Good gifts

“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

Two kinds of gifts come to us from God. Some meet our needs in this world—we call these gifts our daily bread. Other gifts we need for eternal life. Jesus promises that God the Father will give us both kinds of gifts. He is good, far better than we are; he will not trick us by giving us the wrong thing. Since Jesus tells us to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, we can expect those gifts to be God’s highest priority as he hears and answers our prayers. Since he has already given us these gifts, we have no reason to think that God will forget to give us the things we need for our daily lives in this world.

Jesus pointedly says that we are evil, but God is good. We need this reminder because, being evil, we tend to think the worst of God. We think it is possible for God to forget us or to play tricks on us. Jesus reminds us that God is our Father. Jesus himself paid the price for our adoption, making God our Father. If God loves us as a Father, he surely will never forget us or play tricks on us.

Hidden in this promise of Jesus is another fatherly fact about God. When we pray, we can count on this fact to be true. If a child is hungry but asks for a stone to eat, the child’s father will still give bread to the child. If a child needs a fish but asks for a serpent, the father will still give the fish. This substitution is no trick. Fatherly love gives what is best to children even when the children do not know how to ask for things that are good.

When we pray to God about the things we need in this world—what to eat, what to drink, what to wear—God already knows what we need. He knows even before we ask. He will give us good things, even in spite of our requests. God wants us to talk with him about everything that matters to us. His fatherly relationship with us includes his interest in hearing what we have to say. When we pray, we remember that God is the source of everything good in our lives. We speak to him as children speak to a Father they love and trust. We know that if our Father makes any substitutions, choosing not to give us what we seek, his changes will be for the better.

When we pray about God’s kingdom and his righteousness, we are fully confident that our prayers will be answered. God will substitute nothing for his kingdom and his righteousness. Jesus takes our guilt upon himself and pays the penalty we deserve. We receive his righteousness and the rewards he earned. We receive a place in God’s kingdom. We pray with confidence about the forgiveness of our sins and about our lives as his people. Our Father loves us; he is not going to withhold from us any of the blessings he wants us to have. J.

Ask, seek, knock

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

Jesus first makes radical requirements of his followers. Now he makes radical promises. He invites us to ask, promising we will receive. He encourages us to seek, promising we will find. He tells us to knock, and the door, he says, will be opened to us.

Common sense assures us that Jesus cannot possibly mean what he says. His demands are unreasonable, his standards are too high, and so we look for exceptions and loopholes in what he commands. His promises are equally senseless. Surely God will not grant our requests so easily. Surely God has freedom to say no to our prayers. Rather than trusting Christ’s promises and acting as if we believed they were true, we allow God exceptions and loopholes. In our hearts, we deny the truth of what Jesus says.

Our common sense is not qualified to judge the Word of God. If Jesus says, “Do this,” we should do it. If Jesus says, “I promise,” we should believe it. At the same time, we must be sure that we know what Jesus means by his messages, so we do not embarrass ourselves or make his Word seem ridiculous to others.

Jesus encourages us to pray for daily bread. He tells us not to worry about food or drink or clothing. He tells us to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. Along the way, Jesus shows us what is wrong with our righteousness. We are not perfect. We need a greater righteousness than we have produced. We have such a righteousness from Jesus himself. He blesses us with gifts, granting the kingdom of heaven to each of us. When we put his gifts first in our lives, then we can live with confidence, because what matters most to us has already been given to us; it is already ours. When we are distracted by other things, even by the good things we have done (or are trying to do), then we will not be content; what we achieve will not be good enough for God or for ourselves.

We are not to judge ourselves, or other people, by the Law alone. Instead, we see ourselves and others through the blessing of the Gospel. People who think that they don’t need the Gospel do not treat it as a treasure; they must first be shown their need for the Gospel by being measured by God’s Law. When our eyes are opened and we see our need for God’s forgiving and restoring power, nothing should keep us from asking God for those things that we need. Jesus offers this gift unconditionally: his blessings of the kingdom of heaven, his mercy, his love and forgiveness, his rescue from sin and evil and death—all these are delivered to us because of the work Jesus has done on our behalf.

