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First Thoughts Blog

Monthly Archives: April 2019

On the Receiving End of Pastoral Care

While I have felt humbled and honored to see what the Lord is doing in and through the ministry of Care and Prayer, I have wondered how it would all go without me. Well, as I suspected, it has gone just fine; in fact beautifully!
 
As many of you know, my wife Anne recently had emergency surgery and will have a few months of recovery. At times like this, what is a Pastor of Care and Prayer to do? Simply put, he is to carry out what God’s Word says to elders and deacons when called to care for the church. First, focus on the care of his own wife and children (1 Timothy 3: 5) allowing others to care for him (1 Corinthians 12:7). Well, I have felt unspeakably cared for by you through your care for my wife, our daughters and myself. As a result, I cannot thank you enough! 
 
In Acts 2: 43b-45 we read, “Many wonders and miracles were being done through the apostles.” In other words, they were using their gifts to serve others and not themselves, as seen in the passage immediately following this text where Peter heals a crippled beggar. We read also that they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
 
How do we give of ourselves? In at least three ways:
 
1. We give ministerially by using our spiritual gifts and abilities to serve others rather than ourselves. God’s Word is very inclusive when it comes to the question of who is eligible to give in this way! We all are! 1 Peter 4: 10 tells us we each have at least one gift to share with others! I truly enjoy recruiting and equipping my sisters and brothers in Christ to serve in their realm of giftedness, as I believe and have seen that everyone is great at something!
 
2. We also are called to give financially (Mt.23: 23 and 2 Cor. 9: 5-16), whether you make $20,000 or $200,000 per year; whether you are a multi-millionaire or feel you barely have enough to get by (Luke 21: 1-4, Acts 20: 35)!
 
3. We are called to give voluntarily, motivated by joy and thanksgiving rather than guilt and obligation, as we follow the One who gives us everything (Romans 8: 32)! 
 
My mother always said, “The more you give the more you get.” I add to that, “as long as you don’t give to get.” My dad did pretty well as an accountant but even well paid professionals may not have much money when supporting a wife and twelve children. Somehow, all twelve got through college. How? I believe it was due not so much to my dad’s budgeting but more so my mom’s giving. I remember moving to a neighborhood where we felt like the poorest on the block. Yet my mother would have me help her load up clothes and other items we no longer needed to drop off to the Salvation Army. She did not always have what she wanted while she was on this earth, but when she left this earth, I realized she always had what she needed. Jesus promises us if we rely on him and not ourselves for provision then we will have our needs met. 
 
You may have heard about a man who went on a trip to Israel and was about to enter the famous and impressive Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv to take in a concert by the famed Israel Philharmonic. The man was admiring the unique architecture, the sweeping lines of the entrance and the modern décor throughout the building. Finally, he turned to the Israeli tour guide and asked, “Is the building named for Thomas Mann, the world-famous author?” “No,” the tour guide responded. “It’s named for Fredric Mann, from Philadelphia.” “Really? I never heard of him. What did he write?” asked the tourist. To which the tour guide responded, “A check!” 
 
You can be involved in your family, or even in a church family, by giving money, but you can only be committed to God and his children by giving of yourself. 
 
I think you can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. Although Our Resurrected Lord said that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20: 35), I have been so blessed by your giving to me for a period of time when I was unable to continue giving to you. For that, Anne, our daughters and I thank God for you! 
 
Learn more about how to become involved in the Prayer and Care Ministries.
 
 

Thank You for 26 Years

Dear Congregation, Staff and Worship Team, 
 
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve alongside of you these past 26 years as your worship leader. Thank you for always encouraging me, praying for me and my family,and walking along side me through life’s trials. I pray you continue to lift the name of Jesus high, to give thanks in all things and remember his goodness to us all. I will work part time from May 1 to December 2019 with some fun things planned ahead! I will see what new direction the Lord has planned for me after December. My heart’s desire is to be planted somewhere in the “real” world where I can make a difference. Hopefully, I have done that at FPC as well.  I will leave you with a favorite verse because it talks about my two favorite things; singing and rich food! 
 

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods, with singing lips my mouth will praise you (Psalm 63: 2-5).

