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Wednesday afternoon bible study.  Hebrews 4:14-16 - "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence..."

Sheila pipes up with my favourite bible study comment ever:

Well of course I'm going to approach with confidence.  I mean the blinking devil waltzes into God's throne room doesn't he?!  What a nerve!  Blasted devil walks straight in.  Well if Satan's got that much cheek, there's no way I'm gonna have less.

Job 1:6
Job 1:6

Sometimes I use the Valley of Vision prayers like a starter motor for my own prayer life.  (Some of them are here).

This morning I was praying through Consecration and Worship.  It reminded me of a lot of the issues I tried to raise with my 'Christ our Substitute' video.  Here's the prayer.  Note the ending especially:

My God, I feel it is heaven to please Thee, and to be what Thou wouldst have me be. O that I were holy as Thou art holy, pure as Christ is pure, perfect as Thy Spirit is perfect! These, I feel, are the best commands in Thy Book, and shall I break them? must I break them? am I under such a necessity as long as I live here?

Woe, woe is me that I am a sinner, that I grieve this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace! O if He would punish me for my sins, it would not would my heart so deep to offend Him; But though I sin continually, He continually repeats His kindness to me.

At times I feel I could bear any suffering, but how can I dishonour this glorious God? What shall I do to glorify and worship this best of beings? O that I could consecrate my soul and body to His service, without restraint, for ever! O that I could give myself up to Him, so as never more to attempt to be my own! or have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to His will and His love! But, alas, I cannot live and not sin.

O may angels glorify Him incessantly, and, if possible, prostrate themselves lower before the blessed King of heaven! I long to bear a part with them in ceaseless praise; but when I have done all I can to eternity I shall not be able to offer more than a small fraction of the homage that the glorious God deserves. Give me a heart full of divine, heavenly love.

I can pray this prayer with heartfelt devotion.  I empathise completely with the sense of inadequacy from which it springs.  But I always feel a little odd about it.  As though the Father will be forever short-changed.  As though angels and men will do their best into eternity but it won't be enough.  I mainly feel odd because Christ our High Priest - i.e. our Worshipper! - is not being credited with a job well done.  So, I think I'd like to rework it:

I confess Father that I do not consecrate my soul and body to Thy service and I grieve over my dry and sullied devotion.  Indeed Father, I cannot consecrate myself as I might, as I would, as I ought.  Woe, Woe is me that I am a sinner.  Therefore I look again to Thy Son - given up to Thee, without restraint and without ceasing; every will and affection perfectly conformed to Thy will and love.  I look to Jesus, the heavenly Worshipper, the Director of music, the eternal High Priest.

O may Christ glorify Thee incessantly.  He who stooped to depths far deeper than men or angels have trod; He who has paid homage at infinite cost; He whose blood speaks a better word than all creation ever could; He who is full beyond measure with Thy Spirit of truth and of glory and grace; He who was born and baptised, who was raised and appointed to be Thy Priest and mine - may He offer my praise.   And will you accept mine from Him - my Amen a faint but hearty echo from below.  I thank Thee and bless Thee for Thy perfect rest in Christ, confident of a full share in that homage that echoes into eternity with ceaseless praise.

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I think I need to get this book by Paul Miller - A Praying Life:

Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: “I want to see the king.” Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, “Jesus. I come in the name of Jesus.”

At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway in to the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. “Asking in Jesus’ name” isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.

HT Blazing Centre

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Jesus praying

What does it mean to pray in Jesus' name?

 

Here's Jesus Himself using the phrase 'in my name':

 

Many will come in my name, saying 'I am He' and will lead many astray.  (Mark 13:6)

 

Here's a very strong understanding of 'in my name'.  Here to act "in Jesus' name" is to act as Jesus and to appear to others as Jesus.

Well now - Jesus Himself asks you to pray to the Father 'in His name' (John 14:13,14; 15:16; 16:23).  So when you come to the Father, come as Jesus.  Come as son, come as christ (anointed one).  Call on God Most High with Jesus' own cry - 'Abba, Father' (Mark 14:36 <=> Gal 4:6).  By the Spirit, you are so identified with the Son in prayer that you pray as Jesus.  And the Father hears you as His very own Beloved.  That's the magnitude of what Jesus invites us into when He calls us to pray in His name.

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I'm starting a new intermittent series.  Just some incidental acts or assumptions in the bible that make you think...

 

Here's the first:

Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk. (1 Sam 1:13)

The expectation was that Hannah would pray out loud.  And even when Hannah prayed silently, she still mouthed the words.

Reading that recently made me feel a little less stupid about my practice of walking along the seafront praying with my mobile phone pressed to my ear.  The phone is to stop modern day Eli's thinking I'm drunk, because today expectations are reversed.  Today we're crazy if we do pray out loud!

