2 Corinthians, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

7.16.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Illusion of Self-Help

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• As much as I love to read, I’m not a fan of the self-help genre.
I have a few self-help books on my jam-packed bookcase.
They’re buried in there somewhere.
Since each shelf is double-stacked with books, I don’t really know what I have.
On the rare occasion when I do get a self-help book on purpose, I rarely read the whole book.
Or even crack the spine.
These books are like squatters in my bookcase.
They take up residence for a while before I evict them to the used book store and replace them with fiction or Christian growth books.
The thing about self-help is that more often than naught, it’s an illusion.
We are, after all, creatures of habit.
We CAN change.
But few people make permanently radical lifestyle changes on their own.
Though I’m not a self-help enthusiast, I often fall into the trap of self-reliance.
And that’s what self-help boils down to, right?
When people attempt to make changes in their life through their own self-reliant and independent efforts.
As I thought about this today, I went to 2 Corinthians 3:5 which says, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” (ESV).
We also know the oft-quoted verse from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV).
So why do we look to help ourselves or try to rely on our own illusions?
Because here’s two myth busters for you
1) the old wives tale “God helps those who help themselves” isn’t in the Bible.
And 2) “God never gives us more than we can handle” isn’t in the Bible either.
In fact, the absolute opposite is true.
God WILL allow us to experience more than we can handle because He wants us to turn to Him and be completely dependent on Him.
God wants us to lean on Him so we can let Him help us through our valleys.
He wants us to be reliant on Him so that He can demonstrate that He is enough for us.
It’s an act of great love and a testament to God’s interest in our lives.
He didn’t create us to figure it out for ourselves.
He made us to worship Him.
And as He becomes our everything, we can praise Him for both the good and the bad because we learn first hand that He is in control and at work in our lives.
We understand our complete dependence on Him.
Today, as you pray, thank God for being all that we need.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be reliant on God and to seek Him for all the help you need.

2 Corinthians, 2 Samuel, 2 Timothy, Deuteronomy, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

7.9.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Context in the Bible

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• One of the quickest ways to get me on a soapbox is to use Scripture out of context.
It is crazy-easy to cherry pick words from the Bible and use them to build an argument.
But without context, it’s like picking a novel off the shelf, randomly flipping to the middle, and using the first sentence you read as a way, to sum up, the whole book.
If you land on the sentence, “She told the waiter that she wanted extra ice in her coke,” and you use that define the whole book, chances are REALLY good that you’ve missed a key plot point.
The problem is that when people read the Bible, they have to understand that while every word is ordained by God in His Holy Word, it doesn’t mean He condoned every action that is written.
For example, 2 Samuel 13 includes the story of David’s daughter Tamar who was raped by her half-brother Amnon.
I can assure you that God does not condone rape, but this story is included in Scripture.
Similarly, we can’t make the mistake of applying our social norms to the social norms of a time and culture very different from ours.
Their environment and way of life were different.
What we can focus on is people because people don’t change.
The people of the Bible experienced love, pain, sorrow, regret, laughter, joy, hunger, sleepiness, and the full range of emotions and feelings that we have today.
We also have to recognize there’s a difference between the old Covenant versus the new Covenant and recognize Jesus’ role in that new Covenant.
And at the heart of the Bible, the primary reason we read it, is to know God.
It’s His love letter to people.
Is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, it says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Then, in 2 Corinthians 2:13a CSB, it says, “We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit…”
The word of God is designed to instruct us.
But it’s more than just reading words on a page and maybe occasionally marking certain passages with a highlighter.
We need to pray as we read.
Let the Holy Spirit teach us.
We can’t let human interpretation and assumptions dictate the Word of God.
His Holy Spirit is called a Counselor for a reason…
He can and will guide everyone who seeks with a sincere heart (Deuteronomy 4:29).
Today, as you pray, thank the Holy Spirit for His willingness to guide you and teach you through God’s Word.
Thank God for the promise that whoever sincerely seeks Him will find Him.
And ask the Holy Spirit to help you view the Bible not as a book of words, but as a way to know and understand God, His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

