Apr 21

(Michelangelo Caravaggio)

Scripture

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”               - John 20:24-30

Reflection

“Unless I see the nail marks….I will not believe.” We all have our “unless” statements. Unless, I get that job. Unless, she says yes. Unless, God provides this… Then I will believe.

Typically our “unless” statements relate to putting a specific time-frame when God must speak or act.

We all have our “unless” statements. Even on Easter Monday. Doubts can still remain even after God has spoken so clearly to us.

Sometimes it’s not enough to hear that God spoke to someone else. You need to hear God speak to you. You need to experience Him for yourself.

Jesus tells Thomas “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The author of Hebrews says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Prayer

In what area can you ask God to increase your faith today? Where do you need the ability to walk by faith and not by sight?

John writes this gospel so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

I pray God would give you the gift of faith today to believe, and that by believing you may have life in his name!

Apr 14

Here are some worship songs that I hope minister to you as we lead into Easter:

Hosanna – Kirk Franklin

Sweetly Broken – Jeremy Riddle

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – Fernando Ortega

Jesus Paid it All – Kristian Stanfill

Dry Bones – Worship Central

Christ is Risen – Matt Maher

Forever – Kari Jobe

Salvation is Here - Hillsong

God is Able – Hillsong

Your Grace Finds Me – Matt Redman

You are Here (The Same Power) –Hillsong

I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin

This is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickman

Apr 13

 

“See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
  and on a colt, the foal of a donkey…

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

                        - Matthew 21:5,9

Mark Labberton, who preached at The District Church last weekend, shared the story of when he was reading a children’s book to his 4-year old son Sam. It was the story of when Jesus enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. After they were finished reading Sam started rubbing the picture of Jesus on the donkey’s back and said, “Jesus is in my heart, right daddy?”

“Yes, Sam, I’m so glad that you know that!” Mark replied.

Then Sam put his hand on his heart, looking quite puzzled, “But where is the donkey?

Mark responded, “Oh don’t worry Sam the donkey is there too…the ass is always at hand!”

Mark makes the point that even if we have Jesus in our heart we also have a donkey.

The donkey of pride, of self-interest, of prejudice, of greed.

And that’s the problem. That’s why we so desperately need Good Friday and Easter.

Paul says it this way: “For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate to do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing…Who will rescue me from this body of death?” – Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24

Holy Week begins today. It’s the biggest week of the year for the local church. The week reaches a climax in showing why we should and can take the “donkey seriously.”

This week is so important in impacting how we view God. And specifically how we view Jesus. Because how we view Jesus will have everything to do with how we experience Easter next Sunday.

And how we respond to Easter will impact whether we have any hope of taking on the donkey.

PRAY

“Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts! He is the King of glory!” – Psalm 24:10 

  • For God to give you a deep awareness of your need for Christ.
  • For God to be preparing hearts to be raised to new life this Easter.
  • For God to resurrect the dreams of those who have lost hope.

PRAYING FOR THE COMING GENERATION

That many who are now young will soon become passionate followers of Christ; that during their lifetimes they will hear and respond to God’s calling on their lives; that they will endure suffering and overcome evil and bring forth God’s promises; that they will give Christ whole-life worship.

Prayerwalk your city and think about people who will live there in years to come. Pray for the generation that will be dwelling in your city on the day Christ returns.

 

Apr 12

 “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. - Zechariah 2:10-11

What a great promise that many nations will come to be joined with the Lord. This has been fulfilled at the day of Pentecost and has continued to this day. It will one day be fully true in Heaven where people from every tribe, nation, people, and tongue will be gathered before the Lord worshiping!

As we approach Palm Sunday tomorrow we are reminded of the people gathered from many nations that were gathered in Jerusalem for Passover. We remember how they welcomed Jesus during his triumphal entry into the city.

