Must be Important

“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 (New Living Translation)

 

 

Three times in one chapter.

 

When something is repeated that often, I tend to pay attention to it. Especially when Jesus is the one doing the talking.

 

And this is the third time He’s said, “I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.”

 

The first time He was talking about blowing a trumpet when giving to the poor. The second time it was about standing on the street corner to pray. And this time He’s talking about looking like you haven’t bathed or eaten so everybody who sees you will know you’re fasting.

 

This chapter started off with a warning for us NOT to practice our righteousness (which apparently includes giving to the poor, praying, and fasting) in front of others in order to be seen by them. And if we do, we are told we will have no reward from our heavenly Father.

 

Jesus does not say we should never practice our righteousness in front of other people. That would be impossible.

 

What He’s focusing on here is our heart. He’s looking at our motives. Our “why.”

 

And He wants us to do the same.

 

We need to pay attention to the reasons we’re doing a good deed—no matter how ‘good’ the deed is.

 

  • Are we doing it for the attention we’ll receive from people we think are important?
  • Is it for the reputation we’re building in our community?
  • Are we trying to make up for something we did that was wrong?
  • Or are we doing it to earn God’s love and affection?

 

In God’s eyes, the “why” is apparently just as important as the “what.” Maybe even more so.

 

This passage says when you fast (notice it doesn’t say if you fast), you should not LOOK like you’re fasting. You should wash your hair, style it, put on make-up (ladies), and dress like you normally do. Also, your attitude and facial expressions shouldn’t give away the fact that you’re hungry (if it’s food you’re fasting).

 

Your goal should be that the only other people who know you’re fasting are (1) the people who live in your house and can’t help but see what you’re doing without and (2) any other people who are fasting with you. For example, a lot of couples fast together on a regular basis for their children, and a lot of churches fast corporately at the beginning of each year to seek God’s will.

 

Bottom line: If you discover your real motivation to fast is so you can look good in the eyes of your friends—and in your swimsuit—then don’t be expecting any heavenly reward.

 

God’s attention is focused on your heart and you can’t fool Him. He’s got X-ray vision.

Model Prayer Overview

We completed our focus on the individual verses in the model prayer last week.

 

But there are a few things about the prayer in general that I would like to mention.

 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about God and my relationship with Him: how big He is, how much He loves me, that He is always for me, and how good a Daddy He is to His children. It’s not that I didn’t know any of those things before now. They’ve just been made plain through the teaching I’ve been under—more plain than I’ve ever heard them explained before.

 

And that knowledge has radically changed my relationship with God. And I think that’s why this prayer struck me totally different this time than any other time I’ve studied it.

 

This time I noticed that the model prayer is very positive. It’s not focused on negative things going on, and the language itself is positive.

 

I noticed that there is no begging or pleading. At all. It’s almost as if the person praying trusts God to answer His prayer and do what’s best.

 

I also noticed there is no repetition. Apparently the person praying expects God to be listening.

 

I also noticed there is not one request presented that’s followed by “if it be thy will.” There is a positive affirmation about God’s kingdom coming and His will being done—but there’s no “if” anywhere to be found.

 

And I realized, as I studied this time, that my praying has changed over the last couple of years. I believe that has everything to do with the fact that my relationship with God has changed based on what I’ve been learning.

 

I now know He is my good Heavenly Daddy who wants the very best for me. He is always listening. And I can trust Him to answer my prayers. They may not be answered like I want them answered. And they may not be answered based on my timetable.

 

But God will always answer my prayers in a way that provides what is best for me.

 

Because He is GOD. And He is GOOD.

 

Amen.

God, Save Me!

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13 NIV

This will be a short blog post because this is a pretty short verse.

And because I’m not sure I understand it very well.

Almost every version/translation of this verse says essentially the same thing, although a few use ‘testing’ in the place of ‘temptation’ and some end with ‘deliver us from evil’ instead of ‘the evil one.’

My problem is that we know from other places in scripture, and from our knowledge of His character, that God doesn’t tempt us. Which is what the first part of this sentence seems to be saying . . . “lead us not into temptation . . . .”

It would make more sense to me if this sentence in the prayer said, “God, lead me FAR AWAY from temptation and rescue me when I venture too close to it!”

That’s what I would like it to say.

