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HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 25 (Mt. 6:5-8) “Prayer Motives”


5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
Matthew 6:5-8 (NLT)

DRINK IT IN:
There is no doubt that Jesus brings about a stronger judgement and accountability upon Spiritual leaders. When Jesus was teaching this subject material, the religious leaders must have been present. He called them Hypocrites. The previous post, Hydrate 24, talks about the same motive. This motive of doing anything for recognition. What motivates you to pray? What motivates you to give? Do you pray differently when you are in a private setting than you do when you pray publicly? Why? Jesus may hold spiritual leaders to a higher accountability, but he holds everybody accountable.

As I write this in 2012, I have now been in ministry for the past 20 of my 41 years of life. From my perspective, I have noticed changes amongst pastors over these past two decades. Good changes. I remember when I was in my mid twenties and attending my first pastors conference and we had a breakout prayer session where we gathered into groups of about six to eight for some time of prayer. We were instructed to go around the table and everybody take turns praying. I remember being so uncomfortable as each pastor seemed to want to out-pray the previous pastor. As each pastor prayed, to be followed by another pastor taking his turn, the words became more eloquent and more complicated and more “spiritual” sounding. This prayer time seemed to start a competition of who could outwit, outsmart and outplay their prayer predecessor. It was Prayer Survivor, except there was no prize for the champion. It saddened me. It made me question whether or not I wanted to remain for the rest of the retreat. I did remain, and the rest of the retreat went pretty well. I share this story, because I have attended many more of these retreats in the following years and I have seen more authenticity and less competition when it comes to our corporate prayer time at these retreats. Times are changing. I can only speak for myself, but it seems to me that Christians and Christian Pastors are beginning to be more and more real and vulnerable publicly when it comes to communication and prayer and leadership, and I believe it is a very good thing for the cause of the Kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth. I am convinced that the greatest success for the church is yet to come, and will only come if the churches leaders can be vulnerable and transparent and their greatest motivator be to honor Jesus.

I think that this is what Jesus is saying when it comes to this teaching on prayer. It seems, from this teaching, that Jesus is opposed to praying out loud in public. But, It is obvious from other sections of Scripture that Jesus is okay with group prayers and people praying out loud in a public setting. How do I know this, because Jesus prayed publicly, and sometimes the prayer was said extra loud so that the people around Him could hear what He was praying. The Apostles prayed publicly in the book of Acts. Jesus is not so focused on where we pray, but why we pray.

I think Jesus, for clarification, would add something like this, “if you pray because you like the attention it gets you in public, then you’d be better to not pray than do it for wrong motives.” He might also say something like this, “if the temptation is too great for you to get attention in your prayer time publicly, then retreat to your private closet and pray to the Father secretly, then you will be blessed and God will be honored.” I hope you agree with me in thinking that Jesus would say these things.

Motive matters to Jesus. Motive is an outflow of the condition of our heart. If you are whole in Jesus Christ, if you define who you are based off what Jesus believes about you, and by what Jesus did for you, then you will have no reason to seek approval or grab attention when in public. Motives matter. Motives become very evident when we pray.

Before Jesus actually gives a perfect example of how to pray, He injects one more point into His teaching. In verse seven, He says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”

I grew up in the Catholic religion. I am thankful for some of my Catholic roots. As I am now in the Restoration Movement of the faith of Christianity, I am a better Christian because of my old Catholic roots. When I was younger and in the Catholic religion, I had never read the Bible for myself, and I remember wondering, when I was taught to pray the Hail Mary prayer, why we repeated the same phrases over and over. (I don’t have time in this section to cover what I was thinking about being taught to pray to Mary.) Today, I just refer to the redundancy of prayer. This redundancy is a part of why I quit being committed to Catholicism. I knew God was all powerful and I knew that God knew my very thoughts before I even thought them. I was so confused as to why we had to repeat the same lines, while praying, over and over. As a young kid I remember wondering if my Catholic teachers thought God was hard of hearing and so the more we repeated the prayer, the more likely God would be able to decipher what I was praying. Before, I lose all my Catholic friends, I want to acknowledge that I have been personally guilty of using the same phrases habitually in my private and public prayers. I have seen this repetition and false conversation with God happen in all different faiths, denominations and churches. This is a people problem, not a specific religion’s problem.

