1 John, James, Luke, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.22.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Taking Up Your Cross

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• It’s 6:47 AM as I start writing this morning, and my brain already feels full to capacity. I’m reading another Philip Yancey book and it’s called, “The Jesus I Never Knew.” 

This morning’s chapter was focused on The Sermon on the Mount. Reading that felt like a workout—so much to absorb and insights to be considered. It was a lot to process, even as I work on my fourth cup of coffee. I’m not sure I’ll ever tackle an essay on that one… But I sure do recommend Yancey’s!

In the book, Martin Luther King, Jr. was quoted, “Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear.” Of course, logically—that makes sense. But it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I know I’m supposed to carry my cross. Jesus told us that in Luke 9:23 ESV, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” 

And while I do spend a lot of time thinking about a future in heaven, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking of how my cross is preparing me for it. My cross is a prayer burden that is so heavy that sometimes, I just don’t know how long God is going to ask me to bear it. Especially when I know it’s a request that is aligned with His will and He promises us that anything we ask for that aligns with His will, He will answer (1 John 5:14-15).

Yet, as James wrote, “He gives more grace” (James 4:6a). 

When I’m tired and discouraged, after years of praying for this one thing, God reminds me to take up my cross, follow Jesus, and through a far-more-than-I-realized-was-possible-examination-of-the-Beatitudes, He reminds me that in the end, blessings and a crown await me.

I must stay persistent in prayer and trusting in Jesus. My hope remains in Him.

Today, as you pray, thank God for His grace that is far more abundant than we deserve. Thank Him that just when we come to the end of ourselves, He reminds us that He is everlasting. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep your hope strong, and when the cross is too heavy, ask Him to pray on your behalf.

Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Zechariah

8.21.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The God of the Impossible

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• In Zechariah 8, the Lord spoke of His promise to restore Jerusalem. God said He would return the Israelites to the Promised Land. He gave a word-picture of children playing and the elderly gathering in the square. And in verse 6, it says, “The Lord of Armies says this: ‘Though it may seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, should it also seem impossible to me?’—this is the declaration of the Lord of Armies” (CSB). After 70 years of exile, I’m sure many had given up hope of seeing Jerusalem again, much less, the hope of such a picturesque, carefree moment. 

Let’s look at that question again: “Though it may seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, should it also seem impossible to me?”

It’s a rhetorical question. I can’t help but wonder if the Lord asks us the same in the situations you and I face. 

“This may look impossible for you, Denise, but should I—the Creator of the Universe—think it’s impossible too?” 

The script is laughable! How can we put our finite limitations on an infinite God? How can we possibly worry that our problem is the ONE problem He can’t fix??

These are those facepalm moments. The moments when I don’t understand how God can stay so patient with me. The moments when my fretting trumps my faith and He has to remind me—yet again—that He knows what He’s doing and that He’s much better at His job than I am. 

No matter what kind of circumstances we find ourselves in, God knows. He sees. He is in control. Our job is to believe. It’s all He asks of us!

Jesus said in Matthew 21:22 CSB, “And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Don’t get crazy with that—God won’t go against His own Word or character to grant us wishes. But if we believe in Him—that He knows best—then we can trust God to make the impossible possible. We can trust that He will answer prayers and bring solutions to our lives. 

Today, as you pray, thank God that nothing is impossible for Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you believe that. Ask Him to help you pray through your circumstances according to God’s will, trusting that He hears and His answer will be exactly what you need and align with His good plan.

2 Timothy, Hebrews, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.20.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Personal Ways God Speaks to Us

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• For a Southerner, there is nothing more delicious than a homegrown Tomato Sandwich. White bread… a generous layer of mayonnaise… and thick, juicy slices of tomato sprinkled with a pinch of salt and pepper… heaven on a plate, my friends.

The only thing better is a homegrown Tomahto Sandwich. 

“Yeah!,” you may enthusiastically agree. “Wait—what??”

I know very few people who call a tomato a tomahto, but as long as the sandwich is put in front of me, I’ll let the mispronunciation slide. 

That’s the beautiful truth of God too, isn’t it? He speaks to us in different ways. But it’s still His voice. We may read the same verse a thousand times when suddenly, He reveals something new to us. The words didn’t change—but He uses them to change us.

It’s the truth of verses like Hebrews 4:12 (the Word of God is living and active), 2 Timothy 3:16 (all Scripture is breathed out by God), and Isaiah 55:11 (God’s Word will not return empty). He will reveal Himself through His Holy Word and as we grow in our relationship with Him, He will touch us with it in new ways. 

When it comes to our personal understanding of Scripture, as long as we aren’t reinventing God’s Word or re-writing His truth, we will all experience God in our unique way. That’s what makes this personal relationship so very special. It’s personal.

