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.

 

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What’s Your Title? (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 29, 2015)

I heard a sermon recently that shed some wonderful new insight about a story in John 9, and I can’t wait to tell you about it. You may have heard the story before: the Pharisees berated Jesus for healing a blind man on the Sabbath. However, that’s not the part of the tale that we’re going to talk about today.

 

On two occasions in the story (three times if you count his parents’ account of his birth), the person healed by Jesus is simply referred to as “the man who had been blind” (John 9:13 & 24). We don’t know his name, but he was given an informal title of who he was before he encountered Jesus.

 

Do you have a title? I don’t mean Mrs., Mr., Dr., Esq., or some other courtesy title. I’m referring to the “title” of who you were before you met Jesus. I’ve been thinking of mine for days, and the one that keeps coming to mind is “the woman who had been afraid.” Fear (and the removal of it) is the essence of my testimony. I went through a period of time where I was afraid of things that now seem laughable, but at the time were crippling. I once cried in school because I had to give a presentation in front of my classmates. And look at me now: I’m a professor! I talk in front of people every day, and I love it.

 

Fear of being in the spotlight was only the tip of the iceberg; I was also very afraid of dying. By the time I finished middle school, I had attended more funerals than I can even recollect, and the number has at increased by at least 15-20 since then. It was actually the fear of dying that led me to the Lord. I was afraid of not knowing if I would go to heaven. I wanted to know for certain that I had eternal life with Jesus, and after I gave my life to him, I clung to verses like 1 John 5:13 for reassurance.

 

I love the title of “the woman who had been afraid,” because it reminds me of how good and faithful God has been to me during our journey together. Have there been times when I felt afraid even since I became a Christian? Absolutely, but those moments are fleeting and no longer debilitating. Fear doesn’t define me like it might have before.

 

The neat thing is, if you have a descriptive title of who you were before Christ, then you have the beginning of a faith-story to tell others. Like the man in John 9, you have a unique experience to share about what Jesus has done in your life.