January 31, 2019
THE BEAUTY OF GENEROSITY
“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
I am a beauty lover. Beauty in almost any form moves me, but especially in nature. Some of my favorite moments with beauty include:
Standing under a sunset sky, painted with brilliant colors that turned the light around me pink;
Looking across a field yellow with sunflowers, a thousand faces turned toward the sun;
Riding a train through the majestic Alps, gazing up at the mountains and down on the green valleys and tiny villages below.
Moments like these fill me with awe and compel me to worship the God who created the beauty around us—a God who is generous beyond measure.
Generosity is part of God’s nature. As He spoke creation into being, He filled the earth with good things: light and sky, land and sea, plants and trees, living creatures of all kinds. And finally, man and woman. You and me.
Having created all of this, He also sustains it:
“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)
He meets our physical needs through His provision. And He meets our spiritual needs, too.
In language rich with imagery, He invites us to come to Him, to take a seat at His table spread with a bounty we can scarcely imagine. Golden platters piled high with love, deep bowls rich with grace, vast tureens of forgiveness, and baskets spilling over with mercy.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,”
In Psalms it says:
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)
When we partake—when we hear His Word or the Good News or a friend’s testimony—we get a taste of what’s possible. We get a glimpse of what He is offering: the fulfillment of our deepest spiritual needs through the death and resurrection of Jesus, His perfect Son.
God’s generosity, it seems, knows no bounds.
My gratitude to Him makes me want to show my love for Him by sharing what He’s given me. When I do so, perhaps by making a financial gift to feed the hungry, a deep sense of joy and delight wells up in me. I get to be part of what He’s doing. I get to help others taste and see that the Lord is good.
God’s generosity stretches further than the painted sunset-sky above, shines brighter than an endless sunflower field, soars higher than the Alps. Everywhere, we see evidence of our generous God. Everywhere, we see the beauty of His generosity.
“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.” (Joel 2:23)
Where have you seen God’s generous nature in your life? Where might He be calling you to follow His example? Spend some time in prayer and ask for wisdom in following through on what He reveals to you.
January 29-30, 2019
WHEN THE TRIAL SEEMS LIKE TOO MUCH
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
When I was 46, I snow skied for the first time. Well . . .it was sort of skiing. It was some sliding, some falling, and quite a bit of praying that I wouldn’t get injured. One of my wipe outs, according to my husband, Clark, resembled a ballet-like move followed by an “epic wipe out.”
If you are familiar with snow skiing, you know that the runs are color coded for difficulty. The greens are the easiest, the blues are intermediate, and the blacks are for experts. I have been skiing blues for a while, and have made it days without falling. Thank God for progress!
Last week, while skiing with Clark he said, “Follow me. I want to show you a new part of the mountain.”
“Great!” I responded. I assumed we would check out some new blue runs. After hopping on a very fast lift, we skied along a narrow road which led us to a steep run—more difficult than anything I have ever attempted. My husband said, “We are going to ski down right here.”
“Okaaaaay,” I responded, noticing the difficulty of the run. It was steep. It was narrow. And there were a million snowboarders bombing down the hill. But I went for it.
I gingerly started. Right. Dig in. Left. Dig in. Right. Dig in. My husband stood on the side of the run, cheering me on. “You can do it!” “Great job!” “Look at you!”
After I successfully made it down, I asked him, “Was that a black run?”
“Yep,” he smiled.
“Did you know you were going to take me on it?”
“Yes,” he said. “Because I knew you could do it.”
This reminds me of how the Lord often works in our lives. He brings about—or allows—an experience that would frighten us if we knew what was coming. He doesn’t tell us what’s ahead, but he does remain faithfully by us, speaking words of hope into our situation. “I am with you. You can get through this.”
We often say that the Lord won’t bring anything into our lives that we can’t handle, but then when faced with the difficulty, we shrink back. We may feel we can’t go on. But what if we actually chose to believe that--in spite of how we feel-- the Lord never allows anything into our lives that we can’t handle? As it was with Job, every trial we experience is filtered through His loving hands. His promise is that we will never be destroyed.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
Have you been telling the Lord that you can’t get through? Lean on Him. Believe on His love and let His presence sustain you. Call out to Him. He is there, ready to give you hope.
