Tag Archives: Lord’s Prayer

Practical suggestions to help you pray

5 Jun

Image result for prayerThis winter/spring I read an amazing book on prayer I wish I had come across years ago.  It is called Prayer: Conversing with God by a missionary named Rosalind Rinker.  She first published it in 1959, but it is so relevant.  Could have been written yesterday.  Easily one of the best books on prayer I’ve ever read.

She talks about her early experiences on a missionary team, when they had staff prayer meetings:

“We were all together on our knees in the same room, each with love for the other, and each with a common purpose. But I began to realize we were each making a little speech to the Lord when our turn came. I know we were supposed to pray silently with the one who was praying audibly, but when we all covered the same ground — well, I found that I was trying to think how I could start my prayer with more “colorful” words. How I could put more “action” into my prayer, how I could make it sound more “spiritual,” and how I could take hold of the promises with more faith than the others. I wanted to word it differently from the persons who had prayed before me, and make it sound more important and interesting.”

That spoke to me.  I’ve had the same thoughts many times.  As if the prayer time was a showcase of spirituality.  Who could get the most “Amens” or “Yes, Lords”?  I’m guilty of those thoughts each month when I attend my local ministerium prayer meeting or my denominational district pastors’ prayer lunch.  There are buzzwords you can pray and you know you will get a reaction!  Start talking about revival in your prayer, that’s guaranteed to get you some “Amens!”.  But is that how we should pray?

Rinker goes on to say:

“I used to choose a chair near the bookcases, so that when things got dull, I could quietly glance through the shelves and make a mental note, and often a penciled note, of the books I wanted to read.  Then there were the times I actually pulled out a book, and using my jacket around my shoulders as a shield, leafed through some of the books during the prayer meeting.  Sometimes I just plain fell asleep on my knees during those long sessions of prayer. After my turn was over, it wasn’t too hard to do.”

Yup.  Been there too.  When prayer becomes performance, who cares if we pay attention.  But is that how we should pray?

Rinker says that her relationship with God, and thus her practice of prayer, was revolutionized when she discovered that God desires us to talk with him as a friend.  If you read through Exodus, you see the example of Moses and God and how they talked.  It is amazing.  Real friendship.  Real conversation. And in fact in Exodus 33:11, we read “God talked with Moses face to face, as a man talks with his friend.”  You read through the Psalms, and you see David is like that too.  You watch the example of Jesus, and it is the same.  Real conversation in prayer.  Real emotion.  Truth.  Honesty. That’s how we should talk with God.

But what about rote prayers?  If we are supposed to talk with God as a friend, does that mean it is wrong to read or repeat prayers?   Hear me clearly: recited prayers, memorized or read, are not wrong.  In fact, I think they can be very helpful, and we probably need to use them a lot more than we do.

A resource like the Book of Common Prayer is excellent, and I would suggest you all use it, as least from time to time.  There are also numerous BCP apps for your smart phone.  You might look into other prayer books too, and there are many biblical prayers that are fantastic.  There is nothing wrong, for example, with saying the Lord’s Prayer every day, every worship service, as long as your heart is in it!

Along with that kind of written prayer, I believe that conversational, unprepared, ad lib prayer is also very important.   This is where Rosalind Rinker’s book is so helpful.  She has loads of excellent practical suggestions for how to have great conversations with God.

From time to time I hear the argument that says “Well, isn’t prayer unnecessary, because God already knows our thoughts and our needs and everything about us?”  God does know all that.  But that’s pretty one-sided isn’t it?  A real relationship involves equal give and take, both friends communicating as much as possible. How do you think God would feel if we never or rarely make an effort to talk with him?

Therefore, God desires us to be persistent and consistent in prayer.

David says in Psalm 5 that he prays in the morning and watches for God to answer.  I encourage you to read that this week.

Then there is the parable Jesus told in Luke 18 about the widow.  Another one to read this week.  Parables can sometimes be hard to understand, but Luke tells us exactly what Jesus was trying to accomplish in that parable. In Luke 18:1 he writes “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

You know what that means?  Prayer takes energy, investment, and commitment.  When I took prayer class in college, I heard a phrase that shocked me “prayer is hard work.”

It seems wrong to say “prayer is hard work”.  But anytime you do anything consistently and persistently, it can feel like hard work.  So let’s not fool ourselves by saying that prayer is supposed to be simple or carefree or effortless.  A healthy practice of prayer, like any healthy relationship will take work.