God will not ignore our prayers for physical needs. He knows what we need even before we ask. “All these things will be added to you.” God has already given his Son for our redemption; why would he withhold smaller blessings? When we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, we are confident we will find them. His kingdom and his righteousness are gifts God is eager to give us. J.

The Gentiles

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:31-32).

Jesus begins with birds, moves on to flowers, and ends with the Gentiles. Birds are part of creation; they are neither good nor bad; they simply are. Flowers also are part of creation, but Jesus assigns them to the fire. Now he speaks of Gentiles—the outsiders, the unbelievers, the ones who are not part of his kingdom. Our Father sends sun and rain to all people, whether they believe in him or not. A person’s wealth and comfort today is no measure of that person’s faith, salvation, or eternal home in heaven. God sends daily bread whether we ask for it or not. We pray for daily bread, but not to earn it. God would not forget to send our daily bread if we forgot to remind him. He does not withhold our daily bread until we pray the proper words. Our prayers remind ourselves of the source of every good blessing we enjoy.

If God intends to send us good things whether we pray or forget to pray, why should we pray? We talk to God because we have a relationship with God. He is our Father; we are his children. The Gentiles have no such relationship with the true God. They may pray to false gods; they may trust spells and incantations to bring them good things; or they might believe that they earn everything they receive because of their good deeds. We trust God, not ourselves. We discuss with God everything that matters to us.

Jesus already said that we are not to pray like the Gentiles. Our prayers have no magic ability to give us what we want. Jesus adds that we should not worry as the Gentiles worry. When we pray to God about our needs, we mention those needs with confidence. We already know that God loves us. We know that he understands us. Since God can do anything he wants, we can assume that he will meet our needs. Experience shows us the same truth that Jesus proclaims: we receive what we need from the hand of God whether we worry about it or not. The things of this world are in God’s hands as surely as our eternal safety is in his hands.

Food and drink and clothing come from God. Our behavior in this world belongs also in God’s hands. Giving to the poor and praying and fasting are not reasons for us to worry. We are expected to give and to pray and to fast, but these actions are not worthy of our anxiety. The Gentiles—those trying to earn God’s blessings and his rescue from evil—worry about these things. We know that these things are gifts. We continue living according to our relationship with God, not worrying about whether the things we do are good enough for God. God has accepted us, not according to our good deeds, but because of what Jesus did for us. For that reason, we do not have to be anxious. J.

Prayer request

Last week I mentioned that some of my coworkers are retiring.

I neglected to mention that their retirement was not voluntary.

This is how that came to pass:

Four years ago, the director of the System for which I work retired. He was replaced by a new director, a former member of the Board that oversees the System. Clearly, they knew what kind of director they were getting.

The previous director was a visionary leader. The new director is a pragmatic leader. (One of his favorite words is “sustainable.”) Once he settled into his position, became familiar with the details of the System, and replaced most of the administrative leaders with his people, he then persuaded the Board to hire a consulting firm to determine how the System is operating and how it can be improved.

Now at this level of operations, one does not find a consultant by randomly looking in a phone book. Instead, one researches the various consultants in the field, studying the advice they have given other clients. One selects the consultant that has, in the past, given the kind of advice one wants to receive. The consultant then examines the System, interviewing employees and clients and people in the service area who have not been clients. Having done all this work, the consultant produces a report on the System with suggestions for improvements. Any unpopular improvements can be blamed on the consultants and on their research. So the System began developing a strategic plan, based on the recommendations of the consultant, and aimed at making the System more helpful to its clients and prospective clients.

The previous director—the visionary leader—created, over the years, a special department within the System to achieve tasks not done by other branches of the System. I was hired to work in that department. The strategic plan, based on the work of the consultants, treats my department as one of fifteen branches, similar to the others rather than unique. That same plan points out that my department is far more expensive to the System than any other branch. Although there was talk this past spring and summer about targeting our unique services to serve the branches, by the end of the summer it was obvious that our branch budget was going to be significantly smaller in 2020. The only way to meet that budget was to reduce staff. My division of the department was targeted for cuts, and so our size as we enter 2020 is about half of what it was a year ago.

And we already know that the branch budget for 2021 will be smaller yet.

