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. …
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?‘ Daniel 4:34-35 (NLT)
Dear heavenly Father, O, how I love and need this passage. Like Nebuchadnezzar, I’m never saner than when I’m worshiping you and acknowledging your sovereignty, over all things. I’m so very thankful that you are God, and I am not. Forgive me when I think less of you, and otherwise of me.
I’m grateful that you do as you please, and not as we often beg you to do. Indeed, Father, I’ve lived long enough to praise you for some of the “No’s” I’ve received to prayers for which I desperately wanted a “Yes“. You do all things well, not easy; but in time, you will make all things beautiful. Give me grace to wait for that Day, Father.
Help me to trust your heart when I cannot see your hand at work. Forgive me for thinking I need to draw certain international crises, and personal situations, to your attention—as though you’re not aware; or worse, as though you don’t care. Thank you, Father, for your kindness and patience, when I’m anxious and demanding.
“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 (NIV)
Dear heavenly Father, even your “Woe’s” are gifts of grace, for they warn me of the foolishness of my reasoning, the limitations of my perspective, and the self-centeredness of my musings.
Sometimes, I “think” I’d like to be you for fifteen minutes. That’d give me a chance to fix people that need fixing; fund ministries which serve you the best, but struggle with finances the most; bring judgment upon those who’ve “got it coming”; alleviate the sufferings of friends whose physical and emotional pain is overwhelming; exact revenge on people who’ve hurt me the deepest and betrayed me the most; put an end to human trafficking and the pornography industry; rid the world of annoying politicians and “liberal” pundits; and, heal broken marriages of friends and obliterate cancer, once and for all.
Alas, Father, I am such a mix of good desires and broken agendas. I look at my list and realize how much I need the gospel—every day and every hour. Of course, you the Potter, have hands—big, loving, mighty ones. And not only that, you have a heart bigger than the universe; wisdom beyond all imaginings; and a timetable that makes Swiss precision seem like laissez-faire tardiness.
There is a …
Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Ex. 14:12-14 (NIV)
Dear heavenly Father, fear and worry can really do a number on us. I totally get how your children could prefer returning to a life of slavery in Egypt over trusting you in the wilderness of the unknown. I’ve often felt a similar temptation to choose a known brokenness over the promise of unseen beauty. Help my unbelief as I face different battles and skirmishes in life. Help me to be still… and trust that you will fight for me.
Father, I’m not facing the threat of Egyptian soldiers (thankfully). Often my biggest battles are within my own heart. You tell me of your great love for me in Jesus—which I really believe is true, yet too often I give people the power to validate me—as though your delight in me is not enough. Continue to free me from my love of the approval of man.
Many times I battle with trusting you with the hearts and stories of people I love. I resort to ineffective ways of manipulating, spiritualizing, or trying to …
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7 (ESV)
Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. Prov. 28:26 (NIV)
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 (NIV)
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. John 14:1 (NLT)
Dear heavenly Father, every difficult season of life is anticipated in your Word—all the exigencies and emergencies, disheartening crises and devastating crucibles, broken promises and broken trust. Thank you for your warnings and wisdom, and today—especially, thank you for your welcome. Few things hurt as much as broken trust. Help us Lord, help us trust you when trusting is really hard.
We trust a chair will support our weight when we sit down, a bridge won’t collapse when we drive across it, the food we bring home from the market is safe, the diagnosis we get from our doctor is right, and people we love won’t harm us. Father, we’re not naïve. We live in a broken world, as broken people. If we stay in any relationship long enough, we will be a disappointment and we will be disappointed. Today, however, we ask you to meet us in the raw and lingering pain of broken trust.
In our fear, and with our troubled hearts, we want to trust you, Father, completely. Where else can we go. What else, who …
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you. 2 Pet. 3:8-9 (NIV)
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for being patient with our impatience. You’ve never been late for anything. “Swiss timing” is tardiness, compared to the precision of your faithfulness. You will send Jesus back at just the right time, to finish making all things new. That grand Day will happen, not a day early and not a day late.
And how we long for that Day. No more death, pain, or mourning; no more knowing in part or loving in part; no more goodbyes or good riddance’s; no more disappointing others or being disappointed; no more betrayals or rejections; nor more broken hearts or broken anything; no more heartaches or even heartburn.
