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

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The Kingdom of Heaven: Do Right for the Right Reasons

It’s been a little while since my last installment in the “Kingdom of Heaven” series through the Sermon on the Mount.

But I’m back now to pick up where we left off! We’d finished Matthew 5, so now we’re heading into chapter 6.

Chapter 5 focused very much on relationships: our relationship with God and with others. In that first third of His sermon, Jesus talked about things like hate, lust, divorce, faithfulness, going the extra mile, and loving everyone – even those who don’t return the love.

Chapter 6 transitions to a larger focus on our actions and the motivations behind our actions: Continue reading

The Kingdom of Heaven: Perfect Love

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

(Matt. 5:43-48, NKJV)

Jesus has just told the crowds to turn the other cheek, to show kindness even when it’s not natural to do so. But just in case you didn’t quite get it the first time, He expounds on this tough idea.

The common saying of the day was to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.

But only half of that was actually based in Scripture: Continue reading

The Kingdom of Heaven: Mercy Triumphs over Judgment

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Matt. 5:38-42, NKJV

Human nature cries out for justice from even the earliest age. One child slaps another, and receives a slap in return. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a strike for a strike. If you don’t do this for me, then I won’t do it for you.

But our sinful human nature often isn’t content with justice. The child doesn’t return an equal slap; he tries to one-up it and strike harder. It becomes eyes for an eye, teeth for a tooth, blows for a slap. And true justice doesn’t end up happening. Continue reading

The Kingdom of Heaven: Keep Your Word & Keep It Pure

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Matt. 5:33-37, NKJV

The phrase Jesus is examining more closely is actually likely a combination of two Old Testament verses: Continue reading