7.3.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Grace and Freedom

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Three times a week, I meet two of my friends at 7:30 in the morning to go for a walk.
Summer heat and humidity are the primary driving force behind our meeting time because North Carolina takes her commitment to summer VERY seriously.
When the AccuWeather RealFeel is predicted to be 108 degrees, you know NC means business (but at least it’s not snow so I won’t complain).
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was thinking of getting a bicycle so I could have some variety on the days we don’t walk.
One of my walking friends offered to loan me hers before I spent the money.
She has a good six inches on me but assured me that the seat would lower.
But even with the seat at the lowest setting, it was too tall for me.
I couldn’t even balance on my tippy-toes.
Anyway, this image of me trying to find my footing has stayed with me for a few weeks and today, I began to make some parallels.
I want to ride a bicycle because I loved the experience when I was young.
Riding my bike back then offered me freedom, time with my thoughts and ideas, and a chance to experience the sun on my back and the wind in my face.
And each one of us wants the same, no matter what our age…
To experience freedom from our imperfections…
The joy of a life lived unencumbered by guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.
We want the innocence and charm of a life that is free.
Dare I say it?
We all want a grace-full life.
And yet, we find ourselves unbalanced and unable to get our footing.
Enter God’s grace.
We simply can’t experience the freedom and joy we seek without the perfection and goodness of God’s grace to steady us.
My favorite verses in the Bible are Ephesians 2:8-9.
They say, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.”
His grace fills the gaps that enable us to experience what we can’t find on our own.
Then, His grace sustains us.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9a, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’”
And just as God’s grace was sufficient for Paul, it is sufficient for us.
But it’s up to us to accept the gift, lean on it, and depend on it.
We will never have the balance and freedom we need without it.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His amazing grace.
Though we don’t deserve it, ask Him to flood your heart and soul with only the grace He can provide.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you lean on His grace and to trust it.

2 Corinthians, Acts, Hebrews, Judges, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

6.22.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: A Boy at a Baseball Game

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• So off the bat (pun intended), you may wonder why on earth I put this verse with a picture of a baseball.
It’s not really related but it’s based on something that happened at a baseball game last night.
My husband and I joined our friends/neighbors to see our local baseball team play.
To be honest, I really don’t like baseball that much but I do enjoy going to see our team, the Winston-Salem Dash.
It’s fun to be with our friends…
Run into people we know…
And my favorite part of the game—people watching.
Our seats were behind home plate.
A few rows ahead and to the right was the dugout suite.
This is an area that is set up with tables and chairs and as the name implies, is right beside the dugout.
It was empty last night but after the game started, several kids started playing in that area.
I watched this one kid who bore a resemblance to “Ralphie” from “A Christmas Story.”
He was sitting on metal chairs that had hollow tubes on the chair back.
He and his friend were sticking their fingers in them.
“Ralphie” got stuck.
His dad had to get up and help him get his fingers out of the chair.
As soon as Dad sat down, “Ralphie” stuck his fingers back in the chair.
Stuck again.
Dad rescued again.
By the time I watched this kid start the cycle a third time, I was cracking up (though admittedly, I would have found it far less funny had he been my kid).
But in observing this boy, it reminded me of an important truth.
We are all children who do stupid things, we need a Father to rescue us, and too often—as soon as we’re rescued, we do it all again.
When you read through the Old Testament, and I’m particularly thinking of Judges, you see the Israelites in this vicious cycle.
They turn away from God.
They get in trouble.
They cry out to God for help.
God rescues them.
The Israelites get complacent.
They turn away from God and the cycle repeats itself.
Sound familiar?
I know I’m guilty.
And while I may want to laugh about the antics of a little boy at a baseball game, and facepalm myself over the Israelites, it’s really a serious matter.
Hebrews 10:26 says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…”
If we hop down to verse 29, the ramifications of our sins-set-on-repeat are outlined, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”
That’s a pretty sobering thought.
We know the blood of Jesus has cleansed us of sin, yet when we continue to repeat sin, we have thrown great insult on our Savior.
Jesus knows we aren’t perfect and He knows we’re going to mess up.
But there’s a difference between a slip up and then willfully sinning again and again, expecting to be repeatedly forgiven for the same thing.
Because that’s not repentance.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
That’s the key phrase—“godly grief.”
When we don’t dismiss our actions with a casual “Oops! I did it again!,” but experience a deep sorrow from the choices we’ve made, and a desire to turn away from that sin (as described in Acts 3:19)—That’s a repentant heart.
Friends, we all have stumbling blocks.
And on our own, we will keep tripping over the same sins.
But we have the promise of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Jesus hasn’t left us hanging to figure it out for ourselves but we conquer our sin-cycle through His strength.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for saving us.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you feel godly grief over sins so that you can, with Jesus’ help, break the repetitive sin-cycles in your life.

