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Lessons for the Lenten season: How shall we then pray?

In my observance of the Lenten season as a time of meditating on the sufferings of Christ that led up to the last week, I have also been focused on the the whole question of Adam’s race in rebellion that necessitated it all. This of course leads me into confessing my own participation in the rebellion which is universal. Learning to pray from this platform is taking me into some interesting requests, not the least of which has to do with renewing my own covenantal vows of the Christian Faith.

Recently I’ve been re-reading a classic book by one of my favorite Puritan writers, John Owen, on beholding the glory of Christ. I mentioned this last year in a post and suggested this is what we are supposed to do in living the Christian life. It can be considered our “reasonable worship” as redeemed people of the New Covenant. In the last few days I ran across a post quoting from this book which I found especially helpful in knowing more specifically how to pray from this same perspective.

“Renewed repentance is seen in fervent prayer. ‘Take words with you. Say to him…’ We must know what we are to pray for. We are to pray for pardon of all iniquity. ‘Take away all iniquity.’ Not one sin must be left to be indulged. We are to pray that God will graciously receive us. ‘Receive us graciously.’ Confession must be made of the sins that caused our backslidings. ‘Assyria will not save us. Nor will we say any more to the work of our hands, “You are our gods.” Fleshly confidence and false worship were the two sins that ruined the people, and of these sins God expects a full and free confession so that we may be healed.

“Believers must renew their covenant with God, renouncing all other hopes and expectations, and put their trust and confidence only and wholly in him, for only in God do the fatherless find mercy (14:3). The result of such repentance is praise and thanksgiving: ‘We will offer the sacrifice or our lips’ (14:2). When God heals our backslidings he will communicate his grace to us, to the praise of his own glory…”  (John Owen)

To read the entire post over at ‘Cultivating Epiphanies’ go here.

The Gospel of Christ Crucified

Using the Lenten season profitably

The Gift of all gifts

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come…for if by the one man’s offence many died, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ…the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord…

(abbreviated from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 5. ESV Bible)

No one understands at once all that is included in God’s Gift to Adam’s sinful race. In fact, I plan to still be unwrapping the gift of Jesus Christ until the day my life on earth ends. The Lenten season for me has become an excellent time of extended meditation on this gift and the far reaching themes it touches- from the beginning in Adam into the eternal age that is even now breaking in-the new heavens and the new earth.

For Lent, I’ll be thinking about the reality of sin and it’s destruction here on earth. I have plenty to mourn about, starting with my own participation in the rebellion & conspiracy against the Creator. This mourning will only end at the crucifixion of the Holy One of God, Jesus Christ the Righteous son of God.

Did you happen to notice in this critical text, that the Apostle Paul calls the free gift from God to sinners, “the gift of righteousness“? Going back and reading the context of these verses, beginning at Chapter 5, and reading through Chapter 8, I think I will have a deeper unwrapping of the gift. Peace w/ God, access to the presence of the Holy God, and a rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God! (and this will also put suffering in perspective-see chapter 8, verses 18-39).

Slowly unwrapping this “unspeakable gift” has its own reward; through Christ it will strengthen me and enable me to “reign in life” in the midst of this wicked generation together with those “who love God and are called according to His purpose”, and to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”.

Speaking of righteousness, see my related post on Psalms 1,2

January was a much needed Sabbatical @E4Unity

I don’t know if you missed me, but I sure missed posting for you. I have been busy refilling the tank, as they say, by reading a lot of blogs and tweets and adding new friends.

from phoenixmasonry.org

So now I think we’re ready to get back to blogging about humankind and the universal conditions we’re all faced with in the new year. To start us off, with an eye to the Lenten season coming up fast and the present situation in Egypt and the mid-east, I hope this will interest you. Comments from the Letter to the Hebrews:

The preacher finds in these antitheses the basic truth of the matter. His weakness in dying defined his power in ruling. With all other New Testament witnesses he was obsessed with the paradox of the passion story. It was by sharing in flesh and blood that Jesus became a faithful and merciful high priest; it was by being tempted that “he is able to help those who are tempted” (2:18). The devil had tempted him to fear death and thus to become enslaved to the devil; but by resisting this temptation Jesus had received power to free men from that fear, that bondage. So, in the sequence of images by which the preacher gave tribute to Jesus’ glory in 1:1-4, we must give full weight to the mention of the “purification for sins”. This action of expiation explains Jesus’ power to uphold the universe, his work in the creation of the world, his appointment as heir of all things.

Paul S.Minear writing in “God’s Glory in Man’s Story”.

 

 

Gracia Burnham-former hostage survivor.

I finally heard the chapel presentation this week of Gracia Burnham, speaking at my alma mater. She is an amazing addition to my collection of ‘BraveHearts’ striving in this dangerous world for peace and unity; just another Kansas girl caught in a wirlwind.

If your interest is stirred, you may want to hear the live chapel presentation at Calvary Bible College & Seminary in Kansas City. It is among other things, a very transparent transformation that took place in Gracia’s own spirit towards “the enemy”; a revealing look at a Christian’s attitude change toward muslim militants.

