OUT OF THE PASTOR’S PEN
“I have given them the glory that You [i.e., the Father] gave Me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”
Jesus, Himself, summarized the deepest meaning of God’s glory, which is the goodness of God’s love. From the Beginning, our heavenly Father has had nothing but good intentions and love for us. In our fallen world, He has never abandoned His original purpose. God is good to us. Nothing, not our sins nor death itself, can separate us from His mercy, grace and powerful love—except to refuse to accept it!
Christ in us is surely our lasting hope of glory. He is risen! Now let us learn to walk in the glory Jesus won for us on the Cross so the world will recognize His great love!
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey that began His final week before the Cross. Riding on the donkey fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy some 550 years earlier that Jerusalem would rejoice when their king came to them “righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey.”
Huge crowds lined the way into the city shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Hosanna means “O save” and can also mean “bring the victory.” They expected Jesus to claim His seat as the Messiah King to overthrow Israel’s enemies, especially the hated Romans, and usher in the Messianic Kingdom promised by God through the Old Testament prophets.
Passion week was all about confronting worldly authority, but Jesus’ Palm Parade changed the equation from man’s power to God’s Truth. He came lowly and riding on a donkey—the Suffering Messiah (see Isaiah 53)—instead of garbed in light and riding like a king on a great white horse! His message was that God’s way to Victory comes after the Cross, not before it. Jesus modeled the humble way required by God (see Micah 6:8).
The triumphant crowd at Jesus’ Palm Parade was largely the same crowd that shouted “Crucify Him!” five days later. Their expectations were not met by the man on the donkey. They wanted peace at any cost and provision from the King who fed 5000 with five loaves. Isn’t that what we want too? Peace, productivity and provision!
Now here’s the question for us. What do we expect from the man on the donkey? We know He went to the Cross instead of crushing the Romans. Yet Jesus’ Kingdom today includes some 2 billion followers around the world, while Rome has been reduced to a city of ruins, pizza and passing fashion. Which is the better way?
This coming week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day (Easter Sunday), I urge you to re-read the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry and examination by the powers of His day. (The narratives begin in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12.) Then seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and you will receive all the peace and provision you need both here on earth and in the world to come.
Easter is less than three weeks away. Many traditional churchgoers anticipate Easter by fasting and focusing on personal repentance during Lent during the forty days leading up to Easter. The tradition is based on the forty days of fasting Jesus spent in the wilderness at the outset of his ministry, immediately after being baptized.
Easter is the dramatic historical high point of the entire Bible, matched in drama only by the amazing and mysterious prophetic revelations in the Book of Revelation about End Times events still to come. Easter originated during Passover, the spring festival in the Biblical calendar celebrating Israel’s Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The angel of death “passed over” every household that followed God’s instructions to smear the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorframe of their dwelling as a sign of their trust in God.
Talmud says: “The Holy one, blessed be He, prepares the remedy before the wound.” In other words, God foresaw the Fall of the first Adam and prepared from the Beginning to send a manifestation of Himself as the second Adam to “remedy the wound.”
Luke 9:51–56 says:”When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” This verse quotes Isaiah 50:7,
Jesus knew for certain the Sovereign Lord would help Him through His trial. Therefore “he set his face to go” to Jerusalem. He strengthened His resolve for what lay ahead.
This is the reward that Jesus gained for us on the Cross. For the joy set before us, we can face any and every kind of tribulation, just as our Lord set His face for what lay ahead of Him. Do you believe it?
Thinking about the 21 day “Prayer Fast” that begins this coming Sunday, January 8th, I was led to write this little memory device about the high calling of prayer in our lives:
P – Power of God
R – Revelation of God
A – Anointing of God
Y – Yielding to God
E – Expectations of God
R – R
P – Power of God – Philippians 4:13
R – Revelation of God – John 16:13
A – Anointing of God – 1 John 2:27
Y – Yielding to God – 1 Corinthians 6:20
E – Expectations of God – 1 John 5:14-15 – This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
R – Rulership of God – Matthew 19:26
We have the honor, privilege and joy of praying to our Creator with the sure knowledge that He hears our prayers, knows what is on our hearts even before we pray and that He has a plan to prosper us and not to bring us harm.
