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Category Archives: Prayer

The Marvelous, Scandalous, Outrageous Awesomeness of the Gospel

     Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Rom. 4:4-8

Heavenly Father, this Scripture contradicts everything we assume about the way life is “supposed to work”. We expect to get what’s coming to us. We demand fairness–an honest return for our labor, time, and sweat. But the gospel flies in the face of conventionality, predictability, and normalcy. Hallelujah!

Thank you for not being “fair” with us. Thank you for being outrageously generous, immeasurably kind, and scandalously good. What we could never earn–your perfect righteousness, you’ve credited to us as a gift. What we fully deserve–to be dealt with according to the wages of our sin, you’ll never do so. What we cannot imagine–that you’d justify ungodly people (like us), you’ve done, legally, righteously, and joyfully.

Because of Jesus’ once-and-for-all finished work, our sins are once-and-for-all forgiven, never to be remembered against us. King David called such people “Blessed”; we call them (us) immeasurably rich and beloved.

Thank you for reconciling us to yourself through Jesus, and for placing us in your now-and-forever favor. Thank you for, not only removing all condemnation for our …

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Will Jesus Come Back Today, Sept. 23? Don’t We Wish!

     Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on themLuke 12:35-37

King Jesus, through the years we’ve suffered plenty of speculative pontifications about your second coming. Most of them are generated by fear-mongering and Scripture-twisting, political agendas or financial angles. That’s hardly what you had in mind when you charged us to watch and wait for your return. But this morning, as I meditate on this astonishing passage, much of that theological rubbish and rubble is cleared away.

Jesus, I’ve never been less anxious, and more-ready, for your return. Mainly because I’m “dressed for the occasion.” Through the gospel, I’m outfitted in the wedding garment of your perfect righteousness. I’m no longer afraid of your return. In fact, I very much want you to come back, so much I wish the guy that set Sept. 23 as your return was right. The oil in my lamp will never run dry–not because I’ve been busy picking and pressing olives; rather because you’ve sealed me with your Spirit, and have sent the Him to dwell in my heart forever.

Because the gospel is true, I’m …

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Who Gets to Be Your Heart Boss?

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Col. 3:15

Gracious Jesus, today, like every day, somebody or some entity is going to claim “dibs” on the attention and affection of our hearts. Our hearts will be wooed and ruled, enticed and seized. Something, or someone will be our “heart boss” today.

It could be bitterness, resentment, or unforgiveness. It could be the shaming power of Satan or the empty promises of greed, overbearing people or aggravating circumstances. It might be old regrets resurfacing or new fantasies emerging, the quest to be included or the approval of a dead parent.

Therefore, Jesus, in obedience to this life-liberating Scripture, we choose your peace as the ruler of our hearts. With palms up, we gladly surrender our hearts to your peace as our sovereign, king, and boss, for you are the Prince of Peace.

Through your finished work on the cross, God made his peace with us, and we now have peace with our Father. Alienation has been replaced with reconciliation, distance with intimacy, judgment with affection. God isn’t just “okay” with us; he delights in us. There is NO peace like the peace of God. How can we not overflow with gratitude and humility, faith and hope?

Jesus, may your peace-that-transcends-circumstances work as a centering and settling power in our hearts today. In our “testy” relationships and the things we cannot control; in our angry culture and our less-than-fulfilling jobs; in …

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Non-Contingent Joy

     There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:6-8 ESV

Heavenly Father, what a great attitude-checking, faith-focusing passage. We want to affirm with the Psalmist that nothing has to change for us to experience your joy in the core of our being–not people or politics, our wealth or the weather, our suffering or our “situations.”

We don’t love you simply because you make our “grain and wine” to abound. We reject Satan’s assumption that the only reason we, your children, love you, is because you buy our affections with “the good life.” (Job 1:9-11). Your name is Abba Father, not Sugar Daddy.

We love you because you created us for your glory and redeemed us by Jesus. Indeed, we love you because you first loved us, and gave Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement and propitiation for our sins. We’re grateful for the many creature comforts you’ve given us, but we adore you for the acceptance and affection you have lavished on us in the gospel.

Many angrily throw questions like these in your direction: “Who can show us any good?  Where is your God now?  How can you say God is good? Where was your God when….? How could your …

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Thankfully, God’s Faithfulness Trumps Our Unbelief

     “He (Peter) went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Acts 12:12-16

Heavenly Father, thank you for chronicling this somewhat humorous episode in your Word. It both exposes our unbelief, and highlights your unfailing commitment to do exceedingly beyond all we can ask or imagine. We’re grateful you answer our prayers, not because of the quality of our faith, but for the glory of your Son, the growth of your church, and the expansion of your Kingdom.

We’d loved to be astonished by “Peter knocking at the door.” Here’s some of the things weighing heavy on our hearts, and challenging to our faith, on this Wednesday in September.

Father, we know that you, not “mother-nature,” are sovereign over weather fronts, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Please reduce the power of Maria, barreling this morning towards Puerto Rico, and other vulnerable people and places. And grant success to workers in Mexico City, frantically digging to rescue victims buried in the rubble.

