We must pray for the Ukrainian Church:
Churchmen were tortured and murdered the day after they were captured.
Here is my pastoral prayer for this Easter based off of my Scripture reading from Ephesians 2. I introduce it first with a beautiful song performed by Fernando Ortega. Blessings.Eternal Father,it is with gratitude and joy we come together today to remember your infinite gift in Jesus Christ. We who were dead in our sins were shown grace the is beyond our true ability to perceive as the Holy Spirit enlivened us. We who were worthy of your wrath instead are embraced by you as children. We who were weak and helpless instead are healed and lifted up to stand in your presence. We who had no hope are now born again to a living hope through the resurrection of your Son. We who worshiped anything and everything but You alone are instead ushered into the Holy of Holies in heaven because of our faithful High Priest. We who walked in shame instead are a holy people because of Jesus who bore our shame upon the Cross. We who were mockers and revilers are instead now a kingdom of priests according to your grace and kindness. We who were once held captive by our lusts and desires are instead now dead to our sins in our union with the Son of Man. We who could only name Satan as our true father now are able to with absolute confidence call you our eternal Father. We whose hearts were veritable idol factories are instead now being built up into your dwelling place by the Spirit. We were once far off, separated from your prophets, priests, and word are instead now sharers in the New Covenant brought about by the blood of Jesus Christ. We who could not hope to come into your presence are instead now given full access in One Spirit. We who were once not your people are now truly your people, a holy nation, and a chosen race. With thanksgiving in our hearts we remember and confess today that Christ is risen. He is sown into the grave in dishonor but He has been raised unto glory and power and authority. He who offered Himself to be our substitute as sin-bearer is shown to be that acceptable sacrifice through your raising Him from the dead. He who was to drink fully the cup of wrath that was ours to drink is now raised and is seated at your right hand in glory. He who went to the Cross with a vision of the joy that was His through that Cross despised the shame and was our faithful High Priest and Sacrifice. Oh Father may we now rejoice! Let us sing with voices convinced of so rich a salvation. Let us praise you with tongues made for that very purpose. Let us lift hands, hearts and voices in exultation that we stand forgiven, adopted, sanctified, justified, purified, and even glorified. We are your people because we have trusted in the salvation that is found only in Jesus Christ. We are your people because we have been made alive together with our Lord and Savior. We are your people because that life was given through the new birth by the Holy Spirit. We are your people for you have called us by your holy, sovereign Name. May this day be a day of worship and remembering. May we see you continue to bring those redeemed by Jesus into full faith. May we see your grace to be all the more sufficient.
And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” And immediately he went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.(Matthew 26:47-50 NASB)
Betrayal is evil and anyone who is breathing has felt the stab of pain that comes when all that they sought for and hope in turns to dust that blows away when a friend or beloved one turns their back on them. But what is a Christian to do? May I make the argument that though betrayal is evil, it is also good if considered in light of the gospel and with wisdom? Below are simply some thoughts that may help one who is betrayed grow and settle in the pain:
- Betrayal and such is good for the Christian because it reminds them that they have Jesus who shall never betray them. This alone is enough to bring joy to the soul, for all others may fail us but never shall our Lord and Savior. Let us sing therefore, even if it is with tears, let us sing!
- Betrayal is good for the Christian because it gives us a chance to contemplate the Cross more clearly. We were blasphemers and enemies of God. It was we who were helpless and ungodly. We are all betrayers at heart and in reality, yet Christ sought us and saved us. He, with the joy set before Him in His exaltation, took our betrayals upon His body and shed His blood to redeem us.
- Betrayal is one of the reasons that God has given us prayer. It is in prayer that we can sigh in full honesty before our Lord. We can pour out our complaints and our hurts to a Father who unendingly loves us. Because of Jesus we are able to be honest with God. There is nothing hidden from His sight. Because of Jesus we can run like children to our Father with boldness and confidence that He will welcome us, hear us, and give us grace.
