Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? Romans 9:20-21
Dear heavenly Father, this morning I’ve been reflecting on the mystery and mercy of your sovereignty, especially as I consider everything you did to redeem idolaters and rebels like me.
Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t an accident, afterthought, plan B, or the redeeming of a good story gone kaput. It was your plan, made before the foundation of the world and executed in the fullness of time. The comfort and peace I enjoy from this supreme demonstration of your sovereignty is incomparable and immeasurable.
But Father, as I much as I celebrate and find comfort in the demonstration of your sovereignty in saving sinners, why do I struggle with it in any other part of my life? I relate to Paul’s metaphor in this text. There are times I do want to reverse roles with you, and make me the potter and treat you like pliable clay. With regard to certain stories and broken people, I do fancy myself to be the 4th member of the Trinity, rather than abandoning myself to you—my sovereign Father.
Indeed, I don’t have any problem with you setting up and sitting …
Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isa. 40:27-29
Dear heavenly Father, whenever I started to whine as a child, my parents had a way of letting me know our home was a low-tolerance zone for whiners. I “got it” once I became a parent, and then a pastor. Nobody likes to be on the other end of a whine.
Today I find great delight in knowing that, as your children, when you have to discipline us, it’s always in love. You never roll your eyes at us in disgust. You never get exasperated or irritated with us. Though you convict us, you never shame us. The only look you give us declares your welcoming heart. Though you find no pleasure in our whining, you greatly delight in us; for you have hidden our lives in Jesus—in whom you find ultimate joy and pleasure.
Though it presently feels as though heaven isn’t paying attention to some very important things in my heart and story, I hear you say to us in your Word and gospel, “My name is …
The godless in heart harbor resentment. Job 36:13
Dear heavenly Father, whether it’s the persistent fly interrupting my needed nap, the thoughtless words spoken by a trusted friend, the new ding in my twelve-year-old car, or the old hurt that generates fresh pain, resentment never helps; it only sabotages peace and pilfers joy.
To harbor resentment is nothing short of harboring a criminal, for resentment is bent on criminal activity: stealing creativity, vandalizing sleep, robbing relationship, killing kindness, murdering hope, infecting the innocent with deadly toxins—to name a few of resentment’s crimes. There’s no greater waste of energy than resentment.
But worst of all, Father, resentment is a contradiction—a blatant misrepresentation of who you are and how you relate to us in Jesus. If anyone has a right to hold a grudge, to keep a record of wrongs done, to rehearse and remember our sins against us, it is you. Thus, we are never less like God (godless), than when we fertilize our umbrage and bitterness.
For you don’t treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is your love for those who fear you. As far as the east is from the west, that’s how far you’ve removed our transgressions from us. You have great compassion on us as your children (Ps. 103:10-13). You show us neither vexation of spirit nor exasperation of heart, so great is …
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Phil. 4:5
Dear Lord Jesus, the first thing this Scripture makes me think about is you, for no one more gentle than you. No one is as welcoming of sinners, as kind to the broken, or as understanding of the struggling as you.
You’re like the perfect surgeon—the one I want working on me. You never get nervous, flustered, agitated, or hurried. You have a steady hand because of your steady heart, and I gladly surrender to both today, for I want to grow in gentleness.
Gentle me when I’m behind slow drivers who stay in the fast lane. Gentle me when I face both fair and unfair criticism. Gentle me when I think things that are obvious to me ought to be obvious to everybody else. Gentle me when loud people invade “my” space—as though I have some inalienable right to an uninterrupted life.
Gentle me when I’m too tired to engage but my wife really needs me to listen. Gentle me when I lose a 200 lb. Halibut (happened yesterday). Gentle me when someone gets the last piece of chocolate cake I was already planning on enjoying with a glass of milk.
Gentle me when the vacation gets cut short by crises. Gentle me when friends keep making the same mistakes and foolish choices. Gentle me when the restaurant sends me home with the wrong takeout order. Gentle me when Satan …
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jer. 29:11
Dear heavenly Father, there’s simply no other god as merciful, gracious, and engaged as you. Your forbearance is immeasurable; your kindness is inexhaustible; your plans are irrepressible.
When your people received this letter of encouragement from Jeremiah, they were in exile, hurting, not in the temple, rejoicing. How could they not feel bereft, bewildered, even betrayed by you? It seemed to them like the rulers of Babylon had more power than you.
Yet these words of hope remind us that when you lead us into difficult seasons, it’s not to shame us, but to change us. When you send hardships, it’s not to bring us harm but to give us hope. When you discipline us, it’s not to send us into the “doghouse” of your displeasure, but to guarantee our good future.
It’s comforting to remember that you always know exactly what you are doing with your people, and everything else in the world. You know the plans you have for us—individually and corporately. There’s no happenstance in heaven. You don’t make up things as you go along. You’re not a God who reacts out of irritation, but one who always acts out of great affection. There are no coincidences, just providences. “Stuff” doesn’t just happen; sovereignty is always happening.
