Friday, June 6, 2008

The Lord's Prayer - Part 3

Stuart MacLean writes about the daily goings on of a small family in Toronto. They own the Vinyl Café, a small record shop. Dave is the husband, Morley is his wife. Sam and Stephanie are the kids. There are neighbours and homeless people, dogs and cats. It is about life, the ins and outs of life. It is about the imperfections of life, the things that go wrong in life. Deep down most of us like to read those kinds of stories, because it gives us hope that there is somebody worse off or at least has made worse decisions than us. I know it is a pick me up for my self. Adrian Plass, Patrick McManus, Keirson Keller all write in this same vein. Daily life for those in books and movies and songs is never boring. But for you and me, it is the substance of life. Occasionally we end up in a place where the event becomes bigger than our reality, but for most of us, day to day is pretty even; sometimes a good even, a bad even, or somewhere in the middle (an even even!). It is in this context we find this phrase of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread…”

“Give us…”Hebrews 10:19 “…we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…”

Some people can never ask for help. For them, it is really easy to give help to others, and to even be self-sacrificing in there help, but it is hard for them to have the table turned around. Sometimes it is because they have a profound sense of emotional debt. The only way they get through life is by paying off this debt and taking on no new debt. To ask for help increases the amount they have to pay off. So they go through life working hard for everybody else and take no regard for themselves. The unfortunate part is that they don’t see what they become. There is a rigidness and inflexibility in their lives.

When we pray “Give us…” we are recognizing our needs before an almighty God. We recognize that He is the supplier of all things. We recognize that we can’t do it all by ourselves. We recognize that we can’t even know the whole scope of work and ministry that needs to happen. There is an acknowledgement that indeed it is about Jesus. James 4 talks about prayer and asking for things. He cautions that sometimes we don’t get answers to prayer because we don’t ask for things specifically. Sometimes we don’t receive because we ask out of the wrong motive, too. The context of this chapter in James is about where our hearts are. It challenges us about loving God or loving the world. The two are not compatible.
When we pray “Give us…” we are starting from the bigger perspective of who we are before God. We don’t demand from God, “Give us… or else!” We also don’t grovel like a worm saying “I am unworthy!” Instead, we enter the throne room of God, the Holy of Holies with confidence because of our redeemed status before God. We understand we are forgiven sinners who live by grace which we receive by faith. We understand we are on a spiritual pilgrimage leading to Christ-likeness and holiness in our lives. And because we know that, we pray, “Give us…” Hebrews 10:19 shows us this relationship we have with God. The reason we have this assurance, this sincerity is because of Jesus’ finished work at the cross. Last week I talked about how we don’t have to worry about going up there to heaven because God came down here to us. So we pray “give us…” because we have a god who cares and listens and answers.

“…this day…” – Matthew 6:34 …be not “anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. “

I have come to love the story of manna. It is the story of understanding God is big and powerful and is in our details. Grace Fox at Girls’ Night Out talked about how God specializes in solving issues when we follow His lead. Some 3 and a half million people left Israel and headed for the Promised Land. They are in a desert. That is like 3 ½ times the population of our province, in one group, in a desert. What about food and water? And so God provides manna. It appears over night. The people gather enough in the morning for the day. The next day it appears again, and so the people are told not to hoard it – don’t gather more than you need for the day. Of course, several people try to beat the system and they get several days worth of manna. The next morning, though, the manna has gone bad and there are worms in it and ewwwww! And the Scriptures tell us that the manna is there until Israel is done their wanderings. God provided for them, every single day.
Jesus Himself said that of all the things you could be anxious for, daily bread is not one of them. Read Matthew 6:25-34 and understand that Jesus wants to take away all your anxiety, your worries. He says in verse 34 to not be “anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. “ Seek first His kingdom.
So when we pray “Give us this day…” we ask for strength and wisdom for today. We may begin to think about tomorrow, but the presence of Christ is about today. What are you doing for Jesus today? Not what are you doing for or with Jesus tomorrow, or next week, or when you graduate, or when you have more money, or a better job, or a better spouse, or a new spouse, or anything but, what are you doing with Jesus This Day?

“…our daily bread” – Hosea 6:3 “He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth."

As we remember that story of the manna, we recognize that the principle behind it was more than just daily bread from heaven for the physical body. It was also about spiritual bread that is baked in the oven of faith over coals of patience. We’ve talked about how life is more than just this touchy feely stuff that the 5 senses can interact with. There is another dimension, a spiritual dimension that we get glimpses of here and there. When you sense the still quiet voice of God encouraging you to talk to someone, you’ve touched it. When you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin, you’ve touched it.
When we pray for God’s provision, we are praying that we would allow ourselves the patience to rest in Him and what He provides. The lesson of manna was about trusting in God whether you are in the desert, or in the land of plenty. In the desert we want to go out and hoard and rely on what we can grab to survive. In the Promised Land we rely on the stuff we have around us. Life is bearable, if not comfortable or excessive.
Think of the desert, of the dry, parched land. My lawn has been quite dry. In the south west corner of the province they have had drought conditions for a few years. Listen to this verse from Hosea 6:3 "So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth." Do you get the sense of refreshment from God? What a wonderful promise as we see the spring bring green to the trees and the flowers bloom.
Bonnie and I met in January 1999. We married in January, 2000. Ben came along in February of 2001 and Heather 2 years later. We started in Kitchener, moved to Elmvale, then Wyevale, then 3 places in Stettler, and now finally here. I have had 6 jobs in that time. Bonnie has attended both a college and a university. She has worked in several places and started a new career. With all that instability, with all the changes, with all the financial pressures and expenses, with all the upheaval of friends and families, of goodbyes and hellos and goodbyes, I can testify that not once has God failed in providing what we needed for that day.

Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young and now I am old; yet I have not
seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.”

Want a promise to claim, to cling to? Cling to that. Cling to the faithfulness of God, to the love that He sheds abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit. I invite you to pray if God is working in your heart and you need to meet Him in a special way today. Kneel where you are and get things right with God.

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