Devotional on Proverbs

2006 – Mountains east of San Diego, CA

Good old Agur Ben Yakeh
Proverbs 30: There is no God…I can do anything I want!
Some of the final pages of Proverbs are attributed to Agur Ben Yakeh. Aside from the name and that he is from a town or country called Massa we’re pretty much in the dark about him. The name, I’m told, doesn’t appear to be Israelite, but is more Arab sounding. Of course, Solomon rules a vast empire and has friendly relations with many countries. It may be that Agur Ben Yakeh is considered to be a very wise man in his home country and that Solomon agrees, collecting his sayings and including him in his book of Proverbs. However, there’s a bit of a problem with this idea because the nation of Israel alone worships Jehovah God at this time. Clearly, the words of Agur Ben Yakeh are those of a worshiper of God. I know these little things are often of more interest to me than to others, but it is kind of fun to think about this ancient mystery. If the identity of Ben Yakeh is mysterious, his opening proverb is pretty straight forward. He isn’t impressed by people who doubt the existence of God. They may think they can ignore God and his commandments but when they do it isn’t the commandments that get broken! The wise man says “every promise of God proves true.” He warns those who doubt that to reconsider, warning, “he might take you to task and show up your lies.” The day’s coming when everyone will believe in God. After all, we’ll stand before him in Judgment. Those who doubt will be convinced, but for them, it will be too late. The One they have doubted and ignored, will “take them to task.”
Take Away: Sooner or later everyone will believe in God – it’s better to be part of the “sooner” crowd.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Near Estes Park in RMNP, CO

Not blind trust
Isaiah 45: I am God. I work out in the open.
Isaiah speaks to people who have incorporated idol worship into their religion. The religions of other nations have greatly influenced them, causing their view of God to include lots of mystery and magic. In his message, Isaiah includes the words of the Lord who reminds them that he’s never told them to, “Seek me in emptiness, in dark nothingness.” In fact, the Lord has done just the opposite. He’s told them his plans ahead of time. He’s even offered them choices: “do this and I will do that, or do that, and I will do this.” This God doesn’t work in the darkness and serving him doesn’t involve a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Serving God certainly requires faith on our part. There’s much about that Almighty that’s transcendent, beyond our understanding. However, his desires for us are an open book. As Isaiah says it, “Turn to me and be helped —saved! — everyone, whoever and wherever you are!” Living in a relationship with God isn’t an exercise in ignorance. This God partners with us, directing our lives, but, at the same time, allows us to operate freely within his purposes. This God prefers light to darkness and is, in fact, the Creator of Light (both physical and spiritual). We serve him in absolute trust, but, since his purposes for us have already been clearly stated, it isn’t blind trust.
Take Away: Living in a relationship with the Lord isn’t an exercise in ignorance.

Devotional on Jeremiah

2009 – View from Rhapsody of the Seas – Seattle, WA

Don’t sweat the little stuff
Jeremiah 12: What’s going to happen when troubles break loose?
The whole question is: “If you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?” God’s question to Jeremiah is attention getting. My first response is that “calm” is a relative term. At almost any time I can find something unsettling to think about. Just watching the evening news provides me plenty of “troublesome” thought ammunition. Frankly, of course, I don’t have to reach that far. Like everyone else I always have something going on: family concerns, finances, and health spring to mind. Again, calm is a relative term because much of this is just part of living. No one has confused my neighborhood with the Garden of Eden and the same can be said of yours. So, I must learn to take life in stride. I’m not saying that life is always easy. For everyone there are times of “flooding Jordan” that knock the props out of everything in our lives. Even in that, though, the Lord isn’t giving me the permission to fall apart. Through Jeremiah he tells me to stop making big deals out of little deals in my life; to learn to trust him in those common problems and then, when the “biggie” comes, to apply what I’ve learned about trust even as the flood waters really are sweeping through my life. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. Then again, that’s why I have to practice keeping my wits about me in the little stuff first.
Take Away: As we learn to trust the Lord with the little things of life we lay the foundation for trusting him with the big ones when they come.

