Mark 11: “For All Nations”

I’m not sure why everyone was so surprised that Jesus walked into the Temple and set things straight. The prophet Malachi told them this would happen:

Malachi 3:1-3 (NLT) “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.

Like we’ve seen before, no matter how many prophecies Jesus fulfilled, it didn’t stop the Pharisees (Levites) from plotting to kill Jesus.

Mark 11:18 (NLT) 18 When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him.

But this still doesn’t answer the question why Jesus was so upset. Until further study, one of the things I never realized was the actual location Jesus cleared out.

Court of the Gentiles

Located in the outer court of the Temple was the location called the Court of the Gentiles. This is the furthest point that a Gentile could go in the Temple. In fact, there were signs in both Hebrew and Greek warning that Gentiles would be executed if caught past that point.

Here’s the other thing about the Court of the Gentiles. It was the only place where Gentiles could observe the Jewish worship of God. If you attend a church, picture a room off the sanctuary where non-believers could gather and watch to see what was going on during the service. So basically the Jewish religious leaders took up the one location where Gentiles could see their interaction with God.

It’s important to note what Jesus says while he’s “cleaning the Temple.” We hear people say that Jesus declared, (v. 17) “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Now, this is true, but we tend to leave off one of the most important part of his statement. His full statement is, (v. 17) “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.

This declaration by Jesus would not have set well with the Pharisees. In their mind there, and the mind of others as well, Jews were the only ones who could truly worship God. In fact, it made the Pharisees irate when they heard that Jesus was extending grace to both Jews AND Gentiles.

 

What Do We Learn?

I can’t tell you what to learn from this story, that’s the role of the Holy Spirit. However, I can tell you what I learned. I learned that still today as a church we struggle with making it harder for people to follow Jesus in the church. Yes, there was major corruption with the money changers and sellers of doves, oil, wine…etc, but at the root level, they ended up cluttering up the only area were Gentiles could experience worship of God.

The question to consider today is this: How have we cluttered up or made it more difficult for people to experience worship today in our churches?

Mark 10: “He Threw Aside His Coat”

This is an interesting story in the gospels. In Matthew there isn’t one blind man, but two. In Luke, there’s one, but he’s not named. It’s here in Mark that we get not only the name of the blind man, but we also get the name of his father. Now, that’s not hard to do considering his name literally means, “Son of Timaeus.” But who is Blind Bartimaeus?

Blind Bartimaeus

When we dig deeper into the story there are a few things that we learn about Bartimaeus.

Persistent
The first thing we learn is that he is persistent. Mark indicates the persistence of Bartimaeus by mentioning multiple times that he wanted mercy.

This reminds me of the persistence we ought to have in prayer. We too have the opportunity to cry out to God for mercy EVERYDAY! We may not be physically blind today, but Mark doesn’t include this story based solely on restoring a persons physical sight. One of the things we can learn from this story is to be persistent ourselves.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Take the gates of Heaven and shake them with your zeal as though you would pull them up—post, and bar, and all! Stand at Mercy’s door and take no denial. Knock and knock, and knock again, as though you would shake the very spheres, until you obtain an answer to your cries! “The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12).” Cold prayers never win God’s ear. Draw your bow with your full strength if you would send your arrow up as high as Heaven.”

Beggar
The second thing we learn is that Bartimaeus was a blind beggar. I know, shocker… We can tell that Bartimaeus is a beggar simply by the location he was begging. We know that Jesus and his entourage were “leaving town” (v. 46). We also learn that Bartimaeus was, “sitting by the road” (v. 46). This is the posture and location of a person who would have been a consistent beggar. I believe, and I can’t back this up, but I believe they knew Bartimaeus name because they he was a notorious beggar. In fact, maybe he had a reputation for being a little aggressive with people when asking for alms (money). Look at the reaction of the people; “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.”

But Bartimaeus wasn’t just a beggar of alms, but rather in this story, he’s a beggar of mercy! Twice he shouts out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” During his ministry on earth, Jesus couldn’t physically heal every person who was blind or lame. This meant that there were times he would simply have to walk by. But on this particular day he heard something interesting, “Son of David!”

The title “Son of David” isn’t just an endearing title, it’s a title the would only be bestowed upon the Messiah. It’s a title that indicated to Jesus that Bartimaeus believed in the Messianic promise of Isaiah 61:1, that “the blind will see.”

Knew What He Wanted
We may think it strange that Jesus would ask a blind man what he would want with the Messiah, but none the less, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you (v. 51).”

