Easter: The Promise of Future Resurrection

Happy Easter! He is risen!

2000ish years ago, He who was in the form of God took the form of man, the form of a servant, and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8) He was despised and rejected, pierced for our transgressions, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)

I’ve written about the crucifixion before in a few different posts before, so check them out if you like: Encountering the Crucifixion and Incarnation: The Humility of Jesus.

Today I want to talk about the rest of the story, the resurrection, the greatest event in history, upon which the entirety of the gospel hangs. This post will be longer than usual, but this is a subject that deserves a bit of in-depth study. So welcome to Easter Bible Study with Caitlyn!

Future Resurrection in Scripture

Growing up, even though I grew up in the church, I didn’t have much understanding about the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. We make such a big deal out of the cross–wasn’t that the point? Jesus died in our place so that our sins could be forgiven and we could go to heaven, and that’s the gospel, right? And the resurrection was… a bonus confirmation to prove to the world that Jesus was God, a happy ending like icing on a cake. Talking about “the hope of Easter” never quite made sense to me, because no one ever actually explained to me what this hope was, as differentiated from the hope of the cross. (Ironically, the Veggie Tales line “He died for us to give us life, and to give us hope, He rose” came closest, because at least it acknowledged a difference between the cross and the resurrection.)

The more I study the Bible, though, the more I see a far bigger picture than that. Here’s what Paul said about the resurrection:

  • Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)

Paul isn’t arguing that God is capable of bringing dead people back to life. The believers who denied the “resurrection of the dead” didn’t have a problem with that. Jesus had raised many people during His ministry, and even the Old Testament has a few examples. (1 Kings 17:17-22; 2 Kings 4:32-35; 2 Kings 13:20, 21) Individuals without a pulse getting back up and continuing to live their lives was rare but not unheard of.

The issue at stake was a future, mass resurrection. This is the idea that when Jesus returns, believers will be raised and given new resurrected bodies that will live forever. Paul ties Jesus’ resurrection directly to that future resurrection of the dead, and argues that you can’t have one without the other.

It probably won’t look exactly like this.

Somehow, I think we’ve lost sight of this. I don’t know how typical my experience is, but I don’t think I heard a single teaching or sermon on the future resurrection until I moved to Kansas City six years ago, in my early 20s. That was when I started putting the pieces together and finally saw what had been right in front of me the whole time.

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them bodies. (Genesis 2:7) This is huge. The original, ideal state was human beings with sinless spirits living in immortal bodies. Somehow (thanks, Platonic philosophy and Greek dualism) we’ve gotten the idea that our bodies are a prison for our spirits, and in an ideal world we would be free of such physical restraints. I know I used to think like that. However, that’s not the picture in the Bible. God really likes matter. He likes tangible material. His original ideal was for us to have bodies to live in, and in the resurrection, we will again have ideal, glorified, immortal bodies.

The theme of the future resurrection of the dead appears all over Scripture. It first appears in glimpses in the Old Testament:

  • And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
  • For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25-26)
  • Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! …the earth will give birth to the dead. (Isaiah 26:19)
  • You…will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. (Psalm 71:20)

The resurrection of the dead was central to the apostles’ teaching. Paul made it one of his key points in Athens (Acts 17:32) and later said it was the reason he was on trial before the Jewish council (Acts 23:6). The author of Hebrews even listed it with the “elementary” teachings of the faith. (Hebrews 6:12)

Then also, we have this really fascinating thread running throughout Scripture calling Jesus the “firstborn of the dead” and other similar phrases.

  • …to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
  • …He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead… (Colossians 1:18)
  • …Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead… (Revelation 1:5)
  • that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead… (Acts 22:23)
  • Christ the firstfruits… (1 Corinthians 15:23)

So in Jesus’ resurrection at Easter, He became the first of something BIG that will affect all who believe in Him: a future, mass resurrection that is a central part of the hope of the gospel.

What Will Our Bodies Be Like?

So when will this happen? What will it be like?

I don’t promise it will look like this.

The Bible states super clearly that the resurrection of the dead happens when Jesus appears. That’s when we will receive our resurrected, incorruptible, eternal bodies. These bodies will be in many ways like Jesus’ own resurrected body.

  • When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
  • For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5)
  • Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49)
  • But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body… (Philippians 3:20-21)
  • Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him… (1 John 3:2)

Based on these verses, I think we can get a hint of what our future bodies will be like by looking at Jesus’ resurrected body at Easter! Apparently, He could appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31, 36-37; John 20:19), and He still had His crucifixion scars, at least from the nails and spear (Luke 24:40, John 20:27). People didn’t necessarily recognise Him right away (John 20:14, John 21:4), but at a second glance, He clearly looked like Himself. He even ate with His disciples. (Luke 24:41-43) I think some of His glory was still veiled during that time before His ascension, because when John saw Jesus at Patmos he saw His face shining like the sun. (Revelation 1:16)

1 Corinthians 15 is a goldmine of information about the future resurrection and our resurrected bodies. It describes our future bodies as imperishable, and says that they will be glorious and powerful, while our natural bodies now are dishonourable and weak by comparison.

  • So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishableIt is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in powerIt is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

In his next letter, Paul says that our current natural body is like a tent, and we are groaning with longing to put on our future, immortal body, which is like a house by comparison. He even says that compared to having that future body, being without it is like being naked.

  • For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)

“For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling…” 1 Cor 5:2

Different Kinds of Glory

1 Corinthians 15 also talks about different kinds of glory for different bodies.

  • And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:7-42)

This passage isn’t making the straightforward binary comparison of verses 42 and 43 (perishable/imperishable, dishonour/glory, weakness/power). This is comparing several different things within a series (humans/animals/birds/fish, sun/moon/stars). I believe this is saying that each believer will have a different kind of glory on our resurrected bodies.

The sun/moon/stars analogy seems especially apt, because Daniel says that the wise will “shine like the brightness of the sky above… like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3) and Jesus says that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:43) I really think we’re supposed to understand something here about the glory we will have in our resurrected bodies, especially since we know that Jesus’ resurrected body shines like the sun (Revelation 1:16).

