Praying the Bible ~ Luke 12:31, 34

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: Luke 12:31, 34
“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, you are the Great Provider. Sometimes I don’t think so, because you say no to my wants though you care for my needs. Help me to remember true priority. The things that matter most are not the things of this world–the paychecks, retirement accounts, cars, and toys. While you might give such things at times to enjoy with wisdom, the things of your Kingdom are the treasures worth seeking. Help my heart grasp each day the greater worth of your goodness, let my heart be focused on the gifts above. Amen.

Sing to God!

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

“For the Church has been, is, and always should be and can be a joyfully singing Church. In a sense, singing is part of what we exist to do,” so proclaim songwriters Keith and Kristyn Getty.[1] And so they are correct.

Woven within the identity of Jesus’ people is song. Both in individual devotion and corporately gathered throughout the ages Christians have been known to sing.

It’s no wonder. Our sacred texts (the Bible) contains a song book. Yes, the tunes have been lost to the ages (though some are setting the words to ancient and modern tunes today), but the Psalms is a collection of prayerful songs.

Within their words, we even find exhortations to sing. Psalm 147:1 says, “Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely.”

One of the great tragedies of our days is the so-called worship wars–churches dividing over preferences of musical style. We sometimes get in our own way of carrying out a good and beautiful act: Singing to God as one voice together.

Our singing should unite us to speak of God and his word in our harmonies. While praising God in song should help focus our minds, it can also help us to shut out, for a moment, the busyness of life and get lost in the worship and grace of God.

Let us sing. Let us sing as the redeemed of God through Jesus. Let us sing of his goodness. Let us sing because it is good.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

[1] Keith and Kristyn Getty, Sing! (B&H Publishing, 2017), xxi.

black and white keys music note
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo used with permission: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-keys-music-note-534283/

A Steadfast Faith

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Paul began most of his letters thanking God for the church or person he wrote to, and Second Thessalonians is no exception. In verse 3, he spoke on behalf of himself, Silas, and Timothy as they jointly wrote:

We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing.

In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson lamented that too many people in our culture want a quick-fix religion. They’re willing to give Jesus a try, but not as willing to follow him for the long-haul. “There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue.”[1]

Yet, Paul’s thankfulness for the Thessalonican believers was not found in their experiences or quick-fix solutions to life problems. Instead, he was thankful for a flourishing faith and increasing love.

Both these ideas carry a sense of growth and duration. If you have ever planted and tended a garden, you know that it does not flourish overnight. You must plant the seed, water the seed, and keep watering the seed. Even when sprouts finally burst through the dirt, they must be watered and fertilized to grow big, beautiful, and healthy. You also must fight the war against destructive bugs and weeds that might harm or choke out the life.

Flourishing and increase takes time, care, and patience.

This is the sense of steadfastness that must be in our faith. True faith endures the test of time, growing and increasing from beginning to end. Sometimes that growth seems rapid. Sometimes it seems we are hardly moving at all. Yet, grow we do, focused on Jesus, as our faith flourishes and our love ever-increases.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

[1] Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (InterVarsity Press, 2000), 16.

blur close up focus ground
Photo by Gelgas on Pexels.com
Photo used with permission: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-close-up-focus-ground-401213/

Praying the Bible ~ Psalm 141:3-4

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: Psalm 141:3-4
Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. Do not let my heart turn to any evil thing or perform wicked acts with men who commit sin. Do not let me feast on their delicacies. (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, the tongue is a fire impossible to control, James wrote, and from the heart the mouth speaks, Jesus said. Father, guard my words by guarding my heart. So often the temptation is to gossip or to speak unkind things about another, yet as with Isaiah, through Jesus you atone for the sin of my lips. May the words of my mouth honor you and edify others. Protect my heart. When I am tempted or thoughtless, by your grace steer me from sin. When, in the moment, the temptations seem more pleasant, remind my heart of the greater pleasures to be found in you. Amen.

Be the Samaritan

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

With the parables that Jesus told, he often subverted a person’s expectations. The story of the Good Samaritan is no different. In Luke 10:25-37, an expert of the Mosaic Law asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him how he read the Law and the man answered that one should love God with his entire being and love his neighbor as himself. When Jesus told him that he had answered correctly, the man “wanted to justify himself” and asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

It seems obvious that the man had people in his life who he thought didn’t deserve his love. Love your neighbor, sure, but there must be exceptions. How often do we think the same? Loving people who treat us well and love us back is fairly easy. But what about those who we don’t like or who don’t like us? What about those who require our resources but can’t pay us back? Surely, there are exceptions and these don’t count as neighbors, right?

