How to Be a Good Soldier for the Lord

Gods army

The United States Army abides under what is called, “The Seven Core Army Values.” They are, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Soldiers learn these values and their meanings when they first begin their basic training. They are to learn them, understand them, and use them in everything they do from then on. Their minds are as conditioned as their bodies in order to be good soldiers for their country.

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul encouraged his young associate to, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 2:3, New American Standard Bible, NASB). Metaphorically speaking, Paul was applying one of the core values of a good soldier serving the Lord Jesus. Paul could make this comparison since he had many encounters with Roman soldiers in his missionary journeys. Undoubtedly, he had witnessed the fortitude, discipline, and loyalty of the soldiers and their commanders he had met during his ministry (for example, Acts 21:31-40; 22:23-29; 23:10; 23:17-35; 24:1-27; 25:1-22; 25:23-27; 26:1-32; 27:1-44; 28:1-30). And the apostle observed how their military life reflected the values of an even more meaningful spiritual life of a soldier in Christ.

Applying the kind of values expected of believers, we consider how to be a good soldier for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Here are seven core values for those in his army:

Core Value #1. A good soldier has faith.

Faith is belief, confidence, and trust. All three characteristics are essential for being a good soldier in Christ. If a soldier doesn’t believe in the cause for which he or she is fighting then the soldier is bound to be defeated. If the soldier lacks confidence, he or she will be weak on morale and motivation to overcome the enemy. If a soldier doesn’t trust his fellow soldiers and especially his superiors, he or she will likely be unfit for duty. Christians live by these standards of faith as they fulfill their duties as good soldiers of the Lord. Paul reminded Timothy, “And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation THROUGH FAITH which is in Christ,” (2 Tim. 3:15). In fact, Paul commended Timothy for his sincere faith that was instilled in him through the influence of his godly mother and grandmother since childhood (2 Tim. 1:5). And Paul testified how he, himself, “Fought the good fight…finished the course…kept the faith ,” once he accepted the call of Christ in his career (2 Tim. 4:7).

Core Value #2. A good soldier obeys the commands.

No soldier should even think about questioning the commands of his officers. Rank is essential when a soldier is given orders. God, the Commander-in-Chief, gave his Ten Commandments to Israel. Jesus Christ, who was granted “all authority and power in heaven and on earth,” (Matthew 28:18) serves as God’s Appointed Supreme Commander in the office of Prophet (Deut. 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22), Priest (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:5-10; 7:1-3), and King (Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 19:16). We, as good soldiers, are expected to live according to the commands given through God’s Son. We are instructed to practice unconditional and unquestionable obedience to our Master for he knows those who are loyal to him (2 Tim. 2:19). We’ve enlisted in God’s army through Christ. And, therefore, we are under obligation to not allow ourselves to be entangled in worldly matters. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier,” (2 Tim. 2:4). Our duty is to obey the commands found in God’s Word. It is the instruction manual for achieving complete victory. “Be diligent to present yourself approved by God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Core Value #3. A good soldier makes sacrifices.

Good soldiers of Christ are willing to give of their time, their toil, their talent, as well as their blood, sweat, and tears for serving and honoring the Lord. When Paul spoke of suffering hardship like him, he wasn’t just blowing smoke. He went through more than most of us ever will as he took his stand for the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:21-33; 12:7-10). One of the distinguishing characteristics of a Roman soldier in Paul’s day was that every new recruit was branded with a hot iron. To have that brand mark is said to be an honor for being in the Roman army. The Apostle Paul used this as a metaphor for his sufferings for Christ. He said to his fellow soldiers in Galatia, “…I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus,” (Gal. 6:17). Just think of all the scars and wounds his body suffered from the beatings, whippings, and all other abuses for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus! But Jesus said this is what his recruits would suffer (Matt. 5:10-12). And then, of course, there’s the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus suffered, bled, and died for the sake of completing his mission—a true mission of love. He said to his little army of disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you,” (John 15:13-14). Stories are often told of brave soldiers who died falling on grenades or standing in front of gunfire or diffusing loaded bombs in order to spare fellow comrades from fatal danger. Any good soldier of Christ is just as brave if it comes to sacrificing one’s own life while under persecution for sharing Christ with others and saving them.

Core Value #4. A good soldier has endurance.

You can’t think about sacrifice without including endurance. It is for the Gospel that Paul endured hardship. He stated, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned,” (2 Tim. 2:8-9). Endurance, like sacrifice, takes divine love in one’s heart. Love of this kind “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Cor. 13:7). You can have much faith, sacrifice everything, and endure all things, but without love, nothing is profited (1 Cor. 13:2-3). With godlike love you can endure with patience and kindness without becoming jealous, boastful, arrogant, unbecoming, selfish, or vengeful. Rather, you can endure because you are rejoicing with the truth rather than rejoicing in something not true (1 Cor. 13:4-6). When times get tough, the tough will endure. We are told that at the end of the age when perilous times will really get tough, it will be those who “endure to the end” that “will be saved,” (Matt. 24:13). It begs the question, “How tough am I to endure?” Our love for God and others (the primary essence of living God’s commandments—Matthew 22:36-40) provides the ability to endure with perseverance which can accomplish great things. It is written that “there are four steps to accomplishment: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.” You never give up if you’re enduring as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Core Value #5. A good soldier has strong will.

A soldier must have a very strong will to succeed. One cannot enter a battle without having the will or desire to move forward even when it’s against all odds. That does not mean one will not have fear in the face of the adversity. But the determination to enter any conflict with the help of God’s guidance and power will yield greater gains. Paul remarked, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” (2 Tim. 1:7). The strength of our will depends upon how resolved we are to win life’s battles. But such strength does not merely stem from what WE want but from what GOD wants. He has supplied us with the grace or favor to make us strong through Christ. Paul said to Timothy, “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 2:1). It is our reliance upon God that strength is found and the will to make progress regardless of the circumstances. Paul relied on God’s grace even though his “thorn in the flesh” was never removed (2 Cor. 12:7-10). We can endure only if we are willing to accept God’s will and, like Paul, declare, “that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Core Value #6. A good soldier knows the enemy and is adequately equipped.

