Praying the Bible ~ Revelation 7:9-10

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: Revelation 7:9-10
After this, I looked and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, and people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, I thank you and praise you for your heart for the nations. Though in the Old Testament you chose a particular people for your purpose, you did not intend for them to be the totality of your people. The earth is yours and everything and everyone in it. You gave us the Messiah of the Jews to be Savior of the world. Father, may your Gospel spread to the nations with the power of your spirit. May our lives and our churches be tools in your hand to make your glory known. May we long to see your people from all time and all places gathered before you with one voice shouting praise to our King. Amen.

The Lamb who was slain

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

I wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Look, the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered so that he is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creature and among the elders. ~ Revelation 5:4-6

If you have ever seen a lamb, powerful and fierce are probably not words you would use to describe it. If you had seen a lamb that had been slain, the image would likely produce pity in you more than any other emotion.

Yet, this is the way John described Jesus is described in one of his visions.

These verses remind us that looks aren’t everything. When Jesus came into the world, other than to those who knew the story, he didn’t seem like anyone special. Born of a young woman about to be married to a lower-class husband. He grew up to be a carpenter by trade and a man that the prophet Isaiah said was no one special to look upon.

Yet, when Jesus began his ministry, he taught with authority, he healed the sick, and he raised the dead. This was no ordinary man but the God the Son himself, the creator and sustainer of the universe, robed in human flesh.

When Jesus went to the cross, he was bruised, beaten, and bloodied. He seemed weak, his body even succumbing to death, the same type of death the worst criminals would die. Yet, though in the moment he seemed defeated, three days later he rose from the grave in victory.

John saw Jesus as a slaughtered lamb, a helpless sacrifice, but one who was also very much alive and powerful. He looked like a slaughtered lamb, but this was the Lion from the tribe of Judah. A lamb seems week; a lion is one you tremble before.

This is the paradoxical way that God works. The all-powerful One doesn’t need human strength. The Holy One sacrificed himself for a bunch of sinful rebels to save us when he could have instead crushed us. Jesus won the victory over sin not with swords but with love and grace.

A lamb appears weak, but, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (5:12).

So, let us find our strength not in the power of man but in the Lamb who was slain and let’s celebrate him.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Sunday 12.8.19 (Psalms of Ascent: Unity)

This Sunday, we’ll continue our look at the Psalms of Ascent with Psalm 133. We’ll see how on our life’s God-ward journey in Christ, God leads us to unity with other followers of Jesus. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering

Sermon Notes
Unity ~ Psalm 133

The sermon in one sentence: Life in Jesus is an upward journey on which God leads us to unity in Christ.

  • We should pursue unity with other followers of Jesus because it’s good and life-enriching (133:1-3)
    • Unity is togetherness built on mutual purpose and benefit
    • Godly unity is founded on Jesus and his word
  • Ways to foster unity
    • Stay centered on Jesus and his word—helps us to remember it’s not “me vs. you” but “our life together in Christ”
    • Pray for others and especially pray for those you struggle with
    • Look to serve rather than to be served (Philippians 2)
    • Celebrate the diversity of the church family (1 Cor 12)

Songs for Worship
Let There Be Praise
I Love You With the Love of the Lord
God, the Father of Your People
Joy to the World
We Are Called to Be God’s People

Psalm 120-134 (Psalms of Ascent)

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The Surprising Work of God

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

“After this, I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days.” – Joel 2:28-29

Sometimes we become so familiar with the Bible and its stories that we risk losing some of the wonder and awe they are meant to produce. But take a moment and put yourself in the shoes of the ancient Israelites who heard the promise of the Holy Spirit that God spoke through Joel.

The Holy Spirit is featured at times throughout the Old Testament. Yet his prominent work was through the prophets, judges, and kings. God’s people as a whole at that time did not possess the Holy Spirit as we do through Jesus today. The Spirit’s work came mainly through the leaders, who then weren’t guaranteed to have him at all times.

