Prayer prompts for the week of Jan. 31

I was just about to upload next week’s posts when I realized that I missed all of last week! :/  Here ya go …

 

Journey or Destination?

In your opinion, which is better: the journey or the destination? I can think of occasions when both answers were true in my life. On a cruise, the ports of call are lovely, but the journey is also a lot of fun. On a road trip, the drive can be exhausting, yet some of my favorite memories were made on the highway, so I guess that one kinda depends. On a flight, the arrival tends to be more enjoyable to me than the getting there part.

 

What about your life, in general? Are you focused on the day-to-day, or do you have your sights set on eternity? Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of wonderful things to experience in life. My question, though, is whether that should be our focus. Check out what the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-21. He referred to the Christian life as striving toward a goal, using the imagery of a race with a heavenly prize at the finish line.

 

We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we only thought about the finish line and neglected the steps we need to take along the way. However, I think more often than not, we take side trips, detours, or stop to take a nap (spiritually speaking) and distract our minds from the ultimate destination of spending eternity with the Lord. In Philippians 3:20 (NLT), Paul explained, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” We don’t belong here; we’re just visiting.

 

King Solomon put this idea in different words in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. He described how futile it is to chase after pleasure, because such things don’t last. As a man who had everything his heart could desire, he still experienced much emptiness. Here was a man who had more wealth, fame, possessions, relationships, and accolades than any of us could ever dream, but at the end of the day, he considered it all meaningless.

 

Life is fleeting (Psalm 39:4, Isaiah 40:6-8, 1 Peter 1:24). I would encourage you to keep your eye on the prize, yet still live for Christ in the here and now. This life is our opportunity to share the love and hope of Jesus with others, and we ought to be making the most of our time here.

 

(Sunday) James 4:14 describes our life like the morning fog: here only temporarily. What will you do today that matters for eternity?

 

(Monday) My yard is dead/dormant for winter. Isaiah 40:6-8 describes our lives like grass that withers away, but the word of God lasts forever.

 

(Tuesday) Job 14:5 tells us that God knows the exact length of our lives. Commit each day like a marathon trainer, with a heavenly prize awaiting you.

 

(Wednesday) In Psalm 39:4, King David asks God to remind him how brief life is. Too easily, we can get ensnared by the world and lose our eternal focus.

 

(Thursday) We read in Genesis that God breathed life into Adam. Psalm 39:5 reminds us that our lives are a breath – a mere moment compared to eternity.

 

(Friday) We who are in Christ have our names are written in the Book of Life, and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20, Rev. 3:5). Praise God!

 

(Saturday) Job 14:2 describes life as a passing shadow. May we keep our eyes on the Son and reflect his light to the world around us.

 

The Lord has need of ME?? (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 13, 2015)

In a passage frequently referred to as “Jesus’ Triumphant Entry” (see Mark 11, Luke 19, Matthew 21, & John 12), we read the story about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Here’s an excerpt from Mark’s account:

“As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’” (Mark 11:1-3, NLT)

 

If you’re like me, you may have heard that story so many times over the years that it feels very familiar, but let’s look a little more closely. First of all, a lot happened around Bethany in the New Testament, and this story is no exception. Bethany was the hometown of Lazarus, the raised-from-the-dead friend of Jesus (John 11:1); it is also where a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6); and, it is the place where Jesus cursed a fig tree (Mark 11:12). Bethany is also where Jesus blessed his disciples after his resurrection, right before he ascended into heaven! (Luke 24:50-51)

 

Next, Jesus chose a donkey in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, but I find it interesting that God – in his wisdom and sense of humor – selected an untamed colt as his animal of preference. He could have specified any magnificent creature on earth, yet he chose a lowly, stubborn, beast of burden. (May we remember that little fact whenever we think too highly of ourselves in the Lord’s work – if he can use an untamed jackass … er, donkey … then who are we to think we’re so important?)

 

Lastly, Jesus instructed his disciples to respond to any inquiries by saying, “The Lord needs it.” This word for Lord is the Greek word Kyrios, which is translated “master.” In essence, the Master of the universe is asking to borrow a lowly, untamed donkey so that he can ride into the city where he will ultimately sacrifice himself on our behalf. Let that sink into your heart for a few moments.

 

God always has a reason for why he asks things of us. He does not demand them of us, but he gives us opportunities to partner with him in his work. Sometimes the things he asks of us don’t make any sense right then, and to be frank, they may not ever make sense in our lifetimes. But, one day, all will be revealed in his perfect, eternal timing. In the meantime, we are called simply to obey. The Lord has need of you … are you willing to serve?

Buried with him (Prayer Devotional for the week of June 28, 2015)

Do you ever wonder what Lazarus’ life was like after Jesus raised him from the dead (John 11)? When I first read Don Piper’s book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, I was struck by the way he described the intense longing for heaven that he experienced after he was brought back to life an hour and a half after paramedics declared him dead at the scene of an automobile accident. How could anyone not want to return? Of course he was happy to be reunited with his family, and he learned to reevaluate God’s call on his second chance at life, but there was still a piece of him that wanted to go back.

