No Looking Back

…He steadfastly set His face… (Luke 9:51). 

Jesus wasn’t about to be deterred, delayed, or detoured from fulfilling His Father’s mission. 

Some of the other Bible translations fill in this meaning:

  • resolutely (NLT) 
  • steadfastly and determinedly (AMP) 
  • gathered up His courage and steeled Himself (MSG)
  • “to turn in a certain direction, confirm it, and resolutely follow it” (Strong’s Concordance)

Jesus could do this for at least three reasons—

  1. He knew “the time had come” (see v. 51 and John 13:1, 3) 
  2. He knew the joy at the end of the journey (Hebrews 12:2)
  3. He knew His Father loved Him (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17)

A mark of a godly leader is one who resolutely follows God. No matter what!

Jesus calls His followers to the same path He walked—“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)

It’s hard because people reject a resolute man. 

It’s hard because the accommodations along the way are uncertain. 

It’s hard because I have to give up my right to myself. 

But the reward is incomparable—Heaven forever with Jesus!

This is part 33 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Continually Learning To Pray

Lord, teach us to pray… (Luke 11:1). 

This is a request I can continue to make. Jesus is in heaven interceding for me (Hebrews 7:25), and He has given me His Holy Spirit to help me pray (Romans 8:26). 

Jesus is the Perfect Pray-er, so He is the one to Whom I should continually say, “Lord, teach me to pray.”

The key thought Jesus presents is persistence (see Luke 11:8-10). Why? Because the One to Whom I persistently appeal has told me to! God is my Heavenly Father—He wants to give the best to His children. He even gives us “how much more”! 

I learn to pray by praying.

I have to begin to do it and then let the Holy Spirit instruct me. In the meantime, even my childlike prayers are clarified and amplified by the Spirit, they are used by Jesus to intercede on my behalf, and they are carried into the throne room of Almighty God as an incense before Him. He loves to hear from me, or else He would not have told me to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.

To paraphrase a father who was in desperate need of Christ’s help, “Lord, I am praying; help me to keep on praying!” (see Mark 9:24) 

Living Between The Advents

We live in an amazing time—the First Advent of Jesus has already happened in Bethlehem, and yet we are eagerly anticipating Christ’s Second Advent at any moment! 

The fourth stanza of Charles Wesley’s classic Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a wonderful between-the-Advents look at what happened at the First Advent, and what we have to look forward to in the Second Advent. The key thing to note in this stanza is the verbs: come, fix, rise, bruise, efface, stamp, and reinstate. 

COME, Desire of nations—What is the “desire of nations”? It’s the restoration of God’s glory on earth, so it’s not really a what but a Who. The prophet Haggai informs us that our Desire is realized in the Advent of Jesus (2:1-9).  

FIX in us Thy humble home—At His First Advent, Jesus came and humbly made His home among us, even dying to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews 2:14, 17; Philippians 2:7-8). 

RISE, the woman’s conquering seed—Although Jesus was obedient to death—even death on a Cross, He didn’t stay dead but was resurrected (Philippians 2:8-9; Revelation 1:18)! 

BRUISE in us the serpent’s head—With His death and resurrection, Jesus took away the sting of death from satan, fulfilling one of God’s first prophesies (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 54-57).  

Adam’s likeness now EFFACE—That means to wipe out, do away with, expunge. That’s exactly what God does with our forgiven sins (Psalm 103:1-4, 10-12)! 

STAMP Thine image in its place—Although our sin has been effaced, God doesn’t leave us as blank slates, but instead He allows the image of His Son Jesus to be stamped onto our lives (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18). 

REINSTATE us in Thy love—The relationship we longed for is now reborn in us (1 Corinthians 15:49)! 

The Desire of Nations HAS come, and yet He WILL come again! We’re living between the Advents now, so a good question for Christians to ask is: “How are we to live?” I think there are three key things—

    1. In celebration that Jesus came at His First Advent to be our Savior 
    1. In anticipation of the Second Advent 
    1. In obedience to God’s Word (Revelation 22:7) 

The Everlasting Hope In Our Everlasting Lord

It was for our benefit that God came to Earth in His First Advent, not in thunder, and lightning, and all the brilliance of His heavenly glory, but as a Baby. Otherwise, He would have been unapproachable by sinful man. 

But make no mistake about it—although born as a human baby, Jesus was still “Christ by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord”! 

