Hitting Rock Bottom (Prayer Devotional for the week of October 11, 2015)

I was talking with a friend recently who confided in me some struggles that she’s had with her adult son. She mentioned that he had hit rock bottom – again – and had started going to church “to find God.” I heard in her voice a mama’s heart that was aching for her wayward son, and her words stuck with me.

 

Have you ever been working on a repair project and dropped a tiny screw onto the carpet or in the grass? They can be pert near impossible to locate. Worse yet, if you wear contacts, then you have probably experienced the frustration of crawling around on your hands and knees, half-blind, trying to find the thin, shimmery sliver on the floor. I wore contacts for 20+ years, so I’ve been in that lowly position more times than I care to recollect … kind of like my friend’s son.

 

Three of the gospel accounts (Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5) record the scene when Jesus called Matthew (also named Levi) to be his disciple, and Matthew held a banquet in his home in Jesus’ honor. Some religious leaders were in attendance, and they were offended that low-lives like tax collectors were invited to dine with them. Jesus’ response is the same in all three recordings: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (NLT). Matthew, however, included an additional comment that Jesus made, and it is recorded in v. 13: “Then he added, ‘Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’’”

 

I think it’s beautiful that the disciple who happened to be the center of the story was also the one who recorded a statement about mercy and what Jesus expects of us as his followers. Matthew had not hit rock bottom in a material sense; in fact, he probably made a very good living as a tax collector and had a comfortable life. However, Luke’s account says that Matthew left everything behind when he got up from his tax collector booth and followed Jesus. Once he found what he was looking for, he didn’t turn back.

 

Whether you’ve hit rock bottom in a physical/emotional sense or whether you have finally put on your spiritual contact lenses and seen Jesus for who he truly is, I encourage you to be like Matthew and not look back. Leave your past, your sin, your old life behind and follow Jesus.

 

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?