- Betrayal is good because it helps us shake off the cloying aspects of this age that dull our senses and fools us into thinking that anything in this age will ultimately remain. We can lie on our tear-stained pillows and utter alongside King Solomon, “All is vanity under the sun.” And then we can give thanks to our Father and God who in His rich mercy made us alive together with Christ Jesus, which means we no longer belong under this sun.”
- Betrayal is good because we can use it as a tool to look beyond the hurt or discouragement and say with the Apostle John, “Yes Lord, come quickly.” For in betrayal we see the glory of the new heavens and earth where sorrow is turned to joy and our tears shall be wiped away by our Father Himself.
So, betrayal is evil, but it is also good.
I want to add to my previous post about my time in Houston Texas as a young man eager to be recognized as a godly man without actual godliness. Grace Bible Church was a mistake in my eyes but it was part of God’s sovereign will nonetheless. To say that the church itself was a mistake does not mean that the people within the church were mistakes. Far from it. Many of them were used by God to help this young man grow in his faith. Genuine friendships developed. Genuine fellowship experienced. And my awkward growth as a Christian was also confined to a relatively small area of impact.
As a Henry I am by nature fairly aggressive. I do not say this as something that is good or bad, it just is. But at the same time I have a very sensitive side of me that people often do not understand. Though I am a pastor I am an introvert as well which makes for some unique situations at times. If I had my way I would retreat rather than advance in many situations. What is a saving grace in my life is also a strong sense of duty that forces me to step out of my safety zone and into real life.
If I were part of a larger church I think that I would have been hurt as I clumsily moved forward in my faith. But friends like Phil, or Bruce, and Lou were patient with me throughout my time there. Because it was a small church I was able to see many aspects of how a church functions on multiple levels. I realized during that time that there is a business aspect that that simply exists whether you like it or not. I learned that people need to be faithful in serving and giving especially when the church is small. I learned that a pastor is not Jesus; rather, he is just a man just like me.
It was at that little church that I had the opportunity to actually preach. It was at that little church that I began to realize that preaching was serious work. It was at that church that I began to slowly begin to see that I was a pompous jerk, and yet my friends were still friends. I remember once preaching a sermon out of James, it was my second sermon if I remember correctly, when I was discussing the relationship of verse five with verses two through four. I was trying to show that verses five through eight were tightly connected to verses two to four and my pastor was sitting in the front row. I was very nervous but I preached what I thought was correct and afterward my pastor came to me and admitted that he had never realized the connection of verse five with the previous verses. An opportunity for humble appreciation on my part but instead to my shame I told him, “Really? It seemed obvious to me.” He took graciously but even now I am ashamed.
Hypocrisy is not something I am unaware of. I remember praying with other men as decisions were being made regarding who would be the elders of the church. Previously I mentioned that one way we can know the heart of a man and his maturity is through his prayers. And so now as I was gathered with other men praying I was trying to mold my prayers in such a manner that would show that obviously I am one of those godly men. What a joke. I was not selected as an elder but I was not brushed off to the side either.
Updated, fixing some errors I missed. Still learning Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Summary of this Psalm: David is in danger of his life; and fearful and faint-hearted counselors are trying to get him to flee and find safety by running away. But David is full of unshaken faith in God. The result is that he rejects the counsel of the friends, believes that the Lord is still the sovereign King and speaks accordingly. He knows that God may try and test His servants, but He shall never forsake them. Therefore, David understands that it is not the righteous, but the wicked who truly should fear. (from The Book of Psalms, Perowne, p. 171)
Father, You are my refuge
A fortress that cannot be shaken
A stronghold that cannot be breached.
A hiding place that is truly hidden
From the searching eyes of my enemies.
I find that there are so many voices
To flee and not run
To wander and not focus my eyes upon Jesus
To trust in man, when man always fails
To give up when I know my Lord has won the battle.