Truth is, Jesus asked because he wanted to know from Bartimaeus. He knew Bartimaeus wanted to see… it was obvious, but in that moment Jesus was testing his faith. In fact, it wasn’t Bartimaeus’ persistence that saved him, yet it played a part, but it was his faith!

v. 52 “Go, for your FAITH has healed you.”

He Threw Aside His Coat

The last thing I want to touch on regarding this story is probably the most overlooked. Finally when Bartimaeus was given permission to see Jesus he, “threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.”

Throwing aside his coat would have been a very symbolic moment. That coat would have been placed in front of him everyday to collect the alms that would help him live. It would have been his only worldly possession! Think about what was going on in that moment!

The man abandoned everything, left it all behind, came running to the feet of Jesus with the faith to believe that Jesus would heal him; and that’s exactly what Jesus did.

 

Mark 6: “Take Courage, I am Here!”

 

Prayer

As we begin to break this passage down, it’s important to start at the top. No, not at the top of the passage, but the top of the hill! Jesus just got done Feeding the 5,000 (v.30-44) and saying goodbye to all the people who were there. After sending the disciples out to cross over to the other side, Jesus does what Jesus does, he goes off alone to pray.

If you go back further than this story, you’ll see that Jesus desired to be alone with his disciples sooner, but was interrupted by the crowds of people. He was also hadn’t had the opportunity to truly mourn the loss of his cousin John the Baptist (v.27-29).

We can learn from Jesus that even in the midst of the business of life, it’s important to be intentional about prayer.

He Saw Them

I’m sure the disciples were asking themselves, “How are you going to get across the lake, Jesus?” I’m sure their next thought was, “Why does he keep asking us to cross the lake AT NIGHT!” Just like before, a storm pops up on the lake and yet again the disciples find themselves fighting against the wind and the waves.

What’s interesting in this account is the acknowledgment that Jesus “saw that they were in serious trouble (v. 48).” The parallel passage in John 6 indicates that the disciples had rowed 3-4 miles out into the lake. That’s a pretty good distance from the shore if you think about it. None the less, Jesus saw them in their struggle! The good news for us is that Jesus sees us in our struggle as well, but he has an interesting way of making himself known.

He Intended to Go Past

It’s wonderful to know that Jesus sees the disciples in their struggle, but it’s a little concerning that he was just going to stroll right on past them. The scripture indicates, “He intended to go past them” (v.48). This isn’t the only place in scripture that we find Jesus intending to keep walking. Just look at the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:28 (NLT) says, “28 …Jesus acted as if he were going on.” The ultimate question we have to ask ourselves is, why? Why did Jesus walk towards them, just to walk by?

The reality for us today is this: Jesus will never go where he’s not invited.

In both situations Jesus came near, Jesus pursued, Jesus showed up in the midst of the storm, but in both situations Jesus wasn’t going to force his will over the will of the disciples. They needed to acknowledge the presence of Jesus and realize he’s the only one that can help them.

Don’t think this is only in reference to the disciples. Truth is, we need to recognize that even during the storms of our life, Jesus draws near, Jesus pursues, Jesus shows up; but we need to choose to acknowledge his presence!

Don’t be Afraid, I Am Here!

The greatest words that we can hear in the midst of the storm is, “Don’t be Afraid, I am here! (v. 50)” Jesus even throws in a “Take courage (v. 50)!” I know it’s difficult for us, but we need to trust in the promise throughout scripture that says, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” One of the things I tend to think is, easy for you to say… Although it’s easy for Jesus to say, it doesn’t take away the power of the promise.

In my mind what Jesus does next is incredibly significant…

Then He Climbed Into the Boat

“Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped!” Allow that thought to wash over you a second. Jesus climbed into the boat! But it’s important to remember that Jesus wouldn’t have climbed into the boat; and Jesus won’t enter your situation unless you acknowledge your need for him today. Trust Jesus in the midst of your storm today.

No matter the storms that come my way
No matter the trials I may face
You promised that you would see me through
So I will trust in you
– Michael D. Popham, “I Will Sing Praise”

Matthew 7: “20 Mile March”

In the book Great by Choice, Jim Collins tells the story of two adventurers who set out to be the first people in modern history to reach the South Pole. The year was 1911. The location was the South Pole, where temperatures reach 20 below in the summer.

One team was led by Roald Amundsen. The other team was led by Robert Falcon Scott.

