3 Reasons to be Loyal

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Loyalty is a glorious, godly quality which is rightly to be celebrated. That’s why I’m glad it has taken a more prominent place in the minds of Americans today. Misconceptions about its true nature abound, however. Loyalty that is coerced or required is not loyalty but servitude. I’d like to use this brief post to identify the three things upon which loyalty must be built.

Before I get to that, though, I want to point to three things that loyalty is not based upon. First, loyalty is not expressed in silent acquiescence. It’s bold enough to disagree with a leader and speak the truth when necessary. It’s not loyalty unless it’s willing to confront. Silent submission isn’t loyalty, it’s foolishness.

Secondly, it’s not romantic unrealism. It doesn’t have an unrealistic view of a leader’s greatness. Loyalty actually sees the weaknesses, quirks, and foibles in a leader, but is willing to stay because of a fundamental conviction about the leader’s integrity, proven effectiveness, and favor under God.

Thirdly, it’s not unqualified allegiance. It doesn’t say, “I’ll follow you no matter what you do.” Loyalty is conditional. Only dogs give unqualified allegiance.

Yes, loyalty is conditional. It has a very concrete, substantial basis which must not be violated. Why, then, would someone be loyal to a leader? For three reasons.

1. Humility. Humility earns our loyalty because it’s realistic and wise. When you see a leader walking in authentic humility before God, you’re safe to give your heart.

2. Truth. Loyalty devotes itself to a cause where truth is valued and preserved. When you find fierce adherence to the truth of God’s word, it’s safe to give your heart in loyalty.

3. Righteousness. When a leader is walking in blamelessness and purity in his or her personal life in moral areas such as sexuality and financial integrity, then join the team and give your heart to the cause.

Leaders who display these three qualities are following in the legacy provided by our Master, of whom it says, “In Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness” (Ps 45:4).

If a leader becomes arrogant, or abandons truth, or compromises his or her righteousness, gather your stuff and move on. The only reason to stay is if that leader repents and returns to these three values.

Leaders, give us three reasons please to be loyal to you. Demonstrate an unbending commitment to truth, humility, and righteousness.

This post is adapted from Bob’s book, LOYALTY: The Reach of the Noble Heart. You can find it at https://oasishouse.com/collections/bobs-books/products/loyalty-the-reach-of-the-noble-heart

NEW FILM: SONS AND BASTARDS

This book this film is based on celebrates God’s goodness to chasten. It will help you make sense of inexplicable trials, strengthen your resolve to endure, and reveal how chastening can qualify us for a higher entrustment in the kingdom. By the time the story’s written, you’ll be healed and trained for greater service.

Bob’s book on this important topic is available here: http://tinyurl.com/hj2zhl5

Director, Editor, Sound Designer – Joel Sorge
Teaching – Bob Sorge
Original Music – Caleb Culver
Director of Photography – Chris Commons
Assistant Camera Operator – Lydia Anderson
Vocal Mixing – Zane Callister

THE RIGHTEOUS ARE LIKE A TREE

TREE

The righteous are likened to trees in several Scriptures, and specifically to a palm tree in Psalm 92:12, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”

Palm trees grow in tropical climates, under conditions that would be deadly to some types of trees. But that which is deadly to another is life-giving to a palm.  In fact, the hotter it is the more the palm seems to flourish. The righteous flourish in heat—that is, in times of distress, trial, and persecution.

One of my favorite passages that likens believers to trees is Psalm 1. Look at verse one.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”  The progression of walk, stand, sit points to the manner in which sin can progressively snare the soul.

We are not to walk “in the counsel of the ungodly”—which reflects ungodly values.  You talk about your marriage to somebody at work, and he says, “I wouldn’t put up with that, if I were you!”  The counsel of people in the world will always reflect their ungodly values.

