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"House with garden for sale by owner."

#Advent16 — Missed it?

A reading from the Gospel According to Matthew.

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

Matthew 11:2-6 (NLT)

This is the Word of the Lord.

This passage is among my favorites in the entirety of Scripture, and is one that I talk about often. In fact, I mentioned it in Monday’s post.

John the Baptist is in prison.

Jesus is not. He’s out doing Jesus things.

John is quite confused.

The Messiah that the Jews were in search of was a military leader. He was the One who was going to once-and-for-all liberate the Jewish people from their oppressors. Hittites, Philistines, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and now Romans had all been in control of this tiny nation for the majority of its history. The Messiah was going to change all of that. He was going to raise up an army, plot a military strategy unequaled in history, and make his nation great again.

But, that wasn’t happening.

And, John was in prison.

John. The forerunner of the Messiah.

John. The voice in the wilderness proclaiming that Messiah was here.

But, the One he thought was the Messiah wasn’t acting like he thought Messiah should ask.

Had he missed it?

There.

Isn’t that the question that we all come to time and time again: “Have we missed it?”

Those of you who read our newsletter know that we’re changing cities. Moving a bit further inland, closer to the rail and the airport, and into the city where another John (the Apostle) is buried. We knew that this was going to be happening in the month of December. We were expecting. Hoping. Trusting that by 15 December we would have a lease signed on a new apartment, and would be packing the old one up.

Well, hello 15 December.

We’ve been searching since 1 December. We’ve looked at about 12 different places. Some, we knew as soon as the door opened that it wasn’t the place. Some, we thought we might could make it work, but it would be challenging. One was perfect, but the owner elected not to rent to us.

We will see more places today.

"House with garden for sale by owner."

“House with garden for sale by owner.”

The other day, at the prompting of a friend, we went to a house for sale and inquired with the neighbor about it. “Would they be willing to rent?” We asked. We are waiting for that answer now, and if they do rent it, we would probably take it. It would be a dream come true kind of place.

There’s another place that we’ve been asking to see for a week now. “I must talk to the owner, who is s a farmer and is in the fields.” Still waiting.

More than one time in the past two weeks I have stopped and asked, “Have we missed it?”

John, in prison and in desperation, sends his people to see Jesus.

“Are you the Messiah?”

If not, we need to rethink our strategy. If so, then when is this army going to be built. The Romans are terrible. They’re destroying the country. They’re stealing our gold. They’re terrorizing our neighborhoods.

We need a rescuer. We need the Messiah!

Jesus does what Jesus usually does—He answers without answering.

Look around you and see what’s happening. That’s was Jesus’ answer. Look around and see.

Look around.

Jesus points out that there are blind people who can now see. Lame people who can now walk. Good News is being preached to the poor. Even the dead are raised.

Look around.

A moment of honesty here. If I am one of John’s disciples I would be tempted to respond something like, “But, Jesus, my friend’s 5 year old son is dead.”

Or, “But, Jesus, a young man who I really like is in a hospital bed with a heart thing.”

Or, “But, Jesus, a man who loves you a ton is still in prison.”

Or, “But, Jesus, I’m still looking for a place to live.”

We’ve talked about this before on the blog. I struggle with the now but not yet of the Kingdom of Heaven. I really want Jesus to just fix all the problems all at once. I want him to heal all the sick. Raise all the dead. Rescue all the oppressed. Conquer poverty. And, find me a house.

Now would be good. But, that isn’t Jesus’ way. And it frustrates me.

Have we missed it?

“Go tell John,” Jesus says, “what you see.” In other words, stop thinking that I’m about to raise up and army and go kick some Roman butt. That’s not the way this works.

Jesus comes not to restore our Kingdoms. Jesus comes to institute his Kingdom.

And, then, leaves it with us to keep that institution going. He leaves it to us to keep bringing healing to those who need healing. He leaves it to us to keep bringing life in the face of death. He leaves it to us to conquer poverty.

His Kingdom does not lead us to overthrow governments. It leads us to operate within them to make life better for all.

So, yeah, we miss it when we put Jesus in the place of some militarily minded government leader. And, we miss it when we think that Jesus will set all things right—right now. And, we miss it when our response to the crises in the world is “Jesus is coming back soon, so you better get ready.”

Advent is all about waiting. It’s all about longing. It’s all about wondering. It’s all about something that will happen soon—someday.

The other night, I was on the phone with a trusted friend. We were talking about the housing struggle. He told me in a not-really-joking way that our housing search was a bit like Advent. Waiting for the right thing. Waiting for the promised place. The appointed time.

Advent is all about waiting.