“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” 1 Cor 15:41-42

The idea of differing glory makes perfect sense when we compare it to everything Jesus said in the gospels about eternal rewards, and also what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:

  • For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straweach one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

All of us who are saved have the foundation of Jesus Christ. Period. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Salvation is 100% dependent on Jesus and 0% on our works. (John 6:63) However, in our lives, we have the opportunity to “build” on the foundation by our works. These works might be valuable like gold, silver, and precious stones, or they might be worthless like wood, hay, and straw. Serving God and others, making choices in my heart to love Him–these are worthy works. Anything I do for the sake of my own flesh is worthless. On that Day, God will judge our works by fire, which doesn’t mean punish us or burn us up, but He will evaluate our lives and test our works to reveal what was worthy of reward. Some will have more reward than others–the apostle Paul will definitely get more reward than someone who loved Jesus but mostly lived for their own comfort. That guy will still be saved, but he will suffer the loss of what could have been his reward.

Over the next two chapters following this passage, Paul continues to paint the same picture:

  • For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (1 Corinthians 4:18, 5:10; compare Romans 8:18-24)

Thinking about eternal rewards and the tangible reality of my future resurrected body really impacts me on a daily basis. It puts a real sober fear of the Lord into how I make decisions and choose to respond to circumstances. Choosing humility, trust, or forgiveness has eternal implications–real consequences that I will live with forever. I know that Jesus sees my heart and He is so moved, and those things are like “gold, silver, and precious stones” that will endure forever and have a literal impact on the kind of glory on my resurrected body forever.

Resurrection Timeline

So when exactly does all of this happen? I won’t take the time to make a case for every single detail I’m about to allude to, but I will give some broad context and some points for further study if you’re interested. As I said above and as Scripture makes abundantly clear, the resurrection happens when Jesus returns. This event coincides with what is often called the “rapture”. Jesus will return, bringing with Him the souls of the dead who have been in heaven, and restore them to their bodies, which will be resurrected and transformed. Immediately afterwards, the “rapture” will happen, when believers who are alive on earth at that time will be “caught up” and changed.

It probably won’t look exactly like this, either.

Paul most clearly lays out this picture in two passages:

  • For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)
  • Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

This event is what Revelation calls the “first resurrection” (Revelation 20:4-6). It is for believers only and happens when Jesus comes back, at the beginning of His thousand year reign on the earth, which is often known as the Millennium. There is a second resurrection after the Millennium, when all the rest of the dead are raised–all of the unbelievers from throughout history plus anyone without a resurrected body who happened to die during the Millennium. This is what is sometimes called the “Great White Throne” judgment. The unbelievers will be cast in their unglorious, immortal bodies into the lake of fire forever. (Revelation 20:11-15)

In the meanwhile, it’s important to understand that even though right now believers who have died do not yet have their resurrected bodies, they are conscious in heaven in the presence of God. This is the in-between state, between having a natural body in life as we do now and having a resurrected body as we will have forever. In between, if we die before Jesus comes back, our souls will be in heaven with God. Paul says, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) Even though being without a body in heaven with the Lord isn’t our permanent future state, it’s still WAY better than being in our current body on Earth away from the Lord, and someday when Jesus returns, at the resurrection, we get an even further upgrade–a glorious, indestructible, immortal, resurrected body that shines like the stars! (I also think our future resurrected bodies will have abilities we’ve only dreamed of or can’t even imagine; I’m very much convinced that I will be able to fly like Peter Pan in my resurrected body!)

Hope Today

In studying these passages, the most frequent application we find is the exhortation to HOPE. This is our hope!!

  • having a hope in God…that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. (Acts 24:15)
  • …We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved… (Romans 8:23-24)
  • because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:5)
  • But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleepTherefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18)
  • waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)
  • …He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

The resurrection of Jesus is the key to our future resurrection–not that we get to exist forever in some disembodied spiritual plane, but we will be physically raised from physical death and given immortal, glorious, resurrected bodies, in the image of Jesus’ own resurrected body, as different from our current bodies as a palace is from a tent or an oak tree is from an acorn. This is the future “salvation” the Bible refers to. Our souls have already been saved by the blood of Jesus, but our bodies themselves will one day be fully saved from every effect of sin and death.

One day soon… when the trumpet sounds and the morning dawns…

I think of it when I see the effects of sin and disease ravage bodies. I even think of it often when I get a toothache or a strained muscle– this body is only temporary. I only have to put up with it for another 60 years or so max.

I think of it when I think of those I love who have died. My aunt, my grandma, my grandpa, and several of my friends who have passed away are not gone from their bodies forever. I remember standing at gravesides watching bodies being lowered into the earth, thinking, “This is not the end. That dirt will quake and split and their bodies will rise.”

