Three Reasons to Teach on the Fear of the Lord

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What is the fear of the Lord? Consider this definition: A trembling zeal to obey every word of His mouth. It’s a treasure He gives His favorites (Isa 33:6).

The fear of the Lord was a powerful component in the atmosphere of the early church in the book of Acts. It preserved the integrity of the church in an era of explosive growth. In contrast, we don’t hear much about it today.

Why do we tend to minimize or overlook teaching on the fear of the Lord? When we neglect it, it’s for all the wrong reasons. It’s time to dig up this doctrine, dust it off, and equip today’s believers and also our own children in this essential ingredient to a healthy Christian walk.

I’d like to suggest three reasons to teach the fear of the Lord to this generation.

  1. We don’t understand it as we should.

Some people have a skewed concept of God. For example, some think of Him as such a merciful and gracious heavenly Father that there is nothing in Him His children need fear. On the opposite extreme, others have been put off by the caricature of a God who is always in a foul mood and looking for ways to punish His enemies.

If the fear of the Lord causes you to back away from Him, you haven’t been taught in the true fear of the Lord. Taught properly, it draws us forward into His heart. Those who truly tremble before Him run into His arms, wrap themselves around Him, and in awe and reverence cling to Him for their very lives.

There is no contradiction between His fear and His goodness. They actually go together. Hosea showed us that when we understand His goodness, it sets our heart to trembling (Hos 3:5).

Somebody needs to say it to this generation, “Never fear the fear of the Lord!” Let’s show them how to run into it and wrap their arms around it. It’s the wisest thing they’ll ever do (Pro 9:10). It’s safe, clean, and it endures forever (Ps 19:9). We need to teach this stuff.

  1. Since Jesus taught it, so should we.

Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord (Isa 11:3). In His teaching, He laid open the profound paradox that is found in Exodus 20:20. He began by charging us to fear God: “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5). But then two verses later He said, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7). He said, “Fear Him! Do not fear therefore.” He taught that we are to fear—and not to fear—both at the same time.

Do I fear God? Of course not! He’s my Father! I run into His arms with brazen boldness because of the blood of Jesus. I can interrupt any conversation He’s having because I’m His son and have constant access to Him. But do I fear God? I’m terrified of Him! He’s a consuming fire, His name is Jealous, He chastens His children, and He holds me accountable for my attitudes and actions.

I fear Him, therefore, and I don’t fear Him. This is the fear of the Lord as Jesus taught it. And those who teach in their Master’s shadow will also proclaim this important truth.

  1. The benefits of the fear of the Lord are too marvelous to forfeit.

I like to listen to podcasts by Christian leaders, but I don’t remember hearing a podcast on this topic. Is it just that I haven’t found the right podcasts? Or are we generally quiet on topics that would awaken believers to the benefits of fearing the Lord?

For starters, here are some benefits:

  • God remembers forever those who fear Him (Ps 103:17).
  • He lavishes blessings (Ps 112:1), mercy (Ps 103:11), and sustenance (Ps 111:5) on those who fear Him.
  • He dwells with those who tremble at His word (Isa 66:2).
  • His fear enables us to become partakers of His holiness, and produces in our lives the fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:10-11).
  • The fear of the Lord releases grace to serve a God who is a consuming fire (Heb 12:28-29).
  • It empowers obedience (Pro 16:6).
  • He tells secrets to those who fear Him (Ps 25:14).

When you are teaching people in the fear of the Lord, you are engaged in one of the highest privileges available to God’s servants.

22 WAYS TO FIND JESUS IN THE BOOK OF JOB

Jesus in JobSome people struggle with the book of Job because, when they look at the life of Jesus, they can’t find anything in the ministry of Jesus that corresponds to Job’s story. They decide, therefore, that they can’t find Jesus in the book of Job. But I think they’ve stopped just short. They should have gone a bit further and looked at His cross. Because when you look at the cross, you find all kinds of similarities to Job’s experience.

If Job’s early success corresponds to Christ’s earthly ministry, his trial corresponds to Christ’s death, and his restoration corresponds to Christ’s resurrection.