We are not to stand “in the path of sinners”—which is a reference to ungodly morals.  It may be seem relatively harmless, on the surface, to join the men at work for a “guy’s night out,” but it’s dangerous to stand with others who are sinning, even if you are not sinning directly yourself.

And thirdly, we are not to sit “in the seat of the scornful”—this speaks of ungodly attitudes.  If we hang out with people of the world, we’ll begin to talk like them, and even think like them.

The psalmist proceeded to describe the godly man who avoids all that other stuff:  “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (verses 2-3).

The godly man, the verse says, is like a tree.  When I think of a tree, I think of the following qualities:

1. Fruitful in season.  

The man of God goes through seasons.  Just like in the created order, we experience spring, summer, harvest, and winter.  Not all of life is characterized by harvest.  There are also dry seasons, cold seasons, damp seasons.  But the godly man progresses normally through all the seasons of life, and has a consistent history of fruitfulness at the right times.

2. Strong in dry times.

The man of God doesn’t always look good.  In winter, he may lose his leaves.  But mark this:  in the drought of summer his leaves never wither.  Grass nearby is parched and yellow, but the godly man is green and verdant—because his roots go down into the riverbed.  He has tapped into the lifesource of the Holy Spirit, and when others are withering, he is refreshed from a hidden water source.

3. Stands out as a landmark.

Trees are often used as landmarks because they stand tall against their surroundings.  Similarly, the godly man rises in stature and stands tall above the others who surround him.  Among the employees, he is exemplary.  He is an example to his family.  His life is noticeable, compelling, and noteworthy.

4. Unmoved by storms.

Like a tree, the man of God is shaken at times by the winds of life.  Difficulty might leave him really rocking.  But he’s never uprooted and moved.  He has longevity because he’s deeply rooted in the grace of God. Long after others have been moved off by this or that, he continues to stand, strong and stable.  He’s a pillar in his community because he has not succumbed to the popular temptation to pick up and move to another state at the first whiff of adversity.

5. Provides shade for others.

Because of the qualities of Jesus that radiate from the godly, he or she is a source of refreshing and relief to others.  A tree doesn’t have to try to provide shade, it just happens.  In the same way, the godly refresh the hearts of others continually and effortlessly.

6. “Whatever he does shall prosper.”

That is both a promise for the tough times, and a reality that will inevitably manifest.  He is blessed because he has found a place of special affection in the heart of God.  And in the final analysis, that is the ultimate reward of the godly:  the smile of Jesus.

WHY DOESN’T THE BIBLE MENTION MASTURBATION?

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With this blog I’m stepping onto some very tender territory and tackling a gripping question that many have wondered about. We know that masturbation has been with the human race from the beginning, and that it has certainly been on God’s radar. Why, then, did He make no mention  of that word in the Bible? When God identified various kinds of sin in the Bible, why didn’t He include masturbation?

First of all, I don’t think it’s because the word embarrasses Him. When you read the Bible cover to cover, you realize that God isn’t embarrassed by explicit sexual language, nor is He reticent to tackle tough topics head-on.

Secondly, I don’t think it’s because He doesn’t consider it a sin. I agree with many who view it as a sinful behavior before God. The reason I think it’s a sin is because, while the Bible doesn’t name it specifically, it points to it in several places. Masturbation involves lust in the heart, which Jesus addressed in Matthew 5:27-30. The Bible also warns against uncleanness (Eph. 5:3 and youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22), which things include masturbation. (I explain this more fully on pages 47-51 in my book, A Covenant With My Eyes.)

So then, why isn’t masturbation mentioned in the Bible as a sin?

I’m going to give you my opinion on this question, and I want to emphasize that what follows is my opinion, not a dogmatic theological position.

To say it succinctly, I don’t think God wanted masturbation cited as a sin in the Bible because of how the devil would use such a verse as a tool for accusation and condemnation. Let me explain what I mean.