Devotional on Jeremiah

2009 – Iowa fall colors

Taking the “rest of the story” by faith
Jeremiah 39: I’ll most certainly save you.
The hero who rescued Jeremiah from the muddy prison is Ebed-melek. Now, as Jerusalem totters on the brink of destruction Jeremiah seeks him out. The Lord has a message specifically for this hero, and it’s a good one. The Lord has taken note of this good man’s courage and faithfulness. Things are going to get really bad very soon but Ebed-melek is going to be spared because God’s going to see to it. In a sense, we see here God’s message to all those who are faithful to him. There’s no promise for any of us of an easy life in which bad things never come, but there is the promise of God’s watch care over us. It must have been, at the same time, welcome and unbelievable news for Ebed-melek. Of course, he’s happy to hear such a message from Jeremiah, God’s prophet. At the same time, he, and all Jerusalem, is very aware of the mighty army that’s poised on their doorstep. The reality of it all nearly overwhelms the message of assurance from Jeremiah. It’s the same for you and me. The hard facts of pain and disappointment and disaster can nearly obliterate the promise of God’s presence. Still, none of that negates it. Interestingly, the writer of the sacred text doesn’t follow up on the story. Jeremiah promises Ebed-melek that God will save him and that’s it. Maybe there’s a lesson for us in what isn’t included here. We’re to read this promise and conclude that, even though we don’t know the details, God keeps his word. In the same way, I, right in the middle of life without any specific knowledge of what’s coming, must conclude that God will “most certainly save” me too.
Take Away: Even we don’t know how he’s going to do it we can rest assured that the Lord will, indeed, keep his promises.

Devotional on Jeremiah

2009 – Brazos Bend State Park – TX

Some things are easier said than done
Jeremiah 42: I’m on your side, ready to save and deliver you from anything he might do.
Johanan and other Judean leaders know that the murder of Gedaliah is a very big deal. The Babylonian king is not known for his forgiving nature. Gedaliah was the person he left in charge and his murder will be seen as an uprising against his rule. There’s sure to be devastating punishment. Their solution is to prepare for exile by running in the opposite direction to Egypt, the other major power in the region. Johanan and others ask Jeremiah to pray for God’s direction in this, promising to do whatever the Lord says. However, the message from the Lord isn’t what they expect to hear. The Lord says to stay put and trust him. Again, this is totally unexpected and, from a human point of view, very unreasonable. They’ve already seen the wrath of the Babylonians. Thousands have been killed, multiplied thousands have been carried off into exile never to return, and devastation is all around them. For civic leaders to stick around, waiting for word of the governor’s murder to reach Babylonia is, in their eyes, an almost criminal inaction. Jeremiah says, “Just trust God and everything will be okay.” That’s one of those “easier said than done” statements. Happily, such extreme, life and death situations don’t come our way very often, if ever. For me to find applications in life I have to dial things back considerably. Still, there are times when we, too, are to stand still and trust God rather than take matters into our own hands. For instance, things down at the church may not be going well and several are jumping ship for the latest and greatest program down the road. We’re tempted to follow suit, but when we pray, we simply can’t feel free to do it. Others say, “Come on in, the water’s fine!” God seems to say, “Stay right where you are, I’ll take care of you and your family.” As a pastor it always concerns me when church people from other congregations show up at our door on a Sunday morning. I’m not saying there’s never a time to go, but I don’t want to be someone’s “Egypt” when the Lord wants them to stay put and be a part of the turning of the tide right where they are.
Take Away: If the Lord says “stay put” the only thing to do is, well, to stay put!

