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23 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 23 December

This is it – the last study in the series. Has your prayer life changed? I have had a lot to think about! In some ways, it seems impossible to attain the standards of holiness and righteousness needed to come before the Throne; but on the other hand, God would not have placed them there were it impossible to meet them!

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Eph 1:15-21 (ESV)

Paul was a powerful pray-er! He had literally “seen the light” of God and was completely in touch with God’s will. So what does Paul pray for? Riches and fame? Health and wealth? No! He prays for his friends in Ephesus.
Spirit of wisdom
More knowledge of God
Open the eyes of their hearts
Know the hope that we have been called to
Know the riches and glory of the inheritance of the saints
Know the immeasurable greatness of His power
According to the working of His might
That was proven when Christ was raised from the dead

He wanted a lot for his friends! But he wasn’t concerned with their physical comfort – he wanted them to know exactly who they were and what they had because of their relationship with Christ.

Have you ever felt clueless as a believer? Separated from God? Maybe God is out there, but why would He bother with me? Maybe Paul’s friends had a little of that in their lives, because his prayer was holding the magnificence of God before their eyes. It was a prayer and a pep talk all in one. Maybe we need to pray like this more often! It’s a good idea to remind ourselves exactly what we have in Christ.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Col 1:9-14 (ESV)

To his friends in Colossia, Paul prays for:

Knowledge of His will
Spiritual wisdom and understanding
Walk worthy of the Lord
Bear fruit
Increase in His knowledge
Strength so they can endure
Patience and joy
Understanding that we have redemption and forgiveness of sins

No prosperity Gospel here! Paul wanted his friends to have true riches – those that come only through God.

Do you pray for your friends? What do you ask God for? Health/healing of their infirmities? A new job? Or do you pray as Paul did – for spiritual growth and more knowledge of God? It makes me stop and think!
What have we learned over the last few weeks?

·         Prayer is a normal activity
·         Prayer transcends denominations
·         Prayer helps us to see answers to confusing issues
·         Prayer helps us to find the right path
·         Prayer keeps us from wondering and wishing
·         Prayer gives God a chance to move in our lives
·         Prayer is our way of crying out to the Living God
·         Prayer helps us find God’s will
·         Prayer isn’t rote words
·         Prayer includes worship
·         Prayer includes asking for forgiveness for our own sins and seeking forgiveness from those we’ve hurt
·         Prayer  changes things!
Will you commit to pray more? Will you commit to pray differently?

Please let me know how this study has impacted your life. I look forward to hearing from you!

I will post no blog study between Christmas and New Year, although I will post at least once to remind you about the upcoming “Reading God’s Story” Bible reading program. I will also give you a list of the week’s scriptures if you wish to read along and don’t have that particular Bible. I hope we can talk about what we’ve read – how reading the Bible chronologically changes our outlook on the Book, as well as the insights we gain from our reading.

May God bless you with the wonder of His birth – and sinless life – and voluntary death – and resurrection – as we complete this season of Christmas. Thank you for following along through this study, and I look forward to our study of forgiveness beginning in January.

21 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 21 December

Persistence. Promises. Prayer. All elements of a close walk with God. But let’s not forget worship!

When we remind God of Who He is and what He has promised, we are doing ourselves a favor. As we worship and magnify Him, we learn more about His attributes. The more we know, the more confidence He gives us. As we gain confidence, we find new ways to ask Him to fulfill his promises.

And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6  let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7  We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9  but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10  They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”  Neh 1:5-11 (ESV)

Who did Nehemiah remind himself that God was?the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.

Nehemiah was reminding himself (God obviously needs no reminding) that God has promised to keep covenant. He confessed the sins of his people, and of himself. He reminded God that He promised to keep covenant if the people would turn back from their wicked ways.

God’s promises aren’t magic. They aren’t insurance policies. Some are for all, like
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (KJV)

But in Nehemiah’s case, the promise of covenant was for those who love God and keep His commandments. The people had sinned. They needed atonement for those sins. Nehemiah persistently prayed and claimed God’s promises. He reminded God that He promised to bring His people “to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there”.

Nehemiah wanted to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem. He needed the King of Persia’s permission. But he also needed workers…those who were scattered abroad as a result of their disobedience. So, before he went to the King of Persia, he prayed to the King of Kings. The Persian king agreed; the people repented; the walls were rebuilt; God’s promises were fulfilled.

One more example today: our good friend Daniel – the guy who had been through a lot for his faith in God. He wants God to finish judging his people for their unfaithfulness.

I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5  we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6  We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. …15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18  O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”  Dan 9:4-6; 15-19 (ESV)

Great and awesome
Covenant keeper
Miracle worker
I’m sure that as Daniel prayed this prayer, he gained confidence in God’s ability to keep his promises. And he had a big request – he was asking God to turn off his anger and wrath against Jerusalem.

Look at verse 18. What gave Daniel the confidence to make this enormous request?

As you reflect for the next couple days, think about what the people I’ve highlighted have in common. They were confident. They knew scripture well enough to claim God’s promise. They were persistent. They prayed not only for themselves, but for others. They always asked for forgiveness of their sins.

