Sunday, December 18, 2016

Are You the One?

Luke 7:17-23
This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

What do you come expecting when you come to celebrate Christmas? What are your expectations? What are you celebrating? One of the themes as we prepare for Christmas is a theme of waiting. While we wait for Christmas day, that is waiting for a celebration of a day that has already happened. Jesus was already born. But we do wait for something else; we wait for Jesus’ return. So the theme for this year’s Christmas Revival is “wait.” Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. 

In today’s scripture, John the Baptist has been waiting. You may remember John the Baptist from the earlier accounts from his ministry, how he preached a baptism of repentance, how Jesus came to him to be baptized in the Jordan. But now, John is in prison. He had the audacity to speak out against King Herod, who threw him in prison. John is struggling, so he has his disciples go to Jesus and asks “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 

Why would he even ask this? Because he had come to expect the wrong Messiah. He was waiting, but not waiting for the right thing. One of the problems in life is that we have twisted the gospel so we expect the wrong things from God. We wait for the wrong things. I see stickers on cars proclaiming 2016 the year of bountiful increase or the year of prosperity. They think God is a genie waiting to give out money. Then 2016 passes by and they have to get a new sticker. Maybe 2017 will be that year.  We have endless problems when we make Jesus into something he isn’t. Here in Zambia we wait for all kinds of things with no problems. We have a meeting and it starts an hour late and people don’t mind waiting. We wait for buses and everything else. Zambians are far more patient than Americans with all these things. But when it comes to waiting on God, we’re impatient. We want God to respond now. If He doesn’t, we go to the witch doctor.

So how did Jesus respond to John the Baptist’s question? He told him to report what they’d seen: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. This would sound familiar if you’re reading straight through Luke’s Gospel, because to get to Luke 7, you have to have read Luke 4:16-21 

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus let John the Baptist know that he was indeed the one for whom he had been waiting. He is the fulfillment of prophecy. He is the answer. Here in Zambia, we often expect God to move in ways contrary to his nature. How will God move? What will God do? God’s actions will always follow God’s character. God will move according to his Word.

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

This is the theme verse for Christmas Revival. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. To do these things, you have to know the Lord. You have to know what he is doing. This is illuminated in God’s Word. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Talking to God - Kingdom, Power, and Glory

The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

We have spent months studying the Lord’s Prayer. We begin by recognizing and acknowledging who God is. God is the Almighty in Heaven, but he has chosen us as his children, so we can address him as “our Father.” We worship him and lift up his name as holy. This must always be our context for prayer. We do not lift up our prayers to someone who is just one of us. God is love; he cares for us. But he is also all powerful; he can answer our prayers. 

We begin our petitions of God by asking for his kingdom to come and for his will to be done; in asking this, we also humble ourselves and bend our will to his. We call upon Jehovah Jireh - God our Provider - to give us this day our daily bread. We entrust ourselves fully to his provision. 

We continue our prayer by asking for forgiveness and for the power and grace to forgive others, and we ask for the power to resist temptation and deliverance from Satan and his tricks.

As we complete this series on the Lord’s Prayer, we will look at how we close the prayer. For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen. When we look in the Bible, this closing isn’t included in our text, but in some of your Bibles, there is a footnote which tells you that it is included in some manuscripts.

This postscript in the Lord’s Prayer is perhaps the oldest piece of Christian writing outside the New Testament. We’ve been praying the Lord’s Prayer this way for nearly 2000 years. But it is not a new prayer. Listen to how King David prayed in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13:10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

Everything in heaven and earth belongs to God. The Kingdom is his. Majesty has been defined as royal power, and if you think of the majesty of beautiful mountains, consider that God made them, and they are only echoes of his majesty. God’s kingdom is of infinite worth; I can’t list all of the scriptures about God’s Kingdom, but when Jesus spoke of the kingdom, he affirmed that its worth was greater than anything we could or would ever own. God is indeed exalted as the head over all, the ruler over all things.

Considering God’s power: If you think of the most powerful people in the world, consider that God made that person and has their lives in his hand. James 4:14 reminds us that all lives are only a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Even the most powerful. God makes the most powerful people in the world pale in comparison. We can speak of people as having power, but God is power.

