Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: Jesus example

Flashback Favorite - Take this step to be like Jesus

I still do this. I’ve memorized, applied, and been able to share a lot of Scripture because this is something I practice.

I highly encourage you to do this, too.

Take this step to be like Jesus
originally posted on November 24, 2016

I’ve heard that a person’s character is defined by who they are when no one else is around.

I’m not 100% sure about that definition…instead, what we do with our time when no one else is around is how we develop our character.

When no one is looking, the choices we make will shape us.  Even the passive choice to “do nothing” has a sculpting effect.  Think of our time as spending cash.  How we spend it – either wasting or investing it – will shape who we are.

Paul knew this quite well, which is why he told Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:7-10
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.  In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.

We understand that musicians practice for hours when no one is looking so when it comes time to perform, they do it perfectly.  We get it that basketball players shoot 100s of free throws a week so they’re ready when they’re fouled late in a game and have to step up to the line.

Training happens when no one is looking – it’s intentional work.  Now, earlier in his letter to Timothy, Paul equated godliness with being like Jesus.  But I think we Christians don’t see how important it is for us to labor and strive to be like Jesus.  So, let’s take an intentional step in that direction and see what God does with our time investment.

Jesus was intimately connected to the Scriptures.  On a regular basis, Jesus would quote or reference God’s Word.  Here’s just a couple of ideas to put some of God’s Word directly into your life:

·        Use a verse as a password – every time you log in to an account, say the verse.  “John3:16” or “Psalm100:1” fulfills most password requirements to have a capital letter, lower case letter, number, and special character.  Perhaps your password at work is a reminder of being faithful or diligent, like Colossians3:23 or Proverbs22:29.  Maybe the password for your online bank account is about being wise with money, like Proverbs21:17 or 2Corinthians9:6.
·        Have a verse for when you start your car, a “key” verse you need to know.  Proverbs3:5 and Ephesians2:8 would be good choices.
·        Have a verse to repeat whenever you wash your hands.  I learned 1 John 4:7-8 in a tune when I was a kid.  The tune is burned into my memory, so I can “sing” those verses at any time.  As often as I need to wash my hands, I’m reminding myself multiple times per day that loving others is important, and God is the one who loved us first.

It’s ok to pull out your phone to look up the verse so you say it correctly.  And…you don’t have to implement all of these suggestions.  The point is to find one thing in your day that you do repeatedly, and attach a verse to it.  Actively invest your time.  God guarantees that this kind of training will be beneficial both in the present life and also for the life to come.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Meeting God in prayer

Luke 10:41-42
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has made the right choice [to spend time with Jesus], and it will not be taken away from her.”

The right choice.  The better meal.  We’ve been looking at how Jesus’ response to Martha gives us direction on how we are encouraged and fueled to live out the life Jesus has given us.  Last time, we saw how God wants to meet us through our time in the Scriptures.  This time, we’re looking at the other way that God meets us – through prayer.

To pray for things we want – material items or particular circumstances – that comes rather easy.  We know all the things we want or wish for because we spend a lot of time thinking about them.

When James was writing to believers, he warns them about their “wants” and the motives behind them:

James 4:1-5
What is the source of wars and fights among you?  Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you?  You desire and do not have.  You murder and covet and cannot obtain.  You fight and wage war.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

You adulterous people!  Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?  So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God.  Or do you think it’s without reason that the Scripture says: The spirit He made to dwell in us envies intensely?

God is jealous for our attention.  Think about it: He has saved us from being eternally separated from Him and He gives us never-ending, eternal life…so of course He is offended when our main interaction with Him is treating Him like a cosmic vending machine so we can get stuff to impress others with how great we are.

Fortunately for his readers (and us), immediately after James gives that harsh, well-deserved rebuke, he then gives hope and a proverb to remedy their mindset:

James 4:6-7, 10
But He gives greater grace.  Therefore He says:

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore, submit to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Not only does God have grace for us to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but there is also grace for when we selfishly return to a sinful mindset!  We have access to this grace when we humble ourselves before the Lord.  And how do we do that?  Through prayer that is God-focused, not us-focused!

I’m sure your next question will be “How do I pray to God, about God?  Isn’t that a little weird?

What I can tell you is that God-focused prayers is exactly how Jesus spent His time with God the Father.  If we don’t feel like we know “how to” pray well enough, then I refer you to the blog series I wrote on learning how to pray as Jesus prayed.  Those posts started on November 5th, 2014 and ended on April 8th, 2015. 

But there is a simpler, more direct way to learn to pray like Jesus did.  All we need to do is ask, like one of the disciples did:

Luke 11:1
He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray”

In the verses that follow, Jesus gave His disciples a pattern, an example of how He prayed to God the Father.  It’s worth our time to check it out and practice using that format in our prayers – all with aim of making the right choice and building our relationship with God.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The big serve

I recently watched a documentary about a Make-A-Wish event for a young cancer patient.  When he was 18 months old, he was diagnosed; however, his family waited to do the Make-A-Wish event until he was five, so it could be something more memorable and meaningful to him.

It started out as a simple plan to let him play the part of his favorite superhero for a day, but it quickly grew into a large-scale, city-wide event.  As word got around that a young cancer-survivor wanted to be Batman, people began offering their skills and connections to make the day as realistic as possible.