In the meantime, we go and tell what Jesus is doing. We proclaim a Messiah that is very different than what we think he should be.

So, no, we haven’t missed it when we keep proclaiming good news to the poor. Or, bring healing  to the sick. Or, bread to the hungry. Or, blankets to the cold.

#Advent16 — Flowers in The Desert

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

The desert and dry land will become happy;
the desert will be glad and will produce flowers.
Like a flower, it will have many blooms.
It will show its happiness, as if it were shouting for joy.
It will be beautiful like the forest of Lebanon,
as beautiful as the hill of Carmel and the Plain of Sharon.
Everyone will see the glory of the LORD
and the splendor of our God.
Make the weak hands strong
and the weak knees steady.
Say to people who are frightened,
“Be strong. Don’t be afraid.
Look, your God will come,
and he will punish your enemies.
He will make them pay for the wrongs they did,
but he will save you.”

Then the blind people will see again,
and the deaf will hear.
Crippled people will jump like deer,
and those who can’t talk now will shout with joy.
Water will flow in the desert,
and streams will flow in the dry land.
The burning desert will have pools of water,
and the dry ground will have springs.
Where wild dogs once lived,
grass and water plants will grow.
A road will be there;
this highway will be called “The Road to Being Holy.”
Evil people will not be allowed to walk on that road;
only good people will walk on it.
No fools will go on it.
No lions will be there,
nor will dangerous animals be on that road.
They will not be found there.
That road will be for the people God saves;
the people the LORD has freed will return there.
They will enter Jerusalem with joy,
and their happiness will last forever.
Their gladness and joy will fill them completely,
and sorrow and sadness will go far away.

Isaiah 35:1-10 (NCV)

This is the Word of the Lord.

I must admit that I was somewhat tempted to post the reading for today without comment. Just let the text stand on its own. This text is among the most beautiful pictures of life in the Kingdom of Heaven in the whole of the Scripture. It paints for us a picture of life. It paints a picture of life lived to the fullest (see John 10:10).

Yet, as I read and reread the text for today, I found myself thinking of things that are not like the Kingdom of Heaven. I found myself thinking of things that are—like us—waiting for Christmas. Things that are longing for Messiah. Things that are groaning for a new King.

This text is a prophecy from Isaiah. Speaking to a people who are in exile. A people needing to be rescued from their captivity.

We see a fulfillment of this prophecy in Jesus. In our Gospel reading for this week (Matthew 11:2-11, to be posted on Wednesday), we read about John the Baptizer’s disciples coming to Jesus to find out if he is indeed the one who had been promised—the one who would set all things right. Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer. He merely tells them to look around and see. Take account of those lives that have been changed. The blind that could now see. The lame that could now walk. The deaf that could now hear. The dead that were now living again.

“The Kingdom,” Jesus tells us, “is near.”

Right here.

Right now.

What I find frustrating about this passage, and the passage in Matthew 11 is that there were still blind people and deaf people and lame people and dead people. There were still poor that had not heard the good news of Jesus. The Kingdom had come. But, not in it’s fullness. Pain and suffering and hurt and sadness still existed even as Jesus is telling John’s disciples to look around them.

And, it still exists today.

Last Saturday evening, in the city of İstanbul, there was a football match (soccer match for my American readers). Beşiktaş was taking on Bursaspor. About two hours after the match (which Beşiktaş won 2-1), two bombs were detonated. One a car bomb, the other a suicide bomber. 38 people were killed. 155 others were injured.

Pain. Suffering. Destruction.

Still exists today.

And, in these dark moments, it’s hard to see, and harder to say that the Kingdom of Heaven is here.

But, it is.

And, it is not.

See, the Kingdom of Heaven is one of the great mysteries of our faith. It arrived in resounding glory on an evening in a sleepy little village in a land controlled by an occupying force.

A baby.

A manger.

A mother.

A father.

A star.

A shepherd.

An angel proclaiming, “Salaam alaikum!”

Peace be upon you!

But, that was not the end of the story. Go into all the world and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, this Baby—now a Man raised from the dead—would tell His followers.

Go and proclaim that there will someday be streams in the desert. Flowers in the desolation. Pain and suffering will be replaced by life lived to the fullest.

On the front page of one of the Turkish newspapers this morning was a photo of a black wrought iron fence. At the base of this fence there were bright red roses being laid. Honoring the memory of those who were slain outside that football stadium in Istanbul.

Yet it reminded me of this passage. Flowers in the desert, the prophet called them. Even in a land where the majority of the people know nothing about the Kingdom of Heaven, there are still places to look and see that the Kingdom is here.

Now.

And, there is even more to remind us that it is a long way from its fulfillment.

