:::: MENU ::::
Posts tagged with: Bible

Christian Cannibalism

I recently and regrettably entered into a Facebook thread that I wish I would have never even seen. It was impossible for me to miss. I pulled up Facebook on my computer and it was literally the first post my eyes connected with. I think God wanted me to see it. It disturbed me all day. It reminded me of something that is terribly wrong with our Christianity. I have, in the past, been guilty of it and I think that’s why I am so bothered by it. When I was guilty of it, I was younger, and arrogant, and pretty quick to be critical and I lacked compassion. Let me share a part of what I first read when I set my eyes upon Facebook. It was posted by a Pastor and members of his church followed his lead. Throughout this blog post, anything “blocked in” is an exact quote from the Facebook thread I am referring to.

“I have observed over the years concerning ministry leadership. Accountability is a great thing. The truth is not everyone wants to be accountable to someone. Men do not like to be governed. But I believe if pastors were more accountable to other pastors it would prevent a lot of ungodly behavior and harness the rebellious, independent and selfish inconsiderate attitudes that seems prevalent today. Accountability would mean that you allow someone into your life to question you, to give you wisdom. You give them permission to speak into your life. You cant correct someone you don’t have a relationship with.”

What is written above, in my opinion, is very accurate and right on. Accountability is a great thing. Everybody needs accountability. If the post would have stopped with just what is written above, I would have enjoyed the post and been challenged by it. I would have been encouraged by it. It would have caused me to double check where my checks and balances are and what health they are in. But the author of the post didn’t stop there. The paragraph below is the finishing touch the author chose to express. It is his finishing touches that have inspired this blog post.

“These men cower from true friendships because they want to do it all on their own. They want to be the entrepreneur. They want to say “I did it my way.” Or worse, they are hiding their private sin. If you do try to correct them, they will call you religious, a zealot, a Pharisee. You can’t win with certain people. They don’t want to submit. They don’t want to be accountable to you….they want to be superior. They want to hide the secrets of their hearts.”

The author of the paragraph above is a Christian Pastor. He is publicly writing about Christian Pastors and Christian Ministry Leaders. The second half of the author’s post is highly critical, judgmental and an irresponsible action due to the very nature it is posted for the whole world to read. I completely understand that there seems to be an epidemic level of Pastors having moral failures in our culture today. I am in full favor of accountability. I am not disturbed by the fact that the author of this Facebook thread I reference is screaming that we need more accountability. I’m disturbed, deeply by the fact that the Facebook post I quote above is something that I would fully expect to originate from a secular author, a critical atheist, or at least from Kathy Griffin. If it were written from any of them, it would have been expected, but for this to be posted by a fellow Christian and Pastor is only what I could call Christian Cannibalism at its best. It is said that Christians seem to be the only ones who shoot their own wounded. Why is it that so many Christians are so nasty with other Christians? Why do we bicker about things in such a public fashion. When this happens we only hurt our own cause for Jesus Christ.

The Facebook thread, I refer to, was inspired by the actions of a pastor who was caught in sin and it hit the headlines in the local newspaper. The news of another failure brought the cannibals out for a fresh bite of fallen Christian flesh.

Sin is appalling, by no means does my post make light of any kind of sin. I give no excuses for sin. My post is about the sin being committed by a group of people who are publicly condemning a fellow Christian for his own sin. It is no surprise to anybody that everybody has sinned and falls short of God’s holy standard. The Bible confirms this in Romans 3:23. However, what is actually more appalling to me is public judgement and shaming of Christians by fellow Christians. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am very familiar with the passages in 1 Corinthians 5 about being commanded by Paul to judge one another as Christians. What is disturbing to me is doing it before the eyes and ears of the unchurched on Facebook. Paul actually warns of such cannibalistic behavior in 1 Corinthians 6:1

“If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?

