Proof of citizenship (Prayer Devotional for the week of July 6, 2014)

I let time get away from me (again) and just realized that I forgot to schedule this week’s devotional posts! Here ya go …

 

Do you know which documents are acceptable as proof of citizenship in the U.S.? Birth certificate, passport or naturalization certificate are the commonly accepted items. Other government-issued forms of photo identification, such as driver’s license, military ID, etc., are useful to demonstrate that you are who you say you are, but they do not validate your citizenship.

We may have photo IDs to prove where we go to school or work, certificates to show that we’re married, framed diplomas to display our college degrees and notarized papers to explain legal matters … but none of those documents prove our citizenship.

In his letter to the Philippians (chapter 3), the apostle Paul gave a litany of his qualifications as a religious leader in order to drive home the point that none of it matters – not the accolades, not the bragging rights, not the pedigree. He went so far as to call his credentials “garbage” (verse 8) compared to the joy of knowing Christ. Paul, formerly known as Saul, was an unabashed weirdo; in fact, he embraced his peculiar testimony so that God would receive the utmost glory.

The thought of Paul’s former life as an “enemy of the cross” brought him to tears (verse 18) as he pleaded with the Philippians to focus their sights heavenward. Our worldly credentials pale in comparison to heavenly glory! Paul describes our true citizenship as being in heaven (verse 20) – will we embrace it?

Originally posted August 14, 2011

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.

Make Me New Again (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 29, 2013)

Whether you make annual New Year resolutions or not, there’s something about another January rolling around that causes us to think about changes. My eldest asked the other day if I had any resolutions this year, and I simply said, “Graduate.” I’ve been working toward this goal for the past four years, although it feels like decades when I’m stumped on part of my research. Graduation is a tangible result – a date, a ceremony, a fancy robe and a piece of paper to prove what I’ve accomplished.

Not all goals are so concrete, though. Some goals we strive toward our whole lives and never quite see the end result. Take your spiritual journey, for example. I reckon if you asked any champion of faith if they have reached the ultimate goal of their Christian walk, they would probably say no. In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul (definitely a big name in church history!) wrote that he was still striving for the finish line.

I love the repeating stanza that the songwriter wrote in Psalm 80 (NIRV): “God, make us new again. Let your face smile on us with favor. Then we will be saved.” Is there anything greater that we could achieve than to experience the Lord’s favor? Everything else seems to pale in comparison.

Our faith journey is not like graduation, where you receive a diploma and call it done. Again and again, we need to be renewed. Over and over, we need to refuel our efforts. As Paul stated in Philippians 3:20, we are citizens of heaven, and until the Lord returns to stamp our eternal passports, we have work yet to do. Let’s make the most of it in the coming year.