Jesus’ Pre-Passion Prayer Pt3

Father, unity with others comes at a price. Unity with You comes at an even deeper price. Give us strength to sacrifice our pride, nailing it to the cross with Jesus. Give us the strength to die, to see with eyes of one looking back over their life as we draw our final breath, so that we might have eyes to see those things that would fill us with regret, and let us lay those sinful inclinations down to die so that we might live. Let us live in unity with You. Cleanse us, refine us and let us walk in Your glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen.

John 17:20-26
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

This High Priestly prayer of Jesus is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of all of Scripture. Of all the gifts that God has given us in His Word, this shines out as a gem on the crown of the Gospel message. Jesus did not have to pray this prayer out loud, but He did, and He did it for our benefit. He speaks frankly with the Father, He speaks plainly for His disciples, and He speaks plainly for us. We see the desire of His heart, and we see our deep need for Him. And where we stand unworthy, He seeks simply to redeem us from our unworthiness.

Those days when we don’t feel worthy, when we don’t feel loved, lovable or worthwhile, Jesus calls out to us and says, “Listen to this! I asked God for you. I want you to believe in Me, and be drawn into this deep, abiding relationship with Me. You are worthwhile, and God will be glorified in this.” Because while it is ultimately all about God and His glory, we also see that God is glorified, and this pleases Him, when we walk in unity with the truth, and with Him. And this is what Jesus set about to do.

This relationship will stand as testimony to the whole world of His goodness, mercy, grace and loving-kindness. Your life and mine stand as a love letter, read out loud, just like this prayer was spoken out loud. God didn’t have to do things this way, but He chose to so that more and more might see and hear and be brought to salvation through Jesus Christ. He has made it known, and He will continue to make it known, because it glorifies God and it redeems us.

The world will reject us. They do not know Christ. Romans 3 reminds us:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”


Even in the face of our sin, Jesus prayed this prayer. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is grace. This is the rhythm we walk in with Jesus as we seek unity, daily, with the Father, and the rhythm that brings joy into our lives. Let us pause, remember and seek His wisdom & glory for this day.

Father, unity with others comes at a price. Unity with You comes at an even deeper price. Give us strength to sacrifice our pride, nailing it to the cross with Jesus. Give us the strength to die, to see with eyes of one looking back over their life as we draw our final breath, so that we might have eyes to see those things that would fill us with regret, and let us lay those sinful inclinations down to die so that we might live. Let us live in unity with You. Cleanse us, refine us and let us walk in Your glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen.

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Generous God, Generous Love

Bless the LORD o, my soul! How excellent is His greatness!

Ephesians 4:1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Bask in that for a moment will you? Listen again to what you just read. Rest in words of grace and provision, forgiveness and the mystery of the opening of the will of God to His people. Remember the sealing of the Holy Spirit that came to you when your faith came into being, and your submitted your heart to His, being baptized into His baptism for the praise of His glory.

Remember.

This is our resting place, within the generosity of God. We deserved death as the payment for our sins, for our rejection of His will and Lordship over us. We were guilty, broken and damned. There is no sadder state than the one we occupied before we met Christ, no condition more hopeless. We were sinners in the hands of a just, wrathful and holy God. Hell and desolation were our destination, separated from Him for eternity, goats, chaff & weeds all.

But through Christ Jesus we have stepped out of darkness and into His glorious light!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise God all creatures here below!
Praise God above, you heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son & Holy Ghost!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Dwell in this blessed truth today, if you are in Christ! If you are not, listen to the words of promise above, the words of hope and expectation. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart, the ears of your soul, so that you might see and hear what so many already enjoy and find their peace within. God is generous with His grace. He is generous with His love.

Praise God!

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

==

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 8:1-8 // Persecution & Great Joy

“1 Saul agreed with putting him [Stephen] to death.

On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him. 3 Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.

4 So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the message of good news. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. 6 The crowds paid attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the signs he was performing. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.”

Acts 8:1-8

It isn’t unsusal to see strange pairings in the life of the Church. That persecution and joy would be so closely intertwined would be unusual in the world’s eyes and expectations, but we see God working wonder and beauty so often out of pain and unfortunate circumstances. That the death/martyrdom of Stephen would be followed by persecution, anger and hatred that then, in turn, pushed thoe who carried the same Gospel message out into the surrounding areas spurring others to come to know Christ, and salvation through Him, is something straight out of God’s handiwork. He brings good where someone else intends evil. 

Think back to Genesis, when Joseph was sold by his brothers to some Midianite traders because they didn’t want to hear about his dreams anymore. Joseph, sold by his own family into slavery, winds up being in the position to save them from starvation during a terrible famine. And not on ly his own family, but that entire region of the world. What they intended for evil, God used for good. Anger and frustration resulted in joy and thanksgiving.

