Prayer Is…Many Things

Through prayer we maintain a sense of dependence on God. Prayer is something we must be taught to do, and we need continual reminders to pray and to refine our abilities to pray. We should greatly desire to approach God in the manner – and with the words – that He longs to hear from us.

GOD-CENTERED

A. He is emphasized (Psalm 105:1–5)
B. He is approached (1 Tim 6:15–16; Heb 4:14-16)

MAN-BENDING

A. Yielding to His word (John 15:7)
B. Yielding to His will (1 John 5:14)
C. Yielding to His discipline (Psalm 143:7–10)

COMMUNICATION

A. A heart’s desire (Romans 10:1)
B. A friend with friend (Jas 2:23)
C. A parent with child (John 3:1)

WORK

A. Laboring with Christ (Matt 12:30)
B. Laboring with the church (Rom 15:30; Col 4:12; Acts 12:5)
C. Laboring like Christ (Mark 1:35; 14:32-32; 22:31-32; John 17:20-21)

WARFARE

A. Fighting with power (Eph 6:10–17)
B. Fighting with persistence (Eph 6:18)
C. Fighting with the Commander (Heb 2:9-11)

Jonah: The Preacher Who Hoped He Wouldn’t Succeed

Jonah is a unique book in many ways. It is the only recorded account of God sending a Jewish prophet to preach to a foreign country. Jonah is the only prophetic book that is chiefly about the prophet instead of the prophet’s message. Jonah is the only Minor Prophet in narrative form. Jonah is the only Minor Prophet mentioned by Jesus and the only Old Testament character that Jesus likens to Himself (cf. Matt 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-31). Finally, and most amazingly, Jonah is the only preacher who hoped he wouldn’t succeed!

We know little of the prophet except for the book bearing his name and one other reference (2 Kings 14:23-25) in the reign of Jeroboam II, who ruled Israel from 793-753 B.C. Since Assyria is the target audience of Jonah’s mission, it is assumed that Assyria must have been in turmoil to so readily repent due to Jonah’s preaching. Had Assyria been at the height of power, it is assumed that her arrogance would have precluded her from responding favorably to God’s message. A period of such Assyrian weakness matching Jeroboam II’s reign would date the book around 760 B.C. But precisely dating the book is only “educated guessing.”

While liberal scholars see the story of Jonah as “allegory” or “parabolic” teaching, there is nothing in the narrative to suggest it is to be understood figuratively. It appears the author intended his book as an historical record of actual events. Further, the Jews never hesitated to include Jonah in the canon of Old Testament Scripture. Why would they willingly accept a book that emphasized mercy to an inveterate enemy of both Israel and Judah, unless it was considered historically accurate? Even more to the point, Jesus likened Jonah’s “three days and three nights” in the belly of the great fish as being true of the Son of Man being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). If Jonah’s incident was “fictional,” then, pray tell, why Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is not equally “fictional”? Jesus also stated that the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah (Matt 12:41). If the citizens of Nineveh never repented because of Jonah’s preaching, Jesus’ statements regarding them are “untrue” and His reproach to His contemporaries based on Jonah’s story quite unfounded!

The account of the great fish swallowing Jonah alive, holding him within its gut for three days, and disgorging him onto land while not killing him in the process has led countless liberal scholars to explain it away by any means possible! Most of these scholars have adopted the allegorical/parabolic approach to the book. Others explain it by natural-istic means, citing references throughout history to men swallowed alive by whales and sharks and disgorged virtually unharmed. Jack P. Lewis has rightly stated: “The continuous debate over whether there are fish in the Mediterranean that could swallow a man is actually beside the point since it is said that the Lord prepared the fish” (Minor Prophets, p. 40). If we will let God be God, then nothing is too hard for the Lord to do (Jer 32:17).

The target audience of Jonah’s story is the Jews themselves. They would have shared his prejudice against the Gentiles, especially an enemy like Assyria. Even in New Testament days this “separation” from the Gentiles is clearly portrayed in Cornelius’ conversion and aftermath at Jerusalem in Acts 10-11, the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, and the hypocrisy of Peter and Barnabas in regard to not eating with their Gentile brethren in Galatians 2. If there is one overreaching lesson from the book, it is this: “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16a), and “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4). (1) Jonah’s story compellingly rebukes our parochial tendencies to only love “some” people (same color, nationality, or socio-economic standing). (2) And we too often care only for what affects us personally (just like Jonah caring for the plant shielding him from the burning sun), while caring not at all for the teeming millions perishing in their sins!

The true and living God of the Bible is sovereign over all mankind – Assyrian, Israelite, or American. No one can run away from Him. And all men will give account of their deeds to Him one day (cf. 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:12).

I close with this statement from the article on “Jonah, Book of” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1982): “In its abrupt end, the reader is suddenly addressed by the word of God: it is no longer a simple story about Jonah, but one about the reader himself… In the final analysis, it is the prophet himself who is judged and, through him, those who read his story.” — By Chuck Durham, Biblical Insights, 2012

What Did John See?

