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.

Better Than a Thousand Elsewhere

Psalm-84

This was my first week at The Prayer Room in Arlington, Texas, and I hit the ground running. I have already led four two-hour solo worship sets on piano, section led twice (a section leader is the main point person in charge of the prayer room for a six-hour block of time), and ushered once. Yesterday I was at the prayer room for fourteen hours because I was filling in as a section leader on top of my regular prayer room hours and worship leading. In total, I count 26 hours I’ve spent in the prayer room in the last five days- and Wednesday was a day off.

Worship leading is still rather new to me, as is playing piano in general, so of course I’ve encountered glitches like hitting the wrong buttons on the keyboard (that was NOT the sound I wanted!) and fumbling the chords plenty of times. I love it, though, because every time I lead worship I get to:
1) serve the prayer movement by keeping the fire on the altar (Leviticus 6:13),
2) worship God through my songs, and
3) encounter Jesus by singing Scripture.

Every day this week as I’ve been worship leading, I’ve been singing and meditating on Psalm 84. This is the famous passage from which we get the song “Better Is One Day,” and my heart has been eating it up every time I sing through it.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God…

Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!…

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

(Psalm 84:1-2, 4, 10)

I’ve been in this passage for a few months now, and it hasn’t gotten old yet.

I want to feel the psalmist’s longing for the presence of God. I want to taste the blessing of taking up residence in His presence and constantly singing praise to Him, just like the angels in the throne room who “never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy…'” (Revelation 4:8)

I want to be able to truthfully say that I consider a single day spent in His presence to be more pleasurable and more valuable than a thousand days spent anywhere else on earth.

After all, “in [His] presence there is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

Every time I sing and declare this truth to God and to myself, I remind my spirit that He truly is the ultimate pleasure, and His presence, specifically in this context His house of prayer, is the best place in the world I could choose to be.

 


Audra Lynn, one of my favourite worship leaders, singing “Better Is One Day” in the IHOPKC prayer room.

 

Bonus just for fun picture: me and my new friend Nichole trying on a giant pair of "wings" in downtown Fort Worth.

Bonus just for fun picture: me and my new friend Nichole trying on a giant pair of “wings” in downtown Fort Worth.

True Love Is…

1 cor 13

A personal paraphrase of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter thirteen.

If I speak eloquently in English or in tongues,
     but don’t saturate my speech with LOVE,
          I’m just so much noise.

If I have a powerful prophetic gifting and can read everyone’s mail,
     if I have all the right theology
                    with perfect chapter-and-verse understanding,
          if I even have revelations that no one else does,
               if I have powerful faith and see miracles regularly–
but don’t act in LOVE,
     all my knowledge is useless and my life is meaningless.

If I give everything away in pursuit of radical simplicity and generosity,
          if I even volunteer for persecution and martyrdom–
but do it all from wrong motivation outside of LOVE,
               it’s a meaningless gesture and I gain no reward.

True love is always patient and kind.
     True love doesn’t resent another’s success
               or brag about its own.
          True love doesn’t think too much of itself
                    or put others down.
True love doesn’t insist on its right to be right,
                    but goes low to honour others.
     True love never resents others.
True love doesn’t celebrate sin,
                    but celebrates the truth.

True love stands strong under pressure,
     embraces childlike faith,
          clings to vivid hope,
               and presses on through every obstacle.

True love never ends.

The gifts of prophecy and tongues will one day become unnecessary,
     and human knowledge will one day be obsolete.
Right now, our knowledge and prophetic understanding is limited,
     but when the fullness without limits comes,
          that which was limited will no longer be needed.
When I was a child, all of my thought processes were immature.
     Now that I am an adult and can think maturely,
          I no longer think like I used to.
Our life now is like looking in a foggy mirror,
     but one day we will have perfect clarity,
          like seeing face to face.
Now I can know only in a limited way,
     but one day the limits will be removed and I will know fully,
          even as God has always known me fully.

Faith,
     hope,
          love
these are the three things that last,
     but the greatest of the three is
          always
LOVE.

A New Semester and the Harp and Bowl Model

My second semester at IHOPU began on Monday. This quarter I’m taking Foundations of Biblical Eschatology, New Testament Survey, and Forerunner Messenger Practicum. The Practicum is broken up into three rotations, one of which is Harp and Bowl (the model for combining prayer and worship that we use in the prayer room). For my other two rotations I chose Preaching and Teaching, and Writing, out of options including Social Media, Creative Media, and Drama. I know, I know, Drama would be right up my alley, but I already spent four years developing my personal philosophy of Christians in the arts. I would not be able to come into that class with an open mind. Besides, drama is already something I know I have. Preaching and teaching is almost completely new to me, and both that and writing are things I’m feeling called to step into more.

Also, as part of the practicum, I’ll be placed as a singer on a student harp and bowl team. I was on an intern worship team for about three weeks during my internship, but other than that (and one Sunday morning singing at The Refuge) I’ve never been on a worship team before. I am SO excited for this!

For those not familiar with the harp and bowl model, it’s drawn from Revelation 5:8.

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
~Revelation 5:8

Anything that combines prayer and worship (specifically of the musical variety) can be considered “harp and bowl,” but the way we do harp and bowl is a whole structure that is designed to provide an atmosphere for maximum engagement in the room. Singing brings unity, and singing the Word and singing prayers from the Word–WOW!!

At IHOPKC, we mostly do two kinds of harp and bowl sets: worship with the Word, and intercession. Both are structured essentially the same, with times of corporate worship interspersed with times of spoken prayer developed by spontaneous singing. Here’s what your standard two-hour harp and bowl intercession set looks like:

Intercession set several years ago (old stage design). See that far right seat in the front row? That’s my seat. Every time.

