Are You Sanctified?

Are You Sanctified? 

June 6, 2022

Let us prove our reverence for God by consecrating ourselves to Him” 2 Corinthians 7:1 

“Are you sanctified?” bellowed the animated preacher, pointing and sweeping his right hand in a grand gesture to the church. “Are you sure? Are you holy? If you have any doubts you better come down to the altar and pray your way through! God is not happy with any fence sitters tonight. He means business and you better mean business too. You got to be sanctified to make God happy and get a golden key to your heavenly mansion.”

Terrified and confused people flocked to the altar, crying and begging God for the elusive sanctification, fearing they might miss the golden key awaiting those who have achieved sanctification, as the sweat-drenched pastor walked to and fro among them, satisfied with the response to his fear-packed message. Contrary to his threats and confusing statements, God was not happy with him or his misguided sermon. Believers do not receive sanctification as a result of fear or condemnation. 

This very emotional and dramatic pastor should rather have claimed, “Your faith has made you whole and you are all sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit!” 

Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness. 

Romans 6:19  I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 

1 Corinthians I:30-31  God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord. 

1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. 

1 Corinthians 6:11  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 

1 Thessalonians 5:23  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Along with the unimaginable grace and mercy of God’s provision for our sanctification, He also expects us to do our part, to work our faith in day to day circumstances. He has already done the impossible and has assigned us the possible such as making choices and slipping on His armor. We’re at war! 

 2 Corinthians 7:1  Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 

1 Thessalonians 4:3  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality. 

2 Thessalonians 2:13  As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. 

Hebrews 10:10  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. 

Romans 15:16   I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.  

Acts 26:18   I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.  

Sanctification is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. Even so, the Holy Spirit enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions. 

My Treasure

My Treasure
February 12, 2022

“You cannot serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24

His dream had come true, Paul won the $202 million state lottery. He opted for the instant pay jackpot of $142.2 million. He was set for life. He promised himself he wouldn’t be like so many other winners who blew through their millions. Wise investments for him he told all is friends. He thought of himself as pretty cagy with investments and money management. After all, how could he blow through $142 million, even after about 24% in taxes?
Bright and early Monday morning, Paul was in his company’s Human Resources office, giving his two weeks notice. “Paul, do you realize there is a 20% early withdrawal penalty on your retirement package? It’s pretty hefty on yours because of your years of employment. You can leave it alone and let it earn interest until age 65.”
“Thanks, but I won’t be needing it anyway, I just won the $202 million lottery, Jane.”
“Wow. How much is that after early withdrawal and taxes?”
“Well, I actually take $106 million home. But that’s plenty for the rest of my life. I’m not going to just throw it all away, you know. Investments for me. I’ve always been pretty good with money.”
Two weeks later, to mark his retirement and lottery winnings, Paul invited 50 of his friends to a party at the Hilton hotel. Not wanting to be cheap, he hired a band with full catering. He wanted everyone to remember him. The cost was $2,450! He was not going to be like those other losers who threw their winnings away.
After their around-the-world tour, purchase of a $4 million house, $120,000 for two new cars, $80,000 for his new pickup, $135,000 for their splendid yacht, $785,000 for that cabin in the woods they had always dreamed of, Paul and his wife settled in for the perfect life of riches that was flowing their way.
One year later, Paul and his wife were parting ways. She left with her share of the winnings and things they’d bought. Paul was depressed and lonely now in spite of his money and stuff. Five years later, after several business investment failures and a cheating accountant, Paul had $185,000 in the bank and no future earnings. He was only 52-years-old.
The Bible warns us about depending on money, thinking it will bring satisfaction and happiness. It never will because true happiness comes from the joy of knowing the Lord. Worldly happiness is very elusive in this life. Using happiness as a bench mark for contentment will bring disappointment and sometimes, depression. Paul was jubilant when he saw his winning lottery numbers. But a few short years later he was discouraged and depressed.
Matthew 6:19-34 19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. 20 Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. 21 If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.
22 “If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. 23 But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!
24 “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.
25 “So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. 26 Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 27 Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. 29 Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?
31-32 “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, 33 and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.
34 “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.
Worry: Mark 4:18; Luke 10:41; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7; Proverbs 12:25

The Advocate

In the beginning, God created!

