Teachable Moments

Midweek Meditation: The Mirror of Prayer

Prayer reflects the heart of the one who prays; prayer reveals what God needs to accomplish in our own lives perhaps even more than what we are asking God to do in others.

As prayer is a mirror that reveals our hearts towards the Lord, let us take some time to examine where our hearts are before Him. Let us consider Job, Jonah, and Habakkuk to see what our prayers tell us about our relationship with our Savior. 

Job – Job started out strong but slowly began listening to the unwise counsel of family and friends. Job’s consistent turning to people for wisdom and his lack of prayer not only encouraged his questioning faith, but showed his lack of faith in the Almighty.

  • Who are you spending your time turning to? 
  • Are you seeking the input of friends and family consistently over that of the Lord?
  • Is your trust firmly rooted in your Savior whom you turn to daily?

Jonah – Jonah had a bad attitude when turning to God. He acted more out of fear of consequences than fear of the Lord. It was his lack of true repentance that led to bitter anger towards God in the end. 

  • Is my heart turning to God in worship and repentance or resignation?
  • Do I fear the Lord or just His punishment?
  • Does my attitude towards the Lord reflect his greatness or am I too focused on myself to approach him correctly? 

Habakkuk – Habakkuk wanted to know why. He wanted to understand God’s reasoning for what is happening but he quickly realizes that knowledge is a poor replacement for faith. His demonstration of faith even without knowledge and understanding is a wonderful picture of true worship.

  • How should I approach God when I don’t understand what He is doing?
  • Do I put my confidence in the Lord over my understanding of what is happening?
  • Do I take joy in approaching the God of my salvation?

May you find peace and great joy this week in spending time in prayer with our great Savior! Blessings to you as you reflect on the mirror your prayer life gives to you, dear reader. Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

What Is Prayer?

Very few topics in the Christian Faith elicit more controversy than the topic of prayer, often because of the big “what if I don’t” questions.

  • What if I don’t pray the right words?
  • What if I don’t pray enough?
  • What if I don’t approach God with the correct mindset or posture?
  • What if I don’t……? 

Sadly, we often treat God like we do a formula for good leadership development.  We want a “to do” list that we can check off and when we get all those tiny boxes marked, we know success is right around the corner.  If I can do it “right”, then God will answer all my prayers in ways that bring me emotional comfort or physical prosperity – I’ll get that job; bills will get paid; the sick will be healed on earth; my worries will disappear.  

The problem with this thinking toward prayer is that it is not Christianly; we are making bargains with God, setting up a contract, rather than furthering our relationship with Him.  It does not take into account what God Himself wants when we pray. 

What does God want when we pray?  Jesus tells us what He doesn’t want. “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).  I love that God can hear our prayers without a single word from us.  “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

It is in this understanding – that it is not our words that God desires, but us (ourselves) – that we are reminded that prayer is communion within the Trinity where 

  • God the Father already sees and knows all about what we feel, what we think, and what we’re going through.  
  • Jesus the Son has made the way for us to stay in constant communion with God through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection and He Himself makes constant intercession for us before the throne (“He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” Hebrews 7:25 ).  Jesus never stops praying for us.
  • The Holy Spirit fills and works within us, to intercede through us and on our behalf before the presence of God Almighty. 

God brings His whole self into prayer and He wants nothing less from us.

Prayer is the privilege of being a child of the King, knowing we can fling ourselves into the throne room at any time.  Much as a young child who has a loving father knows that they can interrupt their Dad at any time for any reason, we can be assured there is no small problem which exists in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.  Big or small requests, big or small praises, big or small confessions, He desires we bring all of ourselves to all of Him.

What does God want out of prayer?  Us! When we come and talk with Him, we show Him we trust Him, we affirm that He is able, and we are comforted, corrected, and consoled by God Himself.  Our relationship with God is strengthened and our minds are turned toward eternity. Because of prayer, we are now ready to resist the enemy, survive the storms, and walk in a peace that passes any human’s understanding (“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7).

