Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Psalm 51:19

Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

(NIV)


When God is in control, instead of us, then our obedience to him will once again be delightful. God will be pleased, hence producing our own pleasure.

Repentance from a dominating sin can be a hard road at times, but in the end we will be right back where we belong, in the city of God.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Psalm 51:18

In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

(NIV)


Zion is God's kingdom. And David is praying that God would do good to His kingdom. These words are similar to the words of Christ when the example prayer was prayed for the disciples. Jesus prayed, "...Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..."

When we recover from sin, our thoughts should begin to go back to where they belong: On God and his expanding kingdom.

No longer are we going to be dwelling on selfish thoughts: on how we are doing, on how our lives are playing out, on what we are getting out of different situations. We will begin to think on others. We will begin to think about how we can meet the needs of others and serve them, all for the advancing of the kingdom.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Psalm 51:17

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
  a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

(NIV)


Ask yourself today if you are offering the right sacrifices to God.

Many people give their tithe, wear the right clothes, make sure they pray for their food, etc. But they never break down and let God begin that good work in their inner being. God is never allowed to step foot into their heart or soul.

Don't be that way. Let God break you.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Psalm 51:16

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

(NIV)


Outward adherence to religious practices just doesn't work. God takes no pleasure in these things when the heart is far from him.

Where are you at today? Are you just following the right pattern on the outside?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Psalm 51:15

O Lord, open my lips,
  and my mouth will declare your praise.

(NIV)


When God has done so much for us, we mus sing of His praise. We can't hold it back. God will open our lips so that our mouths will declare his greatness.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Psalm 51:14

Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
  the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

(NIV)


Knowing what you deserve can many times help you to know what you need to be saved from. David (along with the rest of us) deserves to die, he knows this and cries out to God for salvation from what he deserves.

And he cries out to God because he knows that God is the saving kind of God.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Psalm 51:13

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

(NIV)


This is a huge thought. Especially as a teacher it is good to remind yourself that you need to get your own life in order before you go teaching everyone else where they need to straighten up.

When repentance has truly happened, when joy and fellowship is restored, then your life will teach.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Psalm 51:12

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

(NIV)


David here cries for the joy to be returned. When you have given into sin, the joy leaves. The heart is filled with sadness, but being in Christ will lead to complete joy... the Joy of Christ Himself. (John 15:11)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Psalm 51:11

Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.

(NIV)


This verse used to confuse me. Why would David be asking God these questions?

In II Corinthians 1:21-22 it tells us --
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.


The Holy Spirit is our seal. It is a mark of God's ownership on us, and it is the guarantee that there is more to come for us. We cannot remove the seal of God.

And we can see a similar concept in Ephesians 4:30 --
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.


In this passage, it can even be seen that this seal is not removed even when we are grieving the Spirit.

The best way to understand Psalm 51:11 is to first realize that David had not received the full revelation of the Word of God. There were many mysteries that had not been revealed yet. They did not fully comprehend the truth of who the Christ would be. So David was speaking on what he understood.

But regardless of whether or not David understood these concepts, there are many examples in the Bible of people asking God for things that He had already promised.

When I am at the grocery store, when I am returning my cart to the cart return in the parking lot, sometimes I keep my son with me. And it never fails, right before I start to pick him up, he will say, "Daddy! Don't leave me!" He always does this with a smile on his face, because we both know that I would never leave him in the cart.

This is the same thing that I believe David is doing. He says, "Don't cast me from your presence, Don't take your Spirit from me!" Both God and David know that these things would never happen, but David cries out anyway.

It shows his dependence on God, and his desire for God to be there.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

(NIV)


When we have been in sin, it leaves us with an unclean feeling. Even though we have been washed by the blood of Christ, our hearts many times still feel unworthy to be in the presence of God... Unworthy to pray or to think righteous thoughts. We get the sense that we have blown it for good.

But God wants to create in us again a pure heart. I don't think that this verse is teaching us a doctrine of salvation, I think that David is expressing what he knows that he needs: a pure heart. A heart that is clean.

He doesn't want to be floating around in the middle anymore. He wants a heart that is back where it used to be, and he wants it to stay there.

A heart that is pure and a spirit that is steadfast.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Psalm 51:9

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

(NIV)


This should be all of our cries, because this is our only hope.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Psalm 51:8

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

(NIV)


When you are coming away from sin, so many times there is no joy and gladness. I know that sometimes there is, but many times as you walk away, you end up more like Lot's wife. Instead of looking forward, you are constantly looking back.

There are some that never get past that part.

I think that this is why David is asking for the joy. He knows it is there, he knows it is coming, but he isn't quite there yet. So he cries out to God, "Let me hear joy and gladness!" God you have crushed me. I know it was for my own good, but I am ready to move on to the rejoicing part!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Psalm 51:7

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

(NIV)


Matthew Henry's Commentary explains the purging with hyssop this way,

"The expression here alludes to a ceremonial distinction, that of cleansing the leper, or those that were unclean by the touch of a body by sprinkling water, or blood, or both upon them with a bunch of hyssop, by which they were, at length, discharged from the restraints they were laid under by their pollution."


You see, sin restrains us from fellowship with God. We cannot have access to him because we are unclean, but he will purge us and cleanse us, so that the access can be restored.

The clearest understanding of this is the cross. Only by the blood of Christ are we truly cleansed and as Isaiah put it, "...made whiter than snow."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Psalm 51:6

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

(NIV)


This Psalm started out with David crying out to God. After that first verse, the focus began to shift. Starting out with God, then that he sinned against God, then that he has always been a sinner, and now to the core of the sin problem.

David realizes that the sins that he committed were an outward fruit of an inward problem. If there is going to be any real change, it must start within. It must be a work of God.

If you are allowing sin to dwell in the heart, it will show itself eventually. But you don't have to wait. Cry out to God for mercy today.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Psalm 51:5

Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

(NIV)


This is an important truth that gets skipped over from time to time. We are without a doubt, sin-infested from the time of conception. We are not good.

Any parent should be able to testify to this. I have never had to teach my children to lie, cheat, or steal... but they can do all three of those things quite adequately.

Here is how the Minnesota Crime Commission put it:

"Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it: his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toys, his uncle's watch, or whatever. Deny him these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He's dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no developed skills. This means that all children, not just certain children but all children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free reign to their impulsive actions to satisfy each want, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist."


So True.

Lord, don't love us because of who we are. Instead, have mercy on us O God, according to your great love, according to your great compassion!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Psalm 51:4

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

(NIV)


All sin is against God, and God sees all sin.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Psalm 51:3

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.

(NIV)


I think that most of us have experienced this before. Think back to the last time that there was some major sin in your life. Didn't it seem that that was always at the forefront of your mind. It was always there, it was always right before you.

But David didn't only have it present in mind, he had a daily reminder of his sin. Bathsheba, the woman that he had committed adultery with, the woman whose husband he had had murdered, was now his wife. She was there to daily remind him of his sin.

