Prayer prompts for the week of Feb. 28

(Sunday) The Refiner’s fire (Malachi 3) is not particularly fun. Change, especially spiritual growth, can be difficult. Stick it out. It’s worth it.

 

(Monday) Need motivation to stay the course? Imagine that moment when God looks directly at you and says, “Well done!” Your service isn’t overlooked.

 

(Tuesday) We are saved by grace alone (Eph. 2:8), but how we live our lives is a reflection of our faith. Let’s not be “wicked & lazy” (Mat. 25:26).

 

(Wednesday) Unlike the Old Testament with its burnt sacrifices, our new covenant through Jesus compels us to live holy, sacrificial lives (Rom. 12:1).

 

(Thursday) Throughout Exodus and elsewhere, the Lord demonstrated his power through fire. Spend a few moments expressing your awe through praise.

 

(Friday) Psalm 44:5, Jeremiah 10:6, Acts 4:10 – the very name of Jesus is powerful! Call on him in your time of need and trust him in faith.

 

(Saturday) Why is change so difficult? The enemy isn’t going to let you go without a fight. Allow God to help release you from sin’s stranglehold.

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Lord and Savior (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 28, 2014)

Two of my kids are rehearsing for a Shakespeare play this fall, and understanding the dialogue can be as tricky as reading the King James Version of the Bible. Oftentimes when a subordinate is addressing his superior in Old English, he uses the phrase, “My lord …” I started thinking about how many lords (with a lowercase L) we can have in our lives.

Other people can be our lord, when we defer to their influence. Money can certainly become our lord, if we let it. Likewise, ambition and greed can be lord of our lives. We can be lord over others when we wield authority in a way that makes people feel subservient to us.

But what of Jesus? He doesn’t want to be the lowercase-lord of our lives; he wants us to acknowledge him as Lord with a capital L. Jesus is the only one worthy of being called Lord, as his disciple cried out in John 21:7 and Peter reiterated in Acts 10:36. When we confess Jesus as Lord, we are offering him authority over our lives – not because he demands it of us like a feudal lord over his fiefdom, but because we willingly give up control out of loving submission to him.

Jesus also came to be our Savior – again, with a capital S. We can think of countless saviors (with a lowercase S) in our lives. When I was just a toddler, my mom was my savior when she dislodged a Maple Nut Goodie from the back of my throat as I was choking. I could have died, and she saved me. A parent’s love is sacrificial: she would lay down her life for her kids. A parent’s love is authoritative: there was a time when she could dictate my comings and goings. A parent’s love endures: her love for me is unconditional.

A parent’s love is safe: she would do everything in her power to protect me. And yet, even she can’t save me from myself. As deep and abiding as my mom’s love is toward me, she cannot be my Savior. Only Jesus can be my capital-S Savior because of his perfect sacrifice.

Who do you say Jesus is? Have you accepted him as Lord and Savior of your life?

The Intimidated Visitor (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 31, 2014)

I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty friendly person, and I frequently tried to find new faces to say hello to on Sunday mornings, but having the tables flipped and walking into new places as a single-again adult has been a humbling learning experience. I can’t think of very many situations that feel more intimidating than walking into an unfamiliar church alone. If you have kids, you can kind of hide behind them as you figure out where they need to go, but once you’ve dropped them off to the nursery, kids’ classes, etc., you are on your own.

In Acts 2, we read about how rapidly the early church grew. Verse 47 says that “the Lord added to their number daily” (NIV), and other verses mention the thousands of individuals who flocked to the new congregations. I wonder sometimes about the demographics of those newcomers, but we aren’t given much detail other than knowing that the sheer number of new believers was skyrocketing.

I think Crossroads, in particular, does a fantastic job of making people feel at home, but we can all get stuck in a rut sometimes, so maybe it will help to be reminded of how much courage it takes to walk into a new place alone. I’ve gone to church my whole life, and I’ve been a leader in several capacities, but still, walking through the lobby and finding a seat in a new church made me feel very self-conscious and awkward.

That isn’t to say that people were unwelcoming; on the contrary, several people introduced themselves and struck up a friendly conversation. But when it came to finding my seat and participating in church, I still felt alone. Worse yet, I felt like I stuck out. I avoided the temptation to fiddle with my phone or re-read the bulletin a dozen times to look like I was busy. I tried making eye contact and saying hi to people, but it wasn’t easy. With these things in mind, I would like to offer some practical suggestions to make intimidated visitors feel welcome.

First, don’t stop doing what you already do so well! Keep greeting people; introduce yourself; get to know them. Better yet, invite them to come sit with you. I would have really liked for someone to ask me to sit with them, just so I didn’t go through the worship service alone. (Sure, there’s a crowd, but I think most of you understand what it feels like to feel alone in a crowd.) Don’t stop there. Invite them to your Life group (even if you aren’t the leader!). Take it upon yourself to introduce them to the pastor, etc. Remember the story of the early church in Acts 2: they focused not only on the gospel message, but also on fellowship and nurturing new members.

What is your citizenship worth? (Prayer Devotional for the week of July 13, 2014)

We talked last week about Paul’s peculiar testimony. In Acts 22, he shared the outrageous story of his conversion with the religious leaders who brought him in for questioning. The folks in charge were not too happy with Paul’s comment that God had sent him to minister to the Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews), and they ordered him to be flogged.

Paul cooperated and let them stretch him out and chain him up to prepare for his flogging, then he turned to the guy strapping him down and casually asked if it was legal to flog a Roman citizen who had not been proven guilty. The stunned guards were terrified. They could have gotten into big trouble for beating a Roman citizen!

They tattled to the commander who came and questioned Paul about his citizenship (verses 27-29). The commander made the smart-aleck retort: “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship,” as if flaunting his wealth would trick Paul into admitting that he was lying about being a Roman citizen. Paul answered him simply, “But I was born a citizen.” Back in those days, being a Roman citizen carried with it special privileges, and the commander was rightfully frightened about the possible repercussions for having put Paul in chains.

As for us, I would venture a guess that most of us were born on American soil and gained our citizenship by birth. Others waited, studied, waited some more and then took a test to earn citizenship by naturalization. The latter way is expensive and takes a lot of time and effort. The naturalization process carries most of the perks of citizenship, but birth citizens still have more privileges—like the ability to run for President.

I am proud of and thankful for my American citizenship, but what about our heavenly citizenship? What is it worth? Is it worth the time, effort and potential backlash to let the world know that we’re followers of Christ? This story in Acts 22 was just the tip of the iceberg for Paul; he spent much time in prison and getting beaten up for the sake of the gospel. What is heavenly citizenship worth to you? It was worth more than life to Paul.

Originally posted August 21, 2011