Instead of being taught the Hail Mary prayer when I was Catholic, I wish I had been taught this teaching of Jesus. The religious recitation of prayer goes against what the Lord of Lords commands. I think the repetition of prayers insults God. Let me put this in a practical setting. Imagine if I called up my earthly dad on the phone and in my talking with him, I would say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But I don’t stop there.

Next week, I get him on the phone again and I say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But, hold on, to make sure my dad got my point, I call him the very next day and I say to him.”Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

Now imagine I repeat this over and over for the rest of my life. I would not be surprised, for one minute, if my dad never came to visit me. I would think he would be completely irritated with me. If this is how I pray to God, then I’m just not a very good conversationalist. Do I make my point? Please don’t be insulted in what I am writing here, see the error, if you are doing such a thing, and turn your prayers into personal conversations with our relational Father in Heaven.

Now, what about this last sentence that Jesus teaches. In verse 8 Jesus says, ” Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

I have often wondered why God, if He knows exactly what I need before I even ask Him, or as another Bible passage says, knows my thoughts before I think them, then why do I even have to pray at all? And then I had kids. The more my four children age, and I grow in my experience and relationship with them as their father, the more I recognize my Father/Child relationship with my Heavenly Father. I know my four kids very well. Many times my wife and I laugh as we know what our kids are going to say before they even say it. For instance, when we are in the grocery store with our kids, and we arrive at the checkout station to see the lineup of tempting candy and magazines, at the conveyor belt area, we know exactly what our kids are going to ask of us. When I pick up my children from School and then venture home, I know exactly what they are going say as we drive by the local Sonic Restaurant. When one of my kids is on their cell phone with a friend and its a Friday night, I know exactly what that child is going to ask when He gets off the phone. You get the point?

I still want my kids to ask me. I know what my kids need. I know what is good and bad for my kids. I want to bless my children and give them the desires of their heart, and I want them to talk to me about it all. I am a relational dad. I know what my kids dreams are, but I want them to talk to me about these dreams. When I watch my kids compete in their sports games, I watched as they scored and I watched as they made mistakes in the game. I know they are excited about their win or upset about the loss, but I want them to talk to me about it all. I want to hear it from their view point. I want them to sit with me and tell me about it all. I cherish that when it happens. Have you ever been in your car privately with one of your children when they naturally open up and talk to you, and ask you questions, and actually listen to your answers? Its magical. Its healing. Its thrilling. Its relational. As a father I want that from my children. God made us to be like Him. He desires these things as well.

Even when I know what my kids are going to talk to me about. I still want them to talk to me.
I love conversation with the people I love.
Conversation and prayer are the same thing.

Now, go into a private place and converse with your Heavenly Father.
He is anxious to hear what you have to say, even though He already knows what you are going to say.
Tell Him what’s on your heart and mind. Tell Him your hopes and dreams. Tell Him what you are afraid of. Ask Him for things that you desire.
He will enjoy your time and your words immensely.

SWEAT IT OUT:
The next time you pray, do so with an ear to hear what you are actually praying. Do you repeat the same phrases every time you pray? If you do, catch yourself and make a change in your words. Please don’t let your prayer time be just habit and discipline. Can you imagine your child coming up to you on a daily basis and saying, “Hey, my calendar just told me Its time for me to talk with you…I have to talk with you now.” That would be the same as a husband bringing to his wife a dozen red roses on their anniversary day and handing the roses to his wife while saying, “today is our anniversary, I am obligated to get you these roses.” Roses have thorns, they would hurt as they would be thrown in your face for making such a comment, and performing such a dutiful deed. Get it?

