that follow do so through the knowledge or appreciation of the character of God. It is His kingdom, His will being done, that will bring the true blessings we seek. It is for this reason that this part of the prayer is often referred to as a “praise” section.  Johann Herder, a German philosopher, once wrote: “We cannot know ourselves without a reference point outside ourselves.”  This part of the prayer provides the needed reference point.

3.            Our wants are important to God. (Lk 11:3; Matt 6:11) True

“Give us today our daily bread.” – “Give” forces us to recognize that God is the source of all gifts. Bread is a general term denoting nourishing and filling food. Thus the request is for food that is necessary to sustain life for the day.  Praising God first puts us in the right frame of mind to tell him about our needs. Too often our prayers are more like shopping lists than conversations.
God’s provision is daily, not all at once. We cannot store it up and then cut off communication with God. And we dare not be self-satisfied. If you are running low on strength, ask yourself, How long have I been away from the Source?

4.            Confession comes later in the prayer because it is not as important as “hallowing” the name of God. (Lk 11:4; Matt 6:12)  False

After recognizing the very character and nature of God and His kingdom (Hallowed), we are in a better position  to view both ourselves and others.  When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he made forgiveness the cornerstone of their relationship with God. God has forgiven our sins; we must now forgive those who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving shows we have not understood that we ourselves deeply need to be forgiven.
“God’s forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation.  It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin.” (MB, p.114)

5.            To pray “lead us not into temptation” means that we won’t have temptations if we sincerely request this in our prayers.  ( Lk 11:4; Matt 6:13) False

Asking for God’s merciful intervention into our lives is a prayer for His personal guidance.  He knows our strengths and weaknesses.  Our prayer is o keep us within His kingdom and not to allow the Evil One to draw us away. 

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Cor 10:13)

“Satan seeks to bring us into temptation, that the evil of our characters may be revealed before men and angels, that he may claim us as his own. In the symbolic prophecy of Zechariah, Satan is seen standing at the right hand of the Angel of the Lord, accusing Joshua, the high priest, who is clothed in filthy garments, and resisting the work that the Angel desires to do for him. This represents the attitude of Satan toward every soul whom Christ is seeking to draw unto Himself. The enemy leads us into sin, and then he accuses us before the heavenly universe as unworthy of the love of God.” (MB: pp. 116-117)

“But while we are not to be dismayed by trial, bitter though it be, we should pray that God will not permit us to be brought where we shall be drawn away by the desires of our own evil hearts. In offering the prayer that Christ has given, we surrender ourselves to the guidance of God, asking Him to lead us in safe paths. We cannot offer this prayer in sincerity, and yet decide to walk in any way of our own choosing. We shall wait for His hand to lead us; we shall listen to His voice, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it.’ Isaiah 30:21.” (MB 117-118).

Reflective Conclusion

Times will come when our prayers will appear not to be heard and we are tempted to think God has abandoned us.  But we must not cease to pray and to pray in faith. There was even a time when “God” did not think His prayers were being heard.

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” –which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” (Matt 27:45).  Jesus revealed that we must pray through the dark times.  His strength came from the very first words He taught His disciples to pray:  “Our Father.”  Here in the relationship with His Father before the cross He gathered the strength to withstand the darkness of circumstances that seemed to overwhelm Him.  Jesus too needed to pray.

Not by seeking a holy mountain or a sacred temple are men brought into communion with heaven. Religion is not to be confined to external forms and ceremonies. The religion that comes from God is the only religion that will lead to God. In order to serve Him aright, we must be born of the divine Spirit. This will purify the heart and renew the mind, giving us a new capacity for knowing and loving God. It will give us a willing obedience to all His requirements. This is true worship. It is the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit every sincere prayer is indited, and such prayer is acceptable to God. Wherever a soul reaches out after God, there the Spirit’s working is manifest, and God will reveal Himself to that soul. For such worshipers He is seeking. He waits to receive them, and to make them His sons and daughters. { DA 189.2}