Here’s a rundown of just some of the people who got involved:
A boy donated his replica Batman costume and let the cancer survivor keep it afterwards.
One guy offered his black Lamborghini to be the Batmobile.
A local anchorwoman prerecorded the news broadcast that started the event.
The Chief of Police prerecorded messages to give out the day’s missions.
A social media company handled all publicity leading up to the day.
Actors played the roles of Batman, Penguin, and Riddler.
A local eatery provided their lunch.
During its busiest time of year, the opera house tailored all costumes.
A famous musician provided theme music.
A company overnighted a specialized computer chip to run the communication device.
A baseball team gave permission to use their mascot and stadium.
A social media expert provided official Twitter updates during the day’s events.
City Police, many of them on their day off, ensured the planned city route was unblocked and safe.
The mayor ended the day by presenting the key to the city.
A wealthy couple covered the city’s extra expenses for the day.
And many, many others donated their time and effort in both big and small ways…

On top of all this, roughly 14,000 people showed up to witness the events as Batman and Batkid went all across town to save the day.  While they brought supportive signs and cheered him on, the sheer volume of people presented a huge logistics problem – one the police are all too familiar with.  Safely managing a mass of humanity that large always presents a formidable challenge.  However, the officers found something different that day – whenever they would ask people to move back and give Batkid some space, people in the crowd would turn around at start helping them move the crowds back to make way.  No one grumbled, complained, or mouthed off at the officers.  Additionally, there was no complaint of crime or problems from within the crowds at each of the event’s locations.

While the day of the event was hugely successful (it was done on a Friday), those involved said there was a curious spillover to the event that lasted well into the next week.  In general, people were happier; people were friendlier.  It was described as an afterglow to the efforts to take care of this young cancer survivor.  No one expected it, but for a little while, the citizens gained something they didn’t have before.

But why did the crowds and city act this way?  Because they put the needs of the little boy ahead of their own.  Although this wasn’t a church-sponsored event, the participants provided a real-life example of what the Apostle Paul told the believers in Philippi:

Philippians 2:3-4
in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.


Whether they had donated a Lamborghini or held up a homemade sign of support, each person’s focus was helping this one child.  For a single day, they stopped their own agendas, let go of their personal worries, and they focused on someone else.  No one did anything they would consider extraordinary – they all stayed within their skills and abilities – but when they did it together, something big and beautiful happened.

Does your small group or members from your church get involved in your community?  Mine does, and I absolutely love it.  We don’t go out to protest or yell preachy things from the street corners.  Instead we follow this example:

Philippians 2:5, 7
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who…emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant


When we empty ourselves of our pride, our agenda, our schedule and serve others with the skills and abilities God has given us – big and beautiful things can happen.  In humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Get out among non-believers and serve – isn’t that what Jesus did?

However, the afterglow of our efforts will last longer than just a few days…instead, it will echo into eternity.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Remembering in order to persevere

We all have special moments of truth in life.  These drive-a-stake-in-the-ground moments happen when we discover or decide something to be true, and we choose to change the direction of our lives because of them.  These moments include times like taking vows when getting married, signing to purchase a home or vehicle, and when we accept Christ as our Savior. 

Based upon these declarations, we confirm to ourselves and others that, going forward, we will take action that is dependent upon this truth.  In our three examples above, we are confessing that we choose this person as our spouse above all others, that we’re going to pay off the loan, and that we’re trusting Christ for eternal life.

When times get tough – marital problems, financial issues, spiritual doubts – we can look back to those special moments of truth, remember what we said we would do, and then draw the strength from our initial resolve.

Timothy had moments like that, too.  Given the struggles he was going to face as he dealt with the melting pot culture of Ephesus and the abundance of false teachings, he would need some encouragement.  Paul instructed him to find encouragement in what he already knew to be true.

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight for the faith;
take hold of eternal life,
to which you were called
and have made a good confession
before many witnesses.

However, this is more than a “you said you would” moment…Paul didn’t want Timothy to think he was the only one.  So, he also gives Timothy an example to remember and lean upon:

1 Timothy 6:13-15
In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, point blank, if He was the King of the Jews (John 18:33).  And when asked, Jesus didn’t shy away from stating his mission.  Earlier, when He was struggling with the impending pain and suffering and death, Jesus’ high priestly prayer was about relying on God the Father.  When He would struggle later as He hung on the cross, Jesus quoted scripture to help Him stay on mission.

Paul’s point is that Timothy, too, can stay on mission…he can keep the commandment to fight the good fight and take hold of eternal life in the here and now.  No matter what life throws at him, and no matter the opposition this young leader would face in Ephesus, Timothy can look back to his own good confession of who Christ is in his life…and find the strength to complete his own mission and calling.  Just like Jesus did.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Practicing to be like Jesus

“When am I ever going to use this stuff?”

That phrase is the rally cry of every student who has had their fill of theory and talk.  I wondered it when I was a kid, and now my kids have asked it of me.

Earlier in his letter to Timothy, we observed that Paul made the connection between godliness and being like Jesus.  There were three Jesus-like-ness observations we noted:

·        Jesus knew the Scriptures – He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Often during His teaching, Jesus would reference the Scriptures by saying “It is written” or asking the question “Have you not read?
·        Jesus was totally focused on His part in God’s plan and kingdom – He was on mission and would not be deterred.  In John 6:38, He said “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
·        Jesus knew both the Scriptures and His mission well enough that He could impact the lives of others – He cared for others, met them where they were, and pointed them toward God the Father.

Just a handful of verses after Paul made the connection between godliness and being like Jesus, he encouraged Timothy with these words:

1 Timothy 4:12-16
No one should despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.  Do not neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.

Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all.  Be conscientious about yourself and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Paul’s instructions for Timothy match the three attributes of Jesus-like-ness we noted earlier.  First, Paul told Timothy to know the Scriptures. Through his devotion to public reading, exhortation, and teaching, Timothy would be immersing himself in God’s Word. 

