The Journal

Devotional Engagement

Praying Biblically – Temptation

What does “lead us not into temptation” mean? Certainly, it cannot mean that God is the prime mover behind all temptation. James 1:13 makes this clear: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’…nor does He tempt anyone.” Rather, this verse describes one’s reliance upon God to keep one from being overpowered by temptation and falling into sin.

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Praying Biblically – Confession and Compassion

Biblical prayer involves confession and compassion. Though we have been forgiven of our sins, we are still to ask for forgiveness of particular sins so that our consciences may be cleansed. Also, in the same way that we seek and receive compassion from God, we should be extending compassion to those who sin against us.

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Praying Biblically – Our Daily Bread

Prayer is so important to the life of the believer that Satan and your own flesh will try and do whatever they can to keep you from praying. He will provide excuses: too busy to pray; I can’t pray well; ministry involvement is more important than prayer; I can’t pray because of former sin; interruptions and distractions. Nevertheless, we must pray. We are to be dependent upon God and content with the necessities of His provision.

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Kingdom Focused Praying

The first petition in the Lord’s prayer deals with the glory of God, where the second petition deals with the means through which His glory will be manifested. Remember, the glory of God is always the issue. To pray, “Your kingdom come,” is to pray for Christ to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. It is to pray for His rule and reign.

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How To Approach God in Prayer

Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. You are at your greatest when you are on your knees in prayer. It is also the ultimate test of your spiritual condition. Therefore, we will take our time as study The Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6.

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Be Real! Part 2

Jesus continues His contrast of true and false righteousness, in particular, the false righteousness typified by the scribes and Pharisees. As 6:2-4 exposes their hypocritical giving and verses 16-18 their hypocritical fasting, verses 5-8 exposes their equally hypocritical praying.

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Be Real! Part 1

Here, Jesus warns against hypocrisy concerning giving. The word “hypocrisy” in the greek originally referred to an actor who wore a mask that portrayed in an exaggerated way the role that actor was playing. For obvious reasons, the term came to be used of anyone who pretended to be what he or she was not.

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Is There Anything Unique About You?

Is there anything unique about you? Is there anything special about you? Before we answer this question, let’s study the text at hand. Jesus says, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” The word “perfect” here is the greek teleios which literally means genuine. It implies growth and godliness. In other words, if you are a Christian, you are to be Christ-like.

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Love Your Enemies

The Pharisees perverted the truth by omitting the word “yourself” (Lev. 19:18). They also perverted the truth by adding the phrase “hate your enemies.” This phrase is found nowhere in scripture. The religious leaders excluded the tax collector and the sinner—the common people—from their love. They only included people like themselves.

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Have We No Rights?

Contrary to what we might think, He is not describing a physical attack, but rather a very traditional, calculated insult. Notice that Jesus specifically mentions the “the right check,” which tells us he is describing a backhanded slap (since most people are right-handed). According to rabbinic law, to hit someone with the back of the hand was twice as insulting as hitting him with the flat of the hand.

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The Truth Matters!

We see this most clearly when we look at the positive teaching about oaths throughout Scripture. For instance, as far back as in the book of Deuteronomy, we hear Moses commanding the people, “fear the Lord your God and serve Him. Hold fast to Him and take your oaths in His name” (Deut. 10:20). In the New Testament, Paul frequently swears by the Lord crying, “As God as my witness” (Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23).

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The Truth Behind the Lie - Part III

In the Sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches about true righteousness. The Pharisees and the scribes of His day taught and believed in false righteousness. They had bought into the lie of the enemy and believed that sin was a physical act and not an act of the heart. In this passage, Jesus teaches about divorce to confront the Pharisees about their adulterous behavior.

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The Truth Behind the Lie - Part II

Last week you will remember that we used the Word of God to destroy three lies of the enemy: 1) We are really not that bad. 2) You can worship God on your own terms. 3) You do not have to seek reconciliation. These are all lies that the clear teachings of Jesus destroy. This week we will expose two more lies of the enemy and use the Word of God to destroy those lies.

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The Truth Behind the Lie - Part I

Lies have contributed to the downfall of humanity ever since the Garden of Eden. Sadly, people today and throughout history have become easy prey for the lies of the enemy. People have chosen to be Biblically ignorant and thus only have themselves to blame. Other’s may know what the Bible says, but they have chosen to compromise the truth to fulfill their own pleasures.