So he cries out for mercy. He knows his transgressions. He knows that he can no longer live this way. Nothing can hold him back. He must be right with God.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Psalm 51:2

Wash away all my iniquity
      and cleanse me from my sin.

(NIV)


There are so many thoughts in this verse. There is the ultimate idea of being washed from sin, by the blood of Christ on the cross. But I also get the idea that he is praying for some immediate relief.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Psalm 51:1

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

(NIV)


Psalm 51 is an amazing prayer, written by King David. It was written after Nathan the prophet came and confronted him on his sin of murder and adultery. This is a great Psalm to read if you are struggling with sin, or have recently repented of a certain sin, and you want to stay on the right path.

Notice that it starts off with the plea to God for mercy. Sometimes I think that all of our prayers should start that way, "Have mercy on me, O God..." But take special note of where David bases that mercy: according to the unfailing love of God, according to God's great compassion. David knows better than to ask God to base his mercy on anything else. Only in God is the basis of mercy. Nowhere else.

Then David tells us his need, and it is all of our needs. We have transgressions that need blotted out. And only God has what it takes to blot those transgressions out.

If you have not done so lately, cry out to God for his mercy.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(NIV)


I love Ephesians 2:8-9. It helps to give us an understanding of the Salvation process. We are saved by grace. We are saved through faith. This faith that we have is a gift from God.

I love it.

But these two verses have almost become a chant in some peoples minds. They like to quote the parts that they like, over and over again. I can almost hear it now in my mind:

"By Grace - Through Faith!
Not by works!"


But the thought in this passage doesn't stop there. Right after verse 9 there exists a verse 10! And believe it or not, verse 10 is important in the understanding of verses 8 and 9!

Even though we are not saved by works, our salvation results in works.

Remember that even the works don't come from us. We are God's workmanship. And according to Philippians 1:6, what God starts, he will complete. He does not stop the works that he starts. Faith and Grace are evidenced by the works. If there are no works, it may be that the faith and the grace are not there either.

I have found that most people who tarry on the "not by works" have some other reason for focusing on that. Many people have relatives or friends who have claimed salvation, but have nothing to show for it. This is a hard truth to accept.

There are others who are lacking works in their own lives. If they move on to verse 10, then they will have to be confronted with this truth. And frankly... they just don't want to.

Move on to verse 10.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ephesians 2:9

not by works, so that no one can boast.
(NIV)



Aren't you glad that this is true?

Think about that today. Your salvation is not by works. And that is good, because you never could have done enough to earn it. You always would have come up short. But nobody else has done enough to earn it either. We are all most definitely in the same boat.

If you are saved, it is not by works; it is by God's grace.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,
(NIV)


I love the flow of this verse.

It is by grace that we have been saved. No doubts about it. It wasn't us, it was simply and purely by God's grace.

But wait, wait... here is our part: "through faith"

Keep reading...

Oh, "and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

The emphasis keeps flowing away from us and toward God and his kindness - his grace. Even our salvation isn't about us. It is about Christ.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ephesians 2:7

"in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."
(NIV)



Why?!? Why has he seated us with him in the heavenly realms. Why has he made us alive, who were once dead? Why has he freed us from the ruler of this world? Why?!?

It is to show his glory. He wanted to demonstrate the "incomparable riches of his grace." He wanted it to be known that he is over all and above all. And he wanted to demonstrate that through Christ Jesus.

We are all so far from his grace, and so undeserving. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are truly despicable, wretched people. But God, who is rich in mercy... He is the one who has decided to save the unsavable, to love the unlovable, to mend the unmendable, to make alive those who are dead.

What a God we serve.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Ephesians 2:6

And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms
in Christ Jesus,

(NIV)


The phrase, "the heavenly realms" is translated "the heavenlies" in some other versions and in some other passages. After a little study, I believe that we could understand this best as heavenly citizenship. We are not actually there yet, but we might as well be. That is where our citizenship is. That is where we will end up.

But being seated there gives us the idea of permanence and authority. And we do have authority. Think of the context of this passage. We now have enough authority to say no to sin. We are no longer servants to sin, and to our sinful natures. For we have been seated in the heavenlies! Though we aren't there physically, we are seated with Christ now! And he has conquered sin and death for our good and for his glory.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Ephesians 2:4-5

But because of his great love for us,
God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions
it is by grace you have been saved.

(NIV)


We were dead, and the only reason why we are not still dead is because of God. And it isn't because of us, it is because of His great love, because of His mercy, because of His grace. We were dead, but He has made us alive.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ephesians 2:3

All of us also lived among them at one time,
gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature
and following its desires and thoughts.

Like the rest,
we were by nature objects of wrath.

(NIV)


We used to live among the disobedient at one time. When we had a craving or a desire we gave in to it. We gratified all desires. And we followed after those desires.

What we craved was our leader.

Was.

I can almost feel the tension building. The writer is building up, is painting a picture of what was left behind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ephesians 2:2

in which you used to live
when you followed the ways of this world
and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air,
the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

(NIV)



The word "ways" refers to a manner of life, your philosophy, so to speak. We all used to follow the philosophies of this world. We have all believed in this world's teachings. We have believed such lies as, it isn't really that bad or I can repent later. But those things are not true.

And those lies come from the father of all lies, the devil himself. He is the ruler of the kingdom of the air.

And take special note: whether we like to think this way or not, he is at work in those who are disobedient.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ephesians 2:1

As for you,

you were dead in your transgressions and sins,


(NIV)


Key word: were. You were dead.

It is a reminder of what you used to be. You used to be dead in sin. All of us could say that we were dead in our sin. But how many of us can say that we aren't any longer?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Psalm 19

Psalm 19 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. There is so much in there. The first six verses paint this amazing picture of creation, and keeps telling us that there is a creator! But it doesn't tell us who that creator is until verse 7, it is Jehovah! And we also learn in verse 7 that the scriptures will teach us the specifics.

Read more about Psalm 19 --
What is man?
Intelligent Design
The Message Version
god or God
The Bible

Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

(NASB)


This Psalm ends with a petition that we should all pray every morning. And it might be even more important on a Monday morning.

Let your words and your thoughts be acceptable to God today.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Psalm 19:13

Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

(NASB)


The presumptuous (or proud) sins are many times the worst.

It isn't that we have given in to some great immorality, but we have simply presumed ourselves to be more than we are. If we can realize who we are, then we will be blameless (complete).

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Psalm 19:12

Who can discern his errors?
Acquit me of hidden faults.

(NASB)


The word "his" is referring to the servant (I believe). And really, who can discern or understand all of their own errors. We say so casually that "we are always sinning." But do we really believe that?

We are all sinners. We have all fallen short of God's glory.

