Category Archives: Christianity

Too Much On Our Plate – Making Prayer a Priority

Because of my career I am given many opportunities of offer up a public prayer to God.  Oftentimes I am praying for a group of men, married couples, or parents.  Other times I am praying for an entire congregation as a part of a morning worship service.   During those times I ask that God would meet very real concerns that people have shared, praise Him for the many blessings that He gives to the group, and petition him for a variety of the fruits of the Spirit, such as patience and wisdom.   If you were to be a part of a gathering where I am leading a public prayer you might think that my personal prayer life is frequent, vibrant, and fulfilling.

You would be mistaken.

The fact is that I struggle with my personal prayer life just as much as the next guy, if not more.   I envy those who talk about connecting with God on a regular basis and how much He speaks to them through prayer.  I’m also astonished at how much time those fellow believers are able to devote to prayer and wishfully wonder where I would ever find that kind of time.

Can you relate?

Admittedly, finding time to pray and having a meaningful prayer life are two separate things, yet that are intrinsically connected to each other.   We can’t have a meaningful prayer life if we don’t make praying a priority in our life, and yet many of us don’t make it a priority in our lives because we can’t seem to have those times we do pray be meaningful.

 I once heard someone put their frustration with their prayer life this way – “I struggle with prayer on a regular basis.  At times it feels like I’m just leaving messages in His voicemail and hoping He gets back to me.  Unfortunately, it feels like he never does.”  I have to say, there are definitely times when prayer feels that way to me.

There are other reasons why we (well, at least I) don’t make our (my) prayer life a priority:

  •  Independent/Self-reliant  – I like to feel like I have things under control and I arrogantly think “I got this God, don’t worry about me.  Help someone else, I’ll let you know when I need you.”
  •  Subconsciously getting back at God – Life is not turning out exactly the way that I want, so I take out my frustrations on God by not praying. (Hey I didn’t say the reasons had to make any sense!)
  •  Confused – I’m not sure what to pray for, or my prayers for something that I clearly felt was God’s will for my life haven’t been answered, so I just stop praying.
  •  Scared – What if I pray for something and God answers it, but not in the way I want or was suspecting?  (This is also known as the “I just know He is going to send me to Uganda” reason.)

So how can we overcome all of these self-inflicted obstacles to prayer?  Each person needs to develop a regular time, place, and method for their prayer time.  What works for someone else might not work for you.  Perhaps the best time for you to connect with God is during your morning commute (keep your eyes open!)  Perhaps it is over your lunch break, or at the end of the day.

Some folks keep a prayer journal to help them know what to be prayer for.  Others use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide each time.  Still others use the “ACTS” (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) method.  You can even use the prayers that are offered in Bible as a guide (Ephesians 3:14-19 is a great place to start).

If you are having a hard time with consistently spending time in prayer  I would encourage you to find a prayer accountability partner.  This person doesn’t necessarily have to pray with you in person each time, but rather will regularly be checking up on you to encourage you in your prayer life and keep you going.   Mary and I have started getting up just a little bit earlier to start our day with some personal time of devotions.   There have certainly been some days when I would love to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and I am sure that there are days that she would like me too as well!  But the commitment that we’ve made to each other keeps us going.

What has worked for you?  How have you incorporated the spiritual discipline of prayer into your life?

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Becoming a Proverbs Parent – Wealth and Poverty

This past summer my son Greg and I spent a lot of time going on bike rides together.  It was a great experience for both of us.  Thankfully we live in an area near a lot of relatively flat back country roads, so we could often ride side by side.  Oftentimes those rides would produce some deep conversations between my son and I.  One afternoon we had been riding in silence for a short while when out of nowhere Greg asked me “Dad, are we middle class?”

Whenever my kids ask me questions like that I always have the perfect response, “Ask your mother.”  (I’m kidding…sort of!)  This question caught me off guard, so I bought some time to think by asking him “Why do you ask?”  “Well,” he replied, “There are all these commercials about people saying the middle class is in trouble and promising to help the middle class.  Do they mean us?”

Ah, the joys of election season!

As we rode on I tried to explain to Greg that while our family is probably considered middle class, we were still very blessed by God and there were a lot of families who didn’t have near what we had.  He pressed the issue further, “So why is the middle class in trouble?”  I explained that a lot of people had lost their jobs over the past few years so they didn’t have as much income as they had in the years before.  “So…,” he said thoughtfully, “Since we are Christians, and Christians should help people who are, you know, poorer than us, what are we doing to help?”

