|God's guidance isn't always easy to understand|
Let me start by talking about my first book, 3rd Compass1. I intended it to be a vehicle for evangelizing nonbelievers, as well as
a tool for teaching believers about the complexity of our world. I
tried to show how God made our reality confusing on purpose, but if we
stop to look deeper at things, we can understand many whys and hows...
- Why God made things so confusing
- How does God want us to follow Him?
- Why is there so much suffering in the world?
how things in the Bible, like God's act of creation in six days,
actually does make sense and is possible with how the universe works
I addressed these questions in my book. I
also talked about signs, which God uses to try and guide us. Many years
ago I did not believe in God or Christ, though I did accept there were
spiritual things in the world. God made me a believer in Christ through
wondrous signs He gave over a span of five or six years, before I came
to believe. They made me wonder more about supernatural things and if
someone was trying to tell me something.
The first sign was a ticking clock of light, like golden sunlight, that glowed on
the floor one morning. It appeared out of nowhere in a dim room with
the curtains drawn. Nothing I did interrupted its projection. I waved my
hand around it and the image remained unchanged on the floor. I
couldn't figure out where it came from. Then I put my hand over it and
the image was projected onto my hand. It was like the light materialized
out of thin air. I knew it was something special and out of the
ordinary, but I didn't understand what it meant. Sometime later I consulted someone who suggested it could mean a new beginning of prosperity and richness,
since sunlight usually means prosperity and the sign came in the
Over a handful of years, God gave me more signs and nudges. They made me
stop and wonder, but I couldn't understand their meaning. Eventually
God gave me enough to complete the picture, and I could understand the
message He was trying to tell me.
God was telling me, "Find comfort in My Son, Jesus," and that would be a
new beginning for me, full of spiritual prosperity. When I understood
the message, I was dumbfounded and awed. It didn't take long for me to
accept that message and leave behind my old life and start a new life
with Christ. Having so many signs line up was like holding a winning
lottery ticket. How could I just throw it away?
That was when I started ministry and began writing that first book in 2009, little did I know that my new life in Christ would take many turns and be full of hardship. It took more years of following spiritual guidance for me to realize that sometimes God guides in pieces, like puzzle pieces coming together over
time. So when we get enough pieces we can see the complete image, like the clock of light and other signs that brought me to believe in Christ.
has given guidance like this throughout the Old and New Testaments that
need to be pieced together correctly to understand the whole. Christ's
First Coming was one of those pictures that had many pieces in the Old
Testament. And the details of the New Covenant is another hidden in the New Testament.
Another example is Acts 10 where God gives Apostle Peter visions to
tell him all sorts of animals are now ok or "clean" to eat, since the
Jews were commanded to only eat "clean" animals as defined in the Law of
Peter protested and said, "I have never eaten anything impure or
unclean," but God told him, "Do not call anything impure that God has
made clean" (Acts 10:14).
Later, Peter was called to a centurion's house named Cornelius. He was told by an angel to get Peter days before, and when Peter
arrived, he got a revelation with the help of the Holy Spirit. He put
together the purpose of coming to Cornelius, who was a Gentile or non-Jew, with the visions he had
earlier and said, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show
favoritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does
what is right" (Acts 10:34).
Peter understood that, like all animals being made clean to eat, God had
made His gift of eternal salvation in Christ available to even the
"unclean" Gentiles - to everyone on earth (Acts 10:15, 10:34-48).
This revelation came in pieces, too, and was properly put together with
the help of the Holy Spirit, which we need to understand God, "for who
knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the
same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:11), so we need God's Spirit or mind to truly understand Him and His guidance. That involves the New Covenant, which I will come to later.
One or two pieces of guidance, like the signs I got, may not have much
meaning by themselves, but when we get enough pieces, the picture
becomes more apparent. This piece by piece way of guiding taught me not
to jump to conclusions about God's guidance until I had enough information to
understand it. It teaches us to have discipline and
patience, so we don't jump to conclusions and run with bad interpretations. Remember interpretation belongs to God through His Spirit, since "no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation... but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:20-21; Genesis 40:8).
