Archive for July, 2011

Genuine Prayer


                “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” (Mathew 6: 7-8.)             


                By the first century, the repetitious prayer so common to the heathen nations surrounding Israel had infiltrated the Jewish ranks.  By repeating the same prayer many times in one sitting, they believed God was more inclined to listen and respond (in their estimation God was hard of hearing.)  To the unwise, the blessings of God were not just gifts received from above, but wages earned from below.  The quantity of prayer soon replaced the quality of prayer.  As repetition increased, genuine belief decreased; as religious practice became the focus, true expression of faith began to whither [Note:  Jesus was not referring to daily prayer.  He specifically commanded that his followers persist in petitioning God for their daily needs.  Ex., to pray for a wife or husband daily is good.  What is not good, is to sit down and petition God 30 times in one day (he hears the first request.)]

                In the Catholic Church, the members confess their sins to a priest, and the priest gives them an assigned act of penance (or repentance.)  Repentant acts are considered payment for the wrongs done. Commonly, many priests sentence the sinner to a few minutes of repetitious prayer (the amount varies based upon the severity of the sin.)  For example, if a man confesses to the act of adultery, he might be commanded to say 50 hail Maries (a short prayer lifting up the Virgin Mary.)  And again one week later, the adulterer returns after committing adultery again; and again he is sentenced to 50 hail Maries.  For three years, the man returns, until finally his wife has left him and his marriage is destroyed.  The man was allowed to believe that God’s forgiveness could be attained through ritualistic repetitive prayer; forgiveness however is only bestowed upon those who truly repent; had the man truly felt shame and guilt in his heart he would have confessed his sin and discontinued it.  The religious system fails anyone who is taught that repetitious prayer can take the place of true genuine repentance (Note:  This does not mean that Catholicism is evil; it is simply one practice in Christianity that can be used as an illustration.  There are many faithful believers in the Catholic Church.)

                Rituals and traditions have infiltrated the body of Christ.  Genuine faith has been crushed beneath the weight of religion.  Long repetitious prayers are wasted on God.  And not only are they wasted, they obstruct true faith and prohibit authenticity.  Draw near to Him with your heart, not just your posture; may your words be few, and may your requests be genuine and congruent with the perfect will of our loving God and Father.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we come before You today and thank You for all that You have done for us; please strengthen us and make us more genuine believers.  May we not fall victim to the trappings of tradition, but instead, be reborn in the newness of Your Spirit.  Hear our prayers Father.  We love You, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Tough Choices


                Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  And he took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be troubled and deeply distressed.  Then he said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.  Stay here and watch.”  He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.  Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14: 32-36.)


                After eating the Passover meal, Jesus and his disciples traveled to a garden area near the temple, known as Gethsemane.  There, in solitude, clothed in a heavy garment of darkness, the first drops of blood and sweat dripped from the forehead of God’s Son; a peaceful garden became the scene of the greatest battle ever fought; the knock-down-drag out fight for the redemption and salvation of mankind.  With the pain of his crucifixion dawning on the horizon, he succumbed to overwhelming anguish.  Falling on his face in agony, Jesus pleaded with God to use an alternative means of accomplishing His deliverance.  In the same breath he said, “nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”  In one sentence the battle had been won, and the world would come to know true obedience.  God’s will and our will are often in great opposition; like Jesus, there are moments when we are faced with tough choices.  Do we choose to do what is right despite any resulting hardships; or do we choose what is evil because it is less painful.

                [Warning:  This illustration is emotionally disturbing; if you have ever committed the sin outlined below, remember that God loves you; if you have asked for forgiveness you are guilty of nothing; by the blood of Christ you are a ‘new creation.’]  ‘Nearly 43% of all women will have at least one abortion by the time they are 45 years old.’  Every year, 42 million women choose to abort their developing babies because it is the easy way out.  A trip to the clinic and a life is traded for a few more years of freedom; a future job; or, greater financial security; in a 2004 study, 86% of abortions were justified by one of the following excuses: ‘unready’ (25%); ‘Can’t afford a baby now’ (23%); ‘has all the children she wanted, or all children are grown’ (19%); ‘has relationship problems or wants to avoid single parenthood’ (8%); ‘is too immature or young to have child’ (7%); ‘would interfere with education and career plans’ (4%).  Regardless of excuse, the true cause is selfishness (Definition of selfishness:exclusive regard to one’s own interest or happiness; supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness.’)  Every child forming in the womb has already taken shape in the eyes of God; this year, like Jesus, millions of women and men will be faced with a choice; to obey the will of God and endure hardship, or to obey their own desires and avoid adversity.

