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What I Esteem Defines Me

     Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:1-3 (ESV) 

     Lord Jesus, Isaiah’s prophecy of your death for us rips at my heart this morning. How could you live for, die for, and love rebels, fools, and idolaters, like me? You, who never sinned, became sin for us, that in you, we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). By your crushing, we are now cherished; by your exile on the cross, we have citizenship in God’s heart; by your consummate wounding, we are becoming completely healthy; by your cruel death, we live forevermore.

     I can’t get away from Isaiah’s words, “and we esteemed him not.” The riches of your grace move me to grieve the wretchedness of my sin. The truth is, every time I sin, I esteem me more than I esteem you. There’s no greater summary of the insanity of sin than a lack of esteem for you, Lord Jesus.

     You made us for yourself, …

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With Jesus

     The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with JesusActs 4:13 (NLT)

Dear Lord Jesus, this simple story indicts and invites, convicts and compels my heart this morning. Two unschooled, ordinary fishermen named Peter and John were radically liberated, all because of their fresh, robust relationship with you.

Jesus, this story reminds me that doing the right things for you is not the same thing as spending life-giving time with you. Thinking great thoughts about you is not the same thing as current communion with you. Helping others understand the gospel is not the same thing as drinking deeply from the wellspring of living water for myself.

Jesus, fuel, renew, and delight my heart-relationship with you. May your beauty be tantalizing, your love be astonishing, and your peace center and settle the core of my soul. When I am with you, nothing else really matters—every problem assumes its right size, fears flee, worries shrink, hurts heal, anger melts, and hope grows.

Because who or what do I have in heaven but you, Jesus? You make heaven heavenly and glory glorious. Being with you, my lusts are tamed and my idols fall. Absolutely nothing else thrills and satisfies my soul like you do. My flesh and my heart will grow weaker, but you are the strength of my heart—my portion, banquet, and inheritance forever. It is good, …

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A Prayer for Responding to the Gift and Wonder of God’s Jealousy

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor. 11:2-3 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, nothing good has ever come out of our jealousy—our insecure possessiveness and demandingness. But only good arises from godly jealousy—from your grace-full determination “to have and to hold” us for yourself, and to enjoy us forever.

     That you are jealous and zealous for our love is the greatest compliment you could ever pay us. Really? You desire the affection of our hearts, the pleasure of our company, the intimacy of our communion? We believe this, Jesus, because you have spoken it, but we want to believe it more. Heal and free us from the prison house of our unbelief.

     That you really want us, desire us, and enjoy us is almost too much to take in. That you are actually saying to us today in the gospel, in this very moment, “Come away, my beloved, my desire is for you, my banner over you is love “… it almost seems impossible and, tragically, at times not enough to fill the void and ache of our hearts.

     It’s easy to understand Paul’s concern about the heart drift of the Corinthian believers. For …

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A Prayer for Ongoing Going Gospel Renewal in Our Churches

     I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  Eph. 3:17-21

Dear heavenly Father, meditating on Paul’s prayer for believers in Ephesus, fills my heart with gratitude for the gospel of your grace. You’ve planted our roots deep and secure, in the fathomless depths of your agape love. Our eternal joy and health are not in doubt. We will flourish and thrive forever. The gates of hell will not overcome the growth and forward movement of your beloved people (Matt. 16:18).

However, until that Day Jesus returns, so much can happen to us and among us as your people. Satan hates the church, and we are an “in Christ” but “yet-to-be-glorified” people. What but a bigger and better grasp of Jesus’ love can keep us focused on the things that really matter, and repentant for the ways we fail one another? Really good churches can fall into really big messes; and only the love of Jesus can win …

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A Prayer for Connecting with Our Deepest Longings

     And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” Rev. 19:9-10

Dear Lord Jesus, it’s not hard to understand why John fell down to worship the angel who delivered this knee-buckling, heart-palpitating vision; for our oldest longings, greatest cravings, and deepest yearnings are claimed by what John saw—the Day when your relationship with us will be brought to fullness and perfection.

We are foolish to think there’s some set of circumstances, some person, some relationship, some change in our world, some sensual experience that can satisfy the restlessness in our hearts. But we’re made for you, Lord Jesus—created for joy-igniting, whole-person fulfilling intimacy with you. You—the most loving and tender Bridegroom, have made us—the most unlikely and ill-deserving people, your cherished bride.

Lord Jesus, because we’re called, redeemed and guaranteed a place at this banquet; because you’ve set your affection upon us and find great delight in us; because we’ll spend eternity celebrating the only love that was ever enough, the only love that would never let us go—O Lord, for these incomparable gifts, we too fall down and worship you, for you alone are God and you alone …

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A Prayer for the 4th Sunday of Lent

     I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor. 11:1-3

Dear Lord Jesus, this Scripture is both thrilling and sobering, for it underscores two great truths. First of all (hallelujah), we already belong to you as a washed, cherished and betrothed bride. This is our truest identity and greatest delight.