Here’s the beautiful thing, though.  Hard work can become heavenly.  How many of you have had the experience of learning to love and enjoy hard work?  Whether it is straight up physical labor, exercising, practicing a sport or maybe a musical instrument, you can grow to enjoy it.  Say you are on a sports team.  After you practice and practice, and after you put in the hard work, how many have found it to become delightful?

Jesus’ disciples once asked him “Teach us pray.”  Great question. That’s what this sermon is all about.  We want to learn How to Pray.  So, what should you actually do?  What will this hard work of prayer look like?  And will you work at it, practice it, till it becomes delightful to be in such regular, wonderful conversation with God?

Here are some practical suggestions:

  1. Plan to pray.  Carve out time.  It could mean cutting out something to make room for prayer.  I recently read an article where a guy made a commitment to wake up at 5am every day for a year.   Not necessarily to pray.  But it changed his life.  Would you wake up early to make time for prayer?  That might work for you.  Or would you cut out time on Facebook in order to have time to pray? In Matthew 6, right before he teaches the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus suggests that when we prayer, we get alone, be in secret, talk with God.  When I was a student at LBC, I used the private music listening booths in the library.
  2. Write down prayer requests.  Keep a journal.  I found a great free prayer app this week.  Prayer Mate.  It is available for both iPhones and Androids.
  3. Pray God’s word.  Write down this reference.  I preached it on Easter.  Ephesians 1:17-19.  Then the most famous prayer of all is the Lord’s Prayer.  Matthew 6:9-13.  Memorize it.  Use it both as a word-for-word prayer, but also as a model for prayer.  Take note of the elements that Jesus includes in the Lord’s Prayer.  Praise, Confessing sins, Requests, Thanksgiving.  Then go to the Psalms.  We need a steady diet of the Psalms.
  4. Just start talking.  Know that God loves you, that he is your friend.  And just start talking to him.  Tell him everything.  Have a conversation with him exactly like you do with your friends.  In a group setting, can I challenge you to take a risky step and pray out loud.  Even if it is just one sentence.

Learning to how to pray is not going to happen by reading a blog post or book about prayer.  If you want to learn how to pray, it all boils down to just starting.  Make a practical goal for yourself this week.

My personal goal is prayer walks through the church.  I need to get started.  When I walk through the various rooms and hallways of the church building, it reminds me to pray for various ministries, groups and people in our church family.  In the lobby, I see our Summer Lunch Club volunteer sign-up table.  That reminds me to pray for all the volunteers and participants in a wonderful outreach the helps families in need.  Down the hall, I walk past the nursery and I think about all the families in our congregation raising young children.  I pray for them during what is an emotionally and physically exhausting period of life.  Around the corner, I see the offices of The Door Christian Fellowship, an amazing congregation that rents space from Faith Church.  We’ve deeply appreciated our partnership with The Door, and I pray that God blesses them.  And on and on the prayer goes.

How about you?  What will you to work on prayer?

Here’s my one big action step I’d like you to consider.  Get a trainer.  Be a trainer.  Yup, just as you would get a trainer for your physical health, get a spiritual trainer to learn how to pray.  Jesus once said, “Where 2 or 3 are together, there am I with them.”  When you get together with people to pray, he is there.  What an outstanding promise!  So who will train you to pray?  Or, who will you train?

Then add Rosalind Rinker’s book to this.  Each of you get the book, and read one chapter per week.  Get together for an hour per week, and take 30 minutes to review the chapter, then take 30 minutes to pray.

Get started.  With expectancy.

With any habit, it can take a while for it to feel more comfortable. But that is the nature of anything you want to grow in.  Practice.  Practice. Practice.

You can see such a difference in people that practice.  Whether it is a musical instrument or athletics.  There is such a connection to the spiritual life.  We are not just spirits.  We are bodies too, so how we use our bodies affects our spirit.  That’s why we need to practice spiritually.

Remember God’s grace.  You don’t have to pray perfectly.  God doesn’t care about that.  Just start talking with him. Share your thoughts with him, and do it consistently.  It might feel awkward, but push through.  That’s what practice is like.  And watch your conversations with God grow and flourish.

How the church has gotten in the way of God’s Kingdom…and what to do about it.

