Last week I did a little explaining about the verse in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). And while it was accurate enough, there are further implications worth noting. The Lord’s Prayer gives us a terrific model for communing with God, I suppose that goes without saying considering it is our Lord who gives it to us! But as we scratch more deeply at how we might pray we learn, particularly in the realm of asking God for our needs, Jesus teaching us how to live.
With this in mind, here are some further reflections that I pray go well with you.
(1) Our needs include the physical and the spiritual.
There are some in the Christian church who believe that this body we have here on earth is simply a temporary vessel. They minimise the body and the physical in our world and over-emphasise the spiritual or the life to come. At times this has led to people and groups toward asceticism and a drawing away from others toward cultic practices. At other times this has led to abuses and sacrifices of the body. Neither of these are particularly biblical, and contradict scripture and the example of Jesus. We notice that in the life and ministry of Jesus he is concerned not only for the spiritual condition of the people but also for their physical needs.
As James Montgomery Boice comments,
“We can see what God thinks of our human bodies, when we remember that he Himself in Jesus Christ took that body upon Him. It is not simply a soul salvation, it is whole salvation, the salvation of body, mind and spirit, at which Christianity aims.“
(2) We are reminded to take it one day at a time.
If you’ve ever heard a player or a coach of a sporting team be interviewed, then you’ll be familiar with the phrase, “we’re just taking it one game at a time”. For us believers, it is right to be taking life one day at a time.
It is important to recognise that Jesus is teaching us to pray for each day and reminding us of our need for God. It is important to understand that our dependence on God and needs from God are given to us each day. Therefore, there is intentionality in coming to God daily in prayer as we recognise our needs and dependence on him. As we petition God, as we come before him with the requests that we have, the needs that we lift to him, we show our daily dependence on him.
The whole act of prayer is an act of dependence.
(3) Our request for daily bread points us to our need for spiritual nourishment.
I presume you know that glorious taste of fresh bread. Sometimes there is nothing better than a fresh ham and salad roll for lunch. And who are we kidding, it’s always more than one when the rolls are at their freshest.
While it sounds odd to say that we need to feed on Christ, that we need to feed spiritually on God, the only other place in the entire Bible where a request to ‘give us bread’ is spoken by Jesus while he gives a sermon on spiritual bread in John 6. Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” They answered, “From now on give us this bread.’ Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32–35)
In context, the people he was speaking to were thinking of physical bread, but Jesus turned them away from these physical things to himself as the One who could satisfy the far greater hunger of the soul.
So, what does it mean to feed on Christ?
It means that he is the source of all our spiritual life and as we grow in him and come close to him we are nourished, contented, and satisfied in him alone. The hunger and yearning we feel within our hearts for our Creator is fulfilled through Christ as the bread of life.
As we hunger for achievement, or for love, or for happiness we recognise these are good in themselves when used as God intends. But at the heart of our faith, and at the heart of this prayer, is the realisation that it is only Christ who satisfies, it is only him who fulfils our deep hunger and need.
This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:
Well, I wonder whether you’ve ever signed a petition?
I suspect you know what petitions are. A petition is where you put your name down in support of something. Perhaps it is asking for policy change in government, for better conditions in the workplace, or for support behind a particular injustice in the world. Whatever it may be, and whether it is done online or on an actual piece of paper, petitions are a way of showing your support for a particular cause.
There are also parts of everyday life where we petition others, where we ask people for something we would like or need. Perhaps it is a student petitioning their teacher for an extension in the assignment. Or a child petitioning a parent for ice-cream after dinner. And in a similar way, when we come to God in prayer and lift up our needs to him we petition him. We ask him for things. We ask him for our wants and needs.
In Matthew 6:11, in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus continues to teach his disciples about prayer through this particular phrase, ‘give us this day our daily bread’. And in similar fashion to previous posts (see below) it is worth reflecting a little on what Jesus is teaching us.
First, when Jesus says, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he is talking about depending on God daily.
As Christians we recognise that we are living a day at a time. It sounds cliche, but we do not know when we will die, and we do not know what will happen tomorrow.
This requires us to depend on God.
When we depend on ourselves or on others then we will be let down, but with God we have a solid foundation. A God who rules and reigns, and who is always faithful and dependable. And so a mark of a follower of Jesus is their dependence on him for their needs. We come with a posture of dependence on him.
