I am thankful that the Lord instructs us how to pray. We want to pray what is on God’s heart and mind, agreeing with what He feels is important for us to pray. We want to hear from Him and respond with intercession by praying for others or a certain situation. This can be difficult to do as there are so many things that vie for our attention, so it is encouraging to see the ways the Lord helps us to know what and how to pray.
I had a small encounter that has fueled my prayers concerning praying for the United States. I had a short dream around October 15. In the dream I was talking to a group of people from the book of Joel. Joel is a prophetic book in the Old Testament, and specifically Joel 2 is a Scripture that is insightful to us as to how we as the people of God should respond in a time of crisis. The command in the book of Joel is to gather the people together, cry out to God, and return to Him with all our heart. Then in the dream, a man, who I feel represented the Lord and also faithfulness in the word of God, said to me, “Look at Athaliah.” It was almost as if that phrase was added to the message of Joel I was sharing.
So, who was Athaliah? In the Scripture, Athaliah was a wicked woman, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, two of the wickedest rulers in Israel’s history. She married Jehoram, the son of Jehosophat, one of the kings of the southern kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 8:16-18). Their son, Ahaziah, reigned after Jehoram died. Both her husband and her son “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Ahaziah walked in wickedness like the house of Ahab. His mother, Athalia, advised Him to do wickedly. She was a great proponent of Baal worship which included much idolatry and sexual immorality. In 2 Kings 11:1-21, it is recorded that after Ahaziah’s death Athaliah usurped the throne and killed all the rightful, royal heirs to the throne. From the heirs, Joash was spared and hidden for 6 years in the house of the Lord. At the right time, Jehoida, the priest, along with the military captains and their thousands of armed men, arranged for a rightful coronation of the young King Joash. As a result, Athaliah was slain, Joash took the throne, and the temple of Baal was destroyed. For part of his reign, Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord. Joash even instructed the temple of the Lord to be repaired.
For me, the Lord highlighted this account through this short dream to alert me to pray about some of these things in connection to our current national situation.
First of all, we need to look at what Athaliah promoted. It was Baal worship. This is not pleasing to God. In America, we see the promotion of the evil practices of sexual immorality and idolatry. We need to recognize those who are promoting this in our nation and call it for what it is, Baal worship.
Athaliah usurped the throne. This parallels a real desire in some in this nation to take positions of authority illegally. We need to pray against it. As we look around our nation we see individuals and groups grabbing for authority that is not rightfully theirs, and seeking to overthrow government and authority with violence, rioting, and destruction. This is not godly, but lawless. As we approach this election on Tuesday, there is more and more talk of subversion of authority. I believe that we need to pray for these attempts to usurp rightful authority to be brought to nothing and be made ineffective.
Athaliah also killed the rightful heirs. We need to pray for threats against rightful leaders and godly leaders to be halted. We need to also pray that those who are in positions of leadership would embrace godly principles and policies (I Timothy 2:1-4). We need to pray for those God has “hidden away” to come into rightful places of authority at the right time. I believe this happened with the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett at this time to help preserve the godly principles in our nation’s founding document and to be used to end abortion in our land.
When there is so much going on in our nation, it can be overwhelming to know how to focus our prayers. It can be discouraging and depressing to look around and see the crisis and trouble. Yet as believers in the Lord and because He instructs us to pray, it is imperative that we pray in these times. It is imperative we know His character and ways in the Scripture. We find in the Word important directives of what to pray (for the church, people in authority, etc). Even so, we can be overwhelmed by the mountains of needs/crisis/tumult we need to pray about. I am encouraged that He can reveal to us how to focus our prayers. I am thankful He gives specific direction in what to pray in the Scripture. Let’s ask Him to help us pray about the things on His heart, interceding for others and our nation according to His word and ways.
Have you ever had an encounter in the Word? I mean have you ever had something happen where the Word of God, a Scripture, a passage, a story suddenly comes to life in vivid 3-D in your mind and heart? The Lord speaks so clearly to your situation through His Word that you are marked by that Scripture! These encounters become a place where you go back to and draw on the refreshing truth of that particular Scripture again and again. And these experiences remind us that truly God’s Word is living and active and every bit as powerful and applicable today as it was when it was written.