God’s glory has been defined by Dr. Fred H. Klooster as the summary of all of God’s attributes. The majesty, splendor, beauty, and brilliance of God who dwells in unapproachable light are expressed by this indefinable term. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (pp. 879–880). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

John Piper defines God’s glory this way: “I believe the glory of God is the going public of his infinite worth. I define the holiness of God as the infinite value of God, the infinite intrinsic worth of God. And when that goes public in creation, the heavens are telling the glory of God, and human beings are manifesting his glory, because we're created in his image, and we're trusting his promises so that we make him look gloriously trustworthy.”

When we acknowledge that all glory is God’s, we demonstrate that God is of infinite worth. That his attributes contribute to his worth, and that he is not just worthy because of what he does, but because of who he is. 

Now, a few minutes ago I referenced James 4:14 — as humans we have a limited lifespan. We are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. But God is eternal. That’s why we acknowledge that the kingdom, power, and glory are God’s forever and ever. They are without end. While Zambia recently celebrated 52 years of Independence, and the USA celebrated 240 years, the kingdoms of this earth rise and fall. But God’s rule never ends. 

We conclude the Lord’s Prayer fittingly with “Amen.” So be it. We can pray this prayer with confidence, not even asking “if it is the Lord’s will” because we have absolute assurance that this entire prayer is within God’s will. After all, Jesus doesn’t teach us to pray it conditionally. We can pray it with all confidence. As Hebrews 4:16 tells us, Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Talking to God: Temptation

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13

Over the last two weeks, we looked at forgiveness. To get to forgiveness, we must recognize that we have sinned. We ask for forgiveness from our past sin. Now that we have done so, we ask for protection from future sin.

The reality is, temptation will always be with us. The closer we draw to Jesus Christ, the more the devil will tempt us. Our goal as Christians is Christ-likeness, and so we should expect the same things that Jesus experienced. Right as he was to begin his ministry, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Hebrews 4:15, in describing Jesus as our high priest says this: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus has been tempted in every way, but he did not give in to temptation. Sometimes Christians believe that temptation itself is sinful, so if we have sinful thoughts or sinful urges, we can be overcome by guilt and shame. Temptation itself is not a sin. But when we give in to temptation, we sin. Temptation is a tricky subject. Does God cause it, or not?

Our language can confuse us in this manner. When we pray “lead us not into temptation,” some could think this would mean that without such a prayer, God might lead us into temptation. But James 1:13-15 tells us Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 

So it isn’t that God is tempting us. A negative request does not mean that the positive is to otherwise be expected. If a husband says to his wife, “Don’t ever leave me” — he doesn’t necessarily assume she will leave him.

So asking God not to lead us into temptation does not necessarily infer that God might otherwise lead us into temptation. That said, God sometimes does lead us into times of testing. In our Bible study this week, we started looking at the book of James, where we learned to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of all kinds, because it is through those trials that our faith is formed, developing into perseverance, which must finish its work to make us mature and complete, not lacking in anything (James 1:4). 

The reality is, God allows us to go through testing, which perfects our faith. But as 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

So when we ask God to deliver us from temptation, we are in fact asking God to deliver us through it. To help us bear up under it. To escape it and endure it without sin. We need God’s help and protection, for the devil seeks to lead us astray. So we ask God to deliver us from the evil one. 

Know that when God delivers us, He actually expects something from us. It’s a prayer that we ask of God but that God expects us to do something as well. We can’t just sit back and say “well, I asked God to deliver me from the evil one, so I don’t have to do anything.” There are some people who continually put themselves in places of temptation. If something tempts you, don’t stay around it. Ask God to help you avoid it. For example, shortly after our marriage, we had a neighbor who was into drugs. They tried to get clean, but they kept all the same friends, those who were into the drug scene. So if you can imagine, the temptation was too hard to overcome.

