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When In a Bit of a “Funk”

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus. 2 Cor. 7:5-6

Gracious Father, the incidental pictures in the Scriptures are often as profound as the extraordinary promises. I’m thankful for this picture of a conflicted, tired and “out-of-kilter” Paul being comforted by a good friend. For I begin today feeling a little on the blahs-and-blues side of things. I’m in a bit of a “funk”.

Thank you for reminding me that even your most faithful servants—those who know you so well, those whose grasp of the gospel is a zillion times better than mine—even these men and women experience restlessness, fear, and weariness.

At times I still labor under the myth of an Omni-competence. If I just prayed enough, believed enough, or was filled with the Spirit enough, I would never get discouraged or downcast. What a groundless lie and grace-less myth. What an unnecessary burden and humorless joke. The gospel frees us to be human, not Superman or Wonder Woman.

Father, thank you for comforting us when we are downcast. You don’t deride us, chide us, or hide from us. You comfort us. You’re “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). And thank you for the comforters you send us. Though you’re quite capable of sending ravens and rainbows, and manna and miracles, more often than not you send a …

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Let Jesus Shepherd Your Heart Today

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

Dear Lord Jesus, you are my shepherd, my very Good Shepherd. You give me everything I need, and more than I want. All I need in life is you, plus what you choose to give me.

2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

Even the most difficult places in life are like green meadows as long as you are there; and in the desert seasons of my life, and the drought like conditions of my heart, you quench my thirst and give me a peace I can’t get anywhere else.

3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

By your grace I’ve learned to pretend less and boast in my weaknesses more; for when I come to the end of my strength, wits, and rope, you always meet me there—granting me rest in my weariness, and strength for my tired body and heart. Thank you for marking my path and determining my steps.

4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

Jesus, you never promised us a stress-free life or an easy journey “home”; but you have promised never to leave or forsake us—even in the darkest valley. That’s all I really need to know—that you’re close and that you love me, and that you won’t let anything happen to me outside of your perfect plan for my life.

5 You prepare a feast …

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A Grace-Bombardment on Our Unbelief and Small Thoughts of the Gospel

     But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Tit. 3:4-7 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, to meditate on your Word is to submit to a grace-bombardment on our unbelief. This passage from Titus is a perfect example. What an all out assault these verses wage against our inadequate thoughts of you and incomplete view of the gospel.

     You’re so much kinder than we can imagine, and so much more loving than we ever hoped you’d be. Like Abraham, we weren’t seeking you when you found us. Your kindness and love appeared to us out of nowhere—actually, out of heaven. It was entirely an act of measureless mercy and sovereign grace on your part.

     As surely as we had zero part in our first birth, so we contributed “zilch” to our second birth. We didn’t “show promise”; you just kept your irrevocable promise to redeem a family as numerous as stars, sand, and dust (Gen. 12-17). Hallelujah, for the mathematics of mercy!

     And how generous you were, and remain, Father. You didn’t just “dribble” a little Holy Spirit on us; you poured him out on me “liberally through Jesus”—copious amounts of heart washing, soul-engaging, whole-being-satisfying goodness. By your grace, we’ve …

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A Prayer for Those Days When There’s Too Much to Get Done

     This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him. Lam. 3:19-24 (NIV)

     You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in youIsa. 26:3 (ESV)

     We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. Psalm 39:6 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, I woke up today with all kinds of random thoughts competing for my attention and energy. My “to do list” has more demands than there are hours in this day. That’s what makes these Scriptures so precious and timely. Even before the sun comes up, I want to remember what really matters, and Who matters the most. Well before I grab a bite of breakfast, I choose to feast on your new and daily mercies.

     Father, thank you for your steadfast, irrepressible, and life-liberating love. Today isn’t about getting everything done, but knowing you, walking with you, and enjoying you. I won’t add a day or hour to my life by stress and worry. Far better do to a few things well today, as a man of peace and kindness, than to rush through my list, treating people like projects and problems, or objects and obstacles. Help me to remember, all day long, that the only thing that counts …

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The Glory and Grace of Our Good Shepherd: Praying through Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

     Dear Lord Jesus, you are my shepherd, my Good Shepherd. You give me everything I need and more than I want. All I need in life is you, plus what you choose to give me. I believe this; help me when I fight it.

2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

     Even the most difficult places in life are like green meadows as long as you are there; and in the desert seasons of my journey and the drought like conditions of my heart, you quench my thirst with living water and give me a peace that passes all understanding.

3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

     By your grace I’ve learned to boast in my weakness, and pose and pretend less. For when I come to the end of my strength, you faithfully meet me there—granting me rest in my weariness and strength for my tired heart and body. I am so grateful that you have both marked the path for me, and that you yourself are my Way, Truth and Life. I want to honor your name much more than I want to go my way and get my way.

