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.

 

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.

Love Never Fails (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 18, 2015)

If you’ve ever attended a wedding, then you know of the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. Starting in verse 4, Paul describes various characteristics of love: “Love is patient, love is kind …” He concludes the list in verse 8 with one of the most frequently misused Scriptures I’ve ever heard: “Love never fails.”

 

This passage is popular at weddings, obviously, because no one enters matrimony with the intention of ending it (except Prince Humperdinck, but he’s a conniving fictional character). Yet, if “love never fails,” then how do we explain divorce? I don’t think many divorcees would honestly say that they never loved their ex-spouse. Somewhere along the line, though, that love failed, so does that mean Scripture is wrong?

 

The problem is not with Scripture. We’re trying to read a vague English word (“love”) that we assume here to mean the kind of lovey-dovey love between a husband and wife, but the Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 13:8 is actually “agape,” which refers to God’s love. That’s the kind of love that never fails! We humans fail all too often, but God’s love never, ever fails. Furthermore, if you look at that passage in context with the rest of the chapter, Paul isn’t even talking about marriage; he’s discussing spiritual gifts and how we should use our gifts in the spirit of God’s love, not for our own glory.

 

Please don’t interpret what I’ve just said to mean that I think marriage is trivial; it is ideal for a couple to stay in love for the rest of their lives. It’s just that if we don’t grasp the meaning of Paul’s words, then it’s very easy to make the leap from “love never fails” to “you are a failure because your love failed.” I don’t know about you, but as someone who has experienced such failure, it’s a huge relief to know that God’s love for me never diminishes, and my worth in his eyes goes light years beyond my failures.

 

As a sinful human being, I am adept at failing (there are multiple examples daily), but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. I’m a redeemed child of God! In case that doesn’t convince you, I encourage you to do a keyword search in the Bible using “God” and “love” – you’ll find 100+ references! No matter what your failures in life have been, God loves you always & forever.