14 Jul

The subtitle of author Reggie McNeal’s book Kingdom Come, is compelling: “why we must give up our obsession with fixing the church—and what we should do instead”.  That grabbed me!  In the book, he tells the story of when he was at a conference for pastors and said this:

 “We’ve been working at fixing the church for the past 500 years…how’s that going for us?”

500 years ago a German Catholic Priest named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the door of his church in the town of Wittenburg, and in so doing he started quite a ruckus.

Some people get confused because there was another Martin Luther who was very famous.  Martin Luther King, Jr.  I’m not talking about MLK.  I’m talking about the guy MLK was named for.  THE Martin Luther.  THE Martin Luther was going through a major change in his view of the church.  He had been a Roman Catholic his whole life, and he was a priest for many of those years.  A very devout priest.  But he was disheartened by things he saw in his church.  So he got to the point where he wanted to do something about it.

He wrote out his concerns, all 95 of them, which are famously known as his Theses, and he tacked them to the door of his church for all to see.  That was before Facebook.

Luther took a lot of heat for this.  In fact, he nearly lost his life because he refused to recant.  He held firm to his concerns and eventually started a whole new movement.  Luther was protesting against the church.  He wanted to reform it.  You put those two words together, “protest and reform”, and you get the title that we have given to Luther’s movement: the Protestant Reformation.

That was nearly 500 years ago.  Just like Luther, we have been trying to change the church ever since.  McNeal asks a good question:  How is that going for us?

In the short years that I have been involved in church, starting in late 80s and early 90s, as McNeal points out, we’ve seen a personal evangelism movement, a church growth movement, the worship wars, a church health craze, the megachurch movement, the emergent church, and plenty of theological debates.  How is that going for us?

A guy who studies the church, Ed Stetzer, has recently published studies that have extensively examined religion in America.  Guess what?  Do you think all those attempts at fixing the church have helped?  Nope.  The mainline church is declining particularly fast.  Thankfully the Evangelical branch of Protestantism is not declining nearly as much, but we, too, are seeing small declines.

You know what McNeal says?  “Why not just do what the church should be doing?—partnering with God in his redemptive mission in the world—and let the overflow of that effort bring about the renewal we’re looking for?”

Basically he is saying that we need to tell our story differently!  Or as a friend at church so often tells me, we need better PR!  Think about it:  What story have we told?

Faith Church tells our community a story.  There’s the story that we think we’re telling, and there’s the story that the community is hearing.  They might be two different things.

I recently talked about why we’re removing the word “Evangelical” from our church sign.  Better PR.  The word “evangelical” no longer means what we want it to mean.  We know that it means “Good News” and in Jesus there is very good news.  But people in our community might not know that.  Instead they think “evangelical” is about a political group, and in the last 25-50 years or so that political group does not have good news.

We might be thinking that we are clearly and compellingly telling the story of the Good News, but is it possible that our community has heard what we’re saying and at least some of them are not thinking that we are speaking about Good News?

What we need to do is go to Jesus and the story that he told.  What story did he tell?  In the the four Biblical accounts of Jesus’ life (aka the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the word “church” is used three times, all in Matthew and each time referring not to a church building, but instead referring to a gathering of people.

Guess how many times Jesus used the word “Kingdom”?  Over 100 times.  It was his core message.  You do not have to look far in the Gospels to find it.  I recently preached a sermon series through the Gospel of Luke. In chapter 1, verse 33, before Jesus is even born we read a reference to his Kingdom.  The angel Gabriel, when he came to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, said that her baby have a kingdom that would never end!

When Jesus started his ministry, which we read about in Luke 4:42-44, one of the first things he teaches is  “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God.”

  • No less than 38 times in the book of Luke alone is there a mention of the Kingdom of God.
  • In Mark, it is mentioned 15 times.
  • In Matthew where it is predominantly called the “kingdom of heaven” it is referred to 50 times.
  • John mentions it 4 times.

So, for Jesus, the Kingdom of God is an extremely important concept.  Has our community heard from us that the Kingdom of God is an extremely important concept?

Or have they heard about church?  If you look at Lancaster County, and you evaluate the message of church vs. kingdom, what do you see?  You have to put yourself in the position of a historian who is looking at our society hundreds or even thousands of years of later.

