Archive | September, 2013

Christ-like Prayers

September 30, 2013

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As we look in on the last prayer that Jesus offered before being taken prisoner, (Luke 22:39-46) we can see that the priorities he taught still held up:

  • He made sure his disciples were taken care of, (Luke 22:40)
  • He asked for God’s will to be done
  • Only then did he ask for relief from what was before him.

To offer prayers in a Christ-like manner is to be continually prayerful and to put ourselves last. Most often it is more appropriate to pray for the strength to face what is going to happen than to pray for it not to happen.

As a challenge to yourself, try spending the day in a prayerful manner but not asking for anything for yourself. A great place to start is to pray for the benefit of others and for the Lord’s kingdom.

Daily Bible reading for September 30

Psalm 60
2 Samuel 20
Ezekiel 21
Luke 22:1-46

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Jesus Schools the Sadducees

September 28, 2013

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When the Sadducees challenged Jesus about the resurrection, (Luke 20:27-40) they had the same characteristics of those who teach false doctrine and those who don’t even believe in God.

Jesus teaching in the Temple, from the book Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Five (1928) Authors O. A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland

Jesus teaching in the Temple, from the book Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Five (1928) Authors O. A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland

  • They made up a ridiculous situation (even if it was possible)
  • They were setting out to trap the believer
  • They were using Scripture out of context
  • They had no response when they received an informed answer

So much of what those that believe in error and nonbelievers think can be attributed to a pure lack of study. No matter what category of wrong people fall into, they are all guilty of not giving honest effort to trying to find the truth.

In the parallel account of this event, (Mathew 22:22-33) Matthew records Jesus calling it like it is:

You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. – Matthew 22:29

As a whole, the Jews got caught up in all the lore and procedure and forgot to study their Scriptures. No wonder they didn’t understand everything the Lord came to teach!

When we decide not to give God’s word enough study, we lose our opportunity to save some of these folks from the same fate. So many people that claim to not believe justify it behind ridiculous scenarios like the Sadducees did.

Most importantly … Let’s study more so we don’t fall into the same trap!

Daily Bible reading for September 28

Psalm 58
2 Samuel 17:24-18:33
Ezekiel 19
Luke 19:47-20:44

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Helping Jesus Triumph

September 27, 2013

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Flevit super illam (He wept over it) 1892 - Enrique Simonet (1866–1927)

Flevit super illam (He wept over it) 1892 – Enrique Simonet (1866–1927)

From the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry (Luke 19:37) until his crucifixion, the Pharisees were able to turn the crowd against Jesus. In less than a week, nearly everyone was influenced and mobilized against him.

Turning the crowd’s attitude seems to be pretty easy:

  • We have seen lots of laws passed in the last few years that that would have never been considered before.
  • We see attitudes and actions being praised that would have ruined careers in previous generations.
  • We are giving away rights and responsibilities that many before us died over.

The formula is straight-forward:

  • Plant an idea.
  • Talk about it.
  • Live it.
  • Repeat.

I believe we still have enough devoted Christians to do the same thing they did.

But someone has to start.

Daily Bible reading for September 27

Psalm 57
2 Samuel 16:15-17:23
Ezekiel 18
Luke 19:28-46

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The Lord is Listening

September 26, 2013

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Jesus healing the blind beggar (Luke 18:35-43) makes me think of The Parable of Persistent Widow and Jesus healing the paralytic. (Mark 2:1-12) All are demonstrations of persistence and not allowing other people and conditions to get in the way of our salvation. (Luke 18:2-8) It is good to know that when life seems grim, the Lord is listening for our call.

Christ Healing the Blind Man c. 1640 - Gioacchino Assereto (1600–1649)

Christ Healing the Blind Man c. 1640 – Gioacchino Assereto (1600–1649)

As the beggar is calling out to Jesus, others are trying to silence him. The “upper class” Pharisees are crowding the front and no doubt, planning and scheming Jesus’ demise. I can almost see their anger as he keeps calling out to the “Son of David!”

Jesus’ first words on the Sermon on the Mount were words of comfort to the less fortunate and those who do not allow suffering to be a reason to lose faith. (Matthew 5:3-11) We see him making good on this throughout his ministry. If our goal is to imitate Jesus’ example, then we need to avoid:

  • looking down on others
  • silencing others’ enthusiasm
  • discouraging others’ ambition

Just like he proved on that noisy street outside Jericho, our Lord is listening to all his faithful children.

