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Foundations For Our Future #100 - #109

Foundations for Our Future (100)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler


Some of us grew up praying with the word “trespasses” and others grew up with the word “debtors,” but in either case the truth is the same. We have incurred debts we cannot repay and we have trespassed in ways we cannot undo. There is no doubt that Jesus is not talking here about monetary debt, but relational debt. (Matthew 6:12) We have been quick to act, or speak, or both, in ways that have wounded others. Sometimes the wounds we have inflicted were grievous, and even to think about them makes us sorrowful all over again. There is a saying that rings true: ‘We may be forgiven but we do not forget.’

Can we do anything about old memories of sin that we cannot seem to escape from? It seems that perhaps the Lord is showing us the path to freedom. We have to learn to forgive others.

Have you noticed, like me, that we are very quick to forgive ourselves? We can rationalize our own sins in an instant, and then move on (we think), but we hold on to grudges against those who have hurt us. Christ Jesus is calling us to see that their is an inextricable link between being a forgiving person and being forgiven. We must learn this, and we begin by praying this prayer with all our heart. For most of us, daily.



Foundations for Our Future (101)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler


In talking about forgiveness we have been thinking like individuals, but the Lord’s Prayer actually teaches us that there are things we must corporately be forgiven of. And there are things we must forgive corporately. What can that mean?

I confess that this is a relatively new thought for me, but I see today that it is being illuminated for me by the Word of God. “forgive us…as we also have forgiven” others. (Matthew 6:12) Many times the Psalmist cries out to God to forgive Israel all her sins. Nehemiah kneels before the Lord to ask for forgiveness for himself and for his people. (Nehemiah 1:6) How could this apply to us?

May I make some suggestions that come to my mind?

What about the wider church’s neglect of the poor? Or our turning aside from the weakest and most marginalized of our community in their other needs? What about our failure to commend the faith that is within us? Or our poor stewardship of the wealth we have been entrusted with? What about our casualness in worship attendance, or our neglect of prayer? To say nothing of our consistent spreading of gossip about other people. You may be able to add to the list yourself.

Simply noting some of the possibilities pierces my soul. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘these kinds of things the people of God really do. We all need to repent.’ Then I begin to see, it is not just me, but all of us collectively.



Foundations for Our Future (102)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler


Lent gives us a clear picture of the Lord Jesus being tempted, and Holy Scripture tells us that the Spirit of God led him into the wilderness to be tempted. (Matthew 4:1) Yet the Lord himself teaches us to pray that we would be spared that reality. (Matthew 6:13) How are we to understand this?

Temptations will come, Jesus also teaches, so here we have a challenging opportunity to press more deeply into the things that he wants us to learn. Let us begin with the prayer.

We are in the middle of praying to our heavenly Father, who loves us, and forgives us, and provides for us. Now we ask him not to lead us into temptation. Perhaps we can begin by recognizing how weak we are in the face of temptation, and consider that the Lord, who knows our weakness, is shielding us from what he alone could resist? That may be a start. Another possibility is that he knows the power of the enemy of our souls, and he is giving us baby steps in prayer and discipleship, to build us up for the days ahead when serious trials and temptations will be ours.

One thing we can say with absolute certainty. Jesus knows us and he knows that we are not strong enough without him to stand in the day of trial. He tells us to ask to be spared, and we must trust him. “Lead us not into temptation.”



Foundations for Our Future (103)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

Deliver Us

The subject of deliverance is not one usually discussed in our modern day, but it is found clearly in the New Testament record of our Lord’s ministry. It is also before us plainly in the Lord’s Prayer. We are taught by Jesus to ask God our Father to “deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)

It is now generally believed that much that you and I would call “mental illness” was once thought to be possession by evil spirits. That insight is almost certainly correct, but it does not end the discussion. Human beings are still regularly affected by forces that are spiritual in nature, and that have the capacity to distort their lives. Think of the powers that overwhelm some people: drink, lust, anger, bitterness, jealousy, fear. God does not want his people dominated by these, and other destructive influences.

Some will say that these are natural realities that trouble all people, and not spiritual forces from outside of us, and I would agree to some extent. But I have personal experience of the way in which, in some lives, these forces can gain control over God’s children. I have known men and women deeply weakened by interior struggles with what I can only describe as “evil spirits.” And I have seen God deliver those who come to him in Jesus Christ.

You and I may not fully understand all God’s ways, but we are plainly taught that there are spiritual realities that want to destroy the servants of God, and we are to pray to be delivered from their influence. It is good to pray this beloved ones.



Foundations for Our Future (104)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

From Evil

The great apostle once wrote that before the law came into his consciousness he did not really understand sin. Every believer can understand what he meant. It is only as we come to a clear understanding of the will of God, made known to us in Holy Scripture, that we become aware of the gap between our behavior and God’s will for us. And it is true that the more we seek God’s face, and the more determined we become to walk in his ways, the more we realize how many forces want to pull us away from that path.

Many of us were baptized as infants, and the words of the baptismal liturgy were spoken over us by faithful parents and sponsors: “deliver this child from all assaults of the enemy.” They were long ago defined as the attacks of “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” And they are real.

When the Holy Spirit of God comes to a believer, which happens the moment we truly call out to the Lord in faithful trust, the power of God is given to us to fight against all those forces. It is not usually given to a new believer in full measure, but that power is given. And as we call upon the Lord, we grow in our capacity to resist. What might defeat us when we are a baby Christian will not long overcome us, if we are determined to grow in the grace of God. Bunt we never stop praying: “Father…deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)



Foundations for Our Future (105)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

The preferred translation of the New Testament, among North American Anglicans, is called the English Standard Version (ESV). Those of you using this, or any modern English translation, will have discovered that the final sentence known to us from Sunday worship is missing. Why is that?

