CONSIDER THE LILIES

Matt.6:28 – So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin…

What is Jesus getting at? Why did He say for us to “consider the lilies?” He was saying that the lilies don’t need our help to grow. Plant them in the proper environment and they will do just fine. We don’t have to fuss and hover over them, there growth is certain. After all, the Lord is the Master Husbandman. Actually He is always at work taking care of us. The Lord was talking about worry and our daily provision. He said simply do your part, seek first the kingdom, and everything else will be sorted out. We don’t have to be anxious and strive, the harvest of the kingdom will always come about. Here is a story from A.B. Simpson’s devotional that illustrates His point.

“It is said that a mother found her small boy standing beside a tall sunflower, with his feet stuck in the ground. When she asked, “What in the world are you doing there?” he naively answered, “Why, I am trying to grow to be a man.”

His mother laughed heartily at the idea of his being planted in the ground in order to grow like the sunflower. Then, patting him gently on the head, she said, “Why, Harry, that is not the way to grow. You can never grow bigger by trying. just come right in and eat enough good food and have plenty of play and you will soon grow to be a man without trying so hard.”

Harry’s mother was right. There could not be a better answer to the question: “How do the lilies grow?” than Hannah Whitehall Smith’s comment, “They grow without trying.”

Our deepest spiritual life is the life of self unconsciousness through which we become united to Christ. We live continually on His life, being nourished, fed and constantly filled with His Spirit and presence and all the fullness of His imparted life.”

Harvest and provision happen without us really trying. We focus our attention on the Lord and His kingdom and harvest is certain. Plant your seed in fertile ground and go about your daily responsibilities. Don’t be anxious by delays or uncertain timing, in due season your harvest will suddenly appear. Consider the lilies, they are beautiful and abundant.

THE WHAT IFS

Matt.6:26 – Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

I think too often fear of the future effects our actions. How many wanted to go into the ministry but the what ifs got them? “What if the Lord doesn’t open the doors for ministry? Maybe I should get a business degree just in case.” Then there is the impression to start a business to create wealth for a mission project or a ministry but the what if’s step in again. “What if I fail? What if I go bankrupt?” That’s probably why the Lord said “Make your calling and election sure”. Then there is the desire to start tithing and giving offerings. You guessed it, the what ifs showed up again. “What if the Lord doesn’t give back like the word says He will?” What is the answer to these “what ifs”? Soaking yourself in the promises of God is the sure answer. He says things like “even a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” and “I have been young and now I am old and I have never seen the righteous forsaken or His seed begging bread”. Here is how Charles Spurgeon explains this verse.

“Thought we may take; but anxious, carking care we must not know. Our most pressing bodily wants are not to engross our minds. Our life is more important than the food we eat, or the clothes we wear. God who gives us life will give us bread and raiment. We should much more care how we live than how we eat: the spiritual should go before the bodily, the eternal before the temporal. What we wear is of very small importance compared with what we are. Therefore let us give our chief care to that which is chief, yea, our sole thought to the one all-absorbing object of all true life, the glory of God.”

What if the Lord does come through? What if He opens the door for ministry and thousands are effected? What if He puts His hand on your business idea and millions of dollars actually go into ministry endeavors? What if you begin to tithe and you start to see unexpected income coming your way: raises, checks in the mail, inheritances, and new unexpected sources of income? You will never really know until you respond by faith; launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.

SINGLE VISION

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Matt. 6:22,23 ¶ The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

I love the teaching of Jesus, so simple a child can understand His words yet so profound that the scholars stumble over His message. In today’s verse Jesus is in the middle of a teaching on the Lord’s provision. He reminds His followers about the Father’s love for all of His creatures and how He lavishes His provision daily on all of His creation. He said that if the Father provides for His creatures how much more will He provide for His sons and daughters. So what do our eyes have to do with anything? This is the point, He is talking about spiritual vision and the focus of our love. If our affection and vision is focused on the things of this world our life is filled with darkness. If our affection is on Him, our whole being is filled with light. As a result we know our God will provide for us. Secondly, we will love His kingdom and want to invest our lives and our resources in His work. Here is how Albert Barnes describes this passage.

“The sentiment stated in the preceding verses—the duty of fixing the affections on heavenly things—Jesus proceeds to illustrate by a reference to the eye. When the eye is directed singly and steadily towards an object, and is in health, or is single, everything is clear and plain. If it vibrates, flies to different objects, is fixed on no one singly, or is diseased, nothing is seen clearly. Everything is dim and confused. The man, therefore, is unsteady. The eye regulates the motion of the body. To have an object distinctly in view, is necessary to correct and regulate action. So Jesus says, in order that the conduct may be right, it is important to fix the affections on heaven. Having the affections there—having the eye of faith single, steady, unwavering—all the conduct will be correspondent.”

