Prayer prompts for the week of October 4, 2015

Just when I thought I was caught up, I realized I missed an entire week’s worth of posts. Here ya go …

No Shortcuts

 

Matthew 11 gives us a beautiful picture of the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. (Unfortunately, John the Baptist is tragically killed three chapters later by the order of a drunken king and his vindictive wife, but that’s a story for another day.) We know from the account in Luke 1 that Mary (Jesus’ mom) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mom) were related, but the Bible isn’t very clear about their exact relationship. I’ve always heard that Jesus and John were cousins, but perhaps that’s my southern upbringing where “cousin” can be a catch-all term for extended relatives. At any rate, they were related, to some extent or another.

 

I find it interesting that even though John probably grew up being around Jesus at family gatherings, annual Passover festivities, etc., and he had the distinct honor of baptizing Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry (Matthew 3), John the Baptist still had to come to terms with his own understanding of Jesus as Messiah.

 

In Matthew 11, we read that John the Baptist is in prison, but he has been receiving word about Jesus’ activities. In verses 2-3, John sends messengers to ask Jesus flat-out: Are you the One? Let that sink in a moment. John the Baptist needed clarification about whether or not Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.

 

There are no shortcuts to salvation, even for insiders. Jesus’ own family had to decide for themselves whether to accept him as Lord and Savior, and so do we. It doesn’t matter if your daddy and your granddaddy and your great-granddaddy were pastors; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if your mom’s best friend’s sister-in-law knows Billy Graham personally; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you attended a private, religious school and memorized prayers and creeds; you still have to decide for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you were baptized as a baby or dedicated in a church as a child; you still have to decide for yourself. There are no shortcuts.

 

Faith is not inherited. Of course, we should pass down our testimonies, teach our children, involve them in church, and encourage them to develop their own relationships with the Lord, but that last step is not something that we can do FOR them. They have to decide for themselves, just as John the Baptist had to reconcile his own beliefs about Jesus. So, who is Jesus to you? Is he the Messiah, the long-awaited One?

 

(Sunday) I like shortcuts and avoiding traffic as much as any other driver, but when it comes to our faith-journeys, there is only one way via Jesus.

 

(Monday) Read Matthew 11:11 and let it sink deep into your heart. John the Baptist was a rock star of the faith, yet we can be also!

 

(Tuesday) You know the cliché about riding an influential person’s coattails to get ahead in life, but faith doesn’t work that way. You alone decide.

 

(Wednesday) Matt. 11:10 says that John the Baptist was the prophet mentioned in the Old Testament (Malachi), yet even he had to opt in & believe Jesus.

 

(Thursday) How do we convince ourselves that somehow we could ever be good enough (or at least not too bad) to win God’s approval? It’s all his grace!

 

(Friday) Whether you’re the first Christian in your family or you come from a long line of faith, the decision to follow Christ was yours to make.

 

(Saturday) It’s usually a passage reserved for Christmastime, but read Luke 1 and marvel at God’s strategic plan for Jesus & John the Baptist.

 

 

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I want to be a part of that! (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 2, 2014)

I try really hard not to single out one kid over another (for better or for worse), but sometimes one of them says or does something that brings me to my knees (usually in prayer for endurance & peace, but other times for gratitude that God is allowing me to witness his work in their lives). One such gratitude-moment happened the other day, when my eldest and I were in the car together.

 

He was telling me something the youth minister had taught about the apostle Paul. He explained how whenever Paul went to a new city, he made a big impact, and the place was changed for the gospel. The youth minister then told the teens that THEY could be like Paul in our community, to make an everlasting imprint here for Christ. My son finished the story and then said, “Man, I want to be a part of that!”

 

There are a bazillion reasons that I could brag about why this kid makes me proud. He’s bright, funny, has more musical talent in his pinky finger than I have in my whole body, makes good grades, is a huge help around the house and with his little brothers … the list could go on and on. Yet, none of those accolades compares to the joy I felt as a parent when my son said that he wants to be a part of what God is doing in this place.

 

That same missions-minded Paul also served as a mentor for a young man named Timothy. I don’t know exactly how old Timothy was, at the time, but Paul once told him: “Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4: 11-12, NIV).

 

Ministry isn’t just for the pastors, elders, Life group hosts, and other lay leaders. What are you and I doing to encourage each other – and even our youth – to become ministers in their own circles? We hear a lot about how our youth are the leaders of tomorrow, and while that is true, it’s not the whole story. They are leaders NOW. Let us encourage them in word and example.