Jul 262017

When we read the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:5-13, the only seemingly material request we are instructed to pray is for is God to give us our daily bread. But should this be taken as literal bread to eat?


10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread,  12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

– Matthew 6:10-13 ESV




Just a few verses later, in Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells us, “…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” Is this a contradiction? Absolutely not!

The bible uses bread to mean “that which is taken into the body to provide sustenance and nourishment”. And there are two types of bread talked about: leavened and unleavened. Leavening in the bible consistently symbolizes the corruption of sin (for instance, I Corinthians 5:8, “the leaven of malice and wickedness” ).

A Christian may choose what spiritual nourishment to take in: sinless, healthy bread; or sinful corrupted bread.

Jesus proclaims himself to be the Bread of Life.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. – John 6:35 ESV

Jesus is instructing us to pray for good and holy spiritual nourishment from Him each day. Why do we ask daily? Because God had given us free will to choose what we consume. He will not force a relationship uninvited. He seeks us to invite Him daily.

Lord, I ask you to give me today and each day your Bread of Life which nourishes me beyond all else. I love you, Lord. And I need you. Abide with me always. I submit my life to You, and may Your will be accomplished in my life in all things. Amen.

What bread will you eat today?

 Posted by at 9:02 am
Jul 182017

Man in Shower

I shower daily. Most days twice. And although I may have occasionally missed a day now and then, I’ve balanced it out by some days even showering thrice.

Though it’s never been mentioned, people around me probably appreciate my effort, since without daily showers the accumulated sweat and grime tends to make me more than a bit stinky. And it’s not enough to just stand under the water and let it run over me. I have to use deodorant soap vigorously applied with one of those poofy-netty-fluffy-scrubby things they’ve been selling for the past decade to wash away the unwanted build-up, plus a generous working of shampoo into the hair to keep it clean and free from excess oil as well. Greasy hair was completely over by the 60s.

If you were to peer at me in the shower — but PLEASE don’t — you’d often find me on my knees. You see, it’s not only my body that needs cleansing. But much more importantly, my spirit.

Jesus did his work on the cross and became the atoning sacrifice for ALL our sins — past, present, and future — but as Christians we are instructed to confess our sins and repent, to turn away from all wickedness and ungodliness.

Some Christians believe that forgiveness is a “one-shot” deal and once we utter the sinners prayer that all wrongs are eternally obliterated. (Quick side-note: we’ll discuss that whole sinner’s prayer thing another time.) And it’s certainly true that God has forgiven us and separated us from our sins forevermore, but let’s consider the words of Jesus.

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:1-4 ESV)

Notice that Jesus said, “When you pray…”, and according to scripture we know Jesus prayed often. Every day and every night. Likely without ceasing. And he taught us to ask to be forgiven of our sins when we pray. Daily. Just as important as asking for our daily bread.

We are instructed throughout the Bible to repent of our sins. Many think that to repent means to feel remorse and sorrow for the things we have done, and by so limiting their definition they fall upon “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV) and take the stance that to have sadness about past sin is to allow the enemy to place us in bondage from our past.

However, while sadness for transgressions is indeed part of the meaning of the English word remorse, it’s not the best translation of the original Greek word used many times in the New Testament. In fact, the word choice was so erroneous that Merriam-Webster includes the original Greek word “metanoia” that was used and is defined as “a transformative change of heart; especially a spiritual conversion”.

We can be sorry for the things we’ve done for many reasons, and many of those reasons can even be selfish. For example, if I had stolen something I could simply be sorry that I got caught. Entirely selfish. I could also be sorry that I took something that didn’t belong to me. Semi-selfish, because it tarnishes my self-image. Or I could be sorry because the person I took it from no longer has it and that to have stolen it was morally wrong.

While the last reason is better than the first two, it overlooks that I grieved God. And THAT is where my heart should be positioned. While sin hurts both others and myself, the most important element is to realize that it hurts God. For that I should indeed feel sorrow, but more importantly repentance means that I have undergone a change of heart and that sin now repulses me and must be turned away from, and I have within my spirit a genuine desire to humble myself before God and serve him according to His will.

Perhaps the most wonderful and worshipful thing we can do is to simply with all our heart, soul, and strength ask God, “What do You want me to do?”

