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Grace Strengthened Hearts

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace… Hebrews 13:9

     Lord Jesus, what will it profit us if we only eat organic foods from Whole Foods and can run an 8-minute mile at age 80, have a cholesterol count of 125 and a resting heart rate of 59, and yet have a heart that is weak in grace?

     So, take us to the gym and training table, the sauna and spa—indeed, lead us to the regimen which will cause our hearts to grow stronger and stronger and stronger in your grace. For the more our hearts are strengthened by grace the more they’ll beat for your glory; the quicker and deeper will be our repentances; the less room there’ll be for idols, and the more fully we’ll love you with delight and abandon.

     As our hearts are strengthened by grace, we’ll throw more gospel parties and less pity parties. We won’t think less of ourselves; we’ll just think less often about ourselves. We’ll keep shorter records of the ways others fail us and longer records of your faithfulness to us.

     We’ll make a bigger deal about things that really matter, and a lesser deal about things that simply go with life in a broken world filled with broken people. We’ll live more missionally and less obsessively, more generously and less miserly, be more in the moment and less in a stew. We’ll worship more than we whine, bless more than we curse, …

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Past, Present, and Future Grace

     Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Pet. 1:13-16 (ESV)

Dear heavenly Father, from beginning to end, you have always and only dealt with us grace-fully. By grace you created us for a life of intimacy with yourself, and fruitfulness in your world. By grace you redeemed us raised us to newness of life in Jesus. By grace you relate to us on a daily and momentary basis—being steadfast in your love and faithful in your providence. Even when you discipline us, you do so as a Father filled with compassion and grace for his children. Thank you, Father, so very much.

And according to this Scripture, our future is defined by and filled with your grace as well. Whatever Day you have set for the return of Jesus, it is going to be a Day of consummate grace. Grace in part will give way to grace in full. Your generosity is unfathomable, Father. For so great a hope we worship and adore you; by so great a hope, we purpose to live and love to your glory.

So, as your beloved children—fully forgiven and righteous in Christ, we purpose to obey you, in all we think, speak, and do. Grant us a love for holiness, …

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The One Great Irrevocable Unwavering Constant in Our Lives

     See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure1 John 3:1-3 (NIV)

     Dear heavenly Father, every time I read these familiar verses, they expose my unbelief and fuel my hope. Thank you for not “just” loving us, but for lavishing your love upon us—super-abundantly, immeasurably, irrevocably. The most it-can-be-counted on reality in our lives is your love for us in Jesus. The weather changes every day; the Dow Jones Average changes every hour; people’s opinions about us change on a whim. But your love for us is steadfast, impassioned, and joyful.

     And Father, as your adopted daughters and sons, our future is just as spectacular as it is certain. Though there is much about our life in the new heaven and new earth that remains unclear, of this we are sure; when Jesus does return, we will see him as he is and we will be made like him—in all his beauty, love, and wholeness. Nothing about us will remain broken or sinful, diseased or bound, sad or selfish. Hasten that Day, Lord; hasten it.

     Because of this great …

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A Prayer for Placing Ourselves at Jesus’ Feet

     Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”  Luke 7:44-47 (NLT)

     Dear Lord Jesus, this passage is so weekly, actually, so daily; because nothing is more daily that the call to forgive; nothing is more scandalous than the way you forgive; and nothing is more important than the way that I love.

     Jesus, I show up in this story in so many places. I’m Simon the self-righteous Pharisee. I often see people through the lens of criticism and judgment—especially if their actions have hurt or inconvenienced me, or if their sins are different than mine. I am so sorry, Jesus, forgive me of my arrogance and hair-trigger self-righteousness.

     Jesus, I’m also this broken woman at your feet. My sins are just as ugly and numerous as hers, just not as public or notorious. I believe this, but by your Holy Spirit, convince …

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A Prayer of Fresh Encouragement and Grace

     May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thess. 2:16-17 (ESV) May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. 2 Thess. 3:5 (NIV) May the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thess. 3:16 (NLT)

     Dear heavenly Father, with palms turned upward, we receive these words of encouragement and grace as this day begins. Thank you for anticipating every challenging situation before us today; and for knowing every fear and uncertainty of our hearts; and for staying so faithfully committed to bless, care, and nourish us.

     But we don’t only need comfort for ourselves, but for those with whom we walk. May the mercy you lavish on us in Jesus, run like a stream of kindness through us to others. Father, grant us words of healing and hope for friends in various stages of overwhelm-ment and stress. Love through us to your glory.