What is a good soldier without knowing who he’s fighting and what he will need to fight with? Can you imagine a soldier going out to fight without any weapons and equipment? A good soldier of Jesus is no different when it comes to spiritual warfare. First, a good soldier must know the enemy—his strengths, his weaknesses, his knowledge and abilities and fighting patterns, and so forth. In Ephesians 6:12, our enemy is identified. Christians are not in a fight against an invading army of troops (“flesh and blood”). Rather, we’re in a battle “against the rulers, against the powers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly (or, higher) places.” It would be easy to shoot from guns, fire the artillery, and march in an infantry against an opposing army that is fighting you compared to the kind of spiritual war we Christians are in. The forces opposing us are of a spiritual nature—higher powers that operate in the darkness of their wickedness, spreading their propaganda, persuading their victims to depend on them for false security, support, and strength rather than God and his Word. So, we take our stand against these powers but not with conventional weapons. No, we fight spiritual battles with something far more superior—spiritual weapons and equipment—“the full armor of God,” (Eph. 6:13). This will help to resist evil and take a firm stand in God’s truth. Therefore, “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Eph. 4:14-17, New Living Translation, NLT).

Care Value #7. A good soldier expects victory.

What good is fighting without expecting to win? A good soldier sees beyond the present conflict to the joy of receiving the crown of honor and glory. This is his hope. It’s the driving force behind one’s desire to succeed no matter the price. And there IS a price—a kind of spiritual death which will ultimately lead to life eternal. For Paul said to Timothy, “For if we died with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself,” (2 Tim. 2:11-13). Dying with Christ means that once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism, we are no longer living in the dictates of our own sinful inclinations. Rather, we are now living a new way of life, under the Power of Christ taking priority in our lives so that we are now serving him as good soldiers and not ourselves. Since we are now living as his good soldiers, we can claim the promise that one day we will “reign with him.” This is referring to the Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes to call forth all the faithful—those in Christ who are living and those in Christ who are resurrected from their sleep of death (1 Thess. 4:16-18). And believers will be co-rulers with Christ in his kingdom when he reigns on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rom. 8:17; Rev. 1:6-7; 5:10; 11:15; 19:16; 20:6). When the Kingdom of God is finally established, and all of his judgements are complete, those who will inherit his kingdom will be the good soldiers who served faithfully according to the scriptures. Sadly, all others (the unsaved who do not accept Christ) will be the fallen victims of their own refusal to join the army of God and his Son (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8).

By the way, another metaphor regarding the war we are in as good soldiers in Christ is the sound of the trumpet. The trumpet, often the blowing of the ram’s horn, was like a bugle that called the soldiers to commence fighting. This goes back to the Old Testament when Israel went to war against their foes (Numbers 10:9; Joshua 6:4-20; Judges 7:8-20). Paul used the trumpet or bugle when he was speaking of misusing the gift of languages or tongues in worship services. He said to the Corinthian church, “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8). In other words, if someone is speaking in a foreign language that others do not understand, then they would be as confused as soldiers who did not recognize a certain sound of the bugle that called them to war.

Then there’s the reference to the trumpet that will sound when Jesus returns to gather his church and to fight his battle with the nations. First, the resurrection of believers: First Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and WITH THE TRUMPET OF GOD; and the dead in Christ shall rise first….” The sounding of the trumpet will signal the start of the coming eternal age of God’s kingdom as the dead in Christ are resurrected to immortality. Paul also refers to the sound of the trumpet in the Resurrection Chapter—First Corinthians 15:52. Next, is the REAL war that WILL END ALL WAR. After gathering his church which has met him in the air, Jesus will come down to Mount Zion and defeat the enemies who fight against him. This will be the final war known as Armageddon (Psalm 2:1-12; Joel 2:1-3:21; Zech. 12:10-11; 14:1-21; Rev. 16:16).

Good soldiers of Jesus Christ look eagerly forward to their eternal reward. The curse of sin will be removed for good (Rev. 22:3-4) and death will be no more (Rev. 21:4). And this gets us full circle to Core Value #1—Faith. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?…He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life,” (1 John 5:4-5, 12).

We are soldiers of the Lord for it his battle to win. Here is, “The Battle Belongs to the Lord,” by Maranatha! Music: http://youtu.be/vKD9ywL_OmA

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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A Clean Mind

Businessman Wash And Clean The Brain Of His Colleague

I was reading a cute story about a Sunday School teacher who had carefully prepared his lesson for the kids in his class. He was talking to them about the need for keeping their minds as clean as their bodies. To make his point, he held up a bar of soap.

“Uh, oh,” murmured one of the boys. “Here comes the commercial!”

In this day and age, it would probably be a good idea to teach this lesson to young AND old alike. I don’t doubt there are a lot of dirty minds that could use a good scrubbing. But it would require more than what a bar of soap could do.

Now here’s MY commercial…

Are you suffering from DMS? Do you know others suffering from it? What IS it, you are wondering? DMS is Dirty Mind Syndrome also known as “lust of the flesh.”

It’s something that anyone can catch. Young and old; rich and poor; Christian or non-Christian. It’s not that difficult. For you see, our minds have this tendency to think nasty thoughts. And when they get control of our brains they are not so easy to control. Like it says in Isaiah 64:6, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind,” (New Living Translation, NLY).

Before you know it, our minds are cluttered with unclean thoughts. A vulgar joke here, a naughty image there, an urge to satisfy those carnal desires and, before you know it, a kind of sludge starts settling in the mind. As it builds, it clogs the brain cells and bogs them down so that pure thoughts are prohibited from functioning thus leading to DMS. This disease can create so much corruption that it even causes addiction. Unless something is done to cure this malady, there is grave danger of eternal death instead of inheriting eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

That’s the bad news. But the good news is that healing CAN take place. One’s mind can become clean and whole again. DMS can be treated and cured once a person starts on a rehab process known as TIS—The Indwelling Spirit. Here is the antidote recommended by the Apostle Paul:

“The mind set on the flesh [DMS] is [eternal] death but the mind set on the Spirit [TIS] is [eternal] life and peace. Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God…But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit dwelling in you,” (Romans 8:6, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Paul also addresses the problem of DMS in his letter to the Galatian churches. Amongst the many symptoms that arise out of “the desire of the flesh,” such as idolatry, sorcery, uncontrolled anger, envying, drunkenness, and so forth, sexual immorality (adultery), impurity (fornication), and sensuality are at the top of the list (Gataians 5:16-21). Those who are plagued with these symptoms will one day find themselves disinherited from living in God’s Kingdom. “I have forewarned you,” the apostle says, “that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” (v. 21).