Silence these calls to flee
Let your unfailing promises ring in my ears
And the glory of the bloody Cross stand before me
As I contemplate my Risen King.
Father, the foundations of our land are failing,
We stand on the precipice of failure
Good is now bad and bad is now good.
Lips are loosened that should be silent
While, mouths are closed that should be crying out as one in the wilderness
Father, may your Spirit open our eyes to your settled gaze
You who sit above the vain murmurings of man
You who test the hearts of man
Knowing what they don’t even know themselves
Seeing what only the Creator can see.
Let your wrath be kindled in due time
That judgment and justice might flow like a river
Sweeping all who love wickedness in the lake of your wrath.
Finally Father, cause your face to shine up your children
Let our sorrow be turned back to joy
Our burdens be fully lifted,
Our tears be wiped away.
Until that time, let us continue to proclaim in life and deed
That our Lord reigns
And in love.
We come to you because Jesus your Son is seated at your right hand.
We come because He has given Himself to be our one, perfect sacrifice for sin.
We come because He has opened up the very throne room to us.
We come because He constantly makes intercession on our behalf.
So we come,
and filled with hope
to make our requests known to you. Our first request is to open our eyes up to see the glory of Jesus Christ,
That we would be able to fix our eyes upon Him
and turn our eyes off of this world and its many distractions and temptation.
Quiet our hearts today to hear the Word of God
and to sing praises from overflowing hearts. Second, Father we ask that you confront us those sins we are holding onto.
Cause your Spirit to search us and see if there is any hurtful thing in us.
Bring to our mind something that must be repented of and rejected in our lives
so that we might worship you with holy hearts and lips. Third, Father help us consider the fulness of your wrath to come.
Let us realize the greatness of our salvation,
the fulness of your holiness and justice
and the terror of your holy wrath.
So that we tremble in fear and in joy,
knowing that Jesus has fully drained that cup of wrath that was prepared for us.
So that we desire to speak to others of the gospel that saves. Fourth, Father bind our hearts in the unity of the Spirit,
seeing no distinction between one another,
allowing no heart of racism or pride.
Empower us to express true love toward one another
so that those watching will see Christ and know we are following Him. And lastly Father, let us be filled with love toward one another,
Keeping the love of Christ close to our hearts.
Let us forgive as Jesus forgave us.
Let us serve as Jesus served us.
Let us pray as Jesus prayed for us.
Let us give as Jesus first gave himself for us. And now, as we sing, let us sing as people who are
and Free. Amen.
Father in heaven, We come today professing the great truth that our Lord reigns.
You are King and you are King alone.
You do not reign with Satan.
You do not reign with some other god.
You do not reign along with sin or sickness.
You alone reign.
Therefore we come today with an awareness that we must approach you with joyous fear.
Fear because you alone reign.
Fear because in your hands lie our life and our breath.
Fear because you are a consuming fire.
Fear because you dwell in inapproachable light.
But we come in joy as well.
Joy because though we were once far off we are now brought near by the blood of Christ.
Joy because though we are sinners we have a great high priest who always intercedes for us!
Joy because we come clothed in the righteousness of our Lord and our Savior.
Joy because we are forgiven of all our sin.
Joy because we shall live forevermore and shall dwell for all eternity in your glorious and mighty presence.
O Sovereign Lord, all around your throne the voices of man lifts his voice against you.
The nations roar like waves against the rocks.
The nations resist your presence.
They will not glorify you.
They will not humble themselves before you.
They will not be silent and know their God.
Yet you continue to reign and show forth your majesty and mercy.
Oh Father, be pleased today with our worship to you
as our Lord,
and our Father.
May we worship you in spirit and in truth.
May our mouths sing praises to the one who is High and lifted up in the heavens.
May our voices blend in with the eternal praises of the angels.
May our heart be attentive to your word.
May my mouth speak your word in the power of the Spirit.
And Father, would you be pleased this day to save sinners by the blood of Jesus Christ?
Be glorified today.