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

8.22.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Taking Up Your Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.17.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Selfishness and Humility

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

1 John, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Luke, Micah, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.12.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Keep Praying

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• When I was a little girl, I loved bubbles. To be honest, if you were to hand me a bowl of soapy water and a pink plastic wand right now, my inner 5-year-old would squeal with delight. I loved the iridescent sheen and the gentle way they bounce and float. Besides getting that one incredibly huge and perfect bubble, I loved the ribbon of bubbles that would pour out of a generous wand and result in what seemed like a million bubbles dancing around me!
But remember all those failed attempts to get the bubble to appear? The times when no matter how gently you blew, the soapy water wouldn’t cooperate? The result was just a sad spray of soapy water instead of a glorious bubble.
Yet, even when our best efforts didn’t yield results—we persisted. We continued to try until we got our perfect bubble.
We persist in many things in life, knowing that the best things come to those who don’t give up. But one area that we give up on too quickly is prayer. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV, it says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
To pray without ceasing is a tall order. But not an impossible one. It’s an opportunity to continue reaching out to our Father and then, watch the generous blessings and beauty of His answered prayers pour forth. The thing is—because His answers don’t always come out as we expect them to, we sometimes miss them.
That’s why praying without ceasing and being diligent to His will matters so much.
In 1 John 5:14 ESV, it says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” And in Galatians 6:9 ESV, it says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
We don’t give up on prayer because, in God’s timing, He will answer us when we’ve prayed according to His will. Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. Just as the judge acted on behalf of the widow who refused to give up, so can we count on our Heavenly Father to act on our behalf.
To clarify—this isn’t about any and all requests. God isn’t a genie to grant us our three wishes (or the wish for more wishes). He examines our hearts and our motives. But we can rest assured that if our prayers line up with His will and in accordance with Scripture, He hears us! His answers may not look as expected, but we can count on them to come through.
So keep praying. Don’t give up. Let God honor your patience and persistence and when He answers, be in awe of His great goodness and how when He answers, it’s always for our benefit and better than we could expect.
Today, as you pray, thank the Heavenly Father for His blessings. Thank Him for His willingness to hear our prayers. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with confidence when giving up seems easier. Ask Him to help you be persistent and constant in prayer.

Luke, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

7.14.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: An Attitude Check

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Yesterday, a post on a Christian social media channel infuriated me.
I immediately responded with a comment about how disappointed I was in the divisiveness of the post and unfollowed the channel.
I thought about it several times yesterday, convinced that I was right and mentally planning a post today about how those who call themselves Christians need to be careful with their words and attitudes.
While that is true, I need to be careful with my own attitude too.
I still disagree with the post, and I disagree with the way this organization handled it.
But they are not my enemy.
The real enemy is laughing and rubbing his hands together as he watches Christians argue and divide.
He loves it when I get on my high-horse soapbox and in my self-righteousness, create as much divisiveness as the organization whose social media content infuriated me in the first place!
As I got ready to write MGFL this morning, I realized I need to pray more than anything else.
While I don’t plan to resubscribe to the page, I can pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit’s direction for this group.
As I write all this, it occurs to me that this is only an appetizer of what’s to come.
The next election season is gearing up and honestly, I dread it.
The last one was horrible with online battles between friends and strangers arguing over candidates and issues.
During the last election, I defriended several people on Facebook and shortly thereafter, the Holy Spirit convicted me about it.
I no longer defriend people on Facebook but that’s another post for another day…
I do plan to tell y’all about it though.
Let’s look at Luke 11:17 and 23 this morning.
Jesus had cast demons out of a possessed man and the Pharisees actually accused Him of being in league with the devil.
This was Jesus’ response to their asinine accusation: “But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters’” (ESV).
We can’t be divided.
We can disagree, but we have to be respectful.
And while I struggle with the various attitudes and responses to certain political issues, no one has to answer to me.
My biggest obligation to my fellow-Christians is a commitment to pray for them.
Not to argue with them.
On a different side note, I really think our country needs a mandatory course on Debating 101.
The seemingly preferred method of “You’re wrong, I’m right, and you’re a stupid dummy head” is really ineffective.
But getting back to the point…
We have to pray for each other, even when we argue and disagree.
And beyond that, we have to pray for ourselves and our own attitudes so that we don’t fall to the temptation of judgment, anger, ungracious attitudes, or unforgiveness.
As Christians who may have nothing in common except a mutual love for Jesus, we are called to gather, not to scatter.
Today, as you pray, thank God for reminders that attitude checks start inward.
Thank Him for reminders to check ourselves before we condemn others.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray for others, even when you disagree.
And that no matter who or what—ask the Holy Spirit to remind you that the real enemy isn’t a person, but a spirit named Satan, who wants to divide us and keep us from gathering in the name of Jesus.

