Jesus Wept for Me

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Luke 19:41-44

Dearest Lord Jesus, how great is your love for us!  Sin had filled the minds and hearts of your people when You came to them and it broke Your heart.  In another Gospel you said you wished you could gather them up like little chicks beneath your wings.  But your people refused to recognize You. They refused to acknowledge Your complete sovereignty. They wanted to worship themselves.  They wanted to worship their own filthy rags of righteousness.

Thank you, Lord, that You weren’t content to see us die that way.  Thank You Lord that you wept for us, and walked the road of suffering into Jerusalem and onto the hill of Calvary’s cross so that we could have our sins paid for.  

And thank you, Lord, for Your Holy Spirit, that finally gave us the help we needed to see You for who You really are.  Even amidst the cacophony of sin that drowns out Your truth in our lives, Your Spirit makes You known to us. Without Your Spirit we would never know You.

So, thank You, Jesus.  Thank you! I worship You and the Spirit of God within me by Your power!  Thank you!

When It’s Hard to Read the Bible

Over the years I have fallen in love with reading the Word of God.  I love the truth that I find there, the promises, the grace, the freedom.  But when my heart is heavy and I get depressed, I feel a war on my spirit that tries to keep me from the Word.  I get caught up in sadness and loneliness.  I know that in the Word I can find truth and comfort, and yet I get so sad that I don’t want to read.  And I sure don’t want to write about it.

I’ve been in that place over the last few weeks.  I have days when I want to read and write and pray, and other days when I can’t even hardly look at the Bible on the table, let alone read it.  There is life there and I push it away in frustration, anger, hurt, sadness, or doubt.  Why?

Because the Bible is no more an instant fix to my problems than Jesus.  While it is a comfort and it holds truth and life, it doesn’t change the situations I’m in.  It doesn’t fix all the worry or struggles I’m facing.  It doesn’t shoot out twenty dollar bills when I open it, or cause wars to cease in the world or in my heart.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Because the Bible is only a glimpse of God.  It’s only a taste of things to come.  It offers the answer to life’s biggest problem: what can be done about the evil in the world, and how can we be saved from the evil in our own hearts.  But the final judgement is yet to come.  And until then, I’m stuck in this world, with the promises of God warring with the evil in my own heart.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Romans 7:18-20

So my sin will keep acting within me.  I know the promises of God are true.  I know that my only salvation from the evil of my own heart and the world is found in Jesus.  And I know that He has given me the promise of His salvation by putting a deposit of His own Spirit within me.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:13-14

And until that day that Jesus returns and I receive that full inheritance promised me.  I must accept the fact that I’m going to have bad days.  I’m going to have days of sin and doubt.  Then enemy continues to war against me.  My own sin wars against me.  The sin of others wars against me.  All of the things of this world war against me.  I’ve got to be patient.  I’ve got to wait it out.  I’m not alone.  We suffer together, struggling with the war that rages all around us.  And we’ll all get through it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5:6-10

So, have hope.  It’s not over yet.  And Jesus will restore us.  That’s a promise.

A Mustard Seed

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Luke 17:5-6

Jesus, I’ve always looked at these words You spoke to your disciples and felt ashamed of my faith.  I’d feel this great sadness that my faith wasn’t even as a big as a tiny mustard seed because I couldn’t move a tree or a mountain into the sea.  Sure, I’d look at things that happened, things that my prayers and my faith had effect on, and think to myself, “I’m getting there, I guess.” But I always felt so much pity for myself.  I’d feel ashamed that my faith was still so small.

And then You touched my heart and I saw this verse in a completely new way.  (I love that You never stop teaching, Lord, even when I’m quick to decide I already know something!)  I asked you to help me understand why my faith was so small. I asked You to help me understand why the disciples’ faith was so small.  And You answered!

A mustard seed of faith is tiny.  But, Lord, You provide the increase!  You are the one who makes the seed grow!  My job is just to have the tiniest amount of faith and then watch You go to work.  You will make my faith grow. You will do the miracle! You will increase my tiniest bit of faith and multiply it.  That’s what you do! You did it with fish and bread. You did it with oil. You did it with people. You did it all the time!  And You’re still doing it! You provide the increase. And so my faith will grow by Your power, no matter how tiny the start.

