My Critical Spirit and God’s Unlimited Kindness

     You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Rom. 2:1-4 (NIV)

Heavenly Father, this Scripture makes me feel both “busted” and beloved, this morning. Meditating on this passage has helped me realize that I’m way too selective about whom I love and when I love. I’m not an equal opportunity dispenser of your mercy and compassion.

Father, I’m quick to shower the riches of your “kindness, forbearance, and patience” on people whose brokenness, struggles, and issues are similar to mine. But I can be condescending and judgmental toward people whose weaknesses inconvenience, annoy, or offend me. This pattern has gotten “ramped up” during this political year. Forgive and free me, Father. This attitude blatantly contradicts the gospel.

It’s your kindness that leads me to repent today. I own my political-persuasion, theological-family, life-choice orientation, and personality-profile arrogance. I’m a mess, Lord, in need of a bigger and freer heart, more accepting and more welcoming heart. Truly, I want to love others as Jesus loves me, period.

Jesus, …

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Let’s Choose to Live As Encouragers Today

     God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thess. 5:9-11 (ESV)

Dear heavenly Father, this Scripture is just what I need as I begin this day. There are many things over which I have no control–many broken stories and challenging people, difficult circumstances and painful conditions that may, or may not, get better this side of heaven. But this I do know: Because of the finished work of Christ, our future contains zero judgment and 100% joyful intimacy with you; zero wrath and 100% perfect righteousness in Jesus; zero brokenness and 100% beautiful, life-giving, heart-thrilling everything. It’s not merely going to be “okay,” but magnificent beyond our wildest dreams and hopes.

Until then, Father, make me a genuine encourager and “builder-upper” of my family, gospel-posse, and friends. Thank you for the privilege we have of bearing one another’s burdens; showing up in one another’s stories; holding one another accountable for believing the gospel; giving each other hope-fueling perspective at low times, and life-giving rebukes at wandering times.

Father, thank you that–whether we die before Jesus returns, or live to see that blessed Day, we are your beloved children, now and foreverNothing can ever separate us from your love, deplete your mercies, or exhaust your grace… nothing.

Thank you that the darkest clouds often bring the most refreshing rains; that boasting in our weakness is still the best …

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A Prayer for Resting in the Current Compassion of Jesus

     And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matt. 9:35-36

     Dear Lord Jesus, there are so many reasons to love you—so many reasons to risk being completely honest and vulnerable with you. Today I’m particularly thankful for your compassion.

     When you looked at crowds of harassed and helpless people, you didn’t ignore them; you weren’t irritated with them; and your body language never shamed them. Sympathy beat within your breast; kindness overflowed. I praise and bless you, for having this same compassion for each of us today.

     You don’t despise our brokenness and my weakness. I believe this; I would believe it even more. Free me from my residual posing and pretending, Lord Jesus. There is no more welcoming place than the gospel. There is no safer haven than your love. There is no greater, richer, more certain acceptance that what we have in you.

     If your kindness leads me to repentance, then your compassion leads me to the freedom of vulnerability. So here I am… I wish I could speed up my sanctification, Lord Jesus; I wish I was already over certain things; I wish old wounds still didn’t carry present power; I wish I wasn’t triggered to anger, insecurity and fear …

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A Prayer for Extending God’s Grace-full Acceptance

     Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Rom. 15:7

     Dear Lord Jesus, it’s both settling and centering to begin this day with the assurance of your acceptance—your radical and complete welcome. You know everything about me, and yet you still want and delight in me. You know my failures, foolishness, and faithlessness; and yet you totally accept me.

     When I confess my sins, I don’t inform you of anything you don’t already know. In fact, I’m probably aware of only 3 or 4 percent of my actual sins. It’s absolutely overwhelming to be this known, this accepted, and this loved.

     I’m the immature younger brother you welcomed home. I’m the self-righteous elder brother you constantly pursue. I’m the one lying at your feet others would stone, but you have loved. I’ve been up in the tree with Zacchaeus and down in the depths with Peter, and you have accepted me.