The reason is simple. The oldest and most trusted manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew do not include that sentence. These manuscripts were unknown to the earlier translators of the New Testament, when they brought the ancient Greek texts into English in the 15th century. What almost all New Testament scholars would agree is that the extra sentence came to be added in the worship of the church at a very early date, and was then inserted into Latin Bible by a natural accident some centuries later.

Perhaps I am not the only one who has found that with the new Book of Common Prayer (2019) I frequently say one of the prayers on Sunday with words that are no longer there, or which have been changed? The power of habitual use is great is it not?

The sentence we know from centuries of prayer in the liturgy of the church is a true one. “The kingdom and the power, and the glory” are indeed God’s. (Matthew 6:13 footnote) We are praying something that is true, but it was not given to us in the model prayer by Christ Jesus. I hope to pray it till I die, because it expresses my faith in him.



Foundations for Our Future (106)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

Forgiving Others

One of the most famous passages of the New Testament is this: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I gave up childish ways.” (I Corinthians 13:11) Today, in the Sermon on the Mount, we come to a passage that requires adult faith. We come to the teaching of our Lord that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven ourselves. (Matthew 6:14,15)

Have you ever known someone who finds it hard to forgive? I have, and his name is Jon Shuler. When I have been deeply hurt by another, especially someone I truly admire or love, the “remembrance is grievous unto (me).” But that quote, from the prayer of confession, is about my own sin, not another’s. It is not license for me to be unforgiving with others, while asking for forgiveness for myself. How challenging this is.

In my lifetime I have seen relationships between siblings destroyed by unforgiveness. So too relationships between children and parents, husbands and wives, and members of the same congregation. Whole villages and nations struggle to forgive. Jesus teaches us that it is not to be so. It is almost as though he wants us to see that if we are not forgiving others we have not really understood the grace of forgiveness from God. And if we have not understood it, we are not yet forgiven.



Foundations for Our Future (107)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

When You Fast

We resume today our focus on the three behaviors that Jesus assumes will characterize his disciples. They will give for the needs of the poor, they will pray, and they will fast. The most extensive of his teachings concerned our prayer, but that does not make the other two less important. We are to be generous for the needs of the poor, and we are to fast. Christ is aware that all three can be practiced in error, and so he gives us guidance. This latter of the three is probably the most neglected for many of us, so today let us focus there.

To fast means to not eat. It is very strait forward, but it is perhaps one of the most difficult of all spiritual disciplines. The demands of our bodies, and the craving we feel to feed those demands, are very strong. The Holy Scripture teaches us that our “flesh,” that is our natural desires, has great power to take us away from God and his will for us. Of all the manifestations of our flesh, the desire to feed ourselves is one of the greatest. Why would the Lord want us to fast?

The answer is not difficult to discover. He wants us to gain mastery over our fallen desires. We are not to fast indefinitely but only from time to time, because we are so easily torn away from God. The Lord wants us to grow strong to serve only him with all our strength.



Foundations for Our Future (108)

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

Your Father Who Sees in Secret

Three times the Lord Jesus tells us that our heavenly Father “sees in secret.”
(Matthew 6:4,6,18) How are we to understand that?

The Lord contrasts this reality with what men see of our behavior. He seems to lay a finger on the extent to which we all are conscious of, and seeking the approval of, other people. That concern, which is nearly universal, is very powerful. It is used by all marketers to try to get us to want what they have to sell. Even artificial needs will be highlighted for us by pointing out what others will think of us if we do or do not buy their product. Jesus says that when we let those kind of considerations control us will will get a reward, it just will not be a heavenly one.

Of course what stumbles us next, when we consider these things, is that we can understand what the reward will be in this life, but not so sure of the next. We know what praise from men feels like. We know what worldly acclaim feels like. But heavenly rewards?

God is actually desiring that we would so know his love, so understand his ways, so delight in his company, that we would want that more than anything that this world has to offer. He sent his only begotten Son to show us what that was like, and to open the way for us to experience it now. This is to live in Christ, knowing that to die is gain.


Foundations for Our Future (109) 

by: The Rev. Dr. Jon Shuler

Laying Up Treasure

Where is your heart? (Matthew 6:21) In the Hebrew scriptures, which we call the Old Testament, the heart is always a word that describes the most essential part of who a person is. It represents the deepest and most profound core of our identity. To love God with all our heart means to love him completely. To give someone my heart means to give myself to them completely.

One of the beautiful Psalms of David speaks of God’s readiness to give to his faithful ones the“desires” of their heart. (Psalm 37:3,4) I have prayed over those two verses for many years, and I have come to understand that the promise is not to give me anything, but to give me what God wills for my life. When I am in a right relationship with the Lord, and want his ways to be my ways, then I am in a disposition to receive my heart’s desire.

We have tarried long over the Lord’s guidance for us concerning three of the most elementary behaviors of those he calls: alms giving, prayer, and fasting. With each of these Jesus has pointed out that we can wrongly engage in these activities for only an earthly reward. But he is speaking to us of a higher purpose. Earthly things will pass away. Earthly things can be stolen. Heavenly things can never be lost. (Mathewt 6:19-21) Where is our treasure? Is it safe from harm.