What I Saw – October 6, 2019

Ministry can be depressing at times.  My home church minister told me that when I was a kid.  My home church held a “career day” for the youth group one Sunday night.  Several of the adults stood before the group and told us what their jobs were like.  One of those adults was the minister himself.  When it was his turn to present, the minister said this: “When you’re a minister, your job is to ring the gospel bell, and some Sundays you go home thinking you didn’t ring it very well.

I came home thinking that very thing this Sunday night.  I’m not exactly sure why.  This Sunday was a good Sunday.  It was a very good Sunday.  Lots of great things are happening at our church, things that can only be engineered and empowered by God Himself and things that are thus evidence that God is working among in.  In fact, I’d say I’ve never had a time in my ministry that was as filled with opportunity and optimism as the time I’m in right now.   Yet I still came home depressed.  I still came home feeling like I wasn’t doing my job very well, like I was a failure and was failing and didn’t have much of a future, like I hadn’t rung the bell that well and was going to lose out because I hadn’t rung the bell that well.

Now the way I’ve previously dealt with these “Sunday evening blues” is to “retreat into fantasy” (a phrase I believe I’ve picked up from Pastor Robert Clancy).  I’ve drowned my sorrows in TV or Pepsi or video games or those sorts of things.  But I dealt with them in a much different way this Sunday.  I dealt with them through prayer.  After putting my daughter to bed, I sat down on the floor in front of my back sliding door (my new place of prayer in my new house) and began to pray.  As I usually do during evening prayer time, I followed Tim Keller’s five step prayer plan.  First, I asked God to be with me and speak to me.  I also told Him that I was in great need this time (something I don’t usually do).  Second, I turned to the Scriptures.  I always use the Daily Watchword and Doctrinal Texts of the Moravian Daily Text when I do my evening prayers, and that evening those texts said this:

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As soon as I read these Scriptures, my prayer was answered.  I received a word from the Lord via the “living and active” Bible.  God spoke to me as I asked Him to.  The first thing I saw in both these passages is that God is the God of peace, that is, God wants peace and creates peace (which in both these passages is less like “the absence of conflict” and more like “happy ever after”).  The Haggai passage talks about Him giving peace, and the Philippians passage calls Him “the God of peace” explicitly, so this truth about God (what my mentor calls “a Covenant word” and what he trained me to look for first in any Scripture passage) was easy to see.  That was encouraging enough, but what was even more encouraging was the “Kingdom word” (the way God wanted me to respond to the truth I was seeing about Him).  That Kingdom word was as explicit in the Philippians passage as the Covenant word.  It was “keep on doing the things…”.  Now I was familiar with this passage; I’ve had it memorized for years and have recited it many times.  But the version I know (the NIV ’84) has the phrase “keep on doing the things” as “put in practice”, and it has it much later in the verse.  For that reason, it has never resonated with me that much.  When I saw this translation, though (and I still don’t know what translation it is), I was moved tremendously.  I could see God telling me not to give into my depression, telling me 1) not to despair at all and 2) certainly not to give into despair.  I could see God telling me that there was going to a positive result for me, a result that He (not I) would achieve, a result that I would receive if I would simply keep on doing what I was doing no matter how effective those things seemed at the time.  In a very short span of time, I had gone around the “Kairos” circle: I had heard God say something, I had discerned both the Covenant and Kingdom truths of that something, and I had a plan of action.

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And with that quick trip around the circle, my Sunday night ministerial blues were dispelled.  I still didn’t think I had rung the bell all that way that day, but I realized it didn’t matter that much.  I realized there was a stronger force at work than how well or poorly I rang the bell, a stronger force guaranteeing peace and asking me to do nothing more than just not quit.

And that’s what I saw on October 6, 2019.

What I Saw – June 29th

I sat down in the bay window of my parent’s rural Ohio home to do my evening prayers.

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The view from the window

In the evening, I follow Tim Keller’s five-step pattern for prayer: evocation (inviting God to be present), meditation (reading Scripture), word prayer, free prayer, and contemplation.  After the evocation, I turned to the Scripture for the evening, which I took from the Moravian Daily Text’s “watchword” (Old Testament Scripture) and “doctrinal text” (New Testament Scripture).  For June 29th, those passages were these:

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I have to admit that this was not what I hoped to receive from the Lord that evening.  I was hoping for a word of encouragement, for something speaking of God’s love for me and His promises to me.  Instead, I got this word about being punished for my sins.  It was not only disappointing but intimidating.  I started wondering what I had done to make God say this to me and what it meant for me.  I started worrying and I wanted to turn away from my prayers.

