Thirty-one Ordinary Prayers, #26

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Prayer for Help (Paraphrase of Psalm 140)

Rescue me, O LORD, from evil thoughts; protect me from doing violence to truth in the self-made courtroom of my mind where I set myself up as jury and judge. There I devise stories to defend my selfish behaviours. There I create rationales and retorts to support my man-made arguments. My tongue has become as sharp as a serpent’s when it ought to be as gentle as a lamb’s. I know, LORD, that the tongue is never tamed until the thoughts are held captive by the restraint of love.

Keep me, O LORD, from godless actions. Help me notice when my hands fall under the unspoken command of selfish thoughts. Help me attend to the direction my feet move me throughout the day, especially in moments of leisure. I catch glimpses of the snares about to trip me up as I push forward in my proud and selfish plans, yet I so often ignore them. Help me see the nets and webs and traps those paths hold.

O LORD, I hear myself saying to You, “You are my God,” but I wonder if I actually think and speak and live it. Hear, O LORD, my cry for mercy. O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who rescues me from myself. Do not grant me the prayers that arise from my selfishness. Cause my desires to grow out of a love and respect for You and for every person You created, for Your glory and their good.

I know You uphold the cause of the needy—I am that person, Father. Change me. remake me according to the pattern of Your True Son, Jesus. Then I will be able to praise Your Name with a tongue that is not forked. And then my upright living will not be skin-deep but rather be genuine to the core. You, God, are my only help.

(Photo Credit: By Chris Paul from England – CNP_3289, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25737936)

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THE PLAN FOR EASTER, Part 2

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Visible Jesus

While lambs and bunnies and foil-wrapped chocolates are a hollow substitute for the true significance of Easter, they’ve got one thing right: they’re visible, tangible, unmistakable objects that symbolize something about Easter for us. They represent new life.

God’s plan for Easter expresses it much better than bunnies do, though. He planned to put His own invisible, immortal being into a visible and tangible package we people would understand: He became fully human.

Isaiah describes the unpretentious figure God would assume, describing Him “like a tender shoot”, “like a root”, “like one despised”, “like a lamb”, and “like a sheep”. Those expressions are how the Sovereign Immortal God chose to reveal Himself as the man Jesus. They don’t conjure up for us much in the way of majesty or power, do they? In fact the plan was that Jesus would show up in flesh and blood during the peak of the Roman occupation of the Middle East when prelates and prefects had the power to treat innocent people like animals to be slaughtered if they so desired.

Didn’t God know that when He made His plan for Easter?

Yes. He did know that. It’s one of the most pronounced and palpable examples of how God works in peoples’ lives: He takes hopeless and painful situations and brings unimaginable good out of them. A writer to the early Christians in Rome in the first century A.D. would describe this penchant of God like this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God works good out of all things, even things that appear bad.

So God squeezes Himself into a form expressed by twenty-three pairs of chromosomes and shows Himself to be a real man.

But in living among men and women of first century Roman occupation something became noticeably obvious. He was like other people in every way except one. He never did a single wrong thing. Never. He never hurt or hated another person or disobeyed any moral law in any way. Not even once. He never spoke the whitest of lies, never judged those who had fallen into immorality, never coerced or manipulated others to have His own way.

So Isaiah’s pictures of Jesus as a tender shoot and a lamb accurately describe the core uniqueness of Jesus as perfectly sinless. But those of you who know anything about the Jewish culture into which Jesus would come know something else about the typology of lambs. They are not merely the tangible embodiment of new life and flawless innocence. They represent the concept of self-sacrifice for another.

Debts must be paid. Sins must be punished. Offenses cannot be swept under the carpet when a completely holy and just God must be faced.

So the Lamb of God is the uniquely sinless One who could be the visible, tangible perfect human worthy of taking the death consequence every one of us has earned by our own rebellion against God. Do any of us claim to be innocent, completely perfect and free from any wrong-doing? We know better. We’ve all fallen short of the high mark of perfection God designed us for. We’ve chosen to make up our own rules. And, sadly, we’ve all become prisoners of the merciless taskmaster of sin whose wages are death.

That is why Jesus chose to die – not because the Romans put Him on a cross, but because He wanted to pay the moral debt we owe. That is why He came to earth as visible, tangible man. That was the plan for Easter. The big question is: Will we accept Jesus as the ultimate Easter gift?

(Photo Credit: “Osterhaeschen aus Hefeteig” by Schwäbin (Wikimedia)License: CreativeCommons by-sa-3.0-de (deed). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons)