Our culture bases success on many things. It may be an advanced education, a sprawling home, a good job, a multitude of friends, nice vehicles, frequent vacations, and the list goes on.
While none of these things are wrong, they’re not what truly makes a person successful.
What if we used a different ruler with which to measure? What if we looked within the heart and focused instead on character, integrity, and honor rather than the appearances of seemingly surface items? What if we viewed success through a different lens than what the world teaches us?
What if we, as parents, pulled the following tools from our parenting toolboxes to help our child succeed in life?
We, as parents, have an important role in modeling for and training our children in the things that truly matter. Someday when we are no longer on this earth, we won’t have taken our college degrees, fancy houses, and expensive vehicles with us. But we will have made an impact on the lives of others when our main focus was living for Jesus.
May we, as parents, make it our goal to instruct our children wisely in the things that matter to Him.
After Christian historical romance, Christian suspense is my favorite genre. Especially when characters go undercover and the tension builds as covert operations are planned to catch the bad guys.
It may be that I have read one too many of these novels. Or that I have watched Sue Thomas F.B. Eye too many times to count. Or that my grandfather was a retired police officer for the San Diego Police Department.
I’ve recently felt God prompting me into my own incognito activities.
As such, I’ve become an undercover prayer warrior.
I have always and will continue to intercede for the most important people in my life – my family and friends. I pray for them numerous times a day and whenever the Lord brings them to mind. There is not a time during the day when I’m not in constant contact with the Lord.
However, now I’ve added strangers to the list. People who don’t even know I’m praying for them.
Want to join me in this venture? Here’s how to become an undercover prayer warrior:
1. Keep your eyes open. There’s a woman I see each time I’m utilizing the treadmill at my local gym. A salt-and-pepper pixie haircut and a somber expression line her face. I’ve never seen her smile. Not once. Not when the machine she wanted was available, and certainly not to return a smile. This woman became my mission. Each time I see her, I pray earnestly for her. I pray for whatever struggles she is facing. I pray for joy and peace in her life. And I pray that if she doesn’t know the Lord, she would someday come to know Him.
Had I not been keeping my eyes open, I may not have noticed this woman and had the privilege to pray for her.
2. Keep your ears open. Ambulance sirens? Emergency helicopter? Both denote that someone is injured, or may even be possibly fighting for his or her life. Whenever our family hears either of those sounds, we stop what we’re doing and immediately pray for those who are being transported. We pray also that the Lord would provide wisdom and guide the doctor’s hands as any necessary medical procedures are done.
3. Keep your heart open. Whenever I pass by the hospital or local cancer center, I pray for those who are receiving treatment. I pray for God’s healing and that He would make Himself known to those who don’t yet know Him. It’s beyond difficult to struggle with an illness, especially one that’s terminal. Prayer support is the most important thing we can offer someone.
4. Keep your mind open. Some of the hardest people to pray for are those who are unkind. I experienced some unkindness recently from a woman in desperate need of prayer. I didn’t necessarily want to pray for this meanie, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I had to keep an open mind and pray for this person as God commands in Matthew 5:43-47.
So become God’s undercover prayer warrior. Slip into detective mode and…
Pray for that exhausted mom in front of you at the grocery store with the seven children.
Pray for the clerk at the department store or the waitress at your favorite restaurant.
Pray for the man at the doctor’s office when you overheard he’s just been told he has a terminal illness.
Scan the newspaper and pray for comfort for the families of those who have recently passed away.
Pray for those in jails and prisons.
Pray for those in drug treatment facilities attempting to overcome addictions.
To this day, I still hear the story from the time I was a little girl and despised one of my chores – weeding the garden.
My mom tells of how she would ask me to please weed between the corn rows of our sizeable garden. I found the request difficult to digest. It was a gorgeous summer day – perfect for playing volleyball or running through the sprinkler. And I had to weed the garden?
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mind helping my parents and doing chores. But weeding?
