Hallowed Father – Matthew 6:9

lords_prayer

Do you find prayer to be work?  Is it hard for you to focus, to know how to approach God or to think of what to say to Him?  Prayer is hard for a lot of people, but prayer is probably the most important spiritual discipline of the Christian life other than the reading of God’s Word.  Prayer puts us directly in communication with the sovereign God of the universe and is used by God to carry out His purposes in our lives and the lives of those around us.  We need to be people of prayer, yet we often fail miserably at prayer.

My hope is for God to invigorate your passion for prayer and to transform your prayer life as we make our way through the Lord’s Prayer, over the course of the next six weeks.  The Lord’s Prayer is so much more than an element in our Sunday liturgy.  It is the model a prayer Jesus prescribes for His disciples.  It is the framework I use for my daily morning prayers and has led me down the path of a more focused and contemplative prayer life.  Starting this Sunday, we will go line by line through this great prayer and begin to understand how it aids us praying.  Why not start 2016 with a brand new or renewed resolve to grow in God’s grace through prayer?

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“Reaction” – Matthew 7:28-29

crown king and thorns

This Sunday, we arrive at the last two verses of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  And in those last two verses, you’re given the crowd’s reaction to Jesus’ message.  Imagine yourself in that crowd.  How would you react to all that you just heard?  How would you expect Matthew to tell us the crowd responded?  Matthew didn’t say, “And many obeyed Him.”  He tells us, “the crowds were astonished at His teaching for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”  The crowds focus wasn’t on their own duty or even on the sermon itself.  Their focus was on the Preacher.  They reacted to Jesus, the man, not His message.  The Sermon on the Mount calls you and me to that same reaction.  It causes you to consider Jesus.  Whether or not you’re in the kingdom of heaven depends on who you say Jesus is.  Join us this Sunday as we wrap up our survey of the Sermon on the Mount and consider the identity and authority of Jesus, and what that means for you.

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“Two Ways” – Matthew 7:12-27

two paths

In a life that’s full of choices, Jesus, in this week’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount, offers listeners only two choices.  It’s a choice of journeys and a choice of ultimate destinations, and two couldn’t be more different.  In the conclusion to His sermon, Jesus wants to make sure you understand the consequences of this choice that every one of us will have to make.  Which way will you choose?

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“Good Gifts” – Matthew 7:7-11

Gift

I can only think of a couple of people I find it easy to buy Christmas gifts for.  With everyone else, I agonize over the right gift.   Apparently I am just as difficult to shop for.  My family insists that I share my Amazon wish list so they can select items from it to get for me.

Thankfully, Christians have a heavenly Father who knows how to give His children good gifts.  He’s especially eager to give us those gifts that grow us in Christ-likeness.  Jesus tells you, in this week’s passage in the Sermon on the Mount, that God will provide all you need for spiritual development if you ask.  But what and how do you ask?  Find out this Sunday, as we worship together and dig deeper into the greatest sermon ever.

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“Judging Others” – Matthew 7:1-6

Judge-mean-old-man

What drives more people from church than anything else?  Well, my own experience tells me it’s judgmentalism.  I’m sad to say, I’ve seen quite a few people leave the church because they were criticized by others or feared being criticized after something happened for which they felt they would be judged.  I’m not picking on any one particular church.  And, really, I’m not picking on just the church.  Humanity, in its brokenness, seems to beset with a critical spirit.

Often, it is our way of feeling better about ourselves.  John Stott said, “We have a fatal tendency to exaggerate the faults of others and minimize the gravity of our own.  We have a rosy view of ourselves and a jaundiced view of others.”  Isn’t it true that we are quick to find fault in everyone else except ourselves?  None of this is what Jesus wants from His disciples.  Christians need a discerning, not a critical spirit.  A discerning, not critical, spirit is what will preserve unity within the body of Christ, without sacrificing the integrity of the Christian faith.  This week, as we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us three instructions for cultivating a healthy spirit within the church.  They’re sure to fuel church growth, if not in numbers, certainly in depth.

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Hark the Herald Angels NEVER Sang at Christmas

shepherds and angels

“ And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:10–14)

Who doesn’t love the great Christmas carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing?”  There’s only one slight problem.  The angels never did sing!  The Bible never says the angels sang when Jesus came.  The angels came to the shepherds and spoke, but never sang.  It’s not that angels can’t sing.  They just didn’t.  The Bible tells us of angels singing only two times, and one of them wasn’t at Christ’s coming.

So when did angels sing?  Job 38:7 tells us that the angels first sang at God’s great and glorious act of creation.  The angels all “sang together” as “God laid the foundations of the earth.”  God created everything, including man and woman, and it was all just as God intended them.  God created them to glorify Himself and the angels sang at the sight of it all.  Everything was perfect.

