Monday, July 30, 2007


Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don't forgive people, your heavenly Father will not forgive you your wrongdoing.
Matthew 6:14-15

Forgiveness. This is one of the hardest things for us to do, yet this is exactly what we are commanded to do as followers of Jesus. These verses here are referring back to verse 12, which is part of the model prayer, where Jesus taught us to pray "forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors." Does this mean that the forgiveness of our sin, our debt to God, is based upon our own forgiveness of others? Not at all, but if we are not forgiving to others it may be an indication that we have never experienced the forgiveness that God has offered to us. John MacArthur says, "An unforgiving spirit not only is inconsistent for one who has been totally forgiven by God, but also brings the chastening of God rather than His mercy."

Later in the book of Matthew Jesus tells us a parable to further illustrate this point.

For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents was brought before him.Since he had no way to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. At this, the slave fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan. “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’ “At this, his fellow slave fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he wasn’t willing. On the contrary, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. When the other slaves saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened. “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you? ’ And his master got angry and handed him over to the jailers until he could pay everything that was owed. So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.”
Matthew 18:23-35

Forgiveness is essential to the Christian life; God has forgiven us so much, shouldn't we also for give others?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Prayer (part 2)

Continuing with the theme I began in my last post let's look at some more of the prayers of Paul, this time in Philippians, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians. In Philippians chapter 1, as he is sitting in prison for preaching the gospel, Paul writes, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayers of joy in my every prayer for you all" (Philippians 1:3-4). Then in verses 9-11 he tells us specifically what it is that he prays, he prays:

1. That their love will:
A. Keep on growing in:
1. Knowledge
2. Every kind of discernment
As he prays this he says is is so they can determine what really matters, or what is really important, and be:
1. Pure
In the day of Christ.
Filled with the fruit of righteousness that:
1.Comes through Jesus Christ
2.Is to the glory and praise of God

Imagine what your prayer life, and your relationships, would be like if this were what you were praying for the people in your life.

In Colossians chapter one there is another of Paul's prayers recorded. In this prayer Paul prays:

1.That they may be filled with the knowledge of His (God's) will, in:
A. All Wisdom
B. Spiritual Understanding

So that they may walk:
1. Worthy of the Lord
2. Fully Pleasing to Him (God)
3. Bearing fruit for every good work
4. Growing in the knowledge of God

He also prays that they be strengthened:
1. With all power
2. According to God's glorious might
3. For all endurance
4. For Patience
5. With joy

Then Paul writes that he prays off of this with thanks to God because God has enabled all of us to share in the same inheritance. The next time you have a disagreement with someone, instead of getting mad try praying this prayer for them.

The last prayer I want to look at today is found in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3. Here Paul asks for prayer for himself and this is what he requests that the Thessalonians pray for him:

1. That the Lord's message (The Gospel):
A. Be spread rapidly
B. Be honored
2. They they (the messengers) be delivered from wicked and evil men

This is a relatively short list of requests, but I can't think of anything better to pray for our pastors, teachers, and the missionaries around the world.

So as you review these, and many more prayers recorded in the Bible don't look at them as just words written to fill up space; these prayers were recorded in God's word to teach us how to pray and give us examples of what we should be praying for each other. Now, set some time aside, get alone with God, and pray for someone.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Prayer (part 1)

There are a lot of books that have been written on the subject of prayer over the years; if you go to your local Christian bookstore they will usually have a whole section entitled "Prayer & Devotions" where you can find literally hundreds of titles that promise to teach you how to pray. I have read many of these, and will admit that there are some very good resources out there, but how many times do we run to the Christian book store for the answers to our questions instead of looking to see what God has to say in the Bible?

Because I am just as guilty of this as everyone else, for the past few days I have been looking through the letters of Paul, and specifically at the prayers that are recorded in these as examples for us, to see what I could learn about prayer and what I could apply to my own prayer life. As I studied these I couldn't help but wonder how my prayer life would change if I were to incorporate what I learn from these into my own prayers.