But I didn’t.  I forged on, meditating on this passage as I have been taught to do.  As I did, I somehow stumbled across the word justice.  I always try to pull a truth about God from the Scripture I read.  In this case, the statement about punishment brought me to the truth that God is just (punishment comes from His justice; He punishes sin because He is just).  When I realized this, I realized that this statement which I found so threatening and disagreeable in the moment, this statement which seemed to be dropping me back into the “God is Zeus who can’t wait to hit you with a lightning bolt for the slightest transgression” territory, was actually a statement about God’s love.  It was a statement about the wideness of God’s love, the universality of God’s love, the fact that God loves everyone.

You see, all sin is a transgression not just of God but of another person.  I have thought long and hard about this.  I have run through the catalog of all the sins I know, and I can’t find one that is not in some way an insult or offense against another of my fellow human beings (my fellow human beings who are created in the image of God just as I am and who are just as valuable in the grand design as me).  Murder is obviously an offense against others, as is theft and lying.  But so is all forms of sexual immorality, even lust; Paul says that sexual sins are “taking advantage” of other people (1 Thessalonians 4:6) and Jesus seems to suggest that even looking at others is using them in an untoward way (Matthew 5:28).  That being the case, what God is saying here in Jeremiah 21:14 when He promises to punish us for our sins is that He is not going to allow us to get away with insulting, offending, taking advantage of, and using others.  That is exactly what would happen if He didn’t punish sin; He would be allowing one person to get away with doing such things to another; He would be favoring one person at the expense of another.  And He doesn’t do that.  He doesn’t operate that way.  He loves all, so He punishes all.  His justice is an expression of His love for all.

Now I don’t know exactly how this will all play out.  Is this punishment in this life or the next?  Is this punishment some sort of physical affliction or is it simply a word of rebuke (much as He verbally rebuked Sarah for laughing but did not physically do anything to her)?  Is this punishment all covered by the sacrificial death of Christ (a strong possibility).  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I saw the strength and immensity of the love of God in this verse.  I saw that God not only loves me but loves everyone to the point that He will punish me for offending anyone and will conversely punish anyone for offending me.  This is not Zeus, who as far as I can tell was cruel and arbitrary in his punishments.  This is the ever-loving Yahweh, the Yahweh who shows His ever-lovingness and fairness and concern for all by punishing in some way all sin, by allowing no sin to go unaddressed.

And that’s what I saw on June 29th.

What I Saw – May 6, 2019

One of the many sources I use everyday to get input from God (or hear God, as some might say) is Biblegateway.com’s verse of the day.  I always give a quick look at that verse to see what God might say to me through it.  Today, that verse was James 5:16.

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I memorized this verse almost two decades ago and have recited it more times than I remember.  When I read it this morning, though, I saw something in it I never saw before.

(The Living and Active Word of God works that way, you know.  The Word is always communicating just one truth; as the old timers used to zealously tell it, “It says what it means and it means what it says.”  This is correct.  No Scripture can mean one thing to me and an entirely different thing to you.  It means what it means.  However, there are always multiple applications of that one truth, just as there as one jewel has multiple facets.  At any time, the Spirit may reveal to you an application or facet of that truth you never noticed before and really need.  This is why daily devotions, the rereading of texts you have read over and over, are so valuable.)

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A new and completely legitimate facet of this verse was revealed to me this morning.  While the one truth is the need to pray for other people in the church, the facet I saw was that this needs to be done so these people are healed.  I saw that the healing of these people, that is, us, is what God desires and why He commands us to pray for these people/each other.

And I also saw that this is radically different from what I usually want.  For some reason, church conflict came to my mind as I read this verse.  I’m not sure why.  It doesn’t mention church conflict.  It does mention sins, though, and church conflict certainly comes from that.  So maybe that was it, or maybe it was that James seems to be suggesting that the illnesses we are praying for are sin-based (which makes them less like common colds and more like personality or character problems), or maybe it was something else.  In any case, it is what came to mind.  I thought James was telling me not just to pray for anyone who might have some sort of sickness but specifically to pray for those who might be opposing me out of some sinful defect in their character.  I thought God through James was telling me I should desire what He desires: the healing of this sinful defect in their character and thus the healing of the conflict.