To depend on God is to fully trust in his care for us. That despite our circumstances–in happiness or in hardship–we continue to have a posture of dependence on God.
As Leon Morris writes in his commentary on Matthew about this verse,
The prayer encourages a continuing dependence on God; it does not countenance a situation in which the disciple asks God for a supply for a lengthy period, after which prayer he can go on for some time in forgetfulness of God. He depends on God constantly, and this dependence is expressed in this prayer.
Dependence on God is not simply a once off occurrence. It is something that is required of us daily. It is a practice, a discipline, to continually depend on God.
Yet, there is also a cautionary reflection here worth noting.
When we are comfortable. When we have everything we need. When we don’t need to depend on God for as much as we used to then it is common to let this dependence slide. We must be careful not to fall into this trap, not to change our posture from one of dependence to independence.
Second, when Jesus says, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he is talking about asking for our needs.
Whenever we pray we are generally asking God for something. And this gets to the heart of petition. Petition is that word that defines prayer as asking God for stuff. Stuff that may include inner comfort and strength, to physical needs like food or finances, to wisdom and discernment.
And don’t hear me saying this is necessarily wrong. God encourages us to come to him with everything, and in all things.
In fact, as I’ve read over this Lord’s Prayer I’ve noticed just how much asking there is of God. In fact, everything from v10-13 is really a prayer of petition. We find ourselves asking for:
his kingdom to come,
his will to be done,
our daily bread,
our debts to be forgiven,
not to be led into temptation, and
to be delivered from evil.
By my reckoning there are six requests, six items of petition to God in this prayer.
And when Jesus specifically prays the petition of ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he wishes us to pray for the needs that we have, the needs necessary for life.
Martin Luther, the great Reformer of the 16th century wrote that this use of ‘bread’ was symbolic of ‘everything necessary for the preservation of this life, like food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, husband or wife, children, good government and peace’. In essence Luther was saying these are the necessities of life, rather than the luxuries, of which a couple here and there may be debatable.
Whatever the case, here in Matthew 6:11, in this petition given to us by our Lord, we find an aspect of our prayer life that involves asking for our needs.
This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:
There comes a point when so much analysis, or in this case, exegesis, can mean you miss the bigger picture. And sure, there is often much to be learnt from studying the detail of a leaf, but it just might mean you miss the overall vision of the tree. This can happen when we study scripture. We can become so narrow in focus that we miss the wider picture of what’s going on.
As we come to this phrase, ‘On earth as it is in heaven’ we must recognise that this needs to be read in conjunction with the beginning of the sentence,’ Your kingdom come, your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10-11). For the sake of this series on The Lord’s Prayer I have separated these various phrases, but in reality the prayer Jesus is teaching us, and his disciples, means they are intricately connected. As RT France comments,
“The prayer embraces the whole scope of this outworking of God’s purpose, but its focus is not on either present or future, but on God himself, whose glory must be the disciples’ first and deepest concern, before they consider their own needs.“
And so one could get caught up in the comparison of earth and heaven. I think it is fair to suggest that the prayer is making a distinction between both places, an actual earth and an actual heaven. But before the questions that naturally arise begin to form it is helpful to remember this is as much about recognising God and his ways before lifting up our own requests.
Yet this prayer gives us hope. For when we understand ourselves in light of God’s goodness and holiness, when we understand our own need in contrast to who God is, we realise we are in need of more of heaven and less of earth. As people who begin this prayer in worship, recognising God as God, we know that it will not be our action but the action of God that will ultimately bring this prayer into reality.
And it is the action of God that achieves anything and everything for us. It is the action of God that provides salvation. It is the action of God that shows love. It is the action of God that provides mercy. It is the action of God that brings justice. It is the action of God that grows godliness. And of course, all these things come from the centrepiece of this action–the cross.
In the Incarnation, Jesus’ coming to earth, we find heaven coming to earth. God comes to humankind in a personal and relational way. And while we continue to live in the ‘now and not yet’ tension–where God’s kingdom is here, but it’s not all here–the action of the Incarnation gives hope and shows a glimpse of what is possible.