The Psalmist believes that. This is why he prays, "Acquit me of hidden faults." He knows that there are too many to discern. He knows that he has sinned in ways that he hasn't even noticed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Psalm 19:11

Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (KJV)



Obviously we cannot fully keep GOD's law because we're imperfect. GOD accepts our attempt even though we don't even come close to keeping the law. GOD warns the wicked to stop being wicked and the righteous to continue to be righteous. There is "great reward": "Religion makes our comforts sweet, and our crosses easy, life truly valuable, and death itself truly desirable." -Matthew Henry
The "religion" he speaks of does not have the same meaning that it does today. When he said religion, he meant Christianity: believing in Christ Jesus, the SON of GOD, to save us from Hell fire.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Psalm 19:10

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (KJV)




"Gold is only for the body, and the concerns of time; but grace is for the soul, and the concerns of eternity. The word of God, received by faith, is more precious than gold; it is sweet to the soul, sweeter than honey. The pleasure of sense soon surfeit, yet never satisfy; but those of religion are substantial and satisfying; there is no danger of excess."

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Friday, October 07, 2005

Psalm 19:9

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. (KJV)



The law and the word of the LORD is what brings about the fear of the LORD. This fear is clean or "pure" and it never ends. The judgments(ordinances or decisions) never contradict themselves. Every law is always 100% true and 100% righteous. They have no flaws. David wrote "altogether" so no one could exclude one of the laws. In the last day, GOD will judge every man, and we should be very fearful of HIM because of the purity of HIS judgments. GOD is the ultimate judge, HE has never falsely accused someone or wrongly judged them. That's why its so important to get the point across of how holy, pure and perfect GOD is. Not GOD alone, but everything HE says and does.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Psalm 19:8

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (KJV)



Its amazing that David says that the statutes(commands or decree) of the LORD give the heart joy. We are to obey GOD's law, but it won't be torture, we will enjoy obeying GOD. Enlighten: "to give information to; inform or instruct." We will be guided by HIS commandment because of its purity and holiness.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Psalm 19:7

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (KJV)



The first demonstration of GOD's glory was through his creation. The heavens and the firmament. Now David illustrates GOD's glory through the law. The fact that GOD's law is perfect is incredibly important. Imperfection is why man cannot enter heaven, based on his own works. With GOD everything must be perfect. The law is a witness of the LORD. And it gives the simple(the childlike, not mature) wisdom.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Psalm 19:6

It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other, nothing is hidden from its heat.



This verse shows that they were not ignorant about science. Verse 4 says GOD "pitched a tent for the sun." The NIV footnotes say that the sun is a mere creature of GOD, that the sun is the "supreme metaphor of the glory of GOD." It "sweeps across the whole extent of the heavens and pours out its heat on every creature."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Psalm 19:4-5

Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,Which is a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run a course.


When I read, "their words to the ends of the world," I think of people who have never heard the gospel before. When I was little I would always ask my parents about the people in a jungle in Africa, how were they supposed to get saved if they had never heard the good news of Jesus Christ? Well, here's the answer: they can see GOD's glory and presence through creation. GOD can reveal himself in so many ways.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Psalm 19:2-3

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.


People can say that they don't see GOD or hear GOD, but there is evidence that HE is real all around us. Everyday there is proof of the one true GOD. There is no language barrier, just the magnificence of GOD's creation, in a sense, being spoken each day through the earth which he created.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Psalm 19:1

The heavens declare the glory of GOD: and the firmament shows his handiwork.


David acknowledges that there is a GOD, the GOD.

Sometimes when I'm outside, I stare up at the sky and I am amazed. You know when the sun sets and its so beautiful, b/c the entire sky is a mixture of red, orange, and pink? That's when I see the glory of GOD.

Or you can look at the word "heavens" in a broader sense: the universe. At night, w/the human eye we can see the moon, stars, and a couple planets. I can't imagine what David saw when he looked into the night sky. With no city lights to take away the blackness of night. If a descriptive poet like David uses the "heavens and firmament" to compare to GOD's glory how much more magnificent HE must truly be.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Galatians 5:26

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


That word conceited means "to glory without reason." And that is something to keep in mind as we draw closer to Christ. Anything that we do has nothing to do with ourselves. Therefore we have no reason to boast.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Galatians 5:25

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.


Wow, this is a really cool verse. Once again, there is a phrase in here that I have never noticed before. The part that says, "...let us keep in step..." It makes me think of a dance. The spirit leads, and I stay in step. When that happens, it is beautiful.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Galatians 5:24

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.


If you belong to Christ Jesus, not just in word, not simply some prayer that you prayed, but if you genuinely belong to Christ Jesus, then the sinful nature has been crucified! You are a new creature. All of those old passions and desires are dead.

Of course, we are still stuck in this fleshly body, but we are now spiritually alive.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Galatians 5:23b

Against such things there is no law.


This is one thing that I love about this blog: Running across phrases like this.

I have many times read through the fruits of the Spirit, but I don't think that I have ever given a second thought to this particular phrase found after that list.

What does it mean?

Most of the commentaries that I read said basically the same thing. They all agreed that this phrase is saying that if your life is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, then there is no condemnation for you.

I don't know.

I have seen other places in the Bible where the word law is referring more to a rule of life, or a way of living. If that is the case, then this verse would mean that if you are living according to the Spirit, then there is no other way of living that can stand up to that.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Galatians 5:22-23a

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.


How many times have we heard this list? Most of us could quote it. Keep in mind that this is in contrast to the previous list. Paul in comparing two paths, two ways to live. We can either live by the Spirit, or we can live by the old sinful desires.

We can then see where these two paths lead, what do these two paths produce in a person's life?

For me, the most encouraging part is that life by the Spirit is life by THE Spirit. This fruit isn't something that I have to come up with, it is produced by the Spirit of God.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Galatians 5:21

envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The warning has been given again and again... "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

To practice something, would be to continue in it, for it to be the lifestyle. So, people who live this way, will not be able to enjoy or partake in the kingdom. They will not be a part of it here or later, after death.

The kingdom of God begins now, at least that is what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. You see, we have the availability to enjoy the heavenly citizenship NOW!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Galatians 5:20

idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,

We could easily spend a day on each and every one of these words. And we could probably all use a study on each of these words. There are probably roots of many of these sins in all of our lives.

And remember that, according to verse 19, these are the works of the flesh that are evident. In the greek, this word means: apparent, evident, known, manifest i.e to be plainly recognised or known. These are the sins that are obvious!

Take some time and click through these word to see what each one of them means.

(all definitions and links are through www.studylight.org)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Galatians 5:19

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,


Paul begins a list here of the "deeds of the flesh." Try to remember that this passage is contrasting the spirit and the flesh.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Galatians 5:18

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.


We are no longer under the law. What we do is led and directed by the Spirit of God.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Galatians 5:17

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.


The Spirit is working at that which pleases and glorifies God. It is out for ultimate joy. But the sinful nature is short-sighted. It is seeking after the temporary pleasures, that do not last.