Father, this way of thinking would be utter madness if you never sent Jesus—a big-time spitting …
His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Ps. 147:10-11
Dear heavenly Father, once again I come before you as a repeat offender—a man suffering from doxological dementia, grace amnesia, and gospel forgetfulness. I’m one of your sons who give you so much opportunity to demonstrate the wonder of your “unlimited patience” (1 Tim. 1:16). I’m a perpetual candidate for summer school in the gospel.
Why is it, when I’m feeling a little disconnected from you or appropriately disappointed with me; or when the accusations of the enemy are blasting, or the sacrifice other believers is more obvious; or when my fears are threatening, or my idols are failing—why is it that my default mode is to lace up my running shoes and get busy for you?
Instead of running to you for mercy and grace, I start running to do something to assuage my guilty conscience calm my disquieted heart, and fuel my still-inflatable pride.
But as this Scripture says, you don’t find any pleasure or delight in the strength and movement of my “legs”—of what I can do for you. You find great pleasure as I put my hope in what you’ve done for me in Jesus. Indeed, where can I find your unfailing, unwavering, unending love? Only in the gospel of your grace; only in union with Christ; only in my declared …
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ”Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Rev. 4:1-2
Dear heavenly Father, thank you, thank you, thank you for this Scripture, and the centering, settling, liberating vision contained therein.
During a time of confusion and crisis, of all the things you could’ve shown John about heaven, you chose, first and foremost, to give him a clear sighting of the occupied throne of heaven. By the Spirit, through your Word, give to each of us the same.
Life isn’t random; stuff doesn’t just “happen”; circumstances don’t reign—you reign. There’s no panic in heaven—no head-scratching or furrowed brows; no consternation or perspiration; no crossing of fingers or “hoping against hope.”
And even though you don’t do all things easy, you do all things well. And even though you don’t work on our timetable, in your time, you make all things beautiful. And even though you don’t give us all the answers we want, you give us all the grace that we need. And even when we shake our fists at heaven, you tighten your embrace on us.
There’s no “gone fishing” sign over your throne—no memo for us to leaven a message, talk to one of your assistants, or take a number and …
In your book were written, every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I were to count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. Ps. 139:16-18
Heavenly Father, what a great Scripture to ponder on my birthday, especially on this one—the day I’m officially a Beatles song, “When I’m Sixty-Four”. Yet as numerous my years, thankfully, with King David I can affirm, vaster and greater are my thoughts of you today. “How precious to me are your thoughts”.
If I tried to number the expressions of your glory and grace, I’d have to count every grain of sand on every beach, and every particle of dust in the universe. As much as you’ve already shown me about yourself in the Bible, keep rescuing me from every wrong notion I’ve ever had about about you. May the gospel keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
On this day, it’s a source of incredible peace to know you’ve already ordained all of my days for me. That doesn’t feel like fatalistic programming, but Fatherly affection—because you do all things well. I have no need, or desire, to write my story. That pen belongs to you.
Some days, however, I do wish I could turn the clock back for a possible “do-over”—especially for certain stretches of my life; but …
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20
Dear heavenly Father, life just on the other side of Christmas day feels quite different to different people. For some of us, this was the “greatest” Christmas ever, in terms of healthy, caring relationships; incredible “eats”; thoughtful gifts, both given and received; and above all, fresh gratitude for the indescribable gift of your Son, Jesus.
For others of us, it was a painful day; marked by palpable tensions, unmet longings, and inescapable brokenness. Still for others, it was the first Christmas with an empty chair where a loved one used to sit.
Father, my prayer today is for all of us—no matter what yesterday was like—rapture or rupture For even our best days are in need of the gospel, and none of our worst days are beyond the reach of the gospel.
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 many in their community still stereotyped them as a lawless and untrustworthy lot. Jesus’ birth wasn’t a magic pill.
Neither must we spiritualize Joseph and Mary’s experience the day after Jesus was born. A five-star inn in Bethlehem didn’t suddenly open its doors to the travel and birth-weary parents. Mary’s body wasn’t spared all the normal trauma and pain, of birthing and afterbirth. Angels didn’t start showing up as round-the-clock …
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Ps. 20:7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5-6
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7
Dear heavenly Father, though it’s not a fun thing, it’s a good thing—it’s an essential thing, even a freeing thing to realize how little control we have over people, places and things.
For only by acknowledging the limits of our humanity will we rest in the beauty of your sovereignty; only by giving up trying to control our circumstances will we come to rejoice in your providences; only by accepting messes as a part of life will we turn to your mercies in the midst of strife; only by crying “Uncle!” will we learn to cry “Abba!”
Father, as this day begins, (and continues), settle our restless hearts and relax our desperate grip on stories, hearts and situations for which your grace alone is sufficient. We turn from our version of “horses and chariots,” and acknowledge that our trust is in you.
By the truth of the gospel, the pledge of your faithfulness and the power of your Spirit, we trust you with people, for whom we have great concerns—even fear and anger. May “faith expressing itself in love” (Gal. 5:6) trump our penchant for …