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?

Why Memorize Scripture? (Prayer Devotional for the week of April 12, 2015)

My phone died recently, and although I’m grateful that it was covered under warranty, having to replace it without warning meant that I lost some apps and contacts that were apparently saved only on the device. One of those apps was a notepad that I use frequently in the car to voice-text memos to myself, like a list of devotional ideas that popped into my head while driving to work in the mornings, assorted thoughts that I wanted to write about one of these days. Gone. Ugh.

 

Losing those notes reminded me of how important it is to commit certain things to memory, like Scripture. Sometimes people say that memorizing Bible verses is too difficult or takes too much time and effort. If that’s your viewpoint, then I challenge you to think about all of the trivial facts that you have stored in your brain right now: My 6th grade crush, Danny Wingert’s birthday? Check. The entire script of The Princess Bride? Check. The combination to my high school locker? Check. My great-aunt’s buttermilk pie recipe? Check. Multiple passwords for email addresses, my bank, Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other things? Check.

 

We are capable of memorizing Scripture. Perhaps we simply lack the motivation. If that’s the case, let’s allow the Bible to speak for itself about why we should make the effort to memorize verses. Psalm 119:9-11 reminds us that committing God’s word to memory helps to keep us from sinning. Joshua 1:8 indicates that when we meditate on Scripture, we are better able to do what God wants us to do. Jeremiah 15:16 talks about the joy of savoring God’s word like a scrumptious meal. Proverbs 6:21-23 describes God’s word as a light to lead us down the right path.

 

God speaks to us through his word. When you are having a bad day, you could pick up the phone and text or call a friend, but imagine how much more comforting it could be if you had a verse like Psalm 46:10 floating through your mind all the while, “Be still and know that I am God …” Better yet, how neat would it be if the tables were turned and you were the one to be able to offer comfort to a friend because of the Scripture that you had memorized?

 

Don’t think of it as a chore. Think of it as one more way to get to know God better. Memorizing the Bible can become a form of worship between you and the Lord, and it will enrich your prayer life. Try it!

Do Difficult Things (Prayer Devotional for the week of October 26, 2014)

The Bible doesn’t give us much insight as to what went through the potential disciples’ minds when Jesus called them to put down their fishing nets and follow him. It simply said that they did. In fact, Matthew 4:12 and Mark 1:18 report that Simon [Peter] and Andrew left their things “at once.” A few verses later, we learn that not only did brothers James & John also leave “immediately” upon hearing Jesus’ call, but they even left their father Zebedee behind in the boat preparing the fishing nets. Luke 5 gives us a bit more insight into the four men, as we learn that they were fishing partners who witnessed Jesus bring in a catch so full that their nets began to break.

 

And yet, where were the disciples later on, when things looked uncertain? They were back in a boat, fishing. In John 20, we read that the risen Christ appeared to his disciples and others, and although they were thrilled to see him, I imagine it was a lot to take in, mentally and emotionally.

 

John 21 goes on to say that Simon [Peter] decided to go fishing. My hunch is that he needed to clear his head, so he went back to something that was familiar to him.

 

I feel validated when I read about the disciples going back to their fishing boats while waiting for Jesus to give them instructions, because it tells me that they didn’t always know what to do, either. Yet, they knew to wait. They knew Who was in charge, and they followed his call. Just look at our fishing pal, Peter. Jesus told him that he was the rock upon which the church would be built (Matthew 16), and Peter was later martyred for his faith (John 21:18-19).

 

I have often struggled with understanding my place within God’s bigger plan, and sometimes I feel a little jealous of the disciples for having the advantage of Jesus’ face-to-face instructions, because honestly, I frequently feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants. We can learn a lot from the fishing disciples: Be willing to wait on the Lord, but also be willing to get up and go when he calls.

Lights: On! (Prayer Devotional for the week of October 19, 2014)

Four mornings a week, I drive my 8th grader to school at 6:45am for Jazz Band practice. I don’t really mind; it offers us some rare one-on-one time together in the car, and it holds me accountable to get up on time in the mornings. What I do mind are fellow drivers who think that just because sunlight is barely peeking over the horizon, they don’t need to use their headlights.

I believe the technical rule is that you must use headlights from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise, so perhaps these dim drivers (pun intended) are legal, but they certainly aren’t safe. The thing is: they might think they can see oncoming cars without their own headlights on, but we can’t see them. Using headlights during those “iffy” times of day are for the benefit of others, if for no other reason.

Hmm … kinda sounds like the light we Christians are supposed to be shining in the world, eh? There are aspects of our faith-walks that are intimate, private times between the Lord and us as individual believers: personal prayer and Bible reading are examples that come to mind. Yet, our lives should also illuminate the world around us. In a very real sense, our bright presence should direct others to Christ.

In 1 Timothy 4:15-16, Paul advises his mentee to set a positive example for those around him, because they are watching. “Remember these things and think about them, so everyone can see how well you are doing. Be careful about the way you live and about what you teach. Keep on doing this, and you will save not only yourself, but the people who hear you” (CEV).

And in Luke 11:36, Jesus explained to a crowd, “If you have light, and nothing is dark, then light will be everywhere, as when a lamp shines brightly on you” (CEV). Don’t drive through life relying on the light of others. Reflect the light of Christ!

Who am I? (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 30, 2014)

I wear many hats, and I’m known by different names & titles to various people. I go by my first name with most colleagues and friends. My students call me by my last initials. A friend I’ve known for nearly 30 years calls me “Bestie.” My brother used to call me his big-little sister (big sister because I’m older, and little sister because he was 6’5”). My favorite custodian at work calls me “sweet baby.” To my kids, I’m just Mom. To their friends, I’m so-and-so’s Mom.

Hopefully, if you were to ask anyone from those circles, “Who would you say that she is?” then they would have similar things to say about my character. The “me” you see on Sunday morning should be the same person you encounter at the office breakroom, grocery store, Facebook, stop light, or anywhere else around town. (If that isn’t the case, then I need to be held accountable.)

The point is that if we are believers in Jesus, then we represent him 24/7. No matter what our name or position may be, we bear the title “Christian” wherever we go.

In Luke 9:18 and following, Jesus asked his disciples what others were saying about him. He referenced the crowds that had been following them around to hear Jesus speak – who did they say that he was? The disciples shared some of what the public was saying, and then Jesus turned the question to them and asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (v. 20).

Peter knew the answer. He knew that Jesus was more than just a public speaker, healer, or even a prophet. Jesus was the real deal – the one the Israelites had been praying about for generations. Philippians 2:9-11 pulls no punches about Jesus’ place in the hierarchy of the universe. He is the Messiah, as Peter answered – the one who loved us so unconditionally that he conquered death for us.

The question I want to ask you today is not just who do you think Jesus is, but who is he to you? Does he mean enough that you aren’t embarrassed to bear his name? Does he mean enough that you are willing to change a few things about your old way of life so that your new life will reflect him better? Those are tough questions, but they are ones that we each need to answer for ourselves, daily.