You don’t have to bear it all (Prayer day 6)

Our secular world prides itself in independence, and this has conditioned us to believe that we should handle all our needs and troubles by ourselves.  But we are invited to pray because we need God, and God delights in helping us, his children.

Scripture

Psalm 86:1-10, 14-15A model prayer of David.

1  Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

2  Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

3  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.

4  Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

5  For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

6  Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.

7  In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.

8  There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.

9  All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

10  For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

14  O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.

15  But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Note: Although only a portion of the psalm is used in this devotional study, Psalm 86 as a whole is a great model prayer.

Observation and Reflection

Notice how David motivates his requests to God (the lessons to the hearer/ reader).

  1. Why does David pray to God? What are the needs he brings before God?
  2. Why is David confident that God will hear him? What does he say about
    • his relationship to God? and
    • God’s nature and character?
  3. Think of how and why it helps one to pray in times of need, knowing that God is
    • Not merely “a god”, or “the God”, but “my God” whom you are devoted to?
    • Kind-hearted and generous (good and gracious);
    • Forgiving and merciful;
    • Patient (slow to anger);
    • Faithful (steadfast);
    • The powerful Creator of all.

Personal Reflections and Application

Psalm 86 is a helpful lesson on prayer: the psalmist comforts us to know that in times of urgent need we can and should bring our request before God who is merciful and kind, and all-powerful Lord of the universe.  We are never called on to live independently or carry burdens too big for ourselves – we were created to live in dependence on the all-powerful, loving Father.

  1. James wrote “you have not, because you ask not.” Consider your needs. Write it down.
  2. Before you bring your needs to God, remind yourself in prayer who God is – tell him who you believe Him to be – and what He is like. (Hint: you can start with Psalm 89 above; it was recorded by David for this purpose!)
  3. Now bring your needs to God in prayer, in all urgency and earnestness; he has your attention!

 

 

 

 

Justice in an unjust society 3

Jesus and the prophets continually rebuked God’s followers for fixating on religious observation but neglecting “the more important aspects of the law”.

Scriptures

Matthew 23:23 [NLT]  “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Micah 6:8  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Zechariah 7:9-10  “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’

Observation and reflection questions

Regarding Matthew 23:23

  1. In your own words summarise Jesus’ message to the Pharisees of his day.
  2. Why would Jesus call these devout religious leaders “hypocrites” in the specific context of the verse?
  3. What do you think Jesus meant by these “more important aspects of the law”?
    1. Justice
    2. Mercy
    3. Faith

Reflection and Application

Consider the following three phrases which may describe what “living a life that pleases God” looks like?

  • Not sinning morally, reading the Bible and praying daily.
  • Participating in church worship activities and inviting others to church.
  • Living a life of faith and power through the Holy Spirit.
  • Caring for the weak, the poor and marginalized in society.
  1. Which of these statements would best describe contemporary Western Christianity’s view of “a life that pleases God”?
  2. Which of these statements best describe Jesus and the prophet’s view of “a life that pleases God”?
  3. How does your attitudes and activities line up with Jesus’ “more important aspects of the law”?
  4. What can you do this week to do “justice and mercy”? For whom will you do it?

Prayer

Pray for God’s compassion to well in your heart, that you may be “moved with compassion” to acts of mercy and justice, as Christ was moved.

The Character of a Leader: how to grow in Christ-like humility

There’s an easy and a hard way to grow in humility, says the writer of Proverbs.  The easy way is for honest confrontation of your friends (Proverbs 27:6, 17). The hard way is the consequence of your arrogance.

Before we reflect on an illustrative incident from King David’s life, look at this helpful video on how to grow in Christi-like humility (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxDqO3dH4fw).

Scripture

2 Samuel 16:5-13

5  Now when King David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came. 6  And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David. And all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7  Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! 8  The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!”

9  Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” 10  But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ ” 11  And David said to Abishai and all his servants, “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. 12  It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” 13  And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust.

