Making a Habit of Purity

photoGalatians 5:19-26

Often when we talk about purity we are talking discussing sexuality. Being pure with your sexuality is important, but it is not the only aspect of purity.  Purity, in the eyes of God, is to not allow the stain of any sin be in your life. (cf. James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled is this: . . . to keep oneself unstained from the world.”) How can we become pure?  How can we remove the stains of sin? How can we remain pure?  These are some of the questions we will try to answer in this lesson.

Read what Paul tells his readers in Galatians 5:19-26. Did you notice the following: A) Those that practice the works or the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God. B) There are no laws against the Fruit of the Spirit. And C) Those who belong to Christ are to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. Paul is telling us how to develop a habit of purity – we crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.

We must put the desires (lusts) that lead to the works of the flesh. This begins when we obey the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 teaches that the Gospel Paul taught the Corinthians, the Gospel that saved them, is the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ.  Read Romans 6:1-12 and see how the Roman Christians crucified (put to death) their sinful past. A) They DIED to sin and self. B) They were BURIED with Christ in baptism. And C) They ROSE from that grave a new creation. When we obey the Gospel we are demonstrating that we are no longer going to walk according to our fleshly desires, but as we put those to death, we are starting fresh. We are walking according to the Spirit. We are walking with God and Christ. We are walking in the light (cf. 1 John 1:7-9).

As a child of God, you are no longer slaves of sin, but bond servants (slaves) of righteousness – that is servants of God (cf. Romans 6:17-18).  Take time to consider the words of Paul in these passages: “and you are Christ’s . . .” (1 Corinthians 3:23), “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Reflecting on these passages helps one remember that his life on earth is not about himself.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:26). The implication is that we must daily deny ourselves and daily take up our cross. Taking up a cross is not simply bearing a burden of having a mean older sibling. Bearing our cross is executing (crucifying) ourselves, our desires and passions, every day. Paul tells the Colossian Christians to, “Put to death  . . . what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:6). Our life as God’s children is about doing His will.

Years ago I heard a preacher tell this story:

“When I was young, I thought the Bible was a list of all the things you are not supposed to do. Christians don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they do not use marijuana, and they don’t dance. Don’t . . .  don’t . . . don’t . . .  don’t . . . DON’T! Then I began reading the Bible myself and learned there are a bunch of things that God wants us to do.  It was then I realized, if I do the do’s I don’t have time to do the don’ts!”

How? How do we do all this? Look at Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” To remain pure, we crucify the flesh, we consider ourselves dead to the world and the world dead to us and we pursue the things of God.

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Making a Habit of Prayer

100_1488Read: Luke 11:1-4

In Luke’s account of “The Lord’s Prayer,” he relates a time when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The disciples knew about prayer. Prayer was a part of the culture of Judaism. They knew about prayer because the disciples of John the Baptist prayed. They also knew John had the reputation of being a prophet of God and was a man of prayer. They saw Jesus as a person close to God and thought that Jesus’ regular habit of prayer must be a key to His relationship with God.  They wanted a closer relationship with God and the blessings of that relationship, so they wanted to learn how to pray. Prayer is the fundamental way man relates to (communicates with) God.

Prayer, is a major part of our relationship with God. When we fail to pray, we leave ourselves open to failure in our walk with God. When we fail to pray we do harm to our Christian lives. Failing to pray results from weak faith. Praying demonstrates that I am relying on God to help me through my day. Praying indicates that I believe God cares about me and is active in the world today. Not praying shows a lack of faith and trust in God. No wonder Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. He gave them a prayer to put into practice – a model prayer. We can learn to pray by practicing prayer.

Jesus’ model prayer has some basic elements that we need to identify: A) Praise for God; B) Prayer for the Kingdom; C) Prayer for our daily physical needs; and D) Prayer for spiritual strength and forgiveness. Take a moment to look at these basic elements.

