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Words of Grace and Healing

Feb 13, 2016 | Scotty Smith

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healingProv. 12:18 (NIV)

Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Prov. 15:4 (NLT)

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. James 1:26 (ESV)

Let your conversation be always full of graceCol. 4:6 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father, this collage of Scriptures reminds us that nothing carries more power for hope and harm, building up and tearing down, giving life and dolling death than our words. Therefore, as this day begins, we choose to steward our words, like you call us to steward every other good gift you entrust to us.

And since our lips reveal the preoccupation of our hearts, help us fix (and keep) our minds and affection on Jesus—who alone is worthy; whose beauty is incomparable; who loves us like no one else. We don’t want our pain, selfishness, anger, or foolishness to have the lordship of our words.

Father, thank you for hiding our lives in Christ, for he is our guarantee of complete forgiveness, perfect righteousness, and citizenship in heaven. No matter whatever else is going on in our world, in Christ, you’ve given us riches beyond measure, peace beyond understanding, and life, truly abundant. We praise and bless you. May this good news win the day, seize our hearts, and shape our words.

Today, we will most likely experience difficult people and disappointing circumstances; challenging relationships and unplanned for interruptions; personal limitations and repeat offenders. Father, it’s our desire to respond with mercy and grace, as opposed to reacting out of irritation and anger. So we look to you and we abandon ourselves to you. Grant us the grace of the gospel and the power of your Spirit.

May we speak 100 words of healing for every harmful syllable we utter today. And when our lips contradict the gospel, grant us quick repentances and more grace. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ matchless and merciful name.

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God Wants Our Hearts, Brokenness, and Sin

Feb 12, 2016 | Scotty Smith

       That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punishJoel 2:12-13 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, yet again, your love has fueled our grief, and your kindness now leads us to repentance. Because the gospel it true, we hate our sin, not ourselves; and we groan in grace, rather than groveling in contempt. There is no other god like you—so holy and so merciful, so welcoming and so eager to redeem, so patient and so filled with unfailing love. Hear our confession.

  • We confess that we under-believe the gospel and over-trust in ourselves
  • We confess binging on fear and worry, rather than feasting on your grace and sovereignty
  • We confess thinking more about how people disappoint and fail us, than how we might love and serve them
  • We confess hoarding our brokenness and weakness, rather than letting friends enter our pain and suffering.
  • We confess indulging irritation and justifying our resentment, rather than forbearing with others and forgiving as Jesus has forgiven us.

Have mercy on us, Father, have mercy on me. If you dealt with us according to our sins, we could not stand. If you repaid us for all our transgressions, we would despair forever.

But our hope is sure; for it is built on nothing less, nothing more, and nothing other than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. We bless you, Father, for the gift of Jesus—for his perfect life lived for us, and his judgment-exhausting death on the cross. Though we remain broken, we cannot be more beloved. You will finish the work you began in us. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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In Praise of the God Who Works In Us and Through Us

Feb 11, 2016 | Scotty Smith

It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Phil. 2:13 (NIV) 

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Cor. 15:10 (NIV) 

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Psalm 138:8 (ESV)

     Dear heavenly Father, what peace and joy we have through Jesus. Your grace is freeing us from being concerned about merit or deserving, personal failure or self-aggrandizement. For the gospel has “trashed” every notion of performance-based earning, as the motivation for our obedience. Because of Jesus’ bold declaration, “It is finished,” we now do our good works in response to his perfect work.

     And Father, thank you for the “inside job” you’re accomplishing in us. Not only are you seeing to it that we work for your good pleasure, you’re actually giving us the will to do so. Such good news doesn’t make us passive, but active. The focus is on Jesus, not us. We matter, but we’re not the point. Hallelujah!

     Father, to whatever extent you’ve already accomplished anything through us that’s been of eternal consequence, we gladly affirm with Paul, it wasn’t us, but “the grace of God that was with me.” And looking ahead, our prayer remains the same. May your grace have even greater effect, in us and through us—wherever we live, work, and play. Free us to love your name and glory more than our reputation and comfort. May life in your transforming kingdom trump every concern to advance our tiny fiefdoms of personal peace and gain.

     Because of your “steadfast love,” we want the rest of our days to be marked risk, not rust—by “faith expressing itself in love,” grace revealing itself in servanthood, and joy growing from fellowship with you. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ bodacious, beautiful, and bountiful name. 

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On This Ash Wednesday

Feb 10, 2016 | Scotty Smith

     My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashesJob 42:5-6

     Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sinPsalm 51:1-2

     He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healedIsa. 53:5

     Dear heavenly Father, on this Ash Wednesday, accepting my mortality, and acknowledging my need, has never been easier, more life-giving, and freeing. For you resist the proud and give grace to the humble, and I relish, and want, all the grace you freely give us in Jesus. I gladly humble myself today.