“He will give you another Advocate who will never leave you”  John 14:16 
 
The men were wrapping up their weekly Bible study, choosing last minute snacks for the trip home, putting away the fold-up chairs and shifting into another mode of Dad, husband and sports fan. In the midst of this, Norm took Al aside and said, “Do you have time for a question, Al?” 
“Of course. Let me tell John I’ll lock up.” 
Five minutes later the two men sat alone. “I am really confused about the Holy Spirit, Al. Just when I think I understand His purpose, I hear another sermon that sends me in a different direction which makes me scratch my head and wonder. I need some simple guidance to understand the Holy Spirit.” 
“Ok, let’s look at the Gospel of John and follow what Jesus said.” 
John 14:16-17 ~I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 
John 16:13 ~When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 
Acts 1:8 ~But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection. 
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ~Now, concerning what you wrote about the gifts from the Holy Spirit. I want you to know the truth about them, my friends. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God’s message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person. 
“There it is, Norm, straightforward and clear. Jesus told his disciples that He would ask God to send an advocate, a comforter, who would never leave them. Never! And then He tells them He is the Holy Spirit who will lead them into all truth. That is part of His job, leading all followers of Christ, you and me included, into all truth. 
“He goes on to explain that the world, those who do not believe in Christ as Savior, cannot receive the Holy Spirit but you and I know Him because he lives in us! Now that is a mind-bender to think that the Holy Spirit lives in us but it’s true.” 
“When I became a Christian, I was taught to ask God for wisdom each time I opened the Bible, Norm, and I pass that advice on to you. God wants us to know Him, His Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus. I recommend that you take your Bible and read all the verses you can find about the Holy Spirit, ask God for wisdom and believe He will answer you. One day you will be teaching someone too.” 

Book of James

 James 1 

December 11, 2021

“Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds” James 1:2 


James 1:1-4 

“This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”; Jewish believers scattered abroad.
Greetings! 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

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.”

When I was young and foolish—ok, stubborn and self-serving too, I often suffered for my choices. Typically, when caught, I cajoled and moaned, smiled or cried, and begged for mercy. Often, mercy was in short supply. But behind it all, I knew I deserved whatever punishment came my way.

  After accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, of all the differences I may have anticipated, suffering for my faith was certainly not one. Suffering for doing wrong is expected but suffering for doing right? And then considering those sufferings as light and momentary? (2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”) Can I be stretched that far? Won’t I explode? But Lord, aren’t you satisfied with my expressions of faith and times of prayer and reading your Word? 

And then I began to see that accepting trials and tribulations as an element of faith, I was simply following in the footsteps of Christ. He suffered for me and now I can imitate Him. And, oh yes, no complaining please. Count it all joy! Yes, enduring is not good enough, we must learn to count it as joy. 

By the way, He knows we will have worlds of trouble accepting suffering joyfully, that’s where His mercy and grace come into play. He loves us that much.

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold. . .may be proved genuine…” 

1 Peter 4:12-19 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ…”

Romans 5:3-5 “…We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” 

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

Servant Leader

“Speak, your servant is listening” 1 Samuel 3:10

As men we grow and change, learning the traditional rules taught in our society; rules of manly behavior. We must learn to be strong. Learn to face our fears. Learn to strive for success and learn to reject signs of weakness. Those signs manifest themselves in showing our emotions, seeming weak, failing to grab hold of what is ours and wrestling it away from any other contenders. Men are supposed to be formidable foes!

But as Christian men, we must re-learn our manly roles and follow the true manly example, Jesus Christ, who broke the mold of manliness by becoming a servant-leader when He said, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Matthew 20:26-28

Another rugged example of a man was the apostle Paul who described himself in Romans 1:1 as, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus”.