Running with bad interpretations is a big problem I've seen in the church and one I fell to in my first years of trying to follow God through both Scripture and live spiritual guidance. Another problem is that the enemy can easily fake any spiritual guidance, such as words, visions, and dreams that people just assume is from God without question. I also fell into that trap, because I was naive and gave absolute trust to God and people I thought only had direct guidance from Him.
The need to examine things closely
However, I found out the hard way that the enemy has much more power and influence in this age over believers than I could have imagined. I had to come out of brainwashing from false guidance and teaching to see this clearly, and even though I was careful to try and examine things closely while I dealt with false guidance, it did not prevent the spiritual blindness that comes from accepting lies, which are especially hard to pick out from imposter spirits and false christ spirits that use the truth and claim to be God or His saints and angels.
Because false guidance and teaching is prevalent in the church and world, we have to examine everything very closely (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21), especially verifying it with valid Scripture (see Errors of Truth2 and Choosing a Bible3 for more about valid Scripture), like the Bereans did to verify what Paul and Silas taught (Acts 17:11). Simply following spiritual guidance blindly can lead to disaster if it
is false guidance from the enemy, because their lies become hooks in you.
We need patience, discipline, and wisdom to understand the full truth. Another thing we need is balance - both
emotional balance and the balance of Godly understanding versus worldly
ways of thinking. We've all heard that love can blind us. Well, that bit
of wisdom is no less true for love of God.
Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with love for God, especially when we
first come to know Him and see the wonder and majesty of our Heavenly
Father and all that He's done - it overwhelms us with joy, because we
see there is real purpose in life and the world isn't just a big
accident - but sometimes we focus so much on the joy and wonder that we
are blinded by it and don't move onward from our first baby steps with Christ.
God wants us to rejoice in Him, certainly... we should, especially when
we are downtrodden, but if we only focus on the euphoria of life with God, it makes us vulnerable to being manipulated by false guidance and we can actually become blind to the fullness of God's character and Kingdom. There is much more that God wants us to
understand then just to have zeal for Him. The enemy will use our passion for God to mislead and even usurp our relationships with Him, as I have found the church has fallen to through the imposters and false christs I mentioned.
Balancing love and wisdom
We need to balance our love for Him with the knowledge of how spiritual things work, such as how God's laws and commands continue to affect us today. They actually define His Kingdom. In
fact, they run the whole universe. People have developed the notion of
karma because they see a cause and effect from good and bad behavior,
but what most of the world fails to see is that most karma is actually the
cause and effect of breaking God's laws and commands - either walking in them
righteously so we get the benefits of His promises or breaking them so we are cursed with judgment.
King David said, "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits..." (Psalm 103:2-5).
He's talking about God's bountiful blessings and great mercy when we
walk righteously. So praise God always, but don't forget how to gain His benefits. We need
to lean on Him as our guiding and nurturing Father, because He said if
we'd just acknowledge Him, even His rebukes, He would have closer
intimacy with us.
In Revelation 3:20, He proclaimed, "Here I am! I stand
at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I
will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me." And in
Proverbs 1:23, He says if we heed His correction instead of turn it
away, He would give His mind and thoughts to us in abundance.
We need to be actively open to working with and being with God in our
daily lives, but the other side of the equation is how God wants us to
love Him. It's more than our worldly notion of love for a parent or
What does love for God include?
We tend to think of great love for someone as general unconditional love
that does not abate, even under difficult circumstances, disagreements,
or strife. The Greatest Commandment would seem to say that was the only thing God meant by "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with
all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27; Deuteronomy 6:5), but God has more in mind than a great passion for Him.
The apostle John clarifies this in 1 John 5:3 by saying, "In fact, this
is love for God: to keep His commands." Jesus also said in John 14:15,
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." So it is faithful
obedience to God's commands that is considered love for Him.
But why would He want us focus on obeying His commands? Isn't faith and
worship enough? Not if righteous action is absent, because "faith by
itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:17)
and in the same way, what good is our worship if we do not truly honor
God with our actions? Jesus talked about that when He said, "These
people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6).
He was talking about Jews following their made-up rules in favor of
truly fulfilling God's laws and commands, many of which demanded
love and generosity towards others. Their righteous action was absent.