GULP

 I realize that there is A LOT of opinion on this subject, much of it political in nature.  I’ll leave those debates to the talking heads on TV and radio.  I certainly don’t know those answers.  What I do know is what the Bible has to say on the matter.  In Proverbs 14:31-32 Solomon tells his sons that “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (NIV)

No matter what a person’s personal definitions of “rich” and “poor” are, Christians are called to compassionate and kind to those who are less fortunate.  While the evangelical community has sometimes been thought of in less than flattering terms in regards to this expression of our faith, I believe that many of us are obedient to God’s instructions on the matter.  The key for me personally, however, is whether or not my kids see Mary and I expressing our faith by helping those in need.

It can be easy to write a check and feel like we have done our job.  And indeed, those funds are needed.  But do my kids see their mom and dad being kind to those less fortunate than us in other, more tangible ways?  As Greg and I continued our bike ride, I realized that he was struggling to make that connection.  So we talked about some of the ways that our family does try to help those in need, and as I jogged his memory he said “Oh…so that’s why we did that!”  The matter was apparently settled in his mind, because he soon changed the subject to something else.

Still, it wasn’t settled for me, and I realized that I was just assuming that my kids understood why we gave financially to the groups and causes that we gave to, and why we volunteered our time the way that we did.  Like so many issues with parenting, we moms and dads can’t be content to sit back and wait for subjects like this one to come up.  We need to be having intentional conversations with our kids about wealth, poverty, and what God expects of His children.   I encourage you to have those conversations with your kids in the coming weeks.  Now that the Christmas shopping season is here, there really is no better time.  And while you’re at it, find some ways that your entire family can help out those in need during the holiday season.

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Joseph: the unsung hero of Christmas

 We see him in every manger scene … standing at attention with a stare and slight smile looking over his staff at the baby in the manger.  Maybe you’re like me and don’t think too much about Joseph … the unsung hero of the Christmas story. 

Stop and think about it … Mary, Joseph’s finance’, gets pregnant before they’re married and had been together.  But his love for her was so strong that he wants to put her away quietly.  He could have had her stoned for apparently committing adultery.  

Before he can “put her away,” he is visited by the angel of the Lord and is told to take Mary as his wife.  He learns that she is carrying the promised Messiah who was conceived by the Holy Spirit to save God’s people from their sins.  He unquestionably believes and obeys.

Joseph lives, as does Mary with the stigma of being a couple that couldn’t wait.  He leads her to Bethlehem and Jesus is born as promised.  About a year or so later, after the Magi visit the young boy Jesus, Herod plots to kill the baby boys in the region to eliminate this threat of a new king.  The angel of the Lord comes again and says to Joseph: “Get up and take your family to Egypt.”  And the Bible says he rose … probably got up and got ready that night so that they were out of town before Herod’s men came to slaughter the boys of Nazareth.

After Herod dies and the threat of Jesus being killed has subsided, the angel appears again and tells Joseph to bring his family back to Israel.  Immediately he gets up and begins the process of bringing them “home.”  This wasn’t a three hour tour, it was a long haul in that day.  When Joseph returns he is afraid that Herod’s son wants to kill Jesus.  Again the angel of the Lord comes and tells him to go to Galilee … Nazareth.  He does so immediately.

Several lessons … from this unsung hero of the Christmas story …

Joseph was a selfless lover.  He loved Mary and Jesus more than his own personal reputation and comfort.  It wasn’t all about him.

He was a protector … his heart’s desire was to protect his fiancé’s reputation and her son’s life … he was concerned for their safety and well being.

He unquestionably obeyed God.   Joseph was apparently a Godly man and had a relationship with God to the point where he knew His voice and heard from him.  Four times the angel of the Lord came and gave him instructions and he obeyed without a second thought …

Lord, make me a man of God, a husband and a father like Joseph!

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House on the Rock Receives Space in the New Family Center of Gap

We have been given a tremendous opportunity to expand our ministry.  This fall we will be part of

what will become the premiere family ministry center in Central Pennsylvania and maybe in the entire

Mid-Atlantic region.

 

Jonas and Anne Beiler, founders of Auntie Anne’s, have an intense passion for marriages and families! 

Back in 1987 Jonas had a dream to create a center that would provide family oriented services to their

home community of Gap.  His dream is being completed right before his eyes!  In September the Family Center of Gap will hold its Grand Opening; and House on the Rock Family Ministries is privileged to have

an office on the third floor!

 

We are thrilled to be a part of this regional family resource center!  The synergy of working with Jonas

and Anne and the other family organizations will be fantastic!  While checking on the progress of our

space, I was privileged to meet the International Director of Focus on the Family who was also inspecting

the facility and donating some library resources.  That is the caliber of folks involved in this project; and

why we are so excited to be a part of this ministry venture.