Flowers

Flowers

That is what Advent is about. A stark reminder to us that even though we ended the Liturgical Year a few short weeks ago by proclaiming that Christ is the King, we begin it by waiting for the King to come. We ended the year by enthroning the new King in His Kingdom. And we being it by wondering when he new King and his Kingdom will come.

In the desert, a flower will bloom.

And then another.

And another.

And another.

Until the day comes when the desert is full of flowers.

#Lent14 — What Was Once Is Not Any Longer

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Epistle to the Romans.

You know the story of how Adam landed us in this dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death.  That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses.  So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses.  Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God.  But Adam, who got us into this, also point ahead to the One who will get us out of it.

Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin.  If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do!  There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift.  The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence.  If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?

Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us all into this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it.  But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life!  One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.

Romans 5:12-19 (MSG)

This is the Word of the Lord.

One man.  

One command.

One disobedience.

That’s all it took for all mankind to be tossed head-long into the “dead-end abyss of separation from God.”

BUT!

Sometimes, that’s the best word in the English language.  A simple word that takes everything that was said before and flips it onto it’s head.  A word that makes the crooked places straight and the missing things whole.  A word that says, what once was isn’t any longer.

BUT!

One Man.

One Death.

One Resurrection.

That’s all it took for mankind to be pulled out of the separation and placed into a “life-gift.”  Yet, not just life, but “wildly extravagant” life.  Life that is recreated through the “grand setting-everything-right.”

What was once is not any longer.

Broken?  Fixed.

Missing?  Found.

Crooked?  Straightened.

Those who were alone are now with family.

Those who were oppressed are now free.

Those who were sick are now healthy.

Those who were dead are now alive.

I love the story of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:2-14.  He sends his men to Jesus with the command to find out if Jesus is the Messiah.

“Are you the One?”  they asked Jesus.

Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: The blind, see, the lame, walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.” (Matthew 11:4-6 (MSG))

What was once is not any longer.

Life is different.

The King has come!

And, when the King comes, so does His Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God.  Where what’s broken is fixed and what’s missing is found—Shalom.  Where things are put back into the original order in which God intended them to be.  Where life is given abundant and full.

The Kingdom has come, because the King has come!

What was once is not any longer.

Life has come and is coming.  There is a part of the Kingdom is that is still in a not yet.  People—even Kingdom people—still have broken things in their lives.  They still hurt.  Sickness still exists.  How do we reconcile the fullness of the Kingdom with the emptiness that we often find?  It’s such a frustrating thing to see Kingdom People suffer.

Even now, I think of people all over the world—people in the Kingdom—who are going through the battles of life.  Who still live in places of brokenness or illness.  Even this week, I have found myself in a place of screaming out for those people.  Wanting to change their circumstances, but can’t.

Yet, I still know.  Kingdom has come for them.  Yet, the fullness of the Kingdom remains to be.  And, that is where we all live.  Somewhere in between the two.  Somewhere between knowing that Shalom is God’s desire for us, and living fully in Shalom.  And, yet, even in that place of the in-between, we see enough of the Kingdom coming into lives and situations to know—and proclaim—that Kingdom has come.  And, with each step taken in the journey of life, Kingdom comes and grows.  Ever expanding.  Ever encompassing more and more of our life and situations.

What was once is not any longer.

Signal Hill Trail, Mount Magazine State Park, Arkansas

Signal Hill Trail, Mount Magazine State Park, Arkansas

#Advent13: Even In The Mess

As we have done in years past, we are again blogging our way through the Advent Lectionary readings.  We love this season as it allows us to take time to slow ourselves down and walk between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is time for us to live in full knowledge of the “Now” of the Kingdom without rushing the “Not Yet” of the Kingdom.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.  Our prayer is that these posts will serve as devotional meditations to focus your heart and mind on the imminent coming of our King!

A reading from the Gospel According to Matthew.

John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison.  When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”

Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.  Is this what you were expecting?  Then count yourselves most blessed!”

When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John.  “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild?  A weekend camper?  Hardly.  What then?  A sheik in silk pajamas?  Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot.  What then?  A prophet?  That’s right, a prophet!  Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear.  He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’”

“Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the Kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him.  For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s Kingdom.  But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the Kingdom.  Looked at in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.”

— Matthew 11:2-14 (The Message)

The Word of God for the people of God.

We looked briefly at this story in yesterday’s post.  Jesus, defining for John’s disciples, the Kingdom of Heaven merely by pointing out what’s happening around them.

Notice, Jesus doesn’t say that Rome—their oppressors—are leaving.  Jesus doesn’t say that they all suddenly have food to eat, clothes to wear, and roofs to protect them.  Jesus doesn’t say that their external circumstances have changed.  