But righteous action is a vague term. Can we understand what God wants
on a better level? It goes back to 1 John 5:3, Love for God is to keep
His commands. Why is that so important?
It has to do with the opposite of keeping God's commands, which is to
sin - to break God's laws, not man's laws or what we may think are God's
laws (1 John 3:4; Romans 3:20, 4:15, 7:7). Sin is
action or inaction that goes against God's commands. We can only know
sin by God's laws and commands, for without His definition there would
be no sin (Romans 3:20, 7:7).
So now we can see that to keep God's commands is also to keep from sin.
That's very important, because sin has serious consequences for us, as
well as our children and descendents, even if we have eternal salvation
in Christ. We have to remember that grace in Christ negates our eternal
penalty for sin; the New Covenant guarantees our names are put into the Book of Life. It does not take away the consequences of sin in this
life. God acts as Judge for everyone. He judges everyone's sins and
repays us for what we do wrong (Colossians 3:25; Romans 2:5-16; Ephesians 6:5-8; Ezekiel 33:12-20; Jeremiah 17:10, 21:14, 25:14, 32:19; Numbers 14:18; Nahum 1:3; Proverbs 24:12; also Hebrews 12:4-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; Ezekiel 3:20). Even the angels are not exempt from being judged (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6-7).
What is karma?
Remember the concept of karma? Most bad karma is actually the curses or
negative effects of sin, which is God's judgment for breaking His laws
and commands, so being cursed is simply having a judgment for sin. The
church gets confused about curses and doesn't believe they can come to
people saved in Christ, but if you understand what curses are, you can
see how people can be both blessed and cursed if they belong to God.
Curses are God's judgments for sin or breaking His laws and commands.
God's Kingdom and what He considers right are still defined by laws and
commands, so it's still important to understand our roles as His People
with the knowledge of what laws and covenants are in effect now.
Turn our hearts
It's not only a heart for God that should make us learn how to keep His
commands and avoid sin, but we must also turn our hearts toward our
children and families, because our sin can affect them. God said
children and descendents, even up to four generations, can be punished
for our own sins (Exodus 20:5; Leviticus 26:39; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9; Jeremiah 2:9,32:18,36:31; Hosea 4:6).
We can see the effects of these generational curses everywhere when so
many children get cancer or die prematurely. What sins did they commit
to deserve so much suffering? We need to look to ourselves and be sure
that we do not bring bad things on our families because of our own
wrongdoing. We have to think about other people when we are tempted to
And likewise, children need to think of their parents and others in
their behavior. God did not say the sins of children are punished upon
the parents, but a child's unruly behavior can cause parents or
caregivers to sin when they act in anger and become abusive. All of us
are responsible for thinking of others, whether we are parents,
children, caregivers, teachers, or someone in authority. Our sins can
affect others and make sin multiply.
Remember the Second Greatest Commandment - to love one another as yourself (Matthew 19:19, 22:39, 5:43-44; Mark 12:31-33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13-14; James 2:8; Leviticus 19:18),
and just as God wants us to be obedient to Him, we should also love
each other enough to be respectful and obedient to each other, within reason. For example, children should obey and honor their parents (Ephesian 6:1; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 15:4, 19:19; Mark 7:10, 10:19; Luke 18:20), but, parents should not be unreasonable with their children (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21), so do not force your children to do things you wouldn't do yourself. Walk with love for God and each other, balanced
with the knowledge of the consequences of sin and disobeying God.
God Grew Tired Of Us
Has anyone read John Dau's book, God Grew Tired Of Us?
It's about John's flight with fellow war refugees from Sudan, which is
the Land of Cush in the Old Testament, just under Egypt. He talked about
how he fled on foot with thousands of other refugees, mostly children,
who lost their homes and families. They crossed hundreds of miles of dry
savanna, dangerous marshes, and crocodile infested waters to find
refugee camps in neighboring countries. Many died along the way,
murdered by hostile soldiers, starved, or succumbed to the elements.
The Lost Boys was what John's group of refugees were called. They had to
flee several times as enemy troops forced them from one place to the
next. At one time, there were so many refugees that their single file
march took a whole day for the back of the line to pass through the
point where the front had first set foot. They suffered many hardships,
but some of them, including John were granted asylum in the United
States where they were able to renew their lives.
