Prayer for Students

This month we’ve been talking a bit about the topic of responsibility, one of those responsibilities is to the younger generations, both on a spiritual level as well as a whole-life level. We have to give them the tools that we’ve got as well as do our best to prepare them for what is yet to come that we don’t know about yet; challenges and opportunities that have never been seen before.

This week on Wednesday students around the US will be gathering around the flagpoles at their schools to pray for each other as well as our nation. It’s a moment where they step up and take responsibility for themselves and their school mates, the future leaders of the world. This week the rest of the US has the opportunity to pray for students and the people they will become as well, and for those who teach them and guide them.

Each year the organization behind See You At The Pole selects a passage to focus that year’s prayers on, this year it’s Ephesians 3:14: “I fall on my knees before the Father.” I encourage you to check out what they’ve shared about the thought behind their choice of passage on their website. What stood out to me was that the verse really is a reminder to pray, to seriously dedicate yourself and time to praying for what’s going on in your life and the world around you and taking the time to develop a relationship with God. We don’t always dedicate the time and effort to prayer that we should, and this verse is a reminder to do exactly that.

I encourage you to devote some of your prayer time this week for students, both those who will pray around the pole on Wednesday and those who will not, that this year will be a positive one and full of opportunities that will help shape students into the men and women that they will become.

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Fighting the Good Fight

With Independence Day a few hours away here in the US, I was thinking about what that day means and what it’s all about, and a big part of it is the battle that the new nation (the US) went through with Britain to separate from them. Often we think about our spiritual lives in terms of things like hope, peace, patience, love and eternity. But there’s the other side of it that we don’t like to think about but often is our reality: the challenges we face on a regular basis. Sometimes those challenges are fairly innocent and easy to manage, but others really test us, maybe even causing us to metaphorically ‘go to war.’

The good news is that God goes with us whether we’re enjoying a walk through His creation or fighting for our lives. God is just as capable of fighting as He is the loving and the healing. The Bible is filled with many stories of battles, in fact that’s a big part of what the Old Testament shares, whether it’s of the Israelites in battle or of other battles and conquerings that affected them. There’s certainly reference to the military in the New Testament with the centurion and his servant that Jesus healed as well as Cornelius (also a centurion) who had a memorable interaction with Peter.

And then there’s one of the more famous passages in the Bible, the Armor of God, which talks about God equipping us to fight against the devil and the evil that he would throw against us. It’s a reminder that as much as we humans fight a physical war here on earth, we’re also fighting a spiritual one up in Heaven.

So this Fourth of July, Independence Day, do something to help the good guys win the fight, whether donating to a veteran non-profit, praying with someone who is struggling, donating to the local food pantry or even something as simple as sharing encouraging words on social media.  What will you do?

Praying for Unity

Thursday in the US is National Day of Prayer. It’s an opportunity to come together as a nation and pray for some of the many needs in the country, and especially for our leadership. This year the committee is going with a theme of praying for unity, and the verse they’ve chosen is Ephesians 4:3:

“Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

The great thing about prayer is that it doesn’t take sides, it doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, a man or a woman, a morning person or a night person, how you like your coffee or if you like coffee, if you have a green thumb, if you prefer dogs or cats, or if you’re good with numbers. Prayer is something everyone and anyone can do. It’s also something that doesn’t have to take a long time to do or be something you have to do with others, although it’s good to pray with others.

So in a way just participating in National Day of Prayer is a way to unify many people around the US. Last week there was also some big news relating to the topic of peace and unity, North and South Korea stated that they were going to put aside their differences and try to work together for a better future.

Unity and peace both begin with a step. They not usually things that happen in one day, they are built over many days and weeks with work, communication, time and effort. Trust has to be established and it has to be shown that everyone is going to keep up their end of the partnership before unity and peace become a regular and expected thing.

So today what step will you take for peace and unity? That step can be as simple as prayer, or as big a step as you want to take.

The Choice of Unity

As we think about this month’s topic of help and of all that is going on around the US and the world, today I want to take a minute to talk about the topic of unity. It’s where people come together over something that essentially erases barriers. It’s when people who are rich and poor are both affected by a flood. It’s when people who are of multiple spiritual practices come together to say a prayer for healing in a city after a violent attack. It’s even when kids of various cultures, races, and sexes come together to play on a playground before school. Unity doesn’t mean that the differences don’t exist, it means that they’re ignored for a reason and/or for a time.

The Bible is interesting because there were some pretty clear divisions in the early books, but after the birth and death of Jesus some things changed. Take a look at these passages from Ephesians and Galatians:

“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Ephesians 2:19

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

What became clear after Jesus death, and what Jesus emphasized through His ministry, is that faith is more important than your heritage, your race, your political beliefs, your economic status or where you call home. Being different is the way God made us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t focus more on the things that bring us together, and the things that God has called us to, than the things that would separate us.

This week I encourage you to look for and encourage opportunities of unity, opportunities to work together and help each other. If we want to see more unity and more teamwork in the world, that has to be our focus instead of our differences.

Dimensions of Love

As we get closer and closer to Valentine’s Day the topic that most people are talking about is love.  It’s true that many people take this whole month to really focus on love and romance and I think that can be a very good thing.  It’s not a good thing when this month or these 14 days are the only time that you focus on your relationships, but sometimes it’s good to really dedicate extra time and effort to something that should be very important to you.

In thinking about the topic of love and romance it got me thinking about one of the biggest topics around love for people of faith, God’s love.  There’s a lot we can learn from His love and how He loves, so as I was working on my devotion this week I ran across a few verses that I wanted to share with you here today because they share a really important reminder about love. Take a look:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  Ephesians 3:18-19a

The interesting thing about all of these verses is that they talk about love in multiple dimensions, using multiple senses and in experiencing it beyond the obvious.  The challenge many of us face in experiencing or living love is that it’s not instant.  It’s not something we can throw a bunch of money at and get what we want.  Love takes work.  It’s something that is best experienced when you fully immerse yourself in it.  It’s like many wines that it often gets better with time, but unlike wine you can’t just leave it alone and expect it to get better.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as a child loving their pet, or loving how your partner holds your hand.  But in other ways it is complicated because many of the best loves do have multiple layers and depth to them.

So this week as you think about your Valentine plans or you think about the person that God has planned for you in the future, I encourage you to try to see love outside of the box that you may have stuck it in.  What have you missed about love?

The Protection to Fulfill Your Purpose

It’s not easy to live your purpose some times. Some of us are called to do dangerous things, go dangerous places or work with dangerous people. And even if we’re not, we usually face obstacles to fulfilling them and people who don’t want us to succeed. It can be discouraging to be in these situations and be trying to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives. The good news is that not only do we not go through our lives alone, we’re not without tools to overcome the challenges we face.

Who goes with us? First and foremost God goes with us. He has promised to never leave us alone, and while we may not see or feel Him working in our lives and supporting us, He is always there! God also sends people into our lives to support us. Some people will support us physically or in person, other people will support us through prayer. Both types of people are valuable, and we do need both to be fully supported and be able to make it through the challenges we face.

Second, we have personal gifts, tools, and abilities that God has blessed us with to use while learning, exploring and fulfilling our purposes. God would not give us a purpose to live without providing us with the tools we need to do it, or at the very least the ability to get the knowledge we need to make it happen.

Finally, God knows that we will face opposition, pain, hurt and hatred throughout our life journey. The good news is that He also sends protection in the form of His angels, special people on earth and The Armor of God to protect us and help us in our times of need. If you’re feeling resistance to fulfilling your purpose or in your life in general, take time this week to reequip your armor if necessary and reconnect with God and the people of protection He’s put in your life for such a time as this. Don’t give up yet, the best is yet to come.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”  Ephesians 6:11

Love and Forgiveness

We’ve reached a new month and this month one of the big things we’ll be talking about is the topic of love. Love is one of the most used words and concepts in the Bible, used over 700 times depending on what version you prefer. It’s an important concept, one that Jesus emphasized throughout His ministry on Earth and one that He encouraged us to rely on and share in our lives too. Love isn’t a spiritual concept like “being saved” is, it’s not something that has religious boundaries like Vedic prayers, bar/bat mitzvahs, or the cross and tomb, it’s something that crosses all boundaries that we run into in our lives from issues of language, race, color, gender, location, age and faith.

To start off the month I wanted to talk about a verse that shares about an interesting aspect of love, Ephesians 4:2: “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each others faults because of your love.”

Forgiveness is one of those really scary topics that we tend to avoid because it can be overwhelming and usually involves an amount of pain for several people, whether bad memories or other forms of mistreatment, failure or hurt. But here in Ephesians it says that we need to incorporate forgiveness and the understanding that no one is perfect into our minds and lives because of love. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it?

But in a way it makes sense because love is the great overcomer, as it says in Ephesians 3:18: “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” As true people of faith we should live our lives reflecting and following the love that God showed throughout the Bible and Jesus showed during His ministry.  Will you choose to live a life of love not just this month but all year long?