It’s Time

S: A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.” John 21:17 (NLT)

O: I see so much happening here in Peter’s heart – a dying to self, a shedding of pride, and a growing humility. Peter is exactly where Jesus needs him to be; he is ready.

A: You have been writing a story in my heart for quite some time. I’ve danced around the responsibility and questioned my ability, but it’s time. Through these last 100+ days, You’ve helped me develop the discipline of writing, and now it is time to apply that practice. It’s time to do what You made me for; it’s time to write the book.

P: Lord, this next leg of the journey is a bit terrifying. I want so much to do what pleases You, and I know that I can do none of it without You. You know everything – You know that I love You. Help me along the way, Jesus. Help me to not lose sight of why I’m writing – only to bring You glory. May my story be one of the many books the world cannot contain!

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij

Your Way is Love

S: Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. John 18:28 (NIV)

O: I know all of this was necessary to fulfill the Scriptures; I know You had to die as payment for my sins and the sins of the world – I know this. But reading this and envisioning the Jewish leaders, so overcome by religious spirit that they couldn’t see how their conspiracy for murder of an innocent man made them unclean, is heartbreaking to me.

A: This is why organized religion is difficult for me – because as organized as we want to be, our humanness, our pride, our fear…our sin gets in the way. I am just as guilty; thinking I can see motive and reasoning – judging others – thinking my way is better.

But Your way is best.

Your way – Your commandment – is to LOVE one another as You have loved us.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

P: Help me to put down my way, Jesus, and embrace Yours. Keep my steps aligned with Your plan for my life. Help me to walk in Your will. Awaken me to see what I have been blind to in myself. Only You can make me clean, Jesus. Wash me in Your blood – the blood of The Passover Lamb.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.”
Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

Photo by Jens Johnsson

Your Joy in Me

S: I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. John 17:13 (NIV)

O: Everything You do and say, You do with purpose. Even here, not wanting to withhold anything from those You love, You speak so they might have the full measure of Your joy within them. Your disciples had little idea of what was coming, but You knew, and with this prayer You prepared them – even if they couldn’t fully grasp it all – You gave them all they needed to know; You gave them Your joy.

A: You do the same for me. You know what lies ahead for me, and where You have gone ahead for me. You speak to me with purpose and share Your joy within me – joy in Your finished work which brings glory to You and the Father!

Sometimes I fail to realize the significance in baby steps – that every step is progress, even if it’s not perfect. Every step towards You and who You made me to become is reason for joy – Your joy!

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;

no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.
Psalm 84:10-11 (NIV)

P: Jesus, thank You for sharing Your joy with us. How wonderful it is to experience! We love You, too – so much! May Your joy overflow in me today, and may it bring glory to You, God!

Photo by jill111–334088

Trust the Gardener

S: He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. John 15:2 (NLT)

O: A vine is pruned so that it can put its energy into bearing more fruit. While you can leave a vine unpruned and have it still produce fruit; it will not produce the quantity or quality like one that is pruned. This often seems counterproductive because we might think more branches equates to more fruit, but that isn’t the case at all.

Much like branches on a vine, if we are not pruned, we can grow all over the place exerting more energy into multiple branches – requiring more energy and more care! When God prunes us, He does so knowing what is ahead – knowing which things need to be cut off so our energy can be directed to growing fruit that lasts – fruit that feeds the future.

A: I’m not gonna lie, pruning hurts! Why? Because often what is being pruned is producing fruit! (Read the second half of the verse again, “…branches that do bear fruit…”) So why would God, the Gardener, cut it off?

Honestly? Only God knows.

But what I have learned is that I can trust God with and in the process. He sees so much more than we can! He’s focused on each of us and all of us collectively at the same time! I don’t know how He does it, but in His wisdom, He carefully removes those things from our lives, our ministry, our relationships that would hinder us in the long run if they were not cut off.