Masturbation is a sin that is often accompanied afterwards by feelings of shame and guilt. Something inside tells us it’s wrong, and when we succumb to the temptation, our conscience often accuses us. But it doesn’t stop there. The devil steps in and adds to the accusation. As a result, many believers who struggle with masturbation also struggle with much accusation.

If there was a verse in the Bible proscribing masturbation, the devil would leverage that verse to his advance and increase his accusations against God’s people.

Let me talk about how this sometimes works for us. When we go through puberty, we are curious about the changes in our bodies and emotions. In the process of trying to discover who we’re becoming, masturbation sometimes happens. Often our first experience with masturbation, at least for young men, is in our early teens.

Let’s talk about Jimmy, who is a hypothetical 15-year-old. Jimmy loves Jesus and wants to serve Him wholeheartedly. He has gone through puberty, and he is now experiencing strong urges to seek a sexual release. His conscience tells him that masturbation is wrong, but his urges to masturbate are powerful and distracting. Jimmy is still immature and he doesn’t know how to manage these new urges. Even though he loves Jesus dearly and sincerely wants to please Him, sometimes the urges overtake him and masturbation happens.

It’s followed, almost every time, by feelings of guilt and accusation. Jimmy beats up on himself for not resisting temptation, and then the accuser comes to make it even worse. Under the guilty feelings of both his own conscience and the accuser, Jimmy, who is still a young believer in Christ, feels almost like a failure as a Christian. And that’s exactly where Satan wants him to be—buried under a mountain of accusation that makes him feel unacceptable to God.

If Satan had a Bible verse, he’d whip Jimmy with it.

I think it’s young men like Jimmy that God had in His heart when He decided to keep that word out of the Bible. As a Father, His heart is yearning so much for Jimmy. He is Jimmy’s greatest Advocate. He wants Jimmy to overcome in his teen years and come through as a strong adult in the faith. It’s the Father’s zeal and tender care for every Jimmy in the body of Christ that prompted Him to keep that word out of the Bible. Lest His Jimmy’s be over-burdened with accusation and guilt.

When married men masturbate, I think God views that from a different angle. Married men have the opportunity for sexual release with their wife, and to take that into their own hands is viewed differently by God.

But for Jimmy who is still single at 15, with lots of hormones, I think He is tender rather than stern toward him. God wants to guide him in gentleness and without condemnation through his turbulent teen years to an overcoming life in Christ.

That’s my opinion.

How should a young person engage in the battle to resist and overcome the temptation to masturbate? I give my answer in A Covenant With My Eyes. Click here to check it out.

Also available as a quick and easy resource is a video of me preaching this message.  You can watch it by clicking here.

Thanks for listening.

APOLOGIZING FOR GOD

apologizing

The other day, as I was preparing to speak at a certain Christian event, I began to apologize to the Lord in a manner I had done several times before. I said things like, “I’m sorry, Lord, that I have so little to offer you. I have such a limited message. The bandwidth on what I carry and what I can offer is so narrow, and You really deserve better. I have so many limitations. You deserve to have a servant who provides You with a much broader scope of possibilities. I’m sorry that You have so few options when You’re working with me.”

The Lord’s response seemed to be something like this, “You don’t think of this as I do.”

Then I felt drawn toward these verses:

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom. 12:6-8).

The Lord seemed to be emphasizing that whatever gift for blessing others I might carry, it came to me as a gift of His grace. Since He gave it, who was I to apologize to Him for His gift?

So I’ve decided to stop apologizing to Him for the grace He has bestowed on me. I need concern myself only with being faithful.

BEEN BURNED BY SIN?

fire post

One day when I was a young child, I was standing by an outdoor bonfire and noticed a potato sack that was burned in the fire. The way it burned, the ashes had maintained the shape of the sack, and the sack appeared still to be intact. Because of my childlike curiosity, I was fascinated that the sack appeared to be unaffected by the fire. Intrigued to learn, I reached out my hand and took hold of the sack in an attempt to understand why it wasn’t touched by the fire. What I didn’t realize was that it had been consumed in the fire and was blazing hot. I was burned instantly and fiercely in a way I have never forgotten.

