James 4:6 says that God gives grace to the humble yet opposes the proud. Which mindset is guiding your steps this week?
Do the Impossible (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 29, 2015)
Think of something that you do really well for the Lord. For example, perhaps you volunteer in the nursery on rotating Sunday mornings: playing with babies or doing arts & crafts is right up your alley. If you felt like God was calling you to step up your game and volunteer more often or take some sort of leadership role, it wouldn’t sound too crazy, right? Or, maybe you serve as a greeter and enjoy welcoming visitors each week. If God compelled you to do a little more in that area, it wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it?
But, what about when you feel that tell-tale nudge on your heart from the Holy Spirit prompting you to do something wayyyy outside of your comfort zone, like share your testimony in front of the church, give a gift bigger than you’ve ever donated before, or go on a missions trip?
We all need to use our spiritual gifts and our natural skills & talents to serve the Lord, but when it comes to doing the impossible – those breakthrough moments that you look back on in awe because you know without a shadow of a doubt that God did something miraculous – that takes a leap of faith.
In my experience, God tells us to do impossible things in our areas of weakness. If he only worked through our strong suits, then I think we would be tempted to take the credit for ourselves. (“Look at what a great thing I did, and by the way, God helped.”)
When God calls you to do impossible things, you either obey, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground. Case in point, read the parable of the rich man (Matthew 19, Luke 18, or Mark 10). He had a solid track record for doing good, religious things; however, when Jesus instructed him to do the seemingly impossible, he balked. He had the opportunity right in his lap to see God move in a miraculous way, but his pride kept him from obeying.
May we not be like the man in that parable, who missed out on the chance to be part of something much, much bigger than himself. God is at work all around us, each and every day. May we be observant and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s nudging to get involved, even when it seems impossible.
Victory is the Lord’s (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 23, 2015)
We sang a song at church recently with the line, “Every victory is Yours.” It was a proclamation of praise to God for reigning victorious over the enemy, which usually brings imagery to my mind of how the Lord conquered death through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Verses like 1 Corinthians 15:57 remind us of his victory over sin and death.
This particular day, however, I was distracted by some frustrations that I was having with the kids. A couple of them had gotten into trouble in Sunday School for arguing with each other, which had turned into a shoving match, and then one of them made a mess and didn’t bother to clean it up. I was embarrassed, quite frankly. I just wanted one weekend where we could go to church and I didn’t have to worry about how anyone behaved. I feel like every time one of the kids causes trouble, it’s a reflection on me as a parent. Sometimes I just want to melt into the background and not have negative attention drawn to me.
As I sang that song, this prayer-thought occurred to me: “If every victory is Yours, then why do I feel like every setback is my personal failure?”
Proverbs 21:31 says that we can prepare ourselves for war, but the verse quickly points to the Lord as the source of battlefield victories. In this situation, I think it means that I should certainly train and discipline my children to be respectful and behave well (prepare them for battle against worldly influences), but when they make poor choices, I shouldn’t automatically take it personally. (That’s a lot easier said than done; is it not?!?)
I referenced a verse above from 1 Corinthians 15; the following verse (58) goes on to say, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (NLT). We face battles every day, and we won’t win all of them. The enemy wants to tear you down, humiliate you and incapacitate you, but don’t quit the fight. Stand firm in the knowledge that we serve a mighty, awesome God, and he is the ultimate victor!
Prayer prompt for Wednesday, June 3
Don’t act like the early morning workers in Matthew 20 who felt gypped by the land owner. Don’t let pride hinder your relationship with God.
Now Hiring Willing Workers (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 31, 2015)
In between a disappointing encounter with a rich young ruler in Matthew 19 and an audacious request by a helicopter parent that would make even today’s generation blush in Matthew 20, Jesus tells a parable about laborers in a vineyard. Perhaps I’m reading more into the passage than is intended because of some things I’m dealing with at home (namely, kids telling the truth but not the whole truth to keep from getting into trouble), but bear with me and see if there are some real-life parallels for you, as well.
A land owner goes out early in the morning to find workers for his vineyard and negotiates a day’s wages with the new hires. Not only that, but he also returns four more times to try to hire more workers throughout the day. Without being present in the story, it’s hard to tell exactly, but it sounds like he hired anyone who was willing to work each time he went.
The last time he went was about an hour before quitting time, and when he found some people hanging around, he asked why they weren’t working. They answered, “Because no one has hired us” (Matthew 20:7, ESV). Interesting. If my earlier interpretation is correct, then either these guys weren’t around the first three times the owner came by looking for workers, or they originally turned down the offer hoping for something better to come along.
I wonder if “Because no one has hired us” is the whole truth. Maybe they slept in till noon and didn’t want to admit their laziness, or perhaps they turned up their noses at doing such prickly manual labor as picking grapes until the day dragged on to the point where they realized they wouldn’t have money to feed their families if they didn’t swallow their pride and accept the work.
We don’t know the backstory, but I reckon we could still put ourselves into their shoes. There are times when God nudges our hearts to do his work, and we pretend not to hear the Spirit’s call because we’d rather do something else (or nothing at all). I encourage you to listen carefully and let God use you in his kingdom work; you won’t regret it.
Prayer prompt for Friday, Dec. 26
What can you do today to keep your pride in check and turn the spotlight to God, instead of highlighting yourself?
Prayer prompt for Thursday, Dec. 25
The Edomites from Obadiah’s book took pride in their high position. No matter how lofty your aspirations are, God is the one who is supreme!
Prayer prompt for Wednesday, Dec. 24
Proverbs 16:18 reminds me of foreshadowing in a book/movie. As soon as someone says something cocky, you know they’re about to face-plant.
Prayer prompt for Tuesday, Dec. 23
I would submit to you that self-confidence is a good thing, but it morphs into pride when we deflect attention from God & credit ourselves.
Breaking the Lineage of Pride (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 21, 2014)
I conscientiously avoid activities that make me feel inferior, dumb, or inept – like crossword puzzles, swimsuit shopping, and contact sports. Instead, I tend to stick with things that make me feel comfortable with myself and my abilities. The problem is that when we get too comfortable, pride can creep in.
The book of Obadiah is only a chapter long, merely 21 verses. It is tucked between Amos and Jonah in the Old Testament. Scholars believe the text was written around 845 B.C. or 586 B.C., but the groups mentioned in the book (Edom and Judah) fought a lot in those days, so it’s difficult to determine an exact date. At any rate, Obadiah was a prophet with a somber message for the people of Edom, and the root of their problems could be traced back to pride. In fact, that lineage of pride could be traced all the way back to the founding father of the Edomites, Esau. You might remember Esau from stories in Genesis 25 and following; he’s the one who haphazardly traded his birthright to his slightly younger twin brother, Jacob, for a bowl of stew & bread (v. 34). Apparently, his descendants inherited his cocky attitude.
The Edomites had gotten pretty cozy with their hill country vista, which was also advantageously located along the main caravan route from Egypt to Babylon. They had begun to feel pompous and invincible, so Obadiah warned them about the message he received from the Lord (v. 3-4):
“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord.
Obadiah’s prophecy went on to say that the house of Esau would be ransacked, and their snazzy cliff dwellings would be reduced to rubble. Something tells me their property values were about to take a nosedive.
We can avoid putting ourselves into the Edomites’ perilous situation in a couple of ways: first, we need to remember Colossians 3:23 and focus our talents on serving the Lord, rather than bringing undue attention to ourselves. Second, we could step out of our comfort zones every now & then and get involved in service and ministry that may not be tops on our to-do list. After all, it’s not about us. Pride may make us feel powerful in the short run, but as Proverbs 16:18 and Psalm 149:4 remind us, humility is the victor over pride.