Jesus may not have fit the expectations of the kings and leaders who typically rule our nations. In fact, his ways are likely nothing like the ways of the people who have had authority in our lives before. But this is what makes his presence in our lives so important.

PRAY

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11

Pray for God’s presence to increase in your life. Pray that you would experience more and more the joy of God drawing near to you.

Pray for God’s presence to increase in your neighborhood and city. Pray for those to be welcomed who have yet to follow Christ.

Pray that our city would be transformed by the peace and joy that comes from God’s presence.

SONG

I love this song by Rita Springer called Resting:

"Resting in your presence,
is all I that I want Lord
Sitting in your presence,
It’s all I that I ask for
I want to be more like you

Waiting in your presence,
is all that I long for
And staying in your presence,
This is all I that want Lord
I want to be more like you”

PRAYING FOR REFUGEES

“God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 10:18-19

For safe, legal immigration and for conditions to improve in homelands so that extended families will be united; for Christians to open homes and hearts to them; for the gospel to be conveyed clearly in word and deed; for those desiring to return to homelands to be granted asylum and repatriation; that God would open the way for those desiring a new home to be settled.

Pray for the Evangelical Immigration Table as they seek to advocate for immigration reform consistent with biblical values. Pray for the upcoming Pastors for Reform event coming up in Washington, DC, that God would use that time to ignite hearts to help churches personally demonstrate and publicly advocate for policies that reflect God’s heart to welcome the stranger.

Apr 11

31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!” 32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. 34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” 36 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.” - I Chronicles 16:31-36

The extravagant worship here is in response to the Ark of the Covenant being brought into Jerusalem. The Ark was a sacred chest containing the 10 Commandments. It had endured 40 years in the wilderness and now being taken by their enemies. When David became King he fought to get this sacred Ark back from the Philistines. Now the Ark had made its way into Jerusalem, which was the first key step in order to build the Temple. All this to say, the Ark was a big deal, so this is what prompted the outbreak of worship we read here in I Chronicles 16.

I think one of the things God gives us to help us become extravagant worshipers is music. Music is so powerful. It’s a powerful way to celebrate and remind us of things. David understood this. That’s why he carved out such a big role for musicians when the Ark was coming into Jerusalem (read I Chronicles 15:16, 19-24, 28)

I encourage you to allow your emotions, your affections, to become more engaged as you worship the Lord through song.

I believe that God gave us emotions and that God wants us to be stirred by what is true! If we can get super excited about a sports game, we certainly should be able to get excited about a God who has sent his Son to this earth to save us from our sins and bring restoration to our world!

Our emotions can keep us from worshiping, but they can also help us persevere in worship.

My prayer for you is that your worship becomes so extravagant it becomes a lifestyle.

When something becomes a lifestyle, it becomes the norm, no matter what life throws at you. My prayer for you is that you become an extravagant worship who is relentless in the face of what life throws out at you.

You give and take away, you give and take away, yet my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name!

PRAY

“As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen.” – Luke 19:37

  • Lord would you set our hearts on fire to worship you in Spirit and in truth.
  • Would you cause us to persevere in our worship even in the face of life’s circumstances?
  • God, would you remove any fear that may cause us not to engage our full range of emotions when we worship you?  
  • Jesus, we pray that you would be remembered and celebrated and openly praised on the streets of our city!  

PRAYING FOR THE ELDERLY

Pray that God’s strength and peace will be poured out on everyone who is advanced in years. Pray that they may be honored, that they may be cared for; that loneliness be banished through lasting friendships and family bonds; that sickness be lifted; that the elderly may live to see their prayers answered; that their latter years will be significant, reflecting the glory of God.

Pray for the oldest person in your extended family. Pray for the oldest person in your neighborhood.

Apr 10

They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
    they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
    the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
    and they will sorrow no more.
Then young women will dance and be glad,
    young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
    I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

                          - Jeremiah 31:12-13

You always give us more than we need. We may be panicked at times about your provision, worrying that we will not have enough. And yet you always seem to provide for our needs. Lord, we want to learn the secret of being content in any and every situation.