So that is just the way Jesus is, simple yet deeply profound. So, what is your “eye” fixed on? What is the object of your joy and affection? Answer those questions and you will find the condition of your soul.

ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

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Your kingdom come.
Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Matt.6:10
Jonathan Edwards said, Heaven is a World of Love. Love is actually the very atmosphere of heaven because God Himself is love. Real love is more than a feeling or an emotion, real love is a person. The love of God is the third person of the trinity, the blessed Holy Spirit. In light of this truth, think about the Lord’s Prayer, especially today’s verse, “Let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. This prayer is actually calling for an invasion of the love of God into our society; wow! How amazing would it be to see the love of God, the Holy Spirit, being poured upon our world. This is actually what spiritual awakenings are, the outpouring of the Spirit upon society. Lord, pour out your love on our hurting world, pour out your love on us, your people, that we could love the unlovely with the love of Jesus. Check out this quote from Edwards about this atmosphere of love in heaven.
“They all love God with a supreme love. There is no enemy of God in heaven, but all love him as his children. They all are united with one mind to breathe forth their whole souls in love to their eternal Father, and to Jesus Christ, their common Head. Christ loves all his saints in heaven. His love flows out to his whole church there, and to every individual member of it; and they all with one heart and one soul, without “any schism in the body, love their common Redeemer. Every heart is wedded to this spiritual husband. All rejoice in him, the angels concurring. And the angels and saints all love one another. All that glorious society are sincerely united. There is no secret or open enemy among them; not one heart but is full of love, nor one person who is not beloved. As they are all lovely, so all see each other’s loveliness with answerable delight and complacence. Everyone there loves every other inhabitant of heaven whom he sees, and so he is mutually beloved by everyone.”
Heaven sounds like an amazing place. The church can also become an amazing place if we make room for His Spirit, His love, in our hearts. Yielding to Him personally, staying planted in our local church, reaching out to the broken; this is the place where God’s kingdom of love invades the earth.

Trusting God for Daily Needs

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
Matt. 6:25
Jesus taught us total dependency on our Heavenly Father. If you are having a hard time trusting Him, maybe struggling with fear about provision or your health, I want to give you a couple of thoughts. First think about the power of God and the sovereignty of God. He can do anything. He is the creator of galaxies and stars, and comets and black holes, and the artist who paints the sky and the sculptor who has fashioned us in His image. He was there forming us in our mother’s womb, caring for us at birth, and watching over and providing for us every day of our lives; even in our most rebellious days. Next, consider God’s love for us. His love is clearly seen in His Son Jesus. He showed His love as He fed the hungry fish and bread; His compassion was seen again as He healed the blind, the lepers, the deaf, and the maimed. Who can forget His love displayed as He healed the little boy tormented by demonic, suicidal thoughts? Then of course there is the unmistakeable taste of love as He pours His Spirit upon us. Check out how Luther describes the provision of the Lord.
“We can’t seem to let go of our anxieties and worries as long as we live. Yet God gives us everything we need hour by hour, without needing any assistance from us. So why do we keep on having foolish fears and anxieties about trivial little needs, as though God can’t or won’t supply us with food and shelter? Accordingly, Christ is plainly telling us what foolish people we are….Still, we continue to grope along in our blindness, even though it’s obvious that we’re incapable of providing for our basic needs without God. This alone should be enough to make us Christians and to keep this thought in mind: Undoubtedly, I never held in my own hands even one fleeting moment of my life. If I must trust God for my very life and limb, why should I worry about how I’m going to find nourishment from day to day?”
If God is really this powerful and that incredibly loving I have nothing to fear. He had me when I was born, He watched over me in my rebellious years, He has carried and provided for me as a Christian, and He will faithfully carry me to the end.

DAILY BREAD 

Matt. 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.

