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)

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Christmas Countdown: Day 14

Dear Lord,

There is nothing harder for a sinner to achieve than purity.

Today, I pray for purity.

Not that I think I can achieve it: I know full well I cannot.  But I pray instead for a gift, a gift of purity.

Draw my heart to You as fully as a magnet draws a paperclip.  Draw my mind to Your ways, my hands and feet to Your work, my mouth to Your Words.  I pray that what I allow into my soul would only be from You, and what I send out would only be acts of worship.  Keep me from dissension, sinful rage, bitterness, hopelessness, faithlessness, jealousy, confusion, willful disobedience, and any other wickedness, Lord.  In a world covered in sin as greatly as a fireplace in soot,  please wrap me in the purity of Your love.

Please wash away everything in me that objects to You, every bit of filth that wishes to hide from Your grace.  Please bring me Your cloak of forgiveness so that my sin will be hidden and your water of atonement so that my sin will be washed away.

Please save me from my dirt to walk on the clean road of salvation all the way to Your Heaven.

Please make me eligible for the journey and purify me all the way.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10, NLT)

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 13

Dear Lord,

It’s Your gift, my only chance for Heaven, and yet the hardest thing for me to give others.

I pray for forgiveness.

I pray I will receive forgiveness from You, because without it, I have no access to Heaven.  Without forgiveness, the gate is forever shut.

And I pray I will give forgiveness to everyone who hurts me.  You make it clear that, once You gave forgiveness to the world through Jesus Christ, You expected the world to respond with forgiveness to each other.

There is no wound anyone could ever inflict on me that could compare to the wound I inflicted on You at the cross.

I pray for forgiveness.  Forgiveness for me, forgiveness that pours over my life to drench everyone in my path.  It’s not my forgiveness, Lord, You know it’s not.  It’s Your forgiveness, shared through me, only because You gave it to me in the first place.

I love You, Jesus.

And I pray for forgiveness.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalm 86:5, NLT)

He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. (1 Timothy 2:6, NLT)

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. (Ephesians 1:7, NLT)

Christmas Countdown: Day 12

Dear Lord,

It is so easy for me to lose awe for You, because I so often hold my reverence in the sieve of my sinful nature and I quickly wonder where my worship has all gone to.

It is simple–instinctual, even–for me to think something or say something or do something that tries to sabotage Your glory.  I am always one second away from betraying You to the world.  I am always one second away from detonating my ability to witness for You.

So many times, so many times, You have reached down in Your grace, and You have given me another chance.  So many times, so many times, You have forgiven my irreverence; You have poured Your grace over my mockery.

But I don’t want it to be that way anymore.

I don’t want to live running from one moment of asking for forgiveness to another.  I don’t want to live running back and forth between the Kingdom of God and the abyss of Satan.

I don’t want to keep falling.

All sin, all my sin, begins its journey in my irreverence for You.  All sin, all my sin, begins its tear through my life and scarring on my soul because I lost honor for You.  If I don’t lose honor for You, I don’t sin.  It’s that simple.  It’s that choice.

What have You ever wanted from me, Lord, but that I would love You?

And what have I ever had more trouble giving?

Jesus, in Your unfathomable love, You gave love.  You came down, and You gave love.  And because You gave love to creatures who don’t have love, who threw Your love away the first time You gave it, when You endowed it to us, when it was truly natural to our nature . . . You gave us the example of how we are to love You.  You became human, and one reason was to show us how humans were meant to love God.

God became human so He could show humans how to love God.  It’s incredible.  I would just have annihilated the species and started over.  But not You.

I revere You.

Your love is so much greater, so much deeper, so much wider than any I can possibly imagine if I use every electron in my brain to try to imagine it.

Your love to the Father was nothing but miraculous in the eyes of sinners and angels alike.  You loved God (and You were God!) no less when God’s plan was for You to die upon a cross than when You were ruling in Heaven before time began.  It’s more than my tiny, fallen mind can imagineYou wanted us to love You so much that You were willing to come and show us how.

You asking us to love You is not like a movie star wanting autographs or a politician wanting votes.  You want us to love You because it is the only way to have Life.  You are the only Life.  Those who love You live.  Those who do not love You perish forever.

You know the only way to Life is You.  Satan knows it, too.  And since it is impossible for him to separate You from life or to ever receive it from himself . . . he strikes out at anyone he can possibly keep from it . . . convincing angels to become demons . . . convincing children of God to become groveling slaves of torment and darkness.

And he strikes out at us through the very tactic that banished Adam and Eve from living in the Garden of Eden forever: irreverence.

