A Fifth Prayer

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17, NIV)


Yesterday, I preached about four prayers that have changed my life:

  1. “Help my unbelief” (from Mark 9:24).
  2. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (from 1 Samuel 3:10).
  3. “Give me wisdom” (from James 1:5).
  4. “Not my will, but Yours be done” (from Luke 22:42).

There is a fifth prayer I wanted to share, but I only recently found it. In other words, it hasn’t changed my life, yet, because I only just started praying it! However, I have a feeling about this prayer–that it will be as life-changing as the other four. So, I wanted to share it with you and invite you to pray it with me.

It comes from Psalm 90:17. “Establish the work of our hands.” It seems to me, as I reflect and pray through this Psalm, that this prayer acknowledges an important truth. I can’t say it any better than Jesus did, so I’ll just quote Him:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

No matter how much we work, no matter how much we make, without God, it all amounts to nothing. As Psalm 90:10 points out, we have 70 or 80 years to make the most of what God has called us to do. What are we doing with those years? One of my friends, Gary Wheeler, says that each day we get 24 hours. And then he asks, “How are you spending your 24?” We can only spend them once!

I know my life is like a mist that vanishes with the sun, and my time on this side of eternity will one day come to an end. But I also know that I want the work of my hands to endure far longer. I want to look back over my life as I near the end and know that I did something that made a difference. So, the best thing I can do is turn to God and ask Him to establish the work of my hands. Without Jesus, my life will have no fruit. But if I abide in Him, and ask God to establish the work of my hands for the glory of Christ and the common good, I know that He will answer that prayer (probably in many ways I don’t expect).

I also recently discovered the song below that was written from Psalm 90:17. My prayer is that it will bless you this week, as it has blessed me, and that God will establish the work of your hands!


One Generation to Another

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4, NIV)


In my last devotional, I wrote about how God had reminded me that in the busyness of life, I need to remember to share my faith in Jesus with my kids. My goal with these Monday devotionals is simply to share what God puts on my heart and says to me in the hope that it will encourage you to listen to what God is saying to you. I think more people hear from God more often than they realize, and if I can model or share how God speaks to me, perhaps it will help you learn to better recognize His still small voice in your own heart and mind. Occasionally, one of you shares with me what God is saying to you, or how He is working in your life. I love hearing those stories! Please keep them coming!

I also hoped the devotional last week would encourage parents (and grandparents) to be more proactive in teaching their own children (and grandchildren) about the Lord, and modeling a genuine faith in and relationship with Jesus for their own kids (and grandkids). I know there are many kids out there who don’t have Christian parents or grandparents. They are incredibly important. But, in our zeal to reach them, let’s not forget about the kids God has given us–they matter, too. God reminded me of the importance of investing in my own kids last Monday, and I passed it on to you because it’s what I do with these devotional emails.

That said, this week will be a little different because I want to follow up on last week’s topic. Last week was for parents. This week is for the church. For 30 years (maybe more), the prevailing thought among churches has been divide and conquer. We’ve assumed the most effective way to reach the next generation is to isolate them and create programming in which every second is designed specifically for them. But in the past few years, we’ve begun to realize the drawbacks of that model as more and more teens walk away not just from church, but from God, when they hit adulthood. And, alarmingly, a huge percentage of these young adults are not coming back to God or the church at all, even when they start having their own kids.

Some churches reacted to this by canceling all youth and children’s programming in favor of a fully family-integrated approach. I’m not convinced that’s the right approach, either. Why do we tend to run to the far end of the spectrum on almost every issue? The best way is likely not going to be at either pole, but somewhere in the middle.

The problem with an isolation approach is that you end up with a youth/children’s ministry that is siloed, separated from the rest of the church. The church isn’t a family to them. You end up with a group of kids only loosely connected with the larger church whose building they use for their programming. When the kids become adults, they often lose interest and walk away because they’re not really part of the church. And let’s be honest, our goal isn’t to pack out our programming with high attendance (no matter what age we’re aiming for, whether children’s ministry, youth ministry, Sunday worship, or senior adults). Our goal is to lead kids (really, people of all ages) in a growing relationship with Jesus that will last their lifetime.

The problem with a fully family-integrated approach is that it also ends up isolating people (not just kids). It leaves out those who don’t have a traditional nuclear family, which just happens to be the majority of our society. The very approach targeting integration ends up as just another form of isolation.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think what we need to figure out is not isolation or family-integration, but rather a church family approach to reaching the next generation. My desire is to see the church become a spiritual family. I want everyone (seniors, middle-aged, young adults, teens, and children) to have a place where they belong. I want every generation to know that they have a family–whether or not their parents are Christians–they have a family that loves them, cares for them, prays for them, and is there for them. They are welcome, they belong, there is a place they can call home. The church needs to be a surrogate family for those whose earthly families don’t follow Jesus or are not safe families. I want to see teens and children be loved by seniors who aren’t their biological grandparents but are their spiritual grandparents (of course, it would be great if their biological grandparents also loved them and helped them along in their faith journey).