You may well have images of large golden buildings and paths coming down through the sky when you envision heaven coming to earth. This is most certainly a mistaken image. Already God has made clear he does things in ways we humans least expect, such as coming in the form of a baby, birthed in a dirty stable, and found in a small out-of-the-way village.
So in our prayer ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, it might be better to understand that in heaven God’s will is perfect, there is no bad thing to hinder it. Heaven is God’s will perfected. And when we pray these words, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, we are hoping for similar circumstances here on earth. And given the current state of our world, it might be time to pray this more fervently than we have done before.
This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:
There is much on the Interwebs that speaks of how best to listen to sermons, even books have been written on the topic. However, as I work my way through the book Habits of Grace by David Mathis I am struck by the simplicity and meaning in listening to a sermon.
When we think of listening often we imagine ourselves not talking, and that’s about it. But, of course, listening requires more of us than simply shutting our mouths. It requires intentionality in actually hearing what someone is saying to us. It means we need to stop and focus, it means we need to take the time to hear someone out before chiming in with our own thoughts on the conversation at hand.
In a section on listening Mathis speaks of the grace that comes when we take time to actually listen to a sermon. The preaching of the Word is God speaking to his particular people in a particular location, and so listening is an important skill in this instance. But the symbolism of this act of listening is deeper than perhaps we’ve thought of before.
While preaching can get a bad rap, it is one of the ongoing activities of the Christian faith where God speaks to us through another human. And while the rest of our week may be filled with different activities, conversations about faith even, there comes a time where the faithful gather and seek to listen together to God’s Word. There are plenty of hours in the week to do other things that pertain to our life and faith, but for 30 minutes a week Christians gather to close their mouths and listen to the preaching of the Bible. This is fascinating act, a symbolic act, by believers around the world as they seek to encounter Jesus more deeply and in a powerful way. And even then, many are restless and sleepy for those 30 minutes too.
The other aspect to this is the fact that it is Christians gathered together. There is a corporate and communal aspect to the worship of God in church each week. It is not an individualistic activity, despite people not knowing one-another too deeply at times. It is the Christian community of a particular location getting together to hear from God together. Another sign of the unity that comes through Christ. And as Mathis writes,
“But preaching is not just about Jesus; it is his way of being personally present with his church. Good preaching brings the church into an encounter with her Groom by the Holy Spirit. As Jason Meyer writes, “The ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word. In faithful Christian preaching, we not only hear about Jesus, but we meet him.”
As Calvin once wrote about the purpose of preaching, “…to offer and set forth Christ to us, and in him the treasures of heavenly grace.”
While we may find preaching tedious at times I appreciate the fact that God has set this as one of the ways he gives us grace. In all our other activities of faith, particularly on a Sunday morning, there is the giving and receiving of grace to God. Through songs, through prayers, through communion even, we are often speaking to God as well as hearing from him. Through the preaching of his word we actually take the time to be still and quiet before him, solely receiving from him.
I wonder if this affects our thinking about the sermon for this weekend?
In recent time I’ve been exploring what modern Christianity would call the ‘spiritual disciplines’. These are the habits, the actions, the lifestyle, the regular practices, which shape spiritual formation for the self.
As you can imagine these practices are centred around the Word and prayer. However, they also bring with them other practices that can help in our communion with God (think: fasting, solitude, silence, giving etc). And in the end that is the purpose of these practices, to help in our communion with God, leading us to enjoying Him in greater depth.
Modern proponents of the spiritual disciplines are people like Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster, Donald Whitney and others. But generally when reading their books they are often footnoting the divines of ages past. This week, as I’ve been reading David Mathis’ book, The Habits of Grace, one such quote from the Puritan preacher Thomas Watson caught my eye enough to highlight. He writes,
“Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins;” when it presseth any duty, “God intends me in this.” Many put off scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.”
How often do we read the Bible and seek to apply it to ourselves in a way that brings it home to ourselves? Often we can read the Bible for the sake of understanding more of the Bible, it’s history, it’s context, the people it was originally written to, but how often do we apply it to ourselves in a way that means we need to apply it?
For those of us who have been walking with Jesus for a while, who are familiar with the Bible, and understand many of its contours we can easily skip the application of the text for us.
