Christmas Countdown: Christmas Day

  1. joy
  2. love
  3. grace
  4. peace
  5. fellowship
  6. sacrifice
  7. charity
  8. hope
  9. warmth
  10. meekness
  11. energy
  12. reverence
  13. forgiveness
  14. purity
  15. faith
  16. reconciliation
  17. growth
  18. realization of freedom
  19. determination
  20. trust
  21. strength
  22. worship
  23. loyalty
  24. obedience

As I look back over this list, I see 24 gifts You have given me and do give me, every single day.

But the greatest Gift of all is who we have named today after, but who cannot be contained to any one day . . . One who holds eternity in His hands, but cares about this present moment:

You.

I don’t know what day your birthday really is.  It could be December 25.  It could be another day, too.  But since this is the day we remember Your birthday around the world, I want to sing Happy Birthday to You today.

Happy birthday to You

Happy birthday to You

Happy birthday, dear Jesus

Happy birthday to You!

But Your birthdays on this earth weren’t about happiness for You.  They were about happiness for us.  Now You are back in the eternal realm, but Your birthday will never, ever be forgotten.  I cannot wait to sit at a table as long as the world is around, a sea of redeemed people in party hats, a sonic boom as everyone blows their noisemakers, to remember Your birthday.  We can’t have a surprise party, of course.  You will know.  Everyone will sit in awe of You, clapping as You take Your seat at the head of the table, bowing down before You.

But no one will give You presents.

Because You are the Giver.  You give out love, eternal life, forgiveness, laughter, peace, holiness . . . everything, everything good has always come from Your hand, and that won’t change ever in all of forever.

We’ll have an epic birthday cake, and each year You can blow out one more candle, every year, forever and ever and ever.

And how we’ll love You, Lord.  How we’ll love You.

How we love You now.

Happy birthday, Jesus.

My prayer today is that Your gift of everlasting life, reconciliation to God, and the pursuit of the only meaning to life (You) is given to every person who lives on this earth right now and has the privilege of another Christmas to turn from their sin, that they would cry out to receive Your free gift of love.

You have more to give than can ever be imagined in the mortal mind.  I pray that everyone reading this, and everyone not reading this–the whole world of people living right now–reach out to take Your gift and do not get tricked by Satan to turn away the one, the only gift that could give them all they will ever need and all they will ever want.

Next Christmas, I want to have another countdown of more ways I can be like You.

In Your Name, Jesus,

Amen.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NIV)

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Published in: on December 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 24

Dear Lord,

Tomorrow is Christmas, and I’ve had 23 prayers leading up to the big day.

Now I pray for obedience to demonstrate the 23 traits I’ve asked for in the 23 prayers.  I pray for more and more obedience every day, so that next December the 25th, if You have kept me on earth for another year, I will see that I have become more and more like You, Jesus, and less and less like the person I used to be.

Obedience has been disregarded as an ugly word in our culture, but I am not ashamed to use it.  You proved Yourself worth every speck of obedience I can give when You lay in a manger, some two thousand years ago, so You could free us from our sins.

It is so easy to come up with qualities I want to have . . feel good about thinking about them . . and then go back to the same destructive habits and bad choices and disabling thinking patterns that I had before.

If my prayers are just that You would instantly give me all the qualities I need in my Christian walk, I’ve failed You.  You have placed me on earth to live in fellowship with You; sin sent me far from You; now You lead me on a journey back to Your Kingdom, a journey bought before I would ever take a single step, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.

If You choose to deepen the character traits within me through the experiences of this life as I walk with You, so be it.  I know You know best, and that instant is not always best.

And so, rather than pray only for You to instantly give me the traits I need as I follow You, I pray that I would follow You in obedience anyway, realizing that every step towards You takes me one step closer to everything I want to be.

I pray for obedience to follow even when I don’t understand Your plan, even when I don’t feel like it, even when I think I’ll be missing out on what I want.  I pray for obedience that follows whether I’m rich or poor, sick or healthy, hungry or full, exhaustedly tired or super wide awake.  I pray for obedience that follows, obedience that commits, and most of all, obedience motivated by love.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

It is better to obey than to sacrifice.  ( 1 Samuel 15:22a, NCV)

Published in: on December 24, 2011 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 23

Dear Lord,

I pray for loyalty.

I can be thinking about You and Your purpose for my life one second, and be totally distracted the next.  When I pray, my thoughts move like ping pong balls back and forth between talking to You and thinking about just about every distracting thing in the universe.

I can want to pray, and then suddenly remember something that has nothing to do with my prayer and jump trains of thought from holiness to worldliness in a heartbeat.

