In Step. In Unity. In Boldness.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

Hebrews 10:11-25
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Paul reminds Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7) that God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but a spirit of power through Jesus Christ. There is boldness that should inherently come from being made pure by the blood of Christ, and by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. There is a confidence (not an arrogance) that should come from knowing whose we are and what it is that we are up against. There is  a strength of character that comes from walking with Jesus, as He works His will in us day after day after day that should exhibit that handiwork and the Master Craftsman behind it.

If Jesus grants us the confidence to enter the holy places by His blood, how much more so those places where He already holds victory over the enemy? Why should we cower in fear? Why should we worry? If we have been washed with pure water, why would we not walk in that newness of life, throwing off the faithlessness that used to bind us, but that binds us no more?

This is one of the reasons why the author of Hebrews is encouraging us to continue gathering together. This is just one reason why it is good that we look other Christians in the eye, shake their hands and give them hugs. We need to be in the presence of other people who have seen victory at work in their own lives. We need to see people whose faces have been lifted up to heaven, whose eyes have looked upon the cross and we need to stand in boldness with them as we unite in Christ, our Great High Priest, and stand in bold assurance against the schemes of the enemy.

Standing alone is wrong & dangerous. God did not design us or example to us this stand-alone mentality. Instead, we are gathered together with our people to receive this encouragement: God has the victory. He is in charge. He loves us dearly. He has paid the price. He will bring change about in us. He will see change happen in the lives of others through the work He is doing in us today. We are meant to be together, walking in the rhythms of grace together. Praise God for that.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

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Pray like Jesus

the-lords-prayer

Cyprian wrote, “The Lord has given us a pattern of prayer, instructing us on how we are to pray. He has made it easy for us to be heard as we pray to the Father in the words taught us by the Son. What prayer could be more a prayer in the truth than the one spoken by the lips of the Son, who is truth Himself? To ask the Father in the words His Son has given us, to let Him hear the prayer of Christ ringing in His ears, is to make our prayer one of friendship, a family prayer. Let the Father recognize the words of His Son.”

Matthew 6:7-15
“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. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
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/trespasses/sins,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors/trespassers/those who sin against us.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

This prayer come from my heart and passes through my lips at least three times a day. I enjoy praying it on Sundays with my church family. It is a reminder, a comfort, something we can do in complete unity and in submission to God. In some places it is called “The Lord’s Prayer” in others “The Model Prayer” and in still others the “Our Father.” All of those titles are fine and good. What matters most is the heart that speaks the prayer, and the intent behind it all.

I do believe that a regular reminder of the heart and intent of Christ is important for us all experience. An undistorted view of His example to us, meant to draw our hearts in reverent worship, honor, thanksgiving and supplication to God is immensely valuable as we struggle against sin and the difficulties of life in a broken world.

And so we return to the words of Christ. We know that if we have nothing else to say, we can at least say this. If we cannot find the words, we can always come back here. This is a way station for our heart, a place to gain confidence and to listen to the words of our Savior over and over again. When we gather as a church body, we can pray this simple prayer together to center our hearts and minds together, to draw from a piece of common ground, a familiar setting.

I’ve had people tell me that it feels very ‘Catholic’ to pray the Lord’s Prayer out loud every week. I can’t argue with their feeling, but what I can do is point them to the words of Christ who said, “Pray then like this…” Corporate prayer does not belong to any singular denomination or group within Christendom. Comments like that show a misunderstanding of the life of the church together, and of prayer. If you pray the prayer every week, and you don’t mean what you pray, then yes, it will feel hollow and repetitious. But if you address God from your heart, thinking through what you are saying, what those words mean, if you are expressing thoughts and ideas from your own heart as you repeat the words of Christ, then yes, it will have meaning and it will be a point of comfort and it will be an encouragement to both you and to those around you.