The thought of God being everlasting permeates the Scriptures:

    • He is everlasting Lord
    • He fulfills an everlasting covenant
    • so He is worthy of everlasting praise
    • His everlasting arms support us
    • and give us His everlasting love and everlasting kindness
    • His everlasting salvation gives us everlasting life, or rejecting it leads to our everlasting punishment
    • and in His presence is everlasting joy  

Charles Wesley captures this fully-God-fully-Man essence in his song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by calling Jesus the everlasting Lord and then listing His humanness at His First Advent with phrases like offspring of a virgin’s womb, veiled in flesh, incarnate Deity, pleased as Man with men to appear, and Immanuel. 

Jesus came to earth as Man not because He was forced to, but because it fulfilled the everlasting covenant that God had planned. The writer of Hebrews explains beautifully how He became like us in all of our humanness so that He could be a merciful help to us (see Hebrews 2:10-18). 

When Matthew tells the birth story of Jesus, he includes a line pregnant with meaning: “All this took place to fulfill…” (Matthew 1:22). 

What “all this”? Just take a look at Christ’s genealogy in the opening verses of Matthew 1. You see Abraham who tried to “help” God fulfill the covenant by fathering a child with another woman; Jacob who swindled his birthright from Esau; Judah who fathered Perez through his widowed daughter-in-law, whom he thought was a prostitute; Rahab was a prostitute; Ruth was a non-Jewish foreigner; David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed, and from their relationship came Solomon; Solomon’s son split the kingdom in two; from Abijah to Jeconiah the kings became progressively more and more evil; from Jeconiah forward the kings were without a kingdom; and then Joseph was a prince without a throne or even the glimmer of a hope of a throne. 

Yet ALL THIS took place to fulfill God’s plan. All of history is His story! Every deed and misdeed was used by God to fulfill His everlasting plan of redemption. Jesus had a very human family tree so that none of us could be outside His merciful reach.

What’s your genealogy like? More good than bad? What about your own history? More mess ups than positives? Nothing in your genealogy—past or present—can ever stop our everlasting Lord from fulfilling His everlasting covenant with YOU (Romans 8:28)! 

Christ’s genealogy is proof that your genealogy is no hindrance to His everlasting plan! 

It may appear He is late in time, but behold Him come at just the right time. Accept Him as your everlasting Lord, lean on His everlasting arms, and bask in His everlasting joy. 

Jesus—our Immanuel here—came so you could have all of God’s everlastingness! 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to look at the amazing messages in our old familiar Christmas carols. 

A Leader’s Intercession

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you (1 Samuel 12:23).

Leaders teach, and encourage, and train, and correct, and sometimes even warn. But despite all of this effort sometimes people still do wrong—and even sinful—things. And sometimes there are consequences for these poor choices that even a leader cannot deflect away from them. 

  • Position-conscious leaders say, “It’s not my fault, and I hope this doesn’t reflect poorly on me!” 
  • Selfish leaders say, “I’m glad I’m not in trouble!” 
  • Vindictive leaders say, “It serves you right!” 

Godly leaders say, “How can I serve you?” 

The Israelites grumbled against God, and God was angry. It would have been understandable if Moses would have said, “You complained so you’re going to have to bear the consequences.” But instead, Moses interceded before God on their behalf (Numbers 11:1-2). 

The people rejected God as their King and chose instead a man named Saul to lead them. Samuel could have said, “You’re in big trouble now!” But instead, he said, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23). 

What about you? Have you ever grumbled against God or chosen a path that wasn’t best for you? Jesus could say, “Well, you should have known better!” But instead, we read that He intercedes before God’s throne on our behalf (Job 9:33-34; Hebrews 4:15-16; 7:25). 

The mark of a godly leader is one who intercedes for his people.

If you are a Christ-follower and you are a leader of people, then follow Christ’s example. Yes, continue to teach, encourage, train, correct, and warn. But if people mess up, don’t write them off; instead, intercede before God on their behalf! 

This is part 32 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Overcoming Unbelief Before It’s Too Late

Unbelief can shut down the “Shalom Cycle” that God intends for our lives. Even worse, unbelief can put us on a slippery slope that could be disastrous for our future! So it is vital that we understand what unbelief is, how we can recognize it in our own lives, and the steps we can take to recover from unbelief. 

First of all, let me remind you of what the Shalom Cycle looks like—

Quite simply, when we are grateful for what God has already done for us it fuels our trust in God’s future grace to meet our needs. 

But when we forget to be grateful and gratitude turns to grumbling, unbelief displaces trust.

