Prayer prompts for the week of March 7, 2016

(Monday) In John 6:61 (NLT), Jesus replied to critics, saying, “Does this offend you?” Don’t take it personally when your witness is rejected.

 

(Tuesday) 1 Corinthians 1:18 reminds us that although it is the avenue of salvation, the message of the cross is foolishness to unbelievers.

 

(Wednesday) When we rely solely on human wisdom, spiritual truths are impossible to comprehend. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

 

(Thursday) Isaiah 64:4 & 1 Corinthians 2:9 remind us that our human senses cannot fathom God’s plans for our lives. His love is unimaginably great!

 

(Friday) Those who despise wisdom & discipline are fools, says Proverbs 1:7. Instead, choose to pursue the knowledge of the Lord.

 

(Saturday) Which is better: wisdom or wealth? (Proverbs 8:10)

Bread of Life (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 6, 2016)

I had a friend in high school who was extraordinarily smart; she earned top grades and went on to receive a full scholarship at a great university. I tried sharing my faith with her once, and I still remember the argument that she used to shoot down my attempt at witnessing. She said that Christians are no better than cannibals, because through communion, we symbolically eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood.

 

I didn’t know how to respond to her rebuttal, and that conversation flop has been on my heart for all these years. I knew deep down that Jesus wasn’t condoning cannibalism, but I didn’t have the words to explain it to her. Well, I recently heard a fresh perspective about communion that helped me better understand how to interpret this important symbolism.

 

It’s important to note that my friend’s question was not unique; some of the people listening to Jesus’ teaching had the same confusion! John 6:47-58 tells the story about Jesus describing himself as the bread of life, and that those who eat of that bread will live forever. In verse 52, John records the arguments that arose among the Jews in attendance about eating a man’s flesh. What kind of weirdo rabbi was this Jesus person, talking about eating his body and drinking his blood?!?

 

Let’s start with this question: What is the purpose of eating food? Food is fuel for our bodies, and when we eat, our digestive system consumes the nutrients we need. Consider this: when we “consume” Jesus through faith – his teachings, his miracles, his prophetic fulfillment – we ingest that truth, and it becomes part of us. Our faith then fuels us, spiritually.

 

Jesus used the illustration of Old Testament sacrifice to explain the new covenant that he was establishing through his own sacrifice on the cross. Of course he wasn’t advocating cannibalism; he was using himself as a symbol of faith for us to recognize our need. We need the nutrition from food, just as we need spiritual nutrition. We need our sins to be cleansed, like the Old Testament story of the Passover lamb.

 

Bible scholars much more knowledgeable than me will surely have more to say on the matter, but what it boils down to for me is this: Eat the bread of life! Consume God’s word, and in turn, let the Holy Spirit nourish your spiritual life as you grow in faith.

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.

A Compassionate Touch (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 17, 2016)

I come from a very huggable family. When my brother and I were little and our family would go to visit aunts & uncles, cousins, and grandparents out of town, we used to wait impatiently after our mom would say it was time to leave … and then spend the next half-hour hugging and kissing everyone goodbye. As an adult, I look back on those days with fond memories, and especially since many of those loved ones have passed away by now, I would love to have 30 minutes again of hugging and kissing all of them.

 

There’s something very special about human touch. Physical touch is one of our primary senses. It’s so important that researchers have found skin-to-skin contact to be vital in babies’ development. Physical touch is even one of the five “love languages” defined by Dr. Gary D. Chapman about how we express affection to each other. Even if you aren’t the touchy-feely type, there’s still something special about tender, loving contact with another person.

 

I find it interesting that although Jesus had the power to heal people remotely – and he did perform many miracles from a distance or with a simple verbal command (remember Lazarus being raised from the dead in John 11 or the paralyzed child in Matthew 8:5-13?) – he sometimes chose to make physical contact with people as part of their healing process. There are many examples in the gospels, including a crippled woman in Luke 13:10-13 and Peter’s feverish mother-in-law in Matthew 8:14-15, among others.

 

One passage that sticks out to me, though, is Mark 1:40-42. The author records that Jesus was “moved with compassion” when a man with leprosy approached him and begged for healing. Jesus touched him, and the man was healed instantly. Jesus didn’t have to touch the man; in fact, it was socially uncouth for him to do so, since the man had leprosy. He could have simply spoken a word, and the man would have been healed. Instead, Jesus extended a compassionate touch to an untouchable person.

 

So, the question for us is this: Who in our lives is “untouchable,” yet in need of compassion? How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting people in our world?