Prayer For All Seasons of Life

Throughout Scripture, we are challenged to pray so let’s look at a few wonderful passages on prayer.

Be reminded of Nehemiah’s dependence on prayer. He turned to God—for strength, for guidance, for protection, and for power. Ask God to make you a Nehemiah!

  • Nehemiah 1:6—Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before You day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.
  • Nehemiah 1:11—Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.
  • Nehemiah 2:4—The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
  • Nehemiah 4:9—But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
  • Nehemiah 6:9—They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”Be encouraged, convicted, and motivated by these Scriptures:
  • Deuteronomy 4:7—What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?
  • 1 Samuel 1:10—In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.
  • 1 Samuel 12:23—As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.
  • 1 Kings 8:28—Yet give attention to Your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that Your servant is praying in Your presence this day.
  • 2 Chronicles 7:14—If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
  • Proverbs 18:10—The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
  • Matthew 6:6—But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
  • Matthew 26:41—Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
  • Mark 11:25—And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
  • Luke 5:1—But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
  • Romans 12:12—Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  • Ephesians 1:18—I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,

Philippians 4:6—Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Many hymns speak of our prayer privilege as children of God: Sweet Hour of Prayer; Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior; Blessed Assurance; Tell It to Jesus, and so many more. I was drawn to these words from In the Garden as I thought about the privilege we have to pray in holy communion with our loving God:I come to the garden alone,While the dew is still on the roses,And the voice I hear falling on my earThe Son of God discloses.He speaks, and the sound of His voiceIs so sweet the birds hush their singing,And the melody that He gave to meWithin my heart is ringing.

Talk with God and process what He is doing for you, in you and through you. Thank Him and say “yes” to where He wants to take you.

  • And He walks with me, and He talks with me,And He tells me I am His own;And the joy we share as we tarry there,None other has ever known.

Brenda Harris is a student of God’s Word…and a wife, mother, and grandmother! She loves uncovering truths and promises in Scripture. Brenda serves as prayer coordinator for Kendrick Brothers Productions.

 

Faithful Fathering: Honor Your Father

The command is to: Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. – Exodus 20:12.

This is the commandment with a promise. It bridges the first commandments to the last; it bridges the spiritual relationship with God to the physical relationships with others; and it bridges faith from one generation to the next.

I encourage you to accept a 3-point challenge to Honor Your Father:

  • First, make time to meet with your dad. Do something he enjoys but make sure the time incorporates discussion around what life experiences shaped him as a father and the challenges he faced “being Dad” when you were a kid. (If your dad has passed or is not accessible, meet with another man in the church close to the age of your father or a younger dad that could be a son and have the same generational discussion.)

 

  • Secondly, write a letter of thanks to your dad citing a specific experience or two growing up. It can be as simple as a “Thanks for bringing me into this world” or as comprehensive as a tribute to your dad that acknowledges time committed through your childhood years and the support provided. If you are convicted of taking him for granted or of passing judgment on him due to perceived shortfalls acknowledge that, confess and ask for forgiveness. Keep the focus on honoring your father with full respect for the life journey that shaped his perspective on fathering. Present the letter to your dad and read it to him. (If your dad has passed or is not accessible, read the letter to your kids and include a story about your dad.)

 

  • Finally, commit to grow as a father – Seek out resources and training opportunities that will encourage & equip you as a father. One easy and accessible option is the Dads Becoming Heroes study that can be completed on your own or in a small group. This study can be downloaded as a .pdf file from http://www.faithfulfathering.org/educate.

 

Accept the challenge to Honor Your Father today and commit to becoming the father God calls you to be, the father the next generation needs.

A faithful father honors his father and his mother.

 

BHG, Rick Wertz

281.491.DADS(3237)

faithfulfathering.org

Prioritize physical presence

   Be engaged emotionally, and

      Lead spiritually by example.

Wash Their Feet

 

…He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet… -John 13:5 (NKJV)

You’ve probably heard the statistic at some point that an alarmingly high number (80-90%) of children raised in a Christian home will leave the faith after graduation. Though there is a long and quite in-depth list of the many reasons why, the two that have always stuck out to me the most are: 1.) Children are never taught to own their faith; and 2.) they don’t see their parents living it out.