A good way to remember how unbelief works is thinking of it as an un-complete faith. An un-complete faith is lacking power to trust God because of one of two reasons:

  • Either we don’t know there is a promise available to us,
  • Or we know of a promise but don’t think it applies to our circumstance. 

J.C. Ryle pointed out that, “Unbelief has a power to rob man of highest blessings.” 

Hebrews 3 shows us that left unchecked and uncorrected, unbelief can turn into disbelief. You can remember this word by defining it as a complete disintegration of faith. Notice in Hebrews 3 how quickly the word unbelieving becomes turns away from God, and how closely associated are the words unbelief and disobeyed (Hebrews 3:12, 19-20). 

We need to correct and reverse unbelief as quickly as possible. We do this through capturing our thoughts—or thinking about what we’re thinking about—and identifying three warning signs: 

  1. Worrying all the time—God wants you to enter His rest, not wallow in worry (Hebrews 3:11) 
  2. Making contingency plans—the Israelites forgot to be grateful and they grumbled instead. The next step (since they didn’t trust that God’s future grace would take them into the Promised Land) was to disobey by concocting a Plan B: “Let’s go back to Egypt.” 
  3. An inward focus on self-preservation—we no longer encourage others but think only of ourselves (Hebrews 3:13). 

If you detect any of these warning signs, quickly repent (Revelation 3:2-3) and then run to Jesus for help. One of the most honest prayers you can pray—and one of the prayers Jesus answers the quickest—is “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24). 

“Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 

Take control of grumbling by gratitude
Take control of unbelief by repentance and running to Jesus for help
Then help others take control of their unbelief by encouraging one another daily

Join me next Sunday for the final message in our 4-part series on God’s Shalom. 

7 More Prayers From “Praying The Promises”

In his book Praying The Promises, Max Lucado shows us how simply we can turn passages of Scripture into intimate and powerful prayers. Here are a few more prayers (the references in brackets are passages that formed the prayer).

Lord, in the midst of my storms, I may doubt Your presence. I may wonder if You are there and if You care. Don’t let me lose hope or lose heart. Deepen my belief in You, even during the storms. Don’t allow doubt to take over. Help me release control of my circumstances and surrender them to You. Jesus is interceding on my behalf, and I am so comforted by this truth. [Luke 22:32; Hebrews 7:25; Matthew 14:23-24]

God, teach me how to live free from condemnation. Teach me how to trust and believe in this promise: in Christ, I am no longer a slave to sin. Free me from guilt and shame. [Romans 3:23-25; Romans 6:6-7; Romans 8:1] 

Lord, thank You for the promise of a temporary tomb. Your power has no limits. You have conquered death. You have promised to make all things new. You are the God of restoration and redemption and regeneration. You are the God of resurrection. In my day-to-day life it can be difficult for me to maintain an eternal perspective. Sometimes I may get bogged down in the worries of today and forget that the best is yet to come. Restore in me the joy of my salvation, God. Renew my mind and my heart so that I will have an eternal perspective of all the worries of my day. They are nothing compared to spending eternity with You. And because of Your promise of resurrection, I do not have to fear death. I will live in faith, knowing that in Jesus, death has been swallowed up in victory. Amen. [Matthew 28:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18] 

Guide me today, Holy Spirit. Show me where You want me to go, whom You want me to talk to, what decision You want me to make. Help me discern Your voice over my own and others’. Walk closely with me and whisper truth to me. Forgive me when I listen to my own desires and ignore what You are telling me. [John 16:13-15; Galatians 5:25] 

You know all of my needs before I can even ask for them. Sometimes it’s tempting for me to believe I can rely on myself for what I need. Instead of trusting You to provide, I think I can look out for myself. I fear not having enough. And when I do have enough, it never feels like it. But You have promised to meet my needs out of Your glorious riches. Remind me of Your kind and generous provision. Thank You for taking care of me and meeting all of my needs. [Psalm 34:10; Matthew 6:8; Matthew 10:29-31]

Help me to keep eternity in mind, making the most of my days and showing others Your renewing love. [2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Peter 3:13] 

Dear God, You are my unshakable hope. Your promises are unbreakable. You never waiver. You are faithful to the end. My hope cannot be anchored to anything less than Your promises. … Forgive me for those times when I don’t put my hope in You. May I rest in Your promises once again. May any fear, anxiety, or confusion I feel subside in light of You as my anchor. [Isaiah 40:31; Romans 15:13] 

You can check out my review of Praying The Promises by clicking here. I also shared some other prayers here and some quotes from this book here. 

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