What Do You Want?

God is not a reluctant deity, but a heavenly Father who is more than willing to respond to the needs of his children. But they must ask! The Puritan preacher Thomas Watson once remarked, “The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.” Asking in prayer is the rule of the kingdom. So what do you need today that would be best if God provided it? Ask!

The Journey: Luke 18:41

Jesus asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”

Jesus begins this chapter by telling his disciples a parable that they should always pray and never give up. (Luke 18:1) The big idea that Jesus wanted us to get is that God is not a reluctant deity, but a heavenly Father who is more than willing to respond to the needs of his children.

But they must ask! Thomas Watson remarked, “The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.” Asking in prayer is the rule of the kingdom, because it both demonstrates and produces several critical factors in the Father-child relationship that faith enables:

  • Dependence upon God (Luke 18:7-8, NLT)
  • Humility before God (Luke 18:14, NLT)
  • Childlike trust in God (Luke 18:17, NLT)
  • Full surrender to God (Luke 18:29-30, NLT)
  • The relentless pursuit of God (Luke 18:39, NLT).

All of those faith factors are precious in the sight of God. For that reason, the God who knows what we need before we even ask, and who desires more than we can imagine to give us what we desire, waits for us to exercise our faith—and ask.

That is why Jesus asked the question in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” Jesus wasn’t talking about saving faith; he was speaking of the exercise of faith by those who have it. Perhaps he was looking prophetically through the passage of time to the present age when we depend on just about everybody and everything else other than our Father to take care of our needs. If we have a headache, is our first response to ask God to heal it, or to go to our medicine cabinet for a pill? If we have a beef with a neighbor, is our first response to go to God in prayer, or call a lawyer? If we are facing a financial challenge, is our first response to be obediently generous toward God, or do we pull in our resources for that rainy day? Do we ask, and keep on asking? Do we pray and not give up? Do we keep exercising our faith—demonstrating our dependence, showing our humility, practicing our trust, offering our surrender, refusing to turn aside—by returning to God again and again for his supply?

Or do we far too easily and much too quickly find an alternative answer to our need?

The God who knows our needs has established it that we must ask. That is why in Luke 18:41 Jesus asked the question of the blind man, “what do you want?”, when the answer was in plain sight. Obviously, the man was blind; couldn’t Jesus see that? Of course he could; the man’s utter blindness was plainly visible to Jesus.

But Jesus knew that asking was the rule of the kingdom. Jesus knew that doling out healing as a cheap entitlement would never catalyze a growing faith. Jesus knew that engaging the man’s faith by asking this question would prompt him to exercise something in the moment that would energize the growth of faith for the rest of his life. Jesus knew that putting action to faith now would allow him see something far greater, longer lasting, and more eternally beneficial than mere sight: That God longs to “grant justice to his chosen people quickly” when they have faith enough to ask. (Luke 18:8, NLT)

“What do you want?” Jesus asks of you. Why don’t you tell him? It will demonstrate your faith—even cause it to grow. Furthermore, it will do you a world of good now, and in the long run, it will serve you well.

What do you need today that would be best if God provided it? Ask!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, I ask for your unmerited favor today as I go about the tasked you have assigned me. Bless me beyond measure. Give me greater influence. Cause me to be living proof to a lost world of a loving Father.

Never, Never, Never Give Up!

I think one of the disappointments we will have when we get to heaven—and if disappointments are possible there, I am sure they will be only momentary—will be all the unclaimed blessings and answers to prayer specifically reserved for us that were left in God’s treasury because we gave up too soon. Perhaps today is a good day to dust off some of those prayer requests you have given up on and bring them to the Righteous Judge once again. It could be that today will be a breakthrough day for you where God releases the answer you are seeking.

The Journey: Luke 18:8

When the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?

When Jesus asked this question, “how many will I find who have faith,” he wasn’t talking about saving faith. He was speaking of the exercise of faith by those who have been saved.

Luke has just presented Jesus’ parable about the woman who wouldn’t give up by prefacing it with the purpose for the story: To teach us that we should pray and not give up. The story is about a woman who is so persistent in hounding a very tough, uncaring judge about her case that she finally wears him down. He gives her justice simply to get her off his back and bring sanity back to his life.

