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No More Disgrace, Only Grace upon Grace

     “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.” Isa. 54:4-5 (NLT)

Dear heavenly Father, this Scripture is astonishing and full of heart liberating power. Thank you for coming to us so faithfully in your Word—giving welcome to the exiled, balm for the broken, and grace for the disgraced. Thank you for your tenacious tenderness, inexhaustible patience, and heart-healing kindness. Thank you that we don’t have to be ashamed of our lingering battle with shame. Thank you for the promise that one Day I’ll be completely free, healthy, and whole.

Until that Day, we will blast our hearts with the good news—the true news: You are not ashamed of us, Father. In fact, you delight in us—as hard as that is to believe, at times. Your gaze is the gaze of grace. When you look at us, you not only see the righteousness of Jesus, with which you’ve clothed us, you see us and desire us.

There’s nothing about us you don’t know. There’s nothing left to discover, shock, or disappoint you. You don’t love us as we should be, or will be, but as we are, right now. Thank you, Father, thank you—words that come easily, but words that feel woefully inadequate to …

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Called, Beloved, and Kept

     Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James—to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Jude 1-2 (ESV)

Dear heavenly Father, what a gospelicious salutation Jude gives us; and it’s even more special when we realize that Jude, like many of us, appreciated Jesus long before he worshipped him. Though, like Jesus, Jude was Mary’s son, Jude didn’t realize Jesus was your Son until after our Savior’s resurrection. Thank you, Father, for rescuing Jude, and us, from a nice, but woefully inadequate knowledge of Jesus. Now we know ourselves to be called, beloved, and kept. Hallelujah, many times over!

Through Jesus’ finished work, you have called us from the grave into newness of life; you subpoenaed us right out of death. You literally spoke the word, and we came alive in Christ—no longer dead in our sin and trespasses, we are now fully forgiven and righteous in Christ. We would have never chosen you if you hadn’t first chosen and called us to yourself. We praise you for your sovereign mercy and power, Father.

And now, alive in Christ, we are beloved in your sight. May the name “beloved in God the Father,” trump and mute other names with which we have been branded through the years. When you look at us, you always delight and you always say of us, “My Beloved”. May this good news free us to live and love to your glory, until we take our last breath in this world.

Speaking of last breaths, we …

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A Prayer for Rejoicing in the Scandalous Goodness 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

      Dear 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. To which we cry, “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 have credited to us as a gift. What we fully deserve—to be dealt with according to the wages of our sin, you will never do so. What we cannot imagine—that you would justify ungodly people, you have joyfully and legally done.

Because of Jesus’ perfect and finished work, our transgressions are forgiven (all of them), our sins are covered (every one of them), and you’ll never hold us guilty for them. King David called such people “Blessed”. Because we are among “such people”, we …

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A Prayer for Resting in the Gospel Name(s) Jesus Gives Us

     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 functional and 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 labels we have placed on 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 us today and address us today as “Beloved,” ”Mine,” and “Desired”. I am so grateful for the power of the gospel to rename, renew, and release us from old destructive labels—including the ones we’ve given ourselves. 

     But as much as I love my new gospel-names, your name is the name I love to hear more than any other. It’s by your name we’re fully forgiven and declared righteous, are being healed of every disease and freed from …

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A Prayer for Greater Release from Our Shame

      “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.” Isa. 54:4-5 (NLT)

Dear heavenly Father, you come to us so faithfully in your Word, giving welcome to the exiled, balm for the broken, and grace for the disgraced. Thank you for your tenacious tenderness, inexhaustible patience, and heart-healing kindness. Thank you that I don’t have to be ashamed of my lingering battle with shame. Thank you for the promise that one Day I will be completely free, healthy, and whole.

Until that Day, I will blast my heart with the good news—the true news. You are not ashamed of me, Father. In fact, you delight in me—as hard as that is to believe at times. Your gaze is the gaze of grace. When you look at me, you not only see the righteousness of Jesus, with which you’ve clothed me, you see me and desire me.

There’s nothing about me you don’t know. There’s nothing left to discover, shock, or disappoint you. You don’t love me as I should be, or will be, but as I am right now—your beloved child, en route to becoming more like Jesus. Thank you, Father, thank you—words that come easily, but …

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A Prayer for Remembering the Riches of Our Identity as Believers

A Prayer for Remembering the Riches of Our Identity as Believers

     Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James—to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Jude 1-2 (ESV)    

     Dear heavenly Father, the back-story to these opening words, in the little book of Jude, is as encouraging as this remarkable salutation. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, didn’t grow up realizing (or believing) Jesus was anything more than a sibling with whom he played, did household chores, and broke bread.  Like many of us, Jude appreciated Jesus long before he worshipped him. He came to realize that Jesus was your Son long before he was Mary’s son. Thank you, Father, for rescuing Jude, and us, from a nice, but woefully incomplete knowledge of Jesus.