 

In another meeting with the Executive Director of FRCC we talked about how we can partner with them

to provide biblically based family life education to the churches and clients in their network.  We will have

a significant role in the family life educational program of this center!

 

We’ll keep you posted on the details for the Grand Opening.  They are expecting over 3000 visitors and

we would love to see you there!  So plan to come on down and see this beautiful new ministry center! 

Visit it online at:  www.gapfamilycenter.org

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Family, Family Matters, HOTRFM, Marriage/Family, Ministry, Religion, Uncategorized

Powerful prayers for fathers …

Today I was part of the Lancaster National Day of Prayer Celebration.  50 of us met in a pristine 1870 vintage sanctuary in Mount Joy PA.  We had a number of folks from the community lead us in prayer for their assigned areas … the mayor was there to pray us through “government,” the president of the local Chamber of Commerce to pray for businesses … you get the picture.

 

Well in the middle of this litany … an ensemble of young ladies from the local middle school got up to sing two songs they had written.  They were great in both performance and power of lyric. 

 

When it was my turn to lead us in a time of prayer for families I presented several requests … one was to pray against fatherlessness … dads who were either physically or emotionally absent from their children.  I then broke the audience into small groups to pray through one of the family issues I had listed … asking each group to pick a topic and pray.

 

I met with the young ladies who sang.  They were sitting in the front pew!  Do you know what they wanted to pray for?  Yes … against fatherlessness … they each prayed that men would be loving husbands and involved fathers.  Each one of those beautiful girls was in a home with no daddy.  What a powerful moment that was for me.  What a demonstration that our Heavenly Father is indeed a “Father to the fatherless!”  Pray for fathers!

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The “Unseen” Difference

Archeologists tell us that thousands of pyramids were built throughout Egypt … yet only a fraction of them stand today.  Why do a few remain standing while others crumbled in the desert throughout the storms of time?  Those scientists say the difference was foundations.  The pyramids built on massive stone foundations are the ones that have stood tall for thousands of years.  This discovery was made because they excavated these historical sites. 

 

This archeological fact unearths another powerful lesson for us.  If our lives are not built on a solid, well laid foundation … they are destined to fall … they will crumble … our legacies will blow away in the desert winds.  That is why we call our ministry House on the Rock Family Ministries!  We want to help families build their lives and homes on the “Rock.”  So the first priority in our pyramid of priorities is foundational and vital. 

 

The pyramid of priorities was derived from the inspired progression of thoughts of Paul in the letter he wrote to the church in Ephesus.  The first part of the letter (chapters 1-3) deals with ‘who we are’ in Jesus Christ … the second half of the letter (chapters 4-6) unpacks the ‘so what … how should we live?’ 

 

The foundation to our “Pyramid of Priorities” is built upon the inspiration of these words and thoughts by God’s Holy Spirit … who inspired Paul to write them in an orderly progression.  I believe that the order in which God inspired these words and thoughts is extremely significant in that they are His list of priorities in how we should live our lives as Christians.  It is the building of our lives on God’s inspired (the unseen) Word (the seen) that will cause our lives and legacies to stand the storms of time.

 

The Words of God given through the Bible are the foundation upon which all of us as Christ followers need to build our lives to stand the storms of time.

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The “point” of the pyramids

April 7th

 

Every culture is fascinated by pyramids … whether Egyptian or Mayan.  If they didn’t stand today in their own defense … we would deem them impossible for ancient engineers and contractors to design and build such massive structures thousands of years ago.  That’s why the Great Pyramid is one of the 7 Wonders of the World!

 

But I look at pyramids from a different angle.  Because they were built as eternal monuments to the persons they entombed, they were imagined, designed, and constructed while that individual was still living his or her life.  It took builders over 30 years to construct the larger pyramids … that was just about the lifespan of the future occupant.  That must have been just a little eerie … seeing your own tomb/monument being built before your very eyes! 

 

Yet the similarities are very sobering … we are building monuments too … our lives will leave a legacy for our children and their children’s children.  So … we need to be thinking and planning carefully as to how we’re building those legacies … those monuments pointing our ancestors heavenward.  It will take us a lifetime to build a lasting godly legacy.

 

That’s why I call my presentation on priorities the “Pyramid of Priorities” … because our legacies (positive or negative) are built on our choices … and our choices are made based on our priorities.  So developing a set of foundational priorities is extremely important.

 

But there is another reason I have chosen this title … each of the priorities … just like layers of the pyramids … are built one on top of the other.  If the foundational layer is not solid … the rest of the structure will crumble …

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