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!

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.

Lessons in Discipline (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 7, 2014)

So, I had this devotional idea to write about discipline, after I came across a few verses in Proverbs 19 that I’ll share below. I was thinking about telling the story of how my brother once kicked a hole in my bedroom door because sweet, lil’ innocent me made him mad for some reason or another that I’m sure was his fault, to begin with. 😉

I pondered this idea for a few days, and then – I kid you not – one of my boys lost his temper and put a boot-toe-sized hole in a brother’s bedroom door. I would prefer to only share the stories about how darling my children are, and how much they love each other. Those things are true … on certain days. On other days, the proverbial organic fertilizer hits the fan.

Sometimes I wish God’s instructions would be written on the wall for me. (See Daniel 5 for the wall-writing reference.) Trying to decide on the right punishment to fit the offense is one of the hardest things for me as a parent. I don’t share stories about my kids because I think I’m an awesome parent. Believe me, I screw up all the time and question myself way more often than I feel confident. I do know, however, that learning to accept responsibility for your actions is a huge part of becoming a mature adult. Proverbs 19:18 warns parents that if we fail to hold our kids accountable to their choices, then we are contributing to ruining their lives! Ouch. Verse 19 (NLT) goes on to say, “Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.”

Let’s switch gears a sec. It’s easy for me to put myself in the discipline-giver seat, since I’m the parent in the above scenario. Yet, how many times have I been the discipline-recipient because of my own poor choices? I don’t go around kicking doors, but if there’s a genetic link to smart-aleckness, then my kids come by it honestly. My attitude can get the best of me, at times.

Deuteronomy 8:5 and Hebrews 12:4-11 remind us that the Lord disciplines us like a loving parent – not for punishment’s sake alone, but so that we’ll learn and grow from the experience. Discipline should bring about the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” in our lives (Heb. 12:11, ESV). As painful as it may be to accept, that goes for us grownups as well as kids. What might God be trying to teach you, even now?

Don’t Forget to Wave (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 14, 2014)

I walk my younger kids to the bus stop each morning, and I stand across the street a couple of houses away – far enough to give them some space but close enough that they know I’m watching in case they get any foolhardy ideas and forget how to behave. I start walking back to the house when the bus approaches their stop, and then I turn and wave as the bus drives past me.

We did this routine every morning for the first several days of school, and then one morning, one of the boys hollered to me as the bus drove up: “Mom! Don’t forget to wave!” Until that moment, I didn’t know if they even noticed that I had been waving to them. It was just something I did without really thinking about it, but it turned out to be something special.

It makes me wonder what else I do in my day-to-day life that seems mundane, “meh,” or just not noteworthy, but the people around me DO notice. The student worker at the front desk to my office notices whether or not I walk in with a smile on my face. The cafeteria worker notices when I say thank you for serving my plate. The person walking behind me notices when I hold the door open to let them into the building.

In Proverbs 18, the author spends the first nine verses talking about selfish people, the fools, the wicked, the guilty, etc. and then verse 10 takes a sharp turn and reminds us: “The Lord’s name is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and find refuge” (CEB). We have a chance everyday to be different from the foolhardy world around us. We can embody that safe place where people find hope.

I don’t want them to notice just some random polite lady, but I want them to notice Christ. I want them to notice that in the moment that our lives intersected, they mattered to me. We have such little time to make an impact in someone’s life. I don’t mean that to sound like a downer, but it’s true. Those people we pass on the sidewalk, the ones we see at work, or in class, or in church – we may not have another opportunity to be Jesus to them. The same is true in our families: One day, I won’t have any kids who still need to be walked to the bus stop. One day, they may not even want me to wave because it’s embarrassing in front of their friends.

I feel heavy-hearted with the weight of today. What have I done that mattered for eternity today? Because we aren’t promised tomorrow.