Matthew 16:21-28 – The Need for Sacrifice

Welcome, friends. Simply click the video below and let us consider together the words of Jesus.

You may also view this video at TimEhrhardtYouTube

For a response in song, click Take My Life and Let It Be arranged by Hymn Charts.

And, also click Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken sung by RYM Worship.

May the Lord bless you
    and keep you.
May the Lord smile down on you
    and show you his kindness.
May the Lord answer your prayers
    and give you peace. Amen.

Psalm 130 – Waiting in Hope

waiting

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins. (NIV)

This psalm is the miserable cry of a nobody from nowhere. Yet, because the Lord is attentive to the righteous, the cry penetrates heaven and is received. The psalmist only wants to serve God with a new beginning and fresh obedience – and he will wait and hope for liberation from his misery.

We typically use the term “hope” in a wishful thinking sort of way. That is because we are not quite sure if things will shake-out like we want.  But biblical hope is not wishful thinking.  Rather, it is a confident expectation of what is to come. Hope is like anticipating the seasons.  In the dead of winter when it is bitter cold with little sunshine, we hope, and not wish, for Spring because we know it is coming.  It might come in early March, maybe in late April. The trees will bud, the grass will turn green, and the temperature will warm – you can bet your britches on it.

This old world might be messed up and broken right now, but it will not always be this way.  Because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, there is hope, the confident expectation that deliverance from sin, death, and hell will be fully realized. We are saved from the bondage of sin through the cross and resurrection of Christ.  We are delivered into an inheritance which can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for us until the time is right. Meanwhile, we hope with the confident expectation of Christ’s coming again.

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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 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. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6, NIV)

Until our hope is fully realized, we cry out to God and watch for his deliverance. Regarding our salvation, it is accurate to say that we have been saved (from the realm of sin); we are currently being saved (through being made holy in this life); and, we will be saved (when Jesus returns). Liberation from both our personal struggles and the evil machinations of this world is an ongoing process that will only reach its complete fulfillment at the end of the age.

That is why we experience such a weird existence on this earth, a strange amalgam of good and bad.  We not only get mixed messages from the world, but also internally, within our souls, we experience the struggle between right and wrong.  Outwardly, we suffer in all kinds of earthly grief from others who do not understand us.  Inwardly, we have the silent pain and terrible wrestling of wanting to forgive but desiring revenge; of seeking to be gracious but seething with anger; of looking to express kind words but having hate speech blurt out instead.

It will not always be this way. We have a living hope.  Jesus has risen from death. He is alive. He is coming back to judge the living and the dead.  He will take us to be with him forever.  It is the confident expectation of unhindered relationship, with no obstacles of difficult people, and without any systemic evil from organizational structures giving us a hard time.

MLK hope quote

Hope is real. It is just as real as anything we will ever know this side of heaven. We might not always find what we are looking for in this life, yet, in the next life, we shall find the life that is truly life in Jesus Christ, who is our hope. Until then, we are to wait neither idly nor passively. Instead, it is sage for us to do the following:

Occupy the time. One of the best ways to avoid becoming anxious while waiting is to do what we are on this earth to do: be a blessing to others.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited…. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-16, 21, NIV)

Don’t try too hard. Trying to use willpower to squelch anxiety will only prompt even greater anxiety. Accept that we will have to wait and that we are not privy to God’s timetable.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 3:7, NLT)

Wait with other people. Waiting with others through talking about our shared hope helps redeem our time in the here and now.

Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. (Psalm 37:7, NLT)

Think of patience as compassion. Becoming impatient about something in life is entirely normal and happens to all of us. Our impatience is a stress response to a situation. Learning to be more patient is a way of being more compassionate to ourselves and others.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NIV)

Lord God Almighty, your hope arises with each dawn, pushing back the rubble of our lives. Each new day reminds us of your grace as you paint hope across the sky. Into the deafening cry of hopelessness, you whisper love that catches and holds us. There is no end, just new beginnings. No finish, just new starts. Into your resurrection we follow you into hope. You are alive in the world and in us. So, we carry your hope within our spirits always. Help us to lift our eyes and experience Christ’s resurrection hope arise in our lives through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – Spiritual Warfare

Temptation in the Wilderness by Briton Riviere 1912
Temptation in the Wilderness by British artist Briton Rivière, 1912

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (NIV)

Today’s New Testament lesson has some densely packed verses concerning spiritual warfare. There are three major imperatives or commands for every believer and every church:

  1. Be strong in the Lord because we are in an invisible war.
  2. Put on the whole armor of God and prepare for spiritual battle.
  3. Take up your spiritual weapons and fight.

