“And When You Are Praying …..”

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way:

‘OUR FATHER Who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come. Your Will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.’ ]

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” – MATTHEW 6:7‭-‬15 NASB

Um, what? I have to forgive those jerks, those disgusting, bigotted, evil, unscrupulous, narrow-minded, stupid ……. (need I go on???) ……

Yep. That’s correct. I have to forgive them. They may be at fault, but the Father insists that I / we forgive them. That stinks. It falls upon us, dear brothers and sisters, to forgive not only those who have hurt us specifically and individually, but also to forgive those who hurt us collectively. It occurs to me that if I sue someone in a court of law, then I become the guilty party because of my unforgiveness. If I am spiteful to someone because they have treated me badly, then I become the guilty party. When I refuse to forgive, I become the sinner.

I am not saying we have to forget the wrong. Whenever I hear someone advise to “forgive and forget,” I have to (respectfully) disagree. In many, if not most, instances of wrong, I think we need to remember what happened in order to prevent the situation from repeating itself. Punishment is different from judgement, just as remembering is separate from forgiving. I don’t have to like the person to forgive them, and it isn’t necessary to become their friend – although it is possible.

When it becomes necessary to forgive, remember that our Father doesn’t expect us to do it on our own or in our own human strength. He has provided us with a Helper, One Who can take the weight of forgiving the unforgivable off our human shoulders and shifting it onto His infinitely stronger, supernatural shoulders. There are times when the only words we can say are “Oh GOD” or “Jesus, help me.” In fact, we are told in Paul’s letter to the Roman church, “….. for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words …..” – ROMANS 8:26 NASB

Thank GOD. Amen!

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Aliens on Earth

There are people who claim that Jesus was an alien being from another planet. You might be surprised to hear me say that they are at least partially correct. Jesus was – and is – an alien in this world, and on top of that, as Christ-followers, we are – we should be – as well. When we follow Him, our lives are supposed to be a reflection of Him so that non-believers can see how beautiful it can be to have that Love and Mercy and Grace. Many times, we really are the only Bible that person might ever see!

Too much pressure for you? As Americans living in the U.S., we aren’t recipients of the physical persecution (although we seem to be headed there) endured by Christians in many countries. In fact, especially in the middle of the so-called “Bible Belt”, many Christians have a hard time imagining physical persecution ever happening here. Friends, we are much closer to it becoming a reality than we want to accept. I believe that Peter was addressing us, Christian Americans in 2019, as much as he was when writing to Christians living outside of Rome in the first century after Christ.

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles [non-Christians], so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” – 1 PETER 2:11‭-‬12 NASB

In the above letter, Peter refers to the “earthly lusts” we are to avoid, and Paul expounds on them in this letter to the Galations:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – GALATIANS 5:19‭-‬21 NASB

These are the things, the attitudes and actions, we need to avoid as followers of Christ Jesus. What kind of testimony is it when a professed Christian business acts in a dishonest manner? When a prominent Christian is caught cheating on their spouse, or lying, or drunk? And all those other things like these? Oh, we are fallible, and we are sinners, and we are held to a higher standard because of our profession of faith. I am chief among the sinners and the hypocrites! All I can do is publicly confess* and ask GOD for forgiveness, which I have done – and will continue to do. (*The exception is when your confession will cause harm to another. Then you should confess privately to another Christian whom you trust.) When we choose Jesus, we choose a higher moral ground. That means we have further to fall when we sin, and we make a bigger mess when we fall. I know. I’ve made some big messes!

Thank You, JESUS, for Your Saving Grace, Your Forgiveness and Mercy! Bless us as we make our poor attempts at following You. Amen.

We Are The Sheep

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His Name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your Rod and Your Staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever.” – PSALMS 23:1‭-‬6 NASB

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I Am the Door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I Am the Door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have Life, and have it abundantly. “I am the Good Shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My Voice; and they will become one flock with one Shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My FATHER.” – JOHN 10:1‭-‬5‭, ‬7‭-‬11‭, ‬14‭-‬18 NASB

Image from The Kingdom – WordPress.com

A New Heart

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart [Hebrew a heart of flesh] And I will put My Spirit in you so that you will follow My Decrees and be careful to obey My Regulations.” – Ezekiel 36:26 NLT

GOD promised the Israelites a new heart and a new spirit, and that the Spirit would be in them to help them follow His decrees and regulations. Sound familiar? He promised this to His people, the people closest the His heart, hundreds of years before He sent His Son to earth to save all people.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” And again He says: “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” – John 3:3‭, ‬5‭-‬8 NLT

GOD showed Himself to the Israelites many times over the centuries. He started by walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden, and He appeared through signs and miracles such as the burning bush, and pillars of fire and cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness. He was in His Tabernacle in His Shechinah Glory [literally, His Presence], but the people still wandered away from Him and moved to idols and other gods…..

