Dr. Bart J. Leger
Author Archives: Dr. Bart J. Leger

Day 20 40 Days with Jesus Devotion

40 Days with Jesus image

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15

This is interesting…Jesus adds a postscript to His explanation of how to pray. It must be an important concept because it’s the only one of the petitions to which He gives additional commentary. In this way He raises the importance of forgiveness. Not simply receiving forgiveness from God, but dispensing forgiveness to others.

Are you withholding forgiveness from someone who has wronged you? You may be like this old farmer. One day a visitor leaned on the old fence around a farm while he watched an old farmer plowing with a mule. After a while, the visitor said, “I don’t like to tell you how to run your business, but you could save yourself a lot of work by saying, ‘Gee’ and ‘Haw’ to that mule instead of just tugging on those lines.” The old farmer pulled a big handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face. Then he said, “Reckon you’re right, but this animal kicked me five years ago and I haven’t spoke to him since.”

The reality is a grudge is harder on the person who holds it than on the one who it is held against. Without realizing it, choosing not to forgive someone will begin to hurt us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Jesus knows that and teaches accordingly.

He begins with a positive principle. We are to forgive as those who have received forgiveness (Eph. 1:7; 1 John 2:1-2) from God. When our hearts are filled with such a forgiving spirit, our heavenly Father will also forgive us. It is also much more difficult for us to appreciate a rich fellowship with God which is based on parental forgiveness when we are harboring an unforgiving spirit toward others. The word forgive as used by Jesus means literally “to hurl away”. Not only is an unforgiving spirit inconsistent for one who has been totally forgiven by God, but it also brings the chastening of God (Matthew 18:21-35).

In the next verse Jesus states the truth of verse 14 in a negative way for emphasis. The sin of an unforgiving heart and a bitter spirit (Heb. 12:15) may cause us to forfeit blessings and invites judgment. We must be careful not to demean God’s mercy. For us to receive complete, undeserved pardon from God and withhold the same treatment from others is the epitome of abuse of mercy. James says, “judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

Here are a few practical ways to keep from becoming bitter while forgiving others:

· Don’t be judgmental or hypercritical of others.

· Don’t become bitter or hostile.

· Don’t plan to take revenge.

· Don’t hold hard feelings against another person.

· Don’t talk about, gossip, or join in rumor; on the contrary, we correct the rumor.

· Don’t rejoice in trouble and trials that fall upon another person.

· Do love and pray for that person.

We cannot walk in fellowship with God while refusing to forgive others.

Have a Great Day!

I know this is a hard one. I would love to hear how forgiveness has revolutionized your life. Either by being on the giving end or the receiving end. Comment below.

Day 19 – 40 Days with Jesus Devotion

Day 19 - 40 Days with Jesus picture

“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’” – Matthew 6:7-13

To rote, or not to rote, that is the question. Sorry, Shakespeare for that lame reference. Oh, well…in today’s devotion Jesus is still talking about prayer and its do’s and don’ts. He continues here by beginning with the negative.

One of the definitions of the word “rote” is a habitual or mechanical routine or procedure performed by repetition. Why would someone memorize a “prayer” and repeat it over and over again? That’s obviously what many were doing in Jesus’ day when He taught this. One reason to memorize prayers and perform them by rote repetition is that it makes it easier to perform the ritual of prayer without actually having to think about what we are saying. Just like today, people over 2,000 years ago were looking for ways to “automate” their lives. It made prayer easier and demanded little concentration. To these people, prayer was a matter of required religious ceremony. But this is not limited to memorized prayers. I often find myself not even thinking about what I just prayed before I started eating. I may not have prayed a memorized prayer, but did I really think about what I said and mean it from the heart or did I pray something similar to the last 500 times I ate? Prayer that is thoughtless and indifferent is offensive to God, and should also be offensive to us.