It was “according to your unfailing love” and “great compassion,” that you completely blotted out my transgressions, for I have no other appeal or hope. Now I trust only, and fully, in the finished work of Jesus for the “washing and cleansing” from all my sins. I have peace with you, only because Jesus took the punishment I deserve.

Father, during the entire season of Lent, intensify my awe of Jesus’ cross, that I might genuinely repent of the ways I continue to under-believe the gospel, run to broken cisterns, and love poorly.

It’s only because of my standing in Christ, that I can fall on my face before you—deeply convicted of my sin, but without the burden of my guilt. It’s only because you’ve declared me righteous in your sight, that I declare myself needful of your grace—to change me, heal me, and free me.

It’s only because I’m certain you’ll complete the work you began in us, that I gladly submit to the present work of your Spirit in me. O, for the Day when we’ll be as lovely and as loving as Jesus. Hasten that Day, Lord; hasten that Day. Until then, make me more humble, grateful, and generous. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ trustworthy and worship-worthy name.

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Grace for Our Messiest and Healthiest Relationships

Feb 10, 2016 | Scotty Smith

     How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting. Psalm 133 (NLT)

Dear heavenly Father, in response to this wonderful Psalm, we bring our relationships to the occupied throne of grace today—praying for the “wonderful and pleasant” harmony you commend. We’re not naïve; we realize that until Jesus returns Satan will continue his assault on our friendships, marriages, churches, and families. He will do anything to sabotage unity and sow dissension, raise suspicions and erode trust, create disconnect and fertilize bitter roots in our relationships.

Father, for the glory of your name, we will resist him tenaciously, just like we’d resist an intruder trying to break into our homes; for that is who he is—the thief who has come to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). We will “make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). And the best way we can do that is by “blasting” our hearts constantly with the gospel of your grace.

For the more alive we are to your love for us in Jesus, the less we will tolerate our pettiness and indulge our self-righteousness; the less we will pick fights or avoid conflicts; the more we will seek to make peace and live at peace with one another; the more we’ll look to you, and not to any human being, to meet the deepest longings of our hearts and heal the oldest wounds that we carry.

So, Father, grant us grace and wisdom for our messiest relationships, but also for our healthiest relationships—for all of them need you. Help us to be the chief repenter and main forgiver, in each of our relationships—the one most desirous of reconnecting, the quickest to humble ourselves, the one most bull-dogged committed to harmony and peace-making. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ tender and triumphant name.

 

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Radical Grace Leads to Radical Loving

Feb 09, 2016 | Scotty Smith

     “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table. Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 2 Sam. 9:7-8 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father, what a great and gracious God you are. We have much in common with Mephibosheth. Though we’ve never been “dead dogs” to pity, we have been dead in our sins and trespasses, utterly shut up to your sovereign grace. And you, who are rich in kindness, poured measureless mercy upon us—raising us from the grave of our sin, hiding our lives in Jesus, the Beloved.

Truly, Jesus is the greater Jonathan. For Jesus’ sake, you have been extravagantly generous to us. Because of his finished work, you have lavished your welcome and love upon us. Our hope is built on nothing less, nothing more, and nothing other than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. The gospel is true, Hallelujah, the gospel is really true and actually this good.

And now, Father, you don’t merely endure us; you enjoy us and greatly delight in us. May this good news radically impact us; may it free us from our crippling insecurities and our lingering shame, from our ever-present pride and our joy-sapping fears; from our selfish ways and self-absorbed days.

And since loving well is the clearest evidence of our “getting” the gospel, increasingly free us to love to your glory. May the gospel be so “in play” in our lives that we’ll be more intrigued with people, and less irritated by them; more accepting of them, and less guarded around them; less resentful of their weaknesses, and more engaged with their brokenness. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ exalted and worship-worthy name.

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Healing for Our Grace Allergy

Feb 08, 2016 | Scotty Smith

     Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” John 4:7-10 (NLT)

Dear Lord Jesus, what a great story this is, and what a grace-full Savior you are. You disrupt our lives what we might find our delight in you. The more this woman played hide and seek with you, the more you played seek and catch. She’d been on a quest to fill her emptiness in the arms of men, many men, and it left her emptier. She ran, but you pursued; she danced around, so you stopped the music. Hallelujah!

Though the details of our stories are different from this nameless Samaritan woman, we resort to the same foolish strategy—hiding from true love, ignoring your daily mercies, resisting your great compassion.

Jesus, deliver us from our grace allergy—living with an aversion to the gospel. That we choose broken cisterns, dumb idols, and self-help over your better-than-life-love is utter madness. Grace is for sinners, not for pretenders, posers, and performers. You intend to heal us, not harm us; embrace us, not embarrass us; shower us with compassion, not shame us with contempt.