The passage above is technically referring to lawsuits, however, the principle of the matter is the same. I think that Paul is saying, “air out your dirty laundry privately, please don’t do so in front of unbelievers.” To take it even further, Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:15 to personally/privately confront a person who has offended us. Jesus said that if the offender doesn’t listen, then take two or three others with you, if the offender still doesn’t respond then go with the elders of the church. If there is still no change, after the privately grouped confrontation meeting, then Jesus says to treat the person like a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. By the way…HOW DID JESUS TREAT PAGANS AND CORRUPT TAX COLLECTORS?

The Facebook post written by Christians that took a fallen Christian leader and rubbed his face in the mud publicly, is simply what is called Christian Cannibalism. It is epidemic amongst Christians and if Jesus is to ever use us effectively, we must stop this disgusting eating habit.

As I, regrettably, tried to squelch the cannibals from continuing their public feast, I found myself the target of their starvation. The group didn’t know who I was, but the Pastor did. The group accused me of not living in the real world. They said, without knowing who I was, “that I didn’t have clue and obviously had never been hurt by a Christian leader before, and that if I had, I would be in full agreement with them. They said, I “lived in a different world than they did.” My gut hurt from that response, because I have partaken, erroneously, in christian cannibalistic feasts back in my stupid days. I am glad that my heart hurt as a result of this Facebook thread, because it verified that I have grown in my lacking areas of compassion and wisdom, and it hurt me to see this group repeating mistakes that I wish I had never made. One lady typed into the Facebook thread…

Too many people have left church because of corrupt leaders! Thank God there are still godly ones!

Again…I do not question the truth of her Facebook comment. It just chills me to imagine what unbelieving bystander might be reading the cannibalistic frenzy, and what they might be thinking about how Christians behave and treat one another…especially the wounded and fallen. The world knows that Christianity has dirty laundry, and it doesn’t help anyone, when the Christians want to hang that dirty laundry in everybody’s front yard, and then yell at each other from their front porches while their unbelieving neighbors watch. Its a freak reality TV show, just minus the TV. The lady’s who I quoted above about too many leaving because of corrupt leaders, seems alarmingly blind to the dangers of her own behavior and its effect on people who are checking out the church. The pot seems to be calling the kettle black.

What is shocking to me, and curiously has me asking a question of the lady of the last quote, is, “how does she know her pastor is one of the “godly ones.” Didn’t the congregation of the fallen pastor, believe he was “one of the godly ones,” before he got caught in his sin?

Its a whole other blog post for another time, but the members of the Church have struggled with loyalty to people and pastors way too often instead of keeping their loyalty and followership on Jesus. He’s the only who can really be declared, “Godly One.” The rest of us…well, not so godly.

When I asked the group to be more kind to the fallen Christian leader, I mentioned that it seemed fair that Christian leaders have a special target on their backs that the devil loves to shoot at. Christian Pastors are high on the devil’s hit list. I typed, that it made sense, to pray for our Christian leaders, especially the fallen ones, and not publicly attack them. That only seemed to fire up the Christian mob even more, one lady gripped her fork and knife and licked her lips for another bloody bite and replied…

oh yes! blame it on the devil… boo hooo hooo! the devil made me do it!

There was no good in the Facebook thread I was engaged in. I immediately went to each post I had typed and removed myself from the thread.

I don’t have some creative line to end this post. I’m saddened by it all. The older I get the more I recognize that we all need Jesus stronger and stronger living inside of us. God never intended the world to be this way, and God commanded his followers to never behave this way.

If I were the devil, I would be targeting the Pastor who started this Facebook thread and who also has a very diligent and passionate and “hungry” following. If I could get this pastor to screw up too, then all his followers will be so heart sick that I would win some huge battles in striving to pull people from Jesus.

We must stop following people, and simply appreciate each others gifts within the body of Christ. I have personally experienced what happens when a large group of people put their faith and hope in me as a pastor and then the instant I am gone from the scene, it all falls apart. The solution for every Christian is to keep our eyes on Jesus. He is our Lead Pastor!

Most of all…what must stop…is the cannibalistic behavior amongst us as Christians. Jesus warns us about not being able to get into the Kingdom of Heaven if we have hate towards our Christian brothers and sisters. The public bashing of each other must stop. We must handle ourselves like Jesus commands in Matthew 18:15. We must forgive one another and carry one another’s burdens.