I decided to start collecting similitudes between Job’s ordeal and the cross of Christ. My collection continues to grow, but here are some ways to see Jesus in the book of Job.

1. In the book of Job, the most upright man on earth (Job 1:8) suffers the most of anyone on earth. That definitely reminds me of Christ’s cross.

2. Trembling with pain, Job cried, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there” (Job 1:21). That statement describes Jesus perfectly, who died naked on a cross.

3. Job was so disfigured by his sufferings that his friends didn’t recognize him (Job 2:12). Similarly, Jesus’ “visage was marred more than any man” at His execution (Isa 52:14).

4. Eliphaz taunted Job to call out to God for help (Job 5:1). And they said of Christ at His death, “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him” (Matt 27:43).

5. Psalm 22 is a messianic psalm about Christ’s sufferings. Some of the things said by the Messiah in that psalm remind us of Job’s speeches. For example, consider this comparison.
“They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion” (Ps 22:13).
“They gape at me with their mouth, they strike me reproachfully on the cheek, they gather together against me (Job 16:10).

6. Job cried out, “O earth, do not cover my blood” (Job 16:18). We are grateful today that the earth didn’t cover Jesus’ blood, but that it speaks before God on our behalf.

7. Job bemoaned, “Why do You hide Your face, and regard me as Your enemy?” (13:24). This reminds us of Jesus cry on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Both Job and Jesus asked the why question.

8. In the hour when Job needed his friends most, they failed him. Same for Jesus. At His arrest, His friends forsook Him.

9. When you look at the source of Job’s trial, you realize Job was attacked by people, by Satan, and by God. And when you look at the cross, you realize that Jesus was killed by the same trilogy. He was crucified by people (the Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders), by Satan (who entered Judas Iscariot, and who filled the Jewish leaders with envy), and by God (who gave His Son for us all).

10. Job’s best friend, Eliphaz, became so frustrated at Job that he leveled concocted charges at his friend (Job 22:6-9). Similarly, Jesus was falsely accused by false witnesses at His trial before the high priest.

11. Job was raised up from his sufferings when He interceded for his friends. (Job 42:7-10). And Jesus was raised up as our great Intercessor, Heb. 7:25.

12. When God accepted Job (42:9) He raised him up; when God accepted Christ’s sacrifice (Rom 4:25) He raised Him up.

13. In the bitterness of his soul, Job cried, “He destroys the blameless and the wicked” (Job 9:22). And when you look at the three crosses on Golgotha’s hill, you’re looking at the death of both the blameless and the wicked.

14. Job and Jesus are both cornerstones. As the first book of the Bible put on paper, the book of Job is the cornerstone of the edifice we call Holy Scripture. And Jesus was called the cornerstone of the church (Ps 118:22; Isa 28:16).

15. In placing the book on Job’s story as the cornerstone of Scripture, the Holy Spirit put in place a foundation stone that was pointing ahead to the cross of Christ. Job was the first signpost of Scripture to the cross.

16. Job had to endure horrific suffering in order to qualify as the cornerstone of Scripture; and Jesus had to endure an agonizing death in order to qualify as the High Priest of our confession and as the cornerstone of the church. Suffering qualified both of them for a greater rank.

17. God said this to Satan about Job: “You incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:30). Job did nothing wrong to deserve his suffering. Nor did Christ. He was a blameless sacrifice.

18. Job spoke of his sufferings as labor, Job 9:29. And Christ was said to labor for our salvation on the cross, Isa. 53:11.

19. In order for men of all ages to gain consolation from Job’s example, Job had to suffer in every major area of life (family, relationships, finances, livelihood, and physical health). And in order to save sufferers of every generation, Christ had to suffer in every area of life.

20. Both Job and Jesus suffered in the will of God (1 Pet 4:19).

21. Job said, “He did not hide deep darkness from my face” (Job 23:17). And Scripture said of the Father that He “did not spare His own Son” (Rom 8:32).

22. Furthermore, I see Jesus in the book of Job when Job said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5). Referring to the Father, John said that “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18; 1 Jo 4:12). Therefore, it seems evident that when Job saw God, he saw Christ. It was Jesus Christ Himself who interrogated and exonerated Job in Job 38-42. With the words of Jesus Himself quoted in the last five chapters of Job’s book, His presence in the book seems clear and undeniable.