But I have to pray out loud or my brain wanders quicker than you can say 'Our Father.'  Good to know that 'out loud' was the OT assumption. 

People pray out loud.  And even if they're quiet, they mouth the words.  If your brain is a wild wanderer (and whose isn't?), then here's a top tip brought to you by Bible by the bys.  

Try saying that out loud!

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Nothing transforms my prayer life like quoting Matthew 18:3 to myself:

Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Here's Barth on coming to our Father in heaven as child-like beginners:

In invocation of God the Father everything depends on whether or not it is done in sheer need (not self-won competence), in sheer readiness to learn (not schooled erudition), and in sheer helplessness (not the application of a technique of self-help). This can be the work only of very weak and very little and very poor children, of those who in their littleness, weakness, and poverty can only get up and run with empty hands to their Father, appealing to him. Nor should we forget to add that it can only be the work only of naughty children of God who have wilfully run away again from their Father’s house, found themselves among swine in the far country, turned their thoughts back home, and then - if they could - returned to their Father … Christians who regard themselves as big and strong and rich and even dear and good children of God, Christian who refuse to sit with their Master at the table of publicans and sinners, are not Christians at all, have still to become so, and need not be surprised if heaven is gray above them and their calling upon God sounds hollow and finds no hearing. The glory, splendour, truth, and power of divine sonship, and of the freedom to invoke God as Father, and therefore the use of this freedom - the Christian ethos in big and little things alike - depends at every time and in every situation on whether or not Christians come before God as beginners, as people who cannot make anything very imposing out of their faith in Jesus Christ, who even with this faith of theirs - and how else could it be if it is faith in Jesus Christ? - venture to draw near to his presence only with the prayer: “Help my unbelief” (Mk. 9:24). Mark well that this has nothing to do with Christian defeatism. It describes Christians on their best side and not their worst, in their strength and not their weakness (2 Cor. 12:10).

Karl Barth, The Christian Life: Church Dogmatics IV.4: Lecture Fragments (trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1981), 80.

Source: Jason Goroncy

Have you ever heard a more heart-warming doctrine lecture??

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I'll get round to responding to comments soon.  Here's the second part of yesterday's trinity sermon

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Trinity Sermon part 2:  Galatians 4:4-6 (audio here)

...The trinity is the good news that God is love. 

 

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On the other hand: - the imaginary, solitary, self-centred god is nothing but bad news. 

 

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The difference between these two ideas of God comes out very clearly when we ask ourselves - how would I go about serving these gods? 

Let's think about the false, self-centred god first.  How would you serve such a god? 

Well if God was just one person and if he desires any kind of service, who's going to have to give it to him?  Well it has to be us.  There's no-one else to do it.

 

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So in terms of serving God, it's all about what I can offer God. 

This god might demand obedience and religious service and sacrifice and prayer and elaborate worship. But with this god, the only sacrifice is our sacrifice, the only obedience is our obedience, the only prayers are our prayers.  This is the way of all human religion.  There is some kind of deity who requires some kind of payment because 'they're worth it' - and religion is about us paying it to God.  Horrible!

But the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit has other ways of getting the job done.  Look with me at chapter 4, verse 4:

4 But when the time had fully come, God [the Father] sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

 At just the right time, Christmas time to be precise, the Father sends His Son and v4 says He is born of a woman. The eternal Son of God joins the human race.  He enters into our family tree and becomes our brother, one of us.

And as our strong older brother, Jesus sticks up for us.  He steps into our shoes and He does for us what we could never do.  V4 says He is 'born under law'.  That means that He put Himself under the obligations of God's commandments. So whatever God wants from human beings, the Son of God gives.   Jesus paid to His Father the debt that we owe...

All the worship, obedience, devotion, prayer, love and sacrifice which the Father demands, the Son performs.  God wants human obedience.  But our human obedience is paltry, pathetic, perverted.  So the Son comes born of a woman to do in our place what we should have done. 

And then v5 tells us He does this that we might receive the full rights of sons. Now we don't have any right to be treated as sons.  We don't have any rights to inherit the blessings of God.  But THE Son of God has that right.  And so He works His perfect obedience in our place and then gives us all the rights that belong to Him. 

 

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In the diagram you're meant to get the sense that the Son overshadows us.  We are in Him. (It worked better in Powerpoint).

Imagine today a champion runner, entering the London marathon under your name and running in your place.  And they win and suddenly all newspapers tomorrow go with 'Glen Scrivener wins marathon.'  And I receive a gigantic cheque and am hailed as a star athlete.   I'm not a star athlete, brushing my teeth is about as aerobic as I like to get.  But imagine the full rights of the winner are given to me because a champion ran in my place.  That's what this is like.  Someone has run the race of obedience in your place and then given you all the winnings.  