I’m reminded of the passage where Jesus had breakfast with the disciples on the beach (John 21). Peter asked Jesus about His relationship with John. It says, “When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” (John 21:21-22 ESV). 

Jesus has a unique opportunity for each of, and He wants us to be actively engaged in our relationship with Him and focused on Him. We need to remember the words from Jeremiah 29:11a ESV, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…” 

All of our experiences with God and His Word boils down to unique plans that have the same goal—eternity with Him.

It’s not a matter of “tomato, tomahto” in the sense that we can reinvent, but accepting that God will speak to us in different ways based on where we are with spiritual maturity and what His divine plan is for our lives.

Today, as you pray, thank God for speaking to us. Thank Jesus for the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read the Bible and ask Him to reveal more of God to you. Ask Him to guide you in your relationship, use you, and grow you according to His plan.

Acts, Genesis, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.19.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Looking Forward

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• In a past blog, I’ve shared about the time I got my first car stuck on top of a tree stump, all four tires completely off the ground. That was a moment. But it wasn’t the only “fun” experience I had with that car. For a year, I drove it without access to my instrument panel. Literally. Couldn’t tell you how fast I was going or how much gas I had. It was a guessing game every time I got in the car. And to add insult to injury, the rearview mirror fell off the windshield.

Any driver will agree that the rearview mirror is an important asset to the car, but from personal experience, I can tell you that access to a rearview mirror is highly underrated. 

With all that said though, looking in the rearview mirror is the only looking back we should do. After all, as the saying goes, “There’s a reason the windshield is so much bigger than the rearview mirror. Where you’re going is so much better than where you’ve been.”

We all have a tendency to look in the rearview mirrors of our life. We look at our past and ponder all the what-ifs. But if Paul had been given access to my old Buick, I imagine he may have thrown the rearview mirror out the side of the car as opposed to leaving it in the backseat as I did. He wrote in Philippians 3:13-14 CSB, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

If anyone could have made an argument for being fixated on his past sins and mistakes, it was Paul. In his judgmental, self-righteous past, he was one of the most zealous and outspoken leaders in the persecution of the early church. He was even present at the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:54-60). 

Yet, Paul didn’t spend time berating himself for his mistakes. He had his Damascus moment, repented, and turned his life to Christ—and from that point on, Paul looked forward. He pursued the prize of eternity with Jesus. And while he waited, he ministered, preached, mentored, and wrote. 

In fact, Paul was the most prolific writer in the New Testament with 13, possibly 14, to his credit out of 27 (Hebrews is a maybe—the authorship is up for debate among theologians). 

But the temptation to look back is so great. Yet it does no good. God has been commanding us to look forward for centuries. But it’s so much easier said than done. Lot’s wife would agree—after all, she was turned to salt for succumbing to the temptation to look back (Genesis 19:26). 

Why doesn’t God want us to look back? Because we can’t help move His kingdom forward if we keep looking back. We are called to repent and move on. The only reason our past should be present is to use it to tell others how God has redeemed us! Our redemption from our past mistakes become examples of His greatness, love, mercy, and grace!

Today, as you pray, praise God for being a God who isn’t focused on our pasts but offers us a future. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus forward so that you won’t wallow in the past.

Mark, Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Psalm

8.18.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Being Teachable

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Yesterday, I spent several hours studying and preparing to teach Sunday School this morning. And true to form, I’ve woken up and am questioning the whole direction of the lesson I prepared. 

We have a teacher’s guide. But in all honesty—I’d rather not have anything and just build something from scratch. I’m enough of a non-conformist that I don’t like to go by someone else’s structure. Ideally, I would just write an essay, pass out copies, then sit down and let everyone talk amongst themselves.

Y’all, I don’t know why God told me to do this. I do not like speaking in front of people. I go through this every single time I’m scheduled to teach. And yet, I felt led to sign up for another year on the rotation schedule.

In Psalm 143:10 CSB, David wrote, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground.”

The key phrase for me in this is “teach me to do Your will.” 

“Your will.” It shows up throughout the Bible. Two most notable places—The Lord’s Prayer and the Garden of Gethsemane.

  • Matthew 6:10b CSB of The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • And Jesus prayed in the garden before His arrest, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36 CSB). 

Jesus modeled what it is to be taught to pray and live by God’s will. David asked to be taught to follow God’s will. And with that before us, you and I have to be teachable too. 

Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for modeling what it is to obey God’s will. Thank Him for the example of David’s willing heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to equip you and encourage you to obey, even when God’s will forces you outside your comfort zone.