2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Genesis, Leviticus, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

6.18.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Smell (A Sensory Series)

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• This is Day 2 of our week-long focus on the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
Day 2–Smell.
Perhaps the most underrated sense we have… at least until we have a cold.
Our sense of smell is important though…
It keeps us safe by making us aware of smoke or gas, helps us identify foods that are good vs those that have gone bad, and smells evoke memories.
And just as people see things from a unique perspective, scents are very personal to the one who smells them.
What may smell great to you, may be rancid to another.
A perm is an easy example.
Many think perms stink, but if you recently had a perm and we are good friends, it’s highly likely that I’d stick my nose in your hair to get a good whiff.
(I love the way perms smell.)
The apostle Paul compared our faith to smell.
In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, he wrote, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?”
First, “we are the aroma of Christ,” can be beautifully described as the fragrance of sacrifice and grace.
It has Old Testament ties when the sacrifices made to atone sin were burned as a pleasing aroma to God (Genesis 8:21 and multiple passages in Leviticus).
Because Christ became the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world, His sacrifice is compared to a fragrant offering in Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
As we continue in the passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul says that what we represent—or rather, Who we represent—carries the scent of life to those who believe in the gospel of Jesus.
To those who refuse to believe, Christianity is the smell of doom and destruction.
It’s similar to the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
The question he asks at the end is one we should all reflect on.
“Who is sufficient for these things?”
He is referring to the weighty responsibility that befalls each and every Christian—sharing the Gospel.
Remember, Jesus didn’t give the Great Commission to just preachers.
Every born-again Christian needs to be prepared to tell others about what God has done for them.
So who is sufficient for these things?
Let’s hop down to verse 17, “For WE ARE not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”
Emphasis is mine; the answer is “we are.”
(The use of “not” is referring to the ones Paul described as “peddlers,” as those were the ones who didn’t preach from the sincere desire to share Jesus but to profit from the message.)
Are you living your life in a way that reflects the fragrance of Jesus’ sacrifice?
Today, as you pray, thank God for the gift of smell, but more importantly, the sacrificial aroma of grace that was lifted as Jesus hung on the cross.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you live in a way that others can smell the beautiful scent of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

1 John, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Hebrews, John, Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Psalm

