Seek and Receive

Matthew 6: 33

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Last week I wrote to you about Matthew 7: 7 – 12 (See Word of the Day, Fish or Snake, May 15, 2020). The substance of that article was asking and receiving, seeking and finding, knocking and the door being opened. We look for God’s blessing and God is not a man that He would give us a snake if we asked for a fish. He gives good gifts to His beloved.

I was out on a bike ride Friday with those ideas still running through my mind. I stopped at a church to pray, as has become my habit. It sort of feels like with all the churches empty and the parking lots vacant, it is good for me to utilize that space to offer prayers. So, I was leaning on my bike praying when I saw this sign. This verse is so familiar that I almost missed the significance but as I prayed, all of a sudden truth dawned on my consciousness. SEEK AND RECEIVE!

Now before we dismiss this as materialism, take note that God said, ALL things. Jesus was talking about our needs being met, so yes, he meant that our Father would meet our material needs but Jesus is the fullness of all things so this would include your need for social contact and friends, needs for peace, tranquility, relaxation, meaningful hobbies, projects and work. No matter what you need, or want, Jesus included it when he said, “all these things will be added to you.”

The key word, though, is “seek.” Ask, seek, knock; receive, find, have opened. The epiphany that went through me Friday was that “seek” is the word that we should hear and which ties these two passages together. It is worthwhile to note that both passages are part of the same presentation. Each is taken from the Sermon on the Mount which is Jesus’ most comprehensive soliloquy.
We are instructed to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness and everything else will be given to us besides. It is almost to say we will not have need to ask for those other things because we have sought, and received, the one thing. Our receiving is tied to our seeking and that which we are to seek is God’s Kingdom. God knows what you need, and He does not want you to seek those things or even worry about asking for them. Seek Him and His way of doing things and He will provide for your needs and everything else for which you ask. That surely makes for a powerful prayer life. And on that note, when you are at the point where your needs are met and you don’t spend your prayer time on those things, and, when you know you will receive what you ask, imagine how big your prayer life can grow and the things you will pray about. Seeking God and His kingdom really opens up life. It creates a great release of spiritual energy. We are changed as we move into the Kingdom because we reside in God’s presence.

Ask, seek and knock, but in your seeking, seek the one with all wisdom. Seek God and His ways.

Fish or Snake

Matthew 7: 7 – 11, 12

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

This passage has been on my mind a lot lately, but I wasn’t inclined to write on it. Not every verse that comes to me is for the Word of the Day. Some are just for me. It kept circling around and around though, different parts of it at different times because, as you see, there are several parts to this. It wasn’t until I sat down with my Bible and read through it that I realized that verses 7 through 11 were part of the same message. I was thinking about our Father being a good father who would not give us a snake if we asked for a fish. Then another day ask, seek, and knock came to my mind. I wasn’t putting it all together in my head. Then when I actually took the time to see the words, I found another interesting tidbit, i.e. verse 12. What is going on here? There appear to be at least three thoughts here, yet it seems Jesus delivered all this, practically, in one breath. Could it be these are all related?

That is the message I received out of this passage. God is not denying me anything, or you. We should ask expecting to receive, seek expecting to find and knock expecting God to open the door to us. However, the grease on the hinges of the door just might be the way I treat people. Worse, what if the way I think about people or talk about them, even in private, affects my receiving, finding and opening?

I am trying to learn to be much less judgmental and much more compassionate. One person’s acts, thoughts or words can look very wrong from our perspective and not even wrong in a sinful way but just “not right.” That is a hard lesson. Sometimes the world is very different from their spot on the earth and that difference yields different thoughts and choices. So, from my perspective their decisions may look completely ridiculous but be completely rational from theirs.

Even when you know someone to be wrong, there are times you just have to let them be. I am a teacher, so I want to teach. I need, though, to learn not to judge them or their ideas bur rather just accept them where they are. What a challenge! However, I think this is part of what Jesus wants from us. It is not a blessing to others when I judge them.

The judgement and condemnation we pass on others just might be causing our door to remain stuck closed. That is frightening. What do you think your Father has to say about this? Do you journal with Yahweh? This might be a good question to take to Him. What, if anything, does verse 12 have to do with 7 through 11?

Our Father wants to give us good gifts and bless us. He said to ask, and we would receive. Perhaps if we think about and speak about people in a gracious manner it will be easier for us to receive of His goodness.

Ask

Luke 4: 38 – 40

And He arose and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever; and they made request of Him on her behalf. And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately arose and waited on them. And while the sun was setting, all who had any sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on every one of them, He was healing them.

We all know about Jesus who went about doing good (Acts 10: 38). What strikes me here is that Jesus wasn’t going around looking for someone to do good to. In these few verses there are two examples of people receiving healing. In neither case, though, did Jesus seek them out.

Jesus had been in the synagogue. When he and his disciples left there, they went to Peter’s house. “They,” whoever they may be, asked Jesus to minister to Peter’s sick mother-in-law. What would Jesus have done if no one had asked him to minister to her?

