Monthly Archives: January 2016

What to Remember When You Say, “Our Father”

Some truths we have to “push” into our hearts – they must be massaged and worked in like oil into a baseball glove. One of those truths is our heavenly Father’s love for us. Without working to get this deeply, the truth of His love ends up being like water on a windshield. And when we do not know His love, we miss one of the sweetest aspects of prayer…and life.

Well, some years ago I came across a glorious exposition of the Father’s love by the great Puritan, John Owen, in His book, Communion With God. Since then, I’ve pulled some of his key thoughts on this together, and I’ve brought them out once or twice when I came to the “Our Father” portion of the Lord’s Prayer. These truths, grounded in the glorious gospel, are oil on the leather of my heart. Maybe they will soften yours up too…

Saints are to see God as full of love to them…This is the great truth of the gospel. Commonly, the Father, the first person in the Trinity, is seen as only full of wrath and anger against sin.  Sinful men can have no other thoughts of God.  But in the gospel, God is now revealed especially as love, as full of love to us. To bring home to us this great truth is the special work of the gospel (Titus 3:4)

Therefore, it is through the Lord Jesus that we see God the Father in His wonderful love:

By Jesus Christ also we see and experience and are led up to the Father’s love.  If we, as believers, would meditate on this truth more and live in the light of it, there would be great spiritual growth in our walk with God.

And I would add to or clarify Mr. Owen – we would be drawn to prayer.  But sadly, this is not how many Christians see God the Father.

Christians walk oftentimes with exceedingly troubled hearts, concerning the thoughts of the Father toward them. They are well persuaded of the Lord Christ and his goodwill; the difficulty lies in what is their acceptance with the Father—what is his heart toward them?…Many dark and disturbing thoughts are apt to arise in this thing. Few can carry up their hearts and minds to this height by faith, as to rest their souls in the love of the Father; they live below it, in the troublesome region of hopes and fears, storms and clouds.

But it need not be so.  We can choose to live in the love of our Heavenly Father, and what a place to be…

All here is serene and quiet…This is the will of God, that he may always be eyed as benign, kind, tender, loving, and unchangeable therein; and that peculiarly as the Father, as the great fountain and spring of all gracious communications and fruits of love. This is that which Christ came to reveal—God as a Father (John 1:18); that name which he declares to those who are given him out of the world (John 17:6). And this is that which he effectually leads us to by himself, as he is the only way of going to God as a Father (John 14:5–6); that is, as love: and by doing so, gives us the rest which he promises; for the love of the Father is the only rest of the soul.

This is the bent of the Scriptures, and the aim of more than one prayer of the Apostle Paul, that we would see the Father as full of love toward us.  He prays for the Thessalonians: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (ESV)

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son, to make a wretch…His treasure! – Stuart Townend


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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Uncategorized


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The Absurdity of Looking Down on Others

To be self-righteous…is to be a fool.

Think about the sad story of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar in Genesis 16. Sarai is unable to conceive a child with Abram; and so she, in a move we can’t imagine a wife making in our culture, offers him her maidservant Hagar as a surrogate. Now mind you, there was no artificial insemination in that day; so, contributing to the brokenness, Abram and Hagar would have needed to spend a little time in the tent alone. And Scripture tells us that Hagar conceived, but that’s not all…

…And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Genesis 16:4 (ESV)

Let’s get this straight, Hagar now is looking down on Sarai, in effect saying, “I’m better than you because I got pregnant and you didn’t.” This is a perfect illustration of how being self-righteous makes you a knucklehead. After all, what did Hagar do to consider herself better than Sarai? Answer: she did nothing, and yet still considered herself superior.

You say, perhaps, “Well, my situation is different than Hagar, because there are certain things that I actually do to show myself more on top of my game than others.” For instance…

  • You worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder.
  • Your skills on the piano have come after thousands of hours of practice. You can’t help but feel a little superior toward the slackers who gave up after two lessons in the 6th grade.
  • You got into a top-tier college with a full-ride scholarship.
  • You’re crazy good at all kinds of sports; you have the most coordinated eye and hand in the city.
  • Your kids are doing great academically and spiritually. Your wisdom in parenting shows through in everything they do.

Are you actually different than Hagar who clearly did nothing to warrant her self-righteousness and contempt toward Sarai? Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians…

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1Co 4:7 ESV)

Our self-righteousness is always foolish because like Hagar, we cannot take credit for anything we have. You worked hard to become a virtuoso on the piano? Who gave you the self-discipline to do that? Or, better yet, who put you in the particular home you grew up in with parents who would instill such a work ethic? Someone without your skills was born in the slums of Calcutta; are you really better than she is? Or did your cunning enable you to climb up the ladder of success in the marketplace? Well, where did all that brainpower come from? You get the idea.

