“I Have Prayed for You”

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34 ESV)

Jesus sounds like the consummate parent–he calls Simon’s name twice–and Simon was Peter’s formal name. You can tell he wants Peter to hear what he has to say. Notice his language. If anyone knows Satan, it’s Jesus. He was in heaven when Satan was thrown out. Satan demanded. You have to wonder why Satan wanted Peter so badly that he would demand. Never forget that Satan can only do what God allows him to do. The tense of the verb “demanded” suggests that this happened at a particular time. When did Satan show up to Jesus and ask to destroy Peter?

wheatSatan wanted to sift Peter like wheat. I looked up sifting wheat in ancient times. Here’s what ehow.com had to say:

The first step in the process of sifting wheat is to loosen the chaff from the edible grain, which is called threshing. The old-fashioned way to do this is to spread the wheat onto a floor made from stone, concrete or tamped earth and to beat it with a flail. The next step is called winnowing, where the loosened chaff is removed from the grain. The old-fashioned way of doing this is to throw the grain in the air, where the lighter chaff is blown off by even a decent breeze. The heavier grain falls back to the ground below.

In other words Satan wanted to stomp Peter into the ground and throw him in the air while the wind blew through. Satan wanted to destroy Peter. What was Jesus’s response? I have prayed for you. Jesus prayed for Peter. That your faith may not fail. Peter, I have prayed that you will still believe I am who I am after you see me mercilessly beaten by the Romans. I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail after you see the cross on my shoulders. I have prayed that you will still believe when I am laid in the tomb.

Jesus prayed for Peter.

Peter didn’t get it. He was guilty of Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12: Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. Peter thought he could handle Satan’s attacks. Jesus knew he couldn’t. Jesus prayed for Peter. And Jesus is praying for you too. 

Who is to condemn? 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. (Romans 8:34 ESV)

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, He is praying for you now. Tomorrow we will eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus and Peter on the seashore and learn how God answered Jesus’s prayer for Peter. Until then, rest in the reality that Jesus is praying for you.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4925686_farmers-sift-wheat.html

Impostor gods

impostorMouseTherefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6 ESV)

Dictionary.com defines impostor as a person who practices deception under an assumed character, identity, or name. The world is filled with idols–gods with a little “g” that wage war against the one true God. Sometimes they masquerade as beneficial, even necessary, parts of life. A career, investment account, car, accomplishments, hobby, body image, or college degree can look, feel and even act like a god. Other times, gods are inherently evil yet subtly deceptive: alcohol, drugs, pornography, workaholism.

Kyle Idleman, in Gods at War says it this way:

Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightful place, you will not have victory. Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outer layers, and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you begin to see that it’s always there, under some other coat of paint. There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul makes it clear that God is the goal of our existence and Jesus is the means. He describes God as the Father “from whom are all things and for whom we exist.” In a word, God is not only the beginning of our existence, He is the end!

In the same breath Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the means of our existence. Jesus is the one “through whom are all things,” and “through whom we exist.”

Jesus is no impostor.

He is both the creator and the crucified one. In Genesis, he said “let there be,” and in Gethsemane, he cried, “not my will, but yours be done.” In Genesis he started everything; on the cross he cried, “It is finished.” In Genesis he introduced death; on the 3rd day he conquered death!

Jesus is no impostor.

Debt Free Living

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

opraiseOnce Wendy and I were having dinner in a nice restaurant, enjoying the meal, enjoying one another’s company. We got ready to leave and there was no bill to pay. The waitress told us someone had paid it. “Wait a minute,” I contested, “who did that?” I wanted to thank them. Part of me wanted to try to pay them back. There was nothing I could do. The bill was paid…in full.

When I was 15 years old I attended a revival service. That night, for the first time, I realized I had a massive sin debt that only Jesus could handle. I had broken God’s law, broken Jesus’s heart, and acted a fool in my pride. As soon as the pastor finished preaching I went forward and received Jesus’s payment in full for my sins. What a sinner I was…what a Savior he is!

In 1865 Elvina Hall penned the words that say, better than I ever could, how I feel about what Jesus has done for me. Sing them as you read them:

I hear the Savior say,
Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
and melt the heart of stone.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
Jesus died my soul to save,
my lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow

O praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!

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.

To Serve or To Be Served

Yesterday Wendy and I took Hannah to Greenville Spartanburg Airport. We sent her off on a one-month trek to Ecuador where she will hang with missionaries, share the Gospel, canoe the Amazon and hike an icy mountain. You can imagine the mixed emotions we had as we left her in the hands of her Intercultural Studies professor and a dozen other students.