If you struggle with being relational in your prayer time with God, then I want to challenge you to try some things outside of your comfort zone. Next time you pray, go to a private place where you will not be interrupted and bring with you an extra chair. Set this chair up and invite God to sit in it, and as you pray imagine Him physically sitting in the chair listening to you. If you have a hard time staying focused in your prayer time, remove your shoes as you pray, and it will help you stay focused as you recognize that your time with God in that moment makes the place a holy place, as you spend time with the creator of the sun, moon and stars.

If you are stuck in a repetitive cycle of praying the same way, the same time, the same words, each day, then practice praying while you are driving by yourself. As you drive, just talk to God as if He were sitting in the seat next to you. People who pull up next to you at the stop light will think you are weird, but who cares! Go for it anyway. If it happens to be somebody you know, and they ask you about it later, don’t lie by telling them you were conversing with someone via speaker phone, tell them straight up, you were praying! This driving practice will help you break ritual habits and make your conversation with God more real-time and relational.

If you have a hard time knowing if you are just repeating phrases or praying in a weird way of any kind, then use the recording device on your cell phone, and when you are praying just record it all, and listen to it later. As you listen to the playback, you will hear things and notice things that will help you be more relational in your prayer time with your heavenly Father.

We all practice things we want to be good at. Practice your praying. You know you want to be good at praying. Practice it.

God wants you to spend time with Him. He is waiting. God never moves far from you. There isn’t anything that will ever make God stop loving you. Knowing that, spend time telling Him how much your appreciate Him. Talk to Him.
Be self aware of your motives.
Pray.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 24 (Mt. 6:1-4) “Secret Service”

“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. 2 “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. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-4(NIV)

After being away on business, Tim thought it would be nice to bring his wife a little gift.
“How about some perfume?” he asked the cosmetics clerk.
She showed him a bottle costing $50.00.
“That’s a bit much,” said Tim, so she returned with a smaller bottle for $30.00.
“That’s still quite a bit,” Tim complained.
Growing annoyed, the clerk brought out a tiny $15.00 bottle.
“What I mean,” said Tim, “is I’d like to see something really cheap.”
The clerk handed him a mirror.

The story above is supposed to be a joke. Albeit, its probably got a lot of truth in it. What motivates you to give? When you give, how do you do it? Would you be seen as somebody who is a great giver? Average giver? Cheap giver? When you give, do others role their eyes as you give it, or do people whisper about the gift, wondering where it came from?

DRINK IT IN:
In this teaching of Jesus, it seems His focus is on motive. The first sentence of this teaching has a critical word structure to it that should give us a hint towards what Jesus is trying to say. Jesus says, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, TO be seen by them.

Jesus is not concerned about us doing acts of righteousness in front of people. How do I know this? Because He says so in another passage of Scripture. In Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Motive matters to Jesus. He makes it very clear. If we do any acts of kindness for the purpose of being thanked, or to get attention of any kind, then that is the only reward we are going to get. I sense a hint of sarcasm in Jesus when he refers to the “hypocrites” around the synagogue and on the streets. I think He is referring to the Pharisees and religious leaders. These men had created a pretty strong negative stereotype with the common man of Jesus’ day. I don’t want to be judgmental, but it seems these people, that Jesus calls hypocrites, might be comparable to the stereotype of a politician today whom enacts laws for the public but doesn’t have to follow them himself. There is a strong push in our country right now about creating a 28th amendment to the constitution that basically declares that congress cannot enact a law unless they have to obey it themselves. I think that would be a good amendment. Without something like this, it becomes very easy for leaders to become hypocrites and act in ways that are embarrassing to themselves and the system that allows it to happen. Jesus can’t stand hypocritical behavior.