Irreverence is like taking a crowbar to love, ripping it off its bolts, and then wondering whatever could have destroyed it.

Irreverence is taking so lightly, Lord.

And yet it is the tool of Hell.

So I pray this night for reverence.  I pray that I would clothe myself in humility, looking to Your walk on earth to know how.  I pray that from my hands and mouth and mind would come actions and words and thoughts seeped in honor for the Savior who held Himself to the cross for me, who held together the mockers, who held the nails in his wrist, who held together even the men who were crucifying Him.

If You would do that for me, Lord, how could I, how could I ever for even a second yield to dishonoring You for any reason?

Please, Jesus, let it never be again.

In Your Name,

Amen.

The snake was more clever than all the wild animals the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must never eat the fruit of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1, GW)

“‘AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'” (Jesus, quoted in Mark 12:30, NASB)
God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. (Jesus, quoted in John 3:16, GW)

He existed before everything and holds everything together. (Colossians 1:17, GW)

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (Ephesians 3:18, NLT)


Christmas Countdown: Day 11

Dear Lord,

I pray for energy.

Not useless energy.  Not wasted energy.  Not frivolous energy.

I pray for the energy to do Your will.

There is no energy Satan is so motivated to steal as this kind of energy.  Satan has no problem with energy to fulfill selfish passions, but the moment I want to do Your will, I find everything that is still wrong in me throwing a knock-out, drag-out fight . . . or pretending to go along with it, only to mislead me to another place all together.

Satan fuels the energy to worry, gripe, obsess, pout, nurse a grudge, plot a revenge, and fight against Your will in any other way possible.  And he is clever and he is cruel, and he will stop at nothing to amp me up for sin and deflate me for Your work.

It’s all hopeless if it’s up to me.  You know there’s no way I can outsmart Satan or outlast him.  But–thank you, God–it is not up to me.

You’ve already won.  The outcome is known.  If I knew, if I really knew I could go out on an Olympic ice skating rink and get all 10’s from the judges, I’d go!  So why do I let Satan fatigue me for the work You have for me, when I know You have already given me the happy ending?

I want to fill in the pages of my life with Your work.  I need You to give me energy to do that, Lord, please.  I don’t have to have an energy that means I’m never sick or tired or sad.  Instead, I need the energy You and only You give: energy that never quits, because it is from You and reminds me that I have You.

Your love is enough to wind me up for every job You could ever have for me, for all eternity.

I want to keep going and going and going . . . going and going for You, Lord, as though I am an Energizer Bunny®, with hands and feet that never stop serving in this world until Your work in me on earth is done.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

“‘For in him we live and move and have our being.'” (Acts 17:28, NIV)

Published in: on December 11, 2011 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 10

Dear Lord,

I don’t know of any kings who sleep in stables, and yet that the beginning is Your story as a man.

How is it possible that You could come down quietly into the womb of a poor woman, that You could be carried for nine months and we wouldn’t even know it?

How is it possible that God could be born as a baby in a barn?

How is it possible that You could want to rescue humans who have never given You their wholehearted allegiance, who most commonly abandon You for cheap interests, and who You knew would capitalize on the opportunity provided in Your fragility in becoming human to save us . . . to kill You?

How could You ever love us?

How could You ever love us?

Lord, today I pray that I would be meek.

Meek enough to love my enemies.  Meek enough to pray for them, to care for them, to give them what I can.

I pray that I would be meek enough to take on any jobs You have for me, and never think they are too trivial or too demeaning for me to do.  I pray I would never think any service is beneath me, and that I would never imagine I am too dignified to wade through the sewers of this world for lost people.

Please give me a heart that is worthy to serve a King who chooses to be born in an inglorious, scornful, dark, smelly stable to show He is really coming into the world for everyone.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Hope that you don’t mind our manger

How I wish we would have known

But long-awaited Holy Stranger

Make Yourself at home

Please make Yourself at home . . .

Fragile fingers sent to heal us

Tender brow prepared for thorns

Tiny heart whose blood will save us

Unto us is born

Unto us is born

–Welcome to Our World, Chris Rice

“This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.” (Luke 2:12, WEB)

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Photograph by Pacdog, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/pacdog/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.


Christmas Countdown: Day 9

Dear Lord,

I pray for warmth.

It is so easy to go through the motions on the holidays like typing on a keyboard. Kisy sd ,u jsmfd vsm rsdo;u nr ,ods;ohmrf ejrm O yu[r smf yu[r s mrddshr yhsy mskrd no drndr

(Just as my hands can easily be misaligned when I type and type a message that makes no sense . . .)

