Every Story is God’s Story

Why do we tell stories?

Not we as in Clear Creek Community Church, but we as in all of us.

What is it about books, TV shows, movies, and even the short glimpses into other people’s lives on social media that make them so pervasive in our culture?

Is it purely entertainment? Are we so fascinated that we simply cannot look away? Or is there something more?

Whether it’s an action movie, a romance novel, or a car commercial, there’s always something bigger going on than a gunfight, a kiss, or a sleek SUV driving down a scenic road. Maybe it’s a reminder that the good guys ultimately win, or that love always prevails, or maybe it’s that this particular car will help you live the life you’ve always wanted (whether or not that’s true).

Stories communicate information in a way that’s meaningful and memorable.

Stepping into another world through a book or movie or commercial allows us to learn something new like the grit of the human spirit, or learn to appreciate something more deeply like the beauty of falling in love, all while being emotionally invested in the characters involved, and leaning in to see what happens next.

That’s why stories are powerful.

They’re how we express complicated ideas and fit the pieces together.

Because deep down, we all want to more fully understand… everything.

Life.

Death.

Parenting.

Success.

Failure.

The opposite sex.

God.

Jesus Christ knew the power of story better than maybe anyone else in history.

He had this stunning skill of harnessing stories (called parables in the Bible) to teach the ways of God. Through stories like the Prodigal Son, the Four Soils, and the Good Samaritan, Jesus was able to communicate truth about who God is and how he relates to his people in a meaningful and memorable way.

But it wasn’t just his teaching style that employed story. God through the person of Jesus Christ, created the greatest plot twist of all time when he, the author himself, descended into the pages of his narrative.

He introduced himself and revealed who he is and what he’s about in the grand story we call the Bible. And he’s placed us as characters — each of us with our own arc and journey — into this epic work.

Let me just say, JK Rowling, Stephen King, and even William Shakespeare, can’t hold a candle to the storytelling genius of God.

His power and creativity know no bounds.

He is the Great Author.

And he has written the story of the world — its creation, fall, redemption, and restoration (yes, he already wrote the ending).

So, if stories communicate information, what is God communicating?

If there’s one overarching message to his story it’s this: he loves you.

He loves you so much that he would woo you with the entire story of everything we know centering around a grand gesture of sacrifice and grace on your behalf.

So, we come to church and we learn more about the story and its author. We sing songs about the story. We read about the story and we meditate on its implications.

We call all of that worship.

When we talk about the things he’s done, the ways he’s saved people, changed people, healed people, and loved people, we are singing his praise.

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. — Psalm 145:4-6

Art, Antibiotics, and Astronauts: God’s Gifts of Common Grace

What do Van Gogh paintings, antibiotics, the International Space Station, and microwave ovens have in common?

In a very real way, they are all gifts from God. How so? Let’s listen to Philippians 4:8, a well-known passage from Paul the apostle:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

For years, Paul’s words to the church at Philippi have fascinated me because I used to think the apostle was calling believers to discern and embrace the good from Christianity.

But upon further reflection, that makes no sense.

The faith is entirely good and needs no discernment. Therefore, it’s more likely Paul is calling believers to discern and utilize the good, wise, and true things they find in society.

Indeed, biblical scholars note the list Paul gives is representative of the virtues celebrated in the Greek Hellenistic society of that day. For example, the famous philosopher Cicero, who was a contemporary of the apostle, said, “But what is there in man better than a mind that is wise and good?… all that is lovely, honorable, commendable.” Wow! It’s almost a mirror of Paul’s list.

Furthermore, commentator Dr. Gordon Fee concludes,

“Paul is telling [the Philippian church] not so much to ‘think high thoughts’ [but] to ‘take into account’ the good they have long known from their own past, as long as it is conformable to Christ … to encourage the Philippians that even though they are ‘citizens of heaven,’ … they do not altogether abandon the world in which they used to, and still do, live.”¹

This call for Christians to discern and utilize the goodness and wisdom of the world may surprise some, but it’s not astonishing for those who know about the biblical doctrine of common grace.