I had an experience like that as I sat down to meditate on Ephesians 1:4. I’ve been working through meditating on and writing about each verse in Ephesians after going through the Martyn Lloyd-Jones teaching on Ephesians 1.
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love... Ephesians 1:4
So, on one particular day it was time to meditate, chew on, and think upon Ephesians 1:4. The interesting thing about this day was that I had just read a Facebook post that had me rattled. You know those posts? The ones that you read and wish that somehow they hadn't ended up in your feed? This one was a challenge to the church, and it disturbed me. Not because of the challenge being issued, or because the church doesn't need to be challenged in lots of ways, but because there was something that was just off in what this person was saying. I couldn't quite articulate it and it had me disturbed. I often feel the need to figure these kinds of things out.
The person was hammering the need for the church to LOVE. Yes. Absolutely. I get that. But, then he wasn't just hammering love, he was actually downplaying holiness and he asserted that the church is stuck on a list of “holiness” things that aren't even critical. He even said, “The bible says we will be known by our love. Not our holiness.” Hmmm... it does say they will know we are Christians by our love, but isn't holiness important, too? Rattled. This just rattled me but I couldn't fully get to the “wrong” of it.
So, with this turmoil in my mind, I set it aside to spend some moments in meditating on the Scripture.
Again, let's actually read these words in Ephesians that jumped off the page to me that day: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love...
Suddenly I could see both of these words “holy” and “love” in the same verse and it all collided in my mind.
(Note: I realize that some translations put the phrase “in love” with the following verse relating to how God predestined us. The teaching we had just heard from Martyn Lloyd-Jones however puts the “in love” phrase in verse 4 referring to how we are before the Lord.)
We are CHOSEN by the Lord. Why has He chosen us? We are chosen for a purpose. And, it is clearly stated here. We are chosen so that we SHOULD BE holy and blameless. This is huge. We aren't chosen to be before Him in love only. We are chosen to be holy and blameless before Him.
This means that the value God places on our holiness is EQUALLY as valuable to the state of our hearts in LOVE. We aren't just chosen to be holy and blameless... We are chosen to be holy and blameless before Him IN LOVE.
The problem with this person's blast at the church was suddenly clear. You CANNOT downplay holiness in favor of love JUST as you cannot downplay love in favor of holiness. The point is we are chosen for a purpose and the purpose is to be something (holy and blameless) and somewhere (before Him) in a specific state of being (in love).
We are chosen to be holy.
What does this mean? This doesn't mean that we are chosen to live according to a set of rules and dot our “i's” and cross our “t's”. This means we are to be set apart. It means we should look different from the world around us. We should have peace in the face of storms; we should love in the face of hate; we should give even from our lack; we should live according to the Word and Will of God, not according to the popular words of men or the ever-shifting will of culture or even according to our own will. We should stand on the Word of God even when that's not popular. We should do all things in love and with grace.
We are chosen to be blameless.
This is not something we can accomplish by ourselves. We are with blame... We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even the best person alive cannot actually be blameless before the Lord. His perfection and glory are so far above and beyond even our best efforts. We can only be blameless through the blood of Jesus Christ. So, being chosen to be blameless isn't something we can do, but rather something we receive and walk in. We walk in the salvation that has been purchased for us at such a great price by Jesus' blood. This alone makes us blameless before God.
We are chosen to be before Him.
We are chosen for a destination. When God calls us to Himself it's not just to live on this earth like drifters with no destination. We are called to be before the Living God of all creation. He is in an actual place and He desires us to be before Him, with Him, in His presence. In John 17:24, Jesus expresses this desire. He prays to the Father saying, “Father, I desire that those you have given me would be with me where I am and that they may see my glory!” This is incredible!!!! This is our purpose!!! To be before him!
We are chosen to be in His presence IN LOVE.
We aren't dragged into His presence kicking and screaming. We are called and we stand before Him IN LOVE. One of the most critical things I believe that the Father will want to see in our lives when we stand before Him in eternity was did we learn to love as He loves? Did we grow in love? Jesus said the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is His desire to have a Bride who is wholehearted in LOVE!!
So, we must not deny holiness or love. Surely, we don't want to get caught in legalism in which we try to operate from a list of rules and rely on our ability to keep God's commandments. The Facebook guy was right on that. But, we also don't want to just sound like the hippy movement and talk about “love man” that really means nothing even close to true love. If we are truly walking with Christ, then BOTH of these attributes should be increasing in our lives.