If this is one of the very few things that Jesus specifically gave us to do together, because, remember, when He was speaking these words as an example to us for the very first time, it was in a group teaching scenario: The Sermon on the Mount. It wasn’t in a one-on-one teaching time. He never instructed us to keep this one to ourselves. This was meant to be shared in together, and returned to on our own. It is a reminder of community when we pray it on our own, and it is a reinforcement for later use when we pray it together.

And when we want to pray, and speak to God in a free form fashion, we return to this example of prayer from Christ Himself and we can build our prayers on His example: Worship, Confession/Repentance & Requesting.

“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.”

It is the heart that matters, the intent behind the prayer. Praying to be heard by men “that they may be seen” is hollow and ultimately empty. Hollow prayers also come from unengaged hearts, from people who are just going through the motions. Praying together with other people is a joining together in unity, and encouragement of the presence of God among you. Praying alongside people that you share life with is a deepening of that bond you share in Christ.

So, pray like Jesus, whether corporately or in your private prayer closet, think about your words, mean what you say and engage your heart with the heart of Christ.

Acts 26:12-23 // Paul’s Defense, pt 2

12 “‘I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. 13 King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 

15 Then I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ 

And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and of what I will reveal to you. 17 I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles. I now send you to them 18 to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.’ 

19 Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple complex and were trying to kill me. 22 To this very day, I have obtained help that comes from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing else than what the prophets and Moses said would take place — 23 that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.'”

Acts 26:12-23

==

 There is a layer of humility, mirroring the humility of Jesus, that Paul has as he tells his story for the last time in the book of Acts. I’m sure he told it to other people more time between this moment and when he was martyred, but this is the final recorded time it is shared. This conversion account is Paul’s badge of honor and simultaneously points toward his greatest shame. He was not called to this work for Jesus because he was doing such a good job following God. Instead, he was fighting against the people who were being obedient, and walking with Christ. He was so hung up in his works-righteousness religion that he could not see or hear grace. Again, that is not to his credit, and he knows it. 

He preached repentance as one who needed to repent, one who knew what it meant to need grace. His humility was birthed in that shame, in that conviction of sin. Paul elsewhere calls himself the ‘chief of all sinners,’ and this helps us see that he understood the degree of his spiritual blindness before he met Jesus on that road to Damascus. 

Jesus spoke directly to Paul’s pride and anger in verse 14 when He told him it was ‘hard to kick against the goads.’ Paul had been struggling against God leading up to this moment (everything was all about what Paul could do, not what God was capable of) and now Jesus is confronting him directly and telling him that he needed to stop struggling with the divine instruction he was receiving. 

I wonder how much I kick against the goads. 

How often do I fight and struggle against the Spirit’s leading in order to accomplish what I want to do, to work my own plan? How much does my pride keep me from seeing the path of rightousness laid out before me? How much hardship do I suffer needlessly because I am too focused on what I want to do rather than on following where God wants me? Doing what He wants? 

This requires a daily examination and, like Paul, a healthy dose of humility. If I am going to GoLove others like I should, then I should be doing that from the righteousness that God provides, not from something I try to manufacture on my own. Repentance and humility work hand in hand here to see this accomplished. It is to God’s credit and His glory when Paul’s life changed, and when mine does as well. Pride wants me to keep kicking against the goads, the Spirit encourages me to die to self. The latter is the only option that brings peace and joy, and the Lord knows my heart well enough to know how much I need Him to see me through. 

Mark 8:27-30 // Who He Is

“27 Jesus went out with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the road He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’

28 They answered Him, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets.’

29 ‘But you,’ He asked them again, ‘who do you say that I am?’

Peter answered Him, ‘You are the Messiah!’

30 And He strictly warned them to tell no one about Him.”

Mark 8:27-30

Our answer to this question determines our eternal destination and the course of our moment-by-moment life. It redirects our heart, and establishes a standard of morality, a code of ethics and an expectation for behavior. Claiming Jesus as our Savior is to claim His Lordship and to submit ourselves to His reign. 