Next, Paul urged Timothy to focus on his part in God’s plan and kingdom.  While he was a unique combination of skills and experience, when you add in the gift given to him by God, Timothy was especially prepared for this work in Ephesus. 

Lastly, Paul encouraged Timothy to practice these things; be committed to them…persevere in these things and his end result would be like Jesus’ – Timothy would know both the Scriptures and his mission well enough to impact the lives of others, or, as Paul put it, Timothy would save both himself and his hearers.  Now Timothy could not add to Jesus’ finished work on the cross, so we know that Paul isn’t referring to an eternal salvation here.  But then what would Timothy be saving them all from?

A few verses back, right after equating godliness with being like Jesus, Paul warned:

1 Timothy 4:1
Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons

As Timothy applies what he’s learned from Paul, as he endeavors to be like Jesus – then he, too, will have the opportunity to save both himself and his hearers from the pitfalls of false teachings.  What a great rescue mission!

What could we do if we also imitate Jesus by knowing the Scriptures and using our God-given gifts?  What kind of rescuing could we do?  Will we trust God and find out?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The pressure of being young and in charge

New leaders often feel the pressure to “prove” they belong in their position.  New young leaders feel this pressure even more.  If left unchecked, this pressure will kindle a leader’s internal worries of public failure.  Their fear of failure normally manifests itself in a variety of bad ways – becoming bossy, refusing counsel, trusting only themselves, stubbornness, condescending actions, or even expectations of special treatment because “I’m the boss”.

A boss who behaves this way will undermine the aim and purpose of the organization they are supposed to lead.  Don’t think these fears and actions are isolated to just business leadership.  You’ll find them in any organization – volunteer groups, military, even your local church. 

When Paul left Timothy in charge of the church in Ephesus, he knew that he was leaving the congregation in capable hands.  However, Paul also understood some of the challenges that Timothy would likely face. 

Throughout his letter, Paul warns about the kinds of disputes Timothy will face as he leads the church in Ephesus.  When disagreements came up, it was certainly possible that someone would try to use Timothy’s age as a reason to discredit his leadership.  At this time, Timothy is likely in his late 20s, or possibly his early 30s.

So Paul gives this instruction to his protégé:

1 Timothy 4:11-12
Command and teach these things.  No one should despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Whenever I get the chance to encourage other fathers, especially fathers of young boys, I use phrases like “more is caught than taught” and “you must be the man you want them to be”.  In the long run, parenting is easier if we model the lessons we insist our children learn.  The same goes for leaders in the church.

Additionally, as Timothy did his best to emulate Jesus, there was a specific scene in Jesus’ life that he could have found reassuring.  Recall that at age 12 – still considered a child by Jewish society standards – Jesus was conversing with the teachers of the law in the temple, astounding them with his understanding and answers (see Luke 2:41-50).

Timothy couldn’t stop someone from questioning his position due to his youthfulness.  However, he could proactively prevent many concerns by how he conducted himself in his position.  The limitations other perceive in us are always overcome by our actions.  As Timothy modeled Christ-like behavior, his example would give him the credibility that his youthful age would not.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Take this step to be like Jesus

I’ve heard that a person’s character is defined by who they are when no one else is around.

I’m not 100% sure about that definition…instead, what we do with our time when no one else is around is how we develop our character.

When no one is looking, the choices we make will shape us.  Even the passive choice to “do nothing” has a sculpting effect.  Think of our time as spending cash.  How we spend it – either wasting or investing it – will shape who we are.

Paul knew this quite well, which is why he told Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:7-10
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.  In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.

We understand that musicians practice for hours when no one is looking so when it comes time to perform, they do it perfectly.  We get it that basketball players shoot 100s of free throws a week so they’re ready when they’re fouled late in a game and have to step up to the line.

Training happens when no one is looking – it’s intentional work.  Now, earlier in his letter to Timothy, Paul equated godliness with being like Jesus.  But I think we Christians don’t see how important it is for us to labor and strive to be like Jesus.  So, let’s take an intentional step in that direction and see what God does with our time investment.

Jesus was intimately connected to the Scriptures.  On a regular basis, Jesus would quote or reference God’s Word.  Here’s just a couple of ideas to put some of God’s Word directly into your life:

·        Use a verse as a password – every time you log in to an account, say the verse.  “John3:16” or “Psalm100:1” fulfills most password requirements to have a capital letter, lower case letter, number, and special character.  Perhaps your password at work is a reminder of being faithful or diligent, like Colossians3:23 or Proverbs22:29.  Maybe the password for your online bank account is about being wise with money, like Proverbs21:17 or 2Corinthians9:6.
·        Have a verse for when you start your car, a “key” verse you need to know.  Proverbs3:5 and Ephesians2:8 would be good choices.
·        Have a verse to repeat whenever you wash your hands.  I learned 1 John 4:7-8 in a tune when I was a kid.  The tune is burned into my memory, so I can “sing” those verses at any time.  As often as I need to wash my hands, I’m reminding myself multiple times per day that loving others is important, and God is the one who loved us first.

It’s ok to pull out your phone to look up the verse so you say it correctly.  And…you don’t have to implement all of these suggestions.  The point is to find one thing in your day that you do repeatedly, and attach a verse to it.  Actively invest your time.  God guarantees that this kind of training will be beneficial both in the present life and also for the life to come.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How to make an eternal investment in yourself

Once you’re in God’s family, you find there are a lot of words thrown around that everyone just seems to “know” what they mean.  At least it appears that way, as often as you hear Christians use words like faith, justification, hallelujah, and salvation.

