Cleansing Prayer

This year, we began a series intended to help us develop our praying habits with an emphasis on the ACTS method of prayer in this article. We continue to stress that there is no requirement for any set formula for prayer, but the method referred to by the acronym can be useful. The elements of prayer represented by the ACTS method are adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

National Day of Prayer

National Day of Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, let’s take a quick look at confession. This is the hardest part of prayer for some people. Most people do not want to admit that they have been wrong. Most of us like to think that we pretty much have it “all together.” And after all, most of try pretty hard to do the right thing most of the time. Except when we don’t. The problem sometimes comes in recognizing and admitting those times when we have been off the mark.

But everyone has sin in their lives, and none are any worse – or better – than any others. It is true for the preacher, the elders of the church, and even for the sweet old lady who loves everyone and never misses a service. Paul said in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 1 John 1:8 says that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

But because of the price Jesus paid for us, we have the grace of God, and can have His forgiveness for any sin in our lives. 1 John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What an awesome gift we have been given by our Lord! There is nothing that God will not forgive us for simply be asking in prayer!

Finding the right words to confess to God is easy if we study the scriptures daily, and speak from the heart. Here is a short example of doing so by borrowing from David’s earnest prayer to God for his sins in Psalm 51:1,and 10. We will leave you with that.

Holy Father,
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
In your Son’s name I pray this humble prayer. Amen.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Simon the Pharisee – Luke 7

Verses 36-50 of Luke chapter 6 prove again that among the hundreds to thousands of Pharisees who lived during the time of Jesus on earth, there were some whose minds were not completely closed, nor totally blind to the truth. One of them named Simon asked Jesus to eat with him. This in itself was a big deal because dining with someone else was viewed very much as an acceptance of that person, as well as of their behavior. Even though this was a very public dinner (as shown in verse 49), having Jesus at his own table was significant. Other Pharisees were very likely much taken aback at Simon for doing this. And so, Simon had invited Jesus into his house to “recline at table.”

anoints Jesus' feet in the house of Simon The Pharisee

anoints Jesus’ feet in the house of Simon The Pharisee

The appearance of the woman in Simon’s house, who would wash the feet of Jesus, may seem strange, but these large dinners attracted many types of people, some for their own entertainment value. There are some misconceptions about this woman, though, as well as some outright falsehoods that have been virtually perpetuated as fact. First, this is not the same woman who anointed Jesus in Matthew 26:6-12, Mark 14:3-8, or John 12:1-8. The woman in those accounts in Bethany was Mary the sister of Martha, and though the name of the man whose house they were in was Simon, it was Simon the leper, not Simon the Pharisee.

Secondly, this woman in Luke is unnamed to us. She is not Mary Magdalene, nor does the Scripture here in Luke say that she was a prostitute. Jesus did say that her sins were many, and that is a possibility, but we do not know. But again, she is not Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is mentioned in chapter 8, but it is in a different setting with other women, and in a different context. We’ll have more to say about that when we come to that chapter. But there is no reason to think she or any of the other women mentioned in chapter 8 are this woman. In fact, at the end of chapter 7, this woman is told to “go in peace.” It is likely that she did just that.

The real point of the events of the verses is the lesson that Jesus gave to Simon about sin and forgiveness, as well as the notice that others paid to Jesus claiming the authority to forgive sins, which He obviously did have. The lesson Jesus gives Simon is that nobody’s sins are too numerous nor too great to be forgiven, and that those who have the most sin in their lives are likely more grateful for that forgiveness – the chance to begin anew.

Time and again, the Bible gives us reason to remember that we should never “write anyone off.” Nobody else’s sins are worse that our own in God’s eyes, nor are they any less deserving of forgiveness.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Preparing the Way

John the Baptist preaching repentance - polych...

John the Baptist preaching repentance – polychrome, Amiens cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If this writer kept a “top ten list” of the most important chapters of scripture in the Bible, Luke Chapter 3 would almost certainly be in that list, for reasons that will hopefully become apparent by the end of this blog. In verse 7, John the Baptist is speaking to the crowds that came out to be baptized. In Matthew chapter 3, we are told that Pharisees and Saduccees were among those who had come. The impression that is most natural to take away from John’s harsh-sounding words here are that they are meant for those two groups. But just as likely, they are aimed at any of those who had come without true repentance on their minds. That is what John had been preaching – a baptism of repentance.

Referring to them as a “brood of vipers,” the question he poses is “who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Judging from the verses that follow, it seems that what he meant was “where did you get the idea that you can avoid the wrath that is to come simply by baptism – that is, without repentance?” “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” means that they must not only repent, but they must show the change in their lives by how they live, and by how they treat others from this day forward. He then admonishes them not to have the idea in mind that because they are descendants of Abraham, they have nothing to fear. God, he tells them, can raise up children of Abraham from the stones present around them. In other words, it is not enough – God is not so impressed with their pedigree.

Jesus warned His disciples that the Temple would be completely destroyed. His prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus (Matthew 24:1-2)

Jesus warned His disciples that the Temple would be completely destroyed. His prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus (Matthew 24:1-2)

In verse 9, John tells them that already “the axe is laid to the root of the trees.” They do not know it, but the imminent destruction that this alludes to is the coming destruction that will result from the Jews’ rejection of Jesus. And “every tree,” he says, “that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” So when the various people asked what they were to do, everything that he tells each of them in verses 10-14 has to do with a complete change in the way John knows (from the Spirit) that they are living – mostly how unjust they are to others, especially the poor and down-trodden. That part is the same story throughout the Old and New Testaments – God has always cared very deeply about how those two groups of people are treated.