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.

Hebrews, Luke, Mark, Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

6.21.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Touch (A Sensory Series)

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• This is Day 5, and our final day, of our week-long focus on the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
Day 5–Touch.
Physical touch is such an important part of our lives.
We give hugs of comfort, squeeze hands of encouragement, and give high fives in celebration.
It’s an extension of our need to connect with other people.
Some of my favorite stories of Jesus involve touching.
The woman who touched the hem of His robe is undoubtedly my favorite (Mark 5:25-34).
I also love that despite being in the middle of the ultimate betrayal and arrest that would lead to crucifixion, Jesus showed compassion and touched the ear of the servant in order to heal him (Luke 22:50-51).
But today, let’s talk about the miracle found in Matthew 9:27-31.
Two blind men approached Jesus to be healed and in verse 29, it says, “Then he touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’”
What I love about this verse is that while Jesus physically touched these blind men’s eyes, He didn’t just restore their vision.
He gave them so much more than eyesight.
He gave them freedom and most of all, validation for their faith in Him.
And today, Jesus, as the author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), uses His word to touch the eyes of our hearts so we can grow in faith, see His hands working in our lives, and by doing so, He gives us the hope of an eternal future in heaven.
Jesus is alive and active!
And He still has His hands on our lives.
So the question today is this—are you living with the faith of the blind men?
Even though they couldn’t see Jesus, they recognized Him as the Son of God and acknowledged His authority…
Does your life reflect the same kind of faith?
Today, as you pray, thank God for the gift of touch.
Thank Jesus for having His hand on your life.
And ask the Holy Spirit to help you feel His presence and trust the guidance of His hand.

Luke, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

6.13.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Forgiveness

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Back in January, I shared that my word of the year was “forgive.”
I confess I haven’t studied it as well as I should, but at least once a week, I do think about it.
A few days ago, I was thinking of the words Jesus spoke as He hung on the cross.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a).
That kind of grace in the presence of excruciating pain, humiliation, and torment is what makes Jesus’ love so extraordinary.
His forgiveness is the very reason we must forgive.
It’s not optional.
Because He is willing to forgive even the most vile and offensive sins…
Even the sin of executing Jesus, the Son of God.
His forgiveness knows no limits except the sin of rejecting Christ.
We could spend forever talking about Jesus’ words and never fully understand the immeasurable love, grace, and mercy that was behind them.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the forgetting part of forgiveness.
But today, as you pray, thank Jesus for the extraordinary grace, mercy, and love He had—the things that were stronger than the nails that held Him to the cross.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you reflect on the forgiveness of Jesus.
Ask Him to keep that knowledge fresh in your heart so that it can never be taken for granted.