I can even know something You have for me to do, but be so distracted by some worry or fear or pleasure that I lose track completely of what You brought to my attention.  Or I can become so angry or upset or excited about something that I stop caring what You want and go my own way, always to disaster.

Lord, I pray for loyalty.  Loyalty after I step out of the church’s doors.  Loyalty after I close my Bible.  Loyalty after I end my prayer.

Loyalty is intentional.

A soldier stays under his commander because he intends to.  He does not carelessly walk into the enemy’s camp.  He does not switch sides halfway through a battle.  He is loyal because he means to be.  Accidentally wandering into the enemy’s camp is not something he allows to happen.  He pays attention to where he is located at all times.  He carefully watches for enemies who might sneak in around him.  He pays attention to the uniforms of the soldiers around him.  He knows the face and voice and signals of his commander.

I pray I will be loyal to You like a soldier to his commander.  I say I want to follow You forever, Jesus, and I do, but I want to follow You right now, too.  Right now is part of forever.  And right now is the time to show I can be trusted behind enemy lines.

There is no comparison ever to the loyalty You showed humanity on the cross.  You chose to hold the nails in Your hands.  You chose to give the next breath to the men who crucified you.  There is no loyalty like Yours.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

 Dear children, let us not love in words only nor with the lips, but in deed and in truth. And in this way we shall come to know that we are loyal to the truth, and shall satisfy our consciences in His presence in whatever matters our hearts condemn us–because God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. (1 John 3:18-20, Weymouth NT)

Published in: on December 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 22

Dear Lord,

Angels, singing.  Shepherds, rejoicing.  Wise men, giving.  Star, serving.  Oppressed peasants (Mary and Joseph and all who would follow), marveling.

This is the nativity, and this is the worship of You.

But if I had been the wise men in search . . . would I have even seen the star?  Or would I have been too busy hating myself for not being able to find the way?

And if I had been a shepherd in the field . . . would I have run to see Jesus at the angel’s herald?  Or would I have been worrying what would happen to my sheep if I left?

And if I had been the star, would I have been too shy, too afraid of what other stars might think, to point the way?

And if I had been an oppressed peasant . . . would I have been so obsessed with my oppressedness and my peasantness that I missed the One who was going to die to break my oppression and end the poverty of my soul?

Tonight I pray for worship.

Worship is a quality I fail in more so than probably any of the ones I have prayed for so far in this countdown.

Worship is the reaction of focus on You.

Terror, I think, is the reaction of focus on who we are.  Maybe Hell is the permanent tearing away of our eyes from You to stare instead in total fixation at who we are and what we have done.

Sin comes up and blocks our focus from You.  Sin stands in the way of us seeing You.  Terror comes in when we look through our sin and try to see You, because we realize we are trapped on the other side of Your Presence.

In nativity sets, everyone is looking at You.

That is Heaven.

That is worship.

The nativity was only possible because You lay in that manger to die.

If You had come to us for any other reason, all we could have seen when we looked at You was the sin in between us and You, and the greatness we would forever miss out on, the greatness of You.

But You didn’t come for any other reason.

You came to die for us.

And so, I can worship, Jesus.

And I want to.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jesus, quoted in John 4:24, NASB)

Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 20

Dear Lord,

I pray for trust.

I would be a liar if I said I never had doubts that You could love me, that You really want me to be Your child, that You are always in control . . . even that You exist.  I would be a liar if I said I don’t get discouraged, or confused, or upset, or frustrated by things that happen around me or in the turmoil of my own mind.

I would be a liar if I said I always trust You one hundred percent.

Doubt comes on so many levels.  Doubt that You’re doing the right thing.  Doubt that You have done the right thing in some Old Testament passages I read.  Doubt that You will be able to win over Satan.  Doubt that You have really written a Book for us.  Doubt (in my most immature years) that You understand how hard it is to be down here, doubt that You’re kind when You choose not to answer my prayer in the way I would if I were You, doubt that You are good.  Doubt, doubt, doubt.

It’s kinda scary, Lord, to talk about this doubt where other people can see.  I don’t want people to know I have questions I’m scared I don’t have the answers to.  I don’t want people to know I sometimes doubt whether You’re there, or whether You really care, or whether You could really have called me.  I don’t want people to know that when I hear people who hate you ask questions about You, that maybe I have wondered some of those questions, too.  I’m afraid if I reveal that darkness in me, my witness will be ruined.

But, see, that’s just it, Lord.

I care about my witness because I know You are the “I AM”.

