Day Four: “Make every effort”

Ephesians 4:2-6 (NIV) – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

“[Paul is] urging them to mount guard over that unity as one would set a troop of soldiers to guard a city or treasury. There are all sorts of things which can attack and spoil that unity, and these must be resisted, whatever they are and wherever they occur… Unless we are working to maintain, defend, and develop the unity we already enjoy, and to overcome, demolish and put behind us the disunity we still find ourselves in, we can scarcely claim to be following Paul’s teaching.” [Wright, Nicholas T. Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters. 2004, London and Louisville, KY]

We can follow the teaching of Paul in God’s word because Jesus Himself was completely humble and gentle, and He came to us in the greatest of love. We can live this way because the Spirit Himself has given us unity with one another.

Let’s pray for our relationships and unity with other Christians, His church. As you pray, and then as you live, be open to the Spirit as He helps you to see how, where, and when He is asking you to make every effort, to defend, and to develop this unity of the Spirit that we already enjoy.


Day Three: “Where is He?”

Isaiah 63:8-12a,15-16 (NIV)

“He said, ‘Surely they are my people,
children who will be true to me’;
and so he became their Savior.
In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.
Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.

Then his people recalled the days of old,
the days of Moses and his people-
where is he who brought them through the sea,
with the shepherd of his flock?
Where is he who set
his Holy Spirit among them,
who sent his glorious arm of power…

“Look down from heaven and see,
from your lofty throne, holy and glorious.
Where are your zeal and your might?
Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us.
But you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us
or Israel acknowledge us;
you, Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.”

When [Israel] rebelled against God, things couldn’t just go on as before. God is not mocked. When a child runs into the street right in front of a car, the dad pulls his child to safety angrily… Only love cares enough to get angry and rebuke and discipline. So it is with God. If our lives grieve his Holy Spirit, he won’t support our stupidity.

Therefore, the question Isaiah asks twice in verse 11 is the question of every generation: “Where is he?”… If you see yourself as you are – helpless, guilty, needing a great Ally – this becomes the question of your life. Where is he? Stop everything else until you find the answer to that question.

Other generations experienced him. Now it’s our moment. Where is he in our experience? When we go to our Father in honesty, admitting everything… when we go to our Father with that kind of trust, while we’re still a long way off…, he sees us and runs to us and embraces us and kisses us. This is God. When we go into repentance, our experience of our complex God becomes simple – steadfast love through the blood of the Lamb. [Ortlund, Raymond Jr.  Isaiah: God Saves Sinners.  Crossway Books, 2005, Wheaton, IL]

Today, if we feel far off and have grieved Him, let this be the cry of our hearts – God, “look down from heaven and see, for you, Lord are our Father, our Redeemer.” If today we feel the nearness of His Father’s delight and compassion, then let’s pray for our generation, asking God that the Spirit will lead those around us to cry out, “Where is he?” and that they will experience His steadfast love through the blood of Jesus.


Day Two: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God”

Ephesians 4:26-27,29-32 (NIV) – “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

“Paul, again quoting the Old Testament (Psalm 4:4), doesn’t say you shouldn’t be angry; anger itself is a natural human emotion, and to pretend it isn’t here is a form of lying. But he insists that you mustn’t let it lead you into sin. You must learn to tame it, to deal with it before you lie down to sleep. Otherwise you are leaving an open door and inviting the satan to come in. Everything that follows from anger – the raised voices, the shocking words, the sour taste in the room – all these must be put away…

Paul adds some comments in the more positive direction. In particular, you should behave as those on whom God’s Holy Spirit has placed God’s mark. The word Paul uses could refer to the ’seal’ or official stamp on a document or package, marking it out for a particular use or occasion. The mark indicates who it belongs to and what it’s for. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the community, and in the heart of the individual Christian, declares that we belong to God, and that we are destined for full  ‘redemption’… That is central to the Christian hope, and possession this hope gives particular shape to our present lives.” [Wright, Nicholas T.  Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters. 2004]

Let’s pray for ourselves and for our churches in light of this truth – that God has sealed us with His Spirit for the day of redemption.  Pray that we will live, then, in the Spirit, not grieving Him, but pleasing Him.  Pray that we will be kept safe and pure until the day of redemption.


