Category Archives: Sermon On The Mount

The A.S.K. Principle

Matthew 7:7-8

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Warning: This post is bound to be a commercial for the book by the same name. Since I wrote that book, I guess it’s all right if I pull a few things from it to write this post. After all, the principle is derived from these very verses.

There are some verses that we have all heard and have all thought we understood them all our lives. These verses are probably on that list. I looked in 25 different translations of the Bible, and they all use the same three verbs – ask, seek, knock. 30 years ago I was studying in Matthew and took notice of the fact that the acronym formed by these three words is ASK. I studied out each word carefully and came up with the original notes of a Bible study I called “The A.S.K. Principle.” Jesus was a master at using as few words as possible to get His pint across, and He always chose His words very carefully. It is no fluke that He chose these three words in this order. Asking is the key to answered prayer. Plain and simple.

Most likely you are saying to yourself “Well Duh.” Everyone knows that! I would say that is true, but does everyone know exactly what it means to ask, seek and knock? Do each of you follow out what scripture says about each one of these words? The essence of answered prayer is found by looking at each of these words carefully and seeing what the scripture reveals. That is what my book does. But I am not going to go through all 200 pages in this post. This will be the Cliff’s Notes version.

The first step is to ask. The word ask in the Greek is actually continue asking. It is not asking once and receiving an answer although this does happen occasionally. I hear way to many preachers preaching that if we have faith, we will only have to ask once and I vehemently disagree. They use scriptures like John 14:14 (If you ask anything in my name I will do it), Matthew 18:19 (If any two agree it shall be done), Mark 11:23 (if you tell this mountain to move and have faith it will be done) and Luke 17:6 (If you have faith like a mustard seed you can move a mountain). Yes, Jesus said all of these things, and He always spoke the truth. Many take this to mean when we ask, God should do it right away.

But Jesus also said If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done (John 15:7). In John 14:14, which we shared in the previous paragraph,. Jesus says we must ask in His name. Asking in His name means according to His word. In John 15:16 Jesus says that when our fruit remains the Father will answer our prayers. James said we often ask to heap things on our own lusts and this causes our prayers not to be answered. John said If we ask anything according to His will it shall be done (1 John 5:14).

The body of scripture needs to be taken together if we want to see our asking be more effective. Will God instantly bless prayer? Of course He will, if it is His will to do so. We often get to the point that we think God should fit into our timetable and do what we want. It does not work that way. He is in control, and He can do anything He wants. We can come to Him with our request and He will decide which ones to answer now and which ones to answer later. He will decide exactly how He will answer and it may not be what we expect. No matter what, we should honor Him and glorify His name.

Seeking is next. Once again, we do not seek once but continually. There are many ways we can seek the Lord. It is a necessary step to bring about answered prayer. We seek God by searching through His word. Many times the answer to our prayer is in His word already. If we are not familiar with scripture, we will not know that our answer has already been given. Seeking can also be done when we are praying or praising. Both of these are crying out to God and looking for His mercy and grace. We can seek God through meditation. This type of meditation is not thinking about His word or some song. It is just putting Him in His rightful place in our lives and trying to find His presence within us.

There are many verses that tells us to seek the Lord. They all say He shall be found if we seek Him. Do you find that true? When you take time to seek Him, is He always right there with you? The key to finding God when you are seeking Him is humility. If we come to Him boldly, we may not find Him. Now you will probably quote Hebrews 4:12 to me now. It says Come boldly before the throne. I have heard this verse used many times to justify demanding things of God. But the rest of the verse says we can come boldly if we seek mercy. When we do, we will find grace so that we might help others in there time of need. In other words, we don’t come boldly to Him to fulfil our lusts.

Hosea 10:12 says we must break up our fallow ground before we seek the Lord. Our hearts have many hard areas and they need to be broken in order to effectively seek the Lord. Once again, we see brokenness as a key to seeking the Lord. Zephaniah tells us to seek righteousness and meekness. Seek to do right and seek to be meek. Meek is a form of gentle nature which sees God in control, not me. In Matthew 6:33 we are told to seek the kingdom first. How many times do we come to God seeking things for ourselves instead of the kingdom? How any times have we gone about seeking Him in all the wrong ways/ If we want to find Him, let’s start seeking as the word tells us to.

The las step is knocking. The knocking is the waiting. Continue knocking, continue waiting. This is one of the largest keys too answered prayer. It is being patient and waiting on the Lord. It is allowing God to answer in His time, not ours. He promises to answer over and over in His word, yet we fold when we do not have the answer in five minutes. I can guarantee God will answer your prayer every time if you will just wait on Him, continue to ask and seek carefully.

