White as Snow (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 4, 2015)

Growing up in the Houston area, snow was something I’d heard about and seen pictures of, but I seldom actually experienced it. Now that I live in the high desert region of southern Utah, I’m learning first-hand about the fluffy white stuff falling from the sky!

 

There is something absolutely breathtaking about opening the curtains in the morning and seeing the yard blanketed in snow. Everything looks so clean and crisp. The sun shines brighter, because it reflects off of the white ground. Sometimes the snow even sparkles! It’s truly remarkable.

 

I remembered a verse from the Bible about snow and sin, so I looked it up, and here’s what it says: “I, the Lord, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow or wool” Isaiah 1:18 (CEV). Let’s talk about that verse. First of all, I love the way the CEV translates the first part of the verse – God invites us to talk to him about our lives. We may be able to put up a front and hide certain things in our lives from everyone else around us, but God knows it all, and he invites us to simply come and talk to him openly.

 

Our sins aren’t hidden from the Lord. The Bible describes our sins as being bright red, like blood. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to wash out a blood stain, but a couple of my kids are prone to nosebleeds, and I can attest that it’s a pain to remove. Sometimes the clothing is permanently ruined. Sin lingers around like a stain that won’t come out.

 

And yet, God describes his amazing grace by painting the imagery of snow. Snow is not only white and clean as it falls from the sky, but it also covers everything it lands on. Fallen branches, the drainage ditch, toys strewn about the yard, and even the trashcan looks pretty covered in snow! God uses snow as a picture of how he can take our scarlet red sin and cover it completely with his grace.

 

You may not live where you see snow often, but just imagine your sin sitting out in the open in your front yard, and then a snowstorm blows through, covering it completely with a thick blanket of clean, white flakes. That’s what God can do, if only you’ll allow him to. That’s grace, my friend!

A Chance of Rain (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 10, 2014)

I’ve never really minded the rain. I don’t particularly care if my hair gets wet, and I like watching the rain fall. Growing up in the Houston area, I learned to interpret weather forecasts differently from most people. You see, if the news said that there was a 30% chance of rain, that meant it would rain 30% of the day – it was a given that there would be rain, of some sort. The question was only how much rain.

One of my favorite Bible stories has to do with rain … rather, the lack thereof. I encourage you to take some time this week and read 1 Kings 18. Elijah is one of the most remarkable people in the Bible; I would love to have a teaspoon of his faith! The passage begins in the middle of a terrible drought: three solid years without a drop of rain. Elijah was the only living prophet of the Lord, and King Ahab had succumbed to the influence of false gods.

Elijah did something ridiculous in his challenge to the prophets of Baal. Not only did he stand up against 450 of them, but he even drenched his sacrifice in water before asking God to light it on fire. What astounding, sold-out faith! You’ll have to read the chapter to catch the details, but suffice it to say that once Elijah was finished, there was no doubt whatsoever that the Lord was the one true God.

The sacrifice was one fantastic part of the story, but what happened next was equally amazing. Elijah climbed a mountain and prayed earnestly to God for rain. He sent a scout seven times to check the sky for clouds, and finally, a small cloud began to take shape in the sky. That measly little cloud quickly grew and became a torrential downpour on the thirsty land – God’s answer to Elijah’s prayer.

Are there things that you have been praying about for what feels like ages, and it seems like God hasn’t answered yet? Keep the faith, dear ones! Like Elijah, keep your eyes on the Lord and seek him earnestly with all of your heart.

The Bigger the Ego, the Harder the Fall (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 11, 2014)

My brother and I used to love to play on the Slip & Slide in the summer (which, growing up in Houston, means all but a few weeks out of the year). The most important thing to remember about setting up the tarp was to clear the area of pinecones. If you’ve never had the misfortune of sliding across a hidden pine cone while careening down a Slip & Slide, then consider yourself lucky. The second most important thing to remember was never touch the water as soon as you turn on the hose, because it will scald you.

We would take turns running and sliding, over and over, and not think twice about diving headlong into the grass. We’d fly down the tarp Superman-style and feet-first, forwards and backwards. We even tried surfing and doing all kinds of “stupid human tricks” on that thing.

Nowadays? No way, José. You couldn’t bribe me with enough money to take a running start and throw myself onto the ground, Slip & Slide or not. A few decades and more than a few extra pounds and aching joints have transpired since my slipping and sliding days. The harder the fall, the longer the physical therapy … or something like that.

Actually, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Pride comes before the fall.” The Bible has quite a lot to say about taking a fall, and it’s not the Slip & Slide kind. That saying actually comes from Proverbs 16:18, and I love how The Message paraphrase tweaks it to read, “… the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

God isn’t interested in our tricks and stunts. He knows when we are being disingenuous in our day-to-day lives, even if we’ve managed to fool everyone else around us. He sees right through it when we play church, too. Take a look at what God spoke to his people through the prophet Amos (5:23-24, MSG): “I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”

God wants the “you” behind the façade, the “you” with all the bumps & bruises of life, to come kneel at his throne and give up the games. Give up the tricks, the stunts, the show. Come to him with your raw ego in hand, knowing that even if it means bringing you down a few notches, it’s better to hand it over to God than fall flat on your face.