I learned a lot about total dependence on the Lord from reading the sermons of Jonathan Edwards. One of my favorites of his sermons was written in his earliest days of his ministry, ‘God Glorified in Man’s Dependence’. We need the Lord in every arena of our lives, not just when we are in trouble, but in our everyday experiences. Like we depend on air moment by moment, water several times throughout the day, and our daily bread; we are in constant need of the Lord every moment of our lives. This great need only comes by revelation, and is quite humbling but profoundly liberating at the same time. I wonder if this is why there seems to be more females in churches, they are not quite as threatened by total dependency. Jesus taught us this lesson in His teaching about prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on today’s verse.
“This hourly dependence our Lord is determined that we shall feel and recognize, for he only permits us to pray for daily bread, and only promises that as our days our strength shall be. Is it not best for us that it should be so, that we may often repair to his throne, and constantly be reminded of his love? Oh! how rich the grace which supplies us so continually, and doth not refrain itself because of our ingratitude! The golden shower never ceases, the cloud of blessing tarries evermore above our habitation. O Lord Jesus, we would bow at thy feet, conscious of our utter inability to do anything without thee, and in every favor which we are privileged to receive, we would adore thy blessed name and acknowledge thine unexhausted love.”
Our needing God actually brings great glory to God. My greatest need and dependency is for my happiness, happiness that is not based on by circumstances, accomplishments, or expectations. God Himself is my treasure and my joy, I am utterly dependent on Him for my satisfaction in life. When God satisfies me then God is glorified. He is greater than earthly treasures, friends, endowments, inheritances, even family. All of these things are temporary and at best point to the greater treasure we find in Christ. He alone meets the deepest needs of the human heart.

HEAVEN COME

In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.
Matt.6:9,10
The Lord’s Prayer has been prayed by Christians for almost 2000 years. To me, these verses are the heart of that prayer. Jesus taught us first to recognize our relationship with the Lord, we are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Next, He taught us to recognize the Kingdom of Heaven and call for God’s kingdom to be established on earth. What exactly is God’s kingdom? Obviously it is far different from any earthly domain. This King is obviously a different kind of King. This king came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for sinners. His kingdom is similarly different; it is not a physical place on earth that can be observed but is characterized by the manifest presence of the Lord. When we pray for His kingdom to come we are actually inviting Him to come. I have been listening to a song from Bethel called HEAVEN COME that describes this prayer. Here are the words to this song.

HEAVEN COME
YOU ARE CALLING ME AGAIN

I HEAR YOUR VOICE UPON THE WIND

IN THE QUIET IN THE STILL

HEAVEN

GLORY WRITTEN IN THE SKY

IN THE TURNING OF THE SEAS

ECHOS OF YOUR MAJESTY

HEAVEN

ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE

THE PROMISE THAT THERE’S MORE TO COME

ALL I AM CRIES OUT FOR MORE OF YOU

YOUR PRESENCE IS HEAVEN

OH TO BE WITH YOU

JUST TO BE WITH YOU

YOUR GLORY ALL AROUND ME

OH TO BE WITH YOU

I LOVE TO BE WITH YOU

OH OOH WO-OH

THERE’S A STIRRING IN MY SOUL

AND A FIRE HERE WITHIN

DEEP IS CALLING DEEP AGAIN

HEAVEN

HEAVEN COME FILL THIS PLACE

GLORY TO GLORY AND GRACE TO GRACE

HERE AND NOW YOUR KINGDOM COME

OUR GOD ETERNAL NOW AND FOREVERMORE

This is how Jesus taught us to pray, a passion for His presence calling out for Him to come. That longing in our soul actually is calling out for two distinct responses. First, our souls long for Him now. We need His intimacy, His strength, His wisdom, and we need His power. Our souls long for Him and find rest and fulfillment only in His presence. Secondly, our heart cries for His physical return to earth. Until He returns we will look through a glass darkly. When He comes to earth, we will know Him face to face. So Heaven come, and fill this place, glory to glory and grace to grace.

WAY MORE THAN ANSWERED PRAYER

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.Matthew 6:8

The Lord has reasons for everything He does. Even things that appear random or haphazard are all part of His amazing plan. Often times prayer comes as a result of desperate circumstances. Obviously the Lord knows everything and knows ever detail of everything we are challenged with. Even tough He knows, He stills wants us to bring these things before Him in prayer. What could possibly be His motivation?

I have a theory. Could it be that the whole purpose that we are allowed to fall into desperate situations from time to time is so that we will pray? Could it be that the specific answer may ultimately be rather insignificant? Why would I say that? Here is the answer, when we pray God Himself comes to meet with us. He gives us more than just the answer; way more!!! Sure the bills get paid, and recovery from the sickness happens but something much better has happened. We have actually met with God Himself in that time of prayer; that changes everything!!! Here are some thoughts from Luther on today’s verse.

