Saturday, June 16, 2018

Our Father

As we in the United States celebrate Father’s Day, we honor our earthly fathers who love us, provide for us, train us, and were our first authority figures and role models (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:4). Sadly, not all fathers meet this ideal, and some children have never known their biological father or have even had a loving father figure involved in their upbringing.

Praise the Lord, the perfect Father is available to all who call on the Name of His Son (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), He gives us eternal life (John 3:16). At the moment of salvation, we are transformed from children of the devil to children of God, and we become part of God’s family and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17).

There is a popular misconception that all human beings are God’s children. Although all are God’s creation (Genesis 1:26-27), only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can call God their Father. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that time, because their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:1-9). 
Therefore He said that they were children of their father the devil and would do his bidding (John 8:41-44).

But for His followers and disciples who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God Himself, Jesus taught us a beautiful prayer when asked how we should pray (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). That model prayer is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, but that term is more appropriately applied to the prayer He prayed for all His followers in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion (John 17).

The model prayer has become so familiar that there is a danger it will be repeated by rote, without meditation on the beauty and meaning of each word. Jesus warned against such “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7).  However, those who have memorized it or will memorize it can surely benefit from slowly savoring each word that Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, in His Name, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 6:9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Our” reminds us of the awesome privilege born-again believers (John 3:3-8) have of being able to call God “Our Father.” This is a relationship we share not only with fellow Christians but with Jesus Christ Himself, for He is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16), while we have been adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5).

Father” is a term that connotes the love and affection that we have for our Abba Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6), like the name “Daddy” used by a small child for the one who showers blessings upon her. She can come running into his arms when afraid or climb into his lap when lonely without fear of rebuke or rejection. Abba Father loves us infinitely (1 John 4:7-19), yet God is also the perfect, holy Father (Psalm 68:5) Whom we should fear and respect (Psalm 111:10), for He has perfect righteousness (John 17:25) and infinite power and wisdom (2 Chronicles 20:6; Psalm 62:11; 103:13; Job 36:5).

Which art in heaven,” tells us that God is on His heavenly throne (Psalm 45:6; 47:8), a vantage point from which He sees all, knows all, and sustains all (Psalm 139:80; Isaiah 40:28).

Hallowed be thy name” refers to praising God (Psalm 146:1-2) for His holiness, which is an essential component of any prayer (Psalm 72:15-19). We recognize the Name of God and of Jesus Christ as the Name above all Names, and the only Name by which we may be saved (Acts 2:21, 4:12; Romans 10:13). All will one day honor His Name by confessing that He is Lord (Romans 14:11) – how much better to do it now, in loving prayer, than to defy Him until we are forced to face Him in terror of His judgment!

Thy will be done in earth” should also be included in every prayer, for the purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to bring our desires in alignment with His perfect will (Proverbs 3:5-6; Luke 22:42). Because He possesses all knowledge of all things past, present and future (Psalm 139:1-12), and because of His complete, self-sacrificing love for us (John 15:13; Jeremiah 31:3), His will for our lives is always perfect, even when we don’t like it or can’t understand it (Isaiah 55:9).

As it is in heaven” sets the absolute standard by which to gauge circumstances. In Heaven there is no pain, suffering, sorrow, aging, sickness, death, or sin (Revelation 7:17; 21:4). Our prayer should acknowledge that God’s will for us on earth is perfect, just as Scripture tells us that His will being done in Heaven results in the perfection found there.

Give us this day our daily bread” reflects the perfect gifts our Father freely gives us (Matthew 7:11). We do not pay for these gifts, work for them, or barter for them, any more than we can earn God’s freely given gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). He will provide for us if we ask Him daily for what we need each day. Like the manna with which God fed the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16), God’s blessings cannot be hoarded or stored, for His compassions are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” If we repent of our sins by asking God’s forgiveness, He is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9) and to separate us from our sins as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). But in light of His great mercy and forgiveness, which He extends to all of us even though it was our sins that crucified Him, He desires that we forgive others in return (Matthew 18:15-35). This is possible only through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which is why we must pray for the power to forgive by yielding to Him (Ephesians 4:20-32).

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:” Scripture promises that God cannot tempt us with evil (James 1:13), and that whenever we are tempted, He will always provide a way for us to escape the temptation so that we do not sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). Resisting evil (James 4:7) and fleeing from temptation are not innate characteristics because of our sin nature (Romans 5:12), but are desired and can be accomplished only by yielding to the Holy Spirit. Praying to Our Father, in Jesus’ Name, through the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us the victory in the spiritual battle we fight daily (Ephesians 6:10-18).

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” To God be the glory, for He reigns supreme, and will allow us to rule with Him in the Millennial Kingdom! (Revelation 20:4,6). He alone is the source of all power, so He alone deserves our praise and can answer our prayers.

Praise God that no matter what our earthly father is or was like, we are His child and He is our perfect Heavenly Father. May we honor Him daily with our praise and prayers!

© 2018 Laurie Collett


Saturday, June 9, 2018

High Tea Time

Photo by Miya 2006

As the ladies in our church planned to celebrate traditional English tea together, I was reminded of the custom of sharing tea with friends and of what that fellowship and the tea itself may represent.

