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“Pray This Way”

Matthew 6: 9: “Pray, then, in this way: …” Forget the over-analytical experts, here’s how to pray, according to Jesus. A simple pronoun count causes one thing to leap out: First Person Plural: (we, our, us) 9. Second Person: (You, as in God) 4. First Person Singular: (I, me, my) 0. Crunch the numbers, analyze the data, and learn what prayer is really all about.

“Major Leap Forward”

Leviticus 16: 3: “Aaron shall enter the holy place with this: with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.” What makes this chapter of Leviticus so special that, after nine solid weeks of Exodus as the first reading of the MDR, we can skip the first fifteen chapters of Leviticus but have to stop here? Well, chapter sixteen of Leviticus seems like it’s talking about Aaron, but it’s really talking about the true Paschal sacrifice of Christ, the true High Priest; how He sprinkled the true altar in heaven with true blood (His own) from the true sacrifice (Himself, Hebrews 9: 6-14; 23-26). The rest of this book is also filled with many symbolic laws of purification which Chr

"Purifying Power of Abiding"

Fish are wonderful, colorful pets, very fascinating and relaxing to watch. However, it is a lot of trouble to maintain their environment. Much time must be spent changing the water in the aquarium and keeping its walls free of algae, or else the beautiful fish inside cannot be clearly seen, and the tank becomes an unhealthy place for them. Unless one is prepared to work hard it would be better to choose another pet, such as a turtle. Not as beautiful, not as interesting, but not as much work. But there is a special type of fish called a suckerfish. This fish actually feeds on the algae that grows on the glass of the aquarium. By keeping a suckerfish in the aquarium, the fish owner can lessen

"Purifying Power of Abiding"

95% of married men feel a stronger connection with an object of their affection other than their spouse. They look at them, spend time with them, touch and hold them more than their wife. They dread not being with them or losing them, and they can’t imagine life without them. They sleep with them and wake up beside them. Men are having affairs with their cellphones. If only we, as branches, would have the same attachment to Jesus, the vine. It is Him we should look to, know, touch, spend time with and fear losing. Because apart from Him, life has no meaning, no fulfillment. “We were joined to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” (Rom 7:4)

“Purveyors of Paganism”

1 Thessalonians 4: 3-5: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you knows how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” The first century Greco-Roman culture was notable in its uninhibited gratification of lustful passions, and the city of Thessalonica was squarely in the midst of it. As this immoral standard is making an emphatic return in today’s society, we need to re-emphasize these warnings from Jesus and Paul more and more. If you claim to know God, sanctify yourself from these immoral practices!

“Make the Connection”

Matthew 5: 28b-29a: “Everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out.” In these days when pornography is often classified as art, we need to get back to these words of Jesus, which are hardly ambiguous. When He talks of looking on a woman (or man) He can mean either the hard copy or a soft copy. And when He immediately follows with a recommendation to pluck out an eye which refuses to stop wandering, the inference is clear. Any form of looking on another person with lust is adultery. (And when He continues the thread with possible offenses from one’s right hand, again the inference

“Protector from the Swords”

Psalm 59: 7, 12: “Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; swords are in their lips … On account of the sin of their mouths and the words of their lips, let them even be caught in their pride.” This psalm could have just as well been written by Paul as well as David. As seen yesterday and throughout the book of Acts, he was hounded from city to city by those with swords on their lips, yet he nonetheless knew that the Lord was his stronghold, and a refuge in the day of his distress (v. 16). And in the end, who prevailed – St. Paul and his efforts to propagate the Gospel, or his enemies and their drive to quench it?

“A Matter of Perspective”

1 Thessalonians 2: 2: “After we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had to boldness in our God to speak to you the Gospel of God amid much opposition.” From the point of view of many in Philippi and Thessalonica, St. Paul and his team were deviate losers, and were treated as such. To an outside observer, or St. Paul himself, it could have led to an incorrect ‘performance rating.’ But he knew the evaluation of the only one Who mattered, that he was approved by God (v. 4), and in this lay his confidence!

“The Comedy Continues”

Exodus 32: 24: “And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.’” Just how dumb did Aaron think his brother was? He gives him one of the all-time classic dumb excuses (right up there with ‘My dog ate my homework’) and expects him to buy it! Whoever says the Bible is boring hasn’t read this week’s MDR passages!

“Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, God and Moses …”

Exodus 32: 7, 11: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves’ … Them Moses entreated the Lord God and said, ‘O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt?’” In what sounds more like the routine of an old-school comedy act, it seems the Lord and Moses are blaming the Israelites on each other. “They’re yours.” “No, they’re Yours.” “You led them out.” “No, You led them out.” I wonder if the Father and Jesus ever have this same type of dialog over us?

