Your Love: Day Two, Forty Days of Prayer

 

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You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

Job 11:16-18

Lord God, we worship you and put our faith in you because you are powerful and loving. You are a glorious representation of a father who lovingly adores his children and protects his young from trouble. Our hearts are overwhelmed by your goodness and kindness to us. Our hearts swell with humility and our eyes with tears for your unfailing love and goodness towards us. We rest in your arms, Lord.

It is Your arms that so carefully carry us in times of tribulation. We are secure because of your love. We continue to put our hope in You, our Creator, the God of the universe, who created the earth in six days and made us in Your image. It was Your love that sent Your only Son to be born of a virgin, to walk among us, die on the Cross, bear our sins and rise from the dead. We put our hope in You because You are God and worthy to be praised! We praise you through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

~~ India B. Davis

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Forgive Us, Lord: Day One, Forty Days of Prayer

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me

Ps 51:10, ESV

Heavenly Father, we are grateful for this special day, Ash Wednesday, a day to remember that we are frail, weak, wounded and sinful. A day to remind ourselves that we are a people desperately needful of your great grace.

We pray convict us by your Holy Spirit of our deep selfishness, stubborn pride, and hard-hearted wills. Forgive us, Lord, for breaking your heart by our selfish attitudes and for hurting others by our wrongful actions. Forgive us, Lord, for violating your explicit commands and for ignoring the implicit leading of your Holy Spirit. Forgive us, Lord, for indulging our flesh, lusting with our eyes, and being full of the pridefulness of life. Forgive us, Lord, for insensitivity, anger, lying, jealousy, envy, and all the deeds of our fallenness. Forgive us, Lord, for not loving You with all our hearts and for not loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Jesus Christ, we pray, empower us, to receive your forgiveness bought for us by your shed blood on the Cross. Renew within us the desire to please You, the hunger to know You, and the passion to trust You, all day, every day. We ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

~~ Glenn E. Davis

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Does God Need Us?

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Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

Rom. 6:18 NLT

God does not need us in the sense that he is lacking something. God is sufficient and complete in himself. Sometimes it is said that God created us because he was lonely. God needed a love relationship, and therefore, God made us for companionship. Yes, our relationship with God is one of love, but that love is an overflow of the eternal love relationship found between the members of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God did not create us because he was emotionally needy for he already had a complete and fulfilling love relationship within himself (John 17:23).

The Bible does not directly answer the question, Why did God create anything at all? but it does let us know what some of the most glaringly wrong answers to that question would be. It would be wrong to say that God created because he was lonely, unfulfilled, or bored. God is free from that kind of dependence.

Fred Sanders, Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything.

God needs us in the sense that we are representatives of his kingdom called to reach out to a hurting and lost world (1 Cor. 12:12-13). God needs us to display in our lives and actions the character and nature of Christ (1 John 4:9). God wants to operate in and through us as instruments of his love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness (John 17:25-26).

“Yield your members as instruments” (Rom. 6:18)–your bodies, your bodily members, your mental faculties. God needs your eyes, through which to look out with compassion upon the world; with a compassion that will care enough, it may be, to go, to speak, or to pray. God needs your feet, to carry the message of His concern and the message of His grace. God needs your hands, to toil, and by their touch reveal His love. God needs your lips to speak for righteousness and truth. God needs your heart, to throb with concern and compassion. God needs you. Where are the instruments in the hand of God?

George E. Duncan, “Responsive Surrender to God’s Will,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 322.

 

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What Is the Feast Day of Epiphany?

For the grace of God [i.e., Jesus] has appeared [Greek: epiphany], bringing salvation for all people.

Titus 2:11

The feast day of Epiphany is celebrated in the Western church every year on January 6th. It commemorates the appearing, or manifestation, of God in Christ as Savior to the world. Epiphany is the oldest feast in the church calendar, it is especially revered in the Orthodox East. Three events in the life of Christ are commemorated: the arrival of the Magi, the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana. Appropriately, these three stories, all revelatory events, are found at the beginning of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, respectively.

The Apostle John tells us, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). Jesus who is God incarnate in human flesh is revealed to the Gentile wise men, manifested as the Lamb of God, and made known as Messiah in his first miracle. Now, the saving life of Christ has been fully manifested to both Jew and Gentile alike. Let us join the Magi, John the Baptist, and the wedding feast at Cana by worshipping Jesus in all his saving glory.

The conduct of the wise men is a striking example of faith (Matt. 2:1-12). They believed in Christ when they had never seen Him – but that was not all. They believed in Him when the Scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving – but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him a little infant on Mary’s knee, and worshiped Him as a king. This was the crowning point of their faith.

They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They beheld no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a new-born infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any one of ourselves. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world. ‘They fell down and worshiped Him.’