Men, this should be a huge concern to us! Without taking away from a mother’s irreplaceable role in a child’s upbringing, multiple studies have shown that a father is one of the primary influencers in his children’s faith. Going back to the two points listed above begs the question: Men, are you teaching your children to own their own faith—and are they seeing you genuinely living yours out?

 

And supper being ended…Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands…rose from supper, and laid aside His garments, took a towel, and girded Himself. -John 13:2-4

 

When we look at the full story of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, what do you see and feel? Is this a favorite Bible story of yours, perhaps you have been the recipient of someone washing your feet at some time (or vice versa)? Or, do you see the agape love Christ is expressing to His friends, the fact He is giving us a new commandment (v 34), and setting an example for the way we should love others? Can you feel the love, intimacy, and devotion He is displaying? Perhaps not, even Peter didn’t pick up on it at the time either. Still, pursuing a relationship like this with Jesus should be a continual effort of ours.

 

Passing on the Heritage

I don’t read or watch the news any more, seriously. All I must do is flip on the TV or open my phone and even the highest of spirits can be dampened in an instant. Politics. Scandals. Murder. This doesn’t mean I am completely oblivious to the world, quite the opposite; but if the Church is going to stand as the primary response to the world’s chaos, we need to be equipped with solid and loving information. That is where our own personal quiet time, Bible study, and extra study on various topics comes in. Are you prepared to give your children a convincing answer on how science actually favors God’s existence rather than denies it? What about standing firm on the big issues such as abortion, marriage, and gun control? More so, how do you respond to teaching your children about other faiths and religions?

I’m not throwing all of this at you to convict you—but to alert you that these are some of the questions and reasons our sons and daughters are walking away from the faith. We need to be prepared to help them understand and answer what God has to say on these matters. Yes, we are all seemingly beyond busy, but this has to take precedence. And for the record, I am still a student in training here too. Carve time out to learn more and respond in love—but not at the expense of your precious time with your children. Beware of falling into legalism too.

 

Get on Your Knees

Literally and figuratively. Pray every day with and for your children. Pray for their mom, stepdad, teachers, and everyone else that has influence in their lives. Let your heart be shaped and molded by Christ’s love for you.

 

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” …So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” -John 13:7, 12-15

 

This week I had the amazing privilege of washing my wife’s and daughter’s feet after dinner. It was Maundy Thursday, and this is the passage I chose for our post-dinner reading. I have been made clean by the blood of Christ and this was my commitment to let these women whom I love with my whole heart know that I will continually be there to love, serve, and lay my life down for them. So dads, wash your children’s feet. In an age-appropriate way, explain to them the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Pray for them as you wash their feet, let them feel your hands and hear your words. And, do all you can to continually live in this feet washing mode. Set the bar for them on what a follower of Christ looks like—give them that example they can follow for the rest of their lives.

 

Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.

 

Messages on Mirrors: Fathers to Daughters

I forget what age I was when I heard my first nursery rhyme, but there is one in particular that is burrowed deep into my memory bank like a steel nail into softened wood: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

This quote, as you probably remember, comes from the fairy tale Snow White. Every day Snow White’s stepmother would ask the mirror this infamous question. And though at first glance it might seem like a benign inquiry, I believe it powerfully illustrates the way a woman often determines whether or not she feels beautiful or adequate. She tends toward asking this power-packed question of inanimate objects, as if they were the judge and jury, be it a mirror on the wall or the number on a scale or the size marked on the back of her jeans. No human interaction necessary.

Even more concerning is the way this story demonstrates how easily an influential woman (the queen) gives away her own opinion and succumbs to feedback from a mirror over that of herself or another human being with whom she has a positive connection. In modern terminology, this translates to a woman “listening” to the definitive messages from magazines, television, and movies (a.k.a. mainstream culture) as the ultimate determiner of beauty. Inanimate objects are at the helm once again, not so different from the fairy tale your daughter may have once heard as a little girl.

The truth is your daughter is asking the same question every single day of her life: Am I beautiful? She longs to be told she is beautiful, and she will keep asking and looking until someone tells her that she is.