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Positive Impact

As Christians, we are called to be salt. That means we should have a preserving, penetrating, and purifying impact on the world. Just as salt wards of rot and decay when rubbed into meat, Christians should act to ward off further decay in the world through prayer and pursuing righteousness.

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Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness Sake

Sadly, Christians are very often persecuted not for their Christianity, but for lack of it. Sometimes they have unpleasing personalities. They are rude, insensitive, thoughtless, or piously obnoxious. Remember, Christ’s words must be read in their entirety. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” In context, this is the righteousness taught in the preceding Beatitudes.

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Blessed Are The Peacemakers

One of the main themes found in scripture is peace. The Bible opens with peace in the Garden and closes with peace in eternity. Sin, however, is the great enemy of peace. Where sin has brought disruption, Christ has brought peace and causes us to be peacemakers.

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Blessed Are The Pure in Heart

There is a reality found in scripture that not all will enter into the kingdom of heaven. To the modern ear, this can sound harsh, but it is a truth found in the word of God. Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

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Blessed Are The Merciful

True Christianity is about being a Christian, not doing Christianity. This is the emphasis of the gospel. Christianity is a supernatural change wrought in us by the power of the Holy Spirit that takes place at the center of our being. It controls all our thoughts, all our outlooks, all our imaginations, and all our actions.

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Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness

The other beatitudes have been causing us to look at ourselves and to examine ourselves; here we begin to look for a solution, and thus there is a slight change in emphasis. The others are intended to get us to this destination. After understanding his true condition, the Christian is one who bemoans and regrets and hates it all. Here we turn and look for the solution, for the deliverance.

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Blessed Are The Meek

You will see that this Beatitude also flies in the face of our world’s philosophy. The world believes that the more self-assurance and aggressiveness you have the better off you will be. They make statements like, “If you want something, you have to take it.” This is in contradiction to the teachings of Christ.

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Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

The paradox of the second beatitude is obvious. What could be more self-contradictory than the idea that the sad are happy, that the path to happiness is sadness, that the way to rejoicing is in mourning?

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Blessed Are The Poor in Spirit

The sermon opens with “The Beatitudes” which describe qualities that ought to be the character of every Christian. These qualities are not exhibited by an elite group of believers, but rather should be exhibited by all those who follow Christ. Also, remember that it is by the grace of God that these characteristics are worked in us, not as a result of our own doing.

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Evaluate Your Service

In the preceding verses, we see large crowds of people growing daily. Therefore, we find Jesus requesting the disciples to provide a boat so that he might go out and teach from the Sea of Galilee. He also asks them to “stand ready for Him because of the multitudes, in order that they might not crowd Him” (3:9).

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Because He Lives

Jesus Christ is the only mediator between humanity and God. Just what is a “mediator”? A mediator is one who goes in between two groups or persons to help them work out their differences and come to agreement. A mediator usually is a neutral party, a go-between, intermediator, or arbitrator who brings about reconciliation in a hostile situation when divided persons are not able to work out their differences themselves.

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Finish the Work

The Sanhedrin needed to move quickly to get the case of Jesus before Pilate. They wanted Him executed before the Sabbath begins on Friday evening at sundown.Only one accusation concerned Pilate, so he asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” This title has obvious political overtones for Pilate and Rome.

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The Unknown Self

On the night of October 3, 1998, a snake-handling evangelist named John Wayne Brown, Jr. was bitten by one of his own timber rattlesnakes in the middle of his sermon. Though Reverend Brown continued to speak to the people of Rock House Holiness Church, he soon collapsed onstage. The congregation gathered around him—praying and trying to cool him with an electric fan—but brown was dead within minutes.

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Ready or Not

During the preceding days, Jesus had made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, prophesied destruction for Israel in cursing the fig tree, cleansed the Temple, and entered into debates with the religious establishment, which he repeatedly won. Then, in exalting the poor widow and her offering, he passed judgment on the religious leadership of Israel. Now Jesus left the Temple for good.

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Love With a Sound

My wife gave birth to a son who just doesn’t understand gifts. My wife and I would go out when he was a little guy to buy what we thought was the perfect gift. He would tear open the gift, and he’d end up playing with the box. It drove us crazy. If you’re one of God’s children, you have been given the most awesome gift that could ever be given.

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Return The Donkey

The preceding paragraph of Mark’s Gospel described what Jesus did when he was going out of Jericho (10:46-52). From Jericho, the little party continued on its way toward Jerusalem. They have reached a point not far away from the villages of Bethpage and Bethany. Jesus sends two of His disciples to Bethpage. His instruction was, “go into the village opposite/just ahead of you.”