And, to be honest, that’s how I pray some times. “God, save me from myself!” Because, if I’m honest, there are times when I know better but still get too close to things (relationships, activities, attitudes) I shouldn’t spend my valuable time, energy, and emotions on. Things that I know, based on my history, have a tendency to sidetrack me and pull my focus away from God and the path He wants me on.

While God doesn’t ever tempt us, He will occasionally lead us into a time of testing. If you haven’t experienced testing personally, I’m sure you know someone who has. And if you don’t, just check out the book of Job, or the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, or the story in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness immediately following his baptism to be tested by Satan.

While these times of testing can (and do) build our faith, I believe their primary purpose is to reveal the faith we already have. To show those around us that God is the focus and foundation of our life—and that He is worthy of all our praise and our trust.

Even when what He leads us to and through doesn’t make sense.

Kinda like this verse

Grace

rjfleming:

I’m spending some time away with family, so I decided to share this post about grace again. Because I always need it — even on vacation. Or maybe especially on vacation.

Originally posted on treasure seeker:

Do you remember the brilliant illustration using the jar, large rocks, gravel, sand, and water? If you need a refresher, here’s Stephen Covey’s retelling of the story. It’s a great life lesson about priorities and making sure you take care of the most important ones first.

Hold that thought. We’ll get back to it.

Have you ever noticed how frequently songwriters and poets and authors compare grace with water? I’ve heard it compared to a river, to an ocean, to rain. Yet when I did a search of the word ‘grace’ in the Bible, I couldn’t find it compared to water anywhere. I easily could have missed it. But I did notice a few times where it talked about grace flowing and overflowing, so I guess that’s probably why it’s been compared to water so often.

And I think grace is a lot like water. Think about it.

Water…

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Does Not Compute

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12 NIV

 

This verse in the model prayer talks about God forgiving our debts (sins, trespasses).

 

And it also talks about us forgiving other people for their debts (sins, trespasses).

 

This can be a confusing verse because it seems God is requiring something of us, besides faith and trust, in ‘exchange’ for His forgiveness. But having to work for our salvation doesn’t concur with the free gift of eternal life (free to us, not to Him) Jesus offers throughout the New Testament. And just like we came into a relationship with God through faith, our life after salvation is to be a continued walk of faith in what He has done for us and wants to do through us.

 

Then I realized something. Forgiving others—sometimes of horrible things they’ve done to us or to someone we love—IS an act of faith and trust in God. It shows that we believe and trust that God will fulfill His promise in Romans 8:28 and bring something good out of the harm that was done, “ . . . in all things God works for the good . . . .”

 

It also reminds me of what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good . . . .”

 

And, the opposite of that—NOT forgiving someone because it’s too hard or we just don’t want to—demonstrates a lack of faith and trust in God. I think it shows that we think we know better than God what extending forgiveness will do. We think it will make us look weak, or that it will appear we don’t think what the other person did was wrong, or that we’re saying it didn’t really hurt or that we are just going to forget it ever happened.

 

I’m not sure you can ever truly forgive someone until you have experienced God’s forgiveness. But once you have experienced it, I don’t believe you have an excuse NOT to forgive.

 

It’s not easy. It takes time for your feelings to catch up with your decision to forgive—because forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. In the beginning you have to confirm your forgiveness of them multiple times a day. And you may never forget what they did.

 

But like Jesus says in the model prayer—and immediately following it in verses 14-15—once you’ve been forgiven of EVERY WRONG YOU’VE EVER DONE, your life as a believer will be characterized by forgiveness.

 

Living any other way just does not compute!

 

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Who do you need to forgive?

 

What do you need to forgive them for?

 

How long has it been since it happened?

 

What have you gained by hanging on to your resentment?

 

When are you going to make the decision to forgive them?

A Good Daddy

“Give us today our daily bread.” – Matthew 6:11 New International Version (NIV)

 

 

This little phrase is so easy to just run right over when we’re reciting this prayer. But it’s such an important part, we don’t need to miss it.

 

For me, it is such a reminder of the manna from Heaven that God provided for the Israelites during their 40-year journey in the wilderness.

 

Just think about that. Every day. (Except Sabbaths—so a double portion on Fridays.) For 40 years. For over a million people. And He never failed to provide. Not once.

 

And in addition, their clothes didn’t wear out. And their shoes stayed intact. And He provided a cooling cloud by day and a warming cloud by night to protect them from the elements.