Of course, Jesus isn’t comparing God to that judge. Rather, he is contrasting the two. He is saying that if an unrighteous, unfeeling judge would do that for a persistent woman, how much more would your righteous, caring Father hear your case and answer you? The answer to that question is obvious: God stands at the ready to hear your prayers and meet your needs.

Now since that is the case, then by all means, believers ought to pray and not give up. Then comes this penetrating question in the parable: When the Lord returns, will he find any of his people exercising that kind of persistent trust and expectant faith? Or will he find that they have wimped out, given up too easily, accepted the status quo in their lives and settled for less than God’s best?

Let’s make this verse really practical: Was Jesus referring to you when he asked that question? What have you given up on in prayer? A healing? The salvation of a loved one? Deliverance from a destructive addiction? Financial abundance? Greater spiritual depth, power, authority, effectiveness?

George Mueller said, “It is not enough for the believer to begin to pray, nor to pray correctly; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray. We must patiently, believingly continue in prayer until we obtain an answer.” Or as Luke said of Jesus’ parable, “He taught this to teach us that we should pray and not give up.”

I think one of the disappointments we will have when we get to heaven—and if disappointments are possible there, I am sure they will be only momentary—will be all the unclaimed blessings and answers to prayer specifically reserved for us that were left in God’s treasury because we gave up too soon. Perhaps today is a good day to dust off some of those prayer requests you have given up on and bring them to the Righteous Judge once again. It could be that today will be a breakthrough day for you where God releases the answer you are seeking.

You never know. So why not pray—and whatever you do, don’t give up!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, teach me to pray with a persistent, expectant, fervent, never-say-die attitude. I don’t want one single answer reserved for me left in heaven. I want to lay claim to all that you have for me.

Forgiveness: A Balanced Understanding and a Generous Application

Jesus is calling his followers to a balanced understanding and a generous commitment to the practice of forgiveness. It is the lifeblood to kingdom life when it flows rightly and freely from our lives; when practiced biblically and in a balanced way, it protects us from abusive relationships; best of all, it is our calling card into the throne room of our gracious and forgiving Father. Think about it: Were it not for “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” we would stand no chance before God.

The Journey: Luke 17:3

If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.

There are two extremes when it comes to forgiveness: On the one hand, far too often we fail to practice it. We conveniently and creatively bypass Scripture’s teaching on this matter so easily that it must grieve the Father’s heart. And this unwillingness to extend forgiveness is such a huge problem in the family of God today, since Jesus tied our forgiveness of others to the Father’s forgiveness of us:

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 5:14-15, NLT)

An unfortunately large number of “believers” will be surprised when they stand before the Great Forgiver and he informs them that the pardon of transgressions they hoped for had been held up because of their own unwillingness to let go of anger, bitterness, resentment, and hurt long enough to extend the hand of reconciliation to someone who had offended them.

Jesus is pretty clear about the matter: You don’t forgive others, God can’t forgive you! For that reason, if you are like me, you need to practice forgiveness early and often.

On the other hand, far too often we fail to properly understand forgiveness. That is an extreme as well. Many assume that Jesus is commanding his followers to blindly forgive, freely forget whatever offense might have occurred, and unconditionally reconcile even with those who show no signs of remorse for what they have done to hurt or offend us. That is not what Jesus said.

Did you notice a very big condition that Jesus attached to this forgiveness directive? “If” a brother sins, “then” when there is repentance, forgive him. We need to be ready to forgive, willing to forgives generous in forgiving—even if it is seven times for the same thing in the same day, we are called to forgive offenses (Luke 17:4, NLT)—but only if there is repentance.

God himself doesn’t dole out forgiveness unconditionally. He is willing to, but his hands are tied if the offender doesn’t acknowledge their sin, feel authentic contrition in their heart, and offer the fruit of repentance (a change of mind and a change of direction) in their behavior. (Matthew 3:8, NLT, Acts 2:38, NLT) Augustine said,

God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.

To forgive, forget and reconcile with an unrepentant person is to go beyond what God, himself does.

Now in that, there is yet another extreme into which Christians can fall: Withholding forgiveness until proper repentance is expressed for every little thing that rubs them the wrong way. My advice to you, if you are guilty of that: Don’t be ridiculous. Not everything that gets under your skin falls into the category of a moral offense—so grow some thicker skin and exercise a lot of grace, my friend!