One of those terms is godliness.  Other than being told as children that is was close to cleanliness, we make the general assumption that godliness means some sort of “god-like-ness”, where we imitate a certain aspect of God as we meet Him in the Bible.  Honest, though…that definition still feels a little vague, doesn’t it?

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul uses the word godliness eight times in 113 verses.  That’s a pace of about one for every 14 verses.  By his heavy usage and what he says about it, we can see that Paul considered godliness an important point for Timothy and those under his charge.  Here’s an example:

1 Timothy 4:7-9
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.

So Paul considers godliness something we have to be trained in and something that is beneficial both now and in eternity future.  If that’s the case, then we need to fully understand what the word means!

But recognizing the importance of godliness doesn’t clarify the word’s meaning.  It can still feel a little vague.  A few verses back, Paul validates this feeling:

1 Timothy 3:16
And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great

Right after saying something like this, I would expect Paul to give a definition or explanation of the mystery of godliness…but instead, he jumps straight into a description of Jesus:

1 Timothy 3:16
He was manifested in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
preached among the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

What Paul is getting at here is that if we want to have a “god-like-ness” that is valuable in the present life and in the life to come, then we need to train to have a “Jesus-like-ness”.  Jesus is our best example of how we are made to imitate and live like God designed us to.

So, practically speaking, what are some attributes of Jesus that we can imitate?  I suggest these three:

·        Jesus knew the Scriptures – He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Often, during His teaching, Jesus would reference the Scriptures by saying “It is written” or asking the question “Have you not read?
·        Jesus was totally focused on His part in God’s plan and kingdom – He was on mission, would not be deterred.  In John 6:38, He said “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
·        Jesus knew both the Scriptures and His mission well enough that He could impact the lives of others – He cared for others, met them where they were, and pointed them toward God the Father.

Paul’s message to Timothy was that godliness is something infinitely valuable – and that Timothy could develop a “god-like-ness” by training to be like Jesus.

Will we follow Jesus’ example?  Pursuing a “Jesus-like-ness” will beneficial…for the present life and…for the life to come.  Will we trust God and choose to make the eternal investment in the here and now?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

An unexpected example

Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, we often find His disciples in an ego-driven discussion, debating which one of them was going to be “the greatest” in Jesus’ kingdom.  On His last night, Jesus gave them a powerful example of what a “great” leader does.

John 13:1, 4-5
Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself.  Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.

I’m certain you could have heard a pin drop.  The normal hustle and bustle of conversation and movement as 13 guys reclined at a low table to eat the Passover meal would have come to a standstill when Jesus picked up the basin and the towel.

Does your state’s Governor handle coat check duty at the annual Governor’s ball?  Does your company’s CEO shine your shoes at the annual budgeting meeting?  Of course not.  So why would the Messiah – at the remembrance meal that foretold His coming – wash the filthy, sweaty, gnarled feet of twelve grown men, all of whom were subordinate to Him?

John 13:12-17
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them,

“Do you know what I have done for you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord.  This is well said, for I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.”

“I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

The disciples had spent the last three years trying to learn everything they could from Jesus, in order that they might one day be just like Him.  The one who ended up most like Jesus, would be “the greatest” disciple, with all the authority and privilege that would come with that distinction. 

However, Jesus’ actions didn’t negate His title, position, or authority.  Since the disciples had accepted Jesus as their Teacher and Lord, how could they refuse to humble themselves and serve in the menial tasks, like what He had just performed?

As a mentor, we too need to provide a tangible example to our protégé.  Real life examples leave a mark like nothing else can.  Verbal instruction is the foundation for learning and developing others, but they will never forget the example of the time you stepped down and washed their feet.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The goal of mentoring

Jesus is many things to us.  He is the second Adam, our prototype, our example, our Savior, and our God…but would you consider Him to be our mentor?  Or our example of how to mentor others?

When reading through the gospels – the books written to tell others about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – we find that once the disciples are introduced by the author, hardly a chapter goes by where they are not involved in the story.  The disciples were always with Jesus.

Now whenever we think about Jesus interacting with His disciples, we typically picture a teaching situation, right?  He’s sitting on rock, a little higher up than the group of men huddled down around His feet.  Most certainly Jesus taught them, but there was much more to their relationship than constantly being in class.  They cooked and ate with him, they traveled – by foot – with Him, they slept near Him, they hung out with Him, they laughed and celebrated with Him, and they observed every possible aspect about Jesus’ life. 

What was the ultimate purpose of all this time together?  In the middle of one of His teachings, Jesus mentioned the goal of discipling and mentoring these 12 men:

Matthew 10:24-25
A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master.  It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master.

The goal for a disciple is to eventually be just like his teacher.  We say things like this when we meet a young man or woman and we tell them “I knew who your parents were just by the way you looked and the way you acted.”  In the same way, the highest compliment a disciple could receive was being told that they were a perfect reflection of their teacher.

This also explains one of the oddest scenes in any of the gospels – and it takes place just a couple of chapters after Jesus stated the goal of discipling and mentoring. 

The disciples were in a boat, in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus walks out on top of the waves toward their boat.  Understandably, the disciples were freaked out…because there appears to be someone walking on the water.  But Peter says something that, at first glance, looks completely out of place:

Matthew 14:28-29
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” He said.
And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus.

Seriously?  It’s storming, visibility’s not all that great, and sure he recognizes Jesus’ voice…but Peter asks to go out there with Him?  If he’s wrong and it’s not Jesus, then Peter just booked a one-way trip to the bottom of the lake.  Why would Peter do something this risky?

