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.

2 Peter, 2 Timothy, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, James, John, Joshua, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.1.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Weapon of Courage

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Yesterday, I shared about a book I started reading called, “Warfare Praying,” by Mark Bubeck.
The quote I highlighted was, “Hope and courage are vital words in spiritual warfare. Courage is not only necessary in facing our relentless foe, but it is also the believer’s purchased possession” (Introduction, page 18).
Yesterday, we used this reminder to talk about hope and today, we’re talking about courage.
My favorite verse on courage is Joshua 1:9 ESV, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
How often I need this reminder. I have a particular situation that I pray over regularly and I often have to remind myself that there is no need to be afraid.
I know that the Lord has His perfect timing (Ecclesiastes 3:11 and 2 Peter 3:8) and that through the waiting, He will strengthen me (Isaiah 40:31).
I also know that whatever we pray in God’s will, He will answer (John 14:13-14) and that for the prayers of one who is surrendered to Jesus accomplishes much (James 5:16).
God does not want us to live in fear but to live in the courageous truth of His victory.
The story is already written and we know the end—God wins!
Fearful living doesn’t have a place in the Christian life because we have the Savior of the world and the One who sits on the throne is victorious over the enemy.
Going back to Mark Bubeck’s quote, I love the way he described courage as a “believer’s purchased possession.”
That goes straight back to 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Doesn’t that just encourage your heart?
Today, as you pray, thank God for reminders to embrace courage over fear.
Thank Him that He emboldens and strengthens us by His power.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus on these truths and not be tempted by the lie of fear.

2 Timothy, Deuteronomy, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Psalm

7.27.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: I ❤️ Excel

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Microsoft released the first version of Excel on September 30, 1985.
I’ll be sending out invitations for the 34th-anniversary party sometime in late August.
Just kidding…
But maybe not.
I love Excel and I love to build spreadsheets.
I could totally get on board for a party centered around spreadsheets, pivot tables, and charts/graphs!
This weekend at She Speaks, much talk has been had about organizing content and I’ve heard several references to Excel being an option…
But I’ve also heard how much people don’t like it.
One person hilariously said she was “emotionally allergic” to Excel.
I really wanted to raise my hand on a couple of occasions and say, “But if you knew all the possibilities with Excel, you’d love it!”
It all boils down to intimidation.
Anytime you learn something new, you start from nothing.
You build knowledge through layers of learning.
Think about it—there are 26 letters in the English language.
And in the 2nd edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, there are 171,476 words plus another 47,156 words that are considered obsolete.
And we haven’t taken into account slang or the approximately 1000 new words added to the dictionary each year.
Let this sink in for a moment.
26 letters make up ALL those words.
Then, ALL those words get arranged into sentences, paragraphs, articles, books, even (eh-hem) blogs!
And how is that not intimidating?
Once upon a time, we didn’t know those letters.
We started with the basics.
We learned letters and then we started combining them into words and before long, we became fluent readers!
While we may not have a vocabulary that’s 171,476 words deep, we know more than a couple.
But I have to tell you if I could build a dictionary in Excel, be still my beating heart.
Rows and rows of words…
I could add filters to sort out the nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives…
Include the etymology…
A girl can dream.
Excel may intimidate those who haven’t dived in to unlock all the possibilities, but there are also people who look at the Bible the same way.
Bible study feels intimidating to them.
Maybe you understand how they feel.
Maybe you really feel that way at this moment.
But even the greatest preachers and theologians started somewhere.
No one is born with an understanding of Scripture.
It takes time and a commitment to study, learn, and grow.
It’s a never-ending process.
I promise you, Billy Graham was still discovering Biblical truth even at the end of his life.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Everything that’s needed for life is found in the Bible.
It’s our job to get in there and discover God through His word.
To learn all the possibilities and with God—all the impossibilities that demonstrate His all-powerful nature.
He has promised to reveal Himself to anyone who genuinely seeks Him (Deuteronomy 4:29).
But the foundation for all Bible study comes down to prayer.
We need to pray for wisdom to see and understand.
Psalm 119:18 ESV says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
Bible study can be intimidating but if we trust in God’s promises to teach us, and surrender our own agendas to learn God’s truth—we can begin to grow in knowledge through layers of learning, directly through the message given by the Holy Spirit.
We can begin to glimpse at the limitlessness of our almighty God.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His Holy Word.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray, study, and grow in Biblical wisdom.