Later, in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Paul describes a situation common to all of us, he is asking God to take away a nagging problem that frustrates him greatly. God’s answer is surprising: “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s answer and Pauls subsequent explanation are total opposites of how we all handle our problems and expect God to rescue us. Often, we secretly expect our Heavenly Father to quickly and lovingly step in and demolish our problems, dust us off and smooth out the road ahead. After all, He is the God who wants to bless us and make life easier. Or so we may think. 

The apostle Peter joins Paul in clarifying our position in Christ in 1 Peter 5:5-7: “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God apposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: “Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve Me must follow Me, because My servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves Me.” John 12:25-26

Trusting God to guide our lives, save our souls and reserve a place with Him in eternity requires faith and obedience. It also requires that we give up our areas of strength so He can work through our weakness as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians: “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling.”  1 Corinthians 2:1-3

It is difficult for us to intentionally walk in weakness, trusting God to give the strength we need. We’ve spent many years attempting to work out whatever problems come our way. But God wants us to give that up and trust in Him because His power works best through our weakness.

Shield of Faith

“In addition to this, put on the shield of faith”  Ephesians 6:16

At first, Allen held his shield of faith high, deflecting those fiery satanic darts, extinguishing them quickly. But as time wore on, his shield seemed heavier and his focus scattered so it wasn’t held as high. A little space is all Satan needs for those darts. He is an excellent marksman.

Time passed, Allen’s attention shifted and his shield dropped lower. More darts hit their mark. Allen seemed less positive about his faith and standing in Christ. He found doubt to be a normal part of his life, replacing faith, gradually dropping his shield. Until finally, Allen didn’t bother to put on his armor at all. His shield of faith was somewhere in the closet, under a pile of doubt and insecurity.

If only I’d (done or not done) that. I should’ve seen that coming; saved more money; got rid of that credit card; been more honest with them; studied harder; finished the project on time— and so the little accusing voice (fiery darts) within our mind goes, piling on guilt and condemnation. The Bible clearly says, however, that therre is no condemnation for believers. Will I listen to the condemning voice (not God) or the uplifting, encouraging one (God)?

Romans 8:1 “So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:14-15 “ Those who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s children. For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!”

Galatians 4:6 “And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit  of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, Abba, Father.”

Romans 8:28, 31 “ Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us?”

John 1:12 “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

God’s rescue is eternal and very personal. He prepared the way by allowing Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, to be crucified so we may experience forgiveness of sins and joy everlasting. Well aware of our weaknesses, He implanted His Holy Spirit in our hearts, our souls— establishing an immediate, incorruptible two-way communication system between us and Himself.

And what of your shield of faith? Is it covered with dings, dents, scrapes and black spots where those fiery darts were extinguished? Or is it shiny and dent-free, tucked away in the closet?

His Blood

“The blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin” 1 John 1:7

I had been a Christian for a short time when Victor Ernest, the pastor of my church told me the following story.

“I grew up in a spiritualist family. We believed that God was working through us and did not know it was actually the devil. We held seances in our home. One member of the family was the Medium who gave themselves to the spiritual force at each meeting. The medium, who was my sister, would slump in her chair as the spirit would talk to the people at the table. We could ask questions and the voice would answer. I was chosen to be the next medium in our family.

“Something inside me (I now know it was the Holy Spirit of God) guided me to a department store one day to buy a Bible. This was totally foreign to me but the guidance was strong. I knew nothing about bibles except I had seen very large ones on people’s coffee tables. I only had enough money to buy a small one (I thought it was just part of the bible).

“Secretly I took it home and began to read. Of course I began at the beginning, trying to understand Genesis, Leviticus, etc. I hid my Bible after each reading. One night, as I opened the bible, I was guided to read in the Book of First John and read about trying or testing the spirits: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.” 1 John 4:1.