 

Every little thing they were lacking in the desert, He provided for them.

 

Even when they were begging to go back to Egypt, He provided for them.

 

Even when they worshiped the golden calf, He provided for them.

 

Even when they refused to go into the Promised Land because they were afraid—afraid that the God who parted the Red Sea so they walked through on dry land and then closed it up and drowned all the Egyptians that were pursuing them—afraid He wouldn’t help them defeat the enemies in the land He said was theirs for the taking. The place that was their sole destination after leaving Egypt and the exclusive reason for the exodus in the first place.

 

He STILL provided for them.

 

He’s a faithful and trustworthy Father who loves His children and provides for them even when they are faithless and doubting.

 

That includes me.

 

Because I have been faithless and doubting in my relationship with Him just like the Israelites were.

 

And He’s proven to me over and over and over again that He is never going to forget me or forsake me or fail to provide for me or fail to fulfill any promise He makes to me.

 

I’m so thankful His provision for me—just like the Israelites—does not depend on my behavior. I’m so glad His provision for me—just like the Israelites—is based on my position.

 

I’m His child.

 

And He’s a good Daddy.

 

 

– What are you having trouble trusting God for right now?

 

– How has He provided for you in the past?

 

– How do you believe He wants to use this current situation in your life?

 

– What are you going to choose to do?

Safe or Powerful?

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10

 

This is probably the part of the model prayer that I pray more than any other part. And I bet I’m not the only one.

 

Sometimes I think I pray it because it’s safe. And easy. I just ask that God’s will be done in a particular situation I need to pray for. And that’s as far as I go.

 

I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad way to pray, but I’m not sure it’s the best way to utilize this part of the model prayer. And it’s definitely not the most powerful way.

 

There are two ways I think may be better ways to pray this particular verse.

 

The first is something I learned from Graham Cooke when he spoke at our church recently. He was not talking about this model prayer, he was just talking about prayer in general. But the idea he shared really got my attention. He said since Jesus is our Advocate in Heaven and is always praying for us, why don’t we ask Jesus how He’s praying about our particular situation, then get in agreement with Him, and pray like He’s praying.

 

Brilliant!

 

If we’re praying about a situation the same way Jesus is praying about it, then we are definitely in line with this part of the model prayer.

 

The second idea I have about how to pray this verse is to ask Holy Spirit what your role is in bringing God’s kingdom and will into the particular situation you’re praying about.

 

I may be wrong, but I don’t think God is waiting on His children to beg for His will to be done in their lives and then deciding whether or not He’s going to drop it into their particular situation. I believe God wants His will to be done in our lives more than anything. And I believe He’s waiting for someone to ASK, SEEK, and KNOCK to find out what His will is and then watching for them to PROCLAIM IT and DO IT.

 

I think a lot of people pray this verse like it is a request—and I don’t think it is. I think it’s meant to be a proclamation. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done . . . .” And when we pray that way, we are saying that we will do our part to make sure God’s will is done in whatever earthly realm we have dominion—whether that is as an individual, a family member, an employee, a ministry team member, a Little League baseball coach, a local police officer or the President of the United States. We all have a part to play in bringing God’s kingdom to earth.

 

I think some people are reluctant to pray for God’s will because they’re afraid of what He might ‘do’ to them, or where He may send them, or what they may have to give up. But there’s really no reason for us to be afraid to pray for God’s will. God loves us without measure and He is totally trustworthy. He is always for us and His plans for us are always to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). And God is working ALL THINGS together for our good (Romans 8:28).

 

I once heard a definition of God’s will that I LOVE. Ike Reighard was my pastor over a decade ago and he shared this definition one Sunday. He said, “God’s will is what you would choose if you had all the facts.”

 

If you knew everything God knows about you and your situation, including who He created you to be and the unbelievably incredible plans He has for you, you would choose God’s will every time.

 

I like that. So even if I don’t have all the facts, I know I can trust that God’s will for me is the very best.

 

So that’s how I’m going to pray—proclaiming that God’s will be done here on earth just like it is in Heaven, and then doing my part to bring Heaven to earth. I can’t wait to see what that looks like.

 

Want to join me?

 

What is the main situation you are currently spending time praying about? How is Jesus praying about that situation?

 

What is one thing you can do today to help bring Heaven to earth in your home or office or community?