Just as in Jesus’ previous statements, we should not jump to conclusions. Jesus did not forbid the repetition of genuine requests. In the Garden of Gethsemane, as He faced the agony of the cross, Jesus prayed the same prayer three times in a row (Matt. 26:39-44). The difference is He understood and meant each word as He said it. It’s not honest, properly motivated repetition of needs and praises to God that are wrong, but the mindless, indifferent recital of spiritual-sounding incantations or formulas over and over. Our prayer should be from the heart and thoughtfully presented.

In this section of Jesus’ teaching He gives a model or “sample” prayer. It is not necessarily the “Lord’s Prayer” as it has come to be known. We could more accurately call it the “Disciple’s Prayer” since Jesus gave it to the disciples as an example of how to pray. He didn’t say, “Pray this prayer.” He said, “Pray in this way” or “In this manner”.

In this “sample” prayer I see two main ingredients. First, we should begin with our focus on the Lord: His person, His name, His rule, and His will. Second, we move to our needs:

  • Give us…our daily bread.
  • Forgive us our debts.
  • Deliver us from evil.

All too often we rush in to our prayer time and move immediately to our laundry list of needs and wants (that is, if we have gotten beyond the rote, vain repetitions). God deserves our reverence and attention.

The next time you go to God in prayer, take a few moments and begin by praising Him and reverencing His name. Imagine yourself in God’s presence and treasure the time you spend with Him. It may very well revolutionize your prayer life.

I’m just curious…Do you still use memorized prayers? If you do, do you find that you are able to concentrate on and mean from the heart what you are saying to God? Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a Great Day!

Day 18 – 40 Days with Jesus Devotions

Day 18 - 40 Days with Jesus image

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” – Matthew 6:5-6

Hypocrisy on parade. That’s what we might call the show put on by the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. They were praying to the wrong audience, with the wrong purpose, and for the wrong motives. Just as He talked about giving with the wrong motive, it is possible for us to pray for the wrong reasons and not be fully engaged in what we are saying.

The story is told of a man who sat down to supper with his family and said grace, thanking God for the food, for the hands which prepared it, and for the source of all life. But during the meal he complained about the freshness of the bread, the bitterness of the coffee, and the sharpness of the cheese. His young daughter questioned him, “Dad, do you think God heard the grace today?”

He answered confidently, “Of course.”

Then she asked, “And do you think God heard what you said about the coffee, the cheese, and the bread?”

Not so confidently, he answered, “Why, yes, I believe so.”

The little girl concluded, “Then which do you think God believed, Dad?”

Slowly he began to realize that he had allowed hypocrisy to creep into his prayer life. If we are not careful, the same thing may happen to us.

In today’s text, Jesus is not discouraging public prayer any more than He was discouraging giving earlier. What He was talking about was playing the role of the hypocrite when going through the motions of prayer. The professionals of Jesus’ day made prayer formal, repetitive, regulated and overdone. They had, in effect, put religion on display.

Based on what Jesus is saying, what should we not do when praying?

  • Do not be hypocritical
  • Do not seekto be seen while praying
  • Do not limit your praying to public places
  • Do not use meaningless repetition

Now what should we do?

  1. To spend quality time with God, get alone with Him. Find a place that is quiet and pour out your soul to Him. Remember, He is to be your audience. It’s fine to lead in prayer in a group, but don’t do it to be heard by others. Even in public you should still pray for an audience of one.
  2. Keep it simple. God doesn’t pay more attention because we use the King’s English, pray exceptionally long prayers, or because we use a continuous stream of repetitive words. God’s not looking for a formula or the same prayer prayed over and over. How would you like it if your friends and family spoke to you only in memorized, repetitive speeches multiple times in a row? Wouldn’t you prefer them to get real and speak from the heart? I don’t think God is any different. We’ll have more on that tomorrow.

Go ahead. Find that quiet place and pour out your heart to God. He’s already waiting for you.

Just wondering…where’s your “quiet place”? Let us know in the comments section below. We value your feedback!

Have a Great Day!

Day 17 – 40 Days with Jesus Devotion

Day 17 - 40 Days with Jesus picture

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” – Matthew 6:1-4

“Pardon me, but your religion is showing.”

