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Monday, February 29, 2016

Praying Hebrews 3:6-19

Being Fully Persuaded

By Edward F. Lundwall,Jr.

“Christ was faithful as a Son over His house…whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” (Hebrews 3:6)

“For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” (Hebrews 3:14)

Dear Lord, 

The strong Greek verb katanoew, translated here as “hold fast” calls me to meditate once and for all on Jesus Christ, and to let this constant, exclusive focus on Him govern all other considerations. I praise and thank You for this promise that I belong to His house if I hold fast my confidence in Him.

When I truly consider Jesus and all that He is, I make “the once and for all” decision to be fully persuaded! I burn all other bridges in determination to find that perfection of love that “casts out fears” as Peter said, “To whom shall we go; You ARE the Christ!” (John 6:69).

“Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked me as in the day to trial in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:8) “ whom did He swear they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (18-19)

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls way from the living God.” (Verse 12)

Almighty God and Creator, I cannot help but believe that mankind has an awesome responsibility to trust in You. I thank you that you are greater than my sinful nature, and that the sacrificial death of Christ for the forgiveness of my sin has supremacy over all sin. Help me to comprehend and feel the tragedy and loss of those who have not heard, considered, and been persuaded; they cannot enter the rest, the peace of knowing they belong to you and with you for eternity. As with Israel of the Exodus, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles, you proved your power with miraculous deeds and signs that have no other explanation but that You were at work on behalf of mankind. Please, Lord, bring others to a faith played out in obedience to your Word. May they be fully persuaded by your mighty works, your sanctifying Scripture, and your Holy Spirit’s witness. Thank you for the peace and rest that only comes from “holding fast” to You.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Praying Psalm 46: The Disciple's Refuge

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth should change…” (Psalm 46:1 NASB)

“Cease striving and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of host is with us; the God of Jacob is our Stronghold.” (Psalm 46:10,11)

Lord, in this time of terrorism, economic upheaval, and socio-political change and unrest, and in my own times of worry, fear, loss, need, and confusion, I know that You are the protected place, my refuge. You are the source of support that keeps my soul safe and confident. Your word tells me so:

Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
(Psalm 46:2,3)

You are like a fortified city where there is refreshing water that renews me with power to praise You. You are in control of the chaos and change around me and within my personal sphere of life. Your word assures me:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:4,5)

Help me, Lord God, to stop mulling all this over, trying to solve problems, and be on top of everything. Help me to cease striving and surrender myself to You, trusting and resting in the fact of Who You are: the Lord over all the powerful and the powerless. I take comfort from your word:

Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:8-11)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bible Blurb: Defining Discipleship

"Defining Discipleship" with Matthew 16:24-25

"The Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

"Discipleship is more than turning over a new leaf. It is more fitful and disorderly than gradual moral formation. Nothing less than daily, often painful, lifelong death will do." --William Willimon, "Repent " Bread and Wine, Readings for Lent and Easter, Plough Publishing House.

Related reading: The Builder and the Building

Hebrews 3:The Builder and the Building

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Key Verses: “He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house — whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (Hebrews 3:2-6).

Thank you, Lord, for this picture of Christ. By comparing him to Moses, the founding prophet, priest, and governing ruler of Israel, I see Him more clearly. While Abraham honored you with his trust in you in the face of human impossibilities, Moses was your instrument to fulfill the promise of developing Abraham and Sara, a barren married couple, into your earthly nation, Israel. Moses’ faithful obedience made them an identifiable nation in the sight of the world.

However, Lord, you remind us here that the builder is more worthy than the tools he uses. Moses was a tool in your hands, but You, Father God, are the real Builder of a nation composed of those with the saving faith of Abraham worldwide, both Jew and Gentile. Besides this such amazing event, Jesus, called Emmanuel meaning “God with us” (Isaiah 9:14; Matthew 1:22-23), your expression of yourself in human form, is to be honored far above Moses.