So, just as he does in his letter to the Romans, he recommends TIS to the Galatians for it produces just the right ingredients or “fruit of the Spirit” for curing DMS. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (v. 22-23). These not only cure DMS (v. 24) they enable us to walk in hope as we seek to enter the Kingdom of God.

When we start thinking and doing according to the way Christ Jesus directs us, we can enjoy the good health that comes from TIS. This means, however, that we must be willing to set our minds on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and walk the way Christ would have us go rather than our way.

In writing to the church at Ephesus Paul reminded them how once walked in their own way and how they suffered from DMS on account of it. Their “former manner of life,” that is, “their old self” which was being corrupted “in accordance with the lusts of deceit,” was due to walking in the “futility of their mind.” They became “callous” or indifferent having “given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice ov every kind of impurity with greediness,” (Ephesians 4 17-23). Besides other problems, they really had a bad case of DMS.

But now their lives were changed and their minds renewed by living on TIS through Jesus Christ. They had put on the mind of Christ and now they were restored to good spiritual health. Paul encouraged the believers, “that you be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth,” (Eph. 4:24).

And thus, a whole transformation takes place with TIS. The mind is made clean and one can feel much better in the process. Unlike the way the sinful world thinks (breeding ground for DMS), believers think differently. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [philosophy and trends of this modern age] but be transformed [changed] by the renwing of your mind, that your may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Interestingly, clean minds affect clean hearts. While your mind is pictured as the source of your thinking and reasoning, your heart is pictured as the source of your emotions and attitude. What affects the one affects the other. That’s why the heart is metaphorically referenced along with the mind for being focused on Christ.

In Ephesians 4:17, when Paul pointed out that the members were to no longer walk in the “futility of their mind,” he added, “…being darkened in their understanding, excluded [alienated] from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart…” (v. 18). When DMS is contracted, it’s also advisable to get a heart check up, as well.

As they say, the mind is a terrible thing to waste. The mind is truly a part of you that you want to keep clean at all times. And not only to prevent DMS, but to experience something that only TIS can provide. For one thing, it starts with having the kind of attitude Christ had. This includes looking out for the interest of others and not just your own interests. And when one starts thinking this way, one can expect to be blessed by it with wonderful joy and gratification. (See Philippians 2:1-18)

And, with this attitude comes peace beyond comprehension. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 4:7). Did you get that? Both “hearts” AND “minds”? So that with TIS, you can keep your mind trained on the positive features that produce such peace, namely “whatever is is true…honorable…right… pure…lovely [lovable and gracious]…good repute, if their be any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things,” (v. 8).

The Apostle Peter chimes in with the same kind of recommendation. He puts it in the context of being holy—that is, to stand apart from the crowd, and be a true fellow thinker like Christ. “Therefore, gird [prepare] your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation [second coming] of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:13).

A clean mind is a most important objective for followers of Jesus Christ. A clean mind is a clear mind and a clear mind is a mature mind focused on the power we receive through him. You can have an open mind or a closed mind on certain things, but a clean mind is needed for better health. As it has been written, “If you want to be the picture of health, you’d better have a happy frame of mind.” Jesus is the One who puts us in that frame.

Here’s a lovely guitar special, “May the Mind of Christ My Saviour,” http://youtu.be/Y_ZBhSxWots

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Take Courage!

courage

Courage is a special quality that we admire in others. But what about the man in this story…

In the Moscow circus a beautiful woman lion tamer would have a fierce lion come to her meekly, put his paws around her and nuzzle her with affection. The crowd thundered its approval. All except one man in the audience.

“What’s so great about that?” he shouted. “Anybody can do that.”

The ringmaster challenged him. “Would you like to try it?”

The man replied, “Yes. But first get that lion out of the there!”

I imagine many in the audience thought, at first, that the man was very brave to go into the cage and face a lion like that pretty lion tamer. Some may have even thought he was just plain nuts. But when his true intention of entering the cage was made clear, his courage as well as his stupidity raised a lot of doubt.

Courage is not an easy hug. In fact, it’s not easy…period! For courage takes guts. No guts, no courage. A military inductee, when asked if he had any physical defects, replied, “No guts!”

You can see courage demonstrated in living color on TV shows and in the movies. Death-defying feats…running into burning buildings to save the damsel in distress…jumping into a raging river to rescue a drowning child…coming to the aid of an abused dog…saving the world from an invading army….these are picures of courageous heroes going in and saving the day and being praised and rewarded for it.

But there’s just one hitch here. Unless these kind of scenes depict true stories, they’re just make-believe. Hollywood is good at entertaining and trying to make everything look real. And, admittedly, the stunt people do deserve credit for being brave acting out dangerous scenes, risking life and limb doing their work. Now, that’s REAL danger. Which makes the point that REAL courage is what REALLY takes place in the REAL world.

But aside from the action type of stories we usually associate with courage, there’s another side of it that I dare say few often consider. What about moral courage? What about the courage to say “no” to something wrong or potentially harmful while everyone else is saying, “yes, that’s okay.”? How about the courage to walk away from a dangerous dare? Doesn’t it take true courage to speak the truth even if the crowd questions it and even mocks you for believing it? It’s not always easy to take a stand against an injustice done to someone, or to resist a bully, or to love someone who is difficult to love. But that’s when you really need real, genuine courage.

I agree with the statement, “Courage is the quality it takes to look at yourself with candor, your adversaries with kindness, and your setbacks with serenity.” Such quality is admirable. It’s worthy to be applied. And it’s what we’d expect to find in Christians.

Just turn to the Scriptures and you’ll find many passages that describe the source of courage, the ethics of courage, and the reward of courage. From the following list of Bible references (New American Standard Bible, NASB) on courage, I am going to place a blue (S) for source, a green (C) for conditions, and a gray (R) for result to convey how we are encouraged by applying it.

