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

Call Your Children To Be Disciples, Not Just Christians

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”   
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Is there a difference between the terms “disciple” and “Christian” and if so, why does it matter?  

If I were to ask you, “do you want your child to be a disciple or a Christian or both?”, how would you answer?  

While it may seem like we’re splitting hairs, denoting the differences between what it means to be a disciple versus a Christian may help us find clarity in how we view our faith.  And obviously, the clearer we are, the clearer our children will be. Words matter for they define what we believe and what we believe directly influences what we pass on to them and others.

Here are some quick facts to help us distinguish between the words disciple and Christian:

  1.  The word disciple is used in the New Testament gospels while the first use of the word Christian isn’t seen until the book of Acts (Acts 11:26). 
  2. Jesus refers to his followers as disciples, but never as Christians, and New Testament believers called themselves disciples, brothers, or saints.
  3. The word disciple is translated “follower” or “student” while Christian is translated “belonging to Christ”.
  4. Christ clearly lays out the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:28, 33) which is considerable and should be expected.

The difference in terms is somewhat noteworthy when we take the full meanings of the words to heart and consider how to apply them to our everyday lives.  Reflecting on these bits of information, I find two questions come to mind:

  • Do I belong to Christ? (Christian)
    • Here we examine what we believe about God and examine ourselves, “Have I placed my faith in Christ, thus belonging to Him?”
  • Do I follow Christ? (Disciple)
    • Here we examine how we worship God through our lives, “Do I strive to imitate God in word and deed no matter the cost?”

The best of both worlds is when we see and refer to ourselves as Christian Disciples.  We know to whom we belong and in doing so, we are committed to being imitators of Christ, (Ephesians 5:1-2) following in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21) in both word and deed.  This is a Christian Disciple and this is who God wants us to raise our children to become.

How do we encourage our children to be disciples, and not just call themselves “Christians” and call it a day?  Start simple (I suggest the following as a template).

  1.  Ask your children questions. What is a Christian Disciple?
  2. Discuss with them how to define their identity as a Christian Disciple.   Belonging to Christ and choosing to follow Him in all ways.
  3. Look into scripture and create simple points from the scripture you read to help children understand and remember the points:
     Puts Christ first in all things (Mark 8:34-38)
    Shares the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20)
    Shows one’s love for Christ (Philippians 2:6-8; Galatians 5:22-23)
    Grows in their love for Christ (Matthew 22:37-40)
  4. Pray that God works in their hearts to understand and live out a true and vibrant faith.
  5. Live as a role model so they see you as a Christian Disciple.

Dear Reader, for 2020 – I challenge us all to consider what we mean by “discipleship” and how we are living it out in our homes and churches.  What is the most important thing we can do for our children, for our church, and for all others?  Inspire one another to embrace our identity as Christian Disciples so we bring glory to God and participate in the expansion of His Kingdom.  He is worthy! 

May 2020 be blessed with His presence as you wallow in the joy of belonging to Him and live faithfully as His disciple.

Blessings Abundant – Elizabeth

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Teachable Moments

Teach Your Children to Fight Their Fears With One Good Question

God is the author of all of our emotions, including fear.  Fear is a normal human emotion that tells us something in our life has put us at risk.  Our safety and security in some way is precarious and we may be in danger.  Fear conveys a message and requires us to stop and assess how we are and what is going on.

Fear comes in all shapes and sizes – from all out panic to being just a bit nervous.  It can be either intense to the point that you can’t function or annoyingly present but not a big deal.  

Children need help identifying what they are feeling, why they are feeling it, and then figuring out what to do with it.  So, we start by asking out children some basic questions about fear.

  1.  What does fear feel like?  Fear doesn’t feel the same to every child.  They don’t experience it the same and nor will they exhibit it the same way.  Find out from your child exactly what fear feels like to them.
  2. Why is fear present?  Fear comes from somewhere.  Figuring out why your child is fearful, no matter if it doesn’t make sense or seems silly to them, helps us help them determine how to deal with it
  3. Finally, what do I do with my fear?  Depending on what is causing the fear and how intense it is, we can figure out whether the child needs to talk something through, change some behavior or environment, or think about their thinking (meta-cognition).  No matter what, however – we always pray.

For this article, we’ll deal with how to combat those fears our children may have that weigh them down and get in the way of everyday life.  These are fears that don’t serve them well and need to be addressed head on. Never ignore this type of fear – it will only get bigger and more debilitating the longer we pretend it doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem.  

SO, what do we do with a fear that is causing problems in our everyday life?