Jesus then told a story with four main characters: An injured man, beaten, robbed, and left for dead; as well as a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. It is presumed that the injured man was a Jew, since he was traveling out of Jerusalem, so who better to help him than fellow Jews, and especially religious leaders (kind of like this expert in the Law)? Yet, when each saw the injured man, they passed by on the other side. They saw a person in need and a looked away.

It was the Samaritan who stopped, helped the man, and paid for his care. Significant here, is the fact, that culturally the Jews and Samaritans were opposed to each other for a variety of reasons. Most Jews had little respect for Samaritans and most Samaritans felt the same toward the Jews.

Once he finished telling the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor?” The expert in the Law couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan” and instead said, “The one who showed mercy.”

Jesus replied, “Go and do likewise.” In other words: Be the Samaritan.

When we read this, we should understand two things: 1) Our “neighbor” we are to love is anyone we encounter, especially those in need of help; 2) Love, mercy, and compassion are not to be affected by backgrounds and perceptions–it doesn’t matter if a person is a different ethnicity, age, class, gender, religion, orientation, etc., the love we have for others through Jesus should know no bounds. When we encounter a person in need, our concern should not be Who are they? Nor, What have they done? Nor, What benefit do I gain? But, How can I help?

You can love someone without agreeing with them. You can love someone without being the same. You can love someone even if you feel they need to change. After all, no matter who they are or where they come from, they are exactly like us in that they are fellow human beings, made in the image of God, and in need of the grace of Jesus.

Show them grace. Show them love. Be the Samaritan.

All Scripture taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

grayscale photo of human lying on ground covered of cardboard box
Photo by THE COLLAB. on Pexels.com
Photo used with permission: https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-human-lying-on-ground-covered-of-cardboard-box-1060365/

Celebrating the Lord

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

First Chronicles 29 records some of the concluding events of King David’s life and reign, before Solomon became fully established as his successor. David had wanted to build a temple within the midst of Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant and honor God. God spoke to David through the prophet Nathan, however, that he was not to be the one to build a house for God but he would have a son to carry out this feat.

Understanding this to be Solomon, David decided to prepare what he could. Chapter 29 opens with a list of contributions, including what David himself gave. Then, with the people assembled together, David prayed to God to dedicate the contributions and for the sake of Solomon.

After the prayer, we are told that the people “ate and drank with great joy in the Lord’s presence that day” (29:22).

The people celebrated the Lord, an act that should be a part of our spiritual habits as well. Yes, there are appropriate times of fasting and sorrow before God. The Bible even contains a book called Lamentations. Difficult situations arise that call for crying out to the Lord in pain and sorrow. And we should be saddened by our sin. Yes, there are appropriate times for contemplation. In an increasingly busy world, we need those quiet moments spent before the Lord without noise and distraction. Yes, the Bible even speaks of the Christian’s call to self-denial.

But that does not mean that our lives are more holy when defined by asceticism and spiritual austerity.

Throughout the Old Testament, while there were fasts, there were also feasts. The New Testament is no stranger to this, either. In Acts 2, the church is described as gathering daily to share meals together. Then in Revelation 19, eternity kicks off with a feast given by God, a celebratory marriage supper.

God created laughter and he intends that we find happiness in him. Our lives, therefore, should have regular moments of celebration. After all, we are loved by an infinitely good God as a Father loves and cherishes his children. Through Jesus, we have been rescued from the despair of sin and the sorrow of death, to be brought into an eternal joy. So, while we might have moments of sorrow until we fully realize the newness of eternity, let us not neglect to have plenty of moments where we eat and drink with great joy in the Lord’s presence.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

fruit salads in plate
Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com
Photo used with permission: https://www.pexels.com/photo/fruit-salads-in-plate-1640774/

Praying the Bible ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Praying through verses or passages of the Bible is a great way to help you pray according to the will and desires of God. Below is a passage of Scripture and a sample prayer. I would encourage you to pray that prayer, or, even better, read the passage and pray as God leads you.

Text: 1 Thessalonians 1:3
We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Christian Standard Bible)

Prayer
Father, Paul wrote elsewhere that faith, hope, and love, these three remain. Faith in Jesus through the gospel, hope in Jesus for eternal life and joy, and love through Jesus for you and others–may these be the enduring marks of my life. Throughout the years, and when my life-story on this earth is done, may I be remembered (by those who remember) for faith, hope, and love above all else. May I act each day in faith. May I work to serve others in love. May hope drive me from opening my eyes in the morning to closing my eyes at night. May this life be all for you though the Lord Jesus. Amen.