And we end up at war within ourselves.

Most of you know exactly what I am talking about.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Galatians 5:16

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

For years I have tried to eliminate sin from my life by pure will power.

It doesn't work.

The only way to experience any real change is life by the Spirit. What does this look like? I think that this passage in Galatians will help us.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Psalm 63:11

But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.


The Old Testament was written as an example for us. And so many times in the Old Testament we can see the two possible outcomes, according to the two different types of lifestyles. Those who choose to live according to God's way of life will be praising and rejoicing in God. All of those who choose to go the other path will be silenced.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Psalm 63:9-10

They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.

They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.


Anytime that you read through the Psalms, you will find a passage or two like this. And even though God clearly states that we are to love our enemies, sometimes it is good to keep in mind the final destination of those who do wrong.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Psalm 63:8

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.


Our souls are clinging to God. We are holding on, as if we are about to fall. In our minds we think that if we slip at all, it will be a disaster for sure. But all the while, God's right hand is upholding us.

In my mind, I can picture holding my own sons, when they were little. They would hold on to me, as if they were about to fall. Their little fingers would dig in, grasping, clinging to my shirt or around my neck. But there is no way they would ever fall. My right hand is upholding them. My grasp on them is far greater than their grasp on me. Only in their minds are they holding themselves up. If I were to let go, they would most assuredly fall. So I hold them up.

And I love every minute of them clinging to me.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Psalm 63:7

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.


We exist in the shadow of God.

Today, as you are going through the various activities of life, remind yourself that you are under His wing. He is supporting you and protecting you every step of the way. Live like that today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Psalm 63:6

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.


What do you think about in the middle of the night?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Psalm 63:5

My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.


Satisfaction.

This is what God offers us. The world offers this as well, but the world's satisfaction is fleeting. But in God there is complete satisfaction that is offered.

The Psalmist knows it. He knows that in Christ there is complete satisfaction. Seek after true satisfaction.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Psalm 63:4

I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.


I have a hard time lifting up my hands in praise. I hate to admit that, but I do. I think that it is mostly due to being raised in a church where nobody did that. And even now, though I am in a church where people do raise their hands, I still find it hard.

Sometimes when I am alone, either listening to some praise music, or when I am reading my Bible, I lift up my hands in praise.

I long for the day when I can be free of any inhibitions on my praise.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Psalm 63:3

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.


He can't help it. God's love is so amazing, so much better than anything this life has to offer, so far beyond life itself, that he cannot contain himself. His mouth pours out glory to the most amazing thing that he knows.

Many times what we love the most is what we talk about the most. It is like there is this connection between our mouth and our heart. Jesus even tells us that, "...out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."

If you want to know where your treasure is, ask yourself what you talk about the most.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Psalm 63:2

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.


David wrote this Psalm while in the desert, and some commentators believe that this verse might be better understood by saying, "I have seen you in the sanctuary, and I long to behold your power and glory (here in the desert, like I saw it there!)"

If you are in a desert place in your life, don't give up hope. Set aside some time today and ask God to see his power and his glory.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Psalm 63:1

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.


We all have a thirst that can only be met by God himself. We try to quench it with other things, but ultimately, an infinite thirst can only be met with something that is infinite.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Matthew 7:28-29

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.


Are you amazed?

You should be. The teachings of Jesus are amazing. They are unlike any other teachings on this earth, from any other teacher that has ever lived. The crowd that day, that heard this sermon, recognized the difference. They knew that this was different than anything they had ever heard.

Maybe you have heard this sermon so many times that it has lost its edge. Please read back through and see what you think. I believe that if you open your eyes, you might be amazed once again.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Matthew 7:26-27

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.


How do you live your life?

Maybe you go to church from time to time. Maybe you go to a Christian School, and there are some Bible classes there and a Chapel service or two. Maybe you go to a Bible study from time to time. Maybe you just came across this blog.

Whatever the case is, you are foolish if you do not put the very Words of God into practice. Your foundation will crumble under the storms of life, and your house will fall.

If you know anything of the teachings of Jesus, do what you know.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Matthew 7:25

The rain came down,
the streams rose,
and the winds blew and beat against that house;

yet it did not fall,

because it had its foundation on the rock.


I love this entire verse. Especially the phrase, "...yet it did not fall..." One of the greatest joys of living a life in obedience to the teachings of Jesus is the did not fall.

The house might shake and crumble a little. The siding might need to be prepared. Some shingles might fly off. You might need to do some painting where the leaks were. But when the storms of life come... which they will, the house will not fall.

Praise God for His word today. His living and powerful word that will change us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Matthew 7:24

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.



Here we are drawing close to the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

There have been several different teachings that have rocked the foundations of the listeners in that day, and are still rocking the foundations of the listeners today. But right at the end Jesus tells us probably the most important point of the entire Sermon: the wise man is the one who "...hears these words of mine and puts them into practice."

Now, most of my life I was focusing on the rock and the sand. I can even remember teaching people that the rock was Jesus himself, but in this example, the rock, the sure foundation of living isn't Jesus; it is hearing the words of Jesus and applying them to your life.

You are wise if you are doing, not just hearing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Matthew 7:22-23

Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'


There are many interesting things about this passage, but there are two things that I don't think should be passed by.

One is the surprise of these people. You can almost sense it in their response. They are crying out, "...didn't we do enough? Didn't we do what we were supposed to be doing? How is this possible?!?" They were going through life thinking, and believing that they were OK. But they were self-deceived.

The other thing that I would like to point out is the very first word, "Many..." That word is frightening. There are going to be many people who fall into this category. Jesus tells us in another place that the road is wide that leads to destruction, and many will find it.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Matthew 7:21

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.


I know that to some this might seem like a contradiction. There are many people who know the verse that says, "...whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." But Matthew 7:21 doesn't contradict this verse, it clarifies it. It tells us what it means to "...call upon the name of the Lord..."

The people who call, are the people who do.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Matthew 7:16-20

By their fruit you will recognize them.

Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.



As I mentioned in the previous post, which was ages ago, this is teaching on who we are. And I would like you to notice that the focus of this passage is recognition of others. And even though this passage could be used to do some introspection, it is primarily for discerning who the "bad trees" are.

I know that in this modern society we live in, we "aren't allowed" to talk about anyone else, but the Bible would clearly say differently. We are commanded to discern (judge) who the people around us are, from the teachers that we listen to, on down to the friends that influence us on a day to day basis.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to someone and saying, "I love ya. And I love ya enough to tell you that your actions are not those of a Christian." In fact, not only is there nothing wrong with this, there is everything right with this, if it is done in Love!

Do you have people in your life who are claiming to be Christians, but aren't living that way? If so, don't be afraid of confronting them.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Matthew 7:15

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.


Here we begin some teaching on the reality of who we are.