How close is your prayer life to the prayer lives we’ve seen in the last couple days? I’m betting if you are like me, you have a long way to go!

19 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 19 December

Week Six! The end of the study. We’ve taken time to learn about the elements of the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve been challenged. We’ve been convicted. We’re learning that we have a long way to go before we can pray like Jesus. But we know that with God, all things are possible!

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Cor 1:20 (ESV)

Is that a wonderful verse? All of God’s promises find their YES in him. He will always do what He promised. Do you think that knowing He will keep His word will change your prayer attitude?

But do we, a sinful people, really believe in God’s promises? We’d like to say we do, of course, but the Bible is filled with example after example of people who have lost confidence in God’s promises.

Take Israel, for example. They had been enslaved for 400+ years. God promised that He would set them free. He sent plagues to Egypt. He softened the Egyptian people’s heart so that they would give plunder to the Israelites before they fled their captivity. He parted the Red Sea and did it so completely that thousands of people walked across on dry ground. He thoroughly cut off all pursuit by the Egyptians. He provided them with a cloud/fire for guidance. He gave them free food – they complained because it wasn’t varied. He promised to make them a great nation. But what did they do in return? They waited until Moses went up the mountain, and immediately fashioned a golden calf idol. Yeah, right. Like that would give them more than the God who performed so many miracles for them.
And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12  Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. 15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16  The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” 25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’ ” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.” 30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” Ex 32:9-32 (ESV)

God was not amused. He wanted to destroy the people. He’d had enough of their whining, their miserable behavior, their lack of trust. He offered to make Moses the leader of a great nation!

I wonder how I would have responded to that offer. Would I have selfishly said “get ‘em, God. They don’t deserve You, but I sure do. I’m the one who speaks to you on the mountain. I’m the one who obeys!” But that’s not Moses’ M.O. He reminds God that these are the people of promise. These people needed to remain alive so tales of God’s power would be passed on for generations. Moses reminds God of all the promises He gave to Abraham, Isaac and Israel. He reminded God that His promises are true.


… the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people!

This is intercessory prayer at its best. Moses prayed for all the people of Israel, claiming God’s promises to them, and God listened!

And then there’s one of my favorite stories of intercession: Abraham arguing with God about his plan to destroy Sodom. Would you have the courage and the confidence to talk to God like this?
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. Gen 18:22-33 (ESV)

Abraham bargains with God for the lives of the righteous. Unfortunately, there weren’t even ten in the city!

As I read the story of Abraham, I realize that he didn’t just bargain with God – he claimed God’s promises, and he prayed persistently. Remember the story a few weeks ago about the man who bothered his neighbor at midnight? The neighbor didn’t answer his request because they were friends: he answered the request because of persistence.

The more we know about God’s Word, the better our prayer life will be. The better we are at claiming God’s promises, the more effective we will be. Such a simple statement, but full of deepness and hard work!

I hope you will join us in 2012 as we read the Bible through. We’ll use “Reading God’s Story”, which is a chronological walk through the Scriptures. I will post reminders on the blog, and will talk about what I’m learning – in addition to our regular Bible study. I hope you’ll be there for all the things God will show us!

See you Wednesday!

16 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 16 December

We’ve taken some time to woodshed. To “navel gaze”. To look inside ourselves and admit how wrong we really are. If you’re like me, the honest sentence ends with the word “mostly”. There are actions I’ve taken that I know are wrong – but I’m trying desperately to justify my behaviors. Are you in the same boat? Have I really asked forgiveness in those instances, or am I just fooling myself? Guess I still need work!

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matt 6:13 (ESV)

Do you think that God really leads us into temptation? Leads us there? Or does He allow us free will, giving us the ability to walk into, or away from, temptation? Can we do it on our own?

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  
Matt 26:41 (ESV)

Where was Jesus when He said this? In the Garden, the night He was betrayed. What was He doing? Praying. Here’s the whole story as told in Matthew:

36  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Matt 26:36-46 (ESV)

Here Jesus, once again, modeled persistence and perseverance in prayer. He knew His life would be cut short. He knew that He would be betrayed – by a close companion. So He prayed. He asked God if it were possible to allow Him to live. But He knew that was not possible, so He said “Your will be done”. He prayed. Even God Himself, in the flesh, knew that without prayer the flesh could predominate and a sin could occur.

That His spirit was willing
But His flesh was weak

If Jesus needed to pray to avoid temptation, how much more do we need to pray?

Of course, God has a promise for us regarding temptation.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor 10:13 (ESV)

Where there is temptation, there is also a way of escape! Do you want to look at something you know you shouldn’t? The way of escape is to avert your eyes – and pray. Do you want to take something that isn’t yours? The way of escape is to turn away – and pray. Do you want to say hurtful things to a friend? The way of escape is to shut your mouth – and pray.
The next verses are from Jesus’ own prayer of intercession in John 17. It is truly “The Lord’s Prayer”. Take the time to read the entire chapter and see how He prayed.

14  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:14-21 (ESV)

Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for all future believers, just before His death. He knew by week’s end He would be dead – and risen! But He took the time to ask for deliverance for His believers. He must think that temptation is very important!