Jesus is warning His followers to be people who give and do good deeds for the purpose of honoring the Father Heaven, period. Jesus tells us to do it in secret. I think that you will agree with me that anonymous giving is mysterious and fun. Too often, when we give, and the receiver knows we are the ones who gave it, it turns into an uncomfortable situation where the receiver feels obligated to say thank you and maybe even feels obligated to pay you back in some way or another. I think the best way to avoid this uncomfortable situation is to simply give it anonymously.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Is it wrong to give to the church and in return have your name inscribed on a brick paver, or on a plaque so that everyone can see that you gave to the project? No, it is not wrong. Jesus simply warns us by telling us, that brick or that plaque with your name on it, is the only reward we are going to get for that specific gift. That’s a good reward, but at the cost of a great reward. I love to say, “The enemy of the great, is just the good.” Another good example is this whole idea of thank you cards. My grandma is the queen of giving gifts and expecting thank you card immediately in return. I have even received phone calls from my grandma because I didn’t give her a thank you card for the 20 dollar bill she gave me for a birthday present. That’s an awkward phone call. There is nothing worse than writing a thank you card because I am expected to. I want to write thank you cards, but not because I’m supposed to or expected to. This concept seems to have crept into birthday parties as well. Birthday parties used to about inviting your friends and they would bring some fun gifts. Today it seems that the parents of the kid having the birthday, are required to give party favors and gifts to those who show up. It all seems like a grand showcase to see who can outperform who, so pictures can be taken and pinned on Pinterest or updated on Facebook for the days bragging rights of best giver and provider of a soon to be forgotten experience. All for what? To get up tomorrow and do it all again. I don’t trust the motives behind it all.

Jesus tells us, in other passages of the Bible, to store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. Heaven is eternal, and there is a reward system for all who live eternally in Heaven. Think of it this way with me. Imagine Heaven having an enormous bank in it. You have an account in this bank. I don’t know what form of “reward material” there will be in the bank. That’s what money, in the form of paper and coin is, right? A reward material. So imagine with me that there is a bank in heaven. It is currently accepting unlimited deposits. Everyday, you, through your acts of kindness…done in secret…are depositing into your eternal bank account. When you secretly give a bike to a kid in the neighborhood, Jesus, the banker in Heaven, notices and puts a deposit in your eternal bank account. Every dollar you give towards the work of the Kingdom of Heaven, and given discreetly, is a deposit in Heaven. I personally think, when you give a kind word to somebody discouraged, and you do it without seeking any reward, that Jesus puts a deposit in your bank account in Heaven. When you pull over and help the stranded stranger on the road fix a tire. When you pull the weeds in your neighbor’s yard without anyone seeing you do it. When you pay for the meal of the person behind you in the drive through. When you volunteer at your local church. When you send money to a foreign missionary. When you give a drink of water to a homeless person. When you visit a stranger in the hospital or in prison. The list is unending. These acts of kindness are causing deposits of treasure that is being stored in Heaven for later use! Eternal use.

jesus says, store up for yourself treasures in Heaven. Jesus says, when you give, do it privately, for if you do not, whatever earthly reward you received for giving, is the only reward you will get. Thus, you didn’t get a deposit in your heavenly spending account. Randy Alcorn actually wrote a book about this called the “Treasure Principle,” that I would highly recommend to you for reading. He also wrote a book titled, “Heaven,” that might help you understand what I’m talking about when it comes to “banking” in Heaven. I have found the Bible teaches Heaven in a very different way than what the average person thinks Heaven will be like. Randy Alcorn’s book called “Heaven,” will help you piece it all together from a biblical perspective, and not some false teaching of what others say it is.

So, why do you give?
What motivates you to give?

The answers to those questions determine your eternal rewards and the amount of your eternal rewards that are being stored as treasure in Heaven.

I encourage you to be motivated more by long term investing in this case. The short term investment, the earthly reward, is so short lived.

I want my Father in Heaven to see my secret deeds and then receive the reward from Him.

Something about that thought, makes my heart beat faster.

