The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)

Our Father in heaven,

Although we are God’s children by creation, our sin separates us from him. Because his Son lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, the Father restores us to his family–giving us full legal status as sons and daughters. Our adoption is the basis for our prayer, not our “many words” or pious deeds.

 Hallowed be your name

We approach God in worship. Not just acknowledging who he is, but adoring and reverencing him. We hallow (“holy-fy”) his name, for he Continue reading “The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)”

Self-Righteous Charity, Prayer & Fasting (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Having recast several key commandments in relational terms, Jesus now turns to three religious practices–almsgiving, prayer and fasting—that had been turned into self-serving rituals by the Jewish religious leaders. Christ warns them that to perform these works to impress men automatically disqualifies them before God.

The Law commanded God’s people to give the first tenth of their income as well as other offerings to support the priests, the Temple, and those in need. The Lord intended giving to be an act of worship, helping his people to remember that they are ultimately dependent on his provision. Joyful generosity also helps us to hold all things lightly and to bless those who are unable to provide for themselves.

Although the Lord Continue reading “Self-Righteous Charity, Prayer & Fasting (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)”

Loving Our Enemies Like Our Neighbors (Matthew 5:43-48)

Transactional religion takes a command like “Love your neighbor,” and infers that the opposite, “Hate your enemy,” must also be true. So the Jewish leaders disdained the Romans, the Samaritans, the Gentiles, and the tax collectors. Their lives overflowed with contempt and they believed God’s Law justified their hatred.

Again, Jesus draws a stark contrast between those who practice a religion based on rules and those whose lives flow out of their relationship with God: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (vv. 44-45).” Does God love his enemies? Absolutely. How do we know this? Because God Continue reading “Loving Our Enemies Like Our Neighbors (Matthew 5:43-48)”

Being a Leader vs. Being in Charge

Are we leading or are we just in charge?

Sometimes, we leaders have a name plate on our door and a business card in our pocket that identifies us as “large and in charge.” Our authority is conferred upon us by power or position. We worked hard to earn it and we’ll fight hard to keep it.

But Jesus said things would be distinctly different in his Kingdom.

In his Kingdom, true leadership will be measured by how well we serve others.

Leadership will be demonstrated by the bowl and the towel rather Continue reading “Being a Leader vs. Being in Charge”

The Vengeful Heart (Matthew 5:38-42)

Jesus has addressed murder, adultery, divorce and oaths. Now he will reframe the law about retribution in relational terms. The Mosaic Law stated that the punishment should not exceed the offense. Before the Law, revenge was often brutal and disproportionate, resulting in blood feuds that could consume families for generations. “An eye for an eye” was actually revolutionary for its time, but Christ declares that “getting even” isn’t enough.

From biblical times till now, there have been two general kinds of legal offenses: civil and criminal. In a civil offense, a court is asked to decide if and to what extent the defendant has harmed the plaintiff and what kind of damages should be paid to make the plaintiff “whole.” In a criminal offense, Continue reading “The Vengeful Heart (Matthew 5:38-42)”