A faith that leads to new realities

Exhibiting true faith in God provides him the means with which to be glorified in ways beyond our imagination.

Exhibiting true faith in God provides him the means with which to be glorified in ways beyond our imagination.

The prophet Samuel was one of the greatest prophets to arise in ancient Israel. His mother, Hannah, was a woman of great faith. Even though she had been childless for many years, she steadfastly trusted in Yahweh through the depth of the emotional trauma she experienced at lacking the ability to conceive.

1 Samuel 1:10-11 – She was deeply distressed and prayed to Yahweh and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Yahweh of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

This is the prayer of someone of great faith. Hannah was placing all of her trust in the One whom she knew could provide for her deepest need, even though she could not yet see the results of that faith. In the anguish of her heart, she prayed silently but earnestly in the presence of the Eli, the high priests at that time, who inadvertently thought she was muttering to herself due to drinking.

1 Samuel 1:15-17 – But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before Yahweh. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.”

Hannah replied to Eli that she had been “pouring out her soul” before Yahweh. The Hebrew phrase means to spill over, or gush out. This describes the intensity with which she prayed to God, and exhibits the depth of the anguish in her very soul.

I can recall in my own life only a handful of times where I have prayed with a similar level of intensity. Yet it was in those times of my deepest anguish that I also felt closest to the presence of God. God seems to reward our honesty within ourselves with his own presence; when all of our defenses are broken down and we are left alone with only the bare root of some raw emotion. It is as if the intensity of our experience and the diminishment of self somehow thins the veil between the natural and the supernatural, and suddenly we somehow sense his presence, even though he is always there. This type of deep communion with God when we have reached the end of ourselves is the most honest expression of faith. In Hannah’s case, it resulted in the granting of her desire for a son.

1 Samuel 1:20 – And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from Yahweh.”

This event so strongly influenced Hannah that she could only rejoice in the blessing of receiving what she had asked for.

1 Samuel 2:1-2 – And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in Yahweh; my horn is exalted in Yahweh. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like Yahweh: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.”

I believe it was this intensity of Hannah’s’ faith that provided the foundation for Samuel to become one of the strongest and most influential prophets Israel had ever known. Her practical experience of God’s providential working in her life set the tone that allowed her to guide and direct the small boy Samuel to God’s service in the tabernacle. Her faith spilled over into the blank canvas of her son’s life which then resulted in the establishment of a kingdom and the oversight of the direction of an entire ancient nation.

We must never underestimate the influence of our sincere faith as it affects the lives around us in ways that God can use for his purpose and glory, and in ways that we may not even be able to fathom. This is how faith in God can move mountains.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Love, prayer, and forgiveness

To conquer evil, believers must do good and pray for others, and then forgive when repentance occurs.

To conquer evil, believers must do good and pray for others, and then forgive when repentance occurs.

Matthew 5:44-45 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

When it comes to those who are enemies or who are contrary to us, we have two commands from Yeshua: love them and pray for them. In this way, he says we will be children of our Father in heaven.

In the examples he provides, Yeshua’s definition of love is something along the lines of: to do good to someone else even if they don’t deserve it. He uses the example of God shining his sun and sending the watering rains on everyone, regardless if they acknowledge him or not. This serves two purposes: it illustrates God as the Creator over all, and it highlights his equal care for those he has created, whether they return his care and concern or not. When we treat others in this fashion, says Yeshua, we are acting like our Father in heaven, and can rightly be called his children.

When it comes to forgiveness, we are instructed by Yeshua to forgive others only when they come to us asking for it. Forgiveness by us is required when someone has wronged us and is repentant, asking for our forgiveness. It is then that we must not withhold our forgiveness, even though we may be hurt and wounded by the offense. If they come to us seeking forgiveness, no matter how many times, we must do so.

Matthew 18:21-22 – Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.”

Forgiveness is not something that is offered when there is no repentance; even God does not provide that. In those instances, we are to continue to love (do undeserved good things) and pray for them. However, when someone sincerely comes to us in recognition of the error of their ways against us, we must forgive regardless of the offense. This is the way God forgives, and his forgiveness is complete.

It is easy to get all of these terms mixed up in our heads and to think we are required to provide forgiveness to enemies who are unrepentant, since we are to love our enemies. No, we are to love our enemies by doing good to them and praying for them even though we may not feel they deserve it, but we must do so sincerely with the desire to see them repent. In this way, we are acting as God does toward all people.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 – First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

After loving others by doing good things for them and sincerely praying for them, it should prompt them to repent.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and Yahweh will reward you.

The “burning coals on his head” is the ashamedness that someone would feel when you have returned good for their evil. In fact, the apostle Paul quotes this same proverb and then adds:

Romans 12:21 – Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

When we do good and pray that repentance occurs, then we are to offer forgiveness based on their repentance. Love and prayer come first, then forgiveness comes when repentance is demonstrated. In this way, we act like our Father in heaven and honor the way of living that brings glory to his Name.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The solitude of intimate prayer

Regular times of private prayer are where we can have the closest communion with Yahweh.

Regular times of private prayer are where we can have the closest communion with Yahweh.

Yeshua encouraged his followers to practice times of quiet prayer to God. This seems to have been to encourage an intimacy where religiosity had been responsible for conveying something different. We can learn what those religious practices were by the admonition of Messiah to do the opposite.

For example, it appears to have been the practice of the pagan religious leaders to prepare lengthy prayers with the hopes of convincing their gods to pay attention to their petitions.

Matthew 6:7-8 – “When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.”

It must also have been the practice of the Jewish religious leaders to enjoy praying publicly in a measure of show to the crowds that they were righteous. Yeshua names these religious leaders as hypocrites, a Greek word which means “actor, stage player, pretender.”

Matthew 6:5 – “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward.”

These are not the types of prayers that God desires of his people. No, Yeshua mentions how heart-followers of Yahweh should have a private and intimate relationship with him that is not dependent on long, showy prayers. This is the type of prayer that Yeshua himself practiced. In times of great challenge or decision-making, he sought the will of the Father in solitude.

Matthew 14:23 – After dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Well into the night, he was there alone.
Mark 6:45-46 – Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After he said good-bye to them, he went away to the mountain to pray.
Luke 6:12 – During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.

Of course, Yeshua taught his followers how they should pray by outlining what types of things they should pray for in his model prayer, what we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. But it was verse six in which he taught where they should pray:

Matthew 6:6 – “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

The prayer of the righteous individual is one of the heart. The heart is private and sincere. It must be sought out in solitude, as it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) in any way rely on the approval of others. For believers, the only one we should be seeking approval of is Yahweh, and ensuring that our lives are ones that honor him. This is how we are set apart, this is what makes us holy.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Communion with God

The deepest relationships are built over shared communication, not one-way conversations.

