Day 28 | He Has Risen

RISK_PrayerChallenge

 

Read: Luke 24:1–7

Key Verse: …the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.” —Luke 24:5–6a

We got to the hospital too late. My grandfather was laying there lifeless on the bed. I was 14. I touched his arm and his skin wasn’t warm anymore. I broke into tears. That was the first time I had seen a dead body. I felt the permanence of death. It was overwhelming. I had the sense, and still have the sense every time I cross paths with death in life and its sense of permance, that this is wrong. This is not how it’s supposed to be.

And that’s exactly right. God created us for life. But our sin against God brought us death, yet God loved us too much to allow death to have the final word. So in the greatest, most unimaginable turn of events, God struck death with two fatal blows.

The first blow was with the death of God’s Son, Jesus, on the cross for our sin. The wages of sin is death and Jesus paid that penalty for us in our place, effectively terminating spiritual death for those who trust in His death for them. The second blow to death came that morning, when in unimaginable power, God raised Jesus bodily from the dead.

This risen Jesus declares to you today, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26)

Death has been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus. New life is given to all who trust in him. Oh, what glorious Good News this is!

Prayer: Oh God, thank You for new life in Jesus! I love You and worship You for this eternal gift! Help me to be like those angels and joyfully declare to others, “He has risen!”

Tom Regan | Pastor of Young Adults

Day 27 | Faithful Through the Fire

RISK_PrayerChallenge

 

Read: Daniel 3:1–30

Key Verse: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. —Daniel 3:16–18

There is no guarantee things will always end well when we take a risk; at least in our limited perspective.

Imagine being one of the three guys in the historical city of Babylon who were faced with the decision to compromise by spitting in the face of everything you know to be right. The consequence for staying faithful to God was clearly understood: death by BBQ. If I were there, I would have this thought racing in my mind: if I take a stand for what’s right, God will work it out so I don’t really get hurt.

What if God decided to let the three guys burn up in the furnace without any mystery figure miraculously rescuing them from the flames? That would not change who God is, or what He is about. That would not change what I am responsible for.

God is more concerned with our obedience, while He intends to take care of the results. He may give us the opportunity to stand up for a cause or help in a risky situation, and then see the situation collapse. No worries, God will take care of the results.

Prayer: God, please help me to trust in You with the results. Help me to take a risk and trust in You with the needed answers in Your timing.

Andy Wright | Pastor of Middle School Ministries

Day 26 | What About My Rights?

RISK_PrayerChallenge

 

Read: Philippians 2:5–11

Key Verse: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus… —Philippians 2:5

Imagine for a moment that you’re in bad traffic on I-405 and somebody cuts you off. You slam on your brakes to avoid hitting this person. They don’t acknowledge you in any way—no blinker, no “thank you” wave. They just pretend like you’re not even there. How does that make you feel? Does it make you angry? It sure makes me angry! Who does this person think they are? I’m angry because I feel disregarded and disrespected. I feel like somehow my rights have been violated. That’s not fair! Can you relate?

We get angry when our rights are violated. That’s why these verses are so crazy! The Creator and Sustainer of the universe laid down all His rights for us. He sacrificed everything so we could be reconciled to Him. As His followers, Jesus is calling us to lay down all of our rights, all of our preferences, and all of our comforts and ask, “what are You calling me to sacrifice today?” Will you take that risk? Will you consider someone’s salvation as more important than your rights today? Will you let Jesus break you out of your comfort zone and use you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine?

Prayer: Jesus thank You for sacrificing everything for me. Thank You for saving me. Will You please show me how I can sacrifice for someone today? I want them to encounter Your love in me. Thank You that their salvation is more important than my rights.

Brandon Shuman | Pastor of Worship

Day 25 | Always be Ready

RISK_PrayerChallenge

Read: 1 Peter 3:15–16

Key Verse: …always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence… —1 Peter 3:15

I remember it well, the day my school friend asked me a question about being a Christian. My heart was racing, I began to sweat, and my mouth went dry. I eventually thought of a great answer to their question, unfortunately it was 6 hours after the event. I lay on my bed regretting how I’d wasted another opportunity to tell my friend about Jesus.

Peter says in his letter, “Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have. But answer them in a gentle way with respect.” If only I’d known they were going to ask me a question, I would have been ready! Maybe the reason Peter says we should always be ready is because few make an appointment when they want to ask us a question; they just ask it. Don’t you find that people ask the best questions at the worst time, just when we were least expecting them to?