I got to experience a bit of that perspective recently in Cambodia.  We were there because of my wife, Michelle’s, work with Imagine Goods.  It was also our 20th anniversary, so we took two days to visit the ancient temples near Siem Reap.  After a six-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, we realized that we were in tourist central because of the ancient temples.

Angkor WatThey are considered to be one of the 7 Wonders of the World.  Called Angkor Wat after the name of one of the largest and best preserved temples, there are actually many temples in the surrounding, large area.  Scientists are still making discoveries about the ancient civilization that built the temples.  Recently they have fitted airplanes with laser scanners and they have flown hundreds of hours scanning the jungle around the temples.   The results of these scans have been staggering.

Angkor Wat laser scanThey have uncovered foundations of cities that jungle had long since hidden.  The scientists estimate that in its heyday, the kingdom around Angkor Wat had a million people.  It was larger than London at the time!

So hundreds of years later these scientists are learning new information about this Cambodian kingdom.  Why did the ancient Cambodians do what they did?  Obviously building temples was really important to them.  I have seen pictures of Angkor Wat many times, as Michelle and teams from Faith Church had explored there.  But seeing the temples in person brought them to life for me.   I got to climb the steps and stones, and walk down the long temple hallways staring astounded at the detailed carvings depicting the wars and glory and power of the king.

What will people 500 or 1000 years in the future say about us?  One thing is for sure, they will say that we were very aggressive about building church buildings.  And they will look at our Scriptures, the New Testament, and there is a probability (I think a high probability) that they will be very confused.  Why?  Because our Scriptures say nothing about building church buildings.

While Jesus, who we believe in, trust in and seek to follow as his disciples, taught a lot about his Kingdom, Christianity in the 1900s and now into the 2000s has continued a trend which has been going on for a long time, the building of church structures of all shapes and sizes.

This should cause us to step back and think: why do we build buildings when Jesus said that we should build his Kingdom!

It goes deeper than just buildings.  There is more.  When you think of your church, think of what you put emphasis on.  There might be staff that you pay.  There might be systems of leadership and ministry.  Quite honestly, our church has many similarities to an organization.  There are many times I feel much more like a CEO than a pastor.  Jesus didn’t tell us to build an organization with buildings.  He put all the focus on his Kingdom.

I’ll never forget a seminary class I took about churches and transitions.  We had numerous guest speakers come to the class, and one was a pastor who talked with us about the amazing growth of his church.  They started small and ended having to buy a large property with all the bells and whistles of large churches that have become so familiar to us.  Did that ever get my attention!  I’ll be honest with you: I thought “That’s what I want Faith Church to become!  I want Faith Church to become the biggest church in our denomination! I want to be able to walk into EC National Conference each May knowing in my head, not having to say a word to anyone, that Faith Church, where I am the pastor, is the biggest church out of everyone in that room.”

Do you think I was giving much credit to God and his Kingdom?  Of course I said I was all about God and his Kingdom, but looking back on it, I wanted to build the church, MY church, OUR church.  I had an unhealthy perspective on church.

One of the most helpful books I read about this was Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola.  He shows through loads of research that pretty much everything that we are used to when we think of church systems comes not from biblical teaching but from Christians through the ages trying to keep up with the spiritual Joneses.  Most times they were trying to keep up with pagan culture.  The pagans, for example, had a big religious celebration at Winter Solstice.  So the Christians decided to keep up with them by having a competing celebration.  You know what that competing celebration is?  Christmas!

Do you think Jesus was actually born on December 25th?  Highly unlikely.  We have no idea what day Jesus was actually born.  What we do know is this: Did Jesus tell us to make a big deal out of celebrating his birthday?  Nope.  Is it okay to celebrate his birthday on December 25th every year?  Sure is, but we need to remember that Christmas is a churchy thing, not necessarily a Kingdom thing.

It goes deeper than church buildings and Christmas. We would do well to examine everything that is normally considered to be church.  A sanctuary with pews.  Sunday School.  Youth Ministry.  An order of worship, and a worship service that lasts about an hour or so.  If we seek to find the origins of those structures and systems in the New Testament, Viola shows us our search will come up empty.  That means a church can still be a church without those structures.  Again, hear me.  I am not saying that church, and all the trappings of church that we are used to, are bad.