January 28, 2019
“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42
American culture is plagued by hyperactivity without productivity. We think being busy equals importance or a frantic pace is a path to success. Like a pack mule loaded down with an overabundance of supplies, we pack our calendar to the breaking point. We play mind games with ourselves that busyness is what’s best for our family, when in fact the real outcomes are: relational emptiness, health challenges and irritable emotions. We even justify being over active for Jesus.
Perhaps a wiser start to the year is a stop doing list. As Jesus instructed Martha, we need to take an inventory of our activities and ask what is really needed. What has served its purpose for a season, but is now unnecessary, even an obstacle to what’s best? Let go of emotional attachments and embrace some margin for meaningful relationships. Is it time to stop a sports program, a long commute or a tired volunteer role? Become better with contemplation and strategic availability.
“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.” (Matthew 8:18)
It takes courage to take the route trafficked infrequently, but the ride is less stressful and more enjoyable. Avoid going where everyone else is going; nowhere fast. A fast track is too fast when it starves our faith. We find ourselves with very little left over time for prayer, Bible study, worship and community. Give what’s important first priority on the calendar. Worry works itself out of a job when we work out our bodies, feed our minds, heal our emotions and rest our souls.
By faith stop doing something each week or month that has passed its prime time. Be patient not to rush and fill a gap in your calendar already crowded with appointments. Blocks of discretionary time give you availability for spontaneous service. Take a step back from the myopic view of trees bunched together, so you can see the imaginative forest of faith. Anyone can be busy, some can be productive, but few walk by faith and watch God do more. Stop doing good to do better.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
What are one or two activities you can stop doing this year to focus on quality relationships?
January 26-27, 2019
WALK WITH GOD
“…Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”
Noah’s relationship with God was priority. He knew God was responsible for his life, liberty, and happiness. Simply put, Noah walked with God. He was not distracted by the chaos of the culture or soiled by society. So, what does it mean to walk with God? Walking is a beautiful word picture because it takes one of life’s most basic acts and coverts it into a supernatural relationship.
Walking implicates a relationship that is not hurried, it easily communicates, and it is invigorating. When we walk with God we are not rushed. We trust Him and are patient. Yes, there are seasons of life and cycles of time when we must be very deliberate and focused. A medical emergency causes us to rush for help, but overall, as we walk with God, we take life in stride:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
We believe that any circumstance in life has to pass through God’s protection, as He holds us in His hand:
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28–30)
So we stay close by Him as we walk, not rushing ahead in presumption, nor lagging behind in discouragement. Walking also implies communication. It is hard to communicate when you run. There are too many distractions.
However, a walk is disarming; eye contact is limited within a safe environment. A walk with the Lord can cover trivial pursuits, heartbreaking hurt, or the dreaming of God-sized dreams. Perhaps in your regular physical exercise, you can also stretch your spiritual muscles in conversation with your Master Trainer Jesus.
Lastly, a walk with God is invigorating. You are energized and ready to scale mountains. Your spiritual blood is pumping, and your heart is healthier. Your energy level is high because your God consciousness is elevated. Walk with God and you will survive, even thrive, within the challenges of life.
Have a little walk with Jesus, and tell Him all about your problems. He walks with you slowly through the valleys and supportively up the mountains. Grace is His guide to greater heights. How is your grace walk with Jesus?
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
How can you walk with God, by the grace of God?
January 25, 2019
DREAM BIG DREAMS
“And the LORD answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.’”
I heard a sound bite last week of an emotional and grateful Dabo Swinney (Clemson’s head football coach) from his first press conference. "I want to tell everyone to dream big and believe, because dreams come true, and today I am very humbled that one of my dreams has come true". Growing up in adversity, Dabo learned hard work motivated by character resulted in good outcomes. Many say he has built the best culture in college football to influence and equip young men for lifetime achievement. Powerful! In just the same way, God wants me to trust Him with my big dreams.