The coworkers who were involuntarily retired happen to be workers who have served in the System for years at various capacities. They had scaled back to part-time, aiming toward eventual retirement; but they had hoped to continue working for a bit longer. The branch manager explained to all of us that no one had been singled out for removal, but that part-time positions were no longer considered “sustainable.” This explanation is, at best, a partial truth. Removing these positions without singling out the actual workers saves the branch money, and it also indicates that my division within the branch is least valuable to the branch and to the System and most likely to be targeted for future cuts.

That presents half the puzzle. Now that I have written more than five hundred words—now that casual readers have clicked off the post and only my friends are still reading—here is the other half. In the summer of 2016, I studied for, took, and passed a certifying exam, giving me full credentials for the position I currently occupy. But that same summer, I received a phone call from a pastor in the area (who also happens to be a friend). He said that two congregations were combining to hire a pastor and my name had been mentioned among the possibilities. Would I consider returning to full-time church work? I had not been thinking about returning, so I asked for a day to consider the question. My oldest daughter pointed out that I could say yes, I would consider it, and still be free to say no later; but that if I said no right away I would wonder later if I had been right or wrong. So I said yes, I would consider the position if it was offered. It turned out that I was the second choice of the committee choosing a pastor and their first choice said yes. But a hint was dropped that a new door might be opening.

I belong to a group of churches that are very congregational. No church official can assign a pastor to a congregation, nor can a pastor advertise that he is seeking a position. Congregations seeking pastors create a list of possibilities, study the qualifications of the candidates, sometimes interview the most promising candidates, and then offer a call to the one they believe will serve them best. Church officials can make recommendations, but they cannot place a pastor in a position. Any pastor who advertises himself for a position disqualifies himself for that position. “The office seeks the man; the man does not seek the office.”

But, having been considered for one opening in the area, I updated my paperwork and indicated to the regional church official that I was willing to be considered for a call. Several opportunities came and went, but no one contacted me to say I was being considered. More than a year ago, the regional church official, along with my friend, strongly urged me to accept a call to a congregation about fifty miles away, but it would have been a part-time position, so I told them no. Now, with the changing situation with my full-time job, I thought I had better act. I contacted the regional church official, and he set up a meeting with me early in October. I gave him the details of my personal position and encouraged him to recommend me wherever he thought I would be suitable. Commenting that adult members of my family were establishing themselves in the community, he suggested that he would be reluctant to recommend me for a position too far from where I live now. But he agreed to do what he could to help move me back into full-time church work.

On December 1, another friend of mine—also a pastor—announced his retirement, effective the beginning of May. I know his congregation well, and I am well-known there. Some of my children have joined that congregation. My family attends special services there, including Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. I am very comfortable with their traditional style of worship, and I know that my theology and approach to pastoral work is much like that of the current pastor.

The regional church official met with the congregation’s call committee around the middle of December. On the last Sunday of December, the chair of that committee announced that the members of the congregation will be surveyed about the congregation’s need for a new pastor and that nominations will be accepted at the same time. (These steps are happening much faster than is typical for a calling congregation.) There is no way to apply for the position, no one who would accept a resume, no way of getting their attention that would not have the opposite effect of disqualifying me for the position.

All I can do is pray. I can bypass the congregation’s leaders and the regional official and go straight to the Lord of the Church. But even such prayers must be qualified with the phrase, “Thy will be done.” I see only part of the picture; the Lord sees far more than I see. To me it seems like an ideal match. I expect that at least some of the members of this congregation would agree. But the process must be left for the Lord to guide.

I invite your prayers for me and for this congregation. I know that getting other Christians to pray will not force God to do what I want. At the same time, we can always ask. And please also pray that I may be made worthy of such a position, that God would shape me to be the kind of servant he wants in his Church. And may his good and gracious will be done. J.

Our Father

“Pray then like this:
Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done—on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Why return to an older version of English when praying this prayer? We know that there are no magic words; we know that God does not want to hear us babbling like pagans. Why, then, do so many Christians pray these exact words in this exact way? Why do we memorize these words, teach them to our children, and say them exactly this way when we gather for church services?

