Prayer One-a-Day Thursday  11/15/18

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6).

You know how the prayers you speak in public are different from the ones you say in private?

Yeah, uh, that’s a problem.  It’s not supposed to be that way.  

When we’re in public, too often we pray to impress.  We use our best theological words–sometimes incorrectly–and an impressively earnest tone of voice.  We don’t want God or anybody else to forget who we’re talking to, so we use His name in every sentence:

“Oh Lord, we just come to you Jesus to tell you God that we just, we just love you Lord Jesus, and we just thank you, Lord God, for your sanctimoniosity, Lord…”

We also say, “Just” a lot, though I’ve never figured out why.

The point is, you probably don’t pray that way when you’re alone with Jesus.  Then, you let it all spill out, raw and honest, not worried about how you sound because you know He understands.

That’s the prayer he’s looking for.

No, Beloved, I’m not saying that your public prayers should be rambling and random

just that they should be

real.

Happy Thursday, Beloved.

Giving One-a-Day Wednesday  11/14/18

A life worthy

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who knows what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:2-4).

Have you ever given an anonymous gift?

It’s a rush.

It’s like Secret Santa on steroids.

At first you enjoy the thrill of being supersneakyspyguy.  You cover your tracks like a CIA operative. You make sure that there is nothing in the gift or delivery of said gift that can be traced back to you.  Even the “God Bless You” note is typed in Times New Roman font and printed after-hours at the local library. You exult in the fact that nobody knows who gave that fabulous gift, nobody knows who did that tremendous thing.

Then it hits you–Nobody knows who gave that fabulous gift.

Nobody knows who did that tremendous thing.

There are absolutely no bragging rights.

And that, Beloved, is the moment when you discover if you are giving for God’s glory…

or yours.

Give well, Beloved.

Happy Wednesday

Acts of Righteousness One-a-Day Tuesday  11/13/18

A life worthy

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 (Matthew 6:1).

Don’t be a poser.

I know, sometimes that’s easier said than done.  We live in a society that judges you by your social media posts.  It can be difficult to pass up the opportunity to let your friends know how giving and loving and tender-hearted and generous and basically amazing you are.  We want 1000 likes and comments of, “Wow! You’re so awesome! I wanna be like you!” Who doesn’t need a pat on the back from time to time?

But, when it comes down to it–and it always does come down to it– which would you prefer–an “attaboy” from your peers, or one from, you know, the Lord of the Universe?

Thought so.

So, again,

Don’t be a poser.

Happy Tuesday, Beloved.

Perfect One-a-Day Monday 11/12/18

A life worthy

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

That’s setting the bar kinda high, don’cha think?

Exactly

Beloved, you know we can’t be perfect.  I know we can’t be perfect. Jesus most definitely knows we can’t be perfect.  So why does he call us to perfection?

Two reasons that I can think of.

First, in one swell foop he destroys any lingering notion we may have had of making it to heaven on our own.  Jesus just finished laying out an impossible set of standards for love and forgiveness; now he follows up by telling us that we can never ever even one time fail even a little teeny bit in that love and forgiveness. I don’t care how hard you train in the high jump, nor how impressive your quads are, nor how amazing and fluid your technique–you are not going to clear a bar that is set infinitely high. So get over it.

Or, actually, don’t get over it.

You see what I did there?

There is One whose love is perfect, who can clear the bar no matter how high it is set, and he’s the focus of the second part of Jesus’ command. The Father is capable of the kind of love and forgiveness that we can only imagine. And while we can’t love perfectly on our own, we can tap into that love.  Just as we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and renewed by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, so we can love with the love of the Father. In him, through him, by his grace we can be who he has called us to be.

At least, that’s what I think he’s saying. But what do I know?

Be perfect, Beloved.

In him.

Happy Monday

Undeserved Love One-a-Day Friday  11/9/18

A life worthy

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:46-47)

It’s nice to be nice to the nice.

