Are you an Andrew or a Paul? (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 27, 2015)

Have you ever wondered about your qualifications for serving the Lord? I’d like to share two examples to encourage you. First, we’ll talk about Andrew. He was a blue-collar worker – a fisherman by trade, not a scholar. We are introduced to him in Matthew 4:18 & Mark 1:16, where he is described in both instances as Simon Peter’s brother.

 

Let’s pause there for a moment. I have five sons, and I know that it doesn’t go over very well when any of them are routinely described as so-and-so’s brother. Everyone wants his own identity. Andrew did become one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, which is pretty amazing, but I wonder if sometimes he felt like the also-ran in comparison to his more famous brother. For example, in John 1:40-42, we read that Andrew started out as one of John the Baptist’s disciples, and he even introduced Simon Peter to Jesus. Verse 42 in that passage talks about Jesus changing Simon’s name to Peter, yet there seems to be no acknowledgement of Andrew at all. One historical reference I read said that Andrew was actually the elder of the two, so I imagine it felt even more humbling to be overshadowed by his little brother.

 

Then, there’s Saul-turned-Paul. In Philippians 3, Paul tried the “Annie Get Your Gun” tactic of “anything you can do I can do better” to explain how we should not put too much confidence in ourselves, especially when it comes to ministry. Paul described himself as “a Hebrew of Hebrews” and itemized a whole list of reasons why he would be considered the cream of the crop. He wasn’t being conceited, though; he was trying to prove a point that no matter how stellar your qualifications, it all pales in comparison to Christ.

 

So, whether you relate more to Andrew or Paul, remember that both individuals were used mightily for the Lord, regardless of their qualifications. After all, don’t you think that Andrew was better suited to witness to the common folk than Paul (especially considering his early career of persecuting Christians)? Paul, on the other hand, was perfectly poised to speak truth to the know-it-all religious leaders of his day.

 

The point is that God calls each of us for an individual purpose, and our callings may not resemble each other in the least. We may have a high-profile role like Paul, or we may work behind the scenes more like Andrew, but as with both of them, God wants to use us in his sovereign plan. Are you willing?

Pressed on Every Side (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 1, 2015)

I heard a pastor give an illustration about coffee, which resonated with me – perhaps because we’re expecting highs in the low- to mid-40s for the next week, plus up to 2 ft of snow this weekend. A cup of hot coffee sounds fabulous to me, under those conditions!

 

The pastor talked about how we are the coffee beans, life is the hot water, and the resulting brew is our testimony to the world. We’re supposed to be smooth and refreshing, but unfortunately, many of us turn out rather bitter.

 

As I mulled over that illustration, a few more thoughts came to my mind. First of all, you don’t make coffee with whole beans. The beans have to be ground up first; they have to be broken. Psalm 51:17 (NLT) talks about offering our brokenness to the Lord. It reads, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Like the coffee bean, we need to be willing to become broken, so that we can be useful. David writes in Psalm 141:2 that our prayer is like incense to the Lord. Think of how delightful a newly opened package of coffee smells; in the same way, our lives can be an aromatic offering to God.

 

Another step in making coffee (and often in the Christian life) is pressure. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV), “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” The hot water soaking in and pressing through the ground coffee beans is what gives flavor to the brew.

 

Lastly, there isn’t a lot that can be done to fix a bad pot of coffee. You can add sugar and cream, even flavors, to try to mask the bitterness, but it’s difficult to balance, and it never tastes quite right. May our lives not become a bitter brew! Instead, may we be a pleasing reminder to the world of God’s goodness.

What is your citizenship worth? (Prayer Devotional for the week of July 13, 2014)

We talked last week about Paul’s peculiar testimony. In Acts 22, he shared the outrageous story of his conversion with the religious leaders who brought him in for questioning. The folks in charge were not too happy with Paul’s comment that God had sent him to minister to the Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews), and they ordered him to be flogged.

Paul cooperated and let them stretch him out and chain him up to prepare for his flogging, then he turned to the guy strapping him down and casually asked if it was legal to flog a Roman citizen who had not been proven guilty. The stunned guards were terrified. They could have gotten into big trouble for beating a Roman citizen!

They tattled to the commander who came and questioned Paul about his citizenship (verses 27-29). The commander made the smart-aleck retort: “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship,” as if flaunting his wealth would trick Paul into admitting that he was lying about being a Roman citizen. Paul answered him simply, “But I was born a citizen.” Back in those days, being a Roman citizen carried with it special privileges, and the commander was rightfully frightened about the possible repercussions for having put Paul in chains.

As for us, I would venture a guess that most of us were born on American soil and gained our citizenship by birth. Others waited, studied, waited some more and then took a test to earn citizenship by naturalization. The latter way is expensive and takes a lot of time and effort. The naturalization process carries most of the perks of citizenship, but birth citizens still have more privileges—like the ability to run for President.

I am proud of and thankful for my American citizenship, but what about our heavenly citizenship? What is it worth? Is it worth the time, effort and potential backlash to let the world know that we’re followers of Christ? This story in Acts 22 was just the tip of the iceberg for Paul; he spent much time in prison and getting beaten up for the sake of the gospel. What is heavenly citizenship worth to you? It was worth more than life to Paul.

Originally posted August 21, 2011