The Kingdom of Heaven: Not Bread Alone

16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

(Matt. 6:14-18, NKJV)

Matthew 6 has so far focused very much on humility. Do good deeds out of humility only. Pray out of humility only. And now Jesus commands us to fast out of humility only.

Since we’ve already talked about so much about humility, it would seem repetitive to dive further into that now. So instead, I’m going to take a slightly different bent and focus on fasting itself.

Most of us probably do good deeds. . . tithe a percentage of our income, do some volunteer work, and overall just try to be nice to people. Maybe we don’t do as much as we should, but at least we do something.

And most of us probably pray. . . at mealtimes, at church, or in privacy. Again, maybe we don’t pray as often as we should – but at least we do it sometimes.

But how many of us have fasted? Even once? Continue reading


The Kingdom of Heaven: Humble Prayer

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 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.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Matthew 6:5-14, NKJV

Have you ever heard someone lead prayer at your church and you found yourself wondering, “Did they plan this whole prayer out ahead-of-time?” The perfectly-worded sentences, the expert weaving in of Scripture, the lack of pauses, and maybe the addition of a “speech-giving voice” combine to make it all seem very scripted.

And then there’s the ones who are truly genuine – but again, their prayers seem so perfect that it can be intimidating to the simpler folk among us who haven’t quite attended that level of “prayer quality.” Continue reading

1 Samuel 11: Deliverance through Saul

saulgetsmessage1 Samuel 11 paints a very different picture of Saul than we see in chapter 10. In chapter 10 you get the impression that Saul was dealing with insecurities and a low self-image, and that he wasn’t entirely sure he could handle leading the nation of Israel.

But then his moment comes.

Messengers from Jabesh Gilead arrive in Saul’s hometown with the news that Nahash the Ammonite is threatening to do some pretty awful things to the inhabitants of that city. When Saul hears the news, the spirit of the LORD comes upon him, and in righteous anger he is moved to action against the threat. Continue reading


I remember, when Life Action came to my church nearly 3 1/2 years ago, one of the leaders gave an illustration to the youth that I have not forgotten.

I don’t remember his exact words, but here’s the gist of what he said.

Ruler1He showed a picture of a ruler, and talked about how we create our own standards of holiness. We put people like Hitler down at the very bottom of the ruler, and other criminals pretty close to him. We put ourselves higher – closer to the top than to the bottom. Peers who do “more bad things than us” go a little below us, while above us go maybe a few people we really admire (our pastor, a famous missionary, the apostles, etc.). So we stand back and think, “I’m pretty well off! I’m not as bad as all those people below me, and I’m closer to the top than to the bottom. Yep, I’m a pretty good person.” Continue reading