Dear Reader, will you pray constantly as scripture commands today (‘Pray continually” 1 Thessalonians 5:17)?  Because prayer is not a “to do” list but instead a “turn to” relationship with God, then you are praying continually as you consistently bring God to mind throughout the day, talking with Him in a perpetual conversation, praising His provision, asking for His accommodations, and confessing your faults.  Forgiveness, peace, and joy are readily available to all who abide in Christ, in the presence of the Father and are filled with His Spirit. In this relationship, we find prayer.

May God bless you richly today as you allow the One who loves you more than anything else He has created, be your biggest blessing and answer to your prayers.

In Him, For Him, and Through Him, yours fondly – Elizabeth

BONUS:

A parents’ prayer before the throne of God is a powerful tool in their child’s life.  The well-quoted preacher from the 1800’s, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, had a mother who prayed for him tirelessly and counseled him wisely, seeking God’s work of chastisement and repentance in the life of her sons.  We may consider her as a godly example for how we may intercede on behalf of our children. Spurgeon said this of his mother, “I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother.”  Spurgeon’s brother said of their mother, “She was the starting point of all the greatness and goodness any of us, by the grace of God, have ever enjoyed.

May we as parents seek God and His kingdom first so we are filled with His goodness and wisdom as we speak to and pray for our children; it is God’s heart that takes precedence in our work of prayer on their behalf.

Teachable Moments

Fruit Check: The Necessity of Gentleness

I love apple picking in the Fall!  My husband and I took our kids out to an apple orchard every fall to pick apples.  (If Mom liked it, then everyone got to join in the fun.) Applesauce, apple pies, fried apples, apple chutney – you need an apple recipe, I probably have it.  Besides a feast of fruit, we also used this opportunity to teach some basic theology. The question we discussed one fine Fall day was, how do you know if someone is a Christian?  What do apples and Christians have in common?  Glad you asked!

Scripture teaches that you will know a Christian by their fruit.  Galatians 5:22,23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Fruit is referring to what is produced out of the life of a believer who is filled and walking in the Spirit.  If I have come to Christ as my Savior, then God has deposited within me His Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21,22) and in fact, the Spirit of God within me is proof that I am a believer (Romans 8:9). But in explaining this to children, how do you explain to a child someone they can not see?  Children won’t argue that the Spirit exists, as most children have vivid imaginations and live in the world of all-things-possible. But they will want to know, what is the Holy Spirit like and how can I know if I have the Spirit?

The Spirit is likened to fruit.  When we went to an orchard, there were pears, apples, pumpkins and corn that we could choose from the harvest.  We could easily tell what type of plant we are looking at because we could see the fruit. How do I know if we are picking from an Apple tree?  Because there are apples. How do I know if I am picking from a Pear tree? Because there are pears. Trees bear the type of fruit that is in their DNA; the fruit bears witness to what type of tree it is.

Same for believers – what kind of a person am I – a believing person or a non-believing person?  The answer isn’t how many bible verses you can quote (though memorizing scripture is important) nor how much doctrine you can explain (though solid doctrine is important).  More important than knowledge is the character that is produced as a result of faith. Do you want to know if someone knows Christ? Then you should SEE their faith.

One of the characteristics of a believer should be the fruit of gentleness.  Gentleness is described in scripture as both a believer trait as well as something we can do.  If you do a study of gentleness (sometimes translated meekness), you can find 4 thematic qualities that help define it:

  • Gentleness is NOT harsh – calm and kind in demeanor
  • Gentleness is NOT thoughtless – considers the other person more than one’s self
  • Gentleness IS protective – cares for the welfare of others
  • Gentleness IS powerful – strength under control

The Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines gentleness as, ”Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

The fruit of gentleness has for the many centuries been touted as a key characteristic of faithful believers. Jonathan Edwards said, “All who are truly godly and are real disciples of Christ have a gentle spirit in them.” Jesus was described as the gentle King (Matthew 11:29); Paul defined his ministry to the church in Thessalonica as gentle as a mother caring for her little children and in Philippians; Paul gives a final charge to Timothy to pursue gentleness and finally, Paul urges everyone “to let your gentleness be evident to all.”

