God All Sufficient

From The Valley of Vision (a book of Puritan prayers):godisable

O Lord of grace,

The world is before me this day, and I am weak and fearful, but I look to you for strength;

If I venture forth alone I stumble and fall, but on the Beloved’s arms I am firm as the eternal hills;

If left to the treachery of my heart I shall shame your name, but if enlightened, guided, upheld by your Spirit, I shall bring you glory.

Be thou my arm to support, my strength to stand, my light to see, my feet to run, my shield to protect, my sword to repel, my sun to warm.

To enrich me will not diminish your fullness; all your lovingkindness is in your Son. I bring him to you in the arms of faith. I urge his saving Name as the One who died for me. I plead his blood to pay my debts of wrong.

Accept his worthiness for my unworthiness, his sinlessness for my transgressions, his purity for my uncleanness, his sincerity for my guile, his truth for my deceits, his meekness for my pride, his constancy for my backslidings, his love for my enmity, his fullness for my emptiness, his faithfulness for my treachery, his obedience for my lawlessness, his glory for my shame, his devotedness for my waywardness, his holy life for my unchaste ways, his righteousness for my dead works, his death for my life.

Throwback Thursday: We Don’t Know What To Do

throwbackThis week I’m starting throwback Thursday…revisiting popular posts.

What follows is the simple prayer Jehoshaphat prayed when he received word that three armies were advancing against him–they were less than 30 miles away! From Jehoshaphat’s prayer we learn these simple, yet profound principles for praying during difficult times. His prayer opened with these words:

“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. (2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV)

Pray the character of God. Jehoshaphat was praying in the presence of all of Judah. They needed to be reminded of God’s great character. God, in heaven, has a perspective you and I will never have. He knows the end from the beginning. For Jehoshaphat, it was important to remember that God ruled over all the kingdoms of the nations. Do you believe that God rules over whatever you’re facing? He continued to pray:

Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ (2 Chronicles 20:7-9 ESV)

Pray the works of God. God doesn’t need to be reminded of what he has done in the past–we do. Jehoshaphat, in the hearing of his people, prayed God’s mighty works. What has God done for you? What mighty works has he performed? As Christians, we need only go back to the agonizing cross and the empty tomb to see God’s greatest work for us.

And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:10-12 ESV)

Pray your personal problems. Jehoshaphat named them–men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir. What are you facing today that seemingly has a stranglehold on you? Name it. Ask for God’s help. Be real. We do not know what to do. What hard words for a king to pray in front of his people!

But our eyes are on you. Turn your eyes on Him today.

Why Are You Making Mud Pies?

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5 ESV)

Mud-pie1

Jesus looked up into the sycamore tree and invited himself into the home of the most notorious sinner in all of Jericho. Jesus’s invitation reminds me of Joseph Hart’s 1759 hymn:

Come ye sinners, poor and needy
Weak and wounded, sick and sore
Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity, love, and power

Come ye thirsty, come and welcome
God’s free bounty glorify
True belief and true repentance
Every grace that brings you nigh

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Saviour
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

Come ye weary, heavy-laden
Lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry until you’re better
You will never come at all

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Saviour
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

Why are you trading the world’s empty pursuits for Jesus’s 10,000 charms. C. S. Lewis said it like this:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Jesus, the Great Equalizer

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:4 ESV)

sycamore

A sycamore tree in Palestine

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus was short…so short he feared he wouldn’t see Jesus in the crowd. He did what any dignified, wealthy Jewish man would never do. He ran. The elite in Jesus’s day didn’t run–they walked confidently wherever they went. Zacchaeus was rich but when he heard Jesus was coming to town all of a sudden his money didn’t matter. All that mattered was seeing Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Football quarterbacks give him credit. Army Generals pray to him. Presidents humble themselves before Him. Billionaires call him Lord. Paupers call him King. All who follow Jesus die to themselves and live for Him.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree. It wasn’t just any tree, it was a sycamore tree. When we think sycamore tree, we think flaky bark and maple looking leaves. The sycamore tree Zacchaeus climbed was a fig-bearing tree. As a matter of fact, poor people often climbed this tree to pick its fruit. Zacchaeus, the rich (chief) tax collector climbed the tree of the peasant so he could see Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Our Impossibility: God’s Possibility

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. (Luke 19:1-3 ESV)

Luke makes three observations about Zacchaeus that don’t seem to jive:

  • He was a chief tax collector. He was hated, disregarded, despised, reviled. He trained others to be turncoats. You might say he didn’t only do drugs, he sold them. He was the chief tax collector.
  • He was rich. In Jesus’s encounter with the rich young ruler in chapter 18 He revealed the difficulty rich people have in entering the kingdom of heaven.  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:23-25 ESV)

And then there’s the third observation…

  • …and he was seeking to see who Jesus was. The hated, cheating tax collector was interested in Jesus.

Don’t underestimate the drawing power of Jesus. Don’t miss the rest of the rich young ruler story:

Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:26-27 ESV)

Without Him

O Lord God,

Teach me to know that grace precedes, accompanies, and follows my salvation, that it sustains the redeemed soul, that not one link of its chain can ever break.

From Calvary’s cross wave upon wave of grace reaches me, deals with my sin, washes me clean, renews my heart, strengthens my will, draws out my affection, kindles a flame in my soul, rules throughout my inner man, consecrates my every thought, word, work, teaches me your immeasurable love.