Daily Bible reading for September 26

Psalm 56
2 Samuel 15:13-16:14
Ezekiel 17
Luke 18:31-19:27

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Do Not Lose Heart

September 25, 2013


As Luke leads the reader into The Parable of the Unjust Judge, he tells us that we ought to always be in a prayerful state. (Luke 18:1) As God is being contrasted to the Unjust Judge, we are shown the power of persistence. (Luke 18:2-8)

When we are not regular enough with our praying, we risk being guilty of treating God like a gumball machine. In fact, when Jesus taught the crowd to “ask, seek and knock” (Matthew 7:7) he followed up by speaking of those actions as continuous in nature. (Matthew 7:8) Among the closing words of 1 Thessalonians, Paul reminds us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

When our prayers are not answered right away, we can know that we have been heard. Throughout the Bible, we see that God’s answers and promises were given in his own time. Although, when those prayers are for relief, it can be difficult to keep the faith. In those cases we can take comfort in what our Lord went through in comparison. (Hebrews 12:3)

Similar to the widow in Jesus’ parable, sometimes it is persistence that wins the day.

Daily Bible reading for September 25

Psalm 55
2 Samuel 14:25-15:12
Ezekiel 16
Luke 18:1-30

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Requests and Thanksgiving

September 24, 2013

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In the margin of my Bible, beside the account of the ten lepers, (Luke 17:11-19) I have this written:

How often do the love and life of the pardoned sinner fail to respond to the grace that saved him! – Lamar

I don’t remember writing it there, but it pretty much sums up the reason the event is included in the Bible. All too often, we forget to give credit where credit is due when our prayers are answered. Here Jesus is showing his disappointment at being forgotten.

Among the exhortations Paul closed Philippians with, he reminds the reader to pray and make our requests in the spirit of thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6) Giving God the glory for our successes and blessings is key to maintaining our faith.

Daily Bible reading for September 24

Psalm 54
2 Samuel 14:1-24
Ezekiel 14-15
Luke 17:11-37

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If I Only Had More Wealth!

September 23, 2013

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In one sentence, Jesus gave us a benchmark in how we would handle increased wealth.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much – Luke 16:10

Whatever a man does with what he has, is an indicator of what he would do with whatever amount more of it there may be.

Based on your current condition, how would you handle increased wealth?

Based on your current condition, how would you handle increased wealth?

Many pretend that if they were rich they would give large sums to charity, make larger contributions to the church, save more and generally be a good steward – but they do none of these things with more modest possessions. These folks, in general are lying to themselves.

Jesus goes on to say that those who can’t make things work with a more modest net worth will not be trusted to handle larger responsibilities. (Luke 16:11-12)

Instead of justifying ourselves by saying “If I had more ___________ I would do more _________”, we should be asking, “How can I best use what God has given me in his service?”

Daily Bible reading for September 23

Psalm 53
2 Samuel 13
Ezekiel 13
Luke 16:1-17:10

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Forgiveness of Sins

September 21, 2013

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In Psalm 51, David has come to realize that the sins he has committed cannot be covered or forgotten. The darkness of his acts (2 Samuel 11) will remain with him but for the grace of God.

In a previous post, we took a look at the model prayer for some guidelines in how to construct a prayer. We can extend that lesson with Psalm 51. David pleads for forgiveness with urgency and is upfront about the discredit his sins do to him. He asks God to:

  • Have mercy (Psalm 51:1)
  • Cleanse him (Psalm 51:2)
  • Wash him (Psalm 51:7)
  • Blot out his sin (Psalm 51:9)
  • Hide his face from David’s sin (Psalm 51:9)
  • Deliver him from guilt (Psalm 51:14)

We can see that David professes no merit or credit for his position. He relies totally on God’s love and mercy. From the beginning of this prayer God is the basis of David’s hope.

This remains true for New Testament Christians as well. Even after obeying the Gospel, we have to recognize our need for God. Hiding sins, or not repenting from sins, separates him from us and will prevent his grace from reaching us.

As for our own sins, let’s not allow a stubborn heart or pride get in the way of the simple truth that David recognized.

He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy – Proverbs 28:13

Daily Bible reading for September 21

Psalm 51
2 Samuel 11
Ezekiel 11:14-25
Luke 14

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Economical Worship

September 20, 2013

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Humans have a knack for making things efficient and economical.