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And that, again, is not what I usually want in these situations.  What I usually want is victory over those opposing me.  What I usually want is for those who are opposing me to be defeated.  I care very little why they are opposing me; I care very little if they are opposing me from a sin-based personality illness (in fact, one of my common sayings is, “I don’t care why you stabbed me in the back.  Once you stab me in the back, motives don’t matter anymore.  All that matters is I have been stabbed in the back.”).  All I care about is that they get beaten.

God today was teaching me to take a different path in these situations, to see these situations differently and feel about them differently and respond to them differently.  God was teaching me to have more compassion on those who oppose me than I have historically had.  God was teaching me that there opposition to me/their stabbing me in the back isn’t based on me as much as I tend to think it is but is really based on them.  It is a reflection of their sickness.  That being the case, I should desire and pray for their healing, not just so that the conflict will be resolved but so that they will be whole even if it isn’t, so that they will be whole even if they are never defeated or beaten, even if I never get the victory that I want.  God was teaching me that the healing of the back-stabbing sick is more important than victory.  It was a humbling lesson, but a very good one.

And that’s what I saw in James 5:16.

Thankful For Intercessors

I pray the Ransomed Heart daily prayer about four times a week.  I pray it four times a week instead of daily because there are other prayer forms I like to use.  But there are some elements of the daily pray I do pray every day, elements I bring into those other prayer forms.  One of them is this one:

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I guess there are a lot of elements there, but the one I want you to notice is two or three lines from the bottom.  It is the “I ask you to send forth your Spirit to raise up prayer and intercession for me.”  I have expanded this in my version of the daily prayer.  I have it like this:

I ask You to send forth Your Spirit to raise up intercessors for me.  I ask that people will love and pray for me, and will further let me know of their love and prayers for me.

This element of this prayer became very important to me during a very difficult time I endured a few months ago.  I prayed this often during this difficult time and was answered.  People did contact me by phone, text, email, Facebook, etc. to let me know they were praying for me.  Many even said they loved me.

I thought about this as I prayed this part of the daily prayer today, one of my all-time favorite days, the day before Thanksgiving.  As I prayed this part of the prayer, I thought about that difficult time and all the people who prayed for and loved me.  And I became thankful for them.  I became greatly thankful for them and expressed that thankfulness is a great way to God.

I thought I ought to also express it here, though, so that’s what I’m doing now.  Here is a list of the people who contacted me during this time and the weeks after to tell me they were praying for and loving me:

Annie, Brandon, Sarah, Mary Ann, Randy, Keith, Robert, other Robert, Steve, the other other Robert, Art, Dale & Jo, Melrose, Melia, Carrie, Mom and Dad and Eli

I think that’s all, but it is probably not; my memory seems to be failing me as I write this, but I’m pretty sure I got them all as I prayed earlier.  To any of you reading this, please know that you were an answer to pray (as I told some of you).  Please know that God used you to help me in the darkest moment of my life and I greatly, greatly appreciate it.  Please know that I am praying for and loving you as well.

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I am so very thankful for these intercessors.  And I am ready and willing to be such an intercessor myself.

Eating What Jesus Ate/Pursuing Desert Rhythms

As I see it, there are three types of input we can receive from God:

  • Information – data we didn’t have before, i.e., Paul wrote Philippians
  • Insight – new understanding into how things work; i.e., Agabus didn’t want Paul to go to Rome, but God did, which shows that God’s people can sometimes be sincerely wrong
  • Kairos (the Greek word for a moment in time that changes everything after it) – an applied truth which greatly changes my life; i.e., I read Matthew 6:33 and realize that I have not been seeking the Kingdom first in my career goals

All of these are valid and necessary, but I tend to prefer kairos.  I think kairos is the greatest input we can receive from God, the highest and most meaningful interaction we can have with God.

