Saturday, January 19th 2019

Day 12: That we would be filled with the Spirit

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18 ESV)

If the Holy Spirit decided to abandon your church what programs and ministries would be shut down? I can’t remember where I first heard that question but it has stuck with me. I’d like to say that we’d have to shut down everything—but truth be told, there might be some things we do as a church which could go on mostly unchanged. This should not be so.

There is much which could be said about Ephesians 5:18 and the concept of being filled with the Spirit, I simply want to draw your attention to two things from this verse. First, you do not get drunk on wine by merely having a sip or dabbling in wine. You get drunk by drinking a few glasses. In the same way churches should not be content with merely sipping on the Spirit. We should not be content until he has the whole of us.

Secondly, to be filled with the Spirit essentially means to be pressured, permeated, and dominated by the Spirit (from here). For a church to be filled with (or by) the Spirit we’d absolutely know the answer to the question I opened with. If we are to do anything of lasting value as a church it will be through the work of the Spirit.

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Spirit. We thank you that you’ve taken up residence in our lives and that you are absolutely dedicated to seeing us fully redeemed. We pray Lord that you’d create in us a hunger which can only be satisfied by You. Fill us with your Spirit. May the peace of Christ rule every sector of our hearts. This is your church. Fill it up with Yourself. Amen.

Thursday, January 17th 2019

Day 11: That we would bear one another’s burdens

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 ESV)

I see two admonitions in this passage. One of them is to be the type of person who will bear the burdens of a struggling brother. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul mentions those who are “weak” and he encourages others to “help” them. The words used there bring to mind the concept of being the legs of the legless. This, in part, is what it means to shoulder the load of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The other person in this text is the one who has the heavy load he is lifting. He too has an admonition in this verse. We must drop our self-reliance and realize that we have brothers and sisters in the church who God has sovereignly ordained to help us. And so we truly are called to bear one another’s burdens. We are in this together. When you hurt, I hurt. When you are overjoyed, I’m overjoyed.

Father, I thank you for giving us the church. Thank you for brothers and sisters in Christ who pray for me. Thank you for those who willing shoulder some of my load. Help me to be vulnerable and to allow people to help. In the same way, help me be a conduit of your grace and care. Give me the strength to bear the burdens that my brothers and sisters face. May we fight sin together and with one heart and mind grab hold of Christ—who is our portion forever. Amen.

*Adapted from 31 days of prayer for your church

Tuesday, January 15th 2019

Day 8: That we would see our community with the eyes of Jesus

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34 ESV)

I doubt the massive and needy crowd would have gotten a warm reception from the hungry and exhausted disciples. Yet, Jesus sees this desperate crowd with the eyes of compassion and causes him to act. He feeds them not only the physical food of miraculous bread but also the spiritual food of teaching from heaven. Jesus’ compassion is always greater than the strength of His disciples. I’m convinced this is one reason we are sometimes guilty of turning a blind eye to the suffering within our communities—we know what will happen if we view our community with the eyes of Jesus. Seeing things with the eyes of Jesus will put us in situations of which we aren’t comfortable, it will demand things of us which we don’t have the strength for, and ultimately push us outside of ourselves. Yet, we must view our community with the eyes of Jesus.

Lord, we thank you for the compassion with which you looked upon us. We are grateful for your tender mercies to us when you would have been perfectly just to have left us in our sin. We know that you view the hapless crowd with the eyes of compassion. Lord, help us do the same. Help us to see our communities the way that you see them and to respond accordingly. May your compassion move us to action.

*Adapted from 31 days of prayer for your church

Monday, January 14th 2019

Day 8: That we would see our community with the eyes of Jesus

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34 ESV)

I doubt the massive and needy crowd would have gotten a warm reception from the hungry and exhausted disciples. Yet, Jesus sees this desperate crowd with the eyes of compassion and causes him to act. He feeds them not only the physical food of miraculous bread but also the spiritual food of teaching from heaven. Jesus’ compassion is always greater than the strength of His disciples. I’m convinced this is one reason we are sometimes guilty of turning a blind eye to the suffering within our communities—we know what will happen if we view our community with the eyes of Jesus. Seeing things with the eyes of Jesus will put us in situations of which we aren’t comfortable, it will demand things of us which we don’t have the strength for, and ultimately push us outside of ourselves. Yet, we must view our community with the eyes of Jesus.