So, I confess Lord, that I’ve twisted that beautiful teaching into shaming myself.  I confess that in some way I was looking to myself to be the miracle maker. But only You have the power to move mountains into the sea.  Only You!

I will try to trust in Your power, God, and stop looking within myself for anything other than Your Spirit, Your Glory, and Your Power.  Then that tiny little bit of faith I started with can grow and grow. And by Your power I can do whatever You ask of me without fear!

Loved by God

Father, why is it that we always seem to seek our value in our own terms and not by Yours?  Over and over again You tell us that our value comes from Your love for us, and yet over and over again, we seek to make our value in ourselves.  

Jesus, in Luke 15 and the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son you showed us what our value looks like.  It is completely independent of our circumstance. Whether we’re just unwittingly lost, like the sheep, or lost by the carelessness of another person, like the sheep, or whether we’re lost by the pure foolishness of our own heart, like the prodigal son, the value of each was equally as precious to You.  

Your love is completely independent from our circumstances.

You made us all.  We rightfully belong to You as our Maker.  Yet we place our value on our own deeds, our circumstances, or our expectations.  But You look to each one of us and say, “You are mine. You are worth everything to me.  You are valuable to me!” That value doesn’t rely on us at all!

The celebration comes when we recognize that You have given us our value.  When we turn away from defending our poor behavior and defining ourselves based on our own perceived merit we can finally see that Your value for us is all that matters.  And You love us! We are worth everything to You and when we finally see that and turn to You to receive Your love, there is much celebrating for us and for You!

Thank You, God, for loving me.  Thank You, God for defining me as someone who is valued and loved by You.  I am someone who is worth dying for, not because I did anything to earn it, but because You made me and You I am highly valued by You!  Yay! Thank You!

No Other Love Compares

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-41

Lord, You don’t look at me the way I look at myself.  You see the labels I put on myself as a distraction to me that keeps me from sitting at Your feet and worshipping You.  It’s humbling to be reminded of how often I get distracted and side tracked by my own opinion of myself, or even worse, the opinion that others have about me.  I get caught up in what I think I’m supposed to do. I worry about obedience to what You want from me and don’t stop to listen to what You are saying.

Lord, help me to listen.  Help me to stop putting pressure on myself to do what people expect of me.  Instead, let me fall at Your feet and worship You. Teach me to lay aside the world and the constraints of my own sinful pride and a misplaced desire to serve You in a way that I have decided I am supposed to.  I just want to hear your words teaching and guiding me.

I want to wash Your feet with my tears, Jesus.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Holy Spirit, move in me.  Humble my arrogant heart. Temper my human longings and create in me a clean heart.  Guide me in the ways of Your thinking and desires for me. Drown out the sounds of my human will and the demands that the world has placed on me.  I long to be in Your right mind and not my own. I long to be true to Your definition of who I am and what I am to do. I long to worship You with humility.

39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
Luke 11:39-41

I don’t want to be like the Pharisees who puffed themselves up on the outside with their dependence on praise and obedience to the Law.  I don’t want to be honored by men or even know what they think of me. I don’t want to care, dear Jesus! I don’t want to care! Let me be a fool or a loud mouth.  Let me be brazen or unrefined. Let me be so aware that there is nothing good in me, that I all I can see is Your grace lifting me up! Let me choose the better portion in You, my Love!  

Sweet Holy Spirit, let me hear Your whispers.

I will submit to Your love for me, my Lord Jesus.  Only in You am I free. And no other love or praise can compare.

Set Your Face Toward Jerusalem

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
Luke 9:23-25

Father, the cost of following You is great.  It’s so great that most of the time we don’t even get it.  I don’t get it. It’s the complete opposite of my nature. Yet, You have given me Your Spirit and so in the depth of my soul I know Your Truth.  I know the path. And I know the cost. I’ve felt it. I’ve experienced it. The longer I walk on Your path, the more I see how much the world doesn’t understand it.