Think to the next chapter in Israelite history. Moses has been born, floated down the nile, raised in Pharaoh’s household and decides to go out and see how his fellow Israelites are doing. While he is out on a walk, he sees the Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave and Moses kills him, which ultimately results in his flight from Egypt and 40 years as a shepherd. Moses had anger in his heart, he was a murderer. But God used that flight from Egypt to teach him valuable lessons and to get him to a place where he could lead His people out of slavery. What Moses began with evil, God turned into something good.

And so the stories run. God takes the messes of our lives and creates beauty from our ashes, strength form our pain. And so He is glorified. Saul, who watched and apporved of Stephen’s death would later write that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Because when we have nothing to run on, the handiwork of God becomes much more obvious, and all the praise and glory belongs to Him. 

The persecution that began at Stephen’s martyrdom resulted in the spread of the Gospel message, the breaking down of social barriers and the saving of many lives & so persecution led to great joy. Such is the love and concern of God, He doesn’t leave any opportunity untapped. All things point ot Him and His glory, we simply need to remember this and trust Him to move, even in the midst of our pain…especially in the midst of our pain. He’s just that good. He loves us that much. All glory & honor & praise go to Him for His goodness, mercy & grace.

As we GoLove others in His Name, we need to remember all these occasions that He brought good out of bad and how He redeemed our lives from the pit. While we were still dead in our trespasses, God, in HIs perfect timing, sent Christ to be life for us, taking that penalty of sin and death upon Himself so that the beauty of salvation might prevail, and that God might be glorified in both His justice and in HIs love. 

Praise God!

  

Acts 7:1-8 // Jesus and the story of Redemption (pt 1)

1 “Is this true?” the high priest asked.

2 “Brothers and fathers,” he said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran, 3 and said to him:

“Get out of your country

and away from your relatives,

and come to the land

that I will show you.”

4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this land you now live in. 5 He didnt give him an inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, but He promised to give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him, even though he was childless. 6 God spoke in this way:

“His descendants would be strangers

in a foreign country,

and they would enslave

and oppress them 400 years.

7 I will judge the nation

that they will serve as slaves, God said.

After this, they will come out

and worship Me in this place.”

8 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision. After this, he fathered Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; Isaac did the same with Jacob, and Jacob with the 12 patriarchs.”

Acts 7:1-8

There is a lot of trust, faith even, that begins God’s story of redemption through Abram and his future offspring. From the very beginning, faith has been the hinge-point. Abram and his family had to trust God when they left where they were living to begin this new life with Him in the lead. They relocated again after his father died in Haran before settling in Canaan. But even then, Abram lived as a nomad, travelling with his flocks and herds as the seasons changed, in the land God promised to his descendants. Then God promises, along with the land and it’s abundance, a period of oppression and slavery under a foreign thumb. 

What kind of promise is that?

“I’m going to set you and your family here, but first, you are going to be slaves.”

Would you want to listen to that promise? Would you even consider it as an option? Probably not.

But Abram did…and we ask “Why?” 

Because Abram knew that he was dealing with YHWH Elohim, and not some capricious human being or false god.  He wasn’t going to move him around just to mess with him. He wasn’t going to allow his grandchildren and great grandchildren to go into slavery just because He thought it might be fun. YHWH Elohim had a greater plan in mind and Abram believed him. Hebrews tells us that God credited it to him as righteousness. Trust and faith cannot be separated. It would be silly to say otherwise. Trust is part of the definition of faith. And Abram had faith that God’s plan was bigger and better than anything he could ever have divised for himself, and that if there was something difficult to deal with along the way, that God had a greater purpose in mind for it. God didn’t cause the Israelites the pain of their future slavery, He allowed it, and there is a great difference to understand there. 

When Stephen began this sermon to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7, he began with the reminder of suffering and redemption. This element was a common theme through the life and history of the Jewish people. God gave direction, the people listened for a short time, they became apathetic & rebelled, they were faced with the consequences for their sins and upon their repentance, God saved them. 

Over and over again, God saves them. 

And it all began with Abram & the faith he had in God’s ability to make good come from the mess of life. And God would do this within the rhythms of His grace. The constant pulse of His great love, the beating of His heart, would be a comfort to His children all throughout their history with Him & He promised this to Abram form the very beginning. He promised His presence through the good (inheriting lands and the expansion of his family) and through the bad (oppression, slavery and pain.) 

Stephen wanted them to remember in their hearts what they knew in their minds: that God loved them and had a plan that was bigger then them or their own wisdom. God’s plan was deeper, wider and stretched further than the control they were trying to exercise over it, and in turn, Him. Stephen began this first and last sermon trying to get them to recall the faith they were supposed to have in God and in His ability to save His people, and so he told the story of their collective hearts in an attempt to get them to see the role that Jesus played in this great love story. 