Sometimes, as Christians, we pray together. We unite our voices in prayer to God. When we join together for prayer, we find it helpful to say the same words, rather than each believer speaking a different prayer. Jesus himself gave us these words, although Matthew first wrote them in the Greek language. We use a translation into English that is four hundred years old. We do not update these words for the sake of those believers who learned them this way long ago. Moreover, we maintain this antique language and grammar in memory of those who prayed these words before us. The saints in Paradise prayed these words, and their voices from the past mingle with ours in the present when we approach our Father in the prayer that Jesus gave to his one true Church.

When Christians pray together, we unite around these words. When we go into our rooms and close the door to pray secretly to our Father, we are not bound by these memorized words. Jesus does not want to hear us rush through the words of this prayer, saying them as quickly as possible. Instead, Jesus intends this prayer to be an outline upon which we can hang all our joys and worries, hopes and fears, and everything we might want to discuss with God.

Many books have been written about this prayer. Martin Luther once said that, when he prayed this prayer properly, he could not finish in less than an hour. Many times he would pray only one portion of the prayer and leave other parts for the next day. This prayer is meant to be a very personal prayer; yet, it remains our prayer as we talk with our Father and ask him for our daily bread and to forgive our sins. When we pray this prayer, we pray not only for ourselves but for all the members of the Church on earth, those we know and those we have not yet met.

Jesus has us begin the prayer by talking to God about God. We call him Father, remembering that Jesus has paid to adopt us into his family. We celebrate his name, his kingdom, and his will. For many Christians, the hardest words to pray are, “Thy will be done.” We give God permission to do what he knows is best. When Jesus prayed those words in Gethsemane, he knew that his Father’s will for Jesus included the cross. God’s will may permit trouble, suffering, and even death in our lives. Binding the first half of the prayer together, we ask that God’s name be honored and his kingdom come and his will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Then we speak to God about our needs. We pray for daily bread (not mine, but ours)—not cake and ice cream, but bread; not a year’s supply, but enough for today. Tomorrow we will pray about tomorrow’s bread. Next, we ask for the forgiveness of our sins, which is also a daily need. Yesterday’s sins were forgiven yesterday. We prayed about them yesterday; God has already forgiven them and forgotten them, so we do not need to mention them again. We promise to forgive others the same way we have been forgiven, which is also a daily concern. We have already forgiven the sins committed against us yesterday; we do not remember them today. Today we ask God for help to forgive those who have hurt us today. We ask God to lead us today, to keep us far from temptation. We ask God to rescue us today, to keep us safe from evil. We ask these things for ourselves, knowing that we will receive them, because each of them is part of God’s will for us.

Some Christians pray about the kingdom and the power and the glory; others do not. Some copies of the Bible have these words; others do not. Palestinians Jews frequently ended their prayers with a similar expression in the first century. Whether Jesus included these words as he talked about prayer does not matter, because prayer is not a magic formula that must be said in one precise way. These words are fitting because they echo the thoughts spoken at the beginning of the prayer. No harm can come from saying them; no harm can come from leaving them unsaid.

Christians have a custom of ending every prayer with a Hebrew word—“Amen.” This word expresses confidence and hope. It says that we know that God has heard our prayer and is answering our prayer. No magic resides in the word “Amen.” A prayer is no less a prayer if the word is not said. We want to express our confidence and hope, especially when we pray together. We affirm that we agree with all the requests spoken in the prayer, but especially we affirm our faith that God has heard our prayer and is answering it.

If you should pray at bedtime and should fall asleep before you reach the “Amen,” do not fear. God still hears your prayer. He will still answer your prayer. What could be more beautiful than falling asleep in the lap of your heavenly Father? J.

Your Father knows

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).

People speak about “the power of prayer.” But prayer by itself does not have any power. The One to whom we pray has unlimited power. No magic words can be sprinkled into our prayers to force him to do what we want. God wants us to pray, but he does not want us to trust in the power of our payers. He prefers that we put all our trust in him.

The Gentile approach to prayer treats the words of prayers as if they have magical powers. Repetition is important for such prayers and incantations to work. In the Gentile world, special times are set aside for prayer and meditation, because those activities are seen as a source of power for the faithful Gentile.

