Another prayer for us

A father was talking to his 5 year old daughter and her friend. They were talking about birthdays. The friend’s birthday was on March 30 and the father’s was on March 27. He said, “Our birthdays are only 3 days apart.” She said, “Yeah, but you grew a lot faster than I did.”

This morning, following the apostle Paul, I pray that we might grow.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (Ephesians 1:15–19, ESV)

1. I pray that we might grow to know God more each day.

Paul prayed for his friends in Ephesus. He asked the Father of glory to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Now what does that mean? It is a prayer for followers of Christ to experience the fullest measure of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in their lives. He prayed that the Spirit would unveil before them the will of God and the ways of God so that they might know God more and more each day.

I pray that we might know God more and more each day. That we would be saturated by His Spirit so completely that we would know God’s will and ways. That we would surrender our hearts to Him so that His purpose and plan might cover us and consume us. That our heart might beat in concert with the Father of glory.

2. I pray that we might grow to know God’s work in our lives.

Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus might have their eyes opened to God’s work in their lives.  He uses three phrases to describe this work: the hope of His calling, the glorious riches of His inheritance, and the exceeding greatness of His power.

The Rope of Hope. On any expedition, the rope is what connects us to that which is stable and secure. Hope is our rope! Hope is the certainty of our present reality as the chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, and sealed children of God. Hope is the ultimate unity and confident expectation of our future blessings as His people. It is the present and the future wrapped up in the blessings of God’s grace and mercy.

I pray that God would open our eyes to our hope for today and in eternity. God has called us to Himself in salvation. He is working in the details of our day because He has committed to us the glorious riches of heaven. God’s hand is working in the details of our day, not letting us go but holding on to us through thick and thin, good and bad, joy and sorrow, victory and failure.

The Family Photo. I love to take pictures of my family. A family photo reminds us of our lineage, encouraging us to press on. Paul prayed that their eyes might be opened to see their infinite value to God. As His people, He has given us an inheritance through Jesus Christ and the seal of His Spirit, but that is not what Paul has in mind here. Paul asks that God’s Spirit would open their eyes to see the “riches of the glory of His inheritance.” This is a description of God’s people who are His inheritance.

I pray that God would open our eyes to know how precious we are to God. We are His inheritance. His heritage. His treasure. We are the living, breathing, walking, talking trophies of His grace alive in the world reflecting His glory. God calls us His treasured possession.

The Reservoir of Power. We are in need of power in the face of the testing and trying storms that rage against us. We are in need of power for we are weak and feeble. We need power, and God provides this power for those who are His.

Paul prayed that believers might know the magnificent greatness of God’s power. The terms that Paul used point to something beyond our ability to contain, control, or concoct. He prayed that the believers in Ephesus would know the power that is beyond the ordinary directed by God toward believers.

I pray that we might know the exceeding greatness of that power and strength. It is fully displayed through the resurrection of Christ from the dead. That same power and strength is positioned for all who are Christ’s. We need not fear the storm, for God has conquered the greatest storm. We need not fear the enemy, for God has crushed the enemy. We need not fear the darkness, for God has pierced the darkness through the glorious light of the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Growth. I pray that we might grow to know God more each day. I pray that we might grow to know God’s work of hope, love, and power in our lives each day.

My prayer for us

Communion with God is oxygen for our souls. Prayer becomes the surround sound of fellowship with God who nourishes us with His presence. Prayer is not merely ritualistic words to speak in a particular time or place. Prayer is communion with God who changes our lives.

“Our lives must be as holy as our prayers. Our prayers are to prove their reality by the fruit they bear in the holiness of our life. True devotion in prayer will assuredly be rewarded, by God’s grace, with the power to live a life of true devotion to Him and His service.” ~ Andrew Murray

Paul and Timothy heard of the faith and “love in the Spirit” of the believers in the church at Colossae, and they thanked God for the progress of the gospel and the changed lives in the region. Beginning with verse 9, Paul and Timothy expand their prayer and pray for specific blessings for the believers in the church.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:9–12, ESV)

Paul’s prayer for the believers in Colossae helps us know how to pray for each other. I am praying daily for my family, friends, and our church.

1. I pray that we would be saturated with the knowledge of God’s will.

When I fill a glass with water, the glass may be overflowing with water but the glass isn’t affected. The picture of this text is different. To “be filled” is like sinking a sponge into a basin of water so that every pore of the sponge is saturated with water and the sponge grows to its greatest length and width and breadth.

The knowledge of God that we need is not some intellectual, informational growth. That’s not what Paul meant. The knowledge we need is relational; a knowledge founded in a proper attitude toward God (Prov 1:7) which leads to right behavior (Phil 1:9-10). We need God to fill us with Himself so that we grow in relationship with Him.

I am praying that God would soak our lives in Himself so that every pore of our saturated souls grows to its greatest depths and heights as followers of Jesus. When we are immersed in relationship with God, our hearts beat in time with His. Our minds move along the track of His desire. We gain wisdom (living life according to what God wants) and understanding (the application of what God wants to the details of our day).