Chapter 3 verse 29 describes it as belonging to Christ - so that His vast inheritance becomes ours.  I like that image, but I like the image of chapter 3 verse 27 even better: I am clothed with Christ.  I am wrapped up in Jesus while He offers the perfect worship, obedience and sacrifice to the Father.  If you belong to Jesus, the Father looks on you and sees Jesus.  He looks on you as His beloved child and says 'here, have my fatherly love, have my verdict of 'holy', have the whole universe.  It belongs to Jesus and you belong to Him. 

Now if that weren't good enough, chapter 4 verse 6 tells us we don't only have the Son of God wrapped up around us, we also have the Spirit of God in us.

6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

The Father sends the Spirit of the Son into any who belong to the Son.  Do you belong to Jesus, do you trust Him, then you have the Eternal Spirit of God living in you.  And the Spirit calls from within us 'Abba, Father'.  Abba is a very intimate term, it means something like 'daddy' or 'father dearest'.  It's something so intimate that only the Son of God could ever get to call the Father Almighty 'daddy'.  But now, if we belong to Jesus, we get to do what Jesus did and call the Most High God - Abba - Daddy. 

The Spirit sweeps us up into the Son's relationship with the Father.  If you're a Christian, the Spirit has swept you up into the Son's relationship with the Father.  Everything that the Son has by rights, you now have through Him.  Everything that the Father feels towards His Son, He feels towards you who are clothed in Him.  If you're a Christian, the Spirit has gathered you into the circle of divine love.  By the Holy Spirit, you know Jesus as your Brother and the Almighty Father as your 'Daddy'.  You now belong to Jesus, and He belongs to the very life of the Trinity.  Our privileges in Jesus couldn't be greater.  As 2 Peter chapter 1 says, we 'participate in the divine nature.'

I started with a mental test, let me give you one more.  Christians here, if I were to ask you 'how is your prayer life going?' How would you respond?  If you belong to Jesus, you can look me in the eye and tell me 'my prayer life is unimprovable'.  How's your prayer life? 'My prayer life is divine.'

I am clothed in the Son of God and His prayer-life is pretty darned good.  What's more, chapter 4 verse 6 tells me that His prayer to the Father is a prayer that is placed in me by the Spirit. The Spirit prays the perfect prayer of the Son in me and through me. I'm not just invited to pray, I am already caught up in the prayer life of God.

All our little prayers are the 'Amen' to Jesus' perfect prayer.  He's prayed the perfect prayer and we say 'Amen, Father.  What He said, Father.  My Brother Jesus couldn't have prayed it better. Amen, Father'  And as we go on in the Christian life, the Spirit of the Son will help our little prayers to become more child-like, so that we call out "Daddy" in reverent love.  That's so important because nothing kills a prayer life better than praying to God like you're a slave and He's a slave-master, like you're a soldier and He's a commanding officer.  Jesus didn't teach us to pray 'Our Sergeant-Major in Heaven' or 'Our Line Manager in Heaven'  - instead: Our Father in Heaven.  We need to be little children in prayer and thankfully the Spirit of the Son makes us exactly that and helps us to pray child-like prayers where we depend on our heavenly Dad.  Our own attempts at praying won't be very good but, wonderfully, the Spirit takes even our most rubbish efforts at prayer and wraps them up in the Son's perfect prayer and lifts them the to the Father.  

I hope you can see that the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unlike any god ever imagined.  He is the living, loving, working, worshipping God who invites us into His life of other-centred love. 

But, finally, if you don't belong to Jesus, you are shut out of this life.  And you cannot get in.  No amount of your own religious works and moral deeds will earn your acceptance into this divine family.  The only way in is through Jesus, who offers to be your older brother, who offers to clothe you in His righteousness, who offers to give you His inheritance.  Maybe today you need to say Yes to Jesus - to say 'I want in.  I don't want to live my solitary, self-centred life any more, I want in on your life Jesus.'  Maybe for some of us, today is the day we join the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their life of love.

 

Let's pray.

 Heavenly Father, thank You that we can call you Father.  Thank You that Your Son has become our Brother and so You have become our Father.  Thank You for inviting us into Your family.  Thank You for sending Your Spirit into our hearts. If we are Christians here, may each one of us know that we are clothed in Your Son and loved with an everlasting love.  For those who don't yet belong to Jesus, would you draw them, would you woo them, would you claim them as your own.  May we all live in your love, Generous Father, Gracious Son and Powerful Spirit.  Now and always, Amen.

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I'm giving this short talk at a prayer meeting tonight

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Well America has sent their man to the seat of power.  They have chosen their representative and he is going to the White House to rule on their behalf.  Barack Obama said in his acceptance speech that he is committed to being the President not only for those who voted for him, but for those who haven't.  A man will sit in the highest office, representing his people, ruling on their behalf.

