What Easter doesn’t tell you

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What is Easter? Is it about bunnies? Is it the time when kids can eat as many chocolate eggs as they want? Well, even though I love chocolate eggs and bunnies, Easter has absolutely no connection with our modern traditions. So, what is it all about? It is all about Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. But who is Jesus, why do we celebrate his death and why did he rise from the dead? Today I want to answer these three questions in order to explain why we celebrate Easter.

Jesus is known as a good man who cared about the poor, a good teacher who communicated in a simple way difficult teachings and a good healer who helped the blind to see and the paralysed to walk. But good people don’t die on a cross, right? So, why was Jesus crucified?

Many people thought he was a liar or a crazy man who deserves to be killed because he claimed to be the son of God. But if Jesus was really the son of God, wouldn’t he save himself from the cross? Well, not really. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. Jesus did not come to be saved but to save us. Let me explain.

God is perfect and Heaven is a place where only perfect people can live in. However, we are not perfect. We all make mistakes, we all lie to one another and our minds are full of bad thoughts, right? In other words, because of our imperfections, we need to live far away from God for all eternity. The name of this separation between God and humankind is hell. We should spend eternity in hell. However, the son of God came to save us from hell by dying on a cross to pay for our mistakes, for our sins. But that was not the end.

Jesus died on a cross but rose from the dead after three days making the resurrection of those who follow Him possible. Because Jesus lives, we can have eternal life in Heaven. Maybe you find difficult to believe in it and I totally understand it. However, there are three reasons why we can all believe that Jesus is still alive.

One, many godly men predicted that Jesus was going to die but rise from the dead. Jesus himself said many times that he would be rejected by his people, die on a cross to pay for our sins and rise from the dead after three days. Two, many people saw, touched and had meals with Jesus after his resurrection. The Bible says that Jesus appeared to more than 500 people who saw him alive after the crucifixion. It wouldn’t be possible to convince so may people to lie, right? Three, many of these people were killed because they kept saying that Jesus rose from the dead, killed for their faith in Christ. I personally wouldn’t die for a lie, would you?

Jesus is God’s son who died on a cross to pay for our sins and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. That is good news, right? That is the gospel of Jesus. That is what Easter is all about. That is the reason why we celebrate Easter. The questions we need to raise now are who Jesus is for you? Is Jesus your saviour or a liar? Do you believe Jesus is still alive or that he is just a dead crazy man?

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God’s gift to the world

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It’s Christmas, a time of the year when people experience different feelings. Do you remember the last time someone gave you a gift during Christmas? What was the feeling you had? If you remember I believed you felt glad and loved. On the other hand, if you cannot remember I assume that Christmas has been a time when you feel the opposite, right?

It doesn’t matter what category you fit into, Christmas is a celebration that should make all of us feel glad and loved by what God has given us rather than what people have given us or not given us. It’s a celebration that can make all of us feel loved and happy forever. But what is the real meaning of Christmas?

I want to share a story with you that explain what Christmas is about. A story recorded in the book of Matthew 1.18-25. It tells the story of Jesus birth, the greatest gift given by God to all of us for all eternity. But why is Jesus the greatest gift given by God to us? Three are the reasons.

Firstly, Jesus was protected as a gift.

Have you ever asked yourself why gifts are normally wrapped? There are two reasons. One, when gifts are not wrapped, we easily find out what the gift is and all the anticipation and surprise disappear. Two, gifts are better protected when they are wrapped, mainly if the present is made of fragile material.

According to verse 18 and 19 Jesus did not come as a strong man but as fragile baby, a gift that was protected by Mary and Joseph. How do we know that?

Imagine a woman at the age of Mary finding out that she is pregnant but not of her fiancé just a few days before her wedding? What some women today would do? I personally know many women who would have aborted rather than facing the responsibility of protecting the child. However, Mary kept the baby safe, even though she could not understand what was going on.

Joseph also was like a wrap in Jesus life. According to the law of his time, if a man found something shameful about his wife, he would have the right to leave her and she would probably be stoned to death. But he did not want to expose her to public disgrace and have Jesus killed in his mom womb.

What would you do to protect Jesus, God’s gift to the world? Would you be able to defend him? Many today confess the name of Jesus but they abandon him as soon as they face any kind of difficulty.

Secondly, Jesus was promised as a gift.

A long time ago my family decided to go to a shopping centre, during Christmas. At that time my daughter was five years old. As soon as we reached the main entrance she saw Santa Claus asking kids what they wanted for Christmas.

We patiently waited in a queue, for 15 minutes so she could make him a request. As soon as she made her request I asked her, “What did you ask him for Christmas”? She then pointed to a doll in a shop window and said, “I asked him that doll, but I know you are the one who buys it every year, so could you buy it now dad?”

