Tag: Jesus

The Perfect Student

Every teacher must be a student first. Jesus, well known as the Master Teacher, was also a student.

The Bible is fairly silent about the years between Jesus’ birth and public ministry – with one exception. In his orderly account of the life of Jesus, Luke includes a unique story in his gospel. He must have had a reason.

His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41).

Jesus’ family had a custom of traveling to Jerusalem yearly to observe the feast of the Passover. There is no other occasion where Jesus’ exact age is given, but here Luke makes a point to tell Theophilus that on this journey to Jerusalem Jesus was twelve years old.

And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast (Luke 2:42).

The twelfth year was very important to Jewish boys. At the end of that year, Jesus would go through a ceremony where He would become a bar mitzvah or “son of the commandment”. At age thirteen, he would have the same rights and responsibilities as an adult.

His heavenly Father had been preparing Jesus for this day. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Jesus was already aware of His role in the Godhead to provide salvation for sinners. He had voluntarily emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8 NASB).

Jesus went through the human process of learning just as we all do. He had to learn to walk, talk, feed Himself and how to apply what He was taught in His home and in the synagogue to His life.

And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke 2:40).

On this trip, Jesus sought out the teachers in the temple, listening to them, asking questions and responding to theirs. They were so engaged in conversation that they sat together for several days. As His family had traveled to Jerusalem in a large caravan, it was not unusual that He had not stayed by their side. When the caravan left the city, His parents supposed He was with their group. When they realized He was not, they searched for Him, finding Him sitting in the midst of the teachers – absorbing all they had to say.

When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers (Luke 2:43-47).

The type of conversation Jesus engaged in with the teachers was common then and is a great teaching style even today. If you have ever taught a lesson of any kind, you know that when your student listens intently and asks questions that he is interested and is “getting it.” The interchange between teacher and student helps cement the lesson material in the student’s mind. It is also very gratifying to teachers when they observe this depth of understanding.

Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them…. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:51-52).

Just as others grow and learn, so did Jesus. He grew and He increased in wisdom.

Later in His adulthood, the Jews marveled because of His teaching, wondering aloud, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” (John 7:15).

Jesus’ reply to this query was similar to the psalmist: I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me (Psalm 119:102). God the Father taught Him.

Jesus answers them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him (John 7:16-18).

Jesus, as the Son of Man, was always a student of the Father. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal (Philippians 2:7-8 J. B. Phillips New Testament).

…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9).

There should never be a time when we stop learning. Even teachers need refresher courses; professors need to study to keep abreast of current affairs; doctors and scientists must be aware of the latest research; preachers and Bible teachers can always discover something new as they study. Throughout life, we are students.

Jesus was the perfect student and gave us an example of how to be one as well. He was humble, obedient, and totally focused on knowing and doing the will of the Father.

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] (Philippians 2:5 Amplified).

If Jesus, who was God and perfectly fulfilled the law, learned obedience from the things He suffered and stayed focused on the will of God the Father, how much more should we be determined to be humbly obedient to God and do His will?

Stephanie B. Blake

March 2015

Unless otherwise indicated, scripture references are from the New King James version.

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The Biblical Principle of Thrift

Although God’s resources are unlimited, His word records a basic principle of thrift.

In Old Testament times there was a custom of allowing the poor to follow behind reapers in order to pick up grain that was left behind. This is still practiced among some grain farmers. Even generous owners of vineyards may allow free access to their vineyards after their workers have gathered the grape harvest.

boaz_and_ruth__image_9_sjpg1141Illustrated beautifully in the story of Ruth, Boaz told her, “Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them” (Ruth 2:8-9).

Waste is the careless use or expenditure of goods for no purpose and is never commended in scripture.

On two separate occasions, Jesus publicly practiced this principle of stewardship.

thAfter a day of ministering to a multitude, the disciples suggested Jesus instruct the people to leave so they could go into the villages and buy food. Instead, Jesus fed five thousand men plus women and children with five loaves and two fish – miraculously multiplying the food. After they had all eaten and were full, they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers.

In a similar circumstance, Jesus fed four thousand men plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. As before, after they were all full, the disciples took up seven large baskets of what was left.

