PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• One of the biggest challenges for a Christian writer is the dreaded word, “platform.”
Every writer I know pretty much cringes at the term.
It feels contradictory to the call to write.
Speakers tend to feel the same way because they have to face the p-word too.
But it’s not about being a writer or a speaker.
We all have a God-assigned purpose and personal mission-field.
Our endlessly creative God gives each of us a unique set of gifts to achieve His call for our lives.
He may give us an audience of millions or an audience of dozens.
Whatever our circle of influence and whatever shape our individual calling takes, we ultimate serve an Audience of One.
And as long as we obey Him and follow His plan, the numbers don’t matter.
It’s a liberating statement to make as a writer.
(Whew! Take that, Platform!)
But my personal ministry doesn’t start and stop with my keyboard.
Our mission field isn’t defined by one adjective.
There are a lot of shapes and packages in which God will use us—writers, speakers, musicians, teachers, caregivers, parents, husband/wife, neighbor, friend, student, etc.
And what is amazing to me is that every person’s gifts are manifested in different ways and used to bless others in different ways.
In Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV, Paul wrote, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Let’s zero in on that phrase, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
My calling isn’t going to look exactly like yours, his, or hers.
And yours isn’t going to look exactly like mine or theirs.
God may have one person ministering in a very direct, bold manner.
He may use another person to minister through compassionate care in the medical industry.
He may ask another to minister as a ray of His goodness and light in a negative work environment.
Not every ministry is overt.
Consider John Maxwell whose ministry is leadership.
Or Dave Ramsey who ministers through financial guidance.
Or Chick-fil-A who ministers through great service and food.
Then we have people like Lysa TerKeurst who ministers through raw emotion.
All of these people and organizations are Christians with a calling and each one is handled differently.
What is your calling?
How can you serve and minister exactly where you are?
Could it be through compassionate leadership?
Could it be through acts of service?
Maybe you’re ministering with a toolbox in hand.
Whatever medium God uses for your ministry—the point is to be willing to be used and “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
To be the one who others look at and wonder about what makes you different.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His plan and purpose for your life.
Ask the Holy Spirit to use you and guide you…
To not feel the pressure to be anything other than who God has asked you to be to the circle He has called you to influence.
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• I’m currently reading a book called, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?,” by Philip Yancey.
As I’ve read it, I’ve been challenged about my understanding of grace.
What I’m starting to realize, despite having named my blog “My Grace-Full Life,” I have seriously underestimated how grace is given and what grace is.
It’s one of those things we think we understand.
It’s a term that is so complex, yet it’s so simple.
Then again, the simplicity of grace is extremely complex.
And God is the only one who offers it perfectly.
Grace is something we give and something we receive.
Though often, we are better at receiving than giving…
And sometimes, we aren’t great receivers either.
But grace is such a tremendous gift.
My favorite Bible verses are Ephesians 2:8-9 which say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV).
I love those verses.
It was the inspiration for my blog and it’s my life verse.
It’s a reminder that nothing I’ve done or will do is going to be enough because it all boils down to the magnificent, overwhelming, undeserved grace of my Heavenly Father.
Yancey’s book is a tool God has given me to really embrace my word of the year—forgive.
Because you can’t have forgiveness without grace.
This is one of those mornings where I have so much going on in my mind, I’m not sure that I’m making sense.
And I am afraid I’m not making much of a point short of recommending the book.
Though I have about four chapters left, it has challenged me and given me much to think about.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His grace.
Thank Him for the opportunity to learn and grow through His Word and the wisdom of others.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be mindful of grace—to both give it and receive it.
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.
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• This is Day 2 of our week-long focus on the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
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.
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.
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.
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• This morning’s verse is Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
This verse is an admonition to trust each other as believers.
To be vulnerable and transparent with one another.
It’s hard to do.
We are broken, damaged people, and we guard our trust fiercely because every one of us knows what it’s like to have our trust betrayed.
And I have to throw this disclaimer in here…
There’s a difference between being transparent and vulnerable versus airing the dirty laundry.
We should feel comfortable with each other to admit we are having challenges in various circumstances.
We don’t have to share overly personal details.
But we’re here, doing this life thing together.
If we can’t trust our brothers and sisters-in-Christ to have our backs, who on earth can we trust?
Now with that said, there’s the Truster and the Trustee (and I’m not talking about inheritance money either).
If we want people to trust us, we have to be reliable Trustees.
We have to ensure discretion, protect privacy, and guard the information that’s entrusted to us.
Allowing someone to be vulnerable to us doesn’t open the door for us to share gossip, veiled as a prayer request, with others.
My first challenge this week is to be vulnerable with another believer.
Admit a struggle and ask for prayer.
My second challenge is to demonstrate trustworthiness to someone by praying for them as promised and protecting their privacy in the process.
Today, as you pray, give praise to God for the church of believers.
Thank Him for designing us as communal beings who need each other’s fellowship and support.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be a worthy Trustee and a good Truster.
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• We all know the saying, “Open mouth, insert foot.”
I’ve been there more times than I can count and often, it’s not so much “Open mouth, insert foot,” as it is, “Open mouth, insert a shoe store.”
We all know what it is to have our mouths work faster than our brains.
It’s completely understandable why James called the tongue “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” in James 3:2-10.
So many problems in the world are caused by restless chatter when the stillness of silence would have been far more beneficial.
The signature verse today comes from Psalm 141:3 and says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”
It’s a prayer I pray frequently, paraphrased of course because I’m not as articulate as David.
My version is more like, “Lord, please let me know when to shut up and please don’t let me say something stupid.”