We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw one dying the death of a criminal, and yet prayed to Him and ‘called Him Lord.’ The wise men saw a new-born babe on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshiped Him and confessed that He was Christ. Blessed indeed are those that can believe in this fashion!”

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew, 12-13.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

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Three Christmas Miracles

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

The word, “miracle” is used in television commercials for the cleaning properties of a particular soap. “It’s a miracle!” that I got a pay raise from that miserly company. Miracle has come to mean anything unexpected that brings pleasant results. The expression, “It’s a miracle” has now become trite and meaningless in our culture.

Conversely in theology, a miracle is an extraordinary event revealing God’s intervention in the everyday affairs of men and women. Martin Luther comments on the three miracles of Christmas day: the incarnation, the virgin birth of Christ, and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s obedience. Luther marvels that the greater of the three miracles is Mary’s faith: her willingness to obey God even though it meant hardship, misunderstanding, and loss of reputation.

Saint Bernard [of Clairvaux] declared there are here three miracles: that God and man should be joined in this Child; that a mother should remain a virgin; that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her. The last is not the least of these three. The virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be mother of God.

Had she not believed, she could not have conceived. She held fast to the word of the angel because she had become a new creature. Even so must we be transformed and renewed in heart from day-to-day. Otherwise, Christ is born in vain.

Martin Luther, “The Maiden Mary” in Nancy Guthrie, ed., Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 26.

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Can Christians Receive the Mark of the Beast?

Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die. He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666 (Rev. 13:15-18 NLT).

Many believers walk in an inordinate amount of fear concerning the mark of the Beast. Their fear is deep, pervasive, and emotionally debilitating. Over the years, numerous questions have come up in my pastoral ministry as to the characteristics of the mark of the Beast mentioned in Rev. 13. Believers are anxious that they might be forced against their will to receive this dreaded mark. Is it possible for Christians to receive the mark of the Beast? Is the mark of the beast a tattoo, or a computer chip, or a bar code, etc.? Some despicable use of current computer technology? Should Christians fear the Second Coming of Christ because of the mark?

First, the context (Rev. 13:11-14:5) of the passage speaks of a mark of the beast and a seal of the Lamb. If you receive a tattoo or a computer chip for following the Beast, then in turn, you must also be given a tattoo or computer chip for following the Lamb. Present day End Times teaching emphasises the negative mark, Beast, not the positive seal, Lamb. What is true for the mark of the beast must also be true for the mark of the Lamb.

Second, the symbols in Revelation should be interpreted first by their counterpart in the Old Testament. The “mark” comes from Ezekiel 9:4-6, where an angel is instructed not to kill those who have the mark. The mark is invisible to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, it is seen and known only by God and the angels. The mark is indicative of the individual’s heartfelt allegiance to God. Notice that the “mark” is the Hebrew letter “taw” which is roughly the shape of a cross.

Third, the beast in the Book of Revelation is the city of Rome and her empire (Rev. 17:7-9), the “seven hills” would have been known in the first century as the “City of the Seven Hills,” Rome. Therefore, the beast, Caesar, is asking for lordship over the lives of all the Empire’s inhabitants. True believers refuse Rome’s domination for Christ is Lord over their lives. Several Caesars expected to be worshipped as a god, yet the early church only recognized Jesus as Lord and Savior of the world (Phil. 2:10-11; 3:20).

Last, the Roman Empire was so oppressive that only those who worship Caesar as divine were allowed to do business in the empire (Rev. 13:16-17). One’s allegiance is obvious by the way one worships, dresses, serves, and lives. You could not do business in Roman trade guilds if a citizen did not declare Caesar as Lord and eat food sacrificed to idols. Similarly, believers under communist rule in the Soviet Union suffered penalties during the dark days of the Cold War if they did not declare their loyalty to the State and their acceptance of atheism. The visible mark of Christian believers is the distinctive manner in which they live the life of love (John 13:35, 1 John, Epistle to Diognetus).

By way of application, the Beast today is any governmental authority who sets themselves up, over, and against faith in God and love of Christ. The Beast is any civil government that persecutes Christians and attempts to destroy the church. The Beast is idolatry and love of all worldly things: economic control, unbridled sex, and thirst for power. The love of the Beast and the seal of the Lamb are heart issues, therefore, unseen by men, except by their outward behavior.

Conclusion: The mark is invisible, seen only by God, nothing to be feared by believers, and indicative of one’s true allegiance: the systems of the world, Beast, or the Lordship of Jesus, the Lamb.