In Matthew 26:38-44 Jesus tells the disciples to watch and pray. This watching is the same as waiting. He told them to do this for themselves, not for Him. He said they should watch so they would not fall into temptation. They did not do so well, and all of them left Him when the guards came. John is the only one mentioned to be near the cross. In James 1:2-4 we are told to count it joy when trials come. Why? Because when our faith is tried our patience is built. That patience perfects us. Therefore, in the midst of our trials, we use our faith to build patience – waiting!

Then of course there is Isaiah 40:31. They that wait upon the Lord – you can probably finish it on your own. Waiting will actually make us stronger. It will give us more stamina. It will help us soar above our problems like an eagle soars high in the sky. This will enable us to wait longer. We don’t like to wait. We are in a microwave generation that wants everything now. But if you are really serious about having a more effective prayer life, waiting is essential.

Asking, seeking and knocking. Sounds so easy doesn’t it? In reality, it is. Mastering prayer takes a lifetime of practice. The Lord’s direction in putting together “The A.S.K. Principle” has helped me see all the shortcomings of my prayer life. I am sure it will be a great addition to your library as well. If you would like your own copy, it is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both paperback and E-book format. Or you can get a signed copy from me by emailing me at pete@theaskprinciple.com. Read it and pass the word if you find it helpful!

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Pearls & Swine

Matthew 7:6

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

The placement of this verse has always baffled me. Right after Jesus admonishes the people not to judge others and not to concentrate on the faults of others He proceeds to tell them that they need to be able to discern who the dogs and swine are. It’s really quite an extraordinary verse that I must admit I need an extra helping of the Holy Spirit to put this teaching into my own words.

While Jesus is not talking about actual food or pearls given to these animals. He uses “that which is holy” and “pearls” to signify the things of God. They are holy and precious as pearls or even gold for that matter. After describing the beauty of the Lords statutes in Psalm 19, David writes His laws are more to be desired than fine gold in verse 10. These precious things of the Lord are for His saints, for His children. They are not for the “dogs and swine”

The question has to be on our minds of who Jesus is talking about when He says dogs. The first thing that comes to my mind is that dogs are scavengers and will take anything you give them. They just sit at your feet and wait for something to drop. I have learned a lot about persistent prayer by watching my dog’s persistence and hopefulness that I will drop something when working in the kitchen. He will be thrilled with any small dropping that I might leave there on the floor. These were the words of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus in Matthew 15:21-28. Jesus told her that He was sent to the lost people of Israel and said the things of God are not for the dogs. When the Canaanite women told Him that even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Masters table, Jesus looked at her and told her she had great faith, and He granted her request. We can learn a lot about the first part of this verse from that exchange.

Jesus called this woman a dog because she was not an Israelite. She was not a child of Abraham and those are the ones Jesus was sent for. The Canaanites were believers in many Gods (Wikipedia lists over 20 gods they worshiped). The one true God was a heresy to them and they scoffed at the idea. They lived in the land that Israel came in and conquered when they came out of Egypt. Therefor God told them to destroy all the Canaanites, but Israel did not do that. The Canaanites remained in the land and were a thorn in the flesh for Israel for centuries.

So this women was indeed a heretic. The description of her as a dog shows us that Jesus does not want to give the precious word of God to someone who is defiant against the gospel message. He does not want the Light that He is offering to go to some one who will merely scoff at it and rebuke Him for His beliefs. While it is true that He gave the word to the Pharisees who also mocked Him, they were of the tribe of Israel. They were the sons of Abraham.

The lesson for us about not giving holy things to the dogs is that we should not waste our time to bring the gospel to someone who is obviously hostile toward the words we will share. With this type of person we need to befriend them and let the light that is within us show through in our lifestyle. Giving them the gospel straight up will not do any good. Becoming a part of their life and allowing them to see the joy and peace that Christ puts in our lives may!

Then there is the part about casting our pearls before swine. Remember that pigs were unclean to Israelites. They stayed away from swine completely. They did not eat the meat (No bacon!!!), nor did they raise pigs. The looked on swine as the lowest of the low. Swine love mud holes. They love to wallow in them. In hot weather a pig will cover himself with mud to keep cool. They are dirty animals. If you would cast a pearl in front of a swine he would just push it down in the dirt and not understand it’s worth. That pearl, that seed is worthless to them.

In Matthew 13:45-46 Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price that a merchant will sell everything to get. Why? Because the kingdom, like the pearl, comes to us through agony and pain from the one providing it. The oyster that produces the pearl dies while forming that pearl. Jesus died to bring the kingdom of heaven to us. The gospel is of great value!

What Jesus is saying is that we should refrain from giving the precious gospel to someone we know will just yell and scream at us for the words we say, We should not give it to someone who is obviously dead set against it. Dropping seeds is one thing. Presenting the gospel is another. We must plant seeds in people’s lives, but the best seeds are sown by our lifestyle not our words. The seeds of our lifestyles cannot be ignored while the words of our lips will not only be ignored but we will be ridiculed for them. These pigs are beyond listening to what God has to say.

