Pray at All Times

Praying at all times in the Spirit…
Ephesians 6:18 ESV

Paul begins his discussion on prayer in verse 18, and within this verse, we find four all statements made about prayer. So we will divide our study and view prayer through the lens of these four declarations on prayer.

The apostle first tells us to pray at all times in the Spirit.

It is worth noting that there is never an inappropriate time to pray. That may be incredibly obvious, but even so, I think it is still worth saying. Prayer is alwpraays appropriate.

After all, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing.

Wait a minute.

If ceasing means to stop, does this mean that we are supposed to pray continuously throughout the day? If so, how often does Paul intend? Every hour? Every minute? Every second?

How are we supposed to pray without ceasing?

Here is my suggestion at what Paul means: our entire day should be prayerful, though not always with words. Remember for a second what prayer is: communion, or communication, with God. Though we may not always use words, living our lives in fellowship and communion with God is living prayerfully.

The Bible frequently calls our lives with Christ a walk with Jesus, so perhaps walking is a helpful metaphor to use here as well. When I am walking somewhere with my wife, our conversations tend to be numerous but not necessarily constant. Even if there is a moment of silence, we are still together; we haven’t left one another’s presence.

I think Paul desires for us to have this kind of attitude of prayer throughout each day. Praying at all times means living our lives in constant fellowship and communion with God, and like walk with a friend, verbal communication will be frequent but not necessarily constant.

How then do we live prayerful lives?

Praying in the morning tends to be immensely helpful, as it sets the pattern for the rest of the day. Morning prayer is not a requirement, but it is a wise discipline. It doesn’t have to be anything lengthy or formal, just begin the day with prayer. Is there really a better way of beginning our day than by immediately coming to our loving Father in prayer?

We also need to address the final three words of our present phrase: in the Spirit.

To your disappoint or relief, please note that Paul is NOT describing the need to speak in tongues here.

In Romans 8, Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s role in prayer as being the One who enables us to call God our Father (8:15). The Holy Spirit guarantees us that we are children of God, and it is only by His strength that our prayers are able to reach the throne room of God.

This means that we could very much call prayer an act of the Trinity. We pray to the Father. The Spirit lifts our prayers into the presence of God. And the Father hears them as the prayers of His children only through the mediation of Jesus Christ.

In this way, true Christian prayer cannot be made outside of the Holy Spirit. We cannot come to God as our Father without the continuous power of the Spirit. If we do not pray with the Spirit at all times, it is only because we do not have the Spirit. Prayer in the Spirit is the regular, but powerful, prayer of a Christian.

Joseph’s Brothers Return to Egypt | Genesis 43

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:14 ESV)

He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. (Genesis 43:23 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

When it comes to understanding the Bible, Genesis is a crucial book to know. Its first eleven chapters establish how the world was made and why it is now broken by sin. The rest of the book concerns itself with how God plans to fix humanity’s problem of sin. God promises to do this through the family of Abraham. Even though Abraham was a man of faith, he was just as marred by sin as anyone else (and his son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, were the same).

But the narrative now follows the life of Joseph, Abraham’s great grandson. After being sold into slavery by his brother, Joseph rose to a prominent rank as a servant only to be falsely accused and cast into prison. As a prisoner, Joseph was placed in charge of other prisoners, like Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. After correctly interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph beg him to mention Joseph to Pharaoh, but two whole years passed before the cupbearer remembered Joseph. In a blur of a moment, Joseph found himself removed from the prison, interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, and placed as second-in-command over all of Egypt. But God’s providence is displayed even greater when Joseph’s brothers come before him in Egypt.

Our present chapter deals with Joseph’s brothers’ return to Egypt. We find two major sections of the text. First, the brothers must convince their father, Jacob, to allow Benjamin to travel with them to Egypt. The patriarch’s struggle to entrust his beloved son into the hands of his other sons and ultimately God is a battle with which many of us can relate. Second, the brothers are invited to a lavish dinner with Joseph in Egypt, wherein Benjamin is given five times the portion of his brothers. Here Joseph’s brothers are forced to confront their envy, jealousy, and covetousness, the very sins that caused them to sell Joseph so many years ago.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 43 and discuss the following.

