Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

A Preacher’s Prayer

Father,

guard my mouth, set watch over the door of my lips

guard my mind, set watch over the door of my thoughts

guard my heart, set watch over the door of my loves

Father, please

fill my mouth with your words

fill my mind with your thoughts and

fill my heart with your love

Then, Father, use me as you please

In Jesus’ Name, amen

The Agony of Prayer

As we march toward the remembrance of Jesus on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, consider again the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane.

See Him there, prayerfully wrestling with the suffering that lay before Him and the eternal realities that depended upon Him. Having called His Disciples to watch and pray, He stumbled forward, “fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matt. 26:39). He rises. He finds the Disciples sleeping. He calls them again to watchful vigilance. Again He withdrew, crying out, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” (v.42). Once again, He rises. Again, He finds the Disciples sleeping. Yet again, He withdrew and “prayed for the third time, saying the same words again” (v.44).

Clearly Jesus was wrestling with what the will of His Father required of Him. It made Him “very sorrowful.” So deep was His grief that He thought it might be the death of Him just trying to pray through it all (v.38). Jesus clearly wished for the Disciples to join Him in His struggle that would soon become their struggle. He wanted them to be prepared.

Almost immediately Judas and the arresting mob arrived in the Garden (vv.46-47). The betrayal by kiss (vv.47-50a). The brief, bloody skirmish (vv.50b-51). The rebuke by Jesus of His Disciples (v.52).

Consider then Jesus’ response both to the Disciples for their impetuous fighting and to the arresting mob in their blind arresting. Jesus reminded the Disciples that He could have called on His Father for a host of angel-warriors and been delivered from this entire affair (v.53). His next breath is telling: “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (v.54).

No long later Jesus similarly rebuked the arresting authorities with a question about the timing and circumstances of their actions (v.55). Then He said, “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (v.56).

Jesus’ response to both the Disciples and the arresting party was the same – there was no other way for Him (and them) to fulfill what the Scriptures revealed as the Father’s will. As Jesus struggled with the Father’s will, it was against what He knew the Father had described as His will in the Scriptures.

Picture it! Jesus, if you will, was struggling in prayer over an open Bible as it held before Him the difficult nature of His Father’s will.

It makes me wonder, will I so pray through what the Scriptures require of me as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Will I come to the same place of submission to the Father’s will?

When God’s Word is open before me, holding forth what God requires of me, am I bowed to its authority over me? Am I bowed over that open Bible, praying through what it holds before me, where necessary, weeping and wrestling with my own will and self-preservation? Do I come to the same conclusion as Jesus? Do I say, as Jesus did, “Rise, let us be going” and take the next step of obedience my Father, through his written Word, holds before me?

As difficult as that next step in your discipleship with Jesus may be, He understands—from experience—just what you are going through (Heb. 2:18; 4:15). He too uttered “loud cries and tears” in this struggle (Heb. 5:7). But “for the joy that was set before him” He took the next painful step of obedience (Heb. 12:2). And because He did, so can you, by His Spirit dwelling within you.

Interview: Philippians For Pastors

Recently the good folks at Best Bible Commentaries interviewed regarding my latest commentary, Philippians for Pastors. I think you’ll find it gives you a glimpse behind the book. You can access the interview here.

Forgiveness Prayer

I recently wrote the following prayer for a professing believer who, despite much study, Scripture memorization and overall maturity in the faith, still struggles emotionally with whether his own sins are actually forgiven by God. He has a clear testimony of faith, is well studied in the theology, is not walking in willful sin. But he struggles. So I wrote this prayer and challenged him to begin each day by standing up, planting his feet and praying this prayer slowly, thoughtfully aloud to God. I offer it in case it may be helpful to you as well.

Heavenly Father, I confess that I struggle to believe you have forgiven me of my sins. Please help me in this.

In view of this struggle, I confess to you all my sins—known and unknown. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24).

Father, I ask you to cleanse me from hidden failures and sins—known not to me, but certainly known by you. Keep me from presumptuous sins; do not let them rule over me (Psalm 19:13-14).

I affirm by faith that, having confessed my sins, you forgive me all of them and that you cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I affirm by faith that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all my sin. I choose now to consciously rest in the declaration of your forgiveness. I rest in the righteousness of Christ provided to me by your decree of justification. I affirm that you have chosen to gift me with the standing of Jesus’ own righteousness and that you now view me not as a sinner, but as your child and son—loved, adopted, embraced, affirmed, made to stand in the grace you have provided to me through Jesus Christ.

By faith I stand against Satan, the accuser of the children of God, and all his demons and forces. I stand against their lies and intimidations. I bring the blood of Christ against them and declare their accusations invalid and powerless.

Lord, I declare that you have cast my sins behind your back (Isa. 38:17).

I declare that you have blotted out all my sins (Isa. 43:25).

I declare that you have chosen not to remember my sins against me ever again (Jer. 31:34).

I declare that you have tread my iniquities under your feet (Micah 7:19).

I declare that you have cast my sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

I declare that you have clothed me in robes of righteousness (Isa. 61:10; Rev. 21:14).

I declare, Lord, that you have cleansed me from all sin.

I declare that you have forgiven me all my sins.

I declare that there is no condemnation for me as I stand in faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1).

I declare, Lord, that you have removed my sins from me as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

I declare that you have pardoned me from all my sin and its judgment (Jer. 50:20).

I declare that you have reconciled me to yourself and I am loved, embraced, cherished, protected and kept by you.

I declare that you have sealed me to the day of redemption by your Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).

I declare that you have canceled the record of my sin debt, having set it aside by nailing it to Jesus’ cross (Col. 2:14).

I declare that you have taken upon yourself, Lord Jesus, the shame of my sin and replaced it with the favor and honor of salvation as a child of God (Heb. 12:2).

I declare that far from being shut out from your salvation, O God, you have made me an heir and a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17).

I affirm that “you … God [are] ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and [have] not forsake[n me] (Neh. 9:17).

I rest in your redeeming, saving, accepting, blessing, enfolding, inclusive love, O God! Convince me in the deepest parts of who I am of your love for me.

By your Spirit, O God, witness to my spirit, that I am a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Fill me with your Holy Spirit and release Him to spread abroad in my heart your great love, O Lord (Rom. 5:5).

In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The Weight of Waiting

Here is this year’s Christmas story, shared at our church’s Christmas Eve service. It is based on Luke 2:22-35. The print version is here: The Weight of Waiting and the audio is here:

Enjoy!

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