Jesus also commands us to treat others like we would like to be treated. If I blew my credibility because of sin, I sure would hope that people would not publicly bash me on Facebook. Would I deserve it? Yes. But does that make it right? No. I would hope that my Christian brothers and sisters would surround me and privately kick my butt and at the same time love and restore me in whatever amount of time it would take.

As Christians we must stop the cannibalism. We must stop shooting our wounded. The Bible says, that we will be known by our love.

Since I’ve been quoting the great Apostle Paul throughout this post, it is fitting to finish with one more of his writings. Its Colossians 3:16-17, “16Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17And whatever you do or say, (or type in Facebook threads), do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

I love you, and I commit to do my very best to always demonstrate my love for you.
Be patient with me as I continue to get better at doing it.
I will work on being patient with you.
Deal?


Hydrate — Winning from the inside 34 (Matthew 7:3-5) Judging Part 2

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:3-5:

In my previous post, Hydrate 33, I wrote about how God has commanded us as the church to judge one another. If that sounds surprising to you, then I encourage you to read that entire post #33. Its long, but hopefully very educational for you, thus worth it.

This post is simply a part two of the last one. Please notice in this passage from Jesus that He does not tell us that we should not judge. He simply says that if we are going to judge others, then we must make sure we aren’t being hypocritical.

The Bible tells us, as Christians that we are to be the Light of the world and the Salt of the earth. That means we are to be purifiers. In order to purify we must first be pure. In order to be light we must first rid ourselves of darkness.

That is all Jesus is saying.
Are you in the habit of telling others where their faults are, but you are totally lacking self-awareness of your own faults?
If this is the case for you, you will be fruitless when it comes to influencing other people for the cause of Jesus Christ.

I am listing some Biblically mentioned sins below. Use the list to do a sin check in your life. If you are actively continuing in any of the sins below then please keep your mouth shut to others about how they should live their lives. You’ll only cause more damage to the Cause of Christ than good. First conquer the sins in your life, and then be a purifier for Jesus. Here’s the list.

1 Corinthians 5:11,  “I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer* yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-20, “9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead.
15 Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! 16 And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.”* 17 But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.
18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

If you would like to see what other sins the Bible lists, then the list below is the listing of every Bible verse in the New Testament that lists specific sins that we are to conquer as Christians. (When you see the letters “ff” in the passage reference it simply means, “and following verses.”

2 Corinthians 12:20-21
Romans 1:29ff, 13:9-13
Galatians 5:16-25
1 Peter 4:3
James 3:14
Ephesians 5:3ff
Colossians 3:5ff
2 Peter 2:3-14ff

The BIble is not for the faint of heart! God desires a high standard of living and He asks us as Christians to hold each other accountable and judge one-another in love about how we live our lives. (He never asks us to judge people who are not Christians.)

Make sure you are holy, before you call other people “unholiness” out. And when you are living righteous and you begin to challenge others, please do it with love.

I’ll close this post with 1 Peter 3:15-16, “15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.* Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!”

When it comes to helping others conquer their sin, as you conquer your own, use gentleness and respect.
Christianity has lost its sense of judgment. It is killing the Church.
Learn to judge the way Jesus teaches us to.
Its a tough thing to do.
It won’t make your popular, but it will make you like Jesus.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 27 (Mt. 6:14-15) “Forgive”

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Is God forgiveness conditional? According to Jesus, Yes, forgiveness is not something you receive just because Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins. This is a tough teaching. Jesus’ death on the cross ended God’s anger towards mankind for sin and satisfied God’s character trait of Justice. (Thank God that He is also Mercy.) Jesus’ death doesn’t automatically grant us forgiveness. We have to go to Jesus, then through Jesus and be made new in Jesus. We have to accept Jesus as Lord of our life. We have to receive His blood. This is where forgiveness is received as the free gift that it is.

But…

What if, I have done all those things…is it still possible to not receive Jesus’ forgiveness? I will ask you to answer that question yourself after you read a few passages of Scripture. Here are some passages to help us answer this question.

