Matthew 6:12 “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Forgiving the person who offended us is a big deal. It also is a big challenge. I suspect one reason we struggle forgiving is because we do not want the person who offended us to be free of consequence. The irony is that when we forgive others we actually free ourselves.
Harboring unforgiveness results in the loss of the Fruit of the Spirit, damages our relationship with other people, nullifies our testimony and can even hinder our own prayers from being answered (see Matthew 6:15).
The Lord wants us to walk in freedom from bondage to sin and hurts from our past. Our physical, emotional and spiritual healing begins by making the conscious decision to forgive those who have offended us.
Scripture:Mark 11:25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
Colossians 3:12-14 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Let’s sing: “Jesus, be Jesus in me, no longer me but Thee; Resurrection power fill me this hour, Jesus be Jesus in me.” (JESUS BE JESUS IN ME, by Eddie Carswell, Gary & Shawn McSpadden)
Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”
There is something comforting in this verse; it speaks of daily provision. Conversely there is something strangely disconcerting, for it speaks of daily need. I suspect we all prefer provision over need.
David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel and noted scholar of the Bible, estimated there were up to 4 million Jews who marched out of Egypt in Exodus 12. It didn’t take long for the deliverance to subside as the people dealt with the challenge of where to find food for 4 million people.
The Bible tells us God provided manna, a small wafer made of honey and delivered it to their camp 6 days a week for 40 years. Now I confess there is something inside me that wonders why God didn’t make it easier for the people by providing a week supply of manna every Monday morning. Wouldn’t the people have preferred to go to bed 6 nights a week without worrying about whether there would be provision the next day? Well, I figure God knew it may have been easier and preferred but not necessarily better. Not everything necessary is easy and not everything easy is necessary.
There are important principles to learn about God and ourselves that require daily trusting God for provision. We face each new day with the assurance the same God who provided our “manna” yesterday will provide it today. As we like to say around our congregation, “What God has done before He is doing again!”
Let’s sing: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee…”
Matthew 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The word Kingdom refers to the territory subject to the rule of a king. So what would it look like for our community to be subject to the rule of God? First, consider God’s kingdom is characterized by His power and authority. Read through the Gospels and take note of the many times and ways our Lord demonstrated His authority over demons, sickness and sin. Also consider Romans 14:17 where it states “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
As we pray for the kingdom of God to come and for His will to be done, we pray for God to rule the heart of every family member, coworker, neighbor and friend; we pray for the Church to demonstrate spiritual authority over sickness and demonic powers. I can imagine such a community because our Lord told us to pray for it.
Matthew 6:9 “Our Father in heaven…
This phrase is the introduction to what is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus offered this prayer in response to His disciples’ request to teach them to pray (see Luke 11:1). Many excellent books have been written on this prayer, but let me share a couple of simple thoughts with you.
The One to whom we pray is not a distant deity or a mystical power, He is our heavenly Father. As Father He who infuses His own Spirit into His offspring, shares an intimate relationship with His children, and looks after us in a paternal way. As our heavenly Father, He is Almighty, the Beginning and the End, compassionate, deliverer, eternal, faithful, good, holy, immutable, just, kind, loving, merciful, near, omniscient, powerful, qualified, refuge, sovereign, truth, unsearchable, victorious, wonderful, and zealous. He is all that and more. That is pretty impressive, don’t you think?
Let’s sing: “I’m a child of the King, child of the King, with Jesus my Savior I’m a child of the King.”
Romans 15:4 “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
Our community is reeling from the news of a third deputy sheriff murdered while serving in the line of duty this year. As Christians, we can see that the issues threatening our community are spiritual at their very core. Jesus said “Satan comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Galatians 5 shows how a heart unrestrained to sin will impact a community with hatred, selfishness, sexual perversion, idolatry, witchcraft, drugs and alcohol. Galatians 5 also shows the positive impact a Christian can have by demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit.
Our culture is unraveling, and the Church is in position to provide the answer to stop the insanity. Our message is clear: there is life and hope in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Take this message to your school, workplace and neighborhood. Don’t be rude or offensive, but do not be ashamed of the message. 1 Peter 3:15 states “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
I would ask you to pray for the families of the three fallen sheriff’s deputies who were murdered. Deputy Zackari Parrish leaves behind his wife Gracie and their two daughters; Deputy Heath Gumm leaves behind his wife Natasha; Deputy Micah Flick leaves behind his wife Rachael and their seven-year-old twins. We also pray for the larger community of first responders. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, fire fighters, EMT’s and others who place their lives on the line every day to protect you and me.
Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Joshua 1:11 (ESV) “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’”
Joshua and the Jewish people were on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. For decades, the people had held to the promise that God was going to give them the land. From where they were camped, they could look across the Jordan River and see Canaan.
Joshua acted responsibly by sending two spies into Canaan and having them return with a report on what the people could expect. The spies fulfilled their assignment and returned and in less than a week the people miraculously crossed the Jordan River. It is an incredible story you can read for yourself in Joshua chapters 1-3.
The Jews didn’t just enter the Promised Land, they eventually possessed it. In so doing, they demonstrated faith that God had spoken clearly to leaders like Moses and Joshua, trust in God’s commitment to honor His promises, and obedience to His instructions.