Revelation 1:1-20. The Book of Revelation shows us that Jesus is at the center of everything. We can’t have a proper view of the world, or of the church, until we have a clear view of Him (Rev 1:1, 4, 11). When we finally do see Him clearly, the pressure to conform to the ever-fluctuating standards of this world will be released.

I. JESUS REVEALED: PURPOSE

A. To brace the church against persecution (Rev 2:10)
B. To warn the church of false teaching (Rev 2:14–16)
C. To threaten the impenitent with rejection (Rev 2:20–21)

II. JESUS REVEALED: POWER

A. Faithful Witness (Rev 1:5; John 18:37; 1 Tim 6:13)
B. Firstborn of the dead (Rev 1:5, 18; Matt 27; Heb 7:15-16)
C. Ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5; 19:11–16; Matt 28:18)
D. Awe and Fear inspiring (Rev 1:12-16)

III. JESUS REVEALED: APPLICATION

A. Appreciate what HE has done (Rev 1:5-6)
B. Appreciate what HE will do (Rev 1:7–8)
C. Appreciate what HE wants to do (Rev 1:17; Matt 11:28-30)

This image of the Lord should make us consider how we are living.
He comforts us, but He evaluate us too (Rev 20).
Are you in His Kingdom?

The Authority of Christ

One who has authority possesses power and jurisdiction. One with authority has the right to tell others what to do, the right to expect them to do it, and the right to punish them if they refuse to obey. As the Son of God, Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18).

Jesus worked many miracles while He walked this earth. Although people were helped by these miracles, none of them were performed exclusively for the immediate physical benefit of mankind. They were performed primarily as signs, certifying that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Jesus said, “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36). Some of the Jews understood this. “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world’” (John 6:14). To the Jews on Pentecost, Peter claimed that Jesus was “a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22).

When Jesus performed miracles, He exercised His divine authority over a variety of things. One should notice that in all these miracles, the things which were under the Lord’s authority responded positively and immediately to His authority. When Jesus healed the sick, He showed His authority over disease. When Jesus healed the leper, the leper was cleansed “immediately” [authority over time] (Matt. 8:2-3). When Jesus cast out demons, He showed His authority over demons. The demons recognized both Jesus as well as His authority over them. When people saw Jesus cast out demons, they marveled, “For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him” (Mark 1:23-27). When Jesus calmed the sea, He showed His authority over nature. The disciples who saw it feared and remarked, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:39-41). When Jesus raised the dead, He showed His authority over death. Jairus’ daughter arose immediately when Jesus called for her to come back to life (Mark 5:41-42).

When Jesus healed the sick, their bodies responded immediately.
When Jesus commanded the elements of nature, they responded to His voice immediately. When Jesus told the dead to come back to life, they arose immediately. When Jesus rebuked and cast out demons, even they responded in immediate obedience. These miracles were done before men, and for the benefit of mankind. Those who witnessed these miracles concluded that Jesus was a man of unique authority. Those who heard Him speak acknowledged that He spoke with authority (Matt. 7:29).

Thus, one would expect that individuals who heard Jesus would respond positively and immediately to His authority. Yet, sadly, many of them did not. The all-authoritative Christ could command the elements and the subjects of the spiritual world with the sound of His voice, but when this same Christ appealed to mankind, He was often met with reluctance, rejection and rebellion. And He allowed it.

“Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11, emphasis mine – HR). Notice, Paul says everyone should respect the authority of Christ, but many still do not today. However, there will come a day in which everyone will respect His authority. “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:11).

On Judgement Day, everyone will see the Lord of glory, will bow the knee, and will confess that He is Lord. Many will do so to their eternal regret. However, those of us who have acknowledged the authority of Christ in our lives by our obedience to His word will bow before Him with confidence and expectation of an eternal reward. — By Heath Rogers

What Did Isaiah See?

Isaiah 6:1-13. God commands respect and honor for leaders (1 Pet 2:17; Rom 13:7). Our national anthem, however, leans toward honoring veterans. People may not wish to honor leaders or veterans, but one day ALL will honor God. Let us petition God that ALL might know the truth about Him now (1 Tim 2:1–4). The vision Yahweh (God, the LORD) gave Isaiah ought to shape everyone’s view of God, the world and ourselves.

I. GOD IS HOLY

A. God is ON His throne (Isa 6:1-4; Ezek 1:22-28; Rev 4:1-11)

B. God is HOLY on His throne (Isa 6:3; Exo 15:11; 1 Sam 2:2; Rev 15:4; Isa 40:23–25)

II. MAN IS LOWLY

A. Sin must be exposed (Isa 1-5)

B. Sin must be confessed (Isa 6:5)

  • God’s nearness to man drives some away (John 3:17–21)
  • Man’s nearness to God gives clarity to sin (Rev 1:17; Dan 10:8)

C. Sin must be cleansed (Isa 6:6–7; Isa 53:5–6; Eph 1:7; Col 1:21–22; Heb 10:9–10)

III. GOD WILL PARDON

A. Ready to serve-up (Isa 6:8)

B. Ready to bear-up (Isa 6:9-13)

Confess your faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 10:9-10).
Repent of your sins and to be baptized into the Name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:36-38)
That is an invitation to be cleansed and made holy as God is holy.