As Mathis rightfully highlights following this quote, it is important to understand the Word in its context, how it relates to Jesus and the cross, before seeking to apply it to ourselves. But after reading it in this way, do we take the next step in applying it for ourselves, meditating on it to find where it may be speaking to us, insightfully helping us to see how we may need to change our thinking or actions?
This is part five of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two and three and four) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.
Part 5: Being Part of The Answer
Passage: Luke 10
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go your way; behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”
One of the problems we can see from the passage, and in throughout this series, is that there aren’t enough followers being harvesters in the field.
Rather than being part of the problem, we are to be part of the answer.
We are the ones who have been sent by Jesus to share his Good News to the people of the world. In connection with the previous posts we are involved in the wider story of God. Today, we continue to be God’s messengers. We are his workers in his harvest field, seeking to share the Good News with the people who need to hear it. And while there will be judgement on those who reject God that is not ours to take part in. We are here to be part of what God is doing in the world. It is the message of the Gospel that provides hope for the world and true salvation for those who accept it.
If we aren’t being followers of Jesus who are taking part in the harvest then we are being part of this problem, are we not? How do we become part of the solution? It is by intentionally living lives that are witnessing to our faith and to Jesus’ impact in our lives. It is by not merely walking through life believing that we know the Good News and leaving it to rot. It is through becoming one of the workers.
As we’ve seen, there is a cost to this. It may mean giving up or leaving behind things that we consider precious. We need to let go of stuff, as Jesus talks about to his followers. That which binds us down or stops us moving forward is a hindrance to working in the harvest field.
As we intentionally go about focusing on being a solution in the Kingdom of God we are to seek out those who are friendly to us and the message of the Good News. There are people of peace who we can connect with, begin building relationships with, and who open up their lives for us just as we do so for them. What we need to do here is to open our eyes to the people God has placed in our lives and see where God is already at work.
As we speak, and as we show the love of God through the person of Jesus, we are an open people. Learning and loving along the way from our mistakes but more importantly, representing Christ as we seek to follow him authentically. It is this kind of living that helps bring people closer to the Kingdom.
It is hard. It’s not promised as easy. There will be times when we fail and make mistakes. But what is important is that we continue to try. We attempt to do this with love and compassion of God and people.
Jesus expects his sent followers to share the message of the kingdom to the towns they go to and the people they meet. When was the last time you shared about your faith to someone else? What is stopping you from sharing something of your faith in the coming month?
The kingdom of God is near. How can you bring the kingdom of God to people in your community?
Take A Step:
Write out your story of faith. Find someone to share this story with in the coming month.
As you pray this week, thank God for the Good News and how the kingdom of God has impacted you and your life. Pray also for those who don’t know God and ask that he can reveal himself to them.
Choose to give a certain amount of money to an organisation or person that helps share the Good News to people who do not yet know Jesus. Make this a practical step this week in helping others hear the Gospel.
This is part four of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two and three) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.
Part 4: The Kingdom of God Is Near
Passage: Luke 10:9-11
Heal the sick who are there and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
There are times when the people of God are not accepted. This is to be expected. At times it may be worth persevering through the dislike but at other times it’s not worth it. It’s time to move on.
Jesus encourages those he sends to heal the sick and say to the people ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ As Luke outlines in v1, Jesus will soon be following these workers and coming by the towns and villages they minister to. What is important is the message. The message that the kingdom is coming is to be made known to the people. How they respond will consequently be judged by God in the future. The message is to be made public, but so is the recognition that they have rejected this message. God’s workers will need to discern when it is appropriate to move on to other pastures. However, they will make it known that their rejection will be public, and the message is still the message.
But how do we show that the Kingdom of God is near? What are some practical examples that lead us to conclude that the Kingdom of God is working within others and in particular places?
One way to see God working in our lives, or in a particular place, is to look with intentionality at the various ‘communities of practice’ that operate in your life or the life of others.
These communities of practice are activities that naturally occur, and you may already be involved in, but become places where God can use you to share the message of the Kingdom. For example, you may be involved in a sporting club where your involvement can be a witness to others. To take it a step further you can be intentional about how you approach this activity. Rather than simply being there for the sport and fun it becomes a harvest field; where you are now one of the workers who are building authentic relationships with your teammates. There may be a person or peace there welcoming you into the club or team, and it is important to be on the lookout for a person like this. This type of intentionality is an important key in seeing the activities you do during the week as being part of being a witness as a follower of Jesus, drawing people closer to the Kingdom of God. This could also be how you understand your knitting club, your book club, your art class, your uni subjects, your school class, etc etc.