How is it possible to take Peter seriously and “always be ready,” ready at all times, and ready with a good answer? The answer is more obvious than it might seem—being ready, means getting ready! Nobody simply wakes up for the championship game ready to play, they need to get ready; nobody just simply lands the perfect job, they need to be prepared. Being ready means putting some time and effort into getting ready, understanding and working out the hope that is in us daily.

I believe this means spending regular time in prayer, getting to know Jesus, the hope of our salvation, and asking Him to give us someone to share this Hope with. It also is learning to share your personal life story with others, and asking others to share their story with you. Simply the best way to prepare is by taking risks, risks that continue to allow you to grow in your reliance on Him with our conversations and relationships.

Pray: Sometimes, God, it feels that we are so inadequate to represent You. Sometimes God, I feel more concerned with the way I look than how You will be perceived through what You’re doing in my life. Today will You use me to share Your hope to those around me?

Shawn Rowles | Pastor of Family Life

Day 24 | The Most Important Work

RISK_PrayerChallenge

 

Read: Acts 22–24

Key Verse: But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. —Acts 20:24

My work requires space to process and create. As a result, Sundays can be pretty exhausting because I’m communicating with a bunch of people at a fast pace, while trying to keep a lot of moving, technical parts on track. It’s easy to forget that my main job is to communicate the Gospel. When I’m focused on fixing problems instead of the people around me, I can miss opportunities to share what God is doing in my life.

As a man, I almost always prefer to be working, but Paul reminds me that the most important work I do is the relational work of pointing other people toward Jesus.

When Paul preached to the church at Ephesus in Acts 20, he knew that he was headed toward prison. The Holy Spirit told him what lay ahead, and he embraced it. The Bible tells us Paul learned to be content no matter his circumstances, which included being imprisoned and facing death. Paul focused on the work that mattered. Are you willing to put aside your life (or your productivity) for an opportunity to share the Gospel? May we be willing to do just that.

Prayer: Father, we know that You love us, and continually express Your love through mercy and grace You give us each day. Grow our love for the Gospel, that we would see Your love as worth more than anything else, and that Your love would drive us to share the gospel recklessly with everyone around us

Harry Frankenfeld | Director of Technical Arts

Day 23 | Count It All Joy

RISK_PrayerChallenge

 

Read: Matthew 5:3–12

Key Verse: Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. —Matthew 5:11-12

As a wrestler I loved walking out on the mat and feeling the intensity of the competition. I got excited when other athletes, coaches, or newspapers started trash talking. I knew it was because when they stepped out on the mat with me, they were ultimately afraid. I rejoiced in the public disgrace and sharp words because I knew their terror and it gave me joy.As Americans, the last thing we want in our marriages, careers, communities, and schools is to be disrespected. As Christians we fear stepping out on the mat and getting publicly ridiculed by other people. We’re tempted to hold back or keep quiet. What if they don’t like us? Praise the Lord—at least we know we are doing something right.

As followers who take risks for Jesus, we force others to react and decide. How would it appear if we just hid inside the walls of the church, sang our songs, and acted nice at work? We would be just another nice co-worker or maybe just another friendly face on the streets. Lets be a ministry of believers who make others react—they may cheer, they may hate us, but praise the Lord and count it all joy.

Prayer: Dear Father, today and every day, make my life one that makes others decide. Please make my life one that walks in Your way, takes risks, and counts it all joy when I face trials of many kinds. Make me a man or woman after your heart.  

Other Reading: James 1:2-4

Jono Lippman | Director of Student Creative Arts

Day 22 | The Risk to Share

RISK_PrayerChallenge

 

Read: Matthew 5:14–16

Key Verse: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. —Matthew 5:14–16

After having gone through counseling and recovery groups for my issues with unwanted same-sex attraction and sexual addiction, I was asked to speak to a Sunday school class at Northshore. Many of my friends were in the class and I was petrified to risk and share my story. In fact, I considered backing out. I asked God for direction, opened my Bible, put my finger on the page, and it fell on Matthew 5:14. My life has never been the same. What Satan has meant for evil in my life, God is now using to provide hope to hundreds of people affected by homosexuality and sexual addiction. As part of risking and stepping out to let my light shine I’ve also had the privilege of leading several people struggling with sexual issues to Christ. That would never have happened if I had played it safe and kept my light hidden under a basket.Before stepping out and risking to let people know what God has done in my life, I had several people comment that “they could never be a Christian because they could never be as perfect as I was.” What they didn’t know! Our “perfection” often isn’t what brings people to Christ, in fact it’s often seen as hypocrisy. It’s in taking the risk of letting people into our stories, of sharing what God has done in our lives, that gives them the hope that maybe God could love and accept them with their issues as well.