“For we live by believing and not by seeing.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7 NLT

We will see Christ, the Living LORD, when our physical bodies die, but the Israelites had Him there; His physical presence in the Tabernacle, and still couldn’t see Him. Blinded by the enemy, just as so many of us are today.

“For God made Christ, Who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT

LORD, grant me a new heart and a new spirit today. Grant me a tender, responsive heart and fill me with Your Spirit in order to follow Your Desires and Your Will. Amen.

Forever and a day….

“However, those the Father has given Me will come to Me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the Will of GOD Who sent Me, not to do My own will. And this is the Will of GOD, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given Me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is My FATHER’s Will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” – John 6:37‭-‬40 NLT

I often struggle with worry, and I know that worry comes from thinking I have to “fix” everything and provide for myself. I worry about being rejected, both by GOD, and by people. I worry about being alone the rest of my life. I worry if I will ever be financially stable, or if I will be able to meet my basic, everyday expenses each month. I worry my health will deteriorate. My day-to-day life may be a physical challenge, and I don’t understand how I will survive financially, but there is one thing I know and hold on to: I don’t need to worry! Jesus promises He will take care of us. Of ME. He also promises He will never reject one of His own. Just as the father says to Jesus in Mark 19, so I say to Him also: “I DO believe; help my unbelief!!”

Do YOU believe? Have you taken hold of the Promise of JESUS; do you hold on to that Promise to be risen up by JESUS CHRIST on the last day, to have Life with Him forever and a day, for eternity?

Listening to Matt Maher sing “Lord, I need You, O I need you, Every hour I need You – My one defense, my righteousness, Oh God how I need You!” ☝️

Living With Expectation

There’s a lot of expectation today. We expect to be financially successful, with a big fancy house and car before we hit 30. We expect to marry Mr. or Mrs. ‘Right’, and we expect that person to be with us for our entire life. We expect to have the perfect child – and we expect to have the right number of children. We expect others to like us as we are, and we expect our friends to never disappoint us or betray us …… and we expect that God will make sure all these things happen.

Those are some massive expectations!

I say this. We have skewed expectations. The only thing we can expect in this world; the only thing that we can be assured of happening is that we will be disappointed, betrayed, and hurt. Look at recorded history. Read the Bible. GOD warns us over and over that we will have trouble in this world. Doesn’t that seem to counter that this same GOD Loves us and wants us to be with Him?

Have you ever had a friend that you would do anything for? Best friends. Bosom buddies. Someone you’d go the extra mile for. One day, you find out they have another ‘best friend’! That hurts ….. and yet, that’s exactly what we do to GOD. We choose of our own free will that we would rather hang out with the world. We choose sin over perfection. (Sounds rather brutal like that …..)

Okay, so this is a little depressing so far. I’ve had plenty of expectations, and I have experienced heartache and heartbreak, disappointment and betrayal by people I care about deeply. What’s the point? Our focus has to be above all of these earthly things; otherwise, we become bitter and angry. Our Great Expectation, our one expectation that is Truth, is this:

“All Praise to GOD, the Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. It is by His Great Mercy that we have been born again, because GOD raised JESUS CHRIST from the dead. Now we live with Great Expectation, and we have a priceless Inheritance—an Inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, Pure and Undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And remember that the heavenly FATHER to Whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time here as “temporary residents.” ” – 1 Peter 1:3‭-‬4‭, ‬17 NLT

Listen to Shane and Shane’s new song “Is He Worthy?” from the 2019 album Hymns Live. (Authors Ben Shive and Andrew Peterson)

HE is Worthy!

Image from The First Fruits of Zion

Could It Be Any More Simple?

Jesus spoke quite plainly to the Samaritan woman and to the people who followed Him, saying,

“If you only knew the gift God has for you and Who you are speaking to, you would ask Me, and I would give you Living Water.” Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the Water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them Eternal Life.” Then Jesus told her, “ I Am the Messiah!” – John 4:10‭, ‬13‭-‬14‭, ‬26 NLT

“I tell you the Truth, you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the Eternal Life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given Me the Seal of His approval.” They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.” – John 6:26‭-‬29 NLT

The Bread of God. Living Water. What is Jesus talking about? How can I never be hungry or thirsty again? It’s too simple. There has to be a catch. “….. ask Me, and I would give you Living Water. Believe in the One He has sent.”

We are so conditioned to everything having a price. Nothing is freely given in this world. It might be not be much of a price in the overall scheme of life, but still a price – and it could take everything a person has left to pay it. Even the love of our earthly fathers and mothers isn’t unconditional. That’s why it’s so difficult for us to believe that a gift so huge can truly be free! There is nothing to give up in order to receive this gift. All we have to do is open our hands and accept it. Freely given.

“The True Bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives Life to the world.” – John 6:33 NLT

Painting “Christ and the Samaritan Woman” – Henryk Siemiradzki, 1890.