Jesus is making it clear that he has come to bring in the kingdom of God. He is following his sent workers and as he sends them he reveals to those in his hearing that he will bring this kingdom of God to the people, households, towns and villages that these 72 go to.
Judgement will come and for those who respond negatively to the message of Jesus, this Good News of the kingdom of God, will be found wanting. The judgement upon them will be worse than it was for Sodom in the Old Testament, where that city was destroyed because of its disobedience and active rejection of God and his ways (Genesis 19).
There are times when moving on from relationships seems to be required if the mission of God is to be fulfilled. How do you think we can discern this in the relationships we have with others?
God will judge those who hear the revelation of his kingdom. Whether they respond positively or negatively is not ours to judge, it is for God.
People will accept and reject the Good News, this message of the kingdom. What stops us from sharing the message of the kingdom to others?
God’s judgement will be full and forceful for those who reject him. Jesus has already said the harvest is plentiful, how can we be part of the solution? What can we be part of in order to help people from this judgement?
Take A Step:
Write down on a piece of paper who and how you will share an aspect of your relationship with Jesus to someone in the next fortnight.
Pray and seek God’s guidance on which relationships in your life need to be held loosely. Seek out a mature believer for their guidance in this matter.
What part of your week is most like a ‘community of practice’? How could you be more intentional about your relationships and weekly activities for the work of the Kingdom?
This is part three of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.
Part 3: Person of Peace
Passage: Luke 10:5-8
“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.”
Now Jesus seems to be giving advice on how to greet people to those he is sending out. He is expecting them to be entering people’s houses as part of their ministry. As they meet new people in the towns and villages the workers will be entering houses and begin building relationships. Jesus encourages those he sends to come into a place with an attitude of peace. They are to approach each household with an intention of bringing peace. When this has been given, it seems it is evident someone of peace will be there. If a ‘person of peace’ is in this place then the peace will rest upon them. A relationship will be built and a friendship ensue. They will not be against the worker, but will be helpful and seek to encourage their work. They will be open to the worker of the harvest and give them a fair hearing.
Who is a ‘person of peace’? A person of peace is someone who likes you and you like them. They are not a believer initially but is someone who welcomes you and receives you into their life. They may serve you and you may invest in them. They are a helper in connecting you to other relationships in their network. Over time it may be the case that they turn to follow Jesus themselves, but initially they are helpful friends in the task of spreading the message of the Kingdom.
If this person of peace isn’t found within a particular house then it will be evident. The worker in the harvest will discern whether or not there is peace in the house they go to. If this isn’t the case they will move on to the next place.
When accepting the hospitality of others it is encouraged to stay in the same house. This will bring honour upon that house as they continue to provide for the worker of the harvest. This also shows that the worker isn’t someone who leeches off others by moving from house to house getting the choice hospitality from different families in the town. A deeper relationship is built with that one household rather than the shallow friendships of many people.
During their stay at a particular town they are to contribute to society. The labourer deserves their wages and are to not be freeloading from the community. They are to work and contribute to the community, serving the community during their stay. They will be provided for, this provision ultimately coming from God, in the needs that they require – food and shelter. It is not appropriate for the labourer to be picky but to eat what is in front of them and accept the hospitality provided by the household.
It is important for labourers of the harvest to approach their mission with grace and peace. When you are involved in ministry to your neighbours, or through your church, do you have this attitude?
Relationships with certain people take time and require discernment. Are you building deep relationships with people in your community? Are there some relationships that you need to ‘move on’ from?
God will provide the needs of those who work in his harvest field. Are you taking on too much yourself, do you need to handover your needs and wants to God and trust him for them?
As God’s workers we are to contribute to the community, both church and wider community. How are you serving the communities you are part of? In what ways can you build relationships through serving and helping others?
Take A Step:
In the next three weeks resolve to invite someone you wouldn’t normally to your home for a meal.
As you think about the different communities you are involved in, pray for discernment as to what relationships should be a priority for you.
As you meet someone new in the next little while make an effort to be a person or peace.