The Unhidden Agenda

Scripture Focus: Luke 8.17-18
17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

Reflection: The Unhidden Agenda
By John Tillman

I still remember the first time I saw the music video for Michael W. Smith’s “Secret Ambition” at a summer youth camp in Glorieta, New Mexico. A Christian music video? We were mesmerized. 

Our generation was still singing, “Video killed the radio star,” and now we saw a high-production-value video of Jesus being killed. The song emphasized that Jesus went to his death purposely and resolutely. It brought the dusty theological concept of the messianic secret to life in a slickly produced video. “Nobody knew his secret ambition was to give his life away.”

The messianic secret is the idea that Jesus kept his true identity and mission a secret from the wider public. This fulfilled prophecy, as Jesus points out in Luke 8.10, but it also made his mission possible. He had to be rejected, betrayed, and crucified. So he hid his teaching in parables and only allowed “those with ears” to hear. He scattered seed on hardened, stony, or thorny ground, knowing it would not survive or sprout.

The parable of seeds and soils can sometimes make us think one’s soil is their destiny and nothing can change it. We can become fatalistic and cynical and doubt the gospel’s power.

However, a related parable follows the parable of the seed and soils. After speaking about closed ears that cannot hear the truth and hardened hearts that cannot receive the seed, Jesus speaks about light and sight.

Christ’s secret ambition was to go to the cross, but now, his public command is to take the light of the gospel to all places. The messianic secret was never meant to stay secret. These hidden things are meant to be discovered, and these concealed things are meant to be revealed.

Jesus hid his victory in the suffering of the cross and his indestructible life in the shroud of the grave. For a time, Jesus was the light hidden in a clay-jar tomb. But now, like Gideon’s torches, the clay pot is shattered, and the light is revealed. (Judges 7.16-20) The cat is out of the bag, and he’s the Lion of Judah.  

What was once the messianic secret is now the unhidden agenda of the gospel. Now is the time when the light of Christ shines openly. Come to him while the light shines.

Lift up his light so that he may draw all humans to himself.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is clear, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkened, what darkness that will be! — Matthew 6.22-23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Haggai 1 (Listen 2:39)
Luke 8 (Listen 8:09)

​This Weekend’s Readings
Haggai 2 (Listen 3:49), Luke 9 (Listen 8:05)
Zechariah 3 (Listen 3:37), Luke 7 (Listen 5:40)

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Read more about An Amazed Faith :: Worldwide Prayer
Help me, my Lord, to always carry in my body
Your death, so that your life may be revealed
In me daily…

Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched — Lenten Hymns

Scripture Focus: Luke 8:43-48
43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. 
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” 
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” 

From John: Each Monday of Lent, Jon Polk will be bringing us a devotional highlighting a hymn appropriate to the Lenten season. For many of us, 2020-2021, with all that Covid has cost us, seems like one long year of Lent with no Easter in sight. We’ve had to give up so much and miss so much and suffer so long. And in the United States, especially, the season of Covid that we thought would be a few weeks has now stretched an entire year and is not ending anytime soon. I pray that in this season, these hymns and God’s Holy Spirit will bring each of you comfort, peace, and resurrection of what has been lost. Easter is coming.

Reflection: Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched — Lenten Hymns
By Jon Polk

In the introduction to his collection of hymns published in 1759, Joseph Hart honestly describes his experience of spiritual emptiness.

“I hastened to make myself a Christian by mere doctrine, disregarding the internal work of grace begun in my soul by the Holy Ghost. I ran such dangerous lengths both of carnal and spiritual wickedness, that I even outwent professed infidels, and shocked the irreligious and profane with my horrid blasphemies and monstrous impieties. For having obtained by Christ a liberty of sinning, I was resolved to make use of it; and thought the more I could sin without remorse, the greater hero I was in faith.”

Born in London in 1712 to particularly pious parents, Hart was raised, as he described, with “the sound doctrines of the Gospel from infancy.” However, upon reaching his twenties, he began to struggle with the destiny of his soul.

Hart forced himself deep into religious practices, such as fasting, prayer and virtue, only to encounter vain superficiality. He then turned headlong to selfish pursuits and vices, taverns and drinking companions, describing himself as a “loose backslider, an audacious apostate, a boldfaced rebel.”

The first verse of his most famous hymn, “Come Ye Sinners,” reads like his own autobiography.