Common grace, also referred to as general grace, concerns God’s goodness which extends to all his creation — things that are ‘common’ or ‘general’ to all humanity like order, art, science, creativity, etc. Scripture refers to God’s common grace in places like Matt. 5:45, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”; Psalm 145:9, “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made”; and Luke 6:35, “… for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

Consider the following human activities: 

  • Going to MD Anderson for cancer surgery or picking up cold medicine at your local CVS;
  • Touring The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston or laying on your couch listening to Spotify;
  • Meeting with a local financial coach for retirement planning or reading a well-respected psychologist’s book on personality patterns.

These are all examples of engaging the truth, goodness, and wisdom of God’s common grace in a society. We do this every day without knowing it. Yet, Philippians 4:8 reminds us to do so discerningly (“whatever is…”), because not everything in culture is good, true, or beautiful.

Culture and society are broken by sin, and thus are mixed bags of good and bad, beauty and ugliness, truth and lies. That’s why the apostle says followers of Jesus should neither outright reject all its products nor swallow it whole but parse out and engage the commendable, excellent, and true within it.

For example, maturing Christians will be those who increasingly aren’t fearful of the common graces of science, technology, or medicine. They recognize how unbelieving culture can, with discernment, produce great things of worth that are good, true, and beautiful gifts.

Gifts like Van Gogh paintings, antibiotics, the International Space Station, and microwave ovens.

 


Footnotes

  1.  Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 415.

How to Disciple Your Kids Over the Summer

I imagine that some of you may have had a first reaction just like mine:

Disciple my kids?
In the summer?
Who has time for that?

I definitely get it. We have five kids in our family, ranging in age from 8 to 16, and let me tell you, summer is busy at my house. With camps, sports, and vacations, the days and weeks can fly by. And before you know it, school is here again.

So, is it possible to see any spiritual growth in the midst of all the busyness?

After all, this is the time when our normal routines have been abandoned, and most of us aren’t going to spend hours each day reading the Bible as a family.

But what can we do?

How can we redeem this break and put it to work for the good of our children?

Here are four quick ideas:

1. Soak up some Scripture.
Maybe you’ll read the Jesus Storybook Bible together in the evenings. If you have teens, you could find a short Bible study to discuss each week over Starbucks drinks. My family loves to road-trip, and one of our favorite things is to turn on an episode (or five) of our church’s podcast for kids, Who’s in the Bible? It’s a great way to laugh and learn together.

2. Partner with Clear Creek.
I know, I know. You’re out of town more. I totally get it. But when you are in town, make being here a priority! Your kids are building friendships and developing a community of Christ-followers that will carry them through future challenges in their faith and fill those gaps that parents can’t. Ask them what they learned in Children’s Ministry. Send them to Student Ministry events. Even if it’s just kickball, those relationships really matter.

3. Pray with a purpose.
Take this opportunity to build some habits of intercessory prayer. You may typically pray together at dinnertime or bedtime, but I know it’s easy for those prayers to be focused on our families — how each child’s day has gone or the events of the week. This summer, look for ways to pray for people or groups who might not be on the radar of our normal routines. Each week, choose together! Maybe this week you’ll pray for each of our pastors by name; next week pray for Top 5 friends. Another week you might pray for local ministry organizations or nations where our partners are planting churches. Be creative! The goal is simply to reflect God’s heart and values as we come to him in prayer.

4. Model Christlikeness.
So often we think of discipleship in terms of information and habits. And those are important. But we’ve all heard it: more is caught than taught. Your kids are watching you! So take time to show love to a neighbor. Be kind to your spouse. Be patient with that relative at the family reunion (you know the one). And when you screw up, apologize. It’s not really about being a perfect example; only Jesus can do that. But when your kids see you sin, your repentance points them to the gospel. And when your kids see you suffer, your faith points them to Christ.