"Purifying Power of Shepherding"

Two men were asked to recite Psalm 23 in front of a group of people in an auditorium. The first, a seasoned orator, rendered it in a powerful way. The audience cheered, gave him a standing ovation and even asked for an encore just to hear his voice again. The other, a much older man, repeated the same words. But when he finished, no sound came from the crowd. Instead, they sat in silence, prayer and contemplation. The first man stood up again and said, “The difference between what you just heard from my friend and what you heard from me is this: I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”

"Purifying Power of Shepherding"

There is no better feeling than knowing you are protected and secure at all times. We feel secure when the doors of the house are locked and all is quiet as you drift off to sleep at night. We feel safe. But many lie awake in their beds with fearful thoughts of the present or dread of the future. Some cannot rest because of worry over many problems. Others are anxious about a sick family member. These are the times when we need God's guidance and help. In today's gospel, Jesus said "I am the good Shepherd, the good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees

“From Lent to Easter”

Psalm 30: 11: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.’” Now here’s a psalm celebrating the end of Lent! But it’s much more. It’s celebrating our deliverance from bondage and death, and our entrance into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Lent will come again next year, but let the dancing continue through Easter and beyond, forever praising the Lord for His lovingkindness! .

“Vanishing Act”

Exodus 24: 14: “But to the elders he said, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.’” Hur gets off to a good start in Exodus. Along with Aaron, he holds up the hands of Moses to help the Israelites defeat the Amalekites. Here, after joining Aaron and seventy-two others in a most exclusive dinner party, they are delegated by Moses to judge the people in his absence. And after that – nothing. Not a word. Like Ananias of Damascus fame, he is given a major role by God, performs it well, then disappears from the scene. It doesn’t mean he fell from grace, it just means he finished his job.

“Rampant Vanity”

Exodus 20: 7: “You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His Name in vain.” What is the most commonly broken commandment these days? A strong case could be made for commandment number three. When we use the Name of God, the very reflection of His character and that which cost Jesus the total emptying of Himself, as a mere expression of our personal amazement or inner frustration, it is the sin of disrespecting God Himself. Whenever you say, “Oh my God”, it had better be the first line of a prayer!

“So Far, So Good”

Matthew 3: 17: “And behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.’” Again, the point: What makes us pleasing to the Father, as St. Paul prayed for the Colossians? (Colossians 1: 10) Up to this point Jesus had done just one spiritual act that we know of: go to the Jordan for baptism. But that was enough for the Father to announce His pleasure in His Son. We can strive all we want, but we will never earn God’s favor; it si a free gift from our loving Father.

“Fully Qualified”

Colossians 1: 12: “Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” What qualifies one to be a saint, and receive a saintly inheritance? It doesn’t really come by saintly thoughts, saintly deeds, or saintly words. The only valid qualification is: “The Father said so!” In this matter He has the first word, the last word, the only word; it’s up to our God Whose lovingkindness endures forever.

“Just Between Us Bros”

Matthew 3: 3: “For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!”’” It is said that Matthew wrote his Gospel to his Jewish brethren to convince them that Jesus was the Christ. For that to be successful, he first had to identify the forerunner promised by Isaiah and Malachi. (Isaiah 40: 3; Malachi 4: 5) Without a forerunner, anyone claiming to be the Christ was just a pseudo-Christ. So Matthew, like Mark, Luke, and John after him, spends time pointing to John the Baptist, as an initial step in introducing his readers to Jesus

"The Purifying Power of Witness" - 3rd Sunday of Easter

Easter marks the beginning of a new creation. God has translated us from the old world of darkness into that kingdom of His beloved Son. In that new world, the first word Jesus spoke was “peace.” The second was about forgiveness. The extent of those two things being a reality in our lives determines the power of our witness as sons of the resurrection.

Emmanuel Forever!

Wouldn’t a resurrection body, by definition, be better than new? If I were the one raising Jesus from the dead, I’d give Him a body that was better than new. I’d fill in all the tissue that was chewed up by nail and thorn, and I’d knit the great gash in His side back together. I’d wash away all the dried blood and smooth away every mark of the whip. I’d cover all the wounds with skin like a newborn baby’s. Then I’d ease away all the soreness and stiffness. I would put all Jesus’ wounds into the past. I would give Jesus a body that was perfectly whole in every way. A body that can go through walls should by definition be perfectly whole. But the God who did raise Jesus from the dead h

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