Jesus is our example and He NEVER violated the Father's will or His Word. He was truly Holy. Perfectly Holy. AND, He ALWAYS operated with a motive of love. He never violated either of these things in the way He walked.
We should pursue Christ and remember we are chosen for a purpose and we can walk as holy people, in love before the Lord!
There is something so beautiful that can happen as we set ourselves before the Living God to worship Him. When we lift our gaze to Him, our perspective changes. And, when a group of people come together to lift up His name, sometimes He will weave together an amazing tapestry. Through the prayers and thoughts of our hearts, combined with the songs that are sung and the prayers that different people pray all weave together into something that is clearly a theme. You are left in awe of the way God is able to communicate with His people.
This is what happened at our Lampstand meeting in June. We spent time worshiping, led by Bethany Oakes, and the songs, prayers, and scriptures all flowed together to bring great encouragement to our herats.
Bethany sang a song called Conquering Lion that led us into praying about how the Shepherd leads us so well to fountains of living water. Bethany didn't know when she chose the song Conquering Lion that we would be talking about Psalm 23:2 which refers to the Lord leading us to quiet waters. This is an illustration of the way the Lord can weave things together as we seek Him. I love to see His Holy Spirit work in this way.
At the end of worship, Matthew shared about a recent experience in which he went to the eye doctor who told him his eyes were dry and needed oil. He played a song by David Ruis called “True Love.” There is a spontaneous part of this song on the CD where David Ruis shares about people with contact lenses and how they get dry. He said spiritually sometimes our eyes get dry and we need the gift of tears. God gives us tears to cleanse our hearts.
As Matthew played this song for us, I personally felt such encouragement and healing. It's easy to get frustrated, dry, and irritable. Times of focus on the Lord bring such healing and restoration. I think this was a time for many of us to find refreshing tears and just encouragement in the Lord.
We are in a series about Psalm 23 using the book A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller. We highly recommend this book to anyone! This is a powerful look at the way the Lord Jesus is our Good Shepherd. This Lampstand we were focusing on Psalm 23:2.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters.
Some highlights from the message are:
-Sheep do not lie down unless they are free from fear, friction with other sheep, pests, and hunger. In each of these circumstances the presence and ministry of the Shepherd makes all the difference.
1.He protects us and His nearness reminds us that we do not have to fear.
2.When He is near, we don't tend to fight with one another!
3.He applies the oil that frees us from pests that distract and destroy us.
4.He works to ensure we are fed and nourished.
-He leads us to quiet waters. He knows where the water is and has provided the watering places!
Sheep have 3 main sources of necessary water.
1.Dew! Getting up early and beginning our day with the Lord is like drinking dew from the grass.
2.Deep wells! He digs these out and provides them for us. Jeremiah 2:13...let's drink from the sources He provides and not from unhealthy substitutes.
3.Streams! Are we drinking from potholes along the path or are we drinking from the beautiful streams He leads us to?
As Matthew shared about these things, we were all encouraged to trust the excellent leadership of our Good Shepherd who always leads so well.
Taking time to respond to this message helped to seal these words in our hearts.
In December of 2017 I battled some annoying and prolonged eye infections, mostly on my eyelids from sties. People joked about my wife clocking me. I had to defend her constantly. Ha! Anyway, after weeks of warm compresses, ointments, drops, and visiting the eye doctor, my eyes (more accurately eyelids) cleared up. The pain and the irritation subsided. People stopped accusing Julie of spousal abuse.
Yet after all that my eyes have not seemed to be as they were before. They seem to dry out easier. My eyelids seem to get red around the edges more often. I have gotten what seems to be small sties that do not last long.
At a recent appointment to get new glasses, the optometrist shed some light on the subject. He described the dryness I was feeling as not stemming from a lack of tears but a thin layer of oil that covers that tear layer. Without that layer, the eyes dry out. He said that layer comes from oil glands on the edges of my eyelids. Long story short, I have some oil glands that have been damaged on my eyelids. I need a little help from some specific eye drops that contain mineral oil. WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT HAS MADE. My new glasses have helped my eyes to not be so strained, thus less rubbing my eyes when they have trouble focusing and are tired.
This oil thing has really “opened my eyes” though.