Luke, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.17.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Selfishness and Humility

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• I think most of us would agree—we don’t like to think of ourselves as selfish. We all know selfishness is a less-than-desirable quality. And yet, we all have varying degrees of it.
Personally, I want to believe I’m a generous, giving, unselfish person. And there are those who would say I am. (I’m not related to any of them.) Besides, I know me. I know the me that loves to live in her own little bubble, putting my blinders on so that I’m oblivious to any need or expectation someone else may have.
In Philippians 2:3-4 CSV, it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
It’s a tall order. It goes against our natural instincts to consider others as more important than ourselves. While we may talk the talk of being less worthy than someone else, when push comes to shove—if it comes down to “me vs. them,” self-preservation kicks in.
Most of the time. Of course, there are those heroic moments when someone puts themselves in harm’s way for another. But you know why those stories are so newsworthy? It’s because they are the exception, not the rule.
The idea of humility as an attribute is still a bit of a wary concept. After all, we live in the world of “Look out for #1,” which my husband will tell you is one phrase that makes me bristle every time I hear it. And of course, we know of those incredibly successful people for whom humility is non-existent because it’s their arrogance that equips them to be fearless in their pursuit to get to the top.
Yet, selflessness (as opposed to selfishness) requires humility and it’s a quality that God holds very dear. Jesus Himself said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11 CSB).
There’s just no room for humility in selfishness. There is no way to be selfless without a generous portion of humility. It’s a dichotomy that our world struggles with… Our world talks a good game about doing for others, but if that’s what we believe, then why are so many struggling?
I read an article a week ago about a multimillionaire in Hollywood who declared that she was ashamed of her wealth, yet there was no mention of her turning it over to help the rampant homeless problem in Los Angeles… a problem that is becoming so severe, health officials are worried about bubonic plague.
Let that sink in for a minute.
The problem with our selfishness, coupled with our self-delusions that we are selfless, results in a raging case of hypocrisy.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many who love being called a hypocrite.
My point in all of this is a reminder to me, to you, to all Christians—Jesus came in humility to serve. He was as selfless as you can get by shedding His coat of divinity and lowering Himself to be on our level. He died for us in the most selfless act that ever occurred. And He has called us to be His hands and feet. To shed our own selfish natures and offer ourselves to others in humility that they may see Jesus in us and through us.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for modeling humility for us. Thank Him for the ultimate example of selflessness. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you embrace humility so that others can see Jesus. Ask Him to help you fight the temptation of selfishness and offer yourself to those in need.

Isaiah, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Psalm

8.16.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: When We Need a Good Cleaning

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Later today, two ladies are coming over to clean my house. This is something I’ve kind of struggled with. On one hand, I actually like cleaning the house, but on the other—I’m a small business owner who doesn’t have time to do it right now. Then, I also wrestle that I can’t indulge in this kind of luxury, but I can also make the argument that it is actually a necessity.
Years ago, I had this idea that working from home meant that the house would be spotless, the laundry would stay caught up, and I’d have three healthy meals every day. HA! It didn’t take me long to figure out that wasn’t happening. I wondered how I’d ever found time to go to the grocery store when I worked outside the home.
For those who work from home too, you get it. There is no leaving work. My office is across the hall from my bedroom. While the commute is short, the hours are long. It was my friend Kelly who convinced me to hire some help. She asked me, “Would you rather spend five hours cleaning or five hours building your business?”
With that kind of logic, it didn’t take me long to make the phone call. And these ladies are awesome.
It’s also not the only time we’re dependent on someone else to do the cleaning.
In Psalm 51:10 ESV, King David wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” This psalm is his confession to God after his affair with Bathsheba. After admitting his sin against God, he asked God to clean him.
David knew that cleaning himself wasn’t going to be enough. He needed God to wash his sins and iniquities away. He needed God to clean his heart from impurities and set things back in order.
God offers to do the same for us. Through the prophet Isaiah, God spoke to Judah and said, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV).
What stands out to me in this passage is the phrase, “let us reason together.” What does that mean? I see it as a conversation and fellowship. When we commune with God and build a relationship with Him, He can turn our blood-stained sins to perfect white. He can clean us by the blood of Jesus and make us whole.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for His blood that washes us clean. Thank God that He is able to clean and change our hearts if we ask Him to. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you turn to God, realizing that you’re not expected to do this by yourself.

