In These Days…He Went To Pray

 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

“And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you.'” Luke 6:12-20

I watched in delight this morning as the dawn broke, ink black giving way to deep periwinkle, suddenly resplendent in blazing color, and within minutes, monochromatic grey. I thought how being alert, eyes and heart open in the moment, taking quiet time alone and listening, is necessary if I want to experience the treasures God has for me.

The resolve and work of prayer is always worth it. For Jesus, prayer was part of the vital flow of His life on earth. It is a pattern for us. During His days, His ministry, the ordinary and the spectacular, He stole away to pray. It took effort for Him to leave the crowds, to climb the mountain, to get quiet, but it was here in the secret place He could think through His concerns, consider His hours, commune with His Father, take in His treasures, and go forth to discern, to call and encourage and lead, to heal, to bless. The power with which He lived was ignited in His time alone with His Father.

Lord, may this be so for me. Keep aflame in me the determination to take time away and alone with You, to seek Your vision and power and insight for my days and duties. Fill me to give Your best blessing to others, and all glory to You.

Who Am I? Who Is He?

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?  And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God. You have also spoken of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have shown me future generations, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant. For your servant’s sake, O Lord, and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. There is none like you, O Lord, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making for yourself a name for great and awesome things, in driving out nations before your people whom you redeemed from Egypt? And you made your people Israel to be your people forever, and you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord, let the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house be established forever, and do as you have spoken, and your name will be established and magnified forever, saying, “The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God,” and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you. And now, O Lord, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you, for it is you, O Lord, who have blessed, and it is blessed forever.’” 1 Chronicles 17:16-27

This prayer of David’s always moves me, not only because of his humility before God, his swelling heart at God’s love for and favor upon him, but because he has such a deep understanding of God’s marvelous and bountiful ways. When he received the message through Nathan the prophet that he would not be the one to build God’s house, but his son would, his eyes were opened to the vast and sovereign plans of God that spanned not just his reign, his life, but a much wider time. He was overcome at this God Whose heart was good, Whose plans were eternal, Who saw the big picture and worked everything perfectly to accomplish it, Who lovingly revealed His plans to His own, Who was unique and incomparable, Who redeemed His people and kept them forever. Based on God’s greatness, David had confidence in His promises, and claimed them as his own.

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When we know Who God is, how He works, and what He says, it is right, not haughty, to trust Him to do all He says He will. Every word of God proves true, and we honor Him when we live in bold, confident faith. One who says, “I can’t presume upon God for this” is one who is more focused on himself than God, and  has not taken in His promises or understood His character. When we, like David, are consumed with God, we gladly and courageously receive His good word. (Psalm 119:89)

Lord, keep me sitting before You in wonder and humble amazement, accepting with gratitude all You reveal to me about Yourself, Your will, Your ways, Your plans for me. May I take full advantage of Your confidences, taking them as my own and living in the light of them, blessing You forever. (John 15:15)

Co-Workers

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  “We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ…comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” Hebrews 13:20-21; 2 Thessalonians 1:11;2:16,17

Benedictions are given at the end of religious services, a final blessing as a culmination of all that has transpired during the service. Here, Paul gives these cogent benedictions at the close of his substantive teachings, so they are to be received and applied in light of what has come before. We are called to do good works, but we are called to do them “now,” now that we know all Christ has done for us, that the best work has already been done by Him– He is our High Priest, the One Whose word has penetrated our lives in power and conviction, the One Who has saved us and presently enables us to live by faith and in strength and purpose. We know the desire and fuel for this good comes not from ourselves, but by the Holy Spirit of God, our mysterious sanctifying Co-worker, Who “works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  Nothing we are called to do is impossible, because He Who calls is He Who enables, He Who begins a good work is He Who completes it. Amen! (Philippians 2:13;1:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5;2:13;5:24)

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How well am I cooperating with Him? How actively am I taking in what He has accomplished for me and what I am called to do in response? Are His truths only that- doctrines I believe, but never put into practical action?

Oh Lord, You have done and still do all the work, yet You beckon me to roll up my sleeves and get into Your flow. Keep me clinging to all that has gone before, and live as a benediction to others, that Your name be blessed forever.

Extraordinary Things

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.  And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’  When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the man who was paralyzed—‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.  And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.’ After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.” Luke 5:17-27

Extraordinary things: that experts in the law, implanted with holy desire, would gather to listen to Jesus. That men, compelled by an urgent love, would take their limp, paralyzed friend up on a roof to let him down in front of Jesus. That Jesus, filled with compassion and life-giving power, would forgive and make the paralyzed walk. That amazement and awe, gifts from regenerated souls, would be given our worthy God. That a shrewd rich man, supernaturally moved by Jesus’s call, would give up everything to follow Him.