Now maybe you have never looked at this bit of the Bible in this way, but I would like to challenge you to look at it from this perspective. Not looking at other people to see who they really are, but asking yourself if you are a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Matthew 7:13-14

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


There are other places in the Bible where Jesus tells us that His way is easy, that His burden is light. But as easy as it is, there are still few who find it.

Some miss the way because of the deception of the world. Some miss the way because of their own deception. They hear the word, but they never do what it says, so they live, thinking that they are OK, when in reality they are headed down the wrong path. Some miss the way because of the cares of this world.

The path to destruction is wide. To get on this path is easy.

Which path are you on today?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Matthew 7:12

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.


If you would summarize all of the teachings, into one phrase that would be a good rule to live by, it would be this verse.

This rule has even made it into the secular world. Some even forget who the author of this rule is, and where it came from. But it is easy to forget to apply this when you hear it too often. In all that you do today, do to others what you would want them to do to you.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Matthew 7:9-11

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!


In relation to the previous two verses, here we see an illustration as to why God will answer our prayers. Probably one of the most important concepts here is that God is good. He is going to give us what is good.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Matthew 7:7-8

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.


When we read these two verses, we like to focus on the receiving, the finding, and the opening.

I would like to challenge you to focus on the asking, the seeking, and the knocking. What kinds of things are you asking for? What are you seeking after, and what doors are you hoping to open with your knocking?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Matthew 7:6

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.


I suppose that you are hoping for some amazing commentary on this verse.

Don't got it. Please feel free to add some input on this one.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Matthew 7:5

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.



I kept this verse separate from verses 3 and 4, because I wanted to talk about the word hypocrite.

In the Bible, the word hypocrite is a transliterated greek word, which refers to an actor. So if you called someone a hypocrite, you were in essence calling them actors.

If you take this into consideration when you read this passage, then it would say, "you actor, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Just imagine this, you go to the eye doctor, because you have something stuck in your eye. The doctor comes out with a stick in his eye. Aside from the fact that this would be gross and weird, you would probably say, "whoa! Doctor, umm... are you alright?"

Doctor: "Sure, I'm fine, now let me take a look at this..."

You: "Wait a minute doc, you have a huge stick in your eye!"

Doctor: "No I don't."

You: "Yes you do."

Doctor: "I don't know what you are talking about."

You: "What do you mean? How can you not tell that there is a stick in your eye?!?"

Obviously this wouldn't work. But just consider how many time we try to go through our lives with those little, secret sins that we won't tell anyone about (getting the plank out), but we will go through our "public" life acting like there is nothing wrong. Almost to the point of believing the act ourselves.

If you have something in your life today, I would like to encourage you to get the plank out. Stop being an actor. Being real can be painful and humbling, but its worth it.

If you are not sure about telling someone else, but still would like to tell someone, then e-mail me at mattharmless@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Matthew 7:3-4

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?


This is one of those verses that we like to quote to others when they are confronting us with issues in our own lives.

"Don't you tell me! I know you! I know what you do, get the beam out of your own eye!"

Nobody likes to be confronted. It is difficult, and painful at times. But God has designed this life to be lived in fellowship with others, and part of true fellowship is confronting your brothers and sisters when they are in need of it.

These two verses are there to help us make that confrontation process a little less painful. I used to think that this meant that I had to be near-perfect before I could confront anyone, but that isn't true. If it were, there would never be any confrontation because none of us are ever perfect. What I believe this is talking about is that it is much easier to take confrontation from someone who has admittedly messed up and made it right.

Getting the plank out of your eye is to clear yourself of wrong by asking forgiveness of others, and working to make things right. If you are doing this all of the time, you will not look perfect to others, but you will look like someone who is willing to make things right, as humbling as it is.

So many times I want to hide my mistakes, but I have found that as a teacher, I have had the most success when I confess when I have been lazy, or when I have been a slacker. And when I talk about my other struggles, it really opens the students up. They realize that they are not alone. Some of my most amazing opportunities have been when I really screwed things up, and had to admit my wrong-doing.

Getting the plank out of your eye does not mean you have to be perfect, it means you are willing to admit that there is a big board stuck in your eye and that if you can get the plank out, by admitting your wrongs, then they can get the speck out as well. You have already paved the way.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Matthew 7:1-2

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

People love these two verses. Especially when they are doing the wrong thing.

I would like you to consider something, first, there will be a judge. So, if you are using these verses to "defend" yourself, then remeber, there will be a judge.

Also, you should consider I Corinthians 5:12. (Remember, the best way to understand any verse of the Bible, is to interpret it according to other places in the Bible on the same topic.) "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside."

So, judging is not entirely banned. There are cases when it is necessary, even commanded.

Try to expand your list of memory verses.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


This has one of my favorite phrases. "...tomorrow will worry about itself." And it is true.

Each day we are given the exact right amount of Grace for that day. When you try to dig into tomorrow, and maybe into some of the what-ifs that might happen, then you are delving into territory without the Grace to go with it.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


Seek after the Kingdom of God. Seek after the Righteousness of God. That must be the goal. Everything is useless without it. Everything is empty without it! But the great God that we serve says that if we do seek Him first, then He will provide all the rest.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Matthew 6:31-32

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
(NIV)


What do you run after? Are you running after the stuff? Or are you running after the one who provides the stuff?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Matthew 6:28-30

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?


In America, we worry about clothes in another way. We don't necessarily worry about whether or not we will have clothes, we worry about what they look like. How nice they are. We worry about whether or not our clothes are in style. But why should we worry about this? Will not our Father clothe us in exactly what we need?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Matthew 6:27

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

I love this.

It is almost silly, isn't it? I mean really, when has worrying about anything ever helped the situation?

Sometimes there is action that needs to be taken, but that action is never to worry about it.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Matthew 6:26

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?


Kindof a redundant question, isn't it?

We are obviously more valuable than some bird. God will give us exactly what we need each day. If He gives us more than what we need, then it will either be for a future need, or it will be to meet the needs of others.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Matthew 6:25

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
(NIV)

Food and clothes. The two things that are seemingly the most important in this life, and Jesus tells us not to worry about them.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Matthew 6:24

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
(NIV)

This is a principle that is ignored way too much.

We always think that we can serve as many master as there are hours in the day. We think that we can switch from one to the other like it is nothing. But "no one can serve two masters!" And that means no one! And according to this verse, if you try to serve two masters, you will grow resentful of one or the other.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Matthew 6:22-23

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
(NIV)


What do you put in?

A few years ago I was making some CoCo Wheats. If you read the directions, it says that you need to add salt. So, being the excellent chef that I am, I followed the directions. Unfortunately, that isn't the way that mom used to make them!

What did I end up with? Salty CoCo Wheats.

Exactly what I put in, was what I ened up with. The same thing is true with your mind. So many times Christians like to reason out in their minds whether or not it is OK to watch something or listen to smomething, but the real thing to keep in mind is that whatever you allow in, will come back out.

