Flashback Friday: 7 Prayer Requests for Your Children

Photo Credit: wnd.andreas via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wnd.andreas via Compfight cc

This is a flashback to a popular post on praying of your kids from February 2012:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:9-13, ESV) 

How can we really see change in the lives of our children? The starting place is prayer. We start with prayer because it is God who works in our children not us. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you have to choose–though I doubt you do–between discipling your children and praying for them then you should prioritize prayer.

So how should we pray for our kids? Should we pray for them to be bright, athletic, good-looking, healthy, happy, and above average? Maybe. Or, we could set a higher bar and pray for them to grow in godliness. That’s how Paul prayed for his spiritual “children.”

We can have confidence when we pray Scripture because it’s God’s Word and reflects His heart for His children. Take the passage above and turn it into a prayer for your kids. I have built my prayer for my children over past 13 years on the verses above. You can try it right now, just place your child’s name in these sentences:

  1. Lord, fill my child with spiritual wisdom and understanding (for salvation or for spiritual growth if they are already believers).
  2. Lord, help my child to have this wisdom so he/she will walk (live) in a way that is worthy of you and pleasing to you.
  3. Lord, help my child to bear spiritual fruit by doing good works.
  4. Lord, help my child increase in his/her knowledge of you.
  5. Lord, strengthen my child with all power, according to your glorious might.
  6. Lord, give my child endurance, patience, and joy.
  7. Father, thank you for my child, and thank you for qualifying us through Jesus Christ to share in your inheritance of eternal life. (Or, for the hope of that inheritance for the child not yet saved).
So, don’t make prayer harder than it needs to be. Model your prayer after God’s Word and trust, not in the prayer, but in the One to Whom you are praying to answer for His glory.

Six Steps to Spiritual Growth in 2015, Part Three

praying handsToday is devoted to the final two steps in developing your spiritual growth plan for the coming year. On day one, we looked at reflecting and committing. Day two was devoted to reading and memorizing the Bible. Today is focused on prayer and evaluation.

Step Five. Decide how you will pray. Prayer aligns our hearts with the heart of God. Read a book like With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray to help you orient yourself rightly toward God. A simple and useful device to remember some components of prayer is the “prayer hand” by the Navigators. As a parent, I love to pray for my children using Andrew Case’s free resource, Setting Their Hope on God: Biblical Intercession for Your Children. You can also list the people you know who are lost and pray for them by name. I have a list in the front of my journal. This has allowed me to celebrated as I have been able to record the dates that many friends on the list have come to Christ. It also causes me to weep over friends who do not yet know or have rejected the hope of Christ. Additionally, use a prayer guide like Operation World to pray for the peoples of the world to know Christ.

Step Six. Evaluate. As we noted in the first post of this series, most people abandon New Year’s resolutions within the first six months. This is due in large part to the fact that people rarely stop to evaluate their progress. It is a good idea to schedule monthly reviews of how you are doing in your spiritual growth plan. Frequent stops along the journey will prevent you from falling so far behind that you become discouraged and drop out. A monthly audit allows you to get back on course or make course corrections. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Where am I on track with my plan?
  • Where have I fallen behind?
  • Are the practices I am engaged in helping me grow in Christlikeness? Why or why not?
  • What do I need to change?
  • What do I need to do differently/keep the same to ensure success?

So, finish 2014 by setting your course for 2015. Hoist your sails and get ready for a great ride!

Read Part One
Read Part Two

9 Steps for Self Examination

Photo Credit: nathanmac87 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: nathanmac87 via Compfight cc

“The hardest person to be honest with is yourself.” I don’t know who said it, but it certainly rings true for me. Honest self examination, though, is an essential spiritual discipline. In order to plot a course to where we are going, we have to know where we are starting. I’m really talking about confession – acknowledging our sin and our need for God’s grace in our lives. We know confession is essential, but many times we limit confession to our actions. In Mark 7:14-23 we find Jesus teaching His disciples that what really defiles a person comes from within—from the heart. Growth in Christ necessitates times for personal reflection, admission of faults and failures, and repentance. Here are 9 steps to help you in practicing the art of self examination. 