I think I received such a kairos today.  I’m not sure; it was kind of on the border between kairos and insight.  But either way, it was meaningful.  I was sitting in the dentist chair as an assistant cleaned my teeth.  The assistant was wonderful and kind, but being in the dentist chair always triggers me (it’s the money, not the pain, that bothers me) and I was a little grumpy.  As the assistant flossed her way through my mouth, I wondered why I was being grumpy toward a woman who was doing nothing unkind to me, and I realized it was because I was tired.  I realized I was not treating this woman as Jesus was (and, beyond that, was not living the life Jesus lived or having the spirit Jesus had) because I was tired.

This was not a new realization.  I have understood that fatigue reduces my Christ-likeness ever since Bible college.  What was new was what I realized after.  It was this:

“You are tired because you don’t have the desert rhythms Jesus did.”

“Desert rhythms” is a term I’m borrowing from Pete Scazzero.  I’ve been learning from him ever since a fellow pastor suggested I read his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (which is not an eight-week discipleship course which we will be running in my congregation after the new year).

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature  -     By: Peter Scazzero

In a recent podcast, Scazzero talked about “desert rhythms”, that is, going into the “desert” or other place of solitude to interact with God.  I think he was talking about the desert rhythms of Elijah in that podcast, using the famous “still, small voice” passage from 1 Kings 19.  But it is true that Jesus had desert rhythms as well.

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It is true that Jesus not only had these desert rhythms but was strengthened by these desert rhythms.  I’m not sure this is directly stated in Scripture but it must be true; this, after all, is what desert rhythms do and what desert rhythms are for, so it must be why Jesus did it and what He got from it.  He had these desert rhythms to strengthen Himself, to rest and refresh and restore Himself, to spiritually feed Himself, to ready Himself to be Himself (the perfect representative of God and perfect practitioner of the Kingdom) in public, to keep Himself from being fatigued.

It stands to reason, then, that we not only need to do these things ourselves but to do them for the same purpose and to the same result.  A guy named “Chief Iron Bear” (Harold Collins) taught me this on an episode of Fox’s Guinness World Records Primetime.  Chief Iron Bear was a strongman participating in a keg toss competition.  During the show, he revealed his daily diet.  As he revealed the diet, he said, “If you want to be like Chief Iron Bear, you have to eat like Chief Iron Bear.”  (I couldn’t find that exact clip, but I know it came from the October 4, 2001 episode of the program, and I’ve put in a clip of Chief Iron Bear pulling a semi truck just for fun.)

Silly as I think strongman competitions are (and much as I truly don’t want to be like Chief Iron Bear or any other strongman; what they do is impressive, but they’ve got just too much bulk for me), I think Chief Iron Bear has a point.  Being like him was not an act of the will.  Being like him could not be an act of the will.  It instead had to be a matter of imitating his diet and training.

It is the same way when it comes to the Christ-like, Kingdom-like spirit.  I have wanted to have that spirit, to be that, for so long, but I’ve always tried to get/be it via a force of will, by just trying to get/be that.  I realize now it can’t work that way.  I realize now that if I want to be like Jesus (and I truly do; that has been my goal since I heard Larry Bryant sing “Sometimes I’m Samson” at a Youth for Christ rally in the mid-80s) then I have to eat like Jesus.  I have to imitate Jesus.  I have to do what Jesus did.

That includes having these desert rhythms, these times of silence, times of prayer that are more about being with God than asking God for things.  I will never get rid of the fatigue that keeps me from being like Jesus in any other way.  I can only get rid of that fatigue and thus only be the Christ-like person I want to be by resting myself/preparing myself in the desert rhythm way Jesus did.

My Daily Prayer

I have been on a quest to learn how to more accurately pray for about a year now.  I may have mentioned that here before.  One of the places my quest took me was a book by John Eldredge.

Moving Mountains    -     By: John Eldredge

In this book, I was introduced to Eldredge’s “daily prayer”, a prayer he constructed and prays everyday.  I’m not sure he gives the prayer in that book (he might; I’m just not sure that’s where I found it), but he definitely does on his Ransomed Heart website.  He has both the text and audio version of the prayer there.  It is also on the Ransomed Heart app.  I found it in one of those places, and have added it to my repertoire, praying it not daily but at least four times a week.  I pray different things every day; sometimes I do this Daily Prayer, sometimes I do the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes I do the Celtic Daily Office.  So I don’t do this prayer every day, but I do it frequently.