Lazarus had been dead for days (verse 39) when Jesus ordered the tomb opened. I can only imagine the amazingly awesome heavenly things that he witnessed in that timeframe! Then, to be yanked back into his creaky old body – to eat, drink, work, live – only to die again at some point in the future … I wonder what he felt.

Lazarus was brought back to life by Christ himself, and then he had to watch his dear friend die on the cross. Can you imagine the roller coaster of feelings that Lazarus went through during Jesus’ death and leading up to his resurrection? Just, wow.

Something truly remarkable happened when Jesus died. (Actually, several somethings amazing happened, and I encourage you to read the whole scenario in Matthew 27.) At the moment Christ died, there was an earthquake, the temple curtain tore in half, and … people rose from the dead. Seriously, check it out in Matthew 27:51-53.

When we talk about being “buried with Christ” in our decision to follow him, it’s symbolic of our desire to give up our old, sinful lives and begin a new, different life with him. 2 Corinthians 5:17 describes it as becoming “a new creation.” This week, let’s pray through 1 Peter 1:3-9 and think about how astounding – how wonderful! – is his great love for us.
(Originally posted March 11, 2012)

Impending Death … and Hope (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 15, 2015)

I received some devastating news this week about an old mentor and kind friend. As things stand now, it looks like she has advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. I am terribly sad, and yet I feel a strong sense of peace for her. She loves the Lord, she adores her family, and she cares about her fellow man. She is passionate about justice, and not just the kind that penalizes criminals for wrongdoings, but the kind that rights the wrongs in the world. She is an advocate, a brilliant thinker, and a confidante.

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless Jesus returns to take us home before then, there is a 100% chance that you will die. How does that make you feel? Does the notion of dying fill you with dread or joy? Like it or not, as James 4:14 and Psalm 103:15-16 point out, our lives are like a mist puffed into the air or a dandelion blowing in the wind – only temporary.

 

While imprisoned for the gospel, Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He had a very matter-of-fact view about death: if he lived, then he had more opportunity to serve the Lord. If he died, then he got to be with Jesus. Win-win!

 

For a long while after my brother died, I had peculiar feelings that could only be described as jealousy. I hesitated to share it, because I didn’t want anyone mistakenly thinking that I was suicidal. It’s just that the more I thought about him being in the very presence of God in heaven, it felt like I got the short end of the stick. I/we were left behind to grieve and cope, to continue living in this broken world of sin and despair and problems, while he was free from such entanglements. How I long to be with Christ!

 

Easter is just around the corner, and it is my absolute favorite holiday. Sure, I love the festivities of Christmas, and I enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving, but wow – Easter! Easter is a reminder that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20). Easter is about the resurrection, newness, eternal life, victory, and HOPE.

 

It is with this everlasting hope in my heart that I can say to my sweet friend: Go in peace. Go to Jesus, relish in his presence, and enjoy the reward for your labors. I will always cherish having the opportunity to know you and call you my friend.

Hashtag Blessed (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 15, 2015)

The other day, I overheard someone who I don’t think of as being very spiritual describe a situation that had happened to her, and she added that she was “blessed” by it. That word caught my attention, and I thought about what she said – as well as my preconceived ideas about her. I thought about sports figures pointing to heaven or making the sign of the cross when they complete a great play. I thought about musicians and other performers mentioning God in their long list of people to thank for this-or-that award. I admit that sometimes I question their sincerity because those token acknowledgements often come across as fake to me.

 

Out of curiosity, I did a quick search on Twitter for posts with the hashtag #blessed. I found entries about new babies, Valentine’s Day gifts, waking up without an alarm, spending the day at the lake, a heart-shaped breakfast biscuit, meeting a famous person, and a new car. A few posts actually mentioned God, but most of the ones I read did not. Are these things really blessings, and should I even care whether they are or not?

 

In Mark 9:38-41, we read that John approached Jesus to let him know that he and the other disciples had taken a stand against a man who was performing miracles in Jesus’ name. The reason they stopped the man was because he wasn’t one on their group. I can relate to John’s perspective, because I think it’s the same attitude that I had above, judging people for saying that they were blessed.

 

I like the way The Message paraphrase interprets v. 41: “Count on it that God will notice.” I could be wrong, but I don’t think God is particularly bothered by people mentioning him in passing and offering quick words of thanks; however, he desires a deeper relationship with us. Those of us who walk with the Lord have an opportunity, like John and the other disciples, to mentor and be an example to the “hashtag blessed” crowd and help them become committed followers of Christ.

 

It’s great to give God credit for the blessings in our lives, but our faith-walks should be more than mere lip service to God. We shouldn’t have to rely on #blessed for people to see that there’s a real difference in our lives with Christ, compared to who we were before.