How important is the spiritual fruit of gentleness?  I’d suggest very!

Dear Reader, grabbing every opportunity as a teachable moment to help our children know and appreciate theological truth is a great habit to get into.  And besides our children, it’s good for us. Are you going to eat a piece of fruit today? As you do, remind yourself that the fruit the Spirit produces in you is an indicator of how your relationship with God is going.  Are you walking with Him closely? Do a fruit check! And start with the fruit of gentleness.

Gentleness fruit check – NOT harsh, NOT thoughtless, IS protective, IS powerful:  does this describe you?

May we today be obedient to the challenge Paul gives all believers, “May your gentleness be evident to all.” And I pray others will be gentle with you.

Fondly yours with gentle blessings!  Elizabeth

 

Teachable Moments

A Strong and Simple Faith

Throughout history, there have been many women of notable interest to us since they help us change the way we look at God and others. They all stand firm in the faith with incredible strength and grace, while also working hard to care for their families and those around them. I could write on and on about strong examples of women in the Bible who knew how to use their words and actions in truth, love, and righteousness for the Lord. There are many matriarchs of the civil rights movement who stood strong and courageously fought for the truth when others failed to do so. These women and more were pioneers for many reformations and they are all to be honored and admired.

If you had a chance to listen to the podcast on the Women’s History Month (see “Women’s History Month” blog post if you have not yet listened), you may recognize the name, Katherine Coleman Johnson. I’d like to take a minute today to talk about this math genius and human computer. (Facts taken from Nasa.Gov).

  •        Katherine was one of 3 African American students chosen to integrate West Virginia’s graduate schools and earned her Bachelor’s in Mathematics and French with highest honors.
  •        She established the computations of the angle needed for rocket ships to land back on earth for NASA and helped sync satellites and computers together for moon-orbiting modules.
  •        She was so astute in understanding the new processes and technology necessary for traveling to the moon that she was a vital piece of the puzzle for space travel and exploration in the USA.
  •        In 2015, Pres. Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for a civilian, and she was very humble and gracious in her receipt of that award.

While all of these accomplishments are amazing and Katherine did break many barriers, both as a successful African American and woman during a difficult time in history to do so, the greatest thing to remember about her is a simple reminder she provides.

In an interview with her in August for her 100th birthday, she was asked what the secret was to her longevity of life. Her answer was simple, “I’m lucky…and the Lord likes me. And I like Him.” She, in a very simple manner, communicated much more than simply knowing where her longevity of life comes from. She communicated humility, simplicity, and her love and identity rooted in Christ while speaking nothing of her great knowledge, experience, or accomplishments. Very simply she communicated that she is the Lord’s and the Lord is hers. The Lord loves her, and she loves the Lord. Her humility comes from her faith and identity in Christ. Her joy comes from her simplicity. Her bedrock is a quiet, strong, and simple faith.

At the end of the day, what we do or do not accomplish in this world doesn’t matter. It all comes down to our relationship with Jesus and who we are in Him. Out of all the things we could learn about Katherine and other women, this mindset of a quiet, strong, and simple faith is the one thing we should remember well today.

Being kind, tenderhearted, humble, gracious, and allowing the spirit to show up in our conversation is the most noble and gracious act a woman can do for God, others, and her family. None of our greatest accomplishments in life could ever compare to the value of holding a strong and simple faith. The most important characteristic about our personalities and identities should be that the Lord likes us, and we like him, and that is made evident by our words and actions. The words and actions we display must revolve around the idea that “the Lord likes me and I like him.” When we abide in Him, the fruit of the Spirit will be evident and we too will empower others to reflect the same grace, love, and humility that Christ has shown us. This is the simple gospel. A strong and simple faith. The simple reminder that orients us back to what truly matters.

I urge you to reflect on this idea today and let others know that your strong and simple faith is the most important aspect of who you are.

