Ask God

Yesterday was a great Lord’s Day at Calvary.  After our regular morning schedule of services and classes, we met at 1:30 in groups to pray for our church.  I really enjoyed the fellowship I had with other men as we prayed together for our men’s ministry.  There is something very unifying about praying together.

Last week I studied the next passage in my series from 2 Corinthians, but because of sickness was not able to be fully prepared to preach from it on Sunday.  I prayed for direction, and the Lord put a message on my mind that I have preached other places, but not at Calvary.  It is on the subject of prayer, so I thought it would fit well with our afternoon activity.

Here are raw, unedited sermon notes and some quotes.  Listen to the entire sermon here.

Ask God   Matthew 7:7-11

“If you need anything, just ask.”

That is what your great, wonderful, kind. loving, powerful Heavenly Father says to you.

  • not a salesperson saying it, not a customer service representative, not a waiter, not technical support.  These all have their limits.  Your question or your need might exceed their knowledge or ability.  God said it.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) defined and described kingdom living.  He told us how to think and act.  He knew you would need help.  So He said, If you need help while you are living and serving as members of the Kingdom of God, ask your heavenly Father.  Ask God.

  • I feel bad asking God for things; wonder if I have praised, repented, yielded enough to qualify for asking for anything, (PRAY), or if I have adored, confessed, and thanked enough before I supplicate (ACTS). [acrostics that help us pray]
  • Or I think I should only ask for spiritual blessings, that it is unspiritual or covetous to ask for material blessings.
  • Some people don’t want to trouble God.

God invites you to ask for what you need.  God wants you to pray, waits for you to express your needs to Him and delights in giving good things to His children.   God wants to be troubled!

Not talking about “name it and claim it,” or that God wants you to be rich, or that you can order God around.

But there is a wonderful assurance from God that He will give you what you need.

You can summarize this passage in two words ask God.

1.  Ask according to God’s instructions.  (7)

A.  God instructs you to ask specifically.

“ask” express your need; vv. 9-10 “bread” “fish”  Lk. 11:12 “egg”

the basic food they ate

For what can/should you ask God?daily material needs

cf 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread”

1Tim 6:8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

raiment covering protection from the elements, including clothing and shelter

God promises to provide these, but He wants you to ask

We are dependent on Him to meet our daily material needs.  We express our dependence by asking.

What can you ask God for? Groceries, medicine, finances, work, more work, coat, pair of shoes

If He willingly gives you what you need materially, He will certainly give you what you need spiritually.

Forgiveness asking is the only way to get it

Strength in trials and temptations

Mercy and grace to help in time of need

Show you the way of escape in temptation

Wisdom James 1:5-6 “If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God”

Someone to be saved

B.  God instructs you to ask intensively.

“seek” v. 7 look for something that is hidden or lost; the object is something of value because it is worth money or it is precious to the person looking for it; look for it until you find it

Re: prayer  “seek” = pray with intensity; not just a whim, or a passing fancy; what you are asking for has real value, so much so that you pray with the goal in mind of getting what you are asking for

Jesus is talking about determined praying, intense praying, sincere praying, praying that it genuinely interested in an answer.

Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks “God looks not at the elegancy of your prayers, to see how neat they are; nor yet at the geometry of your prayers, to see how long they are; nor yet at the music of your prayers, nor yet at the sweetness of  your voice, nor yet at the logic of your prayers; but at the sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are.”

James 5:16 The effectual fervent [energetic]  prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

casual praying vs. concentrated, fervent praying

when you pray as you go vs. set time in your schedule

last thing vs. first thing

how you pray  posture worship, plead

passion allow your mind to wander; concentrate

C.  God instructs you to ask persistently.

“knock” You knock at a door when you want to go in.

If no one comes to the door, you knock again, and again.

Each of these words, ask, seek, and knock, is a present tense verb, meaning “keep on,” “continually”.

Don’t just ask once; if you ask and don’t get an answer, ask again, and again, and again, and don’t stop asking until you get a response!

Jesus says, ask God, and when you do, keep asking.

Blind Bartamaeus was glad he didn’t stop asking when the people told him to.  “Jesus Son of David have mercy on me.”  “Shut up,” they said.

“Jesus Son of David have mercy on me.” over and over

Do you think Jesus heard him the first time?  Probably.  But Jesus let the man cry out repeatedly before He did anything.

What did Jesus call it when Bartamaeus kept yelling at Him?

“Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”

Called it faith.

(Mark 10:46ff)

When someone won’t leave you alone, persists in asking you for something, we call it an irritation; God likes it, calls it faith!