I’m excited about our 21 day prayer fast and I hope you are too. The church will be open at 7 PM Tuesday through Friday during the 21 day fast for all who would like to pray together with others. On Wednesdays, Fire House Worship will be part of the prayer time.
Through January 29, we are all praying at least 21 minutes per day. You can pray your own prayers, and below are listed 21 declarations we all can pray daily. As you pray…
Pray expecting God to move – Jesus said: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Mt 21:22
Pray continuously – Paul wrote: “Pray without ceasing, always giving thanks.” 1 Thes. 5:17-18
Pray fervently – James wrote: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16
Pray the Word – Jesus said: “If you abide in me and my words abide in you…it shall be done for you.” John 15:7
Pray God’s promises – Peter wrote: “He given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4
Pray together in unity – When the power of Pentecost broke through, the disciples prayed all gathered in one accord. Acts 2:1
Declarations that Build Unity
Jesus called us to be one as He and the Father are one. When the world sees our unity, He said the world will believe the Father sent Him.
- We are being built together in union with Christ into a spiritual dwelling place for God. Eph 2:22
- We receive and preserve the unity the Spirit gives us through the binding power of His peace. Eph 4:3
- The glory which God gave Jesus, He has given to us, so we are now one, even as Jesus and the Father are one. John 17:22
- We are of one mind, loving one another, compassionate and humble-minded, not repaying evil for evil but repaying with blessings—and inheriting blessings. I Pet 3:8-9
- As brothers and sisters in Christ we speak the same thing. There is no division among us. We are perfectly joined together in the same mind and same judgment. 1 Cor 1:10
- We rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, living in harmony with each other. Rom 12:15-16
- Believers in our nation are encouraged in heart and united in love so we have complete confidence in understanding that we know the mystery of God, namely Christ. Col 2:2
Declarations that Bring Transformation
We pray with joyful expectancy as we wait upon You only, God. Our hope comes from You. Rom 15:13 Our prayers are powerful and effective! 2 Cor 5:21
- We call upon You and pray to You, God, and You listen. We seek You with our whole hearts, so we find You. Jer 29:12-13
- We lack nothing. You lead us beside still waters and refresh us daily. Ps 23:1-3
- You cover us with Your feathers, Your truth is our shield. We are not afraid by night or day. A thousand may fall at our side, ten thousand at our right hand, but it shall not come near us. Ps 91:4,5,7
- No weapon formed against us, our families, churches, schools, places of work or public gatherings shall prosper. This is our heritage as Your servants. Is 54:17
- You have given us the victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:56-57
- We have divine weapons to tear down arguments and presumptions raised against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive into obedience to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5
- We are not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good in our lives and the lives of those around us. The Father has given all judgment to You, Jesus. Vengeance is the Lord’s. Rom 12:19,21, John 5:22
- People in our community are no longer being conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of their minds to test and approve God’s good, acceptable, perfect will. Rom 12:2
- We are being made into Christ’s image, transformed daily with ever increasing glory that comes from the Lord, who is Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18
Declarations for Those in Authority
1 Timothy 2:1 encourages us to pray for all in authority over us or in places of high responsibility—in government, church and elsewhere—so that we can livein peace and quiet, spending time in Godly living.
- You are raising up godly people to rule over us. Ps 75:6-7
- The Lord is cutting off the strength of evil leaders and increasing the power of Godly leaders in their place. Ps 75:10
- Our leaders rule and lawmakers legislate fairly with Your help, Lord, so that now they have wisdom and hate the evil of pride, arrogance, and crooked talk. Prov 8:13
- Thank You, Lord, that You have removed any unrighteous advisors from before our President and that his presidency rests firmly on spiritual and moral righteousness. Prov 25:5
- Our leaders trust in You, Lord. Your unfailing love keeps them from stumbling. Psa 23:7
We often pray for things we need, from healing to finances to improvement in our relationships. Jesus, Himself, taught us to pray for our daily bread, and deliverance from the evil one—essential needs for a fruitful life on earth. But His first focus in the Lord’s Prayer was that God’s Kingdom would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. It only makes sense that His first focus in prayer should be our first focus also. We can be confident that when we seek His Kingdom first, God will supply us with everything else we need.