  1. The chapter opens with the brothers needing to return to Egypt, but Jacob is still hesitant about sending Benjamin with them. How does Judah’s answer to his father differ from Reuben’s in the previous chapter? Why might we call Judah a wise leader? Why might we call Reuben foolish?
  2. Jacob eventually realizes that he must let Benjamin, his treasured son,  go to Egypt, trusting God and Judah to bring him home safely. What do you similarly treasure? Have you similarly experienced leaving them in the hands of God and others? What benefit is there in surrendering our treasures over to God?
  3. At the banquet, Joseph gives Benjamin five times the portion of his other brothers. This is meant to test the jealousy which they had for Joseph long ago. How does your heart respond when other receive more from God than you? Why is jealousy such a destructive sin? How can we combat jealousy in our lives?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Prayer as Warfare

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 ESV

In his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper dedicates the second chapter to discussing the role of prayer in missions. He opens up the chapter like this:

Life is war. That’s not all it is. But it always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world. Prayer gives us the significance of frontline forces and gives God the glory of a limitless Provider. The one who gives the power gets the glory. Thus, prayer safeguards the supremacy of God in missions while linking us with endless grace for every need.

Verses 10-17 give us the necessary context for verse 18, so it is important that we spend at least a moment discussing them. In a nutshell, Ephesians is primarily about how individual Christians come together to glorify God as the Church, and throughout the letter, we find how the Church ought to pray, how we ought to worship, and various other things. Within these verses, Paul teaches us how to fight, how to wage spiritual warfare.

In discussing spiritual warfare, we must be careful to avoid two equally damaging extremes.

On one end, we have (typically) charismatic Christians who can often make spiritual warfare a de facto primary doctrine. They can become obsessed with defeating Satan in Jesus’ name, and often even speak to Satan directly in order to rebuke him.

But you also have less charismatic denominations that err to the opposite extreme of rarely, if ever, mentioning spiritual warfare. We talk about of sin and struggles, but we don’t talk about Satan. We let God deal with him. Both extremes are harmful. Neglecting and making it the centerpiece of our walk with Christ are equally damaging practices.

This passage calls us, as followers of Christ, to war. We cannot neglect this truth. We are in the midst of a battle with stakes that are higher than any earthly war ever waged. Although all war is serious and devastating, World War II stands apart from others. The Nazis, armed with heinous ideals and brutal death camps, are difficult to rival when imagining the epitome of evil in the world. Thus, in many ways, World War II was a fight for the world’s soul. In that battle against evil, millions of soldiers lost limbs and millions more lost their lives.

Yet as grisly as that war’s spectacle was, it pales in comparison to the stakes of this war. In this war, people lose not merely their lives but their eternity. Victims of this war will spend an eternity cast out of God’s presence and under the outpouring of His wrath.

Christ came to bring His kingdom to earth. Historically, kingdoms often find themselves warring against other kingdoms, and Jesus’ kingdom is no different. All of creation falls under the realm of one of two kingdoms: the kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness. There is no neutral ground. We are either soldiers for God or for the enemy.

This means that making disciples is spiritual warfare. If we are each a member of either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness, then expanding God’s kingdom means bringing people out of darkness into light. Making disciples, the mission of each Christian and church, is also God’s strategy for waging war.

It is upon this thought that Paul launches into the subject of prayer. The full armor of God is necessary, but prayer is the force that makes the armor usable.

Without prayer, faith is not our shield.

Without prayer, the readiness of the gospel does not gird our feet like shoes.

Without prayer, we cannot properly wield the Word of God as a sword.

If we strip prayer out of its warfare context, we risk turning it into something that is biblically unrecognizable.

Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt | Genesis 42

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us. (Genesis 42:21 ESV)

He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?” (Genesis 42:28 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, can easily be divided into two main parts. First, chapter one through eleven deal with the shaping of the world as we know it through creation, humanity’s fall into sin, the great flood, and the humanity’s dispersion at Babel. Second, chapters twelve through fifty focus upon Abraham and how God would use his family to bring salvation to all of humanity.

We now follow the life of Joseph, Abraham’s great grandson. After being sold into slavery by his brother, Joseph rose to a prominent rank as a servant only to be falsely accused and cast into prison. As a prisoner, Joseph was placed in charge of other prisoners, like Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. After correctly interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, Jospeh beg him to mention Joseph to Pharaoh, but two whole years passed before the cupbearer remembered Joseph. In a blur of a moment, Joseph found himself removed from the prison, interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, and placed as second-in-command over all of Egypt. In all of these things, God’s providence has been on grand display, but Joseph’s story isn’t finished yet.