Day One: “He will take great delight in you”

Zephaniah 3:14-17 (NIV)

Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

“That Almighty God should derive delight from his own creation is significant in itself.  But that the Holy One should experience ecstasy over the sinner is incomprehensible.

God breaking out in singing!

God joyful with delight!

All because of you.

The mutuality of the loving response of Redeemer and redeemed is seen in the fact that some of the same terms used in the admonition to his people now describe the response of God himself to his people (cf. vv. 14 and 17). Zion is exhorted to sing; he rejoices with singing.  Jerusalem shall rejoice; he delights over Jerusalem with joy. The whole scene depicts a grand oratorio as God and his people mutually rejoice in their love for one another.” [Robertson, O. Palmer. The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. NICOT.  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990, Grand Rapids, MI.]

Today, let us sing the song, “Singing Over Us” in response to the One who sings over us and pray that we will love and bring delight to our God as He loves and delights in us.


Day Five: Pray

James 5:13-15(NIV) – Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

This verse makes the bold claim that if we pray in faith, God will heal the person for whom we pray. The verbal roots for “sick” and “raise up” can be used for both physical and spiritual afflictions and their cures, but in the context of anointing most likely refer at least primarily to physical illnesses. “Raising up” thus refers to their getting out of bed after they are well again. The promise of healing for the sick offers a much needed corrective for those of us who have trouble praying boldly, for we fear or even assume that God will not do what we ask of him. Instead, we ought to pray boldly, believing that he is a God of power and love and that he listens to the prayers of his people. A necessary caveat, however, requires us to remember that he chooses how and when he heals, as Paul lays out clearly in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, and that complete healing never occurs in this life. In fact, every other time James uses “save”, it refers to spiritual salvation. While this passage most likely refers to physical healing, we must remember that ultimately God is more interested in eternal, spiritual life than temporal, physical health. Somewhere in our prayers we must find a balance between never expecting God to heal and requiring him to heal on demand. [Blomberg, Craig L.. James (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series Book 16) (Kindle Locations 7010-7022). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.]

We pray because He is our Father in Heaven who cares about our needs and concerns. He knows our needs so well, better than us and He listens to our prayers. Let’s go to our Father God with all of our needs with hearts trusting in His good and perfect love for us.


Day Four: Paralyzed No More

Mark 2:1-5, 10-12 (NIV) – A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Sometimes whole nations and governments engage in childish, but deadly, tit-for-tat retaliations. People who live that way tend to think that God lives that way too. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Jesus’ unexpected declaration of forgiveness sent shock waves running through the house, the village, the nation, and finally through the world. It wasn’t simply that he was committing a theological crime. The hole in his own roof was nothing compared with the hole he was tearing through an entire way of life.

We have to find ways of bringing healing and forgiveness to our communities. Forgiveness can also, of course, change individuals. It can, as in this case, go down to the hidden roots of the personality, gently healing old, long-buried, hurts. Often people think healing and forgiveness is impossible. They find God distant or uncaring. But true faith won’t be satisfied with that. This story is a picture of prayer. Don’t stay on the edge of the crowd. Dig through God’s roof and find yourself in his presence. You will get more than you bargained for. It’s not pleasant if you’re helpless on a stretcher, but you don’t have many responsibilities. Once you’ve met the living, forgiving God in Jesus, you’ll find yourself on your feet, going out into the world in the power of God’s love. [Wright, N. T.. Mark for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)(Kindle Locations 507-523)]

God sees through our deepest need to be forgiven. What paralyzes us in our lives? Jesus came to set us free. Let His Words break through today.


Day Three: He Called Her Daughter

Mark 5:25-28, 34 (NIV) – “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

For twelve years she had been ceremonially unclean, unable to worship in the temple, to some degree a social outcast, but not to the extent of those with serious skin diseases. She had heard of the power of Jesus and was among those who placed great hope in just touching Jesus and being healed (Mark 6:56). Imagine her joy as she reached out and touched His garment and experienced the healing for which she had prayed and hoped for twelve years! Jesus, sensing that “power had gone out of Him” asked the question, “Who touched My clothes?” With fear and trembling, the woman brought her admission to Him and then heard His gracious words, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” I’ve often wondered what it was that Jesus felt when the woman touched Him. I suspect that it wasn’t the loss of power in whatever effected the healing but the loss in being touched by her uncleanness. I like to think of Him as absorbing her sickness and uncleanness, for it seems to me that’s what is meant when we say that He took the sins of the world upon Himself. To touch Him is to be relieved of one’s sins and to be restored to wholeness.  [Briscoe, Stuart. The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volumes 1-35: Genesis – Revelation: Genesis – Revelation (Kindle Locations 18495-18503). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.]