Devotional on Ezekiel

2010 – Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs, CO

The Basics
Ezekiel 3: Get all these words that I’m giving you inside you.
Ezekiel’s vision is intended to prepare him for the ministry God has for him. At one point in his vision he’s given a scroll and told to eat it. He reports that it tastes like honey. When the Lord applies the vision he tells Ezekiel that he needs to fully digest the message he has for the exiles. God’s message needs to become part of him to the point that even if people disagree or simply refuse to listen to him that he’ll have absolute confidence in what he says. While I don’t enjoy arguing religion, I certainly enjoy talking about it. I love dealing with the finer points of the faith, especially the more difficult to understand passages. However, there are some things that ought not to be subject to debate. I’ve learned that there are a few, very few, absolute basics that need to be swallowed hook, line, and sinker. They’re to become as much a part of me as are my heart and lungs. It’s not that I refuse to discuss them, but that they are at the core of my existence. Without diving off into the deep end of the pool here, I think I can name them off the top of my head. First, God is. Second, Jesus is the Son of God who died for my sins and was resurrected to life. Third, as I trust in Jesus as my Savior I have the hope of eternal life in him. These truths not only “taste like honey,” they also make me who I am today and for eternity.
Take Away: Some things are debatable and a few, just a few, aren’t.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – London – Westminster Abbey

God trusting us to trust him
Daniel 3: The God we serve can rescue us…but even if he doesn’t….
I love this story! The pagan king orders the three Hebrew men to worship his statue; it’s either worship or die in the furnace. Their response is one for the ages: “The God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace…but even if he doesn’t…we still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” Now, that’s trusting faith! I’ve never been where they are and I hope I never am. However, if such a day comes I pray that I’ll have the same backbone they did. At a much less intense level, I’m taken by their “even if he doesn’t” statement. They knew what God “could” do but they weren’t sure of what he “would” do. If they’re given a choice, they’ll vote for divine rescue, but, obviously they aren’t the ones choosing. If they have to, they’ll go with option two: obedience even to death. I, too, believe the Lord knows how to rescue his people. However, there are times when it seems God has something bigger going on and my predicament isn’t at the core of what’s happening. At times like that the Lord trusts me to trust him. So, “even if he doesn’t” do what I want, I declare my allegiance to him and then hold fast to it.
Take Away: The great test of faith isn’t believing for a miracle. Rather, it’s believing when the miracle never comes.

Devotional on Hosea

2013 – Saylorville Lake – near Des Moines, IA

Shopping for religion
Hosea 7: They turn…here, then there, like a weather vane.
“Welcome to WorshipMart, your one stop shop for religion. Please keep an eye out for our blue light specials, you may find a very nice accessory to your faith for a low price.” You head over to the New Age aisle. Maybe a new crystal will help you pray better. The Politically Correct section has some interesting items, some of that “what works for you may not work for me” might come in handy when dealing with some of the more narrow people you know. The Hedonism section makes you feel somewhat uncomfortable but you can’t resist some of the “it can’t be all that bad if it feels right.” And then you head over to the staples section. After all, when all else fails you might just want some help from God Almighty. At the checkout counter the salesperson asks if you found everything you wanted. You answer “yes” but you think, “I’ll probably be back in here before long, somehow this stuff doesn’t seem to last like it should.” As you check out, you can’t find the last item. That’s happened before. Everything else is there though; you’ll just have to make it without God. Anyway, your religion is no one’s business but your own. Right?
Take Away: He’ll either be Lord of all or he won’t be Lord at all.

Devotional on Jonah

2013 – Tompkins Campground – Lawrenceville, PA

The biggest fish story ever
Jonah 1: One day long ago, God’s Word came to Jonah.
As I finish my quick read of little-known Obadiah, I turn the page to find myself on very familiar ground. After all, everybody has heard of Jonah and the “whale.” This is surely one of the top five stories of the Old Testament and people who’ve never read the Bible or attended church know about this “fish story.” A few years ago I was teaching a church membership class and this story came up. The teens in the class wanted to know if Christians have to believe as literally true stories like Noah and the Ark and Jonah and the “whale.” Had the question been asked by some fine fundamentalists I’ve known I would have thought I was being set up for the old trap that sounds something like this: “If you don’t believe in a literal six day creation how can you believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus?” That question, by the way, ignores the clear teachings of the Bible which says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). Note that Paul doesn’t add, “Also, you have to believe every statement in the Old Testament is literal.” I’m not required to believe in a literal six day Creation to be saved, but I do have to believe “God raised him from the dead.” Anyway, back to the teens in the membership class. I told them that I believe the Lord created all things and that sending a big flood or making a big fish capable of doing what the book of Jonah says it did would be a simple thing for such a Creator. However, the purpose of stores like this is to tell us something about God and ourselves and that it’s a bigger mistake to read the story, believing every word while missing the lesson than it is to read the story and “get it” while doubting that it’s literal. So, “big fish” or not, I’m supposed to come away from the Book of Jonah knowing more about God and his work in this world than I knew before. That’s still my goal as I start through this story once again.
Take Away: The Bible tells us the story of God and us. It has no interest in answering every scientific question or providing for us fodder for religious debates.