More money has been spent on this presidential campaign than any other.  More people have turned out to vote than ever before.  Because the people want to be a part of this process.  They want representation in the highest office.  They want to send their man to the seat of power.

Many people will be thrilled about Barack Obama's win.  Many will be disappointed.  But whether Obama will be a good or bad president, there is another perspective on these issues.

Notice verse 1 - 'set your hearts on things above'

Notice verse 2 - 'set your minds on things above, not on earthly things'

Why?  Does Paul want us to be ignorant of world affairs? 

No, but he does want us to get some perspective. 

What does he want us to see?

 Verse 1:  Christ, seated at the right hand of God.

Now, in the Bible, the right hand of the king was where the king's appointed ruler sat, heard petitions, passed judgements, and gave orders.  The king's right hand man was his beloved servant through whom the king ruled.  The right hand, is the place of honour and authority.  And Jesus of Nazareth, our Brother and Friend, is seated on God's throne of power.  Paul says - think about that

Our Man, our Representative, One the bible calls our merciful and faithful High Priest, He has gone to the seat of power.  Jesus became one of us, He lived for us, died for us, rose for us and 40 days later ascended for us into heaven.  That's where He is right now - seated on the throne of the universe - God's right hand Man.  And He has gone as our representative.  Our Man has gone to the seat of power.

Many Obama supporters will be saying today "we won".  "We won."  And what they mean is Obama won, and we're with him, we're associated with him - He's our man.  His victory is our victory.  He won, so we won. 

Now that's even more true for we who are associated with King Jesus.  In fact we are united to Christ so strongly that everything that happened to Him has happened to us.  Christ's victory is really and truly ours.  Look at verse 1.

Paul says 'you have been raised with Christ.'  Then in v3 he says 'you have died'.  Jesus died, therefore we died with Him.  Jesus rose, therefore we rose with Him.  My life, my identity, my history are so united to Jesus that His death is my death and His resurrection is my resurrection, His ascension is my ascension.  Jesus does everything He does, conquers everything He conquers, gains everything He gains FOR YOU.

Paul says it again in a different way in verses 3 and 4: 'your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, you will appear with Him in glory.' 

We are Very closely united to Jesus.  Christ IS your life.  Your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Our Man has gone to the seat of power and we are IN Him - united to Him in the closest possible way.  So now when God looks for you, He finds you IN Jesus, at His right hand - the place of honour.

On the radio this morning they were talking about foreign presidents and prime ministers queueing up to see Obama.  They said that foreign ambassadors in Washington would be falling over each other trying to get invited to the White House.  Everyone wants to get close to Obama now.

But we know the true Man, our true Representative - He is our Brother! And He has gone to the highest seat of power imaginable and we have gone there with Him and in Him.  The incredible thing is, we don't have to queue up to see the King of Kings.  We're not pounding on the door requesting an audience.  We have the ear of the Lord Almighty.  We don't just have access to the throne room of heaven - we are there!  Actually there.  Already.  Right now! 

And so Paul says 'set your heart and set your mind on these things.'   They are true whether we're mindful of them or not.  But now that we know they are true, think about it.  Remember it.  Dwell on it.  Revel in it.  Enjoy it. Speak about it.  Sing about it.  Take advantage of it.  You have the ear of the LORD of heaven.  Set your heart and mind on that.  And when you do, that's when prayer gets off the ground.

Because I am hidden in Christ at the right hand of the Father I know that my words do not ascend to heaven.  Do you ever fire up prayers to the Father and you wonder, 'have they made it?', 'are they reverent enough?', 'were they in the right form of words?', 'did I mean them enough?', 'was I in a spiritual enough place to generate the power to get my words to the throne room?'  Well all that is rubbish.  It's not that our prayers ascend to heaven - Christ has ascended.  My prayers don't go from earth to heaven, they go from heaven to heaven.  I don't yell up to the Father to be heard, I'm at His right hand, whispering in His ear.

I don't have access to Obama.  I don't have access to his power.  I can't shape his rule.  I have no input to his reign. 

I have something so much better.  I have a greater Man with greater power and I have greater access than any lobbyist dare dream of.  So let's take advantage of our position. 

"Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb 4:16)

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For more on Ascension and getting our Man into the seat of power, listen to this excellent talk by Paul Blackham

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... in any sense of the word.

Cindy Jacobs mobilised a Day of Prayer for the Global Economies on October 29th.

So these Christians went down to a Wall Street statue symbolic of the global financial system.  They laid hands on a metal image of a bull and prayed.

 

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And they sang 'God Bless America.'

[youtube=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yuSDQzJDB80]

 

Yikes!

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Source Wonkette via Jesus Shaped Spirituality.

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