May your life be filled with anonymous giving and quiet encouragement. Be a sly and sneaky giver. How fun!
What an impact you will make.
The rewards will be even better.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 23 (Mt. 5:43-48) “Perfect”

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT)

DRINK IT IN:
Who do you consider your enemy? When was the last time you prayed for him/her/them? The Bible has a section written by the Apostle Paul, its Romans chapter 12:9-21 (NLT). Please take the time to read the passage and pay special attention to what Paul says we should do with our enemies.

“9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the LORD.

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:9-21 (NLT)

I must confess that it frustrates me that Paul actually wrote and challenges us to, not only pray for our enemies, but pray that God will bless them.”

How hard is that?

PRAY THAT GOD WILL BLESS MY ENEMY? (Paul…are you out of your mind?)

I think you will agree with me that God’s number one concern here is not that my enemy would be blessed. His number one concern, in this occasion, is my heart’s, and your heart’s condition. When our hearts are full of anger, hate, revenge, and darkness, it affects our whole life. When our hearts are filled with hurt and darkness, its very difficult for us to be the kind of people that God created us to be. God wants us to pray for our enemies and pray that they will be blessed so it heals our hearts and helps us be whole. The reality is probably this, you have been thinking about your enemy way more than you would like to. Your enemy is probably not thinking about you much at all. So, when you are continually thinking about your enemy, you are actually allowing your enemy to live rent free inside your head, heart and mind on a continual basis. Its no cost to your enemy that you are thinking about them as often as you do. The more you think about your enemy, the more your heart hardens, your attitude darkens and your life gets out of focus.

Paul, says pray that your enemy will be blessed, because that is how your own heart begins to soften, your attitude brightens up and your life gets back in the focus that you and God want it to be. Everything that I am saying here is actually leading up to the very last verse in the Scripture we are meditating on right now. The verse, I’m referring to is Matthew 5:48, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Perfect? You’ve got to be kidding me! Perfect? I cannot be perfect, and you cannot be perfect. Ever. Right?

It is very frustrating to me that the Bible translators actually translated the word this way. The word really should be translated “Mature” or maybe even better, “Complete.”

The verse reads very different when you replace the word perfect with complete. “You are to be complete like your Father in Heaven is complete.”

When you and I are complete, we need nothing. When we are complete we are full, lacking nothing, fulfilled, whole. Its the “perfect” kind of life we’d like to live. Jesus was complete. Its what allowed Him to go through the torture He went through in His last 18 hours of life as He was whipped, beaten and crucified, and, at the same time, not sin, cuss, fight back, whine, but only offer forgiveness and prayer for His enemies.

While He was being taken advantage of, publicly, and in a humiliating way, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” He could only do this because He needed nothing in His life, but more of the Father in Heaven. Jesus was full. Jesus was complete. Jesus was lacking nothing. Jesus was perfect. Jesus didn’t define Himself by anything except what the Father in Heaven said and believed about Him.

Do you see how perfect and complete go together in this setting.

If you and I only define ourselves based on what the Father in Heaven believes and says about us, it will change how we live our lives. You and I would be able to look our enemy in the eye and walk away from their dysfunction and hurt instead of stick around and fight for something that won’t fulfill us anyway. If you are full, and thus, take your life’s definition based off of what Jesus believes about you, then it doesn’t matter to you what other people say or do to you. You are full. You are complete. Its perfect!

When you are like this, you are able to live your days helping others understand that they can be full, complete and perfect. This is the way to the fulfilled life.

SWEAT IT OUT:
What is it that you need in your life right now?
Do you really need it? Do this test to determine if you really need it…(stand next to a starving child in Africa and tell this child that you need it?)

What do you need to do to fully understand and believe what God says about you? Do you need to read your Bible more and understand that Jesus was the gift that allowed you to live? Do you recognize that Jesus’ death was God’s way of saying He loves you, and all the people of the world, more than anything else? Do you need to make the decision that Jesus loves you and its His love for you that defines you?