Charles Spurgeon, a famous English Preacher in the 1800s, once preached,There are some fears which would die immediately if we dared to question them.”   He taught this as he was teaching on Isaiah 51:12-13 which itself has a question that gives the key to facing our fears.

Spurgeon says that for every fear that stops us from living with joy and strength, we need to learn to ask a question and it is in the question we find the answer to our fears.

Here is a list of fears with the question that confronts it and then, the answer Spurgeon gives to the question which fights the fear.  It is remembering the answer to the question that is the key to fighting the fear. BUT – handling fear always STARTS with asking the question.

Fear of people being mean (bullies, rejection, unkindness)

QUESTION: Who is in control of those who attack you?

ANSWER (by Spurgeon): Isaiah 51:12, 13 asks, “Where is the wrath of your enemy?”  And the answer comes, it is under the control of God. Even Satan, your fiercest foe, was created by God; God rules over him, God does with him just as he pleases.  God will be with you and can alleviate and help you stand up to those who attack you. Never forget who is on your side!

Fear of someone ruining my reputation (bad messages on social media, gossip, slander)

QUESTION: You say that your enemies are doing all that they can to destroy you, but can they destroy the divine promises?

ANSWER (by Spurgeon):  The Lord has promised to give his sheep eternal life; can they take that promise from you, or make it of no value? They may fight against you, but can they keep you out of heaven? They may threaten you, but can they make the covenant of grace to be of no effect? Since eternal things are safe, we can be content to let other things come or go just as God wills.  Keep an eternal perspective; this life can be very hard and disappointing, but God is with you, loves you and your real home is heaven. This pain won’t last forever.

Fear of death (severe or terminal illness, dealing with grief or potential death)

QUESTION:  What will happen when you die?

ANSWER (by Spurgeon):  If you cannot answer that question, let Paul answer it for you: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 8:38-39].  When we die, we see God and will be with Him face-to-face.  Until then, we live with Him here by the Spirit, looking forward to when we are actually with Him.  Turn the fear of death into the anticipation of heaven.

Dear Reader, we must stop listening to our fears and instead, talk back to them.  Do not let your child get in the habit of accepting whatever thoughts come into their head and assuming they are true merely because they exist.  Talk back to your worries; question your fears. And in asking the questions, seek your answers in God’s sufficient Word. There we find the answers to our fear.

Blessings to you dear Friend as you seek to help your children walk in a way that combats fear and allows faith to flourish.

With peace to you always – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

How To Help Your Child Grow Up To Be A Successful Adult

Our children are “future adults” and we want to parent them for “future success”.   How can we influence their ability to be successful in their relationships and chosen careers as they grow up?  Research says out of all the things our children need to know as they grow that contributes directly to their career competence are their relationship skills. 

Relationship skills are both traits and behaviors that enable someone to interact well with others.  They inspire good communication and conflict resolution. They enhance positive teamwork and can predict sustainability in a job.  Relationship skills make both the one who has them and the one who receives them happier to be doing what they are doing.

  •  Relationship skills aren’t just important to career success, they are important to our faith formation. 
    • The godly way of looking at relationship skills is to see them through the lens of the “one another” verses we find in Scripture; a relationship that values “one another” is a relationship that honors God.  
    • The term “one another” is found 100 times in the New Testament and 59 times refers to how we treat one another within God’s Kingdom.
    • How we care for one another not only allows our relationships in our careers and homes to flourish, but enables us to be a witness to the world of our transforming faith. 
    • God does not suggest “one another” conduct, but demands it.  They are imperative verbs – commands, not suggestions.
    • Just a few examples of “One Another” verses that personify good relationship skills are:
      1. Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10) 
      2. Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10) 
      3. Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) 
      4. Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11) 
      5. Accept one another (Romans 15:7) 
      6. Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16) 
      7.  Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25) 
      8. Serve one another (Galatians 5:13) 
      9. Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) 
      10. Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13) 
      11. Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)

Dear Reader – consider looking up all the “One Anothers” in Scripture and put them on your refrigerator, in your car, or on the mirror in the bathroom – anywhere you and your children will see them on a regular basis.  How do we teach our children to walk by faith AND help prepare them for the future?  “One Another” living! (also known as relationship skills)

  • Relationship skills are personified  in good communication.  In John Maxwell’s book, “Everyone Communicates, Not Everyone Connects”, John proposes that we need to do more than just talk to one another, we need to connect.  Career experts would agree – many companies will look for those who can relate well with others over a college graduate who has a high GPA but doesn’t have strong relationship skills.