Some have supposed that the cross rendered the book of Job obsolete and no longer relevant for our lives. To the contrary, the cross confirmed the glory of Job’s story and emphasized its relevance for New Covenant believers. Every time you read the book of Job, I hope you are now able to see more and more of Jesus in that marvelous book.

To go deeper in the book of Job, see Bob’s book on Job here, click here.

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

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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.

BEEN BURNED BY SIN?

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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.

JOB THE PIONEER

pioneer

The following is an excerpt from Pain, Perplexity and Promotion.

As the first book of the Bible written, Job becomes a precedent-setting book.  When the Holy Spirit prepared to inspire Holy Scripture, He calculated very purposefully how He would direct its formation.  It’s not an accident or mere happenstance that the Holy Spirit started the whole thing off with Job.

Cornerstone Of Scripture

Job is an incredibly strategic book.  As the first building block of all Scripture, it serves as the initial cornerstone of all inspired revelation.  If the cornerstone is in place correctly, the rest of the building can rise in perfect alignment and symmetry.  If the cornerstone is awry, the entire building will be planted on a skewed foundation and will eventually crumble.

Under “the law of first mention” (discussed in Chapter Three) the entire book of Job takes on a special significance as the first Bible book written.  Thus, Job is a ground-breaking, foundation-laying, pioneering, apostolic book that becomes the cornerstone of all theology.  It is the beginning basis for our understanding of God and His ways.

If your foundation is wrong, the whole building is weak.  When the Lord visited me personally with calamity, I felt like He took the foundation of all my theological understandings, swept them out from under my feet, tenderly watched me crash, and then He slowly began to remove the rubble and start the rebuilding process.  And He said, “We’re going to rebuild this whole thing on the book of Job.”

A Primer On Spiritual Warfare

As the first Bible book written, the book of Job constitutes a primer on spiritual warfare, charting the perplexing territory between God’s sovereign purposes, Satan’s harassments, and people’s opinions.

Job had the hand of God on him, the hand of Satan on him, and the hand of man on him—and he couldn’t distinguish between them.  He became dizzy with trying to sort through the whole tangled mess, because he couldn’t really identify clearly from which direction things were hitting him.

The Job crucible is a place of great perplexity.  When you’re in the fire, you don’t know where the heat is coming from, or why.  Your head begins to swim as you’re caught in the swirl of trying discern cause and effect.

Job is apostolic in that he pioneered the whole arena of spiritual warfare.  He was the first one to ever document in Scripture his woundings on the perplexing battleground of spiritual warfare.  Job is in the battle of his life, warring with God’s sovereign purposes, Satan’s evil incitements, people’s carnal reproaches, and the imperfect realities of a fallen world—all elements involved in spiritual warfare.  Thus, even though Job is rarely mentioned at spiritual warfare conferences, the book of Job is a primer on spiritual warfare.

Job is sailing in uncharted waters.  He is going where no man has gone before.  He’s drawing the first map we have of spiritual warfare’s battleground.  Map-makers always pay a great personal price for bearing the distinguishing honor of being the first to traverse virgin territory.  The early explorers laid down maps of America literally at the price of human lives (disease, shipwreck, starvation, deprivation, hardship, etc.).  As the Scriptures unfold, the map of spiritual warfare will gain greater clarity, but Job is to be honored for the toll he took in giving us the first primitive map of spiritual warfare’s hazards.  Forerunners always pay a price.

Job is stepping on landmines, and they’re exploding in his face because no one else had ever stepped there before!  To explain, I’ll use the example of what he says in 19:11, “‘He has also kindled His wrath against me, and He counts me as one of His enemies.’”  Job thought God was treating him like an enemy, but in fact God was counting Job as one of His friends!  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).  Job didn’t realize God had wounded him in His kindness, and so Job accuses God of treating him like an enemy.  This is one reason God later says to Job, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (38:2).  Job will learn this lesson (and many others) by the time the battle is over, but he’ll have triggered many landmines in the process.

