Today, I want to ask you to commit to constant prayer. Jesus offers us a wonderful promise about prayer, though it must be kept in context. Our Lord’s has been teaching about the actions and attitudes required of those who follow Him. and though some of His demands can seem really difficult, if not almost downright impossible. Take showing mercy, extending forgiveness, being authentic, knowing the real treasure, winning over worry. He looks at those in need, He looks at us, and offers a promise. Matthew 7:7~Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (ESV) To help us truly understand this promise our Lord makes says in Matthew 7:8~For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (ESV)

The first question I ask, I know you are a better believer than me, but I ask, who is everyone? It’s everyone who’s a disciple of Jesus Christ. In our Bible study time, the most important words we ought to analyze are the verbs. Some of you love acronyms Like BIBLE Basic Instructions Before Leaving ASAP: Always Say A Prayer, SWAG: Saved With Amazing Grace, or my favorite FAITH: Forwarding All Issues To Heaven. Pastor, I have a need and I am going to be forwarding on that need for you. Did you know I can tell what version of the Bible you read based on your acronym? Take PRAY: Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield. This is an NIV reader, while my KJV readers prefer ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. In verse 7, the verbs are: Ask, Seek, Knock=ASK. These verbs are all present tense, which denotes for us, the reader, continuous action. We never stop asking of God, now He really does sound like a father, right?. Dad can you, will you, please. I guess I am going to have to seek, no this is going to take some knocking. (Singing) So I’m knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door. If we want to follow Jesus successfully, we must keep on Asking, Seeking, and Knocking. 

However, discover a second application to this promise. Watch how the words progress in intensity. First, we ask, then we seek, followed by us knocking. This reveals our prayers are to be active, and not passive. If we’re praying for the Lord’s help, for a job, we should be actively seeking one, trusting that He will guide and provide. These verbs tell us to put feet to our prayers. and, of course, we must watch out for being a selfish believer. As we are reminded in James 4:3~When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (NIV) When compared to God, even the best of parents are no match. Jesus says How much more will our holy, loving, all-powerful Father answer our legitimate requests! (Matthew 7:9-11) 

I want to remind each of us that according to 2 Corinthians 5:17~Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV) We are made new in Jesus our Lord. So today, who needs some prayer? Get your list out, or make a new right now and then begin to pray for those needs. As you move throughout your day the Lord is going to bring one or two them back to you and I want you to do what Paul says in Philippians 1:3. As often as I think of you, I make mention of you in my prayers. Today, be like Jesus.

The pearl of great price

Sitting hillside, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus says to us, first confess your own sin, then make a change in your life and follow Me, before you begin to work in the eye of your brother. (Matthew 7:5) Adding an illustration to capture our mind’s eye: Matthew 7:6~Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (ESV) These dogs are not household pets. They are not Dickens, Daisy or Daffy, who are my friends. These were rompin’, stompin’ disease-infested, scavenger dogs. No one was stopping roadside to pick-up these traveling packs of pooches. It would be unthinkable for Jesus’ Jewish audience to throw something that was set aside for God, to one of these dogs. Don’t take what God has cleansed and ruin it.

Mm, Mmm-mmm, MM! You done ruin it. Ever worked on a stain, finally, you got it out of your favorite shirt and the next time you wear it, BAM! Uhh! Jesus reminds us, you were cleansed and made holy. These, with dietary restrictions, were not allowed unclean animals. Clean animals have split hooves, cloven, split into two parts and most have more than one stomach. Although pigs are split hoofed, and quite tasty to a man of the South, to Jews they were unclean. Not because the roll in the mud, it’s not their fault they have no sweat glands. Leviticus 11:7~And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. (NIV) Pigs will eat anything, but grass. My cousin April and her husband own a couple of Krispy Kreme donuts in LA. Lower Alabama, Tuscaloosa to be more specific, and they take the leftovers and sell them to pig farmers, because pigs will eat anything, even pork or day-old donuts. 

Any animal having completely split hooves and who also chews the cud is considered clean, or kosher. (Leviticus 11:3) What does it mean to chew the cud? This refers to ruminating animals, like cattle, deer, goats, and sheep. Cud is the food brought up into the mouth from the first stomach, called the rumen, and it gets chewed again. However, camels, horses, and rabbits are considered unclean because they do not also have a split hoof, even though they chew the cud (Leviticus 11:4-8). Fish must have both fins and scales, so catfish, shrimp, and lobster among many other sea creatures are unclean to Jews (Leviticus 11:9-10). So, never invite a Jewish friend, say, Adam, over for dinner and say, we have two types of meat for you to choose from, catfish or ham, because he is just going to call his mom for a ride home.