The main ingredient of tea is water, which quenches our thirst. The body God so lovingly designed for us (Psalm 139:14) functions only when supplied with an abundance of water, which allows the chemical reactions of life to take place in our bodies and which hydrates our cells, tissues and organs.

Just as our bodies need physical water, our souls need Jesus Christ, Who is the Living Water, and from Whom rivers of living water flow (John 7:38). We can receive this essential nutrient only by trusting Christ as our Lord and Savior. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well:

John 4: 14 [W]hosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Unlike the artificial soft drinks so popular today, which are essentially just a mixture of chemicals, tea is made from natural plants created by God Himself (Genesis 1:11-12) and designed to nourish and strengthen our bodies. Some flowers, herbs, fruits and spices used in tea are specifically mentioned in the Bible for their medicinal benefits and value as fragrances, including aloe, spikenard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon, melon, cassia, frankincense, hyssop, and rose (Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 2:1; 4:14; John 19:39; Numbers 11:5).

Jesus Himself is the Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1), and frankincense was one of the gifts given to Him by the wise men when they worshipped Him as a small child (Matthew 2:11), symbolizing that He is our great High Priest.

Much like the blend of florals and scents in expensive perfume (Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 3:6), the unique leaves, spices and blossoms combined in our favorite tea create an experience far greater than the sum of its ingredients. In a blended tea, some ingredients, like black tea, predominate and are more robust, whereas added flavorings like vanilla bean, citrus or florals may be more subtle and less noticeable, yet all contribute to the desired aroma and taste.

When God brings together individual Christians in the body of His church, each of us plays a unique and vital role, and the church body is far greater than the sum of each of our individual gifts or talents (1 Corinthians 12:4-30). Some members, like the pastor or song leader, are more visible, whereas those in administration or janitorial may be less on display in the Sunday service. Yet every member is necessary for the church to function well as a body.

1 Corinthians 12: 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.… 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

The process of brewing tea is irreversible, and its ingredients, once combined, cannot be separated. Because of our sin nature (Genesis 3; Romans 5:11-12), we may have disagreements with fellow believers or even leave our church, but we can never be separated from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39) nor removed from His family (John 10:27-29), which is the church, or called-out assembly of believers. Once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians. 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we become God’s children and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).

Tea refreshes and revives us in part by restoring us to an ideal temperature. When we are chilly, a hot cup of tea seems to warm us to the bone, as my family and I discovered on many a windy, rainy day while traveling in Ireland! Surprisingly, hot tea in the summer can also cool us down, as it causes light perspiration, which evaporates and lowers our body temperature. The Russians have a custom of drinking hot black tea with cherry jam in the summer for this purpose.

Of course, as we all know in Florida where I live, iced tea is also extremely refreshing! The image of a tall, frosted glass of iced tea with ice cubes floating in it and moisture beading its surface is so iconic that it appears in commercials and other images to represent cooling in the blistering desert heat.

But whether hot or cold, tea must be served at vigorous temperatures or it loses its appeal and purpose. No one would enjoy a lukewarm glass of tea made from tap water! We would probably spit it out. Jesus criticized the church at Laodicea because they were neither on fire for him nor openly cold toward Him. Because they were lukewarm, trusting in their material possessions and worldly success and failing to realize their lack of trust in Christ, He would spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16)

Our churches need revival and for each of us individually and as the body of Christ to be on fire for Him (Luke 24:32), working fervently (Romans 12:11) to spread the Gospel.

For tea to be enjoyed at its best, it needs to be immersed in hot or boiling water for just the right amount of time and steeped at the perfect temperature so that it brews to perfection. Only then can the nutrients and flavors in the tea be released for optimal health benefits and taste.

So if we are like the tea leaves, we shouldn’t be surprised when God allows us to get into hot water!  Spices must be ground to best season food; flowers must be crushed to make perfume; olives must be pressed to release their oil; and tea leaves must be cooked to brew tea. Black tea is prepared with boiling water, but green tea is more delicate and is best brewed as a slightly lower temperature. Similarly, God knows how much heat each of us can withstand and when to turn it down or remove us from the burner for the best result.

Jesus Christ Himself was bruised, beaten and crushed more than any of us can imagine to be the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins, to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 2:17). The name Gethsemane, the garden where He prayed so fervently the night before His crucifixion that He sweated blood, means olive press (Matthew 26:36-46).

We don’t always like it or even understand why God allows trouble into our life, but we can trust Him to work all things together for our ultimate good and His glory, according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). When we are in hot water, it strengthens our faith in Him, our dependence on Him and our closeness to one another (James 1). 

When we suffer through no fault of our own, it makes us resemble Christ more closely (Philippians 3:10), as we are molded into His image. Suffering gives us compassion, wisdom and experience to help one another and others going through similar trials (Galatians 6:2; James 3:17).

So as we savor a cup of tea, let’s take time to remember what it can teach us about the Christian life. More to come in a subsequent post about the custom of fellowship over tea. In the meantime, let’s drink to your physical and spiritual health!

© 2018 Laurie Collett