Devotional on Micah

2013 – Smoky Mountains

Sitting on the front row
Micah 7: I’m sticking around to see what God will do.
Micah says things are going downhill fast. He’s learned that he can’t trust his neighbor and that “neighborhoods and families are falling to pieces.” Clearly his day is a treacherous, difficult one. In the face of such perilous times Micah might be tempted to run for the hills or at least withdraw from society. As anyone knows, Micah isn’t the only one who has faced difficult days. Through the centuries godly men and women have gone through unbelievable hardship. Often that hardship has been on a national or even worldwide scale. At other times the hardship is close to home: a family or even personal struggle that fills our days with exhausting darkness. In this passage, Micah is no “Pollyanna” who insists everything’s always “just fine.” However, he is a man of faith. As tempting as it might be to run and get away from all the wrong and uncertainty he sees, Micah declares he’s staying put. Why? It’s because he wants a front row seat to God’s redemption! Today, we believers aren’t blind to the problems of life. When things take a downturn we become anxious like everyone else. However, in it all there’s a thread of optimism. We believe God is still God and that he’s working in and through it all. The end result is salvation. We want a front row seat when that happens!
Take Away: The people of the Lord are an optimistic people – and, for good reason!

Devotional on Habakkuk

2013 – Cataloochee Valley – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Trusting without understanding
Habakkuk 2: Look at that man…full of himself but soul-empty.
The prophet understands that sinful Babylon is God’s chosen instrument for punishing sinful Judah. As bad as Judah is, Habakkuk is having a hard time understanding how God could ever use such an evil nation as his tool against the Children of Abraham. Habakkuk reverently takes his concern to God and now God answers. A part of that answer is contained in chapter two of this brief book of the Bible. The Lord tells Habakkuk he’s well aware of the sin of Babylon. Although the language used suggests that the remarks are about only the King of Babylon, the context tells us that it’s the nation as a whole that’s being described. The Lord wants Habakkuk to know that he hasn’t underestimated the sin of Babylon and he isn’t about to overlook it. Babylon’s self-indulgent pride, its injustice, and its immorality will be dealt with. Just because God intends to use this nation for his own purpose doesn’t mean that he’s going to overlook its sin. The Lord remains sovereign and, in the end, he always has the last word. This godless empire is, indeed, a tool in the hands of the Almighty. At some point it may seem that Babylon is getting the benefit of this arraignment, but the real result will only be seen when the final chapter is written. Today, I’m reminded that all of Creation is in God’s hands. Anytime he wants, he can use whoever he wants for his purposes. The Lord doesn’t need for me to explain his actions or to make apologies for them. He does, however, insist that I trust him even when I don’t understand him.
Take Away: I’m not required to understand the Lord but I am called to trust him.