In the second scenario, Jesus may have been enjoying his after dinner cup of coffee when people began showing up at Peter’s front door. Again, Jesus didn’t go out looking for someone to pray for. People asked for prayer, for ministry. I am not suggesting that we should not initiate prayer or to be purposeful about praying for people. The point of this message is to observe Jesus and learn from him. Why didn’t he offer to pray for Peter’s mother-in-law? After dinner, why didn’t he go sit in the town square and call out to people? There may be something going on here.

In Matthew, chapter nine, we read about the woman who “had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak,” (Matthew 9: 20). She was instantly healed. Jesus didn’t seek her out either, but she had been “saying to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I will get well,’” (Matthew 9: 21). The woman initiated contact with Jesus. She pressed through the crowd to touch his garment believing that she would be healed with that touch. Jesus, realizing that power had gone out from him turned around and “seeing her said, ‘Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ At once the woman was made well,” (Matthew 9: 22).

What is going on here? I think there is an important lesson for us to learn. Jesus said it in John 16: 24, “Ask and you will receive.” From his brother we learn, “You do not have because you do not ask,” (James 4: 2). I have been amazed at the reluctance people have shown to asking for prayer. If Jesus came to town, would we shake of our lethargy and actually seek prayer? People will tell me the incredible challenges they have gone through and I will think, “We have a prayer line on our website, why don’t people ask for prayer?” What is going on in our cultures that was not present during Jesus’ time? Is our attitude the result of the protestant reformation? Since we each have a direct pipeline to God, have we determined that we do not need to ask other people for prayer? Even knowing that I am a pastor, few people come to me and ask me to pray for them. Almost none ask me to lay hands on them for healing? Is this simply because we have not taught people to ask?

Well, I am teaching today! Ask! Are you sick? Do you have need of any healing for your body, mind, emotions? Ask. In the examples above, the people brought their faith for healing in their request. The woman with the hemorrhage demonstrated her faith, actually used her faith, to reach out to Jesus. Others went to Jesus seeking healing because they had faith that they would receive. He didn’t seek them out. They sought him. That was the measure of faith. Perhaps we ask not because we have no faith for healing. Perhaps we don’t ask because we are arrogant, or maybe bashful. On the one hand one might feel he can pray as well as anyone else. On the other hand, one may be too shy to ask. Here I am saying today, “Ask.” You have not because you ask not.

Be persistent. Be tenacious. Be determined to receive everything Jesus promised. It is not always easy to receive your answer. I know that but, sitting in the recliner complaining is probably not the answer either. Get in front of every preacher you know and ask them to lay hands on you and pray. Get your friends to anoint you with oil and pray. Go to our prayer line at Ivey Ministries (https://iveyministries.org/prayer-request/). Do something. God wants you whole too. Reach out to others and ask them for prayer. If you have already prayed about something and have not received the answer then get out of your comfort zone and ask someone to pray for you. Slay apathy and be a doer of the Word. Tug on Jesus’ robe and demand the promises fulfilled in your life. His answer is yes, but first, you have to ask.

Seeker

Matthew 7: 7 – 8

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you for every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.

I have a question for you today. Does or did Jesus have the capacity to tell a lie? Did Jesus ever tell one lie in his life? We need to know because he is the one who spoke these words we read today. Here is another question, is it possible that when Jesus said these words he meant them only figuratively? In other words, are the words in the quoted verses for today meant to express their literal meaning or are they some figurative, allegorical or metaphorical representation of another meaning? We need to know! Does Jesus mean what he said or was he speaking in nuanced riddles?

I looked up simile, allegory, metaphor and figurative and from the meanings I see there, none of them apply to these two verses. Still, many people excuse the literal meanings of Jesus’ words claiming that they represent some other ideas which are not actually spoken. Because Jesus sometimes taught by using parables, some people discount all of his speech as representative rather than literal. Okay, so let me ask you another question. Why would the Son of God, he who came to set us free and to lead us into truth and fullness of life, play cloak and dagger with his beloved? He came to earth to die for each and every one of us; he came to give his life a ransom so that we might be saved. Why then would he hide the ball from us? And yes, that was figurative language I just used and it was obvious and understood.

That is the point of figurative language. It is not meant to hide the truth. It is used to illustrate and make clear difficult concepts. Finally, if we intend to have a relationship with Jesus, one that is based on truth and trust, then we must believe his words have actual meaning. He spoke so that we could hear and be free. When he said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10: 10) we must assume and understand that those words mean exactly what they say. Otherwise they do not have meaning and frankly, the whole Bible is undermined. If Jesus wanted to communicate that the purpose of his coming to earth was to give us life, how else would he say it other than to use the words which have the meaning which normally and customarily mean just that? Do you see what I mean? Once a person reduces one of Jesus’ literal statements to fantasy or figurative poetry, then all meaning for all his messages is lost. Who can say which of his statements are mere figures of speech and which ones he actually meant as spoken? Honestly, it is beyond intellectual integrity for one to adopt this posture. It is the height of arrogance. People who excuse away Jesus’ words and meanings replace them with themselves and their reasoning. It is foolishness!

