Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
SUNDAY, February 5
“You will call out to me for help. And I will answer you. You will cry out. And I will say, ‘Here I am’” (v. 9, NIRV).
Fasting is a tenet of the Christian faith. Sometimes we fast as we pursue a closer walk with God or to enrich our prayer life. Verses 3-5 of today’s passage describe how fasting without the correct heart is like talking to a brick wall while you’re hungry. When we get to verses 6-9 we see how God wants us to fast. Not just devoting ourselves to additional study time, dedicated prayer, or abstaining from food—he wants an active fast. These verses use words like “set free,” “give,” “provide.” Bending the knee and talking to the Lord is a great way to honor him during a time of fasting, but he also wants us to stretch our legs and actively touch the lives of others. So if you want verse 9 to ring true in your life, look for ways to actively bless others.
Lord, guide us in our fast. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: THE GRACE TO LIVE SIMPLY
MONDAY, February 6
The Master Carpenter Jesus is really good at fixing things. I don’t mean just building fences or installing cabinets. Jesus’s whole mission is about repairing the relationship between God and humans. Verse 12 in today’s passage describes the work God has for his people: “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
As heirs and joint heirs to the kingdom of God, we share not only in the glory and suffering; we also share in the work of renovating the lives of others. Our responsibility as “subcontractors” for Christ is to aid in setting people on better foundations. We are called to help people repair damaged relationships and restore the broken. I encourage you today to help someone so the title of “Repairer” and “Restorer” can be well earned.
Jesus, help us to declare, deploy, and disciple. AMEN.
Style Versus Comfort
TUESDAY, February 7
I was standing in line at a department store and heard hooting and cheers coming from all around me. Apparently, when customers gave money to a children’s charity, the clerks yelled and made noise. When it was my turn to check out, the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate. I said yes, under one condition: no fanfare! She took my donation and whispered thank you.
Experiences like that make me extremely uncomfortable. When I give or volunteer, I would much rather that no one know about it. But when I got outside the store I wondered, “Did I miss an opportunity to encourage someone else to give?” Maybe rather than putting on my comfortable “Silent Helper” jacket, I really should have donned my “Look at Jesus Go” sweater! That sweater is a little form-fitting, but it’s timeless and goes with anything.
Jesus, help us choose the right style for the occasion. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: COURAGE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT
WEDNESDAY, February 8
As I sat in court, a prosecutor was having trouble getting a particular point across about a law that required three parts to make a whole. After 20 minutes of his attempting to explain it to the jury pool, I asked him, “Is this like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? In order to have a complete law sandwich you must have part A, B, and C?” Everyone laughed including the judge—it was the simplest way to explain a complex issue.
In today’s passage, Jesus is explaining that God’s requirement of the law is complete and utter sinlessness. Literal perfection is the bare minimum. As my granny always said, “Thank God for Jesus!” Jesus is the only one who could have spread sacrifice and sinlessness over sanctification to give us the salvation sandwich we need. Salvation is mmm good.
Jesus, help us to feed people your Word. AMEN.
THURSDAY, February 9
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
I once visited a church service where the preacher had several PhDs. He was confident and used a lot of multi-syllable words in order to make logical arguments in his message. The sermon was almost over when he uttered a phrase that was antithetical to everything I knew about the work of Jesus, saying, “You do know that once saved, not always saved, don’t you?” I audibly gasped.
Sometimes we overthink the simple message that God is trying to convey. My granny quit school in the seventh grade but she read her Bible daily, helped others when she could, and attended every prayer meeting offered. Leaning on the Spirit and allowing our faith to be seen by others is a lesson in itself. Compelling words are nice, but the living Holy Spirit trumps all.
Dear Lord, allow the Spirit to shine through us. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE WHO ARE OPPRESSED
FRIDAY, February 10
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
I am close friends with a man whose daughter was attending college many miles away. After one of their weekly calls, he became restless. Their conversation was pleasant and full of jokes, but something was bothering him. He called his daughter the next morning to ask if she was okay, and she assured him she was fine. He told me he felt like there was a spiritual rock in his shoe. After three days of that feeling, he got on a plane and flew to her school. She was surprised to see him—and relieved. She broke down and revealed that a man had been following her around for three weeks. The Holy Spirit grants, power, comfort, hope, and the uncommon wisdom to travel 1,064 miles when needed.
Dear Lord, please allow the Holy Spirit to fully activate in our lives. AMEN.
Cost Benefit Analysis
SATURDAY, February 11
When I read today’s passage, I immediately thought of cost benefit analysis, or the process businesses use to decide which opportunities to undergo and which to pass on. A company will measure the cost of one choice versus the cost of going another route. The process sometimes includes intangibles that are hard to quantify such as employee morale or customer satisfaction.
The benefits of following God’s commands are clearly vast (vv. 2-9), but what is the cost? Is it more time volunteering? Is it going out of my way to be compassionate? Is it distributing my gifts more? When we weigh the cost of what God asks of us in any situation and compare it to the returns, how can we not “delight in his commands” (v. 1)? Would you take ten minutes right now and measure how you are using your time, talents, spiritual gifts, and blessings?
Jesus, please remind us that you paid it all. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: CAREGIVERS