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 Timothy, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

7.6.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: An Unashamed Testimony

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• As Christians, we are called to be set apart.
The way we speak, the way we act, even what we say and post on social media.
And I wonder…
Does my testimony completely overwhelm and flood my life?
Does my love for Jesus reflect in everything I do?
Am I using every opportunity to let the love of Christ shine through me?
It’s easy to be critical of others, but do I use that same critical eye on myself?
Do I let the Holy Spirit convict my heart of my own shortcomings?
When other Christians act in a less-than-Christian way, how should I respond?
Am I ever ashamed of being a Christian?
I wish I could boldly answer every time with, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, with Christ-like love, and never!”
But I know I can’t make that claim.
In 2 Timothy 1:8-9 and 12b, Paul wrote, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”
If we believe in the amazing grace and salvation Jesus offers, then we should strive to answer those questions with “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, with Christ-like love, and never!” anytime we face them.
We won’t do it perfectly, but the Holy Spirit will guide us.
As Paul said, God has “called us to a holy calling.”
Holy doesn’t mean perfect; it means set apart.
We should never ever be ashamed of how being a Christian makes us different in the eyes of the world.
We have our perfect God to answer to and no one else.
So in all we do, we should let the light of Jesus shine, even if the temptation is to reserve our faith for Sunday at church.
Because a Christian life is a 24/7 thing.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His calling to be set apart.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be a holy, set apart, and unashamed example of a life being lived for Jesus.
Ask Him to empower you to live your testimony faithfully, every day.

2 Timothy, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Psalm

7.4.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Fear and Fireworks

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• I used to love Fourth of July.
Until I got a dog.
This is one of my least favorite days of the year now.
I will spend the late afternoon and evening consoling 90 pounds of Labrador who will be terrified by the fireworks.
But even if the weather prediction comes true and we end up with rain, it’s going to storm and so either way—we’re in for a difficult night.
There’s no reasoning with a terrified and neurotic dog.
Before you comment with suggestions like thundercoats and anxiety pills…
Trust me.
We’ve tried it all.
We all face fears.
Some may be more intense than others.
Some may seem silly.
But, a fear is a fear.
However, we have God.
2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us that God did not give us a spirit of fear.
And Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us not to be anxious but to pray about everything then let God’s peace guard our hearts and minds.
It’s not always easy, but God is bigger than the fears we cling to.
King David wrote, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
What’s amazing is that God is eager to redeem us from the fears that plague us.
He wants to give us His peace and He wants us to trust in Him.
The question is, are we willing to let Him?
Today, as you pray, thank God for being bigger than any and every fear we may have.
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind your heart to trust God with everything…
From His timing to His ways—ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with God’s peace and help you take rest in His power and plan.

1 Corinthians, 2 Timothy, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

4.4.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Our Personal Race

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• On Tuesday night, I went to visit my son and hang out with him a bit.
As is the norm, we spent some time with him showing me weird videos he’s found on YouTube.
I don’t know where he finds some of these things, but this one was “special.”
Five people in brightly colored unitards and bare feet and their goal was to climb ice-coated stairs in order to reach a treasure chest at the top.
The first one to make it was the winner.
It was a mass of chaos as players lost their footing and took out their competition as they slid back down the icy steps.
Who on earth comes up with this stuff?!
But apparently, it’s a real competition somewhere…I’m guessing Japan.
There was an English-speaking narrator, but I’m not sure what language the subtitles were in.
After watching a couple of these “competitions,” my belief that humankind can do colossally stupid things for the sake of entertainment and attention was firmly reinforced.
But as I’ve thought about it some more, I kind of feel like that competition is a reflection of us all.
We are all trying to reach a goal.
We want to race to the top, but sometimes, we lose our footing and fall down.
Or someone else knocks us down.
We’re afraid if we don’t get there first, we’ll miss out.
Paul wrote an analogy about a race.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
In this “game of life,” there’s no need to race against others.
Our individual goal should be to focus on the race God has planned for each of us so that we can do as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
It’s not about beating others, it’s about doing what we are called to do.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His challenge to you.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you sustain and run steady.
Ask Him to help you be focused and not distracted.
But ask Him to let you be an encourager for others as they run their own races.

2 Timothy, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

3.15.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Fearless

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Over the last few months, I’ve gotten in the habit of turning on the WBFJ or K-LOVE app while I design the morning graphic.
This morning was no different.
I had my stock photography, and had chosen the verse of the day — “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
All my elements were coming together and I was beginning to mentally think through what to write.
Then Josh Baldwin’s song, “Stand in Your Love” came on.
If you aren’t familiar, the chorus repeats, “My fear doesn’t stand a chance / When I stand in Your love.”
And I just love it when God does that!
When He reinforces something that’s on my mind.
I chose this verse as a message for myself this morning.
I needed this reminder that God doesn’t intend for me to live in fear.
Yet, I tend to get anxious and tense over things I can’t control.
If I’m not diligent about fighting this battle, I will live life on the edge of my seat, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And it’s really not a fun way to live.
I get crabby and snippy when I live that way.
No one likes being around a grumpy Denise.
But as the song says, when we stand in the love of God, fear doesn’t stand a chance.
And as the verse says, He created us to be filled with His power, love, and self-control.
Fear isn’t of God.
He gives peace and freedom; not fear.
Today, as you pray, give praise to God for being the antithesis of fear.
Thank Him for reminding us that fear has no place in His love.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you fearlessly walk in God’s love and enjoy His peace, because He is in control.