Again, some are called to take the gospel to people who will mock them, ridicule them, and kill them for the words they speak. These are selected vessels that God will lead in their witness. They have given all for the gospel and are willing to lose their lives if need be. If you are called to such a mission field, my thoughts and prayers go out to you. Your task is monumental.

We all have an obligation to share the gospel if we are followers of Christ. We are to sow seed wherever we go. Some will fall on hard ground, some on rocky ground, some on weed-filled ground and some on fertile ground that will produce fruit. Most of the time we do not know where a person is on the ground spectrum. We just share what God puts in our heart. But if we know that they fall under the category of dog or swine, we must tread carefully and listen to the words of Jesus in this verse. Save that seed for someone who will benefit from it, and try to befriend the dog or the swine. That’s the way we will win them!

Take Care of Your Beam

Matthew 7:3-5

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye

We can see it so clearly! It glares at us like the sun shining off the snow on a crisp, clear winter day. It shines so brightly we almost have to turn away or cover our eyes. Our eyes focus in on it and must go and tell others about the amazing sight they have just witnessed. We must spread the word that it exists, and that it is there for everyone to see. We just can’t miss it and we want to make sure they don’t either. What is it? It’s our brothers faults and shortcomings, that’s what.

It is so evident what is wrong with those around us, isn’t it? If they are full of anger, we know it. If they are prideful we certainly know that. If they are gossips of busybodies we will make sure everyone knows that. The truth is, we are so quick to see what is supposedly wrong with everyone around us that we forget we are imperfect beings as well. We all are!

The admonition of Jesus in these verses is quite clear, and it follows the exhortation to not judge one another. As always, perfect timing! When we try and figure someone out by looking through our imperfect eyes, we most likely will see them wrong. We most likely will look through a lens that is cloudy or warped by our own preconceived ideas and notions. Our vision is blocked by who we are and what we have seen or heard. There is a beam in our eye, and that beam is our own faults and failures.

It boils down to this – take care of your own problems first. Take care of your own shortcomings, whether they be in the things of this world or spiritual things. Paul tells us to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) What this means is that we are all flawed when we compare ourselves to Christ. That is the only comparison we should make. We should never compare our spiritual progress with someone else’s. We have our own problems when it comes to perfection. While it is true that we are saved when we confess Jesus Christ and accept His sacrifice as an atonement for our sins, that salvation comes into our innermost being. We are made new creatures in Christ at that moment (2 Corinthians 5:17). But we are still clothed with this flesh and all it’s imperfections. For the rest of our lives, that perfect salvation that entered our soul needs to be worked outward to affect the flesh we are burdened with.

Our brother is also clothed with that flesh and God is working on Him as well. The trouble is that we have no idea what God is working on in their lives or where He is taking them. They are on their own journey, with all their flaws and faults. God is working on them. Why do we feel a need to point out their weak areas? Don’t you think God can point them out and take care of them? Doesn’t He know all about them already? And if God was concerned with that imperfection that you see, won’t He take care of it in His due time? Of course He will!

Then why do we insist on pointing out someone else’s faults? I think it is because of pride. We want to see ourselves as better or more important. We may see this other person as someone smarter or more entertaining then we are so we bring up their weaknesses as a way of making us feel better. That’s pride. Anytime we compare ourselves to others thinking we are better or worse, it is pride. Pride is simply thinking an inordinate amount of time about ourselves, whether it is thinking good of ourselves or bad. Our pride will look past our own faults but look directly at someone else’s.

Reading Psalm 139 can really put some perspective on our lives. Gpd says He knows every thought we have and every word we say. He says no matter where we go, He is there. The psalmist says God always knows exactly where I am. If you think you’re pulling one over on God because you have a secret sin lurking in your life you are sadly mistaken. He knows that sin, and He knows others that you may just ignore, He does not reveal everything that is wrong with our lives all at once. He reveals things to us a little at a time and gives us the grace to deal with one thing at a time. If He showed us all our faults at once, we would be devastated at our wretchedness.

He follows this same process with every one of His children. And if He is dealing with their lives, what right do we have to intercede? Can’t we just let God do His job instead of trying to do it for Him? Remember what the serpent said to Eve when He tempted her to take the fruit? He said You shall be as God (Gen 3:5)! And when we look at the mote in our brothers eye that is exactly what we are doing. We are trying to be like God, showing them their imperfections, when we have our own huge imperfections to deal with.

Later in Psalm 139 vs 17-18 the psalmist writes that God has precious thoughts toward us. Even as He sees all our imperfections and all our wandering off the path He has designed for us, He still has precious thoughts toward us. So many precious thoughts that they cannot be numbered! If He can look at us, with all our faults, and still think of us as precious, why can’t we do the same to our brothers and sisters on this earth? Instead of pointing out their failures, lift up their successes! Instead of trying to point out what they are doing wrong, help them see all they are doing right. Lift them up, edify them and encourage them in all things. This is what we are supposed to do.