We are to be vigilant since Satan and his wicked spirits are highly organized for evil with devious schemes and stratagems designed to blunt our spiritual growth.  We are to put on the necessary armor of truth, righteousness, and peace to defend ourselves against the inevitable attacks.  We are to use our spiritual weapons of faith, salvation, and the word of God to advance against the darkness.

To do just that, the following is a focused and thoroughly Christian prayer I have used for many years both for myself and with others. I suggest praying it out loud in its entirety each day for the next two weeks to push back the dark forces:

Heavenly Father, I bow in worship and praise before You.  I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as my protection.  I surrender myself completely in every area of my life to You.  I take a stand against all the work of Satan that would hinder me in my prayer life.  I address myself only to the True and Living God and refuse any involvement of Satan in my prayer.

Satan, I command you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all your demons.  I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between us. 

Heavenly Father, I worship You and give You praise.  I recognize that You are worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise.  I renew my allegiance to You and pray that the Holy Spirit would enable me in this time of prayer.  I am thankful, Heavenly Father, that You have loved me from eternity past and that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die as my substitute.  I am thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ came as my representative and that through Him You have completely forgiven me; You have adopted me into Your family; You have assumed all responsibility for me; You have given me eternal life; You have given me the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ so that I am now justified.  I am thankful that in Christ You have made me complete, and that You have offered Yourself to me to be my daily help and strength. 

Heavenly Father open my eyes that I might see how great You are and how complete Your provision is for this day.  I am thankful that the victory the Lord Jesus Christ won for me on the cross and in His resurrection has been given to me and that I am seated with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.  I take my place with Him and recognize by faith that all wicked spirits and Satan himself are under my feet.  I declare that Satan and his demons are subject to me in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I am thankful for the armor You have provided.  I now put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace and the helmet of salvation.  I lift the shield of faith against all the fiery arrows of the enemy; and I take in my hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  I choose to use Your Word against all the forces of evil in my life.  I put on this armor and live and pray in complete dependence upon You, Holy Spirit. 

I am grateful, Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ disarmed all power and authorities, triumphing over them by the cross.  I claim all victory for my life today.  I reject all the insinuations, accusations, and temptations of Satan.  I affirm that the Word of God is true, and I choose to live today in the light of God’s Word.  Heavenly Father, I choose to live in obedience to You and in fellowship with You.  Open my eyes and show me the areas of my life that do not please You.  Work in me to cleanse me from all ground that would give Satan a foothold against me.  I do in every way stand into all that it means to be Your adopted child and I welcome all the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life today. 

warfare praying

By faith and in dependence upon You I put off the old person and stand into all the victory of the crucifixion where the Lord Jesus Christ provided cleansing from the sinful nature.  I put on the new person and stand into all the victory of the resurrection and the provision He has made for me to live above sin. 

Today I put off the old nature with its selfishness and I put on the new nature with its love.  I put off the old nature with its fear and I put on the new nature with its courage.  I put off the old nature with all its deceitful lusts and I put on the new nature with its righteousness, purity, and honesty. 

In every way I stand into the victory of Christ’s ascension and glorification, in which everything was made subject to Him.  I claim my place in Christ as victorious with Him over all the enemies of my soul.  Holy Spirit, I pray that you would fill me.  Come into my life, break down every idol and cast out every enemy of my soul. 

I am thankful, Heavenly Father, for the expression of Your will for my daily life as You have shown me in Your Word.  I, therefore, claim all the will of God for my life today.  I am thankful that You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  I am thankful that You have given me new life into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  I am thankful that You have made provision for me so that today I can live filled in the Holy Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.  I recognize and affirm that this is Your will for me and so I reject and resist all the attempts of Satan and his demons to rob me of the will of God.  I refuse today to believe my feelings of worthlessness and I hold up the shield of faith against all the accusations, distortions, and insinuations that Satan would put into my mind.  I claim the will of God for my life today. 

In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ I completely surrender myself to You, Heavenly Father, as a living sacrifice.  I choose not to be conformed to this world.  I choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  I pray that You would show me Your will and help me to walk in Your ways today. 