2. I pray that God’s pleasure would be our highest priority.

It has been said, “The trouble with good advice is that it usually interferes with your plans.” We may see God’s path, but we have difficulty taking it. Paul’s prayer highlights the battle that rages within every believer. It is a war of pleasure. Whose pleasure is our greatest priority: my pleasure or God’s pleasure?

Paul prayed “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.” We know that we are pleasing God when we are fruitful in our work for Him and growing daily in our fellowship with Him. Pleasing God is an experience with God that does the good work that He has given us to do.

3. I pray that God would strengthen us by His power.

In the process of pursuing God’s pleasure, we need the strength of God’s grace to endure with joy. God in His grace empowers us with all might measured by the reservoir of His power.

“When by grace God’s power and compassion invade your life the result is that you have everything that you need.” ~ Paul David Tripp

This strength isn’t merely for our pleasure, but to bring pleasure to God with our lives. God gives us patience and longsuffering to complete the mission that He has given us with joy-fueled purpose.

4. I pray that God would grant us gratitude for His work of love.

Something amazing happens in us when we gain a greater gratitude for what God has done for us through Jesus. God has given us an inheritance, delivered us from the power of darkness, moved us into citizenship of His kingdom, and rescued us from our sins. When our minds are consumed with thoughts of God’s love for us, our hearts swell with songs of satisfaction in service to our King.

I pray that God would overwhelm us with His presence. God desires to make us fruitful for His pleasure. I pray that we grow in Him so that we live each day in true devotion to Him and His service.

Unwrap Christmas

This season we’re constantly on a quest for just the right present for those we love. Sometimes the search can lead us through the treacherous aisles of the department store, wrestling for linen or lace with lecherous, mauling mobs at the mall. It can lead us through the dense jungle of toy stores, while weird animals sing to us in weird voices and tones.

The first Christmas inspired an adventurous heart in people. Today, we find an explorers heart alive in a few men from the Orient in search for satisfaction, truth, and purpose. They were on the best quest, for they sought to pay homage to the King.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1–2, ESV)

When we come to Christmas, we have a great yearning for a quest fulfilled. There is beating in our soul the desire to taste the sweet nectar of peace saturated with purpose.  We want satisfaction!  And that is exactly what Christmas offers to all who pursue the King who is born in Bethlehem. I invite you to join me and others on this journey to seek the King, Jesus Christ.

When the wise men found Jesus, they found the treasure for which they searched. They found the treasure, for they found the King!  These men, who neither knew nor worshipped God, rejoiced with exceedingly great joy when they found the place of Christ’s birth.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10–11, ESV)

Here is the joy of Christmas unveiled. The Magi tasted transformation on the breeze of the Judean hills. They had searched for the King, and they had found Jesus who would change them forever.

Here is the joy of Christmas unwrapped for us today. Jesus Christ, the King, who has come to be the righteous ruler of His people, will transform our lives. He has come with good news to those in need. He has come to make whole those who have been shattered, to set free those who are in chains of sin’s guilt, to comfort those who mourn over their lost lives.

This season, we are on a quest for the treasure of Christmas. Jesus is the King who controls that treasure. We learn from the wise men that our search will be satisfied completely when we bow our lives in service to Him… when we receive the gift of life, joy, and forgiveness through His sacrifice on the cross for our sin…  when we give Him the gift of all that we are.

I pray that you and I might unwrap Christmas fully. I pray that we would worship Jesus Christ the King. And Jesus fills our hearts with joy, with purpose, with forgiveness, with life. Today, on your quest for the treasure, travel to the King of Christmas. Turn to Jesus and trust Him to fill your soul with the joy and the life we all crave.

Responding to Christmas

How do we respond to the Christmas story? That’s the question we must answer today. Our response determines the joy that we experience. Now, look at the response of the shepherds. In the midst of their solitude and silence they sang the song of peace and pleasure. But they did not stop with the Christmas Carol.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15, ESV)

When God speaks, we must act. The shepherds broke out in a run to find the Savior who would give them forever the complete and full life showered by God’s favor. Like the shepherds, the promise of God’s movement in our lives must propel us to get to Jesus!

But do you believe what God says? That is a key question in experiencing the joy that God promises. The shepherds believed (Luke 2:16-17). They found Jesus just as the angels had reported, and they believed that this was the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord! Do you believe that Jesus is the One about whom the angels sang?

If we believe, then we must share the joy with others. The shepherds did not keep the joy of Jesus to themselves (Luke 2:17-19). When we are transformed by faith in Jesus, then we must share the joy with others. We must let others know what God has accomplished in Bethlehem. If we believe, then we must praise the Lord God! The shepherds gave honor to God for His mighty work of grace (Luke 2:20).  What a fitting response for us this season!