Then at the end of this precious psalm (vs 23-24), the psalmist makes an extraordinary statement. He asks God to search Him and see if there be any wicked way in Him. He has already acknowledged that God knows every thought, every word, every action that he takes. Why then does he ask God to search Him? It is so God can reveal to him his own wicked ways so that he, the psalmist, might be able to understand the thing he needs to correct. Then he will be able to remove the beam out of his own eye and see clearly.

There are times that God will work with us to help someone overcome a fault. I will readily admit that. But we must make sure it is the stirring of the Holy Spirit within us that is causing us to feel we must help. If it is not, we are most likely going to bring an offence between us, or we will sow discord among the brethren, which is listed as one of the things God hates in Proverbs 6. I can honestly say it is very rare that God has ever asked me to help correct someone else’s faults in my 40+ years as a Christian, and that person was my best friend for 60+ years. We know each other inside and out so when God starts to deal with me about him, I can be blunt with him and know he will still love me. Not many of us have that kind of relationship with someone else. If you ever feel God is dealing with you in this area, pray earnestly before you say anything and make the Holy Spirit bears witness.

First and foremost work on yourself. Work on your salvation. Work on your trouble areas. When I think about that, I think of a song my kids used to sing when they were little. I still sing it to myself sometimes today. I want to close the lesson with this:

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don’t judge him yet, there’s an unfinished part
But I’ll be better just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

In the mirror of His word
Reflections that I see
Makes me wonder why He never gave up on me
But He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray
Remember He’s the potter, I’m the clay

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

“He’s Still Working on Me” by Joel Hemphill

Who Made You A Judge?

Matthew 7:1-2

7 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

I think all of us have heard these verses many times. I know I have. We are told not to judge people, and that is true. Jesus does say that here. But what exactly does that mean and how good are we at abiding by this rule? Let’s take a closer look.

The word judge used here is the Greek word krinó which is a primary root word that means to decide, to separate or to come to a choice which is either positive or negative. It can mean to condemn or avenge, or can be positive in the sense of giving esteem. When we judge someone as it is brought into this context, we in essence put them on trial in our own minds and pass a verdict on them, making ourselves judge and jury.

The big problem is that we are not capable of judging with perfect judgment. We are all filled with our own biases and those biases cause us to make wrong judgments about people, their actions and their motives. We make our judgments based on what we see and what we hear (Isaiah 11:3). Judgment based on these things can be way out of line.

Let’s say you are walking down the street just minding your own business. You have your phone in your hand and are reading something. Suddenly you accidently bump into someone walking the other direction. That person turns around and just lashes into you for being so careless. You are wise and hold your tongue, knowing it will do you no good to say anything. It was your fault after all. They are infuriated and go stomping off after giving you a good tongue lashing. You think to yourself that person needs to go home and just chill out! They are way out of it.

Both of you are guilty of judging by what you heard or saw. You heard that person go ballistic and thought they were way off base. You were not aware that they just came from the bank where they found out they were victims of identity theft. They were very distraught as their savings had been depleted quickly and they were in big trouble. While walking out of the bank they bumped into you with your face down in your phone. It was the last straw. Were they right in yelling at you? Perhaps, but a calmer tone sure would have been better. You thought they were just a mean tempered person, but did not know what was going on in there heart. You judged by what you heard.

They, on the other hand, did not realize that the message you were reading was informing you that your sister had just been diagnosed with cancer. It was an important message asking you to call as soon as you could. You actually had a tear in your eye when you were bumped by this person, and were just speechless, not because of their anger, but because of the situation with your sister, The other person thought you were just negligent and preoccupied with your phone doing everyday things that could have waited. They judged by what they saw.

This is an unlikely scenario, but things like this happen way more often than we like to admit. We see or hear something and assume we know what that person is going through in their lives. We do not have the ability in our human nature to step back and try to comprehend what is going on in their lives that might make them feel or act that way. That is called empathy. I remember several decades ago seeing the best example of empathy I have ever witnessed. A gentleman was speaking at our church and he was a very good speaker. He was a good 15 minutes into his message on having empathy when suddenly he stopped and got a blank look on his face. He fumbled around with his papers and stared out at the audience, looking lost and alone. Then he muttered “I seem to have lost my place” in a very modest and meek tone. I sat there feeling so bad for him. He fumbled a little bit longer and then stood up and looked out at the audience again. He then said “That feeling that you just had for me was empathy! You felt really bad for me and could understand how I felt. That’s empathy.” I have never forgotten that example because it showed me that I have a responsibility to try and understand where someone is coming from before I make any judgment at all as to why they are acting the way they are.