Why did not she believe in the promised of Santa Claus? How can a five-year child doubt the promise of an old man? Maybe she already knew that human beings do not keep their promises very often.

God’s gift to this world was different. He was promised not by Santa, but by God through many of his prophets, including Isaiah who said, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”.

The word Immanuel means God with us. God did not only promised but actually fulfilled it among us. In other words, God was the giver, sender and the gift in itself.

Do you believe in Jesus was God among us? Someone who was promised by God’s prophets many years before his birth? Or do you prefer to believe in human beings the lies?

Thirdly, Jesus was expected as a gift.

Let me share a story with you. When I was a child I used to visit my grandparents who lived by the beach. As I didn’t know how to swim I always played very near the edge of the beach. But one day I saw a beautiful girl swimming far from where I was. In order to impress her I tried to swim towards her but I end up drowning. For a few seconds, the only thing I expected was the possibility of being saved.  I was eventually rescued by a coast guard. The girl was not the gift that I expected the coast guard was the one.

We live in a world full of dangerous attractions. Sin is something that maybe seems beautiful and pleasant however it kills us all. The Bible says that we are all sinners who deserve eternal death, hell. We are all in need of a saviour.

Joseph, in verse 25, named the baby Jesus, which means God saves. Jesus was expected by his parents as one who would rescue us from sin. He was a gift sent by God to save us from hell.

Is Jesus your saviour today? Or are you waiting for his second coming in the future? If that is your case let me tell you something. Jesus was born as a saviour in the past but he will come back as a judge in the future. There is no reason to expect his future second coming if you don’t have him as a saviour today.

Conclusion

Jesus is surely God’s greatest gift to this world. There is no reason to reject a present like Jesus. Is Jesus the gift you want for Christmas? If is that what you want say, I am sorry God for rejecting your gift for such a long time, please help me to put my trust and faith in you this Christmas and thank you for sending us your son Jesus Christ to save us.

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Living water in a dying land

Living water in a dying land

The national census says Christianity is the major religion in the UK. Politicians, like David Cameron, say that Britain is a Christian country. The queen Elizabeth II said recently that Jesus is the king she serves. It is tempting to believe that we live in a city where Christianity is alive and fulfilling its mission, right?

Well, in reality, believe it or not, Christianity in London is in decline. Even though 48% of the population identify themselves as Christians, less than 10% still attends church. According to some specialists, more than one church a week could close to worshipers in the next few years. It is possible that churches can be vanished from the UK in the future if you do not do something very quick. It is time to get to work. It is time to bring life to this dying land. Let me explain what I am trying to say.

Do you know what a dam is? It is basically a barrier built across a river to store water for when is most needed. Besides the positive effect of it, when water is over accumulated it can prevent a river to flow water to other areas in its course. The result is that nothing can grow or live in these areas due the lack of water.

 Our local churches are like spiritual dams. We can positively enjoy Jesus presence among ourselves but we cannot have him only for ourselves. We need to allow God’s “living water” to flow to the dying land of London. We need to tell people about Jesus. But how can our churches do it?

In this talk, I would like to look at John chapter 4, verses 1-26, in order to show you that the many people will listen to the gospel in the UK if we simply break down the three barriers that Jesus broke. Let us see what they are and how to break them.

  1. Break the territorial barrier through a missional approach

 In John 4:1-4, the author says that Jesus, in order to avoid friction with the Jewish religious leaders, decided to leave Judea in the south of Israel and head north, to Galilee, in the north. Samaria was in the middle of these two regions. However, strict Jews avoided passing through Samaria due a great hatred between Samaritans and Jews. They would instead go east, crossing the Jordan River. Why did Jesus choose to go through Samaria even though it was not a natural route taken by the Jews? Wasn’t Jesus aware of it?

Of course, Jesus was aware of it. Actually, John says, in verse 4, that Jesus was not there by accident, but that he “had to go through Samaria”. Whenever John uses this verb “have”, it involves God’s will and plan. Jesus had a heavenly mission to accomplish there. He had to meet the Samaritan woman and her people in order to share the good news with them. But how did he do it? He broke the territorial barrier. What do I mean by that?

The territorial barrier, are places we do not want to go to share the gospel. So instead of going to these mission fields, we send out a missionary to go or invite people to come to our local churches. I am not saying that we should not do these things. That is not my point. My point here is that we should not rely on others to do what Jesus commands us to do. So what is the right approach?

