The Last Word (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 14, 2016)

Between the Old Testament book of Malachi and the gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), there were no prophets in Israel for about 400 years. To put that gap into perspective, let’s imagine what the last 400 years would have been like without hearing from the Lord since the early 1600s. That would mean no Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom, C.S. Lewis, Amy Carmichael, Oswald Chambers, John or Charles Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, or John Bunyan, to name a few.

 

Malachi 3:1 referred to a new prophet who would pave the way for the Lord; chapter 4 described this individual as someone who would turn the hearts of the people back to God. When John the Baptist finally entered the scene as the first prophet in several generations, some were confused about who he really was. Jesus confirmed that John the Baptist was the long-awaited prophet in Luke 7:27. John preached that the kingdom of God was near, went about baptized people, and gained quite a following. Yet, even John’s disciples wondered if he was in competition with that Jesus guy who had just begun his own ministry (John 3:26).

 

John responded to his disciples by likening himself to the best man at a wedding – happy to stand by and support the groom. He went on to say in verse 30, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (NLT). John the Baptist directed attention toward Jesus, rather than himself. We would do well to follow in his footsteps, because it’s not about me, and it’s not about you!

 

It’s not my job to point fingers, but we don’t have to look far to see prominent Christians today who are drawing attention to themselves and/or their ministries, and not necessarily to Jesus. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with popularity, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with material success, but our lives (and certainly our ministries) should be purposeful in pointing people to Christ, not devised for worldly pleasure or gain.

 

John the Baptist was the last word, the final prophet leading up to the big reveal of Jesus Christ as the much anticipated Messiah. John accepted his role humbly and went about his calling not only dutifully, but also passionately and without compromise. May we honor his memory and his service to the kingdom by ministering to those around us in a way that draws them closer to Christ.

Forced Rest (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 17, 2015)

The latter part of Daniel 9 introduces us to a fascinating end-times prophecy, but I’d like to draw your attention to the beginning of the chapter. As foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel had been in exile for nearly 70 years because of their disobedience to the Lord. (Daniel experienced the exile first-hand, as he was one of the young Israelite men selected to be trained in Babylon for service to the king.)

 

In keeping with God’s example of creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, the people of Israel had very specific regulations about their work ethic, including honoring the Sabbath day each week and letting the land rest every seventh year. As we read time and time again in the Old Testament (as well as modern day, if we’re honest about ourselves), the people had veered away from following God. Jeremiah tried to warn them to get back on track, but they didn’t listen.

 

God has a way of bringing his will to pass, even when we are stubborn and don’t follow it, in the first place. I think it’s interesting how the people of Israel neglected the Lord’s instructions to let the land rest every so often, yet the land went fallow for decades while they were in exile. It reminds me of how we go-go-go through life, and then – wham! – you get sick and have to stay in bed for a few days, smack in the middle of a busy schedule. Our bodies need rest, even if we have to be forced to do it.

 

Daniel realized through his own studying of Jeremiah that the period of exile was coming to a close, so he prayed to the Lord in humility to ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy. I think this is interesting, as well. God said that the people would be in exile for 70 years, but instead of just waiting out the time, Daniel approached the Lord submissively and asked for forgiveness for his people. Daniel was a young man when he was exiled; he could hardly be blamed for the decisions of his forefathers, yet he bore the burden and interceded on their behalf. May we, too, stand in the gap for our communities in prayer.

Do you want cheese with your whine? (Prayer Devotional for the week of June 22, 2014)

The Bible reminds us (in Matthew 7:5 & Luke 6:42, among others) to look at our own problems before we point out other people’s issues. Today’s topic might step on a few toes, so, let’s do a quick self-inventory. Do any of these statements ring a bell?

  • This restaurant is always so slow. What does it take to get decent service around here?
  • I don’t know why I bother. It’s not going to make a difference, anyway.
  • I hate my job/boss/class/teacher/co-worker/life …
  • Ugh, it’s Monday again.
  • I’m no good at that/I just can’t do it/I’m the world’s worst …
  • Why do bad things always happen to me? I can never catch a break.

If those comments sound familiar, then you are not alone. The Israelites were skilled complainers. In Exodus 15, verse 22 and following, the people of Israel were griping about how bad the water tasted. (Hello, Waco? Sound familiar?) God gave Moses instructions on how to fix it, but that didn’t keep them quiet for very long. In the next chapter, God provided miraculous food (literally, from thin air) for the wandering Israelites to eat, yet they still murmured. In chapter 17, God even made water flow out of a rock!

By the time chapter 20 rolled around, Moses was sick and tired of the complaining. He lost his temper in front of God and all of the Israelites, and instead of speaking God’s instructions to provide miraculous water from another rock, Moses snapped at the people: “Listen, rebels! Do we have to bring water out of this rock for you?” and slammed his staff against the rock. (Notice how he said we and not God.) God still performed a miracle and made the water gush out, but right then and there, Moses lost his opportunity to lead the people of Israel into the promised land.

The constant complaining … and Moses’ poor reaction to it … cost him dearly. Think about your own life for a moment. What tone of voice have your last few conversations taken? What have your last few Facebook posts looked like? What was the last thing you said to your kids? Parents? Spouse? Take an honest look at how much you complain, then commit to praying through the issues this week with us.

Originally posted May 15, 2011