342px-Nlc_amundsen
Roald Amundsen ca. 1908

Scott

Robert Falcon Scott

Both men were roughly the same age and had comparable experience. They both started their 1,400 mile journey within a few days of each other. They both endured the same conditions.

But the two teams had dramatically different strategies.

Scott led his team based on the current conditions. If it was good weather, he might march 30, 40 or even 50 miles. On bad days, when gale forced winds made traveling far worse than normal, he would travel less, or not at all. He let the environment determine his distance. In the process, he led his team to exhaustion

Amundsen, on the other hand, adopted a different strategy. He decided that he would march 15-20 miles, regardless of weather conditions.

On good days, he went the same distance, even though some on his team challenged him to go further. On bad days, he led his team exactly the same, even though many complained. He didn’t let the environment, or the suggestions of his team sway him. They would march 15-20 miles, and rest, even if they didn’t feel like it.

I’m sure you’re wondering who won the race. Amundsen, who went a persistent distance on a daily basis, won the race. And he won big.

Amundsen on his last day was only 34 miles away from the South Pole and in good weather, but did he stretch it out and go all 34? No, he of course did 17 on one day at 17 on the other.

Scott reached the south pole 35 days later, and on the return trip, he, and every person on his team died. So what was the difference? The difference was persistence. Amundsen never deviated from the persistent plan of keep going.

How is prayer any different?

Think about your own prayer life:

Do you have an Amundsen style prayer life?

  • Consistent, persistent, faithful, staying the course one day at a time, one moment at a time.

Do you have a Scott style prayer life? 

  • Erratic, inconsistent, varies depending on life’s circumstances. One day it’s a ton, the next it’s non-existent.

You see, prayer is a habit to cultivate. It is a discipline to be developed. It’s a skill to be practiced. While I don’t want to reduce praying hard to time logged, if you want to see an increase in your prayer life, you have to pray…and sometime… pray hard.

Keep On Keeping On

Matthew 7:7 (NLT) Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

I like the NLT of Matthew 7 because of it’s consistent usage of “Keep on.” The reality for us is we’re each on our own journey towards our Spiritual South Pole. We need to assume an Amundsen style prayer life and “Keep on keeping on!”

I’ve heard this saying, and I think it’s a good one: If you pray through, God will come through!

Praying hard is going twelve rounds with God. A heavyweight prayer bout with the Lord Almighty can be excruciating and exhausting, but that is how great prayer victories are won. Praying hard is two-dimensional: praying like it depends on God and working like it depends on you. It’s praying until God answers, no matter how long it takes. It’s doing whatever it takes to show God you’re serious.

So today, keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.

Matthew 6: “Truth About Fasting”

April, 1863

Abraham Lincoln drafted what was known as Proclamation 97. Proclamation 97 was a proclamation that would call for a national day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer. Lincoln drafted in his proclamation a call for the nation to show their dependence on God, confess their sins in humble sorry, and recognize that throughout human history nations are only blessed whose God is the Lord.

He goes onto to give credit to God for the success of the nation and that the people have become too self-sufficient and to proud to pray.

“…I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion. All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”

 – Abraham Lincoln

In Proclamation 97, President Lincoln initiated a state wide fast to take place in April 1863, do you remember the year the Civil War ended? It was April 1865, almost two years to the day of the fast.

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the fast of 1863 ended the Civil War, but it could have. You see, things happen when people fast, ordinary things become extraordinary, natural things become supernatural, the impossible becomes possible and all through the discipline of letting go of the non-essentials and focusing on God alone. But for some reason, some have labeled fasting as something only for monks, priests, and the super spiritual. Because of this attitude, fasting for many years has been relegated as cliche or taboo.

Richard Foster in his book, “Celebration of Discipline” says, “…in my research I could not find a single book published on the subject of Christian fasting from 1861 to 1954, a period of nearly one hundred years. More recently a renewed interest in fasting has developed, but we have far to go to recover a biblical balance.”

Jesus didn’t command for his followers to fast, He anticipated they would fast. He didn’t say, “if you fast, or “You must fast”, he said, 16 When you fast… (6:16). 

Fasting IS NOT…

It’s important before we talk about what fasting is that I briefly share what fasting is not.

  1. Fasting is not merely going without food for a period of time (yes, fasting is primarily centered around food, but there are plenty of fasts that allow food and go over multiple days)
  2. Fasting is not just done by fanatics
  3. Fasting is not just done on, or for, special occasions
  4. Fasting is not a spiritual diet plan to loose weight
  5. Fasting is not for your glory, it’s for His.

