Friday, August 24, 2007

Truth and Con...

Next week on this blog, I'll be looking at truth and con...

Con what? Well, consequences, of course. But also: confusion, context, consistency, contradictions, conversation, and maybe even contingencies. Got any more con... ideas that might be suited for a discussion on truth? Let me know. And stay tuned!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

For Thine is the Kingdom and the Glory and the Power, Forever and Ever. Amen.

This final portion of the Lord's Prayer is an addendum that a minority of people say when reciting the prayer. But it's an important part of the prayer, as we basically tell God why He should hear and answer the pleas we made previously. It's like this:

God, our Father in Heaven, You are holy, and we desire that Your name be exalted and magnified to the highest of hallowing. We desire for Your will to be done in our lives and for Your Kingdom to come to us here where we are, just as Your will is done in heaven, and just as Your Kingdom exists in heaven. We pray that You, O God of glory, would give us everything we need to make through this day, for we acknowledge that You know what we need and must provide these things in order for us to be sustained. And Lord we humbly bow before You in acknowledgement of our sinfulness, and we ask for Your forgiveness. We want You to transform us from our sinful state into the image of Your Son Jesus. And we want You to create in us a forgiving heart, for we ought to serve in this world as examples of the abundant forgiveness that You grant us. So forgive us as we forgive others who sin against us. And Lord, we ask that You lead us. Do not drive us, but lead us. And keep us from temptation. Deliver us from the evil one; build up the hedge of protection that You have made for us. We all like sheep have gone astray, but we remain in Your fold. Build fences to keep us close to You, and to keep the wolves out. Finally, do all of this and more because You can. You are able, for Yours is the entire Kingdom, all the glory, and all the power. You alone are able to do these things, and we know that You are willing - not simply for us, not solely out of love for us, but primarily for Your glory and the exaltation of You name among the nations of the world. Then they will know that You are the Lord. Amen - all this is true, so let it be true. Amen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

But Deliver Us From Evil

This last request in the Lord's Prayer is a continued theme from the previous one, "Lead us not into temptation." In that supplication, we ask God to lead and not drive us, yet the negative "not into temptation" is added. Therefore, this plea is for a positive "deliver us." Doesn't that humble you? In saying the Lord's Prayer, we are asking God to deliver us, for He is capable of doing so, and we are admitting that we are unable to deliver ourselves. But from what?

"Deliver us from evil" would better be rendered, "Deliver us from the evil one," and that, of course, speaks of Satan. It brings to mind Satan's God-granted authority to cause Job to suffer; it also invites us to consider Jesus' words to Peter in Luke 22:31-32, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." When we pray for God to deliver us, we are speaking in this context. We don't want to be given over into the hands of the evil one, for he will surely do great harm to us - unless the Lord rescues us in due time as we endure the assault.

Being tempted is one thing, but being given over to temptation and assault at the hands of Satan is frightful to say the least. Thus, the final request is for the Lord to protect us from both low level temptations, perhaps from the flesh or from the world, and intense assaults from the evil one himself. And God is faithful. He will do it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lead us not into temptation

“Temptations and afflictions prove how much we have progressed, and by going through them our rewards are greater and God’s graces are more prominently shown. It is no great thing if we are devout and fervent when we are not being afflicted, but if during adversity we bear ourselves patiently, there is hope then of great progress in grace. Some who are kept from great temptations are often overcome by small ones that occur daily. This happens so that having failed in small matters they will never presume that they are able to withstand the greater temptations in their own strength.” - Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

As the Lord's Prayer draws to a close, we see an interesting request. This request is issued both positively and negatively ("do this" and "do not do that"), but even the positive aspect of the request is issued in a uniquely negative way. "Lead us" is a request for God the Father to be our shepherd as we humble ourselves to be His sheep. Sheep can be led or driven, and our God is One who leads. He does not drive us with a whip; He calls us to follow Him. He always goes before us. So He leads us, and we ask Him to lead us.

But we don't want to be led into temptation. This seems a strange request, for in making it, it seems that we might consider God to be guilty of tempting us. And we read elsewhere in Scripture that God tempts no one. Rather we are tempted by the trinity of evil - the world, the flesh, and the devil. Yet, this portion of the prayer points us to God's sovereignty, for we must realize, and by praying this prayer we do realize, that God controls everything from the greatest calamity to the tiniest most insignificant atom floating in distant space. He has Satan, and therefore all of Satan's minions, on a leash. They can do nothing apart from His permission and in line with His eternal plan. Thus, our prayer is for God to keep His hedge of protection around us, to lead us not in temptation. For we know in our frailty that we would succumb to whatever miniscule threat comes at us. Oh Lord, we pray, don't lead us there, for we will fall in our own power. That's why Paul delcares an important truth in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."