Devotional on Malachi

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

On the brink and not realizing it
Malachi 3: It doesn’t pay to serve God. What do we ever get out of it?
The message of Malachi is for people who are living in the broad middle, somewhere between the best and the worst days of life. They’re comfortable and secure, just going about the business of living. However, there’s hidden danger in that. When I’m living in the middle I’m tempted to take things for granted. Blessings that would have thrilled those who went before me are lost to me. God feels distant and that makes it easier for me to take spiritual shortcuts which make him feel even more distant. If I’m not careful, one day I look around and God is nowhere to be found. I think to myself, “Do I really need the hassle of religion? I don’t think it’s worth the effort I put into it. People who live as non-religious individualists seem to get along okay. Maybe that’s for me.” That’s where Malachi’s congregation is. Without a sense of desperation for God they’ve drifted away from him. Now, they’re on the verge of stepping off the cliff into the canyon of unbelief. The Lord responds that he’s well aware of what’s going on and that the day’s coming when they’ll be abruptly moved from the broad middle to the hard side of life. With all else ripped from their grasp, their faith will be all there is left to hold on to. There’s unseen danger for those of us living in the broad middle of life.
Take Away: We have to pay attention to spiritual things or they slip from our grasp.

Devotional on Matthew

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

The Trinity

Mathew 3: Jesus came up…God’s Spirit…descended…a voice… “This is my Son.”

For a brief moment in time John’s light shines brighter than all others. His rough appearance and demeanor only add to his mystique and people can’t get enough of him. John spends a lot of time talking about repentance but he also proclaims the coming of the Messiah. On this day it all comes together. His cousin, Jesus, makes his way to the riverside and asks to be baptized. With uncharacteristic timidity John backs down, acknowledging that Jesus is closer to God than he is. If there’s any baptizing to be done, it’s Jesus who should baptize him. When Jesus insists, John yields and the result is a moment frozen in time. Jesus comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends, and the Voice of the Father is heard. You might call this a “Trinity moment.” That’s not to say that this event solves the mystery of the Person of Jesus once and for all. For hundreds of years at the beginning of Christianity godly people will struggle with the divinity/humanity of the Lord. This passage will remain a big player in that discussion. Somehow, we have Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father all acting in individual, complementary ways. Somehow, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and Father are one. Finally, after centuries of debate the Church arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity: Three in One. That isn’t to say the Church came up with a simple, easy to understand explanation of it all. Rather, it’s just an effort at stating a mystery and, really, in the end, it’s simply a matter of faith.

Take Away: Ultimately our religion and specifics concerning it are about faith and not about proof.

Devotional on Matthew

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

A wonderful faith experiment

Matthew 14: When he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve.

This is such a neat story! Out on the sea in rough, windy conditions Jesus comes to the disciples, walking on the water. Peter asks for permission to join Jesus out on the waves and Jesus tells him to “come.” Peter does it! He climbs out of the boat and steps out onto the water. Can’t you imagine Jesus and Peter laughing together as they do the impossible! However, this is no glassy pond on a summer afternoon. Instead, they’re in the dark in a wind storm and the waves are high. For Jesus and Peter it must be quite a ride, bobbing up and down, being sprayed by the driven waves. It’s at that point that euphoria drains from Peter. The water’s very real and in no way capable of supporting him. As he begins to sink he looks up to Jesus who remains confidently on top of the water. “Save me!” Peter cries. Without a second’s hesitation, Jesus reaches out and pulls him back on top, now carrying the weight of both of them. Jesus calls Peter “faint heart” but I think he’s quietly pleased that Peter joined him in this wonderful experiment of faith. I know this is a unique situation: a moment in history. Still, I can’t help but be impressed by the power of faith in very real, impossible situations. I’m also glad to note that Peter didn’t have to cry out but one time. Jesus may have called Peter a “faint heart” but he saved him first.

Take Away: God responds to our faith in wonderful, sometimes unexpected ways.

Devotional on Matthew

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

A lesson from the bakery

Matthew 16: Keep a sharp eye out for Pharisee-Sadducee yeast.

