Friday, February 28, 2014

Husband Prayer

Feel free to use this prayer as you pray for your wife ...

Jesus, my wife works so hard in everything she does.  I pray that You will cause her hard work to be produced by faith, her labor prompted by love, and her endurance inspired by hope in You, her Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 1:3)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Husband Prayer

Feel free to use this prayer as you pray for your wife ... 

God, I ask you to help my wife's heart to be flooded with light so that she is able to grasp and understand Your incomparably great power (Ephesians 1:18 - 19).  She literally needs supernatural power to understand Your power.  I pray that You will give her the supernatural power to believe You.  I pray that You give her the strength to believe that with You, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).  The greatness of Your power raised Jesus from the dead. Let her dreams increase because she has an increased understanding of that same mighty power (Ephesians 1:19 - 20)  Help her choose to believe You.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dad Prayer

Feel free to use this prayer as you pray for your kids ... 

God, on top of everything else that Job experienced and went through, he got to a point where he felt as if his "days have no meaning."  (Job 7:16).  I pray that this will never happen with my kids.  I pray that every day for them will have meaning and purpose.  You have written their days in Your book (Psalm 139:16).  You have created them to do good things You have planned for them (Ephesians 2:10).  I pray that they will live every day with a sense of meaning and passion and that, like David, they will fulfill Your purpose in their generation (Acts 13:36). 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Still Learning From Teenagers

I had a fun opportunity over the weekend to speak at a youth retreat in Ohio for Grace Church.  It was such a fun weekend and what a wonderful group of teenagers!  We were led in worship by a student band from Cedarville University called Heart Song.  It was great to see these college students so passionate about leading teenagers in worship.  And, it was great seeing them interact with the teenagers as well.  They were right in the thick of things at the retreat and provided great examples for the teenagers to follow.

Even though I'm no longer specifically working with teenagers, I still find myself learning from them.  Throughout the years, I'd say I've probably learned more from teenagers than they've learned from me.  Here are a few things I learned from this weekend:

  • Volunteers are invaluable!  The pastor may direct and steer the ship of the ministry, but the volunteers are what make it go.  This is particularly true in youth ministry. Over the weekend, the adult volunteers did everything from comforting crying kids to picking up trash left over in the kitchen.  My life was incredibly impacted as a teenager by some loving adults who for, whatever reason, took me under their wing and poured in to my life.  It's great to seek adults still doing that and some day one of these teenagers will be talking about the adults that poured in to them and really helped change their life.
  • I've always appreciated the adults who have served with me, but gained such a greater appreciation for them this weekend.  I am so thankful for every adult who served with me when I was in youth ministry.
  • You never know what investing in a teenager will bring about in the future.  In 1998 I was a leader on a summer ministry team and a high school student by the name of Greg Foote was on my team.  He was such a good kid and it was obvious he had a heart for ministry.  Fast-forward 16 years.  Greg is now a youth pastor at Grace Church and because of our connection 16 years ago and being able to stay in touch since that time, he asked me to speak at this retreat.  You never know what an investment will bring about.  And, by the way, it was so fun watching Greg pastor his students!  He did a great job.
  • Speaking brings to the surface nearly every insecurity I have and it is always a time for me to trust God and live out 2 Corinthians 12:9 - 10 ... God's grace is sufficient for me ... when I am weak, then I am strong.  Before I speak I generally find the enemy trying to fill my mind with lies:  "What are you doing here? God's not going to use you like He would use someone else."  They're familiar lies he tells me and I'm thankful for the opportunity to trust in God's truth, believe that He is with me, and then walk through those fears that often rise to the surface.  I pray. I claim the truth of Scripture.  And, I trust that it's God who does the work and certainly not me.  I am responsible for my effort.  God is responsible for the outcome.
  • It's still about the one-on-one.  I loved the opportunity to speak to the whole group, but my favorite times were the one-on-one conversations I had.  That's when you really get to know people.
  • If I stay up past midnight, I'm toast the next day.  I did that Saturday night and felt like I got hit by a truck Sunday morning.
  • A hard mattress isn't as forgiving as it used to be.  When I was younger, I could have slept on a rock and still had a good night's sleep.  The mattresses at the camp were ... well ... let's say, anything but comfortable.  Maybe that's the reason I felt like I got hit by a truck.
  • Finally, I need to remember to always talk about how something can be applied to every day life.  After I spoke Sunday morning to the group, I had a teenager come up to me and ask me how they can take practical steps to apply what they  learned.  So, we talked about that for a bit.  Anyway, as I was debriefing the weekend on my 5-hour drive home, I was thinking about that conversation and realized that if she needed to ask me that, it meant that I never explained it during my talk.  And, you know what?  As I thought back on my talk I realized that I never did explain how to practically apply what I talked about to every day life.  I need to always remember to do that any time I speak.  

