Acts, Genesis, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

8.19.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Looking Forward

PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• In a past blog, I’ve shared about the time I got my first car stuck on top of a tree stump, all four tires completely off the ground. That was a moment. But it wasn’t the only “fun” experience I had with that car. For a year, I drove it without access to my instrument panel. Literally. Couldn’t tell you how fast I was going or how much gas I had. It was a guessing game every time I got in the car. And to add insult to injury, the rearview mirror fell off the windshield.

Any driver will agree that the rearview mirror is an important asset to the car, but from personal experience, I can tell you that access to a rearview mirror is highly underrated. 

With all that said though, looking in the rearview mirror is the only looking back we should do. After all, as the saying goes, “There’s a reason the windshield is so much bigger than the rearview mirror. Where you’re going is so much better than where you’ve been.”

We all have a tendency to look in the rearview mirrors of our life. We look at our past and ponder all the what-ifs. But if Paul had been given access to my old Buick, I imagine he may have thrown the rearview mirror out the side of the car as opposed to leaving it in the backseat as I did. He wrote in Philippians 3:13-14 CSB, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

If anyone could have made an argument for being fixated on his past sins and mistakes, it was Paul. In his judgmental, self-righteous past, he was one of the most zealous and outspoken leaders in the persecution of the early church. He was even present at the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:54-60). 

Yet, Paul didn’t spend time berating himself for his mistakes. He had his Damascus moment, repented, and turned his life to Christ—and from that point on, Paul looked forward. He pursued the prize of eternity with Jesus. And while he waited, he ministered, preached, mentored, and wrote. 

In fact, Paul was the most prolific writer in the New Testament with 13, possibly 14, to his credit out of 27 (Hebrews is a maybe—the authorship is up for debate among theologians). 

But the temptation to look back is so great. Yet it does no good. God has been commanding us to look forward for centuries. But it’s so much easier said than done. Lot’s wife would agree—after all, she was turned to salt for succumbing to the temptation to look back (Genesis 19:26). 

Why doesn’t God want us to look back? Because we can’t help move His kingdom forward if we keep looking back. We are called to repent and move on. The only reason our past should be present is to use it to tell others how God has redeemed us! Our redemption from our past mistakes become examples of His greatness, love, mercy, and grace!

Today, as you pray, praise God for being a God who isn’t focused on our pasts but offers us a future. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus forward so that you won’t wallow in the past.

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.

Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Proverbs, Uncategorized

7.29.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: A Reminder From My Air Conditioner


PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• There is nothing like a broken air conditioner to remind you that you are not as independent as you think you are.
I am sitting in my living room this morning, under a speeding fan with half the windows in the house open after a restless night of mugginess and heat.
Because in case you haven’t heard, North Carolina is really hot and humid in July.
I’m reminded that there are some things we take for granted until we can’t.
I don’t think much about my air conditioning unit until it stops working, but today—I realize I am deeply dependent on my A/C.
I don’t think much my tires until one is flat.
I don’t think much of my internet until I can’t connect.
These little things remind us that we are very dependent beings.
But that’s how God created us to be…
He made us to be dependent on Him.
Except the problem is, our sin and pride are excellent liars who convince us that we don’t need God.
After all, we all know those who never go to church, never read their Bible, but suddenly become prayer warriors when it comes down to something they want or need.
Unfortunately, I’ve been that person before.
All of us have in some form or another.
Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
When we trust in God—both His way and His plan—we can experience the joy of utter dependence on Him.
We can depend on Him to be our everything.
Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
It’s not about physical wealth or material possessions, but our utter dependence on Him boils down to the salvation offered through the blood of Jesus Christ.
We can’t do life without Jesus.
Period.
We may muddy our way through it for a time but our independent ways will fail us eventually.
Only dependence on God will give true and everlasting security.
Today, as you pray, thank God for being the dependable, reliable, and trustworthy God that He is.
Ask the Holy Spirit to remove the self-reliant spirit that deceives you.
Ask Him to give you a spirit that recognizes your complete and total need for Jesus.

2 Corinthians, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

7.16.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: The Illusion of Self-Help


PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• As much as I love to read, I’m not a fan of the self-help genre.
I have a few self-help books on my jam-packed bookcase.
They’re buried in there somewhere.
Since each shelf is double-stacked with books, I don’t really know what I have.
On the rare occasion when I do get a self-help book on purpose, I rarely read the whole book.
Or even crack the spine.
These books are like squatters in my bookcase.
They take up residence for a while before I evict them to the used book store and replace them with fiction or Christian growth books.
The thing about self-help is that more often than naught, it’s an illusion.
We are, after all, creatures of habit.
We CAN change.
But few people make permanently radical lifestyle changes on their own.
Though I’m not a self-help enthusiast, I often fall into the trap of self-reliance.
And that’s what self-help boils down to, right?
When people attempt to make changes in their life through their own self-reliant and independent efforts.
As I thought about this today, I went to 2 Corinthians 3:5 which says, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” (ESV).
We also know the oft-quoted verse from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV).
So why do we look to help ourselves or try to rely on our own illusions?
Because here’s two myth busters for you
1) the old wives tale “God helps those who help themselves” isn’t in the Bible.
And 2) “God never gives us more than we can handle” isn’t in the Bible either.
In fact, the absolute opposite is true.
God WILL allow us to experience more than we can handle because He wants us to turn to Him and be completely dependent on Him.
God wants us to lean on Him so we can let Him help us through our valleys.
He wants us to be reliant on Him so that He can demonstrate that He is enough for us.
It’s an act of great love and a testament to God’s interest in our lives.
He didn’t create us to figure it out for ourselves.
He made us to worship Him.
And as He becomes our everything, we can praise Him for both the good and the bad because we learn first hand that He is in control and at work in our lives.
We understand our complete dependence on Him.
Today, as you pray, thank God for being all that we need.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be reliant on God and to seek Him for all the help you need.

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

7.4.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Fear and Fireworks


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

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.

2 Corinthians, Acts, Hebrews, Judges, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

6.22.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: A Boy at a Baseball Game


PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• So off the bat (pun intended), you may wonder why on earth I put this verse with a picture of a baseball.
It’s not really related but it’s based on something that happened at a baseball game last night.
My husband and I joined our friends/neighbors to see our local baseball team play.
To be honest, I really don’t like baseball that much but I do enjoy going to see our team, the Winston-Salem Dash.
It’s fun to be with our friends…
Run into people we know…
And my favorite part of the game—people watching.
Our seats were behind home plate.
A few rows ahead and to the right was the dugout suite.
This is an area that is set up with tables and chairs and as the name implies, is right beside the dugout.
It was empty last night but after the game started, several kids started playing in that area.
I watched this one kid who bore a resemblance to “Ralphie” from “A Christmas Story.”
He was sitting on metal chairs that had hollow tubes on the chair back.
He and his friend were sticking their fingers in them.
“Ralphie” got stuck.
His dad had to get up and help him get his fingers out of the chair.
As soon as Dad sat down, “Ralphie” stuck his fingers back in the chair.
Stuck again.
Dad rescued again.
By the time I watched this kid start the cycle a third time, I was cracking up (though admittedly, I would have found it far less funny had he been my kid).
But in observing this boy, it reminded me of an important truth.
We are all children who do stupid things, we need a Father to rescue us, and too often—as soon as we’re rescued, we do it all again.
When you read through the Old Testament, and I’m particularly thinking of Judges, you see the Israelites in this vicious cycle.
They turn away from God.
They get in trouble.
They cry out to God for help.
God rescues them.
The Israelites get complacent.
They turn away from God and the cycle repeats itself.
Sound familiar?
I know I’m guilty.
And while I may want to laugh about the antics of a little boy at a baseball game, and facepalm myself over the Israelites, it’s really a serious matter.
Hebrews 10:26 says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…”
If we hop down to verse 29, the ramifications of our sins-set-on-repeat are outlined, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”
That’s a pretty sobering thought.
We know the blood of Jesus has cleansed us of sin, yet when we continue to repeat sin, we have thrown great insult on our Savior.
Jesus knows we aren’t perfect and He knows we’re going to mess up.
But there’s a difference between a slip up and then willfully sinning again and again, expecting to be repeatedly forgiven for the same thing.
Because that’s not repentance.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
That’s the key phrase—“godly grief.”
When we don’t dismiss our actions with a casual “Oops! I did it again!,” but experience a deep sorrow from the choices we’ve made, and a desire to turn away from that sin (as described in Acts 3:19)—That’s a repentant heart.
Friends, we all have stumbling blocks.
And on our own, we will keep tripping over the same sins.
But we have the promise of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Jesus hasn’t left us hanging to figure it out for ourselves but we conquer our sin-cycle through His strength.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for saving us.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you feel godly grief over sins so that you can, with Jesus’ help, break the repetitive sin-cycles in your life.