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”55 But he turned and rebuked them.
Luke 9:51-55

You fixed Your eyes on Jerusalem, Jesus.  And I, too, will keep my eyes fixed there.  Because Jerusalem meant death in the eyes of the world, but it means glory to You.  Jerusalem is Your Majesty revealed. It’s where Heaven and earth become one. It is Your city.  It is Your Kingdom. It is the place where Your promise to the world is fulfilled.

Sometimes it becomes hard to understand that Your eyes are fixed on the prize for us when we think You don’t see our needs or our pain.  Like the Samaritan village that rejected you, or the disciples who pondered which one of them was greatest, we look at You and say in our hearts, “What have you done for me?”  Your disciples were ready to destroy that village! They didn’t even know that they were being hypocrites. They weren’t being like children, ready to accept Your will and Your plan without an explanation.  They could only see the rejection.

A child doesn’t question your intentions toward them, or Your intentions toward anyone.  They just see Your face, accept Your love, and find the peace and joy that You offer. But, Lord, it’s really hard to put reason and logic of the world behind.  Living in this world hurts! From the moment of our birth we are moving toward death. Our lives become filled with obligation and work and a chorus of demands that tries to drown out Your peace.

46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
Luke 9:46-48

Lord, the one who is least among us, is the one who stops focusing on the praise of men or the world.  The one whose eyes are focused on You and Your Kingdom first is the one who finds peace. So, Lord, help me to keep my face set toward Jerusalem.  Your majesty is revealed there. And I will trust Your plan!

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

Being Poor in Spirit

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’
Luke 8:9-10

You explain things so clearly to anyone who wants to understand.  I love that about You, God. The ability to learn and understand the mysteries and wisdom that come from You are found in the humility to put aside my own thinking and reason to be taught by You.  That was the problem with the Pharisees. Those lovers of the Law were really lovers of themselves and the percieved piety they recieved from the obedience to your statutes. But they were missing the point entirely!  If anyone hears your law and only obeys it to impress or feel better about themselves they are not catching the heart of what the Law has brought.

Paul talked about the Law making clear to us the Truth of who You are and are inability to have fellowship with You.  He taught that inevitibly Your perfect law made clear our failing annd pronounced death upon us. But it was our sin that brought death, not the law itself.  So acting out the Law, if it didn’t teach the person to know and understand Your heart and Your desire to bring forgiveness of sin, gained nothing from obedience to that law.  Without the faith to know that You are salvation, not the Law, a person is lost forever. They will never understand, will they? They’ll just be stuck in the death of their sin, instead of the life that can only be offered by You.  

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:7-25

But being poor in spirit and humble in knowledge, gives me the right to learn and understand Your greatest mysteries because I’m willing to let You teach me.  As I recognize the deeper and deeper need for You to be my advocate in all aspects of my life, I find You willing and ready to teach me. And that’s how You used parables.  You showed people that if they were willing to be taught, instead of just having it all spelled out for them to figure out on their own, they could inherit a deep and meaningful fellowship with You that can be found in no other way.

But if a person is stubborn, and refuses to be taught, but only wants to lift up their own wisdom and understanding, then they can never learn even the simplest of lessons from You.  And of course the simplest lesson of all is that You came down to earth as a man to be our bridge between yourself and us. And anyone willing to follow You at all cost will find the richness of Your love, Your forgiveness, and Your eternal life.   So, that’s why the disciples had been given the ability to learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God. Because they were humble enough to give up trying to find You or serve You on their own.

You love that, don’t You?!  You just love people to acknowledge that they need You and want Your help!  It’s not complicated. It was never supposed to be complicated. Help me to be poor in spirit like that!  Teach me to be humble and to learn from You. Don’t ever let me rely on my own reason above Your own. Help me to know the depth and mystery of Your Love.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Luke 6:20

Good Fruit

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:43-45

If my mouth is praising You in all things and if my actions are full of mercy and love for everyone around me, my fruit is good!  It is abundant and full! It is reassurance, dearest Jesus, that the abundance of my heart is your love and mercy. I don’t need to worry about what people think of me, or even what others expect of me.  All I need to do is focus on You, Your Word in my heart, and the offerings of Your love and mercy that flow through me. I know I’m not going to get it right all the time. But I see You working, God. I see Your hand gently guiding me and faithfully teaching me to “bend the bow of bronze”.