Fasting IS…

Fasting is, and has always been a normal part of a relationship with God, just look at the list of biblical characters that have fasted at one time or another to give God the glory and authority over their lives:

  • Moses
  • David
  • Elijah
  • Esther
  • Daniel
  • Anna
  • Paul
  • Jesus… just to name a few!

Here’s the working definition I’ve used to help define fasting: Fasting is abstaining from something, generally food, for spiritual purposes, and during that time asking God to grow you, and take you to the next level in your relationship with him.

When you…

Here’s the amazing thing about Matthew 6; Jesus at multiple times during his most powerful sermon encouraged and anticipated his disciples would do three things:

  • Give (v. 2)
  • Pray (v.5)
  • and Fast (v.16).

Picture a three legged stool, if you remove one of the legs you’ll be out of balance and will fall. According to Jesus; giving, praying, and fasting are each legs of your spiritual stool. The question/challenge for us today is to ask ourselves, how balanced are we on our stool?

1 Timothy 2: “Pray for ALL People”

1 Timothy 2:1-6 (NLT) I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people (not just some people, all people). (NRSV) I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Remember, Paul is teaching a young pastor the finer points of leading a congregation. So understanding Paul’s intention only helps us to understand the scriptures intention. He guides young Timothy to teach different way of communicating with God. Supplications, Prayers, Intercessions, and Thanksgiving: These terms are not limited too, but instead describe the wide categories of our communication with God.

 Supplication

Supplication is simply asking for something. Prayer should never be all asking, but it should ask in bold confidence from God’s Word.

I remember a story about a little boy who prayed and prayed for a BMX Bike. He even got on his little knees, by his little bed, folded his little hands, and began to pray a huge, bold prayer for God to deliver him a brand new BMX bike. He continued to pray that he would know God loved him if he God got him the BMX bike. He would know that God is real if the BMX bike showed up at his house.

His mother, who was with him, said, “buddy, God is not someone to be bartered with.” She continues, “You can’t blackmail God into doing what you want Him to do.”

Fast forward… Christmas came and everyone in the family knew what the little boy wanted for Christmas. As the mom came down the steps she realized there was something missing from the nativity scene on the mantle. Going over she realized that Mary was missing and there was a note in her place. The note read:

Dear Jesus,

If you ever want to see your mother again you’ll get me that BMX bike I’ve been praying for. 

Love,  Timmy

You see, it’s funny when a little child does it, but it’s not so funny when adults do it.

Prayer

Paul is referencing here the broad communication with God through the use of the word “prayer.” All of these aspects are aspects of prayer.

Intercession

Intercession refers to the requests we make on behalf of others. As we pray, there should be time when the needs of other find a place in our prayer before God’s throne. There are times in my life when God brings to me the needs of others. In those moments I realize that my needs are far less than those around me. Ezekiel 22:20 (NLT) “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.

Did you catch that? God was looking for just one person to stand in the gap of the wall, but he couldn’t find even one! Intercessory prayer stands in the gap for those who are perishing. Intercession is praying to God so that he won’t have to destroy the person who’s far from him.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an essential part of our walk with God. It’s simply recognizing God’s sovereignty. Paul indicated that every time we pray we should include a time of thanksgiving (eucharistias).

Again, remember who Paul is telling Timothy to pray for. He’s telling him to pray in Thanksgiving for… kings (Nero) and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Paul wasn’t just telling Timothy to pray, he was telling him to pray for those who were actively persecuting the church! This is my point for today: When we pray, we need to pray prayers of supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving; even if it means for those who desire to kill us. Pray today for ALL People!

Philippians 4: “Worried Sick”

One day after school I was off on one of my many adventures and completely lost track of time. Needless to say, school got out at 2:45, I was supposed to be home by 3:00, and dinner was served promptly at 5:15. At this point, it was something like 5:30 and I still had five to six minutes of walking to do.

Needless to say, I started running home, trust me, I knew I was dead meat when I got there. I finally got home and my family was just finishing up from dinner…not good. You know it’s bad when your sister won’t make eye contact and has that look of disbelief. I walked into the kitchen, when my mom uttered the famous mom phrase, “Where have you been, your father and I have been                             . You know it… “worried sick.”

There have been many times that mom has said, “I was worried sick.” I remember thinking one time, you don’t look sick. But think about that expression: “I’ve been worried sick!” If you didn’t know any better you would think, is that even possible? Can you worry yourself to the point of being physically sick! We know the answer to that…yes!

