Prayer


Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 29: 2

 

According to Merriam-Webster the verb ascribe has a simple definition; “to refer to a supposed cause, source, or author: to say or think that (something) is caused by, comes from, or is associated with a particular person or thing.”

Ascription indicates the source or the cause; so, when David tells us to ascribe glory to the Lord, he is saying that the Lord, Himself, is the one who wrote the book on glory. This form of brilliance is both greater than all light, including the illumination that comes from the sun, and also gives off a form of illumination that penetrates to the depths of the heart and the soul to reveal all that is to be found there. This is the glory that is of the Lord and that also emanates from Him. We cannot draw near to God and not be caught up in the power and the beauty of His light of glory.

 

So, if we seek to be close to God, we will encounter glory. As we seek to know Him, we experience this same great light, and the glow that comes from God’s presence is one that is infused with His holiness and that also pours out that same great cleansing truth over and into all who will accept God as our Lord. This is a wonderful gift and a marvelous reward for turning away from the influences of this world and surrendering to the love, grace, and mercy of the Father as expressed by and through Jesus Christ, the Son. In simple fact, we do not actually cause glory to be associated with God, for God is self-referential in this matter. We acknowledge what is there as we speak out our comprehension of the character and nature of our Lord and Creator. His glory is something that predates all of Creation. It is a part of the fabric of the universe as God imparted His great light of truth into all that His hands formed and granted life to. God’s glory is present in Heaven and in all that exists outside of it.

 

Although we encounter this glory in and around us in many places and as a part of much of our world, there is still only one source for it. In addition, all that is truly glorious in our world and in life comes from that same source. Now God is not stingy with giving out His glory to us; instead, He distributes it freely and widely. However, if we desire to know the source of this life-giving light, we must seek after and draw near to the Lord. As we call out God’s name and associate it with words of adoration, praise, and petition, we are engaging in worship. We also do this when we bring the pain and the struggles of our days to our Lord with trust in His goodness and mercy and expectant hope for His comfort and provision. The Lord is honored by the way that we live out our lives when we do so in response to Christ’s great sacrificial love for us, and He counts it as worship when we pour out justice, mercy, comfort, and protection upon people who are broken and downtrodden. Each and every aspect of worship comes about in response to who God is and as a reflection of the glory that radiates from His presence. As we worship we speak back to God the truth of His great love, and we open our hearts and our minds to encountering ever more of God’s awesome presence.

 

 

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When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat.

1 Corinthians 4: 12

 

We might dream or wish to live in a civil world where people respect others without regard for what we believe, who we are, or how we view governance or other like issues. Yet, we know that this is not true. The hyper-aware nature of our times makes it hard to ignore issues; so, it also makes sorting out the people that we meet from the positions that they hold a lot more challenging. The world where we live is one wherein people are frequently defined and catalogued by our political, religious, and cultural point of view. We use broad brush strokes such as liberal or conservative, believer or non-believer, nationalist, evangelical, Muslim, socialist, and many others as if those terms fully fleshed out the definition of who a person is and of what worth they might be. Nothing of this sort is truly valid when it comes to the way that we view others or when we determine how we should respond to the world where we dwell.

 

We might think that these issues and concerns are the result of the way that our world has evolved for our fast paced, electronic communication oriented environment is one in which it is hard to ignore what is happening around the world and who is involved in making these things occur. Yet, Paul is talking about some of the same sorts of things as they were current events in his times, too. The nature of people as we live out our brokenness and our sinfulness has not changed much over time. We are hurtful, arrogant, and prideful now just as we were long ago. We seek to make little of others in order to contrast our personal greatness to them, and we don’t much care how much damage we might do to others while engaging in these acts. Far too often labels are used as a replacement for engaging in relationship building, for these wide-reaching descriptors make it far easier for us to sift out and sort people into those that we consider to be acceptable and worthy of knowing and those that we do not value enough to associate with. All of these thoughts, actions, and attitudes cause harm and deny the reconciling work of Christ through us and in the lives of others.