This is why we included three categories of prayers among the 21 prayer declarations for our 21-day prayer fast:
1) Prayers that build unity among believers are important because unity among believers is an essential ingredient in prayers that move heaven. Psalm 133 says: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!… For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
2) Prayers that bring transformation are important because heaven cannot break through into human hearts or break forth from human hearts unless we are transformed by the renewing of our hearts and minds so that we may know and understand God’s good and perfect will for us. (Romans 12:2
3) Prayers for those in authority are important because leaders are gatekeepers who have the ability to block heavenly influences from passing into culture, as well as to release heavenly influences to bring about positive change. Imagine a great political leader, publisher or media magnate who was fully intent on using his or her position to release Godly change in their sphere of influence. Paul wrote Timothy to intercede for leaders so “that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”
So as we prepare to enter into the final week of our 21-day prayer fast next week, allow Holy Spirit to enlarge your prayer perspective until you begin to sow seeds of hope beyond your immediate needs. For our God is a God of hope who desires to fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. This kind of hope is supernatural and attracts others, and extends the influence of heaven on earth, just as the Lord taught us to pray.
Here are five types of effort you can make to help you focus more effectively to accomplish the work of prayer.
- Make the effort to set apart time for prayer. We are creatures of habit and establishing the “habit of prayer” calls for disrupting other habits that control us. I am convinced that one reason many Christians struggle with making time to pray is that we have lost the meaning of the Sabbath. The Hebrew word for Sabbath is Shabbat, which means to “cease.” The Sabbath was designed to help us learn to cease from our own works, just as the Lord ceased working on the seventh day. When we learn to step out of the pressure of our personal schedules to set apart (“make holy”) time for God, we often find He more than makes up for any time we feel we’ve lost. After all, we’re called to redeem the time. Eph 5:16
- Make the effort to surrender to God. Every act of prayer involves acknowledging God is greater than ourselves. His presence, power and authority outrank everything and everyone. Jesus made a way for us to approach God freely and even boldly when we simply recognize His greatness. This is why it’s said that every prayer contains a seed of thankfulness, because we know instinctively that God holds everything we need in His hand.
- Make the effort to listen to God. Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where one person—maybe yourself!—does all the talking? Not very satisfying in the end, is it? The very definition of a “relationship” is that it’s a two-way street. If you find yourself doing a lot of talking at God, take a break from yourself and wait to see what He does. He might give you a vision, a dream, or speak directly to your heart. With a little practice, you will find God likes to speak to you so you can understand Him easily. After all, He’s good God full of grace for His children.
- Make the effort to receive from God. It would be silly to go to the bank to make withdrawal and never actually take the money. It’s the same with God. He said we have not because we ask not. Multiple scriptures teach that God responds to our requests when they are made in faith, expecting Him to act. This is especially true when we learn to pray in accordance with God’s purposes and will for our lives. But don’t forget to accept what God gives you when you pray. That would be silly! If it seems like He’s not giving you anything you feel you need, that usually means He’s looking for something to change in your heart so you He can meet an even deeper need.
- The greater work of praying God’s promises and purposes for our lives. Most of us pray reflexively for our own needs—our relationships, finances, peace, joy, protection, etc. What about God’s needs? Not that God is dependent on us to fulfill His needs, because in one sense God has no needs. Yet He has set forth good works for us to walk in. (Eph 2:10) He invites us to do our part. His burden is light, Jesus said, and His yoke is easy. When we learn God’s word well enough to repeat God’s promises to Him, He has a delightful way of making our prayer time welcoming and even—timeless!
Jesus taught that heaven is not simply where we go when we die, but the place of God’s rule and reign on earth here and now. Our job, as children of God, is to call out to Him for the ways of heaven to govern our hearts and lives here and now. We are earthly vessels designed and called to carry and share the things of heaven wherever we go. We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and whatever else we need will be given to us.
When we accept Jesus as the Lord of our life, we become citizens of Heaven. When someone is healed and delivered from the power of the devil, the Kingdom of Heaven has come upon them. When the love of Christ moves in us and through us, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Prayer takes us onto the High Way of Faith between heaven and earth. When we turn our attention to our Father in heaven, as Jesus taught us, we enter the High Way of Faith. It’s a two-way High Way. Jesus is seated with the Father in the place of dominion interceding for us. When we call out to Jesus, the Father hears us. He wants us to prosper here on earth. He answers every prayer. We are to be anxious for nothing but rather to make our requests known to God by prayer and petition with thanksgiving. When we do this we fulfill our calling as people chosen to be a royal priesthood right here on earth (1 Peter 2:9).