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched
Weak and wounded, sick and sore
Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity joined with power

What prompted Hart’s change of heart and recovery of the faith that had been nurtured in his childhood?

The power of Easter.

In his own words, “The week before Easter, 1757, I had such an amazing view of the agony of Christ in the garden, as I know not well how to describe. I was lost in wonder and adoration, and the impression it made was too deep.”

It is exceedingly easy for those of us who have been faithful Christians for a long while to experience spiritual amnesia, forgetting what it was like to identify with sinners and outcasts. We can develop a callous piety, a “holier-than-thou” attitude that prevents us from embracing our own continual need for a Savior, shielding us from the necessity of repentance.

The season of Lent purposefully reminds us that we are mere dust, that without the work of Christ and the grace of God, we are all sinners, poor and wretched.

In one of the original verses of the hymn not often found in modern hymnals, Hart beautifully sums up the significance of Christ’s sacrifice.

View him groveling in the Garden
Lo! your Maker prostrate lies
On the bloody tree behold him
Hear him cry, before he dies
“It is finished, it is finished, it is finished.”
Sinner, will not this suffice?

Music: Come Ye Sinners by Indelible Grace Music 
Lyrics: Lyrics from 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.3

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Exodus 5 (Listen – 3:15) 
Luke 8 (Listen – 8:09)

Read more from Jon Polk: The Slavery of Plenty
Although we may not recognize it, we are far too easily enslaved by our possessions, our comfortable way of life, or our status and authority.

Read more about Rumors or Repentance
The Jordan, where John baptized, is a river of decision. Will you cross over or not?  Will you repent? Will you enter the Kingdom of Heaven or not?

An Amazed Faith :: Worldwide Prayer

Luke 8.25
“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Reflection: An Amazed Faith :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

We can become complacent about Christ’s nature. The disciples did. Being so close to him—seeing him sweat, and eat, and wearily lie down to sleep in the back of the boat—they often saw only the man. But in the storm, they see him for who he is.

Seeing Jesus truly is always shocking. No matter how great a grasp of the incarnation we think we have, our intellectualism has a hard time grappling with Jesus rebuking the wind and waves. 

A Jesus this powerful is frightening. If he rebukes the wind and waves what about us? 

He might ask us to do…anything. He might send us to save…anyone. He might ask us to give…everything.

This prayer of redemption confesses our position, and expresses wonder and thankfulness that Christ, despite our weak faith, works his redemptive power in our lives.

Prayer for Redemption from Ukraine

God Almighty,

When my mind rejects earthly vanity
And when I raise my soul to you
I tremble and feel joyous.
I see you in awakening nature,
In the stream’s murmur and the mighty ocean’s waves.
You rule all the universe, everything is created by you and is subject to you.

Nobody, nothing can resist you.
Every creature who breaks your laws perishes.
And me? How dare I not obey you,
To seek something of my own.
I sinned, but you loved me, looked for me, found me, forgave me, and adopted me as your child.

I cannot comprehend the depth of your love!
How could you for the sake of someone like me,
Send your son, Jesus Christ?
How could it be that despite my weak faith
Jesus suffered and died and
Gave me the right to unite with you 
And be yours for all eternity?

My precious Jesus,
What a great joy it is to rely on you,
To confide in you,
To love you and to wait for you every day!

Help me, my Lord, to always carry in my body
Your death, so that your life may be revealed
In me daily till we meet with you in Heaven!

*Prayer from Hallowed be Thy Name, L. A. (Tony) Cupit, ed., Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world

Prayer: The Greeting
You have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living. — Psalm 56.11-12

Today’s Readings
Exodus 5 (Listen – 3:15) 
Luke 8 (Listen – 8:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 6 (Listen – 3:56), Luke 9 (Listen – 8:05)
Exodus 7 (Listen – 3:29), Luke 10 (Listen – 5:40)

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Read more about Fear in the Boat :: Readers’ Choice :: TBT
This devotion spoke to me in a moment where I almost forgot where I was. The words reminded me of the faithfulness of Jesus. I pictured myself in that ‘boat’, and Christ showing me who he is, I was on the Rock. — Azikiwe Calhoun

Read more about Faith After the Storm
Jesus asleep on the pillow is a punching bag for our emotions. Asleep, he cannot hear or dispute our complaints, our fears, our version of events. But Jesus standing and rebuking the storm rebukes us as well. “Quiet. Be still.”