Light Before Form (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 7, 2016)

I don’t know about you, but I was pretty certain that I had my life figured out at 19. I knew what career I would pursue, where I would live, the boy I was going to marry, and that we would have four kids together (two boys and two girls—to alleviate some of the sibling rivalry that my brother and I experienced).


As life would have it, though, I never did marry that boy; I’m in a completely different career now; I live in another part of the country; and suffice it to say, God had a sense of humor when it came to allocating my children.


Why is it that we think we have to have our whole lives planned out in advance? Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for setting goals, but we have to be willing to make allowances for change, as well. How can we take steps of faith when God calls us down a different path if we are locked into a certain outcome for our lives?


Even the Creation story echoes this notion. Check out Genesis 1:1-3, where God began by separating light from darkness. He didn’t start with creating mankind, or even sculpting the earth. In fact, verse 2 says, “The earth was formless and empty” (NLT). God built his creation one step at a time: light before form.


Perhaps it’s just me, but I think we often grope through life in the dark trying to get things just-so, when what we really need to do is focus on the Lord first and foremost.


King Solomon mused in Ecclesiastes 2:13-14, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.” If your life doesn’t look like you’d hoped or planned at this point, perhaps a good first step would be to examine the influences of “light” and “darkness.” What are you involved in that reflects the goodness of God? By contrast, what areas of sin in your life are lurking in the shadows?

Looking Behind, Moving Ahead (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 1, 2015)

It rained last night for the first time in several weeks, and it was still sprinkling when I left the house this morning. On the drive to work, I glanced in my rearview mirror and noticed a bright rainbow in the distance. I could only look at it for a moment, since I was driving, and I started thinking about how God gives us glimpses of his promises – not necessarily for us to stare at and dwell on for a long period of time, but a quick reminder to prod us as we move forward.


We first read about rainbows in Genesis 9, when the Lord illustrated his promise to Noah that he would never again destroy the earth in a flood. Rainbows are lovely, but they don’t linger very long. They come and go with the rain. This is speculation on my part, but I wonder if God chose a rainbow purposefully, as a periodic reminder.


You’ve probably heard the cliché, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” In my experience, oftentimes, he may show me the window, but I have to get up off of my rump and open it myself. We can’t go through life expecting easy answers. Sometimes, you just have to keep walking in faith until God reveals the next turn.


It’s important to keep that rainbow in our rearview mirror, though. We need to remember God’s faithful promises. He assured us that he will never abandon us (Deut. 31:6 & Hebrews 13:5). His mercies are new every morning, and he is faithful (Lamentations 3:23).


Perhaps your life feels like you are driving in circles right now. I encourage you to hold on to the promises of God. Spend time in the word, reading your Bible and renewing your mind with scriptures (Romans 12:2). Commit verses to memory, so that you can easily recall them in times of distress. Pray scriptures over situations and people in your life. Put you own name into the Psalms, for example, and pray for yourself. When you aren’t sure which step to take next, keep your focus on God’s word and remember his faithfulness.

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.

Christians and their knickers

I am looking forward to seeing the new Noah movie. I was going to wait until after I saw it to post something about it, but then I decided to go ahead and voice my initial opinion beforehand, so you’ll know why I even plan to see it. I am so sick & tired of fellow Christians getting their knickers in a wad over petty things. (That statement may tick off some people, but that just proves my point even further.)

The story of Noah spans roughly four chapters in the Bible (Genesis 6-9), not counting some genealogy mentioned in Chs. 5 & 10. Scarce little is known about the actual event, though Scripture is quite exacting when it comes to describing the ark and the timing of it all in relation to Noah’s age.

I have no doubt that the writers/producers took some poetic license with the screenplay. The movie includes extra-biblical characters and paints a morbid, violent picture of what The Creator did to the planet that he had handcrafted.

Well, duh. Starting in Genesis 6:5, we read that God was so disappointed in humankind that he regretted ever creating us. Ouch. There’s an age-old question that people still ask today: Why would a loving God punish us/allow bad things to happen/send people to hell/etc.? The answer is sin. We choose to turn our backs on God, to ignore or disdain the good plans that he has for us and trek off on our own selfish paths. My pastor is wont to say: “Every choice you make today affects every day for the rest of your life — and everyone else around you.”

Now, I’m not saying that every natural disaster is God’s punishment; don’t get me wrong. I’m just trying to explain that the story we read in Noah was the direct result of people defying God. Yes, it was tragic. It was awful. The story of Noah isn’t just a pastel nursery room decor theme. It’s a blight in human history. Yet, I also believed that it pained God and broke his heart to the core. It’s why God blessed Noah and created a new covenant with him in Genesis 9.

I don’t have a problem with a movie about Noah, even if it is more fiction than Bible-based. If one viewer decides to pick up a Bible – perhaps for the first time – and reads the story for him/herself, then that’s wonderful. Perhaps someone will leave the theater and think introspectively about their place in the world, and where they stand with the Lord.

Besides, people are talking about the Bible in mainstream conversations! How awesome is that?! I plan to take at least my older kids to see the movie, and I will spend time talking to them afterward to debrief and relate what we’ve seen to what’s in the Word. What are some important take-aways from the film? What parts were simply cinematography? What can we learn from it?

There are bigger battles to fight, brothers and sisters. Don’t get caught up in the hype and let irrational and misplaced “righteous anger” about a movie (or a book, or a TV program, or whatever happens to be the boycott-special of the month) serve as one more reason for nonbelievers to roll their eyes at us.