Someone once told me about how their church had added an early worship service so they could go ahead and “get it done.” I have even had a sister at my congregation tell me how upset she was that nobody told a guest speaker what time he had to stop.

While I suppose it is good that folks like these are in the service and know they are where they are supposed to be, I wonder if that kind of attitude isn’t what Jesus was talking about making it difficult to enter the “narrow door.” (Luke 13:22-30)

Psalm 50 is a warning that both Israel (who had the practice of worship down to a science) and the wicked are in the same boat if they don’t remember God and glorify him. (Psalm 50:22-23)

God expects us to be fully engaged with him. Efficiency isn't always the best choice!

God expects us to be fully engaged with him. Efficiency isn’t always the best choice!

Jesus made no bones about following him being expensive and that it requires a complete rethinking of one’s life. (Luke 14:25-33) He said those wanting to get through the narrow door must “strive” to get in. (Luke 13:24) The word strive has connotations of agony in its definition.

While being economical is a good trait for saving time and money, what risk do we face when we apply that thinking to our worship? How can it affect our daily lives?

The narrow door may close on us because of:

  • Pride (1 Peter 5:6)
  • Procrastination (2 Corinthians 6:2)
  • A lack of urgency (Luke 13:24)

That last one is pretty complex. If we approach the narrow door in a casual manner we may:

  • Attempt to bring contraband
  • Not arrive before the door shuts
  • Never really ever get around to trying

The challenge offered today is to sing, pray, give, serve and live like our souls depend on it.

It does.

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5 Ways We Should Give

September 19, 2013

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Yesterday we took a quick look at what we are to treasure. We saw Jesus condemn the man that thought it was wise to store up his wealth as if he had forever to spend it. In fact, not only are we supposed to use whatever wealth we have in God’s service, we are to be good givers as well. Good givers are the kind that give without expecting anything in return.

Here are five ways we are supposed to give:poor

  • Liberally (Luke 6:38)
  • Sacrificially (Hebrews 13:16)
  • Cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • Purposefully (2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • Secretly (Matthew 6:3-4)

If any one of these adverbs are left out of the act of giving, the meaning and the benefit is diminished. Take your giving to the next level and see how your heart follows!

Daily Bible reading for September 19

Psalm 49
2 Samuel 9
Ezekiel 9
Luke 12:49-13:9

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Piles of Money

September 18, 2013

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Jesus used The Parable of the Rich Fool as a lesson in stewardship over the things we have on loan in this earthly life. (Luke 12:13-21) Money is a tool for living and serving and is no more evil than a hay rake when used properly.

Put your heart into things you can do with money, not into the money.

Put your heart into things you can do with money, not into the money.

As one famous money matter expert put it, we’re supposed to save some, spend some, and give some away. We can see these actions in most of the godly people written about in the Bible.

So where did the rich fool go wrong?

  • He hoarded his wealth instead of using it for service to God
  • He assumed he had a long time left
  • He decided he was above working now that “he had it made”

Jesus said more than once that our heart follows what we treasure, (Luke 12:34, Matthew 6:21) so putting our heart into something like money and riches – something that is not everlasting – is a foolish exercise.

Daily Bible reading for September 18

Psalm 48
2 Samuel 8
Ezekiel 8
Luke 12:13-48

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The Good Confession

September 17, 2013

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Paul called the confession of Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God “the good confession.” (1 Timothy 6:12-13) I can’t think of any better reason to call it that than the promise Jesus makes in Luke 12:8-9. If it goes anything like Christ’s response to Peter when he confessed that Jesus was the Christ, (Matthew 16:17-18) then it truly is a wonderful event.

Other reasons we call it “the good confession” include:

  • It is part of God’s plan of salvation (Romans 10:9-10)
  • Jesus was condemned for making it (John 19:7, Mark 14:62)
  • God made it (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5)
  • All will make it eventually (Philippians 2:11)
  • Christ confesses those who make it (Matthew 10:32)

Making the good confession – actually saying that Jesus is the Son of God in front of others, opens your heart to the desire to obey God’s commandments. It is how we are able to be truly obedient to God’s plan

 Daily Bible reading for September 17

Psalm 47
2 Samuel 7
Ezekiel 7
Luke 11:37-12:12

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Teach Us to Pray

September 16, 2013

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We have been studying the Sermon on the Mount in my 3rd-5th grade class the last couple of weeks. We used the opportunity to talk about and review how Jesus taught us to pray. (Luke 11:1-4, Matthew 6:5-15) The formula is so simple, everyone from the young boys to grown men can benefit from it when facing the need to give a public prayer.