Instead, Jesus points to the things that—despite the external circumstances—have changed.  The lives that were one way and are now another.  Things that had been broken have been fixed.  Things that were missing have been found.

As we mentioned yesterday, it is critical that we understand that the gifts of Advent—hope, peace, joy, and love—are not contingent on the circumstances of which we find ourselves in the midst.  The mess of life does not change the impact of the Kingdom.  The Kingdom comes even in the messiest of messes.  The Kingdom of God can break in no matter the depth of pain that you might be walking through.  

For the early first century Jews, it looked impossible for the Messiah—the One whom they had been hoping for over a millennia would come—to arrive on the scene.  They were oppressed.  They were downtrodden.  Their very cultural identity was—again—at stake.  They were taxed unfair.  They could be forced to labor at the mere whim of a soldier.  They could be arrested for merely talking about how new leadership might make things better.  

And, it was into this mess that John the Baptist was born and began his work.

People had heard the things that John was teaching in the wilderness.  So, they went to see him.  Unsure of what to expect, but surely not expecting camel hair clothes and locust snacks.  Nevertheless, they came.  And in their coming, they learned that the Kingdom was at hand.  They learned that the culmination of thousands of years of prophecies and laws was nearly here.

The Messiah was coming.  Hope was soon to be fulfilled.  

And, then comes Jesus.  Water turned to wine.  Blind people see.  Deaf people her.  Fishermen become followers.  

More important than those miraculous signs of the Kingdom (for the miraculous follows the Kingdom) was the message that He preached.  His message wasn’t merely a message of rescue from hell.  Rather, it was a message of wholeness.  It was a message of completeness.  It was the invitation to begin now to live in the Kingdom.

The Gospel that Jesus preached was the Gospel of the Kingdom.  It was the Good News that Shalom—nothing missing, nothing broken—had come.  

Yet, we must remember that Shalom can exist even when things around us are broken.  It can thrive even when things are missing.  Why?  Because, shalom has nothing to do with the external things that surround it.  Rather it has everything to do with the transformation of our lives.  

And, so, John’s disciples come into the room wondering what they would find.  I wonder if they felt similar feelings to when they went into the wilderness to hear John’s message.  They enter the room.  They ask their question.  

Jesus responds.

They understand.

Kingdom has come.  External circumstances are still pretty bleak.  John is still in prison (soon to be beheaded).  Yet, they understand.

Kingdom has come.

And, now, we’re left with a similar charge as that which John—and his disciples—had.  First, go and proclaim that the Kingdom is near at hand.  Prepare the way for the King to enter into the messes of the world.  Second, go and see how the Kingdom is changing lives in the midst of even the ugliest of situations.

Kingdom has come.  Kingdom is coming.

Drilling a water well in Guatemala with Living Water

Drilling a water well in Guatemala with Living Water

#Advent13: The Kingdom Looks Like

As we have done in years past, we are again blogging our way through the Advent Lectionary readings.  We love this season as it allows us to take time to slow ourselves down and walk between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is time for us to live in full knowledge of the “Now” of the Kingdom without rushing the “Not Yet” of the Kingdom.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.  Our prayer is that these posts will serve as devotional meditations to focus your heart and mind on the imminent coming of our King!

A reading from the Psalms.

Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry.

The LORD frees prisoners.

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD raises up those who are oppressed.

The LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD protects foreigners and helps the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The LORD reigns forever; Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!

—Psalm 146:5-10 (HCSB)

The Word of God for the people of God.

Again, in today’s reading, we’re given a glimpse of the Kingdom. It shows us what it looks like when the King comes. It shows us shalom—nothing missing, nothing broken.

As I read the passages for yesterday in the prayer book that I use (Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro), I was reminded of Jesus’ response to the disciples of John The Baptist in Matthew 11. John’s disciples come and ask Jesus if He is the One for whom they had been waiting. Is He the King? Is He the Messiah?

Jesus replies, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!” (Matthew 11:4-6, The Message)

The beauty of the Kingdom is that when the King comes things change.

As we look around at the situations in the world where brokenness and pain seem to reign, we pray “Your Kingdom Come.” Because, we have come to learn that the only thing that can set things right is the Kingdom coming. The only thing that can set the prisoners free, make the blind see, lift up the heads of the oppressed, protect the foreigner, orphan and widows is the Kingdom of God.

That is the message of Advent. Advent is a time where we proclaim to the world that a new King is coming—and with Him comes a new Kingdom!