Observation and reflection questions

Context: King David was fleeing from his son Absalom when a Shimei, a descendent of the late King Saul cursed and attacked him fiercely, charging him with the blood of Saul’s house.

  • Picture King David, an heroic fighter on the move during civil war, surrounded by his legendary mighty men. Everyone is battle-ready Then suddenly a delusional man, family of the late king who hunted them down, starts throwing rocks at this regal king, cursing him.
  • What would you expect to happen?
  • What does happen?
  • How long did this go on?
  • What were David’s two motives for letting Shimei continue with the harassment?
  • What does this suggest of David’s character?

Personal reflection and application

David, the mighty warrior-king, restrained his legendary bodyguards while a lunatic hurled insults and curses on him for a whole day, because “the Lord might be saying something to me.” True humility displayed by a great leader!

  1. From your experience, how do people typically respond when they are critiqued or accused of something?
  • How do you typically feel when you are critiqued or accused of something?
  • How do you typically respond when you are critiqued or accused of something?
  • Prayerfully try to discern WHY you feel and respond this way.
  • What would be a wise, mature response when you are being critiqued or accused?

2. Send this letter to your three closest friends, and continually ask them for a response until you get it. Then thank them for their love it:

“Dear ______.  I consider you an honest friend who knows me well.  I really want to grow in character and I need your input.  Please answer the following three questions as briefly and honestly as you can.  I know that without your honest input I will probably remain stuck where I am, so help me see myself!

(i) What is my greatest relational strength?  What sets me apart from the rest?

(ii) What aspect of my character is my “Achilles heel” – my weak spot where i am most vulnerable, where I can most easily be taken out?  And do you have a tip on how I could grow in it?

(iii) You’ve known me for a while.  Have you observed a destructive pattern in my life which I might be ignoring? Do you have ideas on how I can get rid of this pattern?

Thank you for your courage and honestly  _______. I consider myself blessed having you part of my life!”

  1. When your friends send through their answers, pray that you may hear God speaking through them.  Afterwards make an appointment with each friend – allow them to speak into your life in these three areas they mention. Don’r defend yourself! Learn and grow!

Prayer

Thank God for friends who love you enough to speak the truth.  Ask the Lord to speak clearly through them – tell God that you want to grow in Christ-like humility.

The Character of a Leader: Christ-like humility

The business world is increasingly seeking and hiring humble leaders, as it has become clear that in this global competitive economy no one person has the answer; leaders must create space for others to contribute.  But we need more, says Google SVP Lazlo Bock: “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

Before we delve into the Word to study humility as a foundation for great leadership, look at this short video on the topic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I402GCrolUk).

Scripture

Luke 22:24-30 [NLT]

24 Then [the disciples] began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

28 “You have stayed with me in my time of trial. 29 And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30 to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Observation and Reflection Questions

Context: This conversation between Jesus and his twelve disciples occurred during the last supper, the evening of his arrest.  Jesus announced one from among them would betray him, and their discussion quickly escalated from denial to self-estimation, competitiveness and ranking of greatness.

  1. In response their contention for greatness, Jesus said his disciples should be different from the world. In your own world describe how Jesus’ view of leadership and greatness is different from contemporary society?
  2. How did Jesus model this leadership to his disciples (as portrayed in this text)?
  3. Is it wrong to aspire to leadership? Motivate from this text.

Personal reflection and application questions

Clearly the Bible has no problem with leaders wielding authority – it is an entrustment of God for his purpose.  Yet Jesus said that his disciples should not lead as the world does: they must not be self-serving leaders but rather selfless servant-leaders as he modeled. 

  1. Is Jesus’ teaching relevant to our context today?
    1. Where have you witnessed what Jesus refers to as “the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’”?
    2. Where have you ever witnessed the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant”?
  2. Can you identify with the disciple’s competitiveness and judgmentalism? [Do you discern the root problem here?]
    1. Recall an instance when you esteemed yourself more qualified or important than others. Why did it happen?
    2. Recall an instance when you cowered away from taking the lead (when you should have) because you esteemed yourself less qualified or important than others. Why did it happen?
  3. Jesus was talking about leadership, rank and authority in this context. In your own words write a few pointers on “HOW TO LEAD WITH AUTHORITY” contrasting contemporary leadership models with Christ’s model for leadership using this set of descriptors: Self-serving leadership vs Selfless serving leadership.

