He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. Rev. 2:17 (NIV)
Dear Lord Jesus, this Scripture reminds me that nothing is more central to our identity than the name(s) by which we live. And often our most formative name isn’t the one on our birth certificate. Some of us have been branded with names that have shamed and wounded us deeply; and some of us have greatly harmed others by the things we have called them. All of us stand in need of your mercy and grace, which you readily and freely give.
Jesus, whether or not there’s literally a new name you’ll give us in heaven, I’m not sure. But it is enough that you look at me today and address me as “Mine”, “Beloved”, and “Desired”. I am so grateful for the power of the gospel to rename, renew, and release us from old destructive labels—the ones others have given us, and the ones we’ve given ourselves.
But as much as I love my new name, Lord Jesus, your name is the name I love to hear more than any other. It’s by your name that I’m fully forgiven and declared righteous, being healed of every …
I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Rev. 5:13-14
Dear Lord Jesus, John’s vision of redeemed creation declaring your praise, captures my heart and fuels my hope this morning. Even as my heart grieves over any of a number of environmental disasters in our world, including the most recent tornados in Oklahoma, nevertheless I’m thankful that one Day we’ll enjoy the perfected and never-to-be-broken-again world of the new heaven and new earth.
Indeed, Lord Jesus, I’m filled with hope by your promise of the new creation world of inviolate beauty, irrepressible goodness, and perpetual flourishing. I greatly long for the Day when creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will enjoy the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom. 8:18-25). Hasten that Day!
By faith I can already hear the faint, but sure, singing of every creature “in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them” (Rev. 5:13) singing to you, Lord Jesus—Creator and Redeemer. But what will that frustration-free (Rom. 8:20), fully engaged, full-throated, pan-creature symphony and chorus actually sound like? I can hardly wait to see and hear.
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.” And the Lord said to me, “They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Deut. 18:15-18
Dear Lord Jesus, of all the incredible promises made about your birth, I often overlook one of the first and most wonderful ones given. You are the greater Moses—God’s last Word, in person and proposition. What a joy it is to know that you rule the world with grace and truth, both of which you are full of (John 1:14).
Throughout the history of redemption, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, at many times and in various ways. But finally and fully, he spoke to us through you, his beloved Son—Creator and heir of all things (Heb. 1:1-3). You are the final Word, Jesus, the living Word, the loving Word, the incarnate Word! We worship and adore you.
Oh, the freedom and joy I have in knowing you’ve spoken and have not stuttered, Lord …
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:1-3
Dear heavenly Father, after 26, this is my last Sunday as pastor of a remarkable community of faith—an amazing family of brothers and sisters just as needy of your grace and grateful for your love as the first day we gathered before you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the privilege and honor of getting to serve you in Christ Community Church. You’ve done exceedingly beyond all I could’ve ever hoped or imagined. Great is your fatherly faithfulness; daily your measureless mercies; exquisite and lavish, your steadfast love.
So what is a last sermon—the final word by an outgoing founding pastor supposed to be? When I first asked myself that question, I felt pressure—as though everything would be on the line; I’d need to “hit it out of the park,” to bring “a word for the ages”. But fortunately, that didn’t last very long, for it’s never been about my performance, but that of your Son, Jesus. …
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 1 Sam. 12:23-24
Lord Jesus, there’s a lot more to friendship than praying for our friends, but we haven’t really been a good friend unless we’ve prayed and continue to pray for them. Knowing you call us friend is astonishing, and knowing you’re are always praying for us is all the motivation we need. Indeed, how can we enjoy such a rich standing in grace and not “stand in the gap” for our friends?
For our friends with broken hearts, Jesus, we pray for the reach and touch of your tear-wiping hand. Loss, betrayal and personal failure can be devastating. Bring the gospel to bear with tenderness and power. Help us take our friend’s pain seriously, yet keep us from trying to heal their wounds quickly or lightly. Give us grace to stay present in their hurt. Please heal them in ways that will leave them merciful toward others, not merely pain free.
For our friends with angry hearts, Jesus, please dialogue with them the same way you entered Jonah’s rage. “Do you have a right to be angry?” you asked the conflicted prophet. Help them see the sad behind their mad, the pettiness in their petulance, and the …
The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. 1 Sam. 17:47
This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chron. 20:15
Dear Father, I’m thankful when you’re selfish with things I don’t really want anyway—especially when you claim ownership of my battles. Though following Jesus involves intense warfare and wearing the armor you provide (Eph. 6:10–18), you are the Divine Warrior we must trust. Whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, the battle belongs to you, Lord. Fear and discouragement are not the order of the day, faith and hope are.
We’re never more than David standing before Goliath (1Sam. 17); Elijah facing 400 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18); Gideon taking on the Midianite army (Judges 6-8); Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a fiery furnace; Esther against the Persian government. It’s not our competence but your presence that matters. Not as disengaged pacifists, but as fully engaged worshipers, we will behold the salvation of the Lord.
Father, when it seems like evil and terror will triumph, let us hear the laughter of heaven. Give us eyes to see your already installed King, the Lord Jesus, reigning over all things (Psalm. 2).
When we’re under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let us see Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He is our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30–31). Our …
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3
Dear Lord Jesus, I’m increasingly grateful for all the reasons the Father sent you into the world. When I behold the perfect holiness of God, I’m so thankful you came to set us free from our imprisonment to sin and death and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. In the gospel we hear you singing these words over us: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We have no righteousness apart from yours, Lord Jesus, none.
When I look at places like Haiti, Calcutta and Darfur, I’m so thankful that you came to preach good news to the poor—not just good news concerning spiritual poverty but also the good news of a kingdom which provides food for the hungry, clean …
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:9-12
Lord Jesus, we’ll exhaust the wonder of this passage, as soon as we drink Niagara Falls dry; as soon as we memorize the names of every star you’ve launched into the heavens; as soon as we finish climbing every Alp in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France.
On this Palm Sunday morning, we’re overwhelmed with your humility, sovereignty and your generosity. What other king would mount the lowly foal of a donkey to the conquer the warriors and war-horses of darkness? What other king could break the battle bow and the backbone of all warfare by his own brokenness on a cross?
What other king could replace the politics of tyranny with a dominion of peace? What other king would offer his life and death for the redemption …
Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Gracious Jesus, I often read this text looking in the rear view mirror, as though I no longer need your medicinal care… as though I used to be a big sinner needing the great physician to heal me. How I wish that was the whole diagnosis.
In one glorious way, I already enjoy perfect health. You’ve already given me the perfect and permanent “health” of justification. I cannot and will never be more justified than I already am in you, Jesus. You’ve completely freed me from my cancerous and condemning guilt. The gospel is our declaration of a clean bill of righteousness-health. In that sense, I’m no longer a sick sinner… but only in that sense.
For the more I see of your beauty in the Scriptures, the more I realize I have congenital heart disease. I’m a sick man that needs a mighty and merciful Physician to transform me. So I come before you today acknowledging the heart disease you alone can heal.
As you’ve freed me from the guilt of my sin, please heal me more fully of its shame and power. Shame has the power to isolate and paralyze. We cannot love others well if we stay preoccupied with our failures and brokenness. I’m not asking for greater self-esteem, but greater esteem for you, Jesus. That’s where freedom …