That’s what this is all about! Whether we’re reading the Bible, connecting at church, praying for others, or obeying God’s commands, our heart is simply to show them Jesus. Let’s do it together!

Roe v. Wade: What Is Next for the Church?

Recently, I came home from an errand to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade ending the constitutional right to an abortion. This means states will now regulate the legality of abortion. Some states will continue as if nothing happened, others will essentially make abortion, in different forms, illegal.

With this news, many good, kind, and fair people are crestfallen by the decision, believing the rights of women have been curtailed. Other good, kind, and fair people are ecstatic, believing hundreds of thousands of innocent babies won’t be killed.¹

It won’t be surprising to know I fall in the latter group.

I believe abortion, generally speaking, is a moral evil. As a follower of Jesus, I find Scripture to overwhelmingly uphold a strong ethic of life as well as give special care to the vulnerable and needy, of whom I believe unborn infants qualify. I know others will vehemently disagree and want to make emotionally-charged rebuttals among other things.

But my aim here isn’t to convince anyone. It’s simply to say the following.

Christians who believe this is a great week for the unborn should also be prepared to trumpet how committed the church needs to be to protecting, supporting, and caring for women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies. The church should be holistically pro-life and not merely pro-birth.

That means we care not only for a child coming into the world but also what kind of world that child comes into.

For example, statistics show abortion in America is overwhelmingly slanted to those in poverty, so wherever the gospel can speak to economic and structural injustices that tempt distressed women into terminating their pregnancies, followers of Jesus should be just as engaged.

To that end, I am grateful that Clear Creek Community Church for years has been committed to this work with their active support of ministries like:

Anchor Point crisis pregnancy center
Orphan care that seeks to help with fostering, adopting
Pregnancy and Parenting Support Center with pregnancy counseling
The Center for Pregnancy which assists unexpected pregnancies

In light of this Supreme Court decision, there will be many Christian leaders rightfully calling for the church to roll up its sleeves by working on creating a better culture of life instead of merely arguing against abortion. This is right and true. And while Clear Creek is far from perfect, the truth is that we have been putting our money (and people, time, and talents) where our mouth is when it comes to supporting and valuing a more holistic view of life.

However, none of those things will come into play when your pro-choice friend is upset by this week’s news. As a gospel measure, I would call you to show them empathy, sensitivity, and kindness. Our history at Clear Creek has been to show compassion for those who struggle with abortion as well as those who’ve had abortions. We should also extend that compassion to those who believe it to be an unalienable right. Yes, we might disagree with our neighbor, but Jesus also calls us to love them.

I urge you to heed the words Bruce Wesley preached a week or so ago when he said, “May our love be louder than our disagreements.”

I pray this would be true of us today, tomorrow, and every day God has us here.

Love well, for the world will know we are Christians by our love.

 


Footnotes

  1. Studies show there were 930,160 abortions in 2020.

Faith in the Midst of Doubt

I can’t remember a time in my life without God. However, several years ago I walked through a season of doubt that was difficult, scary, lonely, and isolating.

What can Christians do when they are beginning to question everything they have ever believed?

I grew up in a loving Christian home and attended a healthy church that taught me to love God and his word. Some of my earliest childhood memories are singing along with Christian songs on tape in the back seat of my mom’s car and rushing off to AWANA with my dad, and for that foundation I am grateful. But through a long series of events, I began to experience doubts that sent me spiraling downward:

Does God even really exist?

Did we just make him up to help us deal with life and death?

If a higher power does exist, how can we know he resembles the God of the Bible?

Do I only believe in God because Christianity is all I’ve ever known?

I was pierced by so many questions that it felt like I was playing Jenga, pulling out all of the pieces and wondering if the whole tower would come crashing down. It was hard for me to even read my Bible because every time I opened it up, I was faced with the constant assault of nagging questions that threatened to dismantle everything I had based my life upon.

I kept this struggle private for a long time, not feeling permission to ask these questions and worrying what other people would say about me if I actually verbalized some of these doubts. But everything seemed to change when I opened up to other people, sharing my fears and struggles. I still had all the same questions, but the questions weren’t quite as scary anymore.