It was very common in Jesus’ day for the religious leaders to make pleasing God an Academy Award-winning performance. They went to extreme lengths to appear to others as being outwardly righteous. So pervasive was their performance-based piety that Jesus used the word theaomai(“to be seen by them”) to refer to their outward acts of righteousness. This Greek word is related to the word from which we get “theater”. Their good deeds were for show. They liked comparing themselves to others. Jesus called them hypocrites.

Simple faith is not a long series of religious performances. The Christian life is not even about doing good. Micah, the Old Testament prophet, summed up simple faith extremely well. Here is his definition:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Did you get that? Have you ever thought how complicated we make living a life that pleases God? What is required?

  • To do justice
  • To love mercy
  • To walk humbly with your God

So simple. The sooner we believe and understand that righteousness is more than simply what we “do” or “do not do”, and start living like that, the quicker we will understand the true meaning of the Christian life as God meant it. The Christian life is not meant to be a theater production performed behind a mask. Those who are genuine are not afraid to be seen for who they are.

Let’s take a moment now to unpack the example Jesus used to unmask religious performance. He used the practice of alms-giving. “Giving alms” in the first century was considered synonymous with “righteousness.” It was the act of giving to the poor. These “actors” (the Pharisees) made a big show of giving so they could be seen of men and thereby be judged as righteous by onlookers. Jesus says they are hypocritical because they did it with the purpose of being seen so they could appear to be righteous.

So what does that mean for us today? It means be careful that we don’t make pleasing God a big performance. It’s less about the what and the how and more about the why.

I would like to stop here for a second and unmask an unfortunate distortion of Jesus’ teaching about giving. There are many well-meaning Christians who take Jesus’ words here hyper-literally and elevate the secrecy of their giving to a matter of national security. I believe there are two reasons for this. First, they are paranoid that they might sin by someone else inadvertently seeing how much they gave. Second, it might be that they are not faithful in giving at least the tithe, and they are afraid someone else might find out that they are robbing God. Either way, it is an unfortunate distortion of what Jesus taught.

Jesus is not necessarily advocating that we must give with the stealth of a CIA operative, but is rather addressing motive. It’s not wrong for others to know. It’s wrong to wantothers to know so we can appear to be what we are not.

Let’s be genuine.

How do you keep from making pleasing God a big performance? Let us know.

Have a Great Day!

Day 16 – 40 Days with Jesus Devotion

Day 16 - 40 Days with Jesus Devotion image

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” – Matthew 5:6

Happy are the hungry. As I am writing today’s devotional thought, all I can think of is food. The smell of shrimp étouffée is wafting from the kitchen and interacting with my olfactory senses and telegraphing those signals to my stomach. Needless to say, it’s making me even hungrier than I already was. It would be safe to say I’m passionately waiting for it to be ready.

Today’s beatitude speaks of strong desire. It is referring to a passionate ambition of the soul. An insatiable hunger to know God intimately and to model His ways personally. We must be careful not to misunderstand what Jesus is saying. He is not talking about simply increasing our knowledge of God-facts or biblical knowledge. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but knowledge alone is never the goal of the Christian life. He’s talking about a life whose goal is to honor, obey and glorify God by aligning oneself with God’s character.

The average person’s goal is to gratify their own desires and ambitions and satisfy their own egos. In Jesus’ counsel to “hunger and thirst” for righteousness, He is undoubtedly referring to a submission of the will, and the desire to weave all that God desires for us and His purpose into our everyday life.

Jesus is not advocating for us to cloister ourselves away in a monastery somewhere and chant all day long. Instead, “hungering and thirsting” for righteousness means taking God seriously and finding out how perfectly His truth fits into real-world experience. Just like our physical appetites, this spiritual appetite is an ongoing desire. I ate a good breakfast this morning, but by noon I am ready to be filled again by that shrimp étouffée cooking on the stove.

