Month: June 2017

“Our Father”

“Lord, teach us to pray.”  The disciples had seen Jesus perform all sorts of miracles.  And they knew he had a habit of spending time alone in prayer.  I believe they recognized that the power of Jesus was not in the miracles.  The miracles were evidence of the power in Jesus.  It was following one of Jesus’ prayer times that they made this request.  Teach us to pray.  I imagine that Jesus smiled at this request.

Jesus responded, “pray like this.”  And he laid out a model of prayer that changed everything.  “Our Father.”  There are two things about this opening statement that are unusual.  Jesus continued a pattern – “you’ve heard it said this way, but let me show you a better way.”  These two simple words were the first time that anyone ever addressed the Father God so personally, and he encouraged the disciples to pray so personally.  Jesus opened the doors between his people and the Father.  Hebrews 4 encourages us to confidently approach the throne of grace, and we can do that because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  The Son of Man opened the way for us to have communion with the Father.

A second thing so striking about this opening phrase is the very first word. “Our.” Jesus could have opened in the singular “my.”  Instead, this prayer opens with the plural possessive.  “Our Father.” When animals hunt they often isolate their prey first.  They separate the weaker animal from the rest of the community.  It seems to me that our enemy does the same thing.  If he can isolate me, if he can convince me of “my” instead of “our,” then I’m in real danger.  This prayer reminds us that we are not alone.  Christ himself is with else.  When the enemy is nipping at your heels, remember who is with you.  You are not alone.

Jesus offered more explanation after teaching this prayer.  Jesus used a comparative model, moving from lesser to greater.  He compared fathers giving appropriate gifts to the Good Father giving the best gifts.  The Matthew account (7:11) indicates that the Father will give good gifts to those who ask him.  The Luke account (11:13) names that good gift – the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer, he begins and ends with relationship.  “Our Father.”  He is ours and we are his.  No one can enter the Father’s presence without first going through the Son, and Jesus opened that door.  And now he gives us the best gift – his presence with us, his Spirit in us, and his Glory around us.

May you know Jesus.  May you confidently approach the throne of grace.  May you stand up strong, even if the enemy is on the hunt, because the Lord of all Creation is with you.  May you know the goodness of the Father as he bestows his best gifts on you.

This is a partial summary of the message I delivered at Cornerstone Church on June 25, 2017.  Audio of the message is available at

Spiritual Lessons from Physical Exercise

A couple weeks ago I did something I didn’t think I would ever do.  I ran (and completed) a half-marathon.  My wife had been encouraging me to do something like this for a few years and in November, for some perplexing reason, I made the decision to do this with her.  At the time, I thought I was in decent physical condition.  And then I went out for my first run.  Let’s just say that it was more challenging than I expected.  Six months of training and a few minor injuries later, I successfully completed the event.  And I learned a few things along the way.

Hot air balloons launching over the Snake River with the Tetons in the background.  This was at about mile 3.  I seriously considered foregoing the rest of the race just to enjoy the view.

One – the importance of discipline.  There were plenty of days I didn’t feel like training.  If I skipped a run, I felt good for a day and then I paid the price on the next run.  How true is that in other areas of life?  Integrity, character, relationships – if we drop our standards for even a day, there may be harsh consequences.  It takes longer to recover and we open ourselves to injury when the next test comes along.

Two – watch who you listen to.  I noticed a stark difference in feedback when I would tell friends what I was preparing for (and it continues after the event too).  The comments were either, “Wow! That sounds so difficult! I could never do that!” Or, “Wow! That’s fantastic!  You can do it!”  The first comment came from those who had never tried a running event.  The second comment came from those who had been there before.  If I listened to the first comment, I ended up discouraged (“yep, I can’t do it either”) or arrogant (“I’m doing something better than you”).  If I listened to the second comment, I was encouraged in the best way.  I would remember that others had gone before me, that this was doable, and that I was created to run.

On race day, I was (mostly) ready.  I didn’t set any records.  I didn’t win any trophies.  I finished in the middle of the pack.  But I finished the race.  All the miles of training allowed me to finish strong.  The hours of preparation took me from not running at all to the finish line.

I hope I can say the same when the bigger race is done.  The time in prayer, the hours studying Scripture, the play dates with my kids, the coffee with friends, the discipline with work, the friendship with my wife – it has value and significance.  I hope to live in such a way that my life makes a difference on the world around me, and not for my namesake but for the glory of Christ.

The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy of this concept in 1 Timothy 4:8. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”  Paul went on to explain this in verse 10.  “This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

Work hard, struggle even, for a goal that has meaning and value.  Our hope is not in what we can achieve.  After all, what’s a few miles?  Instead, our hope is in Christ and his unequalled achievements.

“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:13b-14 NLT

This writing appeared in the Pastor’s Corner section of The Sheridan Press on June 17, 2017.