Listen to the audio

Think Beyond the Labels!

I don’t usually plug commercials on my blog though I was sorely tempted by a couple of this year’s Superbowl ads. But this one I simply could not resist the temptation. It goes to the heart of my advocacy for unity and peace- we must learn to resist labeling and the evils that it can produce in how we approach our fellow beings.

Related post on PsychologyToday (Addiction in society)

“The ultimate outcome will depend upon the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there.”

                 – President Lyndon Johnson

 This is a re-issue of the 1974 documentary about Viet Nam and though it is painful, I am thinking it would be a good time for me to watch the full two-hour version; maybe even buy a copy for my dvd library.

I’m sorry that after our President’s announcement last evening, and with all the respect in the world for our troops in the field of battle-including one of my sons on active duty in Bagdad, I must register my extreme disappointment and deep saddness. Ironically, it fits in perfectly with the Advent celebration we have just commenced. For what we celebrate is precisely the entering into this war torn world of the promised Prince of Peace. It is because the People of God have not understood the essence of His coming that peace on earth continues to elude our best efforts.

We still have not learned some very basic lessons from the tragedy of Viet Nam.

HEALING the HUMAN TRAGEDY

I believe that active members of every faith tradition recognize the reality of the “Human Tragedy”, and are trying to do all they can to heal it on behalf of the race. If you will invest eight and one half minutes to view this clip from the Broadway production of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde”, you will understand why I say this.

There are many things included in the script, that as a Christian, I can perfectly relate to and I think that will be true of those from other faith traditions. Here is a sterling example: “The true self is locked inside a facade of hypocrisy”. We cannot seem to extricate ourselves from this human condition, no matter what we do including in modern science and medicine, or with philosophy and religion, all super-charged now with the latest technology. I have come to the conclusion that our only hope has to come from “outside” the human race.

We shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye!” Yes, but how? The Biblical narrative has one answer, other faiths have different answers.

PSALM 9 from the Song Book of the BIBLE

New-york

9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before [3] your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. [4] Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

The theme of vengeance is not an obscure part of the people of faith including the faith of the Psalmist, who is generally taken to be King David himself in this composition. If the Psalms is the “Song Book of the Bible” as Bonhoeffer and others have suggested, then this song touches the very heart of the ancient faith. The confidence of the righteous in the face of oppression and hate was a stedfast assurance that God Himself was to be looked to for vindication: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord! “The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”, wrote the author of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament.

If you have a Bible you can confirm for yourself the presence of this theme in the entire Biblical narrative. Here are just a few chapters that will serve as “evidence that demands a verdict”.

The Song of Moses- Deuteronomy 32 and 33.

The Wrath of the Lamb- Revelation 6

The Song of the Lamb- Revelation 15

So you see, there is a lot of singing going on by the people living by faith in the God of the Scriptures. When we consider today the persecution, oppression, and even destruction by the wicked that right now going on in the world, we need to have this quiet assurance and confidence so that our soul may be at peace, knowing that the Most High God will judge righteously. Selah.

Be Still My Soul (video by Selah)

THIS PRAYER WAS ANSWERED!

I receive a very interesting mailing every fifteen days from a man named David Wilkerson. For those of you who do not recognize the name, I will just say he is a godly evangelist that began a ministry years ago among the gangs of New York City (see, The Cross and the Swithchblade) which is now global in its impact.

The message in this mailing made reference to the prayer of Christ for his disciples just before he was taken to be condemned and crucified. What caught my attention was the observation of the status of his disciples at that moment in the Gospel narrative: they were in fact already possessors of what we call ‘saving faith’. As Jesus prays, he tells his Father that he has given these men the words (testimony) that his Father had sent him into the world with and that they had  received that word, believing that he was in fact the Messiah, the sent One of God. Peter, for example, had made his profession days before upon which Christ made then his declaration that he would build his Church on the rock of Peter’s (and the other Disciples) confession of faith.

While he was with the disciples, he himself had been like a shepherd, keeping them safely within the sheepfold of salvation. Now Jesus knew that his hour had come to die for the sins of the world as The Lamb of God. This prayer is first and foremost about Jesus asking the Father which sent him into the world, on the basis of his perfect obedience in fulfilling his mission, to keep forever these that believed on him. Whatever it would take in the days to come, including their denial and abandoning him in the face of death, he was then and there making full provision for their eternal destiny as children of God. He was in essence, asking God to never abandon His People.

Two thousand years of subsequent experience of countless disciples of Jesus Christ in every part of humanity has demonstrated that this prayer was heard; begining with the first generation of disciples who received the gift of Christ’s own Spirit and were strengthened to testify of Christ and his original message against all odds, and then those that received the message from these first disciples and believed on the Christ for their own salvation.

The take away for us who have initially put our faith and trust in Him is a powerful assurance that this prayer was for us as well and secures from God the keeping of our soul in this present evil age. Every provision for our salvation from initial faith to final glory is the direct result of this prayer.

“Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”        -Romans 8:34,35

see original post: Glorify Thy Son

Michael Card sings about one of the first ‘BELIEVERS‘ in the Gospel narrative. (video)

The Gift of TORAH (Jerusalem May 2007)

There will be many Christians joining the People of Israel at the wailing wall celebration tonight. For a video of Shavuot 2007 at Jerusalem click the link above.

I found this message by Rabbi Max Fox at Jewish Times of South Jersey today: ” Shavuot is not only the shortest festival in duration, but is devoid of any symbols or mitzvot that must be fulfilled. Yet, Shavuot is not a minor holiday. This festival celebrates “Z’man Matan Toratenu”, the giving of Torah on Mt.Sinai.” He continues saying,

Shavuot celebrates the birthday of our Jewish Faith- a Faith that has given meaning and purpose to our existence. Unlike the other holidays, Shavuot celebrates the giving of Torah, and there is no symbol for Torah. There is only one way to celebrate this festival that commemorates that awesome moment in history when G-d revealed Himself and gave our People a most precious gift the Torah. And that is, by practicing and living in accordance with the precepts and moral teachings of  the Torah. . .the true celebration of Shavuot lasts more than a day or week. It should be observed 365 days a year and in a lifetime of practicing and living a life of Torah.

As the great Saadyah said, ‘ Our People are a nation only by virtue of the Torah’.

The rabbi trained by the great Gamaliel, Saul of Tarsus would have thoroughly agreed with these statements. In fact much of what he tells us in his writings almost two thousand years ago shows the same great respect and praise for Torah and its gift to the Jewish people. He asked a pointed question at one point: “What advantage then has the Jew?” And he answers immediately his own question by stating, ” Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of G-d”.

We said earlier that Saul was very zealous for the Law, making himself as a Pharisee, personally responsible as guardian for its purity exactly because he rightly understood what a precious gift it was and that it was indeed central to the very existence of the Jewish nation.

Because men like Rabbi Fox and Saul of Tarsus understood that the gift to Israel was in turn to bless the Gentile nations as well with what I believe to be the highest moral and ethical standard even known to Adam’s race, non-Jews should celebrate with Israel this holiday and indeed many will do so even in Jerusalem.

But of course Saul became known as Paul, the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles. And in the very letter to the Romans, quoted from above, he goes on to develop a precise thesis. And this is not only highly practical and precisely aimed at the way we live our lives seeking to be approved by G-d but also seeking to be the very best world-citizen we can be. For Paul also knew of a yet future Day taught in the Law and the Prophets, when humankind would be held responsible for their deeds in this life on earth. Here is only one example of his teaching: “The righteous judgment of G-d, who will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor,and immortality. But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness- indignation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Made in the image of G-d Himself, and for the purpose of living in harmony with the Creator and bringing praise and honor to Him, it makes all the sense in the world that conformity to the Law of G-d would not only guide humankind to fulfill that role but would in turn produce untold bliss and delight fulfilling the good and perfect will of G-d.

Paul’s thesis and thus his life following and serving Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Anointed One of G-d made perfect sense to this zealous defender of the Law. It goes like this, “The commandment which was to bring life, I found to bring death. . .the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. . .for sin, that it might appear to sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment  might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.”

Paul’s thesis is the Law, precious gift that it is, can never on this earth produce the godly living that is harmony with G-d and our fellow human beings and the problem is NOT with the Law, which as he says numerous times, is perfect, and holy. Its greatest worth is not only to give the world the highest moral and ethical standard but also to reveal to us our basic human predicament: the predicament of our very nature which because of rebellion, can NOT keep the Law.

Listen to what he says, as he sums up what I believe is the situation not only of the non-religious but also of religious Jews and Gentiles alike: “What I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; (remember the words today of Rabbi Fox) but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the Law that it is good. . .For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”  

So for Saul, now Paul, if we were ever to be delivered from this human predicament, G-d Himself would have to do it for us. He would have to send someone from “beyond” the race of Adam who Himself could obey the Law perfectly. And that is the other half of the Apostle’s thesis and basis of all his letters. To the Christian churches of Galatia, for example, he wrote in relation to the promises made to Father Abraham and his seed, “Is the Law then against the promises of G-d?” And emphatically replies, “certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the Law.”

“But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the Law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

So as a Christian, I celebrate with the Jewish People tonight, thanking G-d that the gift of Torah was indeed at a very special moment considered by some as the “birthday” of the Nation, given through Moses, the servant of G-d. And I express for all Christians our great debt to the Jewish People for preserving this priceless treasure for the rest of us. We celebrate tonight Chavuot but soon we will also celebrate the Christian Pentecost.

There remains then at least one post for me to explain why the Apostle Paul had absolutely no trouble seeing how the two celebrations are in fact one. One parting thought from Paul, also in the letter to the Galatians:

“When we were children, (we) were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time had come,  G-d sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons”.

Shavuot 2012 is Sunday, May 27th, same as Pentecost Sunday this year!

 

 

 

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