Tuesday Prayer: Two Advents

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 

Revelation 19:11-13

Word of God, on this last week of Advent, we look back at Your historical first coming; a time when You laid aside Your majesty to clothe Your splendor in the substance of Your own creation, being born as a tiny infant – the Son of Man. But there is more to Advent than the past. We also look forward to that great and future Day when You will appear as the conquering King, ready to reclaim the world You’ve redeemed and rule it with justice and equity.

Oh Lord, You are the living Word of God given to mankind that we may know of Your mercy and grace. You are also Faithful and True, the only just Judge who will one day mete out the sentence for all who have refused Your generous offer of salvation in the righteousness of the Christ. Yet for those who have surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus, there is no condemnation but only the imputing of His sinless perfection and a grace we cannot earn.

This Christmas season, Lord, help us to be mindful of the incredible wonder of this, the greatest Gift ever offered. May the contemplation of Your Son be larger in our consciousness than any baking, buying, decorating, or anything else. And as we contemplate His beauty, teach us to delight in Him more and more and in this world less and less. Indeed, Your word warns that friendship with the world is enmity towards God, so please show us where we need to reject the world’s way of thinking and being in order to fully embrace Yours.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4

Not only for ourselves, but for those who we will encounter this Christmas season, not only our loved ones, but our co-workers, those who we see in traffic, the clerks and waiters who serve us in our purchasing and celebrating, and even for our enemies or those who treat us poorly, remind us of the urgency of the message of Christmas. Remind us, too, how we once walked as people who were dead in our sins and give us compassion for others.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:44-45a

Break our hearts for those who stand condemned in this world and give us opportunities to share Your truth with them. Open our eyes to those who lack the hope of Christ to make life’s pain bearable. Even if they are hostile towards our efforts, still goad us to diligently pray for them even as we praise and glorify You by our actions, words, and choices in their presence. Lord, if we could ask for one more gift this Christmas, please give us the privilege of seeing many come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. 

Bible Study Hack: My Secret Shortcut to Experiencing the Almighty

I’m just kidding. There are no shortcuts.

But I do have a sort of secret for how I stay faithful in my daily reading the Word of God, though it is neither very secretive nor mysterious. What is it? Simply this: I enjoy it.

I actually adore getting up and spending my first hour or so with the Lord, reading His Word, studying it, praying through it, and even interceding for others in prayer. To me, it’s like getting to start my morning with the Person I admire the most in the whole wide world, because… well, that’s exactly what it is.

The Bible is not something I read because I have to, nor even because I ought to; I read it because I love it and I love its Author.

It excites me to know that the Most High God, the magnificent Creator of all that has being actually left us here on this crazy, blue and green satellite with a written account of His character and work. Even more, it thrills me to the core that He actually participated in the experience of humanity instead of remaining on the outside like some cosmic marble collector.

It may seem a trifle odd when I confess to you that I do not only love the inspirational chunks of Scripture; I love all of it, even the parts that make me squirm uncomfortably because they expose my sin and shame. I welcome the heart-wrenching as much as the heart warming. I love it all because I know that even the awful lash of discipline is administered personally and perfectly by the hand of my infinitely loving Father.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.
Psalms 119:92-94

Yet in all truth, there really is something like a secret behind my enjoyment, and I feel I would be remiss if I did not clarify this point: I cannot claim even a particle of credit for my delight in God’s Word. Not even the barest sliver stems from any righteousness or natural goodness on my part. It all has to do with God.

And all of it has taken time. Lots of time.

You see, the only reason I am able to enjoy His word, to look forward to reading it; the single solitary reason for my tendency to think about Scripture or ponder the nature of God when I am walking or washing dishes or gardening, or whatever it is that I do is because of His life at work in me.

To put it bluntly, I have because I asked, not for my glorification but for His.

… You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James 4:2b-3

Even my love for the Lord is something that He has given me. All that lives and loves and is good in me is because of His life-giving power, His breath in my lungs, His love poured out into my heart.

Nor is this the quick work of a single hour. I have spent years desperately, tearfully entreating God to help me overcome my unbelief – and He is doing so. Yet I also know that I will be praying the same prayer for all the years that are left to me, for each new day brings with it yet another understanding of how pervasive my unbelief truly is.

If any faithfulness or goodness is seen in my life, it stems from God’s grace and work alone. You can be dead certain that all mistakes and wrong turnings are my own.

Believer, I do not know where you are on the narrow path that leads to life, but I want you to know that there are no shortcuts or cheats to intimacy with God, nor is there a bypass that will allow you to circumvent the pain of contrition. Yet every step of the way, every atom of faith, even the will to press on, is freely offered by the One who is both the Beginning and the End.

And you are invited along for the journey!

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