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.

Jeremiah, John, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.8.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Refreshing Living Water

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Jeremiah 31:25 ESV says, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”
I love this promise. It gives peace and hope.
We joke around that part of being an adult is going around telling everyone how tired we are, but let’s face it—that’s our fault. God didn’t design us to go at this kind of pace. We’ve set it because the world expects it.
Choosing to slow down and rest is not something that comes easy for most of us and if I may be so bold—I’m at the front of that line. (My husband often says that if I have five free minutes, I’ll fill it with 30-minutes of something to do.)
This verse says nothing of water, but that’s the visual I have. Water refreshes us and cleans us. And for me, this verse is a “Woman at the Well” promise that applies to all of us.
The woman was offered a drink of Living Water and while initially skeptical, by the end of the passage, she had hope (John 4:4-42). In my mind, I picture her arrival being one of exhaustion.
• Physical exhaustion from the exertion to get water in the middle of the day.
• Mental exhaustion since she knew she was an outsider in her community due to her poor choices.
• Spiritual exhaustion because she had no hope or peace.
But after an encounter with Jesus, she was energized, her past no longer mattered, and she had the hope and peace that is only offered through the Living Water of Jesus.
We are all that woman. Deep within each person is a spiritual thirst that is only quenched and satisfied by Him. And for those who believe, He has promised replenishment and satisfaction.
Unfortunately, we spend too much time trying to accomplish this with other things.
However, that promise is there. No matter what our past, our circumstances, or where we are. Our Heavenly Father always allows a u-turn on the paths we walk. That promise is ours for the taking if we ask and trust. It may not change our situations, but it will always change our hearts.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for being the Living Water we all need. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look to God alone for all your soul longs for. Ask Him to replenish you as only He can.

John, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.5.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Lesson From a Barbershop Pole

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Fun fact for you—up until about 1450, the same person who cut your hair was the same person you would go to for wound care and surgeries.
That would have given a whole new plotline to “Sweeney Todd!”
Beyond the sanitation issues of floating hair and open wounds, there are so many issues our modern-day perspective can identify with this former practice.
Thankfully, the two professions parted ways, but it’s a history that is still represented in today’s barbershop poles.
The red stripes represent blood, the white represents bandages, and the blue represents veins.
It is an important reminder that sometimes, we count on the wrong people for what we really need.
And while you’re not likely to go to your hairstylist for stitches these days, we often do we seek help from the wrong sources?
How many of us, when faced with a problem, turn to friends before we turn to Jesus?
How many of us rely on our own strength when we need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s?
In John 15:4-5 ESV, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
If we are to abide in Him, we need to be dependent upon Him for everything.
Just as the branches cannot be independent of the vine, we cannot be independent of Jesus.
We need Him.
He knows the number of hairs on our head and He is the one saves us from the disease of sin.
If we look at the barbershop pole again, we could look at the stripes in a different way.
The red represents the blood of Jesus, shed for us.
The white represents how His blood washed away our sins leaving us white as snow.
The blue is a color that represents faith and trust.
He is the ultimate solution for all that we could ever need.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for being the vine on which we can all depend.
Thank Him that by His stripes, we are healed.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be dependent on Jesus before you try to be independent or dependent on anyone else.

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.

Genesis, John, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Romans

7.23.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: God’s Love In Spite of Us

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• I’m reading the book of Ezekiel right now, which follows Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations.
And I have to be honest—I start getting discouraged when I read these books.
They are full of prophecies about God’s judgment and while I understand why God was angry, I long for the hope of the Gospels and writings from the New Testament.
Don’t get me wrong—there are still verses of hope and God’s love there.
But it makes me tired and I feel defeated after a while.
I have to wonder, when I read these pronouncements of God’s anger and judgment, why?
Why did the one and only all-powerful and all-knowing God deliberately choose to create mankind if He knew how much we were going to break His heart?
After all, since God is all-knowing, the fall of mankind wasn’t a surprise to Him.
He knew Eve would be tempted and He knew she and Adam would eat the fruit.
And you don’t have to read very far into the Bible to know that by Genesis 6:6, God was sorry He’d made people.
It says, “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (ESV).
Even after destroying the world with the flood, and starting over with the one righteous man, Noah, it wasn’t but a few chapters later that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their extreme sinfulness (Genesis 19:24-25).
And I can’t help but wonder, as I read our modern-day news headlines, how bad is our society compared to those?
I can’t help but believe we have to be worse than Sodom and Gomorrah because there are so many additional temptations to sin in our world.
And at the heart of all of this—from the fall in the Garden, to the flood, to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, to the judgments on the Israelites, to the depravity of our modern world—why did God make us when all we seem to do is break His heart?
And the answer circles back to the fact that He is our Heavenly Father.
Parents don’t stop loving their children when they make mistakes.
And while there may be times during particularly difficult seasons that it may seem easier to wish we’d never had children, the rewards are so great that the idea of not having them is inconceivable.
I believe that’s why God made us despite the way we’ve disappointed Him and hurt Him.
He loves us too much to not be willing to experience the heartache we cause Him.
What blows my mind is that with all His knowledge of what would happen before He created the world, He created us anyway, knowing that it would mean Christ’s death on the cross.
Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV).
And it all comes back to the ultimate summation of God’s love for us—John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (ESV).
Doesn’t that humble you?
Do you ever stop to consider that before the beginning of Creation, God knew He would create you…
Not just a general population, but the one and only specific YOU.
And He knew what choices you would make…
And He chose to love you and make you anyway.
God is so good to us. So much better than we deserve.
Today, as you pray, thank God for being the Heavenly Father who loves us despite the ways we’ve disappointed Him.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you honor Hods love through your thoughts and actions.
Ask Him for a grateful heart that He loves you in spite of everything.
Thank Him that His love trumps everything.