“Obviously, he doesn’t command us to pray in order to inform him of our needs. God gives us his gifts freely and abundantly. He wants us to recognize that he is willing and able to give us even more. When we pray, we’re not telling God anything he doesn’t already know. Rather, we are the ones gaining knowledge and insight. Asking God to supply our needs keeps us from becoming like the unbelieving skeptics, who don’t acknowledge God and don’t thank him for his many gifts. All of this teaches us to acknowledge God’s generosity even more. Because we continue to search for him and keep on knocking at his door, he showers us with more and more blessings. Everything we have is a gift from God. When we pray, we should express our gratitude by saying, “Lord, I know that I can’t create a single slice of my daily bread. You are the only one who can supply all of my needs. I have no way to protect myself from disasters. You know what I need ahead of time, so I’m convinced that you will take care of me.”

What an amazing God! He really does cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him. What are you struggling with today? Bring it to the Lord in prayer. When you do; don’t be surprised when you get more than just an answer.

HEAVENLY FATHER

“Our Father in heaven …”

MATTHEW 6:9

I love the simplicity of the teachings of Jesus. ”Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened;” and this, “give and it shall be given to you”. These words are simple yet open us up to an incredible life that is deeper than the ocean. One of these profound simple teachings was the Lord’s instructions on how to pray. “Our Father”, he starts. This is the simplest and the deepest revelation of all. Most everyone understands the concept of father. In theory, everyone has a father. Maybe your idea of father is a little twisted from your daddy experiences, Christ reveals to us what the heavenly Father is like. “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father” He declares. This Father is good and loving and kind. For those of us who have been born again you have received the Spirit of sonship, we have become sons of God. We can now pray and understand the simplest and deepest of all prayers, “Our Father Who art in heaven”. A. B. Simpson taught about the beauty and simplicity of this prayer. Check this out.

“Our Father. How simple, how beautiful, this invocation which Christ puts upon our lips! And yet how inconceivably rich in its meaning, in the fullness of the love and blessing it contains.

Just think of all the memories there have been on earth of wise and loving fathers. Just think of what this world owes to fathers. What a gift Christ bestowed on us when He gave us the right to call His Father “our Father.” My Father! We count it a great privilege that the Father comes so near to His earthly children, but when we pray, “Our heavenly Father,” the need arises within to enter into His holy presence in heaven, to breathe its atmosphere and become truly heavenly minded. Then the words “heavenly Father” take on new meaning, and our hearts come under an influence that abides all day long.”

Praying this prayer puts us in touch with with this heavenly reality, we are His and everything will be okay. He loves me, corrects me, forgives me, and He heals me. All I need or long for is found in this heavenly relationship. Say it now, “My Father’. There is no greater prayer. “Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name. Let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

SERVING GOD OR MONEY

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Matt. 6:24

The Lord was an incredible teacher. His words were simple yet incredibly profound. He would always come directly to the point, not beating around bushes, to expose and correct our lives. In this passage He is very direct, no one can serve two masters. He taught that a person either served The Lord or they were servants of money. Actually that is just another way of saying that we are either God centered or self centered. To serve money is to serve ourselves. Martin Luther taught powerfully about this verse, here are some of his thoughts.

“Remember what people say about kind and generous individuals: “They are masters of their money.” Money doesn’t control them, unlike a greedy miser who ignores God’s Word and everything else God wants. A miser would rather withhold a helping hand than let go of money. This kind of greed is the mark of tightfisted, childish, and insensitive individuals. That type of person doesn’t put resources to good use or even enjoy them. They ignore eternal treasures for the sake of money. They pursue their own selfish goals and neglect God’s Word, thinking they can get around to it at a more convenient time. Meanwhile, they scramble to get everything they can, without a penny to spare for the work of God. If left unchecked, they will sink deeper and deeper into greed and jealousy, moving further and further away from God’s Word. Eventually their hearts will be filled with cynicism, and they will become enemies of God. So Christ spoke sternly when he said, “Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” We pursue what we love. We talk about it because that is where our hearts and thoughts are. Augustine came right to the point when he said: “Whatever I love is my god.”

You see its not money that is evil, evil comes out of our hearts. Money is just a tool to function in our world. Its how we do everything we do. How we spend our money is a clear indication of what is in our heart. Actually, that is a great litmus test for our spiritual condition. Where do we spend our resources? Do we care enough about the work of God to invest significant funds into God’s work?
The Lord actually will gift certain people with the ability to generate finances in powerful ways. When these individuals have their minds renewed and actually fall in love with the work of God, they can be powerful instruments to advance God’s kingdom. They can be God’s channel to finance missionaries, churches, Christian rehabs, and a multitude of other powerful ministries. Who knows, maybe God will use you to advance His kingdom with financial resources.