Psalm 5:1-3 – Listen to my words, Yahweh; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to you. In the morning, Yahweh, you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.

This psalm is attributed to David and is contextually a prayer for protection of the wickedness of his enemies. However, there is a common biblical principle embedded in the verses of this psalm that, if applied on a regular basis, can enhance our communication with God.

At the end of verse 3, David says, “in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.” This Hebrew word translated as expectantly is sometimes rendered as “look up, eagerly watch, look forward, or look out expectantly.” The definition of the word means, “to lean forward, i.e., to peer into the distance; by implication, to observe, await.” The idea is to present an earnest request to God and then to eagerly wait for an answer. It’s not as if one prays and then goes about their usual business, but instead after praying they remain or immediately go to a place where they intently wait for a response from God, not doing any other activities until they have heard from him.

In the time of the prophet Habakkuk, God was raising up the Chaldeans against unfaithful Israel, and Habakkuk would pray to God and then God would answer him in a reciprocal fashion; this became the text of the prophecy and the outline of the book. However, this same Hebrew word is used again as Habakkuk delivers his plea to Yahweh, and then describes his time of waiting for an answer:

Habakkuk 2:1 – I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

Habakkuk committed himself to “look out” to see how God would respond, and to formulate his next response. It is my belief that this type of back-and-forth communication is something that God desires to have with all of his children. Yet we typically become so distracted with the things of this life that, after presenting a request or question to God, we run off and go about our business hoping to somehow receive some sort of subconscious sign or indication of God’s response to us. In that self-induced busy-ness, I think we sometimes miss what he actually does respond to us, and we assume that his “silence” on a matter is an indication that he has left us to our own devices.

We need to slow down and savor our relationship with our Creator. We don’t build real relationships with other people over text or messaging or “tweeting.” For those who are important to us in this life, we carve out time in our days and evenings to spend time with them, sharing activities and long conversations with them. The back-and-forth discussions provide insights into each other’s thoughts and emotions that actually bind us to each other.

If we truly want to have a relationship with God, we must do the same. We need to provide some room in our days and nights to spend quality time alone with him, bringing him our concerns, praying over difficult scripture passages, seeking answers to to life challenges we face with open hearts and open Bibles in our laps. And then we need to do the most important thing: we need to listen, expectantly waiting to hear what direction or insight, comfort or correction he may have for us.

This is how close friends and family members communicate effectively. This is what it means to be a child of God in communion with him.

Micah 7:7 AMP – But as for me, I will look expectantly for Yahweh and with confidence in Him I will keep watch; I will wait [with confident expectation] for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The formula for eradicating evil in the world

Loving others is both an inward motivation and an outward practicality.

Core of the Bible podcast #42 – The formula for eradicating evil in the world

Today we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness lies at the root of all reconciliation and overcoming dissension between individuals. We will see that through forgiveness and love, all evil can be overcome.

Yeshua stated it this way:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. … You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:38, 43-44

This teaching of Yeshua is one of the most widely known yet least practiced of all of his precepts. This is because it is non-intuitive and frankly, difficult. It involves two aspects, both an inward motivation and an outward practicality.

We know that the Bible teaches us our inward motivations spur our outward actions.

Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

Since Yeshua teaches us that inward understanding and wisdom drives outward actions and behavior, let’s begin our review of this passage by looking at his admonition to what our inward motivation should be in loving others.

Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

For us to practice loving our enemies through our outward actions, we must first actually love them. Even writing or saying a statement like this runs counter to every basic instinct and inclination we have been exposed to in our culture. We have been brought up to be wary of others to avoid the risk of being taken advantage of. We gauge every interaction with an eye toward what angle is being played, or what harm we could possibly receive by misjudging someone else’s intent.

To this, Yeshua simply says to love them. Easy to say, not so easy to do. How do you love someone whom you know has harmed you in some way and is not deserving of your love? Forgive them, so your love can be real. What about someone who is trying to take advantage of you? Here’s one way: give them the advantage.

Is there a chance your forgiveness will be disregarded? Yes, but maintain that forgiveness anyway. Is there a chance you will be taken advantage of? Yes. But continue to give advantage anyway. These possibilities (and quite frankly, likely outcomes) do not change Yeshua’s direction to love others through forgiving them and giving them advantage.

Peter also struggled with this concept in a discussion with Yeshua about forgiveness of others:

Matthew 18:21-22 – Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.

Yeshua then goes on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant who would not forgive a small debt from someone else after he had just been forgiven of a huge personal debt from his own master. Yeshua said he would be punished for not passing on the forgiveness he received to others, and concludes with, “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart,” (Matthew 18:35).

Love and forgiveness need to come from the heart. They are two qualities tied at the hip. If we are unable to forgive, we are unable to love. If we are unable to love, we are unable to forgive. If we are unable to forgive and love, then we are also unable to pray for them. Yet Yeshua instructs us to not only love our enemies but to pray for them.

He demonstrated this himself even as the Roman soldiers were in the process of nailing him to a cross and executing him as a criminal among other criminals of the State.

Luke 23:33-34 – When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots.

Unfortunately, in our human quest for justice and fairness, we stumble over what we personally think is fair and right based on our limited perspective. Yeshua could only extend forgiveness to his enemies and pray for them because he never lost his perspective. What they did out of deliberate anger, he knew was done out of ignorance. They meant to wound him; he knew it was to heal them. They meant to humiliate him; he knew it was so they could be lifted up into God’s presence. They meant to kill him; he knew it was to save them.

Yeshua never lost the perspective that people are made in God’s image and that all are deserving of the benefit of the doubt when a situation may look otherwise. He could love them and pray for them because he knew who they really were, even if they didn’t.

If we could allow God to change our perspective to see that all others are made in God’s image and are merely souls who have possibly not yet met the God of the universe, we might have a different approach in our dealings with them. This type of perspective can provide us the inward motivation of love and forgiveness necessary to accomplish the outward actions which will likely seem just as contradictory when we do them.


Okay, so now that we have looked at our inward motivation of love and forgiveness, let’s go back to the beginning of this teaching of Yeshua to see how it should be worked out in our lives through our actions.

Matthew 5:38-42 – You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

In the life of the first-century Judeans, it was not unusual to be forced by the Roman military to carry supplies for them. In this example, Yeshua presents the measure of goodness he expected them to respond with needed to go above and beyond the unreasonable demand.