This is the hope of Easter. It is so far beyond even the event of Jesus’ own resurrection 2000 years ago. That event is the promise for us of the spectacular inheritance God has reserved for us–imperishable resurrected bodies that will reflect His own glory in tangible form forever.

~~~

Key New Testament verses and passages on our future resurrection:

  • Matthew 22:23-33
  • Mark 12:18-27
  • Luke 14:14, 20:27-40
  • John 5:28-29, 6:39-54, 11:24-26
  • Acts 4:2, 17:32, 22:23, 23:6, 24:15
  • Romans 6:5, 8:11-30
  • 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, 6:14, 15:12-58
  • 2 Corinthians 4:14-5:10
  • Philippians 3:10-11, 20-21
  • Colossians 1:18, 3:4
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • 2 Timothy 2:18
  • Hebrews 6:1-2
  • 1 Peter 1:3-7
  • 1 John 3:2
  • Revelation 1:5; 20:4-6, 11-15
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What I’m Praying: Dancing Justice

Continuing my What I’m Praying series, here’s something that’s been on my heart for a few years now, and came to a head again last Friday. It’s something I talk about with increasing frequency on my social media, but rarely if ever on Fragrance Arise, mostly because my thoughts and feelings are still so raw, and it’s difficult to get them into a form that fits the mission of this blog. Also, I think, there’s fear of being perceived as “stirring the pot”, as I’ve been accused of trying to do–i.e. stir up trouble and division that hurts more than it helps.

I’m talking about justice issues. Specifically, right now, racial justice issues.

This past week, Stephon Clark was shot 20 times by police in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento. He was unarmed. He was scared. There is currently an ongoing investigation and several outstanding questions as to how the police handled the encounter. They were looking for someone breaking windows in the neighbourhood, and even assuming Stephon was that guy, he did not deserve to die. And yes, he was black.

I don’t have all the answers, but that should never have gone down the way it did. There was no reason for him to end up dead.

This post is mostly not about Stephon Clark. As grieved as I was over the injustice of his death, a more close-to-home grief arose when I witnessed the reactions of some of my white brothers and sisters in Christ. We were quick to defend the police and slow to mourn the loss of life. We were quick to deny racism had any role, systemic or specific, and we were slow to listen to the stories of the black people who had the courage to jump into those conversations and share their experiences and perspectives. We were all too okay with what had happened. And I’ve witnessed echoes of this same conversation so. many. times.

I can already hear the cries of “not all white people/Christians/police/etc!” so yes, I’ll say it here. NOT ALL.

But too many.

And too many turning a blind eye.

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

My heart aches for us as white believers, who are part of the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus on the earth, to slow down, shut up and listen, and recognise that our world is broken, centuries of brokenness have built up to create the world as it is today, and some of our brothers and sisters walk through this world differently than we do.

We need to let go and listen.

Just.

Listen.

I’m still listening. I’m still very much in the early stages of this journey. A few years ago, I realised I had grown up in a bubble, and racism to me was mostly a thing in the history books. When I heard of black people being shot by police, and my black friends crying injustice and tragedy, I silently thought that they were overreacting, because the police are always the good guys who always deserve the benefit of the doubt.

If only.

On Friday, I found myself once again in a conversation where all of these emotions and reactions came to a head, hurtful things were said, there was way more ranting and accusing than listening, and humility and compassion seemed a million miles away.

It broke my heart.

That afternoon I was folding laundry in my room when I broke down crying. I had so much frustration and grief that I didn’t know what to do with it.

Grief for Stephon Clark and the far too many who came before him.

Grief for my friends and family, the church, who seemed to have forgotten how to listen in love.

Grief for the relationships that have been strained, brother against brother and sister against sister, because of these issues.

Grief for America and the world, where I know there will never be true shalom until Jesus comes back.

Grief for myself, my own turmoil, my poor angry heart that had lost sight of peace and joy.

“Jesus, help me,” I cried. “I don’t even know what to do with my heart right now.”

In a moment of clarity and wisdom that I wish I had more often, I knew I needed to worship. I knew I needed to declare again that God does see and hear every injustice, and His heart breaks for it, and He will not be silent forever. I needed to rise above the mess and declare the fierce love and justice of King Jesus. I put on a youtube playlist that I created specifically for processing these kinds of emotions (many of the songs were suggestions from friends trying to work through the same things).

And then I danced. I danced every emotion I was having. I danced frustration, anger, fear…and I danced faith, confidence, and hope. I danced through that playlist until I could hardly breathe. Alone in my bedroom, I declared the bleeding love of God, the fire in His eyes, and His fierce promise to establish swift, perfect justice forever. As I danced, my body became a prophecy and a prayer and a weapon.

Jesus sees. He hears. He will not forget. He will make all the wrong things right. He will restore, and He will repay.

And in the meanwhile… what if we could just listen for a while? What if we could actually listen to the stories of our brothers and sisters of colour who have LIVED this reality for generations? Sometimes those stories come out with anger, true, but what if we could put aside our defensiveness for a while and actually try to hear their hearts? And then just say “Thank you for sharing your story” without listing off our reactions and objections? And what if we did that a hundred times before we opened our mouths to share our opinions?

This is the cry of my heart. This is what I believe christlike love looks like.

And if you’re like me, caught in the storm of emotion, feeling tangled and pulled and watching the world implode into chaos around you… slow down, breathe deep, and remember what is true. Proclaim it. Pray it, sing it, shout it, dance it. He will not forget justice.

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10:14-18

~~~

Enjoy my Justice Worship playlist on Youtube.

Incarnation: The Humility of Jesus

WARNING:
This post will be long, but if you take the time to read through it and let it soak into you, I believe it will be worth it.

When we celebrate the Christmas story, there is a reality deeper than the quaint images of sheep in a stable and swaddling clothes in a manger. It’s the reality of the incarnation – that God, the Creator, the infinitely eternal Dreamer of Genesis 1, freely chose to become one of His creation. The Creator created Himself into a fragile body of flesh, and in doing so He proved Himself worthy of the highest exaltation.

To catch the wonder of this, we have to back up…. waaaay up.

HIGH

.     “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…
.        when the morning stars sang together
.         and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
.     Or who shut in the sea with doors
.         when it burst out from the womb,
.     when I made clouds its garment
.         and thick darkness its swaddling band,
.     and prescribed limits for it
.         and set bars and doors,
.     and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
.         and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
.     Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
.         and caused the dawn to know its place…?
.     Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
.        or walked in the recesses of the deep?
.     Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
.         or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?”
.                    Job 38:4-17

In Job 38, God puts Job’s life in perspective by giving him a glimpse of what it’s like to be GOD, the eternal, sovereign Creator. He remembers the day when He created the universe out of nothing. He controls all the forces of nature like a puppet master. He is sovereign over it all.

Low

Psalm 113 shows the first step in the humility of God:

.     “The LORD is high above all nations;
.         His glory is above the heavens.
.     Who is like the LORD our God,
.         Who is enthroned on high,
.     Who humbles Himself to behold
.         The things that are in heaven and in the earth?”
.                    Psalm 113:4-6 NASB

God has to humble Himself to even LOOK at the things He has created! The universe itself is so far beneath Him that it’s as if He has to bend over and squint to even see it.

But He does.

He bends down to look

.     at the universe…

.          at the Milky Way…

.               at our solar system…

.                    at Earth…

.                         at each nation…

.                              at each individual human heart.