An hour after I was assigned the task, my mom came outside to find me just how she had left me. “PENNY ANN!” she said sternly, causing me to jump. I had been sitting there, my little blond head tilted back and my face turned heavenward. My legs were crossed and I lounged between the tall corn rows while daydreaming about stories I would write.
My mom was further disturbed when she realized I’d not pulled a single weed. I have to admit this was neither the first nor the last time this happened.
Fast forward and today one of my most favorite pastimes is gardening. Being outside in God’s creation and admiring His handiwork brings joy to my soul and makes any day happier. I take pride in keeping my flowerbeds weed free (or almost!) I also harbor an addiction to trees.
My mom still laughs at the 180-degree change in me.
And in all these years of enjoying gardening, I have learned the following lessons from one of my favorite past-times:
1. The change in me from the days of daydreaming amongst the corn rows rather than weeding to now tackling the obnoxious weeds with zest reminds me of the change that comes over us when we become a child of God. That gift of salvation, that indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that passion to live for Him. He changes us from the inside out, making us more like Him, as we surrender our lives, our hearts, and our minds to Him.
2. Being without Him is much like a weed growing aimlessly for no real purpose. Growing in Him is much like the tall proud corn stalks with their faces lifted toward heaven.
3. Our eyes can barely behold the beauty, at times, of God’s creation. Whether it be the finely formed hands and feet of a newborn baby, the vibrant smiles of those we love most, the delicate petals of our favorite flower, the rugged mountain peaks, or the vast ocean, God is a master artist. He tells us in Romans 1:20 that we are without excuse when it comes to believing in God based on what we see around us.
The squeal of a toddler, the soft wings of a butterfly, the shimmering leaves on a tree, and the fierce sound of thunder do not come by accident. There is a Hand that creates all of those things and more. Just being present in nature is enough proof of His skilled hand.
4. There will always be weeds. And there will always be “weedy” people. You know the type: difficult to get along with, harsh, unkind, selfish. The best remedy for dealing with the “weedy” people is praying for them. Tough, but it’s the best solution, not only because the Bible commands us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), but also because it’s difficult to be angry with someone when we’re actively praying for them.
Today, as I spend time tending to my flowers and trees, I’m reminded of those lessons. Thank You, Lord, for drawing us to You. May we always continue to grow in You and impact others for Your glory.
Thank you for stopping by!Before you go, check out these other posts:
Marriage can be tough. It is purely by the grace of God that two completely different people with different pasts can come together, warts and all, and share a love that spans a lifetime.
While no marriage is perfect, we can do our best to be a half of a marriage that honors God and sets a good example for our children. It has been said that our daughters will emulate us as wives when they themselves marry and that they will choose husbands with similar character traits as their dads. The same is true for our sons, who look to their dads for an example of what a man should be in his role as a husband; and at moms for what type of wife they will seek.
So how can we show our children an example of a marriage worth mirroring?
Spend time together. Set aside the first 15 minutes when your spouse arrives home from work (or you, if you arrive after your spouse) to greet each other, talk about your day, and connect. Yes, there are a million other things that will be vying for your attention, but making your spouse a priority is critical.
Spend time in the Word as a couple. To do so in our busy world, we have to be intentional. Set aside time to pray together and seek to know the Lord better through reading the Bible.
Put your spouse before yourself. A fun article depicting a couple who celebrated their 85th wedding anniversary in 2020 and is likely the longest married couple in America, discusses the importance of spending time together participating in the favorite interests of the other spouse. Husband Ralph states in the article that “Dorothy loves ballroom dancing and I loved to shoot clay targets…I joined her with ballroom dancing and she joined me with trap shooting.”
Deal with conflict appropriately.Conflict, grudges, irritation, differing ideas, disagreements…and the list goes on. While we may have a lot in common with our spouse, we aren’t them and they aren’t us. When conflict arises – and it will – we need to deal with it appropriately. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold”.
Be kind. Matthew 7:12 applies heartily to marriages. Treat your spouse as you would like to be treated.
Serve your spouse. There are a million little ways we can serve our spouse that make a huge impact.
Make building a strong marriage a priority.
Another area where our kids will imitate us is in how we react when someone wrongs us.
This is a tough one. No one can sail through life without painful relationships, broken friendships, and just plain crossing the paths of mean people. Hurts happen, and how we respond when someone has wronged us is another area where our children are watching us to see how we respond.
Do we respond in kind? Do we hide our pain? Do we get defensive and seek revenge? Do we ignore the offending party?
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. There will be those times when we aren’t able to live at peace with someone and the best we can do is to distance ourselves from that person and continue to pray for them.
However, for those other times (which should be in the majority), our children are watching to see if we react with forgiveness, seeking reconciliation if possible, and remembering that we are called to imitate Christ in our actions (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Do we respond in humility? Ask for forgiveness when we are in the wrong?
None of these proper responses is possible without the help of the Holy Spirit. In our fallen natures, it’s much easier to take a different route of bitterness, unrighteous anger, and gossip.
Our children will imitate how we respond with someone who hurt us the next time someone hurts them.
Please join me next time for our final segment in this series where I’ll be discussing how our children mimic our healthy habits (or lack thereof) and how we respond during trials.
Years ago when our daughters were toddlers, my husband Lon and I took them to the park for a free special event. We arrived early and while the event’s coordinators were setting up bouncy houses and other kid-friendly stations, we milled around the extensive local park. Seeing that they had already started the barbecue with hot dogs, chips, and pop, we stood in line and waited our turn.
When we arrived at the front of the line, one of the men grilling the hot dogs mentioned that he didn’t realize we worked for such-and-such company. Lon and I looked at each other before I asked, “such-and-such company?”
“Yes,” the man said. “This is a private employee picnic for those who work at the company.”
Lon and I quickly escaped the line, our faces red with embarrassment, as we apologized to our disappointed little girls.
Sometimes things are not obvious. It wasn’t obvious to us that day that this was a private picnic, plopped in the middle of the area where the free special event would take place.
And so it is with false teaching of the Bible. Sometimes it’s not easy to discern when it is plopped in the center of an otherwise Biblical-sounding sermon or podcast. Sometimes otherwise good teaching is interspersed with falsehoods or even heresy. That’s when we need to be on our guard the most.
So how do we spot false teaching?
By praying for discernment. There is no doubt that discernment can be difficult, which is why we should pray often that God would give us the wisdom to spot untruths. Some pastors and Bible teachers have a knack for being convincing or saying just enough good stuff to sound legit. Or their method of delivery is so passionate and persuasive that their audience can’t help but believe what they say.
By being in the Word often. We cannot filter the truth from the false without knowing what the Truth is. We can’t know what the Truth is if we never study it. Plan to not only open your Bible, but to study it. Read the commentary. Pray for guidance as you seek to understand.
By seeking godly wisdom from mentors. God has blessed me with three godly mentors in my life. They have spent countless hours discipling me, answering my questions, and guiding me through rough times. It’s important to have at least one trusted mentor who is a mature Christian.
A friend at church told me that he once heard that we all need someone discipling us who is more advanced in their Christian walk than we are, and that we ought to be discipling someone who is a newer Believer. I agree. Mentors can be found at church, in Bible studies, and can be family members, friends, or those with a ministry. One of my favorite things about our church’s Sunday school class is listening to the wisdom shared by several of the attendees – most of whom are mature Christians and are old enough to be at least my parents, if not my grandparents.
By holding everything to the Word of God. My daughters and I have discussed often that everyone has an opinion and that there are gazillion ideas from all sorts of people in all sorts of media platforms. Pick up a book, turn on the TV, listen to a podcast, chat with a friend, hang out on social media…and you’ll discover a wide range of ideas and “true facts”. The only true Truth Meter we have is the Word of God. We need to hold everything up to it and see whether it aligns.
