Friday, April 30, 2010

Ask for Anything

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you; For everyone that asks receives, and he that seeks finds, and to him that knocks, it shall be opened” (Mathew 7:7-8).

Promises like these stir up an immediate reaction. Some respond in confusion, “Why then have I not received what I asked for?” Other respond, “Great I will ask God for ____(fill in the blank). Some have built entire doctrines on believing you have what you ask for and it is guaranteed to come. And if you don’t receive what you asked for, you have sinned or you don’t truly believe.

But a principle to understanding scripture is to always use scripture to explain scripture. In other words, we must study all of scripture to understand any portion. The author of 1 John tells us we must pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). James says we do not receive what we pray for because we are asking for something for ourselves and not for that which brings glory to God (James 4:5).

What then is the value of Jesus’ promise that we can ask for anything and he will give it to us? If our hearts are seeking God’s glory that he may be made known, that the glory of his grace might live in those we know, the promise has great value. We can pray for people to know Christ (2 Peter 3:9), we can pray for God to be glorified in our lives (John 11:4, 14:13), we can pray for infilling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17), we can pray that our lives be filled with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and we know we will have all that we ask.

It is an amazing and one of the most valuable promises God has given us.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dogs and Pigs

In the middle of his sermon Jesus interrupts himself to say, “Give not that which is holy to dogs nor give your pearls to swine, lest they trample them and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6).. I have to ask myself, why this sudden interest in pigs and dogs?

It is true that a pack of wild dogs can devour a human in a matter of seconds, and that a 600 pound pig is no match for a grown man. But Jesus is not really talking about dogs and pigs. He is talking about hypocrites, people who say they want the truth, but have no desire to know the truth much less live it. His words mirror what he has just said about nitpicking each other. Such individuals are playing a game of one-upmanship.

People who are not truly seeking answers from God will turn on you if you attempt to share holy truths with them. They will tear your spirit limb from limb in their attack against righteous principles. Jesus is instructing us not to attempt to teach such people holy truths or share precious gems of God’s glory with those who have no desire to glorify God.

He also demonstrated this to his followers. When his disciples asked him why he spoke in parables he answered, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Mathew 13:10-11).

We are not meant to witness to everyone. Only those to whom God sends us.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Ever have a grain of sand in your eye? It hurts, doesn’t it? You want to rub it but you know it can scratch your cornea and make it far worse. You can’t see worth a plug nickel because you can’t keep your eye open.

Now imagine having a log in your eye.

Jesus said when we nitpick one another we are trying to take a toothpick out of someone’s eye while we have a log in our own. Pointing out one another’s faults is a bad habit, even if we are keeping it to ourselves.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Judging Made Easy

There is one verse in the Bible that American culture has memorized. “Judge not so that you are not judged.” The refrain “You have no right to judge me or my actions,” rings loud and clear. But is that what Jesus was teaching, that we should not judge actions of others? Was he giving all of us a free ticket to do whatever we pleased?

We forget that Jesus also said we will know good men or bad men by their fruits (Mt 1:15-20). Paul wrote that we are to judge within the church (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Why then this apparent contradiction? Are we to judge or aren’t we?

Paul helps to clarify the problem. We are to “judge” or make arbitration between offending parties when there is a dispute between believers, but we are not to judge unbelievers. We are to judge acts as being righteous or unrighteous, fair or unfair (I Cor 6:1-8) but not judge the worth of the opponents.

God has given us a standard by which to distinguish (judge) between a true follower of Christ and a fake (charlatan) (Mathew 1:15-20). But in our analysis of actions we must remember that the yard stick we use for someone else, God will use on us. Our yard stick must never be of our own creation, but only that which God supplies in his word. Even at that we never judge the worth of an individual, but only the act (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Creative Block

Jesus tells us, “Do not worry about your life” (Mathew 6:25). The Father takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. He waters the flowers. He feeds the birds, which do not die without the Father in heaven (Mathew 10:29-31). Do we really think he is not concerned with us or not able to gives us the strength to face life?

When we worry we become anxious. Our logical thought processes are blocked affecting our decision making process so that we are much more prone to error. We need to remember that God gives us grace to face today. He does not give us grace to face tomorrow because it is not here yet (Mathew 6:34).

When we decide to put our trust in God, in his power to deliver us, in his ability to accomplish what he desires, our minds are able to function at full capacity. The trust in God brings peace (Mathew 6: 31-34; Philippians 4:7).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Messy Closets

I confess my closet if full of clothes. Some of them are quite old. Many were given to me. Some I purchased. My problem is I have difficulty discarding the older clothes when I gain new ones. I have a pair of bright pink pants that I really do not care for. I purchased them at a store closing at a 75% off bargain and didn’t want to pass up a great deal. I force myself to wear them so I can tell myself I didn’t waste my money. In fact, I am wearing them today.

