Prayer prompt for Sunday, Feb. 7

In Genesis 1:4, God called the light good. When our sin is brought to our attention, it feels painful. Let God illuminate it, anyway.

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Breaking the Lineage of Pride (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 21, 2014)

I conscientiously avoid activities that make me feel inferior, dumb, or inept – like crossword puzzles, swimsuit shopping, and contact sports. Instead, I tend to stick with things that make me feel comfortable with myself and my abilities. The problem is that when we get too comfortable, pride can creep in.

 

The book of Obadiah is only a chapter long, merely 21 verses. It is tucked between Amos and Jonah in the Old Testament. Scholars believe the text was written around 845 B.C. or 586 B.C., but the groups mentioned in the book (Edom and Judah) fought a lot in those days, so it’s difficult to determine an exact date. At any rate, Obadiah was a prophet with a somber message for the people of Edom, and the root of their problems could be traced back to pride. In fact, that lineage of pride could be traced all the way back to the founding father of the Edomites, Esau. You might remember Esau from stories in Genesis 25 and following; he’s the one who haphazardly traded his birthright to his slightly younger twin brother, Jacob, for a bowl of stew & bread (v. 34). Apparently, his descendants inherited his cocky attitude.

 

The Edomites had gotten pretty cozy with their hill country vista, which was also advantageously located along the main caravan route from Egypt to Babylon. They had begun to feel pompous and invincible, so Obadiah warned them about the message he received from the Lord (v. 3-4):

“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord.

Obadiah’s prophecy went on to say that the house of Esau would be ransacked, and their snazzy cliff dwellings would be reduced to rubble. Something tells me their property values were about to take a nosedive.

 

We can avoid putting ourselves into the Edomites’ perilous situation in a couple of ways: first, we need to remember Colossians 3:23 and focus our talents on serving the Lord, rather than bringing undue attention to ourselves. Second, we could step out of our comfort zones every now & then and get involved in service and ministry that may not be tops on our to-do list. After all, it’s not about us. Pride may make us feel powerful in the short run, but as Proverbs 16:18 and Psalm 149:4 remind us, humility is the victor over pride.

Ministering within the Ministry (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 21, 2014)

Like a married couple drifting apart from each other as they start raising a family, sometimes we can get caught up with important things in ministry that detract us from other as-important (or even more-important) priorities. Raising kids is an important calling, no doubt. Cultivating a healthy marriage simultaneously can be difficult but doable, and maintaining strong individual relationships with the Lord is the foundation. Neglecting the foundation can damage the whole house, and there are no magic formulas or shortcuts.

We read in 2 Chronicles 29 that Hezekiah assumed the throne of Judah at only 25 years old. He didn’t wait around before he undertook a massive foundation repair project – literally and figuratively. Verse 3 tells us that he went to work in his very first month to overhaul the temple. It had fallen into disrepair and desperately needed a thorough cleaning. So, he called together the Levites (the clans of priests) and commissioned them to assist in the renovation work.

Hezekiah acknowledged that his predecessors’ priorities had gotten out of whack, and he was committed to making things right before the Lord. In his case, things really were bad: previous rulers had abandoned the temple and quit making sacrifices to the Lord completely. They had neglected their ministry, and God was not happy about it.

I would submit to you that the issues we face as a church family aren’t usually as blatantly obvious as tell-tale foundation cracks in the wall. Sometimes, it can be seemingly minor ways that we begin to neglect to care for each other, the church facility, our pastors, our staff, our volunteers, the community, and our visitors. We begin to expect that things will work smoothly because they always have, yet we don’t make the effort to figure out why or how or what we can do about it. Donuts & coffee magically appear in the fellowship area each Sunday morning. Restrooms are clean and magically stocked with toilet paper. The bulletin magically shows up printed and stuffed with announcements. Volunteers magically show up in the nursery. Canned goods for the food pantry magically appear stacked in the lobby. Of course, none of those things happen magically at all. They require a lot of behind-the-scenes work from several people, week in and week out.

I like how the Living Bible translation sets up verse 12 in saying that “the Levites went into action” when Hezekiah called them to help. The Message paraphrase says that they “stood at attention.” The point is that they were ready and willing to put all hands on deck to reprioritize and get the job done. May we go and do likewise.