Change us from the inside out. That our joy would come from within and not depend on our circumstances. Help shape our selfish ambitions into godly ambition. Cause us to care more about what you think than what other people think of us.

Help us to stop comparing ourselves to what other people have. Remove our jealous hearts and our cravings for temporary things that do not ultimately matter.

Give us generous hearts knowing that you will always give us more than we can ever give away to others.

PRAY

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” – Philippians 4:11

Lord it is so easy for us to be moved by our circumstances. To become worried about the smallest things. Help us to trust you today. Help us to be satisfied with what we have rather than what we don’t have.

Lord, would you free us from the fears of poverty, that we may enjoy your presence and so much of what you have already provided in our lives.

Give us this day, our daily bread.

PRAYER FOR DEPRESSED PEOPLE

Pray for God’s healing presence to reach people who are depressed and finding it hard to get up or be motivated to live. Pray for the light of truth to dispel lies and the oppressive power of Satan. Pray for helpful counsel rather the cliché answers that don’t speak to the heart. Pray for the healing of long-standing wounds of mind and soul. Pray that each person who is feeling depressed today and especially those who are experiencing long seasons of depression that they would know the comfort and joy of the Holy Spirit; for the renewing of their minds in Christ.

Pray for people you see today who may be downcast, even if they appear to be cheerful and strong.

Apr 09

 

 “Yes, God’s Message: ‘You’re going to look at this place, these empty and desolate towns of Judah and streets of Jerusalem, and say, “A wasteland. Unlivable. Not even a dog could live here.” But the time is coming when you’re going to hear laughter and celebration, marriage festivities, people exclaiming, “Thank God-of-the-Angel-Armies. He’s so good! His love never quits,” as they bring thank offerings into God’s Temple. I’ll restore everything that was lost in this land. I’ll make everything as good as new.’ I, God, say so.” – Jeremiah 33:10-11 (The Message)

It is so easy to look out and see the condition of our city and world with resignation. With a sense of hopelessness. With a sense that nothing can be done and it is not worth trying.

Anyone who has really engaged in the front lines of ministry in low-income neighborhoods among poor and marginalized people knows what this feels like. These feelings can easily turn what was once a radical commitment into burnout.

But here we read in Jeremiah the promise of laughter, celebration, weddings, and of people breaking forth in praise on the streets saying, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever!”

God promises to restore everything that was lost! God promises to make all things new! Not just for the desolate streets of Jerusalem, but for the desolate places in your life.

PRAY

For a sense of confidence that God will restore what has been lost in your life.

For a sense of confidence that God will restore what has been lost in your city and make all things new.

For those who are far from God to be raised to new life in Christ this Easter.

PRAYER FOR UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE

Pray God will meet the needs of those without work in a way that they can clearly thank God for His provision; that they will soon find meaningful employment and glorify God for it; that God will open the way for righteous trade so that the entire city prospers in God’s provision.

Pray for those in your neighborhood who have recently lost their job or are struggling to find one.

Apr 08

Praise await you, our God, in Zion;
    to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
    to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
    you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose
    and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
    of your holy temple.

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
    God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
    having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.

-Psalm 65:1-8

You are a God who answers prayer. You answer both big and small prayers. You do not always answer according to our timeline, which makes it hard for us, but you always hear and respond. You know what we need, so you know when to withhold and when to answer.

When we step back and see the work of your hands, not only in our own lives, but throughout the earth we are in awe. All of your creation is filled with wonder and the work of your hands.

We stand in awe from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. Each day is filled with a series of miracles and answered prayers. Forgive us when we move too fast throughout our day and miss the work of your hands.

Lord would you cause us to stand amazed at your deeds today. Would you fill us with joy in your presence!