Luke, Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

5.16.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Being Merciful

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Luke 6:36 says, “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
Jesus spoke these words at the end of His admonition to love our enemies.
Loving our enemies is hard to do, so we tend to follow this commandment by loving our enemies from a distance.
Pray for them from a distance.
But there’s something about mercy that kind of puts us in closer proximity, don’t you think?
Dictionary.com defines mercy as, “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”
That’s a powerful word with a powerful meaning.
And it feels far more personal than our tendency to love and pray from a safe space.
Let’s keep looking at the word “merciful.”
The book of Luke was written in Greek and in this particular verse, the original Greek word was “οἰκτίρμων,” meaning to be merciful and compassionate.
It’s a term that can be cross-referenced back to Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Sort of along the same vein as, “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” which Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:15.
We are called to forgive others as our Father forgives us, and we are also called to show mercy, just as our Father is merciful to us.
How do we show mercy?
Obviously, extending forgiveness is a sign of mercy.
But one act of mercy keeps coming to mind and it’s a prayer that we will see others through the filter of Christ’s love.
Our love, forgiveness, and mercy will never be strong enough.
We need to pray for Jesus to equip us to do it.
We need to pray for Jesus to put His love for others in our hearts so that we can show true mercy.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His mercy.
Acknowledge that it’s within His authority to punish us, but express gratitude that He chooses mercy instead.
Ask Jesus to give you the ability to see others the way He does, so that through that, you can show Christ-like love and mercy.

Luke, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

4.21.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Hope at the Tomb

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Can you imagine that Sunday morning?
Arriving at the tomb, overwhelmed with grief, and learning that your loved one was no longer there?
In Luke 24:5b-6a, the angel said to the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
I can only guess at the complete confusion the women must have felt.
These are the words we focus on at the resurrection story and they are beautiful, amazing, wonderful words.
But let’s take the second half of verse 6 and verse 7, which say, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
I can’t help but wonder if that reminder ignited a flame of hope…
Verse 8 says, “And they remembered his words…”
As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and I wonder if as the women’s view of the situation became clearer, the flicker of hope shed light on the empty tomb.
Yesterday, we talked about how hopelessness is a liar and it’s because of this moment!
As long as we draw breath, we have hope for salvation in Jesus.
He defeated death so that our earthly deaths don’t have the final say!
Salvation in Jesus means we have eternal life with Him.
Until we are united with Him in heaven, the hope of His promises and truth can shed light on any situation we face.
And here’s the truth: God is always in control and if we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead as payment for our sins, we have hope.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for being stronger than death!
Thank Him that because He is alive, you can experience eternal life with Him!
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you live each day with the hope found at the empty tomb.
And if you haven’t asked Jesus to be your Savior, Easter Sunday is a great day to make that choice!

John, Luke, Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Revelation

4.20.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Why Hopelessness Should Never Be Trusted

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Some days are just depressing.
Whether it’s the weather with a dreary, grey overcast sky, or just a day when we’re struggling with emotions…
There are days when things just feel hopeless.
But hopelessness should never be trusted.
It’s a liar.
Let’s take a look at the worst Saturday in the history of the world.
It was the day after Jesus died on the cross.
The events of Saturday aren’t recorded in the Bible; it was the Sabbath Day.
But the disciples were flesh and blood people with real emotions, so we can make some fairly good assumptions.
If you’ve ever lost a loved one, especially when it was unexpected, you know what I’m talking about.
There’s a surreal feeling that makes you feel like you’re moving through mud.
Everything feels like it’s going in slow motion and the weight of the world feels like it’s on your shoulders.
It seems incomprehensible that life will ever feel normal or that laughter will ever visit your heart again.
And on that Saturday, there were 11 of the 12 disciples who were undoubtedly shell-shocked with grief, remorse, guilt, confusion, hurt, anguish, and a host of other emotions.
Jesus, their teacher was dead.
Judas had betrayed Jesus and turned Him over to the authorities before he committed suicide.
Peter had done the unthinkable and denied Christ three times.
The others had scattered and only a few remained for the actual crucifixion (according to the Gospels of Luke and John—women, acquaintances, and the disciple John as told in Luke 23:49 and John 19:26).
The veil at the temple had torn, there had been an earthquake, and dead people had emerged from tombs (Matthew 27:51-53).
It was the day after the worst day in the history of the world.
If ever a day could be defined as hopeless, it was this day.
We know the rest of the story.
And even on our very worst days, it’s the truth that we can still cling to because Sunday was coming.
As the angel told Mary when he told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, despite her virginity, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
And it’s promised in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
For that reason, we know that there is hope, even on the most hopeless days.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus that His story didn’t end on a Friday.
Thank Him that even on a day that seems hopeless, we can have hope because of what happened next on a Sunday.
Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with this truth!