I still struggle with doubt, and I probably always will. Going through those struggles changed and shaped me in profound ways that I’m still trying to understand. The questions still remain, but I have to remind myself that questions are not a bad thing. I want a real, robust, and genuine faith that is based on the truth, not just on something someone else told me. I still don’t like to face the doubts, but I know that the faith I have on the other side of the struggle is deeper, stronger, richer, and more historically rooted than I ever had before.

This short article can’t possibly cover all the various reasons, motivations, and struggles that can accompany someone who is walking through a season of doubt. But I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice for anyone who might see a bit of themselves in my story:

Talk to Someone
You don’t have to fight this battle alone.

Give yourself permission for sincere doubt.

The church is the best place to bring your questions; find someone who you trust and open up about your struggles.

Keep Asking Questions
Doubt is not a sin.

It is part of being human and can be a healthy part of our spiritual growth.

Stay curious!

Keep a Soft Heart
It is possible to think critically with your mind while still maintaining a gentle spirit.

Our quest for truth should not leave us in a place where we are cynical, resentful, angry, or stubborn.

Wrestling through the toughest questions in life is not always easy, simple, convenient, or pretty, but it doesn’t have to be lonely, scary, or painful. We can find joy in the journey.  The hard work of faith is worth it to know God and look more like him.

 I believe; help my unbelief!

Mark 9:24b

3 Things You Must Know to Have a Thoughtful Life

When asked what the greatest commandment (i.e. the most important commandment) in the Old Testament law was, Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.

All the laws of the Old Testament essentially boil down to these two things: love God and love others.  

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

— Matthew 22:36-39

We are called to love God with everything, including our mind.

But how can we love God like that?

How do we live a thoughtful life?  

Here are 3 things you must know and a few resources to help you learn more.

1. Know Who You Believe In
You have to first know God as he has revealed himself in the Bible. One of the charges against many Christians today is that they simply don’t know what the Bible says. They might know a few passages because they appear on social media posts with pretty backgrounds or coffee mugs, or because those are the verses they memorized as children. But, it seems, the Christian tradition of reading and knowing the Bible is not as strong as it once was.

We believe the Bible is God’s word and that it was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Christians have always affirmed that it is the supreme source of truth for their beliefs and living.

But the only way to discover and understand the truths God reveals in the Bible is to read it for yourself.

And if you want some added help understanding things, get an ESV Study Bible or take our How to Study the Bible class in the fall.

Better yet, don’t do it alone. Join a small group to read, discuss, and apply God’s word in community.  

To love God with your mind, you have to know God as he’s revealed himself in Scripture.

2. Know What You Believe In
You have to know what you believe and the core beliefs that Christians throughout history have stacked hands on. Studying theology can help you do that.

We’ve also posted the essential beliefs of our church on our website. Frankly, they are pretty generic essential beliefs similar to what you’d find on many church websites.

But know that those genericsounding beliefs you see on church websites have been carefully crafted, formed by Scripture, and debated at different points throughout the history of the church. 

We don’t take them for granted and neither should you.

To learn more, here are two great resources to get you started:

 

3. Know Why you Believe In It
You have to know why you believe what you believe, and, at least to some degree, be able to explain and defend what you believe. There’s actually a name for the defense of the Christian faith: apologetics.

That doesn’t mean you have to be one of those debaters who like to argue and discuss and push back. Some people are wired that way and some people aren’t. But like Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, “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.” 

Know what you believe—the hope that is in you. And know why you believe it so that you can explain it to someone else who asks why you have that hope, and why you believe what you believe.

Be prepared to address objections or concerns people might have. People have questions. You’ve probably asked some of them, even if you’re settled in your belief: 

  • How could a good God allow suffering?  
  • How can a loving God send people to hell?  
  • Hasn’t science disproven Christianity?  
  • How can you say there’s only one true faith? 
  • Doesn’t Christianity denigrate women? And condone slavery? 