     Indeed, direct our hearts into more of your love and the perseverance of Jesus; for it is out of the overflow of your love for us that we have the resources to care for the people you’ve placed in our lives. As much as we already know of your love, show us even more, Father. Dazzle and delight …

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A Prayer for Times of Refreshing through Grace-generated Repentance

     Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.  Acts 3:19-21

     Dear heavenly Father, whether in our own lives, or in the lives of those we love, few things are as beautiful as Spirit wrought conviction, generating grace-laced-humility, leading to times of gospel-saturated refreshing. That’s always a win-win for everyone—for our families, the church, the community, our culture, and us.

     Surely, this is what Luther had in mine when he stated that “repentance is a way of life”, for those who understand the gospel. Yet how easily we forget, you are a God who gives grace to the humble; yet, you know the proud “from afar”. We’re never freer than when we see our own sin more clearly than anyone else’s; and when we see the finished work of Jesus as our most present need, and glorious provision.

     Father, as this beautiful Saturday begins, I’m thankful you’ve already sent Jesus for me, and that you’re going to send him again, to finish the “job”. I’m grateful all of my sins have already been “wiped out,” and that you’ve clothed me with the perfect righteousness of Jesus. Now, gentle and sweeten my heart, I ask. I sincerely want to be …

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A Prayer about the Heart-liberating Power of Grace

      We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us2 Cor. 8:1-5

Dear heavenly Father, this one little gospel-vignette underscores why we can never emphasize your grace too much. Indeed, through Jesus you continue to give us grace upon grace; and more grace in the place of that grace. (John 1:16)

What an amazing story—the severely afflicted and extremely poor Christians of Macedonia became a model of radical freedom to the much wealthier believers in Corinth. Father, only the gospel is powerful enough to create this kind of contentment and joy, compassion and generosity.

For the glory of Jesus and the advancing of your kingdom, we ask you to give us the same grace you gave the churches of Macedonia. The needs all around us are exponential; but your resources are endless. Help us to excel in the grace of giving.

We know that you are “able to make all grace abound to [us], so that having all sufficiency in …

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A Prayer for the Day before Thanksgiving

     Who do I have in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Ps. 73:25-26

     Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unityCol. 3:12-14

     Dear heavenly Father, it’s called the busiest traffic day of the year in America—the day before Thanksgiving. Tens of millions of us are making our way “home,” or will be opening our doors to family and friends, for a day of turkey-basting, goodie-prepping, parade-watching, merry-making, story-telling, sports-enjoying, nap-taking, and more goodie-eating. It’s a great time of year.

Father, thank you for the common joys of life—our family traditions and favorite dishes; for the same old jokes and new glimpses of hope; for the burdens we bear and the longings we share; for the “more” we all want, and the fullness you alone can give.

Indeed, Father, may this be a holiday in which we welcome the reminders that you alone are enough. Give us joy in the circumstances and moments, and for the brokenness and the people, which underscore there’s a place in our hearts reserved only for you—a God-shaped place made for grace. No one is meant to be “the strength of …

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A Prayer for Healing from Grace Allergies

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:7-10

Dear Lord Jesus, you spoke these inviting words of hope to a very broken woman, trying her very best to keep her distance from you. She’d been on a quest to find life in the arms of men—many men, and it obviously wasn’t working for her very well. The more she tried to evade your gaze, the more you simply applied your grace. She ran; you pursued. She danced around; you stopped the music. I praise you for coming to seek and save the lost, and not just broadcast an offer from the distance.

Though the details of my story are different from this nameless Samaritan woman, the same foolish strategy is there: Playing games with you—like hide-and-seek, only I do all the hiding and you do all the seeking. I wish this tendency was completely in my past; but I still default to this fear-based, grace-robbing pattern when I forget the gospel.

Jesus, deliver me, and others like me, from our grace allergies—living with any degree of …

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A Prayer for Strength When Facing Temptation(s)

A Prayer for Strength When Facing Temptation(s)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor. 10:13

The flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. Gal. 5:17

Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Gen 4:7

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matt. 6:13

Dear Lord Jesus, as you know, this was one of the very first Scriptures I committed to memory, as a young believer, in the summer of ’68. It’s no less timely, necessary and encouraging today as it was then. The seizing power of temptation in my life is just as real today as it was over forty years ago.

It would be one thing if temptation came like junk mail—easy to recognize, ignore, and trash. But at times temptation comes with such alluring and promissory power, that “standing up under it” is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I would despair, and question the reality of my faith, if I didn’t have the assurance that temptation itself is not sin (James 1:13-15). Jesus, the very fact that you suffered the full fury of …

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