Remember – God won’t give you something you can’t handle. You need to keep your spiritual sword sharpened by reading God’s Word daily, studying, attending church, and most important – praying.

Pray the Bible for wisdom and discernment this week (based on Philippians 1:9-11)

I pray that my love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and discernment so that I may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I’ll see you next week!

14 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 14 December

9  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21 (ESV)

How’s that forgiveness thing going? Are you trying to avoid it or are you “forgiven up”, or like me, are you somewhere in between? I think it’s an ongoing process, and every day God will bring instances to your heart so that you can forgive as He has commanded.

Does the way we treat others affect our prayer life? How does our text tell us we must behave?


Genuine love.
Monetary contributions.
Bless those who persecute me.
Be sympathetic toward others.
Live harmoniously.
Associate with those “beneath me”.
Don’t repay evil for evil.
Let God have the last word.
Be nice to those who are my enemies or aren’t nice to me.

This is opposite of what the world tells us to do. We’re told that we need to “get even”, to take life by the horns and go for the gusto, to try to climb the ladder and look down on others. To live for ourselves and keep what we get.

How do you think that acting like God commands will help your prayer life? I think that the more I can follow God's guidelines, the more empathy I will feel for my fellow man. As I am more empathic, I will naturally want to pray for them. I will try to respond to the needs of others. I will have a more humble spirit. I will be more willing to admit I was wrong. I will be more willing to forgive. It’s a circle – a circle of love outlined hundreds of years ago by a man who was first known as a persecutor of Christians, and then through the intervention of God Himself, shows what a complete transformation can be accomplished when one repents. I’m sure that Paul had many people to whom he had to offer forgiveness for the killings that he endorsed. But he spent much time in jail on trumped up charges, and also for the “crime” of preaching repentance and baptism in Jesus alone. He had many grievances, but he also knew that Jesus modeled forgiving behavior, and he had to do the same.

1 Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2 (KJV)

My sin separates me from God. Hmmmmm. But didn’t He promise: As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Psalms 103:12 (KJV)

Well, wouldn’t that be confessed sin? God expects me to deal with my sins. He expects me to learn from my mistakes – and possibly repeat the same errors – but He expects me to ‘fess up when I’ve messed up. And If I don’t, I’m told that my sins have hid his face from me, that he will not hear. That’s pretty serious. Confession is a big deal to God. And when we confess, what does He promise?

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

So now it’s time to woodshed. Time to get it right with God. Confess your sins to Him. All of them. He already knows; He just wants to hear you tell Him that you were wrong and that you are sorry. He promises that He will clean us up and forgive.

If you don’t already know Christ, He offers the same forgiveness for you. All you need to do is tell Him how sorry you are for what you’ve done to mess up your life, then ask Him to forgive you and come into your heart to be your Savior. He promises to do just that! With His help you will then be able to turn your life around. There IS hope! When you’ve made that commitment, the next steps are to tell someone that you’ve asked Him into your heart (confess) and then to be baptized. If you have questions about any of this, ask me, ask the pastor… ask someone!

This part of the study isn’t so easy. But God is faithful and He will be with you every step of the way. Ask for forgiveness from God. Forgive others just like Jesus modeled – unconditionally.

I’ll see you on Friday.

12 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 12 December

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  Matt 6:12-15 (KJV)

Ouch! I don’t want to forgive her when she’s hurt me. It’s more fun to chew on her offense and get mad over and over again! But that’s not what Jesus tells me I need to do. I need to forgive.

When I stop to think about it, that makes sense. If you hurt me, I should be willing to forgive you. After all, when I hurt you, I want you to offer forgiveness. But it’s not all that easy to do. My human (sin) nature takes over and I want to write a list of all your offenses. That makes me feel justified in my anger. But is that what Jesus modeled? Did He write lists, or talk about how He was hurt? Of course not. He voluntarily went to the cross – just for me – and just for you.  And He makes it clear that I am to model His forgiving behavior. I need some work in this area. How about you?

How serious is this? Can we carry a grudge for the day? The week? The month? Can we worship properly if we have chosen the path of unforgiveness?

23  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matt 5:23-24 (ESV)

That’s pretty harsh! If I am unforgiving toward someone, I am not even to give an offering! Jesus takes this forgiving thing pretty seriously.

As I was writing this, my sin nature took over and I thought of a certain unforgiving person. I wondered if that person knew this verse. It’s so easy to look at someone else and say “See! Told you!” while pointing out a Biblical truth. I need to find out what I have against that person, because clearly I am unforgiving too. What steps do I need to take to become forgiving? Yikes. Convicted by the Bible!

2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matt 7:2-5 (ESV)

This subject is uncomfortable. It’s unfair to me in my sin nature, but of course if God puts an emphasis on it, it does not matter what I think!

I need to spend some time making a list – a list of those to whom I need to offer the unconditional forgiveness modeled by Jesus. Take some time in the next few days to really look at your life and see where you need to offer forgiveness. It’s a necessary, and probably painful, exercise. I’ll see you on Wednesday.