But then, the man and woman deliberately turned away from God, and He responded by cursing the entire creation, including the human race.  The world, those in it, and their fellowship with God were broken.  There was nothing to sing about.  Mankind could not save the earth, their own brokenness or their relationship with God.  God’s perfect creation was now under His curse.

Revelation 5:8-10 is the second mention of angels singing.  Four angels and twenty-four elders fall before Jesus and sing, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”  The angels are again singing!  They are singing because Jesus has removed the curse, and a new heaven and new earth are about to come down and God will once again dwell with His people.  The effects of sin: the brokenness of the world, of mankind and his relationship with God, and even sin itself, are all in the past.  God’s great and glorious creation is once again as He intended it.  God is glorified in it all and once again the angels can sing.

While the angels wait for Christ’s return to once again sing, you and I can’t help but sing.  Jesus has made a way, for all who believe, to attend that final concert of the angels.  Jesus was born to die and was raised to offer you a seat at God’s great and glorious recreation of heaven and earth.  By faith in Jesus, you are now a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), being made ready for that day of rejoicing.  Joy to the World, and to you and to me, the Lord is come!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as, the curse is found.

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“No Worries” – Matthew 6:25-34

worrying

What sin, would you guess, do Christians commit the most?  Is it lying, coveting, anger?  I haven’t seen any surveys on the topic, but my guess is that worrying is the sin we commit most often, and we do so without giving it a thought.  We spend so much of our time worrying.  If you have children, you probably worry.  If your finances are tight, your health is precarious, your job is stressful or you to do list is overflowing, you’re probably worried about it.

In these week’s passage, Jesus is telling you not to worry.  He commands, “do not be anxious” three times in this short passage and mentions the word “anxious” (also the word for worry) six times in all.  Jesus doesn’t want you to be worried about worrying, He wants you to know you’ve got nothing to worry about.  This Sunday, we’re going to look at the eight reasons Jesus gives you to abandon every one of your worries.

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“Treasure Trove” – Matthew 6:19-24

treasure heart in heaven

 

How big a reserve fund does out church need?  How much do you need to have socked away for education, the unexpected or retirement?  These are not easy questions but how you answer may reveal a lot about your investment philosophy.

Jesus has an investment strategy for His disciples and we’re going to hear about it this Sunday.  I know you hear this all the time, but He has an investment strategy that’s unflappable.  It’s recession proof, inflation proof and secure.  It provides the greatest return and does it with zero risk.  Are you curious?  It’s a strategy, once you’re in, that Jesus says you will love and be devoted to.  Find out the details this Sunday at 10:30,as we journey through the The Sermon on the Mount and worship our Lord together in the body of Christ.

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“Right Motives” – Matthew 6:1-18

righteous by faith cross

Most of us know the warning signs for a heart attack: pressure in the center of the chest, pain in the neck, jaw and arms, shortness of breath and lightheadedness.  These warning signs get your attention and, if you show up at the emergency room with any of them, you’ll be seen by a doctor immediately.  I wonder, how many of us know the warning signs of self-righteousness and people pleasing?

This week, Jesus is going to warn us about the consequences of righteous deeds conducted for the sake of being noticed by others.  There are eternal consequences to this kind of people pleasing, according to Jesus.  The practice of righteousness and spiritual disciplines is encouraged by Jesus, provided one’s motives are right.  As we’ll see Sunday, Christ-centeredness is the motivation for genuine righteousness.  Anything less than that falls short of pleasing our Father in heaven.

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“Loving Others” – Matthew 5:38-48

love others

The Sermon on the Mount is, without question, the best sermon ever.  And it is, without question, the most quoted sermon ever.  Everyone, from Gandhi to President Obama, has quoted the Sermon on the Mount.  This week, we come to one of the most quoted sayings of Jesus about turning the other cheek.  You’ve no doubt used the expression yourself, but do you really know what it means?  Where does one even find the self-control to turn the other check when attacked and insulted by another?  It is only out of love that we are able to do this.

 

Jesus calls His disciples to an outrageous standard of love, as made apparent in this week’s passage.  Christians are called to “love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.”  As familiar as we are with those admonitions, I wonder how many of us are willing to respond, in such away, to those who try and take us down and those who try and bring harm to us because of our faith.  That sort of response is not the way we humans are normally wired.  We are wired to fight back or flee, rather than to respond with the kind of love Jesus commands.  So how is it remotely possible to love like Jesus requires of His disciples?  It is only because of God’s outrageous love that Christ’s disciples love others outrageously.

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