Fortunately, there are good answers to these questions. Christians have applied their minds to the study of Scripture for hundreds of years to come up with satisfying, God-honoring answers to these questions. So do the work to know what those answers are. 

Here are two great resources to get you started on studying apologetics:

 

 

While Christianity is very much tied to our hearts, it requires us to use our wits, our reason, and the entirety of our minds to truly follow Christ.

Let me encourage you, don’t check your brain at the door.

Dive in, learn, and use your knowledge and reason together with your feelings and faith. And as you do, may you, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

Forgiving Myself

As I lie awake in my bed after everyone else in my house has gone to sleep, my mind replays my failings like a horrifying highlight reel.

How I lost my temper with my children again.

The impatience threaded through a conversation with a friend.

The devastation on my husband’s face when my sharp words cut him down.

My grief over what I’ve done blossoms into shame, convincing me that change is impossible. The shame is amplified by bitterness, and before I know it, I have welcomed dangerous lies and doubted the gospel. My head may nod enthusiastically over Jesus’s words to forgive my offender seventy times seven, but what about when the offender is me?

I don’t think I’m alone. Longtime followers of Christ are intimately familiar with the command to forgive. But when the struggle is internal, maybe you, like me, consider it almost virtuous to punish yourself harshly and deny yourself any eligibility for grace.

Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves?

In my years-long internal battle with self-resentment, I’ve identified three major obstacles along the way:

1. Pride

As a natural people-pleaser, I appreciate high standards and the accolades thrown my way when I’ve reached them. It feels good to pretend I can be righteous and good — until it doesn’t work. Pride can make me delusional about my own propensity to sin. Pride strives to patch over mistakes, pretending they never happened. Pride tells me I should’ve done better — tried harder. But Scripture says that I can’t work hard enough, that I can’t achieve perfection on my own. God isn’t surprised or shaken at my unholiness. He knows all his children need discipline and training. Instead of burying my sin deep enough to maintain my image, humbly admitting my sin before the Lord is the first step toward forgiving myself.

2. Doubt

In the Garden of Eden, we see the serpent’s first tactic as he sweet-talked Eve and Adam, weaving threads of doubt into their view of God. The Enemy is always the first to remind me of my moral failures and the first to suggest that God might not be who I’ve believed him to be. He whispers lies that tell me God didn’t really make me righteous, I can’t really be loved enough, God doesn’t really keep his promise to forgive. But we can learn to discern his hissing amidst our thoughts. Just as Jesus used Scripture to combat all of Satan’s lies in the desert, our only defense is to plant ourselves in the Bible and stand firm on God’s promises.

3. Shame

If I allow pride and doubt to fester in me, they will swing wide the door for shame. When fear of exposure controls me and God’s love seems distant, I begin to believe that there is no escape from my sin. Shame wraps its victim in the label of their wrongs. It distracts me from God’s presence, disrupts my relationships, and discourages my efforts toward spiritual maturity. But the truth of my identity in Christ can overcome the trap of shame. I love the lyrics to the song “You Are More” by Tenth Avenue North:

You are more than the choices that you made,

you are more than the sum of your past mistakes,

you are more than the problems you create,

you’ve been remade.

Because Christ has made us new creations, we are not defined by our sins. I have victory over shame because I am a child of God, a recipient of his great mercy without earning any of it, and my sin was nailed to the cross.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14

I don’t have to keep looking back on my past sins. I don’t have to be anxious about future struggles. Freedom from shame’s snare allows me to be honest about my failures before the Lord. I don’t have to hide or justify my sin, instead humbly approaching him for forgiveness. And when we ask God to forgive us, we can be sure that he does and that his forgiveness is final.

In his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the entirety of sin. When we are forgiven, our sin no longer hangs over us. Our souls don’t wallow in a place of guilt, for he has defeated pride, doubt, and shame. What a gift! What love! Why would we continue to carry the burden of blame when God has removed all blame from us?