I am thankful, Heavenly Father, the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, but have divine power to demolish strongholds, arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  Therefore, in my own life today I tear down the strongholds of Satan and smash the plans of Satan that have been formed against me.  I demolish the strongholds of Satan against my mind, and I surrender my mind to You, Holy Spirit.  I affirm, Heavenly Father, that You have not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  I break and smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my emotions today.  I give my will to You.  I choose to make right decisions of faith.  I smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my body today.  I give my body to You and recognize that I am Your temple.  I rejoice in Your mercy and grace. 

Heavenly Father, I pray now and through this day that You would strengthen and enlighten me.  Show me the ways Satan is hindering, tempting, lying, and distorting the truth in my life.  Help me to be the kind of person who pleases You.  Help me to be aggressive in prayer and faith.  Help me to think rightly, and actively practice Your Word.  Help me to give You Your rightful place in my life. 

I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that You, Holy Spirit, would bring all the work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and all Your work of Pentecost into my life today.  I deliberately surrender myself to You, God.  I refuse to be discouraged.  You are the God of all hope.  You have proven Your power by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, so I claim this victory over all satanic forces in my life.  I pray in the Name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving.  Amen. 

Soli Deo Gloria

Hebrews 2:1-9 – Paying Attention

Calvin and Hobbes - paying attention

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
     and put everything under their feet.”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (NIV)

My wife and three daughters all have attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.). Although many people believe this to be a disadvantage, I have noticed that since their brain chemistry doesn’t have a good filter for filtering all the stimuli they hear each day, each of them are much more intentional about picking out the voice they want to hear and engaging with it.  Whereas you and I might take this for granted, the women in my life know the value of creating the skills to pay attention.

The ability to pay attention and listen is necessary for a sustainable Christian life. The consequence of not developing such competency is that we will drift away – our minds will wander and allow other competing voices to overwhelm the singular voice of Jesus.  Taking salvation for granted may be setting us up for spiritual failure. That is, we think we already know about Christ’s person and work, so we neglect to really pay attention. Bad idea.

Assuming we are paying attention is not the same thing as actually doing it. Assumptions lead to drifting away from truth.  We are meant to have continual reminders of Christ’s redemptive events. We are to avoid the precarious position of being lost in a sea of competing voices. We need an intentional plan for paying attention without assuming we will be focused. Along with paying attention to our physical health and being vigilant about keeping the coronavirus at bay, here are a few ways of daily being mindful of our spiritual health:

  • Read the Scripture each day with a combination of standing and sitting, reading silently and out loud.
  • Hold a cross or other Christian reminder in your hand and feel free to fidget with it.
  • Journal your thoughts in a notebook.
  • Set a consistent time and place for bible reading and prayer.
  • Use different translations and versions of the Bible to read.
  • Go outside occasionally and pray while walking.
  • Focus on your breathing, and consider using breath prayers, i.e. Breathe out: “Speak Lord.” Breathe in: “I am listening.”
  • Drink some coffee, tea, or something soothing, and picture the comfort of Christ coming into your life.
  • Be aware of distractions and acknowledge them without judging yourself.
  • Observe the Christian Year and the Daily Lectionary.

While some might argue that observing Lectionaries, the Church Calendar, Christian seasons, and worship liturgies are vain repetition, I insist otherwise: We are in grave danger of not paying attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  Like a beach goer on the lake drifting on her flotation device far out from shore, we can be unaware of how far we have strayed from our spiritual moorings.  If the passion and death of Jesus can only get a shoulder shrug and a “meh” out of us, there is a real problem.

Forming habits of worship, fellowship, service, and piety are essential to deliberately maintaining attention to Jesus. Perhaps if we all had spiritual A.D.D. we would be more intentional about grafting reminders and practices into our lives.

Ignorance does not come from a lack of education; it comes from a failure to pay attention to the most important things in life.

God pays attention to us in a special way, different from all other creation. As the only creatures for whom the image and likeness of God resides, we have an innate sense of connection with the divine. Paying attention to things, especially to what Christ has secured for us through the cross, reflects the God who is continually observing humanity.

May your contemplation of Christ and his redemptive events of incarnation, holy life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension be always fresh and continually meaningful.

Soli Deo Gloria.