Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


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A prayer as we experience Easter with sorrow and joy

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Color and warmth finally emerge from the starkness of winter, and we are grateful. Sometimes the soul, though, isn’t on schedule with the seasons. This lovely spring day has a full portion of hurts, disappointments, and weakness as unyielding as January’s soil. Fluffy bunnies, flowers, fancy dresses, and pastel candy appeal to our senses but our souls need Easter in its full and rich meaning.

Holy Week invites us to follow You through the depths as well as the heights. Draw us to Your steps, we pray, and let us not shrink back. Lead us to linger at the Cross. It is the only place where suffering has meaning and hope.

Give us grace to embrace fellowship with Jesus, even in His rejection, His sorrow, and His death. Draw us into Your experience because You entered firstly into ours. The bridge is constructed with Your flesh and blood. You give us peace, even when our hearts are torn between grief and joy, because You mysteriously make them one.

Man of Sorrows, You invite us to intimacy, to come honestly from our hurting places. And so, our Easter prayers are most true when we come with our thorns, our loneliness in Gethsemane, our let-this-cup-pass.

When we are willing to go there, You walk us through the mysteries of Your wisdom and time, to the other side – to the joy, the peace, the Your-will-be-done. As we approach Holy Week, set our hearts on a pilgrimage of prayer where we follow our Savior through the one story that gives life through death.

Lord, let us remember how You set Your face toward Jerusalem. Your friends misunderstood Your mission, but it was radical, selfless, intentional love that compelled You to Good Friday. May we journey with you, accepting the Calvary road not as a path to power or prosperity but to the most soul-satisfying companionship we will ever know.

Lead us to a table where we handle the bread and wine. Remind us that one day we too will eat our last meal and sip our final drink. As we touch the physical, temporary elements of the Supper, remind us that You were broken and poured out so that we may drink freely of eternal life.

Draw us to the table with people who look different than we do, for You paid a precious price for unity with You and with one another.

When power seduces, pull our knees low before a basin of pure water. May the humble kindness of our Savior wash over our hearts down to our towel-draped hands.

When we are hard-pressed by our trials, help us to fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the weight of sin and suffering. At Gethsemane, where the olive is pressed until it releases its precious oil, our sinless Savior willingly poured out heart and will to the point of blood. When we are soul-weary, enfold us in such compassion and unstoppable love.

Teach us that You send grace to drink whatever cup is ours. May our lives be fountains of obedience.

The voice of culture is dissonant with the call of the Crucified. If others reject us, You understand and welcome us as Your own. When we are tempted to reject You, tune our spiritual ears to the rooster’s crow. Rouse our sluggish souls from the lullabies of convenience or people-pleasing or conformity.

When hurt lures us toward bitterness, may we have a heart like yours for the Roman soldiers and the thief on the cross.

Because we are so sinful, we treasure a Savior who was tempted in every way yet lived without sin. And because You, not knowing sin, became sin for us, we are free and forgiven. When shame hurls accusations, let us take the Cross as our shield – before us, behind us, above us, within us, beneath us.

In seeming hopelessness, help us remember that You have the final word. Despite the Romans’ defensive efforts, neither seal nor stone could confine Jesus to the grave. We need You to break loose those areas where we have been discouraged and defeated. Remind us that sealed-shut dreams can be trusted to the One who overcame death.

He is Risen! is an anthem that quakes rocks and our unbelief. Lord, as we give You our hearts, fill every empty place with the certainty of the empty tomb. Your Resurrection robs any circumstance of its hopelessness. And if we find ourselves again on the Emmaus road, with souls disappointed and confused, open our eyes and make Yourself known to us. For You are beyond all our hopes, and Your love is stronger than anything, even death.

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

 

 

 


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When You’re in the Valley

Psalm 23, the beloved Shepherd Psalm, is perhaps the best-known chapter of the Bible. Several months ago, at Easter in fact, I read a blog post that drew my attention to Psalm 23 in a new way by placing it in the context of the psalms that surround it. In “Living in the Valley – For Now,” Jonathan Parnell writes that Psalm 22, 23, and 24, when we look at them together, say something even more meaningful about Jesus’ devotion and authority as our Shepherd.

As we read Psalm 22, we recognize Jesus right away in verse 1, especially His agony on the cross:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (22:1; see Matthew 27:46).

“… scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads” (22: 6 – 7; see Matthew 27:39).

“… people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment” (22: 17 – 18; see Matthew 27:35).

As Psalm 22 depicts Jesus’ cross, Psalm 24 describes His coronation:

Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is He, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
He is the King of glory (24: 8 – 10).

Psalm 22 reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice. Psalm 24 proclaims Jesus’ sovereignty and strength. As Jonathan Parnell put so well: “If Psalm 22 is a Good Friday meditation, Psalm 24 is our Easter morning song.”

But between Friday and Sunday, there is sorrow, uncertainty, disappointment, and confusion. There is a valley. There is a shadow of death.

But it is a mere shadow. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man’s pathway even for a moment.” Sunday’s a-coming. The Light of the World will dispel every shadow of darkness and death. The King of glory is coming.

I wholly lean on the triumphant hope of Psalm 24.

But today …. Today has felt like a valley. On days like these my head knows that Sunday is real but my heart is stuck in Friday. There is sorrow, uncertainty, disappointment, and confusion. I pray for vision yet I am short-sighted. There are steep and rugged mountains in the way.

In Psalm 22, I remember Jesus as Savior. In Psalm 24, I trust Him as Sovereign. But today I find myself in Psalm 23. And I need a Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.

Between the images of Jesus’ cross and His crown, here is my Comforter. The Messiah is in the middle.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

I fit the characteristics of a sheep – stubborn, needy, timid, and prone to wander (Isaiah 53:6). Yet, as I see in Psalm 22, the Good Shepherd bought me with a very high price.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

“The position of Psalm 23 is worthy of notice,” said Spurgeon, “It follows the twenty-second, which is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross …. It is only after we have read, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” that we come to “The Lord is my Shepherd.” We must know the value of blood-shedding, and see the sword awakened against the Shepherd before we shall be able truly to know the Sweetness of the good Shepherd’s care.”

Because this Shepherd is willing to care for me, a sheep, at such a tremendous cost to Himself, I can trust Him. Because this Lover of my soul is a Shepherd King – a King of glory – I can rest in His ability and authority to command all circumstances and lead me into places for my good – even the valley.

Though I walk through the valley … You are with me.

As a real-life shepherd, Phillip Keller explains that sheep are led to the mountain tops through the valleys because it is the well-watered route. In the valley there are rivers, streams, and still waters. The Shepherd who called Himself the Living Water (John 7:38) will refresh me again and again. Hope quenches my thirsty soul.

And as I’m here in the valley, I remember that the Shepherd is leading me through it. This is not a stopping place. One day I will join Him in Psalm 24.

I am the gate for the sheep,” Jesus said, “Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture … I have come that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10: 7 – 9).

The valley is the gateway to the fullest Life we will ever know. Jesus the Savior, Shepherd, and Sovereign makes it so.

Resources:
“Living in the Valley – For Now.” Jonathan Parnell. April 8, 2013. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/living-in-the-valley-for-now

Psalm 23 in The Treasury of David by Charles H. Spurgeon http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps023.htm

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller