Archive for June, 2012

June 29, 2012

Lift Your Voice! It’s the Year of Jubilee!

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Matthew 9:35
Full Text: Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

Jubilee | The Law that the Lord gave Moses instructed the Israelites to work for six years and then celebrate the Sabbath Year, when they were to rest from their work and depend on Him to provide for them. Then, every seven times seven years – that is, every forty-nine years – they were to celebrate the Year of Jubilee, when they were to forgive all debts and release all slaves [1]. This was a magnificent year, full of great hope and joy.

Fulfilled | More than a thousand years later, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” [2]. All eyes were fixed on him and he said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” [3].

Kingdom | His message was clear: the Year of Jubilee was here and he was ushering it in. The kingdom of God that he was announcing would be a kingdom of forgiveness and release. It would be a kingdom of celebration, where people would experience God’s grace and give Him glory with great joy [4]. As we saw yesterday, Jesus cleansed lepers, healed servants, calmed storms and expelled demons. Today, in Matthew 9, we read that he healed paralytics, raised the dead, stopped hemorrhages and restored sight to the blind. Matthew summarized, “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction” [5].

Prayer | Lord, You are king who loves a party, where people are happy because they experience your forgiveness, release and healing. Therefore, when we pray as Jesus taught us, “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” we long to be people who throw great parties of great joy in your name. We want to point out signs of renewal in our midst and be people who spread forgiveness and release for your glory. We want to declare that the Year of Jubilee is here in the person of Jesus, our king and redeemer. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Leviticus 25.  |  [2] Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV; Luke 4:18-19 ESV  |  [3] Luke 4:21 ESV  |  [4] See Matthew 9:8.  |  [5] Matthew 9:35 ESV

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June 28, 2012

The Proclamation of the New King

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Matthew 8:27
Full Text: Isaiah 60; Matthew 8

Hopes | What hopes do you have for this election year? What kind of White House might get you excited to participate in government? Can you imagine a political culture that inspires its citizens to live as better neighbors, workers, parents and friends?

Miracles | When Jesus came to Galilee, he didn’t merely proclaim the kingdom of God with words; he also did mighty acts to show what it was like. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” [1]. Then, as we see here in Matthew 8, he cleansed lepers, healed servants, calmed storms and drove out demons.

Rumors | This was the character of the kingdom of God. In the midst of an oppressive government, the alternative kingdom of God would heal people and calm storms. Such joy accompanied his works that rumors about him spread throughout Galilee and even as far as cities in the Decapolis like Amman, Jordan (63 miles away) and Damascus, Syria (135 miles away)! [2] As people saw him perform these miracles, they marveled: “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” [3].

Callings | Today, God calls us to be citizens of His kingdom in our cities. We are to commit ourselves to deeds and words that say, as Jesus’ deeds and words did, that there is another ruler and another way of organizing the world. As Tom Wright reflects, “You commit yourself to the work of healing and liberation, both actual and symbolic. You commit yourself to freeing slaves, to loosening the bonds of debt, to bringing good news to the poor. And you commit yourself to doing those things, not as a grand social action which you will implement by your own energy and ingenuity, but in the power, and with the weapons, of the kingdom of God: by prayer and fasting, by truth and righteousness, by the gospel of peace, by faith, by salvation, by the word of God” [4].

Prayer | Lord, You reign as king and, at the end of this age, every knee will bow at your throne. Until then, however, by the power of your Spirit, we proclaim with words and deeds that your kingdom is coming. Therefore, let us seek you and, in our seeking, live to further your kingdom of healing and joy. Amen.

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Footnotes

 [1] Mark 1:15 ESV  |  [2] See Matthew 4:25 (mentioning that crowds followed Jesus “from Galilee and the Decapolis … and from beyond the Jordan” – 8 of the 10 cities of the Decapolis were not in Israel, including Amman and Damascus).  |  [3] Matthew 8:27  |  [4] Tom Wright. The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today (p. 54). Kindle Edition.


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June 27, 2012

An Asking, Seeking and Knocking Prayer

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Matthew 7:7-11
Full Text: Isaiah 59; Matthew 7

Lord, You are infinitely and unimaginably strong, righteous, good, wise and loving. Although we desperately need you, we confess that we don’t come to you as we ought. You extend to us the greatest invitation in the world – to feast at your banquet table – but we come up with all sorts of excuses for why we can’t accept it [1]. Therefore, awaken effectual inclinations in us to pray.

Sometimes we feel so close to you that we can just ask you for things. Other times, however, you seem distant so we must seek you. There are also times when you seem behind closed doors. Yet no matter how close or far you may seem, you promise to hear our asking, reward our seeking and answer our knocking: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” [2].

