Hebrews 5:7-10 (NIV): During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Most people never think of Jesus as having to learn anything. They figure that He was 100% God, so He came from the womb fully educated. But when Jesus came from the womb, He also came fully human. He had to learn everything – how to eat, how to talk, how to do arithmetic (the Creator of the universe had to learn that 2+2=4!). He had to learn and memorize Scripture. And He had to learn to obey His Father every moment of every day. He was an apt student who applied Himself vigorously to His studies, and who never sinned, never willfully disobeyed any command. But He had to learn submission and obedience to God’s will just like everyone else. Otherwise, He could never be a model for “normal” people, just an ideal that could be thought about but never approached. Jesus, though fully God, was also 100% human from the beginning. And because He had to learn, just like all of us, because He had to grow, just like all of us, because He had to be obedient, just like all of us, He was the perfect representative for all of us on the cross.
Father, I praise You for sending such a Savior as Jesus – not some high and mighty king, too exalted and too busy to bother with a poor sinner like me. But someone who has lived a real human life, and can live His real, sinless, human life in us, so that we can live His real, sinless, human life among others. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV): For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
This prayer of Paul’s is a great prayer! It is prayed passionately, and concretely, not abstractly. It is the prayer of a servant of God for those who are to become servants of God. If there was one prayer that pastors and Church Board members should pray for their congregations, that Sundays School teachers and Small Group leaders should pray for their members, that each Christian should pray for their fellow Christians, this would be that one.
- That God would strengthen them with power through the Holy Spirit – That is, to give them power to be witnesses who will testify fearlessly about God even in the face of the persecution that is sure to come. (Acts 1:8, John 15:26-16:4)
- That Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith – When the Holy Spirit dwells in a person, the whole Godhead is there as well. And it is through the indwelling Christ that a person’s character is molded, shaped, and transformed into that of Jesus.
- Being rooted and established in love – Just as a plant draws nutrients from the soil in which it is rooted and established, so God’s people are to draw the love that I root and establish them in, that will then grow and expand into every area of their lives.
- Have the power to grasp the width, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ – God’s people cannot display a love that they cannot grasp. We are instructed to love God with all of ourselves, to love our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves, and to love one another in the same self-sacrificing way that Jesus loves each of us. Only with God’s insight, given freely to those who genuinely ask, can a person really grasp what each of those means, and fully live them out.
- To know (experience) the love that surpasses knowledge – God’s all-encompassing love is not a concept to be grasped, but a reality to be lived in; a creative and regenerating force that is to flow through the lives of God’s people and into the lives of all those around them.
- To be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God – To be so completely full of God’s presence that there is nothing manifested through a person’s life but God and His will, exactly like Jesus.
These are huge requests, from a human perspective. But Paul knew that God is able to make each one a reality in a person’s life, and He still can, and will, today!
Father, these ARE huge requests, but I can see that, if we really pray these for all of our people, how that will change everything. Thank You for Your miracle-working power that can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Amen
Matthew 26:55-56 (NIV): At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
The disciples fled when the situation looked hopeless. As long as they figured that Jesus was going to put up a fight, they had faith that they could win. But when they saw clearly that Jesus WASN’T going to fight, that these men were going to take Him captive, the disciples’ self-preservation instincts took over, and they ran. They were not in tune with God’s plan; they could not see that the fight was being joined specifically through Jesus’ surrender, and that He would ultimately win by allowing Himself to be defeated. The fight was not what they thought in their human understanding, the stakes were not what they believed, and the victory was nothing that they could conceive. It was only after Jesus rose from the dead, only when He breathed the Holy Spirit on them (John 20:22), that they could begin to understand. And it was only when the Spirit filled them with all His fullness that they saw clearly enough to share the real meaning of the crucifixion.
It is the same today. Many people click their tongues in sympathy when one of God’s witnesses is captured or killed, and they talk about how it seems like evil is getting the upper hand. But they do not see the larger picture – that it is often through a seeming surrender that victory is ultimately won. It is often through an apparent defeat that a beachhead for victory is planted. And it is nearly always through a witness willingly placing themselves in harm’s way that God’s word can be spoken to those who most need to hear it.
Father, I can now see things in ways I never did before. Lord, I am willing to be used by You in whatever way You see fit, so that Your word, Your love, and Your grace can reach the uttermost parts of the earth. Amen.
Romans 4:18-21 (NIV): Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
God is always able to accomplish everything He promises, no matter how impossible it might seem to the ones reading or hearing the promise. When He promised Abraham a son through Sarah, it would have been easy and perfectly normal for him to doubt His word, or at least to have “interpreted” it into something that he could believe. But God’s promises don’t need to be reduced to things mere men can accomplish; they don’t need to be reduced in scope or volume to what people can figure out how to do. God created the whole universe from nothing, with only the words of His mouth. If He can do that, what is too hard for Him? Abraham blew it in the beginning by listening to Sarah’s scaled back interpretation of God’s promise, working to accomplish something like it by purely human means. But he didn’t actually accomplish in his own strength what God had promised, just a small imitation of it, without the power or potential of what He had actually planned. When Abraham simply believed in God for the fulfillment of His promises, then he got to see what the Lord could really do – to bring a newborn baby to an old man and woman, and her barren her whole life. It is only when God’s people stop trying to make His promises come true through purely human strategies, when they just listen and obey, that they get to experience His mighty miracles. It is only when they reach the end of their own cleverness and simply trust in His word that they can live in the wonder of all that He can do.