In Deuteronomy 1:17, Moses is told not to regard anyone’s stature when he is judging between people. We could add to this their race, color, sex, height, weight, hairstyle, clothes they wear, what they eat, etc. The list goes on endlessly. All of these things have no place being regarded when we are trying to decide if a persons actions are right or wrong. They all have to be cast aside because all that really matters is what is in their heart and the only way we can know that is by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

In I Samuel 16, we read about Samuel going to Jesse’s house to find the next King of Israel. Saul had disobeyed one too many times and now Samuel had to find someone else to rule the kingdom. When he got to Jesse’s house and told his purpose, Jesse brought all his sons before Samuel, all but one that is. None of the sons that came before Samuel was the Lord’s choice. Samuel asked if that was all the sons Jesse had and was told the youngest was tending the sheep It was then that Samuel remembered what the Lord had said to him before he got there (! Samuel 16:7)

7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

The Lord looks on the heart. He looks within us and sees our inner qualities and struggles. He sees our good points and our bad. He sees our talents and our weaknesses. He knows every little thing about us and He will use us in just those capacities. When the whole world saw a shepherd boy, God saw a King. Do we really have any idea what God sees in us? My goodness, we have so much potential if we will just succumbed to God and His leading. The possibilities are overwhelming to me sometimes.

When I judge with my very limited understanding, Jesus says I will be judged by the same type of judgement. When I step out and start to decide why a person is acting or speaking in such a way, and I use my human understanding to decide they are in the wrong, or they should apologize, or they are just bitter, then they will use that same type of judgment on me. They will see the same thing in me. They will expect the same from me. How many arguments are stuck because both parties think the other one should apologize? Someone said something in a time of distress and did not understand what the other was going through and now they are upset. Someone has to get a little more spiritual here! These type of things happen way to often, and they can rob us of the potential we have in Christ. We start to see ourselves in a limited capacity because we see others in that same way and they point it right back on us. They bring us down from being a king to being a shepherd boy again. There were many times Saul tried to take David’s life or put him down because Saul judged his motives wrong. David had no desire for the throne while Saul was still alive, and David was not about to take Saul’s life, even though he had an opportunity to do that very thing twice. Saul showed worldly judgment, David showed heavenly judgment.

The next time you are tempted to judge someone based on their words or actions, think first. Would I want people to judge me this way? Am I doing to others what I would want them to do to me? If the answer to either of these question is no, then don’t even begin to judge that person. Try to empathize them. Be a friend to them. Show them the love of Christ. Most likely that’s what they really need!!

Tomorrow May Come

Matthew 6:34

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

”One day at a time sweet Jesus
That’s all I’m asking from you.
Just give me the strength
To do everyday what I have to do.
Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord help me today, show me the way
One day at a time”

These words from the gold gospel song “One Day At A Time” express this verse very well. The truth is that we are not promised tomorrow so why do we spend so much time worrying about tomorrow? One of my favorite authors, whom I simply know as Fenelon, says “Don’t insult today by looking for a better tomorrow.” But we tend to do this all the time.

First of all, this verse does not give us liberty to waste all our resources and not plan for retirement. In today’s world, there is a need to put something back for our older years. Social Security just does not quite cut it unless you have no debt whatsoever. We are living longer and it takes more resources to live all the time. I have been one who has been slack in planning for my retirement so most likely I will be working for many years hence unless God brings in funds by some miraculous means.

At the same time, Jesus warns against building up our own riches for ourselves. In Luke 12:16-21 He tells the story of a rich man who has a good harvest. He builds bigger barns to store the harvest in. But God comes to Him and tells Him that his life will be taken that night. All that is in his storehouse will go to someone else, not him. This is told as a reprimand that we should not store up things for ourselves.

I believe God will supply for us as we continue to do His work. God has given me new tasks as I grow older. I had to stop working when cancer interrupted my career. Now my fatigue level is still too high so I can’t drive out of town. But God has brought other ways for me to earn income. I update land maps for a local company which brings in some income. I just published a book which is selling slowly but surely. Social Security is helping. I do not have a nest egg to fall back on, so I have to keep busy. But I believe God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory (Proverbs 4:19).

On top of that, I know that God has a plan for me that will bring me peace and give me an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11). He will only do good for me (Romans 8:28) and He will finish the good work He has started in me (Philippians 1:6). I may not know what His plans are or where they will lead because His thoughts are much higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). In every case, I will trust Him implicitly (Prob 3:5).

When we remember these things, we will not worry about tomorrow. We will not be alarmed when things do not go as planned. Our plans are putty in His hands. He is the potter, we are the clay (Jeremiah 18). Yield yourself to God and He will form your days before you. We do have to make certain plans like doctors appointments, business appointments, birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc. However we should never be disappointed if these plans go differently than we expected. God might have other ideas on how those days should go. He always knows what is best for us. Believe it!