And, if what is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(NIV)


I think that this is probably one of the most important principles to learn. Whatever you value... that is where your heart will be. It just can't be any other way.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Matthew 6:20

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
(NIV)

Here is the alternative. There is a perfect place for treasure, a place that does not perish.

The real question to ask is, "what does this mean?"

Friday, June 10, 2005

Matthew 6:19

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
(NIV)


This is one of the first verses I had to memorize as a child. And I am now so thankful. Any treasure that we have shouldn't be about this earth. This earth is perishable.

What do you treasure?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Matthew 6:16-18

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.

I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

(NIV)


Religious acts are not for others.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
(NIV)


Just like the verses before this, here is a great challenge.

And also a little bit of a result if you do not forgive.

Bot don't think of this as some kind of curse or threat, think of it as a description. Children of God are forgiving people. And people who do not forgive, are not children of God.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Matthew 6:13

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
(NIV)

Do we actually have to pray to God that He would not lead us into temptation? It would sure seem that way. But I think that this is more like the prayer for the daily bread. God is going to do these things, but in order to experience the working of God, we need to ask for these things.

I don't believe that God is going to ever lead us into temptation, in another place in the Bible, it says that God cannot tempt anyone with evil. So this is simply for our benefit.

Bottom line, this is the model for prayer, and Christ felt like this was important enough to put it in there, we should follow this example.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Matthew 6:12

Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
(NIV)

Wow, I don't know if I want God to forgive me the way I have forgiven others.

This is an awesome reminder to forgive. You should forgive others the way you want to be forgiven. Just think how many times you have done some of the same sins over and over, and you go to God asking His forgiveness. Yet when someone does something against you, you will have this attitude that says, "I will forgive you this time, but if you do it again, forget it!" How wrong is that!?!

Consider today the extent of your forgiveness. And ask yourself if you could pray this part of the model.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Matthew 6:11

Give us today our daily bread.
(NIV)


The bread-giver tells us to ask for our bread.

But note, He tells us to ask for our daily bread.

Why do you think that He does this?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Matthew 6:10

your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

(NIV)


In this model of prayer, Jesus tells us to pray for the Kingdom of God to be taking place here, in the same way it is taking place in heaven. This is what we are striving to do in our own lives, to live with Christ as king.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Matthew 6:9

"This, then, is how you should pray:

  'Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name,


(NIV)


Here we start this famous prayer. I think that it is amazing how many people could quote this prayer. But this prayer wasn't meant to be memorized and quoted, it was meant to be a model of prayer.

In this model, Jesus tells us to begin with God. All glory is to be given to Him, His name is hallowed, which means to render or acknowledge to be hallow. We are to begin our conversation with the Father, by acknowledging who He is. This is not only for Him, but it is also for us. It is a reminder of who we are talking to.

Since the Bible says elsewhere, that we are to pray without ceasing, the carry this model over to every moment of your life.

Begin with God. Acknowledge who He is.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Matthew 6:7-8

"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
(NIV)


God does not need you to ask. He is not up on some cloud oblivious to your needs, thinking, "I wonder what that child of mine wants..."

God wants you to ask, so that He can fulfill. He want you to grow in faith. The asking is really a part of obedience to Him. He desires us to grow more and more like Christ, and Christ brought everything to the Father.

Seek to become more like Christ today, and bring your requests to Him.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Matthew 6:6

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
(NIV)


I can remember this one particular guy in my church as I grew up, and his prayers were always so eloquent. Now, I am in no way saying that this particular guy had any wrong motives in his praying, but I will say that it affected me. I always felt inadequate to pray, after I had listened to this guy.

But prayer is not for other people. It was wrong for me to be intimidated, simply because this guy used a lot of big, theological sounding words when he prayed. Our prayers are a conversation between God and Man. And if there was a quota of intelligence required to pray, then none of us would qualify.

Also, to any pastor that might read this, don't let your prayers at the end of a sermon be an additional sermonette. I know that it can be easy to use prayer to try to "be" the Holy Spirit at the end of a sermon. I would like to caution you to avoid that.

When you pray, pray to God.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Matthew 6:5

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
(NIV)


Another example from the beginning of Matthew 6.

The word hypocrite, in the greek, literally means, an actor. There are those who put on their outward show of spirituality, and that is all that it is - a show. The whole thing is an act, but like some actors do, there are many who get so involved with this character that they are portraying, that eventually they begin to believe the act. They begin to believe that these outward shows are truly spiritual.

Ask yourself today what you do as a show? and what is real?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Matthew 6:2-4

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.

I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your fiving may be in secret.

Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."


(NIV)


In verse one, Jesus tells us not to do our good deeds for people. Now he gives an example, giving to the needy. Giving to the needy shouldn't be for praise, and this may sound weird, but it also isn't for the needy. The motivation is God Himself.

This is a fairly recent truth for me. There was a time that I would have said that we need to be doing things for others simply because they need it. But as I have been reading through the Bible, I am seeing more and more, that the needy don't need us. And God doesn't need us to meet the needs of these poor people. Our service should be motivated simply for Him!

Don't do the things you do for other people, do it for the God of heaven and earth.

Here is an example from school. There are plenty of students that do really well in school, but I have to ask, "What is your motivation? Is it because of parents? Is it to get the good grades so that people will know how smart you are?" Doing well in school should be because God has commanded us in His word to do all things as if for Him. So the Geometry and the History and the English and whatever else, should be done for the Glor of God!

Question your motives today.

Also, read the last part of this section again. It is filled with great encouragement.

Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Matthew 6:1

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."
(NIV)


Jesus cuts to the heart again, and asks, "What is your motivation?"

Ask yourself that question. Why do you do what you do? What is the internal motivation? I have heard it said, "You do what you do, because you want what you want." And I would agree, but then you have to ask, "What did I want when I did that?!?"

I would like to encourage you today, to ask yourself these hard questions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Matthew 5:48

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(NIV)


The bar is raised. The standard is set. We are to be perfect. "How perfect?" you might ask. As perfect as God himself. We, like all sons, are to be like our heavenly Father. We are to be as perfect as He is.

What do you do with a verse like this? You can't get rid of it. You can't throw it out. There is no ignoring it. You can try, but that won't work.

In the context, it is a summary. All of the things that Jesus has been saying so far, are summarized with this.

I am sure that there is someone out there that is already saying, "but we can never reach that goal!" And I would like to thank that person for reminding us all of that. Our inability to be perfect has brought about the need for a savior. But the savior has not nullified the goal. Just because he has come to pay the penalty, does not mean that we are to stop striving. In fact, the savior has made the goal possible!

In the book of Romans, we are told that whoever is justified will be sanctified, and the person who is sanctified, will eventually be glorified! We will one day attain the perfection thanks to the savior who was our perfection, when we didn't deserve it!