Deut. 31:6-8Be strong and courageous, (C) do not be afraid or tremble at them, for (S) the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, (R) for you shall go with this people into the land which (C) the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and (R) you shall give it to them as an inheritance. (S) The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; (S) He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. (C) Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Joshua 1:9-11 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! (C) Do not tremble or be dismayed, for (S) the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, (C) “Pass through the midst of the camp and (C) command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, (R) to go in to possess the land (S) which the Lord your God is giving you, (R) to possess it.’”

1 Chronicles 28:20 “Then David said to his son Solomon, ‘Be strong and courageous, (C) and act; (C) do not fear nor be dismayed, (S) for the Lord God, my God, is with you. (S) He will not fail you nor forsake you until (R) all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.’”

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (C) I fear no evil, for (S) You are with me; (S) Your rod and Your staff, (R) they comfort me.”

Psalm 27:13-14 (C) I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would (R) see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.(C) Wait for (S) the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, (C) wait for (S) the Lord.”

John 16:33 [Jesus] “These things (S) I have spoken to you, so that (S) in Me (R) you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage [good cheer]; (S) I have overcome the world.”

Acts 4:13, 31 “Now as they observed the confidence [boldness] of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, (R) they were amazed, and (R) began to recognize them as (S) having been with Jesus….And (C) when they had prayed, (R) the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all (S) filled with the Holy Spirit and (R) began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

Ephesians 3:11-13 “This was in accordance with (S) the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access (C) through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you (C) not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for (R) they are your glory.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have (S) a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, (C) let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but (S) One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore (C) let us draw near with confidence [boldness] to the throne of grace, so that (R) we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

1 John 4:15-17 “We have seen and testify that (S) the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. (C) Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, (R) God abides in him, and he in God. (R) We have come to know and have believed (S) the love which God has for us. (S) God is love, and (C) the one who abides in love (R) abides in God, and (R) God abides in him.”

These, and many more passages I could list, encourage us to take courage. The source of courage is not from human will or power but from God through Jesus Christ, his Son. When we apply the conditions upon which we exercise courage, then we can expect great results.

Some, however, might think we’re a little crazy for stepping into the cage to face the fierce nature of opposition and intimidation and danger. But even in the midst of fear, we can take courage. Why? Because we know the One who will help us and guide us through whatever circumstance we are in.

God wants us to take courage. He wants to reward us for it. The reward of eternal life is waiting for those who have the courage to love him, trust him, worship him, and serve him through his beloved Son. (1 John 5:13-15).

We need not be discouraged or dismayed whenever we take courage in the Lord. For God will take of YOU! Here’s the hymn under the same title, “God Will Take Care of You”: http://youtu.be/MdZ7RdF07Eo

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Going the Right Way

the right path

It’s not easy going the right way when most people are going the wrong way. It’s even worse when you’re penalized for it. Take, for example, Mike Delcavo.

Mike was one of the 128 runners participating in a cross country race at the 1993 NCAA II Track and Field Championships. They began following the 6.2 mile course that race officials set for them.

But, as they came closer to the end, Mike Delcavo of Western State College in Colorado noticed something that didn’t look right. He was in the middle of the pack when he saw ahead that the runners in front had missed the turn.

“I was waving for them to follow me and yelling ‘This is the right way,’” he told an interviewer after the race. But they kept going anyway. Only Mike and four other runners followed the correct course.

Everybody else ended up taking a short cut which gave them the advantage of finishing sooner. What is most bizarre, however, is how the race turned out. The officials chose to allow the shortened route, that the majority of runners took, to be counted as the “official course.” As you can figure, this was a highly controversial decision. And, to his dismay, Mike officially finished 123rd.

As Christians, we want to go the right way down our path of life. But when everybody else takes the wrong turn that we know isn’t correct, we have a choice. We can either go along with them or keep on the right course, meanwhile warning the others they are going the wrong way. Ironically, it’s the majority going the wrong way, taking a short cut toward temporary gratification (unlike Moses, Hebrews 11:24-26), that the world recognizes and rewards. Is it fair? No. But are we still determined to go the right way anyway? Yes.

Now, why do we want to go the right way now matter what others think? In short, it’s because there’s only one way to go that leads to the just and truest reward. Jesus laid down this course when he said to one of his disciples, Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me,” (John 14:6). What did Jesus mean by this statement? How does it encourage us to go the right way?

He starts out declaring, “I am.” This isn’t the only time he used these words. Jesus made many “I am” claims in the Gospel of John. For example, “I am…

…the bread of life” (6:35);
…the light of the world” (8:12);
…the gate” (10:9);
…the good shepherd” (10:11);
…the resurrection and life” (11:25-26);
…the vine” (15:5)

The “I am” term is often compared to God’s self-identification to Moses as “I AM THAT I AM,” (Exodus 3:14). God is revealing that he is the self-existent and eternal God thus indicating his perfect nature as opposed to the false gods or idols other nations worshipped. This is the same one true God who is the Father of Jesus Messiah, his Anointed One, who saves us from our sins and through whom believers will receive eternal life (John 3:16). Thus, Jesus could correctly say to the scribes and Pharisees, “Therefore I said to you, that you will die in your sins; for if you believe not that I am he, you will die in your sins,” (John 8:12). Jesus was stating the fact that he is the Anointed One or Messiah of God, who came to save his people from their sins and give them eternal life in the Kingdom (John 1:29-34).

Therefore, Jesus refers to his rightful position as the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus perfectly qualifies as our Lord and Savior because he is 100% Son of God (divine) and 100% Son of man (human). He is the mediator or “go-between” between God his Father and humanity. Moreover, Jesus is the ONLY person who qualifies for this position, for “…there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 8:12, New American Standard Version, NASB). So, Jesus could truthfully say, “No one comes to the Father except by me.”

There’s not a shadow of doubt that Jesus is indeed THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life. The word “THE” is definite, personal, and distinct. It leaves no doubt about who Jesus Christ is.

