A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot (Prov. 14:30 ESV). Love does not envy (1 Cor. 13:4 ESV). “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor” Exodus 20:17 NLT). Godliness with contentment is great gain 1 Tim. 6:6 (NIV).
Dear heavenly Father, this tapestry of Scriptures is both convicting and consoling. It’s convicting, because on a daily basis (sometimes hourly), I realize I can be envious of anyone in sight and covetous of anything within reach. I can get envious of people who have less hassles and more resources; people who can play harder and require less sleep; people who can eat a whole cake and lose weight; extroverts who are at home in any setting, while, as an introvert, I struggle to make eye contact and do chit chat.
I don’t covet my neighbor’s ox or donkey, but I can greatly desire his dense hairline and ability to run everyday without any knee pain. I don’t covet my neighbor’s male or female servant, but I would love to have his 2-handicap golf game and his English styled, ivy-laden cottage at Rosemary Beach. Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner.
But as convicting as these verses are, Father, they are even more consoling; because through the gospel I realize that all I really need is Jesus, plus …
I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 3 John 9-10
Dear Lord Jesus, how humbling… being chronicled in the Bible, by name, as someone “who loved being first”… ouch. I don’t know the circumstances, but Diotrephes’ story certainly invites me to look at mine. Jesus, please convict me and free me from the ways I too love to be first.
In my marriage—when I’m more aware of the things that bug me about my spouse, than I’m committed to encouraging and serving, listening to and loving her.
In my friendships—when my “need” to be remembered and appreciated, is more pronounced than my commitment to stay in touch with, pray for, and serve my friends.
In my vocation—when the people who work with me feel like I’m preoccupied with me and my success, than I’m committed to loving and serving as a member of a team.
In the general population—when I navigate through life with little eye contact, to-do-list driven, and no obvious effort to engage strangers.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. You didn’t consider your equality with God something to be held onto for personal gain. You’ve never loved to be first.
Rather, you emptied …
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 Lord Jesus, it happened again this year. The week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve always seems to put a spotlight on the core issue of our lives—our relationships…everything we love about them, and everything difficult about them. And that’s just as it should be.
You came into our broken world to make all things new; and you came for broken people, to make us as beautiful as yourself. All of which to say, you’ve got a lot to work with, Jesus!
Our hope is great, for the outcome of your work is certain; but our hearts are vulnerable, for the process of renewal is necessarily messy. Like a melody we can’t get out of our minds, replay this truth over and over in our hearts: You give grace to the humble, but you resist the proud… you give grace to the humble, but you resist the proud…
We praise you for the outpouring of grace that brought us into rich relationship with yourself. Because of you, Jesus, we’ve been chosen, declared to be holy, and now we are dearly loved children of God.
The most enjoyable parts of our relationships give us a tiny symbol …
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. 3 John 9-10
Dear Lord Jesus, making it into the Bible is one thing; but being chronicled as a person who loved being first is an altogether different matter. “Diotrephes, who loves to be first“… though we’re not given any insight into the backstory of this man’s self-love and distrust of John, his story certainly invites me to look at mine. Jesus, please free me from the ways, I too, love to be first.
In my marriage—when I’m more aware of my wants than my spouse’s needs; when being right is more important to me than listening well; when I pout more than I pursue my spouse; when I take her for granted more than I take her out to dinner.
In my friendships—when I’m more preoccupied with my life and fulfillment, than committed to love, contact and serve my friends.
In my vocation—when co-workers experience me as someone more taken up with my schedule and success, than as a engaged, loving co-member of a team.
In the general population—when I navigate through life with little eye contact, in a hurry to get my checklist done, forgetting names and forging on.
In the grocery store—when I push my shopping cart …
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Rom. 8:29-30
Dear heavenly Father, one of the many things you’re convicting me about during Lent is the big family into which you’ve placed me. In the gospel, none of us is an only child. Though I came from the womb a selfish man, was raised in a culture of individualism, and am an introvert by temperament and often a loner by choice, nevertheless, you’ve made me for rich relationship and engaged community.
I’m seeing this everywhere in the Scriptures, but especially in the plural pronouns. The “we’s” outnumber the “I’s,” and the “our’s” outnumber the “my’s” about ten to one.
I praise you that the gospel is powerful enough to make a concave heart convex. I know of no other power which can free me for knowing and being known by others, and for actually thinking more of others than I think of myself (Phil. 2:1-11). It’s not how much I know, but how well I love that marks me as a follower of Jesus (Jn. 13:34-35).
Indeed, there are no ordinary people or unnecessary people in the body of Christ. There are no big people or little people in your family. We’re all the right size. Not one of us is more …
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Eph. 5:29-32
Lord Jesus, we come before your throne of grace today bringing marriages with us—our own and those of our friend’s. Everywhere we look, there seems to be a growing number of friends who are discouraged, disconnected, despairing—even dying in their marriages. This makes us sad, but it doesn’t really shock us, for a couple of reasons.
It makes complete sense that the powers of darkness would assault the one relationship meant to tell the story of your great love for your bride. Of course marriage is going to be a war zone—the front lines of spiritual warfare until the day you return. Satan hates you, he hates the gospel, and therefore he hates your bride and he hates marriage. Of course marriage is going to be difficult—for there is no other relationship on the face of the earth which has more power to expose us and make us vulnerable, and arouse our longings and desires. Of course marriage is going to require your daily mercies and your steadfast love.
Like so many of us, I came into marriage with a little gospel and big naïveté. I …
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. 3 John 9-10
Dear Lord Jesus, to have one’s name recorded in the Bible is one thing. But to be chronicled there as someone who loved to be first isn’t a very attractive proposition at all. I have no clue what was going on in Diotrephes’ life that made him disrespectful of the apostle John and so divisive in the community. But his story certainly invites me to look at mine.
Jesus, please free me from the ways I, too, love to be first.
In my marriage—when being right and winning the argument is more important than listening and understanding my spouse… when I angle for the biggest cookie or control of the TV remote… when my obsession to be on time outweighs my commitment to kindness and patience.
In my friendships—when my delight in being remembered and appreciated is more pronounced than my record of staying in touch and serving my friends.
In my vocation—when the people with whom I work experience me as someone more preoccupied with my reputation and success than knowing and caring for each member of the whole team.
In the …