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September 25, 2015

Delightful Obedience

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

SaulInBattleRebukedbySamuelAnd Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. - 1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)

Obedience is important to God.

Perhaps that sounds to you like the understatement of the century. You may be saying to yourself, “Of course obedience is important to God…what a remarkably unimpressive way to start to a devotional!” And that may be a fair summation of your perspective on the Christian life. However, I’d like to suggest that the importance God gives to our obedience is an often-underemphasized reality in substantial portions of the American church. 

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September 24, 2015

Serving the Lord Alone

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Christian_Struggling“So they feared the LORD but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried….these nations feared the Lord and also served their carved images.” –2 Kings 17:33, 41

In 2 Kings 17, we read of how the Israelites were deported to Assyria “because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God” (2 Kings 17:7). In their place, the king of Assyria settled peoples from other nations to take possession of the cities and the land. After lions attacked and killed some of them, they sent for a priest to teach them the “law of the god of the land.” Responding to the teaching of these priests, the people learned to “fear the LORD,” but they also continued to serve and worship their former gods.

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September 23, 2015

The Paradox of Knowledge, the Life of Faith

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

GodThroughInformationA friend of mine founded a global consulting firm and hosts an annual conference for policy makers and CEOs. Over several days they look at global trends in a number of areas through panels and seminars. Last year two of the panels were:

Media Gone Mad: Living with Information Overload: How can we be sure of staying ‘unspun’ in a world where we have never been so connected—and where it has never been so apparent that knowledge is power?

What’s Next: Hinge Events Ahead in 2015: The perils in prediction—in geopolitics as in other walks of life—arise from the fact that we simply do not have enough information.

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September 22, 2015

Drink Your Milk!

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Mother_and_BabyLike newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. -1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

Have you heard the screams of a hungry newborn? As a new father, this was rather eye-opening (read: sleep-depriving) for me. I thought: “How can something so little scream so piercingly?” The hungry baby screams for milk with an intensity and an urgency that is virtually unparalleled in our world. We should crave spiritual nourishment with such urgency and desperation.

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September 21, 2015

Taste and See

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional 

Businessman_on_Phone
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed…Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!–Psalm 34:4-5, 8

I have recently had the wild blessing of witnessing a powerful conversion. I have seen a man who has never known what it is like to be excluded, who has proven his worth through successful business, who lives the seemingly charmed life of prosperity, a good name and the love of many, step out of darkness and into glorious light.

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September 20, 2015

A Cosmic Mess Undone

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-480160802If you are a parent, you probably remember your child’s first trip to the ER. I don’t think my wife and I will ever forget ours because we have had two in the span of two months for our daughter, Ellie. On each occasion, she had seizures that were caused by a dramatic spike in a fever. During a seizure, the whole body tenses up due to your brain firing off extreme signals. Even the lungs become tense or stiff, restricting airflow and decreasing oxygen levels throughout the body. Ellie clearly was not breathing much and began to turn a pale and blue color. I had my hand on her back and could only feel very small movements of her lungs. I could hear very faint breaths come out of her mouth. At times, we thought we might be saying goodbye to our daughter. Something was clearly wrong. It was visible.

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September 19, 2015

The Active Shepherd

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-467111283Unfortunately, Psalm 23 has often become associated with death and funerals within American culture. Yet in reality, this psalm is a psalm about living, and it provides the reader with the needed assurance in order to be radical for God. It is, as one commentator puts it, “…one that puts daily activities, such as eating, drinking, and seeking security, in a radically God-centered perspective. This psalm invites people into a declaration of trust that is both extraordinarily courageous and coldly rational.”

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September 18, 2015

God, Seen and Known through Jesus and the Spirit

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-126401302 It is intrinsic to our conception of God that God is inherently invisible. “You cannot see my face,” God famously told Moses on the mountain, “for man shall not see me and live” (Exod 33:20, esv). God in himself cannot be seen directly. If he is to be seen at all, it must be through some sort of manifestation in another form, some kind of epiphany.

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September 17, 2015

Living in the Family

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-483537050“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” - 1 John 3:1a

Do you look like your parents or siblings? Those of us who do have inevitably experienced a moment when someone meets our family, or sees their picture, and exclaims that (goodness gracious!) you look just like them! Familial resemblance does not just involve our good looks; in even deeper ways we can see it in our behavior. This can go from the mundane (we laugh like our grandfather) to the good (we are compassionate like our mother) to the bad (we have a temper like our older brother). Our families resemble each other in deep and meaningful ways, and this comes into especially sharp focus when we get married. Marriage brings together two people from different families who immediately notice that they have developed different (and sometimes wonderfully complementary!) practices because, "that's how my family does it."

