What would you do for … ? (Prayer Devotional for the week of July 27, 2014)

Do you remember the jingle from the Klondike® commercials, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” with people doing silly antics to earn one? What if the stakes were higher than just a square chunk of chocolate-coated ice cream?

What would you do for $100? $1,000? $1,000,000? Would you eat bugs? Would you violate your moral convictions? Would you put your life at risk?

In this age of reality TV, it’s obvious that many people will do just about anything for attention: live in the wilderness for months, subject themselves to public scrutiny and berating, face grueling physical challenges, even marry a virtual stranger. What if the stakes were higher than just a few minutes of television fame or a prize jackpot?

What if the stakes were eternity?

The Amplified Bible translates Psalm 125:3 as: “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the [uncompromisingly] righteous, lest the righteous (God’s people) stretch forth their hands to iniquity and apostasy.” Uncompromisingly righteous … that seems to mean that people who otherwise live righteously still make unrighteous choices sometimes. We compromise. We give into lesser stakes—but for what? For fame? For glory? For something that feels like love? For a sense of self-worth? For spite?

The Psalm goes on to say, in verse 5, that our “crooked ways” boil down to our indifference toward God. When we compromise, we say to the Lord that we don’t care what he thinks. The Bible is clear that God does not want anyone to perish (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9), but when we turn our backs on him, sometimes he lets us keep walking. Psalm 125 ends with a sobering image of God’s people walking off with evildoers. Is any amount of worldly gain worth separation from God?

Originally posted July 31, 2011

Anchors don’t look back (Prayer devotional for the week of June 8, 2014)

Much of the time, the star athletes have the first turn. There are starting pitchers in baseball, starting point guards in basketball, starting quarterbacks in football, etc. In these sports, you want to get on the board first and stay in the lead.

A different strategy comes into play when the sport is a relay race, however. Certainly, the lead runner or swimmer needs to be a strong athlete, and those in the middle of the race need to maintain a swift pace, but the star—the one who will bring home the win—is the powerhouse anchor. The last one to leave the starting block is the one people look to for the finale. The anchor breaks the ribbon with one final stride; the anchor stops the timer with one final stroke.

In life, though, we don’t always like being last … do we?

When you are the anchor, you don’t start on 0:00. You start at whatever point your team made it to before your leg began. You might already be in the lead; you might be trailing everyone. Regardless, it’s your job to kick it in gear (pun intended) and either maintain the lead or earn it.

Likewise, we don’t have control over many of the circumstances that have affected our lives in the past. We can’t usually undo past mistakes. You can’t choose your parents; you don’t pick your siblings. You can influence but not force change in your spouse and children. You can’t single-handedly fix corporate lay-offs or the tumbling stock market.

You may be running the anchor leg in life, but don’t give up! God doesn’t expect you to run the whole race alone, but he does expect you to keep on keeping on. Check out Romans 12: 11-12: “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder” (The Message).

So, if you are looking over your shoulder at the past, then you are not focusing on the race ahead … and anyone who has ever seen a horror flick knows that looking over your shoulder while running is a bad, bad idea. Stay alert; don’t quit.

Originally posted May 22, 2011

Outgrowing Habits (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 25, 2014)

What are some of your habits? Brushing your teeth twice a day? Checking your smartphone at stop lights? Sitting in the same spot at the dinner table or church? Going to the gym after work? Kicking off your shoes when you get home? Watching certain TV shows? I reckon that most of our daily habits are simply routines that we’ve developed over time.

Other habits, though, can be detrimental to our health – not only physically, but also spiritually. We don’t care to admit such habits to ourselves, much less talk about them openly. These are the ones we go to when we’re upset, when we want to escape, when we feel down … the things we expose to our bodies, our eyes, our minds, under the guise of making us feel better, if only temporarily … or the things we say, do, and think when we feel threatened, hurt, or entitled.

God calls us to a better life than this, dear friends. As we grow closer to Christ, we need to break the habits that used to ensnare us. Check out what Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians (3:8-10, ERV): “But now put these things out of your life: anger, losing your temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and saying shameful things. Don’t lie to each other. You have taken off those old clothes—the person you once were and the bad things you did then. Now you are wearing a new life, a life that is new every day. You are growing in your understanding of the one who made you. You are becoming more and more like him.”

I would be lying through my teeth if I claimed to have mastered all of this. I have too many habits that I still struggle with, and I’ve been a believer for nearly 30 years. If eliminating poor choices was easy, then we’d all be fit, no one would struggle with addiction, gossip would be unheard of, husbands and wives would model Christ in their marriages, kids would obey their parents, and we’d all manage our tempers and finances.

If it sounds too good to be true, remember that the objective isn’t necessarily perfection. Reread the verse from Colossians above. We are growing; we are becoming more like Christ. Change doesn’t always happen overnight, but as the poet wrote in Psalm 119:55, we choose every day whether to follow God or revert back to our old ways: “Lord, in the night I remembered your name, and I obeyed your teachings.”