Provision: H.C. Question 125 (Part 2)

What does the fourth petition mean? 
 
James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
 
Deuteronomy 8:3 – He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
 
Psalm 37:16 – Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;
 
Psalm 127:1-2 – Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.
 
1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
 
Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 – This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Hebrews 13:5-6 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”
 


All Our Needs: H.C. Question 125 (Part 1)

What does the fourth petition mean? 
 
Psalm 104:27-30 – All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.  When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.  When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
 
Psalm 145:15-16 – The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Matthew 6:25-34 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
 
Acts 14:17 – Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
 
Acts 17:25 – And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.


God’s Will Be Done: H.C. Lord’s Day 49

Q 124. What does the third petition mean? 

A 124. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means:
Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good.
Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
 
Language about the “will of God” can be very confusing.  This is due in part to the variety of ways that this language is used in Scripture, but also finds it’s puzzlement in how Christians use the term to talk about what is going on in their lives.  We readily dismiss negative events in our lives, even those related to the presence and impact of sin, as being God’s will.  A tragic death, a fatal illness, and even injustice that we experience in the world around us is all chalked up to and dismissed as “the will” of God.
 
Yet, even in that rather dispassionate response, there is something unsettling that stirs in us.  The question of how a good God can allow for such evil arises.  When we dismiss sin as the “will of God,” we even begin to walk the line of blaming God for sin and potentially see Him as the cause of it.  Thoughts such as this are contrary to what we know about God; He cannot sin and is wholly separate from sin.  How can these two things be reconciled?
 
There are really two sides of God’s will that Scripture reveals to us: His will of decree and His will of Desire.  God’s will of decree has to do with His continual governing and provision of the entire universe.  His divine sovereignty covers everything from the orbits of planets and galaxies to the number of hairs on your head and the color of your eyes.  Most of all, God’s unthwartable will is the ultimate redemption and restoration of Creation and the annihilation of sin.
 
God’s Will of desire is what the Lord’s prayer is pointing toward.  God’s will of desire has to do with what God wants for His people and for the world, but it is a will that can be disregarded by His rebellious creatures.  This is where human freedom comes in.  While it is God’s desire that everything on earth be as perfect as it is in heaven; perfect worship, perfect obedience, perfect service, perfect holiness.  He has, however, instilled freedom in the human heart.  It is this freedom that ultimately led to sin entering the world and it is this freedom that continues to allow God’s creatures to turn from Him and reject Him.
 
Ultimately, this is why we pray that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”  As we have been talking about already, the Lord’s prayer is about teaching us to pray.  Clearly, praying these exact words does not enact God’s will of desire here on earth instantly.  If that were true, everything would be perfect once again.  Instead, this once again reminds us of who we are praying to and what He desires for us.
 
First, by praying this we are reminded that it is indeed God’s will, not our own will, that we are to desire.  For us, that also means that we are putting our own will aside.  Scripture describes this as “dying” to ourselves.  There are many examples of human desires and will taking center stage and God’s will being put aside.  Whether it is that time when we littered while we were driving in the country or the concentration camps of the Nazis in World War 2, when human will is allowed to run free, it always runs to sin.  Clearly, we need a Savior, and one of the results of God’s salvation is the changing of the heart; we desire that God’s will would be done, not our own.
 
For this to take place, a second thing needs to happen: we need to trust God’s will.  It isn’t enough to just want God’s will to happen, we need to trust that how He is working and what He is doing is the right thing too.  Often this is where Christians start to say things like “it’s God’s will.”  Certainly, nothing in the world happens without God allowing it to happen.  However, it is not God’s will that people would die, that people would abuse or kill, or that sin would continue to have all of the horrible impacts on the world that it does.  In the midst of this, however, God is at work.  As we desire His will over ours, and as we trust in Him, we begin to see things change in our lives.  Our faith grows, our trust grows, and we look to Him in the good times and the bad, recognizing God’s faithfulness and His love, even in the midst of our pain.
 
Finally, as we desire God’s will and trust His will, we must also carry out His will.  This is the ultimate end of transformation in our hearts; it overflows into and out of our lives.  As we learn to pray and learn from this prayer, we begin to see things as God sees them, to feel about people the way God feels about them, and our hearts begin to beat in sync with His.  In essence, God’s will of desire becomes the desire of our will!  It is to that end, then, that we begin to desire that heaven would come to earth and we work to that end, spreading God’s love and working God’s will in the world around us.


Heaven and Earth: H.C. Question 124

What does the third petition mean? 
 
Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
 
Matthew 16:24-26 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
 
Luke 22:42 – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
 
Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
 
Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
 

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 – Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
 
Ephesians 6:5-9 – Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
 
Psalm 103:20-21 – Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.  Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.


Your Kingdom Come: H.C. Lord’s Day 48

Q. What does the second petition mean?
A. “Your kingdom come” means: Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.

Preserve your church and make it grow.

Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word.

Do this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.
 
If interesting factoids are your thing, it would probably interest you to know that one of the greatest theologians in the Reformation, John Calvin, began his commentary notes on this phrase by saying, “this is nothing new.”  At first glance, it might seem a bit shocking to use such casual and dismissive language as this in a commentary on the Lord’s prayer.  Yet, when we look a bit deeper, we can see that he is right.
 
Coming to this second petition, we’ve already prayed that God’s name would be made holy and isn’t that, at least in part, what happens as God’s Kingdom comes in our lives and expands in the world?  God is, after all, the antonym of sin, and His will is not just that sin would take a back seat or generally be less bad.  His will is that sin will be completely crushed and entirely eradicated from the hearts of all people and from the world.  There will be no compromise at the end of time, sin will be done away with completely.
 
It can be so easy for us to get caught up in the issues of the day, whether they be social, political, or otherwise.  We have opinions, ideologies, and preferences that are part of the makeup of who we are as human beings for each and every subject or issue that we are presented with.  Make no mistake, God also does as well.  When we pray that to God “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven,” we are laying aside our own will and preference for the sake of God’s work and ultimately God’s glory in our lives and in the world.
 
Remember, Jesus’ teaching on the Lord’s prayer was not meant to be a line-up of words that have some sort of magical ability to get God’s attention.  Jesus wasn’t giving us the passcode to God’s listening ear, He was teaching us about prayer, the content, substance, and direction that He wanted to see it take in His disciples’ lives.  So once again, while this statement can be simply a declaration, it is a phrase that reminds us what our purpose is: we are praying into God’s Kingdom.
 
What this doesn’t mean for us is that if we pray fervently enough all of the sudden good things will happen.  Nowhere in Scripture will you find anything that teaches this.  Unlike the teachings of some, particularly those who tout the prosperity gospel of “name it and claim it,” this is not simply a matter of having the right words with the right intensity.
 
This also does not come as a sort of passive statement that, if we say it, eventually God will make it happen.  While Scripture does teach that God acts on behalf of His people, perhaps in the case of healing diseases or turning the hearts of people toward himself and that the prayer of the righteous person is both “powerful and effective,” we are again no talking about magical incantations that bend God toward our will.
 
In fact, we see right in the wording that Jesus uses that this isn’t about our will, it’s about God’s.  As Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray, He is teaching them that the appropriate posture of God’s people is to see their will bent towards His.  The Heidelberg Catechism’s answer to this Lord’s Day is incredibly telling here: “Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.
 
As we pray into the will of God, we begin to see our hearts turned toward His.  We begin to see things as He sees them; love people as He loves them.  We even see ourselves more able to forgive others just as God has forgiven us in Jesus Christ.  In all of this, we then see the expansion of God’s Kingdom, His rule, and reign on the hearts of His people, spread outward from our lives into the world around us.  The effects of sin are pushed back… our selfish hearts are softened and our desires are molded and shaped into God’s will both in our lives and in the world.
 
When we take this approach, too, we will see God’s Church expand as well.  The Church is not the Kingdom, but when churches become Kingdom minded, they will give witness to the Kingdom, be heralds of the Kingdom, work to expand the Kingdom, and in turn, see themselves grow as well.  Never in Scripture do we see teaching of prioritizing our church before the Kingdom.  Sometimes it is difficult to see this when our local church is going through difficult times.  We tend to look inward, hoard our resources, and protect ourselves.  That, however, is not the teaching that Christ puts forth in this prayer.
 
God calls us to be about the business of the Kingdom, to be workers in His harvest field.  When we declare “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done…” we are reminded of the priorities that God has for His people.  God’s Kingdom is one of abundance and provision coupled with trust.  Sure, we can be prudent with church finances and expenditures, but never at the expense of Kingdom vision and work.  We are called to “Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  Then all of the other things will be added unto you.”