This was the question asked by Paul after his conversion from Saul in Acts 9:6. The New King James says, “So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’”

This is the heart of repentance — Lord, what do you want me to do? This is the teachable heart, the servant’s heart, the heart being changed from what it once was into what it will become. A heart that is reborn, the heart of a new creature being renewed, being perfected. Yet only reaching perfection when Jesus returns.
David was described as a man after God’s own heart. David cried out to God,

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
(Psalm 51:1-4)

Since we realize all sin is against God, should we therefore not also like David cry out to God to wash us and cleanse us from our sin?

And that scrubbing needs to be done daily with the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who died that we may be made spotless.

To twist the phrase from the old deodorant soap commercial, “Aren’t you glad you have Jesus? Don’t you wish everybody did?”

 Posted by at 3:34 pm
Nov 292016

World PeaceLast night I was given the honor of being asked to speak at the Porterville Peace Rally. These were my comments.

Good evening. My name is Rick Groves. Most of you don’t know me, and all of us are far too complex to nail down in a few words. So, by way of personal introduction, I’ll just say I’ve been known to teach a little and to preach a little. But mostly to just love people around me. And I love to tell stories. Time permitting, I hope to share one or two with you here tonight.

I want to thank the organizers of this Peace Rally for this lovely chance to share some words. I received a call from Kayleen Murello last Tuesday inviting me, and I was extremely surprised and quite honored she had taken the time to run me down. I cannot begin to express what a blessing it is to be included and awarded this wonderful opportunity.

Tonight, my friends, we’re having a Peace Rally. Peace is the freedom from disturbance. It is quiet and tranquility. It is harmony.

We all desire these things.

To say the world does not contain evil would be a false statement or hopelessly naïve. But to realize the world is comprised of a greater and far more powerful good is not simply reassurance. It is reality.

Good does not always triumph, but the lessons of history are that evil wins for only a short season. The undefeatable spirit of humanity always rises up and retakes the victory. And we will have victory.

To achieve victory takes two things: The brave action of a group coming together to stand and fight for what’s right, and the brave action of an individual standing alone to fight for what’s right.

Nothing worth accomplishing has ever been achieved without both. It takes cooperation and it takes leadership.

It’s been said the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing. If we hold this as true, then its corollary is also true. Good people doing something are the only thing necessary for triumph over evil.

And so we come together tonight as good people taking action for a cause that is right.

And make no mistake, this involves all of us together. You cannot say this doesn’t affect you.

I promised a story, so here’s one of my favorites. You may have heard it before. If so, you’re about to hear it again.

There once was a mouse…

The mouse peeked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. “What wonderful food might this contain?” the mouse wondered as his little nose sniffed the air. He was terrified to see it was a mousetrap!

Scurrying to the barnyard, seeing the chicken, the mouse screamed his warning, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head, and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can see this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I just cannot be bothered by it.”

The mouse ran to the pig and told him, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”

The mouse dashed to the cow and said, “There’s a mousetrap in the house! There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m really sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”

So the mouse, head down, feeling dejected, returned to the house to face the farmer’s mousetrap….alone.

That very night, a sound echoed through the house – the single abrupt snap of a mousetrap capturing its prey.

The farmer’s wife, awakened by the noise, rushed through the darkness to see what was caught. In the deep shadows, she didn’t see the poisonous snake whose tail was wedged in the trap.

With a ferocious strike, the snake’s fangs injected venom into the soft flesh of the farmer’s wife’s leg. Awakened by her scream, the farmer rushed to her and killed the snake with a butcher knife. He called the doctor, who came right away and removed as much poison as he could and gave her medicine, but her fever would not go down.

Everyone knows that chicken soup is the best treatment for a fever, so the farmer took his hatchet to the barnyard to collect the main ingredient.

But the poison continued to do its deadly work, and her sickness continued. Friends and neighbors sat with her round the clock and, to feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

Alas, the farmer’s wife did not recover – and on the third day, she died.

She was well-loved by all and her funeral drew so many people that the farmer slaughtered the cow to provide enough meat to feed them.

Meanwhile, the mouse with great sadness stared out from his crack in the wall. He had tried to warn them…

So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem, and you don’t think it concerns you, remember this little story. When one of us is threatened, we’re all at risk. Together, we are all in this journey called life.

So keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to give support and encouragement. Never forget that each and every one of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry – our lives are woven together tightly for a reason.

You know, when I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.

I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation – and I could indeed have changed the world.

We change others only by changing ourselves and then demonstrating that change to inspire others. And when they are inspired, they become that group that stands together to change the world.

Aesop tells the fable of an old man on his deathbed summoning his children around him to give them some parting advice. He asked his oldest son to bring a bundle of sticks that were tied together.

“Break it,” he said.