She needs you, dad, to answer her question. If she doesn’t hear it from you, she will find another “mirror” on another wall who will tell her that she is beautiful. Sadly, some of those mirrors have a hidden agenda, and will express what she wants to hear in order to get or take something from her.

Include your observations about her outer and her inner beauty. Think of them as two sides of the same coin, adding value while serving as complimentary counterparts. She needs to hear you address the entirety of how you see her.

What about her eyes are breathtaking? What about the way she did her make-up today is pretty? What about the color she is wearing looks stunning on her? What about her personality is creatively being expressed in her outfit or activities today? What about her character was reflected by her positive response to meeting someone’s need?

 

Here’s your practical battle plan:

Write messages with erasable marker directly onto her mirrors (in her bathroom or bedroom, or on the rearview or overhead mirror in her car), or on sticky notes that you attach to any or all of her mirrors, with truth about her from your point of view.

And if using the word “beautiful” is new or uncomfortable for you, try writing it to her first until it becomes a part of your vocabulary.

Dad, stand up as a warrior and fight for your daughter. It’s brutal out there and she needs you to do battle for her so she can see and believe the positive truth about herself.

(You can watch a video of a couple dads who used Michelle’s wisdom and the effect it had on their children here.)

 

Dr. Michelle Watson has a clinical counseling practice in Portland, Oregon and has served in that role for the past 18 years. She is founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum that is designed to equip dads with daughters ages 13 to 30 to dial in with more intention and consistency, and has recently released her first book entitled, Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart. She invites you to visit www.drmichellewatson.com for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs where she provides practical tools so that every dad in America can become the action hero they want to be and their daughters need them to be. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drmichellewatson and Twitter @mwatsonphd.

Sex and Spirituality

One of the reasons I was nervous on our first date (other than because my surfboard hit my date on her head, splitting it open with blood dripping in the ocean) is that I always believed that when two people with similar kingdom goals marry, great things can happen. Fast forward a year after the infamous smack on the head, and I knew there could be great adventures ahead of us. I was nervous because of the potential we had. I was nervous because I knew God’s plan for sexual faithfulness—but wasn’t sure I would be able to live it out, giving into my selfish desires.

What’s fascinating is God’s view of sex communicated to the Hebrews in the book of Genesis:

The Hebrew World

At creation God entrusted this newly created paradise to Adam saying, “Take care of it.” One of Adam’s first tasks was the naming of the animals, and he gave them names as he saw fit. Each had a mate. Each had someone—a companion. All seemed well, but there was a problem in paradise.

Adam was alone.

Even though he had God and all the animals, Adam wanted a partner—another like him. To relieve this loneliness, God created another like him—Eve. Now in this paradise, we have partners, Adam and Eve, who work together to tend to the land, care for the animals, and who enjoy one another in every way. They were able to look at one another in full vulnerability and not feel any insecurities or shame. It was God, Adam, and Eve living in the Garden of Eden—a picture of perfect harmony, perfect intimacy, and perfect unity.

Sadly, it would not last long. As the biblical account goes—Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree and everything changed (Gen 3).

Adam and Eve no longer had the same intimate relationship. They felt shame, insecurities, and deceit. They realized they were naked and ran and covered themselves, hid from God, and blamed one another for what happened. Their intimate bond of unity, of oneness, had been shattered. Now their world became what God had never intended.

 

 This Really is our Story

The story of Adam and Eve is our story. It is the story of what we all yearn for: a deep, intimate, meaningful, trusting relationship with a partner—oneness. This is how God created us. This is his desire for us as well. The question is this, however: Is it possible for us to get back to that oneness?

In Genesis 2:24–25, the dynamics of marriage are introduced, noting that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, that the two would become “one flesh.” The word, “one” is the Hebrew word echad. Echad carries the idea of one in the midst of unity. The Hebrew word for “flesh” is basar and it can mean “flesh” or “body.” When these two words are combined, it paints the picture of this couple being united at the deepest level, not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Husband and wife, one made from the elements of dirt, the other taken from a rib, now enjoy God’s gift of sex—a physical unity that envisions the becoming of one flesh once again—emotionally and spiritually. As Adam and Eve came from one body so now they would, once again, become one.