That experience taught me something: I don’t ever again want to learn first-hand when something is hot. I want to discern the signs and believe what others say, so that I am never again burned like that. When you’re burned once, if you’re smart you’ll never want that to happen again.

I think the same thing is true regarding sin. Once you’ve been burned by sin, you learn from that experience and determine at all costs to avoid that happening again. So when God says, “That’s a sin, that will burn you,” you no longer have to experiment for yourself by touching it. You believe Him. And you leave it alone.

What’s my message in this article? We don’t have to touch sin in order to believe that God was right when He said it will burn us. His word on it is enough. We’ve wisened up, and now we stay away.

 

THE KEY OF DAVID

key of david

Speaking to the apostle John, Jesus said that He “has the key of David” (Rev. 3:7). Other than Isaiah 22:22, this is the only place in the Bible that mentions “the key of David,” and therefore there is much speculation about what that key was and is.

Some readers may consider this article to be speculative, but I think I know what the key of David was. Let me explain.

David served as king in Hebron over the tribe of Judah for seven years. Then all the tribes came together to make him king over the entire land. His coronation as king over all Israel is recorded in 2 Samuel 5:1-5.

At his coronation, the city of Jerusalem finally came under his jurisdiction. His first act as king, therefore, was recorded in the verses immediately following (2 Sam. 5:6-8). David attacked the stronghold of Zion. Why? Because God had revealed to him, probably through Samuel, that he would be king of Israel someday, and that the stronghold of Zion would be his capitol, his “White House.” Zion was appointed by God to be the governmental seat of David’s kingdom.

When Joab ascended the water shaft (2 Sam. 5:6-8), he went over to the gate of the fortress in order to open it from the inside. Once the gate was open, the entire Israelite army would be able to enter the fortress and subdue the stronghold of Zion. (I write about this in my book, OPENED FROM THE INSIDE: The Taking of the Stronghold of Zion.)

Joab’s challenge was to find the key and open Zion’s gate. Back in those days, a fortress like that would have an iron gate, and the gate would be reinforced with bars. The bars would be kept from moving with a bolt, and a lock would prevent the bolt from being removed by an unauthorized person. Anyone with the key could unlock and remove the bolt, move the bars to the disengaged position, and open the gate wide.

The key of David was the key to the gate of the stronghold of Zion. When Joab scaled the water shaft, located the key, unlocked the gate, and then opened the gate of Zion from the inside, he enabled David and his troops to enter and take the stronghold of Zion. David took the key in hand and called Zion, “the city of David.” That fortress became his White House.

The key to Zion represented the key to the governmental authority of the Davidic kingdom. David got the key when Zion was penetrated and conquered.

In the same way that Joab rose up the water shaft and opened the stronghold from the inside, Jesus died, was buried, descended to hell, and then He rose up the shaft of hell and opened the gates of hell from the inside. It was at His resurrection that He got “the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). At His temptation, Satan offered to give Jesus the keys if He would worship him; instead, Jesus chose to take the keys from Satan.

Now, Jesus has the key of David—that is, the key to the governmental authority of the Davidic kingdom. He is the King who has inherited the throne of His ancestor, David, and He has the right to administrate and rule over all the affairs of this eternal kingdom. That authority is represented by the key of David which He gained at His resurrection.

David got the key to the stronghold of Zion; Jesus got the key to the stronghold of Hades and of Death.

The Man with the keys has said to us, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19). Whenever Jesus gives you a kingdom key, it means He gives you the authority to unlock a specific element within the kingdom of God. With that key comes the authority to bring His sovereign reign to that area in the kingdom.

Are you facing a stronghold, and don’t know how to open its gate? Ask Jesus to give you the kingdom key to that stronghold.

And always remember:  A small key can open a great door.