I would like to encourage you today to continue in Christ. He is our perfection.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Matthew 5:46-47

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your brothers,
what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?

(NIV)


It is so easy to be doing the right stuff, for all of the wrong reasons. If we are loving our neighbors that we like, or are being kind because of the benefit, then we are no different than those who are not part of God's kingdom.

The citizens of the kingdom show the love of Christ to all, especially to those who do not "deserve" it.

Ask yourself today, "who do you show love to?"

Friday, May 20, 2005

Matthew 5:45b

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
(NIV)


Our example of across the board kindness and love is God himself. He brings sunshine and rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. He doesn't reserve that for those who love Him.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Matthew 5:45a

"...that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
(NIV)


When my sons do things like me, people always say, "...well, he is definitely his father's son." The same thing is true of the children of God. When we act like Him, people will know whose children we are.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Matthew 5:43-44

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, "
(NIV)

Jesus pretty much flips the tables on everything. There are so many things that I could point out here, but if you would allow me, I would like to focus in on the word Love.

This teaching is a key in understanding what love is all about. Consider the idea of loving your enemies. With the way that we think about the word love, is that even possible? In America, we so much think about love in terms of feelings. We have even lowered the word enough to describe how we feel about a Big Mac. But love, in this case isn't a feeling for the enemy, Jesus isn't asking us to get all warm and fuzzy when we think about those people that would fall into that category.

Love is action. Love is putting another before yourself. To love your enemy requires you to do something to or for your enemy that is love! We all have those people in our lives that we just don't like all that well. Those are our enemies (in a sense). Choose today to follow that command and Love them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Matthew 5:40-42

And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
(NIV)


This life should not be about self-preservation. I know that we talk about how there are those people out there that would say things like, "I am looking out for number 1!" We envision this almost like it is some kind of after-school special. We think of these verses as if they would apply when this exact thing happens. But I don't even wear a cloak (I am not for sure I know what a tunic is...). But try to apply them to your life today.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Matthew 5:38-39

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
(NIV)


Have you ever wanted to "put someone in their place?" Maybe they have been a little pious or had a smug, self-righteous attitude, and then you just want to put them right where they belong. Possibly there has been someone who has been taking advantage of others for a long time, and then you get your chance. You know that you can "rightly" take advantage of them.

But citizens of the Kingdom are different. They trust their King. They know that vengence belongs to Him, and He will repay. They can sit back and relax, knowing that whatever comes their way is from the king, and He wants to use if for good in their lives. The citizens of the Kingdom can repeat after Joseph, who, when he had been sold into slavery by his brothers, told them later in life, "What you meant for evil, God meant for good."

Friday, May 13, 2005

Matthew 5:33-37

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
(NIV)


I believe that this passage is less about oaths and swearing, and more about your words. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, every word we speak should be an oath. We should be the speakers of truth. And our words should be so true that there will be no need to swear. You could rephrase the last part as, say what you mean and mean what you say.

This is a difficult thing in a world filled with triviality, excuses, and sarcasm. Our words should be well placed words.

As you go through your day today, ask yourself if your yes means yes and your no means no.

Also note how powerful and cutting Jesus' words are. (Remember that his yes means yes and his no means no...) At the end of the verse he says, "anything beyond this comes from the evil one. If I went around saying this, I would be called harsh, critical, and judgemental. How dare I say that anyone's actions come from the evil one?!?

But Jesus speaks it and He means it.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Matthew 5:31-32

"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
(NIV)

Wow. I really have myself in a bind with this one. But here are these verses. What can we learn from this?

Consider this, even if not about this particular issue, are you willing to believe the word of God, even when it is difficult, or when it doesn't quite make sense?

There are many out there that would claim to be believers in the Bible, but when it comes to something that they do not agree with, they chuck it! In the end, it is their opinion that has motivated the life.

This passage is difficult, and it steps on toes, regardless of how you interpret it. But are you willing to believe it, even if it is unpopular.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Matthew 5:29-30

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
(NIV)


Drastic measures are needed.

Just consider the numbers upon numbers of people that are struggling with different sins, that are unwilling to gouge and cut and throw away. We are more concerned with having something that is "ours" than we are concerned with the God who created us.

Consider today what needs to be gone from your life. Is it the internet? Oh, but we can't live without that! Is it the television? No way, what would we do?!? A friendship, a place, what is it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Matthew 5:27-28

You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
(NIV)

Have you ever really thought about what these verses are saying?

Jesus says that if you look at a woman lustfully, you have committed adultery with her in your heart. Think about that. He doesn't say that if you look at a woman lustfully you have sinned, though you have. He says that you have committed the act, in your heart!

They say that a habit can be formed in approximately 2 to 4 weeks. If you do something often enough it will develop into a habit. Something that you don't even have to consciously persuade yourself to do. That is what a habit is really all about. Habitual behavior can be to your good, like reading your Bible everyday, or praying when a trial comes. If you continue to do the same thing, the habit develops.

If a person commits adultery in their heart on a daily basis, they will very easily commit adultery in the real world. It is their habit. They will hardly even have to think about it.

But even if the opportunity never arises, you are still an adulterer, even if it is only in the heart.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Matthew 5:25-26

"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."
(NIV)


Hmm... This verse almost seems like it could be found in with the Proverbs. Maybe you could say it this way, "Don't fight those courtroom battles. You might lose! Just settle the matter before it gets that bad." Also, "If you are wrong, just admit it!"

In America, this passage applies quite frequently. We are overrun with lawsuits and lawyers. But on a more personal note. In your everyday affairs, simply do the right thing. If you have wronged someone, make it right. Don't try to get out of it.

People who are like this, who make things right, are the citizens of the Kingdom.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Matthew 5:23-24

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
(NIV)


I can remember the first time that the teaching of the verse made sense to me. I would summarize it by saying this, "In order to be right with God, you need to be right with your neighbor."

So that I won't get too wordy on this post, allow me to refer you to this other post that deals with this verse. And then let me encourage you with this: If you know of someone that you have wronged, make it right today. Don't let another moment go by that must go by. Make things right with the people around you, so that you can be right with your creator.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Matthew 5:21-22

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
(NIV)


This is one of the most amazing teachings of the Bible. In just a couple of short statements we are all made guilty. No longer can the belief that outward conformity is enough, sin dwells in the heart. You can no longer say that you are good because you haven't murdered, because there is a chance that there is a murderous heart living and beating in your own chest. And the words that we flippantly say out of anger, are words that condemn our own souls.

The need for a savior increases. We are again unworthy to save ourselves.

Consider today your actions toward others. Even when you are treated wrongly. More importantly, consider your heart.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Matthew 5:20

For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
(NIV)


There it is. The essence of our need. The most righteous people, were not righteous enough. This is why we need the fulfiller of the Law to be our righteousness for us.