When your life is right with God, you can live needing nothing. You can be content. You can be full. Your life and mine are very short. Think about what you were doing just 10 years ago. Seems like it was just yesterday. My life and yours are but a vapor. Here today and gone tomorrow. There is nothing we can do about that, other than live a “perfect” life.

The things you worry about, the people whom hate you, the problems you face. Yes, they are frustrating, but are they worth all the trouble we allow them to bring in our lives? No. Start doing whatever is necessary to break free from these frustrating things. The first thing, you must start doing to accomplish this, is begin to pray that God will bless your enemy. Pray that God will use the problems you face to make you a better a person. Pray that God will use the circumstances, that cause you to worry, to make you trust Him more, so you won’t worry about them anymore.

God is in control of all things. You either believe that and act like it or you don’t. Do your actions verify that you really do believe that God is in control? Even in the middle of total tragedy, God is in control. Even in the middle of the worst thing that has happened to you, God can turn it for good, if you will work with Him by trying.

Someday you will join Jesus and look Him in eyes and nothing else will matter. Start living that way now. Make the decision to be full.

You can be perfect. Jesus commands you to be perfect. When you get this and live it out, you will be acting like true children of the Father in Heaven. Our world, that is so separated from God, needs to see the lives of the true children of God being lived out before their very eyes. You can be this to the world. This would make you perfect, in the sense that Jesus means perfect. This would make you complete!

Puts a new meaning to, “You complete me!”
Nobody can do that for you, but Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lord’s and King of Kings.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 22 (Mt. 5:42) “Give & Lend”

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Matthew 5:42 (NIV)

DRINK IT IN:
I’m going to write three True or False statements and after you read each one, please answer it according to your opinion.

1. T or F — Our possessions should mean absolutely nothing to us.
2. T or F — I should obey God when I don’t understand why.
3. T or F — Jesus wants me to be and behave just like Him.

I hope you answered the questions above. I did, and I want to share my answers. I answered the first one, False. Our possessions are gifts to us from God and we are to steward them with great responsibility and therefore they have meaning and importance to us. However, I suppose one could answer this with a “True” as well, and I think I would understand where you are coming from, especially spiritually. If you answered number one with True, then I’m sure you and I could have a great discussion about why we answered this question differently. (There is a Hydrate Devotion coming in the near future, about material goods and giving, and I’ll discuss this issue more then.) Back to the questions. I answered number 2 and 3 the same. Both, to me, are true.

This command found in Matthew 5:42, in my opinion, is about Jesus trying to develop us to be more and more like Him. I heard a good friend of mine, named Eric, preach a message about the 10 commandments. Eric said that he believed the 10 commandments were given to the Israelites to help them relearn what it means to be human again. He went into detail, in his message, about how the Israelites, after spending more than 400 years in Egypt as slaves, had forgotten how to be human. He talked about how after 400 years of being forced to do what they were told by Pharaoh, that they had been sort of brainwashed into never having to think for themselves as slaves. They had been trained to behave like machines and Pharaoh was the one pushing their buttons.

So when God, broke them out of Egypt, using Moses to lead the way, He had to give the 10 commandments to help all these “machines” relearn some basic human-like principles, so they would know how to behave, now that Pharaoh was no longer there to tell them. I mean, think with me here. Did you ever think why God needed to write down things like, “obey your parents, do not murder, do not lie, do not steal, take a break every seventh day, etc?” The Israelites had forgotten how to be human. They needed God to give then some direct commands, that they could keep close to their hearts and minds, so that they would be reminded to act like the people He created them to be. Human.

So, what is it about us/people, that Jesus is still giving us commands, like he was thousands of years ago to the Israelites? I’m wondering about how easy it is for us to forget what it means to be human. Let me ask it this way. Why did Jesus command us to “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”? I mean, how much of a “duh” command is that? I want to sarcastically ask Jesus, “What are we, two year olds?” And then when I think about my sarcastic question, if Jesus were in my presence when I asked it, I wouldn’t be able to look Him in the eye, because I would know what the answer is to my sarcasm. Yes, too many times I behave like a 2 year old does and yes, I need to have commands from my Lord to remind me how to behave.