What motive is at the core of my clutter? Why do I collect things I can’t use or don’t like? Is it because I am afraid one day I may not have enough? Is it because in my childhood we often had very few possessions? Perhaps Jesus hit the nail on the head when he exhorted me (us) “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; for your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Mathew 6:25).

We horde when we worry about possessions. When we trust, we give away. Worry produces anxiety. Trust in God produces freedom. Perhaps it is time to clean out our closets.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

For Your Eyes Only

Our eyes are one of the most complicated organs of our body. It is an enigma to evolutionists because no single part of the eyes can exist without the other parts. Darwin wrote in his book Origin of Species: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” (1876 reprint pg 151). Ironically he could not have written those words without his eyes, the very organs which disprove his evolutionary theory.

Jesus knew that the eyes are even more complicated than their individual parts indicate for it is through the eyes that we absorb our world. What we put before them will affect our entire body. Jesus put it this way, “The lamp of the body is the eye” (Mathew 6:22). If we look at light (truth) our bodies will respond in health both spiritually and physically. If we concentrate on evil our bodies will respond in like manner both spiritually and physically.

Jesus said, “If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Mathew 6:22-24).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Solitary Moments

We are going to take a short side trip to a cave in Israel where David is hiding because King Saul is hunting him with the intention of killing him. In the cool darkness I am sure memories of the safety of his childhood come rushing back to him. Nights when the heavens were filled with bright stars, when he sat around a small campfire singing praises with his small harp call him to lament days gone by. Memories of warm spring days, sheep feeding on the green hills and cool breezes under a sycamore tree were bitter sweet. Why could life not stay like that? Why did he have to run for his life when he was innocent of any wrong doing toward Saul?

Holy Spirit of God must have brought back to his memory the killing of the bear and the lion. He felt strengthened when he recalled the slaying of Goliath and the miraculous delivery God had given into his hand. He must have been reminded of Samuel pouring oil over his head anointing him as the future king. It was then he sang these words.

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purposes for me.” (Psalm 57:1-2).

Fill your mind with the greatness of God and wait for him. He will yet bring you victory (Mathew 6:22-23).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rusty Prongs

We bought a nice set of cooking utensils, a spatula, prongs and a large serving fork. They had black rubber handles and what looked to be stainless steel serving areas. But a few times in the dishwasher and the true nature of the beasts were exposed. Rust had damaged the shiny surface.

We bought a shiny new blue car last year. The color fairly glistens when the sun hits it. It was a bare-bones edition of the name brand, but it was exciting to smell the new interior. On the way to church yesterday morning we noticed a scratch and a tiny dent on the rear bumper. Someone had evidently bumped it in a parking lot and did not deem to leave contact information.

Coming home from work one day I noticed the address post at the end of the driveway was knocked down. Upon closer examination we found the post was broken near the base and several of our newly planted bushes were damaged with tire marks. A customer who bought one of our dogs had managed to miss the driveway, which must have caused some damage to the undercarriage of their pickup. They also did not tell us about their accident.

What does all of this have to do with the book of Mathew? Jesus told us in Mathew 6:19-21, “Don’t lay up treasurers on earth, where moth and rust destroys and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”

When God blesses us with material things it is always wise to remember Job's words, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Our things do not belong to us. They belong to God and he can do with them as he pleases.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rules for Fasting

Jesus gave us rules for fasting. 1) It is to be a private activity (Mathew 6:14-18). 2) We are to keep ourselves clean. When our bodies get rid of the toxins, it secretes out our pours. Our hair can become oily and we can look unkempt. Jesus told us to avoid this by making sure we are clean (take a shower and wash your hair) (Mathew 6:14-18). Our purpose is not to be seen by men as being spiritual, but to be seen by God.

A guide book for fasting can be found in Isaiah 58. We are to use fasting to set people free from bondages, feed the poor and to accomplish the good works God has already provided for us.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Fasting is a spiritual exercise that many people avoid. Jesus said we are to pick up our cross daily and follow him, but it is hard to think that could possibly entail giving up food. For some of us it is more difficult because of physical limitations, but we can all fast. A fast could mean eating only vegetables for a time. We could abstain from any and all sugars or even fast certain activities like watching television. There is, of course, the complete fast of drinking only water.