Praise for God. “Father, hallowed be your name.” At the time Jesus taught this prayer, the idea of gods, or God for that matter, as a father-figure was not common. The predominate gods of the Roman culture at that time were those of Roman Mythology.  They did not imagine these gods as benevolent and loving fathers, but more like spoiled children who treated humanity like toys. Even the Jews of Jesus’ day would likely see God only as a national Father and not as a personal Father. Compare Luke 11:11-13 to Matthew 7:10-11 and you will see Jesus teaching that God is a personal Father. Prayer realizes that God is not an impersonal deity but He is the Loving Father to His children. When we have a father-child relationship with God our prayers are a natural part of that relationship and our requests for blessing come from understanding the love that such a relationship fosters.

Pray for the Kingdom. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He was also teaching about the coming Kingdom. They were to pray that the Kingdom would come. We learn from the apostle Paul that through Christ God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13-14). We need to know that the Kingdom of God exists in the present as Christ’s Church. How then do we pray for the Kingdom today? First, we can pray that others enter the Kingdom. Second, we can pray that the Kingdom (church) stays pure. We can also pray that we live as children of the King in our daily lives as we pray for our daily needs.

Pray for your daily needs. “Give us each day our daily bread.” We rely on God for our physical blessings. Yes, we bake bread or buy bread in the store, but ultimately our daily bread comes from God.  God blesses us with the talents we have that provide the bread. God blesses us by the continuation of seed and harvest so that we have grain, vegetables, as well as meat from the animals that also feed on grain. Notice that Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray for daily bread and not daily steak. Praying for our daily needs not only reminds us of our dependency upon God, but also teaches us that nothing is so common or simple that it is beneath God’s concern. When God demonstrates concern over something as simple as our daily bread, why would I think He does not care about more major areas of my life?

Pray for spiritual strength and forgiveness. The Facebook poster said, “Lead me not into temptation, I can find the way all by myself.”  That is not what Jesus meant.  Jesus is teaching us to pray for strength to face the temptations that come our way daily.  Both our daily bread and our daily temptations are both concerns for our heavenly Father. God wants to help us live for Him.  Paul tells the Corinthians,

“No temptation is has overtaken you that is not common to man. ‘God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.’” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God will work with us for our success, but only if we ask.  Prayer taps into God’s power to help us live life consistent with what He knows is best for us here and best to prepare us for eternity.

Pray for Forgiveness. Jesus makes it simple. We forgive because we need forgiveness.  I need forgiveness from the people around me when I injure them. I need forgiveness from God for the times I neglect to follow His will. I need to learn the Grace that God offers me and in turn be gracious enough to those around me that I too am forgiving.

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Intercessory Prayer a.k.a Praying for One Another

ponderingThe thrill and privilege of prayer is not always getting precisely what you want, but seeing God active in your world. I never cease to be humbled when God works in my life through answered prayer (even when He says, “no” or “not yet”). Maybe the greatest thrill is seeing God work in the lives of others.

Scripture teaches that as Christians we have only one Mediator – Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), but we have more who can and do intercede for us at the throne of God. Paul says the Spirit intercedes (Romans 8:26) and the Hebrew writer speaks of Christ interceding (Hebrews 7:25).  These intercessions are special and powerful, but there are others.  There is more.  We can intercede for each other.  Consider the following verses:

  • And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8:24)
  • So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5)
  • Brothers, pray for us. (1 Thessalonians 5:25)
  • First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

What a privilege to speak to God on the behalf of others! What an honor to have others praying for me!

When I pray an intercessory prayer for others, I am admitting their needs, my weakness, and God’s power. When I pray for you, I am asking God to partner with you in your life or specific situation.

May I ask you to pray for me? Pray for me as a minister, writer, and servant of God.  Pray my words reach the hearts of people. Pray for me as a husband and father.  Pray for me as God’s child.

Let me pray for you.

– Scott

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For the Graduates

High School Graduation season is here. Some have already walked across the stage and received their High School Diploma.