Christ’s reconciling

In fact, we will encounter people with whom we differ on many topics and in many other ways. This is the beautiful reality of the great diversity that God has designed into humanity. We are intended to live in a manner that values these differences and that allows for the expression of our various points of view and perspectives so that, in the end, a fully-formed and balanced perspective is brought to bear upon the concept of living in a loving and considerate manner as we travel through life. This brings me to the partial verse above. I think that Paul is granting us some wise instruction for how we can live in this world as true disciples of Christ. As in all things, our Lord is the example for us to look to and to model ourselves after in our responses to the world. It is inevitable that we will be spoken negatively about and treated unfairly or unjustly by others because of our beliefs and due to the way that those beliefs demand that we think, speak, and act. We may even encounter violence or other severe forms of persecution as a result of standing firmly for what is right in God’s eyes. However, even in these extreme situations, we are still to return loving blessings in exchange for angry and hurtful words, we are to hold onto Christ in all situations by and through His strength and power, and we are to respond to all forms of attack with the truth of the Gospel as we hold Jesus Christ up as our rock, shield, and fortress while praying for the salvation of the souls of those who are seeking to do harm to us.

 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11: 1-3

 

This is the sort of thing that is hard to accept. Somehow God makes this world out of a substance that is not visible or even tangible. By some means, it was all spoken into existence, and that word gave it its form, function, and set into motion the forces that keep it all moving onward. These actions occur outside of our cognitive world, and they are too great and wonderful for our simple minds to fully understand. There are times when God truly defies reason and logic. So, there are many aspects of God, of His nature, character, and actions that require for us to engage with them with a form of acceptance, hopefulness, and anticipation of what the Lord might do. There are many times and situations that ask for us to operate out of faith.

 

As the writer of Hebrews describes it, this is not a new idea when it comes to living out life in a relationship with God. People have done this since the earliest days of our existence. Instead, living in faith, with it as a primary guiding principle, and granting that faith is essential for people to engage fully with the spiritual realm that is God’s dwelling place is something that followers of God, His people, do as a natural part of knowing our Creator and Lord. So, this thing called faith may be natural and normal for us to experience, but it is not so native and normal in our world. Skepticism is high in the world around us as most people would much rather put their trust in things that they can touch, manipulate, and control than they would like to do the same with an unseen character and a person who attaches a moral and an ethical code of righteous thought and action to all that He says and does.

 

We enjoy good outcomes such as healing of illness, resolution of conflict, and prosperity and provision of what we need to live comfortably; however, we are not as at ease with trusting these things to God’s hands and in holding that all that we have in this world is a gift that comes from God. Yet, faith grants to us a form of peace that is deep and lasting. We can stop striving against the forces of this world in order to attempt to control and to subdue them. In faith we can know that God has a view of things that far exceeds any that we can gain and that He desires for us to prosper in spirit and that our souls are protected from all forms of evil. Faith gives us the sure knowledge that God does heal our brokenness and that He does remove all of our pain and sooth all forms of grief and loss. Faith is the element that allows us to trust God with all of this in His perfect time and to accept that these desire outcomes may happen in this life or that they are assured in the next. It is in faith that we pray to God, and through faith we anticipate His responses. As we walk in faith, we are transported out of the worldly and the temporary and we carried into the halls of glory where our great Lord and King dwells with love, grace, and redemption as the words that He speaks into our needy hearts.

Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.

John 17: 17

 

Jesus is praying to the Father. These are those last moments before the great drama that would include Judas pointing Him out, the arrest and trials, and then Christ’s seeming humiliation and crucifixion. In this time of prayer, Jesus pours out His heart and lays bare His deep desires before God, the Father. So, the Lord asks the Father to make His people clean from their sinfulness and so make them worthy to be in the presence of God. This requested outcome is not just one that is for the moment, to be redone over and over again, rather, it is a form of cleansing that is to last for all time. It includes their days of life on earth to come and the entire expanse of time in which their souls will continue to exist beyond this life. Sanctify them, make them holy, set them apart for service at God’s altar of life; this is the plea and the request that Jesus sends upward to His God.