Lord, we thank you for the compassion with which you looked upon us. We are grateful for your tender mercies to us when you would have been perfectly just to have left us in our sin. We know that you view the hapless crowd with the eyes of compassion. Lord, help us do the same. Help us to see our communities the way that you see them and to respond accordingly. May your compassion move us to action.

*Adapted from 31 days of prayer for the church

Sunday, January 13th 2019

Day 17: That we wouldn’t be satisfied with shadows

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:16-19 ESV)

What would you think of me if I took my wife on a date and while eating pizza I only talked to her shadow and ignored her? Or if while watching a movie I tried cuddling up to her shadow? Or when we went out dancing I started slow dancing with her shadow? You’d think I was a nut, and rightly so. You don’t dance with shadows when the substance is right there. And yet so many Christians and churches are satisfied with shadows. We spend our time focusing on food, drink, festivals, new moons, and Sabbath’s and miss the gospel. Let us not think that what we need is asceticism, or visions, or anything of the sort. Instead may we as churches realize that we have been given the substance—Jesus Christ. No more dancing with shadows.

Father, we thank you for the gift of Your Son. In Him is Your fullness. We have everything we need in Jesus. And, yet, we confess our propensity to dance with shadows. Perhaps, given our finitude, shadows are more comfortable. Rescue us from this foolishness. Help us to not be satisfied with shadows but to actively pursue lasting enjoyment of You—our substance.

*Adapted from 31 days of prayer for the church

Saturday, January 12th 2019

Day Six: That we would receive God’s word humbly

All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2 ESV)

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21 ESV)

There is a way in which a church can receive the Word which is counter-productive. It is one thing to receive the Word as a humble Berean, searching the Scriptures to see if what is being said is so. It is quite another to be an arrogant soul hiding behind the illusion of being a Berean, but in reality we are no better than a Monday-morning quarterback. In these moments we are doing what Soren Kierkegaard called “defending oneself against God’s Word”. We must hear God’s Word with a humble posture; a trembling posture which comes to grips with our own sinfulness and finitude. But also the posture of a meek lamb—desperately dependent upon the Lord to feed us. Pray today that our church would not only be passionate about mastering God’s Word but that we would be equally passionate about being Mastered by God’s Word.

Father, break us where we need broken and heal us where we need healed. We want to receive your word with humility. Every good and perfect gift comes from you and so we are dependent upon you for the blessing of truly receiving your Word. Lord, rescue us from our foolish defense of ourselves. Help us to see that because of Jesus we do not have to hide from the work of your Word. Your Word incarnate is our lone defense. May we rest in him and humbly receive the Word you’ve placed in our heart. Amen.

*Adapted from 31 days of prayer for the church

Friday, January 11th 2019

Day Five: That we would love one another deeply from the heart

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, (1 Peter 1:22 ESV)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 ESV)

When we read something like “love one another deeply from the heart” our minds might be a bit too informed by Hollywood. But Hollywood doesn’t give us our best image of this “earnest love”. The word Peter uses here is the same word used of Jesus when he is praying earnestly and sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is with this type of passion and intentionality that we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. This deep love is not original with us. It is, as we read in 1:22, one which comes to us by having purified our souls. The gospel is what gives us a new heart. It is from this new heart that we are able to love each other with a love modeled for us in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Father, we thank you for your deep love for us. We thank you that you have given us new hearts which are able to love with your cruciform love. We also confess that at times our love is shallow. We are asking that you would strengthen our love for one another. Help us to love one another deeply from our Christ-purchased hearts. Give us the passion and intentionality for one another that was modeled for us in the Garden of Gethsemane.

*Adapted from 31 days of prayer for your church

Thursday, January 10th 2019

Day Four: That God’s name would be exalted through us

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. (Matthew 6:9 ESV)

It has been said that your life either tells the truth about God, or it tells a lie. I suppose this same thing could be extended to the church at large. If your local church is all the outside world used to formulate a view of God, would they largely know the truth of God or a lie. I’m convinced that if anyone will exalt the name of the Lord it will be through the labors of ordinary Christians in the local church. Let us, then, live lives which accurately reflect God and His gospel. May his name be exalted through us.

Father, you are good and you are holy. We confess that at times our churches and our own lives do not accurately reflect you. Forgive us for these times. We thank you that even in our brokenness and failings we can somehow reflect you and magnify your love and grace toward us. Help our church be an accurate reflection of you. May your name be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven. Help the world, through us, to hear and see your precious gospel. Amen.

*Adapted from 31 days of prayer for your church