Matthew 18:23-35 (NLT)
Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone* who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!*
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.* 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.* He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters* from your heart.”

Question: Did the servant receive forgiveness? The answer is yes. Did the servant have his forgiveness revoked? The answer is yes. Why did the servant, after receiving the status of forgiven, return to the status of unforgiven? The answer is, because the forgiven servant refused to forgive someone else.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
Jesus said, “14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Those two passages give me clear proof that if I refuse to forgive anyone, then God will not forgive me. It’s unimaginable to me that anyone would beg for forgiveness from God and at the same time refuse forgiveness to others who have sinned against us.

Our forgiveness is tied in directly with our willingness to forgive those who have sinned against us. Anybody I have spoken with about this agrees, until they have personally been hurt. Its easy to tell others that they need to forgive. Its not so easy to do it ourselves. So maybe the next few thoughts will help all of us understand why un-forgiveness is like a nasty disease and the quicker we forgive, the healthier we will be personally.

Un-forgiveness not only hurts ourselves but also the person who hurt us. In most cases when someone sins against us and hurts us deeply, the person who hurt us doesn’t sit around thinking about us. The person who hurt us, more likely than not, is not waking up every morning thinking about us. People who cause deep pain, usually do so because they have a tendency to think selfishly. If this is the case, and the person who hurt us is not thinking about us, but we are frequently thinking about the person who hurt us, then we are actually hurting ourselves. Pain makes us think about who, what, why and when we are hurt. Its very time consuming.

With un-forgiveness in our heart, we are consumed by the one who hurt us. I’ve heard it said that thinking about the person who hurt you is like letting that person live in your heart rent free. Again…they are not thinking about us much at all. We are dwelling on them and how they hurt us. It begins to fester. Its all consuming. We find ourselves lashing out at others. Why? Because of un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness means we don’t heal. Without healing, there is still pain. Pain makes us focus. If we have un-forgiveness towards a person who hurt us then we will focus on the person and the pain. Focus is commitment. We become what we are committed to. If we are committed to feeling the pain and not giving forgiveness then we will become people of pain and un-forgiveness. You will become a person of hurt. Hurt people, hurt other people, or as I like to say, “hurt people, hurt people.

I know we do not want to be hurt people that go about hurting other people. The temptation is to think that the anger we feel inside is good. The temptation is to enjoy the anger feeling we have inside. Sometimes it can make us rage internally and sometimes outwardly. Watch enough Hollywood movies and you will actually begin to believe that the rage and anger you feel is empowering. You will think it feels good and makes you powerful. It makes us think we are strong. It will tempt you to seek revenge and you will begin to believe your revenge is justified. Do you see how dangerous this is? Compare it to man who is taking steroids. He is injecting a chemical inside his body that makes him bulk up and look good. His muscles grow and he becomes an impressive specimen. However, he is poisoning his body. That same steroid that made us all think this person is extremely healthy actually causes him to die. Sterilization, bouts of rage and emotions that are out of control, are all side effects of steroids. But the user thought it was all good. This is what un-forgiveness does to us. Its slowly kills us from the inside or causes us to physically lash out and have sinful reactions.

Mother Theresa said it best, “Un-forgiveness is like you drinking poison and hoping it kills the person who hurt you.”

So what must we do to rid ourselves of un-forgiveness? We have to give forgiveness. Now, in full transparency, I have never felt like forgiving someone who has hurt me. If we are waiting on the feeling to come around, it won’t. Forgiveness is an act of discipline. Forgiveness is an act of sheer holy will. Forgiveness is a choice to be healthy. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult decisions we can make.

