Asking, Seeking, And Knocking In The Kingdom (Bible Study Matthew 7 Part 2)

Today we are going to continue to look at Matthew 7.  This is the closing of the sermon on the mount.  It’s sort of the application part of the sermon.  Last time we looked at how self righteousness gets in the way of helping others.  Today I want to look at the next section dealing with asking God for things.

Here is what Jesus says

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“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!

The first paragraph fits into an interesting category of scripture abuse.  This is the sort of thing that is often used to justify what is often called the prosperity gospel.  The idea that whatever you want, if you just ask God, then He will give it to you.

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Some Thoughts On The Lord’s Prayer (Bible Study Mark 6 Part 3)

We’ve been looking at Mark 6.  This is all part of the sermon on the mount and as I mentioned before, it’s a good idea to read the whole thing for context of each part.  However the parts have value even pulled out of the sermon.  We’ve looked at two things that I think have a great deal for us to consider today.  We looked at acting to be seen by others and then looked at the idea that where we put our treasure (money, time, energy, thoughts and effort) will dictate where our heart ends up.

Today I want to look at what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father.  Now let me just say off the bat there that many people have way more and better things to say than I do and I’ll be leaning heavily on some of them.  However, I thought I would offer some thoughts.

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Should You Pray For A Spouse?

One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse.  That took a lot of different forms.  Sometimes it was simple and relaxed.  Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One.  Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).

But over and over again for years, it never happened.  God didn’t “answer” my prayer.

This really begs two different types of questions.  First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse.  Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.

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My Grandmother And My Singleness

This last week my nearly 102 year old grandmother passed away.  To say that my grandmother had a full and incredible life would be an understatement.  She was strong, strong willed, and loving.  She loved God and her family.  She was a pastors wife, teacher, and mother to four, and she understood ministry – both vocationally and personally.

She loved Jesus and never stopped growing.  She always read the bible. Always.  She prayed for every person in our family – probably pretty much every day.  She was traditional, but yet always tried to learn new stuff – be it from the bible or the ministry that I was doing.  I remember being sort of amazed when “The Passion” came out that she wanted to watch it.  She was 90.  I’ve never known anyone closer to Jesus than my Grandmother.

This was a woman who came into her adulthood in the depression.  She was a woman of faith, strength and love.  She was the true Matriarch of our family.

Today’s post is going to be a little different and a touch longer than normal.  I want to talk about what, looking back, I can learn from my grandmother about singleness.  I do this because there is no way to tell my story of singleness without her in it.  So let’s start there.

From when I was in my twenties, grandmother always wanted me to find a spouse. I mean it was a constant question.  I’m not going to lie.  Sometimes it was annoying.  I’ve written before about family and singleness and responding to others.  But this woman was so determined for me find a spouse that it was tough.  I remember thinking, “maybe you should just get me a wife for Christmas” or “if it were that easy I’d have found one by now”. She didn’t really ask why I was single as I approached my thirties.  She just told me what to do about it.  Haha!

In a letter she wrote to me (remember letters?) she said, “I know you are enjoying your work, and you have a house.  Now find a woman to share it with!”  As my younger brother was finishing school she said, “Get a degree, get a job, and get a wife.”  All of which he did, in succession by the way, long before me.

But here’s what made her more than annoying.  She meant it!  She wanted it for me even when I didn’t.  It wasn’t some sort of “I want some grandkids so get busy” thing.  It was never demeaning and she never viewed me as incomplete in any way.  She just loved me and wanted me to be happy with someone.  And what’s more, and this is important for all you married people talking to single people, SHE BACKED IT UP!

This woman prayed for me constantly to find someone.  She didn’t have one or two prayers.  She prayed for years – no two decades.  Yes she talked to me about it (without using platitudes by the way).  But her prayer to talk ratio was probably at least 100:1. Think about that.

I had one other cousin that was unmarried.  We were both 40 or older.  My mom said, only somewhat jokingly, that she was not going to die until we were married.  We both got married last year.  Well done Grandmother.  Well done.

I hate that my grandmother wasn’t able to be at my wedding.  I know she would have loved it.  One of the hard things about being unmarried for an extended time is that there are some things that we lose along the way.  It’s appropriate to mourn those.  I know that my grandmother was thrilled, but it isn’t the same.  She would have loved our wedding. Absolutely would have loved it.

For my grandmother getting married wasn’t complicated.  She knew every story was different but to her, you meet someone and you get married.  Grandmother met my grandfather (a visiting young pastor) at age 22 on November 17, 1934.  She writes that they went on their first date the next afternoon.  Six weeks later as they drove around her hometown he asked, “Do you think you could marry me” or something to that effect.  She said yes and they were married 6 months later.  Talk about not playing around.

Now it’s easy to dismiss this as old school etc.  But here’s the reality.  1935 was no American utopia.  They had it a lot tougher than we’ve ever thought about having it. They had nothing. But they knew what they wanted.  As she writes, “we had known each other only six weeks, but we felt we knew what we were doing.”  Apparently.  They stayed married over 54 years until my grandfather passed away.  This leads me to another great point we can take from my grandmother.