Today I praise You for the insight into Jesus as both the Builder and the Building. Indeed, the history of your love and faithfulness to your promises to Abraham, Moses, and me, only build the confidence I have in You and Him for being such almighty God and Savior. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your building, the Lord Jesus’ house, the universal church, the body of people who will populate heaven. I humbly acknowledge that I am only a small member of this multitude, and that only through my faith in Christ. I rely on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, and continuing intercession to remain a part of His household. I am fully persuaded that He will finish what He has begun in me for Your and His glory. Sustain me for I have no other strength, but through your ever-present Holy Spirit. Oh, Lord, I commit the keeping of my soul to You as my faithful Creator and Redeemer.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Foundations of Forgiveness (Part 1)

The Motivation of the Fear of Loss

By Edward F. Lundwall

No human being is entirely self-sufficient. We are created to be social beings. Before Adam fell, he had been endowed with great abilities as seen in the fact that God gave him the task of examining all the animals and giving them names. In fact, God had given him authority over all that was in the earth. Also, God had created Eve, a woman out Adam’s rib so that together they could be a unity of life.
However, there was something about Adam that was not complete. He was created in the image of God and God is a trinity of being. This is seen in the use of the pronoun “we,” and “us,” in the creation account, but even more clearly in the description of man being made in the image of God in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “…your spirit and soul and body…” Three different functioning parts in one individual---a trinity.

This “three-in-one of being” as an attribute of both God and man is seen in many places throughout the Bible. One of the clearest is in the Great Commission’s baptismal name of God that identify Christians, “… baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). The Scriptures make it clear that each part of God has its own function, but have a harmonious relationship with each other. Love and dependence upon each other made all three parts a functional unity.

Perhaps this is the reason that Adam, not being deceived, chose to sin in eating the forbidden fruit. He could not feel being without Eve, who by then had death at work within her. After he succumbed to her invitation, both experienced fear for the first time. They had begun to lose life feeling both separation, fear, and guilt; they needed forgiveness. However, they did not even know if it existed.

As with all sin, there can be forgiveness, but consequences remain. God’s Word had to be fulfilled or else Satan’s lie to Eve would be proved true. He had deceived her by telling that she would not really die or lose anything, contradicting God’s clear words of warning. The consequences were that both she and Adam were banished from the Garden of Eden into a harsh world in which they and their children would experience death. However, God had a spiritual solution.

For them to feel comfortable in God’s presence, God gave them coats of animal skins. This meant that the animal had to die for them to have a measure of forgiveness. Death for sin was carried out, but by a substitute, looking forward to God’s infinite Lamb, the Lord Jesus, whose death was of infinite worth and His righteousness becomes our covering and new life.

When sin, in some form of wrong doing, occurs fear of some form of loss will occur, if forgiveness is not given. However, a wrong must be considered a wrong with consequences for the fear of loss to promote a desire for forgiveness. However, some people have such an inflated concept of their self-worth and their personal rights, very few things that they do to harm or demean others do they consider as wrong, and they would never want to call them “sins.”

They must experience some kind of loss to fear a greater loss. Until the realization what they have done is a wrong, they will not fear further loss. Until this occurs, they will not fear enough to seek forgiveness. Adam and Eve first became aware of their sin was because they felt self-conscious and shame in their nakedness. This made them fear to face God and they tried to hide and make fig leaves coverings to cover themselves. To relieve them of their fear, God gave them skins to wear. Their understanding that a sacrifice of life (in this case an animal as a substitute for themselves) is substantiated in that Abel, their son, received favor and approval from God for his sacrifice of a sheep, while Cain did not. Sadly, people must experience hard things allowed by God to realize their need for forgiveness and a restored relationship with their Creator. Adam and Eve became aware of this need on a continuing basis by the difficult relationships outside the Garden of Eden, and the pain of child birth. 
Man’s spirit was constructed to give humans an awareness of God’s presence and a conscience into which God makes known His existence and overarching moral character. After the Fall of Man, the need for some kind of approval and acceptance made Abel and Cain strongly desire some kind of approval from God as seen in their burnt offerings. This is especially seen through Cain’s lament and jealousy over Abel’s’ acceptance with God. In Cain self-worship produced a further rebellious attitude. This spread within the community of men so that the time came where human society became so evil that God sent the Flood to destroy all humans except for Noah’s family. Not to seek forgiveness from God will produce stubbornness leading to such sin that absolute judgement will occur from God. Humanity must come to fear enough to seek a full restitution without which they will not find forgiveness with God.