We continue …

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Wary, Weary, and Weak?

     Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isa. 40:28-31 ESV

Heavenly Father, this is one of the first Scriptures I memorized as a young believer, yet reading it today is like reconnecting with an old friend. It reminds us, (hallelujah), that you’re not like us in many ways. For starters, you never get tired or weary. We do, and are. Why?

Some of us are still reeling from the last hurricane, as we brace for another. Some of us are facing complicated medical stories; others, can’t remember the last 8-hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep. Some of us feel like we have more thorns in our flesh than treasure from a field. Others are weary in well doing, spent from loving well, and tired of waiting. Thanks for not despising our weaknesses. Thanks for understanding, Father.

Since youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, why would we think any of us is exempt from “running on empty,” staring into space, and hitting …

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Monday Mercies

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hopeRomans 15:13

     Heavenly Father, what a great verse for focusing, fueling, and filling our hearts this Monday in September. No matter how much we dread or delight in Mondays, it’s awesome to begin our work-week thinking of you as “the God of hope.”

Indeed, fill us with your joy, for your joy is our strength.

    The joy of knowing you are with us and for us, and that nothing can separate us from your love
    The joy of knowing that you love us as much as you love Jesus, for you’ve clothed us in his righteousness and have hidden our lives safely in his
    The joy of experiencing your presence in our storms, your grace in our weakness, and your mercy in our messes.

And Father, fill us with your peace–a peace that passes all understanding.

    The peace that things aren’t just going to be okay, but they’re going to be “beyond all we can ask or imagine
    The peace of knowing your heart and hand are engaged in the lives of our children, the weather fronts of the world, and the politics of the nations.
    The peace of believing that history is still your story, and that you’ll send Jesus back right on time.

Indeed, Father, we’d love to “abound in hope,” as your Spirit works in our hearts. If we could see, taste, and smell the future you’ve secured for us by Jesus, …

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We Can Delight in the Lord Because He First, and Continually, Delights in Us

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. Psalm 18:19 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, the command to delight ourselves in you is both astonishing and liberating. It’s astonishing, because you want us to find great joy in yourself–a joy that transcends circumstances, disappointments, and suffering. And it’s liberating, because you aren’t the means to some other end. The more we delight in you, the more we discover you are the deepest desire of our hearts.

We don’t want to settle for a status quo, nice, and “safe” knowledge of you, Father. How can we more fully delight in you? Only through the riches of the gospel can our hearts learn to sing with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)

So, take us “further up and further in”–indeed, carry us deeper into the heart-liberating, mind-transforming, whole-being-healing good news of your grace for us in Jesus. Help us actually believe you love us as much as you love Jesus, and that you delight in us to the same degree you delight in Jesus.

Father, free us wanting (and at times, demanding) anything other or more than you–even the most commendable things at the top of our prayer lists. Nothing and …

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God Commends Eating, Drinking, and Gladness. Let’s Comply!

So, I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sunEccles. 8:15

Gracious Father, the past several weeks have been challenging, draining, and exhausting. As your beloved daughters and sons, we each have our own reasons why that’s the case. Thank you for understanding our frailties and our need for refreshment, as reflected in this one verse.

If you never commanded Sabbath rest, we probably wouldn’t take it.  And if you never commended the enjoyment of life, we’d go to the extremes of either taking simple joys for granted, or worshiping pleasure altogether.

So today, we’re slowing down enough just to say thank you. Thank you for designing us for pleasure and delight. Thank you for putting nerve endings, taste buds, and aesthetic wiring in our bodies. Thank you for intending that joy would be our traveling companion all our days under the sun–including the messy, stormy, and disappointing days.

Personally, I praise you this Saturday for the aroma that fills my favorite bakery, and the taste and texture of pistachio gelato. Thank you for a Yorkie that smiles, and grandsons that are joy-factories. Bless you for hint-of-fall days, painted with rich blue skies; for college football and afternoon naps; for reconnection with old friends, and out-of-the-blue evidence you’re at work for our good.

I’m glad you made the …

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Trusting Our Father for Straight Paths and Ordered Steps

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Prov. 16:9 (NLT)

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can openRev. 3:7 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5-6 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, some decisions are “no brainers,” some require nothing more than sanctified common sense, and some choices are nothing more than a matter of personal preference. But other decisions tie us in knots, rob us of sleep, and keep us second-guessing. Today I’m praying for friends in this third category.

As these Scriptures remind us, you determine our steps and the outcome of our plans. This doesn’t mean we’re to be passive in our decision-making, but to trust that you are very engaged. You open doors we can’t shut, and you shut doors we couldn’t open with an army. Though sometimes we don’t like this in the moment, it’s is a huge blessing and comfort. We count on your constant care, rock-steady reliability, and sovereign might.

We have every reason to trust you with all of our hearts, because you loved us with all of your heart, by sending Jesus to be our Savior. Because of your matchless gift of Jesus, we can trust you to give us everything else we really need (Rom. 8:32).

Make our ways straight as we seek to honor you with …

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