And I have found it useful.  I won’t go into all the Daily Prayer does or all that prayer in general does; I’m not qualified to do that, in fact, because I don’t know all that.  But I know it is at the very least true that “prayer changes me”, as the Anthony Hopkins version of C.S. Lewis says in Shadowlands.

Repeating the truths of God drives those truths into my mind, giving me a type of spiritual “muscle memory”, making those truths a natural, instinctive part of how I interpret what I see and experience.  Eldredge’s Daily Prayer contains a lot of these truths, and, while I again don’t want to try to explain what he could explain better, I think it does so for this reason: changing me, developing my spiritual muscle memory.  The Daily Prayer has done that for me, anyway, whether it was designed to or not, and that is one reason I love it.

I think prayer does more than just change me, though.  I think prayer actually does change things.  I don’t know that prayer “changes God”, as Hopkins-Lewis said, but I think God does act on prayer (again, for reasons I don’t know and can’t explain).  For example, I have found that praying for consecration (which I’m not sure is in the Daily Prayer as much as it is in Moving Mountains) has somehow consecrated me; temptations began vanishing when I started praying that way.  And the Daily Prayer contains petition for lots of similar changes.

So I think there is a lot of value in the Daily Prayer, and I do love it just as it is.  However, I am an organizer by nature, and I began wondering if it couldn’t be organized a little better (better being subjective there; better in my eyes if no one else’s).  I also had some other ideas I wanted to add to the Daily Prayer, ideas I took from other sources.  I was a little reluctant to do tinker with the prayer in this way, but I contacted the Ransomed Heart team nonetheless, asking what they thought about the idea.  They said this was a great idea, telling me the prayer was never meant to be recited in unwavering verbatim but was meant to be a guide.  With their go ahead, I then refashioned the prayer some.  I kept a lot of what Eldredge originally had, including the bulk of the structure, his repeated references to giving God “spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, and will”, and his phrase “I receive it with thanks” which I find so powerful.  But I imported some other phrases of my own design that I’ve been praying for a long time.  I also imported some requests that weren’t in the prayer or that weren’t in the prayer as much as I would have liked.  I added the Serenity Prayer in there, too, and the consecration idea from Moving Mountains, and just a little from St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

In the end, my Daily Prayer is no more perfect than Eldredge’s.  As much as I would love to have every phrase and idea I ever pray on paper (because I again am and organizer and a collector and a preserver), I just can’t.  There is too much that just spontaneously comes to me as I pray (a lot of it from my daily Scripture readings) and too much I will learn in the future.  I just can’t document every great prayer idea or phrase I have.  I think my version of the Daily Prayer is a good skeleton, though, a pretty decent guide to get me (and maybe you) started.  So it is with humility (and thanks to John!) that I offer it to you now:

My Daily Prayer

My God; Great Three-In-One; holy Community, eternal Family, victorious Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the God of whom I heard, in whom I believed, whom I serve, and whom I love; the One True God of Heaven and Earth, Israel and The Church, world without end:

 

I come now to be with You and be made one with You.  I come now to be restored and renewed in You, refreshed and rejuvenated by You, reconnected and rejoined to You.  I come now to Your throne of grace to receive all the mercy and find all the grace I so desperately need this day.

 

I ask the Holy Spirit to lead this time of prayer.  I ask the Son to intercede in this time of prayer.  I ask the Father to hear this time of prayer.  I ask You to interact with me as I interact with You, to receive me as I receive You, to draw near to me as I draw near to You, to come close to me as I come close to You.

 

I pray sincerely, knowing You cannot be coerced, controlled, conned, cajoled, commanded, counseled, flattered, tricked, used, or manipulated.  I pray confidently, knowing You hear and respond to the petitions of Your people.  I pray submissively, surrendering to Your will whenever it differs with mine and agreeing with all those everywhere who are praying according to it.

 

God, I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  I praise and venerate You; I glorify and magnify You; I honor and adore You; I exalt and extol You; I respect and reverence and revere You.  I lift Your name high.  I lift my hands to You and bow my knee to You and fall facedown before You.