Jeremiah, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Proverbs, Psalm

8.15.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Hidden Dangers of Icebergs

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• I’m an avid reader and my favorite genre is Christian Fiction. If it’s a series—even better. My favorite is “The Northern Lights” series by Lisa Tawn Bergren. It’s a wonderful story of Norwegian immigrants who came to America in the 1800s. (Ever since my Ancestry DNA results came back reporting that I’m 2% Norwegian, I feel even closer to the characters.)
In the 3rd book of the series, two of the characters went kayaking in Alaska. Their guide warned them of icebergs. We all know that icebergs can yield catastrophe. (Titanic, anyone??) But what is interesting in the book is that the guide wasn’t worried about the part of the icebergs that jutted from the water. He was concerned about the part of the iceberg that was underwater.
Sometimes, the greatest dangers come from things we don’t see.
Our own heart can prove to be dangerous. It’s the part of us that remains hidden. We may share parts of it with others, but there are parts of our own hearts that even we don’t know. And sometimes, we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we fail to see the whole picture. We will take our iceberg and create dangerous situations for ourselves and others—damaging and even destroying relationships.
In Proverbs 4:23 CSB, it says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.”
Guarding our hearts isn’t about sealing them off, but it’s about being diligent to apply God’s truth and not our own, or the enemies lies. Because the heart is fickle, gullible, and according to Jeremiah 17:9, it is deceitful.
But, God’s Word never lies. Therefore, hiding His Word in our heart can help us guard it from the lies of the enemy (Psalm 119:11).
And when we have His Word in our heart, and we’ve accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit truly does guard us and the source of life—eternal life—is in us.
Today, as you pray, thank God for the trueness of His Word. Thank Him that it never fails and we can trust it. Ask the Holy Spirit to help guard your heart against the lies of the enemy and the world. Ask Him to help you be ever-mindful of the icebergs that would threaten your heart or relationships with others.

Numbers, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.14.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Aaron’s Blessings

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Today is my mom’s birthday. If you know my mom, I’m about to state the obvious… I have an AH. MAZ. ING. mother. I’m the only child, but a number of my friends claim her as a second mother. And I’m okay with that because I can’t blame them.
The special people in our lives need and deserve recognition. They need to know how much they mean to us—and not just on holidays or their birthdays. One beautiful way to express our appreciation is to borrow from the Blessing of Aaron found in Numbers 6:22-27 ESV. It says:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’ “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
I wanted a deeper understanding of this blessing so I read from “Numbers: An Introduction and Commentary” by Gordon J. Wenham. He wrote:
“Each line has the Lord as its subject and is followed by two verbs, the second of which expands on the first: bless, keep; shine, be gracious; lift up, give peace. The first clause of each line (invokes) God’s movement towards his people, the second clause, his activity on their behalf.”
So we know these aren’t just pretty words in the Bible. They are purposeful and full of action. It’s a blessing with rich meaning.
Today, I use it as a prayer for my mom and invite you to use it for someone special in your life too.
Today, as you pray, thank God for the ways He works in our lives. Thank Him for blessings. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you show honor to your loved ones whenever you can, recognizing the importance of their role in your life.

Isaiah, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Proverbs

8.13.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Why, God?

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• This morning, I read an article that just broke my heart. A well-known Christian songwriter has renounced his faith in God. He is quoted in the article as saying, “I’m genuinely losing my faith… and it doesn’t bother me.”
The article continued to say that this man is wrestling with questions that he doesn’t feel like anyone is talking about. I agree with the author of an article in ChristianPost.com who asked the rhetorical question, “What Christian world have you been living in?” (It’s not a sarcastic question—the writer speaks with great compassion for this man.) Because the songwriter’s questions are ones that MANY are talking about.
It’s disheartening and sad. I understand questioning why God allows things to happen. I even understand drifting away from the faith because I’ve been there, done that. But I don’t understand renouncing it all together. It just makes me so sad and I’m praying this man can rediscover the awe and splendor of our Savior who has loved us with an immeasurable love that carried Him to the cross and then, conquered the finality of the grave. I pray that he can experience the overwhelming grace of a loving and forgiving God whose ways are not like ours.
As I said, I understand this man’s questions. We all wrestle with the whys of God’s ways. Yet, we have to believe in the answer God gives us in Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV, which says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It’s like a parent and child relationship. Our children may question why we do things or set certain rules, but we have a different way of thinking. We apply experience and greater understanding to our reasons and whys.
With that in mind, our Heavenly Father sees a far bigger picture than we do. He’s okay with us not fully understanding, but just as we expect our children to acknowledge our authority—so does our God expect us to acknowledge His.
Faith is about accepting His Word, even when we don’t have all the answers. He does so it’s okay that we don’t.
Today, as you pray, please join me in praying for this man. He has been placed in a position of influence and we need people to influence others towards God, not away from Him. Thank God that His ways are higher than ours. Thank Him that even when we don’t understand, we can look to Him trusting that He has it all figured out. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you when you wrestle with the whys. Ask Him to help you lean not on your own understanding, but acknowledge Him so He can guide your steps (Proverbs 3:5-6, slightly paraphrased).