Additional Key Insights Regarding the Importance of Prayer

“There will come times when the church will be stirred by divine power, and earnest activity will be the result; for the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit will inspire its members to go forth and bring souls to Christ. But when this activity is manifested, the most earnest workers will be safe only as they depend upon God through constant, earnest prayer. They will need to make earnest supplication that through the grace of Christ they may be saved from taking pride in their work, or of making a savior of their activity. They must constantly look to Jesus, that they may realize that it is His power which does the work, and thus be able to ascribe all the glory to God. We shall be called upon to make most decided efforts to extend the work of God, and prayer to our heavenly Father will be most essential. It will be necessary to engage in prayer in the closet, in the family, and in the church.”—The Review and Herald, July 4, 1893. { ChS 98.4}

Every child may gain knowledge, as Jesus did, from the works of nature and the pages of God’s holy word. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His holy word, angels will come near, our minds will be strengthened, our character will be elevated and refined, and we shall become more like our Saviour. And as we behold the beauty and grandeur of the works of nature, our affections go out after God; while the heart is awed and the spirit subdued, the soul is invigorated by coming in contact with the Infinite through His marvelous works. Communion with God through humble prayer, develops and strengthens the mental and moral faculties, and spiritual powers increase by cultivating thoughts upon spiritual things. { CSW 40.1}

Friday, March 27, 2015

“Wine and Women-- The Power of Lifestyle Choices

March 28, 2015

SS Teacher:  Larry R Evans


The study for this week is built on Proverbs 31.  The quarterly’s title suggests that the subject is about wine and women.  We’d like to suggest that while wine and women are certainly discussed in this chapter, Proverbs 31 is an amplification and a conclusion to Proverbs 1:7—“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The setting is about a king’s calling and vocation.  Any glamor associated with lose living is removed.  The king must keep his role clearly in focus.  He is to be the protector and advocate of his people (vss 8,9).  With his responsibility clearly set before him, it becomes obvious that he must not anaesthetize himself with those things that would minimize or impair his judgment.  He must not compromise his God-given principles.  In the context of Proverbs, the king must not separate himself from the Source of true wisdom.

The German philosopher, Johann Herder once wrote, “We cannot know ourselves without a reference point outside ourselves.”  Proverbs offers this reference point as being the personification of “Wisdom” and from this we are given an opportunity to examine our lives.  In Proverbs 31 this personification comes in the form of a woman.  Proverbs 1:7 introduces us to this “Wisdom” as being grounded in “the LORD”.  LORD is in all caps because it is a reference to Yahweh, the covenant God, the God who oversees, fulfills and sustains.  It is this personal God that supplies us with the wisdom, the insights, the strength to make choices that lead to a more full and complete life.  The kind of knowledge of which Proverbs speaks is a relationship with God that is inseparable from the character that He is developing within each of us if we but give Him an opportunity.  Distractions from this relationship are what sin and “foolishness” (1:7) is all about.  Lifestyle choices play a vital role with the kind of person we are and are becoming.  The choices made every day are a revelation of the kind of wisdom that has captured our heart’s desires.  Against this background we will take a look at “Wine and Women.”

Proverbs 31:1-9

Discussion Starters

1.            Medical benefits out weigh spiritual liabilities.  (Prov.31:4,5,8,9)  True or False?

2.            For the dying person wine is permissible.  (Prov. 31:6,7) True or False?

3.            Proverbs provides a “checklist” for men looking for a wife and a “to do list” for every woman. (Prov. 31:10-31)  True or False?

4.            Work comes as a result of sin. (Prov. 31:12, 15, 18; Gen. 1:27-29, 31)  True or False?

5.            Outward beauty is as deep and lasting as is the character.  (Prov. 31:30)  True or False?

1.   Medical benefits out weigh spiritual liabilities.  (Prov.31:4,5,8,9) False

       “It is not for kings, Lemuel—
                  it is not for kings to drink wine,
                  not for rulers to crave beer,
         lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.” – Proverbs 31:4,5

AND . . .