It is the death we die to self, not simply an intellectual acknowledgement. 

To speak the words that Peter spoke, we must resign our sin-stained desires to the righteous will of God. We cannot pursue Christ and worldly goals, listening to pride. The flesh pushes us to pursue comfort and more than we need. There is an expectation within this world to accumulate for self rather than invest in eternity, and the rewards are just as temporary as time. Claiming Christ, walking with Him, baptized into Him, we find our eternal expectations fulfilled and our eyes and hearts set on what truly matters. Peter’s claim wasn’t just a momentary acknowledgement, but a God-given revelation that changed the course of his life and ours. 

It cannot be taken lightly, and our life stands as evidence of our answer to His question as we GoLove others or choose to love and worship self instead.

Psalm 69 // Confession & redemption

A Plea for Rescue
For the choir director: according to The Lilies. Davidic.

“1 Save me, God,
for the water has risen to my neck.
2 I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing;
I have come into deep waters,
and a flood sweeps over me.
3 I am weary from my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
4 Those who hate me without cause
are more numerous than the hairs of my head;
my deceitful enemies, who would destroy me,
are powerful.
Though I did not steal, I must repay.
5 God, You know my foolishness,
and my guilty acts are not hidden from You.”
Psalm 69:1-5

Confession is not easy.
Confession is painful.
Repentance requires it.
Living righteously makes us look at our pride, stumblings and mistakes.
Following Jesus means an acknowledgment of our faults that allows us to confirm our part with Him.

In other words, in order for us to live in Christ, properly following Him, we have to look at who we are and what we have done, confess our sins and give those failings over to Him so that He can do His work of redemption in us.

Right living partially comes from an acknowledgement of how we shouldn’t live, and where our faults lie. Confessing our sins helps us to identify where we are weak, to acknowledge and avoid those parts that cause us to stumble. It gives us strength to ask God for help and support to do what is right. Confession purges the heart, it aids in forgiveness of self and the cleansing of guilt. God uses confession for our own benefit and He employs it in His love.

Confession is also one of those things that we dread beforehand but are thankful for afterwards. It heals, confirms the right path and gives us confidence when we make decisions for the future. It allows us the opportunity to look back over our lives, to review where the pitfalls lie and it helps us see where to step in the future.

Those who refuse confession are blind to their own faults. They are awash in pride and lack humility. Those who refuse confession will never find God, never seek salvation from Him, because they have made themselves accountable to no one and have in turn made themselves God in their own hearts. A lack of confession leads to self-idolatry and the unrepentant heart that Solomon simply calls a fool.

As we GoLove others, our own frank assessment of our sins, confession and transparency will helps others be honest with themselves. If they experience humility from us, they will see the fruits of a life that isn’t dripping with pride and self-aggrandizement. In that humility, they can see our turning to Christ, our reliance on God’s grace and our desire for the Holy Spirit to work change in our hearts, minds and lives. Honesty and a confessional attitude are desirable traits for friendship and aid in our discipling of others.

Numbers 25 // No Double Allegiance

“1 While Israel was staying in the Acacia Grove, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. 2 The women invited them to the sacrifices for their gods, and the people ate and bowed in worship to their gods. 3 So Israel aligned itself with Baal of Peor, and the Lords anger burned against Israel. 4 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the Lord so that His burning anger may turn away from Israel.’
5 So Moses told Israels judges, ‘Kill each of the men who aligned themselves with Baal of Peor.'”
Numbers 25:1-5

All sin is repugnant, vulgar and a disgrace. From the smallest ‘white’ lie (still just as grievous as any other lie) to the murder of innocents and abortion, everything done against the will and heart of God is an obscenity. There is no such thing as a ‘small’ sin and a ‘large’ sin. All sin is an affront against still God. It doesn’t matter if all of society is engaged in it, or if we are ‘simply following our heart,’ all sin is abhorrent, and the moment we begin justifying the sins we like is the moment that we have chosen self over God.