    What are some of the points John Maxwell makes in his book that we can pass on to our children?  Here are 5 of his principles to get you started in thinking connection, not just communication.
    • Think “One Another” always.  (Maturity is the ability to see and act on behalf of others.)
    • Connecting with others requires effort.  Connecting requires initiative (go first); clarity (prepared); patience (slow down); selflessness (give); and stamina (recharge). 
    • Work hard with enthusiasm. (Vision without passion is a picture without possibilities.)
    • Be a person of integrity. (People ask three questions about their leaders: Do they care for me? Can they help me? Can I trust them?)
    • Prepare and don’t give up.  (Preparation yields confidence and passion yields conviction.​)

Dear Reader, I have heard it said, “The days are long, the years are short” and I believe it’s true.  In the midst of parenting, it can feel exhausting and all-consuming.  But before we know it, we are sending them out into the world. Remember to keep the end goals in mind as you parent today.  Work toward who your child is becoming and invest in their ability to relate well with others.

Blessings to you this week as you parent with a purpose to equip your child for their future adult life.  

Always yours truly, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

It’s Time!

Time is nearly impossible to manage.  C. S. Lewis wrote quite a bit about it, musing on how we complain that it goes too slow, goes too fast, we have too much, or we don’t have enough.  Time is the environment we live in and it is sprinkled throughout most of our conversations and yet – we are never comfortable within it.

Helping our children learn to manage time is one of the key life skills parents will teach their children and whether we think we are teaching them or not, we are.  How we talk about time, how we use our time, how we waste our time are all messages we are giving that are shaping our child’s perception of time.

My husband has recently been preaching on being a disciple focused on the mission of expanding the Kingdom of God.  Pastor Brian wisely wrote,

Jesus said to greet no one on the way. In other words, keep focused on the main goal and don’t get sidetracked or waste time. Of course, in our context of being embedded missionaries, stopping and talking is the mission (not the distraction). 

How do we manage our time well, passing on these necessary skills as we parent the next generation of embedded missionaries (our children)?  The world wants to steal their time through social media and video games; their inner desire to entertain themselves can spend hours on Netflix or Youtube and our third enemy, the demonic realm, will do anything to distract our attention away from God’s mission that he has for us.  Again, I’ll turn to Pastor Brian’s recent article and share with you what he learned from a perusal of an old but helpful time management resource.

  • Eternal Perspective –  Charles Darwin said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.” Of course this is true for a man who doesn’t believe in eternity, but how much more should this be true for we who believe we will live for eternity in light of what we did with our few short years during this life?
  • Can I schedule this goal on my calendar? – The super successful people don’t just burn hour after hour trying to cross more items off their task list. No, they have already thought through their priorities and have scheduled a time for them. And then, enough is enough. Decide on all your priorities, schedule them, and let the rest go. Replace your to-do list with your calendar. 
  • Energy Management – Important items should be scheduled as early in the day as possible. Manage your priorities around your ever-depleting energy.  
  • Always carry a notebook – Write everything down. (I am learning to use my voice recorder app as an idea capturing device). Capture everything. Sort it out. Prioritize. Schedule.
  • Have the courage to say no – Everyone has a wonderful plan for your life, but only you know your priorities.  Don’t forget – we need to say no to more non-essentials and yes to more Kingdom building opportunities.
  • Evaluate what your 20% is. – 20% of the effort yields 80% of the results. Evaluate what that 80% is that is eating up all your time… kill it.
  • Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin – touch your snail mail, email, and voicemail once… not multiple times.

Dear Friend – want to know a secret about this blog?  Managing time is not a solitary event – we tend to make better choices and can get more done when we partner together.  Your spouse, your best friend and yes, even your kids – all of our significant relationships can help us manage our time and accomplish the Kingdom work God has for each one of us.  I put this principle in action in this blog by “stealing” my husband’s work (with his permission, of course). Don’t waste your time trying to do it all, all by yourself.

Spending my time thinking of you, dear reader, and praying God expands your time and energy and blesses the Kingdom work you do is one of my favorite ways to spend my time.  Thanks for thinking life through with me and grabbing every Teachable Moment we can.

Fondly yours for all time, Elizabeth

PS – Here’s a Bonus List of questions and tips that can help maximize your Time Management, courtesy of Pastor Brian.  (Thanks honey for helping me maximize my time)

Bonus List
DROP: What items can I drop? 
DELEGATE: What items can I delegate to someone else?
REDESIGN: What do I need to continue doing, but do it in a new time-efficient way ?
LIFESTYLE:  Get enough sleep  and remember what Mark Twain said , “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”