Tuesday Prayer: Follow

A quick note to my blog friends: I apologize for not being very active or reading your blogs lately. I am in the middle of teenage chaos and adjusting to a new job. It is all I can do to post once or twice a week right now, so know I miss you and hope to be back to reading and commenting soon – though realistically, it may be months! ❤

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12:25-26

Lord our God, the Almighty, we praise Your name today, for You are good! By Your power, You defeated death once for all, raising Jesus from death to life so that we who follow Him may also be dead to sin and alive to You in Jesus. Hallelujah, for He is risen!

O God, let our rejoicing not be limited to Easter Sunday but continue throughout the year. Truly, our Savior lives and is alive and active every single day. Likewise, we have joy in Him daily even when our choice to follow Him leads us into places we would rather not go. But Lord, often You call us to follow You into the difficult and uncomfortable places, for there is where You do Your greatest work. 

Today, we pray that the Spirit will increase our zeal for God and for Your Kingdom. Train our hearts to let go of our lives in this world, considering them disposable for the honor of following the King of Glory wherever He may call us. Teach us to go wherever You lead us,  Lord – even if You lead us so far out of our comfort zones that we have nothing to cling to but You. Maybe especially then.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:8

And when we feel weak and inadequate because of the depths of the waters where You have brought us, remind us that Your power is perfected in our weakness. Your glory shines through most of all when it is clear that You were the one working all along. Teach us to trust You enough to lean on Your power and not on our own capabilities; to trust You enough to step out even onto the waves when You call us there.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Matthew 14:28-29

This week, Lord, we ask for You to give us the courage to put obedience to You above our comforts, to put Your will for us above our own will and desires, and to increase our trust in You. We do believe; help our unbelief! May our actions reflect our faith as You call us into a more intimate walk with You, setting us apart to display Your splendor here on earth.

As we step out in faith and follow You, may our trust in You grow with each new stride and may our addiction to security fade as we learn to exult more fully in You, amen. 

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:38-39

Good Friday Reflections

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19

If Good Friday were the end of the story and the Man on the cross merely died, the way I’ve lived my life for the last 17-odd years has been nothing more than a waste.

Without the Resurrection, the sacrifices I’ve made, the pain I’ve endured, the hours spent in prayer and Bible study, the money gifted to the Church and missions – wasted. Useless. Meaningless.

But don’t ask me. Ask Moses, a Ugandan man who’s been run out of his home along with his wife and 6 children because of his decision to follow Yeshua instead of Mohammed.

Or Sukbati whose husband was murdered for his faith and who now must support five children in the midst of her grief. Yet she has said she will not give up on Jesus.

Without the Resurrection, Good Friday is no longer good. It becomes just a day that another man died – one of billions. And Moses and Sukbati and millions like them suffer needlessly – giving up ease in this life for no reason at all.

Worse yet, without the Resurrection, we are all still in our sins. Me, Sukbati, and all believers. Believe it or not, friends, that’s worse than any persecution or pain this life can throw at us.

It means an ancient and creeping death sickens our hearts and decays our spirits, destroying any hope of restoration with our Creator and making mockery of the innate desire for immortality we all hold deep within. That is what sin is, and how rightly we should feel horror at it.

But the good news of Good Friday is that it did not end when Yeshua declared, “It is finished,” and gave up His spirit.

Firstly, His death was an act of purpose – He gave up His spirit; it was not taken from Him. He died on purpose, giving His perfect life in payment of the debt we have all incurred by our rebellious ways.

Then, on the first Easter Sunday, God raised up His one and only Son, so that the final victory over sin and death has been won. Sin brought death into the world; the sinless life of Yeshua Messiah, Christ Jesus my Lord, took on death and defeated it by His return to life.

Now we who are in Christ live a life of self-sacrifice – not because we are good people or for some hope of self-improvement – but because we are grateful for the Man who bought back our souls from death.