But something that has occurred to me in reviewing this passage recently is that this nature of giving is based on a multiplier. What Yeshua is implying through these examples is that our outward response should somehow be more than what an equal and reflexive response might be. We should be not only be non-resistant toward personal infractions, we should be doubly-giving in nature toward others.

For example, if someone is suing us for our shirt, we should double our goodness toward them by not only letting them have the shirt but the coat as well. If we were forced one mile of carrying supplies, then we should continue to do so by doubling the one mile into two.

This is a very practical, albeit difficult, principle that we can apply in situations that confront us every day. It involves us learning and training ourselves to respond in ways that honors God by doubling our goodness and generosity, not to merely respond in a reflexive way. By expending twice the effort in a positive manner than they demanded of us from a negative motivation, we would in essence be overcoming their evil intent with a double measure of good.

It’s simple math: a negative number plus a positive number of equal value only amounts to zero. It takes a positive number of higher value to end with a positive result.

Additionally, as we looked at previously, if we are inwardly motivated for their good by loving them and praying for them and their needs, we are removed from our reflexive, emotional response of like for like. We are now placing ourselves in a frame of mind, that godly perspective I mentioned earlier, which becomes concerned for their welfare. When we are in this mindset we can truly learn of their needs and then act doubly with genuine intention.

To show how this was an expected trait of the early believers and not just some lofty, speculative ideal, the apostle Paul instructs the Roman congregation with a similar admonition.

Romans 12:17-21 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.

Paul quotes this Torah teaching instructing on vengeance by highlighting that only God can effectively mete out justice because only he knows the end from the beginning; only he knows every possibility that could apply in a situation. Therefore he is the only perfect judge to mete out any type of vengeance. We are incapable of true vengeance because we have limited knowledge and understanding. We have emotions that get in the way of the wisdom and understanding we do have, therefore the best course of action for us is simply to love, and let God do the rest.

Paul continues quoting Torah to conclude his line of thinking:

But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.  Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Our clear directive here is to overcome evil by doing good to others. Paul’s encouragement is that not only will we not be conquered, but we will ultimately successfully overcome evil by doing good.

Yeshua encourages us to double our godly response toward evil intent through love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is that necessary bridge to positive, loving responses. When we intentionally overlook a personal injustice by forgiving them, we are freed to be obedient to God’s command to double our loving actions. If we do not exercise forgiveness, we may attempt to be obedient, but our actions can become only hollow shadows with no real substance.

The motivation Yeshua provides us for practicing this kind of forgiveness and love is because when we do so, we are mimicking him, and we are mimicking our heavenly Father. If Yeshua loved and prayed for his enemies, so should we. If God blesses the wicked with life and rain and abundance, not because they are deserving, but because he wishes for their repentance, then we should also produce actions that bless those who may be adversarial to us.

Paul used this type of thinking in his outreach to the Greeks who did not know God, and he calls God’s blessing of them through rain and abundance his “testimony of goodness.” When interacting with crowds in Iconium and Athens, he speaks about the nature of the true God, and he relates how God blesses them.

Acts 14:17 – Yet He has not left Himself without testimony to His goodness: He gives you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 17:26-27 – From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

God’s goal is that through his goodness to all in natural abundance should lead people to seek his spiritual goodness.

In the same way, our intentional actions based on forgiveness and love, then, become our personal “testimony of goodness.” As a result, God is honored, people can be reconciled to him, and all evil intentions can be overcome with love.

In summary then, the typical human response in relationships is to respond in kind to how we are treated by others (eye for eye and tooth for tooth). A nobler aspiration would be to treat all people with an equal measure of kindness. However, Yeshua calls us to the highest level of interaction: not just to be kind to all, but to expend twice the effort and concern over those who are least deserving of it. This is true love, and the formula for eradicating evil in the world.

If we are to represent God as his children, we should be doing what he does by blessing the undeserving as well as the deserving. If we claim to be followers of Yeshua, we should do what he does by loving and praying for our enemies. By doubling our loving response to all negative interactions, we boldly exhibit Yeshua’s teaching to a world who needs to know him, where they can then be brought back into a relationship with the loving God of the universe. This is how forgiveness and love can overcome all wickedness, and the only sure way that God’s kingdom will be manifested in this world.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Alert and thankful prayer that overcomes temptation

The victory over a trial or temptation is through prayer and the strengthening of God through his holy Spirit.

Core of the Bible podcast #39 – Alert and thankful prayer that overcomes temptation

Today we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how vigilance in alert and thankful prayer is a primary method of overcoming temptation and accomplishing God’s will on earth.

Matthew 26:40-41. And he [Yeshua] came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Yeshua was speaking this to Peter for the specific purpose of admonishing him to stay alert with him while he was praying in Gethsemane. However, this has become a type of universal admonition regarding prayer to avoid temptation, and not without good reason.

Praying to avoid temptation was a key teaching within Yeshua’s template for prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Based on the original word definitions, this can be expanded and paraphrased as “May we not be lead into adversity and hard testing; nevertheless, rescue us from anguish, harm, and all evil.”

Praying in this manner is a demonstration of vigilance. When praying to avoid temptation, 1) there is an awareness of the possibility of impending challenges and 2) there is also a recognition of God’s ability to provide assistance or escape.

The act of praying focuses the mind on the essential needs of the moment. This is necessary because vigilance also involves alertness and overcoming the distractions and limitations of fleshly influence. While our spirit may be willing, many times we become spiritually disoriented as worldly impulses (whether internal or external) overwhelm us.

Galatians 5:16-17 …walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Walking in the spirit includes a rich and abundant prayer life. Many believers, myself included, struggle to maintain a vital spiritual walk throughout the occurrences of each day.  It’s easy to push spiritual things into the background while we attempt to deal with the seemingly urgent issues we face each day. Consistently praying helps provide leverage over real fleshly distractions and desires, and allows us to truly walk in the Spirit.

Yeshua’s template, his model prayer for believers does include the phrase: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. This has been fertile soil for many commentators over the years to plant seeds for consideration in this question of overcoming temptation.

Benson Commentary

“And lead us not into temptation — the clause may be translated, Lead us not into temptation, but so as to deliver us from the evil, viz., either by removing the temptation, when it is too strong for us to withstand; or by mitigating its force, or by increasing our strength to resist it, as God shall see most for his glory. This correction of the translation, suggested by Macknight, is proposed on this ground; that to pray for an absolute freedom from temptation is to seek deliverance from the common lot of humanity, which is absurd; because temptations are wisely appointed by God for the exercise and improvement of piety and virtue in good men, and that others may be encouraged by the constancy and patience which they show in trials. Hence, instead of praying to be absolutely delivered from them, we are taught to rejoice when, by the divine appointment, we fall into them. See James 1.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

This petition teaches us to preserve a sense of our own inability to repel and overcome temptation, and of the necessity of assistance from above, to enable us to stand in the evil day.”