Jesus is calling his followers to a balanced understanding and a generous commitment to the practice of forgiveness. It is the lifeblood of his kingdom. When practiced in a biblical and balanced way, it protects us from abusive relationship. And best of all, when it flows rightly and freely from your life, it is your calling card into the throne room of your gracious and forgiving Father.

And while we are on the subject, who do you need for forgive? I think you know what to do!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, thank you for forgiving me—freely and fully. Now I ask you to keep me tender to the sins that I will commit today, and quick to seek forgiveness from you when I do. And give me a gracious heart that is quick to forgive those who have sinned against me.

Thank You

The ability to express gratitude is one of the fundamental signs of a redeemed life and a growing spirituality. To give thanks is one of the highest callings we have and one of the most self-benefiting things we can do. It keeps us from being self-absorbed—the terminal disease of our current culture. It produces an eternal perspective. It reminds us of how truly blessed we really are. It creates a perspective that sees that all of life is a gift. Scripture puts it quite simply: In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you!

The Journey: Luke 17:15-17

One of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?”

Every generation of parents ask a question of their children. It’s more of a prompting than a question. After receiving a gift or a favor, parents ask, “What do you say?” Of course, the expected response is, “thank you!”

That routine was repeated in my home when I was a child. My mother would ask me, “What do you say to your grandmother for her Velveeta, Spam and lima bean casserole?” Now they didn’t really want my honest opinion here—they would have gone postal if I would have said, “Grammie, what in the name of all that’s good were you thinking? You shouldn’t ever be allowed to prepare meals again!” They didn’t really care what I thought; they simply wanted a response of gratitude to show my acknowledgement of Grammie’s kindness and effort.

Even if children don’t feel gratitude, parents want them to learn to offer thanks simply because it’s the right thing to do. Why? Simply because every human being lives with a debt of gratitude, owing thanks to someone for something. Of course, parents hope their kids won’t just parrot words of gratitude; they hope that the exercise of gratitude now will one day produce authentically grateful people. The ancient Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero rightly said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all others.”

Everything good and right flows from an authentically grateful heart. And gratitude is exactly what our Heavenly Father hopes for each of us! That is why you can’t go very far into the Bible without a reference or an admonition to be thankful, as in this story of the ten lepers.

The ability to express gratitude is one of the fundamental signs of a redeemed life and a growing spirituality. To give thanks is one of the highest callings we have and one of the most self-benefiting things we can do. It keeps us from being self-absorbed. It produces an eternal perspective. It reminds us of how truly blessed we really are. It creates a perspective that sees that all of life is a gift.

At the end of each day G. K. Chesterton would say, “Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands [to experience this] great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?” That’s why Ambrose, Bishop of Milan said, “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” It keeps you focused on God’s goodness and not on yourself. And best of all, gratitude opens the door for more. The great preacher Andrew Murray said, “To be thankful for what we have received…is the surest way to receive more.”

So why not practice a little gratitude today! You’ll be grateful you did!

One of the simple ways you can do this is to write a list of ten things from this past week for which you are thankful. Then give thanks for them.

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, thank you—for everything! Thank you for life, health, family, friends, food, clothing, forgiveness, purpose and eternal life. To you I am forever grateful.

You, Wealth, God and Eternity

Ask yourself this question today: Who has me? Money or God? Am I loving God and using money? Or in reality—and just take a look at your checkbook register or your Quicken summary or whatever you use to track your spending if you are unsure what reality is—are you bowing at the altar of Mammon? William Allen said, “A loving, joyful, liberal giving to the Lord’s work is an acid test of a spiritual heart, pleasing to God.” Could your spirituality pass that acid test?

The Journey: Luke 16:11

And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?

It has been said that Jesus talked more about money than about heaven or hell. Many of his parables centered around that very subject, as did his other teachings. That’s because Jesus fully understood the death-grip money could have on the human soul—or, on the other side of the coin, no pun intended, the life-giving uses of money when it is used to take the Good News of God’s saving plan through Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

Whether or not there was (or is) a literal god of money, I don’t know. Some have supposed that is what Jesus referenced when he spoke of “mammon”. It is more likely that he was simply but pointedly personifying money to speak of how incompatible worship of God is when the worshiper elevates material wealth to god-like status. For sure, the love of money leads to all sorts of problems in this world, and in our lives: Greed, materialism, selfishness, worry, just to name a few. Worst of all, the love of money always crowds out the love of God. That is why Jesus said in Luke 16:13 (NLT),

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

In other words, we are to love God and use money—not vice versa.