We need to break this barrier through a missional approach. In Mathew 28:19, for instance, Jesus tells his disciples to “go” but this word should be translated “as you go”, referring to the day-to-day activities we all engage in life. We need to meet nonbelievers where they are, in the context of everyday life. We are all missionaries in this world and our mission field is wherever we put our feet. I know it is hard to do it in some places, but it is not an impossible mission.

When I went to my previous barber shop for the first time I was decided to have that place as my mission field. So every single time I had my hair cut there, the gospel was shared in that place. Just before, I moved, from Brazil to London, my barber invited me to meet his family and share the gospel with them during work hours. That was a possible and reward mission.

Have you been sharing the gospel in places where you do not want to? If so, you are ready to break the second barrier.

  1. Break the social barrier through a multicultural approach

From 5-10, John sets the scene for this narrative by saying that at midday, Jesus tired from the journey sits by the well of Jacob and began to talk to a Samaritan woman. But this conversation would never happen due four social barriers. Let us see what they are.

One, there was a racial irreconciliation between Jews and Samaritans. That is why she said, in verse 9, “How can you a Jew ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?” Two, there was a gender issue. A man would not talk to a woman in public. According to some scholars, religious Jews even used to close their eyes whenever women were walking in the street. Three, there was a religious matter between Jews and Samaritans. We can clearly see it in verse 20 when she asks Jesus about the correct place where to worship. Four, there was a moral barrier. She had been married five times and was living with a mam she did not get married with. Her reputation among her own people was not good at all. Maybe that is the reason why she was drawing water alone at 12 rather than with the other woman in the morning.

Why did Jesus choose to engage with the Samaritan woman even though it was socially unacceptable for a male Jew to do so? Wasn’t Jesus aware of these four social barriers?

Jesus was aware of it all but he ignored the racial, gender, religious and moral differences on purpose. He wanted to tell her the good news and for that to happen, he had to break the barrier that divided them. How did Jesus do that? He broke the social barrier.

People tend to share the gospel only with those who look like them. The issue is that we can relate to people who look like us, but we can never forget that Jesus commands us to make disciples of all cultures. How can we do it?

We can do it through a multicultural approach. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands us to reach the “nations”, a word that could also be translated as “people groups”. In other words, people groups made in God’s image, just like us. People groups separated from God because of sin, just like us. People groups who need to be reconciled to God through Jesus, just like all of us, Christians who were reconciled one day.

There are people from all kinds of backgrounds in England. Just in London, foreign-born people constituted 37% of London’s population, more than three million people. So let us keep in mind that we serve a global God with a global mission in the global city of London.

You might not be able to share the good news with someone different from you in another nation but surely you can do it at your doorstep, right? If so, you are ready to break the third barrier.

  1. Break the spiritual barrier through a gospel-centred approach

From verse 10, Jesus began to use figurative expressions such as, “the gift of God” and “the living water”. We can assume that Jesus was talking about the same subject as in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in John chapter three. He wanted both, Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, to know that he was the Christ. But she did not understand what Jesus meant, taking everything he said literally. That explains why she asked him for the “free living water”, in verse 15. But Jesus changes the subject abruptly by pointing the woman’s sin. Why would he do something so politically incorrect?

Jesus moved the conversation in order to challenge her. He needed to expose her spiritual condition otherwise; she would not make the right connection. He had to tell her that she was a sinner, by revealing her past and present sins, to break the spiritual barrier.

The spiritual barrier, are the subjects we do not want to talk about when sharing the gospel. So people tell others about God’s love for the world but do not explain why and how God loved the world. They present only part of the gospel, the easy one. We need to present the good news with the same boldness and compaction that Jesus had for the Samaritan woman. But how do we do it?

We can do it through a gospel-centred approach. Jesus, in Matthew 28:19-20, commands us to teach everything he has taught. We cannot hide anything, including the bad news. We need to use God’s Word to show graciously that we are all sinners who deserve eternal death, but that God can forgive us and give us eternal life through Christ. We need to confront sinners by giving then the bad news in order to present the good news. Let me illustrate what I am trying to say.

Supposed you are a doctor and one of your patients need to start a cancer treatment urgently. Would your patient accept to go through a treatment just because you told him that you care for him? I do not think so. What is the point of going through a treatment without a reason for it? On the other hand, if you tell your patient that he needs to start a treatment due his serious health condition, I am pretty sure he would not say no.

What is the point of telling people that Jesus can save them if they do not understand why they need to be saved? It is time, to be honest with those who are heading towards hell.

 Conclusion

I want to conclude with two challenges. The first one is for those who do not know Jesus. In this passage, Jesus explained the difference between physical and the spiritual water. One helps our bodies when we get thirsty. But it only gives us temporary satisfaction. The other helps our thirsty spirit. But the water that Jesus offers gives us permanent satisfaction. In other words, Jesus offers for free eternal life in Heaven. If you haven’t, drink the living water by putting your trust in Jesus, Would you like to try this water now?