“I am the LORD your God,
                  who teaches you what is best for you,
                  who directs you in the way you should go.
         If only you had paid attention to my commands,
                  your peace would have been like a river,
                  your well-being like the waves of the sea.”
                                             Isa. 48:17-18

There are many blessings that come with an increase of knowledge.  Science, for example, has enabled us to communicate faster, travel faster and even diagnose our ailments faster.  Scientific discoveries have saved lives and so has the Bible.  

In recent years, the benefits of drinking wine, for example, has been highlighted and promoted in the news.  What hasn’t received much attention is that the same benefits can be found in grape juice without the alcohol that can easily impair judgment.  Such findings aren’t as popular.

The queen mother depicted in Proverbs is giving advice to her son.  In so doing she explains that the drunkenness of a king brings with it a tendency to have a clouded memory and judgment resulting in injustice to the oppressed (31:8).  Such was the case that led to the death of John the Baptist. (Mk 6)

The Bible, however, adds another important dimension  to one’s health that science does not address.  The  Bible speaks directly to the issue of one’s eternal welfare. Having a clear mind that is capable of discerning spiritual principles is vital! Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on  the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”   An impaired judgment is not only a problem when driving home from a party; it is also about being able to have keen spiritual discernment. The issue at stake is about keeping our minds alert so we will not compromise our ability to make decisions affecting our own spiritual welfare and the welfare of those within the realm of our influence.

2              For the dying person wine is permissible.  (Prov. 31:6,7)  Understand first who the “dying person” is in Proverbs

“Alcohol is for the dying,
               and wine for those in bitter distress.
      Let them drink to forget their poverty
and remember their troubles no more.”—Proverbs 31:6,7

In Proverbs the “perishing” is a reference to those who are not “righteous.” 

“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”—Proverbs 11:10  [See also 19:9]

“It was Christ who in the Old Testament gave the warning to Israel, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1. And He Himself provided no such beverage. Satan tempts men to indulgence that will becloud reason and benumb the spiritual perceptions, but Christ teaches us to bring the lower nature into subjection. His whole life was an example of self-denial. In order to break the power of appetite, He suffered in our behalf the severest test that humanity could endure. It was Christ who directed that John the Baptist should drink neither wine nor strong drink. It was He who enjoined similar abstinence upon the wife of Manoah. And He pronounced a curse upon the man who should put the bottle to his neighbor’s lips. Christ did not contradict His own teaching. The unfermented wine which He provided for the wedding guests was a wholesome and refreshing drink. Its effect was to bring the taste into harmony with a healthful appetite.” --Ellen White in The Desire of Ages, p.149

3              Proverbs provides a “checklist” for men looking for a wife and a “to do list” for every woman. (Prov. 31:10-31) False but with True implications

We live in an age of checklists.  When I used to fly as a pilot we carefully went through a checklist before takeoff and then again before landing.  There are checklists for just about anything and if there isn’t one we’ll make one. I work from my own checklists at work. It is easy, unfortunately, to turn Christianity into a checklist – things to do and things I must not do.  The problem in this case is that no sooner is our list of “do’s and don’ts” made than we discover something we left off!  In Proverbs 31 we have a list of duties that a “wife of noble character” is able to accomplish.  It is a rather daunting list to put it mildly:
·      Selects wool and flax
·      Works with eager hands
·      Brings food from afar
·      Gets up when it is still night
·      Provides food for the family
·      Buys property
·      Plants a vineyard
·      Works vigorously and is in good shape with strong arms.
·      Profitable with her trading
·      Opens her arms to the poor
·      Dresses well
·      Is dignified
·      Able to laugh at what the future might bring
·      Speaks with wisdom
·      Is not idle
[An acrostic poem – each of the 22 verses begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.]