This woman was tenderly restored to a whole life. Jesus called her daughter. He declares peace and healing from her afflictions not only physically but spiritually. She is known by God. Once we also lived a life apart from His presence, afflicted by our sins but in Christ, we can live in peace. How can we not worship and love Him? Spend time worshipping the Lord today.


Day Two: Healed to be Holy

John 5:5-9,14 (NLT) – “One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.

The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”

“I Have Healed You to Make You Holy”

Notice two things. At the end of verse 13, the reason Jesus walked away from the man was that there was a crowd there: “Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.” The place was filled with sick people and, no doubt those who cared for them. Had he stayed there after healing one man there would have been a tumult of miracle-seeking. This is not the main thing Jesus is after.

So notice secondly how this is confirmed in verse 14. Jesus seeks out the man in the temple and tells him the real issue in his healing. “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.’” What’s the issue? The issue is holiness mainly, not health. “I have healed you to make you holy.” Do you see this? “Sin no more. Stop sinning. My aim in healing your body is the healing of your soul. I have given you a gift. It’s free. It came first, before my command. You didn’t earn it. You weren’t good enough for it. I chose you freely. And I healed you. Now, live in this power. Let the gift of healing, the gift of my free grace, be a means to your holiness.” [John Piper. Desiring God, Healed for the Sake of Holiness]

God is after the whole of our lives. He longs for us to be whole spiritually, emotionally and physically. He came to make the wrongs right in our lives. Wholeness begins with being right with God. If there are areas in your life where you need to say “no more” to, do so today and fully embrace the wholeness God provides in Jesus Christ and in His forgiveness!


Day One: God, Our Healer

Psalm 103:1-5 (NLT)

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

There is a crucial need for a return to the vision of the God revealed in and by Jesus Christ, the tender, loving and compassionate God who raises us up and makes us whole wherever we have been cast down by a world filled with evil-whether whether we have sinned and need forgiveness, or are sick and need physical healing. Even now the kingdom of God is among us, saving and healing and destroying the kingdom of evil. In short, the nature of God as manifested visibly in Jesus Christ is love. Jesus’ compassion impelled him to reach out whenever he saw a sick person, even when it was against his own best interests. (When he cured on the Sabbath, far from proving anything, it showed many of his contemporaries that he was not the Messiah.) Jesus’ healings are not merely “signs and wonders” outside the teachings, pointing to the truth of the gospel; they are part of the very gospel message itself! To deny this is, in effect, to deny the gospel to change it from good news into good advice which lacks the power to transform us into a new creation. In short, Jesus did not heal people to prove that he was God; he healed them because he was God.  [Francis MacNutt. Healing: Silver Anniversary Edition (Kindle Locations 1027-1032). Kindle Edition.]

Let’s worship God who is our healer! He is compassionate, forgives all of our sins and heals all of our diseases. He fills our lives with good things. Today, call upon Him! He is never far away.


Day Five: Filled with Consuming Fire

Hebrews 12:28-29 – “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”

“I’ll never forget one such personal experience with God years ago when I was new to the ministry. I was praying alone before a Tuesday evening service. At that time, the church was housed in a little rundown building, and I knew we would have fewer than ten people attending that night’s prayer meeting. I had been praying that God would draw more people to the church and increase the enthusiasm of the congregation. As I prayed, the Spirit worked. He went right to my core and seemed to say, “The main problem is not the lack of people and their spiritual immaturity. You’re the one who needs to be changed first. You’re lacking in compassion for the people, and you do not love them the way I want you to. In your insecurity, you’re just trying to get through another meeting.” Talk about fire! Talk about penetration! That wasn’t easy to hear. I ended up on my face before God. I had come to ask God to help me with all of the people problems of the church, and instead his fire penetrated to my problem. When the Spirit works in our lives, he keeps us away from superficial excuses and the blame games we like to play. Fire burns away the false and leads us to the truth.”

Today pray asking the Lord come like a consuming fire, and lead you into deeper truth.