Let me share a little context about “oil.” We have been focusing on “getting oil” at our Lampstand meetings (growing in the knowledge of God, developing a secret life with God, growing in connection and communion with the Lord). Oil is the fuel for our lives so that in hard times we are not burning our wick but the oil source we have stored up. It causes our light to shine brightly.
We also have recently studied the oil used by shepherds with their sheep; to protect against highly irritating insects that can greatly annoy the sheep and even can lay eggs in their nose. Thus the larva can drive them crazy.
The work of the Holy Spirit and His anointing are also described in terms of oil in the Scriptures.
So with this eye issue I felt like the Lord was encouraging me that I need the “oil” He gives to see rightly in a spiritual sense as well as with the eye drops that contain mineral oil to see rightly in the natural.
We need the background of His word, knowledge of Him and His ways, daily encounter, connection and communion, and the oil of the Holy Spirit (a supernatural work we cannot do) applied to our vision. It is with that, that we can rightly discern what He is saying and doing, SEEING CLEARLY AND WITH RIGHT PERSPECTIVE.
I don’t know about you but I need this in my life. “Lord, apply the oil to our minds and vision. Help us to see the way you see. Help us to see rightly. Amen.”
We have talked many times at our Lampstand Meetings about the necessity of “getting oil” for our lamps. The oil is the source of fuel for us to have to have burning hearts for the Lord Jesus in every season of our lives. It is about having real revelation of the knowledge of the Lord found in Scripture, growing in connection and relationship with Him, and developing a personal history with God. That fuel is what sources the flame of the testimony of the Lord that others see in us. The oil fuels the ministry that we have toward others in His name whether that is our children and spouses, people in our church, or those who don’t know Him, to give a few examples.
I was listening to a recent teaching by Mike Bickle from His recent Bride of Christ series (Growing in Intimacy with Jesus) and he made the comment that many times we are so busy looking for areas where we can shine our light that we neglect getting oil for our lamps. How true this is! If we think about it, if we have a blazing flame that is fueled by deep intimacy and wholehearted devotion to the Lord, dynamic knowledge of the holy God, and a vibrant, growing heart for Him and the things He values, the impact we desire to have flows freely from us and we don’t have to focus as much on the effectiveness we have on others.
Have you ever met someone who loved to talk about one particular subject? Maybe it was something like trains or cars, or food, or decorating, or some other subject that is important to them. It’s easy to see their passion and fervor. It’s easy to see their depth and dedication. You can’t help but take notice of what they value. If as followers of Christ are deeply engulfed in, preoccupied with, caught up in, immersed in, captured by, enthralled with, and captivated and fascinated by in Him, won’t that be obviously noticeable and impacting to others?
(Sometimes as believers we can get into “run around and do” mode. We are busy with ministry activities. This program or that, this campaign and that. It is often with good motives. We want to make an impact, see people come to Christ, advance the kingdom. Yet many times we forget about the necessary connection with Him. Yet many times I think we don’t see the impact we want to see from those endeavors. We get beyond the reach of our light and we can burn out. This is because we are more focused on “getting our light out there” rather than cultivating the secret life of God that is within.)
I have seen people try to minister Jesus to others without much fuel in their lives, without much life of Jesus on the inside. Not only is it not very effective, it can be damaging to those they are trying to minister to as well as to themselves. How do I know? I have been there. I have stepped out to share and have had a wrong attitude, bad motives, not much to say, and no real desire. I have often done it because I feel obligation to do it. Isn’t this what I should be doing to be a good Christian, leader, etc? I can even see that I wanted the kingdom to grow and I wanted to be used to do it. Yet when I did it without a working knowledge of His love and truth and without much real devotion, the result has been even more lack of desire, more disappointment, frustration, and disillusionment.
But I can honestly say that since I have taken more time to cultivate the connection and communion with the Lord, to grow in devotion and love, to learn more about Him and His ways, I have reached out more than I ever have. I have shared with more unbelievers the gospel of Christ and shared more with believers about a deeper life with Him. I have had less fear and insecurity. I have felt that my words have been an extension of His heart and love. I have shared with more joy and excitement, I have been less selfish and angry in my attitude. I have had more to talk about and I have a growing desire to talk about Jesus.
Not only do I see this reality in myself, I look around at those I see spending consistent time in personal Bible study, prayer and worship times, and getting oil and I am personally encouraged by them and am astounded over the impact they have on others.
