Spring PrayerWatch begins tonight

Dear congregation,

I hope you are doing well and savoring the rich grace of our Lord Jesus Christ this afternoon. Whatever is going on in your life, no matter how this week has gone for you, the psalmist reminds us that the Lord reigns. And that’s all we need to know in order to give us joy (Psalm 97.1). All praise to His name!

photo courtesy of build 2 restore

As we begin this twenty-four-hour season together, I remind you that we do not fast and pray as those who do not know Jesus. We do not fast and pray in order to gain God’s attention and favor, or to bridge the gap between Him and us, or to earn some blessing from Him. In Jesus we already have God’s attention and favor, for Christ has bridged the gap between heaven and earth and by the work of the Spirit, every blessing is already ours.

When then do we fast and pray? To remind ourselves how dependent we are on Him. To discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness. To let the pains of hunger mirror for us our far-greater need for the food that does not perish, the Bread of life himself. And to take food from our own mouths to give to the poor. In short, we fast and pray because our Savior fasted and prayed for us, perfectly obeying His Father’s will so that we might be accepted. We fast and pray so that we might be more like Him, and that His mercy and justice might flow through us to bless our city.

What then shall we pray for?

Thursday evening: confession and thanksgiving

Take this past Sunday’s sermon text as the basis for prayer. The passage we considered was Isaiah 59. Use verses 12–15 to frame a prayer of confession over your own sin, failing to love God as you ought and failing to love neighbor as yourself. Then use verses 15–21 to frame a prayer of thanksgiving for the Lord’s work in achieving salvation for his glory. Thank Him for His Arm, Jesus, who accomplished our redemption. Express your longings that people from all nations would fear and worship the One True God. And praise Him for the new covenant and the Holy Spirit, who is ours because of Jesus.

Friday morning: intercession

Take Paul’s words in Ephesians 3.14–21 as the basis for prayer. Take time to pray for one another. [If you do not have a copy of the membership list, just email me through this website, and (if you’re part of our church) I’ll send it to you.] Take time to pray for each member. Ask the Spirit to strengthen them in their inner being. Pray that Christ would feel at home in their heart. And ask that they would have power to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge so that they would be filled with all God’s fullness.

Friday midday: mission

Take the psalmist’s poem in Psalm 67 as the basis for prayer. Take time to pray for the gospel’s advance in our city. Ask the Spirit to bring specific churches, ministers, and gospel workers to mind. Pray for God’s word to spread rapidly and be honored through them (2 Thessalonians 3.1). Pray for parachurch ministries that aim to shine God’s light in the city, like the International Student ministry (reaching those who have never heard), Restore NYC (fighting human trafficking), Safe Families for Children (serving those in need), the Bowery and the New York City Rescue Mission (helping the poor), Chosen People ministries (bringing the gospel to our Jewish friends), and others. In all, pray that God would so bless His people in this city that everyone in this city would know His ways and His salvation (Psalm 67.2).

Friday evening: together

Please join us for two events tomorrow night.

  • 6pm: Prayer time in Gano Chapel
  • 7pm: Dinner in Haldeman Chapel

Feel free to come late or to come as long as you are able. We just hope to see you there.

 

Lord, as we call out to You as a united body spread across this city, we ask that You would pour out from the riches of Your grace everything we need to know, love, and follow You. Please accept our meager offering—a mere twenty-four hours of praying and fasting—not because of we are good, but because we are in Christ. May His obedient life make it acceptable, may His atoning death purify it from sin, and may His resurrection give us life by Your Spirit. Do this, we pray, that our joy would be full and that Your glory would be known here in New York and all around the world. For we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Piety and Justice

photo courtesy of shalom in the city

This section of Isaiah has already led us to consider God’s blessing of peace—shalom, well-being, everything as it ought to be. And yet it opens with a command to “maintain justice” (56.1). How do those two ideas relate—the promise of peace and the promotion of justice?

Today’s passage reveals the connection in a truly hard-hitting way.

Title: Piety and Justice

Text: Isaiah 58

Overview

  • hypocrisy
  • social concern
  • Christlikeness

Resources

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High and Holy, Contrite and Lowly

“What’s beyond the model is the most compelling thing.”

All the Light We Cannot SeeIn this single sentence the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Anthony Doerr, summarizes a fundamental longing. It’s as if we recognize that there is something beyond what we can see and touch and feel, as if we live in a wooden model and if we could only break out of it we would touch the transcendent, the real, the other.

Today’s passage is all about our quest for the most compelling thing, and about the tragedy of what we do in pursuit of it. But at the same time it holds out hope that broken people like us can, in fact, get beyond the model.

Title: High and Holy, Contrite and Lowly

Text: Isaiah 56.9–57.21

Overview

  • longing
  • emptiness
  • transcendence

Resources

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Hope on the Margins

photo courtesy of Christ Community Church

After Isaiah 55, you would be justified to wonder what more needs to be said. Over the past year and a half, we’ve worked through the first two major sections of Isaiah’s prophecy, his message to the city of Jerusalem. The first part, chapters 1–39) showed us the Lord as King of the city, and in it we saw again and again that no one would trust and obey the King, not even God’s people, not even God’s kings, Ahaz and Hezekiah. And that failure to take God at his word meant great trouble for the people of the city: because they persisted in relying on themselves, they would go into captivity at the hands of Babylon.

In the second part of the book, chapters 40–55, Isaiah focused our attention on the Lord as the Servant of the city, and in it we saw that God would not leave his people in captivity, but would redeem his people through the work of the Servant who would trust and obey God, and ultimately suffer and die for the people. And then the invitation: “come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost”! Everything has been prepared, all we need to do is come.

So what more needs to be said? So much more. For the good news of the Servant—the gospel—that invites people to Jesus and gives them new life is still at work in God’s people after conversion while we await the return of the Conqueror. And that transformation is evident in the very first verse.

Title: Hope on the Margins

Text: Isaiah 56.1–8

Overview

  • shall we go on sinning?
  • who then is blessed?

Resources

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The Invitation

photo courtesy of Victory Church

Since September we’ve been working our way through the second major section of Isaiah in a series I’ve called the Servant and the City. Today with chapter 55 we reach the end of this section. So let me summarize where we’ve been. The name for the series derives from the dominance of the Servant theme in these chapters. As you know there are four Servant Songs here, the fourth of which is so significant to the message of Isaiah that we examined it quite closely on communion Sundays. In many ways Isaiah 53 is the climax of the book, or at least presents the way that the central conflict is resolved. The central conflict, going back to the first part of the book, is the unwillingness of God’s people, specifically the people of Jerusalem, to believe and obey God. And in the fourth Servant Song, the conflict is resolved: the Servant of Yahweh will redeem his people through his life, suffering, death, and resurrection.

That brings us to the chapters 54 and 55. If Isaiah in chapter 54 details the objective results of the Servant’s suffering, then in chapter 55 the prophet tells his readers how they—indeed, how we—can enter into those objective results.

Title: The Invitation

Text: Isaiah 55

Overview

  • summary
  • offer
  • cost

Resources

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