As we walk to the manger, let us walk with our heads held high in hope. We walk in confidence and joy in the goodness of God. God, who is Creator, has not abandoned His creation. Instead, He has invaded it and in His invasion He re-creates it.

He brings newness.

He brings wholeness.

He fixes what is broken.

He finds what is missing.

And, as His representatives—Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)—we are called to bring that Kingdom into every place we go. We are called to speak hope and joy and life to every person with whom we have contact. We are called to live differently.

As we walk the remainder of this Advent journey, let us walk with the knowledge that the gifts of Advent—Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love—are not contingent upon external circumstances. Rather, they stand in opposition to external circumstances. Even in the midst of the most messy of conditions, the Kingdom can still come. It can—and does—still emerge.

Our lives—when lived as citizens of this Kingdom—are to be bringers of the Kingdom. Our Psalm today gives us specific ways in which we can introduce the Kingdom to people.

Free the prisoners.

Open the eyes of the blind.

Raise the heads of the oppressed.

Love the righteous.

Protect the foreigners.

Be fathers (and mothers) to the orphans.

Care for the widows.

Proclaim to the world that a new King is coming—and has already come!

—————

326199: Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary RadicalsBy Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove & Enuma Okoro / ZondervanA tapestry of prayer, songs, and liturgy to help today’s diverse Christians pray and worship together! This rich collection makes liturgy “dance”—taking the best of the old and reinvigorating it with fresh energy for contemporary renewal. The music section features over 50 songs from various traditions including African spirituals, traditional hymns, and Taize chants. 512 pages, hardcover from Zondervan.

Lent 2012: 1.1 – Prayer Response to Isaiah 58:1-12

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! — Isaiah 58:1 (NLT)

Lord, sanctify my mind, my will, and my emotions. Help me to keep guard at the gates of my heart, taking care to be intentional about what I allow myself to see and to hear, to keep my heart from being polluted by sin. Please help me not to love sin or tolerate sin, but to stand firm against it. May I not be ashamed of the way You have called me to be set apart. May Your light come into places of darkness and through Your power, drive the darkness out, releasing more of Your light. May I be faithful to You in being the “light of the world” as you have called me (Matthew 5:14).

Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. — Isaiah 58:2 (NLT)

Father, expose any hypocrisy in my heart that I may repent. Help me to keep an authentic relationship with You at the core of my desires, and if I ever fall into a place of just pretending and acting like I know who You are rather than truly knowing You personally, I ask that You open my eyes to the deception I’m hiding behind and teach me again what it is to know You.

‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ — Isaiah 58:3a (NLT)

Lord, sometimes in my sinful pride and arrogance, I expect some sort of recognition for the things I’ve done in the name of religion. Father, forgive me. I renounce the sin of pride from my life and ask that You fill me with Your Sprit of humility. I offer my body to You as a living and holy sacrifice as my spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

“I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? — Isaiah 58:3b-5 (NLT)

Jesus, I’m reminded of your warning against hypocrisy to the teachers of the law and Pharisees in Matthew 23. I ask you to wash me from the inside out. I want to pure through and through. Please teach me the discipline that it takes to continually be allowing You to make me holy by cleansing me by the washing with water through the Word (Ephesians 5:22).

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. — Isaiah 58:6-7 (NLT)

Father, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in myself and to fall into the lie that it’s all about me. But I will not settle for the illusion that I was simply saved from darkness to light without being saved for making Your name great. I ask You to reveal to me Your heart for the imprisoned, burdened, oppressed, bound, hungry, homeless, and needy. I want to see them through Your eyes. I want to represent You to them. Please increase my faith, and may my faith and deeds go together hand in hand. In James 2, Your Word says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17). Increase my faith. Fill me with your spirit of compassion, grace, and love.

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. — Isaiah 58:8-9a (NLT)

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You (Psalm 86:5). Thank you for saving me, healing me, leading me, protecting me, and answering me when I call. I praise Your glorious name.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. — Isaiah 58:9b-10a (NLT)

Jesus, may I continually be spreading Your gospel and Your kingdom and not vicious rumors. May I point others to You where they can find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-29). Father, just as is said about Jesus in John 5, I want to do only what I see you doing. As your beloved child, I want to imitate You, Father (Ephesians 5:1). Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey you (Psalm 51:12).

Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. — Isaiah 58:10b-12 (NLT)

Lord, I trust You. I trust that the entirety of Your Word is truth (Psalm 119:160). I trust You as my Shepherd, my Father, and my God. Lord, I know that I can trust you more. Help me to do that. Help me to trust You wholeheartedly and always. I want to grow and mature and for Your kingdom to become more fully established within me. Thank you for being faithful to me as You transform me into Your likeness.

Amen.