Tuesday Prayer: Abba

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

Ephesians 5:1-2

Abba, with all sincerity of heart we declare today that You are our hero. No fictional superhero, no movie or social media personality, and no athlete of any caliber can ever come close to matching Your splendor and perfection.

Indeed, the brightest star among us would show up as a dark blotch against Your pure radiance and glory. Just imagining it, Lord, I want to fall to my knees in worship! You are so, so good! Thank You that in all Your omnipotence, You deign to let us call you “Abba.” Thank You for loving us even when we were poor, blind, and wretched in our sins.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:15

And You do truly love us, God – let that just resonate in our minds for a moment. Let us simply try to comprehend that the Most High, the Almighty loves us. We can only touch the surface of it and already we are swallowed in awe.

Oh Abba, help us to get our minds around this to the extent that a mortal, created thing can comprehend the infinite wonder of Your love. Pierce us with the beauty of it so that every earthly hero we’ve ever held dear pales and withers in our imaginations. Align our hearts with Your perfect purpose so that our honest and heartfelt desire is to imitate You – our Lord, our King, our loving Creator. 

Then as our tender Father, hold our hands as we wobble and teeter in our efforts to walk in Your footsteps. Strengthen our weak knees and guide us into greater accuracy as we grow in Christ. Help us to put aside childish things and learn to truly walk as You walk, emulating You in our words, our deeds, our thoughts, and our desires.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

1 Corinthians 13:11

In short, help us, Lord, to grow up to be men and women of the Book; a people who are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us and hold fast to Your unerring and eternal Truth.

It is for freedom that our Lord Yeshua Messiah has set us free; let us move in this dark world as freed children of the Light, no longer submitting ourselves to sin’s slavery. May this be done in us so that Your name is honored, amen.

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness … But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:5, 8

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!

My Impatience: A Confession

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Exodus 5:22-23

When I selected this verse in a state of sleepiness last night, my intention was to revisit an idea I wrote – and somehow lost – a few years ago. Perhaps I will try again on another day.

However…

This morning, the Lord reminded me of the verse when I said something very similar to Him as we walked and talked together.

During my study of Revelation, I’ve found my heart torn in half. Every day I read it, I am filled with excitement and wonder as well as fear – but not fear for myself.

On one hand, I long to see the coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord. I’m eager to see Him take possession of what is properly His and destroy evil once and for all time. I cannot wait for the end of pain and suffering and horror.

And yet…

I am burdened by fear for loved ones who do not know Him; who reject Him or who know of Him but choose not to walk in His ways. I am not yet ready for the Lord to come again because I want time for these to be able to choose Him. I don’t want their time to run out, and I don’t want to see them destroyed as unbelievers, on that Day or any other.

In short, I want to see them saved, delivered from sin – from the spiritual Egypt, if you will. Most of them I know and love. Some are the loved ones of dear friends. And I have been praying for them: Nathan. Jessie. Steve. Eric. Katie. Robert. Chris. Sherry. Gail. To name just a few.

This morning, I received the tragic news that one of the names from my list is no more. A precious friend’s brother took his own life. I found myself unintentionally echoing Moses’s words: “You have not delivered these people at all.”

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3

And He reminded me that while He is patient, waiting for all to come to repentance, I am not. I am desperately impatient, and I want to see this thing done. Now. Maybe yesterday.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Still, in my heart of hearts, I know He will bring it to pass – in His way and in His time. I trust Him. So I continue to pray that He will make the stony hearts into hearts of flesh and pierce them with the Godly grief for sin which brings repentance and leads to salvation without regret.

And I will continue to pray that each of these, and many more, will come to a saving faith in Yeshua Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I also know that no matter how earnestly and desperately I may plead before the Throne of Grace on behalf of these, they each have a choice. God does not force Himself upon any of us. They have to choose for themselves whether or not they will surrender to the Lordship of Yeshua, because what He desires is for us to love Him back. And love is a choice.

So my prayers continue to rise to the Lord.

Oh Lord, let each one of these people choose You. Please turn their hearts to You. Open their eyes. Heal their hurts. Bring them into wisdom and knowledge of You, and let them taste and see that You are good. Protect them from the enemy’s schemes and from harm, and please do not allow another one to leave this earth until they have made their peace with You and been saved by Your glorious grace, amen.

And I continue to trust Him, knowing that He will work all things out for the good of those who love Him. All of them.

And I continue to love Him. No matter what.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

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: A Prayer for Lent

 “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 

Daniel 9:4b-5

Faithful and True, You are the unchanging God and the only just Judge. As the Psalmist says, “Your word is firmly fixed in the heavens and Your faithfulness endures to all generations.” Though cultures, fashions, and social mores may change, Your Word never does. Your Truth never does. What You say is right does not later become wrong, and what You say is sin does not later become acceptable. 