 
With much love and a grateful heart,
Nancy
 
 

Looking Back and Visioning Forward

The weeks following Easter are a time for both gratitude looking back and visioning forward. Your leadership takes a breath, giving thanks for the full seasons that ran from Advent and Christmas through Lent and Holy Week. What a glorious time we had! And we start now to anticipate and shape our direction for the fall. 
 
I write, of course, as the senior pastor whose rhythms follow the church year. Other ministries aren’t taking a breath at all. Youth ministry gears up, not down, with summer trips and Children’s Ministry steams into a week of camp at Lake Forest, then Vacation Bible School week. We take advantage of the pauses in our students’ schedules to get them involved in service and study.
 
For me, these are the days when I can give thanks for all you make possible through your outpouring of time, prayer, money and service. Our membership remains steadily dedicated in all these areas week by week. You make possible this ridiculously talented, faithful and harmonious staff team. You make possible a myriad of ministries into our community. You undergird our church plant in New Orleans: Church of the Resurrection is now two years old, with more than 100 making membership commitments. The Gardere Community Christian school pulses through its seventh year, with more than 125 students learning in an exciting, faithful, loving environment. The Christian Outreach Center has put hundreds of students through job training in a climate of faith in Christ, many of whom have moved into financial self-sufficiency. Our worship services inspire us each week with glorious, textured music featuring talented musicians and an expert technical team. Now you’ve made possible a full time worship pastor to take us into the future. We underwrite mission efforts around the world and engage a faithful, mission oriented denomination as part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Your gifts and your service make all these relationships possible. The numbers tell us that you are one of the most generous congregations in the nation. I fight the sin of pride regularly! So, thank you for loving your Lord through loving your church in such tangible and significant ways. How could I not love being your pastor?
 

Day 42, Saturday (April 20) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Day 42   Saturday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

REVELATION 19: 16, 11: 15
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
 
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. 
 
CONSIDER
Every day this Lent we have prayed that for us there is but “one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” I hope we each know much more about what it means to declare Jesus to be Lord. We have seen that he is our Creator and he is our goal. And he is the means to that goal: we live through his life. The vision in Revelation 19 is of a conquering king who comes to bring the world into alignment with his gracious reign. Christ the King makes all other claims to authority pale by comparison. Every pompous leader, every bold proclaimer of which way history is going, every strident assertion of self, every quiet rebel, every narcissistic blow hard must all yield to the one true King, to the world’s true destiny, to the Sovereign.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, cause the kingdom of this world ever more to become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ, who will reign forever and ever. Amen. 
 
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 TIMOTHY 6: 11-16
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
 
CONSIDER
Acknowledging the reality that Jesus is King of kings has direct implications for daily life. Based on Christ’s sovereignty, Paul is bold to ask Timothy to fight the bloodless fight of proclaiming the gospel: right under the nose of the mightiest empire the world had yet seen!
 
He charges us to live in a way befitting servants of the high King. To live with the joy of eternal life to come the faithfulness required of us right now. To live knowing our King will return to claim his world.
 
Based on our destiny in the one who called us, we live in hot pursuit: questing after a life marked by godliness, steadfastness, gentleness, rightness, faith and love.
 
The more we know who Jesus is, the more motivated and empowered we are to live according to the character of the called and claimed.  
 
Take time today to acknowledge the sovereignty of your great Lord, the one King of kings. Singing these verses from the hymn can help you ride toward the throne in praise:
 
At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him King of glory now;
Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.
 
At his voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders in their great array.
 
In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true:
Crown him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you in its light and power.
 
Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With the Father’s glory, over the earth to reign;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,
And let our hearts confess him King of glory now.
 
Caroline Noel. At the Name of Jesus. 1870.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 41, Friday (April 19) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Judge
Day 41   Friday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

MATTHEW 25: 31-32
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
 
JOHN 5: 21-29
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 
 
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
 
CONSIDER
Some names of Jesus are tender; some are so serious that they take away our breath. Today we explore that Jesus is Judge. He is the one with whom we have to do. Every person will appear before his judgment seat. There will be a separation of people. Based on Jesus.
 