So, I have answered my question, as to why Jesus needs to give us these simple commands. Its so we can be reminded to behave like Jesus created us to behave. To be human. Without commands like these, all too often we fall into the trap of gripping everything in our lives with white-knuckled grips while screaming, “MINE!” If we never had a command like this one that I am writing about today, then we would all naturally keep falling away from being human, which would cause us to behave more and more like animals. People acting like animals does not lead to better societies.

The command that Jesus gives here is very straight forward. There isn’t anything about it that is open for discussion. It is crystal clear. So, when a guy who smells of alcohol and is wearing torn clothes approaches you at your local corner gas station, while you are pumping gas, and asks if you would give him a dollar, what do you do? According to Jesus, what are we supposed to do? Does Jesus tell us, in this command of His, to think about whether or not the man is going to buy more alcohol with it? Does Jesus command us to be careful about giving that dollar because if we give it, we actually will be hurting him and training him to live off a welfare system? Does Jesus command us to question the man as to whether or not he’s going to buy drugs with it? No, Jesus said, “give to the one who asks you.”

Are you thinking to yourself the following thoughts?
“But, Trent…what if my helping the man actually hurts him in the long run, because it doesn’t teach him to work and help himself? But Trent…if I just give him money, I’m not teaching him to be responsible? But Trent…he’s just going to use the money I give him to buy….”

I answer those thoughts with this question. What did Jesus command you? “Give to the one who asks of you.” Immediately…our machine kicks in…our non-human machine of a brain kicks in and starts with the…”but…”

In a previous post I said, “Don’t be a but!” Yes…I spelled that right. Don’t be a but.

Its God’s job to control. Its God’s responsibility to deal with the guy who buys drugs with the money. By the way, that amount of money we give when the guy asks for it, whatever the amount…its not our amount. Its not ours, period! That’s God’s money.

What does Jesus command?
“Give to the one who asks.”
Again…
What does Jesus command?
“Give to the one who asks.”
One more time…
What does Jesus command?
“Give to the one who asks.”

Do you have the authority to change anything about that command? Me either.

Is it possible that Jesus is more concerned about what’s going on inside your heart, when you choose not to give the dollar, than He is about what happens if you give the dollar, and the guy spends it on something he shouldn’t?

SWEAT IT OUT:
Give to the one who asks.
The principle is the same when it comes to the second part of the command.
“Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

If you have the ability to lend, then why wouldn’t you. If you can lend it, then you can give it. So when you lend, its good to use wisdom and common sense about how it will be paid back. The Bible talks about lending it without interest. We’ll talk about that in another Hydrate post later. For now, if you can lend it, you can give it.

So, lend it. Make a plan for it to be paid back, but if it doesn’t get paid back, are you going to let it ruin your short life? I hope not. If you can lend it, you can give it. Its not our money. Its God’s money.

Give to the one who asks.
Let God sort it out from there.

Giving and Lending is about the condition of your own heart. God is concerned about your heart’s condition. He is also concerned about the heart of the one whom you give the money to. Its His job to change that person and direct that person. Not yours.

God wants you to be human. Humanity is warm. Machines are cold. Humanity is alive. Machines look alive, but they really aren’t. God made you to be like Him. Alive, breathing, giving, loving, growing, stretching, inspiring, vicarious…human…just like He created us to be.

Did God give? Did Jesus give? Yes! When God and Jesus gave…did they control what we did with the gift? No! We are created to be like them.

All the commands that Jesus commands of us are really not complicated or overwhelming. They are simply human. If you are struggling with any of these commands, then what you are really struggling with, is control and robotic or animalistic behavior. You are not an animal or a robot. You are created in the image of God to be like Him. You are created in the image of God to be like Him. You are created in the image of God to be like Him.

You are going to encounter people today who are going to ask from you. Are prepared for it?