“Later I read about the blood of Jesus as follows: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God…For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jersus is the Son of God.

“And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water, and by shedding His blood on the cross— not by water only, but by water and blood.” 1 John 5:1, 4-6

“I wasn’t exactly sure what I had just read or how important a part it would play in my life until a few days later at our next seance.

“Strangely enough, this seance was a question and answer time. After my sister allowed the spirit to take over and she slumped in her chair, a small megaphone raised off the table and floated in the air. It stopped at each person and we were allowed to ask a question. On this night, the megaphone allowed us to ask three questions in total.

“My first question was, Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” I had no idea I would ask this question! I did not know that the Spirit of God was directing me. The megaphone answered, “Of course my son,” and passed on.

My second question was, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior?” The megaphone answered, “Of course my son, why do you doubt?” I was stunned and confused by this time.

My third question was, “Do you believe that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins?” The megaphone fell to the table and my sister was thrown backwards out of her chair. The seance was over and I knew my life would never be the same. Somehow I knew that my spiritual experiences to this point were not of God and I wanted to find out all about God. Shortly after that meeting, I packed my clothes and left home. I was 17. 

Ephesians 1:6-8, “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”

God changed the life of Victor Ernest when He revealed Himself through the Bible and that dramatic question and answer time in his home. Victor learned about the Holy Spirit and the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, which he freely shared for the remainder of his life. God brought me to hear Victor preach the truth of God’s Word. I gave my heart to Christ as a result of his preaching. 

Jesus On The Cross

“Father, forgive them”  ~Luke 23:34

Have you ever been falsely accused?; ever been fired because of false accusations?; lost a romance based on lies told about you?; have you gone to jail because of false evidence?; or have you been sentenced to death based on lies and false accusations?

Jesus has!

Jesus, the only perfect man, is praying on the Mount of Olives, preparing for the horrific next steps essential for our (all people in the world) forgiveness. He understands more vividly than anyone could that he is about to be sentenced to death, mercilessly beaten, nailed to a criminal’s cross and killed. So our sins could be forgiven!

“Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him. He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

Shortly after this, a crowd (chief priests, officers of the temple guard, and the elders), led by Judas the betrayer, appeared. A moment’s pause  and then Judas greeted Jesus with a traitorous kiss. “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man* with a kiss?”

In the jostle that followed, one of Jesus’ disciples whacked the ear off the high priest’s slave. Ever the peacemaker, Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed him. I’m sure that man shared this moment with anyone who would listen for the remainder of his life!

So they arrested Him and led Him to the high priest’s home. The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at Him. 

Jesus was led before the high council and they said, “Tell us, are you the Messiah?” He replied, “If I tell you, you won’t believe me. . .But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.”

After much debating between Pilate and Herod, Pilate tried to have Jesus flogged and released but with a mighty roar, the crowd demanded, “Kill Him and release Barabbas to us. Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. Try to imagine yourself in this position, knowing you are totally innocent. All the accusations are false and all hope of rescue is fading away, you are going to be killed soon!

A few simple words describe the excruciatingly painful experience that followed: “Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with Him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed Him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified— one on His right and one on His left. Amazingly, Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” ~Luke 23:34

As the three men hung grotesquely on their crosses, slowly and painfully dying, one mocked the Lord but the other, sensing something special about Him said, “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Remember, these men are not sitting around a campfire chatting, they are experiencing agonizing death, nails driven through their hands and feet as they suffocate.

Now, imagine we are watching this in a movie and after Jesus speaks to the criminal the camera zooms in for a close up of His face. Jesus lifts His head as we look into His eyes and He painfully speaks, “I am doing this for you.”

“For God loved the world so  much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to be its Judge, but to be its Savior.”

*(in the Gospels, Son of Man is the title Jesus used most often when referring to Himself. He said it instead of “me” or “I.” Son of Man is used 30 times in the Gospel of Matthew.) 