George Mueller ran an orphanage in England; every day he woke up and prayed before leaving his bedroom; many days his requests were answered before he left his room, while others were answered throughout the day; said he received over 30,000 specific answers to prayer on the same day he asked for them during his lifetime; but did not always get the answer right away; in November of 1844, he began praying for five people to be saved; prayed every single day, never missed once; a year and a half later, one was saved; five more  years of praying, and the second was saved; six more y ears of praying every day and the third was saved; the fourth was saved later in Mueller’s life; what about the fifth?  Mueller  prayed every day for that one for 54 years, but didn’t live to see the answer to his prayers. After he died, the fifth one came to Christ.

Make up your mind that when you start asking God for anything, you won’t stop asking until He gives you an answer.

2.  Ask according to God’s promises.  (7-8)

Promises repeated; v. 7, v. 8

Couple of insights about God’s promises:

A.  God’s promises are for you.

“every one”; “he that”; “to him”

Whose prayers does God promise to answer?

“Every one” who graduated from a Christian school; has a good family background; has the latest technological gadgets; sings in the choir, is a deacon, a teacher, is a “great man or woman of God”; can pray really neat-sounding prayers?

“everyone that asketh”

Do you believe God answers prayer?  Do you believe God will answer your prayers?

B.  God’s promises are for real.

EXPL – “shall be given” something is going to happen!

Charles Spurgeon once said:

“There is no need for us to go beating about the bush, and not telling the Lord distinctly what it is that we crave at His hands. Nor will it be seemly for us to make any attempt to use fine language; but let us ask God in the simplest and most direct manner for just the things we want…I believe in business prayers. I mean prayers in which you take to God one of the many promises which He has given us in His Work, and expect it to be fulfilled as certainly as we look for the money to be given us when we go to the bank to cash a check. We should not think of going there, lolling over the counter chattering with the clerks on every conceivable subject except the one thing for which we had gone to the bank, and then coming away without the coin we needed; but we should lay before the clerk the promise to pay the bearer a certain sum, tell him in what form we wish to take the amount, count the cash after him, and then go on our way to attend to other business. That is just an illustration of the method in which we should draw supplies from the Bank of Heaven. “

Bold?  “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace”

Let me hand you your checkbook:

Matthew 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father  which is in heaven.

21:22  And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

John 14:13-14 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

16:24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full

1 John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Do you believe God?

Is God tricking you? Is He a liar?

“Prayer is the hand that takes to ourselves the blessings that God has already provided in His Son.” – R. A. Torrey

“Prayer goes by faith into the great orchard of God’s exceeding great and precious promises, and with hand and heart picks the ripest and richest fruit.” E. M. Bounds

“The power of prayer has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!'”  (Jer. 33:3)

“The Puritans had a term for this.  They called it ‘suing for grace.’  They almost demanded, required God to give them the blessings He owed them in Christ!” J. Hudson Taylor

You can go into your place of private prayer, or sit down with your friends, or family, and present one of God’s promises to Him and expect Him to keep it!

3.  Ask according to God’s character.  (9-11)

“What would you like for your birthday dinner?”  Bread, fish, eggs; Give bowl of rocks, plate of snakes, covered serving dish of scorpions

(Luke 11:12 egg, scorpion)

Repulsive, cruel, harmful

Say you ask for bread, fish, eggs; mom bakes yeast rolls dripping with butter, all the grilled, succulent, glazed salmon you can eat, and cherry pie, warm with vanilla ice cream melting and mixing with the filling

She gave you above and beyond what you asked – “She’s the greatest!”

What is God like?  What is His character?  V. 11 “your Father” who “gives good things.”  If you ask for bread He will not give you a stone; He will at least give you bread; He might surprise you and give you more than what you need!  And there will be times when He will exceed your wildest dreams!

Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think

Your Heavenly Father gives good things.  “He’s the greatest!”

if you ask Him for something and He doesn’t give it to you, then it is not a good thing.

Sometimes you ask God for rocks worthless things

serpents harmful things

scorpions deadly things

Paul asked God three times to remove his thorn in the flesh.  God gave Him something better.  “My grace is sufficient for thee.”  God knows what is good for you.

Thank God His answers are wiser than our prayers!

 

During Hitler’s awful reign of terror in Germany, many people fled the country.  One of those was a mathematical genius who came to the United States of America.  He purchased an old two-story house with green shutters on a tree-lined street within walking distance of Princeton University. In his little house, this man entertained some of the most distinguished scientific and political personalities of the age.  They discussed complex issues and great ideas which have shaped our modern world.

He had another frequent visitor in his home. She was not a physicist or a world leader. Ten year old Emmy had some difficulty with fifth grade math, and she heard that a very kind man who knew a lot about mathematics had moved into her neighborhood. She decided to visit the man down the block and see if he would help her. The man was very willing, explained everything to her so that she could easily understand it, and told her she was welcome to come and ask for help anytime

A few weeks later, Emmy’s mother learned from a neighbor that Emmy was often seen entering the man’s house. She asked Emmy about it, and the girl admitted it was so. Her mother scolded her: “The professor is a very important man! His time is very valuable! He can’t be bothered with the problems of a little schoolgirl.”