We do not have the ability to multiply our resources. That is God’s prerogative. We can apply His principle of thrift and make the most of what we have – being careful not to waste what He has provided.

Jesus had a spiritual application in mind as well as the practical provision. When the disciples misunderstood His admonition to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and thought it was because they had forgotten to bring bread, His response was:

“O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? – but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:8-11).

(This was first published on my other blog: http://www.stretchmoney.wordpress.com)

When All You Can Do Is Pray

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you…(1 Samuel 12:23).

Have you ever told a friend in need, “All I can do is pray”, as if it would really be better if you could perform some action rather than JUST pray? Sometimes if you are near the loved one, it is possible to help in tangible ways – shopping, cooking a meal, picking up children from school, babysitting, cleaning their house, etc. Often prayer becomes an addendum to what we can DO. It is when we are not near the one we are concerned about, we might say, “All I can do is pray.”

Lest you think that praying is secondary or not enough, hear the testimonies of these men of God.

George Mueller

George Mueller, a 19th century English evangelist and founder of orphanages, was known to have kept a detailed journal of his prayers. One page was devoted to his prayer and another to the answer. Over his lifetime, he calculated that fifty thousand of his requests had been answered.

R.T. Kendall

I have been conscious of many people praying for me over those twenty-five years. One gets a sense of being borne “on eagle’s wings.” All over Britain, I had total strangers say to me, “I pray for you every day,” or “I pray for you every Saturday evening – or Sunday morning.” This was almost overwhelming. I sensed a sovereign overruling of grace and prayer more times than I can count, which enabled me to prepare and preach sermons. I attribute this to the prayers of God’s people.

Notice that R.T. Kendall (who served as pastor of the great Westminster Chapel for twenty-five years) did what he could to prepare his sermons and followed through with his commitment to preach them. It was the prayers of others that gave him the sense of being borne “on eagle’s wings.”

Bill Gaither

 When we’re on the road we usually have about fifteen people on stage with us. I’m sure they get tired of my calling them all around before the concert every night and hearing me say, “Focus, focus. Why are we doing this? Let’s remind ourselves again why we do this.”…. One night I simply said, “Let’s pray,” and didn’t close until the usually vocal ones had finished praying and there had been enough awkward silence to start bringing out some of the others.

When you wait, you are often rewarded. From here and there came heartfelt prayers from some who had always let someone else do the praying in the past. And the longer I waited, the more open and sincere and vulnerable the prayers became. Soon people were confessing bad attitudes, frustration, impatience, homesickness. Something was happening. We were getting our eyes on Jesus, and God was pointing out our failures. We were drawn close in a special way, and the concert that night was one of the best we’d had in a long time. How much better that is than a hastily called minute of prayer where somebody thanks God for the opportunity and asks Him to bless us. That’s okay, but it’s not enough. We have to be broken before Him and focused on our purpose.

Bill Gaither and his team had prepared for their performance. They had written the music, rehearsed it and done all they could do to honor the Lord with their talents. It was their time in real prayer that brought a freshness to that’s night’s performance and a new closeness to each other.

Wesley Duewel

Dr. Duewel, missionary to India for nearly twenty-five years and the author of numerous books on prayer and missions, states:

Your prayer for world harvest can be more effective today because God in His sovereignty is coordinating world trends to make rapid fruitfulness available to His children. If we will put priority on prayer and obedience, this can be earth’s greatest harvest time. Not every Christian is called to go. Not every Christian is able to make a substantial financial contribution to the work of Christ’s kingdom. But there is no limit to what any Christian may accomplish through prayer!

Oswald Chambers

Consider, with Oswald Chambers, the importance that Christ places on prayer.

It is Christ . . . who also maketh intercession for us . . . . The Spirit . . . maketh intercession for the saints. Romans 8:34, 27. Do we need any more argument than this to become intercessors— that Christ “ever liveth to make intercession”; that the Holy Spirit “maketh intercession for the saints”? Are we living in such vital relationship to our fellow men that we do the work of intercession as the Spirit-taught children of God?

John Bunyan

Both John Bunyan and A. J. Gordon have been credited with saying, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

The Apostle Paul

 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

God is the only One who can accomplish what is really needed. The best thing you can do is pray.