Prayer is an amazing privilege given to all people, even unbelievers. Many people come to faith simply by crying out to God or Jesus in desperation, then discovering that God actually answers their heart cry. But as Believers, we are called to something more. We are called to actively participate in God’s plan to bring forth the ways of heaven on earth. This is a higher call than simply asking for our personal needs. We are called to make prayers of faith trusting that God is the God of love and compassion, the only God who invites people to call Him “Father.” Our Father in heaven desires to have a personal connection with each of His children. All of His creation longs for us to walk in the fullness of who we were made to be. Abba Father sends His Spirit every day to empower us to be who He calls us to be so that we ourselves become bearers of heaven on earth.
Next time you pray, think on these things. Intercede with God for heaven to come to earth—then be prepared to be used by Him to make it come true! Prayer is the Way to bring things above down to earth. In this way Jesus in our hearts becomes the High Way of Holiness.
One of the greatest challenges in relationships is learning to move toward the other person when differences work to separate us. Otherwise we end up focusing on managing the distance between ourselves and the other person rather than making the effort to reconnect. Yet it usually takes more energy to manage distance than to make the effort to reconnect in important relationships, no matter how challenging it can feel to make that effort.
Make your goal connection rather than keeping your distance.
Drop the disrespectful talk.
You, you, you.” As in: “You
Step back, breath a moment and address your own fears and anxieties.
Take time to process what you’re feeling and identify why you’re upset. It’s hard to be reasonable when our feelings are amped up. Identify what’s bothering you and prepare yourself to listen more closely to what’s bothering the other person. It’s amazing how often a solvable communication breakdown triggers the blame and shame game. Refuse to go there.
Learn to identify and communicate what you need in the relationship.
When we linger in self-protection or distance mode too long, it gets hard to acknowledge our actual needs. To move toward the other person, you have to realize what’s really important to you, what you need most. To move toward another person, it requires vulnerability to open up your own heart, acknowledge your own areas of need, and be willing to communicate those.
Listen to what the other person needs in the relationship.
Be ready to adjust in order to protect a repaired connection.
A successful reconnection conversation doesn’t just clean up existing messes that led to the disconnect; it also identifies areas where you need to adjust in order to build and maintain a better connection. Your goal should be to move forward from your conversation with motivation and a plan for staying better connected going forward.
As Danny Silk concludes: “There’s nothing more courageous than fighting for your connection by leaning into a tough conversation. Remember that you’ve not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. You’ve got this, and it’s worth it.”
Something in us wants to believe life should be problem-free. It’s a great dream, but when we don’t get what we want right away we’re prone to grumbling, blaming someone, taking offense or sulking away in our own private world.
The Bible says we’ll have difficulties in life. In fact, the reason we’re here is to overcome them. The good works God prepared before we were born for us to walk in isn’t a cake walk, it’s a life of overcoming! Jesus put it, “In this life you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Weight lifters know that they need to press against resistance to build their muscles. In like manner spiritually capable people have learned to see problems as times of resistance for building up their spiritual strength. That’s what “take heart” means.
Jesus also said: “By your patient endurance, you will gain your souls.” Luke 21:19 God wants us to gain our souls. The Greek word for “soul” is psuche, from which we get words like psyche and psychology. The word literally means “to breathe or blow” and refers to the breath of God filling us with life which produces a positive, overcoming attitude. By learning not only to endure the problems of life but to face them positively, we gain ourselves even if we can’t solve a problem right away. With God’s Spirit in us, all things are possible. So much so that we can walk through life enveloped by an atmosphere of hope, joy and victory that often releases the very favor we need to solve the problems we face.
So, learn to be vigilant when problems arise. There’s the problem, and then there’s what rises up in us to address the problem. Take time to breathe before reacting and ask God for His perspective and strength to deal with the problem. Learning to call problems “challenges” and “opportunities” is a good place to start. Try saying it outloud, even if it sounds funny—especially if a problem is very difficult. Hearing our own positive self-talk reminds us God is with us always, and His plan is always to prosper us, give us hope and lead us into a better future. Jeremiah 29:11 The best is yet to come!