I’ve also learned we can’t always see why He prunes something when He does, but after a few seasons, we are often able to taste the sweet fruit produced because of it. Talking to others who are well on the other side of a pruning season can be beneficial, too; their stories can help us to develop patience and eyes that see His skillful hand in the process.

After all, He is the Gardener, Christ is the vine, and we are the branches – filled with the power of His Holy Spirit to do all the good works He prepared in advance for us to do.

Trust the process. Trust the Gardener. Abide in the Vine.

P: God thank You for pruning me. I chose to trust You in the process. May my life bring glory to Your name. Amen

Photo by Pexels–2286921

Remind Me

S: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 (NIV)

O: I think it’s safe to say most of us need reminders, especially in our go-go-go world. Quarantine has slowed many of us down – given us time to breathe, think, and reflect – but have we trained our ears – our hearts – to listen for His voice?

A: I read my Bible to know Your voice, to recognize Your truth. So many times in conversation a verse rises up in my spirit – reminding me of the truth I can share to help and encourage the other person. (I’m lousy at memorizing location and where exactly it is in the Bible, but I know it as Your voice – Your Truth – because I’ve heard You speaking it to me through Your Word.)

P: Holy Spirit, thank You for reminding me of the truth God has spoken to me through His Word. Keep fine tuning my ears to listen for Your instruction. Remind me to reflect on my day and to look for all the incredible ways You were there, God. Let my thoughts rest on You alone.  

Photo by Monfocus–2516394

Help Me Love Well

S: So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13:34 (NLT)

O: You loved Your disciples even when they were still sinners – even knowing they would all abandon You – even deny knowing You. You humbled Yourself before them – demonstrating love in a way they had not ever seen.

And then You commanded them to do the same.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 (NLT)

A: How is my love doing? Not my comments on Facebook and my statements on Twitter, but my love. What does this kind of love – this humble servant love You command us to have for one another – look like in me?

Is it evident at all?

Is it proving to the world that I am Your disciple? If I am not compelled to love others as You have loved me, do I even know Your love for me at all?

P: God, help me to drown in Your love. Break off this spirit of narcissism that runs rampant in me and in our culture! Help me to love others without thought for myself. Help me to be overcome and undone by Your love. It’s the only thing that will change me – the only thing that is different from the world. It’s the only thing that proves I’m Your disciple. Help me to love well with everything inside me.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens

Aren’t You Tired?

S: For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. John 12:43 (NLT)

O: Their identity was found in what others thought of them, not in what God thought or said about them. Fear of losing man’s acceptance kept them from experiencing the full acceptance of God through Jesus.

A: It’s a lot of work striving to satisfy the demands and expectations of people, and let’s be honest, they are a rather fickle bunch. What scratched their itch today probably won’t do the same tomorrow. You are always having to stay one step ahead, anticipating what they want, so you can be that for them. It’s exhausting.

When you are more concerned about winning over the heart of the crowd than following after God’s, you are walking a tightrope that can give out at any time. It’s a dangerous path that leaves you on edge and unsatisfied.

But following after Jesus does the opposite. It’s this crazy way of living where you lay your life down for others – you put others first before yourself – and you’re the one satisfied! By receiving the grace and love of God, you can only freely give it away. One, because you know Who to turn to, and two, because you know you can’t earn any of it.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

When you understand that Jesus paid it all – Jesus did the work so you could be accepted – you are finally set free from the drive of performance and the striving for man’s admiration.

There is no striving with God.

No, there is only a drawing. A drawing into His love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance. A drawing in that brings peace and rest for your weary soul.

Your Father says to you, “No more striving. Let me tell You what I have to say about you – who I see you to be. Who I made you to be. Come close to me, and let me teach you who you are. Let go of what the world demands of you, and allow me to show you a new way to live. A new way to love.”

P: Oh God, I long to desire Your praise above all else. Burn off anything in me that wants man’s admiration above yours. Forgive me when I seek applause and words of admiration – for I know my identity is really only found in what You have to say about me. I know my worth comes from the work Jesus does through me. I’m tired of striving.