Representing an oppressed people the prophet Habakkuk looks to the Lord for His vision of what's to come. Will they be set free from abomination and injustice? If so, when? What is God's vision for His people? Habakkuk did his part to "stand at my watch" in defense of his people. In solitude, in stillness, high above on the ramparts he prayed and looked to the Lord for a divine vision of what was to come. In silence, 'his doing' was devoured by the divine, 'his being' ready to receive the vision. The Lord instructed him to write down words delivered by the Spirit to his captivated conscience, clear and concise, as his soul soaked it up. Linger, wait on God's timing.
“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)
What big dream is in your heart? A dream of flying? The dream of a family one day? A family who loves each other, who enjoys each other’s company so much they can't wait to be together? The dream of a work culture where everyone works hard for a compelling purpose, but equally serve one another above themselves? A place of employment, where you can't wait to get to work? The dream of a life not so full of drama and pain, but one of stability and healing? Relationships, not perfect, but growing and fulfilling? A community of like-minded friends who really know one another, but still cherish and love one another? Dream big dreams, trust God for their reality.
Linger with the Lord as you wait for Him to do His work in and through you. Allow 'your doing' to be devoured by God's love, so 'your being' can be fully loved by Him. For out of your place of peace and contentment will Christ take you to the places you need to go. Confusion may seem to be in charge, but you can trust Jesus to have the last word, and to use bad to accomplish good. Write down what the Spirit is saying to your soul, yes documenting is risky, because you may fail. Better to fail by faith than not to do anything out of fear. The just live by faith. Dream big dreams with your big God and watch Him do big things. Slowly, steadily, surely watch God work!
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
What big dream do you need to keep dreaming? Or, what big dream has God given you that requires me to be humbly grateful and generous to share with others?
January 23-24, 2019
WHAT EVERY CHRISTIAN CAN DO
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
So often I find myself feeling like one with “little strength”. The weight of life and complexities of work, marriage, and parenthood are ever present. Even when everything seems to be going our way and as it should be, we are still mindful of the frailty of life and fleeting nature of our health and vitality. And yet, these ancient words from Revelation 3 remind us of two beautiful truths: the LORD is strong when we are weak, and even in our weakness we are still able to be faithful.
The heart of the Christian faith is found at the intersection of our brokenness and God’s goodness, mercy, and love. As Paul reminds us in Romans:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)
In his death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus opens a door that can never be shut. It is a door that leads to life eternal, to life as God intended it to be lived, in perfect communion with him. And though we are weak and frail, the Lord forever holds this door open to us, inviting us to enter and there find rest for our weary souls.
Though life’s journey will always be affected by the sin and brokenness in our world and own hearts, we still receive the renewing presence of God through his Holy Spirit, a power that allowed John to write centuries ago:
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8)
What was true of this early church can be true of you and I today! Though we are weak and have little strength, the Spirit of God still gives us the boldness and courage to keep his word and lift high the name of Jesus.
Faithfulness in our weakness is something each and every Christian is called to. It’s an invitation from God that each of us can respond to with a resounding “yes”! You don’t have to have wealth and resources to seek justice and love mercy. You don’t have to be strong, healthy, and mobile to lift up the world to the LORD in prayer. You don’t have to have a position of great influence at work in order to participate in the work of God’s kingdom.
Whatever situation or circumstance you find yourself in today, the LORD continues to hold the door of life open before you, and will give you the courage to follow him in holiness and truth.
What weakness have you used as an excuse to keep you from faithful, fruitful service in the Kingdom of God?
January 22, 2019
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
Hymn writer Charles B. Widmeyer penned the words, “He who fed the multitude / turned the water into wine / to the hungry calleth now / come and dine.” What marks a special occasion better than eating together? Feasting connotes celebration, thanksgiving and fellowship. Jesus illustrated spiritual teachings with food:
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” (John 6:35)
Before Christ died, He ate the Passover meal with His disciples and instituted the Lord’s Supper:
“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!’ And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.” (Luke 22:14-23)
To the woman at the well, Jesus said:
“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
God desires intimate communion with His people:
“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23)
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)
As you thank God for your food today, remember to invite Him in to fellowship with you and your family. Then pray others will come to know the friendship with God that He desires.
Presidential Prayer Team
January 21, 2019
WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?
"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
What determines our direction in life? I once heard an answer to that question in a surprising place: a motorcycle training course. Some friends and I wanted to ride, so we took a class to learn how. Part of our training dealt with something called target fixation.