I hope the following thoughts will help us give forgiveness to the one(s) who have hurt us. First of all we are dying a slow death if we don’t forgive. It will rot us. Think about this. Just because we forgive someone doesn’t mean they just get off without any consequences. A murderer who is about to receive a lethal injection for his crime can be forgiven by the family of the loved one he murdered. But he still receives the lethal injection. If a family member wounded me deeply, I can forgive the person, and I will be smarter in my dealings with this person from now on. I will create boundaries. If a woman has been abused by a family member, she can forgive that family member, and from that point forward not spend any more time with her abuser. To forgive someone doesn’t mean that we have to be in each others company in the future. If we have been hurt by someone, forgive them and then create boundaries. Don’t forget that God is a god of Restoration. He deeply desires us to be in healed and holy relationships. God desires for you to forgive and restore, but God also understands that if one of the parties doesn’t honor the new boundaries set, then God doesn’t expect us to stay around abusive and unholy behavior. Especially if the person who is abusive and displaying unholy behavior calls themselves a Christian. Be smart with this. Don’t trust your feelings on this issue. Trust God’s Word and common sense. We may need to seek some trustworthy counsel from holy friends or seek a good Christian counselor to advise us on these life altering issues.

The critical factor in all this is to triple check our motives as to why we are creating boundaries as we give forgiveness and work on whatever this restored relationship is going to look like. If we are creating boundaries to control and hurt the person back, then we truly haven’t given the person forgiveness and we now are having sinful reactions towards the person who hurt us. How? All control, judgement and praise belong to God only. If we ever do anything for the purpose of control, praise or judgement then we are taking the role of God. If we do this, even if we won’t say it, our actions are screaming, “I am God!” As we create boundaries for the person who hurt us, we must carefully guard that we aren’t actually having sinful reactions of control and judgement.

Forgiveness ultimately frees us from the prison we have been trapped in. If we are trapped in a prison of forgiveness then we must recognize that we hold the keys to our freedom in our own hands. The keys that unlock our jail cell of un-forgiveness are in our hands. The key is forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to let the person who hurt us go. By doing this they can no longer live in our hearts rent free. We unlock ourselves from the prison we have been in. A popular “churchy” phrase is “let go-and let God.” When we forgive we release this person into the hands of God and trust that God will do what is right to and for that person. If we try to control the situation because we believe that God will be too kind to the person, then we actually believe that God will make a mistake and that we can do a better job of making this person face the consequences they deserve. Again, if we do this, we actually act as if we are God. We think we can do a better job than God. How dangerous is that?

If what I have written above still is not helping us grant forgiveness to the people who have hurt us, then here is my last desperate attempt.

I am going to write this as if I am talking directly with you.

Have you ever hurt someone?
Do you agree that what you did to hurt that person was a sin?
Did Jesus die to pay for your sin?
Did Jesus die to pay for the sins of the person who hurt you?
As I personally answer the four questions above…The answer is yes to all.

Forgive.

How.
Write a letter.
Send a text.
Facebook Message.
Skype.
Phone call.
Personal visit.

We cannot control how the person will respond when we tell them we are forgiving them. They may not even know that they hurt you. They may get angry, lash out, try to hurt more. Don’t worry about or try to control how they respond. Remember forgiveness is for us to be free. Give forgiveness. Live free.

Don’t forget 1 John 1:9(NLT) I would recommend that we all memorize it. “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Forgive.
Be Forgiven!
Its the good life.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 26 (Mt. 6:9-13) “Lord’s Prayer”

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Matthew 6:9-13

Do you think Jesus was direct and to the point? I do. In Hydrate 25, Jesus told us to not babble when we pray. Throughout the gospels in the Bible, it is clear that Jesus was direct. There are only a few occasions where Jesus spoke for a long time. Matthew 5 is the longest and we call that passage the sermon on the mount. I wrote a devotional book called Retweeting Jesus where I wrote about 14 phrases that were tweetable. My point is that Jesus was a man of focus. He still is today. I think you would agree with me that we as a people living in this world are losing focus. We need to be refocused. Jesus is the best candidate we should look to when it comes to focus. Today, during this study, I hope that you will use the Lord’s Prayer to help you focus. In fact, I am asking you to find a quiet place and spend 15 minutes or more to pray. I hope you will use this material to help you focus during your time of prayer. To help you focus, I ask that you remove your shoes, and, like I recommended in Hydrate 25, get an empty chair and set it in front of you and imagine God sitting in it as you pray through the Lord’s Prayer to Him sitting in the chair.