6.17.19 PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT: Sight (A Sensory Series)

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Last week, I accidentally wrote a three-part series.
This time, it’s on purpose.
This one has been on my mind for several weeks.
We’re going to spend five days on the senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
But of course, we’ll talk about them from a faith-based perspective.
Day 1–Sight.
We have two different types of vision.
The physical vision which is often subjective based on the person, angle, and perspective of the viewer.
Then, spiritual vision which is rooted in faith.
You likely know the best example from Scripture…
After Jesus’ resurrection, doubting Thomas declared he would not believe unless he placed his hands in Jesus’ wounds himself.
Jesus appeared to Thomas and let him satisfy his doubts, then said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Our sight is a gift from God, without question, but more important is our faith.
It always amazes me the way God works—often against the expectation we might have.
For example, Jesus said the last will be first (Matthew 20:16), which isn’t the earthly way of thinking.
And when it comes to spiritual vision, those who rely on what they can see and touch are spiritually blind, while those who have placed their faith in Jesus can see His truth.
And to be clear… faith in Jesus isn’t blind faith.
We have historically documented testimonies.
We can experience His presence.
And in Psalm 19:1, it says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
Our faith in Jesus is an act of coming before the Throne of Grace with our eyes wide open, well-aware that it’s by His grace—not our good works—that permit us to bow down to worship Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Our faith in Jesus is believing in His power to clean us, free us from sin, and redeem us (1 John 1:7).
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” and in 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul wrote, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
So the question is—are you trusting in what Jesus says more than your circumstances?
Do you trust that faith in Jesus offers far more clarity than anything our human eyes can see?
Today, as you pray, thank God for the gift of sight, but more importantly, the gift of faith.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see through faith, and to trust in Jesus, even when you can’t see what He is doing.

2 Corinthians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

5.8.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Unknown

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• One of the biggest struggles I deal with in my Christian journey is trusting the unknown to God.
I want a map.
I want the details.
It’s the side-effect of being a control-freak.
But we serve a God who often operates on a need-to-know-basis for that very reason—He wants us to trust Him.
This week, I’ve had several friends reach out to me with prayer concerns.
Some based on great news and some with serious issues.
And at the root of each one is an unknown.
That is why adopting a verse like 2 Corinthians 5:7 is so important.
Step-by-step into the unknown future, we have to remember, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
We are holding on to Jesus while He leads the way.
We can’t always see what’s around the bend or over the hill, but we can always trust Him.
It’s a daily decision to say to God, “I am trusting in the unknown future You have planned for me because I know You love me and whatever happens, You have a plan. I know that You are bigger than my fears of the unknown and that wherever You take me, You will be with me.”
Declare it and own it.
The enemy would fill our heads with doubts but we can’t let those doubts take root in our hearts.
Declare the power of Jesus’ name and embrace the unknown over the fears and insecurities.
Because here’s the truth—Nothing is unknown.
While we may not know, God does.
So we don’t need to worry about an unknown.
It doesn’t exist except in our own minds.
Today, as you pray, thank God for knowing everything past, present, and future.
Thank Him that He has a plan, even if we don’t always know the details.
Ask the Holy Spirit to give you peace to trust and focus on Christ, knowing He will never leave you.

2 Corinthians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

5.4.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Giving

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Our local Christian radio station just completed their annual fundraising campaign.
My husband and I haven’t tithed to their ministry before but earlier this week, I called and committed a monthly gift from our tithing budget.
The campaign ended yesterday and this morning, they announced they raised 80% of their goal.
I know that God will use these gifts, but of course, when goals are set, we always want to meet or exceed them.
Tithing is one of those things that makes people nervous.
I was raised by parents who tithed and my mother always cut a check to the church before she paid any other bill.
Yet, even with her example, it took me a long time to start tithing myself.
I didn’t think I could afford it.
When I started tithing, it certainly wasn’t 10%.
The Holy Spirit finally got through my thick skull, and I realized these truths:

  1. God doesn’t need my money; it’s already His.
  2. Tithing is based on trust—a physical action and deliberate choice to trust in God’s provision.
  3. Tithing is a form of worship.