Throughout the book, John wondered why God made them go through so much
suffering. I felt his sorrow as I read about their many long and
difficult hardships, and I continue to feel great sadness for all the
horrible events around the world that are taking and displacing so many
lives. I know more difficult times are coming for people everywhere,
because I understand why God brings judgment to the earth.
John Dau didn't quite understand why in his book, but I saw that God
gave him a recurring dream to tell part of the story. John wrote:
dream I sit atop an eight-foot-tall anthill and watch over my father's
flock. As I perch there, I make toy cows out of clay. Beside me lie my
knife, my stick, and my spear. I am chewing a sorghum stem and looking
at my clay cows, when all of a sudden I hear something running. The
curtain of grass opens, and I see a goat of mine, followed by a lion.
The lion chases the goat around and around my anthill, and I think that
perhaps the goat has run to me to get my help. I get up, grab my spear,
and point it at the lion. The lion bows down, afraid of me, and freezes.
I seize the lion by the tail and swing it around in a circle. I am so,
so powerful. Holding the lion's tail like the handle of a whip. I beat
the animal's body against the anthill. Still the lion refuses to move. I
switch to my stick and beat the lion's head, then return to swinging it
by the tail and whacking it against the hill.
When I look up from beating
the lion, I see a group of boys having fun. I drag the lion to where the
boys are playing. The boys ask me, 'Why are you killing that lion?' I
say, 'If I kill this lion, he will not be able to attack my goats
We talk like that for a while.
In my dream I stand like a Dinka boy on watch, with my right leg
straight, my left leg bent at the knee, and the handle of my spear
tucked under my shoulder, its point stuck in the ground like a third
'What do you want to do with that lion?' one of the boys asks.
'I want to throw it away,' I reply. 'I will take it far away and get rid of it so it cannot harm anything in my village again.'
I take the lion to a place
where I can cast it into a swift flowing river, where the current will
make it disappear. Just as I start to toss it in, though, it comes alive
and stands up. In the blink of an eye, it grows strong again. The lion
chases me, intent on catching and eating me. I run very fast, until I
trip over a bunch of grass and fall. The lion leaps toward me, and I
(Dau, John Bul. God Grew Tired Of Us. pg 235)
John's dream interpreted
John said he did not know what the dream meant, but because
I'm familiar with Biblical concepts and spiritual guidance, I could see a
lot of meaning in it. It has to do with having further knowledge of the
world, which we've been talking about.
First, John stands on an anthill in the dream. Ants symbolize workers,
especially restless, hardworking people. Ant drones also symbolize
unthinking laborers that go about business more on instinct than logical
thought. John stands on the anthill to symbolize how he, as well as the
church in general, stand on those kinds of work ethics. We will see in
the meaning of this dream how the church goes about business like
drones, because she is not thinking as deeply about God's guidance and
spiritual things as she should be.
The toy cows John makes and looks at symbolize the church's sacred
cows or false beliefs and incorrect doctrine that she unreasonably clings to despite things that show she is wrong. The cows are made of clay or earth to symbolize how those
false beliefs come from worldly or earthy ways of thinking that do not
come from God.
The lion symbolizes the enemy of mankind, Satan, who prowls like a
roaring lion looking for someone to devour, from 1 Peter 5:8. It tries
to kill a goat from his herd to symbolize how the enemy also tries to
destroy the fruits of our crops and take our wealth, which they can do
because of judgment for our sin. The enemy accuses us before God day and
night (Revelation 12:10).
In the dream, John confronts and seemingly kills the lion, throwing it
around, which symbolizes how we use our strength and authority in Christ through the New Covenant to fight and rebuke the enemy. That is why he feels so powerful in the dream and why the lion cowers at him.
In the dream he believes that killing the lion will protect his people,
which represents how people think that simply rebuking the enemy will
protect us. However, that is only partially true.
When he tries to discard the lion in the river, it comes back to life
and attacks again. This refers to how the enemy cannot be "killed" or
kept away permanently simply by rebuking or praying. God is trying to make John and
the church aware that their current beliefs and knowledge about
spiritual things is incorrect. They're tripping on their false beliefs,
which is symbolized by the bunch of grass John trips on, since overgrown
grass symbolizes overgrown false beliefs. The end of the dream is
saying how John and the church are missing the important knowledge of
how God's laws and covenants work, because when we sin or break God's
laws, we are open to being attacked by the enemy.
That means when we sin, whether we know it or not, judgment comes to us
through curses, such as bad illness, accidents, and loss of property and
wealth. Rebuking the enemy and praying for help and deliverance does
help, but the help can only be temporary if we continue to sin. That's
why Jesus told people to not sin anymore after he healed them, like the
man He healed at the pool of water. He said, "See, you are well again.
Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you" (John 5:1-14).
The only way to completely kill the lion in the dream is to become
unaccusable before God, which means to become sinless as Jesus was. We
can only get the full blessings of God's promises if we walk righteous and strive to keep sin out of our lives, at least the worst ones foremost, since there are lesser sins that we should not worry so much about. Worrying over all sin is a ploy of the enemy to brainwash us into constant fear over false sins as well as excessive worry over any sin, no matter how small.
Learn what sin really is
Still, knowing what sin really is, is very important to understand, not just for ourselves, but
also for our children and families as I talked about before - our sin
can affect others. We need to think about that, strive to get rid of sin
from our lives, and teach the truth to our families, because it will
help and protect everyone if we all try to walk righteous before God.
If we keep learning about God's ways and the commands He
expects us to walk in today, then we would not hurt so much as a People,
like God said in Hosea 4:6, "My People are destroyed from lack of
knowledge," because they reject it. That's a big reason why John Dau's people went through so
much suffering and why much of the world comes to so much tribulation.
People do not know how much they do wrong in God's eyes because of their
lack of knowledge or because they were taught wrong.
church works too much like ant drones without thinking deep enough
about spiritual guidance and God's word and excludes information from the whole
picture. They keep their false beliefs and bad doctrine and reject the truth, which can end up bringing generational curses to our children and families when we sin, as God notes this also in Hosea 4:6, "Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children."
Strive to be approved servants
So Godly knowledge isn't all we need to have a successful walk with Him.
We must also become approved workmen, who know how to rightly divide
His Word and guidance. The notion of rightly dividing or correctly
handling the Word of Truth comes from 2 Timothy 2:15. Apostle Paul
refers to being accurate with God's Word and guidance, and being someone
who can understand and use it in correct context, so that we do not
mistreat or misconstrue the truth. "Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Paul's analogy to rightly dividing and being accurate refers to his
trades of leather working and making tents (Acts 18:3; NASB MacArthur Study Bible4), which he did to supplement
his income. It requires being precise with measurements and in cutting
materials, so that everything fits together and works as intended.
In the same manner, if we do not understand God's Word or use it
correctly and in context, then we risk skewing God's intended meaning
and making the wrong conclusions about what God really means.
An example of this is rightly dividing the word "salvation." We talk a
lot about salvation in Christ and words for it are commonly used
throughout the Bible. However, when we talk about it, we should be
accurate and understand there are two types of salvation in the Bible -
eternal and temporal or temporary6.
Eternal salvation is what we get when we acknowledge Jesus through the
New Covenant of Grace. It takes away the eternal penalty of sin for the next life. It's
separate from temporal salvation, which is temporary or physical
salvation in this life. An example is
miraculous healing from disease, like cancer. That salvation can be temporary,
though, because if we continue to sin, the consequences of it will
come back to us when God judges our sin again.
Another example of correctly handling God's Word is understanding His
forgiveness. He said that He would forgive us and remember our sins no
more (Hebrews 8:12, 10:17; Jeremiah 31:34), but then He also said
through the apostle Matthew, "If you do not forgive others their sins,
Your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15).
Does that mean God will refuse your eternal salvation if you do not forgive other people?
No... we must keep things in context. When God said
He will forgive us and not remember our sins, He was talking about
eternal salvation in Christ - the New Covenant. All our sins are wiped away by Jesus's
blood (1 John 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14), but when He said He would not forgive us if we do not forgive, He was talking about temporal salvation or deliverance.
This was shown through someone who has a gift of healing. A
woman came to him seeking healing for an illness, but his gift did not work
as it normally did. He was confused and pondered it and prayed. God
moved him to ask the woman if she had unforgiveness for anyone.