Hear me, I’m not saying there aren’t times we share about Christ when we don’t feel like it or that we don’t support outreaches, programs, and service projects. My point is, if we focused more on the oil in our lamps, wouldn’t the outreach, service, proclaiming the gospel, flow more naturally and supernaturally from our lives? I mean, it does say in John 15, if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit.
As I think about all this, I want “getting oil” for my lamp to be even more of my life vision. The Lord will handle the impact of my light. I am certain it will be greater than if I just went around with my dim flame trying to let me light shine.
Ian led worship at this Lampstand gathering and we really spent time declaring that the Lord is WORTHY! Lifting up the name of Jesus because there is no other name like His name! His name is higher than every other name. As we spent time doing this, Ginny shared that the Lord was encouraging her about honing the weapon we have of crying out and declaring His name!
There was a unique time of sharing things people felt the Lord stirring after our worship time. It was confirmation of the value of these meetings. I think it was valuable to people on many levels.
We are beginning a series about Psalm 23 using the book A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller. We highly recommend this book to anyone! This is a powerful look at the way the Lord Jesus is our Good Shepherd.
At this May Lampstand, we began with Matthew sharing from the chapters of the book dealing with Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Some highlights from the teaching time:
-The Lord is my shepherd. This is a declaration, almost boasting, by David, Israel's shepherd king. He is declaring that the Lord is the manager of his life and that He is an excellent manager! It is important to ask, Do I really believe the Lord has the credentials to be the Shepherd or manager of my life? And, truly, He does!! He created us; He loves us; He gave His Son for us; He continually provides for us. He is an excellent Shepherd!!
-I shall not want. Sometimes people take this to mean that if you come under the management of the Lord, you will never have troubles or problems. This is clearly not true and not even Biblical! The idea of this statement is saying I am content in His care and management of my life. Like in Philippians 4, are we able to say, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”? Will we trust the Lord to care for us and lead us despite the trials and valleys and challenges? Can we be content IN Him?
There were so many beautiful things shared by people in attendance. We all felt the challenge to trust the Lord's leadership and the reminder that sin, Satan, and self are poor masters!!
At the end of our response time, Linda Martin shared a dream she had had years ago about climbing with the Lord on a very narrow path. It was frighteningly narrow and eventually they turned a corner into a lush green pasture. Sheep were resting in the pasture and there was a beautiful stream. After resting, Jesus was ready to lead them on again. The way forward couldn't be seen and it looked scary. Some wouldn't follow and wanted to stay in the pasture. So as He led on, some remained behind and Linda saw wolves come out of the bushes in the lush green pasture and devour those who had remained behind. Where we are seems “good enough” but we must ALWAYS keep following Jesus!
We must make this our declaration: Lead ON!! We will follow in Your footsteps, Lord!
Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3
Continuing with my blog series about the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Ephesians study we are involved in, I am continuously thankful for the meat of the Word. Truly any time we give to chew on the Word of God is never wasted time.
In the last verse, I was looking at verse 2 which could be seen as merely introductory material however it is full of truth about the grace and peace available to us from God through Christ and why we need these critical things. God has given us favor that we could never deserve and the end result of this in our lives is PEACE: with God, with others, with ourselves. What a blessing we have through the grace and peace of God.
Now, the next verse flows directly from the previous one. Because of the grace and peace of God, we bless God! Praise and thanksgiving should flow from our lives despite our circumstances. What a gift that God has made peace with Himself, peace with people around us, peace within our own selves possible! What favor! What kindness! What GRACE...
Then we consider the fullness of this verse: God our Father has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing... I want to jump to another passage found in Luke 15 beginning in verse 11 that I think highlights this verse in a unique way.
One of the most sobering passages in the Scripture is the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal son isn't the character in this story who troubles me or leaves me feeling sobered. No, the prodigal son is the part of the story that leaves me in open-mouthed awe at the grace and kindness of the Father God. And, his flight from his father isn't really surprising. After all, it is in the heart of men to go their own way. No, the older brother is the one who leaves me quaking a bit. This one who "remained faithful" and seemingly never strayed from his father. He says he served faithfully and never disobeyed the father's commands. Yet, somehow, he has completely missed his father's heart.