He trains my hands for war,
   so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
 Psalm 18:34

I found myself praying this morning very deeply for someone who had hurt me.  Lord, I know that’s nothing new for You, but I know I don’t do it enough. My logic and understanding of your Word tell me to forgive and show mercy to those who hurt me, but in the moment, I’m often so hurt that I spend all of my energy focused on just speaking love and speaking from the abundance of my heart.  But prayer needs to be the further fruit of those words. Thank you for reminding me of that this morning.

Lord, help me to be more focused on You so that I continue to produce good fruit.  Let every thought be held captive by Your love, Your grace, Your Spirit.  That is where my treasure is. That is where my story leads. That is all my heart desires.  Let me honor You and serve You in all things. It may look strange to the World. It may even look strange to Your children.  But I know that Your Spirit will use me. Your Spirit will guide me. And Your Power will seap out of me to the world around me, without me even saying a word.  That’s just who You are. And You are in me so I can be confident in that.

And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
Luke 6:19

Use me God.  Though I am a woman of unclean lips, You have made me clean and Your power is made perfect in my weakness.

Favored by God

Trust is a gift from you, God.  Zechariah and Mary both received unbelievable messages from the angel Gabriel about giving birth by a miraculous act of God.  Both received the fulfilled blessing that had been promised to them. But only Mary trusted the promise. Zechariah doubted the promise and suffered the personal consequences for it.  

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Luke 1:5-7

Your word says that Zechariah and his wife were both righteous before you and “walked blamelessly in all the commandments”. Yet, because of his doubting, he was silenced.  This silencing kept him from sharing in the blessing that he had been given, but it didn’t stop the blessing.

So often I’m ready to doubt your promises, God.  I get so used to calling them promises that I forget that they really are promises and you are faithful to fulfill them!  Help me to trust you, God. Help me not to doubt the blessings that you are sending to me. I think Zechariah doubted because Elizabeth was barren.  Instead of remembering that you fulfilled your promise to bring a child to a barren woman with Abraham and Sarah, he was stuck in the current circumstance of Elizabeth’s inability to conceive.  

By no means should he have been putting his faith in Elizabeth’s body!  But instead he should have trusted in your power! He was a man who knew you!  And yet his fear and the sorrow of his current circumstances kept him from trusting You.  He was well versed in the knowledge of your faithfulness and yet the familiarity of his personal troubles kept him from fully trusting in the message that he had been given.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

How favored indeed was Mary!  Her childlike faith and trust in Your message were evident in her from the start.  Her circumstances were simple and humble. She was favored by God, because she didn’t put her trust in her humble circumstances.  Sure, she questioned Gabriel when he said she was favored, but when he told her what that favor was going to give her, she recognized her place as Your servant.  If you wanted to call her “favored” that was good enough for her. So she trusted you.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1:38

Lord, I am highly favored by you.  I know this because of what you have done for me.  You gave me your Son as a ransom for my life. And you gave me your Spirit as a deposit of your promises to be fulfilled in me.  Lord, let me trust you. Let me walk in the favor you have pronounced on me. Let me know Your promises are true and walk in that truth instead of the turmoil of my corrupted circumstances.  

Oh, Jesus!  My love! Help me trust You so that I can share with the world the blessings You provide instead of being silenced by the doubt in my own heart.

The Resurrection!

Jesus, thank you for revealing yourself to the World through your resurrection!  You truly are alive just as you said you would be! I’m so thankful for your life, Lord!  I know that it means I have life. You have utterly defeated the world, sin and death. They no longer have power.  All authority has been given to You! And you have used that authority to empower us with Your Spirit and give us authority as well.  We share in your rulership! How wonderful!

We are so broken, so foolish, so full of failure and yet you still chose to become like us, in the form of a man, with all the human flaws and failings at peak potential in your own body, but you overcame it all.  Your resurrection proves it! The tomb is empty because you are alive.

Lord, thank you for teaching us all about who you are through the scriptures.  Thank you that you walk with us and patiently show us the revelation of your identity through the prophets of the old testament so that we can fully consume and understand who you are and what you have done for us.  It is incredible, God.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:25-27

I worship you, Jesus!  I worship you and love you for what you have done!