Provision (Matthew 6:11)

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The book of Genesis reveals that God made the whole world in 6 days. It  cannot be lost  on us that God made all of our physical surroundings, even plants and animals, prior to creating man. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  

That order was not without manifold purpose. Clearly, God wanted to provide mankind with a world ready for him. He made a whole world full of fresh air, water, trees, plants, fish, birds and animals for Adam and Eve. Everything we would need for life. God our Father is our provider. Not only of physical things, either. God also grants us the tremendous gift of relationship. Immediately after creating them, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  Wow. Relationship with Him, relationship with each other, relationship with the created world. Blessing, work and calling! Truly it can be said, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” The abundance God made allows us to know for certain that He will not be unable to provide for our tomorrow.

Of course, sin obscures that idea. We begin to think that what is before us right now is all that will ever be. Indeed, apart from the creator, everything around us is a most limited resource. So mankind selfishly hoards. The result is that many do not have what they need. The few grow large, the many go without. Fortunately, God our creator and sustainer is not limited to what is. He can make more simply by speaking. So to turn to Him for our daily need is not only necessary, but wise. In him there is no want. To that point Jesus instructs us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.”  

It is a prayer that asks God only for bread, not for the rich food of the over indulgent. It is a prayer that asks God only for daily need to be met, not for freezers full of abundance. It is a prayer that asks God for today, not for every day hereafter. It is a prayer that keeps our eyes on Him and does not let our eyes focus on abundance instead of Him. It is a prayer of humility that anticipates tomorrow’s prayer of humility. 

To that point NT Wright wrote, “The Kingdom-prayer isn’t a prayer, such as some religions would advocate, for our desires to be taken away or annihilated. In bringing them into the prayer within the setting of the earlier petitions for God’s honour, his kingdom and his will, it asks for our desires to be satisfied in God’s way and God’s time.”

Amen. God knew what Adam and Eve needed, and made a world that produced it. Each day that the night ended and the sun rose, God caused the plants to increase and the fruit to be produced, so that those He made in His image would have all they need for the day. And He did that all before He put Adam and Even on the scene. He didn’t create refrigeration or IDF (individually quick frozen) technology in advance. He didn’t create pensions and retirement funds in advance. He created daily provision in advance. That’s all, and there is a something for us to be gained in noticing that.

God knows what we need today. Ask Him. He is well able to provide. But only expect what you need for today, not what you might need for tomorrow. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Poor and content is rich, and rich enough.

William Shakespeare

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

What has God provided you with today?

Working (Matthew 6:10)

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We all die. Sooner or later, the body gives out, and the soul passes into   eternity. Only two people have ever avoided death entirely (Enoch and Elijah), and it is highly probable that they are the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11. Of course, in the end those two witnesses die too – for even Jesus Himself did not avoid dying. He overcame it in the resurrection, but death itself remains until the very last day. 

For this reason some have believed that our present life is of little value. That what really matters is making it to heaven, so that one can do what really matters on that side of eternity. Consequently, although they’ve may have been saved and even though they may live moral and upright lives, they spend little effort on bringing His Kingdom come. Content to know their surety, they assign the work of rescuing the lost to the clergy. Or to the very passionate – those they’ve attributed a ‘gift’ of evangelism and/or mission to. 

They have forgotten the very example they cling to. For Christ poured out his life on the earth for the poor, the forgotten, the downcast, the oppressed and the broken. Jesus preached the Good News everywhere He went – always making it a priority.  He did so, and even faced the cross, “for the joy that lay before Him.” Further, it was not only joy that was set before Him. Entirely as a result of what He did on earth, “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.”

NT Wright wrote, “The present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. God will raise it to new life. What you do with your body in the present matters, because God has a great future in store for it. […] What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbour as yourself—all these things will last into God’s future. They are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it, ‘until that day when all the blest to endless rest are called away’). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.” 

So when we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we must not only be asking Him to bring about His Kingdom, and that His will might be effected on earth – we must be committing ourselves to work to the very same end. For surely this is the abundant life, that God allows us the privilege of working alongside Him, in bringing about His purposes in the here and now! Not only to be a blessing to many now, but so that He might reward His obedient children all the more when His Kingdom is fully here, manifested physically as well as spiritually! Amen.

Though I am always in a haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit.

John Wesley

APPLICATION: Intentionality

How are you planning on honouring God in what you do today? 

Be Done (Matthew 6:10)

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How much time do you spend thinking about what God has for you in   heaven? It is not an idle question. What we think of heaven is critical to living the Christ-life on earth. If we think heaven is a place of endless rest and relaxation, we will be inspired to simply wait for it. We will act like tourists lining up to board the plane to their vacation instead of diligent servants of our King and Father. 