I better be careful because another element that is normally considered a pretty big part of church is the pastor.  That’s me.  But the way we employ pastors and our typical pastor’s job descriptions are not in the Bible. Yes, the Bible talks about pastors and paying them.  And the Bible has a couple places where it talks about what pastors should do.  Guess what, though?  What the Bible says about pastors and what they should do is very different than what pastors have done, and what people assume pastors should do.

For example, in Ephesians 4:12 Paul says that pastors should train people up to the do the work of ministry.  But for decades the pastor was seen as the person the church paid to do the work of ministry.  Consider the vending machine.  You put your money in the slot, make a selection, and out pops your soda, candy bar or bag of chips.  Same with pastors.  You put your money in the offering, and your pastor gives you a visit, a funeral, a prayer.  In other words, the normal conception has been that the pastor is the one who is paid to minister to the people, whereas Paul says the pastor is train up the people to do the ministry.

I want to be clear at this juncture:  There is a major difference between church and kingdom.

It is okay to have church, to have church buildings, to have Sunday School and pastors, but ONLY so long as they serve to promote the Kingdom.

Remember when Jesus taught us to pray the Lord’s Prayer?  Here are the first few sentences:

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Your Kingdom Come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Notice what is missing?  No mention of church.  Jesus did not teach us to pray “Your church come” .  Here’s why: the church was never permanent.  The church was always meant to build the Kingdom.  The church serves the Kingdom, not the other way around.  The kingdom is forever, the church is not.

The kingdom, as Jesus taught us to pray, is about God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.  That’s what it means for his Kingdom to come.  Normally when we think of God’s Kingdom, we think of heaven, and we think of heaven as a place we go to.  When we die, we are no longer on earth, we have left the earth, and we go to heaven.

But notice how Jesus taught us to pray something completely different!  Have we been praying that prayer all our lives and missed it?  “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

God wants his Kingdom to reign and rule right here and right now!  He wants his will to be done on earth.  His will is already being done perfectly in heaven.  So just as the will of God is being followed perfectly in heaven, God wants his will to be followed more and more here on earth. That is what Jesus taught us to pray, because that was his mission and he wanted it to be our mission.

To expand on what that mission was all about, he said to his disciples that they should make disciples, who will make disciples, who will make disciples.  He did not suggest that his disciples should group up those new disciples, build buildings to meet for worship and try to make those churches famous.  He told them to make disciples so that more and more people would allow God to reign and rule over their lives, so more and more people would experience God’s Kingdom and have not only the hope of eternal life, but also the experience of what he called abundant life here on earth.

When we allow God’s Kingdom to come into our lives, we experience life transformation.  One of Jesus’ first followers, a guy named Paul, experienced this life transformation.  He changed dramatically from being a vicious man, arresting and jailing and killing Christians, to being perhaps the most powerful Christian missionary ever.

Paul talked about something he called the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.  What happens when you allow God’s Kingdom to rule over you is that you are transformed first and foremost.  Disciples of Jesus experience transformation.  Your inner life is transformed, Paul says, because you are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  You don’t go to a temple.  Now God lives in you.  Faith Church has a building where we go.  We gather at worship services to worship God and hear from him.  We plan our worship services around that idea that people can experience God in worship.

But those buildings are not God’s houses.  I know it is popular to call church buildings  “God’s House.” It is not true. Those buildings are not God’s houses.  The rooms where we meet for worship are not some special rooms.  We have an Ethiopian Orthodox church that rents worship space from us.  The Ethiopian worshipers take off their shoes when they enter the sanctuary.  I am not well-versed in their theological reasons for taking of this practice.  Maybe they view the sanctuary as holy ground, like Moses took off his sandals when he approached the burning bush where God was.  Or maybe they are just symbolizing that event and a heart of worship. Our sanctuary is not like the ground around the burning bush.  I have no qualms with the Ethiopian church practice, but if they believe that the sanctuary is holy ground, I disagree.

We call it the sanctuary as if it was special.  As if God lives here.  He doesn’t.  If we are true disciples of Jesus, God lives in us.  That means we ourselves should be experiencing that transformation God wants to work in us, and the Fruit of the Spirit should be flowing from us.  As we are changed, we experience God’s abundant life in us.

If you are an impatient person, God’s Kingdom coming more and more in your life means that you grow more patient.

If you are a person with a dirty mind or a dirty mouth, God’s Kingdom coming more and more in you means that your mind and mouth become more clean.

If you are a complainer, you grow more content.