We are the people upon whom you have set your heart, for whom you given your life, and to whom you are returning as a great Bridegroom. No other relationship offers the peace and joy, meaning and hope, as your relationship with us—no other relationship.

The second thing that stands out in this Scripture is the intensity of Satan’s hatred for the “first thing”—your great love for us—Bridegroom to bride. He’ll do anything possible to diminish and distort, divert and destroy our relationship with you.

Satan hates your love for us and he hates our love for you. Whether overtly through condemnation and persecution, or covertly through seduction and prosperity, his strategy is the same—to steal our hearts away from you.

He will not succeed forever, Lord Jesus, for you have crushed his head …

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A Prayer for Keeping Our First Love First

     Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love (Eph. 6:24). I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first (Rev. 2:4). I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3)

Dear Lord Jesus, I need this closing verse of Ephesians as much as I need air and water, for it calls us to focus of the most important thing in life—to love you with everything we have and are. Don’t let me ever forget, even for one nanosecond, that we love you only because you first loved us and gave yourself for us on the cross.

You didn’t lay down your life for deserving friends, but for rebels, fools, and idolaters—like me. You love us, you’ve freed us from our sins by your blood, and you’ve made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and Father forever (Rev. 1:5-6). Now, Jesus, please make the familiar sound of these words come alive with renewed passion and fresh delight.

Even as we first needed grace to respond to your love (Eph. 2:8-10), so we need grace to stay alive to your love, and to grow even deeper in our affection for you. Your love for us is the one constant in our lives—for you love us with everlasting, unwavering, unabated affection. Everything else changes—everything else is subject to whim and fancy. But, unfortunately, our love for you does ebb and flow.

Jesus, give us fresh grace to love …

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A Prayer for Keeping Our Affections for Jesus Hot

     Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Eph. 6:24) But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 20-21) Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matt. 24:12-14

     Dear Lord Jesus, for many of us, it’s been pipes-freezing-cold lately—a state of weather that makes your warning about the state of our hearts quite relevant. In fact, this Scripture brings to mind the last line of one of my favorite hymns, the great hymns…

“Should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love for thee.” That’s my earnest, impassioned prayer, Jesus—to not outlive a vital, hot, transforming love for you. I don’t fear losing my salvation. I’ll stand firm to the end because of my standing in grace and rootedness in your love. I’ll never be “un-born-again”, but loving you less, and other things more, is real possibility.

What could be worse than for my love for you to cool down, degree by degree, as I get older? Don’t let that happen to me, Jesus. Never let me get “used” to the gospel …

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A Prayer for Renewing Our Bridal Affection for Jesus

     I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor. 11:1-3

Gracious Lord Jesus, as I pray my way through this Scripture this morning, two things stand out with flashing neon brilliance. First of all, we already belong to you as a washed, cherished and betrothed bride. This is our defining identity, raison d’être, joy, passion and delight, as your church—your called-out, beloved people. Your relationship with us and your love for us are the most important things about us.

We are the people upon whom you have set your heart, for whom you gave your life, and to whom you are returning as a great Bridegroom. There’s no other relationship that comes close to offering the peace and hope as your relationship with us—no other.

This underscores the second thing that stands out in this Scripture: the intensity of Satan’s hatred for the “first thing”—your great love for us, Bridegroom to bride. He’ll do anything possible to lead us astray from our sincere and pure devotion to you.

Satan hates your love for us. Satan hates our love for you. He’ll …

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A Prayer about Loving Jesus with An Undying Love

Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. Eph. 6:24 
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn. 4:10). We love because he first loved us. 1 Jn. 4:19

     Dear Lord Jesus, I need to heed this last verse from Ephesians like I need to breath oxygen and drink water, for I cannot exist apart from your love. The call to love you with an “undying love” is not a burden; it’s simply the doxological response to the life-giving love you lavish upon us. And there’s no greater demonstration of love than your death for us upon the cross; throughout eternity, we’ll feel as though we’re just beginning the survey of the wonders of your cross—its height, width, depth and breadth. We worship, praise and bless, your holy and worthy name!
     You didn’t lay down your life for deserving friends, but for rebels, fools, and idolaters—like me. Lord Jesus, you love us right now; you’ve freed us from our sins by your blood; and you’ve made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and Father forever (Rev. 1:5-6). What wondrous love is this, indeed! Jesus, please make the familiar sound of these words come alive with holy passion and fresh delight.
     Your love for us is the one constant in our lives; for everything else changes—everything else is subject …

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