As for myself, I have sometimes wondered if God purposely places us in trying situations so we will learn to reach out to him more frequently. This type of logic says that if we are in the habit of praying to him during regular times, perhaps we will not need to be disciplined in as many trying times.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“And lead us not into temptation— There is some difficulty in the form of the petition, as it is certain that God does bring His people—as He did Abraham, and Christ Himself—into circumstances both fitted and designed to try them, or test the strength of their faith. Some meet this by regarding the petition as simply an humble expression of self-distrust and instinctive shrinking from danger; but this seems too weak. Others take it as a prayer against yielding to temptation, and so equivalent to a prayer for support and deliverance when we are tempted; but this seems to go beyond the precise thing intended. We incline to take it as a prayer against being drawn or sucked, of our own will, into temptation, to which the word here used seems to lend some countenance—”Introduce us not.” This view, while it does not put into our mouths a prayer against being tempted—which is more than the divine procedure would seem to warrant—does not, on the other hand, change the sense of the petition into one for support under temptation, which the words will hardly bear; but it gives us a subject for prayer, in regard to temptation, most definite, and of all others most needful. It was precisely this which Peter needed to ask, but did not ask, when—of his own accord, and in spite of difficulties—he pressed for entrance into the palace hall of the high priest, and where, once sucked into the scene and atmosphere of temptation, he fell so foully. And if so, does it not seem pretty clear that this was exactly what our Lord meant His disciples to pray against when He said in the garden—”Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”? (Mt 26:41).”

And to this I would add again, this idea of alertness in prayer means that we are spiritually aware of our situation and not just being carried along by our own desires. This is where we tend to fall into temptation: when we let our circumstances guide us instead of God’s good Counsel (through his Word and his Spirit) guiding us.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“But deliver us from evil— As the expression “from evil” may be equally well rendered “from the evil one,” a number or superior critics think the devil is intended, especially from its following close upon the subject of “temptation.” But the comprehensive character of these brief petitions, and the place which this one occupies, as that on which all our desires die away, seems to us against so contracted a view of it. Nor can there be a reasonable doubt that the apostle, in some of the last sentences which he penned before he was brought forth to suffer for his Lord, alludes to this very petition in the language of calm assurance—”And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work (compare the Greek of the two passages), and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2Ti 4:18). The final petition, then, is only rightly grasped when regarded as a prayer for deliverance from all evil of whatever kind—not only from sin, but from all its consequences—fully and finally. Fitly, then, are our prayers ended with this. For what can we desire which this does not carry with it?”

Vincent’s Word Studies

“It is a mistake to define this word [temptation] as only solicitation to evil. It means trial of any kind, without reference to its moral quality. Thus, Genesis 22:1 (Sept.), “God did tempt Abraham;” “This he said to prove him” (John 6:6); Paul and Timothy assayed to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7); “Examine yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Here, generally of all situations and circumstances which furnish an occasion for sin. We cannot pray God not to tempt us to sin, “for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).”

To my way of thinking while keeping an eye to the perspectives of these learned commentators, the thought here is that it is acceptable for us to pray to be kept from hard testing and temptation; Yeshua himself illustrated this prayer in Gethsemane:

Luke 22:41-42 – Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me ​– ​nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

As children of God, though we may need to suffer trials and temptations, things that God can use to try us and to refine us, we can still pray to be delivered safely through them. It’s ok to pray “Lord, if it is possible to avoid this trial, then please remove it from us. But if we must enter this trial, please strengthen us to remain pure and victorious over it.”

—–

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

I find it interesting that prayer is meant to be an activity in which our conscious awareness is alert and watchful. This implies that prayer is purposeful and intentional, not just something in which our rational thought is disengaged. In fact, it is just the opposite; as we can see in this selection of Scripture references, believers are encouraged to pray for very specific things at specific times:

Tenakh:

Num 21:7: “The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh, and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people.”

Jeremiah 42:1-3 – Then all the commanders of the armies, along with Johanan son of Kareah, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached the prophet Jeremiah and said, “May our petition come before you; pray to the LORD your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), “that the LORD your God may tell us the way we should go and the thing we should do.”

Yeshua

Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, “

Matthew 6:9: “Pray like this:… “

Matthew 9:38: “Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.””

Matthew 24:20: “Pray that your flight will not be in the winter, nor on a Sabbath, “

Mark 13:33: “Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.”

Luke 10:2: “Then he said to them, “The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send out laborers into his harvest. “

John 17:15: “I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. “

Apostles:

2 Corinthians 13:9: “For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. And this we also pray for, even your perfecting.”

Philippians 1:9: “This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;”

2 Thessalonians 1:11: “To this end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire of goodness and work of faith, with power;”

2 Thessalonians 3:1: “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, even as also with you;”

James 5:14: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…”

Throughout the Bible, prayer is exemplified as being enacted for intentional and specific purposes; most importantly, for the will of God to be accomplished on the earth. This strikes at the heart of the all-too-common practice of only praying for personal needs and wants.  While God does want us to trust him for everything, in the grand scheme of the Bible message, ultimately our personal needs and wants are and should be subjected to the larger scope of God’s kingdom and the establishment of his rule and reign in the hearts of people on this earth.

Remember in our Colossians passage, Paul encourages believer to pray with an alert mind (as we have just illustrated), but also with a thankful heart.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Having a thankful heart means that one is in view of all of the ways that God has blessed them. If you are thankful for the provision of your home, you won’t be tempted to go into further debt for a shiny new one beyond your means. If you are thankful for the nutritious food that God has provided you for your sustenance, you will not be tempted to eat beyond what your body needs. If you are grateful for the friends and family you have, you won’t be tempted to go astray from your spouse or to put your family or friends at risk.

Thankfulness runs all through Paul’s epistle to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:9, 12 – For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, … giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

Colossians 2:6-7 – So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 3:15, 17 – And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. … And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Constant prayer and giving of thanks is a theme Paul also brings to the congregation in Thessalonica as well. In fact, he cements this as a cornerstone of believing practice in the accomplishment of God’s will.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 – pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua.

If we are therefore praying in an alert fashion, that is, being aware of what we are praying and why we are praying, and we are doing so from a place of gratefulness and thankfulness for his provision in our lives, then we have a recipe for overcoming temptation.

This takes discipline and thoughtfulness. By intentionally praying for God to assist us when we are being challenged, this type of behavior can be changed. The victory over a trial or temptation is through prayer and the strengthening of God through his holy Spirit. How quickly it happens depends on how alert we remain and how diligent and thankful we are in prayer.