If you are a rough, you grow more gentle.

If you are pessimistic, you grow more joyful.

God’s Kingdom coming into your life means that you are transformed.  But it doesn’t stop there. God’s Kingdom comes into society and society is transformed.  Remember how Jesus, very early in his ministry in Luke 4, returned to his hometown and preached in the synagogue there?  He told the people that day what his mission was all about:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

He was reading from Isaiah the OT prophet, and Jesus said that this prophecy was fulfilled in him.  It describes the rule and reign of God’s Kingdom transforming society.

The poor, the prisoners, the sick, the oppressed, all experience God’s Kingdom.  I saw this maybe as clearly as I have ever seen it in Cambodia.  Through the efforts of Imagine Goods’ partner organization there, Agape, a whole town is being transformed.  Where once the town was a center for human trafficking, it is now a place of hope and a future.  Where once women and children were slaves, now there are safe living places, a school, a church, and great jobs which have pulled families out of poverty, out of slavery, and the criminals have left.  God’s Kingdom is on full display though.  It is beautiful.

That’s why I’m thankful that Faith Church is such a strong supporter of the CV Ministerium and CVCCS.  Those two local organizations are not about a church building.   Instead they are promoting the Kingdom of God.  They spread the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection and our hope in him, and they seek to promote God’s Kingdom so that it will transform society.

A few months ago I created a possible future scenario of Old Philly Pike, the road our church property is located on, needing to be widened and our church sanctuary having to be torn down?  Some of you thought I was telling a true story!  But even if it was true, you know what?  That would be okay.

Our mission is not to maintain a building.  Our mission is not to make Faith Church’s name great.  Our mission is not to be a large church that everyone thinks “Wow. That church is going places.”

No, our mission is to promote the Kingdom.  And that is what this new sermon series is all about:  Our Growth Process.  To be disciples of Jesus who make disciples for Jesus, so his name and his Kingdom are the focus!  Because he is the one, and he alone, that transforms people’s lives and through transformed people he transforms society.

And so we pray:

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sinned against us.

Lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

For yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Feel free to listen to the whole sermon here.

How God’s Kingdom can change the world – Luke 13:10-21

21 Dec

We Christians talk a lot about the Kingdom of God, but what exactly is it?  Just a place people go to in the afterlife?  Heaven?  Jesus often said things “The Kingdom of God is among you, is near, has come.”  What in the world did he mean?  The people in his day often seemed confused about the Kingdom of God.  I wonder if we are too.

In Luke 13:10-21, Jesus has the perfect opportunity to talk further about the Kingdom.  After ticking off the local synagogue ruler for doing a healing on the Sabbath, Jesus tells two super short parables about the Kingdom.

First is the Mustard seed; it’s tiny, but grows huge. I’ve never seen this in real life, so I’m going to take Jesus’ word for it. 

The second is about Yeast; again it is tiny, but infects a huge lump of dough. How huge? Massive. The NIV says “large amount of dough”, but Jesus actually uses a specific measurement here. If you’re reading in the Greek, it is 3 satas. A sata was 12-13 liters. So about 36 liters worth of dough. Who can do the math to convert that to gallons? 9.5. You can make a lot of bread with 9.5 gallons of dough. To his main point, Jesus is right. Even a tiny amount of yeast will expand, multiply and spread through that dough.  Again, I haven’t worked with yeast before, but some bakers I’ve talked with vouched for this story.  They told me that it is amazing to watch work through some dough.

What is the Kingdom of God like? In these two parables Jesus teaches that the Kingdom starts small, but grows and expands with surprising hugeness.

What in the world is Jesus thinking here? Why would he want to tell these two parables at this point?
With the healing having just taken place, and with the interaction about Sabbath, what about this situation caused him to think about the nature of the Kingdom of God?  Could it be that he wants to point out to the people how different the Kingdom of God is to the religious system that they are used to?
The Kingdom of God is surprising like the mustard seed. That tiny little seed grows into something huge. The Kingdom of God, like the Yeast, is contagious, it spreads surprisingly fast through even a large group. The Kingdom of God grows and strengthens as it grows. How does this happen? By following the rules and regulations of a man-made religious system? Nope. Instead the Kingdom’s surprising growth happens in us and through us when we follow the way of Jesus who was willing to follow the way of the Kingdom even if it meant not following the man-made rules of the local religious system.