This is a good area in which the church can be the church. Sometimes we just let someone struggle and fail, all on their own. We don’t even know when someone is struggling with temptation. Part of the brilliance of John Wesley’s system was that every Methodist met in a small group. We were never meant to be Christians all on our own. And one reason God put us into community is to encourage one another. Help keep one another accountable. We have to be real with one another for this to happen, admitting to one another where we need help. James 5:16 reminds us to confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

This also relates to temptation. When we admit to one another that we’re tempted in a certain area, we can help one another keep clear of that temptation. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Talking to God: Forgiving Others

Last week we looked at God’s forgiveness. How it is God’s character from which forgiveness flows. Because of who God is, and because of what Jesus did for us, God grants us forgiveness. God’s grace is not cheap. He has consistently blessed his people to be a blessing to others. And when God forgives us, he links his forgiveness to how we forgive others. 

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

So God requires us to forgive. In Matthew 18:21, when Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him, He generously suggested seven times. The rabbis said three times was enough. If someone wronged you, you were expected to forgive them three times. But Peter was more generous. He suggested up to seven times, the perfect number of completion. But Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)

Then he told a parable about a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed him thousands of dollars, years and years wages. He was not able to pay, so the master ordered that he and his family and everything they had be sold to repay the debt. The servant begged him to relent, and the master took pity on him and canceled the debt. But when the same servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a few kwacha, he choked him and beat him and demanded his money. When the fellow servant couldn’t pay, he had him thrown into prison until he could repay the debt.

In Matthew 18:32-35, Jesus finishes. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Many times we expect someone else to make the first move, to make things right first, and then we will forgive them, but Jesus demonstrates that our forgiveness of others stems from God’s forgiveness of us. Because God forgave us a debt that we could not pay, we are to forgive others.

There is no question about God’s will in forgiveness. God wills his followers to forgive others. If you do not forgive, you are disobeying God. Plain and simple. But I recognize that it is not simple to forgive.

I recognize that for most of us, forgiveness does not come naturally. I had an experience with a colleague where he had wronged me and I had no intention of forgiving him. After all, he was the one who had wronged me! But forgiving someone does not mean we excuse the person who wronged us. Instead, we admit that we were hurt. They were wrong. We do not have to tolerate the wrong they did in order to forgive. We don’t have to understand why they did it, and we don’t have to forget what they did. And most of all, we do not have to invite them to hurt us once again. Forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation. Sometimes reunion is impossible, and sometimes it is harmful. 

While the best possible outcome would be for restoration, sometimes that does not happen. You see, forgiveness is not always about the interaction with the other person. It is an internal change of heart, by which we take the evil that has been done to us and we relinquish our right to revenge. We give it up to God, but we do not surrender our right for justice. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.

So, how do we forgive? Forgiveness starts with us wanting to forgive. In the case I told you about earlier, when my colleague wronged me, I didn’t want to forgive him. But in my prayers, I asked God to help me want to want to forgive him. It was shortly after that when I was able to do so, and after that, I found my feelings changing. I was in a place where I despised him. I got angry even just to hear his name. But as I prayed, I found that hatred diminishing. I stopped praying that bad things would happen to him, and I found those wishes diminishing. Soon I started praying that good things happen to him. But the desire for this change didn’t come from me. It came from the Holy Spirit.

We all must remember this about forgiveness: It is not optional. It is a command from God. And God tells us that he will dispense forgiveness in the same manner as we do. But  besides that, forgiveness is good all in itself. 

Forgiveness is a sign that you are truly a Christian. When we don’t, we set ourselves up as the judge and the jury. Essentially, we set ourselves up as above God. But forgiveness is an act of trust in God, that God will deliver justice, that we don’t have to. We imitate Jesus Christ’s example; even as he was being crucified, he said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). 

Forgiveness further frees our conscience of guilt. Unforgiveness interferes with peace of mind happiness, satisfaction, and even proper functioning of the body. This gives Satan a foothold in our hearts.

Forgiveness benefits the entire church. The Holy Spirit does not work freely among those who carry grudges and harbor resentment. Psalm 66:18 reminds us that “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Sometimes we wonder why our prayers aren’t answered, and meanwhile, we are harboring unforgiveness in our hearts. 