The life I live, I do not live for the praise of others but out of sheer thankfulness. If He gave His perfect life for me, I can certainly give my broken mess right back to Him. It may not be much, but it’s all I have. And I give it willingly, grateful even if I am ever called to suffer the rest of my years for His sake, because He already suffered for mine.

The hope of Easter is not a hope for today or for any earthly good at all. It’s a hope for a future far beyond today; a hope that in 100 and 1000 and countless years beyond, those of us who follow Jesus now will be following Him still, rejoicing in His presence, forever freed from sin, death, and despair.

Forever adoring the One who first adored us so much that He gave up the life of His one and only Son that we may join Him in eternal worship.

Hallelujah! He is risen!

Tuesday Prayer: Praise

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 
(Psalms 100:4)

Gracious and Holy One, we offer up our praise to You today! Blessed is Your name in all the earth , and blessed is the work of Your hands. It is You who made all good things and who gives all good gifts. There is nothing that happens on earth outside of Your knowledge. You even know the number of hairs on our heads, and even take note of the fall of a single sparrow in Your creation.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31

Oh Lord, thank You for the consideration You pay for us, Your image bearers, even though we have done much to stain and warp Your precious image. Thank You for the redemption You offer by the blood of Your only Son and for the mercy You show to us each and every day.  Thank You for being a God who sees us, who is compassionate and involved in both the details of our lives and in the vast scope of all Your creation.

Most High, forgive us for the many times we bring our concerns and pleas before Your throne of grace with an attitude of assigning tasks to You rather than with a humble demeanor of thanksgiving and praise. You have already done so much for us in Jesus; have already offered us eternal hope and joy. And yet, You still do more for us! 

Please, God, make us more mindful of Your holiness. Keep our hearts humble before You and never let the wonder of our Lord the Messiah leave our hearts and minds. May we approach You forever thankful, forever blessing Your name and exalting You in all we do. Teach us to exult in Your presence and to be satisfied and content in You. 

May we develop a habit of entering Your courts with praise and thanksgiving always. And as we learn to praise You in everything – in clouds and sunshine, in good times and bad – may the joy of the Lord fill our hearts. Let the brightness and genuineness of joy in us act as a beacon to the lost and hurting int he world. Use our testimony, Lord, to turn the hearts of others to You so they, too, may share in our joy, amen. 

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

The Funny Thing About Hell…

In truth, there is nothing whatsoever funny about hell. Nothing. It’s more serious than a heart attack, more gnawing than cancer, and unlike both of these, it is eternal and spiritual, not temporary and physical. Hell is not funny in the least.

But people do have some funny ideas about hell.

When I was a young atheist, I remember discussions about how much more fun hell sounded than heaven. The thought process went something like this: “If I got to choose, hell is the place I’d go. I mean, if all the fun stuff you’re not supposed to do isn’t found in heaven, then it must be in hell, right?”

Well, to be blunt: No. No it isn’t.

But the good news is that we do get to choose. Either we choose Yeshua who is the Way to heaven or we choose hell by default.

Make no mistake: Satan is not the ruler of hell, nor is he the life of some fiery party. He is in misery already because of his rebellion, and his mission is to take as much of the clay creatures stamped with the image of God – that is, humanity – into eternal misery with him.

…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever…

…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:10, 15

Whether the image of a lake of fire is literal or symbolic doesn’t matter. It isn’t a nice place to be. Hell is Satan’s torture chamber, and I believe his hatred of humankind is partly because of the redemption offered us and his own bitterness towards God.

Looking around this world – the suffering, the heartache, the pain – I can’t help but think there’s hell enough on earth. Why would anyone choose to continue suffering throughout eternity? Most, I think, simply don’t really believe in the reality of hell or heaven.

Now that I am no longer young nor atheistic, I can look around at many of those who embraced the mentality of hell as the “fun” choice and ran with it to its logical conclusion.

Some of them are heroin or meth addicts. Others have adopted a more legal drug dependence, but they have cabinets full of drugs – and drugs to counteract the side effects of drugs – just the same. Others are addicted to sex and shallow relationships or drink so much they don’t know they’ve had the same conversation 85 times. Still others are dead.