As we grow in this process, remaining steadfast in prayer to God keeps us focused and in communication with the One who is more than able to provide us the necessary strength to overcome any obstacles we may encounter.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The ever-expanding reality of the eternal kingdom of God

The eternal kingdom of God, while starting from a small, single point will ultimately spread to consume the whole world.

Core of the Bible podcast #37 – The ever-expanding reality of the eternal kingdom of God

Today we will be exploring the topic of the kingdom, and how the eternal kingdom of God, while starting from a small, single point will ultimately spread to consume the whole world.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Another parable set he before them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is less than all seeds; but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Another parable spoke he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened. Matthew 13:31-33

These two parables of Yeshua are illustrating the same picture: the kingdom is something that begins small and becomes larger and larger until it is all inclusive. This is one of the grand principles of all Creation: everything begins small and then grows to its mature state. Animals, plants, people; all things exemplify this principle.

Concepts and ideals are no different. We even use this terminology when speaking about some new trend or idea which began as a “germ” or a “spark” and then became massively widespread or “went viral.”

Yeshua is teaching us that the Kingdom of God operates in the same way, not because it isn’t special or unique, but because it is to follow the natural trajectory of every thing introduced into this Creation.

Most Christians today might say they believe the kingdom of God began with Messiah, and it began its spread throughout the world at that time.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

While that was definitely a springboard to the nations, the Bible actually traces the trajectory of the kingdom much farther back in history, all the way back to Adam and Eve “ruling” over Creation. Let’s trace this kingdom narrative to see how God has operated throughout the millennia to teach us about his eternal realm of righteousness.


Genesis 1:28 – God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”

This was the earliest realization of mankind ruling as God’s image over the Creation that God had provided. However, once that era had passed, God continued to move the kingdom ideal forward through the stories of Noah and Abraham. The majority was bypassed, and only a faithful remnant was chosen.

Genesis 6:17-18 – “Understand that I am bringing a flood ​– ​floodwaters on the earth to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives.

Genesis 9:1-2 – God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. “The fear and terror of you will be in every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are placed under your authority.

After Noah’s descendants had begun to re-populate the land and men began to spread throughout the earth, God once again chose another “branch” through which his kingdom would be realized, the man Abram. Again, the majority was bypassed, and a faithful remnant was chosen.

Genesis 12:1-3 – The LORD said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Genesis 17:5-6  – “Your name will no longer be Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. “I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you.

From Abraham came Isaac and then Jacob and his twelve sons. The majority of Abraham’s descendants had been bypassed, and a faithful remnant was chosen.

This family group became attached to Egypt through one of the twelve sons, Joseph, who became Pharaoh’s prince-regent. Once in Egypt, this family group continued to grow to become an independent nation within a nation.

From the slavery of Egypt, the kingdom narrative then gravitates toward Moses and this chosen group of people that God claims as his own: Israel.

Exodus 3:9-10 – “So because the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them, “therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

Upon their dramatic departure, the majority of individuals in Egypt is bypassed, and the faithful remnant is chosen. They are led out into the desert of Sinai, where they arrive at the mountain of God.

Exodus 19:3-6 – Moses went up the mountain to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain: “This is what you must say to the house of Jacob and explain to the Israelites: “‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. “Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, “and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”

As mentioned in previous teachings, this is actually the first mention in Scripture of an actual kingdom, a kingdom of priests and a holy, or set apart, nation.

Now that God has grown his own people to this magnitude, he begins to mold and shape them into his representative people through the giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments, and the covenant of Sinai. Through the remainder of the Bible narrative, the natural kingdom era of Israel is the focus of God’s  interaction with mankind, the chosen people among the many nations of the world.

This natural kingdom had peaked with David and Solomon. After the demise of Solomon, the kingdom became divided and they were led through the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Ultimately, this natural kingdom of God drew its way through the various subjugations of Persia,  Greece, and Egypt, up to the Roman occupation. Under these various captivities and regional rulerships, the larger group of Israel had become complacent, corrupt, and scattered throughout the known world. It was time for God to bypass the majority once again and focus on a new branch, a new faithful remnant, for his continuing mission of the kingdom.

From within the faithful remnant of Israel at that time came forth Messiah Yeshua. He introduced the radical element of the culmination of God’s kingdom work with his chosen people: it was to be a leap to the next level, i.e., a spiritual and universal kingdom, that would take place after the judgment of God’s earthly people. This was prophesied to take place within the generation of those to whom Messiah brought his message, through what would become the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel as an independent nation in 70 AD. Finally, God’s kingdom could now be free to include all people and nations, and it continues to spread exponentially throughout the entire world.

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

It is here that the seed which was planted among the nations had begun to sprout and grow. The seeds of the Word of God had spread to the Israelites among the nations through the missionary travels of the apostles and were beginning to bear fruit. With the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the people of God had broken outside the confines of national Israel, and the branches of God’s new spiritual kingdom were spreading across the face of the earth, drawing nourishment from the rich stump of the Israelite scriptures and the Torah of God.

Romans 11:17 – Now if some of the branches [Israelites] were broken off, and you [of the nations], though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree [Israel]…

As we can see through all of these examples from Adam and Eve up until the Messiah and his disciples, one of the overarching themes of the Bible is how God is tirelessly patient and persistent, beginning with individuals or small groups, and molding and shaping them to become the next phase of the kingdom, the next branch on the tree, the next batch of dough that continues to rise. This is how we can be confident the kingdom will continue to grow until “all is leavened.”


Today, those of us who believe in Messiah and in the eternal, ever-expanding kingdom of God should be viewing ourselves as a branch or branches within the multi-tiered expansion of God’s never-ending kingdom. The Bible teaches us that this kingdom will never end; it will never have to be re-started as God has done in the past with each of his faithful remnants. It will continue to grow “until all is leavened,” just as Yeshua prophesied.

Psalm 145:9-13 – The LORD is good to everyone; his compassion rests on all he has made.  All you have made will thank you, LORD; the faithful will bless you.  They will speak of the glory of your kingdom and will declare your might,  informing all people of your mighty acts and of the glorious splendor of your kingdom.  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your rule is for all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and gracious in all his actions.

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of those kings [the fourth kingdom of Daniel’s prophecy, the Roman empire], the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.

Daniel 7:27 – “The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey him.’