And when we forgive, we activate God’s forgiveness. God deals with us as we deal with others, so he instructs us to forgive others as freely and graciously as God forgives us.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 106–108). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

God created us to be in right relationship with Him and thus in right relationship with others. When we withhold forgiveness, we break relationship, not only with other people, but also with God. But when we forgive, we restore relationship with God. Whether the relationship with the other person is restored is partially up to them, but we have done our part, our Christian duty. And God rewards it every time.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Talking to God: Forgive us!

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

After we give God the proper respect, Jesus instructs us to pray for our daily bread, remembering that we rely on God for everything. This is a prayer for our physical needs as well as spiritual, remembering that Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never go thirsty.” (John 6:35) 

We continue today, asking for God’s intervention. Today we will begin looking at forgiveness. Forgiveness means freeing someone from guilt and its consequences, including punishment, usually as a act of compassion or love, with the aim of restoring a broken relationship. Forgiveness can involve the cancellation of both punishment and debt. Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

We ask God to forgive our trespasses. Now, I don’t know how it works going from English to local languages, but in English itself, even while praying the Lord’s Prayer, different churches pray it different ways. Some people say “trespasses” while others say “debts” and others simply say “sins.” One reason why this is confusing is because in their Gospel accounts, Matthew and Luke use different words. Luke says “hamartia” which means “missing the mark” — when we sin, we miss the mark of God’s standard of righteousness.

But Matthew uses the word “opheilema” which means “moral or spiritual debts.” In this case, sin is a moral or spiritual debt to God that must be paid. 

When we ask God to forgive us we recognize that there is a debt that must be paid. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. The fair payment for sinning against God is death. So by rights, if we have sinned, we deserve death. That is the punishment and the debt.

We must also recognize that there is no other way we can pay our debt to God. Living without forgiveness is living under the shadow of death and justified guilt.  So forgiveness is our greatest need, because without it, we hold on to our sin, and sin separates us from God. In the here-and-now, and in eternity. 

As a result of our sin, we owe to God a debt that we are completely unable to pay. This is where Jesus comes into the equation. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This proves God’s love for us.  When we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, God forgives us. Our sin is transferred to Jesus, and He takes our punishment upon himself on the cross. Sin was what happened, and death was its payment. God’s wrath against sin is satisfied by Jesus’ sacrifice.

At that moment when we trust Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. We are justified, which means we are made just as if we had never sinned. Our sin is actually taken away, and we are made right with God. That is what righteousness means — being in right relationship with God. This forgiveness comes from God’s character. God is described in Exodus 34:6 and following as, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.’

So, since our relationship with God is made right at our salvation, what happens if we sin after we are saved? 1 John 1:8 reminds us that if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. So we’ve sinned. What do we do? Do we have to be saved all over again? No. the next verse, 1 John 1:9 continues: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive sour sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. So our response is confession. And God’s response to us is forgiveness.

God makes us right with himself, and we celebrate this fact! Next week we will look at how we are to respond to God’s forgiveness.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Who is Invited to Supper?

1 Corinthians 11:23-29
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

As a child, I remember playing outside with my friends in the evening, having so much fun, and then we’d hear a familiar sound. One by one, front doors would open and mothers would come out to the front step and call their children in to eat. It was understood in our neighborhood that when the neighbor’s mother called, the neighbor child went home. We each went to our own homes to eat. Unless there had been specific arrangements made beforehand, we were not invited to eat at our friends’ houses.

There have been many questions over the year as to who is invited to the Lord’s Supper. In some denominations, if you were not baptized in their church, you are not invited. Generally, churches require someone to be a Christian to participate. 

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, got into trouble over who was invited to Communion. When he went to Georgia, in America, on a mission trip, he began a relationship with a woman named Sophy Hopkey. She suddenly married someone else, and Wesley denied her Communion! The issue grew, and it led to John Wesley slipping out of the colony and returning to England, humbled. 

So who is invited? 
The United Methodist Communion liturgy begins this way: Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.

If anyone who falls into this category is invited, we must come in a worthy manner. For we see from scripture that anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner is guilty of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Who then is worthy? John Wesley required his Methodists to present a ticket in order to partake of Communion. This ticket was given at their class meeting, their small group meeting. If you didn’t attend small group, you didn’t get Communion. His rationale: he could tell if someone was intentionally positioning themselves to grow in Christ by their willingness to participate in a small group. These groups met weekly to confess their sins to one another and to pray for one another, just as James 5 commands. 