This is Good News for us. It is Good News because Jesus is…

THE WAY

The word, “way” literally means, “road, journey, path.” Jesus is the one and only Road we must take if we are to come to our heavenly Father and receive his blessings. When we are converted to Jesus through faith, repentance, and baptism, we start on a journey in Christ. We choose to take his path fully aware that it’s for a lifetime of growth and maturity. There are no short cuts or instant rewards. Our natural inclination is to take the quick and easy route and get our satisfaction now. That’s the wide way, where everyone goes. But that’s not the way of Christ. It’s not the right way. The right way is narrow; it’s where few persons dare to run. It’s the only way, however, that leads to eternal life as Jesus points out (Matthew 7:13-14).

Since Jesus is THE way, Christianity is THE only religion that we must choose for taking our journey. It’s no coincidence that before converts of Jesus were called Christians, they were originally called “men and women of the Way,” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23;22:4; 24:14, 22). Dr. Alva Huffer stated, “All other religious roads are dead-end streets.” (Systematic Theology) True, you can try to forge another course, pave another street out of another religion or cult, but it won’t be the right one to take. It will only provide a wasted, empty, temporary illusion.

THE TRUTH

The concept of “truth” includes not only as it is spoken, but in idea, reality, and sincerity. Jesus is the embodiment of truth since all truth comes through him from his Father in heaven. There can be no other truth than Jesus THE truth. In fact, when Jesus came on the scene, he did what the Law of Moses could not do–provide “grace and truth,” (John 1:17). Which leads to the truth that no other person except Jesus Christ can bring us to our goal of inheriting eternal life in God’s Kingdom. 

Since the truth is that Jesus is “the way,” it stands to reason that the church is identified the same way.  Interestingly, one source says, “The use of the primitive expression, the Way, seems to point to an early date for Acts. In China, Christianity has been called ‘the Jesus way’ (tao), in contrast to the Confucius and Buddha ways,” (The Acts of the Apostles, Carter and Earle).  Which brings us back to the truth that since Christ is the only Way, no other religion or religious leader can give us any hope of life beyond this one (Acts 4:12). Which reminds me of this old legend:

A man became lost in his travels and wandered into a bed of quicksand. Confucius saw the man’s predicament and said, “It is evident that men should stay out of places such as this.” Next, Buddha observed the situation and said, “Let that man’s plight be a lesson to the rest of the world.” Mohammed came by and said to the sinking man, “Alas, it is the will of God.” Finally, Jesus appeared. “Take my hand, brother,” he said, “and I will save you.”

THE LIFE

The “life” that Jesus is talking about, does not merely mean to exist. You may be able to breath, to think, to walk and talk but that’s not all there is to THE LIFE. Recall what Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10b). Jesus is the One through whom we receive the fullness of life and all of its vitality and value. It includes both the physical and spiritual benefits that only Christ Jesus can provide as God’s Son and the Savior of humanity. John records that everything God made in the beginning of creation was planned with His Son in mind. Jesus was born according to God’s Word. Thus, God’s plan took on human form in his Son. “And in it was Life; and the Life was the light of men,” (John 1:4, 14).

When we “put on Christ” at conversion, we die so to speak (Rom. 6:1-11; 13:14; Galatians 3:26-27). When we give our lives to Christ, we die to sin and revive with new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21). Only he can make us new. Only he can provide what we need to make life enjoyable and satisfying, even when life hands us disappointments, failure, pain, and grief sometimes.

We are never promised that everything in this present mortal life will be the way WE would like it. But the difference of having Jesus as THE LIFE is what we’ll receive in the Age to Come (Mark 10:17-27; Romans 8:18-23). No one else can provide us with this blessed hope, a hope that helps us endure knowing that a day will come when there will be no more sorrow or pain or death (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Titus 2:13-14; Revelation 21:4). Like First John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God, does not have the life.”

It’s the desire of believers to trust Jesus, serve him, and live for him. We want to run our race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1) by staying on the right course that leads to the crown of life (1 Cor. 9:24-27). For, after all, Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. By following him, we are going the right way.

Here’s Pat Barrett presenting his music video, “The Way (New Horizon)” http://youtu.be/MOzsJlk8p6I

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Honest Truth About Honesty and Truth

honesty_truthfulness

When someone says, “I’m telling you the honest truth,” you either believe it or you don’t. You have to weigh the balance between whether that person can be trusted or not. You might want to see any evidence that proves the person is being totally truthful. You could also see if there’s a pattern from the past that shows the person has or hasn’t always been honest.

The honest truth is, it’s not always easy to be totally honest. Face it…we can be so brutally honest about the way we feel about something or someone that if we really said what we’re thinking we’d hurt those we love and make a lot more enemies than friends.

It’s possible to be so honest, that it can turn into insults. Imagine saying things like,

“To be honest…

…don’t you need a license to be that ugly?”

…any resemblance between you and an idiot is only natural.”

…your breath is bad enough to bleach my hair.”

…is that your nose or are you eating a banana?”

…if I had a face like yours, I’d sue my parents.”

The truth is, this is not quite the “honesty” that we’d expect to hear from those who are mindful of Psalm 64:3 where it describes persons “who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow.” And yet, we can find ourselves in certain sticky situations when we’d like to be honest without trying to hurt someone’s feelings.

This reminds me of a funny story. A woman and her husband were invited to her rich aunt’s home for dinner. The wife insisted that the husband treat the aunt politely. Her dessert was an original recipe. It was terrible. The husband responded, “I must say this is the best cake I have ever tasted.”
On the way home, his wife told him that she had not meant that he had to lie to her aunt.
The husband replied, “I told the truth; I said, I must say this is the best cake I ever tasted.”

Honesty and truth go hand in hand. Honesty is sincerity of truth. Truth is accepted in honesty.

Both are characteristics of believers. In Joshua 24:14, Joshua told the people of Israel, “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; cast aside the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” Israel was forbidden to worship “the gods” or idols that pagan nations worshipped. If they were going to worship and serve the one true God, they must be honestly sincere in God’s truth.

The fact that there is only one God is one truth that never changes. That’s because God does not change for he declared, “For I, the LORD, do not change…” (Malachi 3:6). The fact that God does not change is an indication of his perfect character. And it’s when we put our faith in the one God that we allow him to shape our character and beliefs.

As we honestly submit to his will and follow his instructions, our own ideas and inclinations change for the better. But if we turn to dishonesty and do not apply his truth or conform to his will, we will never change for the better. It is written, “An honest man alters his ideas to fit the truth. And a dishonest man alters the truth to fit his ideas.” Honestly, if we try to alter the truth to fit into our ideas, we will be no different than the nations who worshipped other gods.