During sex, two beings—two souls—are uniting, becoming one. There is an intimacy and deepness unlike any other act. It is interesting that the writer of Genesis 2 connects this sense of oneness—echad-ness—within the dynamics of marriage. It is as if to communicate that this bond is so powerful, so transcending, that marriage is the only force that can contain it.  Marriage was sacred.

 

It Makes Sense Why I Was Nervous

Fast forward from the first date to the wedding altar: I was nervous just like at the first date because of what was to come. We waited for sex and cutting the bracelet I had on my wrist for 15 years that communicated I waited for her. I was nervous because of the gift of echad basar. Consummating our marriage was not only a physical union—but an emotional and spiritual union as well. That’s powerful! That is something to be nervous about—but nervous in a good, exciting way.

I believe God wants us to live a fulfilled life—and that’s the natural by-product of when we are in his will.

This gift of sex is not a bad act—rather it is to be celebrated and praised. Sex becomes harmful when used outside of what God intended.

Reflecting on our first date and our wedding day and seeing the interconnectedness of creation, it makes more sense now as to why I was so nervous. God has created us to live and honor Him—and the one who could mess that up was me.

The beauty of God is that even if we go against what he designed—there is redemption. Just like God brings us eternal redemption through the cross—he offers us relational redemption. Our shortcomings are forgiven when we seek his forgiveness. We are loved and cherished, and he has a life of fulfillment set before us. Let’s choose the road less traveled, and not give into our selfish urges and see what God will do in and through us.

 

After thirteen years as a local pastor, Bryan A. Sands has served as the Director of Campus Ministries at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA since 2011. His book, Everyone Loves Sex: So Why Wait? (A Discussion in Sexual Faithfulness) released not only in the States but also in Australia. You can learn more about the book at EveryoneLovesSex.org. Bryan, his wife, Caz, and two daughters live in California.

Read and Lead

A Reminder from Joshua 1

Sometimes God must tell me something more than once. Does that ever happen to you? Sometimes it seems that ever devotion I read, every sermon I hear, and every Bible study I attend has the same words, telling me the same truth over and over, driving the message into my thick skull. God knows I learn through repetition, I guess!

Joshua must have been a bit hard-headed too. The Lord told him the same thing three times in nine verses! “Be strong and courageous” (vv. 6,9). “Be strong and very courageous” (v. 7). Joshua was about to assume the role as leader of the Israelites, a daunting task for sure. God assured Joshua of His presence, His power, and His protection. “I will never leave you,” He said in verse 5. And because of that promise, Joshua could go in confidence and boldness, because “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (v. 9).

In what areas of life do you need courage? What is God calling you to do in His name? Be bold. Be tenacious. Be resolute. God is with you.

 

Brenda Harris is the prayer coordinator for Kendrick Brothers Productions.

 

Christmas, Single Parents, and Immanuel

Christmas. Many of us think of it as a time of celebration of our Lord’s birth; a time of joy, creating and reliving childhood memories; music, family, food, and holiday cheer. This is the one season that seems almost magical- the most wonderful time of the year. For a single parent, however, this can also be one of the most difficult times to endure.

While everyone else is posting pictures on social media and sharing tales of their family gatherings, celebrating all their children’s funny antics and what their spouse did to surprise them with the perfect gift, single parents often must rejoice with those who rejoice, all while covering up the pain of loss and loneliness in their own lives. They can feel forgotten or disregarded. I’ve been there, and in many ways, I still hurt during the holidays too. But rather than taking on a spirit of defeat, let’s choose this year to celebrate Immanuel, God with us.

 

We can know Jesus is with us…

  • When there is an empty chair at the table because this is your first year as a single parent, He is God with us.
  • When we don’t have our children on Christmas Day because they are at the other parent’s house, He is God with us.
  • When everything seems to be caving in financially, and you can barely afford presents for your children, let alone anyone else, He is God with us.
  • When we are choking back the tears because the pain and shame seems too much to bear, He is God with us.
  • When we feel like everything around us is crumbling, including our faith, and no one even seems to notice, He is God with us.