 

YOUR MISSION IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR PEOPLE

mission

God never calls you to a mission that is more important than the people on your team. Because no such mission exists. A leader might be tempted to think, “Good riddance, they never did have complete buy-in with our vision.” “They just couldn’t keep up.” “We outgrew them.” “They always resisted everything we ever did.” “They got offended over nothing.” You are not viewing rightly this matter.

To qualify my meaning, I am not speaking of people God sends you for a limited period of time, and whom He calls after a season to the next leg in their assignment. When God calls people in your ranks to move on, release them freely and celebrate them. Allow no control or witchcraft to taint anything in your leadership style.

I am speaking here of people God calls to labor with you in the mission but who end up leaving for unnecessary reasons. It’s not possible to have a mission that is more important than the eternal souls God grants you to help with the mission. As Jesus said of the Twelve, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). While Jesus was busy changing the entire world, He did not lose any of the team members God had given Him (except the son of perdition).

Always be mindful that the people on your team are the very embodiment of the mission to which you’ve been called. Love them to the end.

THE EYES OF THE LORD

eyes of the lord

In this post I want to show how gloriously God responds to those who maintain their loyalty to Him. Here’s our text:

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9).

The verse’s context is very important. Asa was king in Jerusalem, and early in his reign he was invaded by a million-man army from Ethiopia. Asa was young, inexperienced, and resource-barren. In desperation, he cried out to God for help and deliverance: “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” (2 Chron. 14:11).

And God responded! The Ethiopians were completely overthrown, and Asa returned to Jerusalem with vast amounts of war bounty. God granted a mighty victory! Asa didn’t have another war until his thirty-sixth year as king. He wisely used the decades of peace to strengthen the nation spiritually, economically, and militarily.

Unfortunately, as the nation grew in strength, Asa’s sense of dependence upon God waned. He had become rich.

His heart was tested when war again came to his doorstep. This time, it was the northern kingdom of Israel that invaded. (At the time, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, and Asa was king of the southern kingdom based in Jerusalem.) Baasha, king of Israel, came against Asa with intimidating strength. What was Asa to do?

He decided to dip into his national treasury (which was substantial by now) and hire Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, to break his treaty with Baasha. Ben-Hadad accepted the money, attacked Israel with a mighty blow, and forced Baasha to abandon his military campaign against Asa.

On the surface, Asa’s strategy seemed amazingly successful. Baasha retreated and Jerusalem was relieved. Asa’s national popularity soared. Many in the land were doubtless applauding the king for his brilliant leadership. But God wasn’t.

Hanani the seer expressed to Asa how God felt about his tactics. Hanani rebuked him for relying on the king of Syria for deliverance. He reminded him of God’s previous deliverance. When the Ethiopians invaded, Asa had relied on God and conquered the enemy. Had he already forgotten? Even though he had a history of experiencing God’s delivering power, Asa had fallen (through prosperity) to self-sufficiency and unbelief.

And then Hanani spoke these arresting words:

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9).

Because his heart was not fully loyal to God, Asa would now face ongoing wars during his reign.

The word “loyal” comes from a vivid Hebrew word that has various renderings by English translations: perfect, true, whole, completely His, fully committed, blameless. The meaning is that those who look to God alone for deliverance, in the hour of enemy invasion, are demonstrating a loyal, perfect, true heart toward Him.

God is actively looking for this kind of loyalty. When it says His eyes “run,” it means they are on an aggressive, high-speed search. God has seven eyes (Zech 3:9; Rev 5:6), and all seven scour the earth, looking for those whose gaze is lifted to Him for help. When God finds this kind of heart loyalty, He shows Himself strong on their behalf. He fights for them.

The context of our Scripture is all about deliverance from enemy invasion. When the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, God wants to answer by demonstrating His military strength and awesome delivering power. But He’s looking for singular focus.