The point of all of this is that Jesus said that if we seek, we shall find. There is no figure of speech in that statement so really, the choice is whether or not we choose to take him at his word. Do we believe the Father of us all sent His only begotten son to earth to lead us into truth, wisdom, and freedom? Why would Yahweh, Abba Father, sacrifice His beloved on a cross for people He intended to mislead? Does that really make any sense at all? Jesus’ brother, James, said that we should ask God for wisdom promising that God would give it to us freely and without reproach (James 1: 5). Why, then, would God offer to give us all His wisdom yet cloak every word Jesus said while in the earth. It is illogical and unreasonable to believe that so, trust that Jesus came to open eyes and doors. Believe him when he says that if we ask, we shall receive. When we seek, we will always find. Knock on the door because Jesus is on the other side waiting to open it to you.

Jesus has so much for us. The Father invested everything He had to bring us into a personal relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit is hovering today with creative power in his hands. They long for us. Let our yearning reach out and take hold of the love offered. Ask, seek, knock . . . receive, find, be welcomed in.

The Giver of Bread

Matthew 6:11


Give us this day, our daily bread.
I wrote on this verse earlier this week. The emphasis then was twofold; first that bread must be received daily rather than weekly and second that Jesus is the bread. Today I want you to look at the first word of this verse and recall, as you do, that Jesus is teaching on how to pray.

I am struck by this word and this question occurs to me, “Why am I trying to earn a living when Jesus said to ask the Father to “give” me my daily bread?” It seems from this verse, and all that surrounds it, that providing my daily bread is Dad’s responsibility. It appears that my responsibility is to appeal to Him and to accept His gifts.

People get themselves very confused over whether Jesus’ teachings are metaphorical or literal. Let me answer that question for you. Yes!! They are both. One of the important lessons I have learned about Jesus and Yahweh is that they never only accomplish one thing. Dad may direct me to give money to a ministry in order to meet their need but His other goal and maybe even bigger aim is to bless me and meet my needs above and beyond all I can think. So in this verse Jesus is speaking very literally. He means for you to ask God to provide your daily sustenance and expect that the Father will. Jesus also means for you to understand the spiritual principle involved in receiving your daily needs from the Father. Yahweh is our provider. He is our source. Learn to expect Him to meet all of your needs. Secondly, understand that Jesus is the bread of life and ask the Father every day to give you more of this essential nutrient.

Believing

Matthew 21: 22

And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this verse simply said, “All things you ask, you shall receive?” But, there is that problematic word set off between the commas, believing. We receive all things which, when we pray, we believe we will receive. In Matthew 8: 13 Jesus told the Centurion, “[L]et it be done to you as you have believed.” That could be frightening if Jesus said that to many of us. We might be concerned that we will receive just exactly as we do believe. Is fear dominant or is faith? Most likely we have been receiving just exactly as we have been believing. 

 
In Mark 9: 23 Jesus told a petitioner, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The man immediately cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” The man had not been in faith when he first approached Jesus. He told Jesus that he had brought his son for prayer but that Jesus’ disciples had been unable to cast out the spirit which was oppressing the boy. Jesus responded “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to me.” The boy was delivered to Jesus and the boy’s father said to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” Jesus must have been amazed at the father’s unbelief. He exclaimed, “If you can!” That is when Jesus said to the man, “All things are possible to him who believes.”
So whose unbelief was it that Jesus was speaking to? It is often presumed that Jesus was dismayed at his disciples and maybe he was. But take a look at this man. When the boy was taken to Jesus, he did not immediately pray for the boy. First he spoke with the father. He had to change the father’s unbelief into belief before he prayed for the boy. You see, it was the father’s unbelief that was keeping the boy imprisoned. When Jesus told the father that all things were possible to him if he would but believe he cried out, “I believe!” Well, that is a great start. First get your confession right. Say out of your mouth that thing which you need, the result you want. Secondly, knowing that he was no faith giant but rather was in unbelief, he asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief. That was the real issue. That was where Jesus had to minister. As soon as the father believed, Jesus was able to cast out the spirit. The boy was set free.

In order for us to receive the great gifts of the Lord, we too must cast out our own unbelief and become real believers. Pray to the Lord for help and work on believing Jesus. When he says a thing, just accept it. If it is too big for you, then ask the Lord for help in believing. This is how the whole kingdom of God works.

Make a Wish

1 Kings 3: 5

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish me to give you.”

Wouldn’t we all like for God to appear to us with the promise to grant whatever we wish? That is what happened to Solomon. As you probably know, Solomon asked God for an understanding heart so that he would know how to rule God’s people. God was pleased with Solomon’s wish and granted him not only great wisdom but also riches and honor. God also promised long life if Solomon would continue to walk in the statutes and commandments.

I wonder sometimes if God isn’t posing the same question to us today? Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7: 7). “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14: 14). Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full (John 16: 24). If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15: 7). Perhaps, then, it is true that the Father is making us the same offer He made Solomon.

What is your Solomon wish?