A Prayer for 2017

Hey Lord,

Here we are again at the end of another year. Lord, first, can I just say that I love You so so much? You have revealed so much more of Yourself to me this year. Or maybe I was looking at You all this time and just didn’t know it, because I know my blindness lifts but slowly, Lord, and only by Your grace. Either way all I know is that every year You just look bigger and bigger. Maybe that’s just Your infinity, or maybe it’s the same effect as drawing nearer to a mountain. At first it’s just a pretty little toy thing on the horizon, but as you get closer and closer it suddenly begins to look more real and majestic and terrifying and dangerous and beautiful.

Drawing nearer to You has been painful sometimes, Sir, but I thank You for every last sting, for every last throb of that agony. I appreciate to many that seems kind of an odd thing to say. I know You know what I mean, but for the sake of them that listen in on this prayer, let me elaborate. See Lord, I see so many people have also had a hard, hard 2016. The Internet is full of relief at the end of this terrible year. We’ve all experienced a few tragedies and travails.

But Sir, that’s the amazing thing about You. Pain was never supposed to be part of the beautiful, perfect world You made, and then we broke it and brought pain in with our sins. Ultimately all pain is self-inflicted, I guess. And Satan jumps on pain so quickly to amplify it in us, trying to drown You out. But wow, Lord! How You have foiled that plan! You turned the ugly thing we brought into our world into a mighty weapon, a burning fiery sword to sever all that stands between us and You. Instead of waging war on pain, You made it into one of Your greatest strategies to bring us closer to You. All things indeed work together for our good – even ugly, nasty things we made when we broke the world.

It’s during tribulation that You often draw the troubled soul closer to You. It’s by removing all other options that You open our eyes to the thing we were searching for all along: Yourself. It’s during our most critical sickness that we finally in desperation turn to the most perfect Healer.

I know this because this past time has been among the hardest of my life, but I’ve also never experienced You as dynamically as during this time. Oh, Lord, there was pain. There was weeping. But there was also You, always. Your healing touch. Your loving arms. Your rock under my feet. The devil must be gnashing his teeth now because he launched such an attack on me and every new effort was just another inch of ground You gained, a contribution to Your victory in my heart. You never let me go, Lord. I stepped out on the waves and sank, and Your strong grasp was there to save me.

So Lord, I see and I understand why everyone is praying for an easier year next year. We’ve all got a few new scars; we’re all nursing fresh wounds, still trying to stop the bleeding. Our hearts cry out in protest against still more struggle. We want to have no more. We want to rest.

But our only rest is You, Sir. The fields are white for the harvest; You’re coming soon, Lord, and there isn’t time for slumber. We need to draw closer to You, now, today, this very minute because we have no guarantee that You’re not coming even tonight, even this next breath. The trouble isn’t that we don’t have forever. The trouble is that we do: we need to be sure where we’re gonna be spending it.

So Lord, I don’t pray for an easier year. No, Lord, I pray for even more challenges. I pray not for material blessings or for temporary joy or for worldly success. I pray that You would take us further up and further in this year. I pray that You would continue the good work You’ve begun in us. I pray You’d forge us into even sharper blades in a hotter fire; let us drink of the cup of Your blood even deeper; draw us up higher though the altitude may make it hard to breathe. I pray that You would shine brighter through us in deeper darkness. I pray that You would set us even better and bigger and harder deeds and make Your Name known because I will sing, Lord, I will sing until the whole world hears.

I pray not peace on earth, but a sword. A saving, redeeming sword that will cleave away every evil and deathly thing in us and leave us uninhibited to rise up and embrace You in miniature semblance of Your ultimate, perfect holiness and joy. I pray that we would be drained of ourselves so we may be filled of You. I pray that we may decrease, and You may increase.

I pray all this because these are the last days and there are so many souls that we can show the way to You. Only You can save a soul, Lord, but Your light in us can illuminate the path. Please Lord, let us be that. Let us become little Christs, at whatever cost to us, for You have already paid every cost to You.

I pray this, my Beloved, because I know You are with us and You are the only source of love and joy and life and holiness and completeness and every good thing. I love You and I want You and my soul pants for You: it just can’t get enough of You. I hear You call me deeper still. So Lord, no matter how painful it is, make me follow.

Thank You so much for Your amazing amazing amazing love and patience and steadfastness. There are not enough breaths in all the lifetimes of the world to breathe out enough songs to sing Your praise and give You thanks for a tenth of a tenth of what You are and what You have done.

I love You Sir.

In Jesus’s incredible Name,

Amen.

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I Don’t Believe In Myself

I don’t follow my heart.

I did once. It ended well, sometimes. Other times, it crashed and burned. It is only a human heart, you see. It breaks and blunders. Its scars turn to stone. It doesn’t know, it just feels.

I don’t chase my dreams.

Oh, I did once. I trampled on others and kicked leg-ups in the teeth clawing my way to where I wanted to be. But my dreams are all about me, you see. And when you’re the only one on top, you’re all alone. When I got there it was only to find it wasn’t what I’d wanted after all; to descend in agony and bruises, only to climb up on top of others again to get to another useless, fruitless dream.

