Pray BIG Prayers – Sin

Sin is not a popular word really, is it? It’s often associated with some Bible-wielding angry-faced shouty-street preacher. You know the type; perhaps wearing a sandwich board and shouting about how you are going to hell if you don’t repent and turn to Jesus in faith to save you from the consequence of your sin. Whilst they are actually 100% correct in what they are teaching, their delivery can often turn people away.

Sin means, in the Bible, to miss the mark. Think archery. You’ve aimed at the bullseye but yet your arrow flies somewhere miles past the target or falls limply between you and the intended target. You’ve missed the mark. In Christian-ese language then, sin is to miss the mark set by God’s Holy and perfect standard. To be really frank, we are all sinners (Romans 3.23). Whether we know it or not, whether we sin intentionally or not, sin has a consequence (Numbers 15.22-31, Hebrews 9). So, you have sinned, I have sinned, we have sinned. Have, do, and will. 

Today’s BIG prayer then is about sin and is twofold. First, for our eyes to be opened to where we are unintentionally sinning. Second, a heartfelt and sincere thanks that there is opportunity for them to be covered, cleansed, and the consequences cast upon One who bore them.

Father, would you show me where in my life I am missing the mark. Show me through the complete and comprehensive teachings and revelation of your Word. Show me where am I erring from your good and perfect plan for my life.

I thank you that even those sins which I am unaware of are graciously forgiven at the cross, where He who knew no sin became sin in order that I may be righteous in your eyes. 

Moses – His Preparation

As we move into Exodus 4.1-17, Moses is prepared for the task given to him in chapter 3. He is given powerful signs to authenticate the truth claims he is making about God, such as,

…So he threw [his staff] on the ground, and it became a serpent…v.3,

he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh…vv.6-7,

…you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground…v.9.

It’s so important when we see miraculous events like this in the Word we consider why they are happening, and, often, if we read carefully we will see,

that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you…v.5, cf. John 20.30-31

When we see miraculous events, they always testify to a truth claim about the Lord. Here, it was to verify that Moses was the guy chosen to lead in this particular period of time, and that the Lord was with him.

The same is true for Jesus, read Mark 2.1-12, for example.

What this means for you is that Jesus authenticated His claims with miraculous, unexplainable, wonderful works in order to show that what He said was true, is true.

For you, this means that when He says He loves you, He means it.

When He says your sins are forgiven, He means it.

When He says that He came to give you life abundant and life eternal, He means it.

He’s established that whatever He says is true, comes true, and is nothing but true, and that is great news for you!

Father, forgive them…

The first saying of Jesus on the cross is found in Luke 23.34 and we read,

…Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Even to the very end, Jesus was others-focused. This will come up again and again as we move through the last things He said in His earthly life. Others. Right up to the end, Jesus was others-focused. Right up to the end, Jesus sought forgiveness for those that did not deserve it. Is there a more poignant example of His grace in action than Jesus on the cross seeking forgiveness for those literally crucifying Him?

Don Stewart writes,

He came to earth for the purpose of forgiving sinners and He loved them and forgave them up until the end.

How about you?

Is there anybody you need to forgive? Is there anybody that you need to reconcile with? Is there anybody from whom you need to ask forgiveness? We are encouraged to seek forgiveness if we have wronged others (Matthew 5.23.24) and to forgive as we’ve been forgiven (Ephesians 4.32). Seek that today.

As we move through the words of Jesus on the cross and pause to reflect on this truly incomprehensible sacrifice, let us not overlook the practical applications in our lives. Here, as Jesus said “Father, forgive them…”, let us pursue forgiveness and reconciliation with those around us today.

Inherent and Intrinsic- Esther 3

Yesterday we saw the providence of God, and today the story continues. If you haven’t read Esther 3 recently, you can do so here.

After his assasination plot is foiled (2.21-23), the King appoints what looks like a Prime Minister (v.1), and Haman the Agagite seems to be enjoying this new-found power and respect. The Agagites were historical enemies of God’s people (Exodus 17.14-16), and this may explain why Mordecai was reluctant to bow down or pay homage. Haman obviously didn’t like this, and sought to destroy all the Jews. He engineers a situation wherein the King probably doesn’t realise who or what Haman is talking about (vv.8-11). The Jews in all the land were, essentially, given prior warning of their impending death sentence (vv.13-15), and Haman cosied up to the King as all this took place (v.15b).

The de-humanising of people has been a perennial problem that is often the pre-cursor to terrible atrocities. Here Haman refers to God’s people, people made in the image of God, lives with inherent and intrinsic worth and value, as a certain people, …their laws…, it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate themthe peopledo with them

This way of thinking leads, inevitably, to conflict, loss of life, slavery, oppression, and generally nothing positive. How grateful we are that Jesus made the very important point that human life is of infinite value, regardless of national origin, culture, language, or tradition in Luke 10.25-37. Paul writes very explicitly that we are all one in Christ Jesus, regardless of things that may differentiate between us in an earthly sense (Galatians 3.28). Simply, there is more to unite us than divide us.

Today, let us see those around us as humans made in the image of God, lives with inherent and intrinsic value and dignity, people loved by the Lord and redeemed at such a high price, and those that God wishes to reach with His love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace…through you.

2 Timothy 4.14-22 – Last Words

Written whilst in prison awaiting death, the letter we know as Timothy is generally held to be the last that Paul wrote. Here, he signs off in typical fashion.

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Paul warns his younger protege about particularly dangerous people who may cross his path (v.14), displays staggering spiritual maturity (v.16), and shows that as he neared the end of his life he knew from where his help came (vv.17-18, cf. Psalm 121). Even with death so close, even with his surroundings so dire, Paul still has a heart for people and desperately wants to see his friend one more time (vv.20-21). 

On the last words that Paul wrote, David Guzik comments,

The last words of Paul reflect a man who simply loved Jesus and had received His grace.

This simplicity, and all the power that went with it, marked the entire ministry of Paul.

Is that something that could be said of us?

Are we people who simply love Jesus and have received His grace?

Does this mark our lives? 

Paul was held here, in the Mamertine Prison, amid bleak and dreary surroundings.

Mamertine+Prison+ancient+cell+of+Paul’s+imprisonment

Despite this, he still had a heart for others and a steadfast and sure anchor to hold on to, the eternal hope found in Jesus. The last words he wrote to Timothy, possibly ever, show us the heart of the man, and the heart to which we must strive today.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.