Consider this verse as you go through your day. Meditate on your need for THE saviour, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Matthew 5:19

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
(NIV)


If I haven't mentioned it before, the phrase, "the kingdom of heaven," or "the kingdom of God," is referring to what it would be like to have God as king. This is the easiest way to understand this title.

So, here we have it, if you go against the commands of the king, and teach others to do the same, then you are the least citizen of the kingdom, and will be called so. A pretty serious warning. When I read this, what came to my mind are those people who feel like it is OK to do about anything. Sometimes I wonder if they have gone too far. They claim to be anti-legalistic, but what they end up doing is getting rid of every rule that has ever been imposed upon them. But in this verse, we aren't to live without commands. We, as citizens of this heavenly kingdom are to keep the commands.

And in keeping the commands of God, we are to teach others to do the same. We will be called great in the kingdom, if we are obedient to the king.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Matthew 5:18

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

(NIV)


  • The entire Bible is now translated in more than 400 languages.
  • Portions of the Bible have been translated into nearly 2,500 languages.
  • The United Bible Societies report that their network of organizations distributed 633 million portions of the Bible in 2000.
  • There are more than 5,300 ancient manuscripts of the Greek New testament, more than 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and 9,300 other early versions. (The next most commonly copied document is Homer's Iliad with 643 manuscripts... all of them partial. Yet nobody doubts the reliability of the Iliad.)
  • What about mistakes from the copying? 99.7% of the mistakes that are found are easily accounted for. Only 0.3% remain, and none of them have to do with any major doctrine of the Faith. "No fundamental doctrine of the Christian Faith rests on a disputed reading." -Sir Fredrick Kenyon (Leading authority on textual criticism.)
  • The New Testament was completed around A.D.100, and the oldest copy is dated at A.D.125. Only twenty-five years! (Compare that to the Iliad, which earliest copy is dated 500 years later than the time it was written.)
  • The Bible was written by forty different people who lived over a period of 1,500 years apart and consisted of prophets, kings, shepherds, fishermen, a physician and a tax collector... just to name a few. Yet, contrary to the minority opinion, they are all in agreement. (You might say, "what are you talking about? The bible is full of disagreements!" My response: name one. My e-mail is mattharmless@gmail.com.)
  • Every one of the 61 major prophecies concerning the messiah were fulfilled by Jesus. Even unbelieving scientists applying the measurement of statistical probability tell us that the chances of just eight of those prophecies being fulfilled is one in 1017.

I have just skimmed the surface. No other book has been as hated as the Bible. Countless numbers of people have tried to destroy it, ban it, and burn it. And all have failed.

Here is one illustration of how the Bible has been preserved under attack. You may have heard of Voltaire, the French infidel. He predicted that Christianity would be destroyed within 100 years of his lifetime ant that the only place you'd find a Bible would be in a museum. Instead, Voltaire has become history, and the circulation of the Bible continues to increase around the world.

Ironically, within fifty years of Voltaire's death in 1778, the Geneva Bible Society bought his home and used his own printing press to print Bibles.

--James MacDonald, God Wrote a Book

All facts came from James MacDonald's book, God Wrote a Book. You can read my review of this book on this post.




Friday, April 29, 2005

Matthew 5:17

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
(NIV)


The fulfillment of the Law. The fulfillment of the prophecies. The fulfillment.

Recently I have run across a few blogs and other websites that have questioned the need for Christ. That maybe people could get to God without him. I have even heard alot of talk about interfaith relationships, especially with the new pope.

But Jesus isn't just some good teacher. And he isn't just another option on the list of pathways and journeys to God. He is THE Way. There are no other ways.

Jesus came to this earth to fulfill. Don't forget that today. We serve a powerful effective God who fulfills what He promises.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Matthew 5:14-16

You are the light of the world.

A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.

Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

(NIV)

Notice that it says, "You are..." It does not say that this is what we should be. We are lights. We shine in a dark world. Consider the words of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

John 1:1-9 (NIV)

So Jesus, who came into the world as a light, tells us that when we are his, we will shine that light. This is a light that cannot be hidden. And it would be ridiculous to even think that. "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden!" Cannot!

Also, the person who lights the light would not hide the light. And neither would Christ, who is the lighter of all lights, hide the lights he has set out in this world. He has put us here so that people may see our good works and glorify God!

Consider also these later words of John:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you:

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

I John 1:5-7 (NIV)

Claiming to be a light is not enough. People can say anything. They can even say with their mouths that they are in the light. But if their lifestyle is in the darkness, then are they truly in the light? No.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth.

But if the salt loses its saltiness,
how can it be made salty again?

It is no longer good for anything,
except to be thrown out and trampled by men.


(NIV)


The Salt of the Earth.

What a concept. Just think of all of the things that would have come to the listeners minds. Salt is a huge necessity during those times: it was valuable, it was a preservative, it was a cleanser, and my favorite, it was a flavor enhancer. As long as it was good.

Here Jesus tells these people how they should be in this world. Oswald Chambers says,

"Some modern teachers seem to think our Lord said, You are the sugar of the earth, meaning that gentleness and winsomeness without curativeness is the ideal of a Christian."



We are to be effective in this world. We are to be effective in our work, in our families, and with our friends. And the effectiveness should look like the first few verses of this chapter. If you fulfill those things, then you will be the salt of the earth.

But if you lose that saltiness, then you will be uneffective, useless, and cast out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Matthew 5:11-12

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(NIV)


The key phrase in this passage is, "...because of me."

Christ is the key. He is the motive and the means and the end. As you read back through the beatitudes, you will see that they are all about our Lord Jesus Christ. If it is not about Him, then it is for nothing.

"Herein lies the disproportion between Jesus Christ's principles and all other moral teaching: Jesus bases everything on God-realization, while other teachers base everything on self-realization."

"There is a difference between devotion to principles and devotion to a person. Jesus Christ never proclaimed a cause; He proclaimed a devotion to Himself - 'for My sake.' Discipleship is based not on devotion to abstract ideals, but on devotion to a person, the Lord Jesus Christ; consequently the whole of the Christian life is stamped by originality."

--Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

Question your motives today. Be devoted to Him.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Matthew 5:10

Blessed are those who are persecuted
because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(NIV)



There are many different levels of persecution. Some are more effective than others.

I have heard that the Chinese water torture was to strap a person down, and let a bucket of water drip onto the forehead. A drip of water is nothing compared to other tortures, but that slow continual dripping begins to work in the mind. And as it would go on and on, eventually that drip wouldn't seem like a drip anymore. It would seem like a hammer smashing down on the forehead.

The same thing is true with Americans, and many others of the "modern" world. We may not be persecuted outright, but we are persecuted for our righteousness. We are ridiculed as teenagers. We are mocked as adults. Those around us consider us stupid or backward, simply because we actually believe the Bible. And that slow continual dripping begins to wear. And so many of us cave in.

If you are persecuted today, remember, that you are part of a new kingdom. We are just passing through here.