Illuminate

I love to hear my kids pray big prayers. Visiting Leroy in June Luke prays that God will send all these people home. Awesome! We all need to pray big prayers, and at other times pray more specific and intentional prayers, like last week when Luke said, Father, Jesus, Lord give Mrs. Evelyn her joy back. Wow, I was so enamored, he truly gets it. Our prayer life needs to big enough to let God do anything and yet so laser-focused it ministers to the heartbeat of life. Luke 6:12~One of those days, Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. Yes, sometimes our prayers cost us a night’s sleep. 

Jesus is speaking to the empty, to the run-on, the aimless wondering prayer, saying these are not role models. Our omniscient God doesn’t need us to inform Him He already knows. Then why pray, right? Listen to the answer of James 4:2~You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. (NIV) I believe we have all been guilty of griping to God thinking we were in a discussion, of rambling through a question that we never really ask, rather than humbling ourselves to say please help me. I am not sure how it works in your house but April and I will say, I think we should…should take out the trash, should call, should water the porch plants. Then later we discuss what never got done because it was never really asked. 

I am sure your house and conversations are different than mine. But perhaps this has triggered a thought, brought by the Lord who is asking you to respond. Today, take a little time to listen to the Lord, ask Him to reveal and illuminate what you have read in His Holy Word, then share some of the big prayers you have, and some of the laser-focused ones as well. 



The Secret Place

How can we eradicate hypocritical prayers? (Matthew 6:5-8) Christ Jesus says don’t pray like them, they, or those others. Matthew 6:5~And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. (stage actors) For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (ESV) Ever been a stage actor? Offering up a begging prayer to your parents? 

As a youngin’, I did a little public praying, where I’d challenge my archaic parents, born deep in the last century to chillax and cool out, I’d drop names like So-and-so, Everybody, and They. Then in the midst of a spirited discourse, (not arguing, mind you) though veins seemingly displaced were brandished on display amidst the expanse of a forehead, while flesh tones were being replaced with varying degrees of salmon, scarlet, chili and even a patch of vermillion. With the pressures of blood climbin’ like Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in ‘53, ascending Everest’s summit, still, with wry smile and hopes of victory, I clutch my own flag of preference ready to stake my claim at another eminent and impending selfish victory. 

That’s right, I proclaim this prayer in the name of…Wait? What happened? This just in, the Parental’s have retorted in a daggers rebuttal by saying I’m not raising So-and-so and if memory serves me correct, They have a whole heap of trouble hanging over their head and if you like Everybody so much move-in. I’ll even help you pack, and to prove there are no hard feelings, I’ll give you a ride. I know, told you I was sinner, thank God for grace, not getting what we deserve. We all pray some pretty selfish prayers, even in public. Here, Christ Jesus isn’t forbidding public prayer, which is a vital part of worship. In fact, Jesus Himself often prayed in the presence of His disciples, and large crowds. A good example is His blessing as He feeds five thousand people. John 6:11~Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and…He did the same with the fish. (NIV) 

The Bible records many other appropriate, public prayers, one of which we use as a benediction. Solomon prays when dedicating the Temple. (2 Chronicles 6:12-42). I really like verse 40~Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. (ESV) You might want to take that prayer home and be praying it over your prayer closet. Eyes open, ears attentive, that’s good stuff. What Christ Jesus is condemning is performance. Remember hypocrite is a name for stage actors. Christ Jesus is looking for Authentic people, living Authentic lives, and walking in an Authentic relationship with a God who spared not His only Son. (Romans 8:32-35) 

So, how do we Eradicate Hypocritical Prayers? Jesus says in Matthew 6:6~But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV) In light of this, we understand the importance of Solomons prayer over our own secret place. Location is not the focus, rather our it’s our motive. Shut the door means to shut out everything, leave all of your devices outside and get alone with Jesus where He is our sole, singular, exclusive focus. I have small kids, work from home a lot and in the summer, VBS is not just dating season, but a praying season.  