So with that as my motivation I made the following list of what I learned from some of Paul's prayers:

I began with the prayer that is recorded in Ephesians 1:15-18. In this prayer Paul tells us that he prays for the Ephesians, and that he gives thanks to God for them. Then beginning in verse 17 he prays:

(1) That God would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.
(2) That the eyes of their heart would be enlightened so:
A. They would know the hope of God's calling
B. They would know the glorious riches of God's inheritance
C. They would know the immeasurable greatness of God's power to us who believe

Then in chapter three Paul prays again; this time, beginning in verse 14 he says, For this reason I bow my knee before the Father from whom every family on earth is named. I pray:

(1) That God may grant you according to the riches of His glory:
A. To be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man
B. That Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith

(2) That being rooted and established in love - we may be able to:
A. Comprehend with all the saints what is:
1. The length...
2. The width...
3. The height...
4. The depth....
of the love of God.

B. Know Christ's love, which surpasses all understanding
C. Be filled with all the fullness of God

Then in verses 20 & 21 he concludes by the prayer by saying:
Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we:

1. Ask
2. Imagine

According to the power that works in me; to Him (the Holy Spirit):
1. Be the glory:
a. In the church
b. In Christ Jesus
to all generations
and ever

Just think what power we would have in our prayer lives if this was the way we prayed. My challenge to everyone, myself included, is to begin praying these prayers for yourself and those you love, and see what God does as a result.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Radical Amputation

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you loose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you loose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!
Matthew 5:29-30

If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. What is Jesus telling us here? Is he advocating the mutilation of our bodies? I don't think so, because as we see in Matthew 5:20, the righteousness that God requires is not an external righteousness, but a righteousness of the heart. Sin does not come from our eye or hand, or from any other part of our body; it comes from within us. So what is Jesus teaching us here?

Jesus is using a literary technique called hyperbole. Hyperbole can be best defined as extravagant exaggeration. Jesus is trying to make us understand the seriousness of sin, but He is not advocating the removal of parts of our body. For example, removing one of your eyes will not make you stop lusting since lust comes from the heart and not the eye. You can still lust with your other eye. And cutting off your hand will not make you stop sinning; if you do sinful acts with your right hand you can also do them with your left.

So how are we to understand this passage? I think what Jesus is teaching is that we need to radically amputate anything in our lives that cause us to sin. If the TV causes us to lust, or covet we need to remove it. If we have a relationship that causes us to sin, we need to cut it off. What ever it is that causes us to sin needs to be amputated - Radically.

John MacArthur says of this passage, "Jesus’ point is that we should be willing to give up whatever is necessary, even the most cherished things we possess, if doing that will help protect us from evil. Nothing is so valuable as to be worth preserving at the expense of righteousness."

Take some time today to ask God what it is in your life that you need to radically amputate for the sake of righteousness - and then do it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Vacation (part 1)

The God who made the world and everything in it — He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live, so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
Acts 17:24-27 (HCSB)

I have been thinking about this passage this morning because I have just returned from a week in the Caribbean with my wife. As we visited various places this past week I continually found myself thinking how truly blessed I am to live in the United States. We live in the most prosperous country in the world, we have freedom that most of the world can only dream about. But as I thought about the poverty and poor living conditions I was witnessing in the places that we visited I kept coming back to these verses; this passages teaches us that God - who is Lord of heaven and earth - has created every man. He determined the times in which we would live, and He has determined our boundaries. In other words, it is God who decides where and when we live upon His earth.

Why does He do this? The passage goes on to say that He does this so that we might seek Him, reach out to Him, and find Him. So what this verse is telling us is that those of us who have been so blessed by God to live in this great country were placed here at this time in history so that we would reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. God placed me in the United States at this time in history, because in His sovereign wisdom He determined that this would give me the best opportunity to find Him. In Psalm 139 we read:

For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mothers womb... Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. Psalm 139:13, 16 (HCSB)

I am here today because God put me here, and He put me here on this day for one reason and one reason only - so that I would reach out and find Him.