John Wooden said that "It's what you learn after you know it all that really counts."  I'm thankful to still be learning and hope to always do so.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Silver Medal Syndrome

It's been fun watching the Olympics for the past week and a half (although my sleep has suffered because of it).  While watching the Olympics, I was reminded of a study that I read in a book by Jeffrey Brown several years ago.  The study took a look at silver and bronze Olympic medalists and how happy they felt about their individual performances.  We tend to believe that the better we perform, the better we'll feel about ourselves.  But, this study reveals something different.

Bronze medal winners were actually found to be happier than silver medal winners.  And, what the researchers discovered was that it was the thinking of the athlete that determined the level of their happiness.  Silver medalists were found to be thinking about how close they had come to winning the gold medal.  So, instead of focusing on the fact that they were part of a very select group of athletes to EVER win a silver medal, they were focused on the fact that they did NOT win the gold and missed out on all of the fame and accolades that would have come with it.  

Bronze medalists, on the other hand, were found to feel happier than silver medalists, even though they performed "worse."  Their focus was on the fact that they had medaled.  Of course they would have liked to have won gold, but their focus was simply on the fact that they were on the medal stand and were able to earn a medal for their country.  They understood how disappointing it would have felt to have missed out on a medal altogether and they were incredibly grateful to have earned one.

This just reminded me of the fact that what we focus our thoughts on has great power and influence in our life.  Those who "win" always seem to get the focus and attention, but what I long to understand, and what I hope you will understand as well, is that "success is peace of mind which is a direct result of knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming."  (If that quote seems way to smart to be from me ... you're right.  It's from John Wooden)

The motto of the Special Olympics is "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."  Be brave in your attempts, my friends. Great happiness can be found in that.

Monday, February 10, 2014

So Many Choices!

My wife and I are not huge TV people, but Sunday night typically is a TV night for us.  Anyway, last night was filled with so many excellent choices:  the Olympics, Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, and The Beatles: The Night That Changed America.  (Yes, I did just use Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead in the same sentence.)

Seriously, I could not have gone wrong with any of those choices, but I could only choose one to watch fully. That small dilemma reminded me of a much greater dilemma that we all face. We all have demands for our attention and most of those demands come from really good things. We have family, we have work, we have hobbies, we have activities the list is literally endless.  The problem is that there simply is not enough time to get everything done that we want to get done or to do everything that we want to do or even what others think we SHOULD do.  What this means is that someone or something is not going to get what they want from you. 

We all have several areas of life that demand our time:  your wife, your husband, your kids, your career, your hobbies, the house needs cleaned, the driveway needs shoveled, we fill our calendars, we run here, there, we have this, we have that.  If you’re a parent of a teenager, you’re going to games, picking them up from practice, going to recitals, running your kids here and there, helping them with this and that.  If you’re a parent of a toddler, you’re wiping noses, you’re wiping butts, you’re wiping boogers off the furniture, you’re finding things around the house you didn’t even know existed inside the human body again, the demands upon your time seem to be endless.