When David committed his grave sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, in his prayer of repentance he asked that God would not remove his Holy Spirit, probably thinking about how God had taken the Spirit from King Saul for disobedience.

So, to be God’s people in the Old Testament and hear the prophecy through Joel, it would have been surprising. God told his people that a change was coming. What once belonged only to the leaders would now be the possession of all his people. And not only for all his people among the Jews, but for all his people in the world, for “all humanity.”

It would still be years before this promise would come to pass on the day of Pentecost, as we read in Acts 2. But imagine if you had been among God’s people at the time and heard this promise: My Spirit will be poured out on all my people, young or old, rich or poor, male or female.

Such a promise should have thrilled their souls and inspired their imaginations then, and if we can step back and think about what it truly meant as a surprising act of God, then it should thrill our souls and inspire imaginations today; as well as make us thankful that through Jesus we get to be among those who have God’s Spirit poured out on us.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Praying the Bible ~ John 15:5

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: John 15:5
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.”  (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our life and supply. He is the vine; I am a branch. Help me to remember my full dependence on him. Make my life fruitful in him. Help me to grow to love more like you, to have joy more like you, and to have more of your peace. May the fruit of your Spirit abound in my heart. Amen.

Jesus Among His Churches

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was one like the Son of Man… “The mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” ~ Revelation 1:12-13, 20

Revelation is a hard book. There are many symbols and different prophecies that have left well-educated men and women stumped for centuries. Yet, despite the debate of the minutia, Revelation is also an easy book.

John received a message from Jesus to write to seven churches. The main point of the letter: The world is filled with many distractions and hardships that seek to lead people away from Jesus. Yet, Jesus has already won and will bring his people into victory through whatever trials and sufferings. If we are faithful to him, in the end we get the joys of eternity, ruling under Jesus over a new heavens and new earth. Therefore, worship, follow, and obey King Jesus.

That core message is easy to understand, despite the details of different symbols.

And it is a message that we need. The Bible speaks a lot about persevering in our faith and remaining faithful to Jesus. The reason is that we can get easily distracted or led astray if we don’t stay focused.

John’s letter opens with a beautiful reminder to help us stay focused and fight spiritual drift: Jesus dwells among his churches.

And in his image, John saw Jesus in power and might. Revelation 1:14-16 describes Jesus in this way:

The hair of his head was white as wool, white as snow–and his eyes like a fiery flame. his feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and his voice like the sound of cascading waters. He had seven stars in his right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from his mouth, and his face was shining like the sun at full strength.

Each of the seven churches in Revelation was different. Some were small, some were big; some had relative comfort at the moment, some suffered great persecution. And Jesus walked among each, calling them to faithfulness.

This is the encouragement for us: It doesn’t matter if our church is big or small. It doesn’t matter if we are rural or urban. It doesn’t matter if the congregation is older or filled with young families and children. It doesn’t matter if the church’s finances are strong or a struggle. What does matter is that Jesus dwells among his churches.

And that should encourage us to remain faithful, no matter our situation.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Sunday 12.1.19 (Psalms of Ascent: Fulfillment)

This Sunday, we’ll continue our look at the Psalms of Ascent with Psalm 132. We’ll see how on our life’s God-ward journey in Christ, God fulfills through Jesus every promise he has made to his people. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering

Sermon Notes
Fulfillment ~ Psalm 132

The sermon in one sentence: Life in Jesus is an upward journey on which God fulfills his every promise through Jesus.

  • David’s vow to God: I will build you a house (132:1-7)
  • God’s greater promise to David: I will build your house forever (132:11-12)
  • The Great Fulfillment: All of God’s promises come true through Jesus and through Jesus in us (132:8-10, 13-18)
    • God will forever dwell with us
    • He will bless us by fully meeting our needs
    • We have salvation and righteousness
    • We have forever-joy
    • God is strength, light, and life for us and the judge of his enemies

Songs for Worship
Praise to the Lord
Standing on the Promises
Cornerstone
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
All I Have Is Christ

Psalm 120-134 (Psalms of Ascent)

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