Tonight our son, Andrew, will take that walk – one I took on a different stage 30 years ago. He has plans laid out for college and graduate school,  but tonight he takes a big step along with thousands of others 17-19 year olds across the United States.

As he and others enter the post-high school phase of life, I offer advice that has stood the test of time.

  • To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. Proverbs 1:2-10
  • The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13.

I want to give all of the graduates a blessing. A blessing to take with them wherever they go and however far life takes them. You can pass this along to the graduates you know:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you;

the Lord lift up His countenance toward you and give you peace.

(Numbers 6:24-26)

– Scott

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Praise

I just want to share a song that is on my heart and mind this week.  The version below is an acapella mix performed and arranged by Darius James. He does all the voices and does an amazing job.

Take time for God today!

– Scott

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What Keeps You from Praying?

20110928-080944.jpgI see it on billboards, I see it on bumper stickers, I see it on signs in front yards, I see it on Facebook.  What do I see?  – 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Often with a warning similar to this, “Prayer is America’s only hope.”

Don’t misunderstand what I am about to say. I believe in God who answers prayer. I believe the United States needs to focus on God and godly morals. But his verse is NOT about the U.S. God will not save America because U.S. citizens pray as if they are God’s nation. The United States is not God’s country. The United States is not God’s people. The Church is, Christians are God’s people.

Look at the context of 2 Chronicles 7. When you look back to the previous chapter, you see that this is about when Solomon and Israel dedicate the Temple in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a verse about God’s people and prayer – not how to save the United States from political maneuvering.

  • If MY PEOPLE. Prayer is a privilege of God’s children. God’s children in the context is Israel. God’s children today are Christians, those born into His family through the blood of Christ.
  • HUMBLE themselves. Prayer helps us realize our place in the presence of God.
  • PRAY. Talk to God
  • SEEK My Face. Not God’s “law” but desire to be in His presence not just to keep the law, but to walk with God.
  • TURN from their Wicked Ways. If God’s people (Israel then / His CHURCH today) will repent.  Again, if we apply this to the 21st century it is NOT about the United States repenting, but about Christians and the Church repenting.
  • I will HEAL. The healing is physical for Israel and is at the least forgiveness of sin for His people today accompanied by the blessings that are in Christ (Eph 1:3-7).

If that is God’s promise to His people about their prayer, what keeps us from praying? What keeps you from talking with God? I have a list of a few common hindrances to prayer that I want to share with you. You may find your hindrance(s) in this list:

  1. We are TOO BUSY.  We rush in an out to and fro during the day. We need to slow down long enough to talk with God. Make prayer a priority. Make time to pray.
  2. We are NOT PREPARED to Pray. Think about what you want to talk with God about. Consider what the day may hold and pray about those potential events. Reflect on what the day brought and talk to God at the close of the day about those events as you lay down to rest.
  3. SIN. We are focused on self and sin more than God. We are guilty and know it and are afraid or ashamed to admit our weaknesses to God, or are unwilling to let go of our human desires. (Isa 59:1-2)
  4. DOUBT. We doubt we are good enough. We doubt God cares. We doubt our request is as important as other things God has to deal with. We doubt so we do not pray or we pray half-heartedly (Jam 1:5-6)
  5. GRUDGES. We are holding onto a grudge. We are unwilling to forgive our fellow man or brother/sister in Christ. We must forgive to be forgiven. (Mat 6:14-15; Eph 4:32)

Remove the hindrance(s) from your life and talk with God. Take a moment RIGHT NOW and pray.

– Scott

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In The Way

ipad 105

In The Way

© B. Scott McCown, 2015

There is a way that seems right

to every natural man.

Yet often man’s way is

not according to God’s plan

What is the way that God knows

is best for His creation;

The way that’s best for every single man,

state, and nation?

It is the way that leads us back

to our loving Creator,

Through His Son, the Christ, our

merciful, gracious Savior.

Thank You, Lord, for providing

salvation full and free,

To every saint and every sinner

for all the world . . . for me.

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