Peter’s goal in being Jesus’ disciple was to end up doing everything like Jesus, no matter how outrageous.  If Jesus could, then it would mean that eventually Peter could, too…so why not right now?  At first, Peter is able to walk on the water.  Don’t knock him too much for sinking after actually taking a few steps across the water…he was the only one to get out of the boat!

As a mentor, you’re probably not going to be teaching your protégé how to walk on water.  However, you are going to show them a variety of character traits and Biblical applications that, to them, will feel just as impossible. 

The main reason Peter thought he could be like Jesus was because of the teaching he had received and the time Jesus had invested into him.  Likewise, the more you are willing to open your life, the more the person you mentor will become confident in their ability to live like you.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How to stay focused while praying

About a year ago, I started a series exploring the way Jesus prayed.  My theory was that if God’s goal is to make me more Christ-like, then I should probably take a look at how, when, and where Jesus prayed.  Out of the numerous things I learned, two observations of Jesus’ prayer life stuck out:

First, that He frequently went off to quiet places to spend time with the Father in prayer.  Out of a variety of circumstances, Jesus was constantly devoting chunks of alone time to talking with His Father in Heaven.

Second, Jesus’ main concern in His prayers was the Father.  Jesus was primarily focused on the Father’s plan and the Father’s glory.  His aim was to increase the Father’s glory – which means to enhance the Father’s reputation and honor in the world, and this was primarily achieved as Jesus completed the mission that the Father gave Him to accomplish.

As rich as that study was, as I moved on to other parts of Scripture I didn’t always remember these main lessons.  Looking back, my prayer life has both ebbed and flowed…tossed about by circumstance and my mental state of the moment.  One particular item I’ve struggled with is staying focused while praying. 

When I pray, I’m usually sitting in a quiet room with my eyes closed to avoid visual distractions.  My conversation with the Father starts out alright, but about half way through the fourth sentence…my mind jumps to something that needs my attention later on in the day, or I remember what I had forgotten to buy at the store, or I start to process a relationship problem that needs addressed at work or with a friend or in my family. 

It never fails…my mind picks the worst possible moment to leave the deep waters of relationship with the Father, and I starting splashing around in shallow thoughts of the smaller parts of life.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve apologized to God for mentally abandoning our quiet time together.

I don’t think my struggle is all that unique, either.  In various forms, I’ve heard other Christians voice similar difficulties.  I suspect that ancient believers also dealt with this, because towards the end of his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul wrote

Colossians 4:2-3
Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

Since Jesus’ death and resurrection bridged the gap between us and God, we know that as a child of God, we can pray at any time to our Father.  However, I think we tend to take advantage of that freedom and we get comfortable with sporadic communication.  Paul’s instruction here is to make prayer a priority, something we are devoted to.  Just like Jesus purposely setting aside chunks of time, we should as well.  Early morning, late night, commuting to work, or wherever we can consistently get time for just us and the Father; we need to make the time and protect that time from other things that will try to distract us.

This is where I’m so grateful for the second half of Paul’s instruction – stay alert in it with thanksgiving.  When my mind drifts off, I can immediately refocus my attention by thanking God for something, anything.  Giving thanks takes the focus off of me and my agenda because it makes me look toward the person I’m saying “Thank you” to.

As I have been applying Paul’s instruction, I’m realizing how a lack of thanksgiving has kept me unfocused…and being unfocused has prevented me from growing deeper with the Father.  So I need to make sure I’m purposely scheduling chunks of time with the most important Person in my life, and also telling Him about all the parts of my life that I am thankful for.  I’m certain that as I do this, my concern for the Father’s plan and the Father’s glory will increase.  Then I will begin praying like Jesus did, because my relationship with the Father will be a lot like Jesus’ relationship with the Father.

Maturity, growth, and deep relationship will not happen if we give God some sporadic moments of talk during our week.  The richness of a relationship with our Creator will only happen as we devote time to Him.  Will you make that choice?  The first step is simply saying “Thank you”.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Love, in context

Love.  Love.  Love.

We are very fascinated by the word, and the implications of what we think it is supposed to do in our lives.  We write songs that say we could live on love instead of money, or food, or air.  However, I would challenge anyone to pay their light bill with “love” and see how well that goes over.  Or better yet, try to sustain your body on “love” and skip your next 10 meals.  Similarly, we already know what would happen if we gave up breathing air and tried to breathe only “love”.

Each of these examples demonstrate the importance of context.  Nothing can be correctly understood outside its proper context – and “love” is no exception.  In fact, nowadays, we use “love” to mean such a wide variety of things, that our intended meaning can be easily misunderstood:

“I love chocolate.”
“I love your hair.”
“I love my wife.”
“I love politics.” (sarcasm there)

So clearly, “love” is only understood within the proper context.  As you read Paul explain his desire to have all believers reach full maturity, look for love’s context in the life of a believer:

Colossians 2:2-3
I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ.  In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

When we in God’s family are encouraged and joined together in love, these actions and relationship characteristics are the riches of our assured understanding.  Growing in our own relationship with Jesus means that we grow in our understanding of who He is and what He means to us.  As this maturity happens, our actions will take on the love that He demonstrated.  The outpouring, or riches, of our understanding is found in the love we give to other believers.

And just to be clear…what is our understanding?  The Greek word used here carries the idea of a running or flowing together – much like the visual of two rivers flowing together.  What Paul is trying to convey is our assured understanding comes from our thoughts and choices merging with God’s flow and direction.

Paul’s words for the Colossians are also an echo of what Jesus told His own disciples:

John 13:35
By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

In its proper context of our knowledge of Christ and our relationship with God, love brings forth an unmistakable richness in believers that is so unique that it is recognized by everyone.

