Write it Out

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Take some time today to journal and reflect on the following questions:

In what ways have you seen God at work within you this week? Within your family? Within others you may interact with? 

In what ways have you resisted God’s word within you this week? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

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Solid Rock

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Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”

Far too often we read the Scriptures through the lens of our culture instead of seeing our culture through the lens of Scripture. Matthew 7:24-27 is a passage in which the context and the geography of Israel is very helpful. 

In Israel there are dry riverbeds, each referred to as a wadi. A wadi is, in essence, a small canyon which has been shaped by water and still serves as an occasional riverbed. Rains which fall on nearby mountains slowly flow down the mountains into the wadi. The base of the wadi is the riverbed, full of nothing but sand and silt. The top of the wadi is solid rock, safe from pending floodwaters. 

This is the image Jesus is referring to about building on rock vs. sand. Those who ignore Jesus’ teachings are like those who build a home at the base of a wadi on the sand. The floodwaters and torrents will come. Their home and all possessions will be destroyed. But those who listen to Jesus’ teachings are like those who build on rock. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 7:24-29, PSALM 40:1-3 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Your life is like a wadi. Floodwaters (trials, challenges, and traumas) will come whether you want them to or not. What are some ways God has already picked you up out of the muck and mire and put you on solid ground? Be specific. 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, my life reflects the truth that floodwaters will come whether I want them to or not. Nevertheless, I recognize that there are countless ways in which You have already picked me up out of the muck and mire and have set me upon solid ground. Today, I simply want to rejoice in what You have done for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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The Golden Rule

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Matthew 7:12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

The Golden Rule was a principle which had been taught prior to Jesus teaching the Sermon on the Mount. But the earliest recordings of this principle are in the negative (e.g., “Whatever you do not want others to do to you, do not do to them.”)

As He has done all throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes the teachings and principles many in the crowd were familiar with and tweaks them to make them even more profound. With the golden rule, it isn’t too difficult to live in such a way that you’re not intentionally harming others (the former teaching). But to intentionally live in such a way that you are offering good to people no matter the circumstances (Jesus’ teaching) is much more challenging to apply. 

Like the people in Jesus’ day, you may be tempted to live out the Golden Rule as it was known in that day and age. Today, think about intentional ways you may be able to apply this rule with everybody (whether one on one, email, text, etc.)

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 7:12-23 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: What are some specific ways you can apply the Golden Rule with everybody you interact with today (whether one on one, via email, texts, etc.)? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, today’s reading was a good reminder that I am tempted to live out the Golden Rule as it was taught prior to Jesus rather than living it out the way He taught it on the Sermon on the Mount. Today, may I seek to speak to others (and about others) and treat them with the same level of respect, grace, kindness and love in which I would want them to speak to me. In Jesus name. Amen. 

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Effective Prayer

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Matthew 7:7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

In his book The Good & Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith notes that we need to be very specific in our prayers. “Why? Most of our prayers are so vague that we would not even know if God had answered them.” 

Yet there’s another layer to this as well. Yes, our prayers need to be specific, but they also need to specifically be open-handed to God’s will and us living in His Kingdom. 

The interesting thing about prayer is that it ought not be a one-sided conversation. A contemplative prayer life is one in which an individual listens to God, prays, then listens to God some more, and then listens to God even more. We may lose sight of exactly how God has answered our prayers because we’re listening to other voices in the world. Today, take some time to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. Also take time to keep on listening, and keep on listening, and keep on listening some more. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 7:7-11, MARK 1:35 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Jesus often went to a solitary place to pray. Where is a solitary place in which you can escape the demands of pressures of life so you can explore daily times of intimate prayer with Jesus? 

QUESTION: Can you structure your life in such a way that you’re able to go to this solitary place four to five days a week (or more)? If not, why not? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, while I believe I’m growing in my prayer life, I recognize that I still pray a lot more about my own life circumstances than I pray about Your will being done. Similarly, I struggle to slow down and really listen to You. Today, may my prayer life reflect more of your desires than my own wants. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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A Judgmental Spirit

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Matthew 7:2b “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

It’s not too difficult to identify a judgmental spirit in others. (We all know the person who is critical of everyone and everything.) However, we do ourselves a serious disservice when we compare ourselves to others. Thoughts such as, “Well, yeah, I guess I occasionally judge others. But at least I’m not nearly as critical as that person over there.”

But this too is a judgmental attitude. As Peter Scazzero writes in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, “…we often turn our differences into moral superiority or virtues.”

In other words, criticizing or judging somebody else for their weight, clothing, the music they like, the car they drive, the amount of money they have, the way they spend their money, the way they worship God, the way they criticize others, or any other number of things, it may be a underlying way for you to believe you are somehow morally superior to them. A wise question to remember is this: If you lived their life and experienced everything they have, would you make a different decision than the one they made?

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 7:1-6 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Thinking back over the previous two or three days, who is somebody you criticized, even if only in your mind? Be honest: Is there any possibility that your criticism was a way for you to think of yourself as morally superior (e.g., better than) them? 

Take a Step: This week, continue to utilize the One Minute Pause app at least twice daily to begin practicing being with God and resting in His presence. The app is free, and is available on iPhone and Android devices. See pauseapp.com for details.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I may not think of myself as a judgmental person but I probably compare myself with others much more often than I realize. Bring to light any areas in life in which I may judge others, think less of them, or think that I am somehow morally superior compared to them. Refine these areas from my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Write it Out

(Begin with 1-2 minutes of silence)

Take some time today to journal and reflect on the following questions:

In what ways have you seen God at work within you this week? Within your family? Within others you may interact with? 

