Prayer prompt for Thursday, March 26

Have you ever been in a relationship that felt like it hinged on your performance? Praise God that he loves us unconditionally!

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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.

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.

Lord and Savior (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 28, 2014)

Two of my kids are rehearsing for a Shakespeare play this fall, and understanding the dialogue can be as tricky as reading the King James Version of the Bible. Oftentimes when a subordinate is addressing his superior in Old English, he uses the phrase, “My lord …” I started thinking about how many lords (with a lowercase L) we can have in our lives.

Other people can be our lord, when we defer to their influence. Money can certainly become our lord, if we let it. Likewise, ambition and greed can be lord of our lives. We can be lord over others when we wield authority in a way that makes people feel subservient to us.

But what of Jesus? He doesn’t want to be the lowercase-lord of our lives; he wants us to acknowledge him as Lord with a capital L. Jesus is the only one worthy of being called Lord, as his disciple cried out in John 21:7 and Peter reiterated in Acts 10:36. When we confess Jesus as Lord, we are offering him authority over our lives – not because he demands it of us like a feudal lord over his fiefdom, but because we willingly give up control out of loving submission to him.

Jesus also came to be our Savior – again, with a capital S. We can think of countless saviors (with a lowercase S) in our lives. When I was just a toddler, my mom was my savior when she dislodged a Maple Nut Goodie from the back of my throat as I was choking. I could have died, and she saved me. A parent’s love is sacrificial: she would lay down her life for her kids. A parent’s love is authoritative: there was a time when she could dictate my comings and goings. A parent’s love endures: her love for me is unconditional.

A parent’s love is safe: she would do everything in her power to protect me. And yet, even she can’t save me from myself. As deep and abiding as my mom’s love is toward me, she cannot be my Savior. Only Jesus can be my capital-S Savior because of his perfect sacrifice.

Who do you say Jesus is? Have you accepted him as Lord and Savior of your life?