4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

     Jesus, you …

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Coming to Jesus for the Rest We Crave: Praying through Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

     Dear Lord Jesus, I’ve always loved this invitation, but sometimes I’m desperate for it, and this is one of those little “stretches.” I feel like I’ve got seven balls to juggle but I’m only a three-ball juggler. I praise, bless, and adore you for the promise of rest in the middle of the “much-ness” and the “manyness.”

   Sometimes I take too much on myself, and nobody’s to blame for that but me. But other times, like this one, there’s a convergence of important stuff that demands more energy, mental focus, and time than I have. So today, I readily and gladly cry, “Help!” Grant me rest in the middle of a 24-hour day with 72 hours of demands.

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,

     Jesus, thank you for not giving me a lecture on time management, but your gentle and humble heart, and your yoke of grace. Reading through the gospels, I don’t ever remember encountering a busy, frustrated, irritated, rushed spirit in you. You always spent time with your Father, and you always accomplished his will. May it be the same for me.

and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

     So, I fully expect your Holy Spirit to give me rest well before my to-do list becomes a now-done …

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A Prayer for a Saturday When You Don’t Feel Like Praying

     In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Rom. 8:26-28

     Dear heavenly Father, today is one of those Saturdays I’m thankful gospel-spirituality is much more about your grasp of us than our grip on you; that your delight in us is not contingent upon our delight in you; and that your vigilance in pursuing us never waxes or wanes, like ours does towards you.

     Father, I have no problem or hesitancy in acknowledging my lethargy and weakness this morning. In fact, it’s freeing to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak but helps us in our weakness, faithfully praying in us with “wordless groans” (Rom. 8:26). Though I don’t understand everything that means I do get that you search our hearts and you know the mind of the Spirit, and that brings me great comfort today.

     No one knows our hearts better than you, Father—for you have made, washed, and are perfecting our hearts. And you search our hearts to save us, not to shame us; to deliver …

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A Prayer for Good Stewardship of Our Words

     Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Eph. 4:29-30

Glorious Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—I praise you for the incalculable riches of redemption you’ve lavished on us in the gospel. Father, for planning such a stunning salvation; Jesus, for accomplishing all things necessary for our complete salvation; Holy Spirit, for faithfully applying the finished work of Jesus to us, and through us. I wish I had adequate words to express my gratitude, but my words fail me.

That being said, I don’t want my words to fail you, gracious God. Indeed, there’s no greater stewardship to which you have called us than being careful about how we speak to one another; for our words have the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21).

Father, you spoke the Word which gave life to my dead spirit—giving me both the will and the wherewithal to believe the gospel. Forgive me when I speak words, or even think words, which have the opposite effect on others, bringing discouragement, decay, even death.

Holy Spirit, you faithfully preach the gospel to my heart—incessantly telling me that I’m a beloved child of God. Continue to so fill my heart with the beauty of Jesus that, like Balaam’s donkey, I cannot help but …

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A Prayer in Response to the Newtown, CT Tragedy

A Prayer in Response to the Newtown, CT Tragedy

Jesus wept Jn 11:35

Dear Lord Jesus, we abandon ourselves to you tonight—we come running with our tears and our fears, our anger and our anguish, our lament and our longings. We collapse in your presence, with the assurance of your welcome, needing the mercies of your heart.

Some stories are just too much for us to absorb; some evil just too great to conceive; some losses  beyond all measurability. We need your tears and your strength tonight. That you wept outside the tomb of a beloved friend frees us to groan and mourn; that you conquered his death with yours, frees us to hope and wait.

But we turn our thoughts from ourselves to the families who have suffered an unconscionable violation of heart and all sensibilities. Bring your presence to bear, Lord Jesus, by your Spirit and through your people. May your servants weep with those who weep and wail with those who wail. Extend your tear wiping hand—reach into this great tragedy with an even greater grace.

We cry out on behalf of the children of Newtown, those most directly affected by this evil, and for children throughout our country and the world, whose little hearts are reeling with fear and terror. Give parents wisdom and kindness, as they seek to love their children well, this night and in the coming days. Raise up gifted counselors and care givers to serve those most traumatized.

Lastly, Lord Jesus, we cry out with a loud voice, …

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A Prayer for Marriages, Our Own and that of Friends

     For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Eph. 5:29-32

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m painfully aware of a growing number of friends who feel disconnected, despairing, or “dying” are in their marriages. I’m saddened, but not shocked, for two reasons.

It makes complete sense that the powers of darkness would assault the one relationship meant to tell the story of your great love for your bride.

Of course marriage is going to be a war zone—the front lines of spiritual warfare, until the Day you return. Satan is a hater. He hates you, he hates the gospel, and therefore, he hates your bride and he hates marriage.

But knowing my own heart also decreases the shock factor. Like most of us, I came into marriage with a little gospel and big naïveté. I had no clue about the depths of my brokenness, the degree of my selfishness, or the devices of my sinfulness. I had no clue about what it would take to love one person well the rest of my life—like every other spouse, someone who needs the gospel just as much as I do.

And I certainly had no clue that your love alone is better …

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