In what ways have you resisted God’s word within you this week? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

(End with 1-2 minutes of silence)

Teaching About Worry

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Matthew 6:25 That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?

If somebody asked you what commandment Jesus said most often, what would you say? Some may say, “Love your neighbor,” or “Love one another.” But this wasn’t the commandment Jesus said most often. Others may guess something like, “Do not sin,” but this wasn’t at the top of Jesus’ list either. (In fact, this may be one of the least spoken commandments throughout Jesus’ ministry.) 

You may be surprised to know that the one commandment Jesus said most often is, “Be not afraid,” or “Do not worry.” There are likely a number of reasons for this. One reason is that, at best, fear leads to discontentment and a lack of peace. 

Another reason is that, at its worst, fear leads to evil thoughts or actions. As 1 John 4:18 says, there is no fear in love. The principle here is this: The opposite of love may not be hate. Instead, the opposite of love may very well be fear

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 6:25-34, 1 JOHN 4:16-18

QUESTION: Why do you think Jesus felt the need to teach, “Be not afraid,” or “Do not worry,” as regularly as He did?

QUESTION: In what areas of your life do you need to hear those words today? Be specific. 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I recognize that our culture often communicates a definition of fear that may be different from the Scriptures. To us, fear may lead to hiding in a closet or being scared during a movie. To You, simply worrying too much about what we will eat or wear is to be afraid. This indicates there may be a lot of other things that bring fear into my life I may not be aware of. Today, help me to become keenly aware of any unconscious fears I may have. Bring them into the light and root them out so I can experience real peace and contentment. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Teaching About Money and Possessions

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Matthew 6:19-21 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth… Store your treasures in heaven…Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

There are some who believe the Scriptures teach that money is evil. But this is false. All throughout the Scriptures there are passages about the love of money, but money itself is amoral. It is neither good nor bad. 

Unfortunately, we continue to live in a world that speaks of the need to be successful. Money is important. Power is important. Prestige is important. What you know may be of some importance, but who you know is of even greater importance. These messages are communicated to us every hour of every day. As such, we are regularly tempted to strive for more. 

But living like Jesus is to not allow a craving for money or power or success to impact our lives. Living like Jesus is to recognize that we don’t need a bunch of possessions. Possessing His love is the only real possession we ever need. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 6:19-24

QUESTION: What is something you have purchased in the past week that you didn’t really need? What made you want to possess it? 

QUESTION: How do you currently distinguish between purchasing things that are truly needed, things that may be helpful, or things that you just want? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, today I confess that even though I may not have the strongest desire to be successful or to have a lot of power or prestige, I still like…stuff. I find myself wanting to possess something I don’t currently own, as if having it will somehow bring happiness or joy to my life. Today’s reading has been an excellent reminder that the only real possession I need is Your love. Help me rest in this truth today. Amen. 

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Teaching About Giving and Fasting

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Matthew 6:3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Imagine for a moment that a Fortune 500 company gives a large “donation” to a non-profit organization. Not because they value the organization or its goals, but because they want to have a tax write-off.  

This is the kind of situation Jesus is teaching against during this passage. The main teaching isn’t just about giving in secret, but includes giving for the sake of giving, not because of something you’ll get as a reward. 

People today give of their money, time, and other forms of generosity for many reasons. Some may do it for a tax write-off. Some may do it because they want others to see them and think well of them. But then there are those who give of their time, energy, and talents simply to contribute something good to another in need. Living like Jesus is to live in this way: giving sacrificially without any desire for recognition or accolades.

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 6:1-4, 6:16-18

QUESTION: Think of a time when you were in need (physically, emotionally, or financially) and somebody gave you what you most needed in that moment without any expectations for the favor to be returned. What was that experience like for you? 

QUESTION: Who is somebody you know (or perhaps, somebody you don’t know) who may be in need of some help today? What may you be able to contribute toward their need? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I don’t generally feel like I give a tithe or offering or any other gift with a heart of wanting to be seen by others, but I recognize I can still grow in having a desire to serve others who may be in need. Continue to strengthen my heart to be more like Yours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Teaching About Prayer

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Matthew 6:7-9 ““When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do…Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this…”

Other than John 3:16, The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 may be the most regularly recited Scripture passage in the world. All in all, there are five major categories mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer. These include (1) praising God, (2) praying to experience life in His kingdom, (3) praying for our daily needs, (4) praying for forgiveness, and (5) praying for help in our daily struggles with temptation.

These categories are revealing for a couple of reasons. First, they reveal our need to seek the Kingdom of God above all else, which is a theme Jesus will teach on shortly afterward (Matthew 6:33). Second, these themes reveal we must have an absolute and total dependency on God for everything in life. As a child climbs into the lap of a parent because they are dependent upon their parent for everything, we too climb into the lap of our Heavenly Father, resting in His provision. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 6:5-15

QUESTION: How regularly do your prayers include each of the five major categories mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer? 

QUESTION: What are some steps you can take to make your prayer life a more intimate time with your Heavenly Father? 

Take a Step: This week, continue to utilize the One Minute Pause app at least twice daily to begin practicing being with God and resting in His presence. The app is free, and is available on iPhone and Android devices. See pauseapp.com for details.

PRAYER: Today, take the opportunity to write out your own prayer to God. 

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