Like the other markings in Revelation, it seems to be symbolic (see comments on Rev. 3:12; 7:3; cf. 14:1; 17:5; 19:12; 22:4); some Jewish texts speak of a symbolic mark of destruction on the forehead of the wicked (Psalms of Solomon 15:9) in contrast to the mark of the righteous (15:6). Some interpreters have nevertheless seen a tangible expression of allegiance to the world system; in at least the last two major imperial persecutions of Christians, both in the third century, certificates were issued to those who had fulfilled the mandated rite of emperor worship. But the text may simply imply a figurative slave brand identifying to whom a person belongs — God or the world. Participation in idolatry appeared to be almost an economic necessity in many cities in Asia Minor (see comment on 2:18-29), and John warns that commercial discrimination would grow more severe, alongside the graver danger of martyrdom.

Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).

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Things Deep and Mysterious

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Rom 11:33 ESV

I’m a pastor-theologian, I enjoy theological discussions as much as the next pastor-theologian. However, there are times when discussions need to end and worship should begin. Theological discussion is only helpful if it leads to awe-inspired adoration, mind-exulting praise, and heart-searching holiness for our Lord Jesus Christ. God is deep and mysterious and to think that we might ever figure him out goes beyond human pride and self-deception.

Important as it is that we recognize God working in us, I would yet warn against a too-great preoccupation with the thought. It is a sure road to sterile passivity. God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty.

The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, “O Lord, Thou knowest.” Those things belong to the deep and mysterious profound of God’s omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1982), 64.

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Christ Permeating You


In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

1 John 4:9

At Lamb of God: A Three Streams Church, we talk much of the indwelling Christ who is present in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Christian growth comes by trusting the Christ who lives in us. Jesus is grace in us–a person not a quantity. Christ in us is freedom from performance-driven Christianity. The question is not what would Jesus do if he were here, but what is Jesus doing in us at this moment. Jesus is the moment-by-moment, minute-by-minute, constant, conscious presence of God. Christ in us is the freedom to enjoy God now in this life at this moment in this very place.

Again, Christ lives in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. All that Christ is in the gospels, all that Christ is as the second person of the Trinity, and all that Christ is as Lord now lives in us as believers. Since Christ lives in us, we are never alone. Since Christ lives in us, we have the power to live holy lives. Since Christ lives in us, we can respond (not react) to every life situation according to the will of God. Since Christ lives in us, we can daily experience Him intimately and powerfully. Therefore, we desire all of Him in all of us all the time.

Unbelief says: Some other time, but not now; some other place, but not here; some other people, but not us. Faith says: Anything He did anywhere else He will do here; anything He did any other time He is willing to do now; anything He ever did for other people He is willing to do for us! With our feet on the ground, and our head cool, but with our heart ablaze with the love of God, we walk out in this fullness of the Spirit, if we will yield and obey. God wants to work through you!

A. W. Tozer, The Counselor  (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 122.

 

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Do You Have the Right Job? Or, What is Contentment?

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have” (Phil. 4:11).

Contentment is deep and abiding satisfaction in God himself. Contentment focuses on God’s presence, joy, and love as opposed to our wants, needs, and wishes. Nothing the world offers compares with this deep sense of fulfillment gifted us in the love of Christ. Contentment is found when are our emotional needs are met in God’s love and our inadequacies are overwhelmed in God’s sufficiency. We experience true joy because Jesus has met our deepest need–peace with God. We are fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, we are content with the necessities of life that the Lord has provided.

Contentment is developed over time: it is not an instant virtue. Contentment is obtained through trusting Christ and a willingness to live without the world’s passing fashions (Phil 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6; Heb. 13:5). Contentment is found by trusting God’s will, submitting to his appointments (even if they may be disappointments), and drawing strength from Christ (Phil. 4:13). We want contentment because we want him and contentment give us more of him and less of us.

“There is no such thing as the right place, the right job, the right calling or ministry. I can be happy or unhappy in all situations. I am sure of it, because I have been. I have felt distraught and joyful in situations of abundance as well as poverty, in situations of popularity and anonymity, in situations of success and failure.

The difference was never based on the situation itself, but always on my state of mind and heart. When I knew I was walking with God, I always felt happy and at peace. When I was entangled in my own complaints and emotional needs, I always felt restless and divided.”

~~ Henri Nouwen, Seeking Peace

ht: daily dig

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Prayer of Dedication: Day 21: 21 Days of Prayer

“Then he said to me, ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days” (Dan. 10:12–14).

Thank you for joining Lamb of God parish during our 21 days of prayer and fasting emphasis. As you prayed with us each day, many of you commented through email and Facebook, that the daily written prayers greatly encouraged you in your walk with God. For that, we are deeply grateful. Thanks to Fr. Glenn, Fr. Scott, India, and Nicholas for writing prayers that kept us focused on the magnificence of the Father, the beauty of the Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit. May your walk with the Lord abound and prosper as you continue to seek, follow, and obey our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

~~Book of Common Prayer, Prayer of Self-Dedication, 832.

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