Thankfully, Jesus is the Judge and we are not. We cannot render verdict on anyone’s final destiny. But we can know what is necessary. The Judge turns out to be our Savior. But that means we will have to look to him for salvation and not insist on our own autonomy or personal sufficiency. We will have to willingly bow the knee. And what we have done on earth will matter. He expects us to treat the least and the lost as if they were himself. He expects that we will have realized that we were saved for a purpose: to be a people zealous for good works, taking his gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus the Judge will reveal just how much our lives matter.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, righteous Judge before whom all will stand, make me to live as one ever before your sight and on the way to your throne. 
 
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 14: 10-12
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,    
 
     “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
          and every tongue shall confess to God.” 
 
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
 
CONSIDER
How we treat one another seems every bit as important to our Judge as how we show faith in him. In fact, it seems that the way we love, or fail to, reveals the level of authenticity in our worshiping faith. What gets stirred in you reading this passage from Romans today? And what will you do about that stirring?
 
Close by singing through these words from a lesser known Wesley hymn: 
 
Lo, He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.
 
Every eye shall now behold him, 
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold him,
Pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
 
Yea, amen! Let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for thine own:
O, come quickly, O, come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down. 
 
Charles Wesley. Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending. 1758.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 40, Thursday (April 18) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Bridegroom
Day 40   Thursday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

EPHESIANS 5: 25-32
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
 
REVELATION 19: 6-9
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,  
 
     “Hallelujah!
     For the Lord our God
          the Almighty reigns.
     Let us rejoice and exult
          and give him the glory,
     for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
          and his Bride has made herself ready;
     it was granted her to clothe herself
          with fine linen, bright and pure”—
     for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 
 
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
 
CONSIDER
In Scripture, the most intimate human relationship, that of husband and wife, is considered to be but a sign, a promise, of the greater intimacy and ecstasy of our eternal union with Jesus. He is the groom and we, his church, are the bride. Just as joined to Christ, both women and men are sons of God, so also, in Christ, both men and women are the Bride of Christ. He has betrothed himself to us. The pledge of the fullness of our union is the Holy Spirit within us. He is Jesus’ engagement ring given to us! And our groom has sacrificed himself in order to prepare us for this marriage. He has bought us back from slavery to sin, cleansed us of all sin, and ever works to recreate our hearts so we can live in fidelity to the one who has pledged himself eternally to us.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, beloved Bridegroom, betrothed to your people, make us a pure and holy Bride to adorn your majesty.
 
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 10: 9-13
. . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 
CONSIDER
One of the loveliest moments in an engagement is when she says, “Yes!” That verbal agreement is necessary to the coming wedding. It is the response to the groom’s proposal in which he pledges himself. So, too, with our bridegroom Jesus it is necessary that we answer his proposal. We say, “ Yes.” We speak with our mouths aloud that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and we have the intention of our hearts to be his bride. Reaffirm aloud in prayer this day that you would say, “Yes” to him all over again!
 
Close by praying through this setting of Psalm 45, a love song to Jesus the Bridegroom who has pledged himself to his bride the church. 
 
My heart does overflow, a goodly theme is mine;
My eager tongue with joyful song does praise the King divine.
Supremely fair you are, your lips with grace overflow,
His richest blessings evermore does God on you bestow.
 
Amid your glorious train kings’ daughters waiting stand,
And fairest gems bedeck your bride, the queen at your right hand.
O royal bride, give heed, and to my words attend;
In Christ, the King, forsake the world and every former friend.
 
Based on Psalm 45, from The Psalter, 1912.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S READING

Day 39, Wednesday (April 17) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Lamb Who Was Slain
Day 39   Wednesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

REVELATION 5: 6-14
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,    
 
     “Worthy are you to take the scroll
          and to open its seals,
     for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God               
          from every tribe and language and people and nation,
     and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,               
          and they shall reign on the earth.” 
 
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 
 
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might 
and honor and glory and blessing!” 
 
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 
 
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb 
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 
 
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. 
 
