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Grateful: When We’re “Feelin’ It”, and When We’re Not

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol youPsalm 119:28 ESV

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus1 Thess. 5:18 NLT

Heavenly Father, we want to begin (and continue) this day with a spirit of gratitude–for the glory of your name, the health of our hearts, and the benefit to our neighbors. Though we can default to whining and carping, comparing and coveting, you’ve given us copious reasons to rest and rejoice.

We’ll start here. Thank you for registering our names in heaven (Luke 10:20)–for writing us into the Book of Life with the indelible ink of your grace (Rev. 3:5). Nothing can separate us from your love, pry us from Jesus’ hand, or keep us from heaven.

Your steadfast love endures, because Jesus’ work was once-and-for-all. You’ve hidden our lives in Christ, clothed us in his righteousness, and dress us daily in garments of grace. We live in your permanent favor, constant delight, and unbreakable providence. What more could we possibly hope for?

Though we don’t always understand your ways, see your hand, or like your timing, the gospel frees us to trust you in the 9/11’s, Irma’s, and wildfires of life; when the power is off and the lines are long.

Thank you for being sovereign over our joys and tears, rejoicings and sufferings; the days we declare, “Great is thy faithfulness!”, and the days we cry out, “How long, O Lord?”

Father, thank you for telling us …

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When Needing a Bit of Encouragement and Strength

2 Thessalonians 2:16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,

Heavenly Father, what a great Scripture. You are crazy-good to us–irrepressibly kind and incessantly faithful. Thank you for the “eternal encouragement” and “good hope” you’ve already given us in Jesus. There’s zero doubt about where history is going, or how awesome our forever is going to be.

No eye has seen, ear heard, or mind imagined the things stored up for us in heaven.  You love us today as much as you’ll love us in that Day. In fact, you love us right now as much as you love Jesus, for you have hidden our lives in him. The saints in heaven are more joyful and whole than us, but not one bit more secure or beloved. This is awesomeness.

17 encourage your hearts

     It’s precisely because we have eternal encouragement that we unabashedly look to you for fresh encouragement. Some of us are experiencing hurricanes or heartaches, relational messes or difficult transitions, unexpected disappointments or long-standing illnesses.

So, with palms us, we make ourselves subjects of Paul’s prayer in this text. Indeed, encourage our hearts, as you alone can, Father. By your Holy Spirit, assure us that you are aware and care, on the scene and at work. Forgive us when we think otherwise.

and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Yes, and strengthen us to move forward, Father. It’s not like life’s other responsibilities stop when we are …

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Craving to Be Controlled by the Love of Jesus

2 Corinthians 5:13 – If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us.

Heavenly Father, Paul’s words convict and allure me. What a grand image and possibility–being controlled by the love of Jesus; not merely inspired or encouraged, but controlled, compelled, and constrained by Jesus’ love for us. I can’t imagine a more-to-be-desired way of doing life.

I’d be freer from people’s opinions, my vendettas, and cultural agendas. I’d be more intrigued than irritated with people; quicker to repent and forgive, than judge others and nurse grudges.

My thoughts, words, and choices would be shaped more by your grace than by my impulses, whims, and sin. I’d be more generous, and less selfish, more faith-full and less fear-full, more trusting and less suspicious, more present and less busy.

Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.

By the Holy Spirit, help me remember and rely on this good news: I’ve been co-crucified with Christ and have be raised to new life in him (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:4-5).

Through Jesus, I’ve been set free from the old way of life and have been placed into an entirely new dominion, epoch, and story–the new creation kingdom of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:13). Sin’s dominion is broken, its penalty is exhausted, and its presence will be eradicated one Day. Make this palpable, joy-fueling, and liberating today, Father.

15 He died for everyone so …

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A Prayer for My Everyday Prayer Partners

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. Phil. 1:3-4 NIV

     Heavenly Father, I thank you for this amazing community of women and men with whom I get to begin my days, and on this particular day from Sitka, Alaska. We, quite literally, come from all over the glob, represent so many different parts of the Body of Christ; and are all over the map, with respect to the joys and pains of life.

I don’t pray that we will agree on all things political, social, or theological; but I do ask you give every one of us a greater grasp of the gospel of God’s grace, a 20/20 vision of the beauty of Jesus, and a deep and abiding conviction, that you, our Father are sovereign over all things in our lives and in our world.

Indeed, Father, send your Spirit into our hearts and give us a greater sense of gospel-astonishment. May your grace be the most encouraging, freeing, and transforming power in our lives. May we rest in your love, abide in your peace, and overflow with your kindness. Restore to us the joy of our salvation, that we might live and love to your glory.

Continue to free us from old “tapes” and “Samsonite” (baggage) we have been toting around for years–wrong grace-less thoughts about you, the guilt of sins you’ve already forgiven, habits of the heart that sabotage intimacy with you (and others), …

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Scotty’s Prayer-less Morning

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Col. 3:15

Dear Heavenward Prayer-Blog Friends

When I got up this morning to write my daily prayer blog, alas, I discovered that my computer power cord had died to my MacBook. It was just a couple of hours before leaving with friends, here in Sitka, Alaska, to go out and try to catch King Salmon. I was frustrated, anxious, and a bit “cheesed.” I didn’t have time to find an alternative and I’m an IT-goober, with very little technological savvy.