Yet as critical as what Jesus said about God and money is, there is yet another facet to this teaching that you as a Christ-follower need to understand: How you use money now will have a direct bearing on the Kingdom authority God wants to release to you in this life, and in his eternal kingdom. That is what Jesus meant in Luke 16:11 when he said if you can’t be trusted with wealth in this world, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?

How you are handling your wealth—your money, home, cars and possessions—is not just isolated to the physical world of the present. It is, in reality, a test-run that will determine the extent to which God will entrust to you authority in realms much more important—the spiritual realm of the Kingdom Life now and the eternal realm of the ageless world to come.

Ask yourself this question today: Who has me? Money or God? Am I loving God and using money? Or in reality—and just take a look at your checkbook register or your Quicken summary or whatever you use to track your spending if you are unsure what reality is—are you bowing at the altar of Mammon?

William Allen said, “One verse in every six in the first three Gospels relates either directly or indirectly to money. Sixteen of our Lords forty-four parables deal with the use of misuse of money. A loving, joyful, liberal giving to the Lord’s work is an acid test of a spiritual heart, pleasing to God.”

Could your spirituality pass that acid test?

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, help me to use my money (which in truth, is not mine, but yours), to the very last cent, in a way that is pleasing to you. When I stand before you some day, may you say of me that I loved you and used money to store up wealth in the eternal kingdom.

Commendable Crooks

There’s No Time Like the Present to Deal Shrewdly with Your Flaws

What is it that is keeping you from living the kind of life that God can bless? Listen, you’re a child of the King. And since Jesus is your Lord, why not deal with your character flaws, moral issues and personality weaknesses with urgency and passion. Jesus says to you, “what are you waiting on? It’s time to step up to the plate!” As John Ruskin said, “What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.” There is no time like the present take resolute action to overcome any personal problem so you can present yourself to God in such a way that on that day when you stand before him you will hear him say, “well done!”

The Journey: Luke 16:8-9

The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.

This opening story in Luke 16 has been referred to as “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager.” The plot revolves around a high level supervisor of a company whose boss informs him that he is going to get the ax for mismanaging funds, either out of gross incompetence if not outright embezzlement. But before the day of his dismissal, the manager goes behind his boss’ back to people who owe the company money, and using some “creative accounting”, illegally reduces the money these debtors owed to his employer. He does this to build some good will with these debtors so when he is unemployed, they will look favorably on him.

The kicker to this story: This shady manager gets commended for his innovation and audacity—by the boss in the story, and, so it seems, by the story-teller, Jesus.

Upon first reading this parable, one has to wonder if Jesus is advocating underhanded business practices or manipulation to maneuver out of problems? Of course, Jesus would never do that. So what is going on? Jesus is simply commending this manager’s dedication to dealing with reality. Reality is, he’s got a problem; he’s going to lose his job, and he has no early retirement plan, no stock options, and no other employment opportunities. So he says, “I have a problem, I will take responsibility, I will form a realistic plan, and I will take action.”

That is what Jesus is commending, not the dishonesty. Jesus is impressed with how he shrewdly takes advantage of the situation to deal with his crisis. Now the question is, why is Jesus so impressed with this willingness to face reality? Because he knows how few tend to do it.

Jesus is also impressed with the manager because the man knew his master’s character and he formed his entire plan around that. He knew he was dealing with a generous, gracious man, and he bet everything on the belief that the master would respond magnanimously—which the master did!

Without commending dishonesty, Jesus is using this parable to teach us about the character of God. Jesus is saying if this unethical manager had the courage to face his problem by relying on the generosity and mercy of his master, how much more can you, and should you, face any reality, problem or crisis, confident that your gracious and merciful God can be trusted to generously help you.

Now in this parable, Jesus says some seemingly confusing things that when properly understood in context, provides a sense of urgency to this message.

First, Jesus says, “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9) He is not saying that you can buy your way into eternal favor, but he is saying that what you do now affects who you are in eternity, which is exactly why you ought to deal with your problems with a sense of urgency.

Second, Jesus says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” (Luke 16:10) He is saying that you need to understand how much is riding on your diligent attention. What you do now to deal with your challenging realities matters to God.

Third, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters.” (Luke 16:13) Your life is not your own; you belong to God. In light of that, Jesus is challenging you to take resolute action to overcome any personal problem so you can present yourself to God in such a way that on that day when you stand before him, you will hear him say, “well done!”