When I rehearse the truth that I am a child of God, his beloved treasure for whom he died, then my heart can confess my failures to my Father, trust his promises, and rest in his grace.

How to Grieve Through Forgiveness

My dad needed my help recently. He was preparing to undergo a medical procedure for his heart, so I took it upon myself to help him sort through some things he needed to do. It was fairly standard stuff. I helped him fill out a legal document and talk with his doctor about the procedure and his options. We discussed his wishes in case things went wrong during the procedure and I was left to make hard choices on his behalf. 

While I took care of these typical family duties, I chuckled to myself. Less than three years ago, I would never have imagined being in a place where I’d handle these types of things for this man. 

But there I was, discussing end-of-life scenarios with a father who had neglected, abandoned, and disappointed me more times than is fair to mention against him. 

I wasn’t able to do it because I love him so much or because he’s turned a corner or because I am such a great Christian. 

I was able to do it because I wanted something normal between us. And normal is not a thing I take for granted in the relationship I have with my father. 

It felt something like a normal relationship between a father and daughter.

Normal is something I thought I’d had to give up a long time ago — a loss I had to learn to forgive. 

And it was also something I had to grieve. 

I believe it’s true of us all that when we begin to engage in the hard task of forgiveness, we also have to face grief. But grief isn’t something we normally associate with forgiveness. Or, at least, it wasn’t for me. 

We know forgiveness doesn’t mean we “erase” the hard or evil thing that happened to us. We know we can’t forget it.

But what do we do when we arrive at the point in our journeys of forgiveness where we have to deal with the overwhelming pile of emotions at the root of our unforgiveness? 

Here’s how the process of forgiveness worked in my life. 

I felt the Lord calling me to forgive my dad, but when I would butt up against the really challenging feelings of anger or sadness, I wouldn’t quite know where to put them or how to deal with them. I was prepared to act on the task of forgiveness, but I wasn’t prepared to deal with the grief associated with admitting what I had lost.

Over time, God showed me how he intended to use my grief as one of many tools to grow my heart for forgiveness. Tapping into the sorrow over what I had lost (or never really had) helped me take all those emotions to God. 

And when I took my grieving heart to God, he was faithful to heal it. 

I began to see how grief was just part of the journey of forgiveness. An absolutely necessary part. 

We’re told in the Psalms that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted” and that “he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 34:18 and 147:3). 

If we want the kind of forgiveness the Lord offers for our broken relationships, then we must address our broken hearts. 

We must confront our grief and allow God to come near to us and heal us. That’s when he can “bind up [our] wounds” and fashion our hearts into ones that seek forgiveness. 

I love my dad, and I gladly take the normal times when they come. Forgiving him was hard. Confronting my grief over the loss of a “normal” relationship was harder. 

But God was merciful to show me that his way was better, and he gave me a new heart capable of holding both love and loss. 

He can do the same for you.


 

Come To Him

As we embark on our 28 Days of Prayer, I hope you’re joining in. Prayer plays a crucial role in our relationship with God, but it can be intimidating.

Many of us feel some trepidation, uncertainty, or confusion when we think about prayer.

We may feel convicted of a lack of desire to pray. We may feel ashamed about failure to consistently pray in the past. Or maybe we just don’t really know how to begin.

As we enter into this challenge together, let’s remember that prayer is simply an invitation into the presence of God. We are called to come to him.

Here are three ways in which we can accept his invitation.

COME IN CHILD-LIKE FAITH
You can come just as you are to God, messy and broken with peanut butter on your face and a rip in your jeans.

Jesus invited the weary, the broken, the bruised, the thirsty – he’s invited all those in need and all those at the end of their ropes. Your Father desires you to bring your burdens to him. The heart of the gospel is that through Jesus we come to God, not with the assumption we are good enough, but with the knowledge that we are not.

Think about how small children talk to their parents. The conversation never ends! There may be pauses, but children always pick back up again with whatever is on their minds. They just blurt out what they want and what they need. They interrupt. They ask without regard for what it will cost you or where it will come from. They ask because they depend completely upon you. And they keep asking with mind numbing persistence.