AS we try to GoLove people, we need to remember these rhythms of grace as we speak and serve, teach and share with them. We need to take their hearts on the journey that God has mapped out, show them His heart in His dealings with people, and express His concern for the souls of men, His role in seeing justice done and freedom brought into the lives of all of us who are oppressed by sin. Even if it is our first and last ‘sermon,’ it will be totally worth it to speak the love of God to a hurting heart. 

  

Psalm 102 // Affliction in Light of Eternity

A prayer of an afflicted person who is weak and pours out his lament before the Lord.

1 “Lord, hear my prayer;

let my cry for help come before You.

2 Do not hide Your face from me in my day of trouble.

Listen closely to me;

answer me quickly when I call.

3 For my days vanish like smoke,

and my bones burn like a furnace.

4 My heart is afflicted, withered like grass;

I even forget to eat my food.

5 Because of the sound of my groaning,

my flesh sticks to my bones.

6 I am like a desert owl,

like an owl among the ruins.

7 I stay awake;

I am like a solitary bird on a roof.

8 My enemies taunt me all day long;

they ridicule and curse me.

9 I eat ashes like bread

and mingle my drinks with tears

10 because of Your indignation and wrath;

for You have picked me up and thrown me aside.

11 My days are like a lengthening shadow,

and I wither away like grass.”

“12 But You, Lord, are enthroned forever;

Your fame endures to all generations.

13 You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to show favor to her —

the appointed time has come.

14 For Your servants take delight in its stones

and favor its dust.

15 Then the nations will fear the name of Yahweh,

and all the kings of the earth Your glory,

16 for the Lord will rebuild Zion;

He will appear in His glory.

17 He will pay attention to the prayer of the destitute

and will not despise their prayer.

18 This will be written for a later generation,

and a newly created people will praise the Lord:

19 ‘He looked down from His holy heights —

the Lord gazed out from heaven to earth —

20 to hear a prisoners groaning,

to set free those condemned to die,

21 so that they might declare

the name of Yahweh in Zion

and His praise in Jerusalem,

22 when peoples and kingdoms are assembled

to serve the Lord.’

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;

He has shortened my days.

24 I say: ‘My God, do not take me

in the middle of my life!’

Your years continue through all generations.

25 Long ago You established the earth,

and the heavens are the work of Your hands.

26 They will perish, but You will endure;

all of them will wear out like clothing.

You will change them like a garment,

and they will pass away.

27 But You are the same,

and Your years will never end.

28 Your servants children will dwell securely,

and their offspring will be established before You.”

Mark 5:1-20 // The One Master Over All

“1 Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 As soon as He got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met Him. 3 He lived in the tombs. No one was able to restrain him anymore — even with chains — 4 because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had snapped off the chains and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 And always, night and day, he was crying out among the tombs and in the mountains and cutting himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do You have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You before God, don’t torment me!” 8 For He had told him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

9 “What is your name?” He asked him.
“My name is Legion,” he answered Him, “because we are many.” 10 And he kept begging Him not to send them out of the region.

11 Now a large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. 12 The demons begged Him, “Send us to the pigs, so we may enter them.” 13 And He gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs, and the herd of about 2,000 rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there. 14 The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and the countryside, and people went to see what had happened.

15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon- possessed by the legion, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 The eyewitnesses described to them what had happened to the demon- possessed man and told about the pigs. 17 Then they began to beg Him to leave their region.

18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon- possessed kept begging Him to be with Him. 19 But He would not let him; instead, He told him, “Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” 20 So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed.”
Mark 5:1-20

What a horrific existence must have been taking place in that cemetery cave. Tormented, constantly being afflicted and torn. An unsettled mind, a broken heart, to say nothing of the physical discomfort, hunger and separation from society. The ‘legion’ of demons infecting this man’s body, mind and life was indicative of the condition of humanity. Tormented by sin, pain and evil impulses, humanity grapples with something beyond its capability, and is powerless to change their own situation.

This man’s start down this road is a total unknown for us, but we don’t need to know just what events started this path, just that he is there and that he desperately needs to be saved from both the demons and himself. It is a terrible story, I’m sure, but that is the past, and now change has come.

How often do we see Jesus encountering people dealing with situations bigger than themselves? Mary & Martha with Lazarus, funeral processions, Jairus, the centurion and so many others, stories, John says, that are apparently uncountable, we couldn’t write enough books to contain them all. And this is part of why He had to come like He did. Sometimes, the only way we will see just how bad our situation is, is by having someone who is bigger than our own capability step in and show us the way out. Like a parent helping a scared, confused toddler out of an easily fixable situation, Jesus steps in and simply exerts His authority. And in doing so, everything changes.

As we GoLove others in His Name, a Jesus send us out to see good works done and the Gospel shared from the same authority thatgreat his man from all his trials and troubles. The authority that brought Him peace is the same authority that brings us ours, and to the world through us. Trust Him. He is the One who has authority over all, and the One who gave Himself to see us freed from death and sin. It doesn’t matter where or what your life may have been before today, it just matters that He is here now, and He is ready to free you, too.