Honesty and truth based on God’s Word are important in at least three ways for those who follow Christ. First, we honor God with honesty and truth. Second, we trust God with honesty and truth. Third, we serve God with honesty and truth.

(1) We honor God with honesty and truth by obeying his commandments. The ninth commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exodus 20:16). In other words, one who aims to honor God will not lie but will tell the truth (Leviticus 19:11). In this way, we honor God for, unlike humanity, God does not lie (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18). The Bible tells us that lying is serious business when it comes to whether or not we will be in the Kingdom of God. It says that “…all liars…will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” come Judgement Day (Revelation 21:8). Whether it’s a boldfaced lie, little white lie, or merely stretching the truth, it all comes under the umbrella of dishonesty. And since dishonesty is not being truthful, it does not honor God. We, however, aim to honor God in honesty and truth.

(2) We trust God with honesty and truth. Trust is one of the three elements of faith, the other two being belief and confidence. Since our faith includes trusting God, we know we can trust his power to transform or change our lives (Romans 12:2). At our conversion to Christ (via faith, repentance, baptism) we no longer live in the dishonest ways of the world but the honest ways of God through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. One good example of the way trust in God changes us in honesty and truth is in the workplace. Take a look at Proverbs 16:11-21 paraphrased from The Message (MSG):

11 God cares about honesty in the workplace; your business is his business.
12 Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation.
13 Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.
14 An intemperate leader wreaks havoc in lives; you’re smart to stay clear of someone like that.
15 Good-tempered leaders invigorate lives; they’re like spring rain and sunshine.
16 Get wisdom – it’s worth more than money; choose insight over income every time.
17 The road of right living bypasses evil; watch your step and save your life.
18 First pride, then the crash – the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.
19 It’s better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous.
20 It pays to take life seriously; things work out when you trust in God.
21 A wise person gets known for insight; gracious words add to one’s reputation.

These same principles apply the same way in any area of life whether it be in the home, the school, or in any organization in which we are associated, and especially, the church (2 Cor. 8:21; Philippians 4:8-9).

(3) We serve God with honesty and truth. Earlier, I referred to Joshua’s admonition to the people of Israel in regard to serving God in sincerity and truth (Josh. 24:14). The church carried out these words as exemplified by the apostle and other leaders. The Apostle Paul testified concerning his own honesty and truthfulness as he served the Lord“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my own conscience bearing witness in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 9:1) . In Ephesians 4:17-24, he urged the church at Ephesus to “walk in the light” which included renewal in God’s Power, as well as honesty and truth. Then, in verse 25, he said, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

When we serve the Lord out of honesty and truth as instructed, our relationships will improve, our attitudes will change, and our chances for success with increase. We serve God through Christ remembering that…

• Good people are honest (Prov. 11;13);

• God expects honesty and fairness in business (Prov. 16:11);

• Honesty and truth are marks of being good stewards (Luke 16:10-15);

• We will have a clean conscience if we are honest and truthful (1 Tim. 1:19; Heb. 13:18-19).

Honesty and truth are the products of Christians who are committed to living the teachings of the scriptures. The Apostle Paul outlined these teachings in Ephesians 4:4-7, “There is one body, and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” When we build our lives on these teachings, we will be on a solid foundation for growing in God’s wonderful grace (Eph. 4:13-16) with the expectation of entering God’s glorious Kingdom when Jesus comes (2 Peter 1:5-12). And that’s God’s honest truth!

Here’s a song about honesty, “If We’re Honest,” by Francesca Battistelli,
http://youtu.be/ikcFezmuazA

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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To Judge Or Not to Judge?

Slide1

When Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” (Matthew 7:1, New American Standard Bible, NASB), where do we draw the line? Judging is a matter of human instinct.

Think of situations where judging is imperative: jurists doing their civic duty…judges rendering decisions in court…law enforcement officers making split-second decisions while protecting the public…judges in talent contests…parents using discipline to correct their children…making decisions for whom you vote into office…whether to approve or disapprove a moral issue or cause…. These examples require some kind of judgment for making choices and taking responsibility for our actions.

It is important to understand what Jesus meant when he said not to judge. Consider this: There are two kinds of judging. One, judgment of innocence. Two, judgment of guilt. From a legal standpoint, the judgment of innocence results in the reward of freedom but the judgment of guilt results in the reward of punishment. The kind of judging Jesus is referring to has to do with the latter— finding fault with others so as to pronounce them guilty and worthy of punishment. Judging for the primary purpose of condemning others puts one on thin ice seeing that none of us is perfect. And this is the point Jesus was making.

RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT

It is also important to understand the Jewish context in which Jesus was speaking. When the God was establishing the Law to Israel through Moses, judges were appointed. They were to  decide cases by judging the people with “righteous judgment.” Judges were also instructed on how they were to avoid injustice as they were to pursue true “justice and only justice” in their legal decisions (Exodus 18:13-27; Deuteronomy 16:18-20).  

Because he knew very well how to read human nature (John 2:24-25), Jesus was able to decide matters with “righteous judgment.” He was, after all, tempted as we are yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:15). So Jesus was perfectly qualified to tell his followers not to judge.

At the same time, Jesus could rightly judge the deeds of others. For instance, our Lord correctly judged the diabolical actions and extremist views of the Jewish leaders, calling them “hypocrites,” (Matt. 27:13-36). They were only looking out for their own self interests in the guise of their religion. Not wanting his followers to fall into the same attitude of the Jewish leaders, Jesus warned his followers not to judge others without first considering their own faults. [NOTE: This also fits the pattern of God’s law of love and the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12; 22:34-40). If we treat others the way we’d want to be treated, then we’d think twice about racing to our judgment of them.]

In John 7:24, he instructed them, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Jesus was the exact reflection of his Father’s characteristics including judging, not according to someone’s outward appearance but rather, upon their heart (For example, 1 Samuel 16:6-13).  Thus, Jesus knew that sometimes appearances can be deceiving. What he knew is so true about our nature.

