Victory is the Lord’s (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 23, 2015)

We sang a song at church recently with the line, “Every victory is Yours.” It was a proclamation of praise to God for reigning victorious over the enemy, which usually brings imagery to my mind of how the Lord conquered death through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Verses like 1 Corinthians 15:57 remind us of his victory over sin and death.

 

This particular day, however, I was distracted by some frustrations that I was having with the kids. A couple of them had gotten into trouble in Sunday School for arguing with each other, which had turned into a shoving match, and then one of them made a mess and didn’t bother to clean it up. I was embarrassed, quite frankly. I just wanted one weekend where we could go to church and I didn’t have to worry about how anyone behaved. I feel like every time one of the kids causes trouble, it’s a reflection on me as a parent. Sometimes I just want to melt into the background and not have negative attention drawn to me.

 

As I sang that song, this prayer-thought occurred to me: “If every victory is Yours, then why do I feel like every setback is my personal failure?”

 

Proverbs 21:31 says that we can prepare ourselves for war, but the verse quickly points to the Lord as the source of battlefield victories. In this situation, I think it means that I should certainly train and discipline my children to be respectful and behave well (prepare them for battle against worldly influences), but when they make poor choices, I shouldn’t automatically take it personally. (That’s a lot easier said than done; is it not?!?)

 

I referenced a verse above from 1 Corinthians 15; the following verse (58) goes on to say, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (NLT). We face battles every day, and we won’t win all of them. The enemy wants to tear you down, humiliate you and incapacitate you, but don’t quit the fight. Stand firm in the knowledge that we serve a mighty, awesome God, and he is the ultimate victor!

Impending Death … and Hope (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 15, 2015)

I received some devastating news this week about an old mentor and kind friend. As things stand now, it looks like she has advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. I am terribly sad, and yet I feel a strong sense of peace for her. She loves the Lord, she adores her family, and she cares about her fellow man. She is passionate about justice, and not just the kind that penalizes criminals for wrongdoings, but the kind that rights the wrongs in the world. She is an advocate, a brilliant thinker, and a confidante.

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless Jesus returns to take us home before then, there is a 100% chance that you will die. How does that make you feel? Does the notion of dying fill you with dread or joy? Like it or not, as James 4:14 and Psalm 103:15-16 point out, our lives are like a mist puffed into the air or a dandelion blowing in the wind – only temporary.

 

While imprisoned for the gospel, Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He had a very matter-of-fact view about death: if he lived, then he had more opportunity to serve the Lord. If he died, then he got to be with Jesus. Win-win!

 

For a long while after my brother died, I had peculiar feelings that could only be described as jealousy. I hesitated to share it, because I didn’t want anyone mistakenly thinking that I was suicidal. It’s just that the more I thought about him being in the very presence of God in heaven, it felt like I got the short end of the stick. I/we were left behind to grieve and cope, to continue living in this broken world of sin and despair and problems, while he was free from such entanglements. How I long to be with Christ!

 

Easter is just around the corner, and it is my absolute favorite holiday. Sure, I love the festivities of Christmas, and I enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving, but wow – Easter! Easter is a reminder that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20). Easter is about the resurrection, newness, eternal life, victory, and HOPE.

 

It is with this everlasting hope in my heart that I can say to my sweet friend: Go in peace. Go to Jesus, relish in his presence, and enjoy the reward for your labors. I will always cherish having the opportunity to know you and call you my friend.