Let’s make sure our understanding and knowledge are grounded in Christ, so we can keep the most important love of all in its proper context.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Remembering God's words

Just before Jesus died on the cross, He directly quoted two different psalms.  With everything He had endured in the previous 24 hours, how was He able to keep His mind focused enough to recall something David had written 1000 years previously?

When we think about the various settings around Jesus during His week before the cross, it becomes obvious that He wasn’t spending His time skimming the scrolls or trying to cram in a phrase or two during the Last Supper.  For Jesus to clearly recall God’s Word on the cross, in the midst of such intense trial and pain, He must have spent time previously with the Scriptures available to Him…and not just a little time, either.  To have Scripture at the tip of His tongue, to be able to recall God’s exact words while the whole world is crashing down…would require both preparation and repetition. 

The Jewish education system at the time was founded upon the student’s ability to memorize large portions of the Old Testament, beginning with the first five books of our Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  If a student did well, he would move on to the prophets and wisdom literature. 

Certainly Jesus did well, not only memorizing Scripture but also understanding it.  This was evidenced when He was 12 and went to the temple:

Luke 2:46-47 After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers.

His ability to converse with the teachers of the Law would have come from the amount of time spent in the Scriptures.  A fair assumption would be that a significant amount of time in the Old Testament Scriptures before His public ministry began at age 30.  Doing so helps explain why Jesus was ready and able to quote Scripture when being tempted by Satan…because as a youth, He spent His time preparing for the days ahead when He would need to recall God’s Word.

The same principle is available to us as well.  The more time we spend in God’s Word, the more ready we are when difficulties arise.  When a crisis hits, how comforting would it be to be able to remind ourselves of what God has previously said?  In fact, this coincides with one of Jesus’s last promises to His disciples:

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

However, it is more difficult for the Holy Spirit to remind us of what Jesus said, if we haven’t been looking in the first place…

Putting the same Scriptures in front of our eyes often and meditating on them helps commit them to memory.  So let’s do the same with the psalm we’ve been looking at.  Having the promises we’ve learned – that when our hearts are without strength, we can trust God to handle our current circumstances.  We can trust God with our present struggles, as well as our future issues, because we remember how God has protected and strengthened us during previous crises.

Let’s take Jesus at His word and follow His example.  Pay attention to these four verses this week.  Read them often, say them out loud.  Do your best to bury these words deep in your mind, so that when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will be able to bring them to the front of your mind and the tip of your tongue.

Psalm 61:1-4

God, hear my cry; pay attention to my prayer.
I call to You from the ends of the earth
when my heart is without strength.

Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for You have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy.

I will live in Your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Prayerful conclusions

When I started this journey to discover how to pray, I had no idea where it would lead.  I began with the premise that if becoming like Jesus is the Father’s aim for us, then if we want to learn to pray…we should pray like Jesus did.

Surprisingly, Jesus spoke a lot about prayer.  He covered a full range of topics – from praying for enemies to what it would be like for His disciples to pray “In Jesus’ name”.  Jesus warned us about praying with the wrong motives, said that how we forgive others will affect our own prayer life, and told us to watch out for leaders who make long prayers for show.

However, there were two qualities of How Jesus prayed that stood out even more than What Jesus taught about prayer.

The first major observation was that throughout the gospel accounts, we found that He was heading off to quiet places to spend time with the Father in prayer.  Whether the crowds were large, or it was only Him and His disciples…Jesus set aside chunks of alone time for prayer. 

Matthew 14:23 After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.  When evening came, He was there alone.

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place.  And He was praying there.

Luke 5:16 Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.

Luke 6:12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spend all night in prayer to God.

The second major observation was found in Jesus’ main focus when He prayed.  From the beginning of His model prayer to His ‘High Priestly’ prayer found in John 17, we found that Jesus was consistently focused on the Father.  His primary concern was the Father’s plan and the Father’s glory.  Jesus’ aim was to increase the Father’s glory – which means to enhance the Father’s reputation and honor in the world, and this was primarily achieved as Jesus completed the mission that the Father gave Him to accomplish.

If we imitate Jesus in these two ways, we are guaranteed to grow closer to the Father.  We become what gaze at.  Therefore, spending chunks of our time focused on the Father’s desires and glory will certainly lead us to act, think, and relate like Jesus.

Lastly, as Jesus was dying on the cross, His final cries to the Father found their root in Scripture.  I find it extremely interesting that when everything was a bad as it could get, Jesus’ prayers were direct quotations from two different Psalms.

This final observation will direct our next steps after this study on the Prayers of Jesus.  If we are going to pray like Him when it seems like everything goes wrong, we need to be prepared.  As such, we’re going to look at a couple of psalms and find some spiritual truths that we can grab on to.

For now, though, our best course of action is to purposely dedicate some time with the Father to focus on His glory and His mission.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

From despair to hope

While Jesus hung on the cross for six hours, whether He felt like time passed quickly or agonizingly slow…there’s no indication in the Biblical text.  What we do know is that the Romans were experts in torture and the administration of pain.  Death on a cross didn’t come from having your hands and feet nailed to wood.  Instead, a person died slowly as their body weight pulled against the nails, making it difficult for the victim to breathe.  Over the next few hours, they would fight to keep upright in order to continue breathing, but as their strength failed, they would slowly suffocate.  Additionally, any trauma or blood loss both before and during crucifixion would lead to cardiac collapse as the heart muscle was no longer supplied with oxygen-rich blood.  This type of death sentence was so horrific, the Latin word for “cross” eventually became the root word for word “excruciating” in an attempt identify the level of pain one would endure while being crucified.