The second challenge is for my brothers and sister in Christ, missionaries in this world. Let us go to places where we normally would go. Let us relate to people, we normally would not relate to. Let us share the true gospel with people without hiding why the good news is so good. Let us break the territorial, social and spiritual barriers that hold the living water that this dry and dying land need so much.

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True Freedom

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Are you a free person? If so, what does freedom mean to you? Does it mean you have the desire, ability and opportunity do anything you want? If that is your definition, I have to tell you that you are not free at all. Let me illustrate what I am trying to say.

Suppose you have the opportunity to get a free parachute jump from a skydiving company, the desire to go skydiving and the ability to open a parachute but do not check whether the company which provides the service is reliable or not. During the freefall you realize that your parachute does not work. You regret the fact that you should have checked the company before making the free choice of going skydiving. If you had done it, you would find out that it was not the first time that parachutes of this company do not work resulting in the death of many people. Would you say that you are fully free in this situation? No, because you know that you are going to die and you regret the free choice you have made.

Freedom is the desire, ability and the opportunity to do what you want but without regretting your choices. But how do you make the right choices?

In this talk, I would like to look at the last verse in this chapter 6, verse 23, in help you to decide how you are going to use your “freedom” without eternal regrets, by simply choosing the right master to serve.

The master sin deceives people but the master God guides them

First, let’s look at who the masters are in this verse. Paul says that there are two masters and whether you realize it or not, everyone is a slave to one of them. Everyone lives for one of them.[1] So the issue is not whether you have a master or not, but who your master is, Sin or God?

We were created by God to serve him forever. We created to glorify Him by making him famous for all eternity. However since the beginning of the universe, we want to be our own masters. We want all the glory for ourselves. That’s why Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they did not want to follow God’s will both rather their own.

Nowadays, some people even ignore the existence of God in order to believe that they are their own gods. The problem is that when we choose to be our own masters we automatically reject God, our creator, as our master. Did you know that the Bible calls this sin? Did you know that sin is the master of those who believe they have no master?

That is exactly what Paul tries to explain in Romans 6, when he says in verse 12: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” In other words, Paul is saying that being free to choose does not mean we are free from having a master. Why? Because desires, abilities and opportunities may give you the feeling that you are free, when in reality you are just doing what your master wants you to do.

I personally know many people who had the desire to take drugs but end up addicted to them becoming slaves of sin. I also know people who have the ability to forgive or love but because prefer to hate others, becoming slaves of sin. I know people who had the opportunity to become very rich but end up slaves of greed.

In all these cases, the freedom to act based on the wrong desires, abilities and opportunities resulted in slavery. So if you live to do what sin wants you to do, I have to tell you that you are a slave of sin. However if you are a servant of God he will guide to the right path as it is written, “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” God is an expert at bringing good out of bad.

Paul knew that from personal experience. God could have kept Paul out of prison in Philippi but instead, He let Paul go to prison and the jailer became a believer as a result. Did He bring any good out of that?  I’d say He did!

We can only have the right desires, abilities, and opportunities that will result in true freedom when doing what God wants us to do.

The master sin, pays wages and the master God, gives gifts

Second, let’s look at how the masters treat their servants in this verse. One master pays wages and the other gives gifts, but what is the difference? The difference between a wage and a gift is that a wage is the payment earned for your work and a gift is something you do not earn it.

Many people may think that the “wage” Paul is talking about in this passage is the pleasure sin gives to his slaves. Maybe that is the reason why many people prefer to serve sin as their master, right? However that is not what Paul is saying. He is actually highlighting that the wage of sin is death. In other words, sin is like an employer who allows you to have the pleasure of drinking a hot drink in the cafeteria, during work hours, but who does not tell you that the coffee you are having is poisoned.

Sin allows you to have pleasure but does not inform the danger of it. That is the horrible way sin treats you, but on the other hand, God treats you in totally different way. Let me give you an illustration of how God does it.

Two centuries ago in America, a slave called Joe decided to be a free man after 18 years of hard work. The issue is that, during that time, slaves did not have this option. A slave was a living possession owned by a master. But Joe refused to be owned. He refused to be a living possession. He refused to be treated as a slave and stop working for his master.

He soon began to be cruelly punished by his master who beat him many times in order to change Joe’s mind. But Joe would prefer to die than to be a slave again. Every single time his master beat him with a rod, Joe used to say, “I am not going to serve anybody else in my life.” His master then decided to sell Joe to a rich man who lived in another farm. Joe was sent on a journey to his new master and on the way kept saying, “I am not going to serve anybody else in my life.”

