Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Zechariah

8.21.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The God of the Impossible

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• In Zechariah 8, the Lord spoke of His promise to restore Jerusalem. God said He would return the Israelites to the Promised Land. He gave a word-picture of children playing and the elderly gathering in the square. And in verse 6, it says, “The Lord of Armies says this: ‘Though it may seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, should it also seem impossible to me?’—this is the declaration of the Lord of Armies” (CSB). After 70 years of exile, I’m sure many had given up hope of seeing Jerusalem again, much less, the hope of such a picturesque, carefree moment. 

Let’s look at that question again: “Though it may seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, should it also seem impossible to me?”

It’s a rhetorical question. I can’t help but wonder if the Lord asks us the same in the situations you and I face. 

“This may look impossible for you, Denise, but should I—the Creator of the Universe—think it’s impossible too?” 

The script is laughable! How can we put our finite limitations on an infinite God? How can we possibly worry that our problem is the ONE problem He can’t fix??

These are those facepalm moments. The moments when I don’t understand how God can stay so patient with me. The moments when my fretting trumps my faith and He has to remind me—yet again—that He knows what He’s doing and that He’s much better at His job than I am. 

No matter what kind of circumstances we find ourselves in, God knows. He sees. He is in control. Our job is to believe. It’s all He asks of us!

Jesus said in Matthew 21:22 CSB, “And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Don’t get crazy with that—God won’t go against His own Word or character to grant us wishes. But if we believe in Him—that He knows best—then we can trust God to make the impossible possible. We can trust that He will answer prayers and bring solutions to our lives. 

Today, as you pray, thank God that nothing is impossible for Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you believe that. Ask Him to help you pray through your circumstances according to God’s will, trusting that He hears and His answer will be exactly what you need and align with His good plan.

Mark, Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Psalm

8.18.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Being Teachable

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Yesterday, I spent several hours studying and preparing to teach Sunday School this morning. And true to form, I’ve woken up and am questioning the whole direction of the lesson I prepared. 

We have a teacher’s guide. But in all honesty—I’d rather not have anything and just build something from scratch. I’m enough of a non-conformist that I don’t like to go by someone else’s structure. Ideally, I would just write an essay, pass out copies, then sit down and let everyone talk amongst themselves.

Y’all, I don’t know why God told me to do this. I do not like speaking in front of people. I go through this every single time I’m scheduled to teach. And yet, I felt led to sign up for another year on the rotation schedule.

In Psalm 143:10 CSB, David wrote, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground.”

The key phrase for me in this is “teach me to do Your will.” 

“Your will.” It shows up throughout the Bible. Two most notable places—The Lord’s Prayer and the Garden of Gethsemane.

  • Matthew 6:10b CSB of The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • And Jesus prayed in the garden before His arrest, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36 CSB). 

Jesus modeled what it is to be taught to pray and live by God’s will. David asked to be taught to follow God’s will. And with that before us, you and I have to be teachable too. 

Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for modeling what it is to obey God’s will. Thank Him for the example of David’s willing heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to equip you and encourage you to obey, even when God’s will forces you outside your comfort zone.

Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.4.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: A Heavenly Perspective of Value

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Yesterday, my mom and I picked up some of my grandmother’s jewelry that we had repaired, including Mamo’s original wedding/engagement rings and a cocktail ring.
These pieces are worth more to me than the crown jewels of London.
It’s not about monetary value.
Actually, I have no idea what they are worth financially.
It’s the sentimental value that makes them priceless in my eyes.
Mom and I went to lunch after we left the jewelers and talked about how glad Mamo would be that we are wearing and enjoying her jewelry.
With further reflection about that conversation, I have a little different viewpoint on it.
I do believe that the earthly version of my grandmother would be thrilled.
But my Mamo is with Jesus.
She walks on streets that are paved with gold.
Her jewelry pales in comparison to where she is and Who she’s with.
Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV).
So my grandmother left these pieces behind and I’m confident that she’s not pining for her jewelry in heaven.
The value we place on things here on earth is not the same that we’ll have in heaven.
The jewelry that represents my Mamo and even the most priceless jewels in the world are completely worthless in the heavenly perspective.
And to be honest, that makes my sentimental heart weep.
But I’m looking at things right now from the only point of view I have.
Right now, I’m wearing this jewelry and it serves as a reminder of a woman I’ve loved my whole life.
And I have to confess something.
After all, we’re all friends here, right?
I’ve actually prayed that God would spare things I’m sentimental about and make sure they find a place in my Heavenly mansion that Jesus is working on for me.
I know God has to laugh at my naivety sometimes.
I know He’s planning something far more incredible for me.
Plus, I’ll actually be with my grandparents again!
I’d trade the jewelry for that any day.
All this to say—I’m working on reminding myself of the importance of perspective.
I’m grateful for these gifts that remind me of Mamo but I pray that the Holy Spirit will use them to help me remember where she is, not reflect on where she was.
Today, as you pray, thank God that He is preparing a place beyond our imaginations.
Thank Him that the things we value and hold dear now will evaporate in comparison to what is coming.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you prioritize what you value from a heavenly perspective versus an earthly one.

Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Uncategorized

8.3.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Shining

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Tomorrow, our church’s new pastor will lead our congregation in worship for the first (official) time.
It’s going to be an exciting day and it’s one we’ve all look forward to.
We know from his Call Sunday that he is a great preacher!
Many of us have also listened to past sermons that are available through podcasts.
And he’s got a true heart for Christ.
We are so happy to have him and his family at Ardmore Baptist Church!
As we’ve looked forward to having Tyler lead us, I’ve thought about how easy it is to assume that ministering and sharing God’s Word is the responsibility of the preacher.
But all Believers share in this.
When Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, He didn’t make any stipulations or give any acceptable excuses to NOT share His Good News.
He said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 CSB).
Further, He told us in Matthew 5:14-16 CSB, “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
We lean on our pastors as spiritual leaders and guides, and while that is their job, we can’t leave it entirely up to them.
We are called to be the light, so we need to shine.
We need to let others see the love of Jesus in us and through us.
As the saying goes, “You may be the only Bible some people will ever read.”
Make sure you shine brightly enough so they can see the message.
Today, as you pray, thank God for our pastors and leaders!
Thank Him for entrusting them with the heart to share Jesus with others, including ourselves.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide them, but to also guide you as you go about life.
MAsk Him to help you shine and radiate the love of Jesus so you will have many opportunities to tell others about Him.

Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Proverbs

7.24.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Road Trip!

Actually, not exactly…
My mom and I are headed out today for the annual She Speaks Conference, but it’s only 1 1/2 hours away in Concord, NC.
I think you need at least five hours in the car to officially call it a road trip.
The pre-conference starts tomorrow and we’ll be there through late Saturday.
It’s my third year at She Speaks and it’s an event I look forward to all year long.
While the name of the conference is based on Proverbs 31:26 NIV (“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.), the overall experience of the conference closely resembles Matthew 18:20 ESV, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
It’s a wonderful time of worship, fellowship, and learning.
The presence of the Holy Spirit can be felt in a powerful way.
I’d appreciate your prayers over the next few days!
Anytime there’s an opportunity for Christians to come together in a spirit of worship, we can rest on that promise from Jesus.
Whether we’re in a group of a thousand or simply two—as long as we put Jesus at the center of our purpose, we will experience Him in a very real way.
Today, as you pray, thank God for the promise of His presence.
Thank Him that no matter where we go, He is with us.
Ask the Holy Spirit to bless your fellowship with other believers and to equip you to share His goodness with others.

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.

Galatians, Matthew, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

7.12.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Blessed To Be a Blessing

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• My friend Sandra often says, “You’re blessed to be a blessing.”
I love that, don’t you?!
It is such a pretty way to say that God is using you to help others.
And what an amazing privilege.
Jesus wants us all to experience the joy of being “blessed to be a blessing.”
He said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 CSB).
This isn’t a vanity, “Look at me! Look at me!” thing.
This is a matter of living a life that is an abundant orchard of the Holy Spirit’s fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
By living according to the Fruit of the Spirit, we bless others with a bright light for Jesus.
These distinguishing characteristics separate us from a world that claims these things but fails to consistently live them.
The world’s poor imitation of love turns to hate when someone offends.
The world’s joy is superficial.
The world’s peace is non-existent for all the talk otherwise.
The world’s patience is thin and weak in our microwave, I-want-it-now-society.
The world’s kindness is often self-seeking.
The world’s goodness fails to measure up.
The world’s faithfulness is fleeting and fickle.
The world’s gentleness is brash and abrasive.
The world’s self-control is self-indulgent.
But the Fruit of the Spirit—real love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—all of that points back to Jesus.
And when we live that way, we may be recognized for being different, but ultimately, the difference is identified as Christ within us.
That’s when we get to be “blessed by being a blessing.”
When others see Jesus in us.
Today, as you pray, thank God for the privilege of being used by Him.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you live by His fruit so that you may reflect the love of Jesus to whoever you meet.
Ask Him to allow you to be a blessing to others.

Genesis, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Psalm, Romans

6.23.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: God Knows Our Thoughts

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• I saw this meme on Facebook: “I’m grateful that thoughts don’t appear in bubbles over our heads.”
Isn’t that the truth?
Depending on the circumstances and time of day, my thought bubbles might range between, “A cup of coffee sounds good,” to “I need coffee,” all the way to, “If I don’t get coffee, I am going to hurt someone.”
As much as we want to believe (and hope) that the thoughts in our heads are private to us, that’s not the case.
And I’m not talking about the facial expressions that give us away, though my lack of a poker face has gotten me in trouble more than a few times.
Psalm 139:1-2, 4 says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”
On one hand, that is comforting.
It affirms that God our Father and Creator is all-knowing and personally invested in our lives.
On the other hand, that is terrifying.
Because it affirms that God our Father and Creator is all-knowing and personally invested in our lives.
And I think we can all agree that we have some thoughts, words, and actions that we wish we could hide or erase altogether, especially from God.
The idea of God being exposed to our darkest thoughts leaves us raw and vulnerable.
And though He has known us since before we were conceived (Jeremiah 1:5), we don’t like being reminded of our sin and shame.
His holy presence forces us to acknowledge our own depravity.
It’s the very reason that Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves to cover themselves in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:7).
But God…
Isn’t that such a great phrase??
I love it.
But God loves us anyway and in Isaiah 26:3, we have to remedy for how to clean up our thoughts.
It says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”
When we keep our minds on God, there isn’t room for the stuff we would want to hide.
Then, Romans 12:2 gives us additional insight, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
When we have our minds focused on God, and we’re willing to let Him transform our thoughts, then we naturally segue into Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
And with that, we come full circle back to Psalms, to the truth about God as described in 31:19, “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!”
When we remember how good God is and how He’s given us a whole book to use and write on our hearts (Psalm 119:11), the fact that He can read our thoughts doesn’t have to be scary.
Because we have everything we need to overcome our thoughts when we simply focus our attention on Jesus.
Today, as you pray, thank God for knowing you better than anyone else does, even better than you know yourself.
And thank Him for loving you anyway.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you stay focused on God, God’s will, and ask Him to transform your thoughts accordingly.

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.

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.