On the human level, fearing the loss of a ruptured relationship is the key to finding forgiveness between people. Without which the consequences of the lack of seeking forgiveness is seen in the chaos in family relationships, crime, drug induced destruction of life, and despair. In both this life, and the one to follow, the fear of dying, losing out, guilt, and shame demands a sacrifice of blood. The most important reason to consider the message of John 3:1 6, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him, shall not die, but have eternal life.” The fear of being continually separated from God and losing out on the opportunity of a balance life in our earthly sojourn and spending eternity under the condemnation of sin’s wages with its loss of going to Heaven, should be motive enough to make each thinking individual invest greater effort in seeking a full spiritual life with Jesus as their Savior. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

John Donne: Wilt Thou Forgive?

John Donne (1572-1631)

A Hymn to God the Father

By John Donne

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Praying Psalm 45: A Disciple in Love

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Key Verses:

"You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips! Therefore, God has blessed You forever." (Ps. 45:2 NASB)

“And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; Let Your right hand teach You awesome things. (Ps. 45:4)

“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;

Therefore, God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows.” (Ps. 45:7)

“Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: Forget your people and your father’s house; Then the King will desire your beauty, because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.” (Ps. 45:10,11)

“In place of your fathers will be your sons; You shall make them princes in all the earth. I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; the people will give You thanks forever and ever.” (Ps. 45:16,17)

Dear Lord, I am getting married! I am so excited! I love this unique friend and fellow disciple who you have brought into my life. I am looking forward to sharing and caring the rest of my life with person. Yet I know that I cannot do this unless You are my First Love, the King of my heart.

Let me walk with You so intimately that I reflect your truth, meekness, and righteousness to my mate. Give me strength me to stand against sin, and consistently express the joy of trusting and obeying you in all the challenges we will face together. Help me to place my sweetheart ahead of my original family, and faithfully desire and protect our relationship above all others.

Bless us with children, Lord, and equip us for ministry to them. Unite us in modeling and training our children to love you. Please grant that my marriage may result in gratitude and praise to You in the generations to come and into eternity. Lord, build us into a couple that is known by our love for You and others; may this world see us as “your people” until we rejoice together in your Presence.

Related reading: Greater Than Unconditional Love; Harmony in Christian Married Love; Loving for a Lifetime

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why Ash Wednesday?

Credit: Fernando Vergara

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a penitential church season intended to help Christians prepare for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. It sets the tone whereby sinners are able to contemplate the events of Christ's passion, death, and third-day resurrection with humble and contrite hearts. Ash Wednesday is observed by Anglicans, Roman Catholics and some Protestant groups that have a "higher churchmanship."

The Eastern Orthodox do not have this custom. Instead they have Forgiveness Sunday when they remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. Many Orthodox also attend Forgiveness Vespers on the eve of Great Lent. At this service they hear the Lord's teaching about fasting and forgiveness and enter the fast season forgiving one another so that God will forgive them (Matthew 6:14).

The Ash Wednesday service is solemn. Usually Psalm 51 is recited.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

There also is a time of corporate confession and the people come forward to kneel while ashes are placed on their foreheads in the sign of the cross. These words, a reminder of our mortality, are spoken over each person: "Remember that thou are dust and unto dust thou shalt return!" With these words we are reminded that we shall return to the dust from which man was originally made. The words come from Genesis 3:19 where we read that Adam and Eve became subject to the corruption of death with the words of God ringing in their ears:

"for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return"

The imposition of ashes reminds us of the many verses of the Bible that speak of sackcloth and ashes as a sign of sorrow for sins committed. An example is Daniel 9:3: "I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes." Job said, “I repent in dust and ashes.”