Blessings Abundant, Elizabeth

Eph. 4: 31-32

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as Christ God forgave you.”

Teachable Moments

New Things

What is it like to introduce two young children (who have never been swimming) to a hotel swimming pool for the first time? I got to witness the introduction of this fascinating new activity while at a retreat with some friends who had 2 small children.  At the hotel, the children, who loved their baths, were expected to make the adjustment to the pool seamlessly. After all, isn’t a swimming pool just a bigger version of a bathtub?  For one of the children, it was just like that – easy, fun and exciting. The other one – not so much. They did not see the joy of an extraordinary size bathtub as a good thing, but rather something to be feared and if possible, avoided.  I could see the terror and confusion in the eyes of this little one who was wondering why in the world their parents would want to go into such a large body of water anyway. This was obviously dangerous.

The problem was not the pool, nor the parents, nor the child.  There really wasn’t a problem, but it was a matter of perception. And this idea of perception when it comes to “new things” is not a new problem for people; rather, we can find it existing all the way back to the people of Israel. Recorded in Isaiah 43:19, God spoke to Israel through Isaiah saying:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

In Isaiah 43, God reminds His people of who He has proved Himself to be again and again to them, and assures them that because of who He is, they can trust Him no matter their circumstances. This chapter speaks both to the past troubles of the nation in which they experienced God’s protection and His necessary future discipline of them due to their disobedience.  And yet, there will come a time when the discipline is done and God will do a “new thing” and if observant, His people with eyes of faith will see what God is doing in their midst.

As believers in Christ, we can learn from Israel’s relationship with God; we can have the same assurance as the Israelites did that God does not abandon us when something troubling or terrifying comes our way.  He does not give up on us even when we have sinned and need His discipline. We may feel confused or alone, but we can be assured that our God is at work even when we can’t easily perceive it. God may need to ask us just like He asked Israel – do you perceive it? Or rather, don’t you see it?  Don’t you sense it? I am doing a “new thing.”

New things are sometimes hard to face and we may not want to see what God is up to.  Or, we may be lost in the wilderness and we just can’t see it. I know my friend’s young daughter, as she gazed at the humongous pool of water, couldn’t possibly believe that all would be well.  It was new; it was scary, and she couldn’t see why her parents would want this for her. The good news, her parents introduced her to this new thing and she soon realized that this opened up a whole new world.  What helped her acclimate? She hung on to her Dad for dear life as he slowly entered the pool. Because she trusted in him, she buried her face in his neck and just “went with it.” As his daughter, I could see the faith she had in him to protect her.  God was Israel’s Savior (Isaiah 43:3) and He is ours (Luke 2:11). And just as this little girl had faith in her Dad, we can have faith in our Heavenly Father as His children to save and care for us as we enter into the “new things” He has made for us. We can trust Him to care for us even if we have been disobedient and needed His discipline.  Our God is faithful to us and is about doing “new things.”

As Parents or Grandparents, how do we apply Isaiah 43 to our relationships with our children?

  • Remember WHO God is when you are trying to figure out what is going on in life; you can’t comprehend what God is doing until you are sure of who He is in His being
  • Have you experienced a wilderness time in your spiritual life?  Are you perceiving God doing a “new thing” and leading you out of it?  Give testimony to His grace through your words and actions – speak of His grace and then, pass the grace on to others by serving at church, in your community or in your family.
  • Study Isaiah 43 and learn the many ways God revealed Himself to Israel.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and as such, He is the same God who is with us.  Tell your children who God is and how He revealed Himself to Israel and how you see His attributes in your life.  

May “new things” bring us closer to Him and allow us to worship Him and may we be “perceivers” vs. “unbelievers” to our God who is definitely at work in our lives even when we can’t readily see it. Like my friend’s child first afraid but then full of faith when new things arose, may we also hold on to our Father God and perceive with faith the “new things” God is doing in our lives.

Dear Friends, blessings to you!  I pray for you to have eyes to see and minds to perceive what God is about in your life this week!  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth