Our God is powerful. There is no doubt about it. "He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses" (Jeremiah 51:15-16).
Yet he also makes us powerful on his behalf. He made this clear in the New Testament through Jesus' calling, appointing and sending out the disciples to do the same things he did (which we have covered here before). But we can also see it in the Old Testament, for example in Jeremiah 51:20-23, "You are my war club, my weapon for battle - with you I shatter nations, with you I destroy kingdoms, with you I shatter horse and rider, with you I shatter chariot and driver, . . . with you I shatter governors and officials." In the view of the Old Testament authors, God used various rulers and nations to punish other nations who did not follow in God's ways - even Israel.
God may sometimes use us to call people away from sin toward the good. To do this, we may not necessarily be a war club or lightning strike to shatter people, but we may be the quiet voice of love to draw people. We may listen to people who are bitter and angry and be able to show them another way; e.g., "You know I got over my bitterness and anger by choosing to forgive." Or perhaps they have strayed into pornography, and we may say, "I used to be into pornography until I realized how much it was detracting from my relationships with my family."
In these ways we shatter not people but strongholds of sin and we help to set captives free (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2). By doing these things, we give people the oil of gladness to replace their mourning and the garment of praise to replace their despair (Is 61:3).
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to draw people to you. I want to help set the captives free. Use me, Lord. Put the right words in my mouth when I need them.
If Satan was so bold as to tempt Jesus himself, should we expect to be treated any differently? Jesus was tempted in the desert; he was tempted through Peter; he was tempted in the garden and on the cross. And who knows how many other times he was tempted. In his desire to be fully human, Jesus chose to endure the temptations that we all endure.
If we have chosen, during this time of preparation for celebrating Easter, to follow more closely in Jesus' footsteps by getting rid of bad habits or picking up new, better ones, we should not be surprised that Satan redoubles his efforts to tempt us to return to our old ways. If we have decided not to nag our spouse and to treat him/her more lovingly, it should not surprise us when she/he does something eminently "naggable." If we have decided to pray every morning, small crises will arise to keep us from doing so. It is all too easy to lose sight of the goal of becoming more like Jesus.
The key to overcoming temptation is to fight back. We can quote Scripture as Jesus did (Luke 4). We can tell Satan to go away as Jesus did with Peter's suggestion (Matthew 16:23). We can refuse to argue as Jesus did with Pilate (John 18). We can pray as Jesus did in the garden (Matthew 26:38-44). We can refuse to give up as Jesus did when he was whipped and ridiculed (Matthew 27:26-31).
For Reflection: What is my typical response to temptation?
Let us pray. Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:2-4).
I've heard it said that it takes about 40 days to change an old habit or instill a new one. Guess how long Lent is? It is 40 days, just long enough to get rid of an old habit and start a new one. We often hear of people "giving up" something for Lent. Really, the idea is not to give something up for the 40 days, but to get rid of a bad habit permanently. If we smoke, for instance, we shouldn't give it up for 40 days and then start again, we should give it up and not return to it again.
And who couldn't use a good new habit? Saying only kind words to people. Saying "thank you" more often. Using the turn signal when we drive. Making a phone call to one friend a day just to say "hello." There are hundreds of possibilities.
The idea of "doing something" for Lent is to be a better, perhaps healthier, Christian at the end of the 40 days. 'Tis a worthy goal, and each year we have another chance to accomplish something worthwhile.
For Reflection: Lent begins Wednesday. Do I have a habit I need to get rid of? What about adopting a new habit?
Let us pray. Jesus, I don't want to do something for Lent just to be doing something. I want to do it because you want me to. What shall I do for Lent this year? And will you please help me with it?
Paul has one more use of "temple" in his letters to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 6:15b-16, "What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.'"
In Paul's day there were temples to false gods, dead gods, which he contrasts with the temple of the living God. The living God lives in a living temple, not in a building filled with statues of false gods, whether Roman or Greek. The living God chooses living temples, and that is who we are. Not only did God live with us and walk among us, he continues to do so in believers today.
Further we should be separate from those who worship false gods (vs 17) and purify ourselves from anything that contaminates either body or spirit (vs 18). Paul said this because he knew how difficult it was to live surrounded by non-believers. It is easy to be contaminated by unbelief, by worldly ideas, by false gods, unless we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit
For Reflection: Am I entangled with false gods or unbelievers in ways that I shouldn't be? Have I been contaminated?
Let us pray. Jesus, let me in to your decontamination unit. I want to be wholly yours.
We are not only corporately temples of the Holy Spirit (see the February 10 post), we are also individually temples of the Holy Spirit. Paul makes this point to the Corinthian community in a section of his letter against sexual immorality. Obviously, immorality was a problem in the community because Paul writes to them, answering their questions about it. Not only have people been divisive, but they have been boasting, cheating one another, suing one another, and using one another's bodies for their own pleasure (1 Corinthians 6). Paul is quite clear that such things ought not to be happening in the church.
Again he says to them, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Cor 6:19-20). By engaging in sexual immorality we dishonor our own bodies. By sinning against our very selves, we sink to a low level - a level unworthy of someone who has been redeemed at the price of Jesus' death.
For Reflection: Am I treating my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit? Am I getting the proper amount of rest, food and exercise? Am I guarding my eyes from images they shouldn't see, my ears from things they shouldn't hear, my mouth from things it shouldn't say? Do I remember the price that Jesus paid for my life?
Let us pray. Jesus, I'm sorry for the times when I have been careless and negligent toward my body or the bodies of others. I realize that my body belongs to you because it was created by you and redeemed by you. I do not have the right to do with it whatever I want. I thank you that your Holy Spirit lives in me.
We are not only ambassadors who live in an embassy, we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Paul emphasizes this teaching to the believers in Corinth. He first uses it in his exhortation toward church unity. The believers, the members of the church, corporately are one temple in Christ because God's Spirit lives in them as a body of believers (1 Corinthians 3:16). Therefore anyone seeking to destroy the unity of the church, as some evidently were, is seeking to destroy the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is not a good thing.
Being united in Christ is an important matter to Paul. He constantly warns against those who would try to separate or cause division in the body. We are not meant to be solitary Christians, or, as some have said, Lone Ranger Christians. We are meant to be part of the body of Christ. The body is composed of a diverse group, yet we are to be one in belief, one in the Spirit, as Jesus and the Father are one (see John 17).
For Reflection: Have I done anything to sow dissension in the church? Gossip? Criticism?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, I know that you want us as Christians to be one just as you and the Father are one. That's a tall order, but all things are possible for you. I repent of the times when I have caused or attempted to cause division. I repent of being critical of others in the church. I repent of spreading gossip or rumors.
"Pray for me, . . . that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains," is the earnest request of Paul to the community in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:20). Typically an ambassador lives in an embassy. When you enter a U.S. embassy anywhere in the world you are on U.S. soil. American citizens can seek asylum there.
Ambassador Paul, who represented the Kingdom of God, was not living in an embassy however. In fact, he was living in a prison under Roman guard. Still he knew that he was an ambassador for Christ. You might say he carried his "embassy" with him. Wherever he was, there was Christ, there was the Kingdom of God.
It is the same for us as Christian ambassadors. Wherever we are, there is Christ, there is the Kingdom of God. Wherever we live is the embassy of the Kingdom of God. Whenever people enter our home, they are on the soil of the Kingdom of God.
For Reflection: Do I realize that I carry Christ and the Kingdom wherever I go? Do I always act like I carry Christ with me? What kind of shape is my embassy in? If the King were to visit, would I be proud to welcome him in?
Let us pray. Jesus, we pray for all those who are serving as your ambassadors where it is dangerous to do so. We ask that they confidently proclaim your name even though they may be serving you in chains. We trust that they will still be able to share your message of reconciliation and peace.
Intermittently we are looking at our titles or designations in Scripture. Another is "Ambassador for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20). There are several layers of meaning to the idea of being an ambassador. An ambassador, by definition is a high-ranking diplomat sent by one country to another person or country as a representative. In the case of the U.S. the President sends an ambassador to every country with which we have diplomatic relations. That ambassador represents the President. When s/he goes to see, for example, the President of France, it is as if the President of the U.S. walked into the room. That is the type of authority that an ambassador carries.
We are Christ's ambassadors. When we walk into a room it is as if Christ himself has entered. Our behavior and words represent Christ. That is a lot of authority. Paul says the message we have been given is the message of reconciliation. Christ is reconciling the world to himself and he has chosen us to get that message across. Therefore, we are ambassadors of reconciliation, speaking to all people everywhere about being reconciled to God. It is an important message which needs to be heard by everyone.
Wherever we go we are always "on." We are always acting as Christ's ambassador. There are no days off, no after-office hours when we do not represent Christ. Having chosen to follow Jesus, we follow him at all times and in all places.
For Reflection: Do I know my stature as an ambassador? How well have I represented Christ this week?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to represent you well as your ambassador. Help me to walk in your authority and with your love in all the places and to all the people where you send me. Keep my heart open to always sharing your message of reconciliation to the Father.
Have we already lost track of our New Year's resolutions? It is never too late to start again no matter how many times we have to start over. If the goal was worth setting, then it is worth re-setting. Putting reminders for ourselves where we will see them doesn't hurt either.
For example, if one of your goals was to read Scripture more often, try putting a Bible where you will see it. Put one on your bedside table, one by that comfortable chair in the living room where you sit to watch TV, and even one in the bathroom. Many of my friends have sticky notes with short Scriptures on them stuck to the car dashboard, the refrigerator, the bathroom mirror. These are Scriptures they want to remember, memorize and get into their spirit.
Another tactic is to give someone else permission to ask you questions about your goal. Have them call you (daily? weekly?) and ask you, "Did you read Scripture yesterday?" "Did you eat right?" "Did you make it to the gym?" "Did you work on your book this week?" Making ourselves accountable to someone else about our goal, whatever it is, is one way to help us develop the habit of working toward that goal on a daily basis.
For Reflection: Sunday is the Lord's day. What did I do yesterday to keep the Lord's day holy?
Let us pray. Jesus, I know I'm not perfect at growing in the ways you want me to grow. I want to develop these good habits. Help me to set reminders for myself and to choose someone to help hold me accountable for achieving the goals that you and I have set.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.