The fact that He would even acknowledge your existence, the speck within a speck within a speck within a speck, is huge. It takes fathomless humility to even know your name.

Take three minutes and watch this video.

 

lower

Then came the incarnation. The Word made flesh. God not only looks at and interacts with Earth from His distant throne… He chose to step off His throne above the edge of the universe and become one of us.

Breakable, squishy, ugly-bags-of-mostly-water, time-locked, skin-locked, needy, temporary, finite little humanity.

In my opinion, no passage in Scripture captures this descent as well as Philippians 2:5-11.

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:5-8

It begins with Jesus in the form of God. In Greek, this word for “form” doesn’t mean appearance or shape. It means His very essence, His very nature. At His core, to His DNA, Jesus WAS God. He had equality with God; not that He was equivalent to God, but He was equal to God. From the beginning, Jesus = God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
John 1:1-3

Yet, He didn’t choose to grasp tightly onto His status as God. He willingly let go of His position and rights as God. In the NIV, “something to be grasped” is translated “something to be used to his own advantage”. He had every right to simply rest on His own divinity, but He chose to forsake His own rights and empty Himself.

So He was born in the likeness of men… in human form. He who was in the form of God took on human form. God-nature took on human-nature. Deity became humanity. The infinite became finite.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
John 1:14

This is a staggering descent. It’s literally immeasurable. If you or I became an ant, it would be a huge downgrade, but it would be theoretically possible to measure the differences between a human and an ant. God is so completely Other that it is impossible to measure just how different He is. For God to become human is an infinite descent.

In being born, Jesus had to first be in the womb of Mary for 9 months. GOD was once the size of a grapefruit… and an apple… and a paperclip… and microscopic. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, the Son of God was conceived as a single cell.

God was once a single-celled organism. Fully God, fully human… microscopic in the womb of a young woman.

lower

Of course, the most powerful men on Earth started as only one cell. Jesus went lower even than that.

He took the form of a servant.

“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”
Matthew 20:28

He could have come as a great human king, and even that would have been infinitely beneath Him! Instead, He chose to be born in the most humble of ways– to a poor couple from a disreputable town, largely uncelebrated in a stable, then worked as an unassuming carpenter until He was released into ministry… when He set the example by washing His disciples’ feet.

.     “For he grew up before him like a young plant,
.         and like a root out of dry ground;
.     he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
.         and no beauty that we should desire him.
.                   Isaiah 53:2

But then…

lowest.

He came lower still.

He became obedient to the point of death.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42

The Author of life… died. More than that, He didn’t peacefully pass away quietly, but He was executed in the most gruesome form of torture ever devised.

The Author of life, clothed in light, who from the dawn of creation has had ceaseless adoration rising around His throne…

…died on a tree, naked, with blood and spit dripping down His body, with angry insults and blasphemies clamouring around Him.

.     He was despised and rejected by men,
.         a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
.     and as one from whom men hide their faces
.         he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
.     Surely he has borne our griefs
.         and carried our sorrows;
.     yet we esteemed him stricken,
.         smitten by God, and afflicted.
.                   Isaiah 53:3-4

Despised and rejected.

Despised by the ones He knew and loved so deeply.

Rejected by the very ones He came so infinitely low to rescue.

This is the crux of the incarnation. This is Jesus, the King of Glory, at His lowest.

The ultimate, deepest humility.

BUT.

H I G H E S T

Philippians 2 turns a sharp 180° on one word–

“THEREFORE.”

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

As quickly as Jesus came so low, He shoots up again to be “highly exalted”. There’s something unique about this exaltation, though. It’s not just the glory He had with the Father before the incarnation; this is exaltation as a human. This is the promise of His future exaltation as the Son of David, the prophesied Davidic King of the earth. One Day (capitalisation intended) He will be publicly and fully recognised as the sovereign authority of the planet, when He returns and establishes His Kingdom from Jerusalem.

Don’t miss this– the Davidic King has to be actually human. Jesus didn’t just temporarily put on a human costume and shed it when He ascended. He became permanently, irrevocably human forever. In heaven now, He has a glorified human body, similar to the glorified human bodies believers will have one day. When He sits on the throne in Jerusalem forever, He will do so as a human King: a literal, physical descendent of David.

What stunning humility.

To me, the most fascinating part of this Philippians 2 passage is in the THEREFORE. He is exalted because He was obedient to the point of death. His extravagant humility which led Him all the way to the cross is directly why He is worthy to rule as King.

This THEREFORE is all over Scripture.

.     “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
.         and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
.     because he poured out his soul to death
.         and was numbered with the transgressors…”
.                   Isaiah 53:12

.     “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…”
.                   Revelation 5:9

He is worthy to open the scroll, release the plans of God, and rule the earth because He was slain.

Because of His great humility, He has proven His worthiness.

This is a King we can fully trust– the one who came so low for us. He has proven His love.

This is how we can trust that He won’t be a cruel or selfish or distant dictator. He has withstood every test and temptation. He has proven His love, humility, and commitment to us by His birth, life, and death. And God has vindicated and affirmed Him by His resurrection.

When we look at the baby in a manger, we can see the God who came so, so low to demonstrate His love by taking on flesh and dying on a tree, and the coming King who proved His trustworthiness to rule.

To me, that is breathtakingly beautiful.

God, You became a man
You took on flesh
You’re so beautiful

“One Found Worthy” by Justin Rizzo

What I’m Reading: Jesus: The Seven Wonders of HIStory

It’s been a few weeks, but I’m super excited to share another installment of What I’m Reading with you. The past couple weeks, I’ve been reading a book called Jesus: The Seven Wonders of HIStory by David Pawson. I kind of found it by accident – I was doing research for a story on Mary of Bethany that I started five years ago and have recently decided to try my hand at again, and I came across an old note I had written to myself that said “look up what David Pawson says about Jesus being crucified on Wednesday.” Most likely, one of my IHOPU teachers had referenced this theory and attributed it to Pawson (who I had already heard of and read books by for other classes), and some 3-5 years later I was finally making good on my intention to research it more. In my googling, I quickly found this book and read several passages from it in the Amazon preview, but I liked it so much I quickly decided to drop the $7.99 to get it in Kindle and start reading it immediately. Not only did it provide several very helpful historical tidbits for my writing, but it was so refreshing to my heart to just read again about the meaning of the gospel.

David Pawson’s style reminds me of a combination of C. S. Lewis and John Piper (even if there are a few aspects of theology on which he would probably differ with both of those esteemed gentlemen). This particular book came about in a very interesting way – it was actually first taught as a ten-part series in a special seminar at IHOPKC (the totality of which was 15 sessions) in May 2011! The videos are still available online at IHOPKC.org, DavidPawson.org, and YouTube. I haven’t watched them yet, but I’d very much like to. (Maybe I’ll save the mp3s for my next road trip.) It was a special treat to realise that this book was developed from the transcript of a series taught to my own school and community in a room I’ve worshipped in hundreds of times. I even found my friend Erica’s name in the introduction being honoured as the lead transcriptionist!

All that aside, I was enormously blessed by reading this book. Pawson addresses seven theological realities of Jesus’ story (birth, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, return, judgment), explores them biblically, and captivates his audience with their implications. This book is richly theological but also enticingly conversational.

I’ll share one quote I read today in the chapter on Ascension that wasn’t fully a new thought, but I hadn’t ever heard it phrased quite like this before:

Never forget there is now – there was – a human being in charge of the universe. He had come down, adopted our human nature permanently, and went back to heaven as a man…there is now a man in the godhead. Jesus has taken our human nature into the godhead. God is different—he was not like this before but now in the godhead itself there is one person who is a human being like us and he will remain that human being forever. When he comes back you will see a human being; that is the Son of God, the eternal Son of God.

I love that Jesus is so, so real… I love that everything the Bible says about Him is true and has real, game-changing implications for my life and my relationship with Him. I’m so grateful for men like David Pawson who have spent decades learning and loving the Word of God and the person of Jesus and are gifted in catching others up with them in wide-eyed awe at who He is.

LIVE Worship Video from The Prayer Room – “Beautiful”

The past few months, there’s been a trend of worship leaders at The Prayer Room making a Facebook Live video as they play. I was super nervous at first, but I finally did a few myself. (If you’re my Facebook friend, feel free to look them up!) One day we hope to be able to stream all our prayer room hours on our website, but in the meantime, Facebook Live is a really fun way to share a glimpse into the atmosphere of prayer and worship we’re cultivating.

I’d like to share a video with you, but I need to tell you a little bit about it first.

This video has a special place in my heart because the song I’m playing, “Beautiful” by Sam Lane, was introduced to me by Ted Dekker. He used the chorus of it in his book Green, the fourth book released in the Circle Series. In this scene, the spiritual community called The Circle is ceremonially reenacting our “Great Wedding” with Elyon — God.

Six maidens in white faced Thomas and Chelise on their knees and sang the Great Wedding’s song. Their sweet, yearning voices filled the valley as they cried the refrain in melodic unison, faces bright with an eager desperation.

You are beautiful… so Beautiful… Beautiful… Beautiful…

…And in many ways they were all perfectly beautiful as Elyon was beautiful. Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful.

-Green, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson 2009

Shortly before Green was released in 2009, I attended a Ted Dekker fan event near Nashville at which Ted went all out to bring us into the world of his stories. He gave us an exclusive cd which included the original recording of the song (you can find it on youtube) as well as a message from himself describing his heart for Green and this song. In Ted’s own words:

“I have to say that this song has always exemplified the heart of the Circle Series, of God’s creation calling out to Him, ‘You are beautiful,’ but also God, Elyon, saying to his creation ‘You are beautiful’–the Lover and the Beloved crying to each other, singing to each other, ‘You are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.’ When I first heard this song many years ago, you know, it brought me to tears. It was an incredible touching experience, where I thought, ‘This is what it’s really all about.’ In the end, everything distills down to this moment, this song, a song like this. And I knew I had to write about it…

“Really, at the heart of this whole series is this song, ‘You are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.’… think of the people on the edge of the lake singing this song to Elyon over and over and over again… It’s all about this yearning that we have to be reunited once again–on the lake, on the shores of the lake, in the bowels of the lake, deep in the lake–to go back and be with God, with Elyon (in this story), in the same way we once were. It’s an irresistible calling to us. My hope and prayer is that this song would work its way into your spirit.”

-Ted Dekker, The Gathering 2009 cd

This is what it’s all about. This is actually my third time this week blogging about the beauty of Jesus, and I didn’t even plan it that way. The purpose of all existence is anchored in the beauty of Jesus. He is so deserving of all of our obsession and adoration, and this is our truest and deepest life’s calling–to sing this song to Him and to hear Him singing back to us. To love and to be loved.

In this recording, in between choruses of the song, I also started singing spontaneously some scriptural phrases from Song of Solomon and other passages about His beauty to us and our beauty to Him. Below you can listen to the song on Youtube (it’s unlisted, so you won’t find it if you try searching Youtube itself), and below that you can read the verses that I was singing from. (The song “Beautiful” in the video is only about the first 11 minutes, and the rest of the video segues into “Jesus, You’re Beautiful” by Jon Thurlow.)

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

 

“Let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”
Song of Solomon 2:14

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.”
Song of Solomon 1:15, also 4:1

“Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me.”
Song of Solomon 6:5

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you… You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”
Song of Solomon 4:7, 9

 

You are fairer than the sons of men”
Psalm 45:2 NKJV

My beloved is white and ruddy, chief among ten thousand.”
Song of Solomon 5:10 NKJV

“In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious,”
Isaiah 4:2

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 29:2, also 69:9 NKJV

“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you;”
1 Samuel 2:2

“…so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.”
Exodus 8:10

“The LORD is my light and my salvation;”
Psalm 27:1

“even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
Psalm 39:12

What I’m Reading: “I Never Became Straight. Perhaps That Was Never God’s Goal.”