     But here comes the challenging part, Jesus. As you’ve accepted us, you’re calling us to accept others. I’ll need all the grace you promise to love like that, for there are certain people—believers and non-believers alike, I struggle to accept, or even stay present in the same room. My pride and prejudices, hurts and commitment to a pain-free heart just take over at times.

     Jesus, I need a bigger gospel heart and more gospel wisdom if I’m going to make headway in this …

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A Prayer of Comfort for the Discouraged and Downcast

     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

     Dear heavenly Father, this brief vignette from Paul’s life arrived today like well-timed manna dropping from heaven, like the first sign of daylight after a starless night, like a spring shower after a dusty month.

     First of all, Father, I praise you for chronicling Paul’s experience of being restless, fearful, and downcast. Many times I suffer from “should-ness”: if I really loved you, if I were more full of the Holy Spirit, if I truly ”got the gospel,” I shouldn’t feel downcast, but upbeat, on top of my game, and cheerful.

     It’s comforting to know the gospel doesn’t make us less human, but more yours. Thank you for being a Father who doesn’t shame the downcast. You pursue them, you provide for them, you comfort them—you comfort me.

     As I begin this day, I feel like I’m swimming in a pool of baby piranha—no big sharks like Paul was dealing with, just small piranha nibbling at my spirit. I’m surrounded by a lot of little decisions, a lot of little needs, a lot of small conflicts, a lot of little unfinished projects, a lot of little things over which I have absolutely no control, and the combination of these things is weighing me down.

     But instead of trying to micro-manage the piranha, I’ll look to you, Father. It’s so good to know you’re running toward us in the gospel all the time—not with …

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A Prayer for the Spiritually Disconnected and Distressed

     O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. (Jer. 20:7) Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow and spend my days in shame? (Jer. 20:18)

Gracious Father, this is some pretty raw praying by one of your called and beloved prophets. Jeremiah’s lament makes me thankful today for the freedom you give us to bring our unfiltered and unfettered feelings to you. If we don’t bring our painful emotions to you, we will take them somewhere. Somebody besides ourselves will feel the brunt of our anguish and anger, disconnect and disillusionment.

Father, only you have the big enough heart and broad enough shoulders to walk with us through our seasons of chaos and confusion. I praise you for your constant, compassionate welcome. If you’re not put off by Jeremiah’s struggle, surely you will take on ours.

It’s comforting to know that the same prophet who assured others of your gracious promise and good plan—a plan for prosperity, not harm (Jer. 29:11); the same prophet who gave us a vision of the glory and the grace of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34); this same prophet, like us, experienced seasons in which he felt deceived, betrayed, and abandoned—even regretting the day he was born. We’re all weak and broken. We all need the gospel of your grace, every single day.

This gives …

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A Prayer for Feasting and Fellowshipping with Jesus

A Prayer for Feasting and Fellowshipping with Jesus

Levi [Matthew] held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:29-32

Dear Lord Jesus, I can’t read this story without fueling my longing for the banquet of all banquets—the Day when you will gather your entire Bride, rejoicing over us with singing, and bring to completion the great salvation you have begun in us. Hasten that glad Day of consummate healing, freedom and joy!

Who will sit and be served by you at the wedding feast of the Lamb? A most unlikely bunch. Only those who’ve been saved by grace alone through faith alone; only tax collectors and “sinners,” and Pharisees and teachers of the law who’ve been clothed in the wedding garments of your righteousness; only those with childlike faith and a God-given perfection.

Lord Jesus, I praise you for making me a part of your broken-yet-beloved bride; for calling me, healing me, saving me. I have no problem acknowledging my sickness and receiving your remedy. There, there’s no greater friend of sinners than you. Thank you for eating and drinking, reclining and dining, …

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A Prayer for Trusting Jesus with Our Fears

     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

Dear Lord Jesus, like bookends of glory, we’re confronted with the command “Do not be afraid,” at both your birth and your resurrection (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5). Ever since our first parents sinned, feared, and hid, I’ve helped to 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 single day. You alone can charm my fears and set this prisoner more fully free. You alone give me freedom to acknowledge my brokenness and weaknesses.

Because the gospel is true, I can tell you what you already know to be true, Jesus. My …

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