Ezekiel, Isaiah, John, Leviticus, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Proverbs, Romans

7.20.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Joy No Matter What

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• In Proverbs 17:22 ESV, it says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
It’s easy to be joyful on the good days, but it’s this joyful spirit that can strengthen us and help us get through the difficult ones.
A joyful heart isn’t about being happy.
It’s more than that.
It’s the deep-seated faith and contentment that comes from trusting in God’s sovereignty.
In Ezekiel 24:16 ESV, God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down.”
Further do-not-mourn instructions were given in verse 17, and in 18, we learn that Ezekiel’s wife died (“the delight of your eyes”).
Why would God tell Ezekiel not to mourn?
To Ezekiel’s credit, he obeyed God in this.
Let me clarify a few points:
1) God has asked His followers to do some difficult things and this is a prime example of Isaiah 55:8-9—God’s ways are not our ways.
2) Ezekiel can be a difficult book to read, especially since there are so many complex images and symbolism.
And 3) For the millionth time, I’m not a theologian so I’m not going to try to explain complex theology or get into the purpose of God’s no-mourning instructions.
Let’s just all agree that Ezekiel was having a very, very bad week.
Ezekiel already had the difficult responsibility of prophesying God’s judgment on the nation of Israel.
Losing his wife too and not mourning according to the normal customs was probably not easy.
But it wasn’t the first time God commanded someone not to mourn.
In Leviticus 10, Aaron’s sons died after not following the proper process in the Tabernacle.
Aaron was told not to mourn.
Mourning isn’t a bad thing…
Even though Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He wept (John 11:28-44).
This devotion is kind of going in an unexpected direction…
I didn’t intend to get into such heavy material, but the overall point is this—no matter our circumstances, we can choose to have joy in God’s plan.
Or we can wallow in bitterness and despair.
Ezekiel trusted in God and because of that trust, He was able to obey.
I’m pretty certain he wasn’t happy at that moment, and maybe he didn’t even feel joy.
We don’t always feel it, but we can always be confident of joy’s presence when we know God is working all things for His good purpose (Romans 8:28).
Today, as you pray, give thanks to God that He always has a plan and a purpose, even when we don’t see or understand.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you have joy in all circumstances.
Ask Him to help you trust, even when tempted to be bitter or overwhelmed with despair.