And, then the father in the story says the most astounding thing to this son who is feeling left out from the celebration of his "wicked" brother's return: "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." Oh. my. This son had access to everything belonging to the father and yet he missed it. Completely.
And, what about me? This is where I shudder a bit because I never want to be like the older brother. So, when I read Ephesians 1:3, I am astounded at the generosity of the Father and I tremble, wondering if I'm living like this is true that He has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places?
Do I really live like I have access to the FULLNESS of the BLESSING of GOD the Father?
What about you? What blessing do you feel like you're lacking? Where do you feel weak? Have you gone to the Source of every available spiritual blessing and asked Him for it?
Before I go any further, it is critical that we start at the beginning with these blessings. Sometimes we get things out of order. Ok, mostly we get things out of order and we focus on ourselves and we say, "Goody! Presents! Blessings! What's in this thing for me?" We might never admit to or even realize completely that we have such skewed thinking because we disguise it pretty well even from ourselves, but truly we demand our rights, our happiness, "blessings" according to our definitions. And, we miss the point. God has blessed us with every SPIRITUAL blessing in heavenly places.
In order to truly appreciate the blessings He has given us we have to have a renewed nature. We have to have a new outlook. A heavenly outlook. When we are born again into Jesus' kingdom, we don't just have a natural outlook on the life around us or on eternity. We still are natural creatures and we have natural needs, but we also are suddenly alive spiritually and we are aware of a new heavenly perspective. Suddenly, the most important thing may not be that everything goes right for me and I have "success" as the world measures it, but that I know His presence with me and that I know He approves of me. Suddenly, my prayers change from "I want the bestest, coolest car" to "I need a way to get around so that I can serve You, Lord." I'm not saying the Lord doesn't bless us with nice things, but that's not even really the point of this verse in my thinking.
He's talking about something so much higher than physical needs being met. We often settle for "stuff blessings," when God wants us stuffed with Spiritual blessings that we are completely missing.
One more important thing before we leave this verse (which I am pitifully summing up in a few pages while the good Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spent THREE sermons on this particular verse), is that we must look at who is giving these blessings and how we get them.
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has so many names throughout the scripture. And, in the Old Testament he is primarily referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But, now we see something different: God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the previous verse, he is referred to as "our Father" and this so true, and such an amazing revelation. But, here in this verse we see He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that this is because it demonstrates what kind of Father He is. "Our Father" might make us think of our earthly examples of fathers, which can be great, but might not be even close to great and may even be non-existent. So, here He is saying that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus. Jesus said Himself that He revealed the Father to us. His nature shows us the nature of our Heavenly Father. As we look at Jesus and we know HIS Father, we realize that this, too, is our Father.
And, finally, how do we get these never-ending spiritual blessings? In Christ. It is all through Him and because of Him. Christ is the source.
God our amazing, caring Heavenly Father, who like the father in the aforementioned parable, says to us, "Son, daughter, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours."
Live like this is truth.
Bethany Oakes led us in a beautiful time of worship in which we were lifting our voices as the Bride crying out “Come, Lord Jesus!” It’s hard to write a “description” of a time of worship. More than we can write out what was said or done, worship is a thing that we engage in and that we experience. So, we try to capture some highlight of these times together just to remember what the Lord was doing, but more than anything, we invite you to come and just enter into worship with us!
Matthew and Julie both shared at this Lampstand. Matthew sharing a brief encouragement from a book called “When People are Big and God is Small.” He described how before we are followers of Jesus, we are looking for all kinds of things to satisfy us. Then, we become followers of Christ and we then look for Jesus to satisfy that same place within us. However, this is incomplete because we are still the center. The shift is that we want to see Jesus be the center and then we certainly do find fulfillment, but the point is that we are looking to love and please Him, and as our focus is on Him and not ourselves, we find ultimate satisfaction! Ultimately, we are not the point. He is the point. Our lives, our stories are all part of a BIGGER picture.
Julie shared from Revelation 5, finishing out our series on Revelation 4 and 5. We looked at the end of Revelation 5, “He is worthy!” A critical aspect of this chapter is the invitation into something bigger than ourselves. We see the Son taking the scroll from the Father on the throne and the importance of it that caused John to weep that no one could open it, and I always pause and think, “What is this scroll all about? This is something so much bigger than just my life!” This passage of Scripture draws our eyes up from our own circumstances and causes us to see the Lamb who was slain and to sing with those around the throne, “He is Worthy!!”