My grandmother lived nearly 25 years longer than her husband.  So she understood what it meant to live alone.  She never slept in their room again for the four years she lived in that same house.  But she didn’t sit around and feel sorry for herself.  In fact as we shared stories this past weekend, no one could think of one time that my grandmother complained.

She moved twice.  She always joined a church and made friends.  She encouraged others – be they in her study group, her neighbor, or even her pastor.  Being married for 54 years was a gigantic part of her story, but it wasn’t her whole identity.  The significance of that can’t be overstated.  To completely and selflessly love another person while keeping your identity in Christ.  What an example.

She lost her husband of 54 years.  She mourned but she didn’t complain.  She lost a brother, a daughter, even a grandkid.  She lived by herself and the last few years in a nursing home but she didn’t complain – she adapted.  She lost her sight and one of her biggest loves – reading.  She listened to audio books – including the bible. One of my last conversations with her she said, “I’m in some pain, but hey, I’m 100.”  True that.

Yes she had the love of her life.  But she also lived without him for longer than most of us will.  There is something for us to learn from that.  So much that there isn’t space here even if I could explain it.

What it comes down to is the woman was powerful in the Kingdom of God.

So thanks Grandmother for walking me through singleness – for pushing me, challenging me, loving me, praying for me and maybe most of all backing it up with how you lived it out.  Unbelievable.






Kill The Marriage Idol

My junior year in college, I dated a great girl.  We were good for each other if only for that season.  The truth is I didn’t make her enough of a priority (not unusual for a 21 year old guy).  I just wasn’t at the “get married” stage yet and she was.

It still hurt to break up and it made me realize that I really did want this marriage thing.  I remember sitting on the side of a mountain in Colorado, telling God that I was ready and asking Him to send me someone.

That didn’t happen but something else did.  This idea of meeting THE ONE and getting married began to dominate my prayer and thought life.  In my mid twenties I dated some but only really had one person who I thought could be it.  When that didn’t work out, I was in a tailspin.  I just kept praying and really begging God to send me someone.

This would be what I call the Marriage Idol.  It is the idea that if I can get married to THE ONE that everything will be right.  How do you know if marriage is an idol?  Here are some signs.

  • Your prayer life is wrapped up in it.
  • Whenever anyone asks you what they can pray for – your answer is a spouse
  • You’re pretend life involves marriage or hurt from relationships you thought would lead there.
  • Your identity is wrapped up in being single

All of this can dominate us.  For many years it did me.  It has different effects.  It leads some people to constantly be in dating relationships and trying to make even the worst relationship work.  For others it means they can never have a dating relationship because they have to figure out if they could marry them first before they go on a date.  Haha – I’ve done both!

Some people want to say that the decrease in marriages means that people are idolizing marriage less or holding it with less value.  While I think on one level that might be true, I would submit that actually marriage as an idol can delay marriage because it has to be just right.  I mean if this is the ultimate thing in my life then I have to be absolutely sure that you’re THE ONE.  Having it as an idol puts incredible pressure on dating.  Being scared of marriage is just another version of the same marriage idol.

Marriage is good.  It was instituted by God.  But when it becomes the thing that drives us or dominates our thoughts and prayers we are in trouble.  Even if we get married.  Actually getting married might be the number one way to kill the marriage idol.  However that leads to hard stuff in marriage.  If however we can kill the marriage idol while we are single – we are set – whether we get married or not.

So how do we kill the marriage idol.  It’s not easy for many of us but here are some thoughts.

  • Fight to have your identity in Christ not in marital status.
  • Don’t lead with your desire to be married in every prayer request situation.  Have some other things to pray for.
  • Kill the Pretend – I keep saying this but we HAVE TO do it.
  • Have deep friendships with married people.  This is so huge.  You need to have an inside view of actual marriages.
  • Get a right theological view of marriage.  This is why we need to actually listen to the sermon on marriage and read the books.  We need to have a realistic view instead of a romantic one.  We need to have a biblical view of marriage instead of a secular one.
  • If you never go on a date because you have to figure out if you’re going to marry them first – go on some dates – seriously.
  • If you have never not been dating – take a break from it – seriously.

Look here’s why the marriage idol is so powerful.  It’s the idea the if I just had the right relationship with the right person in perfect union then all would be alright.  Read that last sentence again.  Do you see it?  That’s God’s spot.  What makes the marriage idol so dangerous is that a relationship with another person is the next closest thing to a relationship with God.  We are created in God’s image.  If I’m looking for fulfillment in my life then another person will be the next best thing.  It’s a trap – and it’s one that not only kills us in singleness but also in marriage.  If I’m married and looking for fulfillment in that person, my marriage will suffer.

Only if I get my fulfillment in God can I be really free to love anyone, let alone someone I would marry.

So how about you?  Have you ever had marriage as an idol?  Has anything helped you kill it?