–Maj. Frank Burns, M.A.S.H. 4077

Beloved, let’s face it–some people are easy to love, and some are not.  We are called by the Lord of the Universe to love them all.

Period

It’s not the way I would have designed it, which it yet another in the ever-increasing pile of reasons to be glad I’m not God.

But consider, Beloved, that if God chose only to love those who were lovable, you and I (mostly I) would be ever so deeply doomed.

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

I would pray that God would give you many opportunities to love unlovable people today, but then you might come for me and hurt me.  Then I would have to love you when you are being unlovable, and it would all get messy.  How ‘bout this: I pray that God grants you the grace to show His love to everyone he brings your way today.  Does that work for you?

It works for him.

Happy Friday, Beloved.

Sunrise and Rain One-a-Day Thursday  11/8/18

A life worthy

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous(Matthew 5:45).

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Why should God treat us the same way he treats them? Why should they prosper, and grow, and have happiness and success and ice cream and nice things?  They don’t deserve it

like I do…oh…right.

‘Cause, if we start talking about what we deserve, we’re doomed, Beloved.

Let us not be doomed.

Our God is kind.

It’s his kindness that led us to repentance.

And maybe them as well.

And that…that’s what it’s about.

Happy Thursday, Beloved.

Love Those Enemies One-a-Day Wednesday  11/7/18

A life worthy

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:43-45).

Jesus said this.

Sometimes, I wish he hadn’t.

It’s just so stinking hard, you know?

Trust me–I just tried, a moment ago.  I prayed for someone who has caused me great, undeserved grief.  The prayer barely escaped my clenched brain and, frankly, was not as heartfelt and authentic as one might hope.

Jesus is just so much better than I am. Jesus prayed for those who mocked and beat and crucified him, even as they were doing it.  

I can’t love like that.

Honestly, I don’t even want to.

Yet

But I want to want to, and I trust that someday, by His grace, this shrivelled old heart will flow with his love and his compassion and his forgiveness and…him.

The Potter, as it happens, is not yet finished with this particular lump.

Thank God.

Happy Wednesday, Beloved.

Selfless One-a-Day Tuesday  11/6/18

A life worthy

And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:40-42).

Again, it’s not about you

or your stuff

or your rights

or your reputation.

God does not call us to exalt ourselves,

but to deny, and humble, and give ourselves.

You want extreme?

This is extreme.

Are you in?

Happy Tuesday, Beloved.

Eye for Eye One-a-Day Monday 11/5/18

A life worthy

You have heard it said, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:38-39).

The concept of Eye for an Eye has been misappropriated.  The way I understand it, the idea was one of limiting punishment, not intensifying it. The rule fit the punishment to the crime, and kept the offended party from going on a revenge rampage. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that people were actually taking eyes and teeth and limbs; God was simply establishing an upper limit on retribution.

Somewhere along the line, the idea devolved into, “You hurt me–I hurt you!”

With much growling and grunting and flaring of nostrils and gnashing of teeth.

As you may have noticed, that’s not what Jesus is about.

The world teaches us from an early age to stand up for our rights, and not to let anyone walk all over us. And here is Jesus, telling us the opposite.

What do we do with this?

I want to be really careful about speaking for Jesus, but I think there are a couple of points to keep in mind here.  First, this is a general principle, not meant to cover every encounter. I don’t think Jesus is counseling the battered wife or the abused child to keep absorbing punishment.  Nor do I think Jesus wants us to stand by passively while another is hurt or abused. The need to stand up to evil is deep within us, and I think that desire is from God.

The principle here is that we do not belong to ourselves.  When we get consumed with our rights and our hurts and what we deserve we forget that we have been bought with a price. We are not our own.  Jesus, as he spoke these words, was preparing to face greater personal pain and loss and humiliation than you and I can imagine.  But he wasn’t going to call for vengeance. He was going to trust the Father who loved him and cared for him and was totally capable of protecting him to use this nightmare for his own glory. Which was what Jesus lived for.

It’s not about you, Beloved.

It’s not even about me.

It’s about Him.  

Happy Monday.