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First Thoughts Blog

Day 24, Tuesday (April 2) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Atonement and Propitiation
Day 24   Tuesday

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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).

ROMANS 3: 23-25
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
 
1 JOHN 2: 1-2
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.
 
EPHESIANS 2: 13-19
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
 
CONSIDER
Propitiate is not a word we use very often. But we actually all do it! When a husband brings home flowers after he has disappointed his wife, he’s making propitiation: turning aside anger and making peace. 
 
God has wrath against sin. Because sin destroys, diminishes, maims and kills the creation he loves. Our sin has caused incalculable harm to one another. And God takes that personally. Not because he is over-sensitive like some bully.
But because he is eternally invested in his creation. 
 
The kindling of wrath goes with making a free creation that could, and did, choose against God’s good will. The turning aside of that wrath was also part of the eternal plan of the Triune God. God planned a way to make peace without overlooking or ignoring just wrath caused by the harm of sin.
 
The eternal Son of God, Jesus, stepped into the world ultimately to bear wrath against sin on the cross, and in so doing to make an atonement, an at-one-ment, between God and humanity. He created reconciliation in himself.
 
How would you feel if God simply let Hitler, Gosnell, Stalin and Hussein get away with their harm? If there were no accounting for our evil, would the new creation seem just?
 
How can we fathom the cost of taking the accumulated just wrath against humanity’s collective sins upon one person? Only a divine person could bear it. God paid the price himself to create a future world of justice and mercy, a world that begins now in faith.

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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, Atoning Sacrifice, who interposed your precious blood between my sin and God’s holiness, wash me anew. 

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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).

ROMANS 12: 1-2
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
 
CONSIDER
Because Jesus has offered himself as a propitiating sacrifice, we need no longer make sacrifices (animal or otherwise) to attain God’s favor. Yet we are called to offer ourselves to God in grateful response. How does Paul describe the qualities of being a living sacrifice?
 
Close by praying in song these verses from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” 
 
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood. 
 
O to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee!
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave thy precious love,
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for the courts above. 
 
Robert Robinson. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. 1758.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 23, Monday (April 1) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Mediator
Day 23   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).

1 TIMOTHY 2: 5-7
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
 
HEBREWS 9: 15
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
 
CONSIDER
A mediator brings two parties together. The mediator seeks to reconcile conflict and restore harmony. Jesus as our mediator is closely related to his being the new covenant. He “mediates” this covenant, this new agreement, because he has paid the ransom for our sins so that the way is clear for us to be reconnected to the Father. 
 
Often people in conflict cannot even speak directly to one another. They speak through a mediator. Jesus our Mediator came to speak the Father’s words and will to us. And he speaks back to his Father our need, our longing and our faith. He offers God to us and offers us to God. We meet through the one true Mediator.
 
Though sin has been atoned through Christ’s reconciling work, we will yet always meet the Father through the mediator. For Jesus remains fully God and fully human into eternity. He holds God and humanity together in himself forever.
 
As you pray today, remember that you do so because Jesus takes our feeble prayers and makes them his own, cleansing them, and offering them to the Father who delights to answer his Son.

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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, true Mediator, ever bridge the chasm between eternal God and my stained, frail humanity.  

__________________________________________________

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).

HEBREWS 12: 22-25
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 
 
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.
 
CONSIDER
This vision in Hebrews points us to the great day of Judgment and Reconciliation when God calls this life in this world to a halt and makes all things new. Our survival of that day is based on the mediating work of Jesus. And we will discover that it is much, much more than getting through divine scrutiny. It will be a day of high beauty and inexpressible joy as we join angelic beings in glorifying the God who saves. The final warning reminds us that joy is serious business. We dare not refuse the terms of the Mediator.  
 
Close in prayer this day, accepting freshly the terms of peace he has established for us! Explore this assurance by singing these verses from Wesley’s great hymn:
 
Arise, my soul, arise, shake off your guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my Surety stands, 
My name is written on his hands.
 