 

You are; the self-existing one.  You are almighty; omnipotent.  You are all-knowing; omniscient.  You are all-present; omnipresent.  You are all good; omnibenevolent.  You are merciful, mighty, majestic, marvelous, magnificent.  You are good, great, gracious, and glorious.  You are altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonderful.  You are light; in You there is no darkness at all.  You are life; in You we live and move and have our being.  You are love; You unconditionally and contra-conditionally value and care for us all.  You are the rightful center of everything, the one Whom this story is really about.  You are superior to me in every way, the Rock that is higher than I.  You are the King, and I am the subject.  You are the Lord, and I am the servant.  You are the Teacher, and I am the student.  You are the Father, and I am the child.  You are the Shepherd, and I am the lamb.  You are the owner, and I am the owned.  You are the Creator, and I am the created.  This is the divine order, and I embrace it.

 

Heavenly Father, I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  You are Yahweh of Old, the Ancient of Days, El Shaddai, Jehovah Jireh, El Elohe Israel, God of Abraham, Fear of Isaac, Lord Almighty, God of angel armies, the Living One, Father of Jesus.  You are the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer, and the true end of all things.  You are the God of peace and the God of hope.  You are my shield, my shelter, my shade, my stronghold, my fortress, my tower, my rock, my refuge, my anchor, my harbor, my center.  You have chosen to love me before the beginning of time.  You have proved Your love for me by sending Jesus.  You have given me every spiritual blessing in Jesus: forgiven my sins through Him, included me in Him, granted me His righteousness, made me complete in Him and alive with Him, raised me with Him, seated me with Him at Your right hand, and established me in His authority.  You have anointed me with Your Spirit, sealing me for the day of redemption and setting me apart as Your own.  You have adopted me into Your family, bringing me into your household, and blessing me with the full rights of a son: the robe, the sandals, and the signet ring.  I receive it all with thanks, and I give You total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.

 

Jesus, I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  You are the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one.  You are the Lord and the King.  You are the lion of the tribe of Judah, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the Holy One sent from God.  You are the high priest in the order of Melchizedek, the prophet like Moses, the king of the lineage of David.  You are king and God and sacrifice.  You are the Branch, the Shoot, the Root of Jesse in whom both Jews and Gentiles put their hope.  You are the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Faithful and True, the rider on a great white horse, the One who is worthy to open the scroll, who holds the keys of death and hades, the one who was dead and is alive forevermore, who was and is and is to come, who opens and no one can shut and shuts and no one can open, who walks among the lampstands and holds the stars.  You are the Firstborn from the dead, the head of the church, the Bridegroom.  You are the Light of the World.  You are the Bread of Life; the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the Resurrection and the Life.  You are the lily of the valley, the fairest of ten thousand to my soul, the rose of Sharon.  You are the daystar, the bright and morning star.  You are my true brother, friend, teacher, and master.  You have revealed the Father to me and ransomed me with Your own life.  You have prepared a place for me in the Father’s house and showed me the way to it.  You have loved me and given Yourself for me.  Through You we and all things come from the Father and through You we live.  By Your poverty I am made rich.  By Your wounds I am healed.  By You my every sin is atoned for, I am delivered from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light, my sin nature is removed, my heart is circumcised unto God, and every claim being made against me in the spiritual realms is nullified.  I receive it all with thanks, and I give You total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength and will.

 

Holy Spirit, I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  You are the Spirit of God who hovered above the waters of creation, the One sent out into the world, the deposit guaranteeing what is to come, the anointing that teaches us about all things, the seal of my redemption.  You are counselor, comforter, helper, advocate, strengthener, and guide.  You are teacher, witness, and intercessor.  You are prophecy, power, truth, glory, and freedom.  You are the raging fire, the rushing wind, the heavenly dove.  You have come through Pentecost, clothed me with power from on high, sealed me in Christ, made me to overflow with hope, and become my union with the Father and the Son.  You have revealed the truth to me and convicted me of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  You are in me and with me.  I receive it all with thanks, and I give You total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.

 

I turn away from all gods and all idols, having found them to be false and worthless – scarecrows in a melon patch, broken cisterns, empty streets.  I give You the place they once occupied in my heart and mind: the first place.  I trust in You and You alone to be the source of all I need and want and look to You and You alone to supply it.  I give myself over to You in my heart’s search for light: goodness, peace, hope, and joy.  I give myself over to You in my heart’s search for life: meaning, purpose, reason, strength, and support.  I give myself over to You in my heart’s search for love: family, friendship, relationship, and belonging.