As the sins of humanity were placed upon Jesus, He experienced the worst of everything He had endured.  As great as the physical torture was, we can only guess at the magnitude of His spiritual torment.

Matthew 27:45-46 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.  At about three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

As the end of His life neared, Jesus’ cry to the Father, His prayer at the moment was the beginning of Psalm 22.  The first half of that prophetic psalm tells us so much about how Jesus felt while He endured the horrifically painful events of the cross.  However, the text also transitions from the agony of the moment to a complete reliance on God the Father.

What began as a cry of anguish has ended in a shout of praise.

Psalm 22:25-31 I will give praise
in the great congregation because of You;
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear You.
The humble will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise Him.
May your hearts live forever! 

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord.
All the families of the nations will bow down before You,
for kingship belongs to the Lord; He rules over the nations.
All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down;
all those who go down to the dust will kneel before Him –
even the one who cannot preserve his life.
Descendants will serve Him; the next generation will be told about the Lord.
They will come and tell a people yet to be born about His righteousness –
what He has done.

Jesus was absolutely focused on His purpose.  His death didn’t just happen to Him, rather He chose to take the punishment for humanity’s sinful betrayals. 

As Psalm 22 transitions from despair to hope, it ends with the assurance of what Jesus’ mission would accomplish.  He most certainly was thinking about the future generations, of those He prayed for in the garden – the ones who would eventually believe the apostles’ message.

We are among those who were yet to be born and have now been told about the Lord.  Keeping Jesus’ purposeful sacrifice in mind, let’s continue the mission and tell the next generation what He has done!

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Not alone

Both Matthew and Mark both record that at the end of His crucifixion, Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1.  It’s likely that by His statement, Jesus was also a referencing the Psalm as a whole.  We have a similar practice when we refer to the First Amendment and only reference “our right to free speech”…but in reality we are quoting more than just those five words.

Taking a continued look at the psalm which Jesus quoted near the end of His six hour crucifixion, we see many predictive parallels between David’s feelings about the oppressive situation he was writing about and the crucifixion of Jesus 1000 years later.

As you read this section of Psalm 22, read it slowly – and do your best to feel as they felt, see what they saw, and think like they thought:

Psalm 22:12-28 Many bulls surround me; strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
They open their mouths against me – lions, mauling and roaring.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax, melting within me.
My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded me; a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones; people look and stare at me.
They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.

With the whole world against Him and His body slowly failing, there was no physical reason to have any hope.  It’s times like these that feelings of despair start to settle in deep within us.  Jesus fought against these feelings by taking His focus off of the torment pressing on Him and seeking the Father:

Psalm 22:19-24 But You, Lord, don’t be far away.  My strength, come quickly to help me.
Deliver my life from the sword, my very life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will proclaim Your name to my brothers;
I will praise You in the congregation.
You who fear the Lord, praise Him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him!
All you descendants of Israel, revere Him!
For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted.
He did not hide His face from him, but listened when he cried to Him for help.

My favorite line in this section – For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted – contains so much hope and such a greater perspective.

God doesn’t hide from us when we hurt.  The Father doesn’t abandon us when we are in pain.  He won’t throw up His hands in frustration because He doesn’t know what to do with us next.  The Father did not leave David or Jesus in their darkest hour.  And God won’t leave us, either. 

We are not alone in our affliction.  When all else is crashing in, God is listening for our cries.  We can look to Him for rescue, just like Jesus.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Feeling abandoned

After Jesus was betrayed…He was arrested, falsely accused, slapped, spat on, beaten, repeatedly mocked, savagely whipped, crowned with thorns, and had three metal spikes viciously hammered into his wrists and feet.  After all that, He spent approximately six hours suffocating to death on the cross.  For the last three hours, thick clouds covered the land and blocked the light of the sun.

Matthew 27:45-46 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.  At about three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

After all the torture He had endured, Jesus cried out in agony to the Father.  However, these weren’t mere grunts and gasps.  Instead, Jesus was quoting Scripture – the opening line from Psalm 22.

Think of the kinds of words that come out when we are at our most painful moments.  Of the things Jesus could have said while on the cross, why would He quote Psalm 22?  Although it makes sense that Jesus felt forsaken by God, as this was the first time that He had ever been spiritually separated from the Father, we find that even in His last moments, Jesus was still giving us a view into His relationship with the Father.

Psalm 22 is a prophetic Psalm written by David roughly 1000 years before Jesus was born.  Although David wrote the psalm as an outpouring of his own situation, God the Holy Spirit clearly superintended David’s writing to foretell the suffering Jesus would endure.  Reading through, we can clearly see why Jesus identified with David’s writings:

Psalm 22:1-11 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are You so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning?
My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest.
But You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
They cried to You and were set free;
they trusted in You and were not disgraced.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by people.
Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord; let Him rescue him;
let the Lord deliver him, since He takes pleasure in him”

You took me from the womb, making me secure while at my mother’s breast.
I was given over to You at birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.
Do not be far from me, because distress is near and there is no one to help.

In His worst agony, even when He felt totally abandoned, Jesus still sought the Father.  Even when it felt like His cries of pain and anguish went unanswered, Jesus reminded Himself of the Father’s track-record of rescue, freedom, and help by finding a connection in the Scriptures.