I love You, Lord. Please keep working in my heart.

Photo by Juliano Ferreira

I Know Your Voice

S: After he has gathered his flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. John 10:4 (NIV)

O: You go ahead of me, and I follow You because I know Your voice. I know You are the good Shepherd.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 (NIV)

A: I will follow You alone for You are safe and trustworthy. You will not abandon me or lead me astray. You protect me and watch over me. I can trust You completely.

P: Thank You for calling me by name, Jesus. I love You, too.

Photo by Free-Photos–242387

When I Can’t See

S: Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. John 9:3 (MSG)

O: We are creative beings – made by the Creator Himself – so it’s no wonder then that we are problem solvers, too. Always trying to solve the riddle & figure out the why; so often blinded by our own shortcomings we find solution in imputing the cause on someone or something else. We cover our own eyes and wonder why we can’t see what’s really going on. But what are we really looking for?

Are we looking for answers, or are we looking for God?

A: Instead of trying to determine why, what if we just prayed to see God in it? (And not in that pre-determined way where we make a list of criteria He must meet, but a genuine cry of our heart to see Him working even when it doesn’t seem He is.) What if we asked God to open our eyes? My friend calls these “lenses of eternity,” eyes that can see well beyond the present and beyond the boundaries of time; eyes that seek to see the glory of God revealed in all of it.

Even in the hurt. Even in the ugly. Even in the dark.

Ask God to help you see the Light.

P: God, my eyes have been shadowed by my own pride, my own sin. Remove my sin, Jesus. I want to see clearly. I want to look at this incredible world You created full of living beings made in Your image and give You glory! I know You are at work – You are always working things out for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose – God open my eyes to see You! I don’t want to be blind any longer!

Photo by Emily Rose

I’m Sorry

S: Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly. John 7:24 (NIV)

Don’t be nitpickers; use your head – and heart! – to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right. John 7:24 (MSG)

O: Look below the surface – what is the heart of the matter.

A: Lord, while I know there is a greater message You are conveying here, I can’t look past this underlying theme of examining my own heart.

My country is on fire. It’s been burning for a long time – embers below the surface finally erupting into flames that cannot be ignored. So many opinions broadcasted on media platforms – trying to find the right words to extinguish or fuel the flames.

And still I’ve not yet heard the two small words that can initiate the greatest amount of healing…

“I’m sorry.”

I think it’s because it’s much easier to look around and judge how everyone else is responding to determine which is right, wrong, better, or worse. But change can’t really happen without beginning with myself.

I haven’t posted anything on social media about what is going on, not because I don’t care or I’m not heartbroken or enraged by it, but because I can’t just throw words up on a screen hoping they will somehow pacify the cries of injustice in our world.

The reality is our world is broken, and I’ve played a part in it. I’ve made judgements based on appearance. I may want to think I’m better than the violence on TV, but I know better. I know the words I’ve used to tear others down – even if they were never spoken – I know the thoughts in my heart. If I take time to look within, I can see my own prejudices.

And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for thinking that somehow I was better than you. That somehow you were a threat to my wellbeing – my safety. What I see so clearly now is that the biggest threat to me is myself.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)

It’s easy to fling opinions and judgements all over Facebook and Twitter. It’s much more difficult and painful to sit quietly with ourselves and evaluate our own hearts.

How have I contributed to this epidemic?

I’ve thought too much of and about myself. I’ve loved myself more than I have others. I’ve thought my ways were best.

How could I judge anyone else when I know my own sinful nature? How can I say this is right or wrong when my own motive is not love? How can I do any of this without examining my own heart first?

For all of this and countless other consequences of my sin, I’m a contributor to the problem.

What else could I possible say?

Only this: I’m sorry. Can you please forgive me?

P: God, I want to say, “Forgive us!” But I have to start with myself first. Can you forgive me? Change me from the inside out, Lord. Start with me.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Psalm 51:1-17 (NIV)

Photo by Lucxama Sylvain