He died for me because I was his enemy

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. — Luke 19:41-42

Scotty Smith writes great prayers at Heavenward because they go deep. This week I particularly felt touched by this one, based on the verses above:

Dear Lord Jesus, everything about Holy Week reveals the depth of your compassion for sinful, broken people, just like me. The tears you wept coming into Jerusalem, even the anger you showed in driving the money-changers out of the temple… every encounter, parable and action gives staggering clarity to Paul’s words…

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Paul was writing about me, Jesus. I’m the powerless, ungodly sinner for whom you died, demonstrating God’s incomparable and irrepressible love for me. I was God’s enemy when you reconciled me to him through your death on the cross (Rom. 5:9). May I never believe otherwise.

I would still be blind to what, alone, brings me peace if you hadn’t opened my eyes to see my need of you and your death for me. The gospel would still remain hidden from my eyes unless you had given me sight to behold you as the Lamb of God that takes away my sin. I can’t and I won’t sneer at a single Pharisee, Sadducee, priest or teacher of the law… or anyone else, who tried to trick or trap you during Holy Week. I am just as worthy of judgment as they.

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God is still God. And He is still good. To God be the glory

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! — Matthew 7:11

From Zac Smith: God cannot give me a bad gift … If God chooses to heal me, then God is God and he is good. If God chooses not to heal me, then God is still God, and he is still Good. To God be the glory.”

HT: John Piper

With God on your side is better than at arm’s length

I’ve been reading through “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. In it, he says that prayerlessness “is rooted in a core unbelief that can shape our lives, even as Christians. Because of prayerlessness, our lives are often marked by fear, anxiety, joylessness, and spiritual lethargy.” There is a lot about prayer that we either don’t understand or else we understand and don’t like. In a recent chapter I read, Miller talks about how there is a tendency  we have to avoid intimacy with God.

Why would we do that? Well, for one, we don’t really want God nosing around in our business. Miller says there is a reason, perhaps, that we keep God at arm’s length, even with our prayers to him:

Frankly, God makes us nervous when he gets too close. We don’t want a physical dependence on him. It feels hokey, like we are controlling God. Deep down we just don’t like grace. We don’t want to risk our prayer not being answered. We prefer the safety of isolation to engaging the living God. To embrace the Father and thus prayer is to accept what one pastor called “the sting of particularity.” (A Praying Life, p. 125)

The very human prayer of Jesus asking that “this cup pass from me.” is much different than what Miller sees as the Buddhist and Neoplatonic attitudes that have crept into the church. That is, the attitude that we need to resist our own desires and deny physical urges. Those kind of simple, intimate prayers are the ones we hear children saying because they are more humble than “wiser” adults.

I don’t have it all together. The thing I want to battle against is the attitude that I will not lay it all on the line when I pray. That is to deny a personal God, and it doesn’t honor him.

At best we are just men — and at worst

Thinking of the celebrity news of the past week and what it means in my life, I come away thinking that it is futile to put your trust in men because, in the end, they are just men. Men are fallible, born to sin and not perfect. Only Jesus is. The good words of Kevin DeYoung at DeYoung, Restless and Reformed are good to review and as he considers the case of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, although they apply across the board:

The person who thinks they are immune for the temptation, should read up on Romans 7. The flesh will sell us out in a heartbeat. Why do powerful politicians and pastors and pastor’s wives throw everything away for a few minutes of pleasure? Why did Esau sell his birthright for a mess of pottage? Because we are sinners, worse than we think, more capable of wickedness and stupidity than we imagine. You can have all the hedges of protection in the world, but without the gospel and the transforming power of Christ that comes through the word of God and prayer, we still have the same heart. “Lead me not in temptation, but deliver me from evil”–pray it every day. We all have the ability to be moral morons.
Do people who sin and are caught publicly look stupid? Sure, but they are just like us. Don’t be so proud. Pray for deliverance. And for mercy. Read the rest of DeYoung’s post and consider where you are at.

Pray for your pastor this year

Colin Adams, at Unashamed Workman, gives a great list of things you can pray for your pastor’s preaching this year:

  1. For _________ to love God’s Word and have a desire to meditate on it continually (Psalm 119: 97)
  2. For _________ to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2)
  3. For _________to proclaim God’s Word with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Cor 2:4-5)
  4. For _________ to comprehend the realities of God’s presence; the appearing and judgement of Christ Jesus, and in that light ‘preach the Word.’ (2 Tim 4:1-1)
  5. For _________ to patiently and carefully correct, rebuke and encourage via the instrument of the Word of God, whatever the hostile climate to sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:2-3)
  6. For _________ to boldly proclaim the gospel (Eph 6:19-20)
  7. For _________ to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18)
  8. For _________ to be clear in his proclamation (Col. 4:3-4).
  9. For _________ to prepare God’s people for works of service through the teaching of the Scriptures (Eph 4:11ff)
  10. For_________ to see some fruit for their preaching and teaching: some becoming wise unto salvation by the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:15), others being sanctified by the truth (John 17:17)