I pray frequently for God to give me the right words…
Whether I’m speaking to someone who has a vastly different set of values than I do…
Or trying to explain something…
Or trying NOT to say what I really want to say…
The words we speak matter and we know that better than ever in our easily-offended society.
And it’s for that reason that so many Christians stay silent.
They don’t know what to say or they are afraid of offending or sounding stupid.
Y’all, God gave us the gift of speech and we need to use it.
But we have to regularly incorporate David’s prayer into our prayer lives.
Left to our own devices, our mouths can get us into trouble.
We need to ask the Holy Spirit to guide our words.
Proverbs 16:4 equates gentle words to a honeycomb while in Colossians 4:6, it says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Salt enhances flavors and Jesus told us we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).
We are meant to use our words to bring peace when there is strife…
To bring healing when there is sorrow…
To bring love when there is hated.
And in Ephesians 4:29, we are told, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Let’s not be afraid to speak up, but instead, ask our Heavenly Father to guide our words.
Today, as you pray, thank God for the gift of speech and the ability to communicate.
Thank Him that with your voice, you can pray, and lift up praises to Him.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide every word that you speak that they will be God-honoring, kind, gentle, and a reflection of grace and goodness.
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Prayer ADHD is a real thing and Friends, there are plenty of times when I develop a raging case of it.
Prayer ADHD is a close cousin to Shiny Object Syndrome which gets us off track when we’re trying to focus on Bible study.
I’d be doubtful of anyone who said they didn’t know what I was talking about…
You know how this happens.
You start praying and all of a sudden, the most random thoughts start popping up in your head.
(Maybe you revisit that argument you had with someone in the fourth grade or begin to ponder, “If colors had a scent, what would purple smell like?”.)
The enemy does not want us praying.
He knows the power of prayer and will hurl arrows of distraction at us anytime he catches us in prayer.
It’s an ongoing determination to stay focused.
He doesn’t want us reading our Bibles either.
He knows the power found in the Word of God, so he will try to distract us from doing it and learning more about God.
In 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
But Satan’s attacks aren’t always obvious.
He’s often subtle.
But I promise you, he is terrified of you with a Bible in your hand and a prayer in your heart.
Because he knows that makes you a force to be reckoned with…
That’s why he does whatever he can to distract you and get you off track.
It’s important to pray for focus.
Almost all of my prayers start that way because I know how easy it is for me to get distracted.
Being aware of his attempts to disrupt your prayer life is a key part of the battle.
It’s a matter of constant vigilance because as Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12–we aren’t fighting flesh and blood.
This is a spiritual war.
Today, as you pray, thank God that His word is so powerful.
Thank Him for the power of prayer.
Praise Him that both are stronger than our enemy.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus during prayer and Bible study.
Ask Him to protect you from the enemy’s attempt to distract you.
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Yesterday’s headline news was the fire at Notre Dame.
The history nerd in me is beyond sad about it.
I visited the Notre Dame when I was 18 and it was among my most memorable experiences in Europe.
The cathedral’s magnificence and grandeur are so much more impressive in person.
Already rebuilding efforts are being planned and several prominent businessmen have pledged over $300 million for reconstruction.
As horrifying as it was to watch this stunning and historical piece of architecture and beloved landmark burn, it reminded me of a couple of things.
First, the church is not a building.
It’s the people.
Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
Second, as grand as that building is, it’s nothing to the grandeur we can expect to see in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21).
But let’s spend some time on the first point.
Doesn’t it break your heart a little that throughout the world, we’re more worried about a building than we are the church—the body of believers?
We are more consumed with rebuilding a building and ensuring the strength and stability of its walls and foundation than we are ensuring the collective strength and stability of the people who make up the church.
This is a wake-up call, Friends.
It’s not about the building, it’s about us.
We are the church.
We should be collectively contributing to what it really means to be the church and our call to fulfill the Great Commission that points others to Jesus.
Buildings can easily be destroyed, as we saw yesterday.
Nothing manmade will last forever.
But what we do as the body of Christ has eternal significance.
Today, as you pray, thank God that the church isn’t a building.
Thank Him that we ARE the church.
Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to do your part.
Remember the truth of Ephesians 2:20-22, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.”
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• I wish Psalm 23 wasn’t synonymous with funerals.
If we can forget about that affiliation for just a bit, let’s look at it from an everyday perspective.
We’ll spend a few days on it and break it apart in chunks, starting with verses 1-3, which say, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
David, who wrote the Psalm, was well-acquainted with the responsibilities of being a shepherd.
He knew the shepherd’s resume would include leading and guiding the sheep, taking them to pasture, and leading them to water.
He knew that a good shepherd would protect his flock.
Flip forward to the book of John 10:11, where Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
David’s allegory is reflective of what Jesus does for us, not just when we are standing in a receiving line at a funeral, but in everyday life.
He offers us daily care and provides for us, just as He said in Matthew 6:25-34 when He said that the sparrows and the lilies are cared for by God.
Also, He is the Living Water to sustain us.
That very Living Water that He offered the woman at the well in John 4:4-42 is the water that our souls crave.
And in verse 3b, where it says, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Our sinful natures don’t lend themselves to righteousness because nothing we do is good enough.
But Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
God has good assignments for us.
He has things for us to do to benefit the Kingdom of God.
And we are to walk that journey with Jesus daily so that through Him, anything good we do reflects Him for others to see.
Today, as you pray, thank God that Psalm 23 isn’t a passage we turn to just when we’re sad but it reminds us that our Good Shepherd leads us every day.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you stay with your Shepherd and not wander away from His good plan for you.