And what does Jesus say will come to those who have this insatiable desire and longing for God? He says they will be filled or satisfied. Rather than being victims of spiritual starvation or trying to fill up on philosophical and spiritual junk food and never being completely satisfied, “they shall be filled.”

Our society is marked by a longing for more. A constant search for fulfillment and never quite attaining that elusive “enough.” Jesus says that the way to happiness, the way to being truly blessed, is by cultivating a hunger and thirst for what only God can provide. This comes by way of a Spirit-prompted desire that will lead a person to a saving relationship with Jesus and keep him strong and faithful once he is in the kingdom. It’s the only desire, or ambition that, when fulfilled brings true, lasting happiness.

Are you hungry today? For what do you hunger and thirst? Let God satisfy your longing. His pantry never runs low. His well never runs dry.

By the way, lunch was awesome! I wonder what’s for dinner…

Have a Great Day!

BTW…How do you work up an appetite and keep up your hunger for your relationship with God? Let us know by commenting below.

Courageous – Advanced Screening

At this time we are planning an advanced screening of the Sherwood Pictures movie Courageous at the Lake Charles Cinemark theater on Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm. Our plans are to provide the tickets free of charge to our area law enforcement families. Pray with us as we reach our goal for 250 tickets.

Here is a preview of the movie.

 

Day 15 – 40 Days with Jesus Devotion

Day 15 - 40 Days with Jesus image - Baptist churches in lake charles

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48

How do you deal with insults or being slighted? What about when someone gives you a hard time? It’s tough to show love in these situations, isn’t it? It was just as difficult centuries ago. Since that has always been the case, the first-century scribes and Pharisees developed a “saying” that was commonly repeated among the Jews. It sounded like one of Moses’ commandments. Well, sort of. It went something like this, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy”. The first half of that saying was part of the law (Lev. 19:18), but the latter half was added by the Pharisees. Like us, they tried to justify their attitude toward those they didn’t care for.

The love that Jesus says is necessary for a life that God can bless is not necessarily a touchy-feely, makes me feel good inside, kind of love most people can relate to today. True God-like love is a choice. It possesses the ability to see beyond the faults and problems of others. Love focuses on the soul. Love fosters compassion. It is this type of love that allowed the late Corrie ten Boom to respond with forgiveness to the Nazi guards who brutalized her sister and made her own life miserable while in the concentration camp. She was able to forgive them. She chose not to live the rest of her life ruled by bitterness and resentment. True love doesn’t need vindication. It trusts God.

Day 14 – 40 Days with Jesus Devotion

Day 14 40 Days with Jesus Devotions - Bible churches lake charles

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” – Matthew 5:38-42

But I’ve got rights. Haven’t you said that before? If you haven’t, you’ve no doubt thought it. We all have. We all seem to think we have the right to be treated with dignity. We feel we have the right to be comfortable and to amass as much money and possessions as possible.

It’s the American way, isn’t it? But here in this section of Jesus’ teaching He is giving simple advice to the selfish and strong-willed. Just as in Jesus’ day, we live in a dog-eat-dog society. Without apology, many are heard expressing statements such as:

Day 13 – 40 Days with Jesus Devotion

40 Days with Jesus Devotions picture - Lake Charles Family church

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:33-37

Verbal integrity. Do you have it?

It seems that truthfulness is in short supply in this world today. Even in the tightly regulated area of our food supply, full-disclosure does not always mean we are given the complete truth. While the FDA closely regulates how manufacturers may label their foods, there are certain loopholes which allow food labels to be highly misleading. Or, to put it bluntly, be untruthful. For example:

Day 12 – 40 Days with Jesus Devotion

40 Days with Jesus image - lake charles churches

“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” – Matthew 5:31-32

Can you say, “Controversial”? Today’s teaching from Jesus has spawned many debates over the centuries. Some weigh in on the ultra-conservative side and others on the super-liberal side. Some say God never allows for divorce while others say Moses allows for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatsoever. For example, according to first century Rabbi Hillel, a man could divorce his wife for the following reasons,