Continuing my “What I’m Reading” series, here’s something that gripped my heart this week. Right on the heels of my blog on the beauty of Jesus posted last week, I read this article by Rachel Gilson that seemes to take my points and make them raw and relevant in a very difficult situation. In this article, entitled “I Never Became Straight. Perhaps That Was Never God’s Goal.”, Rachel shares very openly about her journey into lesbian relationships and her discovery of Jesus.

What I love about Rachel’s story is the way that falling in love with Jesus was what led her to choose to follow what the Bible has to say about sexuality. It only took a straightforward reading of the Bible for her to understand that God says homosexuality is wrong, but it was a much harder wrestle to understand why. Why should love be wrong, no matter who it’s between? How could the God who is love say no to that?

Even without having the answers, Rachel was falling in love with Jesus. And because of simple love for Him, she chose obedience before understanding.

“In the end, it came down to trust. I knew Jesus was worthy of trust, because he had made a greater sacrifice. He had left the bliss, the comfort, the joy of loving and being perfectly loved, to live a sorrowful life on earth. He took the pain and shame of a criminal’s death and suffered the Father’s rejection, all so I could be welcomed. Who could be more deserving of trust?

“The obedience of faith only works when it’s rooted in a person, not a rule. Imposed on its own, a rule invites us to sit in judgment, weighing its reasonableness. But a rule flowing from relationship smoothes the way for faithful obedience…

“We can’t say no to something good unless we’re saying yes to something even better.”

This is what the beauty of Jesus does. Becoming captivated by the beauty of Jesus allows us to trust and obey Him, even when we can’t understand why. Our faith is placed in a person, not a philosophy. We see His heart, His intrinsic goodness, humility, and love, and we cannot help but conclude that He is worthy of any sacrifice.

I believe that relationship with Jesus – real, vibrant, adoring, trusting relationship with Jesus – is the only hope for transformation in the LGBTQ+ community. “Because God said so” means nothing to someone who doesn’t know, love, and trust God. Externally imposed rules without relationship will only bring despair.

But the beauty of Jesus changes everything.

People like Rachel are my heroes – people who have chosen Jesus in the face of so many reasons not to. People who have chosen to take up their cross and follow Him, because of love.

“We can’t say no to something good unless we’re saying yes to something even better.”

Many of us will never be in Rachel’s exact situation, but we will certainly be called to do things that our flesh rebels at. The same questions that Rachel wrestled with will come for us.

Is God good?

Is He trustworthy?

Is He worth it?

If we are anchored in the beauty of Jesus, we will be empowered to say YES.

Make a Prayer Book From A Dollar Store Photo Album – with GIVEAWAY!

When I first went to IHOPKC in 2012 for the One Thing Internship, one of our leaders, Vanessa, taught us all how to make a prayer book with a cheap 4″ x 6″ photo album and index cards. I’ve been using and tweaking her method for years, and I really love it!

I have mine broken up into a weekly schedule with verses that I can pray for different topics, but feel free to make this project your own in any way you think will help you pray more regularly and with better focus.

Materials:

4″ x 6″ photo album

4″ x 6″ index cards

Both of these can usually be found at Dollar Tree.

Step One: Plan Your Topics

Decide how you want to use your book and plan your topics. Do you want to have a lot of broad topics in your book and rotate through them once a week? Do you want a few specific topics you can pray every day?

When I recently reorganised my prayer book, I made a very messy list of prayer points which I grouped into categories, then crossed out and regrouped, then scheduled by day. I decided to pray for The Prayer Room every day, a small subsection of my family every day, and a handful of my ministry partners every day. I’ll also pray for a different broad topic each day.

Write a schedule grid on an index card, and slip it into the front page of your book.

Note: As an intercessory missionary, I have a lifestyle of being in the prayer room at least four hours a day, six days a week. That gives me a LOT of time to pray through my topics. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! The times I’ve used my prayer book the least was when I packed it so full of different topics that I got overwhelmed. Ask the Holy Spirit what He’s asking you to carry daily, weekly, or maybe just whenever you think of it. This should be a blessing, not a burden!!

Step Two: Write Your Topics

Each topic gets its own index card. Write the topic at the top (along with the day of the week, if you’re doing that), then underneath list some specific prayer points within that topic.

Depending on how broad your topic is, your prayer points may be very broad or narrow. For example, my “Justice” topic is very broad, and my points under that are abortion, sex trafficking, racial reconciliation, etc. But when my topic is more narrow, such as my daily topic of praying for The Prayer Room, the prayer points are much more specific and will probably change pretty often as different needs arise.

Step Three: Write Out Your Verses

This is probably my favourite part of my prayer book. Next to every prayer topic, I have a prayer from Scripture that I want to use when I pray for that topic. These verse cards are very easy to pull out and move around if I want to use that verse for a different topic one day. I even have extra verses in my book that float around between topics.

Praying the Word is sooo valuable. It launches us into partnership with God because we know we’re praying things that He already wants to do! Praying Scripture has absolutely revolutionised my prayer life, and I’m going to boldly say that your prayer book is incomplete without the verses.

Almost all of my verses are from this list HERE of apostolic prayers found in Scripture. A longer list can be found HERE.

Step Four: Assemble Your Book

Now, put the index cards in the book in an order that makes sense to you. Be sure to intersperse your verses with your topics so that you always see them together and can easily pray from Scripture.

Step Five: Add Other Pictures/Postcards

I like to put other pictures and postcards that prompt me to pray in my book. (Whoa, aliteration much?) I have prayer postcards from missionaries, postcards of places I care about, and also pictures of my family and headers from church bullitens. You can also stick in any fun pictures, quotes, or anything at all that inspires you to enjoy prayer. (I maaay have a few inspiriational Dove chocolate wrappers tucked in those photo sleeves!)

There you go! Keep this with your Bible and journal and make it part of your regular secret place time, or keep it wherever you know will help you ACTUALLY PRAY. That’s the point, after all. A model is only helpful to the degree it helps us actually connect with God. I like to pace while I pray, and I love that this book fits easily in my hand, can be folded backwards without damage, and can be stuck under my arm while I’m pacing and praying.