The oldest son, also the strongest, strained and strained, but with his greatest effort couldn’t break the bundle.

The other sons also tried, but none of them could break it.

“Untie the sticks,” said the father, “and each of you take a single stick.”

When they had done so, he called out to them, “Now, break them!”

Each stick was easily broken.

“You see my meaning?” said their father. “Apart, you are fragile. But stand together, and you cannot be broken.”

We’ve hopefully enough time for one last story.

A squirrel perched on a branch talking to a dove that had landed there. “Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” he asked the bird.

“Why, nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the squirrel said.

“I once sat on the branch of a fir tree, close to its trunk, when it began to snow – not heavy, not a raging blizzard – no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch – nothing more than nothing, as you say – the branch broke off under the weight of the snow.”

Having said that, the squirrel flitted away.

The dove thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”

An old Texas Baptist minister from way back in the day named Joseph Fort Newton said, “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.” I’m going to challenge you here tonight to figure out how you can build a bridge and by so doing tear down a few walls. This refers back to my earlier comment about standing alone as a leader.

Are there any leaders in this group tonight?

If so, start leading.

Because, after all, like the little mouse tried to warn us, we’re all in this together.

And like Aesop’s tale of the dying father, together we are invincible.

And like the squirrel showed us, it may be your voice that makes a difference in this world.

So I encourage you tonight, stand together and love one another. Teach others around you by your demonstration how to love.

I have experienced personally what it feels like to be mistreated and to be on the receiving end of unfair discrimination. Long ago decided I will not tolerate intolerance, will speak and act against it.
I will stand with you and will not abide that others treat anyone with hatred or violence.

I know many in this community and this country who will pledge the same.

May I leave you with some wise words uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Thank you.

Nov 052011

toothbrushWhen I asked my lovely wife whether she would buy a used toothbrush, I got the totally expected response, “Eeew! Gross…” And I’ll bet most folks would chime in with a similar opinion. We certainly wouldn’t want a stranger’s dirty past making its way into our mouths.

But I ask you, isn’t that sometimes what we as Christians do? When we accepted Jesus as our lord and savior we became a new person (John 3:3) and the old person is passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17). If this is the case, why would we let the old words from our own strange and dirty past invade our mouths?

The Power of our Words

Follow me for a moment if you would…

Our words have power. After all, the world and all that is in it and surrounds it was created by the power of God’s words (Genesis 1:3-26), and He created us in His own image (Genesis 1:27).

His image isn’t His physical likeness, obviously, since He is the invisible God – a spirit with no physical form. But He breathed into us His very essence and that includes the desire and the ability to create. And it includes using the power of our own words for good or for evil. Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) and both Solomon and Jesus pointed this fact out to us very emphatically.

Solomon said that where the word of a king is, there is power (Ecclesiastes 8:4), and has not Jesus Christ Himself made us kings (Revelation 1:6) as well as priests?

Jesus said that we can speak without doubt to a mountain and it will move (Mark 11:23), being cast into the sea if we command it and believe without doubting.

That certainly sounds like power to me.

Let’s couple this with some other scriptures starting with Romans 4:17. Note the phrase, “calls those things which do not exist as though they did”. Yes, this passage refers to God. But remember His essence of creativity was placed within us, so we too can call into being those things which are not. Consider “The 4th Symphony” did not exist until Tchaikovsky called it forth. America did not exist until Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers declared we were independent. Black civil rights did not make tremendous strides in our country until a southern Baptist preacher proclaimed that he “had a dream”. The world is indeed changed by the power of our words.

If you are married, you did not gain your husband or wife until you said, “I do…” And if that is not proof of the power of our words to bring forth monumental changes to our lives, I can offer no greater evidence.

The True Source of Power

But be careful here and do not mistake the meaning of this. Do not think this power is from within us. Instead, it is a gift from God that He has given to us – a minuscule measure of His infinite authority. And without Him we can do nothing. Without Him we ARE nothing. We are divinely created, but we are not divine. We are creative, but we are not the creator. We wield power, but we are not the source of it.

Psalm 37:4 explains that when we delight in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our hearts and therein lies the source of this power. It is God Himself blessing us and caring for us and empowering us to fulfill His command that we subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28), to use all of its vast resources in the service of God and man.

Let’s look at another way our words have power from above – our words are the method of our salvation. Romans 10:9 explains that we are saved by confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. That is the most awesome use of the power of words any human will ever wield.