It turned out she did need to forgive someone, and after he brought her
to willingly speak forgiveness for that person, his gift of healing
worked. God showed him many times how unforgiveness in our hearts
prevents healing or deliverance, which is temporal salvation. That is
what God meant when He said He would not forgive our sins if we did not
forgive others. God's unforgiveness in Matthew 6:15 is His withholding of temporal
salvation for our sins or taking away the curses that our sins brought
Unforgiveness prevents God from giving us temporal salvation or
deliverance. That's one of the reasons why Christ preached forgiveness (Matthew 6:12; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37, 11:4). He even said, forgive someone who wrongs us even seven times in a day (Luke 17:3-4) or even if they've wronged us seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21-35).
Obviously, holding unforgiveness in our hearts is damaging, not just
for ourselves but also for those who we do not want to forgive. It not
only goes against the Second Greatest Commandment to love your neighbor,
but also prevents healing and closure for all parties involved.
There are many stories about people who commit great wrongs to people we
love, even murdering them. The hate and unforgiveness can go on for
many years, but when the person who was wronged comes forward and
forgives, it can lift a huge weight from both parties. They feel healing
in their spirits and can move onward with a new sense of well-being.
Another example of correctly handling God's guidance is about
praying. Jesus gave His disciples instruction in a parable so they
would always pray and not lose hope (Luke 18:1-5). He said,
"In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’Well, people often think that because Jesus said "always
prays and not lose heart," when He told the parable, that He meant we
should constantly pray and ask for the same thing until we get it. I've
seen people pray every day for the same thing for years without anything
happening. However, that's not what God wants us to do. He is not like
the judge in the parable who granted the request because he got tired of
For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’"
God truly cares about His People and will bring help even if we just ask
for something once. We need to rightly divide again and understand what
God really means in His Words, like when He said, "always pray and not lose heart," He did not mean to constantly ask Him for the same thing over
and over again. He gives clues about what He really means by what He
said after the parable:
And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says.
And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to
Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will
see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man
comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:6-8)A key statement is, "Will He find faith on the earth?" We
know that having great faith in God helps our spiritual standing. Jesus
said if we had enough faith we could literally tell a mountain to fall
into the sea and it would (Matthew 21:21-22). We
could even walk on water as Jesus did. Remember how Peter went out of
the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus? But then the wind made
him afraid and he began to sink (Matthew 14:30).
Jesus pulled him out of the water and said, "You of little faith. Why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31)
Doubt hindered Peter's faith, and likewise, if we pray not truly believing in it, it can fail. We need to truly believe we will
receive what we ask for, since the Lord also said, "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; James 1:6-8).
So when Jesus said, "always pray and not give up," (Luke 18:1 NIV) He meant we should
always ask for what we want in prayer and not doubt that we will receive
it. We aren't supposed to keep asking God for the same thing over and
over again. In fact, God has guided people, including myself, to simply
"be still" (Psalm 46:10) and leave things up to Him, so when we ask for something, we should do it once with undoubting faith and wait.
If we wait a very long time, though, and don't see prayers being
met, then we need to examine other things. First, what we ask for should
align with God's will because He also said, "If we ask anything
according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:14-15).
And also, like unforgiveness prevents God from forgiving us, sins
can also affect whether God grants our petitions. That's why He told
husbands to be considerate and respectful of wives, so that nothing
would hinder their prayers (1 Peter 3:7) and in Isaiah 1:15-17, God said He would not listen to prayers because of sin.
A long wait for prayers to be met may not mean the Lord answered, "No,"
either. It may be that it's not the right time for what we ask, so we
need to have patience.
Circumstances out of our control may need to change for the request to
be granted, so instead of asking God the same thing again after a while,
ask Him why your prayers are not met and to guide you further.
An example is I've asked the Lord why I haven't been given funds to get a church building yet, and I believe the reasons were that I have to take care of other things first, such as taking care of family and other goals I need to tackle. The Lord may want you to take care of things in your life before He grants your requests as well, so seek the Lord on those issues if you feel you need to.
