Prayer prompts for the week of March 7, 2016

(Monday) In John 6:61 (NLT), Jesus replied to critics, saying, “Does this offend you?” Don’t take it personally when your witness is rejected.

 

(Tuesday) 1 Corinthians 1:18 reminds us that although it is the avenue of salvation, the message of the cross is foolishness to unbelievers.

 

(Wednesday) When we rely solely on human wisdom, spiritual truths are impossible to comprehend. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

 

(Thursday) Isaiah 64:4 & 1 Corinthians 2:9 remind us that our human senses cannot fathom God’s plans for our lives. His love is unimaginably great!

 

(Friday) Those who despise wisdom & discipline are fools, says Proverbs 1:7. Instead, choose to pursue the knowledge of the Lord.

 

(Saturday) Which is better: wisdom or wealth? (Proverbs 8:10)

Gifts are for Using (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 8, 2015)

My little brother and I fell in love with a pair of soft & cuddly plush puppets at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo one year when we were young. They were puppies, and if you held them in the crook of your arm, it looked realistic (in our imaginations, that is!). I liked the brown one, and he wanted the black one. Our parents surprised us with the pups as a gift, and we played make-believe games with those puppets for years. I still have mine to this day.

 

Think about some of the favorite gifts you have received in your life. The gifts that come to my mind are things that I wore, used, consumed, or played with. I can’t think of any gift that I ever left in its wrapping paper, unopened. The simple act of accepting a gift involves action.

 

The Bible says that God has equipped each of us, as believers in Christ, with spiritual gifts (see Ephesians 4:7, Romans 12:6a, 1 Peter 4:10). These aren’t just things to keep tucked away for a rainy day; we should be putting them into practice. 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT) says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Some gifts are to be used within the church, while others are for sharing with unbelievers, as well. None of the gifts are just for our own enjoyment, and none are intended to be hidden away.

 

Later in that same chapter, Paul uses the human body as an example of how our gifts are supposed to work in tandem with each other. It wouldn’t do much good if all of us were eyeballs, would it? We often talk in church-ese about being “the hands and feet of Jesus,” but if no one serves in a behind-the-scenes role as the brain or heart, then the hands and feet can’t get very far.

 

If you have never taken a spiritual gifts inventory, then it’s a useful (and perhaps revealing!) exercise. Confession: I used to feel put out that I always score high in Administration, because that sounded awfully dull. But then, God opened doors of opportunity for me to lead and serve in different capacities that were a good fit for me, and I was able to use my gifts in ways I hadn’t realized before. I encourage you to be open to however the Lord has equipped you, and give back to him by way of service to your church family and community.

When Life Feels Like a Punishment (Prayer Devotional for the week of October 18, 2015)

Since we began these weekly posts nearly five years ago, I have been pretty transparent about grief and mourning, but I have tried not to dwell too much on my own personal life. However, the truth is that sometimes I have crummy days. I had a particularly rough day recently, and I whined and cried my frustrations to the Lord. I confessed something that had been on my heart for a long time, but I never mustered to courage to say it aloud until then: It feels like I’m being punished.

 

I’ll spare you the whole pity party, but suffice it to say that sometimes I feel like I have given everything I could possibly give, and then I’m expected to give even more. I go through periods where I feel unappreciated, taken advantage of, and excluded – sometimes simultaneously. It’s as if my life is not my own, but I’m responsible for damage control. That’s when I came across this passage from 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 (NLT):

“Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.”

 

Whew, it’s like Paul was reading my mind! Jesus never promised that following him would be a bed of roses, and if you’ve read a feel-good book or heard a televangelist say otherwise, then I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

 

Why, then, would anyone want to follow Christ? I think Paul sums it up well later in the passage quoted above. In verse 20, he writes: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” My life is not my own; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that Jesus paid an expensive price for me. Though some days are hard, I stand firm in God’s power that is living in me, and that’s worth the rough times.

Victory is the Lord’s (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 23, 2015)

We sang a song at church recently with the line, “Every victory is Yours.” It was a proclamation of praise to God for reigning victorious over the enemy, which usually brings imagery to my mind of how the Lord conquered death through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Verses like 1 Corinthians 15:57 remind us of his victory over sin and death.

 

This particular day, however, I was distracted by some frustrations that I was having with the kids. A couple of them had gotten into trouble in Sunday School for arguing with each other, which had turned into a shoving match, and then one of them made a mess and didn’t bother to clean it up. I was embarrassed, quite frankly. I just wanted one weekend where we could go to church and I didn’t have to worry about how anyone behaved. I feel like every time one of the kids causes trouble, it’s a reflection on me as a parent. Sometimes I just want to melt into the background and not have negative attention drawn to me.

 

As I sang that song, this prayer-thought occurred to me: “If every victory is Yours, then why do I feel like every setback is my personal failure?”

 

Proverbs 21:31 says that we can prepare ourselves for war, but the verse quickly points to the Lord as the source of battlefield victories. In this situation, I think it means that I should certainly train and discipline my children to be respectful and behave well (prepare them for battle against worldly influences), but when they make poor choices, I shouldn’t automatically take it personally. (That’s a lot easier said than done; is it not?!?)

 

I referenced a verse above from 1 Corinthians 15; the following verse (58) goes on to say, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (NLT). We face battles every day, and we won’t win all of them. The enemy wants to tear you down, humiliate you and incapacitate you, but don’t quit the fight. Stand firm in the knowledge that we serve a mighty, awesome God, and he is the ultimate victor!

But, I don’t like curry! (Prayer Devotional for the week of June 14, 2015)

I had an imaginary conversation with God this week, and it went something like this:

God: “So, what time do you want to meet for lunch today?”

Me: “Whenever, Lord.”

God: “Let’s say noon.”

Me: “It’s really crowded then. How about 11:30 a.m., instead?”

God: “What do you want to eat?”

Me: “Whatever, Lord.”

God: “Let’s have Thai.”

Me: “Eww, you know how sick I got in Thailand that one time. Besides, I don’t like curry.”

God: “But, I like Thai.”

Me: “Fine, which Thai restaurant do you want to go to?”

God: “The one in Thailand.”

Me: “Where?!?”

God: “But, you said you’d follow me whenever, wherever, whatever.”

Me: “I meant anywhere but there, Lord.”

 

I know better than to say that I would never move someplace (Never say never!), but there are certainly spots on the globe that I would rather not go. No offense to the breathtaking terrain and colorful culture of Thailand, but if I had my druthers, I’d prefer to not go back. I became violently ill the one time I was there; consequently, the smell of curry makes my stomach churn, even to this day.

 

When we sing songs in church with lyrics like, “Where you go I’ll go,” or “I surrender all,” do we really mean it, or are we just giving lip-service to God? I don’t believe that God calls each of us to a life of poverty or compels us to move continents away from our extended families, but I think the point is that we are willing if he does call us, and that we are open to his voice. We are each gifted in unique ways (check out 1 Corinthians 12 and take Crosstraining 301 to learn more about spiritual gifts). He expects us to use those gifts to his glory, no matter where we are. Be assured, though, that our faith-walk does require sacrifice. It may not mean getting cholera and typhoid immunizations and relocating to South Asia, but it could mean inviting your grumpy co-worker to church or giving up an evening of television every couple of weeks to tutor at C4.

 

Whenever. Whatever. Wherever. Do you mean it?

(Originally posted January 29, 2012)