Concentrate on today! God has only given you enough grace for this moment. He will give you grace for tomorrow’s situations when tomorrow comes. There is so much we can do today for Him, why look ahead to tomorrow. Let’s all concentrate on what he has for us today.

In the book of Haggai, the people were busy building their own houses and letting God’s house just sit in ruins. It had been sitting there for almost 100 years when Haggai showed up on the scene and said “Consider your ways.” He reminded the people that they were building their houses for themselves and disregarding God’s house. As a result, their crops were not growing and money was slipping through their fingers. They were too busy building their own kingdoms and ignoring the kingdom of God,

The people took the warning seriously and began to build the foundation of the temple. In Haggai 2:18-19 we read the following:

18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider it.
19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.

At first God was telling them to consider their ways because they were building their own kingdoms. Now, as they have started to build the kingdom of God by laying the temple foundation, He tells them to consider something else. They have planted seeds, but seen no harvest yet. God tells them that from this day forward, He will bless them.

I believe this is a word from the Lord for 2019. Have you planted seed? Have you witnessed to souls, hoping they will accept Christ? Have you been praying for healing, finances, deliverance, or anything else? From this day, God will bless you! There is nothing you can do to bring a harvest out of seeds you have already planted. Oh, you can water them and provide light, but you cannot grow the seed itself., That’s God’s job. He is going to start growing those seeds.

Don’t give thought about tomorrow. Don’t worry about what it holds. Put your hand in the hand of the one who stills the waters. Trust and obey for there’s no other way. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. What have I to dread. What have I to fear. I’m leaning on the everlasting arms. There’s victory in Jesus, my Savior forever. The songs just keep on coming. We sing them all the time. Let’s now take the advice of these great songwriters. Let’s leave tomorrow in God’s hands and do all we can for Him today.

Seek First

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

It is so easy to get my priorities messed up. It seems life throws things at me so quickly I have trouble deciding what should come next. Even now, when I am not working full time, my time is in high demand from so many projects. It seems I flutter around like a honeybee goes to various flowers, trying to get a little from each one to take back to the hive. He never spends too long on one flower, and wants to get to many flowers before he heads back. This is me, project after project, one at a time for short amounts of time.

I have considered setting up some kind of schedule now that I am home all day, but have not come to any determination on that. The following things would have to fit into that schedule:

respond to email
respond to text messages
writing projects which include
Poetry when the Lord gives me something
This blog from the sermon on the mount
My next book project, which is about my cancer battle
Working on the maps that I update (this is my paying job right now)
Building my web site
Worship service for church each Sunday – this has several pieces:
Choosing the songs
Pulling sheet music
Printing up a word sheet (we do a lot of choruses)
Power point for the big screen
Checking Facebook
Taking care of our puppy – inside and out (he does not like to be left outside)
Fixing meals (my wife works 2 jobs, so I fix most meals for my granddaughter and me)
Laundry
House cleaning
Grocery shopping

Now, let’s see, what am I forgetting? Oh yes, time with God. How could I forget that!

It’s easy to see how I could forget that with all the other things I try to work on each and every day. I am not even working again yet, and I am lost in a sea of constantly doing something. What is going to happen when I get back to my job as an independent insurance agent for Aflac? How will my time work out then?

Believe me, if I could afford to, I would not go back to work. God has blessed me with the ability to write, and much of that will have to be forfeited when I am on the road again. I can’t see how I will have the time. Right now, my days goes from 4:30 to 9:30 or 10 each day. I do take about 20 minutes each morning to spend in the word, dong a bible study with a friend of mine. We work out of the same book and text our thoughts back and forth, with a little prayer, every day. I am utilizing scripture many times in my writing through the day. My mind is on Him, praying or just meditating even as I go through my daily tasks. But is this putting Him first? Is my schedule designed to make sure God gets priority in my life each day? I am inclined to say no, it is not. I am inclined to think I should make a more precise schedule which would keep me on task each day. It might look something like this:

4:30-5:30 – Time in the word. Praying, reading, meditating on God and His words
5:30-6:15 – Take out the dog and check email, play a couple games
6:15-7:15 – Breakfast and time with my wife watching news
7:15-9:15 – Working on maps
9:15-9:30 – take a break
9:30-10:30 – Chores and errands, take dog out
10:30-11:30 – work on maps
11:30-12:15 – fix lunch for my wife and I
12:15-1:15 – writing
1:15-3:15 – work on maps
3:15-4:30 – email, games, talk with a friend, take dog out
4:30 – 5:00 – time with wife between jobs
5:00 – 6:00 – fix and eat supper
6:00 – 8:00 – work on maps or write
8:00 until bedtime – relax, take dog out

Would this work? Maybe. Maybe I should try it. I never have scheduled myself that thoroughly. I have some elements missing even from this. Exercising, whether it’s walking or riding my bike, will have to be fit in once the weather improves around here (March). More time with the Lord is something I need to work on and there is no room for that. Poems come up at all sorts of time and I need to write them down when God gives them to me or I’ll lose them. Phone interruptions come often.