We finished out our time by listening to a song by Andrew Peterson called “Is He Worthy” (which you can find HERE). This beautiful liturgical song is a call and response that again lifts our eyes to the One who is worthy of all of our worship and all of our praise, and all of our lives.
15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
The context of this passage in the book of Jeremiah is a prophecy to the nation of Israel in the midst of the Lord’s beckoning message to Israel to return to Him. It was a message of encouragement to Israel that God was going to raise up shepherds who reflect His heart in contrast to some of the unfaithful shepherds that they had experienced.
It is a great encouragement to me that God will not only literally do this with Israel but He is raising up more and more shepherds who fit this description in Jeremiah 3:15 in the church worldwide.
This description is very similar to the description we have of King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), who was called to be Israel’s “Shepherd King” (2 Samuel 5:2). God prepared David to be a shepherd to His people by being a literal shepherd where he learned to shepherd them “according to the integrity of His heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”
The “according to My heart” described in Jeremiah 3:15 describes shepherds who are after the Lord’s heart, diligently seeking Him. They are those whose hearts are corresponding with the Lord’s heart, conforming to His heart, and in agreement with His heart; not only His emotions, passions, and desires but His thoughts and His ways.
These shepherds will feed others, caring for them by leading them to the knowledge of God. This is more than just an informational knowing of Bible facts but a “knowing God,” intimate with Him, familiar with His personality, attributes, etc (Jeremiah 9:23). This kind of knowledge is what brings stability to us (Isaiah 33:6). It is not a window shopping type of knowledge but a partaking of every aspect of who He is. The understanding of Jeremiah 3:15 describes insight into, consideration of, and comprehension of the Lord, who He is, what He is like, and why He does the things He does.
In contrast to the descriptions of other shepherds in Jeremiah, these ones the Lord is raising up will be those who don’t “destroy and scatter the sheep,” those who attend to the needs of the sheep, who have stood in the counsel of the Lord causing God’s people to hear His words (Jeremiah 23). We also get other descriptions of unfaithful, irresponsible, and absent shepherds out of passages like Ezekiel 34, Zechariah 10, and other places in Scripture.
We also have prophesies about God himself being a shepherd in Ezekiel 24 & 37, Zechariah 13, and Jeremiah 31. We know the ultimate example of a shepherd of God’s people is Jesus. He had compassion on people because they “were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9: 36). He is the Good Shepherd described in John 10, modeling wonderfully what His shepherds will look like.
So, God is raising up shepherds. They will be after His heart and according to His heart. They will fill others on knowledge and understanding, yet they will not be just in the “pastor of a church” role. They are those who will carry His heart into the workplace and lead like Jesus leads. They are fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers, older sisters who will influence others in their family according to the heart of God. They are mentors and teacher who will tend to others with right understanding of who God is and what He does. Two questions each of us can consider are: where are we serving as shepherds and what kind of shepherds are we?
The most important lesson for shepherds is knowing THE SHEPHERD. How else can we truly impart His heart and truth to others? Shepherds must themselves feed on knowledge and understanding from the Good Shepherd before they can effectively lead others.
Lord, you are raising up shepherds like King David who are after your heart. You are preparing them to tend your people. Prepare us in whatever role of shepherding you would call us to. Feed us. Tend to us. Help us to grow in knowledge and understanding of You. And then use us to feed and care for others, effectively leading others in Your paths. Amen.
I began what I had hoped to a series of responses to a Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) Ephesians study we had begun through our TRIHOP friends. (You can find the original 2 in the series here, about how we look at Scripture and here, about who we are in Christ.)
I fell off from it for quite some time, but as I have been continuing with the study and have been so encouraged by chewing so thoroughly the MEAT of Ephesians 1, I want to pick back up again. I am learning that it’s not always about never lapsing with something, but that it’s so critical to pick back up and keep going. “Failures” happen, but the key is to not let our failures, real or imagined, stop us from pressing onward.
So, back to Ephesians.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul begins every one of his letters with these words or a blessing very similar to this one you can read here in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 2. Every letter. I looked.
These are like Paul’s characteristic opening remarks. Like Johnny Cash starting his concerts in his booming bass voice, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Paul always starts with, “Hey this is who I am (Paul, an apostle, etc), and this is who you are (Saints, faithful in Christ), and GRACE and PEACE to you guys.”