In the past week I saw the beauty of God's creation, but I also witnessed unimaginable poverty. One afternoon as I reflected on what God was showing me I took out my journal and wrote:

"This is such a poor country, I don't see any evidence of a middle class here at all. Every where I look there are poor people who are living in conditions that we in America can't even imagine. We Americans have been so blessed by God, We need to stop taking that for granted and thank God for what He has given us. Then we need to repent and, as a nation seek God again, because this can all be taken away."

I don't understand why we have been so blessed of God and why in other places in the world people are living in abject poverty. But I do know that the Bible tells me that God is sovereign and that He knows where and when each of us will live, and that in His wisdom He has determined this to give each of us the best opportunity to find Him.

This does not, however, let us off the hook. It could be that God has blessed us so that through our giving His love will be shown to those who do not have what we do and that they will find Him through our generosity. So take some time today to pray about what God may want you to do to help alleviate the suffering of the poor around the world, and then do it.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Way Into The Kingdom

Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord!" will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.

What a terrifying verse! This is telling us that there are people who think they are going to heaven that are not going to get in. These are not people who have ignored the truth of who Jesus is, because they call Him Lord. These are not people who just paid lip service to the gospel. From the verses that follow we can see that these are people who worked for Jesus; they preached in His name, they healed the sick in His name, they cast out demons in His name. These people we are talking about here are pastors, and missionaries, Sunday school teachers, and church members. But what is is about these people that will cause Jesus to say to them "I never knew you! Depart from me, you lawbreakers!" (Matthew 7:23)?

Jesus goes on in the next few verses to give us the answer to this question. He tells us that there are two foundations that we can build our lives on; a foundation of rock, or a foundation of sand. He explains that the wise man is the one who put the words of Jesus into practice; he is the one who built his life on the rock. But the foolish man, the one who ignored the words of Jesus, built his house on sand. So what is this telling us in relation to our question? What we are seeing is the difference between someone who is doing the will of Jesus and someone lives for self.

Jesus taught us that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Mark 8:34). This means that we no longer live for our own pleasure and desires; we have died to self and we now live for Christ. The will of God is that we recognize the Lordship of His Son Jesus, and that we submit our life to His authority. The will of God is that we listen to the words of Jesus and put them into practice every hour of every day. The will of God is that we become like Jesus.

So who are the ones who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven? It's not those who have done great works for God, it's those that, as the overriding pattern of their life, have done His will.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

True Righteousness

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees. you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is said to be the greatest sermon ever preached. By the time we get to verse 20 of chapter 5 Jesus has already said that the blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn , those who hunger for righteousness, who show mercy, who are pure in heart , are peacemakers, and who are persecuted for righteousness. He has also told us that we need to be salt and light in the world. Then in verse 20 He says that if our righteousness does not exceed that of the religious leaders we will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees (or religious leaders) were the epitome of righteousness in their day; if you wanted to find an example of what it looked like to live a life pleasing to God this is where you looked. But they were wrong. As we will see going through the rest of this sermon the righteousness that God wants comes from the inside, but the the righteousness that the Pharisees practiced was external only - it didn't change their hearts. They lived by a strict code of right and wrong, but they never allowed the word of God to penetrate their hearts and change them on the inside.

So how do we allow God's word to penetrate our hearts today and change us from the inside out? Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are more deceitful than anything else, and desperately sick, so the change cannot come from inside of us; it must come from God doing a work in us. Romans 3 says God presented Him [Jesus] as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)

Here is our answer; our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees only when we put our faith in Jesus. Jesus told us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no one can come to the Father except through Him. So spend some time today thanking Your Heavenly Father for the gift of salvation and the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus. And if you have never put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, why not do it today?