Is your light under a basket? Will you risk letting your light shine? What has God done in your life that, if shared, could provide hope and encouragement to a lost and hurting world? Will you take that risk?

Prayer: God, thank You so much for all You’ve done in my life and are continuing to do. Help me risk sharing what You’ve done in my life; to let my light shine to a lost a hurting world, to a world that needs to know you can love them in the midst of their struggles.  

Jeff Simunds | Director of Tower of Light Ministries

Day 21 | Lord Make Us One

RISK_PrayerChallenge

 

Read: John 17:20–23

Key Verse: I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. —John 17:20–21

Isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus prayed for us? In His last intercessory prayer to the Father on earth, Jesus prayed that His disciples—and those yet to come—would be united. Unity is crucial for the advancement of the Gospel in our communities and our world.

From the beginning of time, the Trinity has provided us an example of unity in diversity, yet Jesus was well aware of our natural human tendency towards division and individualism. Unity is a key ingredient in effective ministry. Resources (human and financial) can be pooled together to reach those who have not yet heard with great compassion and generosity. Together we can care for the poor, combat human trafficking, and care for the orphans. Our presence in the world will be of greater impact.

Yes, the church across the street, the church in Canada, and the church in Nicaragua are different than ours, but by working together, honoring each other, and respecting individual styles, we can bring people closer to Jesus and to an understanding of His message. By this, Jesus says, “the world may know” and we will be blessed if we keep unity as a priority in our lives.

Today as you drive around and pass by local churches, pray to the Father for those brothers and sisters and pray for their engagement in our community and in the world.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for our friends and allies in other churches. Please bring unity to Your Body and teach us to work together in Your Name.

Hilario Pardo | Director of Global Missions

Day 20 | The Power of God

RISK_PrayerChallenge

Read: Romans 1:16–17

Key Verse: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  —Romans 1:16

Have you ever felt powerless?

 
Recently I was driving a church shuttle to a ministry retreat with 10 pastors and directors. Before we started on our way to the retreat center, I asked the team to join me in prayer. My prayer was interrupted as the other vehicles began to drive away. We hurriedly filed into the shuttle and went on our way, but when we got on I-405 and headed north, we hit heavy traffic. To avoid getting stuck, I accelerated into the HOV lane but instantly noticed cars breaking in front of me—within a split second I saw a large 15 passenger van with a blown tire in my lane. I was pinned between concrete on my left and cars on my right. I hit the brakes as hard as I could; I knew we were going to hit. At the last second, I saw a tiny opening between my lane and the lane just to the right. I steered through what seemed like the eye of a needle—POW, I heard something hit. The passengers gasped. The car next to me honked, and I realized we made it through and everyone was alive, but what had I hit? A white sedan waved at me, so we found a safe spot and pulled over. The other driver and I looked at his car, but all we could find was that his mirror had been simply folded in. We popped it back into place and drove away, still a little rattled nonetheless.

I share this story as an example of the power of prayer. After the near accident, we talked for the rest of the trip about how amazing it was that God had protected us, and how awesome it was that we were all safe. Make prayer a priority! God’s power is found in the Good News that He gave it all for us. We tap that power when we pray and invite him into our every day. So pray, pray, pray. Prayer brings God’s Power!

Prayer: We recognize Your power. And we ask for Your power to move in our lives. Keep us safe as we serve You. And give us boldness to tell others of Your life-changing love.

Tim Burke | Director of Outreach & Local Missions

Day 19 | Pray for the Gospel to Grow

 

RISK_PrayerChallenge

Read: Matthew 13:18–23

Key VerseAnd the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. —Matthew 18:23

Over the years, I’ve learned about the importance of good soil. Putting in a yard for the first time, it was necessary to remove all of the construction debris, rocks, and clay before putting down the fresh, healthy topsoil. The yard we planted took root and grew beautifully. The side yard, however, was a different story. We didn’t prepare the soil and it failed miserably.The plants we planted there never grew.We read in this chapter of Matthew what’s known as the parable of the soils. We learn that the Word of God (the seed) is sown and lands on all different types of soil—rocky, thorny, and good. Oftentimes, we concentrate our prayers on sowing the seed itself. Today though, I am challenged by verse 23 to pray for the one in whom the Gospel has taken root. We have those among us that need our prayers as the Gospel begins to grow in good soil.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for reminding me to pray for Your people who are growing in faith.  I ask Lord, that you continue to nurture them and grow them in relationship with You. Help me to be one to bring nourishment and encouragement to them, as we all are growing in You!

Julie Zager | Director of Women’s Ministry