I wonder what Jesus is talking about when he tells his disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. There’s a clue just a few lines earlier. These people want Jesus to prove himself to them, probably by performing some miracle. Jesus dismisses them by saying that they’re going to get proof alright, the powerful proof of life out of death when, as Jonah returned from the deep, he, himself, will return from the grave. At that point Jesus turns his back on them and walks away. Later he warns his disciples to beware of their “yeast.” Those who bake bread know about yeast. A little is worked into the dough so it will rise, becoming soft and tasty. Jesus says that there’s “yeast” that can work its way into every part of our lives, bringing not good results, but bad. It’s the insistence on God doing things our way, having to prove himself to us before we’ll believe. In the encounters of the Pharisees and Sadducees with Jesus there’s always a tug of war concerning who’s in charge and what Jesus has to do to satisfy them. Jesus warns his disciples to not fall into that trap. Before we know it this approach will work its way into our lives. When God doesn’t do things our way and in our time, we’ll begin to doubt him and his goodness. Later in this same passage, Peter first declares that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Later on though, we see the yeast of the Pharisees when he argues against Jesus proceeding God’s way, thinking he knows better. If Peter, in basically the same conversation can go from a great statement of faith to one of “my way is better” I’d better take warning. This yeast can work its way into my life before I even know it.

Take Away: The idea that I always know just what God should do and how he should do it can sneak into my thinking and take root there.

Devotional on Mark

2014 – Dead Horse Point State Park, UT

Power packed words

Mark 5: Don’t listen to them; just trust me.

Jesus arrives in the seaside village by boat and is greeted by a large, enthusiastic crowd. One of those seeking our Lord’s attention is a respected member of the community, Jairus. His daughter is very sick and he asks Jesus to come and heal her. Jesus agrees, but along the way a woman “steals” a miracle, touching the fringe of Jesus’ clothes. This delays Jesus and, while everyone else is enjoying the miracle the woman experienced, Jairus receives the bad news that it’s too late and his daughter has died. It’s now that Jesus tells Jairus to ignore their words and trust him. The Lord goes to his home and in a private audience raises the twelve year old back to life. The words of the Lord to Jairus speak to my heart today. How often the voices of circumstance or experience sadly report that there’s nothing that will help and I might as well throw in the towel and cope as best I can. In the midst of discouragement Jesus says, “Don’t listen. Don’t give up and don’t doubt. Instead, look at me. Focus; remember who I am and what I can do. Remember that I love you and I wouldn’t let you get into this situation if I didn’t have the authority to see you through it. Trust me.” These brief words to Jairus are packed with power and hope.

Take Away: Remember who Jesus is; look to him even in the impossible moments of life.

Devotional on Mark

2014 – Looking out over Canyonlands NP from Dead Horse Point State Park, UT

Struggling faith

Mark 9: Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!

The man is desperate to get help for his son who’s possessed by a demon causing the boy to have dangerous convulsions. He brings him to Jesus, pleading for help. However, Jesus is absent at the time. Some of the disciples, though, have had experience with such things. They’ve been commissioned by Jesus to do exactly what needs to be done. However, in spite of their efforts the condition of the child is unchanged. Just as the father is about to leave Jesus arrives and asks what’s going on. The man explains the need. As the boy is again thrown into a seizure, Jesus asks how long this has been going on and the man answers, adding, “If you can do anything, do it…help us!” Jesus calls the man to faith reminding him that there are no “ifs” in faith. I love the answer of the desperate father. For the sake of his son he’ll banish all the “ifs” and replace them with belief. Then, with transparent honestly, he pleads “Help me with my doubts!” Oh how I identify with this good man. With the hard facts so close at hand he struggles to get a grasp on absolute faith. As he says these words, he has a son trashing about on the ground and, right before him he has Jesus, the Miracle Worker. With every fiber of his being he wants to be doubt free. Apparently, that’s good enough for Jesus. An honest struggle for faith is enough faith for the impossible to happen. As I struggle with the hard realities of life in view of the claims of God’s grace and mercy I’m often like that father. Happily, I’m reminded here that the Lord does, indeed, help us with our doubts. Even a struggling faith has power in God’s eyes.

Take Away: An honest struggle for faith is enough faith for the impossible to happen.

Devotional on Mark

2014 – Dead Horse Point State Park, UT

Prayer mandate

Mark 11: Pray for absolutely everything.