Jesus, we’re tired of wasting our thirst on water that does not satisfy. We’re tired of digging our own wells. We’re tired of sitting under dry spigots. We’re tired of being tired. Once again, we bring our thirst to you. We bring our grace-avoidance to you. We bring you our excuse making, unbelief, pride, and our self-righteousness.

Give us what you promise—living water, copious amounts of life-giving, heart-liberating, wound-healing grace. Sufficient grace for our very insufficient selves. Thank you Jesus for not giving up on us. So very Amen we pray, in your kind and powerful name.

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The Gospel Continually Heals Us and Frees Us

Feb 07, 2016 | Scotty Smith

     Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:43-44 (NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, as surely as you spoke the words to a dead Lazarus, “Come out!” and he was raised from the dead, so when you spoke the gospel to our hearts, we too were raised to newness of life. We have passed from death to life, from condemnation for our sins to the righteousness of faith; and from life in the kingdom of darkness to life in the kingdom of God. For your sovereign, irresistible, resurrecting grace, we shout Hallelujah!

Yet as surely as Lazarus needed to be freed from his grave-clothes, so do we. The smell and signs of death still cling to us, bind us, and trip us up. There are many areas of our lives for which we long for greater freedom.

Jesus, grant us greater freedom from the fear and awe of man. Some people have way more power over our hearts than they deserve. Their criticism and rejection can devastate us; and their praise and appreciation can make us. May your great love for us, and delight in us, shift the center of our relational world.

We also crave freedom from our self-centered worries and our soul-sapping anxieties. Jesus, you have the hearts of all kings in your hand—as well as all of our days and wounds, longings and burdens. Perhaps the most tenacious fragment of our grave-clothes, still wrapped tightly around our hearts, is our unbelief. We believe the gospel; help us to believe it SO much more. Continue to free us to trust you, implicitly and explicitly, with all things at all times.

Lastly, Jesus, free us for staying more alive to your love than our losses; more aware of your grace than our gripes, and more tuned in to what we do have in you, than what we don’t have in life. So very Amen we pray, in your glorious and grace-full name.

 

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Demonstrating the Gospel in Our Marriages

Feb 06, 2016 | Scotty Smith

     Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unityCol. 3:12-14 (NIV)

     Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thess. 5:11 (ESV)

     Dear heavenly Father, failure to pray for and nourish our marriages is like failing to drink water, get sleep, or breath air. The outcome is predictable, and not pretty. There’s no other relationship with greater power to expose our brokenness and reveal your grace, than marriage. And there’s no other relationship that Satan is more determined to crash and burn.

     So we come to you today, praying for our marriages.  Father, forgive us for believing there was only one person in the universe we were “supposed” to marry. No marriage can sustain that weight and freight. And forgive us for thinking that if we’d married the “right” person, it’d be enough. No person can carry that burden and deliver that load.

     You’ve made us for yourself, Father and our deepest, most powerful, and most insatiable longings for relationship can only be met in relationship with you. So our prayer is simple and essential. Once again, Father, inundate our hearts and marriages with the only love that is better than life, the only love that will never let go of us, the only love that is enough—your great love for us in Jesus.

    Because we are “chosen, holy, and dearly loved,” fill our marriages with your “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” We want our marriages to declare the beauty and bounty of the gospel. Until the day you take one of us home, help us to encourage each other and build each other up. Help us to outdo one another in kindness, forbearance, and forgiveness. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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When Our Pain Feels More Real Than God’s Presence

Feb 05, 2016 | Scotty Smith

     After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Pet. 5:10-11 (ESV)

     For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Rom. 8:18 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, thank you for the weariness-validating, peace-generating, heart-liberating voice of the Scriptures. Your Word brings us the encouragement we need, at just the right time. Today, I’m grateful for both Peter and Paul’s words about the sufferings we experience in this world. Both of these men were quite familiar with suffering, and both of them were even more familiar with your sovereign might and endless mercies.

     I sometimes forget, that until Jesus returns, suffering will be more the norm than the exception. Everything and everyone is broken, so to suffer is to be human and alive. The Day of no more “death, mourning, crying, or pain” is coming (Rev. 21:4); but that Day is not yet. But until that Day, there is you, and all the grace we will need to suffer to your glory.

     In the “bigger scheme”, as Peter said, all suffering is just for a “little while”—though sometimes it feels like “all the time.” Father, when life hurts the most, remind us (in our heart of hearts) that you are the “God of all grace”—the one who has called us to “eternal glory”, and that you will most definitely “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us. Make your presence more real than our pain. Make your grace more substantive than our sufferings.

     And grant us, like Paul, the joyful assurance that “the glory that will be revealed to us” will make all the sufferings of our brief journey in this world seem like weightless feathers, compared to the weight of glory that will land on us when Jesus returns. Hallelujah! Until that Day, grant us grace to steward our pain as a gift, making us more compassionate and merciful to others. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus, faithful and beautiful name.

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