Do you see the inherent contradiction? Indeed, the Lord convicted me about my prayer-less, graceless attitude. I got a bit angry because I couldn’t meditate on a Scripture, wearing the lens of the gospel, and pray/write a prayer that would benefit you guys. While fishing, it was good to realize I can turn having control over my schedule, presuming on unbreakable electronics, and even writing a daily prayer-blog into an idol. Aren’t we thankful the gospel is true, and that we have a Father who convicts us, without one iota of condemnation?

Well, we had a great day on the waters of Sitka, and even through we didn’t bring in a boat load of salmon, the fellowship was sweet, and the mellowing ministry of the Holy Spirit even sweeter. Rest well tonight my friends, and, Lord willing, I have a means of resuming the blog in the morning. Grace and Peace, my friends, Scotty

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SO Many Good Gifts from God

(As you pray-read through these Scriptures and my prayer today, contextualize your own story and moment. For what do you need to be more grateful today?)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Cor. 4:7

Heavenly Father, as I wake up today in one of the most beauty-soaked, fish-laden, awe-fueling spots in the world–Alaska, I want to take time to say a big “Thank You!” I want to express heart-felt gratitude for a wide array of things I’d never have if you weren’t so generous.

Father, thank you for an over-the-top glorious salvation in Jesus. By your sovereign goodness, you revealed the depth of my need, and then you lavished the riches of the gospel on me. I’m hidden in Christ, standing in grace, and rooted in your love. I’m an object of your constant affection and a subject in your unshakeable kingdom, a focus Jesus’ prayers, and a son in whom your Spirit dwells. These things, alone, mock any whining and pining, carping and harping I can muster. But there’s so much more.

I have a roof over my head and heaven as my home; a family to love and your Story to live; a Bible filled with trustworthy promises, and buddies with whom to catch big salmon; a body that still mostly works, and a resurrection body that …

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When We See Things Differently Theologically

     For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Gal. 5:14-15 (NIV)

     For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 1 Cor. 13:9-10 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, there are so many reasons I’m looking forward to life in the new heaven and new earth. And though it’s not at the top of my list, theological agreement and unity among your children is right up there. Surely you must grieve when we “bite and devour” one another, because we disagree on the best understanding of a passage in the Bible. Robust dialogue is one thing; mean-spirited diatribe is quite another. Defending the gospel is one thing; being arrogant and argumentative is never okay. Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.

On this Lord’s Day, the color of our skin, the address of our church buildings, and our denominational differences will separate us. O for the Day when we will no longer know in part or love in part–the Day when we will no longer label, dismiss, or marginalize one another, because we don’t cross every theological “t” the same way. When I think about it, Father, it’s quite sad (and tragic) that we, who’ve been saved by grace alone, should ever resort to condescending, judgmental, dismissive attitudes.

Father, have mercy on me. Please forgive me for leading with my rightness over my kindness. Forgive me for loving …

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Owning Our Jar-of-Clay-ness

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Lord Jesus, to have you plus nothing, makes us as rich as anybody in the history of the cosmos. To have you plus everything else wouldn’t make us any richer than he who has you alone. You are the treasure all other currencies mimic and counterfeit. Nothing compares to the greatness of knowing you and the wonder of being loved by you.

You inhabit our weakness like a Rembrandt painting in a picture frame of straw; or like the Hope Diamond mounted in a necklace of tin foil and Scotch Tape. You get all the attention and honor, and we get the supreme privilege of simply being used of you. Just as it should be, and just as we want it to be.

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Though few of are in a season of intense persecution for our faith (like Paul was), nevertheless, we can relate to his images of being hard pressed and perplexed. The stories, demands, and emotional expenditure of life tax our limits and drive us to you–which is a good thing. None of us is called to be the 4th member of the Trinity. None of us is called to be a Super-Hero. All of us are called to own our limits, rest in your love, and trust in your sovereignty.

10 We always carry around in our …

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Getting Free of Our “Grave Clothes”

     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)

     Lord Jesus, you spoke the words to a dead Lazarus, “Come out!” and he was raised from the dead. The same thing happened to us when you spoke the gospel to our hearts. We passed from death to life; from condemnation for our sins, to being clothed with your righteousness; from slavery in the kingdom of darkness, unto freedom 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 vestiges and habits of death still cling to us, bind us, and trip us up. Untie us; heal us; liberate us.

     Jesus, grant us greater freedom from what people think of us. Some people have more functional power over our hearts than the gospel. Their criticism and rejection can devastate us; and their praise and appreciation can “make” us. May your unparalleled love for us, and your great delight in us, shift the center of our relational world.

     We also crave freedom from our self-centered pursuits, our soul-sapping anxieties, and our anger-producing triggers. You have the hearts of all kings in your hand–as well as all of our days and pains, longings and …

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Bringing Our Fears to Jesus

     And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)

(As you read through some of my fears, bring yours to Jesus, as well)

Lord Jesus, like bookends of grace, the heart-settling command, “Do not be afraid“, accompanies your birth and resurrection (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5). Ever since our first parents sinned, fear and hiding have been part and parcel of life; and I’ve helped keep the family tradition alive. At times, fear has more power over my life than your love; and though I already know myself to be clothed in your righteousness, I still reach into my closet for fig leaves.

I join shepherds in hurrying off to come to you, Jesus, for you alone bring the good news of great joy for which my heart longs every day. You alone can charm our fears and set prisoners more fully free. I’m not really afraid of angelic hosts and I’m not afraid to die. I’m …

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