Jesus denies to us these forms of babbling. He gives us no special words to use and no special times to pray. He places no value in the repetition of prayers. Rather, Jesus wants us to treat prayer as conversation with God. Talk to God in a way you would speak to anyone you respect. Have your mind on him as you pray, not on the mechanics of your prayer. Treat God as a Father who can be trusted to love you, to understand you, and to want what is best for you.

Failing to pray is a sin. The person who refuses to pray reveals that God does not matter to him or her. Misusing prayer is also a sin. Prayer itself can become an idol, something worshiped in the place of the true God.

Jesus makes genuine prayer possible for us. Our sins had come between us and God—including our sins of neglecting God and our sins of replacing God. Jesus cancels our sins by his sacrifice. His forgiveness opens channels of communication between us and God. Because the only Son of God sacrificed himself for our adoption, we now are children of God and are invited to call him “Father.”

Genuine natural prayer requires some effort on our part. Such prayer includes struggle, and often our prayers fall short of the ideal. The more we think about prayer, the more likely we are to change prayer into something God never intended it to be. Instead of thinking about prayer when we pray, we think about Jesus. We lift our prayers to the Father “in Jesus’ name,” but not because that name is a magic formula which guarantees that we will be heard and answered. We pray “in Jesus’ name” because the life of Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection have made prayer possible for us. We pray because of Jesus. We pray with our minds and hearts set upon him. J.

When you pray

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

The help we give to others is a matter between ourselves and God. How much more, then, are the words we speak to God a matter between ourselves and God. When we talk to him, our reason is not to try to impress anyone else. Imagine a man who spoke to his wife in public to send a message to others rather than to communicate with her! If he was only showing off, if he did not really think of her while he spoke to her, what sad things that would tell us about their marriage!

For that reason, I am a little uncomfortable when people ask me to pray at an event. Jesus does not forbid us ever to pray in front of other people—he prayed aloud in the presence of others on several occasions—but he reminds us that every prayer is communication with God, not having the purpose of impressing other people. Prayers said in church services are said to God. Prayers said before a Bible class or a church meeting are said to God. Prayers said at any public occasion, such as a high school graduation or a session of Congress, are said to God. The person asked to pray at these occasions should remember that he or she is talking to God, even though that conversation is happening aloud in the presence of other people. A prayer must not be turned into a sermon, an effort to persuade people about something while they are forced to listen in silence. When a prayer is spoken as an attempt to preach or to persuade, God does not regard those words as prayer at all.

We have a wonderful privilege. We are invited to speak with our Maker, with the One in control of the universe, with the One who loves us so much that he came into this world to live for us and to die for us. How dare we take this opportunity to speak with God and use it instead for worldly purposes? Such manipulation is sinful. Like all sins, this sin is forgiven through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. His forgiveness is one more reason for us to talk with him in prayer. Whether we say our prayers hidden in our rooms or aloud in front of other people, we remember that we are speaking to a God who loves us and who cares—more than anyone else in our lives—about what we have to say. J.

Messing with time

I wasn’t going to write about the Daylight Saving Time change this month—I’ve said all that I need to say about it in the past. But Julie at cookiecrumbstoliveby has written an excellent post which inspires me to share something that happened yesterday in Bible class. Be sure to read Julie’s post. And if you want to know what I have said in the past about Daylight Saving Time, I know WordPress will provide links at the bottom of this post.

Our class has been working through the book of Isaiah the past few weeks—sometimes one chapter a week, sometimes two, occasionally three. This month we hit the historical chapters in the middle of the book. So yesterday we were studying Isaiah 38, in which Hezekiah is sick and is told that he will die of his illness. He turns his face to the wall and prays, and God hears the king’s prayer and responds with grace, granting him fifteen more years to live and to rule God’s people. As a sign that God will keep this promise, he has the shadow on the stairs of the Temple move backwards, indicating that the sun has shifted miraculously in the sky.

Not one of us could resist linking that miracle to Daylight Saving Time.