Today we learn that the famine struck Canaan as well, forcing Jacob to send his ten older sons to Egypt to buy food. Of course, the men must buy their food from Joseph, who is now an Egyptian noble named Zaphenath-paneah, and although they don’t recognize Joseph, he realizes who they are. Joseph then proceeds to test his brothers, casting them into prison and speaking roughly to them. But all of this is God providentially bringing the men’s guilt over Joseph to the surface that they might find true repentance.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 42 and discuss the following.

  1. Jacob derides his sons for doing nothing when they know that Egypt has food to buy. Of course, their reluctance may have come from a fear of traveling to the land where they thought Joseph was most likely a slave. Similarly, can you think of times in your life when sin caused you to shirk your responsibilities?
  2. God uses Joseph’s harsh treatment of his brothers to remind them of their bloodguilt against Joseph. Can you think of a similar time when God used circumstances to convict you of sin? When is guilt beneficial, and when it is harmful? What is the ultimately goal of our guilt?
  3. When Joseph’s brothers find their money still in their bags, they are afraid, knowing that they might be accused of stealing whenever they return, and they held God responsible (and He was).  How can you resonate with the men’s fear of God? What is a biblical fear of God, and why is it important?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word. 

8 Tips for Reading the Bible

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John 5:39-40 ESV

It is safe to assume that few people have much experience in reading ancient documents like the Bible; therefore, in concluding this series, I hope to provide some advice on how to read the Bible.

First, it is important to understand that the entire Bible has one great theme: Jesus Christ. Even though He is never mentioned by name in the Old Testament, Jesus is the center and purpose of all Scripture. In fact, He said so Himself: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40).” In that context, only the Old Testament had been written; therefore, Christ explicitly stated that the Old Testament is entirely about Him.

Second, consider the genre. Though the Bible is a united book, it is also a library of books. Books like Genesis, Samuel, Matthew, and Acts are narratives. They tell history and should be read as such. Psalms and Proverbs are collections of poems and wisdom respectively, so they are unique from the other books of the Bible. Ecclesiastes is a philosophical treatise. Song of Solomon is an epic love poem. Romans and Hebrews are letters systematically explaining the gospel to western and eastern mindsets respectively.

Third, love it, memorize it, and meditate on it. If anything could be said about reading the Bible, fill your life with it. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible, and it is dedicated to declaring the excellence of the Scriptures. As you read, pray that God would give you delight in His Word. Make an effort to store it in your heart by memorizing it. Do not read for a few minutes and go on with your day. After memorizing, meditate upon the Word. Roll its words around in your mind, thinking deeply upon God’s thoughts.


Because the Bible is God’s Word to humanity, we should strive to know and understand it more and more. From a human perspective, the Bible is gigantic, so it can be quite intimidating to begin reading the Bible. Here are some suggestions for how to begin your journey in the Scriptures.

First, resolve to read the Bible every day. Even if you find yourself not understanding much, continue to read it. The more time you spend with the Bible, the more you will learn.

Second, begin with the New Testament. The entire Bible is crucial for us as God’s people, but some books are easier to read than others. Start with the New Testament, reading the life of Jesus, the history of the church, and the letters of the apostles.

Third, ask questions about what you’ve read. Paul’s list of the profitability of Scripture from 2 Timothy 2:2 is a good guide. If the Bible helps us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness, ask those types of questions. What does this text teach me (about God, humanity, sin, etc.)? Does this passage reveal any sin or faults in my thinking? How might God use this text to correct me? How might He use it to train me toward righteousness?

Fourth, buy a good study Bible. There are many good study Bibles in book stores, but the best currently is the ESV Study Bible. Study Bibles provide comments, notes, articles, and other resources side-by-side the Bible to help you better understand what you are reading. Other study Bibles worth considering are: the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, the John MacArthur Study Bible, and the Reformation Heritage Study Bible.

Fifth, and most important, pray for God to help you understand His Word. This literally cannot be overemphasized. There is no commentary, study Bible, or sermon that will ever replace the heart transformation of prayerfully reading God’s Word for yourself.

Joseph Before Pharaoh | Genesis 41

Week 5 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Genesis 41:16 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Genesis is the introduction to the Bible. The first eleven chapters reveal how the world became like it is by describing creation, our fall into sin, the great flood, and the scattering at Babel. The rest of the book concerns how God begins working through one family to repair the effects of sin, the family of Abra-ham. But Abraham did not save us from our sins nor did his son Isaac or grandson Jacob.