 

Father, I accept You as my true Father and the One always intended to be my true Father; I ask for Your fathering; parent me, I pray.  Extend the covenant of Jesus Christ once more over me that I might understand I am secure in a committed family relationship with You.  Apply the blood of Jesus Christ once more to me; I receive it as my salvation and sanctification and ask that it constantly be applied to me as my covering and propitiation.  Bring the riches of Jesus Christ once more over me that I might not be poor or perceive myself as being poor.

 

Christ Jesus, I take my place now in Your cross and death, dying with You to sin, putting off the old man and putting on the new man which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator, clothing myself in you, wearing Your righteousness as a robe.  I take my place in Your resurrection, through which You have conquered sin, death, judgment, and the evil one.  I take my place in Your ascension, through which You have gone to fill the whole universe and cast down the evil one.  Apply to me all the work and triumph in Your appearing, death, resurrection, ascension, and rule.

 

Spirit, fill me afresh.  Lead me into all truth.  Keep me in step with You.  Restore my union with the Father and the Son.  Anoint me for all of my life and walk and calling.  Bring me deeper into Jesus today.  Make me more and more aware of God’s presence.

 

I acknowledge and accept Jesus as my rightful and righteous authority: Jesus is Lord.  I acknowledge and accept that through Jesus I am a Kingdom agent, able to bring the Kingdom at all times in every way.  I give Jesus my life so He can live and reign through me.  I bring myself under His banner.  I surrender myself, my home, my household, my work, and my Kingdom to Him and His.  I submit everything to Him.  I open every door to Him.  I invite Him into every room.  I welcome Him into every corner of my life.  I give Him every key; full access to me and mine.

 

I accept the all the goodness of God: love, grace, mercy, faith, hope, joy, peace, truth, wisdom, power, and strength.  They have been offered through Jesus Christ by the Spirit, and I receive them all with thanks.

 

I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice: spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.  I ask You to accept me as this offering.  I ask You to place me on Your altar.  I ask You to touch my lips with coal.  I ask You to sprinkle me with water and hyssop.  I ask You to wash me, to cleanse me, to redeem me, to sanctify me, to purify me, to consecrate me unto Yourself.  I confess that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and is made for the Lord, not for immorality or wickedness.  I ask that all ignoble things be removed from me that I be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy and useful to the master, prepared to do every good work.

 

I ask that I will abide in the Vine and trust in the Gardener, knowing I can do nothing apart from Them but can bear much fruit in them.  I ask that You equip me with everything good for doing Your will.  I ask that You fulfill my every good purpose and every act prompted by my faith.  I ask that Jesus will be glorified in me and that I will be glorified in Him.  I ask that I be a workman who does not need to be ashamed but who correctly handles the word of truth.  I ask that I have the wisdom that comes from heaven and that I be a peacemaker who sows in peace and raises a harvest of righteousness.  I ask that You will spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus through me.  I ask that I be a good minister of Christ Jesus.

 

I ask You to show me where You are working in my life and what You are doing in my life, not that I might question or complain but that I might cooperate.  I ask for the ability to cooperate with You in what You are doing to and through me even if I don’t understand it.  I ask that I might see Your shepherd’s staff leading me, Your pillar of fire and cloud guiding me.  I ask You to take me through the valley of the shadow of death and bring me into green pastures beside still waters.

 

I ask You to send forth Your Spirit to raise up intercessors for me.  I ask that people will love me and pray for me.  I further ask that they will let me know of their love and prayers for me.  I thank You for the people who have already done this and I ask that their numbers be multiplied.  I also ask You to show me who I should intercede for.

 

I ask You to enter my anger, lust, grief, internal arguing, and every other negative emotion, reaction, or practice that is plaguing me; come into and overcome these things.  I ask You to remove the lenses through which I see the world, lenses of weakness and rejection and comparison and competition, and replace them with lenses of Covenant and Kingdom.

 

I ask Your forgiveness for my every sin, and I ask Your strength to forgive every sin committed against me.  Let Your forgiveness of me be my first response to Satan’s accusations.  Let my forgiveness of others be my first response to others’ insults.  May I be forgiven and forgiving.  May forgiveness be my strength, my spirit, my story, my song, and the banner under which I stand.

