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.

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Only One King (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 24, 2016)

I am teaching two sections of American National Government this semester, and I love it. Some people don’t like teaching freshmen because they are, well, freshmen. I think it’s awesome. I love those light bulb moments when they realize that my class isn’t going to be a complete snorefest like they expected. Anyway, we were talking last week about different forms of government and how the colonists were trying to escape what they viewed as an oppressive government. Although our Founding Fathers disagreed on a lot of things, one thing they rallied behind was NO KING. They did not want to create another monarchy.

 

I thought about that particular class when I came across a passage in Matthew 27. Verses 32-44 detail Jesus’ crucifixion. The soldiers, religious leaders, and even the general public seemed to be hung up on the notion of Jesus as King of the Jews, or King of Israel, as some translations state. They hung a sign of mockery above his head reading, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (v. 37). The religious leaders taunted him, saying that if he’s the King of the Jews, then he should save himself (v. 41-43).

 

Here’s the catch: whether we’re talking about a political science class or trying to make a spiritual application, there can only be ONE king. In a monarchy, there may be a ruling family who passes down the crown from generation to generation, but at any given time, there is one king or queen in charge. Trying to have two people wear the crown is a recipe for disaster.

 

The same concept holds true in our spiritual lives. Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 remind us that we cannot serve both God and money. We have to choose one over the other – either God or our worldly desires.

 

Jesus did not come to serve as a political leader. Instead, he challenged our traditional ideas of rulership by introducing us to a personal relationship with the Lord. We don’t need a political king to sweep in and take over; we need a spiritual Lord to whom we willingly submit our lives. He is fully capable of leading and guiding us, but only if we allow him that position in our hearts. He does not demand our loyalty. We retain the free will to choose the world over him, if that’s what we really want.

 

However, I implore you to give him authority over your life, and I feel confident in saying that you will not regret it. Walking in a relationship with Christ is more spectacular than all the ticker tape parades and inauguration parties in the whole, entire world.

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?