I am certainly not perfect at this and I have so much to learn and so far to go, but one verse in particular has really helped me try to organize my life in a way that honors God.  It's Psalm 90:12 which says, "Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom."  At the end of each day, all of our time is going to get spent.  Once the day is done, it's done.  And, the day will eventually come when all of our life's minutes are spent. Once the minutes are gone, they're gone.  The more I realize this, the more I'll be able to focus and choose with wisdom.  I think it was Andy Stanley who said "If I plan my day like my time is unlimited, at the end of the day the ones who are most important in my life will usually get cheated."  I, like you, have many demands for my time, but if my wife and kids regularly feel "cheated" by me, then I am failing as a husband and dad.  My wife and kids don't want to feel cheated.  They want to feel like a priority. My desire is at the end of every day there was never a doubt in the minds of my wife and kids that they were my greatest earthy priority.  Sometimes I succeed in that.  Other times I fail.  It's certainly tricky to know how to balance so many good and meaningful things in life.  But, my wife and kids feeling like they were my priority is a goal I strive for every day.  

Do those most important to you feel like they are your priority or do they regularly feel cheated because of how you use your time?

By the way, we chose Downton Abbey Sunday night.  Hope that doesn't cause me to lose my "man card."  :)  But, to be honest, it's what my wife wanted to watch and it was one small way to let her know "You are a priority."  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dad Prayer

If you're a dad, feel free to use this prayer as you pray for your kids ... 

God, I pray that You will always be the greatest example of parenting that I follow.  You are my heavenly Father and, even though I fall woefully short, I want to follow Your example as a Father.  One thing You show me in Your word is that You rejoice over me as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.  (Isaiah 62:5)  What that shows me is that You don't just love me ... You also enjoy me.  I pray that I will follow that example.  I pray that my kids will not just feel loved by me, but that they will also know that I truly enjoy them.  May I never do anything that causes them to feel like a burden.  May I never complain about being a parent.  May I never do anything that may cause my kids to feel like I do not enjoy being their dad.  I pray that they will not just feel my love for them, but that they will also feel my absolute enjoyment of them.  What a wonderful opportunity You have given me as a dad.  Thank you for this gift and may my kids always know that my greatest joy is being a husband and a dad.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Person Who Never Smiled

I am often greeting people as they enter our church and as also as they leave our church on a Sunday morning.  For several months there was one person who stood out to me because I never saw them smile.  I'd say "hello" to them every Sunday.  I'd be friendly, kind, and warm.  Seriously, I'm not sure Mother Teresa could have done any better!  But, each and every time I got the same reaction:  a frown and a look that made me feel like I just killed their puppy.  Anyway, here's what I learned from the person who never smiled ... 

1. I'm not responsible for their happiness.  For a while, I really took it personally.  I mean, the "blow off" and "cold shoulder" could not have been any more obvious and intentional.  And, for a while I was offended by this.  I made it a personal goal of mine to make them smile.  So, I'd go out of my way to be over-the-top friendly to this person and really do my best to see them crack a smile.  Victory would be mine!  But, this was a mistake for two reasons.  First, my motivation was selfish.  I wanted them to smile to make me feel better about myself.  "See, they really do like me."  Selfishness and wanting to be liked is rarely good motivation for anything.  Second, it was a mistake because I cannot make them smile.  I have no control over their happiness.  As much as I may want to make them smile, I'll never be able to do that unless I leg sweep them and begin a tickle fest ... but that would just be awkward.  Realizing that I'm not responsible for their happiness really led me to this ... 

2. I am responsible for my kindness.  Regardless of how they respond to me, my response should always be one of kindness.  Why?  It's a fruit of the Spirit!  If I'm yielding to God's work in my life, I will be kind.  It's a character trait God wants to develop in me.  It's really easy to be kind to those who are kind back.  But, try it with those who completely blow you off.  That's a different story! I'm told in Ephesians 4:32 to "Be kind to one another."  Well, that pretty much narrows it down to everyone.  Not just those who are kind back, but to those who are unkind as well.  Proverbs 25:21 - 22 says "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you." My hope is that obedience to the Lord will always be enough motivation for me to be kind.  And, God will reward my obedience in this.  But if I'm being honest, it might be cool to see the "burning coals" literally heaped on the head of some of those who have been unkind to me.  The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  I have a long way to go with kindness!

All that to say this: God will often place difficult people in our lives in an effort to help us develop the character traits He wants developed in us.  We certainly cannot choose how they respond to us or control what they do or do not do.  But, we can take responsibility for our responses to them.  The more we respond like Jesus, the more we become like Jesus. 

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