This book can and probably will change freqently, depending on the topics God puts on your heart, the amount of time you want to spend with it, etc. That’s okay! Figure out what works for you, and when it no longer works, try something else.

GIVEAWAY!

I’m going to make this very simple. I bought two photo albums and two packs of index cards at Dollar Tree yesterday. If you want to try this prayer book method, email me at fragrancearise@gmail.com with your mailing address! The first two people will get the materials in the mail to make your own prayer book!

New Rapid Fire Prayer Topic

At the end of every set, everyone in the room lines up at the mic to pray short “rapid fire” prayers on a certain topic, usually related to something happening within the ministry. Right now, our topic is:

We need a new A/C unit for upstairs. Praying the Lord would provide all the finances involved.

Our air conditioners upstairs have never been great; we’ve had them repaired a ridiculous number of times since we got the building. The one in our Daniel Academy preschool room is our top priority right now, so that our younglings don’t cook in the Texas heat when school starts in August. It’s a real health/safety concern for the children, so we’re asking God and people for financial help to get a new A/C.

God, please provide for us to buy a new A/C for our Daniel Academy room. Bring dramatic financial donations again like You’ve done so many times before!

What I’m Praying: Lift Up Your Heads, O Gates

Continuing my semi-regular/whenever-I-get-around-to-it series on What I’m Praying: the past few weeks, I’ve been singing through Psalm 24:7-10. A couple of months ago I was praying this chapter from a different angle, focussing mostly on verse 1, “The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,” and the reign of the King of glory in supersession of the kings of the earth, in conjunction with Psalm 2:6’s proclamation “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” While I was singing that, a part of me kept getting distracted by this theme of opening the gates in Psalm 24:7-10.

Lift up your heads, O gates!

    And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?

    The Lord, strong and mighty,

    the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!

    And lift them up, O ancient doors,

    that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?

    The Lord of hosts,

    he is the King of glory!
(Psalm 24:7-10)

One of my favourite things about studying the Bible is getting a little bit familiar with the whole story so when I read a passage, my brain can automatically fill in imagery from other passages and I get a bigger picture of what’s happening. So when I read this passage, I immediately think of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem when He returns to earth and comes to claim His throne.

I’m not going to cite all the references for this, but here’s the scenario in my head: Jesus has come in the clouds at the 7th trumpet and “raptured” the saints, then marched through the land setting captives free (mostly unsaved Jews who were being persecuted by the antichrist) and releasing the final bowl judgments of Revelation 15-16. (Isaiah 63:1-6, Revelation 19:11-16, Habakkuk 3:3-16) He comes to the eastern gate of Jerusalem with an army of resurrected saints behind Him, at which point the remaining Jewish leaders in Jerusalem actually recognise who He is and welcome Him in as King. That’s the moment that Psalm 24 finds us in.

So as I’ve been singing this in my sets, I’ve been meditating on the glory of Jesus as the conquering King, and also on the prophecy that Israel WILL welcome Him as King.

Jesus Himself prophesied that He would not return to Jerusalem until its leaders recognised and welcomed Him. Every time I read it, I can feel the yearning in Jesus’ heart for His people to know Him:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
(Matthew 23:37-39)

This same longing in Jesus’ heart is so clear also in Zechariah:

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.
(Zechariah 2:10-12)

That phrase “and you shall know” gets me every time. “At last, you’ll believe. At last, you’ll accept Me.”

Later, Zechariah prophesies of the repentance that will grip Israel when they see Jesus on that Day:

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
(Zechariah 12:10)

That Day when Israel–and specifically Jerusalem, the Holy City, the City of the Great King– finally, FINALLY accepts Him as their own Messiah is so near and dear to Jesus’ heart. Every time I sing these verses I feel my heart get so tender and I end up just prophesying over Jerusalem and praying for them to recieve their Messiah.

Jerusalem, open up your gates, and welcome your King! Who is this King of glory? Who is this warrior coming up with bloodstained garments? He is YHWH, your Messiah, the Son of David. Welcome Him as a firstborn son. Weep over the wounds in His hands and feet. He’s here to establish His kingdom and fulfill every promise. Invite Him in.

Jesus, thank You for Your faithfulness to all of Your promises. Come quickly and establish Your kingdom from Jerusalem. Save Your people Israel. Let them know You. Even now, would You bring many Jewish people to repentance. Remove the veil from their hearts and let them see You as You are– their King, their Messiah, their God. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and do everything You want to do.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they [Israel] may be saved.
(Romans 10:1)

Rapid Fire Prayer Topic

At the end of every set, everyone in the room lines up at the mic to pray short “rapid fire” prayers on a certain topic, usually related to something happening within the ministry. Right now, our topic is:

For Revive Texas to get $290,000 to pay for all the volunteers’ meals during the 50 days of outreach.

Every day for 50 days, tens of thousands of believers across DFW are going to gather at ten host churches to get equipped and fellowship together, and from there they will go out to the streets to share the gospel. Revive Texas plans to feed everyone at these host locations every day, but they need financial breakthrough to make that happen. We’ve been praying that God would in a moment put it on someone’s heart to write a check for $290,000!

God, provide for Revive Texas. You’ve been so faithful to meet every need thus far– do it again! Break in and give us this $290,000 for the meals.

What I’m Praying: Psalm 37

I’d like to kick off a regular series on my blog called What I’m Praying. I spend 30 hours a week in the prayer room, and most of the daily testimonies I’m experiencing are prayer-related. I want to bring you into the journey of what God is speaking to me and putting on my heart to speak back to Him, as well as the intercessory burdens that we’re carrying corporately as a ministry.

This week, I’ve often been singing through Psalm 37:4-6 when I lead my devotional worship sets.

.     Delight yourself in the Lord,
.          and he will give you the desires of your heart.
.     Commit your way to the Lord;
.          trust in him, and he will act.
.     He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
.          and your justice as the noonday.

The context of this passage is basically the frustration of the righteous living in a generation of the wicked, and the psalmist’s encouragement to trust in God because He will one day turn the tables and set everything right. There’s a lot to be said eschatologically about promises like “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever” (v 29) when the wicked are permanently cut off (both ideas are repeated several times in this one passage), but for the purpose of my devos I’ve been singing these verses with a much more personal application.