When Joe finally met his new master he said to him, “I am not going to serve anybody else in my life.” His new master then said, “That is exactly why I bought you Joe. I did not buy you to be a slave but to give you freedom. And I also want you to live here with me. I promise you that you are going to treat you as part of my own family, as one of my own children.” Joe could not control himself and almost crying he said, “Of course I will live here with you. No one has ever treated me like you did. I want to serve you here forever, as your own child.”

Sin will eventually pay your wage by killing you. However God, even though his slaves do not deserve, will give for free eternal life. Whose master treats better a slave, the one who pays with death or the one who gives life freely?

Conclusion

John Piper, a preacher, says that, “To be fully free, we must have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make us happy forever. No regrets. And only Jesus, the Son of God who died and rose for us, can make that possible.”[2]

Jesus died on the cross to gives the opportunity to be part of God’s family. He was raised from the dead to gives us the ability to live with God for all eternity. He calls you today, through his Holy Spirit, to give you the desire to freely choose him as saviour.

If you are not a Christian yet, I urge you to choose Jesus as your saviour and master. Jesus is our eternal parachute that is going to guarantee our safe landing. On the other hand, if you are Christian do not forget that Jesus “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” (Titus 2:14).

[1] Romans 1-7 For You, p.150

[2] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-free-gift-of-god-is-eternal-life-part-1

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Gratitude

gRATITUDE

Is suffering part of your daily routine? I believe it’s for the majority of us. In fact, no one of us is immune to it. Every time we solve a problem there is always another one waiting to take its place. We all have problems to handle but the way they are solved is what makes us different. How do you deal with them?

There are three major manners to face an adversity. Many people blame themselves for their hardship becoming depressed rather than stronger. Some people, on the other hand, blame others or even God for their pain becoming bitter rather than better. However there is a third group that simply get better and stronger when facing difficulty. But how can we face hardship and still get better and stronger? From the story of the ten lepers we find three steps to overcome life’s trials.

  1. We overcome difficulties when we humbly ask Jesus for help (Vs. 11-13)

Verse 11 says that Jesus was travelling from the North of Israel towards Jerusalem, in the south. The nearest way to get there was through Samaria, located in the middle of the way. The text is clear about all this geographical details but why does not mention the name of the village where Jesus entered? Well, the author probably wanted to draw our attention not to a place but to the people who lived there. That leads us to verse 12.

In this passage Jesus meet a group of men who had a very serious disease. Leprosy was a terrible skin disease that disfigured a person. As it was contagious they lived far away from their family and friends. They could not work and had to depend on the charity of others to eat. Without a miracle they lived in isolation until they either got better or died.

In verse 13 they asked for help. But according to the text of Leviticus 13.45-46 they should have shouted, “Unclean, unclean!” to keep way those who were well avoiding any kind of contagious. These ten men broke the rules when they saw Jesus, didn’t they? Instead of warning him, they yelled, “Master, help us”. But why didn’t they follow the rules? Well, they knew Jesus had power to heal them so they humbly ask for help.

Are you living in isolation far from your friends and family as well? Are you so depressed that death seems your best hope? If you have said yes for one of these questions I want to tell you that Jesus can help you too. Do not be arrogant and proud. Let us cry out to him, for he meets the needs of those who ask him for help in humility. But also let us obey him in faith.

  1. We overcome difficulties when we obey Jesus in faith (Vs. 14)

The verse 14 doesn’t say how the ten lepers knew about Jesus but maybe they heard that Jesus had interacted with a person infected with leprosy before. The book of Luke 5.12-13 tells us that a man was touched by Jesus and immediately got healed. Imagine how this amazing news spread throughout Israel, mainly among all those who has plagued with leprosy. But why didn’t Jesus cured the ten lepers on the spot as he has done it before?

Jesus could have healed them all at once but instead he asked them to go to the priests in order to fulfil the law. According to the law given to Moses the priests would look the person over very carefully and announce if someone was clean or unclean. However they were not healed when Jesus sent them, so what was the point of it?

They had not yet been healed but they believed in Jesus’ word. Jesus required from them obedience in faith, that’s why he did not heal them so quick. It would take great faith for the lepers to be checked before they were healed. However they did not fear being laughed at because they they trusted him.

How big is your problem? How big is your faith? Do you believe that Jesus can solve big problems? The best way to find out is obeying Jesus in faith. So let us be like the ten lepers and choose to obey our Lord Jesus Christ and his commands. Let us follow his commands written in the Bible. But also let us adore him in gratitude.

