Watch & Pray

What does it mean to pray in faith, Biblically? (Matthew 21:18-22) I believe the church has a lack of biblical faith today. Faith is the substance (ὑπόστασις hypostasis) of things hoped for, with evidence. (Hebrews 11:1) In Matthew, Mark, and Luke Jesus ask individuals, what do you want me to do? He is asking each of them to ask in faith. Entering into salvation takes faith. When we pray we need to pray in faith that aligns with the Bible. As the shadow of the Cross is ever getting shorter, we find Jesus on Tuesday of the last week of His earthly ministry. He is again returning from Bethany trekking to Jerusalem and He becomes hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the roadside, He stops to shop. But this tree is only leaves. What does your life look like to others? When they see you and budding plumage causing them to approach, is your fruit stand empty, devoid and divested of what is sorely longed for and needed?

This is an interesting story for the area is near Bethphage which means house of unripe figs. This house must surely offer everyone the promise of sweet fruit and yet it leaves only a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Matthew 21:19~And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (ESV) 

Jesus is acting out a parable to teach His disciples. He is showing His indignation at people who have religion without righteousness. They say they believe but have no faith. Jesus’ harsh words to the fig tree can be applied to the beautiful temple in Jerusalem. It looks like it is spiritually fruitful, but in reality, it is spiritually barren. (Mark 11:12-25) In forty short years after His crucifixion, in 70 A.D. God allows the Roman general Titus to sack the Temple, and it has never been rebuilt. Instead, standing on the temple mount is the Dome of the Rock, completed in 691AD. Matthew simply combines both events. It typically takes weeks for a diseased tree to die, but Christ Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach His disciples about the power of faith and prayer. 

Matthew 21:21~Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and thrown into the sea, it will happen. Matthew 21:22~And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (ESV) 

The disciples never move literal mountains, but they do move mountains of antagonism, resistance and negativity as they advance the church of God, through prayer (Acts 4:31-33). I know this is one of the most abused and perverted verses in all of scripture because every Bible promise has a premise. 1 John 5:14~And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (ESV) 

Prayer that can move mountain-sized problems must be unselfish, undoubting, and based on faith in God—not faith in faith, which is so popular today. I got faith in faith, what does that even mean? Prayer is talking to God. We do this informally, we do this in song, we do this as we read scripture over our lives, we do this in agony, we do this when we are in deep need and longing, we do this in love, for He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) When we pray, we pray in faith. (ὑπόστασις hypostasis) the substance, it is a setting or placing under, it is the substructure or foundation of our hope in Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 11:1) And faith must come from a pure heart that has confessed and forsaken all sin. This is because of the true fact shared in Isaiah 59:2~But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear. (NIV) 

Sin prevents prayers from being heard, much less answered. This includes sins such as pride, unwillingness to forgive, bitterness, jealousy, and other sins that often seem to be called sins in good standing, found in some Christians’ lives.

Today I ask you, Is Jesus proud of you? To make Him proud, we must give Him Courageous praise. We must pursue the righteousness of God continually, as we pray in faith. Sometimes, we all wonder if the Lord accepts us and the prayers we are praying, so let me encourage you with the words of our Lord to Cain in Genesis 4:7~You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master. (NLT) So, go to God and clear the air and then head out into the world to do some good on His behalf.

Be Blessed

As we return to Matthew 21, we pick up after Jesus has cleansed the temple, when He quotes from Isaiah 56:7~…give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. (NIV) Adding in a portion of Jeremiah 7:11~Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD. (NIV) This is the second time during His public ministry Jesus cleanses the temple. John records our Lord also cleansed it at the beginning of His ministry in John 2:12-22. Our Lord’s actions cause a serious cash-flow problem for Jewish religious leaders. Their response comes in Mark 11:18~The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. (NIV) Don’t mess with a man’s money, it’ll get you cut.