“Eventually,” our instructor said, “you’re going to face an unexpected obstacle. If you stare at it—if you target fixate—you’ll steer right into it. But if you look above and past it to where you need to go, you can usually avoid it.” Then he added, “Where you’re looking is the direction you’re going to go.”
That simple-but-profound principle applies to our spiritual lives too. When we “target fixate”—focusing on our problems or struggles—we almost automatically orient our lives around them.
However, Scripture encourages us to look past our problems to the One who can help us with them. In Psalms we read:
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” (Psalm 121:1)
The psalm then answers:
“My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)
And then assures us:
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:8)
Sometimes our obstacles can seem insurmountable. But God invites us to look to Him to help us see beyond our troubles instead of letting them dominate our perspective.
January 20, 2019
“Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
Wise people invite instruction. They understand that correction and rebuke are necessary to grow in wisdom and righteous behavior. Without well-meaning instructors who are willing to get in our faces, we only aspire to average at best. However, an invitation to mettle in my affairs defines authentic accountability.
Effective correction makes us uncomfortable at times, but we become all the wiser as a result. Indeed, conflict is inherent in accountability. So, if your relationships are conflict free, you can bet you are not being held accountable in the truest sense. Wisdom comes in the form of raw relationships that reek with loving reproof and the willingness to change.
It is out of a rebuke that you wake up and understand the realities you are facing. Your spouse is not nagging, just nudging you to act responsibly. Therefore, invite instruction, and you will increase in wisdom and understanding. There are no regrets from wise recipients of reproof.
Furthermore, be willing to be the bearer of bad news. With love and grace, go to your friend who has asked for your counsel, and give him or her truth. Pray first; then deliver the unpleasant news. It is much better for others to see the error of their ways before they reach a point of no return. Talk to them, not about them.
Pray for them privately, not publicly with a pious prayer request. Love motivates a rebuke and then becomes a recipient of love. Your relationships will retreat in anger or rise to a higher level of respect through righteous rebuke. Take the time to prod another toward perfection because you care. Be respectful; instruct with patience, and one day the student may exceed the wisdom of the teacher.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)
To whom do you need to listen, learning from their correction and rebuke?
January 18-19, 2019
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
A few years ago, I moved to a window office at work and sent an email around letting everyone know I had relocated. In the email, I jokingly invited everyone to come by for a “tour” of the new space and apologized that I didn’t have any hors d’oeuvres for my guests.
Well, I didn’t have hors d’oeuvres yet.
I was in a meeting that morning and when I got back to my office, there was a box of Dunkin’ Donuts on my desk. There was a note on it that was written in all caps and said, “Happy new office!” The person didn’t sign it or leave clues about who they were. I was so grateful for that.
I didn’t feel like I owed anyone or that someone was trying to get something from me. In fact, I found myself attributing all the goodwill to everyone in the office. It was such a contrast to what I did on the beach a couple of weeks before that.
The tide was steadily coming in, and on the shore, there were two nice beach chairs that were about to be taken out by the waves. The owners were nowhere to be seen, so I moved the chairs again and again as the tide rose. When the couple who owned the chairs finally showed up, I couldn’t help myself. I went over, pointed to the crashing waves, and said, “A couple of hours ago, your chairs were out there.”
“Oh, thanks so much for pulling them in,” said the guy. “We just realized they were out here and figured they had probably gotten washed away.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, as I walked away. Then these words came to my mind: “You have your reward.”
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:2)
Beware of anyone who lets you know what they did for you, and beware of any desire in you to let others know what you’ve done for them. People who “blow trumpets” to announce their good deeds are looking for a reward and they resent those who don’t celebrate their faux generosity.
So, for example, when I went over to the couple on the beach, I was looking for affirmation. If the guy would’ve shrugged his shoulders after I announced my magnanimous deed of chair moving, it would’ve bothered me. It wasn’t enough to let the man wonder who it was — or worse — not even realize it had been done.
When someone gives anonymously, there’s total freedom. Nobody owes anybody else; nobody’s trying to manipulate; nobody has an agenda. They’re just giving for the sake of communicating an invaluable message: “You’re loved. Somebody cares about you. You’re important to someone and it has nothing to do with what you can give in return.”