Possessing the promises of God still require us to demonstrate faith, trust and obedience. In fact we will never experience anything significant for the Lord without them. Challenges are opportunities. Opportunities for us to demonstrate faith, trust and obedience. Opportunities for God to do what only He can do.
On most Sunday mornings at our church we recite our conviction that “the promises of God’s Word belong to us” and “what God has done before He is going again…”
Let’s sing: “On every hand the foe we find drawn up in dread array; let tents of ease be left behind, and onward to the fray. Salvation’s helmet on each head, with truth all girt about. The earth shall tremble ‘neath our tread and each with our shout. Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory! Oh, glorious victory that overcomes the world.”
Genesis 27:36 (ESV) “Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
The name Jacob means supplanter, one who schemes or deceives others. In his youth Jacob schemed and manipulated to get what he wanted and in the process hurt those close to him and proved himself to be a man not to be trusted. Along the way, he had an incredible encounter with God who changed his name and identity from Jacob to Israel (see Genesis 35). The deceiver became known as the man wrestles with God. The nation of God’s chosen people would carry the name of Israel, the former deceiver.
The story of Jacob is a lesson that a life of blessing can arise from an inauspicious beginning. Other people in the Bible illustrate the same principle. Moses spent 40 years on the back side of a desert thinking the sins of his youth had disqualified him from significant service for God. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter wept in the agony of shame for publicly denying his relationship with Jesus. Days later we find Thomas isolating himself from friends and family because unanswered questions brought him to a place where he questioned his faith. These four men overcame great challenges and finished their lives with distinction. Coincidentally, the defining moment in their lives was a personal encounter with God.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Let’s look at three men in the book of Genesis and consider the impact of their influence because of their commitment to spiritual integrity.
In Genesis 6:9 it states “Noah was a righteous man among the people of his time and he walked with God.” This is impressive considering mankind had become so vile in his sin that God had no other choice but to eliminate the human race and start over with Noah and his family.
Starting in Genesis 12 we read of the story of Abraham. Abraham grew up in a culture steeped in idolatry and moved to Canaan where he found communities so wicked God destroyed. Like Noah, Abraham withstood the sinful mores of his neighbors and maintained his spiritual integrity in the eyes of God. In the New Testament, Abraham is presented as the supreme model of faith and as the prime example of the faith required for the Christian believer (Galatians 3:6-9; 4:28).
Beginning in Genesis 37 we read the story of Joseph who was rejected by his brothers, slandered by his boss’s wife, and taken for granted by a man Joseph helped while living in prison. Joseph had every opportunity and excuse to develop a bitter spirit, yet he maintained his spiritual integrity and was used by God to bless millions of people. One of the great testimonies of all time was said of Joseph, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38).
All three of these men demonstrated unwavering faith in God and commitment to spiritual integrity. We, like they, live in a culture that has drifted far from God and His Word. We, like they, are in position to influence our culture for the cause and glory of Almighty God.
Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Text: Isaiah 45:2 “I will go before you…”
God made this promise to Cyrus, the powerful king of Persia, sometimes called “Cyrus the Great” who allowed the Jewish remnant to return to their homeland in Jerusalem. Go back to 44:28 and you will see God was very specific stating “Cyrus will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt” and of the temple “Let its foundations be laid.” This is impressive when we consider this promise was given through the prophet Isaiah over 170 years before Cyrus was king of Persia. Think about it; years before the Jewish people were carried into Babylonian captivity, God knew when they would be returned to their homeland, the name of the king who would order it, and the very words that would be spoken in the edict.
Here we are at the beginning of a new year and none of us know what lies ahead. Yet, for the child of God, we can rest assured God already knows and will be with us and lead us every step of the way.
Promise: “…this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.”
Thoughts from Luke 11 (written by Gina Brummett)
A mixed bunch had collected around Jesus. Thrill-seekers and critics, the dumb-founded and the hopeful, were all hearing unbridled gratitude burst from the mouth of a former demoniac like an uncapped soda under pressure. Yesterday the man had tried with all his might to utter a simple “hello” to a passerby. Today – after his encounter with Jesus – no one could get a word in edgewise.
The situation called for some explanation – some definition of authority, loyalty and protocol. Jesus delivered the whole package in one statement: “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.”
So moved by what she’d witnessed and heard, a woman in the crowd blurted out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!” (Luke 11:27). Likely a mother herself, this woman could only imagine how much pride was welling up in the heart of Jesus’ mother. If His earthly mother happened to be in the crowd that day, perhaps Jesus and Mary exchanged knowing glances, a quick smile and nod of the head.
Mary would have remembered her own response, years ago, to the angelic visitation and the news that she would give birth to the Savior. “From now on all generations will call me blessed…” And here it was playing out before her eyes. “Yes, I am blessed to have raised this child!”
Mary’s thoughts would have been interrupted by Jesus’ response to the excited woman in the crowd. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
It surely took some effort for the un-named woman in the crowd to wrap her mind around this truth. Wrapping a child in loving arms – that was easy. Embracing Jesus’ words and obeying them completely – that was a different challenge. But looking over at the “un-muted”, hilariously happy spectacle of a man, she knew it was a challenge worth accepting.
Two mothers held the gaze of Jesus and whispered, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”