Father, You have promised us some pretty amazing things, some of which You have brought about already, but none of which would be possible through our own efforts. We praise You for all that You have done, and ask that You help us to trust You and to rely wholly on You for the “even greater things” that You have promised us. I trust You to do all that You have promised. Amen!
Psalm 63:1-5 (NIV): O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
David’s hunger and thirst for God were tangible. He found himself in a place where he had absolutely no place else to turn; no other help was even a possibility. He literally had the most powerful man in the land after him, and knew that if God didn’t act on his behalf, he was history. But that was not the main reason that he hungered for God. Anyone can turn to God when they are in a crack, but David actually hungered for God’s presence more than His power; for His fellowship more than His fireworks. David mostly wanted assurance that God was near, because if He was, then David was going to be fine, no matter how things turned out. David had lived in God’s presence since his youth – he had experienced God’s deliverance working through him to kill lions and bears, and even a giant. He had seen & felt God working on his behalf in many ways up to that point, and knew that God had a plan for him that did NOT include his early death. But he also knew that, apart for God Himself, those plans would never materialize. And so he wanted God to assure him of His presence; to let him know that He was with him, and the he had not stepped outside His plan for him.
Father, we should ALL be as focused on Your presence as David was. We need to know that same hunger and thirst, not for your gifts, but just for YOU. Lord, help us to shift the core of our lives in Your direction, so that our hearts beat in time with Yours, and so that we care more about walking in Your paths than about anything else.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV): For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
It is amazing to me how many Christians profess fear and timidity when it comes to being a witness, sharing the truth about Jesus with others. And this when there is little or no danger of physical harm! What will these people do when the time of testing comes? It will be like trying to fight a sword battle when you have not handled a sword before – it can only lead to disaster! In America, unlike many (most?) places in the world, we have the privilege of being able to develop as a witness in a safe environment, yet most believers express fear at doing so. But that fear does NOT originate with God. It is a place in our hearts where too many are giving a toe-hold to the enemy, allowing him to silence them. God does not give the spirit of fear or timidity, but the Spirit of power to be a witness, overcoming every fear, so that each Christian will be astoundingly fruitful (Acts 1:8). He gives us the Spirit of love, the Spirit that cares so much that people are headed to hell that nothing will be strong enough to stop their lips from speaking about Him. He gives us the Spirit of self-discipline, enabling us to not be victimized by our “schedules,” but to be always on duty for God, arranging our lives so that HIS agenda has first place, and living for HIM no matter what the world, the flesh, and the devil throw in our way. God builds His people for victory, not defeat; for boldness, not fear or timidity; for love, not apathy.
Father, thank You for this Spirit You give us. Forgive us for not living our lives in it; for letting the enemy gain a victory by intimidating us with fear, and silencing our lips when we should be speaking Your name boldly from hearts full of love for You, and love for those around us. Forgive us, Lord, for living satisfied so far below what You command of us. Help us to live this life of boldness and love, starting right now. Amen.
Revelation 17:14 (NIV): They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.
It seems like a lot of Christians are wringing their hands these days over the evil that is in the world. It seems like there is nothing that can be done, that God is just sitting back in heaven, biding His time until things get so bad that He sends Jesus back to mop things up. But even at the darkest moments in Paul’s life, when he was facing execution, he never believed that for a moment, and spent his time working with God to witness to his jailers. Even on Patmos, John never believed that God was powerless to thwart the evil that was running rampant, but he wrote down visions of His victory. All through the last 2000 years, the Church has been threatened again and again, only to turn to God wholeheartedly, to regain their strength and power, and become conquerors in His name. The Church, true Christians, are the called ones, those God has chosen because they have chosen Him, the faithful who stand by Him and His agenda no matter how dark it looks. Right now God is sending people, modern-day prophets to His people, to His churches in America and Europe, to call them to take up spiritual arms against the encroaching darkness; to inspire them to recapture God’s vision for them, and to shake off their sleep. In God’s strength, noting is impossible for His people, even taking back their nations. But they have to recommit themselves to working alongside Him in absolute purity and obedience. Then they will see the great victory that He longs to bring about.
Father, thank You for this encouragement. Help us to keep our eyes open to You, and our ears open to Your voice as we allow ourselves to be reshaped and refitted to Your hand. Lord, I WANT to see this victory, and soon. Use us to do Your will with all our hearts. Amen.