  • The worship team consists of a worship leader on (usually) guitar or keys, at least three prophetic singers, musicians, and a prayer leader. At the start of the set, the worship leader will begin leading a familiar worship song as the rest of the team is transitioning onto the stage. We’ll have a time of corporate worship for 20-40 minutes, mostly consisting of worship songs that everyone already knows with maybe a bit of spontaneous singing sprinkled in as the Spirit leads.
  • When it’s time to transition into the prayer time, the worship leader will initiate several minutes of singing in the Spirit. (“What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” 1 Corinthians 14:15) At this time, everyone will sing at the same time, either in tongues or with whatever words of praise are on their hearts.
  • Then, the prayer leader will start leading intercession from the podium just off stage right. The musicians will usually start playing something with a more driving beat, and many people in the room will stand up if they’re not already to help themselves engage more fully. The prayer leader will choose a verse, preferably an apostolic prayer, and pray from that for 2-3 minutes. It may go something like this:
    • “Praying for the ending of sex trafficking in Thailand from Ephesians 1:17-19. ‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.’ So God, I pray that You would break into Thailand with the spirit of wisdom and revelation. Open up their eyes to see You rightly. Let the traffickers see who You are and be transformed, and let those trafficked see You and be filled with hope…”
  • After the prayer leader finishes “in the name of Jesus,” the singers will one by one sing spontaneous phrases inspired by the verse and the prayer. The prayer leader may interject phrases of spoken prayers to help guide the singers. It may sound like this:
    • “Oh, God, bring wisdom and revelation to Thailand…”
      “Wisdom and revelation…”
      — “Open up their eyes!”
      “Open up their eyes and let them see You…”
      — “Bring deliverance!”
      “Great Deliverer, bring deliverance…”
  • After a minute or two, the chorus leader (the first singer) will launch a short, simple chorus that the whole room can jump in on, and then will end with a name of God. Maybe something like:
    • “You are the God of justice
      You are the God of deliverance
      Open up their eyes
      Open up their eyes
      [repeat]
      Open up their eyes, oh God”

      [Note: I just made up all of these prayers and choruses off the top of my head, so what you’d actually hear in the prayer room may be quite a bit better.]

  • After the chorus, the prayer leader will either pray again, or another person will come up to pray, and the process will repeat.
  • At some point during the intercession cycle, the prayer leader will invite a time of rapid fire prayer. At this time, anyone in the room can come line up behind the podium to pray a short 5-10 second prayer on the chosen topic. Every ten or so people, the chorus leader will interrupt with a chorus the whole room can sing together for a minute, then the prayer line will continue.
  • After the line ends, the worship team may continue with a chorus, someone may feel inspired to sing a solo prophetic oracle for a few minutes on the intercession topic, or the worship leader may take the room back into corporate worship.
  • After another 20 minutes or so of worship, another intercession cycle will commence.

A worship with the Word set is essentially the same, except that instead of a prayer leader leading intercession, there will be a prayer leader guiding the team through meditation on a short passage of the Bible. Phrase by phrase, the singers will develop the verse (paraphrase, interpret, and expand it). One person’s insight will spark another’s, and as a corporate body we will go somewhere in the Spirit we couldn’t go alone. Singing the Word, whether in intercession or meditation, is the best way I know of to make it a part of you. You may forget the verse you heard in a sermon, or even the verse you read in your own Bible, but you’ll find it difficult to forget the verse you sang. The centrality of the Word is of primary importance in every harp and bowl set.

This model is incredibly flexible and is easily adapted to any culture or context. It fosters unity and an atmosphere of enjoyable prayer–and enjoyable prayer is sustainable prayer.

“These I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
~Isaiah 56:7

In Living We Die, In Dying We Live

(One of my IHOPU classes, Basic Christian Beliefs, is giving the assignment of blogging on certain questions from the lessons every week. This week, I’m choosing the question “Why should Christians break bread together?”)

On the night before His death, Jesus acted out a picture of what He was about to do.

Don’t just read the verses. Enter into the quiet, sacred drama of the moment. Let it take your breath away.

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

~Luke 22:14-20

This is one of the sacraments or ordinances that the Church has practiced together for generations. Jesus left us this tangible reenactment to keep His death fresh in our minds. When we come to the table, we come in humility, as a family of grace, each repenting of our sins and thanking Jesus again for His body and blood that were sacrificed for us.

This partaking of the bread and wine together is about many things, but at its core it is about embracing death in order to receive life. Consider this episode from earlier in Jesus’ ministry:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” …After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

~John 6:53-60, 66

This kind of talk is confusing and offensive! Jesus clearly wasn’t trying to “win friends and influence people” here. He was inviting people into the experience of embracing His death and making His death a part of them. He wants us so closely identified with His death that we are willing to “eat His flesh and drink His blood.” He wants His death entwined into our DNA.

Paul said that baptism represents the same reality.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 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 6:3-5

Again, life and death and death and life, all wrapped up in each other. Ted Dekker explored this theme in his novel When Heaven Weeps. “The path to life runs through death… In living we die, in dying we live.”

Paul actually said that when we take the bread and the cup, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) He was warning the believers in Corinth about taking the Lord’s supper lightly, as merely a chance to eat and drink, without showing concern for one another and without repenting. This is not church snack time. This is a holy reenactment of the most scandalous, tragic, glorious event in history. GOD DIED. He had a body and it was ripped to shreds while blood gushed out. He was mocked, beaten, nailed to a tree, and died in agony.

“Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
~Matthew 26:27-28

When we take communion or “break bread” together as a family, we are corporately reidentifying ourselves with the death of Christ. His blood cleanses us, His suffering heals us, and His death brings us to life.

How dare we ever for a moment forget.

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