2 Timothy, Ephesians, John, Luke, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

2.20.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Lessons From Soldiers

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• A few years ago, my husband and I went on vacation to Charleston, SC.
While we were there, we visited Patriots Point and toured the Vietnam Experience Exhibit.
It was moving on multiple levels, but especially because Wayne’s dad is a Vietnam veteran.
One of the most powerful displays was called “The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall” and on it was displayed dog tags with the names of the South Carolina soldiers who had died during the war.
I was reminded of it this morning when I was reading Francis Chan’s book, “Letters To the Church.”
In the chapter, “Crucified,” Chan wrote of suffering for Christ.
This is a truth that many fail to acknowledge, especially as famous prosperity preachers tell people that Jesus will make their lives better and easier.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you already know my beliefs on this.
Prosperity preaching isn’t just unbiblical, it’s outright false teaching by false prophets.
We have to be diligent and on guard over that sort of thing because Jesus promised that in this world, we will have trouble (John 16:33).
It’s a promise and a reality of following Jesus.
So needless to say, I was in complete agreement with Francis Chan.
However, as he wrote about suffering, I was amazed at how many references there are to Christian suffering in the New Testament.
I’ve read them before, but seeing them in a single chapter was very eye-opening.
But I want to zero in on 2 Timothy 2:3.
It says, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
As I was reading this, I scribbled the following note in the margin of the book: “Soldiers believe in their cause and what they are fighting for… as part of an army of Christians, am I willing to go into battle, believing that the cause is worth dying for?”
Let’s go back up to the Vietnam board at Patriots Point.
There were a lot of dog tags.
South Carolina lost a number of their sons in the Vietnam War.
But those men bravely stood up and went to war, believing that any self-sacrifice was worth it.
And let’s go beyond the Vietnam War.
America has been involved in 12 wars, including the Revolutionary War and up to the Global War on Terror.
Collectively, 1,196,553 Americans have died fighting battles for freedom.
That is staggering.
So in 244 years of American history, that’s 4903 deaths a year for freedom.
Sorry, y’all.
My inner nerd just ran amok.
But my point is this: when we look at soldiers, we admire and respect them for their willingness to sacrifice their health and lives for the sake of our American flag.
We applaud their bravery to defend our nation.
And we should.
As I mentioned, my father-in-law is a veteran.
My grandfather was a Marine.
I’m very proud of that.
But what about us?
Are we willing to do as we’re told in Ephesians 6:10-17, and put on the whole armor of God?
Are we willing to fight for our faith?
Are we willing to count the costs as Jesus instructed in Luke 14:25-33?
And do we think the cost is worth it?
I pray you join me in a resounding, “YES!” to that rhetorical question.
Today, as you pray, thank the Lord for the example of self-sacrifice we can learn from soldiers.
And ask Him to protect our military personnel as they continue to fight for our freedom.
Ask the Holy Spirit to encourage you to be strong in your faith, understanding that the Christian life isn’t easy, but the cost is so worth it.

2 Timothy, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

2.10.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Remember Jesus

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Without question, the only required reading for living as a Christian is the Holy Bible.
But if we were going to build a library of suggested reading material, the book I’m currently reading would be near the top of the list.
“Six Hours One Friday” is not new.
Max Lucado wrote it and it was published in 1989.
I bought my copy at the used book store right after Christmas.
It was on a whim as I had a stack of other books in my arms and I really wasn’t sure what it was about.
But I’d read his book, “Anxious For Nothing” a year or so ago and really enjoyed it.
I started “Six Hours One Friday” yesterday and normally, I only read one chapter of a spiritual growth book a morning.
But I can hardly put this one down.
I’m on chapter 8 and if I didn’t have a stack of to-do’s, I’d finish it this afternoon.
The book is centered on the three anchors of truth that Jesus offers, and how those anchors can get us through the storms of life (the inspiration behind yesterday’s post on anchors!)
Max Lucado wrote a chapter simply called, “Remember,” and in it, he wrote, “When times get hard, remember Jesus. When people don’t listen, remember Jesus. When tears come, remember Jesus. When disappointment is your bedpartner, remember Jesus. When fear pitches his tent in your front yard. When death looms, when anger singes, when shame weighs heavily. Remember Jesus.”
What a beautifully written reminder!
Max Lucado’s urgency comes from Paul’s letter to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel…”
But even more powerful is this quote from a few paragraphs down, “Before you remember anything, remember Him. If you forget anything, don’t forget Him.”
Before we remember the good moments or the bad…
Before we celebrate with joy or weep with sadness…
Before we get angry and before we forgive…
Before we begin our day and before we go to sleep…
In everything, remember Jesus.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for His love that is so worthy of remembering.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember all that Jesus has done for you in every situation you face.