Radio Static (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 3, 2014)

There is a stretch of about 4-5 blocks along my morning commute where the radio turns to static. I don’t know what causes the interference, but invariably, I’ll be driving along and suddenly lose my music in the same spot every day. I usually just turn off the radio, but one morning I left it on because I knew that the static wouldn’t last very long. It was interesting how I could still make out the song behind the garbled airwaves. It was difficult to understand and rather annoying, but I could still hear it.

Isn’t that how our spiritual lives are, sometimes? We go through patches that feel like static – nothing seems to be getting through during our prayer time, and the background noise feels overwhelming. And yet, if we concentrate, we can still listen amid the chaos.

One of my kids is dealing with a lot of static right now; in fact, he’s been handed more chaos in his young life than many adults I know could cope with. Sometimes the static makes it difficult to make good choices, and he feels overwhelmed. We sat together one evening and talked about prayer as a way to help him make better decisions, a way to cut through the distractions and temptations. We talked about James 4:7, which says that when you take a stand against Satan, he runs away like a coward. We also talked about Philippians 2:9-10 that tells us the name of Jesus is so powerful that every creature in heaven and earth must bow to his authority.

Guess what, friends? Satan is a big loser, The End. I’ve read the last chapter, and I know that Christ conquers! But what do sore losers do? They try to drag others down with them, don’t they? Satan wants us to feel overwhelmed by life’s static. He wants us to get distracted from our faith-walk and lose sight of God in the midst of the chaos.

Yet, through our faith in Christ, we have the mightiest weapon of all in our arsenal: the name of Jesus. When you don’t know what else to say, where else to turn, where to even begin, call out to Jesus. Say his name aloud, in bold defiance of the enemy that seeks to devour you (1 Peter 5:8). Cry out to him in the quietness of your heart (Psalm 34:17-18). Then listen for his voice through the static.

The Bigger the Ego, the Harder the Fall (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 11, 2014)

My brother and I used to love to play on the Slip & Slide in the summer (which, growing up in Houston, means all but a few weeks out of the year). The most important thing to remember about setting up the tarp was to clear the area of pinecones. If you’ve never had the misfortune of sliding across a hidden pine cone while careening down a Slip & Slide, then consider yourself lucky. The second most important thing to remember was never touch the water as soon as you turn on the hose, because it will scald you.

We would take turns running and sliding, over and over, and not think twice about diving headlong into the grass. We’d fly down the tarp Superman-style and feet-first, forwards and backwards. We even tried surfing and doing all kinds of “stupid human tricks” on that thing.

Nowadays? No way, José. You couldn’t bribe me with enough money to take a running start and throw myself onto the ground, Slip & Slide or not. A few decades and more than a few extra pounds and aching joints have transpired since my slipping and sliding days. The harder the fall, the longer the physical therapy … or something like that.

Actually, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Pride comes before the fall.” The Bible has quite a lot to say about taking a fall, and it’s not the Slip & Slide kind. That saying actually comes from Proverbs 16:18, and I love how The Message paraphrase tweaks it to read, “… the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

God isn’t interested in our tricks and stunts. He knows when we are being disingenuous in our day-to-day lives, even if we’ve managed to fool everyone else around us. He sees right through it when we play church, too. Take a look at what God spoke to his people through the prophet Amos (5:23-24, MSG): “I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”

God wants the “you” behind the façade, the “you” with all the bumps & bruises of life, to come kneel at his throne and give up the games. Give up the tricks, the stunts, the show. Come to him with your raw ego in hand, knowing that even if it means bringing you down a few notches, it’s better to hand it over to God than fall flat on your face.