But Father, your faithfulness isn’t just tied to the timing of the second coming, but to everything else you’ve promised as well. Indeed, there’s no panic or second-guessing in heaven today. You’re not distracted or perplexed about anything—that would be us, not you. Though it’s hard to imagine why you haven’t answered certain prayers we’ve offered, with a quick and big “Yes!” nevertheless, you do all things well. You gave Jesus for our sins; certainly we can trust you to give us everything else we really need.
So grant us grace in our waiting, strength in our …
Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? Romans 9:20-21
Dear heavenly Father, this morning I’ve been reflecting on the mystery and mercy of your sovereignty, especially as I consider everything you did to redeem idolaters and rebels like me.
Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t an accident, afterthought, plan B, or the redeeming of a good story gone kaput. It was your plan, made before the foundation of the world and executed in the fullness of time. The comfort and peace I enjoy from this supreme demonstration of your sovereignty is incomparable and immeasurable.
But Father, as I much as I celebrate and find comfort in the demonstration of your sovereignty in saving sinners, why do I struggle with it in any other part of my life? I relate to Paul’s metaphor in this text. There are times I do want to reverse roles with you, and make me the potter and treat you like pliable clay. With regard to certain stories and broken people, I do fancy myself to be the 4th member of the Trinity, rather than abandoning myself to you—my sovereign Father.
Indeed, I don’t have any problem with you setting up and sitting …
Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isa. 40:27-29
Dear heavenly Father, whenever I started to whine as a child, my parents had a way of letting me know our home was a low-tolerance zone for whiners. I “got it” once I became a parent, and then a pastor. Nobody likes to be on the other end of a whine.
Today I find great delight in knowing that, as your children, when you have to discipline us, it’s always in love. You never roll your eyes at us in disgust. You never get exasperated or irritated with us. Though you convict us, you never shame us. The only look you give us declares your welcoming heart. Though you find no pleasure in our whining, you greatly delight in us; for you have hidden our lives in Jesus—in whom you find ultimate joy and pleasure.
Though it presently feels as though heaven isn’t paying attention to some very important things in my heart and story, I hear you say to us in your Word and gospel, “My name is …
The godless in heart harbor resentment. Job 36:13
Dear heavenly Father, whether it’s the persistent fly interrupting my needed nap, the thoughtless words spoken by a trusted friend, the new ding in my twelve-year-old car, or the old hurt that generates fresh pain, resentment never helps; it only sabotages peace and pilfers joy.
To harbor resentment is nothing short of harboring a criminal, for resentment is bent on criminal activity: stealing creativity, vandalizing sleep, robbing relationship, killing kindness, murdering hope, infecting the innocent with deadly toxins—to name a few of resentment’s crimes. There’s no greater waste of energy than resentment.
But worst of all, Father, resentment is a contradiction—a blatant misrepresentation of who you are and how you relate to us in Jesus. If anyone has a right to hold a grudge, to keep a record of wrongs done, to rehearse and remember our sins against us, it is you. Thus, we are never less like God (godless), than when we fertilize our umbrage and bitterness.
For you don’t treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is your love for those who fear you. As far as the east is from the west, that’s how far you’ve removed our transgressions from us. You have great compassion on us as your children (Ps. 103:10-13). You show us neither vexation of spirit nor exasperation of heart, so great is …
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Phil. 4:5
Dear Lord Jesus, the first thing this Scripture makes me think about is you, for no one more gentle than you. No one is as welcoming of sinners, as kind to the broken, or as understanding of the struggling as you.
You’re like the perfect surgeon—the one I want working on me. You never get nervous, flustered, agitated, or hurried. You have a steady hand because of your steady heart, and I gladly surrender to both today, for I want to grow in gentleness.
Gentle me when I’m behind slow drivers who stay in the fast lane. Gentle me when I face both fair and unfair criticism. Gentle me when I think things that are obvious to me ought to be obvious to everybody else. Gentle me when loud people invade “my” space—as though I have some inalienable right to an uninterrupted life.
Gentle me when I’m too tired to engage but my wife really needs me to listen. Gentle me when I lose a 200 lb. Halibut (happened yesterday). Gentle me when someone gets the last piece of chocolate cake I was already planning on enjoying with a glass of milk.
Gentle me when the vacation gets cut short by crises. Gentle me when friends keep making the same mistakes and foolish choices. Gentle me when the restaurant sends me home with the wrong takeout order. Gentle me when Satan …