I heard a doctor once say, “food doesn’t cause ulcers in your stomach.” It’s not what you’re eating that causes ulcers; it’s what’s eating you.

If not controlled, worry and anxiety can do a lot of damage. Worry and anxiety can affect your daily life: interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and even job performance.

A WebMD article I read said, “Many chronic worriers tell of feeling a sense of impending doom or unrealistic fears that only increase their worries.” People who struggle with worrying are extremely worried right now that I’m writing about being worried. Anxiety and worry manifest themselves in many different ways, but you need to know that they don’t discriminate by age, gender, or race.

Worry vs. Worship

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you know; it’s utterly impossible to worry and worship at the same time! Did you also know that worship is a major spiritual weapon? The first line of defense to worry is to worship through prayer. Paul’s giving you permission here to offload your stress onto God. As one commentator put it, “Paul is telling us to take all the energy that is used in worrying and put it into prayer.”

The Blue Print for Prayer

In verse 6 Paul gives us a blueprint for what we can do when we begin to worry:

  1. Tell God what you need (prayer and petition NIV)
  2. Pray about everything
  3. Don’t worry/be anxious about anything
  • Prayer = General term for worshipful conversation with God.
  • Petition = Being specific to God about what you need. Notice it doesn’t say what you want.

4. Thank him for all he has done.

Thanksgiving is an important attitude to have when praying to God. Prayer combats worry by creating in us a thankful heart.

You need to remember that God didn’t create worry. Adam and Eve weren’t worried about being naked until after the fall. They didn’t even worry about what God thought of them until after the fall. In short, worry is the result of the fall when sin entered the world.

Glass of Water

How heavy is a glass of water? The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, it will have great impact on my ability to function during that day. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes. And so it is with worry…

Philippians 1: “Joy”

Tony Campolo, “Visible Joy”

I seem to be particularly dangerous when I get on elevators. Our society teaches us to turn and face the doors and stand there quietly. But in my younger days, I loved to turn around and face the others in the elevator with me and say something like, “You’re probably wondering why I called this meeting.”

Once when I was in the elevator of a New York skyscraper filled with very serious-faced businesspeople, I smiled and said, “Lighten up. We’re going to be traveling together for quite a while. What do you say we sing?” Incredibly, they did! I don’t know whether they were intimidated by me or just wanted to have some fun, but businessmen with attaché cases in hand and businesswomen in their power suits joined me in singing, “You Are My Sunshine.”

When I got off at the seventieth floor, one man got off and walked down the hall with me, wearing a big smile on his face. I asked him, “Are you going to the same meeting I’m going to?”

“Nah,” he said. “I just wanted to finish the song.”

In Archibald MacLeish’s great play J. B., Satan is asked what he misses most about heaven, and he answers, “The sound of the trumpets!”

Indeed, to be in the presence of God is to be part of a glorious celebration. Sometimes that is hard to grasp when I’m in the pulpit looking at the somber faces of those in the congregation. I hear them say, “We know the joy of the Lord.” And I feel like saying, “Would you please notify your faces?”

Campolo, Tony. Let Me Tell You a Story: Life Lessons from Unexpected Places and Unlikely People (p. 55). Thomas Nelson.

Joy in the Church

If there’s one thing the enemy tries to use to counteract joy, it has to be sorrow. It’s important to realize that sorrow is as much a powerful weapon of destruction, as joy is for redemption. There are times when my prayer for the church is simply, “may the joy of the Lord be our strength.” There’s enough sorrow in the world already, what the world needs is a faith community willing to put it all on the line and live out what joy looks like, even in the midst of tragedy.

Joy in Philippi

As we begin reading in Philippians this week we need to keep in mind that the predominant theme of Paul’s letter is simply, joy. It’s incredible to consider that one of Paul’s “prison epistles” (The letters Paul wrote from prison) would include the concept of “rejoicing” and  “joy” over sixteen times in four chapters! My prayer for each of you as we read Philippians this week is to be filled with the measure of joy that Paul communicates. That we too would experience the radiant, powerful, positive, and triumphant message of God’s redemptive work for us, in us, and through us!

Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT) I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Happy reading, welcome to Philippians!

Ephesians 6: “Armor of God”

Battle Axes

Hanging in the entryway of my family home was a large picture of a man wearing a full suit of armor. The armor was even complete with chainmail around the face. Hanging as an adornment behind the large picture were two fairly large brass battle axe’s with a spear on the end of each one. I didn’t figure it out until I was older, but the man in the picture was the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce. Even though it took me a while to learn who Robert the Bruce was, it didn’t take me long to figure out how to use a pair of battle axes hanging on the wall.