How great are my privileges in Christ Jesus! Without him I stand far off, a stranger, an outcast; in him I draw near and touch his kingly scepter.

Without him I dare not lift up my guilty eyes; in him I gaze upon my Father-God and Friend.

Without him I hide my lips in trembling shame; in him I open my mouth in petition and praise.

Without him all is wrath and consuming fire; in him is all love, and the repose of my soul.

Without him is gaping hell below me, and eternal anguish; in him its gates are barred to me by his precious blood.

Without him darkness spreads its horrors in front; in him an eternity of glory is my boundless horizon.

Without him all within me is terror and dismay, in him every accusation is charmed into joy and peace.

Without him all things external call for my condemnation; in him they minister to my comfort, and are to be enjoyed with thanksgiving.

Praise be to thee for grace, and for the unspeakable gift of Jesus.

From The Valley of Vision (a book of Puritan prayers)

Made for Another World

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

aotherworldTo be confident is to be persuaded–convinced. In a world of ever changing ideas and shifting cultural sands, it is a relief to know that you can be confident. Where does your confidence originate? Why can you be confident? Paul gives three reasons.

You can be confident because God started the work in you. If you know Christ it is because Christ drew you to Himself. You can no more initiate your own salvation than you can initiate your own physical birth. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44 ESV) You came to Christ because Christ called you. What a gracious God to begin such a work in you.

You can be confident because God finishes what he starts. He will be faithful to complete it. One translation renders this word “perform.” The word literally means “to make an end for oneself.” Your life is God’s opportunity to bring glory to Himself. And He will do that. He will accomplish His purposes in you so that He is glorified. And when He is glorified others are drawn to him.

You can be confident because Jesus is coming back. Until the day of Christ Jesus. God has an end for your life..a goal. And he has an end for all of creation. We see in this tiny verse the micro and macro plan of God. His micro plan is His plan for your life. He cares about every detail. His macro plan is his plan for all of creation. Colossians 1 says that “in him (Jesus) all things hold together.” God will ultimately bring all of this to an end…or rather to an amazing beginning.

C. S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

You are made for another world.

Rebuking Who God Receives

Be honest. You met someone this week you don’t think God would accept. He smelled to bad. She talked too loud. She was unkept. He was uncouth. It never occurred to you to share the Gospel with them–you assumed they wouldn’t listen, or worse yet, were unworthy.

If you did, you’re not alone. So did Jesus’s close followers:

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:46-47 ESV)

The fact that Mark names Bartimaeus means that he was well known. He was blind. He was a beggar. He was the town nuisance, the unattractive welcoming committee of one to Jericho. Their response to him was probably no new experience. As a matter of fact his response showed his disregard for their contempt.

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48 ESV)

They tried to quieten him. Little did they know they were interfering with an intervention.

And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:49-52 ESV)

Jesus asked him what appeared to be an obvious question: What do you want me to do for you? I’m so glad Bartimaeus didn’t ask for money! He wanted and expected healing. The people who once rebuked him now revered him. He immediately recovered his sight.

Aren’t you glad Jesus receives those others often rebuke.

Son of God, Son of Man

son of manIn the Gospels Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man 85 times. Why would the Son of God’s favorite designation for himself be Son of Man? In his conversation with the disciples in Mark 10 he gives us some insight:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 ESV)

The simple meaning of Son of Man is that Jesus was human. He was born of a woman like other men. He grew up like other children. He got hungry and thirsty. He experienced loneliness and exhilaration. He was the Son of Man.

Yet he was the Son of God. As the Son of God he was unlike any other human being. He was born of woman, conceived by the Spirit. He grew up like other children yet unlike other children. Luke tells the story:

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:46-49 ESV)

As the Son of God he longed to be in His Father’s house.

Why would the Son of God’s favorite title for himself be, not the Son of God, but the Son of Man? Because he came, not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. God, by his very nature, must be served. No one is higher than Him, no one more deserving of praise, no one more deserving of glory. He must be served.

In Jesus the served became the servant, the glorified became crucified, the holy was humiliated. At the very heart of Christianity is selfless service because we worship the Son of God who was the Son of Man.

The Throne

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

A prayer from The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers and devotions:

O God of my delight,

Your throne of grace is the pleasure ground of my soul. Here I obtain mercy in time of need, here see the smile of your reconciled face, here joy pleads the name of Jesus, here I sharpen the sword of the Spirit, anoint the shield of faith, put on the helmet of salvation, gather manna from your Word, am strengthened for each conflict, nerved for the upward race, empowered to conquer every foe.

Help me to come to Christ as the foundation head of descending blessings, as a wide open flood-gate of mercy.

I marvel at my insensate folly that, with such enriching favors within my reach, I am slow to extend the hand to take them.

Have mercy upon my deadness for your name’s sake.

Quicken me, stir me, fill me with holy zeal. Strengthen me that I may cling to you and not let you go. May your Spirit within me draw all blessings from your hand. When I advance not, I backslide.

Let me walk humbly because of good omitted and evil done. Impress on my mind the shortness of time, the work to be engaged in, the account to be rendered, the nearness of eternity, the fearful sin of despising your Spirit.

May I never forget that your eye always sees, your ear always hears, your recording hand always writes.

May I never give you rest until Christ is the pulse of my heart, the spokesman of my lips, the lamp of my feet.