The Lord’s Prayer

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive” Matthew 6:12

We’ve seen it in movies, read it in the Bible as well as other books. And we have recited it from memory over and over again. We’ve learned what has come to be known as The Lord’s Prayer. Reciting these few verses can bring comfort and take away fear. However, reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over can become a meaningless repetition we send up to God hoping He hears and will rescue us from our desperate situation.

Without doubt, the most commonly spoken version of this prayer is as follows:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This model prayer was given by Jesus to his disciples as he taught them how to pray, warning them against uttering vain repetitions, “Don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do.” He then reminds them that, “Your Father in heaven knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him. Pray like this:”

If you are like many people, you may worry about how to pray, what to say because you’ve heard impressive prayers spoken by well known pastors and teachers. Regarding this concern, we simply have to read Romans 8, verses 26-28.

Notice now that Jesus includes forgiveness in His model prayer. Verse 12 says, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Then, immediately following the prayer, He continues in verses 14 and 15, “If you forgive those who sin (modern word for trespasses) against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Is your head spinning? Are you concerned about those who’ve sinned against you that you have not forgiven? Perhaps you’re holding a tiny little grudge. After all, they were completely in the wrong (as we forgive those who sinned against us). How did the Lord answer Peter?

Matthew 18:21 ~”Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

Luke 17:4 ~”If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

Jesus died for our forgiveness. It is essential we extend that forgiveness to any who sin against us. 

Blessings and Suffering

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings” Romans 5:3

How often have you heard it or thought it? It goes something like this, “Friends, God wants to bless you today. He wants you to have that promotion, to get that new house and car. God does not hold back on giving the ones He loves the desires of their hearts.” And then what follows are a few examples that send shivers up our spines as we begin to visualize those “blessings” pouring down from the hand of God. Sort of like a divine vending machine, just waiting for us to break the code and ask for stuff so we can be happy little Christians, surrounded by material blessings that Jesus died for us to receive.

I speak from experience, my friends. I have pleaded with God for things. I’ve lined up all my behavior, prayer time, sacrificial giving (more than ten percent) and helping at church. And yet—no stuff! Then it occurred to me that I was asking God to bless my desires, to bring forth the items as requested. 

Confronting my sinfulness, the Holy Spirit methodically revealed Scriptures which explained just how our Heavenly Father wants us to live. He wants us to know what we should expect, as followers of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:17-18  “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”

2 Cor 4:17-18  “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

These Scriptures, like so many others, snap us to reality; the reality of actually living the Gospel, not just talking about it. Jesus set the example by his beating, torture and death. How can we possibly skip past the shocking sacrifice He made for us to rationalize our materialistic desires? If you want blessings, and that’s just fine, here are examples:

1 Peter 1:8-9  “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

Acts 20:35  “In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

James 1:12  “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

And the most famous and least taught today is found in Matthew 5:3-9  “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

To our Lord and Savior, blessings and sufferings are intertwined as the strands of a rope because, unlike us, His view is eternal. He sees through this temporary life, into the everlasting one. He was able to look through the suffering of the cross to what lay beyond.

1 Peter 4:12-14   “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.”

2 Thess 1:4-8  “We are happy to tell other churches about your patience and complete faith in God, in spite of all the crushing troubles and hardships you are going through.This is only one example of the fair, just way God does things, for he is using your sufferings to make you ready for his Kingdom, while at the same time he is preparing judgment and punishment for those who are hurting you. And so I would say to you who are suffering, God will give you rest along with us when the Lord Jesus appears suddenly from heaven in flaming fire with his mighty angels, bringing judgment on those who do not wish to know God and who refuse to accept his plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we intend on living our lives for Christ, as lights in a dark world, we must shift our focus from this materialistic, self-indulging world to the life of temporary trials and sufferings that refine and strengthen us; trials that replace sinful appetites with Godly desires. Our aim should be to “count it all joy” when we’re beset with trials just as athletes in training are willing to undergo hours of pain and self-denial for the crown that awaits. That crown is temporary while ours is eternal.