I for sure remember the time my friend Andy and I decided to have an old fashion sword fight around the house. Everything was going well until I ran our couch straight through. I did my best to hide the evidence, but the stuffing of the couch peaking through the seat cushion made it a little obvious. Come to think of it, I’m thankful the couch was the only thing that got run through.

One of the most quintessential analogies of all of Paul’s letters is found in Ephesians 6, The Armor of God. These are the last recorded words of Paul to the church in Ephesus, the culmination of his entire letter to a people striving to live out the Christian life in a pagan nation. Three different times in this chapter, Paul instructs the Ephesians to “stand firm (v. 11, 13. 14).” His instruction isn’t for an arbitrary reason, but because, “our battle is not against flesh-and-blood (v. 12).”

The Armor of God

Here’s the thing about the armor of God: God gives it you, but we’re instructed to put it on (v. 13). In fact, many of you may have the armor of God, but it’s useless because you, not God, haven’t put it on. You gotta know: A pile of armor sitting in the corner of your room will do nothing to ensure your safety against the attacks of the devil! God gives it, but you have to put it on!

Here’s the other thing about the armor of God: You don’t get to choose what pieces. The scripture doesn’t say to put on pieces of the armor, it says, “put on every piece of God’s armor (v. 13).” Notice who’s armor it is? It’s God’s armor, not yours. Your armor stinks! Your armor is what got you into this mess. We are in need of God’s armor.

The Armor

  • (v. 14) Belt of Truth
  • (v. 14) Breastplate of Righteousness
  • (v. 15) Shoes Ready to Share the Gospel
  • (v. 16) Shield of Faith
  • (v. 17) Helmet of Salvation
  • (v. 17) Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word)

Here’s the last thing about the armor of God: We tend to forget that Prayer is a part of the armor.

Prayer

The last weapon might not seem like a weapon at all, but it is! We’re told in God’s word to pray with the Spirit’s power. We may ask, well how powerful is the Spirit of God? Well, Paul uses the word “boldly” or dunamis in the Greek. Like you’ve read before, this word is where we get our English word “dynamite.” Let me ask you this: Would it be helpful if you walked into every battle knowing the you had a stick of dynamite in your pocket you could use at any time? We’re told by Paul to, “pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere (v. 18).” 

Know that you have been given power and authority over the evil of this world. We fight this battle in the heavenly realms wearing the armor that God gave us. The only trick is that YOU have to put it on.

Ephesians 3: “The Power of Prayer”

I haven’t met too many Christians who don’t believe in the power of prayer, just Christians who don’t pray with power. Now, I don’t believe it’s because people don’t want to, instead, I think it’s because people don’t know how too. Think about what most people pray for:

  • Beauty contestants pray for world hunger and peace
  • Like a person who prays, “Be with me,” but God’s like, “But I never left you.”
  • Like a person who prays, “Bless me,” but God’s like, “Do you see where you live?”
  • Like a person who prays, “Protect my family,” but God’s like, “Protect them from what?”

Because here’s something I learned a long time ago about prayer, general prayers don’t move God to specific action.

I Command Thee…

In 1540 Luther’s great friend and assistant, Friedrich Myconius, became sick and was expected to die within a short time. On his bed he wrote a loving farewell note to Luther with a trembling hand. Luther received the letter and sent back a reply: “I command thee in the name of God to live because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church…. The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.”

Although Myconius had already lost the ability to speak when Luther’s letter came, he recovered completely and lived six more years to survive Luther himself by two months.
(MacArthur New Testament Commentary, The – MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Colossians and Philemon.)

Luther didn’t say, “Lord, be with my friend Myconius…” or even, “Lord heal my friend Myconius…” Luther prayed with power and prayed specificity! And who got the glory? God! God got the glory!

Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians

One of Paul’s most powerful prayers in all of his letters is located in Ephesians 3. As Paul sits in a dark, nasty, prison in Rome, he pens these powerful words to Christians in Ephesus.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT) 14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 THEN Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. THEN you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Paul fell on his knees, which is interesting considering the common posture for Jews while praying was standing with their arms outstretched and palms pointing toward the sky. But even in the midst of praying for his brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul gives incredible glory to God.

You see, the key to praying with power is not only realizing that general prayers don’t move God to specific action, but to brag on God to get all the glory. Remember today the words of Jesus to his disciples in John 14:13 (NLT) 13 You can ask for anything in my name (Jesus), and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.