Prayer prompts for the week of March 7, 2016

(Monday) In John 6:61 (NLT), Jesus replied to critics, saying, “Does this offend you?” Don’t take it personally when your witness is rejected.

 

(Tuesday) 1 Corinthians 1:18 reminds us that although it is the avenue of salvation, the message of the cross is foolishness to unbelievers.

 

(Wednesday) When we rely solely on human wisdom, spiritual truths are impossible to comprehend. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

 

(Thursday) Isaiah 64:4 & 1 Corinthians 2:9 remind us that our human senses cannot fathom God’s plans for our lives. His love is unimaginably great!

 

(Friday) Those who despise wisdom & discipline are fools, says Proverbs 1:7. Instead, choose to pursue the knowledge of the Lord.

 

(Saturday) Which is better: wisdom or wealth? (Proverbs 8:10)

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Bread of Life (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 6, 2016)

I had a friend in high school who was extraordinarily smart; she earned top grades and went on to receive a full scholarship at a great university. I tried sharing my faith with her once, and I still remember the argument that she used to shoot down my attempt at witnessing. She said that Christians are no better than cannibals, because through communion, we symbolically eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood.

 

I didn’t know how to respond to her rebuttal, and that conversation flop has been on my heart for all these years. I knew deep down that Jesus wasn’t condoning cannibalism, but I didn’t have the words to explain it to her. Well, I recently heard a fresh perspective about communion that helped me better understand how to interpret this important symbolism.

 

It’s important to note that my friend’s question was not unique; some of the people listening to Jesus’ teaching had the same confusion! John 6:47-58 tells the story about Jesus describing himself as the bread of life, and that those who eat of that bread will live forever. In verse 52, John records the arguments that arose among the Jews in attendance about eating a man’s flesh. What kind of weirdo rabbi was this Jesus person, talking about eating his body and drinking his blood?!?

 

Let’s start with this question: What is the purpose of eating food? Food is fuel for our bodies, and when we eat, our digestive system consumes the nutrients we need. Consider this: when we “consume” Jesus through faith – his teachings, his miracles, his prophetic fulfillment – we ingest that truth, and it becomes part of us. Our faith then fuels us, spiritually.

 

Jesus used the illustration of Old Testament sacrifice to explain the new covenant that he was establishing through his own sacrifice on the cross. Of course he wasn’t advocating cannibalism; he was using himself as a symbol of faith for us to recognize our need. We need the nutrition from food, just as we need spiritual nutrition. We need our sins to be cleansed, like the Old Testament story of the Passover lamb.

 

Bible scholars much more knowledgeable than me will surely have more to say on the matter, but what it boils down to for me is this: Eat the bread of life! Consume God’s word, and in turn, let the Holy Spirit nourish your spiritual life as you grow in faith.

Spot the Sinner (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 6, 2015)

My vocabulary has expanded since we moved to Utah, including yummy terms like “fry sauce,” which is a delicious blend of ketchup & mayo and found in every restaurant. My new word bank also includes less kind terms like “plyg,” which is slang for polygamist. It’s a subculture that is publicly looked down upon but seldom talked about until something horrible makes the news.

 

Plygs aren’t hard to spot. I suppose there are some who are permitted to dress like you may have seen on so-called reality TV, but the women I’ve seen dress like actresses in an Old West movie, complete with the ankle-length pioneer dress and a poufy bun or long, braided hair. The women always shop together; I have never seen a man with them. The boys tend to wear normal clothes, but the girls look like mini-me duplicates of the women.

 

Remember last year when a local Waco lawyer wore an orange prison jumpsuit during Lent, to draw attention to the struggles that former inmates face in finding jobs, etc.? That guy popped into my mind the other day when I was at the store and spotted another pioneer-looking woman. My heart broke for her, and I was torn because I felt helpless to reach out to her. What I wanted to do was hug her and tell her that she’s not alone; the One True God loves her so very much; and there are people who could help her. That seemed like a rash and totally inappropriate thing to do in a store that might get me arrested, so instead I just prayed for her.

 

As I moped around the store wondering what has become of our society, I couldn’t shake the images of the lawyer in his jumpsuit and the women I’d seen time and time again around town. Then, I began to think: Wow, what if my life was on such public display? What if everyone could read my sins as easily as they could check out my outfit? I’m not a fashionista on a good day, but how distasteful would *that* sin or *that* sin appear?

 

Like it or not, we all have a reckoning coming our way. Ecclesiastes 11:9 and Matthew 12:36, for starters, tell us that we will give an account to God for every slip of the tongue and every action we took during our lifetimes. Don’t fall for the lie that if you can keep it under wraps, then no one knows your sin. Some of us might be able to cover up many of our sins and lifestyle choices and perhaps even fool those around us, but one day sooner or later, they will be exposed before a holy and righteous God. Thanks be to Jesus who sees all of our faults yet still loves us so much that he came to earth on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). Let that wonderful truth soak into your heart this Christmas season.

Jesus Loves Me, This I [Still] Know (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 22, 2015)

Sing along with me: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so …” It’s unfortunate how we sometimes lose sight of the simple truths of God’s word as we become adults. Kids take things at face value, as you can see from the song. The Bible says that Jesus loves us, so he does. It’s as simple as that. Right?

Well then, what happens as we get older to make us question God’s love for us? How do we go from knowing that we know that we know Jesus loves us to doubting our worth in his sight?

The next verse goes: “… little ones to him belong; they are weak but he is strong …” Kids know they are weak, but it doesn’t keep them from dreaming of becoming super-strong when they grow up. One of my nephew-sons is anxious for the day when he can start working out on weights with the big kids so that he can build 17” biceps like his Daddy had. There is absolutely no doubt in his mind that he will grow up to become strong and buff!

Perhaps the problem arises when we grow up and realize that we’re still weak – perhaps not physically anymore, but spiritually, emotionally, relationally, etc. We’re taught from an early age to be strong and independent, so the idea of relying on someone else and entrusting our lives to someone else (even though that someone is God Almighty) requires being weak and letting him be strong for us. That’s a counterintuitive concept in a lot of ways.

The nursery rhyme wraps up with this declaration: “… yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Oh, yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.” The same God who you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt loved you at age 5 still loves you at 25, 45, 65, 85, and into eternity. As Paul recorded in Romans 8:38-39, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Are you convinced of that truth, like Paul was? Don’t ever doubt God’s unconditional love for you. The Bible not only tells us how much Jesus loves us, but he demonstrated it himself on the cross.