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September 16, 2015

The Power of Persistence

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-185907199We are fasting for many different reasons. Some of us fast for ourselves or on behalf of someone we love; some for a greater revelation of God’s glory; and some just to draw closer to God. Yet we won’t always see our prayers answered. If there is no guarantee for answered prayer, why should we persist in prayer?

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus addressed this issue head-on:

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

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September 15, 2015

How to Live in an Age of Distraction

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-178013733When a monk asks you a question, it’s generally wise to listen. I learned this lesson on an annual silent retreat at a monastery of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his sermon, a brother was describing the various perspectives on the “real presence” of Christ in the eucharist, but, rather than tease out the fineries of the real presence of Christ in the elements, he suggested that, even better than inquiring into the presence of Christ, we might ask instead, “am I really present?”

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September 14, 2015

Seeking the God Who Works for Us

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-87741303For those of us who love the grace of the Gospel, who are convinced that God accomplishes through Christ everything we need for salvation, the idea that we must perform religious works, such as prayer or fasting, in order to receive grace and spiritual blessings from God doesn’t sit well. Here’s an illustration of what I’m talking about. 

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September 13, 2015

Learning A New Song

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-472815698“…and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” – Revelation 14.3 

Narrative tension makes a story. Imagine that Cinderella and the prince had met in childhood, immediately delighted in one another, enjoyed the full support of their family and friends, married quickly, with no wedding snafus of any kind and little need for pre-marital counseling, and lived happily ever after. While that might be an attractive narrative for the couple, it makes for pretty uninteresting reading. We, the reader, know that a good story must include a significant amount of conflict to make for a satisfactory resolution.

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September 12, 2015

Walking Blamelessly

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Path of Light
O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?

  Who shall dwell on your holy hill?     

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
  and speaks truth in his heart;
-Psalm 15: 1, 2

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September 11, 2015

The Power of Gritty Worship

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Prison-PrayerThe crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. -    Acts 16:22-26

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September 10, 2015

Purposeful Prayer: Launched into Ministry

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Charitable Christians Talk“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.-Colossians 4:2-6, ESV

Those who seek God find themselves regularly and very naturally propelled into mission. At the foot of the cross we discover that we are not alone. If we linger long enough, the entire human race materializes before our eyes. We see many kneeling in reverence, pressing in close around us, with faces refashioned, renewed by tears of joy. Just beyond we can see others in various stages, from shame and pain to mild indifference or curiosity. Further out, we discern the outline of multitude of people, too numerous to count. In the shadow of the cross, conscious of and even covered by the sweat and blood of our Savior, we may also be surprised to find that we cannot turn away.

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September 9, 2015

Fear and Fasting

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-464220555Fear and Fasting

What do these two have in common? Neither will happen when Jesus returns.

All fear, and tears for that matter, will be wiped away in His presence. Can you imagine what this will actually feel like? And never again will we fast because we will have our Friend and King with us. We will party without any threat of fear.

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September 8, 2015

The Strange Hiddenness of God and the Crucial Obedience of God's People

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-118365690I find myself coming back time and again to the temptations of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Recently I've been struck anew by the strange, counterintuitive opening line of the story: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." (4:1)

Led by the Spirit (God's presence, in line with His purposes)...into the wilderness (the place of emptiness, misery, loneliness, hardship, where God seems far from our experience)...to be tempted by the devil (exposed to dehumanizing evil). These are not realities we usually associate together. In the center of God's will, in the center of the storm, overwhelmed by the contrast between my experience and desires and God's (purported, but now called increasingly into question) will. 

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September 7, 2015

Why Do You Pass Judgment On Your Brother? Why Do You Despise?

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-484794034Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. - Romans 14:10-12

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September 6, 2015

Rest from Battle

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-478165856A wise person said, “The greatest battles you will ever fight happen in bed alone in the dark.” King David (the boy who killed Goliath and the warrior who took down tens of thousands of Israel’s enemies) composed Psalm 4 in the throes of just such a battle—alone in the dark at night. 

A glance at the final stanza reveals who is ultimately the Victor: “I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, Lord, make me safe and secure.” But how does David go from crying out in the middle of the night, like so many of us, to resting in God? What can you and I learn from Psalm 4 as we wrestle with anxieties and temptations through this fast?

 1. David cries out to God

When I call out, answer me,
O God who vindicates me!
Though I am hemmed in, you will lead me into a wide, open place.
Have mercy on me and respond to my prayer! 

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