"Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens."
The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very salutary lesson for such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust. Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer. Prayer plumes the wings of God's young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer girds the loins of God's warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader cometh out of his closet, even as the sun ariseth from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race. Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians. Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do! We thank thee, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice proof of thy marvellous lovingkindness. Help us to use it aright throughout this day!
"Whom he did predestinate, them he also called."
In the second epistle to Timothy, first chapter, and ninth verse, are these words--"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling." Now, here is a touchstone by which we may try our calling. It is "an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace." This calling forbids all trust in our own doings, and conducts us to Christ alone for salvation, but it afterwards purges us from dead works to serve the living and true God. As he that hath called you is holy, so must you be holy. If you are living in sin, you are not called, but if you are truly Christ's, you can say, "Nothing pains me so much as sin; I desire to be rid of it; Lord, help me to be holy." Is this the panting of thy heart? Is this the tenor of thy life towards God, and his divine will? Again, in Philippians, 3:13, 14, we are told of "The high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Is then your calling a high calling? Has it ennobled your heart, and set it upon heavenly things? Has it elevated your hopes, your tastes, your desires? Has it upraised the constant tenor of your life, so that you spend it with God and for God? Another test we find in Hebrews 3:1--"Partakers of the heavenly calling." Heavenly calling means a call from heaven. If man alone call thee, thou art uncalled. Is thy calling of God? Is it a call to heaven as well as from heaven? Unless thou art a stranger here, and heaven thy home, thou hast not been called with a heavenly calling; for those who have been so called, declare that they look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, and they themselves are strangers and pilgrims upon the earth. Is thy calling thus holy, high, heavenly? Then, beloved, thou hast been called of God, for such is the calling wherewith God doth call his people.
Today's reading: Isaiah 37-38, Colossians 3 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Isaiah 37-38
Jerusalem’s Deliverance Foretold
1 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. 2 He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3 They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. 4 It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.”
5 When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7 Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”
Today's New Testament reading: Colossians 3
Living as Those Made Alive in Christ
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all....
[Pī'late] - one armed with a dart. The surname of the fifth Roman procurator of Judea, who was recalled by Tiberius and banished to Vienna, where tradition says he committed suicide in 41 a.d. (Matt. 27).
The Man Who Sinned Against Conscience
What a different story we would have had if Pilate had obeyed his own conscience and also had followed his wife's intuition and advice. Pilate held office for some twelve years, and by his covetous and cruel government caused himself to be hated both by the Jews and Samaritans. His first name, Pontius, means, "belonging to the sea."
What a man he was for shirking responsibilities! He turned Christ over to the Jewish authorities (John 18:31), and then to Herod (Luke 23:7). When Christ was returned to him, he proposed to inflict a minor penalty ( Luke 23:22). When he could not silence the cry of the mob for the blood of Christ, he directed attention to Barabbas (Matt. 27:17), and when the die was cast, engaged in a hypocritical ceremony (Matt. 27:24).
Some authorities affirm that the name Pilate is from "Pilus," a felt cap which was worn by a slave as an emblem of liberty.
|The Middle East is on fire.|
Popular uprisings are toppling once powerful regimes across the region.
In the short term, these changes pose grave risks to Israel. Among the first to be deposed were leaders who had been living in peace with Israel. Meanwhile, those tyrants most dedicated to destroying the Jewish State have maintained their hold on power. Even here at home, Israel is facing increasing enmity. In cities across America, a concerted effort is being made to boycott and delegitimize Israel. Make no mistake about it, these activists do not seek to change any particular Israeli policy; they seek to challenge Israel's very existence. And they are focusing their efforts on our college campuses.
As the threats to Israel continue to mount, you need not sit by with silent regret. There is something you can do—learn more about Israel and the Middle East so that you can stand up for Israel in her time of need.
As the challenges to Israel mount, silence is not an option.
GREAT AND GOOD
God is great;
I must have spoken those simple words hundreds of times at the dinner table when I was a child, but I most certainly did not understand what they meant. Not really.
I liked the certainty in the cadence of the words. They marched out of my mouth, and as I ended with a pointed "A-men!" the deed was done, the prayer complete. Time to eat. If I wasn't troubling over the fact that "good" and "food" only rhymed with my eye, not my ear, I think I took some satisfaction in having said something that seemed very important about God. Often the most important things you can say about God come in a single word.
Great. And Good. That is what God is like. That is who God is.
The so-called attributes of God are a way of gathering and synthesizing the biblical descriptions of God in the interest of knowing God as he really is. One way to summarize the attributes of God is to use the two categories of greatness (attributes of God's being) and goodness (attributes of God's morality). The difference between these two lies in describing who someone is, and describing what he does because of who he is. God's greatness is about his ascendancy over this world, over the universe, over all reality. Greatness is about his being eternal, absolutely powerful, all-knowing, and other qualities that we will never fully comprehend. His goodness, on the other hand, is about his relational qualities, which we know by revelations such as "God is love" and "God is holy" and "God is right." They also tend to be the qualities that were imprinted on the spiritual DNA of our lives when he created us. This is how God wants us to be, because we were made in his image.
So it should come as no surprise that the revelation of God that comes to us through the Bible is wrapped in the history and real life stories of hundreds of people across a span of thousands of years, written in three different languages, and from several cultures. The diversity of the Bible is not contradiction, but a gallery of God-encounters. It took all that for us to get enough portraits of God so that we could begin to know him appropriately.
God, the divine person, discloses himself to mortal persons. His descriptions are voice-to-ear, epiphany after thunder, and heaven to earth, as when God disclosed himself to Moses who was hiding in the cleft of a rock:
"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin" (Exodus 34:5-7).
Psalm 95:3 says, "The LORD is the great God, the great king above all gods."
God is not merely greater than other powers. His is a difference of kind, not degree. He defines greatness and majesty. [More next time on the greatness of God.]
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Click for more.