© Stephanie B. Blake

February 2015

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Headline News

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in this Bob Satterfield cartoon, the everyman reads a week’s worth of newspapers with sensationalistic headlines about the risk of an upcoming war between Russia and Japan… finishing with headlines about how peaceful arbitration is inevitable. Jan 11, 1904

If I’m not careful, my day can start out pretty depressing. That is because I watch a lot of news. First thing in the morning, I check to see what has happened around the world. I watch news on television and read it online. Usually headline news is bad news – terror attacks, earthquakes, hurricanes, airplane crashes, wars on several fronts – just to name a few.

I have friends all over the world, so I believe catching up on news is necessary. Sometimes, however, I want to turn it all off and not hear any more bad news. Bad news is like the cold, damp, dark days of winter. I find myself searching through the clouds for a glimpse of sunshine. I am eager for good news.

Occasionally, a friend will email or call me with good news and when that happens, it is like a breath of fresh air. I often think when I hear good news, “I needed that.”

I remind myself that I have a constant source of good news. I also read it daily. It is God’s word.

The good news of scripture is that God knows, God cares and God provides whatever we need for whatever comes our way.

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Each year in February, the sun’s angle is such that Horsetail Falls waterfall lights up like fire. Yosemite N.P., USA

God’s headline news is the gospel – good news. It is just what we need. Jesus is the living breath of fresh air – the ray of sunshine we need. Trust in Him and all is made right. Sins are forgiven. Life has a purpose. Problems are measured not by difficulty, but by God’s glory.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7 NASB).

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV).

Jesus, David and the Psalms

Many men of God knew and loved God long before He appeared in flesh. Perhaps one of the best known was David. It is possible that his psalms are the most familiar passages of the Bible – memorized for their beauty and comfort. It is easy for us to look back among the psalms of David and see Jesus in them. What special revelations of the Savior God gave to this man after His own heart.

Jesus, God’s Only Begotten Son

… The Lord has said to Me, You are My Son, Today I have begotten You (Psalm 2:7).

And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Jesus, the Judge

But the Lord shall endure forever. He has prepared His throne for judgment (Psalm 9:7).

For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22).

Jesus, the Crucified One

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”…They gape at Me with their mouths…I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint…They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones, they look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots (Psalm 22:1, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18).

Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”…. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:35, 46).

Jesus, the Resurrection

… Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay (Psalm 16:10 NASB).

…”The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”…And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:34, 38-39).

Jesus, the Light of the World

The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all through him might believe… Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 1:6-7, 12).

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My Brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28:10).

Jesus, the only Savior

Many times David refers to God as his salvation. After he was confronted by Nathan with his sin, David pleads with the Lord, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:12).

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Jesus. the Ruler

Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him (Psalm 72:11).

The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool…. The Lord has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations…. (Psalm 110:1, 4-6).

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True…He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God…And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:11,13,16).

Jesus, the Creator and Descendant of David.

“I am the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).

God’s Voice in the Psalms

Many a backslidden believer has found restoration in the psalms. Many a confused believer has found guidance in the psalms. Many a frightened believer has found strength in the psalms. Many a troubled soul has found comfort in the psalms. Many have discovered the love of God in the psalms. Many a weakened Christian soldier has found victory in the psalms. Many a lost person has found salvation in Jesus in the psalms.

We have all benefited from God’s special relationship with David.

© Stephanie B. Blake

January 2015

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A Government You Can Trust

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Uncle Sam, cigar in hand, stands speaking to a sullen Carl Schurz sitting at a square piano though turned away from the keyboard. The sheet music on the piano is entitled “Mein Herz ist am Rhein.” Source Harper’s Weekly, August 24, 1872. Caption: CARL IS “DISGUSTED WITH AMERICAN POLITICS.” — Frankfort Gazette. Uncle Sam. Look here, Stranger, there is no Law in this Country to Compel you to Stay.