So here’s Job, all bloody from the latest bomb that has exploded in his face, and he hoarsely whispers to us, “Don’t step there, that thing will blow your leg off.”  And then contemporary readers will stand back in the safety of their comfortable perch and criticize him.  “Job shouldn’t have spoken like that,” they say.  “He had a lot of bad attitudes!”  In one sense that’s true, but I just want to say this about Job:  Give the guy a break!  He had no Scriptures, no map, no prophetic word, no witness from someone else who had walked this way before.  He was the first one!  So rather than being critical of him, I think we should be extremely grateful for a godly man who was faithful to God through the greatest maze of perplexity that any man had ever encountered up to that point in human history.

The Most Misunderstood Book

The book of Job is one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible.  Until you’ve lived a little bit of it, it’s virtually impossible to understand it properly.  I realize this book is unique from many other commentaries on Job.  I would read commentaries on Job, look at their analysis, and say to myself, “This author has never lived this thing.”  It wasn’t until I began to live through some hard things that the book of Job began to open to me.

I know some people wish Job wasn’t in the Bible.  Because I was once one of them.  I had the experience in my early years of ministry of preparing a sermon, and being very impressed with it.  “This thing slices; it dices; it pops; it sizzles.”  I could see it: this sermon will have Satan’s hordes cowering at the gates of hell, and it will have the saints on their feet, cheering.  The sermon was perfect, a well-fashioned arrow, except for one little “fly in the ointment”:  the book of Job.  Everything else in the Bible seemed to support my beautifully crafted sermon, but the book of Job was the one book that seemed to contradict it.  What about Job?  Can I just preach my sermon and forget about the fact that the book of Job exists?

No I can’t, not any longer.  Now I see it.  If it doesn’t line up with the book of Job, it’s got to go, because the book of Job establishes the theological framework against which all other theological understandings must be measured.  If you get Job wrong, then nothing else can be fully right.

As the endtime storms hit this planet, everything that can be shaken will be shaken (Hebrews 12:27-28).  The only theological framework that will not be totally shaken in the last hour will be one that is firmly fixed in a true knowledge of the God of Job.

So now the question becomes one of paramount importance:  what is the book of Job all about?

The Book’s Theme

I want to express in one broad, general sentence what I believe is happening in the book.  To uncover this understanding was a very long and painful journey personally, and it carries great implications that I will articulate in the rest of this book.  So here it is:  In broad strokes, the life of Job is a pattern for all believers of how God takes a blameless, godly man, with a life of personal purity and a yes in his spirit, and brings him through the fire to a higher inheritance.

Job came out of the crucible with a life message that has spoken to God’s people ever since.  Here are some of the poignant truths Job’s life declares:

•     Sometimes God is totally perplexing.

•     There are things going on in the spirit dimension that you don’t see.

•     If you’ve been walking blamelessly and faithfully before God, and something incredibly mystifying and even traumatic happens to you which seems to have no reasonable cause, then heighten your spiritual alertnessGod might be in the process of bringing you into spiritual promotion.

•     If you will guard your purity, increase your pursuit of God, and commit yourself to unquestioning obedience, He will eventually unfold His purposes to you.

•     Realize that God loves to glorify Himself by salvaging the calamities of his saints, producing the superlative out of the impossible.

A Pattern To Get Your Bearings

Job’s life message serves as a model or a pattern against which others can measure God’s disciplines in their lives.  When you have a grid for measuring what is happening in your life, you’re able to cooperate with God’s purposes.  But without that grid or pattern you’re very likely to partner with the accuser, cop an attitude toward God, and end up aborting the process.  Without any prototype for understanding God’s dealings, it’s very difficult to say, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word” (Psalm 119:65).  Instead, it’s easy to echo the accusation of the Israelites, “‘It is useless to serve God’” (Malachi 3:14).  God wants us to steer clear of that pitfall so He has given us the pattern of Job.

Job, then, was a pioneer, a pathfinder, a forerunner whom God baptized into “the School of the Spirit,” in order that he might serve as a living parable to all generations after him.  His life serves as a compass, enabling us to get our bearings when we’re under the disciplines of God.

Sometimes we think we know who God is.  God says, “None of you know who I am!  Unless I show you.”  So God devastated every understanding Job thought he had of God and began to rebuild Job’s theology on the truth of Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways.”  So Paul cried, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).