Prayer

Prayerfully reflect your style and ambition for leadership as you on Jesus’ model of leadership as you meditate on our Lord’s message “I am among you as one who serves.”

Waiter_Servant_Leadership2

The Kingdom of God 6 – simple trust

The aim of this devotional study is to remind yourself that God is in control and that he cares for his children.

Scripture

Matthew 18:1-5

1  At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  2  Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3  and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5  Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.  6  Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Observations and reflections

Context: In Matthew’s gospel the phrase “kingdom of heaven(s)” is used as a euphemism to the Jewish hearers (or readers) who reverently wish not to use the implied “kingdom of God” in public.

  1. Summarize Jesus’ answer to the question “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
  2. Knowing the disciples, what was the motive in their question posed to Jesus? (v1)
  3. In the world today, who is typically regarded as the greatest?
    1. How is a child NOT like that?
    2. What are the typical characteristics of a little child? Name at least 6.
  4. Why would Jesus say that one would need to be “converted” to become like a little child before they “enter the kingdom of heaven”?
    1. What did Jesus imply in his answer to his disciples?
  5. Jesus highlights two characteristics of children. What are they? [hint: v4, 6]

Personal reflection

Little children are generally joyful, simple-minded, innocent, unassuming, unpretentious, and trusting.  Jesus said we have to become like this and gain access to the kingdom of God.

  1. Little children are simple-minded, unassuming, and unpretentious. In which way have you grown in humility during this year? How do you measure your growth in humility?
  2. Children are typically trusting and obedient. In which way have you grown in obedience and trust of God during this year?  What prevents you from trusting obedience of God?
  3. Are you more/less joyful now than a year ago? How do you know it?

Prayer

Reflecting on one of the three questions above, pray that God would create in you’re a simple, joyful, trusting childlikeness.  in honesty share your thoughts and motives to God.

 

Salvation 7

The Aim of this devotional study is to better understand and appreciate the fullness of God’s salvation in Christ.

Scripture

Luke 18:9-14

9  [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

10  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

13  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

14  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Observation

This account of two men who approached God for righteousness, helps us to understand salvation and the basis of our relationship with God.

Note: “justified” is a legal term which means to be acquitted of all guilt, to be found innocent of all charges, thus to be righteous.

  1. To whom was this parable told? (v9) Give three contemporary words to describe such people.
  2. To see how well you understand the parable, indicate of who these verses are most true: [the Pharisee | the tax collector | or both men].
  • [ ] went to the temple because they believed in God’s existence and wanted a relationship with God. (v10)
  • [ ] came to God and showed that he was righteous by comparing his behavior with others. (v11)
  • [ ] thought that he was acceptable to God because he lived right according to the Law.  (v12)
  • [ ] approached God based on his own righteousness.
  • [ ] approached God based on God’s goodness and mercy.
  • [ ] was justified because he appealed to God’s mercy.
  1. Justified means “made right with God” means “saved”. What does this lesson teach us of God’s salvation and our approach?

Application

  1. Write down your own short parable in contemporary terms (i.e. with no Biblical characters like tax collectors and Pharisees or temples – because we don’t have that around) so that, if you told it to your small group, they would get the same message than this parable above.
  2. Rick Godwin said once “each of us has a Pharisee inside of us”. Looking at the parable above, why could you agree with Rick Godwin?  What did this Pharisee do that we are easily tempted to do as well?

Prayer

Spend some time in prayer to God, while NOT thinking of your behavior (not good nor bad), but only of his mercy and goodness.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you see hypocrisy and pride in you life, and ask God to forgive and cleanse you of it. “His mercy never ends!”