Americans would like to believe that democracy works –  our voice and votes count, our elected officials have our best interest in mind, listen to their constituents and work tirelessly for the good of the nation. And yet, it’s becoming hard to trust anyone in politics. Even those who start out wanting to make a difference may wind up more than just discouraged with the process. After being in office for a short time, they often take on the same attitude of the politicians they defeated in their election. They give up on the changes they said they were going to make. They will do anything just to get elected again.

I do know of politicians who are determined to keep their head about them and not let that happen. To those few, I say “thanks.”

Although there have been times when I have asked myself, “what is wrong with this picture?”, I still vote and am grateful for the privilege of doing so.

In November 2014, Pat Buchanan said:

In a democracy, people get the kind of government they deserve.

The American people are today a deeply divided people — on ideology, politics, faith, morality, race, culture. Americans today — and not for the first time — do not really like each other.

Americans have no one to blame but ourselves. Our problem is really a sin problem. We are divided in politics because we are divided on the basic trust issues of life. A democracy would only work if people cared for one another.

Thankfully, I am part of a government that is truly trustworthy. It is not a democracy. It is a kingdom and Jesus is in charge.

As King of Kings, He does not need to listen to us, but He does. He not only has our best interest in mind; He left the comforts of heaven to work on our behalf. He speaks for us when we can’t speak for ourselves. He never gave in to the temptation to be popular. He followed through on His mission. What He accomplished resulted in a kingdom where everyone will care about one another because they are part of His family. I am truly grateful to be part of that government – now and for eternity.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Weeds or Flowers?

Yard maintenance is a must in the spring – especially in the flower gardens. If a few days go by before I work on removing weeds, they can easily overtake the plants I want to keep. Unfortunately, there have been times I have waited too long. Occasionally when I pull a weed, a good plant comes out with it. Their roots had become intertwined. I also have learned that I must dispose of the weeds by bagging them up for trash removal or burning them. If I just toss them aside, I have to deal with them again later.

1024px-2007_echinacea_purpureaI have noticed that not everyone pulls the same plants as weeds. I was at a friend’s house recently and her garden had several plants in it that I pull out of mine. On occasion, my husband will call something a weed that I thought was a flower.

So…some weeds are flowers to some people and some flowers are weeds to others! It takes knowledge and a discerning eye to know the difference.

I guess it is a matter of personal preference and what kind of garden you want to have. It is a case of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

God does not have the same issues we do with our gardens. He knows exactly which items should be destroyed and which ones should be kept. He is, for now, allowing them to grow together. When harvest time comes, He has readied an army of angels with discerning eyes to sort them all out.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow goo240px-Wheat_close-upd seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ (Matthew 13:24-30).

 

 

Precious Nails

Nails are so common today few people realize how precious they once were. Although I sometimes think a box of nails is expensive, at one time they were valuable enough to be used as a medium of exchange. Until the 18th century nails were made by hand using a very slow process. A fairly common practice during those days was to burn down an old house in order to retrieve the nails. They were that scarce.

In 1794 Thomas Jefferson added a nailmaking operation to his blacksmith shop at Monticello. In 1795, he wrote a letter to Jean Nicolas Demeunier informing him of this new enterprise. “In our private pursuits it is a great advantage that every honest employment is deemed honorable. I am myself a nail-maker…. My new trade of nail-making is to me in this country what an additional title of nobility or the ensigns of a new order are in Europe.”

Jefferson purchased one of the first nail cutting machines in 1796. Several inventors spent large sums of money producing various cutting machines. It has been estimated these men spent over $1,000,000 before a machine made in 1810 was able to produce about 100 nails per minute.

Cut nails are still being used, but after the invention of a wire-nail-making machine in 1851, wire nails are common today because they are so much cheaper. Nails went from being rare and precious to being mass-produced and relatively inexpensive. That fact enables my husband to buy them to build or repair something.

Satan intended the nails that pierced Jesus on the cross to destroy His life, but they were really used to create new life for those of us who trust Him. Jesus took my place on the cross. Through His blood He repaired the relationship between God and man that was marred when sin entered the world (Colossians 1:13-23). Without His allowing those nails to penetrate His innocent hands and feet, I would be facing judgment. Those nails cost Him dearly but it was a price He was willing to pay for my salvation – and yours.

jesus_nails_1Those nails represent God’s sacrificial love and eternal life. They are most precious to me.

