Brad opened the service by thanking everyone involved in making Saturday evening's Valentine Sweetheart Banquet a special occasion, especially Leonard Armstrong who prepared the feast, Susie Newman, Susie Lane, Nancy Vanderscheuren and Ed Newman who served as MC for the entertainment portion of the event, plus special guest Corianne Lee.
The quartet began the worship time with the Gaither Trio song "God Is Good" followed by "If That Isn't Love." After a time of worship and the offering, we listened to the reading of I Corinthians 3:1-9.
Ask, Seek & Knock
Pastor Brad began by sharing how he's lately been studying the Sermon on the Mount as a whole as opposed to the piecemeal manner in which it is often contemplated where we think about the Beatitudes at one time and the story of the house built on a rock another time. By meditating on the sermon holistically, new insights can be gained.
Today's message was on prayer, but Brad wanted us to see that this section where Jesus taught us about prayer is integrally related to what precedes it, words of caution about judging others. Jesus' words, "Ask... seek... knock" are given to us in the context of relationships. Interestingly enough, what immediately follows is the Golden Rule, "Do unto others..."
If Christians would conduct themselves with the attitude of ask, seek, knock we might get more headway in our relationships and our efforts in the world. Ask means to get permission. Seek, in the original Greek, is to seek and keep seeking. Knock means don't barge in, don't force things.
As mentioned, the section just before this is dealing with horizontal relationships. Jesus takes things into a vertical direction, but it is still about relationship, only now He addresses our relationship with God.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 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!
God is our Father, and like a good Father He responds to our requests. Just like earthly fathers, he cares and listens. Yet, as C.S. Lewis notes, prayers are not always granted. God, who is perfect, knows what we need and responds with our best interest in mind.
Brad noted that God is unchanging in character, and raised the question whether it is futile for us to try to change His mind when something has been decided. He then cited two examples where God did indeed change his mind, the first being in Exodus 32 where Moses interceded on behalf of Israel. The second time was when Isaiah visited Hezekiah who was dying and God gave the king another fifteen years of life. In other words, if we ask, sometimes we really can change God's mind.
Pastor Brad cited an especially good prayer for certain circumstances. "Lord, if this is of You, may it increase. If it is not of You, may it go away."
Keep on asking. Keep on seeking. This is what God wants us to do. This is how we show our earnestness.
When seeking God's will, Brad affirmed that the more important thing is not what we do but rather who we become. God's aim is to make us like Jesus, and our character is more important than whether we move this direction or that.
Ultimately, God's desire for us is a relationship with Himself, that we pursue Him more than "answers."
As the Scripture states, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." What this means is that when we know and understand God's heart we can move in greater harmony with Him.
It's like at a party when your spouse is across the room and he or she indicates it's time to go with that look in the eyes. So it is we know God's heart and intent by looking full in His face.
Prayer is not a technique. It is not something mechanical like pushing the right buttons, or an incantation where you have to say the right words. It is a relationship.
Knock, and keep on knocking.
In closing we drank in again the words of that great hymn Be Thou My Vision.