We had other important themes to discuss, including the Old Testament view of Death and Sheol, which is much darker than the New Testament’s promise of Paradise, and including the entire idea of prayer. God announces Hezekiah’s death, then appears to change his mind because of the king’s prayer. Does a completely wise and all-knowing God change his mind because of our prayers? Isn’t God unchanging? C.S. Lewis was quoted as saying that, through prayer, God invites us to become his partners, just as he invites farmers to be his partners in providing daily bread through their planting and harvesting. We talked about the love of God, that he is always with us and always wants to hear from us. Thinking how often we ignore his gracious presence and don’t say a word to him, we wandered into considering the times that we are with people we love and we act as if they aren’t there. For many of us, the issue was driving. If we are focused on driving, we might not be ready to carry on a conversation in the car, even if the other person in the car is a husband or wife or son or daughter. (When I pick up my daughter from her fast food job at the mall, she has a lot to say, and sometimes I’m not so ready to listen—I’m driving, and especially if it’s dark and raining, I need to focus on my driving.) But God is never so busy running the universe that he cannot listen to our prayers. And Isaiah 38 shows that he is able to “change his mind”—which is not really a change in the Lord who is the same yesterday and today and forever, but which is a living part of the relationship he has with us, in which he delights to receive our prayers and to respond to them as a loving Father.

Even when we have the temerity to mess with time, which is God’s invention. J.

Amen

“Amen.”

Luther explains, “What does this mean? This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him: for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us. Amen, amen means, ‘yes, yes, it shall be so.’”

When we pray the prayer that Jesus teaches us to pray, we are certain that God hears our prayers and answers yes to them all. In private prayer, we expand upon these petitions, considering the names of God, the significance of his kingdom, and what we know of God’s will for our lives and for the world in which we live. We list our daily needs, confess the sins we remember, seek help to forgive people who have sinned against us, describe the temptations we are striving to overcome, and name the evils that threaten our lives and our faith. As we pray these things, we have full confidence that God hears our prayer and has already decided to say yes to everything we ask of him.

Therefore, we close our prayers with the Hebrew word “Amen,” which can mean, “Let it be so,” or, “It shall be so.” The word Amen has no magic value. If a Christian should fall asleep before completing a prayer and saying Amen, the prayer would not fail to be heard and answered. (What can be more beautiful than to fall asleep while resting in the arms of our heavenly Father?” The custom of saying Amen reminds each of us that we pray with confidence, knowing that God hears what we ask and will provide what we want and need, unless he chooses instead to provide something even better.

Jesus sometimes underlined his key teachings by saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you….” The King James translation of the Bible remained fairly literal with that phrase, rendering it, “Verily, verily, I say unto you….” Some recent translations have chosen the more insipid, “I tell you the truth….” Or “Truly I say to you….” A double Amen from the mouth of Jesus assures us of the truth and importance of what he is saying. We also may pray a double Amen when we speak to God the words that Jesus suggested that we pray: “Yes, yes, it shall be so.” J.

 

Doxology

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.”

These words are not included in the earliest copies of Matthew’s Gospel, nor does Luther comment upon them. Many Christians pray them, though, as a hymn of praise—a doxology—which matches the opening petition of the Lord’s Prayer, in which we ask that God’s name be hallowed.

The kingdom is God’s. He rules over everything that he created; he is Lord of all that exists. The Church in particular is his kingdom, and his will is to increase that kingdom so more people will dwell in his new creation. That new creation is also his kingdom, which he will rule eternally.

The power is God’s. He is almighty; he can do whatever he chooses. God is so powerful that he cannot lie. Whenever he speaks, what he says happens. He says, “Let there be light,” and there is light. He says, “Your sins are forgiven,” and they are forgiven. He says, “Your sins are gone,” and they are gone, removed as far from us as the east is from the west. He says, “You are my child, and you will live with me forever in a new and perfect creation,” and we know that all these things are true.

The glory is God’s. In the presence of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—Jesus once shone with light while visiting with Moses and Elijah. Yet to Jesus, his true glory is not that he can shine with light or be counted with the heroes of God’s people. His glory far transcends those accomplishments. For Jesus, his true glory is expressed in love, making himself vulnerable on behalf of his people, offering himself as a sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.

The kingdom and the power and the glory are his forever—or, as some Christians pray, “forever and ever.” The original Greek expression translates literally as “from the ages into the ages.” God’s kingdom and power and glory never end. They endure into the new creation, and we will experience them fully at the resurrection of the body, when we inherit the fullness of what we already have now: the life everlasting. J.