As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live in him….When you were spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were not free from the power of your sinful self, God made you alive with Christ, and he forgave all our sins. He canceled the debt, which listed all the rules we failed to follow. He took away that record with its rules and nailed it to the cross. God stripped the spiritual rulers and powers of their authority. With the cross, he won the victory and showed the world that they were powerless (Colossians 2:6, 13-15 NCV).

In The Father’s Throne Room

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens . . . But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises (Hebrews 8:1, 6).

Jesus has always been God (John 8:58, Revelation 1:8).  He was the God of creation (John 1:1-3).  He was the God Man in His incarnation (Matthew 1:23). He is now and always will be God (Hebrews 13:8). The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ is now seated at the right hand of the throne of Majesty. Since this was always His privilege, why is this so important to you and to me?

The significance is that through His sacrifice as the Lamb of God, He, our High Priest, has done what no other High Priest had ever done.  He completed the work of redemption and sat down. Now because He is there, you and I as believers in Him, can come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  This is not a future promise.  It is a present reality.

Realizing that access to God’s throne room is readily available should give Christians an excitement about prayer and cause us to use that privilege constantly.  Who would not want to have an audience with the King at any time, seek His advice and know that His presence is only as far away as a thought?

I am on a quest to learn more about prayer. If I had the opportunity to talk with the writer of Hebrews, my question to him would be: “What can your letter teach me about prayer?” The answer to that question is the subject of this study.

The Life and Words of God’s Son

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:1).

Although the beginning verse of this letter does not reference prayer itself, there is an application to prayer.  Prayer is a conversation with God. A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.  If you are truly interested in hearing from God (His side of the conversation), you must be able to know how He speaks and recognize His voice when He does.

In the Old Testament, He prepared us for the coming of His Son. He spoke to the fathers by the prophets promising the redemption that would come through Jesus Christ. Abraham was justified by faith, not by works (Romans 4 and Genesis 15:6).  The men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11, the great “Hall of Faith,” were justified by faith.  Their faith was in the promise to come.

In the New Testament, we have the account of Jesus’ birth, life, sacrificial death, resurrection, ascension and presence in His body as well as additional prophecies about His second coming.  If you are a believer, like Abraham, you are justified by faith, not by works (Romans 5).  Your faith is in the promise fulfilled.

God, who chooses to speak with His children, speaks to us clearly through His Son. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. . . . But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things that I said to you” (John 14:23,26). 

If you want to hear God speak to you, listen to Jesus.  If you do your part (love Him and keep His word), God will live with you and in you and His Holy Spirit will remind you of the things that you need to hear Him say to you.

Reflections for further study:

  • What were some of the ways that God spoke in the Old Testament?

Examine the accounts of Abraham, Moses, Job, Elijah and others.

  • Since God has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, give examples of ways that you can hear Jesus speak to you.

The Throne of Grace

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

As has been mentioned, because of Jesus, believers have access to the throne of grace. Every need you have is met at this place of privilege. Prayer is the means by which you come boldly to the throne of grace.

Reflections for further study

  • This verse begins with Let us therefore . . . What does the writer of Hebrews say in the preceding verses that help you know that you may come boldly to the throne of grace?
  • Can you picture yourself at God’s throne?  Are you dressed appropriately?  Do you have any need for cleansing before you come to His throne?  What will you say to Him today when you approach Him?  Do you need forgiveness . . . help. . . instruction. . .insight. . .wisdom for a task?  Whatever your need is, He is there to meet it.

Christ’s example in prayer

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety (Hebrews 5:7 NASB).

Read the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus and note the many times it is mentioned that He spent time in prayer.  He prayed for others, He prayed for Himself, and He taught about prayer.