He ever lives above, for me to intercede,
His all redeeming love, his precious blood to plead:
His blood atoned for every race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
 
Five bleeding wounds he bears, received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me.
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
 
My God is reconciled; his pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for his child, I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh, 
And “Father, Abba, Father!” cry.
 
Charles Wesley. Arise, My Soul, Arise. 1742.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 22, Sunday (March 31) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. Past, present and future. Jesus who came to us in flesh and blood died once for all upon the cross to atone for our sins. Jesus who died is now, right now, risen and ascended. He actively mediates between the Father and us, Christ’s brothers and sisters. He applies the work he accomplished in the past to us in the present.
 
This Jesus who died once and lives now is not finished with this world. He will come again. He will set all things right. He will complete in us the process of becoming conformed to his image.
 
This week we study names of Jesus related to his present ministry among us that is based on what he has accomplished in the past and what we anticipate he will do in the future. We will see how active Jesus is among us today.
 
So our mosaic depicts the risen Jesus walking with two disciples on Easter Sunday along the Emmaus Road. It all looks so normal! Traveling companions on the way from one place to another. Jesus addressing people amidst ordinary life. But Luke tells us that something extraordinary was happening: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24: 27). 
 
Don’t you wish you were part of that Bible study? Well, you are! By his Holy Spirit through his church, Jesus still teaches us who he is as his Word is read and interpreted. He is still with us on every daily path. He still walks through the world toward Home.
 

The New Covenant 
Day 22   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).

EXODUS 24: 7-8
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
 
MARK 14: 24
And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
 
ISAIAH 42: 6-7
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
 
JEREMIAH 31: 31, 33
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”
 
LUKE 22: 20
“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” 
 
CONSIDER
A covenant is a binding agreement between people. In Scripture, a covenant expresses the LORD’s commitment to us and the response he requires. After the Exodus, the LORD gave the commandments to his people through Moses on Mt. Sinai. Their agreement to his Word was sealed through blood. Moses threw the blood on the people (!) as he declared, “This is the blood of the covenant.”
 
Jesus echoed these words in the Upper Room when he lifted the third cup of wine at the Passover meal and declared “This is my blood of the covenant.” A new deal was being made. New terms for the relationship between God and his people.
 
Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in which the LORD said of his special Servant King: “I will give you as a covenant to the people.” He also fulfilled the prophecy spoken through Jeremiah in which the LORD promised that the new covenant would be written not on tablets of stone but within the human heart. 
 
The new covenant is Jesus himself. He fulfilled the binding terms from both God’s side and our side. He kept the covenant from the depths of his heart and in all his faithful actions. So Jesus is the “place” where we meet and enter renewed relationship with the Father. If you are in Jesus, you are in the new covenant. If this is true, what would it mean to your life today?
 
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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, you are the new covenant between God and man, 
sealed in blood. In you, God and man meet, and are reconciled. 
Graft me into this promise!

__________________________________________________

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). 

HEBREWS 8: 6, 10
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
       after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, 
and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God,
       and they shall be my people.”
 
CONSIDER
The longing inside us to keep covenant with our God is evidence of the work of the Spirit in our hearts. Now we are people in conflict. For we have still the sinful, selfish nature of the old self residing next to the Spirit of the new covenant. Can you feel your longing for the day when only the new heart for God remains? Invite the Holy Spirit to work more deeply within you today. 
 
Close by praying this beautiful benediction from Hebrews 13. Pray it first for yourself, then for someone you love:
 
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
 
 

Day 21, Saturday (March 30) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

One with the Father
Day 21   Saturday

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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).

JOHN 10: 24-34
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 
 
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?”
 
CONSIDER
Jesus outrageously claimed, as a man, that he was “one” with God the Father. That means that who we see Jesus to be is what God is actually like. That means that what we see Jesus do is what God actually does in us and for us. That means there is no hidden God behind the back of Jesus. There is no secret God who will turn out to be other than who we see and hear Jesus to be.
 
What does Jesus’ oneness with the Father have to do with his declaration that he gives his sheep eternal life?
 