SONG

Your Name sung here by Anthony Evans. “As morning dawns, and evening fades, you inspire songs of praise. That rise from earth to touch your heart. And glorify your name. Your name is a strong and mighty tower. Your name is a shelter like no other. Your name let the nations sing it louder. Nothing has the power to save, but your name.”

PRAY

For our city to be filled in awe at Your wonders.

For Christ to answer the prayers of those who feel God is far off and not present.  

For a overwhelming sense of joy and confidence that God hears and answers our prayers.

PRAYER FOR MOTHERS  

Pray that God will powerfully refresh mothers in the honor and glory of motherhood; that they will be strengthened with grace, wisdom and love in serving their children; that they will be loved, protected, and served by committed husbands; that mothers model and express God’s own nurturing love.

Pray for your own mother, for the role she continues to play now, or the role she once played in bringing you into this world and nurturing you. Give thanks for her.

Apr 07

 

(Photo: Peter Graham, Nuevo Vallarta)

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

-Psalm 126

There is joy in liberation. There is joy in being free from oppression and captivity. 

When the Lord brought the exiles back to Jerusalem there was great joy despite the captivity and destruction they had experienced. They had experienced years and years of being separated from friends, family, work, and home. They had lost friends, family, jobs, and their houses. There were many reasons to mourn.

But in this section of the Psalms called the “Songs of Ascent” there is a growing confidence in the Lord and in his work.

What has been broken down, will be restored. What has been forgotten about God will be remembered and proclaimed again will shouts of joy. There will be joy and dancing in the streets. There will be a confidence in not only what God has done for others, but also in what God has done for us. The promises God has made will be kept. The many dark and restless nights spent worrying and weeping will be turned to times of joy and praise.

SONG

I can’t find the song online. But go onto Spotify and listen to Psalm 126 “You Have Done Great Things” by Charlie Hall. It will help get this psalm into your heart and mind!

PRAY

For those who are spiritually dead, in captivity, to be raised to new life in Christ. For God to be preparing many hearts now to respond to an invitation to trust in Christ as Savior and Lord this Easter.

PRAYER FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS  

Psalm 126:1 is also translated, “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those restored to health.” The ministry of healing has always been part of God’s primary vocation. In fact, when God sent his Son Jesus into the world, he had the primary vocation of preaching and healing.

Pray today that God will equip health care workers of every kind to serve others with loving hearts; that God will bless them with perseverance and joy; that the pressure of their professions will not crush their families and friendships; that many will follow Christ.

Pray for Unity Health Care here in DC which serves almost 100,000 low-income DC residents by providing health care. They operate 25+ clinics throughout the city, including in DC General jail. Pray for the doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists in our church that work for Unity. Pray for Dr. Janelle Goetcheus who is the founder and chief medical officer of Unity Health Care. Give thanks for her love for Jesus and her obedience to God’s call all on her life. Pray that God would continue to multiply the work of her hands.  

Apr 06

(Photo: Peter Graham, Ricketts Glen State Park)

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.”

                                                       – Psalm 46:1-4

This week we are praying in faith for JOY amidst the circumstances of our lives and our world. Where Christ is King there is joy for those who live under His Lordship. Joy is hard to measure but it’s always a tangible reality for life in the Kingdom. Joy is sort of like a glimpse of Heaven here on earth.

Here is a song that has really been speaking to me this weekend as I reflect on the power of God to resurrect whatever is dead in our lives. God is Able.

PRAY

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” – John 17:13

  • Pray for joy based on God’s promises, rather than happiness based on life’s circumstances.
  • Pray for joy to break through for those who are locked down in fear and insecurity.

PRAYER FOR BROKEN FAMILIES

Pray for healing of broken or embittered relationships; for comfort when a family member has passed away. Pray that the Father heart of God will overshadow children, that they would know the joy of being part of God’s family; that God will meet financial needs, bring supportive friends and grant hope to many who come to follow Christ.  

@aarongrahamdc

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