. . . so my heart can easily be misaligned at Christmas and I can focus on everything except You, creating nothing but an unintelligible waste out of the time You give each year to relive Hope’s birth.  How can there be peace, how can there be charity, how can there be grace or love at Christmas without You?  What is that?  Mas?  What is Mas?  Nothing more than an affix that makes no sense without its root word.

I pray for warmth this Christmas.  Not from yule logs or hot cocoa, but from the everlasting fire of Your Presence.

I pray for Your love to descend on me so that I can never grow cold again.  I pray You will heat my heart to burn for the world around me, the world that does not know . . .

You are the wonder in this winter.

You are the carol in the street.

You are the present under the tree.

And You are the only warmth in an eternal season of cold.

Our sin is winter, Lord, but You are summer.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 8

Dear Lord,

I pray for something almost totally forgotten, something chucked to the wayside, something that’s gotten written off as last year’s model.

I pray for hope.

People can laugh at hope, scorn hope, write hope off as child’s play, and even try to kill hope, but I need hope, God–and not just any hope.  I need hope that’s not going to let me down.  I need hope for something that’s really coming.

I need Your hope.

Lord, I remember waking up one time from a nightmare and realizing, for the first time, really, that You are the One, the only One, that stands between us and Satan.  You are the one shield.  Without You standing guard, we would be dragged away forever.  And yet, we don’t realize it because we don’t think about it.  Millions and millions of people go every day without seeing that You are the barrier between us and the consequences of everything we are.  Every second we live is a shout-out to salvation, a chance to forever stand behind the shield of who You are.

You ask for worship, and we think You are selfish.  We don’t see we would be worshiping our Shield.  You ask for obedience, and we think You are demanding.  We don’t see that You are the Wall between earth and Hell.  You ask for allegiance, and we ask for the right to get away from You.  You ask for love, and we ask to leave the boundaries of Your kingdom to plunge into Hell.

You are so patient with us, Lord.

Because, for every second we’re alive, second after second after second after second, You give us hope.

It’s so available we forget about it.  It’s so free we think it’s cheap.  And it’s so holy we think it’s inaccessible.  What a mess we are.

But you still offer it to us.

You still wait.

Wait for us to choose You before our lives are over.

I have Your hope, Jesus.

My prayer is that I don’t keep it to myself, or live my life so poorly that others don’t want to receive it.

I pray for hope for anyone who reads this and is longing for the very substance of the unseen: the reality of You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see you lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet, in your dark streets so shines the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in you tonight.

O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks (modern translation)

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Photograph by Kimberly Jones, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/owlpacino/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Christmas Countdown: Day 7

Dear Lord,

You know how much I love A Christmas Carol.  I don’t know why it’s called that, really, since it doesn’t have a lot to do with singing, but I love it anyway.

Tonight I pray for charity.

Not the kind of charity that mindlessly gives things away or a charity that frames receipts of all “generous” gifts given.  Instead, please give me a charity that gives intentionally and freely.  Help me to plan ways to give and help me to give whenever spontaneous things spontaneously happen–You know everything, Lord . . . every opportunity You’ve given me to give . . and every time I’ve withheld.

Make my charity like Ebenezer Scrooge’s on Christmas morning.  I want to see Your world through eyes of love, to hear it through ears of hope, to participate in it with thankful hands and feet.  I don’t want to give out of obligation or penance.  I want to give so I don’t burst from the fullness of the Gift You’ve given me.

I want to be Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of the book, only, I recognize I have so much more that’s been forgiven me, so much more charity to share with anyone who holds out empty hands.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Christmas Countdown: Day 6

Dear Lord,

Create for me a heart of sacrifice to replace my selfish one.

I want to molt from who I was into who you want me to be.

I want to sacrifice what matters to me for what matters to You, because You matter most.

I want to sacrifice everything I hold close that needs to be cast away: what tempts me, what misleads me, all the grudges I nurse, all that I want to hoard for myself and keep away from others, whatever turns my eyes from You to stare at Hell instead.  Before I ever sacrifice anything worthy or beautiful, I want to sacrifice these ugly things, these unwanted things, these things that seek to do me in.  I want to burn them on Your altar of forgiveness so that I can pour my life out as a living sacrifice to You, who poured Your eternal life out for me, Jesus.

Lord, I want to sacrifice everything I’m not supposed to be for all that You see in me.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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Photograph by Kris, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/krislitman/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.