It’s no wonder that her husband and children “call her blessed!!” (v.2)  But we must ask, “Who is this capable woman of verse 10?”  She has tremendous abilities and has high social standing.  It is interesting that her personal appearance is not mentioned once. Who is she?  This woman, so it appears, carries the theme of the entire book of Proverbs to a grand application.  This woman parallels Ms Wisdom of the opening chapters (3:13-18; 9:1-6).  How can anyone become the perfect wife or the perfect husband for that matter.  Proverbs holds the key!  As seen in Genesis 1 & 2 man and woman together find their fulfillment by bearing the image of God (1:26). Proverbs simply says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7).  Such qualities bear the image of Wisdom and can be obtained only by being re-molded into God’s image.

4              Work comes as a result of sin. (Prov. 31:12, 15, 18; Gen. 1:27-29, 31) False
She opens her arms to the poor
     and extends her hands to the needy. . .

She watches over the affairs of her household
     and does not eat the bread of idleness.
                       Proverbs 31:20,27

A common complaint in nursing homes is the regret of not having something to do.  Some actually complain of having too much leisure and not enough work!  It becomes clear that work is one of the ways we make ourselves useful to others, rather than just living a life for ourselves.  Tim Keller, author of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work wrote, “According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and live fully human lives.” (p.38)  Keller goes on to explain, that “it is through work that we discover who we are, because it is through work that we come to understand our distinct abilities and gifts, a major component in our identities.”

In Genesis 1:31 we not only find that God works but He finds delight in it.  But there is also another danger and that is that we see work as the end objective and that we rest in order to recharge our batteries so we can work more.  The Sabbath brings a halt to the endless cycle!  Both work and rest are meant to direct us to our Creator and Redeemer and Sustainer.  Work is not the meaning of life regardless of how important our work might be.  God worked and rested yet in the context of Genesis 2 God’s work and our work, His rest and our rest is for the purpose that we might find a relationship with one another.

John Calvin, the great Protestant reformer, asked, “Did God create food only to provide for necessity [nutrition] and not also for delight and good cheer?” 

“In short, work —and lots of it— is an indispensable component in a meaningful human life. It is a supreme gift from God and one of the main things that gives our lives purpose. But it must play its proper role, subservient to God. It must regularly give way not just to work stoppage for bodily repair but also to joyful reception of the world and of ordinary life.”  Keller, Timothy (2012-11-13). Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work (p. 42). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

5              Outward beauty is as deep and lasting as is the character.  (Prov. 31:30)   False

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. – Proverbs 31:30

The woman described in this chapter is an excellent wife and mother.  Her range of skills is really amazing.  In this verse, however, we are reminded that her strength and dignity do not come from her amazing achievements!  They come as a result of her reverence for God.

“As Proverbs has stated repeatedly, these are qualities that lead to honor, praise, success, personal dignity and worth, and enjoyment of life. In the face of the adulteress’ temptations mentioned often in Proverbs, it is fitting that the book concludes by extolling a virtuous wife. Young men and others can learn from this noble woman. By fearing God, they can live wisely and righteously. That is the message of Proverbs.”—Bible Knowledge Commentary

Concluding Remarks

Proverbs 31 is a powerful conclusion to what has been said previously. Throughout the book the queen mother is counseling her son about the qualities of being a true king and gives two warnings—warnings that could jeopardize his success:  women and wine. She is “concerned with protecting her son against the influence of folly and the effect of iniquity, all of which may blur the king’s judgment and duties as a king (31:3). . . . The reason the queen mother is so adamant against wine and the woman-folly is that they both affect the king’s access to wisdom, his capacity to judge and to distinguish between good and evil.” (Jacques Doukhan in Proverbs, pp. 126, 127)

“Wisdom is compared to the ideal wife because wisdom is not just an intellectual acquisition.  We reach wisdom through the process of a relationship with the divine person.  The book of Proverbs concludes then, with this parable, the last mashal; it is an appeal to the reader to go and search for Wisdom and engage in a dynamic conjugal relationship with her, to make our life meaningful and full of the divine Presence.” (Ibid., p.127)