Unlike Johnny’s characteristic opener that caused people to erupt in cheers, we face the constant temptation to just quickly pass over these words as customary greetings that are just polite things to say.
But, just stop. Check this out from the Doctor (MLJ) himself: ““The Apostle does not use words such as this lightly and loosely and thoughtlessly; it is not a mere formula which he uses automatically at the beginning of a letter; the words are charged with profound meaning.”
In every chapter, Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes some kind of statement like this reminding me not to take any word of this Bible we hold lightly but to gaze long and lovingly at each phrase and press the oil out of it that it would enliven my heart.
I mean, why would Paul repeat these words in every letter if they weren’t full of meaning to him? And, thinking beyond Paul, if truly the Holy Spirit inspired all of the Scripture, then that means the Holy Spirit wants to breathe on these words as much as any others in the Bible. He didn’t fail to inspire Paul’s greetings, giving Paul free rein to make whatever opening or closing remarks he wanted.
No, these words are meant to be meaningful and a powerful blessing. These aren’t words that Paul coined as simply his catchy greeting for his letter-writing ministry. These words express a heart-felt prayer and a burning desire in Paul. He loved the people he was writing to and he wanted them to know, to experience the grace and peace that come only from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, let’s zoom in on these words and chew on them a little more carefully.
Grace. We throw this word around a lot, but what does it really mean? Grace is nothing less than miraculous favor from God. Favor that we do not deserve and could never earn. “Grace is the origin and the source and the fount of everything in the Chrisitan life,” writes Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is God’s love stooping down to us; His kindness that we could never, ever procure on our own.
And, Peace? Peace is often primarily defined by an absence of something. The absence of fighting, war, strife. Or, it’s known as rest or quiet. But, truly the Biblical idea of peace is UNION. Union after separation.
If grace is the beginning of our faith then peace is the end of our faith. PEACE…this is the purpose of our Christian life. This is what a Christian life should produce!
Okay. Good. I like things defined, so we’ve defined things. But, why do we need these things so badly that Paul would pray it for and speak it over every person in every letter he wrote?
We don’t really understand grace and peace until we understand the Fall. Not the season that is usually marked by falling leaves. The Fall of man as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. Because of Adam and Eve’s choice, we are all infected with sin. Which means, we are at war with God. This also leads to people being at war with one another, and even at war within ourselves.
Because of the huge disobedience of people to God, because we reject Him and do not listen to Him, we deserve the punishment the righteous God would dish out. YET, in spite of all of this, God is FULL of GRACE and He STILL looks on us with favor through the work of Jesus Christ.
Because of His amazing grace, God has made peace. Not just the absence of fighting with Him, not just the absence of war with our fellow humans, not just absence of turmoil within ourselves. PEACE. The opportunity for RELATIONSHIP with God through Jesus; unity with other people like we can’t produce through men’s peace treaties; peace within ourselves.
And, we’ve really already seen this, but it’s worth it to ask the question: How do we have access to this amazing gift of grace and peace?
Through the source of everything in life: God. Which God? What kind of God? OUR Father. To all Believers, God is not just the Father of Jesus, but He is OUR Father. For those who have known the goodness of a loving earthly Father, He is Heavenly Father. For those who never knew an earthly father’s name, much less his love, He is Father. For those who wished they hadn’t known their father’s name because there never was any love from him, He is Father. He is our Father. Father who gives grace and peace.
And, this grace and peace flow to us from the Lord Jesus Christ as well. Jesus is so central in every step of redemption. In every blessing God pours out. It is all because of Jesus. Because of the work He accomplished on the cross, dying and shedding His blood so that our sins could be covered and we could become righteous in God’s eyes. The only way we could come back into relationship with God, the Righteous One.
Look at how Paul refers to Him: the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord: Jesus is the Master, the Boss, the Leader.
Jesus: His very name means salvation! Salvation has a name, it is Jesus!
Christ: This means “the anointed one.” The rightful king, the descendent of David who reigns on David’s throne forever.
The Lord Jesus Christ. Through this one we have access to GRACE and PEACE.
Thank you, God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ for this amazing gift.
Now, will we live like we truly have been blessed with an amazing favor and an indescribable peace?
Matthew or Julie Wine