This sin stands juxtaposed with the obedience of Balaam, a pagan, from the previous chapter. When confronted by God, Balaam at least had the sense to do and say the things that God directed him to say. But Israel, daily witnesses to the miraculous presence of God, abandoned Him in order to ‘fit in’ with the locals and so satiate their own fleshly desires. They wanted justified sex, and so they followed their ‘heart’ rather than obeying God, and their disobedience separated them from Him, and so H e judged them accordingly.

They knew what was right and wrong. They had been repeatedly instructed by God Himself, and had been dedicated to Him by their own admission. But even this didn’t stop them from pursuing the impulses of their flesh. What an awful waste of life and what a terrible cost. Their disobedience cost them dearly.

There is no reason why we should assume that God treats sin any differently today. If we know better, yet pursue sin, why should God react any differently to us? Why should He continue fellowship with the willfully disobedient? Why should our pride override our relationship with God? Why should our flesh take precedence over our loyalty and obedience and thankfulness to the One who first loved us, and gave up His Son for us? Why should we take the sacrifice of Jesus and so quickly set it aside for a temporary gratification of sin and self?

We cannot hold a double allegience. We cannot think for a moment that God is okay with us spending some time and effort and heart on. him, but then dedicating the rest of our efforts on self and sin or anything else. Not for a moment! YHWH is jealous for us. Not in the petty way that we get jealous, but with His righteous jealousy because He is worthy of all our efforts and praise and worship and service and loyalty and obedience. He isn’t worthy of just some of our efforts, but of all of our efforts, and the moment we forget that is the moment that we begin to walk away from Him, denying His great love for us and His holiness. Nothing for a moment is about us, or gratifying any base desire that we may have. It is 100% about Him, every moment of every day, it is about Him. Every thought and inclination of our hearts should be for Him, because He is worthy. And if we are going to GoLove people In a way that they can see and understand this understanding in us, then consistency is key, and. Our loyalty to God is going to be a marker of a life truly lived for Him, rather than a divided loyalty that leads to nothing.

1 John 1 // Being honest with God and ourselves

“5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. 6 If we say, ‘We have fellowship with Him,’ yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, ‘We dont have any sin,’ we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
1 John 1:5-10

And this is where personal honesty and introspection comes into the picture. Most of us who follow Christ would never say or intentionally try to give the impression that we believe that we are perfect. Part of coming to Christ in the first place is that admission that we are not, that we are indeed flawed and in need of a Savior. We will acknowledge that in front of others. But when it comes to the daily, practical living out of our faith, then we must also be willing to look at our pet sins, our attitudes and beliefs.

If we say that we sin in certain areas, but we never acknowledge it in others, what good does that do for us? If we confess sins that people see, but refuse to acknowledge the deeper sins lodged in our hearts, then we are only deceiving ourselves. To look at our lives, seeing that there are no -glaring- sins and assume that we must be okay is to deny the work of Christ that said we claimed at the beginning.

If we want to say that Christ is Lord of our lives, He must be Lord of every aspect of who we are. He cannot be simply our Savior, and not our Lord, because then pride is in the way. He cannot be Lord of only our hearts, and we still speak like we did before we met Him. We must be fully His, wholly given over to His reign and influence. To say we are in Him, but we still look and act like the world is to say that He permits sin, rather than the truth, which is that He was crucified, died and was buried to cover our those sins in our hearts and lives. He was raised again to give us new life, not just in the future at the Day of the Lord, but now, today, in this moment.

If we are going to GoLove people and give that to God as worship, then we must do it in spirit and in truth, and that means that our whole self is His and reflects Him. Disband your worldly habits, disconnect those leads that draw you from Him, and be honest with yourself and honest with God. Let His light probe to the deepest parts of your heart and excise anything that does not honor Him. He is faithful and just and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

That is love.