Now, having discussed how to handle God's Word better and seeing that the
Lord often does not speak plainly, but in ways that require deeper
thinking, The Lord's Prayer is another thing that requires examination.
"Our Father Who is 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 debts, as we also have
forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us
from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory
forever. Amen." (Matthew 6:9-13)Much of the church believes these words are to be recited
and used often, but note that just before Jesus gives these guidelines,
He said, "And when you pray, do not use meaningless repetition?" (Matthew 6:7-8).
We already talked about how God doesn't want us to repeatedly pray the
same thing over and over again. Instead, we need to pray with great faith. Why then does the church so often recite The
She simply misunderstood the Lord. He did not say recite or repeat His
Words. He said pray in this way or manner, which means we need to use
Matthew 6:9-13 as guidelines for how to pray about things in general.
The Lord's Prayer
or "Our Father" is not a prayer but guidelines for prayer:
- Our Father Who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name - We
are to pray with respect and reverence for the Lord. Speak to Him as
Your Holy Father, King, and Lord and not simply as a close friend.
Sometimes people pray inappropriately, such as inadequately dressed in
underwear. We should be respectfully dressed or covered for formal prayer and give the Lord our complete attention. Formal or public prayer should also have hats and anything covering the head removed,
except in the case of women who've lost or cropped their hair too
short. Then something like a prayer shawl should cover the head (1 Corinthians 11:4-15).
- Your Kingdom come - We should be praying to expand God's
Kingdom through Christ by asking people to be saved and for ourselves
to be used as His instruments.
- Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven - We
should make our wills whatever the Lord's will is, like Jesus did when He hoped to avoid or delay dying
on the cross. He asked three times, "Father, if You are willing, remove
this cup [the cup of duty and judgment] from Me; yet not My will, but
Yours be done" (Matthew 26:39, 26:42, 26:44 and Luke 22:42). Even Jesus had fear of dying, but He knew God's will and
submitted to it. We need to be able to submit to the Lord's will even if it isn't what we want or results in great suffering. If it's the Lord's plan for our greater good, suffering will bring completeness, maturity of spirit, and fellowship in the sufferings of Christ and our brethren (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, 4:8-18, 6:4-10; Philippians 3:10-11; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Colossians 1:24).
- Give us this day our daily bread - Ask the Lord for
whatever you need or want, whether it's His guidance, blessing,
Spirit, wisdom, peace, strength, love, faith or anything else He
Ask for anything, but keep your requests
appropriate for the circumstances. Sometimes, the Lord's will is not to
grant a miracle or deliverance. The faith and disposition of others also
affects how much God can work in a situation, like when Jesus could not
do many miracles in His hometown (Matthew 13:58). We should also not selfishly ask for too much, like King Agur in Proverbs 30, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither
poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, 'Who is the
Lord?' or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my
God" (Proverbs 30:8-9).
- And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
- Ask God to forgive your sins (our debts or transgressions), noting
specific sins as well as all your sin, since you likely have sinned
without knowing it. It is righteous to admit your sins, since hiding them is a sin (Proverbs 28:13). Ask God for the knowledge to understand what you do
wrong and for the help to change your ways. The second part of this
verse about forgiving others who sinned against us goes with keeping
unforgiveness out of our hearts. We discussed that above and noted how
the Lord will not give us temporal salvation if we do not forgive others (Matthew 6:15). I also noted excessive fear over sin and false sin above. It is a problem church, especially in the Catholic Church, when people accuse, judge, and condemn based on false beliefs. This is a something that requires further study about God's Word to understand better, so I won't give further details here. Just try to keep learning about what sin really is (see Sex and Marriage - The Plain Truth for examples related to sex, marriage, and family), and don't worry excessively over sinning. Sin can have serious consequences, but the enemy would have you live in fear. Remember we are not slaves to law under the New Covenant, nor do we get a spirit of slavery that leads again to fear with Christ (Romans 8:15; Luke 1:68-75; Galatians 5:1).
- And do not lead us into temptation - If we are presented
with situations that tempt us into sin, we need to ask the Lord's help
to keep us from it. We are often tested to bring us into maturity, so we
should also pray for our ways to be righteous and perfect in all
things. Jesus worried over His disciples in temptation, as He warned
them, "keep watching and praying that you may not enter into
temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). We often want to do the right things in God's eyes, but there is a war in ourselves with darkness and urges of the flesh (Romans 7:14-24).