In my darkest moments, when I’m the most scared, when I’m the most lonely, when I’m the most bewildered, when I’m the most angry . . . I know You’re there.  Now that isn’t a saving knowledge, because I’ve known that nearly my whole life.  There’s never been a time when I thought, when I truly thought, You did not exist.  It’s just . . unimaginable to me.  It’s the worst Hell I can imagine.  There is no way–I know, and I know that I know–that there is me, if there is no You.  It’s just impossible.  Mathematically, scientifically, linguistically–any way I think about it, it’s just impossible.

So, while I have had those moments of terror asking, Does God exist? . . . they never last past the span of thinking through them.  And, really, I don’t even have to think through them.  The awareness You have created in me of You is just absolutely unignorable.

On the other hand, the doubt I have that You love me . . . that’s really the haunt of my life, isn’t it?

But I see something in Your Word that once again reveals Your infinite mercy for how You put the spiritual universe together:

Trust is a choice.

It is not an endowment that you either get or don’t get.  It is not a genetic trait that you’re born with or not.  It’s not a gift handed out to the first 1,000 people to get in line; it’s not won by lottery; and it’s not assigned to the best and brightest.

Trust is a choice.

That’s how You’ve made the human race, and what an incredible God You are!  You didn’t make us puppets.  You didn’t make us robots.  And You didn’t make us rely on our past for hope for our future.  You didn’t pick favorites and You didn’t wait to see who would be good enough to earn it.  No, Lord, You gave everyone choice, and You gave it for free.

We all get to choose.  All of us!  What an end to panic!  What a start to peace!  We can all choose to follow our doubts into dark caves filled with traps and doors that lock behind us, or we can run to You in the trust of a child to a father!

(In my case, a pathetic child to a father, but a child, nevertheless.)

Our choice should have become meaningless from the moment Adam chose to sin, but from that time forward, You have been commanding and encouraging people to choose good over evil!  But how it that possible?  Only because You knew You would send Your Son–the greatest hope of all!

There is no doubt that will not be dispelled in the presence of Your Son, either now or in eternity.  The beauty of now is, our choice isn’t locked in.  The tragedy of waiting until eternity is, we will see that we missed the greatest reason of all time to believe God’s love: Jesus Christ.

There is no doubt in the whole world as strong or as loud or as tenacious as the love of Jesus Christ.  And in eternity, everyone will see that, Lord.

I know my trust is not perfect.  And so I run to You!  You have paid for my imperfection, so that I could receive Your salvation even though I trust You imperfectly!

And when I think about that, Lord, there’s no doubt at all that You are all I seek.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” (Romans 10:11, NASB)

O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8, NLT)

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:10, NIV)

I am teaching you today–yes, you–so you will trust in the LORD. (Proverbs 22:19, NLT)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV2000)

Christmas Countdown: Day 19

Dear Lord,

There is more than one hill to climb on the way through this life.

I pray for determination.

It would seem that it would be easy to follow You, if only You would smooth the journey: flatten the hills, crush the mountains, build up the valleys, fill in the pits.  But what we forget, Lord, is that when there was no difficulties along the way to You, when there is was only a single temptation, a single access point to sin . . . the human race still turned away.

So my choice isn’t about how hard or easy it is to follow You.  My choice is whether I want to.

Well, that is, it would be, if it mattered.

The problem is, whether I want to follow You or not, it is totally impossible for me to follow You on my own will, because I am chained to my sin nature.  There is no amount of determination that can change that.  Self help can’t help me get rid of self.  I couldn’t follow You on a pathway in Central Park any easier than I could up the side of the Grand Canyon.  I can’t follow You as long as I am chained to who I am.

But, because of You, my chains are broken.

And now, I can follow You.

I can scale any mountain in my life, descend through any valley, and walk over any ravine, because You have the road map, You are with me, and You have already placed Your banner on the highest mountains, Your lamp in the lowest valleys, and Your path over the worst ravines of temptation.

You have made it possible for my choice to matter.

And I choose You.

Every second, every decision, I have the choice to follow You. . . because You pulled my will back from the grave the instant You broke the stranglehold of sin and breathed Your life over the dust of who sin had made me.

And now I am determined, I am determined, yes, I AM DETERMINED to follow You.

You have given me the choice to do so.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NLT)

Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 18

Dear Lord,

Today I pray for the realization that I am set free.

Set free from sin.  Set free from condemnation.  Set free from guilt.  Set free from bitterness.  Set free from grudges.  Set free from regret.  Set free from gloom.  Set free from despair.  Set free from darkness.

Set free from myself.

I know You already gave me all these things from the moment I trusted in You.  But help me, Jesus, to realize what You’ve done for me.  Already.  Already, as in the past.  Already, as in ready to pour into my heart any time. The question isn’t whether or not You’ll give this to me.  The question is, Do I believe that You already have?