Then Emmy’s mother rushed over to the professor’s house and knocked on the door. When he answered the door, she was so flustered at the sight of this famous man’s lined face,  the kindly eyes,  and the mane of unruly white hair poking every direction, that she could only stammer incoherently.

I suppose I might be at a loss for words standing at the front door of Albert Einstein.

After a few awkward moments the genius spoke:  “Ah! I think I understand. You’re Emmy’s mother, aren’t you?”

“Yes and I’m so sorry she’s been coming over here and bothering you.”

“Bothering me! Ach, no! Why, when a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! Please don’t stop Emmy from coming to me with her school problems. She is welcome in this house anytime.”

If Albert Einstein was more than happy to help Emmy with 5th grade math, “how much more” do you think your heavenly Father your heavenly Father wants is not just willing, but wants, and waits, and will hear and answer your prayers?

Key end of v. 11 “to them that ask Him”  So what do you need to do?

Ask God!

Are you in trouble? Ask God for help.

Are you confused? Ask God for direction. Are you guilty?  Ask God for forgiveness.

Are you hungry?  Ask God to feed you. Are you grieving?  Ask God for comfort.

He is ready to give you the answers to life’s hardest questions, provide for your daily needs, give you strength for your trials, wisdom for your  decisions, equip and lead you to live and serve in His kingdom.

All you need to do is ASK GOD!

Surviving a Crisis (Part 2): From the Book of Ruth

Listen to the sermons from Ruth on Surviving a Crisis Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Read Part 1 of Surviving a Crisis

I’ve been learning and speaking about Surviving a Crisis. Our nation is in one. Many people are having one.  You can survive, and even thrive, during a crisis. An ancient true story proves it.

Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and God are the main characters in the Old Testament Bible story simply called Ruth. Each character’s words and actions teach a lesson that will help us know how to survive a crisis. From Naomi we learn that we should Beware of Bitterness (Chapter 1). Ruth demonstrates that we should Learn Faithfulness (1:16-18; 2:1-3, 12). Boaz’ treatment of Ruth shows us we can Accept Deliverance (Chapters 2-4). And throughout the story we are encouraged to Trust God’s Providence.

  1. Beware of Bitterness (Naomi)
  2. Learn Faithfulness (Ruth)
  3. Accept Deliverance (Boaz)
  4. Trust God’s Providence (God)

God’s providence is His activity in the course of the world, natural events, and human affairs, to direct all circumstances and people to fulfill His purpose on the earth and in eternity.

Last night I pointed out several examples from Ruth of circumstances that show we can or in which we should Trust God’s Providence. These include:

  • Directions Elimilech moved his family away from Israel. Naomi and Ruth later returned to Israel. Crisis awaited in both directions. Yet God’s purpose was fulfilled through these moves. The direction your life has taken is part of His plan for you.
  • Perceptions Naomi’s perception of God’s activity in her circumstances was that God was against her, that she was a victim (1:13, 21). We should trust God’s providence regardless of how we or others perceive our circumstances.
  • Locations 2:3 says that Ruth “happened to happen” on a part of a field that belonged to Boaz, who happened to be very rich, sort of related, and totally eligible! In the providence of God, a crisis can put you in the right place at the right time to receive the greatest blessing of your life!
  • Decisions We see these all through the story. Elimilech, Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz all made decisions that affected other people. Other people make decisions that affect your life. Even when their decisions hurt you, or you do not agree with them, you can trust that God is using their decisions to accomplish His purpose.
  • Conversations These are throughout the story also. God even uses our casual communication with one another to accomplish His will.
  • Transactions Chapter 4 relates Boaz’ legal transaction with the other eligible kinsman-redeemer. The other kinsman relinquished his opportunity to purchase property and take responsibility for Ruth. Boaz formally “bought” the property and the woman. God acts providentially through our transactions as well, including contracts, accepted/rejected offers, purchases, elections, marriages, divorces, adoptions, and more.
  • Conception 4:13 clearly states of Ruth, “The Lord gave her conception.” Both having and not having children is determined by God’s providence. Remember our theme is Surviving a Crisis.
    • For a married couple, childlessness is a crisis. It is one of the most painful experiences a couple can have. Proverbs 30:15-16 identifies the “barren womb” as one of the four things in the world that are never satisfied. A childless couple must wrestle with and surrender to the providence of God. They can learn to be satisfied in Him alone. God also often uses this experience to direct the couple toward adopting children. Certainly this is His providential way of caring for these needy lives and bringing precious souls into His family.
    • Childrearing is also a crisis! While having children is filled with blessings and joy, it also involves uncertainty and disaster unless we make correct decisions and take proper action as parents. The daily challenges, discipline issues, different stages of childhood and teen years, varying personalities of our children, and very serious problems they encounter or bring upon themselves all require us to trust God’s providence continually. Our children belong to God, and they are ultimately responsible to God. He is active in their individual lives, directing their circumstances to accomplish His purpose.
  • Generations At the end of the story (4:18-23) we find out that Boaz and Ruth, through successive generations, become the great-grandparents of David, the one who became King of Israel, to whom God made the promise that a descendant of his would reign in Israel forever! You may play a role as a parent that is part of God’s providential plan that will be fulfilled in a future generation. You won’t know anything about the long-range plan until eternity! This truth challenges us to be faithful in our responsibilities and to trust God’s providence.
  • Redemption Matthew 1:1-6, 15-16 show us that Boaz and Ruth, through the line of David, were the ancestors of none other than Jesus Christ, the Savior. God used this couple to accomplish His purpose for redeeming sinful people, and for exalting His Son forever as Lord.