And what will happen if and when I get back to my Aflac work? All this goes out the window and has to be condensed down to early morning and late evening hours. Aflac has to take primetime from 8 to 4 or 5 each day. Then there will be paperwork to do at night. It will all become quite a blur. I have thought about just ding Aflac part time but if I did it would not provide the income I need right now.

Why do I tell you all this? It is simply to say that life is busy for all of us. I am not working full time and I don’t have the time for anything extra. Much of this stuff that I do now I was not doing before I came down with cancer and stopped working Aflac. God has repurposed my life. Now I need to find ways to put Him first amidst the chaos of my day. How do I do that? How do you do that?

If you don’t schedule like the above (which I don’t) it is still critical that you do schedule time with God each day. It can be anytime of day you desire, but I recommend first thing in the morning. There are several reasons for this thinking:

If you don’t take time now and you are busy, you can just set your alarm earlier to take time with God. It is easier to do that than to try to squeeze Him in somewhere in the middle of the day, or stay up later to do some reading and praying.

Taking time first thing in the morning seems to make the whole day go better, at least for me. God’s word is an uplifting influence no matter where you study. It will set the stage for your whole day, and you can carry the things you learned and read with you all day long.

If you are scheduling time in the morning, it is unlikely anything will interrupt that time. If you schedule during the day or evening, it is very easy for interruptions or other options to come up, and then your time with God will be diminished.

But seeking first the kingdom is even more than this. It is keeping Him in your thoughts all day long. The word tells us to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4), pray without ceasing (I Thess 5:17) and acknowledge Him in all our ways (Prov 3:6). There should never a moment pass when we are not mindful of His mercy and grace toward us. There should never be a moment that we are not ready to praise Him, pray for others, or give an account for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). We must be instant in season and out (2 Timothy 4:2), ready to give a word to someone who needs to hear it. We must be ready, willing and able to show mercy whenever confronted with someone who needs mercy, as Jesus did. We musty make sure our words and actions are there to minister grace to those who hear and see them (Eph 4:29).

You see, putting God first is more than just scheduling Him into your day. It is more than just taking time to read scripture and study a book. It is a lifestyle. It is our “conversation” as the KJV puts it. Everything we do and say comes from our relationship to Him. If we are close to God, our words and actions will speak of Christ and His love wherever we go. My best friend has been close and has been drifting in His life. I can always tell when he is drifting away again because His language starts to get bad again. I will tell Him when I see this happening and sometimes he gets mad and defends Himself, and sometimes he takes the word of rebuke and thanks me for it. In either case, I will always tell Him. It is my duty as His friend and brother in the Lord.

We are to be a light that shines in the darkness (Matt 5:14-16), lighting the way so others will be drawn to the Lord. We are to be salt (Matt 5:13) making others thirsty for the things of God. We are supposed to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked and visit those in prison (Matt 25:35-36). We are to love one another because that is how we show we are His disciples (John 13:35). Everything we do or say reflects our relationship to God. Putting Him first means putting others first (Phil 2:2-4).

Not only are we to minister to others as a way of putting God first, this verse says we should seek out those opportunities to touch others for the Lord. We should seek out the lost and lead them to Christ, we should seek those that are sick and pray for them, or those in prison and minister to them. We should seek opportunities to feed the hungry and provide shelter to the homeless. There are opportunities to do these things all around us every day. Jesus travelled hundreds of miles during His ministry seeking ones who needed to know about the kingdom, preaching, teaching, healing and delivering every step of the way. He was our example, sent from God to show us the kingdom. He said the kingdom was here within us! When we first seek His kingdom, the rest of our needs will not be near as concerning to us. We will be walking as he walked, in harmony with God, knowing that others are being touched.

So do not think about seeking God first as putting Him into your schedule. I spent a lot of time on that just to show the futility of it. Think of putting Him first as your lifestyle, as a result of everything you do during each and every day. Seek Him in those you come in contact with and minister to those who have a need. Do take time in His word, in prayer and in meditation on the things of God, but don’t do only that. There is so much more to His kingdom.

Jesus said we cannot even see the kingdom of God unless we have been born again (John 3:3). He said except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is wonderful to seek the kingdom, but we will never find it if we have not done what Jesus told us to do, be born again. We have to put off the old man, and put on the new man (Ephesians 2:22-24). How do you do that? It is very simple.

