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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Psalm 119:153-160 // ר Resh // God’s Help in Our Struggle

“153 Consider my affliction and rescue me,
for I have not forgotten Your instruction.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
give me life as You promised.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked
because they do not seek Your statutes.
156 Your compassions are many, Lord;
give me life according to Your judgments.
157 My persecutors and foes are many.
I have not turned from Your decrees.
158 I have seen the disloyal and feel disgust
because they do not keep Your word.
159 Consider how I love Your precepts;
Lord, give me life according to Your faithful love.
160 The entirety of Your word is truth,
and all Your righteous judgments endure forever.”

Psalm 119:153-160

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Read through David’s lament again. Read his cry to God a second time. Where is his heart? What is going on in his head?

Read it a third time, remembering God’s faithfulness in your own struggles, remember how He has shown you love and protection. 

Read it a fourth and final time, making it a prayer of remembrance. Praise Him for His faithful love & watchcare.  

Acts 23:23-35 // For those who suffer

“23 He summoned two of his centurions and said, ‘Get 200 soldiers ready with 70 cavalry and 200 spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Also provide mounts so they can put Paul on them and bring him safely to Felix the governor.’

25 He wrote a letter of this kind:

26 Claudius Lysias,

To the most excellent governor Felix:

Greetings.

27 When this man had been seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, I arrived with my troops and rescued him because I learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 Wanting to know the charge they were accusing him of, I brought him down before their Sanhedrin. 29 I found out that the accusations were about disputed matters in their law, and that there was no charge that merited death or chains. 30 When I was informed that there was a plot against the man, I sent him to you right away. I also ordered his accusers to state their case against him in your presence.

31 Therefore, the soldiers took Paul during the night and brought him to Antipatris as they were ordered. 32 The next day, they returned to the barracks, allowing the cavalry to go on with him. 33 When these men entered Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. 34 After he read it, he asked what province he was from. So when he learned he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, ‘I will give you a hearing whenever your accusers get here too.’ And he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s  palace.”

Acts 23:23-35

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There are many places where God promises to take care of us when we are being persecuted or brought before authorities. He reassures us that if we are living with integrity in His eyes, being faithful to Him, and people are wronging us because of that, then we can be certain that we are going to be under His watchcare. It doesn’t mean that we will always get immediately out of that situation, or that He is going to repeat what He did with Paul and Silas or with Peter. Earthquakes that open doors and angels that put guards asleep are not what is promised. But God does assure us that He will uphold us in these difficult situations. We should never wonder about His faithfulness when we are standing for Him.

Where we would want to be immediately removed from the uncomfortable situation, God may have other plans in place for us in place. Paul would have the opportunity to witness to governors, kings, emporers and their households because of what was beginning to take place here, not to mention all the guards and other people associated with them along the way. Paul’s arrest and imprisonment would lead to the salvation of many people, right on up to some in the household of Caesar. Other Christians today are being given the same opportunity, to stand as a witness in a dark place, such as Saeed Abedini. There are countless witnesses for God that we would free today if we could, but who are still detained and who are still being used by God for the salvation of many. 

So, what do we do with this? We pray. We pray for those who are held captive. We cry out to God to uphold them in their spirit with His own Spirit. We pray for encouragement, that they would feel the prayers of the saints lifting them up before God. We pray for boldness in their faith and in the faith of their families and loved ones. We pray for their children who miss them so badly. We remember them, we hurt for them, and we speak up for them. 

We trust that God will continue to use them to daily GoLove their captors as we have been entrusted with the responsibility to share in the rhythms of grace with people who would wrong us. Whether mild discomfort or long term harm, we trust that our God is mighty to save, and faithful with His love. PRay that Saeed & all our brothers and sisters in Christ will feel the comfort of God’s love, and that they would hear God’s song over them while they wait in Him.

2 Peter 3 // Follow up with discipleship, Prepare for resistance

“1 Dear friends, this is now the second letter I have written to you; in both letters, I want to develop a genuine understanding with a reminder, 2 so that you can remember the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the command of our Lord and Savior given through your apostles. 3 First, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff, living according to their own desires, 4 saying, Where is the promise of His coming? Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation. 5 They willfully ignore this: Long ago the heavens and the earth were brought about from water and through water by the word of God. 6 Through these waters the world of that time perished when it was flooded. 7 But by the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
2 Peter 3:1-7

There are many different reasons why Jesus laid out our Great Commission the way He did. Part of what He told us was to ‘go and make disciples’ that He told us to ‘teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ Converting someone to Christianity is not simply a matter of making them say a phrase resembling belief and immersing them under water. That is not discipleship. That is only one part of the salvation process. People who are dunked and dumped by the ones who brought them to Christ are left to feel like something less than a person, more like an achievement or a number.

In reality, we need to understand that this process of discipleship (which isn’t optional, by the way) is something that is going to require us taking time with people. We will need to do so much more than just get them to a church meeting an get them wet. This is part of what Peter is trying to pass along to those who would read this letter.

“1 Dear friends, this is now the second letter I have written to you; in both letters, I want to develop a genuine understanding with a reminder, 2 so that you can remember the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the command of our Lord and Savior given through your apostles.”

He is taking the time to remind them of what they have been taught, about the commands that Jesus gave us. The Spirit speaking through him says, “I want you to develop a genuine unerstanding” and that doesn’t happen in 1-2 discipleship meetings or a membership class. If we want to make discples, we must share life, and in sharing life with people, there is no ‘end point’ when it comes to ‘teaching the, to obey’ it may take less effort over time, but they will always look to you as they mature in the faith. They will look to you as their gauge, an whether or not it seems ‘fair’ a lack of growth on your part will likely cause a stunting of theirs. We must press on toward the goal, as Paul says, not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of those who come behind us, and why?

“3 First, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff, living according to their own desires, 4 saying, Where is the promise of His coming? Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation. 5 They willfully ignore this: Long ago the heavens and the earth were brought about from water and through water by the word of God. 6 Through these waters the world of that time perished when it was flooded. 7 But by the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

If we are going to GoLove as Christ intended, then we must know that it is an unending task of discipling those that come to Him through our efforts in Him. We teach and instruct and disciple as a precaution to the world’s efforts, in an attempt to raise up strong, effective disciples, and to warn against the day of the Lord for those who stand apart from Him. We look forward to that day, with eagerness and anticipation, but we also know it is a day of great concern for those whose hearts are far from God..