I do.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:5, NIV)

Christmas Countdown: Day 17

Dear Lord,

I pray for growth.

I am so tired of falling back into the same bad habits of the mind.  I am so tired of falling into old sinning patterns.  I am so tired of forgetting what You have revealed to me.  I am so tired of learning the same lessons over and over.  I am so tired of believing the same lies again and again.  I am so tired of staying in the same spot, waiting for a sign to move me when You have already clearly shown the way through Your Word.  I am so tired of backtracking because of my rebellion.

I pray that I would grow.  That I would remember what You have taught me.  That I would obey You.  That I would not go back into the same caves of darkness that You have saved me from.  That I would not go back to the same alleys where I always get lost.  That I would not fall into the same pits of temptation.  That I would not reopen the tombs of past sins.

But I will, I know I will, without Your intervention.  Save me from myself, Father.

Draw me from the cheap thrills of sin into the extraordinary Kingdom of grace You offer to all who kneel beneath Your cross.  Keep my eyes on You, God.  Keep my feet on Your road.  Lead me further and further into the realm of holiness.  Free me from the chains of my sin nature more and more each day.  Guide me to You until the horrors of my shortcomings vanish from the horizon.  Remind me that I am forgiven, right now, right here, without needing to take one more step towards You; that You meet me where I am at my cry of trust in Your Son.

I pray the power of what You have done for me will grow me up in my faith, in my wisdom, in my purity, in my decisions.  I pray that nothing, nothing will keep me from growing every second in the grace of who You are.

I want to be through with infancy, through with turning back to sin as if I didn’t know any better.

I do know better, Lord.

I want to grow up in You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

“Because of God’s tender mercy,

the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79, NLT)

Christmas Countdown: Day 16

Dear Lord,

The promise of reconciliation once again becomes a holiday.

So my prayer tonight is for the reality of the promise.

There is no greater gift that can be given a sinner than to be made right before a Holy God–not just for a few moments, or for a second try, but for all eternity.  The opportunity to be forgiven–forever.

What’s the catch?  It’s the voice that speaks whenever I think about grace.  What do I have to do to try to earn it?  Do I have to go halfway?  A quarter of the way?  At least fifteen steps?  How far do I have to walk towards God before He’ll walk towards me?  What is grace really about?  What do I have to do to get God to like me again?

Lord,

help me to remember that reconciliation

isn’t always

a two-way street.

Sometimes it’s one person leaning down,

pulling another up to where

(s)he doesn’t belong, and doesn’t deserve to be.

Please help me to remember that’s really possible . . .  with You.

You would really reach down and give the very people who cried out for Your death . . . a chance for Your life.

You would really reconcile us to You,

if we want to be.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19, NIV)

Christmas Countdown: Day 15

Dear Lord,

It is so easy to lose faith.  It is so hard to keep hold on it.

And there’s this difficult thing about faith: it requires faith to have it.

I can sometimes get out of the boat.  It’s the remembering that I need You to hold me up once I’m out on the waters that I need help remembering.

Either one of two things happen: DISTRESS, and I start drowning . . . or DIVA, and I start “disco”ing as if I am the one holding myself up.

I haven’t gotten good results from either.

What I need, Lord, is faith that You will keep me above the surface of the ocean.

The problem is, I don’t make faith!  I can’t buy faith!  I can’t even steal faith!!!  There is no way I can get the faith I have to have to believe in You if I try to get it on my own.  It is just impossible.

So, as crazy as it is to a sinner’s mind, I have to ask You for the faith I need to believe in You so that You will save me!

Everything in this whole salvation and sanctification process comes from you!

You have to give me the salvation.  And You have to give me the faith to receive Your salvation!  I bring nothing to the table but my terrors, my panics, my confusion, and my sin!

No sinner would ever come up with such a deal: You give everything, we give nothing.

Why in the world do You invite us over for Heaven?  We have nothing to give You.  We have nothing to make Your life better.  You can’t be improved on, anyway!  Why create us?  Why put up with us when we sin?  You don’t need us at all!

You are truly love!  You are truly the most incredible, the purest, the sweetest, the most blessed love in the whole entire everything of everything of everything of everything of everything of EVERYTHING.

BUT I STILL DON’T HAVE THE FAITH TO BELIEVE IN YOU . . . UNLESS YOU GIVE IT TO ME!

Thank you, God, that You give us faith when we just ask!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In Jesus Name,

Amen!

God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God’s approval is given through faith in Christ’s blood (Romans 3:25a, GW)

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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