What does it have to do with our security that no one can snatch us out of his hand?

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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, one with the Father, you are I AM,
the one true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no other.

__________________________________________________

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 CORINTHIANS 12: 12-13, 26-27
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 
 
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 
 
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
 
CONSIDER
Jesus is one with his Father in the bonds of the Spirit. He declares that we who are joined to him are one body with him, the one who is one with the Father.
That means we are one with each other for we share the same Spirit.
 
How does this reality challenge my idea that spirituality is an individual choice?
 
What does this oneness of Christ’s people have to do with the choices I make to pursue others who belong to him? To pursue reconciliation? To love those who are harder to love? To gather wandering sheep? To make the effort to show up? To open my heart? To seek greater expression of oneness in Christ who is one with the Father?
 
Close by singing these verses from the mystical ancient hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten:”
 
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, he the source, the ending he,
Of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!
 
At his word, the worlds were framed. He commanded; it was done.
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining of the moon and the burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!
 
He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish in the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!
 
Aurelius Prudentius, AD 400, trans. John Mason Neale. Of the Father’s Love Begotten. 1854.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 20, Friday (March 29) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The True Vine
Day 20   Friday

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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).

JOHN 15: 1-11
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
 
CONSIDER
Grapevines were all over ancient Israel. Wine was a staple of life and vineyards were crucial to the life and economy of God’s people. Also, Israel herself was likened to a vineyard planted by the LORD (Isaiah 5). Across the Temple was a gilded grapevine symbolizing a special people. But the prophet declared that the people had failed to produce a harvest. They were barren of faithfulness.
 
How does this context help us understand why Jesus likened himself to a vine?
 
How is Christ’s faithfulness necessary to our faithfulness and fruitfulness?
 
How does Jesus tell us to remain, or abide, in him, the Vine?

__________________________________________________

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, True Vine to my small branch,
hold me fast today and grow your fruit through me
that the world might taste 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).

PSALM  52: 8-9
But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
 
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.
 
GALATIANS 5: 22-25
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
 
CONSIDER
The fruit of living from Jesus the Vine is a life that tastes like this Galatians passage. What tips does Psalm 52 give us for things we can do in order to live more as a fruitful vine?
 
What is the connection between living from Jesus and living for Jesus?
 
Close in prayer as you meditate on lines from this hymn, 
 
Thou true life-giving Vine, let me thy sweetness prove;
Renew my life with thine, refresh my soul with love.
Rough paths my feet have trod, since first their course began;
Feed me, thou Bread of God, help me, thou Son of Man.
 
John S. B. Monsell. I Hunger and I Thirst. 1866.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

My Cup Overflows

In well-known Psalm 23, David is so content, so overwhelmed with emotion in light of God’s provision and promised blessings that he proclaims, “My cup overflows!” Women, in some capacity or another, all yearn to feel like David in this psalm. We are all thirsty for God’s Word and God’s grace and blessings. We want to be “filled up” to the brim, to the point of overflowing! We show up with our empty cups, ready to be filled with God’s goodness and joy.
 
But often, we underestimate our ability to pour into other’s cups. We believe the lie that we can’t really contribute unless our own cup is overflowing.  Or maybe we miss opportunities to pour into others because we believe that we have nothing to offer, that our presence doesn’t really matter. Or more boldly, we don’t pour into others because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable for us, or because it means sacrificing something we don’t want to give up like our time or energy. But the truth is, on a daily basis, we can simultaneously feel “full” in some ways and “empty” in others. And so it’s possible to approach each day with an empty cup in one hand and a water pitcher in the other. 
 
Women’s ministry requires all of us. We are a complex gender, full of wants and needs, desires and dreams and emotions. We are absolutely not one size fits all. So we need all hands on deck. We need to retrain our brains to believe the truth that we do have something to offer, that our presence DOES matter. After all, God created us for a reason, giving each of us our own characteristics. And wherever he has put us, we express the gifts and strengths he’s given us. Even in our everyday lives, we have endless opportunities to be ministers of the gospel. God can use anyone (and we mean anyone!) to spread gospel truth and to be his hands and feet. We are all different, but we are all united in Christ.
 