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Being a Servant 101

Have you ever done something the wrong way? I can remember putting a chair together and tightening the bolts too tight. As a result, it put unnecessary pressure on the chair, so when I sat down, it collapsed. In like manner, we can serve the wrong way. You see, being a servant is quite different than doing service.

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Abide in Christ

As a young man in high school and college, I spent my summers working as a landscaper for a local businessman, whose multiple properties included a moderately-sized vineyard. Part of our crew’s responsibilities was to tend to the grape vines periodically. Through those years, I learned what was required to maintain a functioning vineyard.

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The Blessing of Being Last

The drive to become famous is becoming highly-valued for many people in our culture. That's the conclusion of two social observers. In a (2014) speech, New York Times columnist David Brooks says, "Fame used to be low value. Now fame is the second-most desired thing in young people. They did a study (and asked), "Would you rather be president of Harvard or Justin Bieber's personal assistant, (or another) celebrity's personal assistant?" And of course, by three to one people would rather be (a celebrity's) personal assistant.

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Serving People Where They Are

After a cancer diagnosis and enduring 17 months of chemo and radiation, Robin Quivers, co-host to the shock-jock radio show host Howard Stern, claims to have discovered the meaning of life. In a 2013 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, she said, "What I learned is very simple: that your life belongs to you. And it really doesn't matter what you do with it, but it should be what you want to do. Not what your mother or father or society want. It should be "I" directed. And that's the only purpose for being here."

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Are You a Prepared Servant?

Have you ever found yourself unprepared? I recall a trip that Kelly and I took when we were young parents. Our first two children were very small; they were overcome with carsickness. Yes, at the same time. It was a gruesome sight and we were ill prepared to deal with the aftermath. Being young parents, we did not realize the need to bring so many extra pairs of clothes. We were unprepared parents.

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Serving The Right Way

Have you ever done something wrong? I can remember when I first started learning to drive—driving my father's truck into a ditch. While in High School I worked at a Wal-Mart. One day I dropped a 42inch television, face down. It sounded like a bomb going off. I'm sure you have your own stories of doing something the wrong way.

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Are You an Effective Servant?

In this chapter, Jesus is under extreme pressure; it was coming from the sick and demonized. Verse 10 clearly identifies the pressure He was under. The ill, the feverish, and the crippled were pushing and grabbing at Him; the possessed were screaming at Him, the self-righteous Pharisees were watching His every move, waiting for their chance to accuse Him.

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What Kind of Servant Are You?

Early in my ministry, there were times when my service to the Lord was like a garden hose in my hand. I was in control, dictating how, when, and to whom I would serve. With my nifty sprayer, I could even stop water altogether when I felt like it. The "flow" of Christ's love that I gave to others depended on my mood, the health of my ministry, and even how much sleep I got the night before.

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Big Heart=Big Impact

One time while preparing for a sermon, I posted a question to friends on Facebook: "what makes it hard for you to serve other people?" Here a few of the answers I received: "I admit, serving is hard when it doesn't fit into my schedule or plan. Like when I want to go for a walk, to the gym, or just relax at home."

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The True Christian Business

To the praise of God's glory, special emphasis is being placed once again on the subject of personal evangelism. While Christians are not supposed to lose sight of the general work of the church, it is absolutely essential that every member realize that they are their brother's and sister's keeper, and everyone owes a debt that can only be paid when the necessity of personal salvation is communicated and understood.

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One Passion

I just returned home from a mission trip to India; it was an extraordinary endeavor! Our team walked through villages sharing the good news of the gospel with anyone who was willing to hear. God's gracious Spirit guided the way, and we saw several trust in Christ for their salvation. I am blessed to pastor a church that burns with fervor for missions.

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Who Is This Jesus?

How do you think about Jesus? Do you think about Him as a gentle teacher? Perhaps you think of Him as a righteously angry political dissident. Maybe you think about Him as a suffering servant, taking the punishment of the cross in your place. While all of these descriptors are characteristic of Jesus found in scripture, I would submit to you that on their own, they are incomplete.

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Lord or lord?

Is Jesus your Lord? If you are a Christian, then you might say, “Of course He is. Jesus is my lord and savior because He died on the cross to forgive me of my sins, and I have accepted that forgiveness. Because I am forgiven, I will get to go to heaven when I die.” Yes, while that is true, I asked if Jesus is your Lord (capital L) not your lord (lower case l).