We work toward what we pray for. So if we pray as Jesus instructed us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and think God’s will is for nothing more than our eternal rest and pleasure, we will seek exactly that in the here and now. Perhaps that is one reason why so many of God’s people are not actively working to spread His Kingdom. 

But heaven is not an eternal spa day, with angels waiting on our every beck and call. Such a thing might seem very pleasant through the eyes of one who desperately needs a vacation, but it would rapidly become a bore to us, and a chore to angels. Sabbath is desperately needed and critically important. Yet God did not make the week a string of seven Sabbath days, and He did not make us to live in such a mode forever. Nor is it an endless Sunday morning worship service. Worship is infinitely more than singing songs and listening to messages, and far more than a meal and a presentation.

When we pray “your will”, we are praying for what God designs. We understand that it is God’s will for us to worship Him, and to love Him, and to serve Him. We also understand His will is for us to honor one another and to seek to bless one another. We know that it includes righteous behaviour on our part, both when we are with others and when we are by ourselves. That God’s will is manifested by working toward it and seeking to heal, to release, to spread His glory. Further, we know that we don’t always fulfill that will. We stumble and fall. We do what He would want us to do only imperfectly, and with mixed motive. That is not the case in heaven. In heaven, what God wants is realized with urgency, for there His will is uncorrupted by sin and the enemy’s influence.

What Jesus urges us to pray then, is not toward some idealized vacation. But toward greater and greater fulfillment of God’s rule and instruction. Jesus would have us to pray and seek to embody all He would have us to be and do here and now, just as we one day will be and do all He ever designs, perfectly and without sin, and forever. We start with simple obedience (Micah 6:8) and we go on from there in ever more strategic obedience (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus modelled that for us. He modelled it in devotion to God and application of His Word. He modelled it in healing people from sickness and in delivering people from spiritual oppression. He modelled it in spreading the Good News that God’s Kingdom of heaven was very near. He modelled it while walking the dusty streets of ancient Israel. While ministering to lepers. He modelled it while living in poverty. He modelled it by ministering across cultures. He modelled it in accepting wrongful arrest, imprisonment and even while being nailed to the cross.

The Christ-life is full of joy and peace and a sweet walk with the Lord. But it is not all fun and games. It constantly pushes us toward God and away from everything that distracts from God. That makes it a challenging adventure of walking in faith, and at times lonely and arduous and even painful. The Christ-follower must know that those seasons are not times of abandonment, but times of growth. Every moment in the obedient disciple’s life is used of God to either grow His Kingdom inside us (by the demolition of stronghold of wickedness in our thinking, or a new lesson of His ways learned, or a new worldview of His Kingdom gained) or to advance His Kingdom beyond us (by the same means, but in others around us). It could be said that until we see the Lord, both we and our world are constantly under renovation. Amen.

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.

Phillips Brooks

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What is God doing in your life today? In the lives of those around you today?

Will (Matthew 6:10)

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Any idea that God was obligated to respond positively to our prayers must  be  immediately dismissed on account of our sinfulness. Any idea that God would be obligated to respond positively to our prayers if only we were more holy must likewise be immediately dismissed after considering the cross. For in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus (the most holy man ever to walk the face of the earth) asked God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Yet God denied that request. Jesus didn’t just pray that once, either. He prayed it three times, and He prayed it earnestly and ferverently. Luke records, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” 

One must think then; that if God the Son asked, and then repeated so, and prayed so earnestly and in such great anguish of soul that He literally sweat blood about it – that God the Father would surely grant that request. Especially because it was a request to avoid extreme suffering, and a request made by the Son. But he did not. It was in fact as Isaiah had foretold, “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” 

Of course we have the New Testament’s testimony of the fruitfulness of that effort. And that testimony lends us the necessary courage to read the harsh reality of Christ’s suffering without feeling like God is the most uncaring of Fathers. 

Speaking on the day of Pentacost, Peter noted that Christ was “not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.” Instead, “God has raised this Jesus to life…Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” The whole of the rest of Scripture details how Jesus’ suffering bought untold numbers of redeemed souls for God’s great glory. His suffering gives every Christ-follower eternal life and purpose. It gives us the peace, presence and power to act as God’s people. Moreover, it set in place a chain of events that will ultimately result in the restoration of all things. So was it all worth it? All that sweat and anguish, all that pain and suffering? Of course it was worth it. Was it easy? Absolutely not. Not at all. 

This is truth; God’s will is always to our ultimate great benefit, but it is not always to our immediate comfort. To pray as Jesus instructed us, “your will be done” is therefore not an easy thing to do, because it risks discomfort – even great discomfort leading to death. Yet Christ asked us to pray it all the same, just as He prayed it all the same. Even knowing that the Father had sent Him to that precise point in time for the very purpose of suffering and dying the cruelest of deaths. Still, Christ prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Not because He was unaware of what lay ahead, but because he was keenly aware of it. His was a total surrender to God and to God’s purposes. 