So come thirsty. Come with an empty cup in one hand because the good news, more than anything else, is that God’s Truth is sufficient to fill us up. God is always ready and willing to pour out his grace. Come ready to drink up God’s goodness and joy.
 
But also come with a water pitcher, ready to serve his life-giving water to others. Come willing to be inconvenienced. Come willing to move into empty spaces and stir one another up in love using the gifts and talents he has instilled in you. Come willing to nurture other women in their relationship with Christ. It’s a weighty and important responsibility, but oh, what a privilege it is!    
 
We believe that God has intentionally placed every woman in this church, not only to grow our faith upward, but also to grow it outward, with one another. Our prayer is that Women’s Ministry would be a safe, honest, God-glorifying place where we can come together in study and prayer, serve one another in love, and connect in deep, meaningful ways. Our prayer is that we come together with compassion, attentiveness and grace-filled sacrifice, and then we take our water pitcher outside of the church walls, outside of Sunday morning and into the mission fields God has called us to. Our prayer is that each of us come with an empty cup in one hand and a water pitcher in the other. Let’s encourage a culture of water pourers, and may our cups overflow!
 
By Elizabeth Parker
Women's Ministry Director
 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1: 6-8).

 

Day 19, Thursday (March 28) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Way, the Truth and the Life
Day 19   Thursday

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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).

JOHN 13: 36-14: 9
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
 
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 
 
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
 
CONSIDER
On the last night before his crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples were worried that he was leaving them. They wanted to know where he was going and how they could follow him. Jesus did not give them a map, or even a list of instructions on how to reach him in heaven. Jesus assured them that he himself is both the road and the destination, both the goal and the plan. He is all, and we must be in him, not just knowing about him. 
 
In the 4th century, Augustine preached, “Christ-God is the country where we go, Christ-man is the way by which we go.” Jesus the man provided the way that we might go to live in and with Christ Jesus our God. 
 
What is the hard news in Jesus being the exclusive way to the Father?
 
What is the good news in Jesus being the way? 
 
What does it mean for your life that Jesus himself is the truth about God, life, the world and everything?

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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, Sure Way and Only Truth,
lead me forth in your truth and teach me, 
for apart from you I have no good. 

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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).

PSALM 16: 1-2, 11
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
 
CONSIDER
Recall times in your life when you “sought your own truth” apart from God. What were the effects of that?
 
Recall times when you “sought fullness of joy” apart from Christ. Describe the disappointment in such independent quests. Consider how the presence of the Triune God actually does fulfill us. What activities enhance the experiences of that presence?
 
Close by singing three verses from this hymn based on John 14: 7. The tune is the same as “Rejoice, the Lord Is King.”
 
You are the Way to God, Your blood our ransom paid;
In you we face our Judge and Maker unafraid.
Before the throne absolved we stand,
Your love has met your law’s demand.
 
You are the living Truth! All wisdom dwells in you,
The Source of every skill, the one eternal True!
O great I AM! In you we rest, 
Sure answer to our every quest.
 
You only are true Life! To know you is to live
The more abundant life that earth can never give.
O risen Lord! We live in you
In us each day your life renew!
 
Edith Margaret Clarkson. We Come, O Christ, to You. 1946.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Long Live God!

I had only recently come awake to Christ. My heart was full of praise. I  was eager to enter the drama of his saving acts. Around that time, Godspell became a hit Broadway musical. I had the soundtrack and one Easter Sunday, my father took me to see a visiting production. The crucifixion scene against a chain link fence was simple, searing and sad: 
    “O God, I’m dying,” sang Jesus.
    “O God, you’re dying,” echoed the disciples.
    “O God, I’m dead,” and Jesus sang no more.
    “O God, you’re dead,” mourned the disciples.
 
Then quietly, the music turned. All our hopes rode on a simple, wistful call:
    “Long live God. Long live God.”
 