Ashes also were worn when one felt humiliated. After she was violated by her brother, "Tamar put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went." (2 Samuel 3:19)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Praying Psalm 44: A Dependent Disciple

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Key Verses:

For by their own sword they did not possess the land,
And their own arm did not save them,
But Your right hand and Your arms and the light of Your presence.
For You Favored them. (Verse 3 NASB)

For I will not trust in my bow,
Nor will my sword save me.
But You have saved us from our adversaries,
And You have put to shame those who hate us. (Verse 6-7)

Our heart has not turned back,
And out steps have not deviated from Your way;
Yet You have crushed us in a place of jackals,
And covered us with the shadow of death. (Verses 18-19)

Rise up, be our help. And redeem us for the sake of Your lovingkindness. (Verse 26)

Lord God, throughout history You revealed yourself in the lives of faithful and obedient people who aligned themselves with your will and ways. It was only by your intervention that Moses brought the people out of Egypt, that Joshua felled the walls of Jericho, and Daniel escaped the lions’ den. I need a repeat of this kind of help!

I am surrounded by people and situations that seek to destroy my faith, frighten my heart, and harm my body. They even threaten my life. I simply do not have the strength or resources to defend myself, or take up the challenges they bring, but You do. Only your intervention and deliverance can provide what I need in the face of opposition.

We only suffer without Your power and presence behind us, within us, and before us. Rise up, Lord, and be our help in the midst of our troubles; take back, restore, and enable us for the sake of Your character, for You are Love.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Praying Hebrew 3: Jesus Our Great High Priest

By Edward Lundwall, Jr.

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession:” (NASU)

Lord, when I obey your Word to consider Jesus in such a way that it dominates everything (kata noew in Greek), tears of joy, adoration and reinforced faith gush forth from me. Israel was blessed to have a High Priest to make intercession for the people. For on the Day of Atonement, that chosen priest was to make peace for Israel by entering into the Holy of Holies to apply the blessed blood of sacrifice for the forgiveness of the nation’s sins. However wonderful this was, it is diminished when compared to what I have as a New Testament believer in Christ, my High Priest.

In the Old Testament, the High Priests were only believing sinners with imparted privileges and temporary powers of their office. The Greek word for High Priest carries the idea of a ruling priest. They were chosen on the grounds of their faith and commitment, because they were to behold and uphold You in glory at all times. These ruling priests were to focus upon the physical, liturgical, power, and prestige of their office. Many were corrupted; some even to the extent of leading to the arrest, corrupt trial, condemnation, and crucifixion of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Through this, Father, Jesus became the sacrifice for the atonement of all who would trust in Him! Words fail me when I try to understand or even describe the exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the position of my and every believers’ High Priest. You appointed Him in His humanity to fulfill the Old Testament picture. In doing so, He burst its foreshadowing to nothingness, replacing it with a greater reality!

Lord, forgive me and others, when we fall back on human tradition, instead of a faith relationship with you through our High Priest Jesus. The Hebrew Christians within the early church were happy until the Jewish religious leader forced them to choose between their traditions as Jews and their personal relationship with Christ. Even today, it is easy to participate in outer practices of any church and neglect the inner connection and communication we need with You through Jesus, our High Priest. (I Corinthians 10:13) Forgive us, Lord. Thank you that our faith is victorious over conflict when we renew our focus in this way upon Christ. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) in every area of existing in this passing world, and in preparing for our permanent heavenly one!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Praying Psalm 43: The Questioning Disciple

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!” (Ps. 43:1 NASB)

“O send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill, and to Your dwelling places.” (Verse 3)

“Why are you in despair, O my soul! And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (Verse 5)

Lord God, I so dislike reading, watching, or listening to the news. The hatred, deceit, immorality, injustice, and violence that fills this world is so discouraging. I can’t help myself from asking where are You, and what are you doing about this? Forgive me, Lord, but I know you love me and I can ask you honest questions. You know that I love you, and I know that you love this world. Otherwise, why would you have sent Christ to die for the forgiveness of its sin? I am just feeling so oppressed by those that refuse to acknowledge You and your design for living peaceful fruitful lives: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31 ESV)

Please, Lord, help me to see You in the midst of all of this, to understand your revealed truth in the Bible, and to be directed both in my emotions and my thoughts to trust, obey, and worship you more fully and practically in spite of what goes on around me. Only You are the Source of my help, hope, peace, and joy!

Related reading: Praying Psalm 42: The Dry DisciplePraying Psalm 41: The Sick Servant; Praying Psalm 40: The Sustained ServantPraying Psalm 39: The Discouraged Disciple; Praying Psalm 38: The Suffering SinnerPraying Psalm 37: Trust in the Lord