Praise to God for a Living Hope
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
• In Christ, I encounter a Holy God and live to tell about it.
Disciples intentionally immerse themselves in a relationship with God and His Word… to encounter God.
This is why we build churches and print Bibles; it’s why we send missionaries and call pastors; it's why we write and read devotions. Go even deeper, more basic: It's why Jesus is born and why Jesus dies.
Jesus dies so that man may encounter God and live – to be saved from our sins and saved for a relationship with God. You may have heard the expression "lived to tell about it". This describes someone surviving a potentially deadly experience.
Jesus ensures that when we encounter God, we “live to tell about it”. Hebrews 10:31 testifies, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." But through Jesus Christ I encounter a gracious and merciful God. He is the same God – there is only one; but Jesus changes our relationship with this God by removing the deadly effect of sin and replacing it with the life-giving effect of grace.
Father God, it is my heart’s desire, my spirit’s desire to encounter You as the gracious God described in the Bible. Thanks to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, that is possible. Now by your Holy Spirit, help me to get to know you better and better, now and forever. Amen.
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Spend some time pondering the depths of this truth: Jesus is THE Way to God the Father; no other way exists to access God other than through him.
According to Jesus – the one who said that he would die and rise from the dead AND did it – this is reality. Some rebuff this declaration and call it exclusionary and harsh.
But if Jesus is right about this being the only way (and IT IS according to Jesus!), it’s actually the only way to be inclusionary. Sin’s deadliness had to be dealt with – and God used His own Son Jesus to handle that sin so that anyone who believes could be included.
Father God, I come to you in the name of Jesus, the only way that I can legitimately come and expect grace and mercy. But I come confidently, because you promise that I am included in his name. I want to know you and Jesus your Way; I want to know your Word and your ways within Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,
for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
~ Apostle Paul
Our teaching on prayer this week comes out of the heart of the Apostle Paul. He craved that prayers be lifted up on his behalf as an ambassador for the gospel. He wanted to make sure that people experienced the true God, the God of the Bible, the God of our Father Jesus Christ who would send his only Son to perish so that we would not perish but have everlasting life.
Who do you see lifting up this prayer today? Pastors? People in other countries? Could this become a prayer you raise in your own soul – to be fearless? Who would you ask to pray for you? If the phrase “in chains” were removed from prayer, could this be a prayer request you might ask to be shared for you? Are you an ambassador for Christ?
Check out 2nd Corinthians 5:11-21 (below) as you consider your answer, then turn to the prayer for the day.
The Ministry of Reconciliation
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Father God, I pray that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador. May I and (…mention others who share the Gospel…) declare it fearlessly, as we should. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
The idea of Jesus praying for his disciples to be one parallels Jesus himself being one with the Father. That sounds like a pretty significant Oneness. When Jesus originally prayed this, he was praying for the first disciples. Scriptures testify that Jesus intercedes for his followers, his disciples. Who is Jesus praying that you would “be one” with? We like to be protected and kept safe, which Jesus prays for as well. That is worth praying for, but before we do so let's review the idea of being one with others.
Oneness matters to Jesus. Does oneness matter to you? How might you define oneness? How might you guess Jesus would define such oneness?
Ask yourself whether or not you have cared about, sought after, or prayed for such oneness. Have you avoided it or minimized its significance? Maybe you (we) need to repent of not having this as a focal point in our spiritual walk.
Let's return to desiring oneness with God the Father and with his children. As you return to the Father, pray that he will help God’s people discern how to be one amidst differences of perspective, opinion, culture, and background.
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for praying for the protection of your disciples including myself. I pray that you would teach my spirit what it means to be one with other disciples and that by the power of your name I would experience this oneness with my brothers and sisters in Christ, your beloved. Amen
“Passage after passage in the Scriptures makes it clear that humility is the way to God's heart. The proud find the door closed to his inner sanctum, but those who demonstrate humility are welcomed there again and again. By some measures the performance the former group may outshine the latter, but never mind. God does not receive us on the basis of performance. He receives us on the basis of heart, and no quality of heart is more important to him than humility.”
p.10, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
Oh Father God, I yearn to know your heart. I yearn to know the way to your heart. It is not lost on me that Jesus is the way to you. So Jesus, again I pray that you teach me humility – and I thank you for being my Way to our Heavenly Father. Amen.
Who is the God a disciple worships and serves? Though we cannot fully comprehend the nature of God, there is only one eternal God, who though one is at the same time three persons -- God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
(Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p. 65)
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit: What my mind cannot grasp about you, let my heart and soul learn. Take me beyond knowledge of the mind to belief of the soul and trust of the heart. Let my spirit learn from You Holy Spirit how to, as Apostle Peter says, participate in the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4). In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Ezekiel’s Inaugural Vision
1 In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. 5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. 7 But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. 8 But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9 I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”
10 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. 11 Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.”
12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the Lord rose from the place where it was standing. 13 It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound. 14 The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. 15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed.
Multiple places in John’s book of Revelation describe inhabitants of heaven bowing, falling on their faces, or even laying prostrate before the holiness of God.
Ezekiel records a similar experience himself when transported to heaven in a vision. He couldn’t but help to fall before God. Often human beings lack such reverence for God. Many people think this lack of reverence is due to God generally cloaking (or hiding) his holiness.
That changed in a hurry for this man of God. Jump into this story from God’s Word with the prophet Ezekiel and his vision. It left him physically, emotionally and spiritually overwhelmed for an entire week.
Father God, dare I pray for you to overwhelm my soul? Build in me an appropriate reverence and respect for You and Your Holiness. In Jesus I pray. Amen.
Blessed to be a Blessing
Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.
To obtain this blessing, it would of course help to know the words of the prophecy. There is seemingly always a blessing in knowing God’s Word – and then practicing it helps! What would this blessing look like fulfilled in your life? Write that down. Seek this blessing for yourself and others in prayer and life.
Father God, as we seek to be more intentional about immersing ourselves in a relationship with You and Your Word, help us to remove any impediments and barriers, both those we see and those we are unaware of.
Enable us to overcome our rebellious flesh through the power of your Holy Spirit working with our spirit. We want to learn more about you; we want to internalize your Word in our souls, guard it in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.
Knowing that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from your mouth O God, feed our spirits daily. Show us how to orient our lives not around physical meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner, but around spiritual meals throughout the day.
We desire to gain wisdom and practice good spiritual disciplines, but ultimately Lord we want to encounter You through Your Word. Bless us to this end. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Father God, as we begin a vision process called “Hope for the Future”, we ask that you bless the individuals called to serve you, both in your church and outside of the church. Bless the teams and individuals and grant them both time and inspired ideas as they work collectively on your behalf. May they be good listeners and sharers within the group and your church, for the sake of the church, for the communities we live in, and for your kingdom overall. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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