The church in Corinth was facing an issue where people were treating the Lord’s Supper as a common meal, and not even doing that very well. Some people were coming and eating their fill, meaning if you were later in line, you might not get any. In those days, the cup was always wine - unfermented grape juice was not available yet - and some people were getting drunk! There was no reverence or order to the Lord’s Supper, and Paul says this is wrong. When you take the Lord’s Supper in this way, it is a mockery of Christ, whose body was broken and blood shed for all, not just for a few.

So we examine ourselves and confess our sins, and when we do so, Christ is gracious and forgives us. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That proves God’s love for us.

God’s love for us was demonstrated by a specific act in the past, but it continues today, and will culminate in the future. Whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. This action is a look back to our past, what Jesus did for us. We are reminded of the importance of this historical action. Jesus died on the cross, once and for all. But this passage subtly reminds us that Communion also compels us to look forward. We proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. We are looking forward to the time when Jesus will return. This is a certainty, not just a hope. Jesus is coming back. 

How does this effect our taking of Communion? The history reminds us of the great sacrifice Jesus made for us. The future compels us to positive action. We know that Jesus saved us, and we evaluate ourselves and confess our sins, knowing what Jesus saved us from. But we also strive forward toward holiness and Christian perfection, toward which Christ calls us. And we can be confident of this, that he who began this good work in us will be faithful to carry it on to completion until Jesus returns.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Talking to God - Give Us This Day

Matthew 6:9-13

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we first focus on God. Our Father in Heaven, whose name is lifted up and obeyed, on earth as it is in heaven. Now, in this part of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus shifts the focus. Having praised God for who He is, we now begin to ask of God. As in Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Now it is the time to make our requests to God. 

We begin by requesting our daily bread. This is a prayer for God to meet our physical needs. It is a recognition that God is the giver and sustainer of life itself. Sometimes we need reminding that Every good and perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17a) but this prayer keeps us rooted in this truth. Even our food itself is a gift from God. 

Did you notice that Jesus didn’t teach us to pray for weekly bread? It was daily bread. This would have made his original audience think of one event in their history. Does anyone know what this would be? In Exodus 16, the Israelites had come out of Egyptian captivity, but now they were grumbling that they were hungry. The Israelites grumbled to Moses and Aaron, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” (Exodus 16:3-5)

God provided them bread from heaven, which they called “manna” (which simply means “what is it?”) He provided it each day except for the Sabbath. If they tried to keep it for the next day, they found it rotten and full of maggots. They had to completely trust in God, every day, for their daily bread. This kind of trust is what Jesus is teaching. To utterly and completely rely on God for everything.

How does God answer this prayer? When we pray to God, asking us to provide daily bread, sometimes God provides miraculously, as in the time when Jesus was teaching and healing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and the people were hungry. Jesus asked his disciple Philip where they would get enough bread for the people to eat. Philip responded that it would take half a year’s wages to just give everyone a bite to eat. However, Jesus, multiplied a boy’s lunch, five small loaves and two fish, and fed 5000 with it, leaving 12 baskets full of leftovers.

But the primary way God provides is through work, as we can see in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, where Paul tells the church in Thessalonica, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” God has given most of us the energy, resources, and opportunity to work. For those who are unable to work, He provides care through those who can work. Whether He does so directly or indirectly, God is always the source of our physical well-being. He makes the earth produce what we need, and He gives us the ability to procure it. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (p. 95). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

But this prayer is more than for physical provision. After Jesus fed the 500, people were looking for him, but Jesus called them out. He said, “You aren’t looking for me even for the signs and wonders, but because I gave you free food.” In John 6:32-35, Jesus tells the people, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 

Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, asking God to provide us our daily bread, we are praying a double prayer. We are asking for physical provision. But we are also asking for more. We ask for Jesus, recognizing that our very life depends on Him, that in Him, we will never go hungry. Indeed, Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6). If you hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God, Jesus will fill you. 

So we continue to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We ask for physical provision, and we ask for Jesus Himself. And we in turn provide the same for those around us.