DECEPTIVE APPEARANCES

I was reading an interesting story about a distinguished astronomer at the turn of the 20th century who believed he’d discovered canals on Mars. Sir Percival Lowell was highly regarded for his study of the solar system. And he was particularly fascinated with the Red Planet.

According to the story, Lowell had heard that in 1877 an Italian astronomer had seen straight lines crisscrossing the Martian surface. Lowell was so intrigued with this news that the rest of his years were spent squinting into the eyepiece of his giant telescope in Arizona. He mapped out channels and canals he saw. He was convinced that the canals were proof of intelligent life on Mars, perhaps revealing an older but wiser race than humanity.

Lowell’s observations gained wide acceptance at that time. Few dared to question his assertion. He, after all, was the expert.

Now we jump to the 21st century—a hundred years later. Advancements have been made in the cosmos. Space probes have orbited Mars and landed on the surface. The entire planet has been mapped out. And, no one has found a canal. But Lowell said he’d seen them. How could that be?

Well, as someone has said, he either wanted to see the canals so much that he convinced himself over and over again that they were there, or maybe he was having some kind of eye problem that led to his conclusions.

Actually, it is now known that the renowned astronomer was suffering from a rare disease that made him see the blood vessels in his own eyes. The so called Martian “canals” amounted to nothing more than the bulging veins of his eyeballs. This malady is come to be known as “Lowell’s syndrome.” (selected)

This is a fitting illustration of the way we allow appearances to deceive us especially in the way we may judge others. Jesus warns us not to remove the “speck of sawdust” in another person’s eye without first taking out “the plank” of wood in our own eye (Matt. 7:1-3). In a spiritual sense, judging others is like Lowell’s syndrome. For if all we can see are the faults in others because we don’t want to see anything good in them, aren’t we actually missing something that might reveal a positive feature of their character? And perhaps we can’t see it them because we’re suffering from our own eye problem—or should we more accurately say “I” problem—suffered from our own disease of bias and prejudice.

APPLICABLE QUOTES

There are lot of good quotes on judging others by philosophers, Christian leaders, entertainers, and well-respected authors. Here are many of them to ponder…

~ None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves. —Charles Spurgeon

~We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others. —John Wesley

~When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself. —Earl Nightingale

~If you judge people, you have no time to love them. —Mother Teresa

~We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started. —Henry Ward Beecher

~The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are. —Michael J. Fox

~When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart. —Russian Proverb

~To judge a man by his weakest link or deed is like judging the power of the ocean by one wave. —Elvis Presley

~Instead of judging people, we need to pray. —Joyce Meyer

~Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. —Voltaire

~If you judge, investigate. —Seneca

~If you would judge, understand. —Seneca

~No accurate thinker will judge another person by that which the other person’s enemies say about him. —Napoleon Hill

BIBLICAL DIRECTIVES

To judge or not judge? The scriptures give us the kind of guidelines that help us to wisely answer that question:

Luke 6:37-41 Do not judge and you will not be judged….

Romans 2:1 You are not without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment…

Romans 14:10, 13 Why do you judge your brother?…Let us not judge one another anymore.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Do not go on passing judgment before the time….

James 4:11 He who judges his brother…speaks against the law and judges the law….

Speaking of judging…it is wise to remember that a Judgment Day is coming when everyone will give an account to God (2 Cor. 5:10). Remember the two kinds of judgment to which I referred? There will be a judgment for punishment upon those guilty of sin, and they will be sentenced to eternal death (Revelation 20:11-15). But there will also be a judgement of those who are pronounced not guilty, because their sins have been forgiven by accepting Jesus Christ according to the Word of God (Acts 2:38; John 3:16; Rom. 6:1-23). They will receive the reward of eternal life in God’s glorious Kingdom. It, therefore, becomes imperative that we keep this in mind whenever we are tempted to judge others without first confessing our own sins (1 John 1:9). In so doing, we will have the hope of living in God’s future Kingdom (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Here’s Hillsong United singing, “From the Inside Out,” http://youtu.be/SZ-fghqc8Oo

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Model Prayer

prayer-bible

To Christians, prayer is that vital link of communication we have with God our Heavenly Father. When believers pray through the name of God’s Son, they have an advocate who acts in the role of High Priest—he mediates between the person who is praying and God, his Father. So, through Christ, we have direct access to God. [1]

Onetime, according to Luke’s account, (Luke 11:1-4), Jesus was asked a question about prayer. After Jesus was finished praying in certain place, one of his followers requested, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John [John the Baptist] also taught his disciples.” Somehow, this disciple was impressed with the power in which Jesus prayed and he wanted to it, too. So, Jesus proceeded to instruct him on how he should pray.

In Matthew’s account, (Matt. 6:9-13), a disciple’s request on how to pray isn’t mentioned. After initially making some comments about prayer [2], Jesus then goes right into what one should say. This is widely known as the Lord’s Prayer. It is spoken by most Christians of all faiths. And it is used more than any other prayer in both personal and public worship.

Having said this, however, we must be careful not to assume that everyone knows the Lord’s Prayer even though they think they do as this story illustrates…

Mike and Lefty grew up together in Chicago. They both became lawyers. Then, much to the amazement of Mike, Lefty became a Sunday School teacher. “I bet you don’t know the Lord’s Prayer,” said Mike.
“Everybody knows that,” replied Lefty. “It goes, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep….’”
“You win,” said Mike. “I didn’t know you knew so much about the Bible.”

Even though believers call it the Lord’s Prayer, it’s probably more accurate to call it, the Lord’s Model Prayer. For Jesus was giving his followers a fitting pattern for their prayers.

When Jesus taught us how to pray, he wasn’t intending this to become part of a religious ritual. Just like anything else quoted in the scriptures, these words can be recited like a robot. They can become repeated over and over again until they lose their meaning. Going by what he said in Matthew 6:7, “…do not use meaningless repetition…”, I don’t believe Jesus intended his model prayer to be used like this.

There may also be a tendency to use his model prayer as though it were a magical way to feel religious or reach a higher plane of contact with the Cosmos. Even though one may be sincere when reciting it, it does not make one any holier than anyone else. That’s not to say the prayer can’t be meaningful. But it’s not a mystical form of meditation such as the kind you find in Eastern cults.