In the end, we all tend toward self-righteousness because we have a hunger for glory. We’ve had a need to feel special and worthy of honor ever since our first parents lost their original glory in the glorious Garden. We have a sense that we’re missing something, and we long to have it back. Hence comes self-righteousness and racism and bullying and a hundred other ills.

What is the ultimate answer? We will find our lost honor and glory when we look to the cross of Christ where the love of God for us was put on full display (Romans 5:8). Then our glory hunger will be satiated. Then we can look, not with contempt, but only with love toward those around us, no matter their station or ours.

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… Galatians 6:14 (ESV)


Posted by on January 19, 2016 in self-righteousness, Uncategorized


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Is It Okay to Ask God for Personal, “Selfish” Things?

A friend of mine saw my post on a daily prayer list in 2012 and sent me this note:

“Roger, I tried writing a list of 10 – 50 prayers and I am finding difficulty in doing this.  Specifically, I am finding difficulty in praying for specific things for myself.  Any help with this will be appreciated.”

It’s a great question.  On the one hand, there are people who refuse to ask anything for themselves, and some of these even announce somewhat proudly that this is their stance, and then there are others like my friend, who feel, well, wrong about presenting personal needs and desires to God.

Here are a few thoughts in response:

  1. Delight yourself in the Lord, and then pray for whatever your heart desires. (Psalm 37:4)  The Lord is my chief good.  He is my great desire.  I want to know Him and walk with Him and delight in Him all of my days.  With this in mind, then, I think we should pray boldly for our needs and desires, but ask God to make our desires, His desires.  I prayed for a godly wife for a long time, and then after meeting Diane and marrying her, we had two miscarriages, and I got serious praying for children.  I have certainly prayed for money or material goods along the way in life. I suppose these were selfish requests, but God “…knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”  (Psalm 103:14 ESV).  So confess your weakness and ask boldly.
  2. Never ever ask with a demanding spirit.  This seems to be one of the problems with the Israelites’ petition for a King (1 Samuel 8:5 – 7), which displeased God. And though Job was a godly man, he too got a little overzealous in demanding an audience with the Judge of all the earth, so God answered Him out of the whirlwind.  Therefore, whatever you ask the Lord for, ask with faith, that is, knowing God can answer; but also ask with humility, remembering that He is a loving Heavenly Father Who knows whether or not your request will be a blessing to you and His Kingdom.
  3. Pray the Lord’s Prayer.  If you organize your prayer times like Jesus taught us to, you will always ask for Kingdom-minded and God-oriented items first.  The Lord’s Prayer is a guide to asking, and I’ll be writing a post on how to pray The Lord’s Prayer before too long, but suffice it to say that the first three requests are 1) …that people would honor God, 2) …that His Kingdom would be advanced, and 3) …that His will would be done. That said, if you use another form like ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication), no problem – you don’t have to pray in the form that Jesus taught, but it sure works well for me. It is the basic form for prayer I use every day, and I do think it keeps our hearts oriented on what’s important.
  4. Pray in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but Yours be done.”  This dovetails with not having a demanding spirit.  There are some things I pray for in particular, and I frankly wonder if they are God’s will, and when I get to these on my list, I have that sense, whether I say it or not, “Lord, I certainly hold this with an open hand, and I’m not sure I’m in your will here or not, so work it out according to Your infinite wisdom.”
  5. The bottom line is, pray for your needs and desires, just like a child asks His father, and trust Him to answer according to His will.  No one is so mature that they can always know what they are asking is purely unselfish.  My motives are a mixed bag, and I’m sure that’s true for all of us.  So just pray – pray, pray, pray…and glorify your Heavenly Father when He answers!
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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Uncategorized


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3 Truths To Encourage You to Pray

I forget that prayer matters. I forget God answers prayer. Though my loving Heavenly Father has been answering my prayers for years, I am too often like those Israelites who in one moment were miraculously delivered through the Red Sea from slavery, but in the next are crying out that God has forgotten them. I forget what He has done, and I forget that He answers my requests.

So, to counteract this, a number of years ago, I began writing little truths to myself at the top of my prayer lists. And I think I’m onto something with this practice in light of what Paul wrote the Philippians: “Whatever is true…think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). I change these little notes every so often, because they get familiar, and I don’t “see” them anymore.