And yet, popular within the halls of congregations today, is a mentality that insists things are so bad in society that God is preparing to take his people, his kingdom people, from the earth. The biblical response to that type of misguided thinking is that if the darkness is so great, then this is the very time the kingdom people need to shine. We shouldn’t be preparing to leave, but we should be establishing deep roots of righteousness that will survive our brief time here on this earth as we continue to build upon the foundations of the apostles and the prophets. Our lives may be transient, but God’s kingdom clearly is not. If we can take the baton of this eternal relay further down the track, then we will have fulfilled our role within this generation.

The prophet Jeremiah fought a similar battle among God’s people when they were taken captive to Babylon. God had revealed to Jeremiah that Israel would be captive there for at least 70 years.

Jeremiah 25:2, 8, 11 – The prophet Jeremiah spoke concerning all the people of Judah and all the residents of Jerusalem as follows: … “Therefore, this is what the LORD of Armies says: ‘Because you have not obeyed my words, … “This whole land will become a desolate ruin, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.

Yet, even after they were taken captive, the people sought word from false prophets like Hananiah that they would be returning to their homeland soon. Hananiah had proclaimed:

Jeremiah 28:2-4 – “This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. “Within two years I will restore to this place all the articles of the LORD’s temple that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took from here and transported to Babylon. “And I will restore to this place Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon’ ​– ​this is the LORD’s declaration ​– ​’for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’ “

In response to this false prophecy, Jeremiah replied that “As for the prophet who prophesies peace ​– ​only when the word of the prophet comes true will the prophet be recognized as one the LORD has truly sent,” Jeremiah 28:9. In verses 15-17, he continued to correct Hananiah, “The prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah! The LORD did not send you, but you have led these people to trust in a lie. “Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘I am about to send you off the face of the earth. You will die this year because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.’ ” And the prophet Hananiah died that year in the seventh month.”

Instead of preparing the people to leave the place of their captivity return to Israel, Jeremiah encouraged them to put roots down in that foreign place, a  place where they were considered aliens and strangers.

Jeremiah 29:4-10 – “This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the LORD on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive. For this is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you, and don’t listen to the dreams you elicit from them, ‘for they are prophesying falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them.’ This is the LORD’s declaration.  For this is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm my promise concerning you to restore you to this place.'”

Just as Jeremiah had to redirect God’s people to the reality of their situation, it appears that God’s people today are in a similar condition. They have been listening to false teachers for so long that they have not been able to distinguish the truth of the eternal kingdom of God from the lie of immanent removal from the earth. Instead of preparing to leave, we should be putting down our roots and living respectfully among these foreign lands of our brief sojourn on this earth. We should be building and growing and establishing God’s kingdom, not packing to leave. God has decreed that his kingdom will fill the earth. When that happens, he will be “all in all.” This is the end-goal of the entire Bible message, the message of the kingdom that has been played out over and over through those whom God has chosen as his own.


The eternal spiritual kingdom of God has been behind every natural iteration that God has produced as examples for us. This was even recognized by Nebuchadnezzar after being released from a seven-year bout of madness as a judgment from God upon his pride.

Daniel 4:1-3, 34 –  King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. … At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation…”

From the mouth of a foreign ruler comes the praise of the eternal God of Israel and his everlasting kingdom!

Since this is the reality of all things that has not yet fully come to pass in our natural world, we must recognize our role in following the traditions of the faithful before us, and reaching out to each contemporary generation until the fullness of this promise comes to pass. Our mission is to continue to grow the kingdom among us, his dwelling place through his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22 – So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

The principle of the Great Commission, the “making disciples of all nations,” does not have an expiration date. God desires that all people come to know him, to come to an understanding of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Instead of decrying the injustice around us, the injustice that has existed in every generation, we should be praying for those who are so misguided and causing detriment to our societies through their godless perspectives. Our role as believers is not to win elections but to magnify God and win hearts for him. When hearts are changed by God’s Spirit, his kingdom organically expands, and the rest will follow. Since a world of people in awe of God’s majesty is the foregone conclusion of all history, why are we standing in the way of the fulfillment of these sure prophecies?

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; truth has gone from my mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to me, every tongue will swear allegiance. It will be said about me, ‘Righteousness and strength are found only in the LORD.’ ” All who are enraged against him will come to him and be put to shame.” Isaiah 45:22-24

For God’s eternal kingdom to prosper and continue to fill the earth, we must allow God to be recognized as the ruler of all kingdoms, and for people to turn to him. This can only happen as he is magnified among us through our righteous actions and our diligent prayers for those hearts to become subject to his eternal rule and reign. May we be bold and resourceful in fulfilling this obligation, that we may be faithful in our generation to continue the ever-expanding kingdom of God.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Persistence in prayer according to the will of God

Yeshua teaches about being persistent in prayer by instructing his followers to ask, seek, and knock continually. As we learn more about these aspects of prayer, we also learn more about the nature of God.

Core of the Bible Podcast #18 – Persistence in prayer according to the will of God

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of Vigilance, specifically persistence in prayer according to the will of God.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

In his saying here is an aspect of continual, persistent activity: always keep asking, knocking, and seeking in order to receive, have doors opened to you, and to find what you’re searching for.

Vigilance can be defined as concentrated focus over long periods of time during which one is continually striving toward a target objective. It is in this sense that Yeshua is explaining how continued and prolonged effort is required in pursuing the things of God, and in the practice of pursuing God himself in prayer.

Persistence in any endeavor will always provide the benefit sought for, but even more so when we continue in prayer for the things that God would have us pray for.

Now, admittedly, consistent and intentional prayer is something that many of us, including myself, struggle with on a regular basis. When I have listened to sermons on prayer or read about prayer life practices in general, most of the time the individual relays the personal struggles they face in the practice of prayer.

Why does it seem so difficult? For me at least it has been mostly because I haven’t understood the mechanics of prayer and how it works. Perhaps this is a similar challenge for some of you, as well. Our logical minds are fixated on pigeon-holing God into some sort of descriptive prison so that we can then know how to poke and prod at him to understand how he operates.

For example, if God is sovereign, and he already knows what we would pray for before we pray it, then why bother? Does he really need us to pray before he acts in any situation? Can we somehow change God’s mind by praying? All of these types of questions can flood the mind and make any attempt at prayer unfruitful.

Among believers there are several different views of God that can affect how we choose to approach him in prayer.

There is the “total control view” which sees God as knowing everything about everything everywhere, at all times. Every atom of every living or inert thing is positioned exactly as he desires at every instant. The path of each life is mapped out before it even starts, and it will not waver at any given time. If this is an individual’s perspective, then why pray if God already has everything planned out for all time?

At the opposite extreme there’s the “prayer controls everything” mindset which states essentially that God is unable to do anything unless and until his people pray for it. This, essentially, becomes and idolatrous view of prayer, where God is essentially inert in a situation until someone prays for his involvement in a specific way, then he can act. In this view, God is subservient to the person praying.