Jesus’ model prayer can be misunderstood, as well, from a child’s perspective. When kids hear things, sometimes their little minds can’t quite connect with the King James style speech grown-ups are familiar with.

There’s a cute story about a new Sunday School teacher who had to iron out some problems with the Lord’s Prayer. One child had to be corrected after repeating, “Howard be thy name.” Another youngster prayed, “Lead us not into Penn Station.” Still another surprised the teacher with, “Our Father, who art in heaven, how’d you know my name?”

The prayer Jesus taught must be understood in a correct way. And it should be the way we correctly address our heavenly Father. The proper attitude we have toward it is about the way we humbly come before God’s throne. After all, it starts out with….

• “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

Our very first thoughts in this prayer are upon God our Heavenly Father. We are his children adopted into his family through our entrance into Christ. As our Father, he loves us, corrects us, and teaches us how to live. We, in turn, respect him, love him, and obey him. And because he is our Father, we honor him in worship and praise. For his name is sacred. It stands for his almighty power and existence. It is not to be used and abused in vain. Rather, it is to be treated so reverently, one is behooved to even try to speak it. Interestingly, Jesus is never recorded in the scripture to verbally call his Father by his holy name. Neither did he ever instruct his church to verbalize God’s name. Just as we respect our earthly fathers by not calling them by their given name, we want to treat our Father in heaven with the same respect.

• “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Sadly, the reality is that many do not fully understand what God’s kingdom is all about. Yes, it is prayed but do Christians know what it really means? Jesus says it’s God’s kingdom, not a world-wide church movement like some imagine. So many times we hear persons equate the church with bringing in the kingdom. They confuse God’s redemptive kingdom, the church, which is being added through Christ in this present age with the future providential kingdom on earth that is coming in due time. God will establish his providential kingdom on earth in the age to come. It will commence when Jesus physically and visibly returns from heaven to earth. [3] And it will cover the entire planet. The coming kingdom is God’s will for completing his plan of salvation. Our privilege and responsibility is to do God’s will for our lives in preparation for his glorious kingdom. [4]

• “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

NOTICE…Jesus now moves from his recognition of God our heavenly Father, his coming kingdom, and will in heaven and on earth, to our physical and spiritual human needs. Daily bread takes into context how God supplies us physically—not only food but shelter, clothing, and the like. Of course, we can enjoy these things because he uses the natural resources to produce them—rain, rivers, oceans, sun, seasons, soil, seeds, livestock, trees, and so forth. God feeds and clothes us in even more abundant ways than he does in everything else he has created. [5]

• “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”

From the request to provide for our physical needs comes the request for restoring our spiritual needs. Forgiveness is both vertical and horizontal. Vertically, there’s the need for God’s forgiveness of our sins. Horizontally, there’s the need for us to forgive one another. Why? Because it all comes down to the way we must deal with sin. [6]

Once there was a Sunday School teacher who was very knowledgeable about religious ceremonies. The teacher spent an entire session talking to the young pupils about the correct way to pray. “Now,” she said finally, “suppose we want to pray to God for forgiveness. What must we do first of all?” One little boy suggested, “Sin?”

Speaking of sin and the need for forgiveness, perhaps we need to simply look at it like this one four-year-old who prayed, “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”

Without forgiveness from God and forgiveness of one another, we cannot survive the wrongs and provide the healing necessary for spiritual growth and development. When we forgive others like God forgives us, then we are able to go on building better relationships. [7] It is written that forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waster of energy.

• “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

After asking for forgiveness, Jesus jumps into temptation. Why? Because once we call upon God’s forgiveness for bringing cleansing and healing, we need to ask him to help us whenever we’re tempted to revert back to sin. We remember that through Jesus, we can overcome temptation for he was likewise tempted but without falling into sin. [8] He is our highest example for though he did not sin, he took our sins on the cross and died in our place so that we would be spared eternal death when God’s Day of Judgment comes Someday. [9] Through Christ, we receive power to face our own temptations and overcome them. Since evil is all around us, we are vulnerable seeking that we are naturally weak due to our sinful nature. But with Jesus in our lives, the evil that is constantly trying to tempt us, will not be able defeat us for gives us strength to live victoriously as we serve him. [10]

• “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

The prayer ends with this doxology but it is absent in Luke’s account. It does occur in various numbers of early manuscripts and versions of Matthew’s account while other versions do not add it. Whether or not these words are part of the original Model Prayer of Jesus, it can be taken in the context of our Lord’s teachings and scripture in both Old and New Testaments. Interestingly, these words are very similar to 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, “Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all,” (King James Version, KJV).

Whenever we call on the LORD, it is fitting to use this as a pattern for our prayers. This doesn’t mean we have to recite it word-for-word. But we can paraphrase it in our own words, in a meaningful and sincere way. This has been a good guiding way I’ve been able to present my prayers.

The Lord’s Model Prayer will help make our prayers to be stronger and effective. With this in mind, someone wrote,

I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like his child.
I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say “hallowed by thy name” if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say “thy Kingdom come” if I am not doing all I can to be ready for it.
I cannot say “thy will be done” if I am disobedient to his Word.
I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I’ll not serve him here and now.
I cannot say “forgive us our debtsif I harbor a grudge against anyone.
I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say “thine is the kingdom” if I do not give the King the loyalty due him from a faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to him “the power” if I fear what people may do.
I cannot ascribe to him “the glory” if I’m seeking honor only for myself, and I cannot say “forever” if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by time.
(author unknown)

Here’s the classical song, “The Lord’s Prayer,” by Charlotte Church: http://youtu.be/z7aWC7E2Fec

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

References:
[1] See Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1-2
[2] In Matt. 6:5-8, instructs his disciples how they should pray in contrast to the hypocritical way the scribes and Pharisees—two radical Jewish groups—prayed.
[3] Systematic Theology, Dr. Alva G. Huffer, p. 517.
[4] Daniel 7:13-14; Galatians 5:21; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 19:11-16
[5] Philippians 4:19; Matt. 6:25-34
[6] Ephesians 4:31-32
[7] Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9
[8] Heb. 4:15
[9] John 3:16; Romans 5:8-11; 1 Peter 3:18
[10] John 16:33; Rom. 8:37; 2 Cor. 2:14; 4:7-18

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