Week One: Jesus' Ministry and Our Response

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Have you ever really thought about what it means that Jesus was God in human form?  That Jesus experienced the same things you and I have?  That He was tempted in many of the same ways we are?  I think we have the tendency to understate the humanity of Jesus Christ.  In doing so, we can more easily wrap our minds around all that Jesus did in his life and death if we frame him as some supernatural, non-earthly human.  Our Scripture emphasizes Christ’s humanity in order to give us a frame of reference in which God entered into our story to show us the way He loves and lives.  This is so we can know God more fully AND have a vision of what our lives should look like.

Understanding the humanity of Jesus also gives us hope in the darkest of moments.  Jesus was not unfamiliar with heartbreak, sorrow, or loss.  Isaiah 53:3 captures the struggle of Jesus the man, “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account” (NRSV).  Jesus knew suffering and temptation, and because of this reality, He knows our suffering and our temptations.

So what does this mean for you and me?  The fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews has helped me recognize what it means for Jesus to have been born, raised, baptized, tempted, and live in many of the same ways that I have.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:15-16).  Because of Jesus’ humanity, God affirms in our worst moments that He understands and sympathizes with us.  Jesus’ life helps to remind us that no matter what we are going through, God is with us.

Rev. Jay Smith

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WEEKLY PRAYER

God, first off we say thank you.  Thank you for your persistent and overwhelming love.  We are reminded about your love in the story of Jesus’ life.  From his baptism, where you affirm his sonship, to his temptation, we are reminded of your nearness to Him and Your nearness to us.  We give You praise for all You have done for us in the highs and lows of life.  Give us strength to continue on in the difficult seasons, holding fast to your promises of life eternal.  May we continue to come close to You that we may become more like your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His beautiful name that we lift up our hearts and our prayers.  Amen. 


DAILY — PRAYING SCRIPTURE:

Day One: 

Like John the Baptist, we often feel unworthy and unready to do what Jesus calls us to do.  Often when we finally give in, we get to experience incredible moments of God’s work.  How can we trust God’s calling, do what He is calling us to do, and witness the miraculous work of God?

Matthew 3:13-17 – Most Holy Father, today we put ourselves back in that holy moment when Jesus was baptized, proclaimed your beloved Son and anointed with the Holy Spirit.  Just like John, we recognize our unworthiness to partake in your work in this world, and yet You persist that we act and respond.  May we find the space today to say yes to You more often.  May we also be reminded this day that your affirmation of Jesus is an affirmation to us, as well.  Your Holy Scripture reminds us that as we do your will, we become family with your son and heirs of your promises.  We thank You for all You do and all You have given us.  We pray all of these things in your Son, your Beloved’s beautiful name.  Amen.

Ask yourself — What would it have been like to be there in this moment?  What were the feelings, the sights?  How would you have responded?  If you were John the Baptist, how would you have responded?  What would you have done?  Are there times when you are unworthy yet God calls you to act?  How does it feel to be included as members of God’s family through Jesus Christ?

Prayer:  God, first off we say thank you.  Thank you for your persistent and overwhelming love.  We are reminded about your love in the story of Jesus’ life.  From his baptism, where you affirm his sonship, to his temptation, we are reminded of your nearness to Him and Your nearness to us.  We give You praise for all You have done for us in the highs and lows of life.  Give us strength to continue on in the difficult seasons, holding fast to your promises of life eternal.  May we continue to come close to You that we may become more like your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His beautiful name that we lift up our hearts and our prayers.  Amen.


Day Two:  

The temptation of Jesus was the last step of Jesus’ journey before his mission into the world truly began.  Think about the different temptations and ask how you would respond. Also, it’s always helpful to consider why Jesus would have been tempted in these three specific ways (Physical, Identity, and Power for Worship).

Matthew 4:1-11 – Lord, we remember now the story of Jesus’ temptation.  We recognize the way your son responded to the real temptations of the physical nourishment, His identity as your Son, and the ability to rule over the earth with true faith and power.  In all of these things, Jesus was steadfast.  May we follow his model in response as we face the many temptations in our lives.  Let us respond with the truth of Scripture as we stand firm through the power of your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His name we ask all of these things.  Amen.