When we left we went to a nearby restaurant and sat down to eat. We were a bit tired and emotionally drained. When we walked into the restaurant it never occurred to us to serve. We went there to be served. J. B., our waiter, brought us a menu, asked us what we wanted to drink, brought our ice waters (with lemon of course!) and took our order. He brought our food to us, refilled our waters and graciously waited on us. It never occurred to us that we should serve–we walked in there to be served.

When J. B. walked into that restaurant yesterday, it never occurred to him that he would be served. He came to serve. His sole purpose for coming to work yesterday was to serve.

Jesus can identify with J. B.

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 10:45 ESV)

Jesus did not walk on planet earth to be served. It never occurred to him to sit down at the table and wait on someone to take his order. No! He entered planet earth to serve. He sat down at the well with the Samaritan woman. He fed thousands with a few loaves and fish. He cried over Lazarus’s death.  He donned a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. He hung humiliated on a wooden cross. He gave his life a ransom for many.

How will you walk into your day today? As a server or a customer?

Humble Confidence

Pray this confident in what Christ as done for you. (From The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers)…

O God, you are very great,

My lot is to approach you with godly fear and humble confidence, for your condescension equals your grandeur, and your goodness is your glory.

I am unworthy, but you do welcome; guilty but you are merciful; indigent, but your riches are unsearchable.

You have shown boundless compassion towards me by not sparing your Son, and by giving me freely all things in him. This is the fountain of my hope, the refuge of my safety, the new and living way to you, the means of that conviction of sin, brokenness of heart, and self-despair, which will endear me to the gospel.

Happy are they who are Christ’s, in him at peace with you, justified from all things, delivered from coming wrath, made heirs of future glory.

Give me such deadness to the world, such love for the Savior, such attachment to his church, such devotion to his service, as proves me a subject of his salvation.

May every part of my character and conduct make a serious and amiable impression on others, and impel them to ask the way to the Master.

Let no incident of life, pleasing or painful, injure the prosperity of my soul, but rather increase it.

Send me your help, for your appointments are not meant to make me independent of you, and the best means will be vain without super-added blessings.

Amen.

I Love to Tell the Story

And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:33-35 ESV)

There is something about good news that cannot be contained. An engagement requires an announcement. A pregnancy demands telling. So it was with Cleopas and his friend. As soon as Jesus had departed from their presence, they departed from their place. They couldn’t wait any longer. Though it was evening and had grown dark–and the trek back from Emmaus to Jerusalem was dangerous in the dark–they got up that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.

This poses a question for you and me: Is the good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection that fresh to us? Who have you told this week? Who did you invite to worship with you? Who came to your mind and you got up from where you were and ran as fast as you could (or drove of course!) and said, “I have something to tell you. I’ve seen Jesus and what he said and did changed my life!” Who has heard your story?

Take five minutes, watch and take in this beautiful rendition of Tell Me the Story of Jesus: 

Invite someone to worship tomorrow to hear the story.

But We Had Hoped

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. (Luke 24:21 ESV)

There are two kinds of hope and they are quickly discerned and easily defined. If I plan to work outside today I’ll say, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” That statement could easily be translated, “I wish it wouldn’t rain.” In this case hope is defined as wishful thinking. This kind of hope is part of our everyday existence. We live in the land of wishful thinking.

uncommon_sense_hopeCleopas and his friend banked on such hope. But we had hoped.They had their own hopes for Jesus, their own aspirations for his life. When he fell short of their dreams, they assumed he had fallen short of His purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Christian hope is not wishful thinking. Christian hope is confident expectation. Paul talked about this hope in Romans:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

Confident expectation in God’s character and God’s promises will never put us to shame. God comes through every time. When we mold God’s plan into our own design and He “comes up empty” we’re embarrassed. Our faith falters. We wonder what went wrong. Sometimes we even blame God. Somehow Cleopas and his friend missed this conversation Jesus had with his disciples:

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 ESV)

By the third day their hopes were dashed. But it was on the third day, the day on which they lost hope, that Hope was resurrected and joined them on the Emmaus Road. It was on the third day, the day they gave up, that Hope rose up victorious over every doubt they had. It was on the third day, they day they decided to desert and return to Emmaus, that Hope joined them on their devastating journey home.

They had no idea that everything they ever hoped for was walking on the Emmaus Road with them.

Fighting Well

I published this post on Saturday…and realized that many people didn’t get to read it. The principles in it are worth reading again…and internalizing. So here goes.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25 ESV)

If we are going to win the battle against sin, we have to…

  • Have the right view of ourselves.
    • Paul says, “wretched man that I am.” John Newton got this right in the old hymn: Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. The word wretch comes from the Greek word “pierce.” To be wretched is to be pierced through with the reality of your sin. God saves wretches. God saves sinners.
  • Ask the right question.
    • Paul’s question is as important as his answer. He doesn’t ask, “what will set me free.” Rather, he asks “who?” His question calls for a rescuer, a person, someone to step in and save the day.
  • Have the right view of our sinful nature.
    • Paul calls his old sin nature, “this body of death.” This is war terminology, referring to a prisoner of war who has the dead body of a fallen comrade attached to his own body–nose to nose, toe-to-toe. The POW must walk around with this dead body staring him in the face, maggots included. If the POW doesn’t die from the emotional strain, he will die from disease. Your sin nature is that nasty, that gross, that capable of sin–even after you come to Christ.
  • Trust the Answer to the question
    • Paul answers, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” God provided an answer–his only Son. God offered his best for our worst, his strength for our weakness, his Son for our sins. In J.D. Greear’s book, Jesus Continued, he writes:

So when you feel abandoned, that’s all it is, a feeling. A lying, deceptive feeling. It has to be. Jesus faced the full measure of our aloneness in our place and put it away forever. By his death, he reconciled us to God, so that we can know that he will never leave us or forsake us. In some strange way we can never hope to comprehend he was abandoned…for us.

Sin’s Dangerous Undertow: God’s Gracious Rescuer

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25 ESV)

Gary Smalley tells the story. He was in Cancun, Mexico, with his wife Norma, and two of their children and their families.

The morning was overcast and Norma and I were reading by the pool listening to the waves crash not far from us. I decided to take a break from reading and jump in the ocean to wake up. The water was as warm as the pool; temperature-wise it was the best ocean water I’d ever been in. However, something very serious happened to me during that swim that I certainly didn’t expect.

As I was walking toward the beach to enjoy a brief swim, I noticed there were some flags that were posted along the beach—some red, some yellow. There weren’t many people on the beach so I couldn’t ask anyone about them. I really didn’t pay any attention to them because the water seemed so inviting and shallow that I didn’t think there would be any problems. I didn’t know those flags were riptide-warning flags.

I eased into the water. The waves were large and coming every 5 seconds. I was frolicking, jumping up and down, but I was bouncing out further and further into the ocean. In a short time, I was up to my chest but still had my feet on the sand. When a big wave would come and cover me I was able to jump up most of the way. But with each wave there was a current that was pulling me further out; I didn’t really notice it, however, because I was walking away from the beach.

Suddenly I realized that the water was up to my chin and recognized that the current was pulling me out. I decided that I was going to start swimming back to shore, but I couldn’t get in. The current was so strong and the waves were coming with such force that I felt caught, and was being dragged out farther and farther. I didn’t think there was a problem at first, because I’m pretty strong, and even though I’m 60, I’m a good swimmer. However, the harder I tried, the more I saw that I was not making any progress. I tried swimming under water, but when I came up for air I was hit by a giant wave and I started to swallow water. I started to panic. I was getting tired and I realized I was in a mess. The waves crashed over me and I was taking in too much water. I had no energy left. I looked to see if anybody was around that I could scream to, but the waves were so loud that a scream wouldn’t have been heard. I waved my arm up in the air to see if somebody could see me, and I noticed in a split second a young lifeguard sitting in a tower that I never before noticed. He saw me and waved back. He then jumped out of the tower, ran to the ocean, swam out to me, and threw me a large red floating device with handles and a big rope.

Then Smalley adds:

Here’s what I learned: When you are struggling with food, love relationships, immoral thoughts, bad habits, any kind of addiction (from shopping to drugs), the current is pulling you out. And you can’t do anything about it in your own efforts. Many of us who have been addicted know the reason we get depressed is because we know it’s hopeless. We’ve tried to change, we’ve tried diets, we’ve tried disciplining ourselves, we’ve tried getting up early and praying, we’ve tried different things, but nothing seems to work. Jesus is actually the one who overcomes the addiction, the one who gives us the power to sustain. You have a lifeguard—Jesus Christ. He throws the floating device, grace, to you.

Paul had tried methods. He had tried almost everything. He answered the question with almost a sigh of relief: Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.