Colossians, John, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt

6.9.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Unsettled


PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Sometimes, we work very hard to convince ourselves that our wants are part of God’s will for our lives.
We focus so hard on the object of our desire, and we justify it as a plan God has for us.
Yet, we have a lingering unsettling in our hearts.
Here’s the truth…
If we feel unsettled, it’s not from God.
Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Then we have the words of Jesus from John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
And, Paul wrote, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” (Colossians 3:15a).
The Holy Spirit will allow us to feel unsettled when we are not on the right path.
It’s not God being mean.
It’s because God has ordained a path for each of us that is greater than any shiny object we may fixate our attention on.
He wants better for us than we want for ourselves.
So when we can’t feel His peace that is repeatedly promised to us throughout Scripture, it’s a clue that we have to surrender our wills and allow His to come first.
And that means letting go.
Saying goodbye to the things or people who distract us from God’s perfect plan.
It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
Today, as you pray, thank God for His perfect peace.
Thank Him for His goodness in creating a plan that is for our benefit.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you wisely discern an unsettling.
Ask Him to give you clear discernment to recognize God’s peace (or lack thereof) in any situation.
Ask that your greatest desire will be whatever God’s will is.
And finally, ask Him to empower you and give you the courage to obey God’s will, even when it’s not what you wanted or hoped for.

Isaiah, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Romans

6.5.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: A Jump Start on Prophecy


PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• I am so intimidated by the book of Isaiah.
It’s full of poetry and prophecy—Two things I’m not good at understanding.
But I did have an AH-HA moment this morning as I was reading it.
Isaiah 25:9 says, “In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’”
The opening line of the verse indicates that this is prophetic—“they WILL say” (emphasis mine).
The question that immediately crossed my mind—if the Lord has already said we WILL declare God, praise Him, credit Him for our salvation, identify Him as trustworthy, and be thankful (glad) in His salvation… then what are we waiting for?
Let’s put a pin in that point for a minute.
As I’ve stated dozens of times in the two years I’ve been writing MGFL, I’m not a theologian!
So forgive me if I trip through this, but I feel this verse is a close cousin to the prophecy that declares “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:10-11, and Romans 14:11).
However, my assessment is that Isaiah 25:9 is written specifically for believers.
The other passages—the “cousins”—refer to every human being who ever lived…
Because even those who rejected Jesus will face Him in judgment.
It really jumped out at me that yes, we will be a part of that collective, every-human-being-will-declare-it group…
But we are destined to praise Him and give Him credit because that’s how we will spend eternity.
And there’s absolutely no need for us to wait.
We have every reason to start now because we have already declared that Jesus Christ is Lord!
We have declared Him Lord of our lives!
So let’s put Isaiah 25:9 into practice, starting this moment.
He has saved us!
Our eternity is secure because of Jesus!
Let’s praise Him!
Today, as you pray, thank God for ordaining written history in advance through these prophetic passages.
Thank Jesus for all He did for you.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you praise Him in every circumstance, putting the wheels in motion for an ongoing celebration of our Lord and Savior that will last forever and ever!

Judges, Philippians, Praise Prompt, Prayer Prompt, Psalm

5.1.19 Praise & Prayer Prompt: Praise Before We Panic


PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• There’s a book I read each morning called “The Power of Praying Through the Bible,” by Stormie Omartian.
Some of you are probably familiar it but if you’re not—the author starts in Genesis and every day, there’s a small snippet of scripture with a devotion and prayer.
This morning was based on a passage from Judges and touched on our need for a Deliverer.
You know how sometimes you read something you already know but it speaks to you in a new way?
Yeah, that was me this morning.
She wrote, “The most effective and powerful way to spend time in the Lord’s presence is in praise and worship. Every time you worship God, something happens to break the power of evil. That’s because God inhabits your praises, and this means you are in His presence.”
I love that.
We all have situations from which we need deliverance.
Whether it’s relationship trouble, financial burdens, addiction, certain sins that plague us—we all need to be rescued and delivered.
And what she’s saying is that in the middle of those hardships is when we need to turn to praise and worship.
It feels unnatural.
When my son was in the hospital a little over a month ago, prayers were being lifted up like crazy, but my first inclination wasn’t to start praising and worshiping.
The truth is—I was so scared that my prayers were more like begging.
Not all our trials are that dramatic.
It’s for that reason though that we should get in the habit of praise through the small stuff so when the big issues come to our door, we will remember to praise before we panic.
Since I’m borrowing from others today, let me share something else too.
I love Ryan Stevenson’s song “In the Eye of the Storm.”
The lyrics say, “In the eye of the storm / You remain in control / And in the middle of the war / You guard my soul / You alone are the anchor / When my sails are torn / Your love surrounds me / In the eye of the storm.”
This is how we praise and worship in all circumstances.
We recognize God’s great goodness, His majesty, love, and sovereignty through it all.
Philippians 4:6 is typically the go-to verse for this truth, but today, for our signature verse, I’ve chosen Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Hallelujah!”
I chose it because I love the simple direction of it…
If you are breathing, praise God.
Today, as you pray, thank God that the power of worshipping you can break us free from so many trials.
While it may not make them go away, ask the Holy Spirit to help you acknowledge that worship and praise of God put our issues and challenges in perspective.
Thank God for being with us through all our struggles.