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Jesus said it.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 21 (Mt. 5:41) “Two Miles”

41 “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
Matthew 5:41 (NIV)

In the previous two posts, Jesus commands us to “turn the other cheek” and “give until you are naked.” I have presented a different way to think about these commands from Jesus, by using and understanding the Hebrew Culture that Jesus grew up with. This passage about going two miles when asked to go only one is no different from the previous two posts. I want to present an ancient Roman law that Jesus would have been familiar with that I think He is referring to in this command.

DRINK IT IN:
The ancient Roman law I am referring to is called the Law of Angaria. You can do a search via the internet and find all kinds of information about this ancient rule. The Law of Angaria was enacted as a way to keep the Roman Empire from looking uncivilized. The Roman Empire wanted to be known as a dominating force, yet civilized. So, the Roman Empire adopted a law that the Persians created. This law gave authority to any Roman official…Military or not…to require of any person or vessel, living in Roman occupied territory, to carry anything the Roman official needed carried, but only for one mile. (If we got really technical, 1000 steps) If the official was caught having the person carry something more than a mile, he could be reprimanded, demoted and in some cases potentially put to death. The Law of Angaria is what the Romans used when they forced Jesus to carry his own cross. Its fascinating to know, that the distance between the place where Jesus was put on trial and the actual crucifixion sight (Golgotha or Skull Hill), was right at one mile. There are arguably two location where Golgotha is located, and both locations are right at one mile of distance from the Trial location.

So, Jesus tells his listeners,”If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Is it possible that Jesus is being a bit ornery here? You have to agree with me that it is likely. Again, to repeat what I said in the previous two posts, Jesus does command us to be as sly as a snake and innocent as a dove. He does tell us to conquer evil by doing good.

Imagine an arrogant Roman officer demanding that you carry his pack for one mile. He has the right to do so because it is the law of the land. You, as a Christian, comply and you do exactly as the Roman officer commands you. As you traverse with the Roman officer for a mile, he would expect you to stop and return the pack. Imagine, without saying a word, you continue carrying the pack and you cross the one mile threshold. Not only are you doing an act of service and kindness to this Roman officer, that used the law of the land to take advantage of you, but you now have strategically and legally caused this Roman officer to be at your mercy. Its a double win for the Christian! Of course, as a Christian you are not going to mistreat this travel partner of yours, but you most definitely have the upper hand now. He knows he could be demoted for this situation and you now have the control. I have read about early Christians and have ventured across some stories of Christians walking the second mile with Romans and using the extra time to tell of the story of Jesus as the Son of God and the only way to Heaven.

I assure you, that after this happens once to any Roman, he would not use the Law of Angaria on a Christian again.

Be as a sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.
Conquer evil by doing good.

The early Christians had quite a reputation in the Roman Empire. A good and strong reputation. It fueled a great fire of hate within the belly of the bully. It caused unbelievable persecution upon the Christians. That very persecution, caused the message of Jesus, to spread like a wildfire out of control. Except it was controlled. God had it right where He wanted it.

SWEAT IT OUT:

Is there someone in your life who is trying to dominate you? Figure out a way to strategically and lovingly put them in their place. Do it without sinning. Our world needs more demonstrations of the strength and holiness and wisdom of Christianity. Be very careful with this. Remember that you and I are always one decision away from blowing our credibility. This also means that you and I are always one decision away from hurting the credibility of Jesus.

Romans 12:20 (NIV) says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

I think it is fascinating that the author actually writes the part about heaping burning coals upon their head. That’s ornery. That’s strategic. Its not nice. Yet, according to the Bible, its not wrong!

Somewhere along the way of life, we confused the love of Jesus with simple nice-ness.

So, you know your circumstances. You know most of the people you encounter everyday. Right?

So, as you encounter these people today and tomorrow and the next, what do they think of Jesus because of you and your actions? Are they inspired by your strength, strategy, humility, boldness, wisdom, servanthood, innocent conquering ability?

Go inspire!