Continuing our exploration, let us remember that Jesus has promised that when we abide in Him, and His words abide in us, that whatsoever we ask will be done for us (John 15:7). He further tells us that whatsoever we desire when we pray, believe that we have received it, and it is ours (Mark 11:24).

Aha, that word “desire” shows up again. Remember Psalm 37:4? The promise that God gives us the desires of our hearts? Shall we now join that with Matthew 12:34 that tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks? Not quite, but we’ll come back to this point in a moment.

With Power Comes Responsibility

Matthew 12:22-36 recounts the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man who was blind and could not speak and how the Pharisees accused Him of being able to do so because He received His power from Satan, the prince of demons. Jesus has much to say about words in this passage.

First, note that it was through the power of words that the Pharisees sought to condemn Jesus, but He instead turned it into an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson. It is here that we learn there is an eternally unforgivable sin. While one may make speak even against Jesus himself (such as did Paul while he was still Saul before his conversion) and yet be forgiven, to speak against the Holy Spirit is forever unpardonable (Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29). Thankfully, this sin can never be committed by a Christian (that’s a topic for a different teaching on a different day), but it demonstrates the terrible consequences of evil words.

Second, note that Jesus further warned that we will give an account of every careless word we speak on the day of judgement (Matthew 12:36) and that by our words we will be either justified or condemned (Matthew 12:37). Doesn’t justified or condemned sound remarkably like the life and death mentioned earlier?

Third, Jesus said that a good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good things, while an evil man, out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things (Matthew 12:35). How do these men bring forth good and evil? Why, by the very thing the whole passage is about – by their words.

And where is their treasure? Jesus told us. It’s in their hearts. Also, let us consider another similar thing Jesus said in Matthew 6:21. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. What is our treasure? It is those things we prize most. It is our values, those things we place above all others, our greatest desires, those things that we believe most. This is the treasure that fills our hearts.

Now let’s go back to the passage in Matthew 12:34 that teaches us out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Putting this all together, we learn that we speak with the God-given power to create those things we value and believe in most. What we value and what we believe is what we speak, and those things we speak have the power to justify or to condemn. So really, it’s the value of what we truly believe that will bring us life or death – and we will talk about those things.

What’s in Your Mouth?

What things do you talk about? For that, my dear brother or sister, will reveal the treasure in your heart, and therefore your future. My hope and prayer is that you are speaking positive, encouraging, edifying, and uplifting things based upon the promises of God in your life, and that you see them manifested with thankfulness and wonder in the most miraculous of ways.

Or are you perhaps speaking words of doubt, anxiety, worry, and negativity?

“I don’t know how I’m going to pay the bills. The economy is just getting worse all the time. I’ll never find the right husband (or wife). I hate my job. My kid’s always getting into trouble. The doctor gave me bad news and says I’m not going to get better. I know God has done great things for others, but I don’t know if He’ll do it for me.”

If you are, this is the old person talking. So get the dirty toothbrush out of your mouth and get a new one.

“But it’s hard, Brother Rick,” you may be saying. “I’m just being realistic. It’s natural to worry about things.”

You are so right. It’s perfectly natural. And 1 Corinthians 2:14 says the natural man does not accept Godly things since they are foolish to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

So stop being natural, and be – as my daughter is so fond of saying – SUPERNATURAL!

It will take practice, but it will produce tremendous rewards both in this life and in the next. On many occasions I’ve said kiddingly (with all seriousness) that the church doesn’t always offer truth in advertising. We proclaim how easy it is to be saved, yet we fail to warn how hard the process of renewing the mind can be. And that’s what this is all about. We must renew our mind and think differently than we did in the past.

In addition to salvation and eternal life in heaven, Jesus wants us to see the kingdom of heaven here on earth (Matthew 6:10-11) and in John 3:3-6 He teaches us that we cannot enter that kingdom unless we are born again. This is the renewal process.

To be renewed we must hear the word (Romans 10:17), study the word (2 Timothy 2:15), and speak the word (Jeremiah 23:28) over and over until it penetrates to our very core and becomes so real in us that we automatically recognize and overcome the old voices that would speak as strongholds in our mind (2 Corinthians 10:5). When we truly believe, the possibilities are limitless (Mark 9:23).

Once we think differently and line up our thoughts and beliefs with what God promises for our lives, we change the treasure and the abundance in our heart. When that happens, our words, which have such awesome power to create, will bring forth wondrous blessings in our own lives and in the lives of others.

Since you’ve been speaking like that you look marvelously beautiful! That new toothbrush is giving you a radiantly dazzling smile.

Or is that simply God’s glory emanating from your mouth?

woman smile