God, I choose to delight myself in You. I choose to make You my joy. You are my greatest treasure and highest pleasure. I intentionally turn my gaze and choose to rejoice in You and simply enjoy You.

I believe You will fulfill the desires of my heart that You’ve placed in me. If You’ve put them there, You care about them even more than I do. You are always faithful to Your promises, no matter how long it takes.

I commit my way to You; I acknowledge You in all my ways. (Prov 3:6) I surrender the right to control my own life. I want You to direct my steps. I trust that You will act. Your plans and Your timing are always work out better than me trying to make things happen on my own, anyway.

As I wait, as I stay in the tension of trusting You even when I can’t see what You’re doing, You’re making my righteousness shine. You’re making me look like You. Even as Jerusalem’s righteousness will one day shine with Your glory, (Is 62:1) You are literally preparing me for an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor 4:17) in a resurrected body that will shine like the stars to one degree or another depending on how I live in this age. (Dan 12:3, Matt 13:43, 1 Cor 15:35-49) Every little moment by moment choice I make to trust You and delight myself in You will be rewarded, and I will shine.

Rapid Fire Prayer Topic

At the end of every set, everyone in the room lines up at the mic to pray short “rapid fire” prayers on a certain topic, usually related to something happening within the ministry. Right now, our topic is:

For the Lord to move on people’s hearts to join Sacred Trust and that it would grow back to 100 before Revive Texas.

Our Sacred Trust is the commitment that people make to join at least one two-hour prayer meeting a week. We’re asking God that more people would make such a commitment, so that when we’re doing 24/7 prayer and worship for the 50 days of Revive Texas, we would have enough people to sustain that schedule. We currently have just over 75 people on the Sacred Trust, so we’re praying for at least around 25 more over the next few months!

God, bring people who would commit to pray with us weekly! Put the vision for 24/7 prayer on many hearts and strengthen Your house of prayer.

The Earth is the Lord’s, and the King of Glory is Set on Zion.

Worship leading today. Photo: Brad Stroup

I’m here in Texas! I arrived Wednesday night and have spent the past couple days getting settled in. Today, I was asked to come help fill in for a few hours at The Prayer Room, and so I ushered the 3-5pm and led worship for the 5-7pm.

While I was ushering, God put a verse fragment on my heart: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” I looked it up and found it in Psalm 24. I was familiar with the last stanza of this Psalm but forgot how it started.screenshot_20170120-235916

.   The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
.        the world and those who dwell therein…
.   Lift up your heads, O gates!
.        And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
.        that the King of glory may come in.
.   Who is this King of glory?
.        The Lord, strong and mighty,
.        the Lord, mighty in battle!
.             Psalm 24:1, 7-8

This was exactly what my heart needed to hear today, on inauguration day of all days. I had spent some time in the morning sharing some thoughts on Facebook regarding President Trump, but on the whole I think praying through this passage today was far more productive.

Whenever I worship lead, I always take around 15 minutes in the middle of my set to sing through a passage and spontaneously sing some devotional thoughts on it. This is a normal part of the harp and bowl model that I learned at IHOPKC and which we use at The Prayer Room. Today, I felt God leading me to sing these verses from Psalm 24.

I had a few cross-references in mind as backdrop, especially Colossians 1:15-18:

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together… He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Colossians 1:15-18

God owns everything. He created everything. He is sovereign over everything. Everything exists FOR Him, for His glory. He will be preeminent – in first place, front and centre, completely.

In one sense, this is already true; right now, heaven is His throne and earth is His footstool, and He is absolutely sovereign. But there is coming a Day when His throne will come to Earth–to the city of Jerusalem, to be precise–and He will be fully, actively engaged in personally ruling the nations in perfect righteousness and justice.

The gates and “ancient doors” of Jerusalem will open and the King of Glory will ride in on a white horse and begin to reign like never before.

I couldn’t help also singing a bit of Psalm 2. I only sang a couple of phrases from it, but this was the whole context I had in mind:

.   Why do the nations rage
.        and the peoples plot in vain?
.   The kings of the earth set themselves,
.        and the rulers take counsel together,
.        against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
.   “Let us burst their bonds apart
.        and cast away their cords from us.”
.   He who sits in the heavens laughs;
.        the Lord holds them in derision.
.   Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
.        and terrify them in his fury, saying,
.   “As for me, I have set my King
.        on Zion, my holy hill.”
.   I will tell of the decree:
.   The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
.        today I have begotten you.
.   Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
.        and the ends of the earth your possession.
.   You shall break them with a rod of iron
.        and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
.             Psalm 2:1-9

As I sang, “You have set the King on Zion, You have set the King on Zion, He will reign” over and over, I could feel the prophetic declaration going out into the atmosphere. No matter how unrighteous the ruler–no matter how the nations rage–God’s answer is to set Jesus as the King of Glory in Jerusalem. The nations belong to Him. He won’t tolerate injustice forever. Even as we fight to advance to Kingdom inch by inch now, it will one day be absolutely complete and Jesus will rule in perfect righteousness on earth forever. I believe that Day is right around the corner.

I don’t think this means God says, “Oh well, I’ll fix it all eventually, guess it can all just fall to pieces in the meantime.” Oh no! If a man is engaged to be married, he’s not going to just ignore his bride until the wedding day. What’s in his heart for that day very much affects how he treats her on this day. When I get frustrated with the state of our world and feel tempted to say, “God, are you seeing this? Do something!” He would say, “Don’t ever think I don’t care. I have far more zeal for righteousness than you do. I am doing something in response to the prayers of my people, in many ways you don’t even see, and there will be a Day when I stage the ultimate intervention. Keep the faith.”

I’m not swearing off political Facebook posts. I want to continue having these conversations online and in person; I believe keeping our government accountable is important. I don’t want to use “Jesus is still on the throne” as an excuse to sit on my butt the next four years. But on days like today when I feel overwhelmed by how far we have to go, I remember:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

 

He has set the King of Glory on Zion.

 

He will reign.

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