Coming Kingdom: H.C. Question 123

What does the second petition mean? 
 
Psalm 119:5 – Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
 
Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
 
Psalm 143:10 – Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
 
Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
 
Psalm 122:6-9 – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”  For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.
 
Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
 
Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
 
Romans 16:20 – The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
 
1 John 3:8 – The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
 
Romans 8:22-23 – We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
 
1 Corinthians 15:28 – When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
 
Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty
come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22:20 – He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.



May Your Name be Holy: H.C. Lord’s Day 47

 Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 47

Q 122: What does the first petition mean? 
A 122: “Hallowed be your name” means: Help us to truly know you, to honor, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.

And it means, Help us to direct all our living—what we think, say, and do—so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised.
 
The “petitions” of the Lord’s prayer begin with a phrase: “Hallowed be Your Name.”  This has typically been seen as a declaration that God’s Name is Holy, and that is not necessarily wrong.  God’s Name is Holy, far and above every other name that has ever been or ever will be.
 
However, as we think about the Lord’s prayer, we always should keep in front of us that this isn’t a set of magic words that God gave us to repeat mindlessly so as to earn His favor.  No, in the moment that Jesus speaks these words, He is teaching His disciples to pray.  Like everything else, Jesus doesn’t impose a sort of “law” on them, but instead, it is a lesson on the direction, content, and purpose of our prayers.
 
So, while a statement that God’s name is Holy certainly stands on its own, what this phrase is teaching us flows much deeper.  Beginning here reminds us not just of who we are talking to, our Holy Father in heaven, but it also speaks the purpose of the moment of prayer into our thoughts and minds.  What is that purpose?  To glorify God.
 
It is very easy to come to the Lord in prayer with our requests, our worries, our fears, and our need for forgiveness.  In fact, far too often we treat God as a sort of “cosmic vending machine” that will give us what we think we need when we ask.  The reality, for us, however, is much deeper and much more important than this.  When we come to God in prayer, it should be our desire and ultimate purpose that God’s name is glorified and honored through our words and actions. 
 
Prayer is a worshipful experience.  In all worship, our desire is that the object of our worship is the one person/thing that is receiving all of our attention.  For believers, that one person is always God; there is nothing and no one else.  Anything being worshipped apart from God is an idol.
 
Traditionally, we teach our children that they should “fold their hands” and “close their eyes” when we pray.  There is nothing Scripturally sound about this teaching as far as I know.  God doesn’t listen to us more when we intertwine our fingers or close our eyes.  It is possible, however, that we might listen to Him more when we do.
 
Current trends in Christianity are moving toward a sort of “me and Jesus” mentality, where church and other ‘religious’ things don’t necessarily matter so much.  There are some great things that have come from this, like the idea of prayer as a conversation and relationship builder.  Others have not been so great, like Christian individualism… but we’ll talk about that another time.
 
Prayer as a conversation is a wonderful image.  We aren’t just going to God with our lists, but instead, we are to Him to hear from Him and talk to Him.  In a conversation, the person we are talking to has our full attention; when we are distracted by phones, people, or objects, we both lose focus and dishonor the relationship.  Sadly, this has become normal for us in human-human interaction and these bad habits have crept into our prayer life as well.  Perhaps there is something to a sort of devotional prayer that involves silence, eyes closed and hands folded.
 
In any case, the purpose of the first declaration is both to declare to God our intentions in the moment and to remind ourselves of its purpose as well.
 
We have a tendency to do things out of habit; sometimes we even call it “tradition.”  Have you ever thought about the holidays?  There are so many things that we do during the Thanksgiving & Christmas seasons, but why?  We put lights on our houses and on trees… we buy loads of gifts of things that will probably be discarded within months… but why?  We run from house to house, family to family, worried about seeing all the people but not actually being present with them or our own families… but why?
 
Does all of that honor the coming of our Savior?  Or do we just do it because we’ve always done it that way?  When we come to our Lord in prayer, do we honor Him with that time, worshipping Him and giving our full attention?  In the same way that we need to “remember the reason for the season,” we need to remember the reason we come before our heavenly Father in prayer.  We don’t just come to Him because His Name is Holy, we come before Him to glorify the Holiness of His Name.


Hallowed Name: H.C. Question 122 (Part 3)

What does the first petition [hallowed be your name] mean? 
 

