And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20 (NIV)
Dear heavenly Father, it’s the day after Christmas, and many of us are over-stuffed, under-slept, and flat out exhausted. But above all, we’re grateful for the gift of Jesus; for our best Christmases, and our most difficult ones, all need your grace. The “after Christmas sales” began a week before the actual day, clearly signaling that we’re always yearning for a little more.
For those of us for whom the day was “nearly perfect,” we worship you as the God from whom all blessings flow. For those of us for whom the day was a constant reminder of how much we long for the Day of all things new, we worship you as the God who has secured that very Day through Jesus.
When the shepherds left Jesus’ manger, they were still shepherds. They still couldn’t worship at the temple; they still couldn’t give testimony in a court of law; and they were still “profiled” as untrustworthy members of the community. And a five-star inn didn’t open up the next morning in Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph, with angels serving as round-the-clock nurses.
Father, thank you, that as followers of Jesus, we don’t have to pretend about anything. Jesus came into a broken world for broken people, and we all qualify. You call us to believe, not to make-believe–to …
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 unity. Col. 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 …
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isa. 9:7
Dear Lord Jesus, as we gather to worship you this Lord’s Day, we do so with an admixture of sadness and joy, grief and hope, great loss and intensified longings. We will sing the carols and hymns of Advent with renewed meaning and fresh tears. This week, our country suffered a huge heart wound; a blow to our sensibilities; a violation of everything we consider good, true and beautiful.
We pray for ourselves, but especially for the Newtown, Connecticut community today. Show yourself to be merciful and mighty; tender and triumphant; a very near Shepherd and a tear-wiping King.
This tragedy has reminded us there’s only one government and one peace sufficient to meet the needs of our broken world and sinful hearts. Because of your, Lord Jesus, King David’s throne has now become a throne of grace from which you rule the world—advancing your kingdom of peace, justice, and righteousness in the hearts of your people, among the nations of the world, and in every sphere of your creation.
With zeal and grace you are working all things together after the counsel of your will—all things; for you are the Lamb of God, the Lord of Lords, and the Lamp of …
The prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 1 Pet. 10-12
Dear Heavenly Father, it’s the first Sunday in Advent, a season of anticipation and celebration—a time to reflect on every good thing you’ve already done for us in Jesus, and the glorious things yet to be realized.
You’ve made promises you alone can keep; you give peace that can be found nowhere else; you’ve pledged a hope you alone can fulfill. We praise you; we bless you; we worship you. As Advent progresses, fill us to overflowing with gratitude, humility and joy.
Father, grant us intense longings—like the ones that filled the heart of the prophets. The promise of grace and the Spirit of Christ thrilled them, as they anticipated the era of the Messiah—the time when you would begin to make all things new through Jesus.
And grant us joy-filled intrigue, like that felt by the angels. Your heavenly servants were overwhelmed as they pondered your unfolding story of redemption and restoration, for men and creation. …
With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. Prov. 7:21-27
Dear Lord Jesus, we’ve been created, and re-created, to connect with you deeply—to enjoy an intimacy, union, and communion of which our best relationships are only a hint, a whisper, a symbol. But alas, like all good things, our longings get hijacked and sabotaged by sin and death.
Samson and King David don’t stand alone in the poor stewardship of weakness and longing. Every one of us is capable of being seduced and every one of us is capable of pursuing others for self-satisfying ends. Every single day, we need the gospel to keep us sane and centered, wise and careful.
There are many lonely husbands, wives, single people who are primed for a fling, targets for an affair—aching, yearning, reaching for a few …
I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. Song of Sol. 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 and sensual imagery. To linger in the Song of Solomon is to tap into our deepest longings for intimacy, playfulness, passion, and delight. It’s to savor the unparalleled joys of knowing and being known by you.
Indeed, Jesus, 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 your beloved—the bride upon whom you’ve set your deepest affection; for whom you paid the ultimate price; in whom you delight greatly; over whom you rejoice with singing. We believe, help our unbelief.
This isn’t the gospel I grew up with, but this is the gospel. To be desired is to be wanted and pursued, seen and enjoyed, known and nourished, remembered and cherished. All of this is promised and provided in only one place—in the gospel of your grace.
Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to believe and experience the liberating truths, the unparalleled beauty, and the oceans of delight revealed in this book, and held out in the gospel. So I cry out today: Come, Holy Spirit, come. Rescue …
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”… Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:26-27; John 6:35
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:2
Dear Jesus, I’m barely twenty-four hours into Lent and already I realize how weak I am, how powerful my appetites are, and how much I take the gospel for granted. This may be the slowest fast I’ve ever tried. At this rate, this might be the longest forty days of my life. I choose to deny myself one little thing—with a world of other culinary options open to me—yet my mouth waters, my taste buds engage, and I want to grab every whole-grain carbohydrate in sight.
Oh, that my hunger for you would be as compelling as my hunger for baguettes, bagels and bakery stores. For “no bread endures to eternal life” except the bread that you give. Indeed, all breads except the Bread of Life will …
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. 1 Cor. 6:14-18
Holy and loving Jesus, so many thoughts are swirling through my head this morning. I’ve never been more aware of the pervasiveness of sexual brokenness, everywhere I go and everywhere I look, including in the mirror. It’s like we’re living in Corinth of Paul’s day—a city marked and marred by misplaced passion and broken sexuality. So many of us carry the wounds, feel the shame, and know the disconnect that comes from of sexual sin. And yet the gospel dares us to hope.
Indeed, hope—that’s the greater instinct and impulse of my heart this morning. As I ponder what Paul was saying to the Corinthians, I’m left speechless—overwhelmed at the beauty of what belonging to you really means, Lord Jesus. Enable our hearts to accept and enjoy that you truly desire us—Bridegroom to bride, Lover to beloved. By your Spirit, help our unbelieving hearts experience the wonder of being known by you in the most intimate of all ways. Dare I say …
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3
Dear Lord Jesus, I’m increasingly grateful for all the reasons the Father sent you into the world. When I behold the perfect holiness of God, I’m so thankful you came to set us free from our imprisonment to sin and death and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. In the gospel we hear you singing these words over us: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We have no righteousness apart from yours, Lord Jesus, none.
When I look at places like Haiti, Calcutta and Darfur, I’m so thankful that you came to preach good news to the poor—not just good news concerning spiritual poverty but also the good news of a kingdom which provides food for the hungry, clean …