Whenever we wrestle with the same feelings of betrayal, abandonment, or fear...our best refuge is to seek the Father and remember His goodness.  Just like Jesus, we too can trust Him when everything and everyone is against us.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Prayer, submission, and action

After Jesus finished His ‘High Priestly Prayer’, they came to the garden where Jesus was later betrayed by Judas.  Although Jesus took Peter, James, and John from among the eleven to go pray with Him, Jesus ended up separating even further away to pray alone.  When we previously looked at this passage, we observed that in His last moments before the cross, Jesus desired to spend time in prayer alone with the Father.  However, when reading the passage this time, focus on the content of Jesus’ prayer:

Matthew 26:36-44 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.  Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow – to the point of death.  Remain here and stay awake with Me.”  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.  Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping.  He asked Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour?  Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open.

After leaving them, He went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

Jesus’ prayer is the pinnacle example of submitting to God’s will in prayer.  We are only getting snippets of what He prayed to the Father; the full prayer must have been agonizing and heart-wrenching.  Jesus wrestled with accepting the task in front of Him.  He knew it would cost His life, with all the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual torment coming first.  It is one thing to know that a tragic event is coming, it is something different to knowingly be right on the cusp of that event. 

In raw honesty, Jesus even asked if there was an alternative…some backup plan that the Father may  have for completing the mission, another way to remove the guilt of sin from the entire world.  And yet, Jesus was willing to submit His anxious desires because He trusted that the Father’s plan – however painful it would be – was better than His own longing to avoid the imminent pain of the cross.

Matthew 26:45-46 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Look, the time is near.  The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up; let’s go!  See – My betrayer is near.”

After seeking time with the Father and submitting Himself to the Father’s plan, Jesus knew that it was now time to act.  The time for prayer and preparation had passed.  It was now time to fulfill the mission the Father had given Him.

This observation is especially instructive.  We absolutely must seek God’s will in prayer and then submit to God’s will in prayer…but let’s make sure we go out and do God’s will when we’re finished praying.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Praying for protection

On many occasions, I have prayed that God would protect my family.  This request is usually made when they are leaving the house to go anywhere, whether it’s a quick trip to the grocery store or somewhere further out, like the next town over.  The distance doesn’t really matter; it’s the fact that I’m not physically with them (and therefore I can’t protect them) that bothers me enough that I ask God to watch over them.

But that’s about as far as any of our prayers for protection typically go, isn’t it?  When we ask God to protect someone, we’re typically looking for “traveling mercies”, or perhaps we’re asking God to keep a child from doing something irrevocably stupid.  Honestly though, the motive of these requests has a lot more to do with avoiding hardships…like car accidents and negative life-altering choices.  When we get right down to it, in our requests for protection we’re looking out more for our own comfort than for God’s glory and reputation.

During His ‘High Priestly Prayer’, the disciples continued to listen to Jesus pray to the Father about them.  As you read this section of Jesus’ prayer, look for how He requested that the Father protect them.

John 17:11-15 I am no longer in the world,
but they are in the world, and I am coming to You.

Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me,
so that they may be one as We are one.
While I was with them, I was protecting them by Your name that You have given Me.
I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction,
so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.

Now I am coming to You, and I speak these things in the world
so that they may have My joy completed in them. I have given them Your word.
The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.
I am not praying that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.

So what kind of protection is Jesus asking the Father for here? 

Since we know the rest of the disciples’ stories from here on out, we know that they did not have a comfortable life.  They faced even more trials and persecutions after the cross than they did before the cross.  So Jesus isn’t praying for their comfort…then what kind of “protection” is Jesus seeking from the Father?

Jesus was asking for the Father’s protection so that they may be one as We are one and also to be protected from the evil one.

It was Jesus’ relationship with the Father that kept Him on mission.  His “oneness” with the Father was why He was able to complete the work the Father gave Him, even when other people or Satan himself tried to derail His purpose. 

For the previous three years, the disciples had Jesus as the example of remaining connected to the Father.  But now that example, that protection by proximity, was going to be removed.  Jesus knew that for the disciples to be effective in spreading the gospel message, they would need to be unified – in purpose and relationship, both with the Father and with each other.  Their “oneness” with the Father was a greater need than their own comfort, and their unity with each other would need the Father’s protection. 

The same rings true for us modern-day believers.  For us to complete the mission that God has given us, our “oneness” with the Father needs to be a greater priority than our comforts or preferences.  So let’s begin to pray like Jesus did and ask the Father to protect those closest to us – so that they may be one with the Father, just like Jesus was.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Completing the Father's work

During His ‘High Priestly Prayer’, Jesus said to the Father:

John 17:4 I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.

A few verses later, specifically states what part of that work entailed:

John 17:6-8 I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world.
They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.
Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You,
Because the words that You gave Me, I have given them.
They have received them and have known for certain that I came from You.
They have believed that You sent Me.

Part of His mission was to purposely develop disciples to carry on the Father’s work after Jesus’ departure.  He didn’t just pick a few of His favorites from those who were following Him around.  They weren’t just hang-out buddies or there to be “Yes-Men” while Jesus conducted His ministry.

The Father specifically chose the disciples out of all the Israelites who were looking forward to the coming Messiah.  The Father gave these men to Jesus, for Him to invest in and develop.

Over the course of three years, Jesus revealed the truths of God to the disciples.  He taught them truths and He lived out those truths.  And now it was time for them to live out the truths they believed.

John 17:9-10 I pray for them.
I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me,
because they are Yours.

All My things are Yours, and Yours are Mine,
and I have been glorified in them.

Just as the Father was glorified by Jesus as He completed the work the Father sent Him to do…Jesus will be glorified by the disciples as they complete the work that Jesus is sending them out to do.

Two main applications come from our observations here:

·        Are we glorifying Jesus by completing the work He has given us to do?
·        Are we purposely developing others to carry on God’s work after our own departure?

Keep Pressing,
Ken