Jeremiah 32:16-20 – “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord:

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the parents’ sins into the laps of their children after them. Great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind; you reward each person according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve. You performed signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, in Israel and among all mankind, and have gained the renown that is still yours.

Luke 1:46-55 – And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
 
Luke 1:68-75 – “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.


Hallowed Name: H.C. Question 122 (Part 2)

What does the first petition [hallowed be your name] mean? 
 
 
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.


Hallowed Name: H.C. Question 122 (Part 1)

What does the first petition [hallowed be your name] mean? 
 
Jeremiah 9:23-24 – This is what the Lord says:  “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
 
Jeremiah 31:33-34 – “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”  declares the Lord.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
 
Matthew 16:17 – Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
 
John 17:3 – Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
 
Exodus 34:5-8 – Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
 
Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.
 
Matthew 5:16 – In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
 
Psalm 115:1 – Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.


Our Father in Heaven: H.C. Lord’s Day 46

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 46

Q 120. Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”? 
A 120. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer what should be basic to our prayer—a childlike reverence and trust that through Christ God has become our Father, and that just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.
 
Q 121. Why the words “in heaven”? 
A 121. These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly and to expect everything needed for body and soul from God’s almighty power.
 
Being a Father has been life-changing for me.  The unquenchable love that I feel day in and day out for this little girl is absolutely mind-blowing.  She hasn’t done anything to earn my love.  As a matter of fact, if left to simple logic, she has done more in her one and a half years to break me of my fondness for her than she has to amplify it.  Yet, my love for her has known no bounds, something I still cannot even fathom within my own mind.
 
One thing that has been a joy to me as a father has been to watch my daughter learn.  It is uncanny what she picks up as she learns to play with toys, to interact with other people, and even to speak.  I’ve had to take a step back and examine my own habit when it comes to such things and here’s why: she copies everything I do.  When she first discovered matchbox cars she would just carry them around.  Then she saw my driving them around on the floor so she started doing that do.  Next, I would run them into each other… suffice to say I am glad she won’t be driving anytime soon.  Later I would crash them and then flip the cars over as if it were a big wreck; she does that as well now.
 
All of Scripture refers to God as the “Heavenly Father.”  This isn’t to say that God is male or female; God is Spirit.  God certainly has many feminine and maternal characteristics.  But Scripture’s revelation of God has Father displays for us an image of who God is to us.  Sadly, today’s culture has twisted that image through both positive and negative movements.
 
As our culture becomes increasingly aware of the equality of gender in the world, a positive movement if ever there was one.  In that, however, there has been considerable pushback against the notion of God as being a masculine reference.  There is some validity to this as God is not a man and men throughout time have used the masculine reference to God as a way of cementing abusive dominance over others.  This is wrong, but it is not itself a reason to abandon the Scriptural witness of God as Father.
 
In a similar, but much more negative way, the breakdown of the family in North America as well as the coming to light of so many destroyed relationships due to abusive fathers & husbands has led to a wholesale questioning of whether “Father” is an appropriate reference to God.  For many who have been hurt in this way, whether by abuse or absence, even the term “Father” can bring up painful, bad memories.  Without being insensitive to this, however, it is important to understand that our pain does not supersede Scripture’s revelation.
 
The reality of God is this: God is our loving Father, the best of what was intended for that position and person in people’s lives.  God created us as His children and loves us in a way that is beyond comprehension to us, despite our disobedience and turning from Him time and time again.  God is overjoyed to see us grow and learn, maturing in our live, our faith, and even in the great gifts and abilities that He has given to us.  God is also the opposite of everything negative that has been infused into the father figure of the 21st century.  He will never abandon us nor is He ever absent; His love is perfect and encourages flourishing within our lives, even healing rather than hurt.
 
More than this, though, is our reaction to this perfect Father figure in our lives.  As we grow from proverbial infants in our faith into more mature individuals, we, like my daughter with me, begin to see how God is working in the world and how He interacts with and loves His children.  The more we see this modeled for us in our lives, the more we begin to follow those patterns, loving others as God loves us.  Our experience with God, when we turn to Him and fully experience His love, molds and shapes us, informing who we become in Christ.
 