Reflections for further study 

  • Read Matthew 6:5-15, 7:7-11, 7:21-23.  What does Jesus teach about prayer in His sermon?
  • What does Matthew 9:37-38 tell you about prayer and evangelism?  Are you faithful to pray for God to send laborers into His harvest? Is He speaking to you to become a laborer?
  • Read Jesus’ prayer of Matthew 11:25-26.  Read the chapter in its entirety.  Why did Jesus pray, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes?” 
  • Before Jesus fed the four thousand men with seven loaves and a few fish, He took the loaves and the fish and gave thanks (Matthew 15:36). Have you ever experienced the multiplication principle in your own prayer life?  If so, share with someone what God did.
  • When Jesus addressed the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites, what did He have to say about their prayers (Matthew 23:14)? What prayer principle is He teaching here?
  • Matthew 26:36-46 is the account of Jesus and the three disciples in Gethsemane. What did He pray? What did He ask His disciples to pray?
  • Compare Jesus’ prayer of Matthew 27:46 and Hebrews 5:7-8.
  • Read John 17 and “The World’s Most Majestic Prayer” (another Bible study on this website).  Answer the “questions for reflection” at the end of that study.
  • If Jesus found it necessary to pray, how much more do you and I need to pray?

The Intercession of Jesus

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

Picture the throne room of God.  Visualize God the Father and God the Son talking about you: someone made in Our image, according to Our likeness (Genesis 1:26).  Since Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), He stands ready to intercede for you.  Now, imagine yourself approaching the throne of grace boldly asking for His mercy and grace to help in your time of need (Hebrew 4:16). Pray “in His name” (John 14:13-14) and let Him do the rest.

  • How comforting is it to you that your risen Lord is still interceding on your behalf?
  • Compare Romans 8:26, 8:34 and Hebrews 9:24 with Hebrews 7:25.

Clean and Pure

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus. . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19, 22).

How can you approach God’s throne of grace boldly?  No one can approach God through any personal merit; only through the shed blood of Jesus. The apostle John says that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7b, 9). In Psalm 24:3-4, David says, Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. . . .

Before the coming of Jesus, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies.  There was a veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.  The historian Josephus reported that this veil was 4 inches thick and that even horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.  Yet, at the death of Jesus (Mark 15:38), this veil was torn in two from top to bottom.

Reflection for further study

  • What is the significance of the veil being torn from top to bottom?
  • If you have come to Jesus, confessed your sins, received His forgiveness and serve Him as Lord, you can have boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.  What does being welcomed into the presence of God in the Holy of Holies mean to you?

Pleasing and Praising God 

…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).  

Reflections

  • Is it your desire to please God?  If it is, the answer is simple.  Trust Him.  Prayer, communication with God, is the means by which to diligently seek Him.
  • The Old Testament records the sacrifice of animals to God. This was a prelude to the sacrifice that Jesus would offer as He submitted Himself to the cross for us.  It also was a tangible witness to the pagans that the people of Israel worshipped the one true God. Now, verbal witness of God’s working in a believer’s life, the fruit of our lips, is the sacrifice of praise. Do you tell others of God’s involvement in your life?

Privilege of Praying for Others

Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably (Hebrews 13:18-19).

No one knows for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews.  From this request it appears that there may have been more than one contributor to this letter.  They all had a clear conscience before God.  That would have only been possible through the blood of Jesus (see Hebrews 10:19, 22 above).  These men desired to live honorably and for the glory of God.

God designed the family of God to care for one another.  It is a privilege to pray for our brothers and sisters.  If someone asks you to pray for them, do so.  Just as parents are thrilled when their children watch out for each other, God is pleased when we care enough about each other to bring someone’s request to His throne room.

Question for Reflection

  • Is your conscience clear before the Lord? Do you confess sin as soon as you are aware of it?
  • Do you desire to live honorably before the Lord?

A Prayer and a Purpose 

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ to whom be glory forever and ever (Hebrews 13:20-21). 

This summarizes the body of the letter itself.  The God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead provided through His Son a way for us to come back to Him; to have peace with God.

            . . . that great Shepherd of the sheep

The letter states that it was Jesus, who being our High Priest, gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice.  He accomplished what animal sacrifice could not. He completed the requirement for justification.  At His crucifixion, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). In John 10, He said as the Good Shepherd, He willingly laid down His life (John 10:17-18). He is the Priest who offers the sacrifice (Hebrews 2:17).  He is the Lamb of God, the sacrifice itself (John 1:29).  He is the Shepherd who protects his sheep (John 10). Everything that was required to reconcile sinful man back into relationship with righteous God was accomplished through Jesus (Romans 5:1-11).