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A Heavenly Reflection

There is a lie floating around out there that says, “the Christian can have a flourishing spiritual life without any commitment to a body of believers.” You may have heard someone say they are “spiritual but not religious.” This is problematic because the gathering of the believers is inextricable from the Christian faith in the New Testament.

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This Is My Father's World

When was the last time you were truly gripped by the Lord’s creation? When was the last time you were awestruck by its beauty? When was the last time you chewed on the fact that everything in existence, from infinitesimally small electrons to colossally large galaxies were created by the words of our God? Yes, the magnificence of God’s creation is truly a blessing.

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The Most Remarkable Death

The death of Christ is the most remarkable event in human history. The uniqueness of his death was demonstrated in various ways. Centuries before it occurred, it was foretold with an amazing fullness of detail by those men whom God raised up in the midst of Israel to direct their thoughts and expectations to a fuller and more glorious revelation of Himself.

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The Fiendish Fisherman

In order to be on guard against the devil, we must not forget that he is an angel—not a mere ideal, and not the personification of evil. He is not a mere influence floating about in the air, nor cultivated in the heart. Every man is not, per se, his own devil, as some maintain. The world in which we live is not a devil, nor a multitude of devils.

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On Profanity

An old farmer who was addicted to the habit of profanity, one day was passing through his fields, while a storm approached—seeming to promise much-needed rain. To his chagrin, the rain blew over. The old farmer stopped and set down the ax, which he had on his shoulder, and began to swear. He burst forth with a volume of profanity such as no swearing man could do better.

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The Sufficiency of Christ

Is Christ alone enough? Currently, I am preaching through Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Along with Paul, I too am amazed by how quickly the Galatians turned from the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. These Galatians converts who had received this gospel of grace were now turning away to “another gospel,” a doctrine of works.

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It's a Slow Fade

Even though the nature of regeneration is such that it is always disposed towards growth, and some grow more than others, they nevertheless do not proceed in the mind of the Lord from strength to strength without resistance. They do not always have the valor of the majestic horse in battle nor are they always as mighty men. Their later works are not always as consistent as their first—such was true of the congregation at Thyatira.

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The Blessing of Calloused Hands

God has granted the Christian a soul and a body, as well as the ability to be diligent and to glorify Him with both. Adam, even while in the state of perfection, had physical labor assigned to him. "And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. 2:15).

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Won't You Be My Neighbor?

In a world with so much chaos and hate how vital is it for Christians to live in harmony with one another? People are looking for peace, but they are looking for it in all the wrong places. Why aren’t they looking toward Christians? The answer is somewhat startling and abrasive, but it’s the truth. Christians, for the most part, are not living in peace with one another.

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Enhance Your Image

There is no higher calling than to love and worship the infinite and personal God of creation and redemption. A.W. Tozer observed that what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Our image of God shapes our spiritual direction and future and the time we spend in communion with Him forges that image.

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To Grow or Not To Grow

Spiritual growth is natural to all true believers! Think about that statement carefully before reading further. Do you truly believe this statement? Are there exceptions? I mean, can someone be saved without ever growing spiritually?

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The Mystery of Meekness

My last journal entry was on the topic of humility. The purpose of this entry is to help us understand how humility begets meekness. First, I want to address the common vernacular of the word in both Hebrew and Greek. In the Hebrew it is the word (anawah), which is from a word, which among other things, means: to be humbled, to humble one's self, to be submissive, and to be oppressed. Other derivatives include poor. Thus, in the Hebrew vernacular, meekness is expressive of a poor, humble and submissive disposition.

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Stay Low My Friends

Humility is the robe of the believer; we are to adorn ourselves with it daily. All acts of humility apart from Christ are nothing more than appearances without substance, upon close examination, it will prove to be nothing but pride in disguise. The reason being is that the unconverted person has no spiritual life and disposition of heart to be humble for Christ's sake. Therefore, any attempts at godly virtue apart from Christ are filthy rags in the eyes of God.

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Embrace the Cave

We live in a world of extreme busyness. Distractions are constant, and Christians are failing to spend quality time with God. Worst of all, the church has suffered. Spiritually weak Christians make anemic churches.

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Wake Up And Be Watchful

I am writing on a topic that is foreign for most to many Christians. It is the topic of spiritual watchfulness. Perhaps, that term itself is something you have never heard. Spiritual watchfulness consists in watching over our soul in a careful and guarded manner. Make no mistake about it, evil is real and could bombard you with a violent barrage at any moment.

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