  1. We overcome difficulties when we adore Jesus in gratitude (Vs. 15-18)

When the ten lepers realized they were completed healed what was their response? The verse 15 says that only one of them returned praising God in a loud voice. Jesus then asked three questions, from verse 17-18, but in order to make a few points instead of eliciting a direct answer. And what were these points?

First, Jesus highlighted that ingratitude is a horrible but very common behave. Jesus helped ten people but only one came back to give thanks. These men suffered from a long time having no reason to be grateful but when they had a reason they still did not show gratitude. That shows us that the problem is not the hardships we face in life. The problem is our attitude about the hardships.

Second, Jesus revealed how religiousness can easily become more important than God’s true adoration. Nine of them followed the religious procedures but only one came back to praised God. They all wanted to act correctly but only thought through and behaved correctly. That shows us that true worship starts in our minds, when we think. Then moves to our heart, when we feel. And then is expressed through actions, not the other way around. True worship is from inside out.

Third, Jesus pointed out how most of us can become sectarians even being from the same species, human beings. He called the Samaritan of “stranger” they were looked at by the Jews as an inferior race of people ethnically and spiritually. Probably even the others lepers thought they were better and superior than this Samaritan but in this passage the Jesus shame the Jews.

Are you grateful even through a hardship? Would you be able to praise God from inside out even when facing a problem? How sectarians are you when among someone different from you?

Conclusion

I want to conclude saying that even though we all face difficulty in life one day grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer simply because we are all going to die. However the Bible says that those who do not ask Jesus for help in humility, obey him in faith and adore him in gratitude will spend eternity in a place full of problems.

As ugly and painful as leprosy was, we live in a spiritual much worse condition. We all have been contaminated by sin. We lived in isolated because of our sins, far from God. But as Jesus healed the lepers can also cure us and bring us back to God.

Would you be able to say, “Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me in order to heal me for ever”? If so, Jesus surely would repeat what he said in verse 19, “stand up and go. Your faith has made you well.”

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Give us today our daily bread (Sermon Series: Lord’s Prayer)

Lord's prayer.4In two weeks’ time we will celebrate my daughter’s 8th birthday and as the years have passed by I have realized that her birthday requests are getting more complex each year. When we celebrated her first birthday, for instance, milk was her only demand. However, this year she has already asked me for a doll, a new scooter, a birthday party and even a pink pony. If you are a dad or a mom you probably know what I am talking about here. But why do kids increase their petitions as they grow older?

One of the reasons is because imitation is part of a toddlers learning process.[1] As adults are always pursuing more and more. Children then end up copying their behaviour.[2] Most of us, for example, are never content with what we have. I personally know people who have a nice home but want a bigger house. Others who have a well-paid job but want a higher paid one. And some who have a loving partner but want a better looking spouse.

What I am trying to say is that we have to be careful with the legacy we are leaving for the next generation. We need to live in a way that shows them that contentment is not about obtaining more possessions but rather living happily with or without them. Spurgeon put it like that: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled”.

We all need to understand that only God can provides all we need to feel satisfied. But what are the things that we need from God to live in contentment? And how do we ask God to supply these needs? In order to help you to live a life that pleases God in the same way that satisfies you, I want to study Matthew 6.11 answering these two questions.

How do we ask God to supply our needs?

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in a relational manner (Give)

From Matthew 6.9 Jesus introduces the ‘Lord’s prayer’ as an example of the right way to pray. Jesus teaches his disciples, in the first three parts of the prayer, that God and how he rules are the most important parts of the prayer. And the next three parts are about how they should pray appropriately for they own needs. But in verse 11 his language seemed a little bit inappropriate.[3]

Certainly my English teacher would say that in polite speech, orders or requests are often phrased instead as questions or statements, rather than as imperatives such as: ‘give us’.[4] But was Jesus really teaching us to make requests to God in an impolitely direct way?

In fact he was not being rude or teaching us to treat God in a harsh way but making an important point. God is our father and all the language formalities are not required from us, His children. He does not see us as sellers negotiating a complex deal but as little children who have free access to their dad’s ears.

When we were spiritually born into God’s family we were given an amazing birthday gift: intimate family access. Therefore, we can freely make our petitions to God knowing that our heavenly father cares about us. This is amazing, isn’t it? Even though God is the creator of the whole universe He allows us, Christians, to have a relationship with him.[5]

How do you pray? Is God a stranger or a family member when you talk to him? For some, God is certainly not their father just by the way they pray. That is one of the main differences between our prayers and the prayers performed by other religions. We pray in a relational manner but also in an unselfish manner.

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in an unselfish manner (Us; Our)

The reason why Jesus said: ‘give us our bread!’ and not ‘give me my bread’ is because he expects us to make requests in a godly way. He requires unselfish prayers, having in mind the necessity of others as well.