So, who do the dogs and pigs represented in Matthew 7:6? They’re the unholy, the unclean people who treat the Gospel with contempt. When you tell someone about Jesus and present the Gospel, the power to change, to bring to life that which is dead and lost, and they just act like pigs and dogs. Never realizing the value of the pearl of great price. Matthew 13:45-46. Therefore, they trample them in the mud and mire. Unfortunately, there will be times when people coldly reject the Gospel. When this happens, I want you to do what Paul did when the Jews resisted and criticized him. Acts 18:6~But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (NIV) Yeah to quote a Pop Star, Just Shake It Off, and know that their eternal destruction is their own responsibility Ezekiel 33:16. At this point, Paul knows he has fulfilled his responsibility by sharing the Gospel. 

As you begin your prayer time, who needs to hear the Gospel from you. Remember, we share our faith and the Lord is the one responsible for giving us favor while sharing and the increase of those who will come to know Jesus as both Lord and Savior. So do your part by sharing your faith with someone today.

Wash & Be Clean

Don’t do it. I know it comes so easy to us all, but Don’t Be Judgy. (Matthew 7:1-6) I know, I could’ve lived truly happy with a snide remark and a cross look, but God said, NO! As we’ve walked with this sermon, Jesus has met us where we live, reminding us of our need for humility and the blessing of allowing Him to work on, in and through our life. Revealing how difficult it is to live everything our Lord has taught us in His own Sermon on Mt. Beatitude. You and I, like all truly faithful saints, who’ve walked the narrow way of Christ have had to put aside being judgy. Taking off the mask of our stage acting past, laying aside our self-righteousness, and accepting our need of a Savior able to wash us clean and one-day deliver us from this body of death. Jesus looks at the scribes and Pharisees known for their harsh judgy ways and says Judge not. Matthew 7:1~Judge not, that you be not judged. (ESV) This isn’t a court reference of judgment, nor a lobed shot at across the bow of discernment. As believers, we are to be discerning. 

Listen to 1 John 4:1~Dear friends, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NIV) Thus, Jesus continues, by saying in Matthew 7:2~For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure (μετρέω metreō) you use it will be measured (ἀντιμετρέω antimetreō) to you. (ESV) This means the standard we use to judge others is the same standard by which the Lord God will judge us. We find the Lord teaching this standard principle again in Luke 6:38~Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure (μετρέω metreō) you use, it will be measured (ἀντιμετρέω antimetreō) to you.” (NIV) 

The Lord says the way we measure boomerangs back into our life. When I was a kid, my next-door neighbor and best-friend was Tim. Yes, he was also my sparing partner more times than I can remember with old those leather boxing gloves my dad used to settle neighborhood disputes. We were investors of the Cool. Things as seen on TV that could be purchased with box tops and G and H stamps for the price of Shipping and Handling, what a racket that was. As the proud purveyors of Break dancin’ cardboard, light-up balls that never worked, flying actions figures, (said with attitude) they are not dolls if they are green, and yes even a bright red boomerang with black and yellow stripes, though it never worked until we read the instructions. You’ll just have to forgive me, I grew up in an archaic time before eBay and Amazon, and google? Heck, Larry Page is my age. This was a time when Phones only came two ways, both with cords, one on a wall and one in a bag. The only smart thing about them was knowing the procedure for operation, called Following De-Structions.

Jesus says to all who are listening, giving has a boomerang effect on our lives. Whether we are giving out our own judgy vibe or we give our lives away. We receive back by the measure we use. If we judge others harshly, God will judge us harshly. Then Jesus asks in Matthew 7:3-4~ Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in yours? (ESV) The word log can also be translated beam, that is what holds our roof up, like the capsized ribs of a ship. This is called hyperbole where we emphasize a point. Jesus says you’re blind to your own problems, so how can you even see theirs? Are you a faultfinder? Psychologists tell us we are quickest to condemn in others the same faults we recognize in ourselves. What you talking about Willis? Jeremiah 17:9~The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (NIV)

Jesus says I understand the heart and can help. It all begins with you and me. When we remove our faults by laying them at the foot of the cross then learning and applying the ways of Jesus Christ, we take a step on the path of righteousness Following His Instructions. Humility, which is required of all believers means we begin with our own sins and faults. In other words, we must confess our own sin, which is often pride, self-righteousness, or a Judgy spirit. Listen to the psalmist in Psalm 51:10~Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (ESV) 

Today, ask God to create in you a clean heart and a right spirit. It is so easy to think we are good, but the truth is we are not. We need Jesus in our lives. Today, I want you to place your whole life under the blood of Christ. Ask God to search you and cleanse you and take time to thank Him for all He has done. Know that the Lord who began a good work in you will bring it to a flourishing finish. (Philippians 1:6)