Ask Yourself — Where in your life do you need to respond as Jesus did?  What are the temptations that the Devil is offering you?  How can you stand in faith that God is enough?  Is it a physical issue?  Spiritual identity?  How can you be so engaged in God’s word to find the words to respond when temptations come?

Prayer: God, first off we say thank you.  Thank you for your persistent and overwhelming love.  We are reminded about your love in the story of Jesus’ life.  From his baptism, where you affirm his sonship, to his temptation, we are reminded of your nearness to Him and Your nearness to us.  We give You praise for all You have done for us in the highs and lows of life.  Give us strength to continue on in the difficult seasons, holding fast to your promises of life eternal.  May we continue to come close to You that we may become more like your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His beautiful name that we lift up our hearts and our prayers.  Amen.


Day Three: 

Today is Ash Wednesday, the night we recognize our mortality and affirm that we are called to live our lives with the reminder that we have one life to live for God alone.  As we reflect on this day, we set our hearts on what it means to repent, to turn to God for forgiveness, and to be made whole by our Father in heaven.

Joel 2:12-14 — Most Holy Lord, we return to You with all our hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; we rend our hearts and not our stuff. We want to return to you Lord, our God, for you are gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.  You relent from punishing us for You are love. Thank You for a chance, every day, for new life.  May we respond with a life worthy of this calling You have placed over us.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Ask Yourself — Have you ever truly repented?  Do you even know what this churchy word means?  It means both to turn away from the sin in your life but also to see the entire creation through the new lenses of Jesus’ Kingdom.  How have you repented? Where do you need to repent?  How do we remember that it is God’s kindness which leads us to a place of repentance and why does that matter?

Prayer:  God, first off we say thank you.  Thank you for your persistent and overwhelming love.  We are reminded about your love in the story of Jesus’ life.  From his baptism, where you affirm his sonship, to his temptation, we are reminded of your nearness to Him and Your nearness to us.  We give You praise for all You have done for us in the highs and lows of life.  Give us strength to continue on in the difficult seasons, holding fast to your promises of life eternal.  May we continue to come close to You that we may become more like your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His beautiful name that we lift up our hearts and our prayers.  Amen.


Day Four: 

Today is the first full day after Ash Wednesday.  It is the beginning of the Lent Season where we are in movement toward Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  You may have given up something or taken something up for this season.  We are reminded by today’s passage that our confidence and transformation come from God alone.  We respond with fasting and with our lives as a fruit of God’s work in our lives.  That’s the heart of what drove Paul to write these words.

Philippians 3:4-11 — Lord, we remember all that your servant and apostle Paul did to attain righteousness.  We recognize again that all he did, his birthright as a Jew of Jews, was considered a loss because of Jesus Christ.  MORE THAN THAT, we echo what Paul said in that all things before or in addition to You are rubbish.  We affirm this, Lord, so we can gain more of Jesus and so we may be found in Him.  During this time of Lent, we pray that You give us more of your righteousness, which comes from faith, so on that glorious day we may be resurrected in You.

Ask Yourself — What from your old way of life are you still holding onto? Is it your successes or your identity?  Is it something you did or did not do?  How do Paul’s words from this passage help you understand your life in Christ?  How are you living in this newfound truth of your life in Christ? 

Prayer:  God, first off we say thank you.  Thank you for your persistent and overwhelming love.  We are reminded about your love in the story of Jesus’ life.  From his baptism, where you affirm his sonship, to his temptation, we are reminded of your nearness to Him and Your nearness to us.  We give You praise for all You have done for us in the highs and lows of life.  Give us strength to continue on in the difficult seasons, holding fast to your promises of life eternal.  May we continue to come close to You that we may become more like your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His beautiful name that we lift up our hearts and our prayers.  Amen.


Day Five: 

God is calling us into a deeper life in Him.  This is a movement with God into deeper layers of obedience and life in Christ.  As part of our journey, we recognize how far we have come while moving forward into more of this life because Jesus has made us His own.

Philippians 12:13-15 — Holy Lord, we give You thanks for how far we have come.  Too often we focus our hearts and minds on our deficiencies without remembering and giving thanks for our journey up to this point.  So now God, we rest in your mighty works in our lives.  But we do not stop here.  We want to forget what lies behind and strain toward what lies ahead, toward your prize for the heavenly call You have given us in Christ Jesus.  It is in His name we ask these things.  Amen.

Ask YourselfHow are you moving forward into who you are called to be?  Do you have a negative understanding of what it means to strain for what lies ahead?  Why?  What does it mean to leave the past behind and to strain forward to what Jesus has before you?  How can you find space today to model Paul’s movement forward into more of Jesus?

Prayer:  God, first off we say thank you.  Thank you for your persistent and overwhelming love.  We are reminded about your love in the story of Jesus’ life.  From his baptism, where you affirm his sonship, to his temptation, we are reminded of your nearness to Him and Your nearness to us.  We give You praise for all You have done for us in the highs and lows of life.  Give us strength to continue on in the difficult seasons, holding fast to your promises of life eternal.  May we continue to come close to You that we may become more like your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His beautiful name that we lift up our hearts and our prayers.  Amen.


Day Six:  

For the Jewish people, Saturday is the Sabbath.  It is a day set apart by God to rest from our toil and to take-in the life that God has given us.  Created in the Genesis story and expected throughout all of Scripture, sabbath is a lost practice for most in modern Christianity.  The hope for us today is that we find little spaces to find true rest in God.  How do you posture yourself today to truly rest in Christ?

Matthew 11:28-30 — Heavenly Father, I thank you for all of your love that You have shown me this week, for the ways I need to be reshaped into who You are calling me to be and the lavish ways You are drawing me deeper into You.  This day I ask for rest in You.  Reenergize your servant so that I may find more of You.  We are reminded from Scripture that You call all the weary and heavy-hearted to come to You, and You will give us rest.  Your yoke is easy, your burden is light, and You are a gentle and humble God.  I find comfort in that this day.  I give You thanks for all You have done for me and all that You continue to do.  I love You.  Amen.

Ask Yourself — How long has it been since you have truly rested?  Why is it so hard to stop and to slow down?  How do we reorient our lives in order to find the needed holy rest?  God is calling us to give our lives over to him.  His incredible character is gentle and inviting, so why are you holding on to whatever it is you are holding onto?  It is time to give it away.  What can you give to God today?

Prayer:  God, first off we say thank you.  Thank you for your persistent and overwhelming love.  We are reminded about your love in the story of Jesus’ life.  From his baptism, where you affirm his sonship, to his temptation, we are reminded of your nearness to Him and Your nearness to us.  We give You praise for all You have done for us in the highs and lows of life.  Give us strength to continue on in the difficult seasons, holding fast to your promises of life eternal.  May we continue to come close to You that we may become more like your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His beautiful name that we lift up our hearts and our prayers.  Amen.


Day Seven:

Prayer:  God, first off we say thank you.  Thank you for your persistent and overwhelming love.  We are reminded about your love in the story of Jesus’ life.  From his baptism, where you affirm his sonship, to his temptation, we are reminded of your nearness to Him and Your nearness to us.  We give You praise for all You have done for us in the highs and lows of life.  Give us strength to continue on in the difficult seasons, holding fast to your promises of life eternal.  May we continue to come close to You that we may become more like your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in His beautiful name that we lift up our hearts and our prayers.  Amen

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Look over your notes/prayers from the past week.  What seems meaningful to you?  Did you receive any insight, inspiration, or challenge?  Does something require more prayer of discernment?  We don’t decide when God will “show up;” instead, we want to be ready and aware when He does.  Whatever your experience this week, stay committed.  God is! 

Catherine HortonComment