I don’t believe in myself.

I have tried. But I’m just a person, you see. I failed. I broke. I wounded and was wounded; I was a vessel of darkness and even today there are shadows in my soul. I have hated and prided myself and ashamed. I have crawled through the miserable depths of sin and been bogged down in the maggoty mire of my own making. I’m not good enough. I don’t have what it takes.

And that’s okay.

I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to trust myself.

I don’t have to trust my fickle, fumbling heart because I don’t follow my heart. I follow Jesus.

I follow Someone Who spans the full and entire length and breadth of the glorious spectrum between might and tenderness. He does not break and He does not blunder. He feels with keenest agony the tiniest pains, and with deepest pleasure the tiniest joys, of the world, but He also knows. He knows all. He sees the full and entire plan, the big picture, the great scheme on which the world turns because it’s His. And He acts out of the abundantly overflowing goodness and righteousness and mercy of His Heart. And I follow that.

I don’t have to believe in my dreams because I don’t chase my dreams, I surrender to God’s plan.

I drown in the joy of His dream for the world. I immerse myself in the unchanging core of His calling: to bring a healing, loving God to a hurting, hating world. I am part of a mighty war, a passionate soldier amid the shining ranks of men and angels that hold back the tides of darkness. I give over all that I am to my Beloved Saviour; I feel His Spirit grab hold of me and drench me with fire and gold. I witness Him touch the world with my hands and feel my lips form His Words. I see the Light pour from me upon the dark world.

Above all, I don’t have to entrust my faith and confidence to a fallen and fragile human being like myself. Because I don’t believe in myself.

I believe in Jesus Christ.

I believe in a God Who made the world and stretched out the sky like a curtain, Who clothed a horse in thunder and commands the storms to still. He breathed life into the lungs of mankind and set a rainbow in the sky for the symbol of a merciful promise. To Him stones shall sing; for Him every knee will bow; the sky shall split open and the earth shrivel up and blow away on the wind of His coming. He created, He was born, He wept, He gave, He redeemed, He healed, He forgave, He died. He rose. He lives eternally. He is holy, almighty, unstoppable. His love stretches higher than the sun and goes deeper than space; His love knows no end, no boundaries, no conditions; His love cannot be tamed or defined or fit into any box you give it except your heart.

I follow the God that so loved the world He gave His Son to die for us. And I surrender to Him. And I drink from the fountain of pure joy. And I weather the storms in safety. Ten thousand fall beside me but I stand because He is in me. I fail a thousand times and He raises me up over and over.

So no, I don’t believe in myself. I believe in God.

And He is right here. In me.

Immanuel

This is for everyone who is sad this Christmas.

I don’t know why you’re hurting. Maybe that’s just been the norm for you lately. Maybe you’re not where you’d hoped to be by now. Maybe the weight of this aching world is just too much for you right now. Maybe you’re missing someone for the first time at Christmas. Maybe you lost somebody. Maybe yourself. I don’t know why, but I know you’re out there and you’re in pain.

Christmas has always been a time of pure joy to me. First, childlike wonder. Then, a more solemn, a deeper joy at the birth of my beloved Saviour. This is the first time I’ll spend Christmas in pain. It’s a new experience, but I thank God for it because it has opened new doors.

No holiday has been so clutched at by the world as Christmas has, and sometimes it can be hard to separate the Godly from the carnal. Beloved, this year has shown me that the pressure to be happy and holly and jolly is carnal. We’re not called to be happy. We’re called to be His.

Christ’s birth was not the Coming. It was not the start of all joy or the end of all pain. For Him at least, it was the beginning of the worst pain any man has ever gone through. Did Mary know that in a few short years, she’d watch her Baby die a horrible death? Did the Baby know? Did the Father miss His presence in Heaven then, did He feel sorrow at the trials that lay before His Child? Jesus didn’t come to bring joy. He came to bring the way, the truth and the life. He came to bring, above all, Himself. Jesus: God who saves.

Don’t feel like you have to be happy. The shepherds felt fear before joy. Just do what they did: leave it all and come worship that Baby, the Baby King. The Holy and Everlasting and Almighty God that became a small, dirty, squalling, dependent thing in order to save a whole world of small, dirty things. Come to Him and bring yourself for a gift and you’ll discover that that Baby doesn’t bring joy to the world. He is joy to the world and the only source of it. And sometimes to bring you to the source, He drives you there with a sorrow that nothing else can soothe.

The point is not to be happy. The point is that He’s with us now as always. You don’t have to pretend. Not to me and not to Him and if anyone else makes you feel judged, well, that’s just not their job.

He is not “God you have to pretend for”. He is not “God of the perfect decorations/cookies/meal” or “God of keeping up with the Joneses” or “Jolly God”. He is much more profound, much more demanding, much more dynamic and lasting. He is simply Immanuel: “God with us”.

That’s why He came, after all. Not to make us happy but to make us His. He had always been The Lord My Shepherd and The Lord My Rock and The Lord of Hosts and The Lord Provides. But Christmas, well that changed everything because He drew us closer. He became God With Us.

And no matter how deep your valley, no matter how serious your wounds, this much I can promise now and forever: He is with you.