The Last Word (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 14, 2016)

Between the Old Testament book of Malachi and the gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), there were no prophets in Israel for about 400 years. To put that gap into perspective, let’s imagine what the last 400 years would have been like without hearing from the Lord since the early 1600s. That would mean no Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom, C.S. Lewis, Amy Carmichael, Oswald Chambers, John or Charles Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, or John Bunyan, to name a few.

 

Malachi 3:1 referred to a new prophet who would pave the way for the Lord; chapter 4 described this individual as someone who would turn the hearts of the people back to God. When John the Baptist finally entered the scene as the first prophet in several generations, some were confused about who he really was. Jesus confirmed that John the Baptist was the long-awaited prophet in Luke 7:27. John preached that the kingdom of God was near, went about baptized people, and gained quite a following. Yet, even John’s disciples wondered if he was in competition with that Jesus guy who had just begun his own ministry (John 3:26).

 

John responded to his disciples by likening himself to the best man at a wedding – happy to stand by and support the groom. He went on to say in verse 30, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (NLT). John the Baptist directed attention toward Jesus, rather than himself. We would do well to follow in his footsteps, because it’s not about me, and it’s not about you!

 

It’s not my job to point fingers, but we don’t have to look far to see prominent Christians today who are drawing attention to themselves and/or their ministries, and not necessarily to Jesus. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with popularity, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with material success, but our lives (and certainly our ministries) should be purposeful in pointing people to Christ, not devised for worldly pleasure or gain.

 

John the Baptist was the last word, the final prophet leading up to the big reveal of Jesus Christ as the much anticipated Messiah. John accepted his role humbly and went about his calling not only dutifully, but also passionately and without compromise. May we honor his memory and his service to the kingdom by ministering to those around us in a way that draws them closer to Christ.

Listen Up! (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 8, 2015)

This week’s teaching pastor at CBI (Cedar Bible Institute, a youth discipleship class) posed this question to the teens: Have you ever felt like God was calling you to do something? The context was about the story of Daniel, in which he and his exiled buddies stood up to domineering leadership, first in regard to what they ate and drank, but later in much more dire situations that landed them in life-threatening scenarios on multiple occasions.

 

The lesson prompted an interesting discussion at home later that day, so I thought I would pitch the same question to you. Have you ever felt like God was leading you to do something in particular?

 

It could be as simple as feeling compelled to sit by someone new at lunch and striking up a friendly conversation. It could require a little more courage to act on a nudge on your heart to offer the cup of fruit that you just bought in the lunchline to that kid who brings a cheese sandwich and nothing else to eat every day. It could mean offering to pray for someone right there on the spot, because you sense the Holy Spirit prompting you to do so. It might even mean sharing your faith and inviting someone to pray and invite Jesus to be their personal Savior.

 

One of the things I love most about C.S. Lewis’ teachings is how he acknowledges our God-given common sense. I mean, if it’s raining or snowing outside, do you really need to pray and ask the Lord whether you should wear heels or rubber-soled shoes that day? Common sense says that if you don’t want to break an ankle, then go with the sensible shoes. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit functions like an air traffic controller in our lives, dictating our every move. And yet, there are times when his voice is as clear to our hearts as a megaphone to our ears.
Daniel and his friends understood the need to stay in tune with the Holy Spirit, and not only did that diligence to hear God’s voice keep them out of a heap of trouble, it also allowed them the opportunity to witness to one of the greatest leaders in ancient history. King Nebuchadnezzar even penned part of the book of Daniel as his personal testimony!

 

God may not ever call you to defy a den of lions or withstand a fiery furnace, but there may be situations like the cafeteria examples above, where you have a chance to make a kingdom-sized impact within your own social circle. Will you listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and then be willing to act on it?