CONSIDER
In his Revelation, John wrote that he saw a door left open in heaven. He was allowed to look into the realm beyond and see to the heart of reality. There he saw the throne of God surrounded by mighty angelic beings who worship unceasingly. But as he looked, John saw a drama unfolding. There was a scroll to be opened. It symbolized the future of God’s dealings with his world. It contained the destiny of humankind. But no one in heaven or on earth was found worthy to open the scroll, which would mean determining the future. But then there stepped forward a Lamb. But the Lamb was literally a walking contradiction. He stood. Yet he appeared slain. He reigned. Yet he bore wounds of sacrifice. The Lamb alone was worthy to open the scroll: to create the future for mankind that God had planned. This Lamb who was slain is of course Jesus who died and rose, Jesus who is God and man, who is sacrifice and Lord. This plan of the Triune God to save us by entering the world as one of us and giving away his life for unworthy sinners is so original, so surprising, so glorious that angelic holy beings sing of it into eternity.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, you stand as the Lamb who was Slain but lives as present and future Lord. Bring all things into submission to you.
 
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 14: 7-9
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
 
CONSIDER
The Lamb who was slain, the Lamb who stands as King, is our purpose. He has opened the new and living way for us. He is the way and the goal. Consider how Paul drives this foundational insight straight into moment by moment decisions: Christ died and lived again. Therefore, we live and die, in every moment, unto the Lord. His huge story catches up our little daily story every second of the day.
 
Close by singing the words of Matthew Bridges vision of the Lamb who was slain:
 
Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne:
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own!
Awake, my soul, and sing of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless King thru all eternity.
 
Crown him the Lord of love, behold his hands and side—
Rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward casts a burning eye at mysteries so bright.
 
Matthew Bridges. Crown Him with Many Crowns. 1851.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 38, Tuesday (April 16) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Lamb of God
Day 38   Tuesday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

EXODUS 12: 21-27
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 
 
1 CORINTHIANS 5: 7b-8
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
 
JOHN 1: 29-30
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’”
 
CONSIDER
To understand Jesus as the Lamb of God, we explore the event of Passover. The setting was the final days of four hundred years of slavery for the LORD’s people in Egypt. The final plague was coming upon the land to force Pharaoh to relent and let God’s people go. The Israelites put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over their homes. Inside, they would cook and eat that lamb as a sacred meal confirming them as the LORD’s obedient people. The next day they were set free and soon passed through the parted waters of the Red Sea into freedom. 
 
Paul and John identify Jesus as the Lamb of God. He became the sacrifice that gives us life. His blood over our hearts causes the wrath of God against sin to pass over us, for Jesus took that wrath. His blood shed cleanses our sins. He leads us now to make the Passover through dying to sin and living in him. 

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us your peace. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 PETER 1: 13-21
Therefore, preparing your minds for action . . . set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
 
CONSIDER
How is Communion related to the Passover? When next you partake, consider the Lord’s Supper as a celebration of being joined to Christ our Passover Lamb.
 
Close by joining your prayers to those of Christina Rossetti:
 
None other Lamb, none other name,
None other hope in heaven or earth or sea,
None other hiding place from guilt or shame,
None besides thee!
 
My faith burns low, my hope burns low;
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me
By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
Cries out to thee.
 
Lord, thou art Life, though I be dead;
Love’s fire thou art, however cold I be;
Nor heaven have I, nor place to lay my head,
Nor home, but thee.
 
Christina Rossetti, 1870.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S POEM

Day 37, Monday (April 15) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Living One
Day 37   Monday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

REVELATION 1: 17-18
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
 
CONSIDER
John, the writer of Revelation, had a vision in which he saw the ascended Jesus. The glory of Christ overwhelmed him. But this same Jesus assured him that precisely because of his Lordship, John need not fear.
 
Jesus has undertaken the hero’s journey on behalf of his people. English poet Christina Rossetti imagined Jesus asking us:
 
“Who else has dared for thee what I have dared?
I plunged the depth most deep from bliss above.”
 
Jesus died and entered the realm of the dead. He disappeared into what Shakespeare called “the undiscovered country,” the dark realm from which no one returns.
 
In his despair, Job asked what he thought was a rhetorical question which could only be answered forever as a No: “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14: 14). 
 
It seemed that Jesus had met that same fate. His words read literally, “Behold, I became dead.” That was his full identity following the cross. But not the final word. Countermanding all human loss and reversing the endless flow of mortality, the resurrected Jesus declared, “I am alive forevermore. I hold the keys of Death and Hades in my hands.”  
 
As we noted when we studied the Key of David, keys represent authority. Jesus the living one is now Lord of both death and life. He is, in Greek, the zoan, the Living One. By faith we get into the zoan of life!

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Living One, you died and yet behold, you are alive forevermore! You who hold the keys to Death and Hades, grant me peace 
and courage for these days. 

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LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

2 CORINTHIANS 5: 14-15
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
 
CONSIDER
The death and resurrection of Jesus were unique events in his history among us. Yet, we spiritually participate in his dying and rising. The benefits of his journey are given to us! One day we will participate physically in our natural dying and in our supernatural rising to everlasting embodied life. 
 
For these days on earth, we are to live dying to the old life and living for the new life in Christ.
 
Paul sums up Jesus the Living One’s purpose applied to us when he says that believers should “no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
 
The Living One is our motivation and our power, our reason and our hope for living for his sake and according to his way, even amidst inertia, resistance, exhaustion and persecution.
 
Close by singing these triumphant words, written to match the same tune as the Christmas carol, “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
 
Rise, O church, and lift your voices, Christ has conquered death and hell.
Sing as all the earth rejoices; resurrection anthems swell.
Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the risen King!
 
See the tomb where death had laid him, empty now, its mouth declares;
“Death and I could not contain him, for the Throne of Life he shares.”
Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the risen King!
 
We acclaim your life, O Jesus, now we sing your victory;
Sin or hell may seek to seize us but your conquest keeps us free.
Stand in triumph, stand in triumph, worship Christ, the risen King!
 
Jack Hayforth. Worship Christ the Risen King. 1986.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 36, Sunday (April 14) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

We noted last week, that renderings of Christ as Pantocrator, ruler of all things, appear frequently on the high domes or ceilings of ancient churches. The Jesus we see appears kingly and full of authority.
 
But in the vault of another Ravenna church, we see a different depiction of our sovereign Jesus. The Basilica of San Vitale placed a mosaic of a lamb atop its vault. But this is no meek lamb. It stands strongly, and has a golden halo indicating divinity. Four angelic beings lift up their hands to hold the circle in which the lamb stands from every direction. We are reminded of the worship around the throne of God recorded in Revelation.
 
In his vision of heaven, John saw “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” and angelic beings sing the praise of the Lamb, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5: 6, 12). The God who reigns is the Lamb who gave his life to take away our sins.
 
And, this Lamb will return to the earth to set all things right. He has a future in store for us, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7: 17). This week, we seek to live into the names of the reigning Jesus, the Lamb of God, who will soon return to this world. 
 

The Alpha and the Omega
Day 36   Sunday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

REVELATION 1: 8
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” 
 
REVELATION 21: 5-8
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
 
REVELATION 22: 12-14
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
 
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
 
CONSIDER
The letters Alpha and Omega are the first and last in the Greek alphabet. This title for Jesus is similar to Hebrews 12: 2 in which he is the author and perfecter of our faith. It means that Jesus is the origin and destination of all creation. But more, it means that the Triune God is without origin and without end. He is before all. He is eternal. This is the Son of God who stepped into time to take up our humanity.
 
As you look over these three passages about the Alpha and Omega, consider how these passages describe the future for those who resist Christ Jesus. Both human pride and the power of evil act as if their power will go on forever. But how does Jesus claim he will bring such hubris to an end?
 
How do these passages describe the future for those who are in Christ? Identify at least three promises made to us.
 
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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, first and last, you have the whole world in your hands and I find my life only in yours.
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7). 

ROMANS 13: 10-14
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
 
CONSIDER
As Paul draws his magnificent letter to the Roman church to a close, he turns from soaring doctrine to practical living. Because we know Jesus is the source and the destination, the Alpha and Omega, we are called to live a certain way.
Identify at least three behaviors we are to take off and three we are to put on. 
 
Consider today the plans you had for providing for your sinful flesh and ask for strength to nix those strategies.
 
Close by singing this beloved hymn (to either famous tune!):
 
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humbling dwelling, 
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion, 
Pure unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.
 
Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit, 
Let us find that promised rest.
Take away our bent to sinning, 
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its beginning, 
Set our hearts at liberty.
 
Charles Wesley. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. 1747.