 

The greatest gift of all…

Even if we relate to any of the examples above, we still have a GREATER reason to celebrate because of Jesus this year: He IS God with us! He is the perfect gift, buying us back into relationship with our heavenly Father. He fills the void no one else can, reminds us that we are on a continual journey with Him, and never leaves us, even when we wander. He fills in all our tangible needs, calms our hurts, and fills us with a peace this world will never provide. The reason Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, is because He created us, has been where we are, and has cleared the path for us to be assured that He is with us—always.

 

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. –Luke 2:10-11 (NASB)

 

Single parents, will you celebrate the holidays with joy this year, knowing that in all circumstances God is with us?

 

Written by Matt Haviland of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.

A Jar Full of Marbles

4 Ways to Make Your Next Camping Trip a Success

Camping is the best way to get back to nature, and it is one of the best ways for children to get a good grasp on how the environment affects us, and how we harm the environment. Although it would be nice to head off into the middle of the wilderness, it’s unfortunate that most kids don’t see it this way.

 

Campsite Choice

These come hand in hand and can make or break a family camping experience. The campsite that you choose has to be based on your abilities and also take into account the interests of your family. If you and your family are novices to the whole camping ideal, choosing a site that is in an established campground or a national park would be a good idea to start.

If you are a family who likes to explore the local towns or hike/cycle during the day, it is advisable to choose a site that is close to your activity destinations. As a final word, if your family is not too keen on roughing it 100%, select a site that has toilets and running water.

 

Which Tent?

As for your tent, it may be suitable to have one that fits two adults, yet when a family is concerned, you will need a little more space. Families are advised to choose one that can easily cater for double the size of your family. This gives your kids plenty of room to move around.

Child-friendly sleeping arrangements are a necessity. They will be the first ones who complain. If you have more than one child and you want to make them as comfortable as possible and save floor space. You can opt for a double camping cot which kids will enjoy.

One of the best and simplest camping hacks you can find is your pillows. Rather than lugging pillows around with you, just take pillow cases and stuff them with your jackets while sleeping.

 

Entertainment

Camping is getting away from it all, and leaving everything behind. Children will at some point want a little extra to play with, especially if the weather is not the best. You can take along some toys and entertainment for them that will either make them more involved with nature or keep them quiet if the weather takes a turn for the worst.

Here are a few camping toys that will keep your kids happy:

  • Balls – Most ball sports can be played while camping as can a frisbee.
  • Magnifying Glasses – these can keep younger children occupied for ages, as can a pair of binoculars. They will love exploring what’s far away or what is right under their feet.
  • Squirt Guns – what better way to keep kids occupied in warm weather and if you are close to a water supply.
  • If the weather does take a turn for the worst or you need something to keep your children occupied on an evening, there are also a few options that can improve family bonding rather than rely on electrical gadgets:
  • Coloring books – these can keep your children occupied for a couple of hours, and they don’t take up much space in your camping gear.
  • Playing cards – there is nothing better than a game of cards between the family. Just make sure the game is not too complicated for your children.

If your children need a little more space to play and do their own thing, you can take a smaller tent for this purpose. You will know where they are and you don’t have to worry about standing on any of the toys or games you have taken along.

 

Meal Times

Children can be the hungriest and fussiest eaters on the planet, so stocking up on what will keep them satisfied is essential. Snack times will be the hardest as they will want something to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Packing dried fruits can give your children an energy boost while meeting their sugary needs without filling them full of man-made ingredients. Trail mix and health bars that are made from all-natural ingredients can do much the same thing. All you have to be wary of is if any of your children or family members have a nut allergy.

Fresh fruits can also be good to keep on hand; they are not only healthy and nutritious, but they also come in their own packaging so there will be no wrappers flying around the campsite.

One thing you do have to take, and this will please your kids and give them the idea how much fun sitting around a campfire can be. Bring on the S’Mores! This will satisfy not just any kid, but also the big kid in all of us. What childhood would be complete without memories of S’Mores around a fire?

 

Chris Cole is the head writer at naturesportcentral.com. He is passionate about the great outdoors and writing.