Come to your Father in prayer like a child. Children are supremely confident in their parents’ love and power. Instinctively, they trust. They believe their parents want to do good for them. And your Father’s care and provision is perfectly wise, strong, and loving.

You can trust him even more than kids trust their mom and dad.

COME IN COMMUNITY
Prayer is not just for a single person alone and desperate in a foxhole; it’s an outpouring to our Father by our family in Christ. We pray for each other and with each other. There might be times in our lives when we cannot get out of bed or even lift our heads because of the suffering of this world. But still, our family in Christ prays for us. We pray together for those who don’t know God, trusting that God not only hears us, but that our prayers matter, now and for eternity.

We need each other. We are created not only for relationship with God, but for relationship with one another. Prayer is a way of life together as the church. Our faith is personal, but it is not private.

COME IN SURRENDER
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:10, the heart of his prayer was this:

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer tunes our hearts to God’s will. When we come to him, we are acknowledging our need. Any posture other than humility is just self-deception. If we had it all figured out, why would we come to him at all?

Our prayers are a step of surrender.

We surrender our plans and priorities. We surrender our dreams and decisions. We surrender our very lives, praying that his kingdom would be built rather than our own. That his will would be done, not ours.

Now, God’s will is not always done on earth. Child abuse is not God’s will, racism is not God’s will, the exploitation of human beings through pornography is not God’s will, and teenagers killing themselves with drugs is not God’s will. We realize the world is broken. So, we cry out to him. We surrender ourselves to his kingdom, asking that he would make all things new.

So come to him.

Come as a child, pouring out your heart and trusting in your Father’s goodness. Come together with your brothers and sisters in the faith, lifting each other’s needs to the Savior. Come in complete surrender, seeking his kingdom and desiring his will.

Just come.

A Simple and Powerful Prayer for Your Child

I remember learning about an approach to prayer years ago when my son was a toddler, and I’m grateful for the way it shaped me as a young father. The advice was simple and practical – use Ephesians 3:14-19 as a way to pray for those you love.

My son is a teenager now and I continue to pray this way for him and my other children. Using these few verses from the Scriptures to direct my prayers has not only helped me pray clearly and consistently for my kids, it has formed the deepest hopes and dreams I hold for them in my heart. I expect to ask God for these things in my kids’ lives for the rest of my life.

Ephesians 3:14-19 says, For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Wrapped up in these five verses are three powerful things I ask God to do in each of my kids’ hearts.

Lord, please give my child faith in Christ

I strive to teach my kids about who Jesus is and what he has done, but try as I may, I cannot create faith in their hearts. I know God has to be the one to give them the grace of his presence and roots of faith, so I make verses 16 and 17 my request to God saying, “Lord, grant my son strength through your Holy Spirit so that Christ would dwell in his heart through faith.”

Father, please show my child how much you love them

I have spent a lot of time considering the richness of verses 18 and 19 in my own heart. This is the most impassioned prayer I regularly bring to God, “Father, please open my daughter’s heart and mind to the depths of your love. Help her know, without question, that she is loved by you. Give her security and identity rooted in your unquestionable love. Help me love her like you do.”

I often add in a confession of my own faults and shortcomings as a father and ask God to answer this prayer in spite of me. My kids need to know the nature of their true father and I ask God to help me be more like him.

Lord, please fill my child with your presence

This passage has God’s presence as bookends. Paul tells his reader that he bows his knees to ask that God gives them strength and power through the Holy Spirit in their inmost being, and he finishes hoping his reader is filled with all the fullness of God.

I make these words my request saying, “Lord, whatever my son faces today, be ever present to shape his experience, thoughts, and actions. Fill him with your Spirit and give him strength and wisdom to live differently — to live for you.”

I have many hopes for my kids but none more important than these. Consistently asking God to give and grow faith, to expand their knowledge of his love, and to make them aware of his presence each day has shaped the way I parent and the heart I have for each of them.