Epilogue: God Is What Life Is All About

Over the past forty-two days, we have studied Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5–15), focusing specifically on the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (verses 9–13). If we want to experience God through prayer, we must: make time and space for God (verses 5–9a), focus on God’s powerful love for us (verse 9b), prioritize God’s agenda for our lives (verse 10), ask God for whatever we need (verse 11), seek God’s forgiveness and send it to others (verse 12), and trust God in trying times (verse 13). In this epilogue, I want to conclude … Continue reading Epilogue: God Is What Life Is All About

Day 42: How to Be a Failure

One of my father’s best sermons is entitled, “How to Be a Failure.” It goes something like this… These days, we often hear messages about how to be a success. Rarely, however, do we hear a straightforward message about how to be a failure. And yet, the fear of failure drives people more than hope of success, so perhaps we ought to pay attention to what makes for a “successful” failure. The story of the feeding of the 5,000 (Luke 9:10–17) offers us three principles that, if followed, will help us fail every time. The first principle is this: Look … Continue reading Day 42: How to Be a Failure

Day 41: Arm Yourselves

In Ephesians 6:14–18, Paul describes “the full armor of God”: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. … Continue reading Day 41: Arm Yourselves

Day 40: We Are at War

In Ephesians 6:10–13, Paul writes: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” … Continue reading Day 40: We Are at War

Day 39: How Jesus Persevered through Trial

Luke 22:39–46 depicts the last moments Jesus spent with his disciples before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. He spent the time in prayer. Several important principles about perseverance emerge: First, Jesus talked to God regularly. According to Luke, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray….’” Matthew and Mark identify “the place” as Gethsemane, a large garden with olive trees (Matt. 26:36, Mark 14:32). Luke may be merely describing what Jesus did that particular week, but it seems more reasonable to interpret him as … Continue reading Day 39: How Jesus Persevered through Trial

Day 35: The Ministry of Reconciliation

It is relatively easy to confess our sins to God and ask for his forgiveness. It is much harder to forgive others when they sin against us. But Jesus teaches us to do both: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). This is the pattern of our praying and the design for our doing. Paul describes this praying and doing as “the ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:16–21. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so … Continue reading Day 35: The Ministry of Reconciliation

Day 34: Closing the Circle

Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts,” but we often overlook the condition he attached to that petition—“as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). To drive the point home, he added, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (verses 14–15). When we forgive others, we close the circle that began when God forgave us. Is God’s forgiveness really conditional on our forgiveness? Yes—if words have any meaning. But look at … Continue reading Day 34: Closing the Circle

Day 33: How to Confess, and How Not To

We are sinners who need to confess our sins. When we do so, God is able and willing to forgive us. The question, then, is how we ought to confess. Jesus’ parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the Temple to pray provides an answer (Luke 18:9–14). Luke explains the context of this parable in verse 9: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable….” From this introduction we can deduce that the spirit of confession is the antithesis of self-righteousness and judgmentalism. Verses 11–12 … Continue reading Day 33: How to Confess, and How Not To

Day 32: The Cross and the Problem of Forgiveness

How does God forgive us? Ephesians 1:7–8 gives the answer: “In him [i.e., Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Redemption and forgiveness are powerful images. Redemption portrays a slave set free. On several occasions, Paul refers to us as “slaves to sin” whom God has liberated through Christ (e.g., Rom 6:6, 16, 17, 20; 7:14, 25). Forgiveness portrays a debt being canceled. We are debtors to sin and owe God more than we can pay, but God has canceled our debt. According to Paul, redemption and forgiveness come at a great cost go God, … Continue reading Day 32: The Cross and the Problem of Forgiveness

Day 31: God’s Desire to Forgive

God has the power to forgive our sins, but does he have the desire to do so? I know that my question sounds strange. We simply assume that God will forgive us. With Heinrich Heine, who refused deathbed confession, we say, “God will forgive me. That’s his job.” Actually, forgiveness is not God’s job. It is his choice. He is under no obligation to forgive habitual sinners any more than a governor is duty-bound to pardon convicted criminals. Forgiveness is a grace God freely gives. He does not have to do so, and we certainly have not deserved or earned … Continue reading Day 31: God’s Desire to Forgive