Knowing His sacrifice on the cross is only days away, Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders in the most sacred place on earth—the Jerusalem Temple. This puts in motion the events that lead to His crucifixion. We now come to one of the greatest contrasts in the gospels. The Jewish leaders are defrauding the worshipers, juxtaposed is Jesus healing the blind and lame who’ve come to the temple. Matthew 21:15~But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, Hosanna to the Son of David! they were indignant, (ESV) Do you hear, what I hear? Jesus asks them are Old Testament experts or not? Matthew 21:16~Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise? (ESV) Jesus just dropped Psalm 8:2 on them.

With the religious leaders plotting, Jerusalem is not safe for Jesus. Therefore, He makes the 2 miles trip to Bethany for the night. Jesus is a great disappointment to the Jewish leaders because instead of freeing His people from Roman domination, rather choosing to free their souls from a corrupted Judaism. Instead of promoting revolution Christ Jesus preaches righteousness. His work has come full circle. Matthew 5:20~For I tell you unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (ESV) 

Do you want to make Christ Jesus proud of you? Then begin to align your life with scriptures as you live and pray. Say, Lord, I need your help in becoming the person you have created me to be, so I can go and do the good things you have prepared for me. (Ephesians 2:10) To accomplish this I need to begin making changes in my life. Then wait. Wait for the Lord to speak to you. It may be a feeling, a thought, a desire, a word spoken over your spirit. In whatever way the Lord speaks, you must respond and do what He asks. This will build your faith and also help you learn to listen to His voice. You have got this. You can put a proud smile on the Lord Jesus’ face today.

9…David —Confessions of a King — A Heart To Build — 2 Samuel 7…Handout

After more than____years of waiting, David is now king of all Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the Ark of the Covenant in the capital. 2 Samuel 7:1~Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him _____ from all his surrounding enemies, (ESV) David says he now ______ in a house of cedar, while the ark is in a tent. (2 Samuel 7:2-3) God tells David, No. Even though David has A Heart to Build: Why and _______.

1) Why God Says ______ 7:4-17) God also tells Nathan that when David dies, He’ll________a kingdom through his descendants (2 Samuel 7:4-12) One reason God says no is found 1 Chronicles 28:3~But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed _______.’ (ESV) Two more reasons we may hear No. No #1—God has a ________ perspective. Psalm 73:24~You_______me with your counsel, and afterward you will ______ me into glory. (NIV) No #2–God has a ______ plan. 2 Samuel 7:13~He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (ESV) This means God will never allow David’s ________ to end. This is later revealed in Luke 1:32-33~He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father ______…(NIV) We make decisions for all kinds of reasons, but God acts in light of_______. God will always give the best to those who leave the choice with Him. (Jim Elliot)

2) How To _________ To God’s No (7:18-29) David’s response is in 2 Samuel 7:18~Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, Who am I…? (ESV) The remainder of 2 Samuel 7 is David’s prayer of gratitude. His example reveals that we must #1—Respond With _____________. The Cross is about our surrender and recognition that Jesus has done it all. John 19:30~So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, It is ________!…(NKJ) David capitulates by humbly referring to himself ten times as God’s _______. When God says no, remember we are His servant. Servants will always be found_____ the will of God from the heart. Ephesians 6:6~not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as___________of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, (ESV) #2—Respond with ___________. What do you love deeply? Many see no as a point of negotiation, but not God. We must learn to ______ God and love Him with our _____. Matthew 22:37~Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (NIV) 2 Samuel 7:27~ For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found ______ to pray this prayer to you. (ESV) Are you __________ to what the Lord is saying in your life? 2 Samuel 7:22~ Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is_____ like you, and there is no God besides you…(ESV) #3—________ with Cooperation. David provides money from his own ________ wealth. 1 Chronicles 29:4~____  thousand talents of gold…(NIV) Worth over $___ Billion. God said David had a _______ after Him. Take-A-Step: ______________________________________.