Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Lord’s Prayer, Day 7

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I think one of the ways that you could define much of the Scripture is just with these two words: heaven rules. Heaven rules. And you know what? The sooner we realize it, the happier our lives will be. Heaven rules. He rules. He is bigger. He is higher. He is greater than every problem and every impossibility that you may be facing in your life today.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Tuesday, August 9, 2016.

God is in heaven. It might seem like everybody knows that, but not everybody acts like it. We don’t always live like we believe it or pray like we believe it. Nancy will explain why this concept is so important as she continues in a series called "The Lord's Prayer."

NancyWe’re coming today to day seven in our series on the Lord’s Prayer and we’ve only talked about the first two words, “Our Father.” Today we’re going to look at the next two words, “in heaven.”

I want to just encourage you; you can do this kind of study too. Some may wonder, “How do I do that?” There’s no great secret, and there are no shortcuts. I will tell you that. I started months ago, out of a need in my own life, meditating on the Lord’s Prayer in my own quiet time.

I journal; I write down things as I’m reading God’s Word; I’m pondering. I’ve spent months just word by word, phrase by phrase in my time with the Lord, asking God to open my eyes, asking the Spirit to instruct me, trying to see how words in this passage relate to other passages in Scripture, cross-referencing. And that’s how I teach.

After I’ve had a period of time of God working a passage into my own heart and plumbing its depths to the extent that I know how to, making it real in my own life, then I’ll start to look at other people’s writings on the subject, but remembering that those people only wrote what they wrote and got their insights by doing the same thing, and that is meditating on the Word of God and making it real in their own lives.

As I come to a series like this, I’d like to pass on to others some of what God has been teaching me in this passage and I try to shed light on the words, exposit the Scripture, bring it up to the light, hold it up.

Someone said to me recently, “How do you meditate?” I said, “You just hold it up like a precious diamond or a piece of jewelry and you look at it from every conceivable angle and in different lights. You stare at it and you ponder it, and then you turn it around and look at it differently. And then you look at it again.”

I’m amazed sometimes after doing a study like this for two to three months, things that will start to come to the surface that I never noticed before. And then other tools can help you do that.

So I try to just share with you what God’s been teaching me and then always to ask the very important question, which is where a lot of teaching leaves off today, to say, “Okay, this is what the Word says. So what? What are the implications of this for our lives? How should this affect the way we think, the way that we live?”

I always try to take it in each session, if possible, back to something, making it personal. I write in my notes sometimes “MIP” in bold letters, “Making It Personal.” 

Now we come today to those two words, “Our Father in heaven.” Most of you are aware that in the Scripture there are three different uses of the word heaven, three heavens that are referred to. The first would be earth’s atmosphere. That’s what we can see, the sky and the clouds above us. That’s referred to in Scripture as heaven in one sense, earth’s atmosphere.

Then there’s that next level of heaven that’s outer space; it’s the stratosphere and the ionosphere and all those other big words that I’m not really quite sure what they mean. But it’s the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky. The Scripture says in Psalm 19:1 that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” That’s that whole world of outer space that’s beyond what we can see or imagine but we know it’s out there.

Then Scripture talks about something that it sometimes calls the third heaven. Second Corinthians chapter 12, there’s a reference to this third heaven. That’s the place where God lives. We don’t know where it is. We’re very limited in our ability to define it or describe it. But it’s the place that is the presence of God. Of course, God, being omnipresent, lives in all of those heavens, but there is a distinctive sense in which heaven is the dwelling place of the Lord.

So when we pray, “Our Father in heaven,” we recognize God’s presence in all heavens. We see that God is high and lifted up, that when we say “God is in heaven,” we recognize that He is separate from sinners. We are on earth; He is in heaven. We recognize that He is above all earthly realities and powers, that God is sovereign, that God reigns and rules.

So we’re not praying to an earthly Father; we’re praying to a heavenly Father who is infinitely higher than any other earthly Father or power could be.

“Our Father in heaven”—when you put those two phrases together it says something to me first about the nearness of God, our Father. That’s a tender term, a personal term, a God that we can approach. But when we say “Our Father in heaven,” we’re talking about the otherness of God—not just His nearness, but His otherness.

Not only is He tender and personal, He is awesome and He is great. Not only can we approach Him, but the fact that He is our Father in heaven means He is to be respected; He is to be reverenced.

I just want to break out a little bit some of the implications of the fact that our Father is in heaven. I want to look first at His position and then at His person. The fact that He is in heaven, what does that tell us about His position, and what does it tell us about His person?

First His position, His place, heaven. Our Father in heaven. Heaven is understood in Scripture as the place of all authority, power, and greatness. Revelation 4:2: “Behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.” It speaks of the majesty of God, the exalted position of God. A throne in heaven; it’s a place of authority and dominion and power.

Psalm 123:1 says, “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!” God is enthroned in heaven. It’s a place; it’s a position of authority, of power, of greatness. So when we pray, “Our Father in heaven,” we’re praying to a Father who is lifted up. He is in a place in a realm all His own, high above the clamor, the confusion, the din of all the stuff that’s going on down here on this planet, above all wars, above all famines, above all conflicts and issues and death and suffering.

It doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. It doesn’t mean He isn’t involved. He came to earth to deal with these issues. He has identified with us in our suffering, but He exists in a realm all His own, way above all that.

I think one of the ways that you could define much of the Scripture is just with these two words: heaven rules. Heaven rules (Dan. 4:26). And you know what? The sooner we realize it, the happier our lives will be. Heaven rules. He rules. He is bigger; He is higher; He is greater than every problem and every impossibility that you may be facing in your life today.

The founder of our ministry used to say—and I don’t know if it was original with him but it has stuck with me—“There’s no panic in heaven, only plans.” God is in heaven. Our Father in heaven. No panic, just plans. He is our loving, wise, all-powerful, gracious heavenly Father who miraculously, amazingly is not oblivious to our needs and our struggles.

It’s not like He just sits in heaven and says, “You guys figure that out down there.” He’s not disengaged from life on this planet. But He’s above it; He’s other than it, which is why we can look to Him for grace and help in our weakness and our need. He knows; He cares. If we will turn to Him, He has the answers, and He will direct our steps.

His position, His place. Isaiah 57 refers to Him as the one who is high and lifted up who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy. He says, “I dwell in the high and holy place and” (here’s the amazing thing) “also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit” (v. 15).

Our Father in heaven condescends to visit us here on earth, to care about what is happening with our lives on this little speck of the universe called earth. And so we’re on earth. The fact that He’s in heaven, we’re on earth; that means we look up to Him. We are dependent on Him. His is the high and exalted position.

His person, the fact that He is our Father in heaven—what does that tell us about His person? Let me just pick out a few attributes of God here that I think are suggested by the fact that He is in heaven.

For example, we know about His person, that He is omniscient. He knows everything. Omni, all—science, knowledge; He has all knowledge. He’s omniscient.

He knows everything about everything. There’s no limit to His knowledge. He has a perspective on this planet. He can see the whole thing. We can just see one little, bitty piece of it, one little, bitty part of our whole lives. He sees the whole thing—not only what’s going on now on this planet but for all of time and eternity.

He has an omniscient perspective. From His vantage point He has a perspective that we cannot possibly have down here on earth. He sees how all things fit together—geography, history, the future, our own hearts. He sees and knows everything.

Psalm 33:13–14: “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth.”

That God knows my heart. He knows my issues. He knows my struggles. And He knows how it all fits together in this grand, cosmic, redemptive plan. He is omniscient.

Not only does He know everything; He can do anything. He is omnipotent, all-powerful, a Father for whom nothing is impossible. Try to get your mind around that—you can't! You’ll short-circuit trying to figure that out. But He is truly omnipotent.

Psalm 57:2–3 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me.”

Because He is our Father in heaven, He has the power to help us when we pray, to do something about our needs. Psalm 68:5 says, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”

And Psalm 135:6: “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth.” He has all power. There’s nothing too difficult for Him.

Then He is omnipresent. He is everywhere. He knows everything; He can do anything, and He is everywhere.

My dad was not an absentee dad. He was very involved in our family. He was home for breakfast and dinner whenever he was in town. But I can also remember times when he left town. He did travel a good deal. He would go on a business trip. He’d be gone sometimes from home for days at a time. I can remember always this sense of sadness when he would leave.

He was a good dad. He was engaged. But he couldn’t always be there. He couldn’t be at college. He didn’t go to California with me to college. He wasn’t there when issues would arise. There were limits to his presence.

When I broke up with a boyfriend as a young adult, my dad wasn’t there at that moment. He was a phone call away. He cared. But he couldn’t be at my side at that moment.

Then the day came when he died. But I have a heavenly Father who is omnipresent, always there, a very present help in time of trouble. He’s here, not just in some general theological sense—God is everywhere—but God in heaven is here in my world, in my home, in my situation, seeing my tears, knowing my struggles, knowing the issues that I face. He is a very present help in time of trouble.

So the fact that our Father is in heaven reminds us where we are, that we are on earth, He is in heaven. As we pray, I think it’s important to pause. You stop. You don’t just dash in and start spewing out your prayers. You stop and you think about who you’re talking to and who He is and where He is.

That will encourage faith and boldness as you go into the presence of God, knowing that these problems that have wrapped themselves around your life are so huge, they’re so inexplicable, so impossible to deal with. We look at the dead ends in our lives and the mazes and the confusion and the frustration. We can’t figure it out.

But when we go to prayer, we stop, and we say, “Our Father in heaven.” And that gives me a whole sense of breadth and confidence as to God’s power, His presence, His ability to deal with these situations that I can’t get my puny mind around.

He’s in heaven, an exalted position, all-powerful. We are on earth. Insignificant compared to God. Be in awe of Him.

Then we see His dominion, the fact that He is in heaven, His dominion. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). The fact that He is in heaven means He is a God who reigns and rules.