Another perspective perhaps midway between these extremes is the “dynamic involvement view” which holds that while God is in control of all things, he is still involved in all aspects of his continually unfolding creation, moving things here and there to modify his plan as it moves through time, ensuring that everything ends up where it needs to be in the end. In this view, prayer would seem to have more effect than in the total control scenario, because as situations are “live” and haven’t been cemented into place yet, there is still an opportunity to perhaps persuade God of a specific outcome.

These descriptions of God’s activities are all wide generalizations with differing emphases, when in reality I believe these views are more like definitions on a spectrum, with individual beliefs falling anywhere in between various aspects of these descriptions as far as what they believe about God. The reason this is possible is because Scripture can be called up to support each of these differing views to varying extents. So, in a sense, they are all kind of true while not being exclusively so.

So what are we to make of all of this messy theology?

What I’ve learned is that while God is definitely in control of all things, he allows us to be involved in the outworking of his creative actions. He has allowed man the privilege of co-ruling and co-reigning with him in his Creation; that’s what the story of Adam and Eve is all about. Somehow, and I don’t know how, and nobody can explain this fully, but somehow God is totally sovereign and in control of everything, yet he still allows us genuine free will, not imagined or illusory. He is is not in any way constrained or obligated by anything we say or do, yet he still chooses to be responsive to us and our needs on a personal level.

This has been a huge personal revelation for me, because it demonstrates that the  sovereignty/free will issue is not an either/or proposition, but a both/and reality. God desires to have a real sense of intimacy with the individuals of his Creation, but he is in no way beholden to them. If he chooses to enter or create a covenant relationship, he is free to do so and he will be faithful to that. In a similar way, if we choose to believe him or not, we are free to so. Quite honestly, a relationship with God is the freest relationship we can ever experience.

Yeshua understood this type of relationship with God because he encouraged believers, in fact expected them, to be involved with God on an intimate level, just as he was. Yeshua was absolutely clear that God desires us to confide in him, to rely on him, to trust him, and to do so continually.

John 17:11, 21-22  I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. … that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one –

That’s a level of intimacy that should be a common occurrence with all believers, especially since Yeshua prayed that that would be the case with his followers.

So with this understanding that God desires his people to pray, and with Yeshua’s clear directive for perseverance in prayer, let’s take a look at some other aspects of prayer that we can glean from Yeshua’s teaching in other contexts.

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To further understand aspects of prayer, we might consider what Yeshua taught about it within the various contexts of his teaching.

Prayer is EXPECTED of God’s people

Matthew 6:5-7  “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites…

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Luke 18:1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…

Notice Yeshua mentions repeatedly, WHEN you pray. This is not an option for those who claim to believe in the one true God. He teaches that people should always pray and never give up. Yeshua assumes that prayer is a standard operating procedure for his followers, and he is simply guiding them in specifics. We should pray to the Father, we should pray privately, we should pray simply, and we should pray with perseverance.

If Yeshua taught that people should pray, then his view of God is one in which prayer is significant and has real value, and we should take that to heart as well.

Yeshua also taught that prayer CHANGES OUR VIEW OF OUR ENEMIES

Luke 6:28 “bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

I’ll be honest, those are the hardest people to pray for. Nobody enjoys having to deal with people who curse them or who use them and abuse them. Yet, Yeshua directs that those who are antagonistic or overtly hostile towards us are especially those whom we should be praying for. We should speak well of them (which is what blessing them is) and be kind to them, praying for their well-being. What? Why would this even be a thing that he asks of us? 

For one thing, this type of perspective removes emotional animosity and allows us to endure strife, but it also has the ability to change their perspectives and their lives depending on how God chooses to. When you react to animosity and oppression in ways that are not expected, it can have a profound impact on those individuals. His kingdom is one in which all should be made to feel welcomed; in so doing, many hearts are changed.

Yeshua relates that prayer also helps us OVERCOME TEMPTATION

Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh [is] weak.”

Luke 22:46 Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

This is real-time help when we need it, not some idealistic goal to hope to attain at some point in the future. Yeshua is relating that prayer provides real help in the very time and moments when we are tempted. If God is not involved in real-time, then Yeshua is relating a falsehood about the effectiveness of prayer. By viewing these characteristics of prayer, we can come to a better understanding of God, and how he chooses to work within his creation.

Prayer STRENGTHENS OUR FAITH IN GOD

Mark 11:22-24 NLT – Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, in all that you pray and ask for, believe that it is laid hold of; you will see it happen.

These verses are the favorites of the “name it and claim it” crowd, those who believe that as long as they have enough faith and believe strongly enough in their desire, it will come to pass. This is the error of the Secret, or the Law of Attraction crowd.

Generally speaking, they take this verse to essentially mean that whatever you truly believe in your heart, or whatever you “speak into the universe” will come to pass and be manifested in your life.

The problem with that is that meaning can only be true if you pull this passage completely out of its biblical context. I mean, you need to physically  tear this passage completely out of the Bible and have it stand on its own to try and force that meaning into it. Nowhere else in the Bible is that type of mentality taught or instructed.

We know that can’t be the meaning of this passage, because it starts off with the words “have faith in God,” not “have faith in whatever you’re choosing to manifest.” Right there is an indication that something is off when this wrong interpretation is drawn from this passage.

To understand this passage correctly, this teaching has to be taken within the context of the Bible as a whole.

To have faith in God is to understand the nature of God from his word. And in his word, God is sovereign and his will is always accomplished.

1 John 5:14-15: “This is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he listens to us. And if we know that he listens to us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.”

John’s teaching helps clarify this concept for us in a huge way. Essentially having faith in God, we understand his will from his word, and when we ask anything according to his will, of course it will come to pass. So these are the things that we should be believing for to come to pass in our lives and the lives of those around us: those things that are within the will of God.

Romans 8:26-28: “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because he makes intercession for the saints according to God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”

The idea that prayer has real consequences again intimates that God is active within his Creation and desires us to exhibit faith in him when we pray. When those consequences come to pass, it strengthens our faith.

Most importantly, Yeshua teaches us about PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER. When we persevere in asking God, we are more apt to be positioning ourselves within his will, because our continual focus is our dependence on, and fellowship with, him.

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Yeshua highlights this through the famous “ask, seek, and knock” passage that we started off with here in Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

So, what should we be asking for, what should we be seeking, and where should we be knocking?

Interestingly, Yeshua has provided those answers for us within the context of his teachings.