I love how Jesus refers to this in the Lord’s Prayer that we talked about a few weeks ago. You know the phrase “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? Think about the dynamic of that. God wants his kingdom to come into our lives so we are transformed by him. Our lives should be growing, changing as a result of following Jesus. Let the Kingdom of God work its way through your life.
Let the Kingdom of God grow in you. Let’s not be a people who brainlessly follow religious rules, like the synagogue ruler wanted Jesus to. Let us allow God’s Kingdom to fully infect us.

How? How do we allow God’s Kingdom to flow through us?  There are at least a couple lessons to learn from this story in Luke 13:10-21:

First, do good, like Jesus did. There are so many ways to apply this.  What does being a do-gooder look like for you in your home, in your office, in your school?

Second, practice the principle of Sabbath: rest, don’t work 24-7, worship, be with your family. I’ve been convicted of this lately. Our denomination sets how much vacation time I get. Pastors start with three weeks of vacation each year. Each of those weeks can include one Sunday off. For every ten years of ministry, you get an additional week off, maxing out at five weeks. Each year pastors are also allowed to be away for one Sunday of Ministry or Study Leave, such as when I was away on the mission trip to Kenya. I’ve been with the EC Church for 13 years in full-time ministry, so I now can take four weeks off each year, including four Sundays away.

Frankly, I’ve done a terrible job of taking my vacation. Don’t applaud that.  Sometimes employees where it as a badge of honor that they don’t take vacation. There is a great reason for vacation, and no matter your profession it is very wise to take it. I say that based in the principle of Sabbath. As much as you and I should be finding weekly time for rest, family and worship each week, we should also use our vacation time.

I am not trying to impose a new rule, a new Sabbath day, or anything like that. I am saying that we should look at the principle of Sabbath, and we should apply it to our lives. There are some other ways to allow the Kingdom of God to infect you:

  • Be disciples who make disciples – watch the Kingdom grow through you.
  • Pray for the filling of the Spirit.
  • Immerse yourself in the Word of God – Read the Word.

Do you ever think, “What can I do? I am just one insignificant person?” But that’s exactly how the kingdom of God starts. Through one person. Start Small. One little thing. If each person did one thing, imagine the impact. We can too easily think that our one life impact is too small, doesn’t matter. We don’t have to get massive attention, or right away make a radical impact. Our culture loves to highlight the big splashes. But what about all the people who are just faithful in small ways? They never get a news story about them. They never become famous. But they are being faithful. Put together they are a massive impact.

This is one of the reasons why I love that in our school district we have a ministerium that works together in unity.  Churches of all shapes and sizes have joined together to promote Christ and share his love to our community.  In recent years the ministerium started Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services which features a clothing bank and food bank making a difference in the lives of people in our school district.  I’m honored to be a part of that.

Allowing the Kingdom to infect your life might start very small. Like the mustard seed. Like the yeast. But that is okay. Start something!

Listen to the whole sermon here.

How the Lord’s Prayer Matters – Luke 11:1-13

29 Oct

Can you recite the Lord’s Prayer?  Go ahead, give it a try…”Our Father…”

Need a hint?  Click here.

How did you do?

How long has it been since you recited it?  Maybe you recite the prayer often.  Or maybe your church worship uses the prayer weekly?

What does the Lord’s Prayer matter?  Are we supposed to receive some kind of blessing if we pray it?  Is this why people want prayer back in school?  Will our nation be blessed if we require students across the land to recite the Prayer?  Is it actually an incantation that forces the Lord to bless us?

Wait…aren’t we against empty, ritualistic prayer?  Didn’t Jesus have something to say about prayer that is nothing more than meaningless babble?  In fact, he did.  Just before he taught the Lord’s Prayer, he said this:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Is it wrong then to recite the prayer?

No, not if our heart desires the prayer to be a meaningful communication with the Lord.  But perhaps there is a lot more to the prayer that just a brief recitation.  Is it possible that Jesus was teaching a format for prayer?

I’m very thankful that at Faith Church this past week as we studied Luke’s version of the Prayer, my dad, Dr. Harold Kime was our guest teacher.  You can listen to how he teaches the prayer here.  There’s a lot going on in this prayer.  As you listen to the sermon, you might hear the Lord’s Prayer as never before.  In fact, the Prayer will hopefully become even more meaningful to you!