Jesus noted, "the flesh is weak," so if you are at all concerned you
might sin, then remove yourself from those situations.
- But deliver us from evil - Ask the Lord for help and
deliverance from adversity and wicked people. Ask also that people who
are not acting righteously to be changed and to come out of sin and
darkness. Even bless those who do wrong to you (Luke 6:27-28).
- For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever - This goes back to the first verse about giving respect to God.
More notes on prayer
I noted "formal prayer" as opposed to prayer in general. Formal prayer
is more focused prayer, such as when we sit alone to have prayer time
with the Lord or when we do group prayer. General prayer, though, can any prayer in the moment to speak with God. This kind of informal prayer does not have to be strict with reverence as the guidelines above suggest, like Jesus simply started praying, "My Father..." or "Abba, Father..." when He asked to not die on the cross (Matthew 26:39-44; Mark 14:36).
Now knowing all this about prayer, there are things we
might need to prayer for on a continuing basis - things that recur or that
need to be renewed, such as prayer to bless meals and give thanksgiving, daily prayer for blessings, for recurring
church services to be anointed with God's Spirit, or to be
filled with the Holy Spirit in yourself or others.
The alignment of our actions
with God's will depends a lot with how much we are filled with His
Spirit. That's why we are urged to be filled with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). We need to try walking in the Spirit more than by the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17),
so we do things as God wants us. But if we are not sufficiently filled with His Spirit, we could end up
letting our worldly selves or darkness control us, like Ananias and his
wife Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), who the apostle Peter
confronted when they conspired to keep money they promised to share
with everyone. Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled
your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for
yourself some of the money you received for the land?" (Acts 5:3)
Both Ananias and his wife died for conspiring against what they promised to God.
Peter said Ananias' heart was filled by Satan to do the wrong things.
To counter that, we need to be filled with God's Spirit and try to align with it instead. So
renew yourselves daily with God in prayer and ask to be filled with His Holy Spirit and powers of His Spirit. Don't
be anxious about anything, but be thankful and depend on God through prayer
and petition to work for you and through you (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2).
Slow down and think about what you do and say, so you don't make
mistakes in haste and override what God's Spirit tells you to do. Remember the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, meaning its easy to ignore or override what God wants us to do.
Why bless meals?
Giving thanks to God for our meals is easy to understand, but I have also noted that people in other countries use pagan rituals to bless their crops, which end up on our dinner tables. We do not need to worry about eating food blessed this way or even food that was used in pagan offerings (1 Corinthians 8:4-8). We just are not to participate in those rituals, which is why Apostle Paul says we should not be seen eating in a temple even though the food may be fine to eat; it will embolden a "weaker" or less knowledgeable believer to participate in pagan rituals (1 Corinthians 8:9-13).
However, demonic rituals, sorcery, and black magic can contaminate physical objects, so if food or anything else is suspected to have been used that way, it should be cleansed by prayer, "for everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5).
We can see in all the things we talked about that God and His Kingdom
are not as easy to understand as we might think. We have to have a
more complete knowledge of things and be able to understand God's guidance
correctly by rightly dividing and connecting information together in the correct ways.
It can be all very confusing, and there are other topics related to balancing the truth that need addressing. A very important one is further discussion about the gospel and how eternal salvation works. I speak of that in The True Gospel and Imposters5, but for this sermon I will end in a reminder to keep the right outlook and faith under our hardships
and trials - don't lose hope when we should not, be
content in every situation whether it is what we want or not. Be righteous and love the Lord, which is to obey His
commands, as well as to give Him our love in worship and service. May we all be continually perfected into God's image through Christ Jesus. Amen.
4 "Notes on 2 Timothy 2:15". The MacArthur Study Bible - New American Standard Bible (NASB). pg. 2557. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2006. Print.
5 Huynh, Ty Alexander. "The True Gospel and Imposters." 3rd Compass - Christ Hephzibah Church.
6 Sauzek, Roy. "Rightly Dividing The Word Saved - Plain Talk". Take His Heart Ministries.