Ask:

Matthew 6:8-13 …your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. So then, this is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

This is the primary thing we should be asking for, God‘s kingdom to come on earth. And of course he authorizes other things in your life that are according to God‘s will such as our daily provision, forgiveness, and avoidance of temptation.

We are to ask for his holy Spirit

Luke 11:13 KJV – If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Praying for God‘s holy Spirit is really a prayer for his presence in our lives.

What about seeking?

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

Again, the kingdom of God should be front and center in all of our praying. And we should be seeking his righteousness, which is doing the right thing according to his word. I’m hoping through all of these examples you can see the pattern emerging how closely prayer is tied to understanding God‘s word.

So that’s the asking and seeking aspect that Yeshua teaches us about. What about knocking?

Now the knocking is a little more subtle and obscure, but where this word for knock is used in other passages, I think a beautiful picture about prayer emerges.

Luke 12:35-36 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks.

Revelation 3:20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Both of these images involve a knocking and a welcoming in when the door is opened. Both of them involve the guest coming in to a prepared meal or feast.

If the context of the ask seek and knock is all about prayer, then it’s as if Yeshua is saying that when we knock on God’s door in prayer, the door WILL be opened and we will be welcomed in to share a meal with him. And of course sharing a meal is the Hebraic equivalent of fellowship, and honestly intimate fellowship.

Putting this all together, when we ASK for God’s kingdom to come, when we SEEK God’s kingdom first, then when we KNOCK on God’s metaphorical door in prayer, we will be received with open arms and welcomed in to a bountiful table.

And when our prayer life is saturated with the kingdom mentality, it prevents us from asking amiss for our own selfish desires, as James relates:

James 4:2-3 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong–you want only what will give you pleasure.

The outline of persistent prayer that Yeshua gives us here in Matthew 7 ensures that our prayer life stays focused on the kingdom. All of the imperatives in this passage convey continuity and persistence: keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. This vigilance in prayer will provide a continual stream of opportunity for aligning with and expanding God’s kingdom.

It is this process of constant pursuit of the kingdom that branches into new possibilities. These can then open up into unforeseen (by us) directions of God’s will, thereby achieving his purpose. Remaining static and hoping that God’s will drops into our lap is not the biblical way. It is only as we remain consistently searching and moving that we can then be drawn and directed into the areas of growth that God has for us according to his will.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that many will pray and then do nothing more; true believers are expected to keep asking for the kingdom to be manifested, to keep searching for kingdom opportunities, and to keep close fellowship with God in prayer in hopeful anticipation of accomplishing God’s direction and purpose in this life.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The continual, watchful prayer for all of God’s people

Paul admonishes believers to pray vigilantly and unceasingly for all of God’s people.

Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your petitions for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:18

This passage comes on the heels of a very famous passage from Paul regarding the putting on of the armor of God, and yet this integral instruction on perseverance in prayer for all of God’s people is often omitted.

Paul’s original audience for this instruction was experiencing persecution: real, life-endangering persecution on a regular basis, and this type of exhortation would not have fallen on deaf ears. While most of us can only imagine the severity of their situation, in a crisis it becomes quite natural, almost a reflex, to defer to prayer on a regular basis. But this type of crisis-prayer is typically centered around the individual, and praying for personal safety. However, Paul is here admonishing the Ephesian believers to pray vigilantly and unceasingly for all of God’s people, not just for their own personal needs and desires.

Two types of prayer are mentioned here: prayer which is a type of worship, and petitions for specific needs that are urgent and immediate. All of these are to be offered “in the Spirit,” that is, in accordance with the operation and fruit of the spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…Galatians 5:16, 25 I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh. … If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

To walk in the Spirit is to have the path of one’s life patterned on the principles of the Spirit that Paul mentioned in this very passage.

Paul was encouraging the believers to pray in this fashion for all of “the saints,” that is, all of those who were set apart within the remnant of Israel, for their specific needs and protection during a time of extreme social and civil duress.

The urgent necessity of this praying for the saints is highlighted by a term that is used for wakefulness and alertness; they should never stop lifting up their brothers and sisters with all the principles of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc.

I believe this type of dynamic, urgent, and constant prayer lifting up their brothers and sisters in the Spirit is what allowed that generation to be a positive example for all time, through which God ushered in the new life of the eternal kingdom to all nations.

The example is there for us to receive this instruction for our own generation.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

How to improve our spiritual reflexes

Positive heart habits produce a life of integrity that honors God.

I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20

In Matthew 5, Yeshua encourages believers to exceed the righteousness of the religious leaders by being sincere and genuine. The hypocrisy of the leadership was evident in all of their public actions, and Yeshua was constantly confronting them on their hypocrisy.

But Yeshua always focused on his followers doing the right thing from the heart, not just following a set of rules. He said that what was in the heart would overflow into actions that reveal the true intent of the heart.

Good people do the good that is in them. But evil people do the evil that is in them. The things people say come from inside them.

Luke 6:45

This is a challenging principle, but one that also helps us gauge where we are in our spiritual journey. How?

By reviewing our reflexive interactions with others, we can see how “changed” our heart is. When we say the wrong things and then realize it later, we know that our immediate heart response, like a reflex, responds with what it’s full of. If it’s full of bitterness or frustration, it will lash out in anger. If it’s full of peacemaking and reconciliation, it will seek to reach out in love and sacrificial effort for the sake of another. By self-reviewing our conversations with others, we can get an idea of how positive or negative our spiritual reflexes may be.

This is why, when we become angry or frustrated, it is recommended we wait until we have a chance to “cool down” before providing a response to a particular situation. Then we allow the negative emotion to pass where we can think more clearly of an appropriate response. Likewise, if we have a caring or willing heart impulse to help someone who comes across our path, we shouldn’t stifle that feeling and allow the moment to pass without acting on it.

This is a challenging dynamic process that requires maturity to navigate. If we constantly fill our hearts with the bitterness and strife we may encounter in our families, work places and social media interactions, then we are sure to outwardly act on those heart responses. But, if we keep our hearts filled with the positive aspects of our spiritual heritage of finding ways we care for others, healing the hurts around us, and going above and beyond for those who are antagonistic towards us, we will be more likely to  respond reflexively, in the moment, in a way that honors God.

Some of the practical ways we can do this is through memorizing helpful Bible verses, having hymns or spiritual songs that are meaningful to us in our daily routine, and by choosing to privately and sincerely pray throughout the day for our own responses and to overcome the actions of others. These habits produce a life of integrity, a life that honors God, because it is a life of refusing to succumb to the culture around us, and to maintain a righteous attitude in the face of adversity.

When we can train our reflexes to operate in this way, we are then able to magnify God to those around us just as he intends us to.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.