You keep these promises because we come to you through Jesus, who died to give us acceptance by and access to you. He has given us the right to become your children [3]. Therefore, although we may feel shy or unworthy to pray, Christ removes our timid doubts [4] and reminds us that we are coming to our Father, who always gives us good things: “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!” [5]. Therefore, Lord, we turn to you and not another to hear us and give us good things – whether that means that you give us what we ask or something better than what we ask. Your will, not ours, be done.

We take you at your word. Although we may not fully understand how you answer our prayers, we trust your promises. Therefore, we pray. We ask, seek and knock, because we long for your unending goodness to come to us, our families, our church, our nation and our world. Let us, therefore, make new and fresh commitments to set aside time for prayer alone and together, knowing that you invite us to your banquet table that is full of eternal blessings for your great name’s sake. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Luke 14:18-20.  |  [2] Matthew 7:7-8 ESV  |  [3] See John 1:12.  |  [4] Martin Luther. The Sermon on the Mount, translated by Jaroslav Pelikan, Vol. 21 of Luther’s Works, [Concordia, 1956], p.234.)  |  [5] Matthew 7:7-11 ESV  |  [FN] For additional reflection on asking, seeking and knocking see John Piper, Ask Your Father in Heaven (31 December 2006).

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June 26, 2012

The Lord’s Prayer Expanded

by Bethany

Highlighted Verses: Matthew 6:9-13
Full Readings: Isaiah 58; Matthew 6

Lord | Our Father in heaven.” | We proclaim that you’re our Father. Together, with those who have gone before us, we are your children. In Christ, we call you Father, as we seek you together. Unlike us, you’re in heaven, where you have perfect perspective. Our ways are not your ways. Here, sin and death reign. In heaven, however, Christ is king and he lives to intercede for us.

You | “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” | May your name be holy, may your kingdom come, and may your will done. May all that we do – how we relate to you, our families, our friends, our possessions – glorify your name. Set us apart as people who bear your name, Christ-ians. Make us holy, as you are holy. Make your gracious rule reign in our hearts. Let us not fear what those around us fear; instead, let us fear you so that we run to you. Let us obey your commands as a response to your abundant grace in Christ. We also pray that your name be treated as holy in our cities, as our good works are lights that shine your glory [1].

Us | Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” | We long to join you in making your name great, your kingdom come and your will done. Therefore, we pray for health, forgiveness and holiness. We need forgiveness daily because we’re sinners daily and we can’t thrive with guilt. Yet we don’t deserve your forgiveness, which means that we are called to show forgiveness to others when it isn’t merited either. Therefore, we plead through Jesus, our redeemer. We long to fight for holiness. We don’t want to keep on sinning. So we pray that you remove us from temptation. Guard us from sin and the deception of the Evil One. Let us walk in holiness for your name’s sake.

Amen | We agree with you that your name should be loved and cherished. For as many as are the promises of God, they are Amen in Christ; therefore, also through him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres. “The Sermon on the Mount Was Not Tranquil.” 25 June 2012.

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June 25, 2012

The Sermon on the Mount Was Not Tranquil

by Bethany

Highlighted Verses: Matthew 5:14-16
Full Readings: Isaiah 57; Matthew 5

Counter | The Sermon on the Mount is a counter-cultural sermon. “The followers of Jesus are to be different,” John Stott wrote, “different from both the nominal church and the secular world, different from both the religious and the irreligious. The Sermon on the Mount is the most complete delineation anywhere in the New Testament of the Christian counter-culture. Here is a Christian value-system, ethical standard, religious devotion, attitude to money, ambition, lifestyle and network of relationships – all of which are totally at variance in the non-Christian world. And this Christian counter-culture is the life of the kingdom of God” [1].

Context | Jesus preached this sermon in Galilee, which was under Roman control. In Rome, Tiberius was Emperor and, having deified his adoptive father Julius Caesar, many called him the Son of God. The regional leader was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, who led the Slaughter of the Innocents when Jesus was born and who was called the King of the Jews[2]. Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist, was just as brutal as his father [3]. In this context, Jesus preached an alternative kingdom, where he was the true Son of God and King of the Jews.

Lights | In this sermon, therefore, Jesus wasn’t talking about a tranquil spiritual life. He said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” [4]. His kingdom wouldn’t come by sword against Tiberius or Herod; it would come by a lifestyle of good works against the real insurrectionist – Satan himself. This wouldn’t be easy. As Jesus knew, he would have to be killed in order to redeem his people and put his Spirit within them to will and work for his good pleasure [5].

Prayer | Lord, We long to live as lights in our cities, valuing service and sacrifice over strength and success. Awaken your Spirit within us so that, by taking up our crosses, our lives proclaim that Christ alone is our treasure, security and salvation. We are loyal and happy subjects of your kingdom. Therefore, let us shine forth your glory. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] John Stott. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978.  |  [2] See Matthew 2:13-18.  |  [3] See Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9.  |  [4] Matthew 5:14-16  |  [5] See Philippians 2:13.

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