Ours should be too. For Jesus, looking forward to the suffering before Him, also looked up to the Father He knew so well. He knew that the Father loved Him. He knew how much the Father loved Him. So He chose – in spite of what must have been the greatest anxiety – to trust His Father implicitly. He chose surrender to the Father’s will, knowing that the Father would not abandon Him forever. Even if it felt exactly like that

Jesus could do that because He knew this thing we can and should all know; God is good – all the time. And God, who is good, cannot be out-given. All we offer to Him He blesses and hands back to our tremendous and overwhelming joy. Even and perhaps especially, our suffering for His glory.  Amen.

Grace enables us to suffer without complaining, and even to use that suffering for God’s glory.

Warren Wiersbe

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Praise God that our suffering as His followers is never in vain. He yet will redeem every dime spent for His honor and every tear shed in His service.

Come (Matthew 6:10)

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Anyone who has ever tried to organize a church or community event will  realize that  getting multiple people to the same point in space and time is a rather significant thing. Everyone has their own agenda and their own obligations, so the event we seek to schedule has to be one that becomes a priority for all invited for the time suggested. If it is not a priority for them, it’s all but impossible to plan. It becomes exponentially more difficult if just one of the parties invited is completely unaware of the event (as in a surprise party). How much more difficult if many are unaware and at the same time most are indifferent?

Yet it is to God’s great glory that this is exactly what He is doing. Not only with every human soul, but with all created beings. Further, He is doing this while numbers of them are not merely unaware or indifferent, but actively working against Him! God is bringing history to a conclusion. He is bringing the blessing of Himself to lost mankind. Not only that, but He is doing so while all the time having expressly told created beings that He is going to do it. As though to give His enemies every possible opportunity to try to thwart Him. But do it He will, as all His prophets have already foreseen the foregone conclusion. 

As N.T. Wright wrote, “The prophets had promised it. Ezekiel: yhwh himself will come to be the shepherd of Israel. Zechariah: yhwh will come, and all his saints with him. Malachi (with more than a tinge of warning): the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his Temple. And, towering over them all, Isaiah: there will be a highway in the wilderness; the valleys and mountains will be flattened out; the glory of yhwh shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” The day will come. God will come to the earth, and His Kingdom will be physically and fully manifested here. What we can only perceive with spiritual sight now we will then see with physical eyes. God’s kingdom will come. 

Then we will no longer have to pray, “your kingdom come,” because it will have already come, as fully and completely as it could ever arrive. God’s kingdom will come. But until it is fully physically manifested on earth, we pray. Not only for its eventual fulfillment, but for ever greater manifestations of it in the here and now

We pray that because we long to see more of it during our lifetime. To enjoy more of it, and to see the joy of others as they enjoy more of it. To see more of the purity of His Kingdom. To experience more of the peace of His Kingdom. To know more righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit

We have those things now, of course. But not in perfect measure, nor in lasting measure, for at present His Kingdom is not yet fully manifested. When His Kingdom is fully manifested it will be one of complete health and well-being and complete and everlasting provision. One in which we do not see peace come and go, or health fade and sickness reign unto death. One in which we do not see prosperity whither away due to corruption or loss. For, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

So we pray as Jesus instructed us to pray, “your kingdom come,” that we might see more of more of His rule breaking into our brokenness. That we might see done on earth what is a regular, daily and almost mundane experience in heaven

We may say that in the possession of the Spirit we who are in Christ have a foretaste of the blessings of the age to come, and a pledge and guarantee of the resurrection of the body. Yet we have only the firstfruits. We look forward to the final consummation of the kingdom of God, when we shall enjoy these blessings to the full.

Anthony A. Hoekema

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Today, pray for more opportunity to bring the Kingdom of God into your community.

Your Kingdom (Matthew 6:10)

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Not everyone has a king, but everyone knows what a kingdom is. You might   call them a prime minister, or a president, or a governor or a sheik instead of a king. You might call the area they rule the country, or province, or state. Whatever you call them and whatever area they rule, the idea of a person having rulership over an area that contains many people is common to everyone on the planet. So when Jesus prays, “your kingdom”, we all know what He means. He is acknowledging that God is King, and He is talking about the rule of God. More than that, in the context of verse 9 (“hallowed be your name”), He is referring to the honor and reverence that is owing to God and to God’s reputation, not merely the respect of God’s laws and commands. 