Thus, now we come to the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph, ready to learn more of God’s plan for salvation. For being in a blessed family, Joseph’s story does not appear to be one of blessing. Although beloved by his father, his brothers despised Joseph, eventually selling him into slavery. In Egypt, Joseph was sold to a captain named Potiphar, and the young man quickly earned the Egyptians favor. Unfortunately, a false accusation from Potiphar’s wife got Joseph cast into prison where he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker.

Though Joseph is still in prison, his fortune shifts in our present text. After successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, the king of Egypt will place Joseph as his second-in-command over the entire kingdom. In this, we see God’s providence elevating Joseph from his temporary stay in prison to the palace of Pharaoh, and we see Joseph’s faithfulness to trust God through sorrow or joy.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 41 and discuss the following.

1. When Pharaoh was distressed by his dreams, he turned to his wise men and magicians for answers, but God alone could provide the peace that Pharaoh sought. What are things you turn to during times of stress, anxiety, fear, confusion, etc? What should we do instead?

2. Joseph’s knowledge of God’s plan for Egypt leads him to almost immediate action. Similarly, how should God’s sovereignty of salvation and missions lead us to bolder evangelism?

3. In some ways, wealth can make following God more difficult since it provides more opportunities for our hearts to stray. How did Joseph remain faithful even when elevated to second-in-command?

4. Though Joseph has been elevated, the story of Genesis is not over because Judah’s descendant, Jesus, is the hero, not Joseph. Joseph must still be used to save Judah from the famine, so that Jesus can be born. Likewise, in what ways does your life reflect that Jesus is the hero of your life story?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

• What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?

• What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?

• How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?

• Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

When I Am God

I was quite a metalhead in highschool.

I never dressed the part (just jeans, sneakers, and tshirts for me, thanks), but as far as I was concerned, clean vocals (aka singing) were only reserved for wimps or strategically emotional bridges.

Yes, I was, indeed, hardcore.

Really what drew me most to the screamo/hardcore scene were the lyrics. Words seem so raw and intense whenever they are being screamed along to pounding bass drums.

For me, Oh Sleeper was the chief of this terrain.

Their first album (titled When I Am God) contains one of my favorite song lyrics:

When I am God, this church is unsound.

It’s such a simple statement but also far truer than I am often willing to admit. Thankfully the book of Judges is always ready to remind me again.

Judges is easily one of the darkest books of the Bible. I mean, it describes Israel’s downward spiral into increasingly blatant sinful behavior. While the first sixteen chapters show Israel falling into sin, repenting of sin, and God delivering them with various judges, the final five chapters emphasize how serious Israel’s sin was with tales of wicked idolatry, horrendous sexual immorality and violence, and ultimately a civil war.

It’s far from a light-hearted read. But a twice-used refrain bookends this section:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25 ESV)

Furthermore, both chapters 18 and 19 begin by reminding us that there was no king in those days. Obviously, the author wants us to see Israel’s depravity as a result of their self-imposed morality rather than obeying a king. It was essentially Israel’s wild west phase.

But then we reach another problem. Years later when Samuel is judging Israel, the people demand to have a king. This might seem to be a step in the right direction, but Samuel is grieved by it. After praying, the LORD speaks these words to Samuel:

Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Samuel 8:7 ESV)

Israel’s desire for a physical king was a rejection of God as their king. This means that Judges was not lamenting Israel’s lack of a physical king; rather, it mourns Israel’s refusal to serve God as king. Their decision to do what was right in their own eyes was an act of dethroning God. By rejecting God’s law, they elevated themselves as gods.

But Judges isn’t a story about how sinful Israel was. It’s a story about how sinful we are.

All sin is an attempted usurping of God’s throne. Both great and small sins are an assault on God’s sovereignty and glory. We only sin by rejecting God’s commands and placing ourselves above them. Here’s how R. C. Sproul describes it in The Holiness of God:

Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.

Each act of sin is our declaration that we are our own kings, that we are god. And the end is never pleasant. For the Israelites, it resulted in death, nearly the entire destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. Sin’s paycheck is always death, either in hell eternal or on the cross of Christ. Those are our only options.

We never have a severe enough view of our sin.

Or its consequences.

When Israel lived as its own king, doing what was right in their own eyes, thousands died. They fell whenever they became their own god and king.

The same is true for us.

When we are god, the church is unsound.