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…That any, inspired by the Holy Spirit, seek and live for Jesus. The desire to spend time with Jesus in prayer and His word, to stop the complaining thought and rest content, to choose to bless and encourage rather than criticize, to prefer another over myself, to say no to what is not healthy for the better choice, to be patient and kind and generous, to  do menial work happily and not think less of those who do not, to have resistance softened to glad acceptance of different ideas and willingness for new duties, to be willing to bear the cross for another’s sake, to be thankful–all these are extraordinary things God does in and through us when we are surrendered to Him. Should I not invite His filling and control?

Lord on high, may I never cease to marvel at Your extraordinary things, and yield myself to those You want to perform in me. Keep me amazed and glorifying You.

Compelled to Make a Way

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.  And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you. Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.” Luke 5:17-20,24-25

When friends have compunction, they will do anything to help one another. What a beautiful visual this is for ones who care so much for this paralyzed man they would not give in to obstacles, but press on to find a way to get him to Jesus. The crowd is too thick? Let’s go to the roof and remove some tiles—extraordinary measures to accomplish their aim, and it was worth it. The Great Healer was moved by their faith, fueled by their confidence in what He could do and love for their friend, and He freed him, giving new and joyful life.

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Am I so willing to go out of my way for the sake of others? Do I even take the time and thought to recognize the condition of those around me–their paralysis of fear, their despair over hopelessness, their shallow living, their baggage and pain? And once I do see these things, how deliberate am I in praying for them, and for how God would have me involved in bringing them to Jesus? What if it takes unordinary measures, methods that are not easy or natural for me? Surely, when God gives the discernment and compulsion, He will make the way and give me eyes to see it. He may require I go to some out-of-the-box place (the roof) and remove some preconceptions or prejudices or preferences (the tiles) to effect His purposes. So be it!

Lord, I want Your eyes and heart for those around me. May Your love compel me as Your ambassador. Give me boldness and creativity when facing opposition, and remove any tiles of resistance, excuses, love of ease. Make me willing and ready and open for Your appeal to others through me. (2 Corinthians 5:14-20)

Filled, Led, Armed, Empowered

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness  for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”‘ And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’  And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”’ And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,  for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”‘ And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.” Luke 4:1-2,14

While Jesus takes center stage in this passage, it is the invisible Holy Spirit Who is the protagonist. It is He Who had filled Jesus at His baptism, and He Who led Him into the wilderness. Thus armed, Jesus victoriously met every temptation with which the devil attacked. He, the Truth Himself, discerned every motive and knew the appropriate truths to combat each temptation, turning upside down every trick the devil employed. He was weary, hungry, under relentless attack, but circumstances did not win out over the power of the controlling Spirit within. (John 14:6)

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How easy it is to be lax in spending time to know God’s word, the truths that support and defend against the world’s constant onslaught. How subtly we fall into ease, loosen our defenses, and muddy our discernment with false teaching. How insidious it is to be filled with all sorts of inane knowledge and trivia, overwhelmed by temporal concerns, spent in superficial efforts. But when I am filled, led, and armed by the Spirit, His power takes over my choices.

Lord, fill me daily with Your Spirit. May I press on to know You and Your word well in order to be able to combat the enemy. He is wily, evil and destructive, but You are my Defender, the sword of Your Spirit, Your word, my best and sufficient weapon. (Ephesians 5:18;6:11,17; Hosea 6:3; John 8:44;10:10; Acts 13:10)

The LORD is His Name

“The Lord GOD of hosts, who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—the LORD is his name.” Amos 9:6

He has a name, to be known by, to be called upon, this Lord of mine. He is Lord of hosts, of all that live and breathe, of angel armies and the armies of men. He is the active and living Creator of heavens and earth and sea. He rules over all in splendor and majesty and power. He breathes, and creates or destroys; He speaks, and what He says happens; He commands, and all His creation obeys His bidding. (Genesis 2:7; Psalm 18:30;33:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8)

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live… I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!’ What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:1-2,4,12-13,17

Mighty God, thank You that we know each other. You have called me by name, and I commune with You by name, merciful and Everlasting Father, all-sufficient One, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. May I always value and more deeply understand the names Your word reveals to me, and treasure the intimacy You invite, hiding in Your safe and holy name. (Isaiah 43:1;9:6; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Proverbs 18:10)