So here are just a few truths/ideas I have put at the top of lists over the years. I’ll post more at another time. But for now, perhaps these will move you to your knees…

  1. “Prayer is fundamental, not supplemental.” This sentence came from hearing the Scottish pastor Eric Alexander speak at the Urbana ’84 Missions conference. It has called me to prayer again and again. Too many times we can fall into thinking of prayer as a nice thing if we manage to find the time, but not really that important. But on the contrary, it is essential…fundamental, the most important part of the day, not a minor “add-on”.
  2. Collect as many jars as possible. This little idea came out of my meditation on 2 Kings 4 years ago. The story goes that a widow came to Elisha in dire financial straits, with only a jar of oil left to her name, about to have her sons taken in slavery to pay her late husband’s creditors. The prophet told her to go to neighbors and collect empty jars. “Do not get a few,” he said. So she and her sons went knocking on doors, not knowing why they were begging jars. When all the vessels were assembled, Elisha told her to begin pouring oil from the one full jar in the house. As she did so, her sons kept bringing her more empties from what had been collected, and when the last jar was filled, the oil stopped flowing. Elisha told her to sell the oil and pay her debts. And I began to think that prayer was like collecting jars. You do not have, because you do not ask, James said. How many things do I not have…because I haven’t asked, in other words, because I haven’t collected jars. I think that when that oil stopped flowing, she must have thought, why didn’t I collect more jars? And I think that when we get to heaven, we might just think, “Why didn’t I ask my heavenly Father for more?”
  3. Roger – this is the main work you have been called to.  It is. There are so many things a pastor does, and for that matter, there are so many things a mom or dad does, but the main work I am called to is prayer. There is no more important thing I do, either as a pastor, or as a father, or husband. I am called to pray.

Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Uncategorized


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When Jerry Bought the Farm

Christmas break has brought beloved son and guest blogger, Josh Knowlton, home from Wheaton College. Today he weaves a tale for us…

It was the year 2050 and the end of the world was imminent. The advanced alien race—called the Barbylons by the humans—had taken over the entire world. Burning down entire civilizations and harvesting earth’s precious resources, they were a brutal force, and left nothing but destruction in their wake.

Only a small town in Wisconsin was left—its numerous prisons providing some shelter and protection for the town’s population. But the Barbylons were encroaching, and it looked as if this small town would soon fall into their dreadful hands.

Most people in the town were concerned about protecting their families. Making sure they had enough food and water to last through the worst of the alien occupation. The world—as they knew it—would soon be gone forever.

Or would it? One old man thought differently than the rest. He had faith—or what his neighbors called a “naïve hope”—that God would restore humans as rulers of earth once again. His name was Jerry.

How did everyone hear of Jerry’s hope? It’s simple. One day, in the midst of a fierce, bloody battle against the Barbylons, Jerry gathered all his resources—his cash, his precious jewelry, and his 401k—and marched to this outskirts of town to his cousin’s farm.

Cousin Hank opened the door. He was there with several others from the town.

“I’d like to buy the farm”, said Jerry, “All of it.”

At first they stood there in disbelief. Then suddenly, as if on cue, they all broke out in laughter—a kind of haunting doomsday hilarity. They thought it was a joke. Only a fool would buy a field days before the aliens came and seized everything.

“I’m serious,” Jerry insisted. “I’ll take the field.”

This time, Hank knew by the look in his eyes that he wasn’t kidding. If this was truly the case, no one could reasonably pass up such an amazing deal! So they signed the papers. Jerry got the deed to the farm, and Hank got all of the money.

When the town heard about the whole ordeal, they jeered at him. “Fool!” “Madman!” “Lunatic!” they would shout as he walked past. Hardly was there anything more senseless to do than to buy a farm in the midst of an alien invasion. “The Barbylons will soon take it,” they yelled, “and then you’ll really have nothing left!”

But Jerry was not a fool. He was not a madman. He did not have a naïve hope—he had a real faith. By purchasing a farm in these hopeless times, he was making a point.

“You see,” Jerry told them, “We will lose this war now. The Barbylons will take my farm—they will even take some of your houses and your family members. We will be obliterated! But that’s not the end of the story. God has told me that, one day, he will restore humans again to rule this earth. He will restore our houses, our farms, and our families. And one day, this field I bought will be restored—to me, the proper owner now. Wait on him and trust in him!”

But Jerry’s words fell on deaf ears. No one believed him. Not one person.


“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” says the author of Hebrews. Buying a field in the midst of an alien invasion is the assurance of some pretty crazy hope.

Just like Jerry and the townspeople, you can have your faith in one of two places—this kingdom, or the kingdom yet to come. You’ll look like an idiot if you choose the second one. Yet that is what God asks of us.

So… where’s your faith?


(This story really happened! Kinda. Read Jeremiah 32 to find out the real story…)


Posted by on January 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


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