I guess the last sort know by now.

My heart breaks for the dead who didn’t choose the Lamb of God and whose names were not written in His book of life. I literally cry for some of them, and I weep and plead for salvation for those who still live and have not yet chosen the Way.

May my God draw them to Himself and may they choose to surrender to Him now. O Lord, please; let it be!

Hell is a far cry from an eternal party. Honestly, after watching the party scene for a few years and seeing the end results – addictions, broken relationships, broken lives – even if it was a party, I wouldn’t want it.

The sex, drugs, and alcohol party lifestyle is its own hell. Just ask any sweat-drenched addict as he pukes his guts out between fixes. Or anyone who is a prisoner of their own fear. Or anyone who age catches unaware after they’ve squandered life on shallow physical relationships and now face old age and death alone.

No, my friends, you do not want hell. I don’t want hell for you. And if I know you personally and you are not a follower of the Lord, chances are good I pray frequently that you will come to Him of Your own free will.

I so desperately want you to choose life. I so desperately want to keep you from hell. But you know what? As much as I want this for you, God wants it even more. He wants it so much, He paid the price of your sin with His own blood.

Please. Choose life.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose lifeloving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…

Deuteronomy 30:19a, 20a, emphasis mine

Tuesday Prayer: Godly Grief

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 
(2 Corinthians 7:10)

2 Corinthians 7:10

Perfect Father, Your word tells us that You reprove and discipline those You love, reminding us to be zealous and repent of our sin (Rev. 3:19). Today we want to thank You for giving us a chance to repent. As our Creator, You would be within Your right to simply exterminate us as a people for our rebellion. Yet in Your overwhelming mercy and compassion, You gave Your only Son to ransom us from our captivity to sin. O Lord, may we never cease to wonder at Your astonishing grace!

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Revelation 3:19

Today we pray that Your Spirit will lead us into a time of reflection and sober self-judgement. Open our eyes to any places we have lied to ourselves about sin or any area in which we have believed the lies of the enemy simply because they are cultural norms. Help us to see every single sin for what it is, Lord, even in the most subtle disguise. Then once we have understood and acknowledged our sin, we pray for the Godly grief which produces repentance leading to salvation without regret.

Because of what You have done, because You are powerful and truly do use all things for the good of those who love You, we do not have to be weighed down by unending remorse for any sin we have confessed, for Your forgiveness is sufficient. Though we may bear a temporary consequence for our crimes, You have removed the eternal punishment through the work of Jesus on the cross. For that, we are grateful beyond measure!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Not only to us, O God, but to those we loved who are not yet saved, we pray for Your Spirit to stir up this Godly grief. Let none be weighed down with worldly grief – either the false grief which is only an outward pretense nor the grief of inescapable guilt by which repentance is not produced but only a continual downward spiral of self-loathing and misery.

Please, Lord, do not let our loved ones be caught in this worldly grief but set them free by repentance and joy in Christ! Draw them to Your Son and heal their spiritual sin sickness by salvation through Him. Use us to share of Your great mercy and grace and by our changed lives and joyful love of You and Your ways.

Help our lives to show others the way out of sin and the despair it causes. Bring hope to the hopeless, Lord, and by Your loving discipline, bring the unsaved to a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, amen. 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Sanctuary

Last week, I chaperoned my tenth-grader’s field trip to New York City. One memorable site we visited, at least to me, was the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

As is often the case with field trips, we had little time in the building. Still, for the time I had, I trailed my fingers over the heavy polished wooden pews as I took in the ornate ceiling, columns, and alcoves all bathed in light filtered through stained glass windows.

My thoughts strayed from the sights before my eyes to the beautiful descriptions of the two Temples given in Scripture. For a moment, my heart stirred with sorrow and I whispered, “O Lord, when did we stop building You such glorious houses of worship?”

He whispered back, “This is not My house, child. You are.”

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16

The thought has been with me since.