Sadly, this too has been soured in the world through the unhealthy actions of people within the church.  God’s people have, often, missed the mark when it comes to modeling this for each other as well.  Because of this, people have blamed God for the actions of His people.  Sadly, parents can experience this too, being blamed as a bad parent for the momentary behavioral lapse of a child.  In any case, we must understand that we must look to Scripture to understand God better, not to the actions of His children which, in some circumstances, are not in line with God’s eternal love and purpose.
 
Additionally, it is vitally important to mention then second part of this week’s question: God’s location.  We are not looking to some local offical, a governmental authority, or even the clergy of a church for help, advice, or anything else.  No, our Divine Father is in Heaven, unconfined by the limits of mortal and material existence, God reigns from His throne, holding the entire universe in the palm of His hand.  Yet, despite God’s infinite magnitude, He concerns Himself with each one of us so much that, as the 1st Question and Answer reminds us: “not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.”


“In Heaven” H.C. Question 121

Why the words “in heaven”? 
 
Jeremiah 23:23-24 – “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord.  “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.
 
Acts 17:24-25 – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

Matthew 6:25-34 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
 
Romans 8:31-32 – What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?


“Our Father” H.C. Question 120

Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”? 
 
Matthew 7:9-11 – “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
 
Luke 11:11-13 – “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
 
Romans 8:14-17 – For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
 
Galatians 4:1-7 – What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.


Concerning Prayer: H.C. Lord’s Day 45

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 45

 Q 116. Why do Christians need to pray? 
A 116. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.  And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking God for them.
 
Q 117. What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to? 
A 117. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, revealed to us in his Word, asking for everything God has commanded us to ask for.
Second, we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God’s majestic presence.
Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what God promised us in his Word.
 
Q 118. What did God command us to pray for? 
A 118. Everything we need, spiritually and physically, as embraced in the prayer Christ our Lord himself taught us.
 
Q 119. What is this prayer? 
A 119. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.* For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
 
This Lord’s day begins the final section of the Heidelberg Catechism which focuses specifically in on the Lord’s Prayer.  It is fitting, I think, to end the teaching about how we are called to live here.  We have talked about our sin, our Savior, and our response to that.  First, the gratitude that comes from us for our salvation, then the specifics of what we believe.  Next we talked about the Law, a guide for our lives that ultimately points us back to our need for a Savior and the reason for our faith.  Finally, now, we will talk about our connection to God which is prayer.
 
The first Lord’s day that talks about prayer starts off, rightly, by showing us some of the whys and whats of prayer.  Given the recent events in Texas, and the subsequent negative reactions about prayer that have taken place, these teachings are now, more important than ever.
 
So why pray?  I think, at least for those who are believers, the appropriate counter question is “why not?”  We believe that God is the creator of the universe, that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift including our lives, and that God loves us so much the He has saved us from our sins through His Son, Jesus.  He also invites us into a relationship with Him, one that is connected to Him through prayer and the Holy Spirit.  Through prayer, we bring praise, worship, gratitude, and all sorts of requests.
 
It isn’t, however, so much about what we bring in prayer as it is what God brings in those moments too.  When we approach God, we are shown His love and grace, His welcoming arms are open and He is present there more than any person in our lives ever is to us.  In these moments, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are also built up in our trust of God, humility of ourselves, and in our identity before Him in Jesus Christ.
 
God also invites us to bring anything and everything to Him in prayer.  In a close relationship, you would talk to your friend about the happenings of your day.  You would most likely also share some of your concerns and frustrations.  Our Heavenly Father desires this with us as well.  He wants to hear about our struggles at work, the joy we get from our children, our frustration in not being able to find our keys.  More than that, though, He wants to be a part of those things in our lives.
 
What this doesn’t mean, however, is that whatever we ask God for we will get.  God is not some sort of cosmic vending machine.  That is why the “How” of this teaching is so important.  Jesus teaches us how to pray and in following this teaching, we begin to get a sense of what is most important.  While God certainly cares about the things that you want, what He has promised you is the things that you need.  He is the ever-present, always providing Father who gives us everything we stand in need of.  The teaching of the Lord’s Prayer reveals to us what those needs actually are.
 
As we look to this, and the teaching that will follow, we will begin to see unfolded before us, God’s deep desire for intimacy in our lives, and also His unending love for us, and His unfailing provision and presence in our lives.


The Lord’s Prayer: H.C. Question 119

What is this prayer? 
 

Matthew 6:9-13 – “This, then, 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.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
 

Luke 11:2-4 – He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”