 

I ask You to search me and know me completely; search and know my wrongs and my rights, my strengths and my weaknesses; challenge and celebrate me.  Bless me with a deep and true repentance where and when repentance is necessary; give me a godly sorrow which leaves no regret; give me a grief not over the consequences of sin but over sin itself.  Grant me the grace of Your healing and deliverance – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.  Break from me all the burden of guilt and shame.

 

I bring the full work of Christ between me and every person, and I ask that nothing but the love of God be between me and every person.  I ask Christ to be in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, in the eye of everyone who sees me, and in the ear of everyone who hears me.  I ask that Christ be in my heart, mouth, eye, and ear as I think of, speak to, see, and hear others as well.  I ask that my interactions with others will be fueled and flavored with Jesus.  I ask that I say to others only what Jesus would say to them and do to others only what Jesus would do to them.  I particularly ask for the ability to repay insult with blessing and to answer kindly when slandered.  May I be innocent of what is evil, particularly evils of the mouth and heart.  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.

 

I put on the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation; I take up the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit.  I pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  I will be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power and thus I will stand firm on the day of evil.  I reject all anxiety; I choose not to be afraid but to believe.

 

I bring the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and the full work of Christ against every evil power coming against me – against every foul ruler and authority and every vile device or dart they have launched.  I cut them off in the name of the Lord; I bind and banish them from me and mine in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.  I thank Jesus for His angels and ask Him to send them in His name to destroy all that is raised against me, to guard me and mine day and night, and to establish His Kingdom over me.  I ask Jesus to deliver me from all evil.

 

By the power of Jesus Christ and the truth He has revealed to me, I break all agreements with the evil one.  I reject the lies he has told me and which have bound me for so long, lies about You, me, and the future, as well as lies about how life should be lived and what should be valued.  I confess the truths of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: the truths of light, life, and love.

 

I ask for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Let me live one day at a time and enjoy one moment at a time.  Let me accept hardship as a pathway to peace.  Let me take, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender them to Your will.

 

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.  Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Let nothing disturb me, let nothing affright me.  All things pass but God never changes.  Patient endurance attains to all things.  He who has God wants nothing; God alone suffices.

 

I confess that Yours is the power, and the Kingdom, and the glory, and I ask that I might participate with You in these things forever.  I ask You to establish the work of my hands and satisfy me early with Your mercy that I may rejoice and be glad all of my days.  I ask that the beauty of the Lord be upon me.

 

In Jesus’ name, amen.

What I Saw – September 5, 2018

I met with several people from church on Wednesday night, September 5, 2018, to hear from God through the Scripture.

Following our traditional pattern, we read the Moravian Text’s New Testament reading for that day, which was Luke 20:39-51.

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This was a familiar passage.  Familiar passages can be difficult to use; they become too familiar to us; our familiarity with them keeps us from hearing God in them; we gloss over them or think we already know what they say.  But by reading slowly and looking at an unfamiliar translation (ESV), we were able to hear some interesting things.

Our attention was caught mostly by the fact that Jesus was praying.  We noticed that He was praying passionately even though He already received His answer (i.e., the cup would not be taken from Him).  We believed this was an indication that prayer is more than just asking God for things but is also a way to enter into the will of God.

This led us into the covenant triangle.

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We discussed the fact that obedience (which is what Jesus’ “thy will be done” prayer was) comes out of identity, which in turns comes from the Father’s acceptance/adoption of us.  We continued to discuss the fact that such obedience does not earn our identity but is an expression of our identity.  We noted that this obedience often comes through a time of prayer such as Jesus’ and takes a lot of trust.

After that, we asked what God might be calling us to do.  Since this was such a large message, I did not push anyone for a specific answer but allowed them to simply think about it.

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Here’s our whiteboard notes. The kids decorated it a little after we were done.

We finally concluded that this was not just a part of the Gospel story we all knew, nor was it even just a lesson God was trying to teach us.  We realized that this was actually Jesus living as a genuine disciple.  Yes, this is an example for us and can (and should) be used as such.  But it is a sincere example; Jesus did this not to teach us something (even though He does teach us in it) but because this is what disciples do; it is what He, as the premier disciple, needed to do at that moment.  Thus, such times of prayer, prayer offering submission to the will of God/a readiness to obey even in difficult circumstances, is what we need to do as well.

I was greatly encouraged by this devotional time.  I can’t wait for our next meeting on October 3rd.  I hope you can make it!