Moreover, Jesus says don’t use lots of empty phrases, stop trying to pray like somebody else. God already listens to Somebody else. Just pray, talk to God and use your words, they are good words, begin with a dialogue, practice listening to the divine, Lectio Divina, Divinely Listening. Don’t think that because some use big words or long litanies that God responds better to pious prayers. Nope, He loves to hear from you. This reminds me of Romans 12:3~As your spiritual teacher I give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all. (JBP)

Today, is there a place in your life where some sanity is needed? Yes, we can all grow up and become doctors, lawyers, and policemen, but the truth is we will most likely become something altogether different. Then why not own what we have become as we change to be more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So let’s stop any and all stage acting and become Authentic followers of Jesus.



Hypocrisy

Did you know that in our being blessed by God we are also being tested? When the Lord blesses our lives, we have a decision to make on whether we are going to keep all of the Lord’s blessing or be more open handed with the flow of God through our lives. Blessing’s Test  is found in Matthew 6:1-4, and when we are blessed by God, we experience something that cannot be found from any other source. The Bread of Life says in Matthew 6:1~Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (ESV) 

Back to Mamaw’s clothesline where the streamy heat of summer has hardened the usual suspects, those closet faves we all go to have become stiff as boards. Sharing how the rabbis were teaching what they considered to be most important: almsgiving (giving to the needy), praying and fasting. These three were commissioned as the most important religious acts of Jewish believers. However, when done just to be seen by others, Jesus shares that our likes are our reward or the blessing is complete in the approval of others. Perhaps we could learn something from this in our #selfie craze of why we are placed in a position of more important than Jesus Christ. 

Hear me clearly, God doesn’t reward good deeds done for aggrandizement or self-recognition. Rather, Jesus says in, Matthew 6:2~Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites (ὑποκριτής hypokritēs) do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (ESV) If our goal is likes, then share or post, but if our goal is God’s blessing, keep it to yourself. We must comprehend and apply the practice of helping the poor, for it is required by God. Listen to Ole Mo preach to the body in Deuteronomy 15:11~There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. (NIV) 

Pastor, why are you coming at me with Old Testament Law? Because God does not change! (Micah 3:6) Thus, Jesus says in Matthew 26:11 ~The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. (NIV) The command was to be openhanded towards others. We will never eradicate hunger, but we can work more diligently towards feeding those in need, by sharing what God has blessed us with. If you were wondering how you could get involved, we have tubs that collect food each week for the Food Pantry. Next week, we will serve hungry families a hot meal at Plentiful Harvest Kitchen. You are able to buy an extra box cereal or a few canned goods to bring with you to community to feed our community, meeting others needs. We can be better givers.

Jesus demands His followers to do likewise. However, what we are not to do is act like a hypocrite. (ὑποκριτής hypokritēs) is the Greek word for a stage actor, one who pretends to be something he or she is not. Perhaps one of Satan’s most powerful tools for undermining a church, hypocrisy. Some have asked Pastor why do we serve and give, because it keeps us honest in our faith. Remember what God did to Ananias and his wife Sapphira—the first two hypocrites of the early church? For the praise of people, they sell a property and pretend to give God all the proceeds. When Ananias lies to Peter about giving the whole amount, Peter tells Ananias he is lying not only to men but also to God (Acts 5:1-4). Acts 5:5~When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. (NIV) I don’t share this for you to be fearful, rather my desire is for you to give cheerfully, with joy and to watch how God blesses you accordingly.

How many dead people would there be in churches today, if God did the same thing to all of the hypocrites? Hypocrisy is a very frightfully serious sin since it does enormous damage to the church Jesus died to redeem. Listen to Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:3~But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (ESV) Instead, He says our giving should be in secret. This doesn’t mean churches should not keep records of giving, but Christ Jesus does forbid giving to impress others. When giving is done in secret, Jesus says in Matthew 6:4~…And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV) This is Blessing’s Test are we about the Father and His business, or are we about ourselves. Our task is to build His kingdom and not our following. 

Today, as part of an Authentic Life, why not help, pray, encourage, someone around you that just needs a little fruit from your fruit stand of life. You can begin by asking the Lord who needs His touch. Then watch as His joy fills and empowers you to minister.