Bitterness or Grace? (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 3, 2016)

I watched a food show once on TV featuring Alton Brown who shared a trick about how to eliminate the bitterness from coffee. You simply add a pinch of kosher salt to the coffee grounds before brewing. It causes some kind of chemical reaction that is beyond my understanding, but the result is absolute culinary magic! Just that tiny bit of salt really does cut the bitter aftertaste and creates the smoothest cup of coffee you’ve ever had in your life.

 

Interestingly, Colossians 4:6 says that our words are to be seasoned with grace like salt. I find it fascinating that the God of the universe (the Creator of those glorious coffee beans!), used the imagery of salt in reference to our attitudes. Like salt and coffee grounds, grace can cut through bitter character.

 

A new year is upon us, and with the changing of the calendar comes a question: What do you want to do differently this year? I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions, but first impressions. Have you ever considered what impression your life makes on others, as a Christian, compared to who you were before you knew Christ? When people see us, do they see grace, or do we give off a vibe of bitterness or discontentment?

 

If you need a place to start, I encourage you to begin by finding ways to apply your Bible reading to your life personally. For example, take the chapter of Colossians 4 mentioned above. At the beginning of the chapter, Paul mentioned that we should be consistent in prayer, ask God for opportunities to share his word, and walk in wisdom. How can that be applied to your life, even this week? As you go about your daily routines at work, school, or home, why not ask the Lord to give you wisdom and to open your spiritual eyes to see opportunities to share your faith journey with others around you?

 

I think you might be surprised by how many opportunities you will recognize when you begin looking for them. Then when those opportunities arise, let your words be seasoned with grace as a reflection of Christ’s character.

 

How long, O Lord? (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 6, 2015)

As I was getting close to finishing grad school, I remember the idea of writing my dissertation being very daunting. How do you just sit down and write 100+ pages? One of the best pieces of advice that I received during that time was: You don’t. You write a chapter, or a section of a chapter, or sometimes just a paragraph. You divvy up the project into bite-sized chunks to make it more manageable.

 

Sometimes, though, I would write and write and write, then look at my page count and realize it had barely budged. I would strum my fingers on the keyboard and ask myself, “How much longer will this take? How will I ever finish? I have so many people rooting for me; what if I fail?” Looking back in hindsight, of course, I’d like to tell that worrywart that she’s going to rock her dissertation; she’s going to graduate on schedule; and, she’ll even get a job offer of her dreams before it’s all said & done. 🙂

 

We’re only human, and it can be difficult to look beyond our current challenges and see the big picture in the future. If it makes us feel any better, we aren’t alone in our fretting. At least eight times in the book of Psalms (depending on the translation), the writer cried out, “How long?” to the Lord. King David would often beg God through poetry and song to spare his life when he was being pursued by his enemies, or forgive him when he felt God’s wrath hot on his neck for his sins. As I read the Psalms, I picture David cowering in a secret cave, scribbling his prayers by a campfire.

 

Do you realize that the same God who answered David’s prayers also listens to ours?

 

Is there something you are dealing with right now that you keep wondering how long until it is resolved? Don’t hesitate to take your concerns to the Lord, but don’t just dump them in prayer and then walk away. Spend time quietly listening for God to impress upon your heart what he might want you doing while you wait for the answer. Perhaps you are in a challenging situation at work, home, school, etc., and he wants to use you to be a witness to a specific person. Maybe your trial is a test of character, not a punishment. Whatever the situation, trust God to handle the details; you just be willing to listen and serve.

Things God Hates (Prayer Devotional for the week of April 26, 2015)

Complete this sentence: God [blank] divorce. Did you fill in the blank with “hates”? If so, I’m not surprised, because yet another verse in the long list of Bible passages that I’ve heard taken out of context is Malachi 2:16. Granted, some English versions do read, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord …” or, “The Lord God of Israel says, ‘I hate divorce …’” However, several other English translations interpret the verse this way: “‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord …”   Even the historically beloved King James Version says that God hates “putting away” and advises the reader to “deal not treacherously.” English is complicated, and whichever way the verse begins in the translation you prefer to read, it ends with the same sentiment: be faithful. The context of the verse is about unity within marriage, and the context of the whole chapter is a warning to the priests of Judah for a whole litany of reasons, not just marriage.   It’s very easy to make the leap from “God hates [fill in the blank]” to “God hates ME because I fit that profile.” Don’t buy into that, dear friend. If you get nothing else out of this message, understand this: God loves you with the deepest, most passionate, most enduring love that your brain can imagine. In fact, he loves you even more than you can fathom!!   So, what does God hate? Proverbs 6:16-19 itemizes several issues: “Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family” (MSG).   Our character and the attitude of our hearts is what concerns God. Is your life characterized by the types of problems listed above – arrogance, lies, wickedness, deceit, etc. – or does your life reflect a heart that strives to honor the Lord? Whether you are single, married, widowed, or divorced is not the point. How are you being faithful to God in whatever situation you are in?