Daniel 4 again, I love those two words: “Heaven rules.” Heaven rules. We’re going to come back to that as we look at the prayer in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” But we realize that whether we want it or not, whether we bow to it or not, whether we worship Him or not, heaven still rules. God is in charge. He has dominion.

John Calvin in his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer said, “By this word we learn that all things are under His rule.” Your husband, your boss, your children, your life, your circumstances, your future—it’s all ultimately under His rule.

Our God is in the heavens. He does all that He pleases. He is always at work, always exercising His authority, never asleep on His throne. We can sleep at night, we do. I hope you sleep well at night because God is on His throne in heaven. There’s no point in both of us staying up all night thinking about these things. He is able to handle them.

So when we say, “Our Father in heaven,” we recognize His greatness, His majesty, His transcendence, His sovereignty, His otherness, His holiness, His omniscience, His omnipotence, His kingship, His supremacy. These are great big words, but we have a great big God.

So what?

There’s a thought-provoking and sobering passage in Ecclesiastes chapter 5 that tells us the “So what?” The fact that God is in heaven, how should that affect the way that we pray? Listen to Ecclesiastes 5:1–2:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.

You hear a lot of people blaming God today for a lot of things, a lot of people shaking their fist in God’s face. How could a good God do . . . ? How could a good God allow . . . ? Where was God when . . . ? People will pontificate and shake their fist at God and swear in His face at times.

We wouldn’t do it quite that way. But how often are our hearts wrestling against God, discontented, struggling with His choices? God, how could You . . . ? Why didn’t You . . . ?

The Scripture says, “God is in heaven, and you are on earth.” Recognize the difference. Let your words be few. Worship Him, bow before Him, bow in the face of mystery that you cannot understand. Speak to Him, but don’t be rash. Don’t say things that you wouldn’t say if you realized who you were talking to and where He is. God is in heaven. You are on earth.

Let me just say the other side of that is that our Father in heaven also lives in our hearts, not just in some remote place where we can’t fathom that is high off. I think that means that we should experience something of heaven on earth because of His presence in our lives. We experience now a foretaste of eternity in heaven because heaven is where God lives.

If God lives in my heart and is being allowed to reign and to rule over my life, then no matter what kind of circumstances may be going on around me, no matter how chaotic it may be—my mate, my children, my people in my workplace, the people in the church, the people in the world, the terrorists, all that. No matter what’s going on, I can have a bit of heaven on earth in my heart because God lives there and He is our Father in heaven.

Leslie: I never realized before why it’s so meaningful to pray to our Father in heaven. It’s one of the many insights I’ve gotten from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth during our current series called "The Lord's Prayer." She'll be right back to pray..

If you get swept up in news reports, it’s tempting to fall into anxiety and worry. But today’s message reminds us that no matter how bleak the world looks, heaven rules. Since the world does look so bleak, we are sensing the need to call women to fervent, intensive prayer. Let me give you an example of the need to cry out.

Not long ago, our team was at the Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference, and we connected with Mindy Belz. She’s the author of a book called They Say We Are Infidels. It tells the story of believers who are persecuted in ISIS-controlled areas. We asked, what she’s crying out for the Lord to do in our day.

Mindy Belz: Because we are at a women's conference and I am woman, a wife, a mom, and I have daughters, the women who are captive weigh heavily on me. I talked to a man who was in a hospital in the town of Sinjar. This is where most of the Yazidis are who were taken captive. He described how there was a waiting room of patients. All this happened as ISIS was coming in, and it was just chaos.

He looked down and there were these young girls who were and their shoes were off because they were going to be examined by a nurse. He went into another room to help other people get out of the hospital. When he came back to check on the people in this room to see what he could do to help, the girls were gone and only the shoes were left. He knew that they had been taken. He described how he was haunted; how he wakes up in the night and he thinks of that image of the shoes—and they are gone.

A number have been rescued, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the 5,000 that are still held. I think that's a very, very weighty issue. What will happen to those who are being held. We know enough that they've been brutalized, and how can that be someday repaired? How can they be restored?

Leslie:  That’s a powerful example from Mindy Belz of why we need women to cry out to the Lord for such a time as this. What could be more important? Would you join with Revive Our Hearts and thousands of women linking hearts together on September 23 for Cry Out? It’s a national prayer gathering for women. You are invited to organize a Cry Out! group in your area and join us by means of a video simulcast. For all the details on starting a group, or joining a group and crying out with us, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you help fund the Cry Out! simulcast with a gift of any size, we’ll say thanks by sending you a 30-day devotional based on our current series. The booklet is called The Lord’s Prayer. We’ll send your copy when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. You can get it at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Do you ever profane the name of God? It’s easier to do than you might think. We’ll look at exactly what this means, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Let’s close our time praying with Nancy.

NancyTeach us, Father, to exalt You in a way that is worthy of You, to say few words, but heartfelt words, to recognize that You are great. You are high; You are lifted up. We are on earth, and we thank You that You are our Father in heaven. As such, we worship You in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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