                Women and men who choose life, have made the choice to do what is right; the correct path is often the most difficult.  Following God’s path is very costly.  Every disciple must embrace hardship and self-sacrifice.  Denying our own desires to satisfy the will of God is a daily battle that can only be won when we say, “nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”  The cost of eternal life is death; to live, we must lay down our lives.  May we all choose to serve God rather than ourselves; may we do what is right, no matter the cost; may we joyfully embrace a life of sacrifice; and may we always do the perfect will of our Almighty Father.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and praise You; You are truly an amazing God.  Help us to do Your will.  Give us the strength and the courage to embrace any difficulties that may arise from doing what is right.  Guide and direct us, that we might know what is pleasing to You.  May we deny our own desires when they are not congruent with Your desires.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.


When Tradition opposes God’s will


               Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

               Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?  For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say that if a man says to his father or mother ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it.  Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  You hypocrites!  Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  “‘These people honor me with their lips, But their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; Their teachings are but rules taught by men’” (Mathew 15: 1-9.)


               Over the course of many centuries, the Jewish people began to elevate their own traditions above the commandments of God.  One tradition required the people to ritualistically purify their hands before eating a meal.  The religious leaders condemned the Lord and his disciples for not observing this custom.  In turn, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for allowing one of their traditions to nullify God’s fifth commandment (“honor thy father and thy mother.”)  The tradition known as ‘Corban,’ made it acceptable to commit any or all of one’s wealth to God (and to the temple treasury.)  In turn, any money needed to care for or aide ailing parents or loved ones became null and void.  God did not create this tradition; for if He had, He would have clearly outlined it in scripture.  Jesus Christ does not honor the traditions of men; instead, he and his followers obey the laws and commandments of God (Note:  Not all traditions are evil; traditions such as adult baptism, communion, and the Lord’s Prayer are wonderful scriptural practices.) 

               There is no doubt that the Amish people possess a zeal for God.  Unfortunately, at some point, the Amish community contracted a serious case of ‘rigid traditionalism.’  They became paralyzed by rituals not outlined in scripture; rendering them nearly incapable of effectively evangelizing anyone other than their own children (evangelism is the requirement of every believer; Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”)  The (old order) Amish have made their customs a requirement for Church membership.  New members must become farmers.  Automobiles, radios, and televisions are prohibited; electricity can no longer be utilized; bicycles and wrist watches are forbidden; photographs are shunned; married men must grow beards and telephones can only be used outside of the home for business purposes, etc. (What began as a desire to not be conformed to the evils of society, has rendered them incapable of reaching the lost.) (Note:  Not all Amish traditions are wrong; many do have their genesis in scripture:  modest dress, pacifism, and the sanctity of marriage, to name a few.)

               Today, there are countless Christian denominations (non-essential practices have caused numerous divisions.)  Many have placed traditions above the laws of God.  Potential believers in Christ are seen as potential believers in the church.  But the Father has one set of standards; He has laid out what pleases Him in a book (the Holy Bible.)  Any requirements of a church not founded on God’s word are the rules of men; such rules can serve to confuse, divide, and neutralize the people of God.  (Note:  Does this mean churches that have non-biblical traditions are evil?  No.  All churches contain a measure of ‘traditionalism.’  However, we must never allow non-scriptural traditions to gain power and importance.  They are not requirements for salvation or church membership.  How can we know and understand what is truly important?  Confusion can be avoided by simply reading the bible; it is our guide; it is our source of true understanding and wisdom.  Traditions come and go, but the laws of God are eternal.)

               “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to avoid being victims of ‘traditionalism.’  May we always honor Your commandments above man-made practices.  Help us to find common ground with all those who believe.  Give us the strength to live by Your word; may we know each precept and every teaching; may we never replace Your word with our own understanding.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.


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