Receive the Christmas promise today! Celebrate with the angels!  Jesus Christ, the Peace Giver, has come. Weak and wounded, depressed and downtrodden, rebellious and rejected, despised and dismissed, hopeless and helpless, fearful and frightened…  you come! Come with the shepherds who raced to the place of Christ’s birth. Bow before Him and discover the life we’ve always longed to have. Bow before Him and receive the gift that He alone gives. Bow before Him and share the joy of life found in Him with others. Bow before Him and give praise and honor to God!

The Good News of Joy

Humanity searches for a life that is better. We yearn to know the powerful life that is beyond our reach, longing for something that we can’t create ourselves.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10, ESV)

God invaded the ordinary night in Palestine with “good news.” When God’s messenger came to the shepherds, he announced the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior. In coming to the shepherds, God was speaking to everyday people. He spoke, not merely to family, but to those who were typical people living in the world. And God introduced joy to them and to the world on that starry night in the fields outside Bethlehem.

Like the shepherds, we can become wrapped in fear, but the resounding word from God for us is, “Do not be afraid.” God’s Rescuer is for us! This is God’s great message to humanity in the birth of Jesus Christ. No obstacle stands before the Savior who has come. He has conquered death itself, and if Jesus Christ can defeat our deepest fear of death, then, make no mistake, He can conquer our daily fears that rock our soul. The Savior has come! Fear fades in the face of our Victorious King Jesus!

The Lord is now with us! The angel declared that the baby born in Bethlehem was Savior, something that was readily accepted when thinking of the birth of the Messiah. But the angel also said that the baby is the Lord. God Himself has come, and the sky fills with the special choir of angels who attend the throne of God, and they begin to sing for joy over God’s work of grace.

So, join with the chorus of the heavenly host and sing praise to God. The song of Christmas is joy, for God’s good news of peace and pleasure overwhelm the dreary landscape of an ordinary life. Through Jesus, we have peace with God as His pleasure transforms our ordinary into the extraordinary.

God Pierces the Darkness

News coverage would be pretty slight over the birth of a child in the stable. The major news outlets wouldn’t even give it top billing. At best it would be a seasonal interest piece, sandwiched in between the overcrowded conditions in Bethlehem and the economic boom taking place because of the census. But what is missed many times on earth is celebrated in heaven! The angels break the news on the scene of human history to a group of shepherds out in the field. Christmas is the announcement of wonderful news.

The angel embarked upon a mission to announce the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. When the angel appeared, the light of God’s face peeled back the darkness of night with the blazing brilliance of His glory. In the midst of centuries of silence and the deep darkness of night, God revealed Himself to shepherds. The First Christmas unveils His glory for all to see in the face of the Christ-child.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. (Luke 2:8-9)

What is this glory? The glory of the Lord is His visible presence unveiled. When God unveils Himself, we see His glory: the power, the majesty, the holiness, the infinite love, and the immeasurable mercy of the Creator of the world.

The light of God’s face peels back the darkness of night with the blazing brilliance of His glory. In the deep darkness of night, God reveals Himself to us through Jesus Christ. He is the bright light of God’s glory that shines upon us living in the deep darkness of night. He opens our eyes to see the beauty, majesty, grace, and truth of God today. We see the light of salvation shining, for Jesus Christ the Savior has come to show us God.

God pierces the darkness of our lives with the in-breaking of His glory today. Jesus has come to erase the quarantine of our souls from heaven. Embrace His embrace of grace through faith and live in the light of God’s glorious joy.

The Whisper of Christmas (Part 4)

We hear the whisper of Christmas come to full bloom in the prophetic preaching of Isaiah. Under the maniacal chaos looming on the horizon, God whispered the coming of Christmas.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV)

Isaiah heard God’s whisper of Christmas when he proclaimed that a great light would shine against the backdrop of darkness (Isaiah 9:2). Before Christ came, the world was covered in the deep darkness of hopeless living under the chilly veil of death’s shadows. The coming of Christ at Christmas would deliver the abundance of joy.

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7, NKJV)

Jesus Christ, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, Savior, was born and His coming offers victory to us and to the world! Because of Christ at Christmas, we have a “new song” of victory. God has moved in a miraculous way to set His favor on us.  So, sing and dance for the victory is ours. Jesus is born. God has come!

Jesus transforms our lives from the dreary image of a world in darkness to a lively dance of victory. The King of Christmas, Jesus Christ, brings joy to our hearts. He shines the glory of God’s favor and salvation on us.

Hear the whisper of Christmas in full bloom! Isaiah comes to the end of his life with words of hope for God’s people and for the world. These words come to us in Isaiah 61:1-3. No longer words of Isaiah proclaimed to the people, these are the very words of the Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself, declaring His commitment to fulfill God’s promise of victorious grace. These words are Christ’s telling of the Christmas story.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NKJV; Luke 4:17-21)

As we listen to the Christmas story through the words of Jesus, I pray that God’s whisper might become the resounding shout of victory in our souls, for Jesus Christ has come to fulfill God’s ancient purpose of grace in our lives. He has come to set our lives right.  When Christ was born in Bethlehem, all creation resounded with the ringing cry of God’s glorious grace invading the evening in unprecedented ways.