Romans 9:9-10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:13 says that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Come into the kingdom today, seek Him first above all else and your deepest needs will all be met

He Knows Our Needs

Matthew 6:25-32

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

Some say it’s the human condition to worry. For some weird, diabolical reason we like to worry about things. Where will the money come from for this? How will people react to my new hair style? Will this look good on me? If I don’t shave today will people notice? Yes, some of these are silly, but we actually do worry about them. I looked up quotes about worry online and found some really good ones that I’d like to share:

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere”
– Erma Bombeck

“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.”
– Dale Carnegie

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
– Leo F. Buscaglia

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
– Winston Churchill

All of these people realized that worry is something we are better off without. Worry accomplishes absolutely nothing but to give us stress, and stress can cause all kinds of calamity in our lives. They say that about 75% of sickness and pain is a result of stress that could be avoided if we just didn’t worry so much.

The Bible also has a lot to say about worry.

Phil 4:6-7
6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I love the song “What a Friend We have in Jesus.” Over and over again the words “Take it to the Lord in prayer” are in this wonderful song. Typically, we worry over the smallest of things in our lives, things that God has completely in His control. We just don’t realize what He is doing in our lives right now, so we worry instead of going to Him and asking for wisdom. When we approach God with thanksgiving in our hearts, and bring our petitions, or our problems, to Him, the result is that peace will come into our lives. Not just any mind of peace but a peace that goes past human understanding. It’s a peace that relieves us from stress and causes us to just trust God. That’s what I want all the time!

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

A troubled heart is a heart filled with worry. Jesus tells us that we should not be this way. We should not be troubled or afraid because He is leaving His peace for us to enjoy. Why should we allow this world and it’s worries to rob us of the peace of God? It is our choice to either have that implicit trust in God or worry about every little thing. He says to have peace!

Hebrews 13:5-6

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

So often we worry about the things we don’t have instead of being blessed by the things we do have. This is part of the human tragedy, and it is covetousness. The tenth commandment says we should not covet. Why are we so quick to worry about the things we have not been blessed with yet? Why can we not be content right where we are at this moment. In Philippians 4:11 Paul says he has learned to be content in any situation. Let us all take the same attitude and worry will slide out of our lives.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Those who have been following my blog know that this verse is the one I turn to all the time. If we follow the remarkable advice in these two simple verses, we will never find occasion to worry. We will understand that God is in control and we can place our lives in His hands and trust Him. We will know that, even though we don’t understand what is going on in our lives, that He does know and can handle it. We can have a calm assurance that God will work in every situation in our lives and we acknowledge that even in the worst of times, He is there and He is working things for my good. When we have these assurances in our heart, He will direct our path and we will hear His voice telling us what to do next. Following the advice in these two verses can quickly erase all worry from our lives

Romans 8:28

We know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose

The two most important words in this verse are “We know.” Do you know this beyond a shadow of a doubt today? Do you know that no matter what comes your way, God will bring good out of it? When I started saying this after my cancer diagnosis, people thought I was a bit crazy. What good can come out of cancer? But in the last 2-1/2 years since that diagnosis, God has given me over 1,500 poems. He has inspired me to write a book which is not published. He has inspired me to study and blog through the books of Philippians, Galatians, Ephesians, Psalms and James. He has helped my faith and the faith of all those around me to grown by leaps and bounds as He slowly healed me. So much good came out because I simply trusted God and listened to His voice. Me ears and my heart are open! Are you ready for the good that can come out of your tragedies?

Eph 3:20

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

If we will only understand the truths of scripture, there would be no reason to worry. He will do much more than we can possibly even think. He will part the Red Sea. He will send manna from heaven and water from a rock. He will shut the mouths of the lions and leave us unburned in the fire. He will tear down walls that block us with a shout and drive the enemy away with a sound of trumpets. He has done all these things. He certainly can take care of little old me.

Job 3:25

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

Here is the biggest problem with worry. Worry will actually bring about the things we worry about. We can talk ourselves into those situations we worry about the most. Our thoughts are powerful things and our words are even more powerful. If we make a negative confession with our lips, we are in danger of becoming what we speak. The alternative is so much better!

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

This verse is probably second on my list of favorites. Notice there is no mention of anger, worry, doubt, fear or anything like that. It is all good things, things that will lift us up out of worry and into hope. We must learn to set our minds on a higher plane than this world. We must not live in the place of worry, but in a place where virtue and good reports fill our everyday lives.  There is a study of this verse on this site.  If you’d like to take the time and need to understand each of these things to think on a little better, that might be a good place to start.

If you are a worrier, I urge you to consider the verses above and meditate on them regularly. Worry must be deleted from our lives. When you get rid of something you must replace it with something else. If you don’t that thing you thought you had out away will just come back, usually worse then it was before. Replace worry with Philippians 4:8 and Proverbs 3:5-6. Us these verses as a mantra if you must for a while. Know them inside and out. Study them. Then read Psalm 23, Psalm 91 and Psalm 139. God will bring that worry right out of you if you only make a decision to let Him. Do it today!