When we experience the pleasure of giving anonymously, we do more than show kindness: We leave the recipient with the holy mystery of who cares for them so much. And in doing so, we increase the likelihood that they will direct their gratitude towards God, who deserves the credit anyway.
January 17, 2019
FACING ADVERSITY OVER AND OVER
1 Kings 1:29
“And the king swore, saying, ‘As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity,..’”
Did you hear about the teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on? He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn't want to go on. When the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost whimpered when the little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the wrong feet." She looked and, sure enough, they were.
It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on-this time on the right feet. He then announced, "These aren't my boots."
She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, "Why didn't you say so?" like she wanted to. Once again, she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. He then said, "They're my brother's boots. My Mom made me wear them."
She didn't know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, "Now, where are your mittens?" He said, "I stuffed them in the toes of my boots..."
As I read that, I thought about how many of our frustrations come about as the result of having to do something over and over. Let me give you an example. A number of years ago, I was having some back trouble and the doctor told me I needed surgery. I counted down the days until I could find some relief. The surgery went well (in fact, I went home less than 12 hours after surgery), but the recuperation didn't go as planned. Instead of getting relief, I found myself back under the doctor's knife six weeks later.
I remember that the greatest source of frustration wasn't the surgery itself. It was the fact that I thought I was getting better, but I had to start all over again. Just when I thought I was making progress, I encountered a setback. I was able to easily muster the emotional strength to face the first surgery, but it was much tougher the second time.
I've seen the same thing happen in a number of different areas. I suspect you have, too. Maybe you were hoping to get bills cleared up only to be hit with an unexpected dentist bill or car repair. Maybe it's harsh criticism you're dealing with, a situation at work that's making it difficult to maintain your Christian standards, or perhaps the struggles of dealing with a rebellious child. You think, "I can handle the difficulty I'm going through as long as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel". Only just when you're about at the end of the tunnel and you taken about all you can take, you realize that there's more adversity ahead and the light is barely visible. I understand; I've been there.
The Christian life is long and sometimes difficult. There are times we feel we just can't take it anymore and we want to give up, especially when we've had to face the same adversity over and over and over again. May this passage serve as a source of comfort and strength to you:
“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa. 40:29-31)
I pray that your strength will be renewed this day as you wait upon the Lord. Hang in there!
January 16, 2018
WALKING IN A WAY THAT HONORS THE LORD
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”
For every minute of every day since July 2, 1937, select military have guarded the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. But they aren’t standing still. They follow a precise pattern: 21 steps across the tomb, turn and face the tomb for 21 seconds, then turn again and walk 21 steps back across. This is repeated over and over, ever the same. The numeral 21 represents America’s highest honor.
In the same way those who perform that duty know their steps, Christians have been given precise steps to follow in a life worthy of their calling. The Bible says you are to walk a different way – following Christ – with steps of humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, compassion and love.
No matter your circumstances, good, bad or beyond your control, and no matter how blurred the path into the future, Jesus calls you to order each step.
Walking in a way that honors the Lord is a daily commitment. Pray for wisdom to know which steps to take.
Presidential Prayer Team
January 15, 2018
WHO ARE YOU IMITATING?
“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Imitation and perseverance. Two character traits that are intimately interwoven and impossible to truly separate. Think of a young child learning to speak. While aspects of language acquisition are hard wired into their DNA, if left in isolation no child could learn English (or any other language) on their own! The gift of language comes from the example of others- parents, siblings, teachers, all modeling for the young child the power and purpose of language. Yet this gift cannot be given in a single day, week, or even a year. To truly acquire it, the child must marry imitation with perseverance, faithfully watching and listening year after year after year. Only then will they experience the joy of being known and knowing others through the spoken and written word.
The author of Hebrews invites early Christians into a very similar journey to that of learning a language. If you will, the “language of God” requires imitation and perseverance. While I deeply believe that every human being has a built in desire for God, to know him and be known by him, Jesus draws near to us most frequently and consistently through the lived witness of other people. We see the love of God in the selfless love of a parent. We learn how to give our lives away as Jesus did by having people in our lives model selfless service and radical self-abandon. And while we should always be deeply grateful to God for people in our lives worthy of this respect and honor, we must never forget that we are meant to do as they do, to preserve in hope, trusting that the work of God in them will also be the work of God in us.