1 Peter, John, Luke, Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

7.13.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Hope of Being Known

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Since I was a little girl, the idea of a message in a bottle has intrigued me.
You can look at it from so many perspectives.
The castaway casting his hope of rescue into the sea…
The young woman, separated from her beloved and hopeful that somehow and someway, her message will reach him…
A long lost sailor who hopes for reconciliation…
Or simply a ten-year-old girl who hopes to send a bit of herself out there to be discovered.
That last one may or may not be, but probably—and actually is—me.
I may be off on the age, but I have tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean.
No matter what the message in the bottle is, it always boils down to two things: hope and a yearning for someone to see our hearts.
Thankfully, we don’t need an ocean or a glass bottle for that to happen.
We can have hope because of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3), and He knows our hearts.
In John 2:23-25 CSB, it says, “While he was in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, many believed in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. Jesus, however, would not entrust himself to them, since he knew them all and because he did not need anyone to testify about man; for he himself knew what was in man.”
Now before we get discouraged by this passage, hear me out.
I chose this verse for a reason.
Let’s focus on the last part of verse 25–“for he himself knew what was in man.”
Jesus knows us.
The very trust He withheld was because He read their hearts.
They believed because of signs and miracles.
But as Jesus would later tell Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29 CSB).
But we can have hope.
Jesus also read the heart of the woman at the well (John 4:1-42) and the result of that is summed up in verse 29 CSB, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
Jesus then told the disciples in verse 35b of the same translation, “Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest.”
The woman at the well had hope and Jesus saw her heart.
Let’s go to another example…
Matthew 19:16-24 tells the story of a rich young man who came to Jesus to ask how he could go to heaven.
Jesus answered, “‘If you want to be perfect,’ Jesus said to him, ‘go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’” (Matthew 19:21 CSB).
Jesus didn’t tell the man to sell everything because He expects Christians to live in poverty, but because He saw in this young man’s heart that he had a love for his things and money.
Though Jesus saw this man’s heart, the man had a different reaction to the Truth than the woman at the well.
Consequently, the man walked away without hope.
A third example happened at Calvary.
Two thieves hanging on crosses beside Jesus.
While one mocked, the other said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 CSB).
Even as He died for our sins, Jesus saw the man’s heart and offered hope by saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 CSB).
Jesus sees what’s inside of each of us.
The opportunity for hope boils down to our reaction.
Will we be like the woman at the well or the thief on the cross and be filled with hope?
Or will we walk away dejected like the rich young man?
Jesus will entrust Himself to those who believe.
So we never need to wonder if someone will discover us and offer hope.
The One and only Someone already has.
Today, as you pray, thank God for hope.
Thank Him that His promises are good and worthy of our hope and trust.
Thank Jesus for seeing your heart.
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you that you are seen and have every reason to hope because of Jesus.

Genesis, John, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Revelation

6.25.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Ginormity of the Trinity

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• In Revelation 22:13, Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
This is a powerful illustration for us to understand the timelessness of Jesus.
Because He is the Son of God, it’s easy to assume that God came first.
But Jesus and God, along with the Holy Spirit, have always been separate and equal parts of the whole Trinity.
One has not existed without the other two.
Jesus, as the Alpha, was present at the beginning of the world’s creation and He will be present at the end of the world.
Genesis 1:26a says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.’” (Emphasis mine.)
The “our” was a reference to the Trinity, including Jesus.
Jesus emphasized this in John 10:30, when He said, “I and the Father are one.”
Further demonstration of Jesus’ timelessness is found in John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Here, John acknowledged Christ (“the Word”) as being present at the Creation of the world and as the Creator.
It’s impossible to fully wrap our finite brains around this truth and for centuries, people have tried to explain the Trinity through various illustrations…
The egg being the most popular.
The shell, the yolk, and the white are separate but make up one egg.
The problem with this illustration is that while there are three components of the egg, those three can be separated apart from the other two.
God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are always one.
Anyway, this is theology that is way above my head.
But as I was praying this morning, the overwhelming ginormity of God really hit me in a new way.
It’s good to reflect on His bigness and everlasting existence.
Acknowledging it humbles us and helps us revere Him all the more, especially when you consider that He

  1. created us
  2. loves us
  3. died for us
  4. conquered death for us
  5. watches over us
  6. guides us
  7. wants a relationship with us.

And those seven are just the tip of the iceberg of what He’s done for us.
Friends, you and I are only an infinitesimal fraction of the countless miracles He’s made, and yet…
The Trinity of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit wants to get our attention.
It’s not for His benefit.
God doesn’t need us.
It’s for our benefit because nothing is better than worshipping and praising our King and Savior.
Today, as you pray, reflect on the hugeness of who the Trinity is and the countless ways He’s worked in your life (that you’re aware of).
Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with awe of His greatness and to humble your spirit before Him.

James, John, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Romans

6.19.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Hearing (A Sensory Series)

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• This is Day 3 of our week-long focus on the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
Day 3–Hearing.
I have some strong opinions on this sense since so many equate hearing with listening.
But the sense is called hearing, so I picked a verse that uses that word…
But we’ll be talking about listening too!
With that said, let’s jump in.
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
It circles back to what we talked about on Monday when we reviewed sight.
Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29b).
Our belief isn’t based on what we see but on hearing, listening, understanding, and accepting the Gospel of Jesus.
With all of that, comes faith.
And that’s a good thing!
But (I warned you this was coming…) hearing and listening are two different things.
James spoke of this in James 1:22-25, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
Did you get all that?
I had to read it twice.
To make it easier, let’s look at “The Message” translation—“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.”
That’s what it is to be a hearer of the Word.
Hearing is an action word and when we hear, we react.
We can react in obedience or react through the denial of what we heard.
But if you proclaim faith in Jesus, hearing requires action.
Are you living your faith as a hearer or a hearer/doer?
Today, as you pray, thank God for the gift of hearing, and the privilege of hearing the Good News of Salvation.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear His word and act on it through faith, obedience, and the fruit of His spirit.

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.