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations…

Psalms 119:89-90a

Today as we look ahead to Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, we choose to acknowledge the fact of Your unswerving truth and righteousness. This year, we beg, send Your Spirit in abundance to move in our hearts during Lent.

Open our eyes to the places we have called what is evil, good or anywhere we have called what is good, evil. In all places where we have made excuses for sin or justified it according to what is socially or culturally acceptable, expose our deceit as just that: deceit.  Where we have tried to hide a “pet” sin, drag it out into the light and convict our hearts of evil. 

Oh Lord, we echo Daniel’s prayer: “To You, O Lord, belongs righteousness but to us, open shame!” We have sinned and fallen short of Your grace. We have taken lightly the great and terrible sacrifice of our Lord Yeshua (Jesus) and used the freedom He offers as an excuse to sin. We have turned from Your Word and pursued our own selfish ways. We have placed jobs, entertainment, wealth, family, and other worldly pursuits in priority over You and over Your Word. We have worshiped self and ignored Your still, small voice.

To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame…

…O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.

Daniel 9:7a, 19

Forgive us, Lord, for these sins and others! In the weeks to come, we ask that You will continually be at work in our hearts. Convict us of sin and drive us to confession and to genuine repentance.  Change us heart, soul, mind, and strength so that our one passion is to honor You and the sacrifice You’ve made. Let us not only say we believe, let us live as though we believe that Yeshua Messiah died to set us free from sin. May our behavior reflect this belief.

And Lord, as You work in us, changing us and renewing our hearts before Your throne, open our mouths in praise to You every single day. Let us speak to all of the good our God has done in our hearts. Let us celebrate openly our freedom from sin, and let us walk in freedom – slaves to sin no more. May we never again present our bodies as slaves to sin but instead present them as slaves to righteousness, walking in joyful obedience to the living Word of our mighty and compassionate, God.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Romans 6:16

By our changed lives and the righteousness of Christ evident in us, set other prisoners free from slavery to sin so that we may rejoice with many new brothers and sisters in Christ! We eagerly wait to see Your work in us and in the people around us, in the mighty name of Yeshua Messiah our Lord, amen. 

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

Watch Out!

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

Ezekiel 3:17

After last night’s introduction to Biblical prophecy class, I started reading in Ezekiel to prepare for next week. Already this morning, many things were on my mind, not the least of which was Psalm 5:3 and praying expectantly.  

I’m participating in a forty day prayer challenge with some friends, and I have two main prayer focuses during the forty days. One involves people very close to me whom I long to see both in right relation to the Lord and in Godly Christian fellowship complete with accountability. The other concerns where God wants me after this school year ends, work-wise.

Also on my mind (with no little shame) was the temper tantrum I had with God yesterday morning and how He lost no time in correcting me through His word. Blessed be He who has me tutoring so that I had two distinct times in His Word yesterday and so received the rebuke!

At any rate, once I’d repented, He reminded me that one of the two big prayers I am focusing on is already on its way to being answered. Then to remind me that He isn’t bound to my time expectations concerning the other, He nudged me to pick up a collection of D. L. Moody when the book I’d planned for bedtime reading turned out to be one I’d already read.

Concerning Moody, his first Sabbath-school teacher, Mr. Kimball, wrote:

I can truly say … that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker when he came into my Sabbath-school class, or one who seemed more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear, decided views of gospel truth, still less to fill any sphere of extended public usefulness.”

from The D. L. Moody Collection, edited by James S. Bell, Jr.

God can and will get hold of these loved ones. But in His time, not mine.

This morning, as I read about Ezekiel being appointed as a watchman, I couldn’t help but think that now in this present age, we are all watchmen of sorts. The Old Testament prophets served to bring the Word of God to the people. Often, as the next few verses of Ezekiel 3 state, that word was a word of warning, meant to bring the people to repentance.

Today, we have the written Word of God and the Spirit of God to be our guide and illuminate the Word to us. We still have prophets, but as last night’s teacher pointed out, we are warned to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and not to “despise the prophecies but test everything…” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). We need to be watchmen, but watching that a prophecy is in line with Scripture and points to Yeshua Messiah; Jesus the Christ.

But another thing got me as I read this passage for the second time. Let’s back up two verses and read:

And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days. And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me:

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

Ezekiel 3:15-17

In the Complete Jewish Study Bible, the commentary here reads, “Rashi* states that God is asking why Yechezk’el [Ezekiel] is keeping silent.”

Besides being a watchman in order to warn others of danger, besides being a watchman in expectant prayer, what if I were to be a watchman who didn’t need to be reminded of God’s commands? A watchman who not only watched, but obeyed?

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to warnings and obedience, this watchman is going to be keeping a closer eye on herself…

And yes, I know a watchman can’t be a herself and I’m a girl and all that, but let’s call it the literary masculine and move on, m’kay?

*Rashi was an 11th century rabbi whose work is still widely respected.