The same assurance is repeated in Psalm 33:18-19:

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”

It seems that Asa’s son, Jehoshaphat, learned from his father’s mistakes, because when Jehoshaphat was invaded by a formidable army from Edom and Moab during his own reign, he spoke up and said to the people of Jerusalem, “Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron 20:20). You should read 2 Chronicles 20 again to see how mightily God delivered Jehoshaphat from the Edomites. It’s an amazing story!

Have you been invaded by a foreign force that is trying to steal, kill, and destroy in your life? Give your heart in perfect loyalty to God, wait on Him, and He will show Himself strong on your behalf—He will fight for you. His eyes are eagerly searching for this kind of devotion!

 

WE HAVE LAWS FOR THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR

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The following is an excerpt from my newest book, Illegal Prayers.

Look closely at verse 5 of Luke 11.

Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves.”

Our parable is in black and white until you see two words that turn it into technicolor. The first kaleidoscopic word is midnight. To grasp the story, you’ve got to see the entire proceedings shaking down at midnight. Everything in the vignette is unplanned, inconvenient, and ill-timed for everybody.

When Jim first shows up at Dave’s door, knocks, and asks for bread, he’s not doing anything wrong. It’s permissible to knock on someone’s door. Once. But when Dave says, “It’s midnight. Shut up, get off my property and go back to bed,” and Jim continues to knock and call out, we have laws for this kind of behavior. We call it trespassing. Harassment. Disturbing the peace. Once Dave says, “Get off my property,” and Jim continues to stand at midnight and call for assistance, he is now breaking the law.

I am not stretching the parable to suggest Jim is breaking the law. If you don’t think this is illegal behavior, then go ahead and give it a shot. Go down the road, knock at somebody’s door at midnight, refuse to get off their property, and see what happens. You may find yourself in handcuffs.

Jesus could have put the parable at another time of day, such as high noon, but by placing it at midnight He subtly designed an illegal setting. When you see that Jesus positioned Jim to be breaking the law, you realize He was actually advocating illegal prayers.

Jim is now violating city ordinances. In a very real sense, he is serving his friend Dave an ultimatum. “I’m not going anywhere, so you have a choice. Call the cops, or give me your three loaves.”

But Jim is thinking to himself, I don’t think you’re going to call the cops. Our friendship is too strong. Our families are too close. We’ve known each other for too many years. Before you call the cops, I think you’re going to drag your carcass out of bed, go to your pantry, and get your three loaves.

Jim is now putting pressure on the relationship. He’s about to discover if their friendship can sustain this kind of strain or if it will break. Jim is wondering, Are you just a fairweather friend? Are you my friend only when things are great, or are you also my friend when things are hard?

By straining the relationship, Jim is drawing on his relational equity with Dave. He’s about to find out whether he’s accrued enough collateral in their relational bank to cash in on it in a time of need.

Illegal prayers leverage relational equity.

Relational equity is earned through time spent together and favors done for each other. Jim has undoubtedly done many little favors for Dave over the years, and now he has the boldness to expect a favor in return. In terms of our relationship with Christ, this reminds me of 1 Timothy 3:13, “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” When we are faithful in our service for Christ, we gain the boldness to pray audacious prayers in our time of need.

Jim felt secure enough in his friendship with Dave to demand assistance in a way that actually broke the law. In a similar sense, if you’re going to pray illegal prayers, you better have a friendship with God. Don’t wait for a crisis to hit before you start investing in your relationship with God. Build relational equity with God now, so that when the crisis hits you have a friendship to fall back on.

Just because you’re bold in the presence of God does not mean you’re a spoiled brat with a spirit of entitlement; it means you’re someone who has confidence in your beloved Friend.

Confidence will say to God, “If You say no, I’m not leaving. If You say later, I’m not leaving. The only way I’ll quiet down is if You give me Your three loaves.”

Illegal prayers are rooted in the relational confidence of knowing your God and, even better, being known by Him. You can have enough confidence in your friendship to believe that ever before He gets angry and swats you into outer space, He’s going to give you the healing bread He has in His heavenly pantry.