On this day, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I invite you to join with me in an endeavor which will have eternal benefits. Now that God’s people are His house – His temple – let’s do a little spiritual housecleaning. If our bodies are God’s temple, ought we not be certain the bodies we offer Him are worthy of His residence?

So by His grace and with the sound counsel of the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit our Helper – let’s resolve to search our temples by the Light of the Word. When we find something unsavory or rotten, let’s remove it, banishing it from the house. What is filthy, let’s cleanse; what is ugly, let’s beautify; what is dishonorable, let’s cast out.

From here on out, let’s join together in Christ to become a Temple of incredible beauty. Let the worship performed in these, our temples, be genuine, breaking forth from the overflow of gratitude for His sacrifice which has set us free from sin.

Then let us choose to live as free men and women every single day. Let’s keep these houses swept clean of debris and deceit. Daily, we’ll let the Light in so that by the light of the Word we can see clearly. We’ll let the Spirit of God do His work in us, putting our houses in order so that by our lives and in our bodies, we can magnify the beauty of our great and awesome God!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The Greatest Love

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

There’s a love story that bears repeating because it’s a love story on an epic scale. It spans time from the moment of creation and continues into a future unknown to mankind but known to his Creator. And it’s summarized simply in this one familiar verse.

For God so loved the world…

Life everlasting, and that just because you believe. Set free from slavery to sin and able to not only choose righteousness, but to desire to be righteous. It sounds almost too good to be true. Almost.

But there’s more to the story. There’s belief and there’s belief. I believe in Elvis, but that belief hasn’t changed the way I live my life, the way I think, nor what I do.

However, I believe in breastfeeding, and that made a dramatic impact on every aspect of what I did, how I thought – even on what I wore – for a year after each of my 3 children were born.

I believe in God. I believe He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah, who walked in the dust of this earth as a Man. I believe He lived the sinless life and willingly gave up that life as the exclusively complete atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

I believe He suffered greatly before He died; emotionally, socially, physically, and even spiritually. I believe He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God where He makes intercession for all who have chosen to die to themselves and live for Him.

Because He suffered the unimaginable anguish of Roman torture, betrayal, and loss, I believe He is the only God who has an experiential knowledge of what it means to be a man.

And that belief has dramatically changed how I walk, talk, think, what I watch, what I buy, how I view others – everything. It’s changed everything.

That belief continues to change everything in me by a process known as sanctification. I believe this will continue until this body of mine exhales its last breath and I go to be with my Lord and King in the place He has prepared for me.

But it’s not just a love story for me. It’s for you, too.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21

You see, I don’t want anyone to die without coming to know and love my God. If you could catch but a glimpse of His splendor, taste but a morsel of His love, feel just the tiniest press of the weight of His glory! I promise you that you will never be the same.

It’s hard, sometimes, in this world of looking out for number one to realize that we don’t need a god who serves us. He’s not a waiter or a butler here to cater to our slightest whim. He’s God – Uncreated, Unchanging, Holy, and Almighty.

But even so, even though the best among us has rebelled against Him, He offers us the Word: His love story to us. In the Bible, He spells out the rebellion of mankind after creation, the continual cycle of repentance and falling away, the unbelief, the disobedience, the pain we as a species have inflicted upon our Father who gave us life.

In that Book, He also begins right after mankind’s Fall to tell a tale of His future plan of redemption and salvation. The whole Book is filled with that tale, ultimately finding fulfillment in Yeshua Messiah – my Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the Word made flesh; the Love Story Incarnate. He is the Love Story of God, and it’s in the written Word that you can discover the character and nature of God the Father and the Word Who was with Him and Who mysteriously also was Him in the beginning.

My Yeshua. My Messiah. My King. The One I love to obey and am sorrowful when I fail to keep His commands.

He lived as an example. He died to redeem. He lives to intercede, and some day He will come back to claim His own.

Friend, I hope you will join the great cloud of witnesses on that great Day and that we can celebrate together in His presence forever.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:17-18