Some people are deathly afraid to get in front of an audience to speak as it is, but add the weight of leading a group of people in prayer and it can be truly overwhelming. Sometimes we speak of someone’s ability to lead a beautiful prayer and it creates a false impression that God will only hear a prayer that is “beautiful.”

Luckily, we know that is not the case. Paul assures us that even when we misspeak, the Holy Spirit is there to tell God what we really meant. (Romans 8:26-27) We can take comfort that all of our prayers are powerful (James 5:16) and that God did not make it difficult to speak to him. Based on the lessons Jesus taught, here are a few pointers about prayer:

Praying need not be complicated or showy.

Praying need not be complicated or showy.

  • prayers should be short
  • prayers should acknowledge God’s greatness
  • we need forgiveness and deliverance from temptation
  • long showy prayers and vain repetitions are sinful
  • even Christians are sinful and need forgiveness
  • avoiding temptation is as important avoiding sin
  • Christians must be forgiving as well as forgiven

One last pointer that I have for the young boys that I have taught over the years (which works for grown-ups too!) is to pray aloud even when we are alone. This helps tremendously to get used to hearing our own voice in that context and keeps us focused on our prayer while we are talking to God.

Daily Bible reading for September 16

Psalm 46
2 Samuel 6
Ezekiel 6
Luke 11:1-36

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Marys and Marthas

September 15, 2013

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Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary by Tintoretto, 16th century.

Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary by Tintoretto, 16th century.

Today (or the next time) as you attend the worship services, I ask you to classify yourself as a Mary or Martha. (Luke 10:38-42)

Martha was hard at work, serving the guests in her house.

Mary took advantage of the opportunity to sit at her Lord’s feet to learn.

There is lots of work that needs to be done to support a worship service, I give you that. There is even more to do to get into heaven. Be sure your priorities are on getting the spiritual nourishment you need for the edification of your faith. (Romans 10:17)


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The Campaign to Discredit Christ

September 14, 2013

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At the time that John the Baptist was preparing the way, those who witnessed Jesus had little trouble accepting him as the Messiah. The Jews in charge had other ideas, however. There was a constant campaign to discredit Jesus. We can look at our own times to see how quickly people have become bold enough to declare themselves Atheists. It only takes a few people to reach the critical mass where opinions, values and morals collectively change.

With a few page turns and some quick scanning of the Gospels, we can find all sorts of rumors and lies they told on our Lord.

They said:

  • he was a glutton (Matthew 11:18,19)
  • he was a winebibber (Matthew 11:18,19)
  • he cast out demons by the prince of demons (Matthew 9:34)
  • he was Beelzebul (Matthew 10:25)
  • he was a sinner (John 9:24)
  • he had a demon (John 7:20)
  • he violated the Sabbath (Matthew 12:2)
  • he was a Samaritan (John 8:48)
  • he was a deceiver (Matthew 27:63)
  • had a friendship with publicans and sinners (Luke 15:2)
  • that no prophet could come out of Galilee (John 7:52)
  • he lead the multitude astray (John 7:12)
  • it was impossible for Jesus to be the Christ since Elijah had not risen from the dead (Mark 9:11)
  • he had an unclean spirit (Mark 3:30)
  • he is beside himself (Mark 3:21)
  • he transgressed the tradition of the elders (Matthew 15:2)
  • he is not from God (John 9:16)
  • he forbade to give tribute to Caesar (Luke 23:2)
  • he made himself a king (Luke 23:2)
  • he was an evildoer (John 18:30)
  • that Jesus claimed he would destroy the temple of God and build it in three days (Matthew 26:61)

The things we are seeing today are nothing new. The lies listed above and worse can still be expected from those who wish to discredit Christ and Christians. We have it pretty easy compared to those first century Christians. Those who are not in a Muslim country have it pretty easy compared to some Christians that do live there.

For today, just resolve to keep fighting the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) and let God handle the rest.

Daily Bible reading for September 14

Psalm 44
2 Samuel 4
Ezekiel 4:1-5:4
Luke 9:51-10:24

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