[Read more…]

For My Father

Note: My dad passed away from the effects of lung cancer on June 16, 2000, the Friday before Father’s Day. The following is from a journal entry I wrote on August 18, 2000. I post it here in memory of him and to encourage every one of you who has lost a dad too soon…

I want him back. I want to talk to him about golf or NASCAR or Sunday school or anything else. I want to share a meal with him. I want to go back to being little and go to work with him on a Saturday and draw pictures of police cars at his desk. I want to just be with him. [Read more…]

How To Make Disciples Who Make Disciples

I’m passionate about the Why and the What of disciple-making. I can talk about the theology and philosophy of disciple-making all day. Yet, I’m also aware that there is a rising awareness and conviction among people about the importance of making disciples  (see #3 in my denomination’s recent report on declining baptisms) and they’re asking the next question after Why and What. They want to know How. The fact is we won’t create a disciple-making culture until we are making disciples and teaching them to do the same!

Here’s one approach to disciple-making, called the triad model, that I have used effectively in both established church and missional settings. [Read more…]

A Thought on Defending the Faith

I’ve been reading through 1 Peter in my devotional time lately. This little letter in the New Testament grips me because it addresses the early church as it is beginning to encounter the full-on assault of a hostile culture. The Holy Spirit, through the pen of Peter, is answering the question – “How should we live as Christ-followers when it seems like all elements of society are opposed to us?” At the time he was writing, persecution was becoming a reality for the early church, starting with social marginalization. These first-century Christians were facing job loss, neighborhood shunning, and even violent attacks because of their claim that Jesus Christ is Lord and a lifestyle that matches the courage of their convictions. Sound familiar?

Right in the middle of that context I discovered a verse that I am guilty of taking out of context. In fact, if you’re a Christ-follower who grew up in the youth groups of the 1970’s and 1980’s you probably have heard or used the verse out of context, too: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). It is the “Apologetics” verse. Apologetics comes from the Greek work in that verse that we translate “defense.” Clearly the verse (really a part of a verse) is telling Christians that we have a duty to be able to give a verbal defense as to why we believe the things that we believe about Christ. During my crisis of faith in college, the Lord used books that were classified as apologetics books to help me really understand why I could trust the Bible and why the claims of Christ are true. I am grateful that in His providence and grace God directed me to such helpful material.

But when I read the bigger context of this call for apologetics, I get a bigger picture of what Peter is suggesting about defending the faith:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14-17 ESV) 

Do you see it? Peter is suggesting a posture that is far greater than just knowing facts about the reliability of the Bible or the different theories of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter is saying this: Your conduct is your greatest apologetic. When you suffer as a consequence of your faith, earn a hearing for what you believe by how you behave. This is sobering!

Recently, James Emery White said “Old school apologetics are out. New school apologetics are in.” As one in the old school his words caused me tension. Yet I believe he’s right. Too many times I’ve been more concerned about winning the argument about Jesus than winning the person to Jesus. As we face more opposition by the norms of culture and the laws of our governments, Christ-followers will have more opportunities to show the difference that being a disciple of Jesus makes in our lives. It’s what an increasingly non-religious world needs to see before they will want to hear.

As Christianity becomes the minority culture in America we will have more opportunities to defend our beliefs. We will do so by faithful conduct in the midst of opposition that an unbelieving world will find unbelievable. Now that’s really old school!

 

 

The First Question You Should Ask in Making Disciples

Since Jesus’ command to us is to make disciples, we probably ought to know what it is we are making. In other words, the first question we need to ask is, what is a disciple?

Without a clear picture of what a disciple is, your church strategy will be impotent. Your attendance may rise due to some attractive programs or events, but you will not be making disciples who make disciples. Certainly, God’s Spirit trumps man’s plans and wherever His church preaches the gospel some disciples will always be produced, but without a clear picture of what you are making, disciples will be made in spite of your programming, not because of it.

Image: porbital / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In fact, I believe most, dare I say all, problems in the church boil down to a discipleship issue. If you have fights over worship, it is a discipleship issue. If people don’t share Christ, it’s a discipleship issue. If people aren’t generous, it’s a discipleship issue. [Read more…]

3 Simple Ways You Can Start Discipling Your Kids

What are your dreams for your kids? We all have them. And we all plan to help make these dreams come true. We plan for their education and save for college. We try to expose them to the best sports opportunities or the best music lessons, or dance lessons, or…I could go on and on. The bottom line is that parents really do know that they have a responsibility to help their children develop physically, mentally, socially, and even spiritually. Because we want our kids to have the best, we often outsource much of their development to “experts.” We find the best coach, or piano teacher, or dance instructor. Parents follow this logic all the way to church.

Image: EA / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is a problem with this approach when it comes to discipleship. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that the church is best suited to disciple our kids. [Read more…]