     For through Jesus’ finished work, you have called us from the grave into newness of life. You literally spoke the word, and we came alive in Christ—no longer dead in our sin and trespasses. We would have never chosen you if you hadn’t first chosen and called us to yourself. We praise you for your sovereign mercy and power, Father.

     And now, alive in Christ, we are beloved in your sight. May the name “beloved in God the Father,” trump and mute other names with which we have been branded through the years. When you look at us, you always delight and you always say of us, “My …

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A Prayer for Resting in God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense

     “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table. Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 2 Sam. 9:7-8 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, though we’ve never been “dead dogs” to pity, we have been dead in our sins and trespasses, utterly shut up to your sovereign grace. And you, who are rich in kindness, poured measureless mercy upon us—raising us from the grave of our sin, hiding our lives in Jesus, the Beloved.

     Truly, Jesus is the greater Jonathan. For his sake, you have been extravagantly generous to us. Because of Jesus’ finished work, you have lavished your welcome and love upon us. For your glory, you now greatly delight in us and will bring us safely home. Our hope is built on nothing less, nothing more, and nothing other, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. The gospel is true, Hallelujah, the gospel is really true and really this good.

     And now, Father, you don’t merely tolerate us, endure us, or “legally” like us. We are your redeemed image bearers, and cherished daughters and sons. You truly desire and enjoy us. May this good news radically impact us; may it free us from our crippling insecurities and lingering shame, from our pride and …

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A Prayer of Praise for the Scandalous Goodness 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

     Dear 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. To which we cry, “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 have credited to us as a gift. What we fully deserve—to be dealt with according to the wages of our sin, you will never do so. What we cannot imagine—that you would justify ungodly people, you have joyfully and legally done.

     Because of Jesus’ perfect and finished work, our transgressions are forgiven (all of them), our sins are covered (every one of them), and you’ll never hold us guilty for them. King David called such people “Blessed”. Because we are among …

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A Prayer for Responding to Jesus’ Desire

     I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.  Song of Songs 7:10

     Dear Lord Jesus, the Song of Solomon has never been one of the most underlined books in my Bible; but the more I look for you in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27), the more I’m drawn to its startling, scintillating, sensual imagery. To read the Song of Solomon is to tap into our deepest longings for intimacy, playfulness, passion, and delight—knowing and being known by you.

     Indeed, you are the great lover of whom this book speaks. In our best moments, our love for one another is a mere hint and whisper of the way you love us. We are the “beloved”—the Bride upon whom you have set your deepest affections, and for whom you’ve given your very life.

     This isn’t the gospel I grew up with, but this is the gospel revealed in the Scriptures. To be desired is to be wanted and pursued, seen and accepted, known and nourished, remembered and cherished. All of these grand realities are promised and provided in the gospel.

     Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to believe and experience the liberating truths, the unparalleled beauty, and the oceans of delight revealed in the Bible, and held out in the gospel. So I cry out today: come, Holy Spirit, come. Rescue me from my unbelief. Unseat and replace any notions of God and the gospel that still linger in my mind. Enthrall …

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A Prayer of Hope and Joy: Our Inheritance Is Guaranteed!

     In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  Eph. 1:13-14

     Dear heavenly Father, sometimes reading Paul’s letters is like standing in front of a gushing fire hydrant. It’s hard to stand up to the rush of so much glory and grace, peace and love, encouragement and hope. It’s simply overwhelming.

     Reading through Ephesians, alone, we discover that we have been loved before the foundation of the world; chosen in Christ and called in life; justified by faith and declared righteous in your sight; adopted by Abba, Father and betrothed to Jesus, our Savior; sealed, indwelt and gifted by the Holy Spirit. What a generous God you are!

     In Christ, you’ve given us a completely forgiven past, a present standing in grace, and a future of unimaginable wonder. But what really encourages me today is knowing that all of this heavenly goodness is guaranteed. You’ve “sealed the deal” by the Holy Spirit. You’ve guaranteed our inheritance in Christ. You’ve given us the down payment, firstfruits, and promise of a future beyond our wildest dreams and asking.

     There’s no possibility of “bait and switch” or “revoking the warranty.” There’ll be no rejecting and disinheriting your children. Nothing will deter, distract, or sabotage your bringing to completion of …

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