Trust God’s providence. Believe, be content, and be thankful that God is active through all the circumstances and people in your life, accomplishing His purpose for His glory.

Here followes some verses upon the burning of our house, July 10th, 1666.

By Anne Bradstreet

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled.
It’s purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

Take a Personal Retreat (Part 2)

Click here to read Part 1

A good average time frame for a personal retreat is about two to three days. Spending at least one night away allows you to settle in and get started, then sleep on what you have accomplished. You can then awake refreshed and ready to go farther and dig deeper. Three days and two nights is optimal, affording you a block of time that allows for unhurried prayer, thorough study, quiet meditation, sufficient rest, and even some refreshing exercise.  How often one retreats varies by personal preference, but consider going two to four times a year.

The right environment makes a personal retreat especially productive. Neither the church nor home works well for this. There are too many interruptions and distractions. If someone in your congregation offers you the use of a second house, a cabin, an apartment, or other vacant residence, consider yourself blessed! If you live near a Christian camp or retreat center, there may be a room there that you can use. There are ministries around the country that provide retreat accommodations for people in ministry, often with very economical rates, some even at no cost. It is preferable to have no television or even Internet service. Control the access people have to you by having your secretary or your wife take messages and notify you of emergencies. Look and pray for some unique, out of the way place where you can meet with the Lord.

There are several different goals a pastor may have for his personal retreat. They may include long range planning for the church, personal spiritual renewal, seeking direction for a specific decision or problem, and others. As you begin your retreat, write out your specific goals. This will help you to plan your schedule.

One very profitable goal for a personal retreat is extensive studying and planning for preaching. If this is your goal, spend significant time praying for the Lord to lead you to the passages He wants you to preach from and the subjects you should emphasize in your preaching ministry.  Then do background study, gain general knowledge about the book or section of scripture you will be preaching from, and begin “spadework” in some of the passages. You can plan your sermon texts and topics for months in advance. Circumstances later may require you to adjust, but it is better to have to change your plan than to have no plan at all.

There are two different kinds of schedules that I have followed on a personal retreat. One is very structured, with blocks of time for prayer, meditation, study, and even meals, rest, and exercise. I put a copy of the schedule where I can refer to it and pace my work accordingly. That way I accomplish my goals and avoid wasting time on distractions.

The other approach one can use is to not have a schedule. Begin praying and meditating on Scripture, and let God speak. As you find yourself concentrating on certain passages, begin digging into them. As you are drawn to certain truths, pursue them. Open your heart to the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit to you. Meet with God!

You will want to have all the necessary materials with you for a profitable time away. Your retreat checklist should include your Bible, key reference books you often use, commentaries on passages you may be studying, computer, pads, pens, highlighters, paper clips and sticky notes (for keeping notes organized), and your personal journal. Don’t forget to take some good coffee (or other favorite drink that helps you think!)

The idea of a personal retreat may seem like a luxury. Some may wonder how it is possible to fit it into their already crammed calendar. Pastors who are conscientious about their use of time and money may feel guilty. Who can justify the expense of going away in order to be alone? The truth is, if you schedule a block of time for intense prayer, study, and planning, you are making an investment that will prove extremely productive later. You will be spiritually and mentally invigorated. There will be noticeable purpose, precision, depth, and passion in your preaching. Rather than feeling like you are behind in your study each week, you will be encouraged by knowing that you have already done significant preliminary work. You will have the confidence that comes from really praying for God’s direction for your preaching ministry and responding to the Holy Spirit’s leading.  Take a personal retreat. Your heart will be filled and your people will be blessed.