But why does God want us to pray for others? Because our altruist prayers reflect God’s own character of outgoing sacrificial love. When we ask for the provision of others we think beyond ourselves reflecting God’s compassion and love. Wasn’t that the reason why Jesus, during his crucifixion, asked God to forgive our sins?

Jesus clearly wants us to remember those who are in need, however he also expects us to help those in need as soon as our prayers are responded. In other words, we have to share what God gives us with needy people. It is a huge hypocrisy to ask God to supply someone’s need when in reality we have the resources to do it, isn’t it?[6]

But is it wrong to ask God in prayer for a more personal favour? No, my point here is not to make you an ascetic. I do not want you to abstain from the normal pleasures of life or to deny yourself of material satisfaction.[7] What I am actually saying is that we need to seek God’s kingdom first.

This week for example I asked God to help me to prepare this sermon, but not because I wanted to impress people with my talk. My motivation was to have people praising God through my talk.

Before we make our petitions we need ask ourselves this question: what is the motivation of my prayer request? Do I want to glorify God through my request in first place? God is not a genie of the lamp who will fulfils their masters’ egocentric desires but rather our master.[8] That’s why we also have to pray in a dependent manner.

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in a dependent manner (Daily)

Jesus tells us to pray asking God to provide our basic needs daily.[9] But doesn’t he know what my needs are? If so, why do I need to pray for God’s provision then? We pray to remind ourselves that we need to depend on God because when we do not, things go wrong.

In the Garden of Eden, for example, Adam and Eve lived in paradise. God gave them everything they needed to live a life without problems. They had no reason to make requests. And yet they thought they did not have to depend on God. They then decided they wanted to make their own choices and rebel against God breaking everything.

We are not different from Adam and Eve and prayer helps us to remember that. We all have to enjoy life in a way that is not driven by harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.[10] After all, only God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect for us all.[11]

One quality of children is that they are dependent on others for their well-being. When my daughter, for instance, was two years old she wanted to amuse herself by playing with a sharp knife she saw in our kitchen. She asked me pointing to where the knife was. Did she have any idea of how dangerous that was? Certainly not, but even not understanding why I did not give what she wanted in order to have fun she trusted me and still loved me. We, Christians, should share the same quality of depending on our loving Heavenly Father for everything we need.

But if God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect why doesn’t he give us what is necessary to survive sometimes? What kind of father is this? These questions lead me to another question.

 What do we need from God to survive?

  • Only what is necessary to sustain our physical life (Bread)

Why did I pray for my heavenly father in a relational manner, asking him to heal my friend in an unselfish way, trusting God with all my faith in a dependent manner and he still allowed my friend to die?

Some people would answer this question simply saying that God does not exist. Others would say that he exists but does not interfere with His creation.[12] Those who believe in reincarnation would say that we suffer to have to pay for our wrongdoings in our past lives. But what does the Bible say?[13]

The word of God says this: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalms 103.19). He is the one in control and knows what is best for us. Surely sometimes we do not understand it but all things works for good.[14]

A good example of this is found in the story of Joseph. God allowed Joseph’s brothers to kidnap Joseph, sell him as a slave, and then lie to their father for years about his fate. Yet, at the same time, all of their sin worked towards a greater good: Joseph ended up in Egypt, where he was made prime minister. Joseph used his position to sustain the people of a broad region during a seven-year famine, including his own family. If Joseph had not been in Egypt before the famine began, millions of people, including the Israelites, would have died.

Everything we have is a gift from God given to us to provide all our earthly needs. And even when death seems to be the worst thing that could happen to us God provides what is necessary to sustain our life in eternity.

  • Only what is necessary to sustain our spiritual life (Bread)

During Jesus’ ministry he used the word bread many times, and in two of them refers to spiritual food.

The first one I want to point to is in Matthew 4.1-4. Jesus was tempted by Satan who said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’”. His reply comes from the context of Deuteronomy 8.3 where the Israelites spent of 40 years in the wilderness experiencing trials at God’s hand just as Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness. But what is the meaning of it? And what is the application for our life?

It means that the most important things in life are not physical but rather spiritual. We do not truly live by bread but rather by the Word of God. If Adam and Eve had listened to God sin would not have entered and neither eternal death. In other words, starvation killed many on earth but sin killed many more in eternity. Are you reading your Bible daily in order to get fed? Are you feeding those around you with the word of God?

Another passage where Jesus used the word bread, meaning spiritual food, is recorded in chapter six of John’s Gospel. More than 5,000 people after being fed by Jesus were ready to make him their king. However Jesus decided to expose that their excitement and motivation was wrong. He stated that his real followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood and the crowd left him probably thinking that he was a lunatic or a cannibal. But what did Jesus mean by these disturbing statements?