The title of this book—Illegal Prayers—wasn’t chosen because I thought it was a clever title. I chose it because of what’s going on in the parable. Jim is praying illegal prayers at Dave’s door. But Jesus’ parable is not the only instance of illegal prayers in the Bible. There are a few others.

Hannah

Hannah could not have children, and it vexed her soul greatly. Consumed with longing to have a child, she went into the house of the Lord and began to pour out her heart in prayer. Finally, in the anguish and desperation of her soul, she said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life” (1 Sam. 1:11).

She was so desperate for a son that she said, “If You give me a son, I’ll give Him back to You.” And as the story turned out, she gave birth to a son whom she turned over to Eli, the priest. Thus, her son Samuel was raised in the house of the Lord by Eli.

Was Hannah’s prayer legal? Is it permissible to abandon your child like that? How about “abandonment” laws? True, she gave him to the care of another; but Eli wasn’t that great of a caretaker. He had a poor record with his own sons, so what made him fit to be a father to Samuel?

At the least, the story is unconventional. And yet, God used Hannah’s barrenness—and the desperate cry her barrenness generated—to answer her prayer and give her a son. The cry of a desperate mother enabled God to procure, in Samuel, the prophet He needed to transition the nation of Israel from the era of the judges to the era of the kings.

Daniel

In the days when Babylon was the ruling world empire, Babylon invaded Israel and took Daniel, along with many other Jews, back to Babylon. Because of his wisdom, Daniel was promoted to a place of political prominence in the kingdom. Later, when Babylon was conquered by Persia, Daniel continued to serve in a place of eminence in the empire. He had so much favor with the king that the princes of Persia grew envious.

The princes conspired a way to get rid of Daniel. Under false pretenses, they convinced the king to enact a decree that no one be allowed to pray to any god but the king for thirty days (see Daniel 6). If someone prayed to another, they were to be thrown into the lion’s den.

As soon as Daniel learned that this legislation had been signed into law by the king, he went to his home, opened his window toward Jerusalem, and prayed to his God. He would allow nothing to stop his practice of praying three times a day to the God of Israel. If he could no longer pray legal prayers, then he would pray illegal prayers.

And his illegal prayers got him into serious trouble. He was arrested and thrown into the lion’s den. But God stood by His man, sent His angel, and shut the mouths of the lions. What started as illegal prayers ended in a mighty deliverance.

Isaiah

In the book of Isaiah, God invited us to pray in a manner that strikes the reader as illegal or, at the very least, irreverent.

Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; and concerning the work of My hands, you command Me” (Isa. 45:11).

Some translations have reworded the verse to make it more palatable, but our translation here is altogether accurate. God is actually inviting His servants to command Him to do what they want.

Commanding God? Telling God what to do? Isn’t that presumptuous, arrogant, and disrespectful of His sovereignty? Isn’t that kind of praying illegal?

The Overcrowded House

Here’s another story that somehow seems to be suspiciously unlawful:

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12).

We know that Jesus broke many rules of His day. He ate with unwashed hands; He allowed His disciples to pick and eat grain on the Sabbath; He told a cripple to carry his bed on the Sabbath, etc. But in this story, He broke one of my rules! I have a rule that says you must repent before you can be forgiven. But here, Jesus forgives a man who didn’t even repent of his sins. Can you do that? Is that legal?

Furthermore, the four men who brought him to Jesus broke the law. Folks, you can’t just take apart somebody’s roof, even if your motives are noble. Call it breaking and entering. Call it vandalism. Whatever you want to call it, it’s illegal.

But Jesus called it faith. And healed the man.

Woman with a Hemorrhage

Here’s still another biblical instance where laws were broken. There was a woman in Israel who had a problem in her reproductive organs that precipitated ongoing blood loss. None of the physicians she consulted could staunch the flow of blood; instead, her condition grew worse.