Psalm 145:4 isn’t just for parents teaching their own kids (although it does cover that, too). It’s also for each generation within God’s family, the church, to pass their faith on to the generations below them with love, prayer, encouragement, admonishment, teaching, and leading by example. I’m fully in favor of age-appropriate programming and church-family-integration.

A Prayer for Sri Lanka

“I call out to the LORD…” (Psalm 3:4a)


Yesterday, suicide bombers in Sri Lanka killed over 200 people, targeting three churches during their Easter services. My prayers this week will include our brothers and sisters whose loved ones were martyred while celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. Those faithful saints are with Him face-to-face today, but their families and friends remain grieving (although not as the world grieves, see 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Psalm 3 offers a lament lined with hope and may be used as a guide for our prayer for Sri Lanka. I’ve given Psalm 3 in full below. Will you join me in praying for the Church in Sri Lanka this week?

Psalm 3 (NIV)

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

 

Alignment

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV).

Recently our church did a painting event, where an artist walked us step-by-step through how to paint a Christmas tree with a cross as its trunk. I was helping my six-year-old son, Jack. We could see what the goal was for our painting, yet as we painted the artist often said, “If you like this, do this. If you want to do something else, go ahead and put your own style into it.” As we painted, Jack expressed his own interests and desires in what his painting should look like, and when I walked around the room, I saw many, many different Christmas trees with crosses for trunks. The variety was incredible, and yet the purpose of the artwork was the same every time.

This is a beautiful picture (no pun intended) of God’s purpose in our lives. He doesn’t just dictate his will to mindless slaves to obey or die. He invites us into the process. He created us with thoughts and emotions, dreams and aspirations. He is interested in what our hearts long for, and he makes space for us to express our own “style” as we go along the way. God works with us to accomplish his purpose, and that is profoundly amazing.

Yet, we must remember that ultimately, it is God’s purpose that prevails. If our plans go against his purpose, we will surely be frustrated. As I was reading and praying through Proverbs 19, the Lord brought verse 21 to my attention. I distinctly sensed him say to me, I want your plans to align with MY purpose. I think when that happens, we experience the fullest sense of meaning, freedom, and joy. We are painting with our Father, who is showing us the purpose while allowing us to be who he created us to be in the process.

This brings to mind Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). May the Lord forgive me the times when my plans have not aligned with his purpose!

My prayer for this week is that our hearts will sync with God’s heart, and we will find the sheer delight of aligning our plans with his purpose.

Rest in Him

This post comes from Tara Wheeler, our Children’s Ministry Director at LakeView Church.


“Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hand to you in prayer.” (Psalm 63:3-4, NLT)

Time to take a breath and slow down….this is what I’m telling myself…..but having a hard time applying it.  Slowing down goes against every fiber in my being.  I grew up on a dairy farm and there was never a lack of something to do.  We all worked together as a family to get done what was needed.  I’ve been told that I’m exactly like my grandma and that I simply don’t know how to sit and do nothing….a.k.a. RELAX.  Sometimes this drives my family nuts.  Sometimes I put my to-do list ahead of quality time I should be spending with the kids or my husband.  Then I find myself getting frustrated that the kids or my husband aren’t doing everything on the list I’ve created in my mind that HAS to get done.  Sometimes I put tasks first and think that I’ll open my Bible for quiet reading and prayer after I just get this one more thing done…

Yes.  Guilty as charged.  I’m totally a “Martha” a little too often. Take a look at Luke 10:38-42 for a refresher on that sister drama, but a humbling reminder from Jesus to keep HIM at the forefront of our thoughts and actions.  My anxiety and stress level lessen when I take time for HIM first.  I need to remind myself to put quality time with my kids and husband before my tasks.  They’re growing fast and I can’t get back time. As the holidays are approaching, it’s timely for me to share these thoughts if for nothing more than a reminder to myself of what’s IMPORTANT and not urgent. Just slow down. Rest. HE has control and will give the strength that is needed to get through every day.

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Dear Jesus,

YOU are important.  Thank you for your never-ending love, strength, and care for each one of us. Please bring calm to our spirits and our minds so that we stay focused on you, our families, our relationships, and the important things that you would want for us instead of our to-do lists. Thank you for your grace and love.

Amen

May you all have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this week with family and friends!

~ Tara


I hope Tara’s words have encouraged you as much as they have me. Have a blessed week!

Lord, I Need You

The series on prayer continues with a look at Psalm 16, a prayer of dependence and confidence in God. How can we say that God is our only hope? Why do Christians put all their eggs in God’s basket? Why do we pray: “Lord, I need you”?