 

This is something that does just happen. This cleansing is effective upon our acceptance of Christ as our Savior and Lord; yet, it is something that is never completed in this life. This is also the point that Jesus is making in this prayer. This truth that Jesus references is something deep, profound, and fundamental to all that exists in the universe. For truth as it is related to God is not a mere descriptor of something else, it is a part of the foundation upon which everything is constructed. Truth is an essential aspect of the nature and the character of God. So, it is solid, concrete, and without distortion or deviation over time. This truth that Jesus asks the Father to pour out into His followers responds to all of life, to everything that might come our way, in a manner that puts its adherents into a position to live out our days in conformity to God’s will and as righteous inhabitants of the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

 

The word that Jesus speaks about here is also something more basic than even the written Word of God that we view under the title Holy Bible. It is God’s expressed nature, His perfect character, and the will that defines all of His actions and that frames in all human endeavor on earth and in Heaven. Jesus was very familiar with a part of the written form of this word as it existed in His earthly days, but He was even more intimately involved with the totality of God’s expression of Himself by virtue of His engagement in the statement of this eternal truth. Jesus, in conjunction with the Father and the Spirit, spoke all of creation into existence, and He also gave us all that is loving, just, right, and holy by way of thoughts and actions to follow as a model for living within that creation. When we surrender ourselves to Christ, we are made pure, clean, and holy before God, and as we live out our remaining days in yielded surrender to Christ’s will, under the instruction of His Word, and in the counsel of His Spirit, we continue along the Lord’s sanctification road that takes us to the perfection of eternity.

Wondrously show your steadfast love,

O Savior of those who seek refuge

from their adversaries at your right hand.

Psalm 17: 7

 

There are enemies at the gate, and enemies at the door to our houses. There are enemies all around us in this world and even beyond its bounds. This is one of those hard aspects of real life, and it is the sort of thing that we do not always fully appreciate, either. Although there may be a number of these life foes that we can see and who concern us in tangible and even obvious ways, there are myriads more of them that are outside of the visible and beyond the readily tangible. Yet, even with their existence being in the realm of spirit and much of their negative work being accomplished in the area of spiritual life, they are real, and their impact upon people is powerful and significant. The impact that they have on God’s people may be far greater than we realize; yet, their true power is minimized by the presence of Christ, and because of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross, they have no lasting authority over this world or the one beyond.

 

When these foes turn their angry attention to us, we can look to our Lord for protection, for guidance, and for healing from the wounds that they inflict upon us. Christ goes with us into life, and He provides us with His protection and guidance as we journey forth. There is no better preparation for the adventure that is life than prayer and meditation upon God’s Word, and we have no greater source of strength and encouragement for the tasks that we face than that which comes from Christ and through His Spirit. This world is a hard place to dwell, and it is even a harder one in which to reside as a true and faithful follower of Christ. So, seeking after the Lord’s will and wisdom in all that we think, do, and say is of vital importance. When we enter into all of life with Christ as our guide and as our protector, we have gained an unbeatable advantage over these spiritual enemies and over the human ones that operate under their influence.

 

The way that Christ cares for His people is truly wonderous, and it is miraculous as well. There is nothing else in our experience that compares to the love that is poured out upon people by God. There is also no power in our world that is beyond or above that which is used by Christ to save us from Satan and from his vast array of spiritual forces. In Christ we find salvation for our souls, and through His presence in us and with us throughout the balance of our days, we know protection and saving grace and mercy for all that will attack us along the way. Lord, let us turn to You for wisdom and for guidance as we chart our course today. Also, grant us grace for our missteps, mercy for our times of distress, humility of spirit in order to give all glory to You, and cover us in the protection of Your blood, Christ, as we cling to the wonderous and eternal salvation of Your cross.

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

1 Corinthians 5: 7

 

There is a real sense of urgency in these words. The sacrifice of the lamb has already taken place, and the blood of atonement is poured out. Yet, there is still an element, a trace, of the old sinful self present in the lives of the faithful followers of Christ. This is generally a situation that we all face at times and from time to time as well. We know Christ; yet, there is still sin present in us. We have given our lives to Him, but we are holding onto some aspects of our old self with a tenacity that almost seems to defy God’s ability to pour out grace upon us. As it was in Corinth, these elements of sinfulness in us and so in the fellowship of faith cause trouble and bring about dissention as they shatter our unity.

 

In Christ, we have the way and the means to clean out all that is corrupt, unloving, and broken in our lives. The cleansing property of His blood is far greater than any of the sins or sinfulness that we may be clinging onto, and Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection have also permanently defeated the hold that death had upon us. Christ has granted to us the final assurance that death’s terrible angel will pass us by, for although we all die in the body, in Christ all are eternally alive in the spirit. So, as we have come to know Christ as Savior and Lord, we are made new, and the old self with all of its weakness and unrighteousness is done away with in the eyes of God. It is not any lack of interest or capacity on the part of God that causes us to continue living in various states of rebellion from God, it is our own stubborn and fearful hearts and minds that grasp onto this leavening in our lives.

 

The journey into Christ’s righteousness is not a simple one. It takes commitment, happens over time, and is impossible to accomplish in our own strength and power. Additionally, it is not a solo adventure, for like all aspects of the Christian life, seeking after righteousness is something that is best done in the company of like-minded travelers. Yes, removing the leaven, the sinfulness, from our own lives and out of the body of faith is an urgent need, and we all are caught up in this important endeavor. Yet, Christ has gone before us, and His sacrifice on the cross gives us the power and the capacity to be victorious over all of the aspects of our old selves that are attempting to hold us down in our witness and to defeat our ability to live in the full expression of freedom that is ours as citizens of God’s Kingdom come to earth. Again, living righteously is not simple to do and it is not easy to accomplish, but the Spirit will guide us into knowing our sinfulness, surrender to Christ is effective in gaining His power and resources for change, prayer and meditation will lead us deeper into the Lord’s will, and the fellowship of other believers can be the support that we need to stay the course to its glorious end.

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Acts 9: 31

 

Church growth, peace, comfort, and fear of the Lord, these are all good things that we only wish that we could experience today. Yet, these terms were used by Luke to describe the fragmented and fractious world of the church in those early days of its existence. They had made peace with their greatest individual opponent in the person of the redeemed Paul, now a follower of Christ. The church, in this wide-spread sense of its total existence was seeing great growth in that the Gospel of Jesus Christ had a powerful appeal to people who resided in many different cities and towns with their various cultures and prior religious beliefs. But all was not peaceful and calm, and life was not easy or absent all strife and turmoil in these bodies of faith. The narrative of the New Testament, especially the letters that Paul, Peter, and John wrote, is full of difficulties and challenges that had to be overcome both in the world around them and inside of the fellowship of faith.

 

For followers of Christ, even those exciting days when the church was new and it seemed like the imprints of the Lord’s feet were still almost visible in their streets of their towns required them to live humbly with each other, to submit their wills to that of the Lord, and to deliberately enter into the commonality of their calling and purpose. Otherwise, they were too different and diverse in their life situations, interests, passions, and concerns to ever build up a universal church that was capable of working in concert to change the world where they lived. Yet, the church of Christ was thriving and gaining in strength. According to the description that we are given, the church was committed to worshiping God and to respecting His word of truth and life above all else, and they were submitting themselves, both individually and corporately, to the peace-making guidance and direction that came from the Holy Spirit.

 

This is the sort of singular focus that often seems to be missing in our church today. Certainly, there are individual people and gatherings of us who do seek out Christ and His will above all else. We encounter situations wherein a body of believers will set aside all preconceived ideas, political interests, and personal goals in order to do nothing but to pray together, to talk in full honesty about the issues at hand, and to wait upon the leading of the Spirit in their decision making. This is the sort of process that I speculate might have been at the core of the peace and unity that the early church was experiencing. The comfort that the Spirit brought to them was almost certainly not always comfortable for them to embrace. The peace that they entered into with each other was gained through the hard work of listening, submission, tendering love and grace, and seeking to see God’s anointing in the persons of people with whom they disagreed. I suggest that today’s church and each of us in it could do more of these sorts of things, and if we did, there would be more peace in our ranks, and perhaps, the church would begin to reclaim its position of authority in our world.

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