Jesus was saying that he did not come to work as a baker for his followers. He came not to give bread, but to be the bread. He had come to not save them from hunger but from sin. For Jesus gave his own body, the bread of eternal life, to pay in full the penalty for our sins. He died on the cross to give us his perfect bread in exchange for our sinful mouldy bread. Is Jesus Christ your bread? Is he the one who sustains your spiritual life?

Conclusion

I said in the introduction that my daughter made a lot of requests for her 8th birthday however I did not mention one in particular. She asked me to pray for a friend who is in need of a miracle. A friend who needs to be saved and she knows that only Jesus can do that. She understands that only God can provide all we need to feel satisfied on Earth and in Heaven. I hope that you also have God as the source of all you satisfaction not only here in this world but also in eternity.

Notes

[1] http://ilabs.washington.edu/meltzoff/pdf/99Meltzoff_BornToLearn.pdf

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JrtpCM4yMM

[3]“At first glance, asking God to ‘give us’ what we ask for almost sounds a little rude. After all, we rarely speak so blunty even to colleagues at work!” Richard Coekin, Our Father (Nottingham: IVP, 2009) pp. 118.

[4] The use of the imperative mood may be seen as impolite, inappropriate or even offensive in certain circumstances. Wierzbicka, Anna, Cross-Cultural Pragmatics (Mouton de Gruyter, 1991).

[5] God’s nature is relational and that is the reason why he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

[6] Paul said: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” 1 Timothy 5.8.

[7] John Piper often promotes the idea that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. He says that God designed the world in such a way that he is glorified when we are satisfied. Our joy is not separated from his glory; when we enjoy God, he is glorified. John Piper, Desiring God, (New York:Random House, 2011)

[8] Matthew 6.24

[9] The word daily is hard to be translated because it could mean ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’ or any number of slight variations. Richard Coekin, Our Father (Nottingham: IVP, 2009) pp. 118

[10] 1 Timothy 6.6-11

[11] Romans 12.1-2

[12] Deists deny the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, miracles, and any supernatural act of redemption or salvation. Deism pictures God as uncaring and uninvolved. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Nottingham: IVP, 1994) pp.270

[13] How do I discern God’s responses to my prayers petitions? Well it will depend on the kind of request. If the prayer petition is a sin God say: “No, I care about you”. If the request is right but not the timing he says: “Yes, but wait”. If the timing and the petition is both right he can say three things: “Yes but not what you expected”, “Yes, I thought you’d never ask me”, or even “Yes and here is some more”.

[14] Romans 8.28

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Risk is Right (John Piper)

Risk

Piper, John. Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013, 64 pages.

John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For over 30 years, he served as Senior Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota and has written more than 50 books.

In this work, Piper successfully argues that the ultimate aim of life is to honour and magnify Jesus Christ, then the meaningful life, the unwasted life, is a life in which it is right and good to risk everything for this ultimate goal. He is not trying to say that we should risk in a irrational, physical or foolish way but rather in a spiritual manner that brings glory to God. He supports his point in seven little chapters with many examples from the Bible.

After a foreword by David Platt, Piper starts out by saying that Jesus is very valuable but even though he risked his life for the sake of sinners. Why not risk our life for the sake of others as well? Jesus died so we could have eternal life that means we have not reason to fear anything in this world, not even death. But what is actually risk? The author defines risk as “an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury” (p. 17). Surelly no one wants to experience loss or injury but who can guarantee that when we are safe not taking risks? Piper argues that we cannot play safe because the only one who never risks anything is God. He is the only one who knows the future. Everyone else must take risks regularly because we don’t know the future.

Piper reminds that in the Old Testaments many faithful people took risks that could have led them to death; and in the New Testament he shows how Paul and many others risked everything, including their own lives, to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. But are there wrong and right reasons to risk? According to Piper it will depend on whether you risk for God’s glory or for your own glory. When our motives are the lust for adventure, heroism or even a desire to earn God’s favour we might take risks for the wrong reasons. However when I “recognize that my greatest joy is indeed found in God’s greatest glory, and Christ is clearly a treasure worth losing and letting go everything for” (p.10) we risk for the right motives.

I totally recommend this book that contains a message that must be heard by those, in the church and out of it, who have their security not in Christ but in their comfortable zone. However I need to tell that this book is actually a chapter of the book titled Don’t Waste Your Life, also written by Piper. In other words this book is a repackaged one. So I would not recommend you to buy this book, Risk is Right, if you want to get the book, Don’t Waste Your Life in the future or vice verse. I hope that one these two books bless you and challenge you as they did to me.

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