While we can and should thank God for the heroes of our faith, we must remember that they aren’t simply meant to be placed on a pedestal to be admired but are meant to be a catalyst for our own faithfulness to Christ. God invites us to imitate Jesus by imitating the life of Christ seen in others. Through imitation and perseverance, we learn the language of God, taking our place in a long line of holy, ordinary saints.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
We all imitate someone, for better or for worse. Who are you imitating?
January 11-14, 2018
MAKE FRIENDS WITH WHATEVER'S NEXT
2 Corinthians 4:17
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,”
Embrace it. Accept it. Don't resist it. Change is not only a part of life; change is a necessary part of God's strategy. To use us to change the world, he alters our assignments. Gideon: from farmer to general; Mary: from peasant girl to the mother of Christ; Paul: from local rabbi to world evangelist. God transitioned Joseph from a baby brother to an Egyptian prince. He changed David from a a shepherd to a king. Peter wanted to fish the Sea of Galilee. God called him to lead the first church. God makes reassignments.
But, someone might ask, what about the tragic changes God permits? Some seasons make no sense…do such moments serve a purpose?
They do if we see them from an eternal perspective. What makes no sense in this life will make perfect sense in the next. I have proof: you in the womb.
I know you don't remember this prenatal season, so let me remind you what happened during it. Every gestation day equipped you for your earthly life. Your bones solidified, your eyes developed, the umbilical cord transported nutrients into your growing frame…for what reason? So you might remain enwombed? Quite the contrary. Womb time equipped you for earth time, suited you up for your postpartum existence.
Some prenatal features went unused before birth. You grew a nose but didn't breathe. Eyes developed, but could you see? Your tongue, toenails, and crop of hair served no function in your mother's belly. But aren't you glad you have them now?
Certain chapters in this life seem so unnecessary, like nostrils on the preborn. Suffering. Loneliness. Disease. Holocausts. Martyrdom. Monsoons. If we assume this world exists just for pregrave happiness, these atrocities disqualify it from doing so. But what if this earth is the womb? Might these challenges, severe as they may be, serve to prepare us, equip us for the world to come? As Paul wrote,
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
January 10, 2019
2 Thessalonians 3:3
“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
A friend of mine was telling me about an experiment of sorts that he and his community group at church have recently begun. Each time they gather together, the bulk of their discussion time is spent answering just two basic questions, “What has God done for you this week?” and “What have you done for God?” While at face value these may seem overly simplistic or basic, he said the results have been profound. In particular, it creates a culture of expectation and shared experience. Here’s what I mean.
It is incredibly easy to sleep our way through life. We numb ourselves with food, drink, and entertainment, failing to see the faithful hand of God at work in our lives and communities. Yet taking time daily or weekly to ask yourself, “What has God done for me this week?”, has the potential to profoundly reorient your vision and awaken you to spiritual realities. It means you live with a deep and unshakable sense of expectation that God hears our prayers and responds to them. There’s a subtle but significant difference between openness to God and expectancy in prayer. One is willing to be surprised, the other lives with hopeful anticipation and eagerness to see God at work in our daily lives.
As we learn to live expectantly, asking the Holy Spirit to give us eyes to see and ears to hear, we must also learn to share these “God stories” with one another! Life is remarkably cyclical, where in one season of life we may find ourselves filled with hope, joy, and anticipation, and in another season be in the greatest depths of pain, sorrow, and despair. When you are at the highest heights of joy, it isn’t simply for your own satisfaction but is meant to be shared with others, especially those in seasons of great trial, as a way to encourage them and remind them of God’s faithfulness. True Christian community is one in which the weak are welcomed and supported and loved, and one in which the strong know their strength isn’t just for themselves but is a way to lift up others in their time of distress.
God is faithful to draw near to his people and lead them through life’s journey into the joy of life eternal, lived in his Kingdom. May we learn to expectantly see him at work in the present, and as we do, share our God stories with others so we can together celebrate his faithfulness, goodness, and love!
“Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” (Psalm 119:90)
How can you deepen your expectancy of God’s work in your life and more intentionally share your God stories with others?
January 7-9, 2019
“By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.”
The wisdom of God overshadows the best and brightest thinking of man. This is why our ancestors accessed the Almighty for knowledge and understanding in crafting our constitution. Its remarkable effectiveness is contingent on faith: faith in God, faith in government, and faith in its citizens.
Indeed, politicians who plead with Providence for wisdom will become the wiser. Those rulers who recognize their authority is from God, will rule for God. There is a humble ambition that escorts the most effective statesman into public service, as political pride is exchanged for humble wisdom. Those rule wisely when faith rules in their conscience and character.
Political wisdom is a prerequisite for those public servants who govern on behalf of the people and in alignment with the principles of Providence. These wise rulers are able to rest in peace in the middle of a storm.
A culture thrown into economic chaos especially needs principled men and women to step up, to sacrifice, and to make hard decisions. Wisdom in the middle of extreme uncertainty requires painful prescriptions to prevent further panic. Wise politicians face disastrous consequences and determine what is best for the whole in light of the long term.
Pray for political leaders to look beyond themselves and short-term relief into the perspective and principles of God found in Holy Scripture. Indeed, political wisdom prays for intervention by the Almighty and understanding from the Almighty. Perhaps during desperate days a filibuster of faith is first needed; so our leaders start by looking and listening to the Lord.
Just laws follow political wisdom because they do what is right, as Christ defines right. Wise politicians keep their hand of faithfulness on the Bible’s principles and their hearts submitted under the Lord’s authority. Presidents honor Him by never forgetting their sacred inaugural vow of “So help me God.”
The Bible says,
“Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:9)
How can you facilitate political wisdom with those public servants in your circle of influence?
January 5 - 6, 2019
THE MAGIC BANK ACCOUNT
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
Imagine that you had won the following prize in a contest. Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400 in your private account for your use. However, this prize has rules:
1. Everything that you didn't spend during each day would be taken away from you.
What would you personally do?
2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account.
3. You may only spend it.
4. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.
5. The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say,“Game Over!".
6. The bank can close the account and you will not receive a new one.
You might buy anything and everything you wanted, right? Not only for yourself, but for all the people you love and care for. Even for people you don't know, because you couldn't possibly spend it all on yourself, right? You might try to spend every penny, and use it all, because you knew it would be replenished in the morning, right?
This game is real...
Each of us is already a winner of this prize. We just can't seem to see it.
The prize is “time”.
Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life. And when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is not credited to us. What we haven't used up that day is forever lost. Yesterday is forever gone. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time without warning...
So, what would YOU do with your 86,400 seconds?
Those seconds are worth so much more than the same amount in dollars. Think about it and remember to enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think. So take care of yourself, be happy, love deeply and enjoy life!
This article was found in the billfold of Coach Paul Bear Bryant of the University of Alabama after he died in 1982.
Submitted by Tom Starr
January 2 - 4, 2019
EYES TIGHTLY SHUT
“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
He knew he shouldn’t have done it. I could clearly see he knew it was wrong: it was written all over his face! As I sat down to discuss his wrongdoing with him, my nephew quickly squeezed his eyes shut. There he sat, thinking—with three-year-old logic—that if he couldn’t see me, then I must not be able to see him. And if he was invisible to me, then he could avoid the conversation (and consequences) he anticipated.
I’m so glad I could see him in that moment. While I couldn’t condone his actions, and we needed to talk about it, I really didn’t want anything to come between us. I wanted him to look fully into my face and see how much I love him and was eager to forgive him! In that moment, I caught a glimmer of how God might have felt when Adam and Eve broke His trust in the garden of Eden. Realizing their guilt, they tried to hide from God who could “see” them as plainly as I could see my nephew.
“And he [Adam] said, “I heard the sound of you [God] in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10)
When we realize we’ve done something wrong, we often want to avoid the consequences. We run from it, conceal it, or close our eyes to the truth. While God will hold us accountable to His righteous standard, He sees us (and seeks us!) because He loves us and offers forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Our Daily Bread