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First Thoughts Blog

Author: Gerrit Dawson, Senior Pastor

The Key That Unlocks It All

Have people ever said this to you? “Well, you know you can make the Bible say anything you want!” They have a point. People use the Bible to justify all kinds of unbiblical things. Both “liberals” and “conservatives” do this. We are all always looking for a Jesus more in our own image: he’s much safer that way!
 
So how do you know the correct way to interpret the Bible? What’s the key to faithful interpretation? How do you keep from going wrong when you read the Word?
 
These are actually very ancient questions. Already in the 2nd century, a group called the Valentinians was talking about the Christ within. They were claiming to be Christians even as they cut off the real Jesus from their very inward focused spirituality. And they quoted Scripture doing so! This was confusing “normal” Christians. Thankfully, a bishop named Irenaeus came to the rescue.
 
Irenaeus knew we need a key to unlock the Word. We need to find Scripture’s core story so we can understand all the other stories in the Bible. We need one true “rule of faith” that guides the way we read any and every verse.
 
Irenaeus knew this golden key, this secret code, was not hidden. It was right there in the preaching of the gospel. The key is simply the core story of the Triune God as he made himself known in Jesus Christ. Irenaeus wrote out the crucial formula of faith that resolves the meaning of all Scripture.
 
Now here’s the kicker. His rule of faith sounds almost identical to what came to be known as the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed gives the boundaries within which we can understand the Bible, and the God of the Bible, truly and rightly. 
 
Wait, did I just hear you yawn? Did you just mutter, “The golden key is just that old dusty creed?” I know. The Creed is a bore if you don’t know what it is. I found that my love for the Apostles’ Creed transformed when I stopped thinking of it as a set of abstract principles and dry doctrinal statements. Instead, I see the Creed as a story. It’s the bones of the essential story of what the Triune God has done, is doing and will do in the creation and redemption of the world.
 
One core story is the key that unlocks the whole story. The Creed is the story that pulses with energy. It leads us to meet Jesus, the real Jesus of history, the one Redeemer and Lord of all. 
 
This fall, we’ll be exploring this golden key in worship each week starting August 11. Don’t miss even one episode in the story that explains it all!
 
Should Boys See The Lion King?
 
You bet! As I sat in the theatre with a four-year-old grandson nestled on my lap, I was struck anew by the positive power in this story of Simba the lion cub who learned to be king. In a world too often full of male-bashing, The Lion King offers a rousing view of what makes a strong man and why he’s so needed.  
 
Psychologists have identified essential tasks of fruitful manhood. They include being a warrior, a king, a lover and a sage. Simba learns that a realm only flourishes when the king serves a higher good than himself. He learns from his father that a king’s job is not to take but to protect, to give and to serve the realm.  
 
We know this is true whether the realm is a whole country or just a single life. A man is only a fruitful man when he knows he exists for a higher good than himself. When Simba grasps this, it makes him bold to be a warrior willing to defend his people and a husband willing to commit to his wife. He also learns to trust the sage baboon, to lean on the wise one as he seeks wisdom. The Pride Lands are only saved, the lions only rallied, when Simba takes up this servant leadership with great courage and willingness to risk. 
 
Does the movie have all the Christian worldview I would like? Of course not. But by all means, every boy (and Dad) needs to see this lushly illustrated tale of what makes for genuine, life-giving manhood.
 
Worship Director Update
 
With the untimely departure of Steve Newman, we’re so thankful Nancy Spiller has agreed to postpone her plans and serve as Interim Director of Contemporary Worship through December.  Thanks Nancy! Meanwhile, the search revives and we ask for your prayers.
 
I love being your pastor.
 

Damnable Lies and Who Tells Them

You are a terrorist. You are plotting the overthrow of the government. If the coup had succeeded, you would have been named head of the CIA.
 
These are some of the outrageous accusations the Rev. Dr. Andrew Brunson faced in his trial in Turkey. This EPC pastor who had served the people of Turkey for more than two decades was jailed for two years and on trial for his life: as an enemy of the state, as the mastermind of a planned rebel coup. 
 
The charges were ridiculous, of course. But they nearly stuck. Who tells such lies? The paid witnesses. The government officials seeking political capital. Paranoid politicians. But behind every outrageous lie, there is another power. Our Enemy. The one Jesus prayed about in the Lord’s Prayer: deliver us from the evil one. There are spiritual forces arrayed against truth, against love, against fidelity, against flourishing.
 
Here in America, the Turkish lies look silly. That’s only because we weren’t actually immersed in the daily web of deceit. Here, the lies the evil one tells us seem more reasonable. They are so well embraced that we accept them. They get told by the nicest, most attractive people. Even though they are just as outrageous and just as destructive. Such as:
 
You belong to no one but yourself. It’s your life. It’s your choice. You must hate women, since you’d restrict abortion laws. You must be a bigot since you believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Gender, after all, is but a social construct. Your children need to experience it all in order to succeed. Games are more important than spiritual formation if you don’t want your kids to be weird. All that matters is the bottom line. Money is power. Purchases will soothe me; experiences will fulfill me. You only have one life to live, and it’s yours to live. No one has the right to tell me anything.
 
Yes, chances are you’ve spoken some of those lines, or been told them, or thought them. They are all lies, woven with half-truths. They undo us every day. 
 
Andrew Brunson found his love and loyalty for Jesus tested to the depths in 700 days of lonely imprisonment. He discovered, in the pit of forsakenness, that love for Jesus was at the core of his being. The ultimate reality. And that Jesus was not only worthy of his love, but worth his suffering. 
 
That truth cut through the despair in the web of lies in Turkey. It still cuts through the fog of illusions in our culture.
 
At FPC, we are a truth-telling, love-inspiring, idol-smashing, mission-propelling community. We’re proud that Andrew Brunson is part of our denomination. He is a faithful prophet with a word for us. Wherever you go this summer, dear ones, stay close to the one who is Truth. Expose the damnable lies you get told, and the damnable lies your own heart generates. Stay close to each other, because we can’t do this alone. May you refresh and return as together we go deeper in Christ the way, the truth and the life and further into the world with his shimmering, loving truth.
 
 

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?
 
By Gerrit Dawson
Senior 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

__________________________________________________

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. 

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

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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).

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.