All of these things together make up the crux of what John’s commission by God is all about, as far as “to prepare the way” is concerned. This is part of what makes this chapter of Luke one of the most important in the New Testament. There has been no word from God for 400 years – since Malachi foretold the coming of John the Baptist in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5. Now comes John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Although baptism in some form did exist before John the Baptist received his calling from God, it was not a baptism of repentance, nor was it for the forgiveness of sins. There was no real forgiveness of sins under the Law of Moses because, as Paul said, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4). There was washing for purification, as first implemented with Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 16:23-24), and for remedy of defilement (Numbers 19). And at some point (though not Biblically required), baptism (immersion in water) was added to circumcision as a requirement for Gentile proselytes to be converted to Judaism.

But now it was different. John the Baptist did not come up with the idea of this baptism on his own. It was part of “the word” that came from God (Luke 3:2-3). John the Baptist “prepared the way” for Jesus in three important ways that we can clearly see: 1) by proclaiming and practicing the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3) 2) by proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven (and, necessarily, the Messiah’s arrival at last) was at hand (Matthew 3:2, Matthew 3:11-12), and 3) by clearly pointing his followers to Jesus as that long-awaited Messiah – the Son of God (John 1:29-34).

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Psalm 119:57-64; Psalm 32 – The Earth is Full of Thy Mercy

hethToday’s reading of the eighth strophe of Psalm 119 is brought to you by the letter “heth” or “het.”   regarding verse 64, Spurgeon summons this poem

“Why bursts such melody from tree and bush,
The overflowing of each songster’s heart,
So filling mine that it can scarcely hush
Awhile to listen, but would take its part?
It is but one song I hear where ever I rove,
Though countless be the notes, that God is Love.
“Why leaps the streamlet down the mountainside?
Hasting so swiftly to the vale beneath,
To cheer the shepherd’s thirsty flock, or glide
Where the hot sun has left a faded wreath,
Or, rippling, aid the music of a grove?
Its own glad voice replies, that God is Love!”
“Is it a fallen world on which I gaze?
Am I as deeply fallen as the rest,
Yet joys partaking, past my utmost praise,
Instead of wandering forlorn, unblessed?
It is as if an unseen spirit strove
To grave upon my heart, that God is Love!” Thomas Davis, 1864

Psalm 32 is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s forgiving grace. David speaks in verses 3-4 of how heavily the burden of guilt weighed upon him before he acknowledged his sins to the Lord (verse 5), and he praises God’s steadfast love and forgiveness.  He then turns in verse 8 to those he would instruct, to rejoice and trust in the Lord.  Spurgeon wrote of the forgiveness which David refers to here:

“We may lull the soul asleep with carnal delights, but the virtue of that opium will be soon spent. All those joys are but stolen waters, and bread eaten in secret—a poor sorry peace that dares not come to the light and endure the trial; a sorry peace that is soon disturbed by a few serious and sober thoughts of God and the world to come; but when once sin is pardoned, then you have true joy indeed. ‘Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee (Matthew 9:2).'”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Psalm 5-6 – Lead Me In Your Righteousness

Both of these Psalms are regarded generally as Psalms of Lament.  Both have the quite frequent musical direction in the superscript.  In Psalm 5, some versions say that it is “for the flute(s),” but that is far from settled.  The Hebrew word is “Nehiloth.”  Easton’s Bible Dictionary says: “It is probably derived from a root meaning “to bore,” “perforate,” and hence denotes perforated wind instruments of all kinds. The psalm may be thus regarded as addressed to the conductor of the temple choir which played on flutes and such-like instruments.”

Psalm 5’s label as a lament, though technically correct is unfortunate.  It is ascribed to David, and we do not know the time or circumstances that it occurred in his life, but like many other “Lament” psalms, it does contain pleas for deliverance from enemies.  But it is often called a “morning prayer” because of verse three, where he tells the Lord that He hears his voice in the morning as he offers his sacrifice – his worship to the Lord.

Nathan condemns David because of Bathsheba.

Nathan condemns David because of Bathsheba.

It is a reminder for us of the importance of personal prayer, and of worship.  Notice the repeated use (six times) of the word “my” in the first three verses – “give ear to my words…the sound of my cry…my King and my God…”   In verses 4-6, he acknowledges how God hates wickedness, the deceitful, the proud or boastful – all evildoers – and how they will not stand before him as the righteous (see also Psalm 1:5).  Clearly in verse 7, he considers the privilege he has to be able to come and worship Him, because of the Lord’s “steadfast love.”

Psalm 6 is one that many classify as one of penitence, although we are not told of what sin for which he is repenting.  It seems clear in verses 2-5 that he is ill – so much so that he believes he could die from whatever the illness might be.   It may, as some are often prone to think, that he feared his illness was God’s punishment for that sin (Job’s friends being a case in point).  In any case, he is not only gravely ill, and possibly in peril from his enemies (verses 8, 10), but he is also deeply ashamed of whatever wrong he has done.  But he knows that now that he has repented, “the Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” 

Both psalms serve as models of prayer and the privilege we have to worship the Lord and to receive His forgiveness and His care in times of trouble because of His “steadfast love” (5:7, 6:9).

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.