You and I belong to God; we are children of the King. And since Jesus is our Lord, we ought to deal with financial flaws and moral issues and personality weaknesses immediately and boldly and successfully. If this unjust manager did it knowing his generous master would back him up, how much more should you get after it knowing your gracious Father will help you!

I think what Jesus is really saying is, “what are you waiting on? It’s time to step up to the plate!” As John Ruskin said, “What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, on this day, give me the want to and the will to get after anything in my life that is keeping me from honoring you and your design for me.

The Searching Father

A Simple Prayer Will Get His Attention

The Parable of the Prodigal Son was told to remind you that whenever you return to God in heartfelt repentance, you are not returning to an unmoved deity, you are coming to a God who is scanning the horizon, looking for any sign that you are on your way home. And when he sees you, he doesn’t sit, he doesn’t wait, he doesn’t send his servants out to escort you home. No, he gets up and runs to you. When he reaches you, he throws his arms around you and kisses you and holds you like he will never let you go. Then he says to all of heaven, “let’s party!”

The Journey: Luke 15:20

And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a story for the ages. It is one of Jesus’ most revered stories, even in non-Christian societies. People of all faiths love this parable because of its profound and moving message of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. But Jesus’ story is not so much about the prodigal son, or the even the elder brother, this is a story meant to give us a look inside the heart of God. So a more appropriate title would be “the searching father”.

You know the story well: A selfish son demands his inheritance from his father—in essence, declaring that he wishes to live as if his father were already dead. The son spends all the inheritance money on wasteful living. Finally, at the end of his ropes, the desperate son comes back home utterly crushed, knowing he will face humiliation from his father, hostility from his family and hatred from his scandalized community. Maybe he will be mocked—and rightly so—perhaps even beaten for the embarrassment he has caused his loved ones. As the prodigal reaches the outskirts of the village, word spreads in the community that this foolish boy has come back.

Then, something quite dramatic happens in the story. As the people gather to watch his return, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20, NLT)

Don’t quickly pass by those words: “He ran to his son.” That is a stunning statement. One scholar in ancient Near Eastern culture reminds us that a revered man would never run. It would be a violation of his dignity. Aristotle wrote, “Great men never run…Great men are run to.” People run to them. Children run, those who are desperate or afraid may run. So Jesus has the wrong person running in this story.

Or does he? No, Jesus is revealing something very important about God’s heart. The heart of this prodigal son’s father—which represents God’s heart—is so full that he forgets everything: he forgets his dignity, he forgets everybody is watching, and he sees only the starving, exhausted, beaten down figure of a boy he had given up for dead, and the father takes off like a homesick angel, running toward his son. And when he reaches him, he starts kissing him over and over again. The father then wants everyone to know that he will fully restore his son, so he has the servants dress the boy in his finest robe, he puts his ring on him as a sign of his authority, he gives him new shoes, and he has his servants prepare a feast.

The Jesus offers these amazing words in Luke 15:24, “So the party began”

That is God. That is God’s heart. That is why Jesus told this story. That is what Jesus wants you to know. Whoever you are, wherever you have been, whatever you have done, the Father doesn’t want you to be distanced from him or to return to him only to live under a cloud of guilt and a burden of regret. He wants you as his fully loved, fully accepted daughter or son. As Henri Nouwen put it, “This is the portrayal of God, whose goodness, love, forgiveness, care, joy and compassion have no limits at all.” God’s tender mercy gives the prodigal a second chance; his unconditional grace gives the prodigal a five course meal.

Jesus wants you to know that whenever you return to God in heartfelt repentance, you are not returning to an unmoved deity, you are coming to a God who is scanning the horizon, looking for any sign that you are on your way home. And when he sees you, he doesn’t sit, he doesn’t wait, he doesn’t send his servants out to escort you home. No, he gets up and runs to you. When he reaches you, he throws his arms around you and kisses you and holds you like he will never let you go.

Then he says to all of heaven, “let’s party!” That is how much you mean to your searching Father.

Do you need to “come home” to the Father? Don’t keep him waiting!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, many times I have been that prodigal son. I have wished to live as if you were dead. But you have always welcomed me home as a fully restored child. I have nothing with which to repay you; all I can do is simply, but with all my heart, say “thank you!”