God operates in a dimension that totally surpasses our human analysis.  And here’s a signature of God’s ways:  He loves to redeem impossible messes.  He loves entangled imbroglios that have no human solution, that are hopeless catastrophes apart from divine intervention.

Sometimes God allows the saint to be reduced to seeming defeat, filled with anguish and reproach, with Satan gleefully savoring his upper hand.  Or sometimes the saint is trapped by crushing circumstances beyond his control.  When it appears that God has abandoned you, Job would cry out:  “Don’t quit!  Trust God!  It’s never too late!  This is the kind of situation God loves!”

In some situations, God steps back and says, “Too easy.  If I step in now, they won’t glorify My name for the answer.”  Thus He waits things out a bit, and lets the situation become even more critical so that there will be no question about the source when He intervenes with His sovereign deliverance.  He loves to do the impossible!

Job Helped Abraham

Earlier, I emphasized the fact that Job pre-dated Abraham.  Here’s why:  It’s very likely that Job served as a forerunner for Abraham, helping Abraham interpret God’s hand in his life.

God had said to Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2).  Basically God said, “Kill your son.”

But Abraham also knew what God had said to Noah, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Genesis 9:6).  So Abraham faced a crossroads:  “Do I follow my theology, or do I follow the voice?”  In that moment of critical decision, it’s very possible that Abraham thought to himself, “Job!  I’m in a Job situation!  God is vaporizing my theology.  If I’m faithful like Job was, God will lead me to a higher place.”  Part of the reason Abraham was able to cooperate with God’s purposes was because he had Job.

Redemption’s Greatest Crossroads

In fact, I want to suggest that Job became a forerunner for the most eminent of saints, helping them navigate the greatest crisis points of redemptive history.  At the crucial crossroads of God’s redemptive plan, when everything  was at stake, Job’s life served as a pattern enabling them to make the right choice.

Joseph didn’t realize that he stood at a vital juncture of God’s purposes.  Everything was in the balance.  Would Joseph respond properly to his enslavement and imprisonment?  If he would blow it, there would be no sovereign provision for Jacob’s family during the seven years of terrible famine.  Thankfully, Joseph had Job!  Job provided Joseph with a grid for understanding the pain of his prison, empowering him to persevere successfully to the completion of God’s purposes.

Moses also stood at a critical crossroads of God’s redemptive plan.  Would Moses respond properly to the shattered dreams, to the unfulfilled promises, to the seeming abandonment by God?  If he would pass the test, God would have a man to lead His people forth from Egypt.  Thankfully, Moses had Job!  Job’s journey became a model that enabled Moses to walk forward into God’s highest and best.

David was another man at a critical crossroads.  He was anointed as king, but was running for his life from Saul.  Every promise of God seemed to be violated.  If David would respond properly in this crucible, he would emerge with the promise of an eternal throne.  If he would give up, how could we call Jesus the Son of David?  Thankfully, David had Job!  Job’s example gave David the courage to persevere unto God’s highest and best.

We are now facing another critical moment in God’s plan:  the return of Christ.  In preparation for Christ’s coming, God is taking many of His servants through the Job crucible.  A fire has been kindled in the earth to awaken the bride with passion for her Bridegroom.  Will she persevere to the end, or will she abort God’s purposes?  Thankfully, she has Job!

Everybody  had Job for an example, except for one man: Job!  This is why Job is so admirable.  He persevered through the crucible with no predecessor, no forerunner, no pattern from which to gain comfort.  Job had nobody.  He was charting virgin territory, going where no man had gone before.  He was making an unprecedented foray onto the swirling battleground of spiritual warfare, where God’s purposes and Satan’s incitements and people’s opinions combine to season the soul.

As a result of Job’s faithfulness, God decided to use his example to comfort every generation, providing them with a compass to help them interpret their pathway.  We enjoy the same benefit today.  Instead of aborting His purposes in our lives, we are now able to cooperate with His grace and enter into our highest inheritance.

This post is an excerpt from the book Pain, Perplexity and Promotion.  You can click here to learn more about the book and order a copy.