One day she heard that Jesus of Nazareth would be passing through town. Jesus! The Son of God! The Healer! It’s now or never. Faith filled her heart. If I could just touch the hem of His garment, I know that would be enough. I know I would be healed of this infirmity.

But there was a problem. The law of Moses commanded that anyone with this kind of bodily discharge live sequestered and isolated from the community (Num. 5:2). Such a person was ceremonially “unclean,” meaning they were prohibited from coming into the temple to worship while thus defiled. Furthermore, Moses’ law explained that, if a person who was unclean because of a hemorrhage touched someone else, the other person would be defiled by that touch and rendered ceremonially unclean as well—that is, unable to worship in the temple until ceremonially cleansed (Lev. 15:19). God considered it unjust for an unclean person to defile others through physical contact, even though their personal problem was unfortunate. So He passed a law stipulating that an unclean person must be quarantined from others until cured.

The law, therefore, prohibited this woman from mixing in public places. And yet, Jesus was thronged by multitudes. How could she possibly touch the hem of His garment when He was surrounded by such masses? Furthermore, everyone in town knew she lived in seclusion because of uncleanness. If they saw her in the crowd, they would thrust her out immediately. What could she possibly do to get within touching distance of Jesus?

She grabbed a shawl, draped it across her shoulders, and pulled it down over her head. Then bending low so that her face was not visible to anyone, she began to shove her way through the crowd.

As she pushed through the legs of the crowd, she might have whispered, “Excuse me,” under her breath. Each person she wiggled past and brushed against was defiled by her physical contact. “Excuse me, sorry about that.” She wasn’t meaning to defile others; she simply had no other option. “Pardon me, sorry about that.” But she continued to push and shove her way to Jesus.

By the time she got to Jesus, she had broken the law some 235 times (or however many people she had touched on her way to Jesus). That’s why, when Jesus called out, “Who touched My clothes?” she trembled in fear and tried to hide. She didn’t want to be exposed as having violated Moses’ law countless times in order to receive her healing.

When she could hide no longer, she fell before Jesus and told Him everything. How did Jesus respond to her illegal quest? He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

What kind of faith is so bold that it is willing to defile even the Son of God Himself in order to get an answer?

This woman knew that to touch His garment, she would have to push past a crowd of opinions. So will you. There are all kinds of rational voices that will try to talk you out of pushing through to Jesus’ hem.

“You deserve hell, so just be thankful for what you’ve got.”

“He’s already done so much for you, if He never does another thing for you, it’s more than enough.”

“You just need to focus on giving glory to God, whether by life or by death.”

“This is not about you.”

I agree with all of you. You have great theology. But get out of my way. I’ve got to touch Jesus!

Jesus Advocates Illegal Prayers

These examples of illegal prayers in the Bible serve to substantiate the scenario Jesus painted in Luke 11 with our fictitious characters, Jim and Dave. By having Jim on Dave’s doorstep at midnight and refusing to remove himself—which is against the law—Jesus was advocating illegal prayers. Jesus was intimating, “You have a relationship with God. Go for broke. Break the law. Forget the rules. Push the envelope. Violate protocol. Brook no denial. Demand attention.”

Jesus’ message here is quite startling. “You’re a beloved friend—a child of God. So ditch propriety. Go for the jugular. Call the question. Press the point. Strain the relationship. Despise political correctness. Contravene convention. Test the limits. Cross the line. Throw caution to the wind. Pray illegal prayers.”

When you go to offering such bold prayers, you might want to keep your voice down—because if someone overhears your prayer, he might step aside, fearing a lightning strike. “You’re not supposed to talk to God like that!”

But that eavesdropper is not the one with whom you have this friendship, and he’s not the one to whom you’re praying. So just move yourself out of his earshot, and talk to your Friend.

If you enjoyed this excerpt and want to learn more about my newest book, Illegal Prayers, you can click here.