Jesus is a man of prayer. He prays in public and he prays in private. He teaches his disciples to pray. On this final trip to Jerusalem, he drives the sellers out of the Temple grounds because they’ve turned the Temple into a place of business instead of it being a “house of prayer for the nations.” After the miracle of the fig tree Jesus points the disciples to faith and prayer, remarking that the results can move mountains. Then, he teaches his listeners to not only ask in prayer, but to also forgive that they might be forgiven. Prayer, then, for followers of Jesus is central. Our places of worship are to be focused on prayer. We’re to deal with problems and disappointments by going to prayer. As we pray, we’re to allow the Lord to help us see our own hearts and to respond as he wants us to. It’s impossible to be truly Christian yet not pray. As the disciples asked we also ask: “Lord teach us to pray.”

Take Away: Prayer is the key.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve – near Birch Bay, WA

Exactly, what prayer was that?

Luke 1: Your prayer has been heard.

For Zechariah it’s an once-in-a-lifetime event. He’s the priest who’ll enter the sanctuary and burn incense before the Lord. As he carefully and reverently goes about this task he sees movement to the right of the altar, then, out of nowhere an angel of the Lord appears. Zechariah would run if he could, but instead just stands there, eyes wide, mouth open, face to face with an archangel. The angel speaks reassuringly, and, to the old priest’s surprise, calls him by name. Then this angel adds, “Your prayer has been heard.” I wonder what thoughts raced through Zechariah’s mind in that instant. Here’s what I think: I imagine the old priest thinking, “What prayer is that?” You see, there was a time in his and Elizabeth’s lives when they prayed for a child most every day. They were young then and all the other couples they knew were having babies. However, time was passing and they remained childless. The years passed and they were no longer a young couple. They prayed about this less and then they gave up, disappointed but trusting God with their emptiness. Now, years later, when Gabriel says, “Your prayer has been answered” my guess is that the “baby prayer” is the farthest thing from Zechariah’s mind. Zachariah might have forgotten the prayer, but God hasn’t. Now, at the time that seems way too late for this senior adult couple, God is about to move. Once again I’m reminded that God’s ways aren’t my ways and his schedule isn’t my schedule. Beyond that, I see that God’s ways are the right ways and his time is always the right time. This realization has plenty of practical applications in my life today.

Take Away: Never doubt the power of prayer.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, WA

Persisting in prayer

Luke 11: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.

After teaching the disciples to pray Jesus tells them a story to illustrate how persistence in prayer works. A man goes to his neighbor’s door in the middle of the night asking to borrow some food so he can feed an unexpected guest. However, the neighbor calls out through the closed door that he’s in bed and he doesn’t want to wake up the whole family to answer the request. The man at the door, though, is persistent and is also somewhat perplexed. His need is real and his friendship with his neighbor is genuine. Not only that, but he knows his friend has the resources to meet his need. Perplexed or not, his faith in the good will and resources of his friend is unshaken. He doesn’t know why his friend doesn’t respond right off, but he persists, knocking again and again until his neighbor responds. Now, this story is told by our Lord to teach us to stay with it when we pray. The minor detail of the reluctant neighbor being in bed, etc. isn’t what this story is about. Obviously, unanswered prayer isn’t the result of the Lord taking a nap. The role of the Almighty is not in play here. This little illustration is about us. When I have a need, I can go directly to the Lord with that need. I go in assurance that he welcomes me to do so, and in faith that he has all the resources necessary to meet that need. With good will and faith I ask. On those occasions when the answer doesn’t come, Jesus tells me that it’s not against the rules for me to ask again. After all, like the man in the story, my need is real and I’m certain that my Neighbor can meet that need and that he’s my friend. I don’t understand why he hasn’t yet responded, but I do understand his good will toward me. So what do I do? I ask again: humbly, in faith, and probably with a bit more urgency. Asking again doesn’t show a lack of faith. In fact, it’s an affirmation of it.

Take Away: It’s nice when prayers are answered immediately, but when they aren’t it is okay for me to ask again, and again, if necessary.

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