Then, as resurrection dawned on the disciples, the band struck up and the soft wish became jubilant proclamation, “Long live God!” Jesus was alive. The show ended by taking us all the way back to the beginning lyric, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” 
 
Back then, there wasn’t much music that sang of Jesus in a style similar to songs I liked on the radio. Godspell filled an important gap. It brought me deep in the story of Jesus. Though several decades have passed, this musical still works to bring us Jesus exuberantly, creatively and winsomely. This April 5-7, it will be a great prelude to Easter. 
 
As ever, we will enter the story of Holy Week through a joyful Palm Sunday service, followed by egg hunts, a crawfish boil and tons of games and fellowship. The mood turns contemplative on Thursday with the Service of Shadows. Once again, we will enter the passion narrative through the voices of our great actors. This year, for the first time, we will mark Holy Saturday with a simple service called “The King Sleeps.” We will read and pray as we consider the prayers at hand for Jesus as he underwent death. Such entry into the sorrow releases great joy on Easter Sunday. We gather in the terraced garden for the sunrise service and then two festive services in the Sanctuary. These are the days when we draw closest to Christ Jesus as we join ourselves to his story. See you at the House! And know that especially in these holy days, I love being your pastor,
 
Gerrit

 

Day 18, Wednesday (March 27) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Resurrection and the Life
Day 18   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).

JOHN 11: 17-27
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
 
CONSIDER
How would you define resurrection?
 
In what way is Jesus himself the resurrection?
 
How does Christ’s resurrection affect our future resurrection?
 
Our present spiritual resurrection?
 
In what areas of your life do you desire to see resurrection?
 
What does the hope of future, embodied resurrection do for your daily life now?

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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, Resurrection and the Life, 
you wept over Lazarus as a man yet raised him as God; 
so by such tender mercy raise me to life in you.

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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).

ROMANS 6: 8-11, 13A
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 
 
Do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.
 
CONSIDER
Paul considered that the literal events of Jesus’ death and resurrection have spiritual effects in us right now. 
 
Based on the hope that we will live in Christ, how are we to live right now? If you’ve ever had to leave home for work, you know it’s important to “present” yourself so your boss and coworkers know you are there and ready to go. Every day, we have to “show up” to our work as those who are in Christ by making a choice about who our boss is. By presenting ourselves either to the old life of sin or the new master, Jesus the resurrection. 
 
In what areas particularly do you feel led to renew your choice to be dead to sin and alive to God?
 
Will you claim the resurrection power of Jesus today for victory?
 
Close by singing these verses from Charles Wesley’s famous Easter hymn,
 
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise. Alleluia!
 
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! 
 
Charles Wesley. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today. 1708.
 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 17, Tuesday (March 26) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Good Shepherd and the Door
Day 17   Tuesday

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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).

PSALM 23: 1-3
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. 
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
 
JOHN 10: 7-15
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
 
CONSIDER
If Jesus is the door, where does entering through him lead?
 
What can happen if you try to get in some place without using the door?
 
Go back through the three verses from Psalm 23 and describe how Jesus fulfills each of the shepherding functions.
 
In John 10, what qualities of being a good shepherd does Jesus give?
 
What does it mean to you that Jesus your shepherd knows your name?

__________________________________________________

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, Shepherd of the Sheep, call me by name and tell me again that I am your own. Lead me through the Door of life. 

__________________________________________________

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 2: 24-25
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
 
MATTHEW 7: 12-13
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.   
 
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
 
CONSIDER
Recall times when you felt as if you were straying like a lost sheep. Recall how Jesus your Shepherd brought you home. From what far pastures might you need to return today?
 
The paths of sheep on hillsides are quite narrow: describe a narrow way you are called to walk amidst the broad ways of this present culture.
 
Close by singing these two verses from the hymn:
 
Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care;
In thy pleasant pastures feeds us, for our use thy folds prepare:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, thou has bought us, thine we are.
 
We are thine, do thou befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, hear, O hear us when we pray.
 
Dorothy Ann Thrupp. Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us. 1836.
 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN