Prayer prompts for the week of Feb. 28

(Sunday) The Refiner’s fire (Malachi 3) is not particularly fun. Change, especially spiritual growth, can be difficult. Stick it out. It’s worth it.

 

(Monday) Need motivation to stay the course? Imagine that moment when God looks directly at you and says, “Well done!” Your service isn’t overlooked.

 

(Tuesday) We are saved by grace alone (Eph. 2:8), but how we live our lives is a reflection of our faith. Let’s not be “wicked & lazy” (Mat. 25:26).

 

(Wednesday) Unlike the Old Testament with its burnt sacrifices, our new covenant through Jesus compels us to live holy, sacrificial lives (Rom. 12:1).

 

(Thursday) Throughout Exodus and elsewhere, the Lord demonstrated his power through fire. Spend a few moments expressing your awe through praise.

 

(Friday) Psalm 44:5, Jeremiah 10:6, Acts 4:10 – the very name of Jesus is powerful! Call on him in your time of need and trust him in faith.

 

(Saturday) Why is change so difficult? The enemy isn’t going to let you go without a fight. Allow God to help release you from sin’s stranglehold.

Gifts are for Using (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 8, 2015)

My little brother and I fell in love with a pair of soft & cuddly plush puppets at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo one year when we were young. They were puppies, and if you held them in the crook of your arm, it looked realistic (in our imaginations, that is!). I liked the brown one, and he wanted the black one. Our parents surprised us with the pups as a gift, and we played make-believe games with those puppets for years. I still have mine to this day.

 

Think about some of the favorite gifts you have received in your life. The gifts that come to my mind are things that I wore, used, consumed, or played with. I can’t think of any gift that I ever left in its wrapping paper, unopened. The simple act of accepting a gift involves action.

 

The Bible says that God has equipped each of us, as believers in Christ, with spiritual gifts (see Ephesians 4:7, Romans 12:6a, 1 Peter 4:10). These aren’t just things to keep tucked away for a rainy day; we should be putting them into practice. 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT) says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Some gifts are to be used within the church, while others are for sharing with unbelievers, as well. None of the gifts are just for our own enjoyment, and none are intended to be hidden away.

 

Later in that same chapter, Paul uses the human body as an example of how our gifts are supposed to work in tandem with each other. It wouldn’t do much good if all of us were eyeballs, would it? We often talk in church-ese about being “the hands and feet of Jesus,” but if no one serves in a behind-the-scenes role as the brain or heart, then the hands and feet can’t get very far.

 

If you have never taken a spiritual gifts inventory, then it’s a useful (and perhaps revealing!) exercise. Confession: I used to feel put out that I always score high in Administration, because that sounded awfully dull. But then, God opened doors of opportunity for me to lead and serve in different capacities that were a good fit for me, and I was able to use my gifts in ways I hadn’t realized before. I encourage you to be open to however the Lord has equipped you, and give back to him by way of service to your church family and community.

For Our Good (Prayer Devotional for the week of October 25, 2015)

If I see another online post featuring a pretty text box with a serene image in the background and a paraphrase of Romans 8:28 printed on top, then I’m issuing a warning right now that I might very well scream. “God works all things together for our good,” says the sign. That sounds sweet, but what does it really mean? You need to read the whole chapter to put it in context.

 

Two verses earlier, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us when we are weak; in fact, when we don’t know what to pray in our distress, he even pleads on our behalf (v. 26). A few verses before that, we learn that our sufferings pale in comparison to God’s glory that we’ll experience in eternity (v. 18-21). Later in the chapter, we read about how God is on our side through every spiritual trial (v. 31-34) and that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love – no troubles, danger, or even death threats (v. 35-39).

 

So, with all that talk of trials and suffering, does verse 28 really mean that life is supposed to be sunshine and roses, because God works everything out for our good? I think we have a general misunderstanding of what “good” means. We’d like it to mean that things work out the way we want, so that we’ll get what we want, when we want, how we want. On the contrary, I don’t believe that’s what it means.

 

Look at verse 29: God has called us, and he wants us to become like his Son, Jesus. That’s for our ultimate good. When we experience trials and come out on the other side stronger in our faith, then we’re becoming more like Jesus. When we encounter setbacks or face opposition, but we don’t compromise our faith, then we’re taking more steps toward having a character like Jesus.

 

Living a life that mirrors Christ is for our good; that doesn’t mean we are exempt from suffering! What it does mean is that God can use every circumstance (even the gut-wrenching ones that keep us awake at night) to his glory and to help us become closer to his character. Sometimes those situations aren’t even reconciled in our lifetimes; it’s a hard pill to swallow, but you may not ever have all the answers about why things happen in your life the way they do. In eternity, it’ll all make sense, but in the here & now, it often doesn’t make sense at all. The challenge is how we handle those issues. Do we behave like the world – blaming God and cursing our lot in life? Or, do we stand firm in our faith, despite the inexplicable circumstances?

To Know God (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 20, 2015)

Is knowledge enough to get us through life? I would argue that it is not. Let’s use an example that is near & dear to me, since my eldest just got his license: driving a car. You can study the handbook provided by the DMV office; you can memorize every motor vehicle regulation in your state; you can even get practice on a simulation machine. But, any of you who already have your driver’s license know that none of those things compare to actually getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and driving yourself.

 

Why, then, would we expect our spiritual lives to be any different? Simply attending church now & then or saying, “Bless you” when someone sneezes is not the same as having a genuine relationship with Christ. On occasions when I’ve had the chance to share my faith, I can remember several times when someone would respond, “Yeah, I believe in God.” Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe that much, and they tremble in fear at the name of the Lord. In fact, Luke 4:41 goes so far as to say that the demons even understand that Jesus is the Christ! They know everything they need to know about the Lord, so what’s the problem?

 

Just believing in God and even believing that Jesus is the Messiah is not enough. That knowledge has to make a journey from your brain to your heart. Romans 1:21 is a good example – it says that although the people knew God, they neither gave him honor nor thanks. In other words, the knowledge was all in their heads, and not in their hearts. The Common English Bible translation puts it this way: “their foolish hearts were darkened.”

 

God wants us to know him, and not just know about him. You know the difference … think about your spouse and/or your very best friend. That person really knows you; in fact, he or she probably knows what you are thinking before you even say a word. They don’t just know facts about you, but they know your heart. God has written us a very lengthy love letter, and he wants us to know his heart.