Of course, God Most High should be respected, revered and honored, and He should be obeyed in all things. Not only because He is Father, and not only because He is above us in heaven, but because He is The King – because His Kingdom includes our entire planet and all who dwell on it. After all, He made it – so it belongs to Him. Quite aside from the creation story in Genesis 1, Psalm 89 affirms, “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.” Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  The Lord affirms in Ps 50:12, “the world is mine, and all that is in it.” 

Consequently, we should all recognize God’s Kingship, even when He is not physically present in our line of sight. After all, we recognize the authority, the rights and the will of the political ruler of our country/province/territory. We may disagree with some of what they mandate and we might not ever see them in person. But we cannot disobey without penalty, and even if we do disobey, their rule is not overturned by our disobedience – it is only to our own great loss that we suffer as law-breakers.

Yet if such is true of an earthly king (though they be ungodly), how much more is it true of our heavenly king, who is not only godly, but God! 

Moreover, even here on earth the upright of the land enjoy the blessing of the rule they abide by. Being a citizen of God’s Kingdom means that independent of circumstance, we can enjoy peace, righteousness and joy. For Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Being a citizen of God’s Kingdom means our lives will be fruitful. Both internal fruitfulness (the fruit of the Spirit) and external fruitfulness (the result of practicing the gifts of the Spirit). It means living the abundant life – the Christ-life – for Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” A life of wonder and adventure. A life of drawing near to God through every season – seasons of lament just as well as seasons of worshipful bliss. It is a life of enjoying the benefits of being a citizen of God’s Kingdom, just as we enjoy the benefits of being a citizen of the earthly ruler of the country we live in. It means joyful fellowship with both fellow saints and the Lord.

Likewise, just as the faithful earthly citizen does not fear parking tickets, fines, arrests, sentencing and jail time on account of their right relationship with their government, the citizen of God’s Kingdom does not fear guilt, fear and condemnation on account of their relationship with God.

God is our King, and we are His people. More than that, He is King AND our Father, so we are even more than citizens! If are princes and princesses. We are heirs. So just as those who belong to earthly countries sing the national anthem with pride, we proclaim God’s Kingdom with much enthusiasm and rejoicing in praying as Jesus prayed, “Your Kingdom come!” 

Amen. 

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

the Westminster Shorter Catechism

APPLICATION: Worship

Praise the Lord for the benefits of being under His rule.

Your Name (Matthew 6:9)

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Immediately after the Lord gave Israel the ten commandments, the Lord  said  this to Moses, “Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.” He said that in the context of giving Israel instructions for sacrificial worship, and before the rest of the Law was given. To be sure, this promise of blessing is a promise meant for the tabernacle and the temple. Yet from the context as well as the text, we learn that the blessing of God is given wherever He chooses to manifest His presence, most especially during sacrificial worship. Anyone who’s ever been at a particularly powerful worship time and “felt the presence of God” is describing this very thing. When God is lifted up in praise, His presence is made more tangible. The fabric between our present world and heaven is rendered a little bit thinner. 

Far from a modern experience, this goes back through the millennia. Seeking to express it, David wrote in Psalm 22:3, “Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” Obviously, God is not physically sitting on a pile of music scripts. Nor can we play a worship song and expect Him to magically appear in our living room. This is something He does, and He does it as He Himself inspires. It is not something we can force. But there is something about heartfelt worship – about honoring God’s Name in body, soul and spirit – that He loves. For this reason it is often said, “God inhabits the praise of His people.” 

Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” We “Hallow” God’s Name when we praise Him. We lift up in worship what we know of Him, and we magnify what we’ve experienced of Him by singing of it so other beings can hear – and when we are inspired to do that, God draws close to us. He draws close, we sense the thinness of the space between our physicality and His reality, and we are blessed. Our spirits soar as we drink in His peace, His beauty and the wonder of God. Such experiences seem rare. But they are not meant to be rare. Every prayer should have an element of that. 

Every time we purpose to focus on Him, every time we come before His throne – whether to ask in supplication, or approach Him in thanksgiving, or beseech Him in intercession. Every prayer, and every prayer time, should hallow God’s Name. That’s why Jesus includes this line in His prayer template for us. Every prayer experience we have should be one of at least seeking to encounter His manifest presence in some way. After all, we cannot expect Him to cause His Name to be honored in either meeting us or answering our prayer if we are not actually seeking to bring Him honor. If we are just wanting to use Him as a vending machine, we should not expect Him to bless us with either presence or response. 

But if we approach Him as God. 

As Father. 

As King of all, seated far above. 

As worthy of honor and worthy of sacrifice. 

Well, then we might just find ourselves in His presence.

Amen.

Many of us live as practical deists—acting like God is somewhere else and maybe, if we sing loud enough or pray long enough, He’ll show up. I want to be aware of the God who is right here right now, and because of that, every moment is drenched with divine presence and potential.

Mike Erre

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Have you experienced God’s presence today?