Jesus teaches us to pray. He tells us how to get started, what to say in the middle and how to end. This is the Lord of Lord’s and King of Kings giving us an example of how to pray. There is no better teacher! So today, pray like Jesus asked you to.

Let’s get started.

Jesus says when you pray…pray like this.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

In your prayer to the Father, simply acknowledge God. When you call me on the phone, or send me an email, you acknowledge my name which tells me that you are directing your message or communication to me. “Hey Trent…how are you.”

Do this for God.
Address God and then spend a few minutes thinking about all the “Hallowed” things of God. Spend the next few minutes simply thinking out loud all the titles, and wonderful traits about God. Give God praise. Do this to the empty chair where God now has taken a seat. It might feels weird, but stretch yourself. I believe God will take a seat in that chair and enjoy your company. When I do this, I always wish He would reveal Himself to me physically. I’ll bet it would rock my world!

When you are satisfied with the number of compliments you have given our Lord, then move on as Jesus says to.

“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Spend a few moments in silence thinking about Jesus coming back today. (Your kingdom come.) Let Him know you are excited to meet Him face to face. Then, spend a few moments speaking out loud to God about what you could do for the people you are going to encounter today and tomorrow and what you could do to bring a piece of Heaven on earth for them. How can you serve them, react to them, forgive them? How can you show the people around you that God’s Kingdom and His people are alive and well today and making Heaven come to earth? When finished, move on.

“Give us today, our daily bread.”
Speak your mind with God about what you need today. Now be careful with this one. God knows what you “need.” A good measuring tool to help you determine between what you need and what you want is to imagine a homeless person sitting in your presence as you ask God to give you what you need. Remember this…God is not your genie in a bottle granting you all your hearts wishes and desires. God wants you to communicate with Him. Bring to Him your needs. Try to focus less on physical needs and more on mental, emotional and social needs. See how that changes the way you pray. Then keep moving.

“Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.”
Be specific with God in this one. Confess every sin, out loud, to God, that you can think of. I love 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is confession time. Vomit them out to God. He knows what your sins are anyway. He already sent His only Son to die to pay the price for your sins, He just wants you to be done with those sins, get them off your chest and confess them. It will help you conquer them, if you confess them. Remember God’s not angry at you about those sins, He wants you to be free from the guilt and pain of those sins. Confession is the start of that becoming a reality in your life. Notice that Jesus assumes that you have already forgiven your debtors. This is expected. You must forgive the people who have hurt you, or God will not forgive you of your sins. In fact the Bible says that God won’t even hear our prayers if we hold unforgiveness in our hearts towards others. Maybe God is whispering in your ear that you need to write a letter, send an email, make a phone call, send a text and forgive the people you haven’t forgiven yet. Forgiveness is for you. Don’t worry about your offender not facing any consequences. Its not your job to make your offender face consequences, its God’s job. Make sure you forgive, which shows you trust God enough to take care of the revenge and consequences. If you are struggling with forgiveness and need a tool to help you learn about what true forgiveness is and how to grant it then I want to recommend that you go to www.vcli.org and purchase the workbooks called SALT and work through them. The material is dynamic and will help you become mature in Christ. Please make sure you are forgiving of others. Forgiveness is for you to be free. Forgiveness is for you. When you recognize this fact, you will be a person that lives in total freedom and forgiving others will become a common and wonderful practice in your life. Jesus was the best at this. Makes sure you are following His example.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

You need protection. Temptation is waiting for you around every corner. You know what your weak points are. Take them to God right now and speak your weaknesses out loud to the Father. He knows your temptations anyway. To speak them out loud helps you to be more aware and humble. Ask God to strengthen you. Converse with God about what you are going to do if that same temptation pops up again and again today. Verbally plan out what you are going to do, if you are faced with that temptation again. Then when the temptation does sneak up on you, you will be ready to conquer it. In your prayer time, ask God to help you resist the devil and protect you from His destructive and enticing ways.

Close with,
“In Jesus name, Amen.”

Think of how much more prepared and focused you would be if you started everyday off that way.
Pretty powerful. Right?


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.