We tithe 10% of the gross of everything we earn now.
Most of it goes to our church, and the rest, we divide up between a couple of other ministries.
And you know what—we’ve never not had enough to pay the bills.
Some argue that the concept of a 10% tithe is Old Testament law and no longer applies.
I disagree.
The percentage point may be subject for debate and that’s between you and God.
But we are still called to give.
In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul wrote, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
For those who think they can’t afford it, I’d challenge you to look at your spending habits.
Years ago, when I didn’t think survival was possible without a daily Starbucks latte, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on fancy coffee drinks.
Trust me—I could have easily tithed and still been able to budget for coffee.
I wish I could turn back time and redirect all that money.
I don’t remember the coffee but I would have memories of giving.
There are so many amazing ministries doing amazing things for God.
They are helping others by being the hands and feet of Jesus.
They need my money so much more than Starbucks!
And giving to them makes us feel like we’re a part of it, making our own small contributions to these incredible programs.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His provision.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust God with the money you give back to Him.
And pray for Christian organizations who do so much for the Kingdom and rely on donations and gifts in order to continue their ministry.
Pray for ways you can give.

2 Corinthians, Isaiah, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Romans

4.27.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Beauty From Ashes

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• For many of us, it’s hard not to constantly look in the rearview mirror of life.
After all, we know where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and what we wish we could change.
We look back and recite to ourselves all the would’ve’s, could’ve’s, and should’ve’s.
And we get nowhere with it.
We know the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Yet we still wallow in the ugliness of our past choices.
When I came across this graphic of the rusted old tractor amid the beauty of the newly grown tulips, I couldn’t help but remember that God has promised to bring beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
And the ugliness of that rusted tractor has somehow magnified the beauty of the tulips!
If our past is represented in the rusty tractor, it’s place among the tulips is an example of Romans 8:28–“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God will use our past hurts and past choices to His purpose for good things.
He won’t condone our sin, but He can use the ugliness of our past to magnify the beauty of our future.
However, if we constantly look behind us, we’ll miss what He’s doing.
Looking in the rearview mirror and beating ourselves up is not the way He wants us to live.
If we’ve confessed our sins and repented, the Bible tells us there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
If God isn’t condemning us, why should we?
Today, as you pray, thank God that when He forgives us, He chooses not to remember our sins, but uses our past for His good purpose.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you stop dwelling on your past and focus on the good God is doing in your life.

2 Corinthians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Romans

4.10.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: If Your Faith Were X-Ray’d

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Yesterday, I took my son to see his surgeon for his two week check up.
Since surgery, C’s arm has been wrapped in a splint that went from armpit to hand and he loathed it.
He wanted the splint off so badly.
On Saturday night, he threatened to take it off and I had an ever-so-slightly-panicked response to that idea.
(Translation: I had a complete screaming meltdown of epic proportions.)
The splint stayed on but C has grumbled about it nonstop.
Before the doctor came in, they took C back for another round of x-rays, and when the surgeon came in, he showed us the before and after.
The bones, held together now by plate and screws, are healing.
My son’s hopes were realized and the splint came off.
He’s now in a brace that makes him look part-cyborg.
But let’s talk about x-rays.
I know x-ray technology isn’t new, but it’s kind of fascinating to me.
It’s incredible that we can photograph the inside of the body to identify issues.
And it made me wonder what our spiritual lives might look like under an x-ray.
Would we see splintered faith and broken hope?
Or would we see a strong faith that is connected to optimistic hope in Christ?
Romans 8:25 tells us, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
The truth is, God knows the condition of our spiritual lives even better than we do.
He sees through the exterior to our very hearts.
And the faith we hold in our heart is far more truthful than words we may say.
Our fears and doubts may be shoved deep down, but God can see all of it.
But He gives us hope.
If we cling to the hope of things we can’t see or haven’t experienced yet, we can patiently wait with expectation because 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
It is absolutely right and safe to put our hope in the promises of God.
He always comes through.
Today, as you pray, thank God for knowing you from the inside out.
Ask the Holy Spirit to make your faith and hope in God strong and healthy on the inside so that the truth of Jesus will reflect outwardly to others.