But why did Jesus call us to fast? Fasting reminds us that God is in control of our lives. When we are hungry and choose to pray instead of eat, we are telling God that he is more important to us than food. It makes us more conscious of God which results in our being more aware of his presence. Just as fasting cleanses our bodies from impurities, it reminds us to clean our spirits from worldly passions.

Jesus said our fasting should be like praying. It needs to be done in secret. Then God will reward us openly. What does he mean he will reward us openly? He will work through us. We will see God moving in our lives and in the lives of others through us. It is well worth the sacrifice. (Mathew 6:16-18)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just Judgment

If we forgive men what they have done to us, our heavenly Father will forgive us. If we do not forgive men what they have done to us, God will not forgive us. It is easy to read those words and to teach others the principles as long as we do not have deep seeded pain from someone’s violation of us. But those words come to life when we are faced with emotional pain at the hands of others

Often individuals feel like the perpetrator is “getting by with hurting” us. But the truth is God’s judgments are just while ours are not. Our Father is no respecter of persons. Whoever does evil, he will judge. Every violation or injustice will be recompensed.

When you think, “Someone has got to pay for what’s happened to me,” know that someone did. His name is Jesus.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A religious exercise?

Prayer is not an empty religious exercise we do so that we can gain brownie points. God will meet us when we pray. Jesus said our heavenly Father will reward us in a way that will be visible to others (Mathew 6:6).

Yes God already knows what we need (Mathew 6:8) and he knows it is important for us to express our thoughts to him. It is human nature to talk about what is bothering us. But if we concentrate only on our needs we will likely become overwhelmed and depressed. So Jesus emphasized the following facts. 1. God already knows our needs (Mt 6:8). 2. God has the power to answer (Mt 8:13). 3. God is sending the answer (Mt 6:8).

Friday, April 9, 2010

More than a Closet

Jesus gave us several guidelines for prayer in Mathew 6:5-7. 1) Pray privately. 2) Do not flaunt your prayers. 3)Do not use vain repetition 4) Pray for God to be glorified 5) Pray for God’s kingdom to come 6) Pray for God’s will to be done in our lives 7) Pray for God’s provision 8) Pray for those who have hurt us. 9) Pray to resist temptation 10) End with acknowledging God has power and glory to answer your prayers

The main point is pray.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tax Returns

Jesus told us to keep our financial gifts private and not to announce to everyone what we are giving (Mathew 6:1-4). He likened guarding the secret of how much we give to keeping our right hand knowing what our left hand is doing. Since our right and left hand work together to accomplish most tasks, this could prove to be daunting. So does this secrecy mean we should put our offering in the offering basket at church without a corresponding envelope with our name and address?

You could do it that way, but then it will be difficult to explain to the IRS where your money went. If you fill out the envelope the church will keep a record of your giving for you. You then can report it on your tax return which allows exceptions for charitable giving. This will increase the likelihood of a tax return. You can then pay tithes on your tax return and thereby give even more money to God.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hate School

“Hate your enemy.” Sounds logical to me. Why wouldn’t I hate my enemy? Do I really need someone to teach me to hate my enemies? I would think that would come naturally, yet people in Jesus’ time were actually teaching people to hate their enemies (Mathew 5:43). Maybe they offered classes on the best way to revenge yourself or classes on deception. Perhaps they taught how to run a sting operation to get all you could out of your enemies.

Jesus taught something that was completely contrary to our natural instincts, “love your enemies.”

How can you love your enemies? How can you love someone who is out to cause you harm? Jesus explained how to go about loving those who are against us. He told us to bless them, to do good to those who hate you.” (Mathew 5:44). We are to pray for people who use us. Ask God to reveal himself to them. Seek God to bless them. If they come to know God, chances are they will no longer be your enemies but will become your brother or sister.

Should we be doing this so that our enemies will stop persecuting us? No, though that may happen. Jesus tells us the correct motivation. “So that you may be like your father in heaven; for He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.”

Our behavior must be consistently kind to both good men and evil men. This will definitely not come naturally. We can only do it as we rely on God.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Red Cheeks

When someone hurts us, our first reaction is to want to teach them a lesson. The caveat is that “man’s anger does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). In other words we will never be able to teach the other person a lesson that glorifies God. We will only succeed is escalating the situation.

Jesus put it this way, “Do not resist an evil person. But whenever someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Mathew 5:29-42).

I have found that God will allow us to fail when we resist this principle. When we seek to be the judge, God turns the table on us so that we pay instead of the evil one. God loves us enough to allow us to suffer so that we will learn to depend on him to defend us. When we try to do it ourselves, we experience greater loss.