Breaking the Lineage of Pride (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 21, 2014)

I conscientiously avoid activities that make me feel inferior, dumb, or inept – like crossword puzzles, swimsuit shopping, and contact sports. Instead, I tend to stick with things that make me feel comfortable with myself and my abilities. The problem is that when we get too comfortable, pride can creep in.

 

The book of Obadiah is only a chapter long, merely 21 verses. It is tucked between Amos and Jonah in the Old Testament. Scholars believe the text was written around 845 B.C. or 586 B.C., but the groups mentioned in the book (Edom and Judah) fought a lot in those days, so it’s difficult to determine an exact date. At any rate, Obadiah was a prophet with a somber message for the people of Edom, and the root of their problems could be traced back to pride. In fact, that lineage of pride could be traced all the way back to the founding father of the Edomites, Esau. You might remember Esau from stories in Genesis 25 and following; he’s the one who haphazardly traded his birthright to his slightly younger twin brother, Jacob, for a bowl of stew & bread (v. 34). Apparently, his descendants inherited his cocky attitude.

 

The Edomites had gotten pretty cozy with their hill country vista, which was also advantageously located along the main caravan route from Egypt to Babylon. They had begun to feel pompous and invincible, so Obadiah warned them about the message he received from the Lord (v. 3-4):

“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord.

Obadiah’s prophecy went on to say that the house of Esau would be ransacked, and their snazzy cliff dwellings would be reduced to rubble. Something tells me their property values were about to take a nosedive.

 

We can avoid putting ourselves into the Edomites’ perilous situation in a couple of ways: first, we need to remember Colossians 3:23 and focus our talents on serving the Lord, rather than bringing undue attention to ourselves. Second, we could step out of our comfort zones every now & then and get involved in service and ministry that may not be tops on our to-do list. After all, it’s not about us. Pride may make us feel powerful in the short run, but as Proverbs 16:18 and Psalm 149:4 remind us, humility is the victor over pride.

Don’t Forget to Wave (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 14, 2014)

I walk my younger kids to the bus stop each morning, and I stand across the street a couple of houses away – far enough to give them some space but close enough that they know I’m watching in case they get any foolhardy ideas and forget how to behave. I start walking back to the house when the bus approaches their stop, and then I turn and wave as the bus drives past me.

We did this routine every morning for the first several days of school, and then one morning, one of the boys hollered to me as the bus drove up: “Mom! Don’t forget to wave!” Until that moment, I didn’t know if they even noticed that I had been waving to them. It was just something I did without really thinking about it, but it turned out to be something special.

It makes me wonder what else I do in my day-to-day life that seems mundane, “meh,” or just not noteworthy, but the people around me DO notice. The student worker at the front desk to my office notices whether or not I walk in with a smile on my face. The cafeteria worker notices when I say thank you for serving my plate. The person walking behind me notices when I hold the door open to let them into the building.

In Proverbs 18, the author spends the first nine verses talking about selfish people, the fools, the wicked, the guilty, etc. and then verse 10 takes a sharp turn and reminds us: “The Lord’s name is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and find refuge” (CEB). We have a chance everyday to be different from the foolhardy world around us. We can embody that safe place where people find hope.

I don’t want them to notice just some random polite lady, but I want them to notice Christ. I want them to notice that in the moment that our lives intersected, they mattered to me. We have such little time to make an impact in someone’s life. I don’t mean that to sound like a downer, but it’s true. Those people we pass on the sidewalk, the ones we see at work, or in class, or in church – we may not have another opportunity to be Jesus to them. The same is true in our families: One day, I won’t have any kids who still need to be walked to the bus stop. One day, they may not even want me to wave because it’s embarrassing in front of their friends.

I feel heavy-hearted with the weight of today. What have I done that mattered for eternity today? Because we aren’t promised tomorrow.