The Perfect Woman (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 3, 2015)

I had the chance to attend a ladies’ retreat last weekend with about 80 women from several different churches. The guest speaker used Proverbs 31 as her text, and I have to admit that my first thought was, “Oh, great – I’m in for two days of hearing about all my faults as a mother and ex-wife.” If you’ve ever read “The Wife of Noble Character” passage, then you know what I’m talking about.

 

The Proverbs 31 chick is perfect, and many sermons I’ve heard about that passage focused on some aspect or another about this implausibly flawless woman and left me feeling like a complete failure. To my surprise, that’s exactly what the speaker said: it’s pointless to try to compare ourselves to the Proverbs 31 woman, because none of us are Betty Crocker, Oprah Winfrey, and Mother Theresa combined! Instead, she explained that rather than line ourselves up (with all of our failures and baggage) against this perfected image, perhaps we’re looking at it from the wrong angle. Maybe this depiction of the ideal woman is actually how God sees us, through the lens of Christ.

 

For example, the woman in Proverbs 31 came from a well-to-do family and ran in high society circles (Proverbs 31:21-23). Not many of us would consider ourselves upper class, but when it comes to our status through Christ, we are royalty! (1 Peter 2:9)

 

In God’s eyes, we are worth far more than jewels (Proverbs 31:10). He sees the work we do – often behind the scenes and seldom acknowledged – at home, at work, in the church, and in our communities. It may seem like no one notices or appreciates our efforts, but God does!

 

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t measure up to the heroes of the Bible or people like the Proverbs 31 woman (or her husband, for that matter, whose accolades are touted among the city leaders), then I encourage you to spend some time reading about folks like David, Moses, Rahab, Martha, or Peter. They were all flawed people who allowed God to use them, anyway. They made mistakes in life (some were real doozies), but those issues didn’t define who they became; God did.

Things God Hates (Prayer Devotional for the week of April 26, 2015)

Complete this sentence: God [blank] divorce. Did you fill in the blank with “hates”? If so, I’m not surprised, because yet another verse in the long list of Bible passages that I’ve heard taken out of context is Malachi 2:16. Granted, some English versions do read, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord …” or, “The Lord God of Israel says, ‘I hate divorce …’” However, several other English translations interpret the verse this way: “‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord …”   Even the historically beloved King James Version says that God hates “putting away” and advises the reader to “deal not treacherously.” English is complicated, and whichever way the verse begins in the translation you prefer to read, it ends with the same sentiment: be faithful. The context of the verse is about unity within marriage, and the context of the whole chapter is a warning to the priests of Judah for a whole litany of reasons, not just marriage.   It’s very easy to make the leap from “God hates [fill in the blank]” to “God hates ME because I fit that profile.” Don’t buy into that, dear friend. If you get nothing else out of this message, understand this: God loves you with the deepest, most passionate, most enduring love that your brain can imagine. In fact, he loves you even more than you can fathom!!   So, what does God hate? Proverbs 6:16-19 itemizes several issues: “Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family” (MSG).   Our character and the attitude of our hearts is what concerns God. Is your life characterized by the types of problems listed above – arrogance, lies, wickedness, deceit, etc. – or does your life reflect a heart that strives to honor the Lord? Whether you are single, married, widowed, or divorced is not the point. How are you being faithful to God in whatever situation you are in?

Why Memorize Scripture? (Prayer Devotional for the week of April 12, 2015)

My phone died recently, and although I’m grateful that it was covered under warranty, having to replace it without warning meant that I lost some apps and contacts that were apparently saved only on the device. One of those apps was a notepad that I use frequently in the car to voice-text memos to myself, like a list of devotional ideas that popped into my head while driving to work in the mornings, assorted thoughts that I wanted to write about one of these days. Gone. Ugh.

 

Losing those notes reminded me of how important it is to commit certain things to memory, like Scripture. Sometimes people say that memorizing Bible verses is too difficult or takes too much time and effort. If that’s your viewpoint, then I challenge you to think about all of the trivial facts that you have stored in your brain right now: My 6th grade crush, Danny Wingert’s birthday? Check. The entire script of The Princess Bride? Check. The combination to my high school locker? Check. My great-aunt’s buttermilk pie recipe? Check. Multiple passwords for email addresses, my bank, Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other things? Check.

 

We are capable of memorizing Scripture. Perhaps we simply lack the motivation. If that’s the case, let’s allow the Bible to speak for itself about why we should make the effort to memorize verses. Psalm 119:9-11 reminds us that committing God’s word to memory helps to keep us from sinning. Joshua 1:8 indicates that when we meditate on Scripture, we are better able to do what God wants us to do. Jeremiah 15:16 talks about the joy of savoring God’s word like a scrumptious meal. Proverbs 6:21-23 describes God’s word as a light to lead us down the right path.

 

God speaks to us through his word. When you are having a bad day, you could pick up the phone and text or call a friend, but imagine how much more comforting it could be if you had a verse like Psalm 46:10 floating through your mind all the while, “Be still and know that I am God …” Better yet, how neat would it be if the tables were turned and you were the one to be able to offer comfort to a friend because of the Scripture that you had memorized?

 

Don’t think of it as a chore. Think of it as one more way to get to know God better. Memorizing the Bible can become a form of worship between you and the Lord, and it will enrich your prayer life. Try it!