            . . . through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,” says the Lord:  “I will put My laws into their hearts and into their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:16-17).  This is the final everlasting covenant.  Jesus fulfilled it when he offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10:12).

            . . . make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ to whom be glory forever and ever.

God has a purpose for your life.  He has given you all the resources in Jesus for you to accomplish that purpose, please Him, and bring glory to His name.

Questions for Reflection 

  •  Is your life pleasing to God?  Does it bring glory to Him?

The Benediction of the Letter to the Hebrews 

Grace be with you all (Hebrews 13:25).

This was the type of benediction that Paul used to conclude his letters. Since the other letters of the New Testament written by James, Peter, John and Jude do not conclude this way, this may be one reason that some scholars suppose that Paul penned this letter or was one of its authors.

Questions for Reflection 

  • Are you willing and able to share God’s grace with others?
  • Is prayer a duty or a privilege to you?
  • What has Hebrews taught you about prayer? Are you encouraged to pray more?

© Stephanie B. Blake

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Jesus Explains His Words to His Friends

John’s gospel gives us a lengthy account of the last visit Jesus had with His disciples before His betrayal, trial and crucifixion. After Judas left the group to betray Jesus, He was left with the faithful few.  Even though they did not understand everything He had to say or was about to happen to Him, they were true disciples and loved Him.  These conversations are recorded in John 13:31 through John 16. He concluded this time with a prayer to His Father on their behalf in John 17. 

It is striking to note that several times in the midst of His discourse, He gave them reasons for what He was telling them.  These are the passages examined in this study.

Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He (John 13:19).

These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:25-26).

And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe (John 14:29).

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble (John 16:1).

But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.  And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you (John 16:4).

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Read John 13 through John 17 in their entirety.  Examine the statements above and answer the questions below.

John 13:19, 14:29, 16:4: Jesus knew that His time had come for God to be glorified in His sacrificial death on the cross (John 13:31-32).  Before Judas left the room, John remarks several times that Jesus was about to be betrayed and that He was troubled in spirit. Still, Jesus included Judas in the foot washing.  Can you imagine how Judas must have felt as He watched the Master wash his feet, knowing that he was about to betray Him?  Only a heart that had been hardened by the world could experience such an act of kindness and still carry on his horrible plan. Jesus even warned the others that one of them would be excluded from their blessings (John 13:17-18).

Later, Peter denied Christ just as He predicted (John 13:38); however, Scripture tells us that Judas and Peter were worlds apart in their allegiance to Jesus. What was the difference?

John 14:25-26: In the very presence of the Lord, these disciples were warned of the trials to come as well as encouraged that Jesus would give them all the resources they would need for the challenging days ahead.  The Holy Spirit did indeed remind them of the things that Jesus said.  See Luke 24:8, John 2:22 and John 12:16.

Believers today have the indwelling of the Spirit of Jesus and His recorded words.  Have you spent enough time listening to Him (reading His word) so that His Spirit can bring His words to your mind when you most need them?

John 15:11: This is one of the most incredible statements Jesus made to His disciples. How could Jesus feel joy at this time in His life?  Compare Hebrews 12:2 with this passage. See another Word Focus, “Focus on the Fullness of Joy,” on this website for more insight.

John 16:1: One of His followers had deserted and betrayed Him. Judas was not a true disciple, but had followed Him along with the rest of the disciples for some time. The rest, although they were true believers, would have many chances in the future to leave as well.  Although Jesus knew that they would not stand with Him during the days to come, He also knew they would band together after His death and become what He had trained them to be – witnesses to Him in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). He was now giving them adequate warning that the temptation to stumble would come and He was preparing them for that eventuality.

How does His warning affect Christians today? Was it harder to be true to Christ then or now? In what areas of your life are you tempted to stumble?

John 16:33: This was the last thing Jesus said to His disciples before His prayer.  If you are a Christian, you know that in the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, [Jesus] has overcome the world. In the midst of tribulation, do you experience the peace of Christ?

© Stephanie B. Blake

All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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