By becoming a researcher. No matter who is preaching, whether you are sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, listening to a podcast in the comfort of your living room, or watching “virtual” church, take a minute to “fact check” the pastor or Bible teacher. A quick internet research can give you some insight as to what the teacher believes, what their statement of faith consists of, and possibly other information that can help you discern whether or not they are on the right track.
Some people will say that if the teaching is mostly good, then there’s nothing wrong if one or two things aren’t. I would respectfully disagree. For one, a little bit of falsity contaminates the entire message. Secondly, for the one leading the teaching, while some listeners might be more discerning that others, some will stumble. The Bible is clear about causing people to stumble.
Case in point: I recently listened to a sermon that was good. Yet, toward the end, the pastor highlighted a story from a popular website that is widely known for its unbiblical teaching. While there are some articles on this website that are “decent,” most of them are not (and I personally do not think it is a website for Bible-believing Christians to take their information from). So to quote this website could quite possibly have caused many in his listening audience to stumble. They may go to this website, trusting that it’s okay because the pastor mentioned a story from it. He may know that not all the stories on it are in alignment with God’s Word and can pick and choose with discernment, but to the average believer, or maybe even an unbeliever listening to his sermon, this might not be the case. We have to be careful not to cause others to stumble.
False teaching can be difficult to pinpoint, but with prayer, using the Bible as the only Truth meter, doing some research, and by enlisting the help of godly mentors, we can learn to test everything and hold fast to what is good.
At the beginning of every New Year, many make resolutions that they aim to keep throughout the year. Decisions to make them healthier, fitter, more organized, etc.
In the classic 80s song “New Attitude“, Patti LaBelle sings of starting a new beginning with a new attitude “from [her] head to [her] shoes.” Every time I hear that song, it brings to mind a crabby lady in need of a personality overhaul.
But what about a new beginning in Christ?
At any time of the year?
Paul in the Bible received a new beginning – a “start over”, if you will. A harsh man who made it his life’s goal to persecute Christians, Paul was the furthest thing from one who could be used effectively by God. Wasn’t he?
On the contrary. God used Paul in a mighty way. After Paul’s conversion, he was one of the greatest apostles who ever lived. He endured beatings and spent much time in prison for the sake of the Gospel.
Could you be used for God’s Kingdom?
Probably not if you have a “checkered” past, right? If you’ve done things you’re not proud of, sinned in ways you don’t care to admit, you certainly can’t be used. And definitely, God isn’t going to forgive you for all of those things you did. After all, we’re not talking “minor” sins here.
Again, on the contrary.
God can and will use you, no matter what you have done or who you have been.
We serve a God who is One of second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances. Jesus took all of our sins, past and present, upon Himself when He went to the Cross. Your new beginning means your dry erase board is wiped clean from all of the junk that once cluttered it.
After you have made a decision for Christ, you are forgiven. You have a new beginning. You also have eternal life and will spend eternity with Him. Nothing can ever take you from His hand (John 10:28). But it doesn’t stop there. Find a Bible-based church where the pastor digs into the Word and preaches it each week. Find a mature Christian to mentor you in your walk.
Spend time in the Bible. The Old Testament is wonderful, and I would highly recommend reading it, but as a new believer, the best place to start is in the New Testament in the Book of John.
Turn your eyes toward Him. Listen and watch things that aren’t contrary to your new faith.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).
This year, spend time in prayer to dedicate your life to a new beginning for Christ. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “the old is gone, the new is here.” And that is definitely something to celebrate!
While foreign missions are an exciting and valuable way to fulfill The Great Commission, we don’t have to go far to make an impact. All that most of us have to do to be in the mission field is to step outside our front door.
We as Believers are all missionaries when we spread the Gospel, whether by actions, words, deeds, or a combination of all three. It has been said that we could be the only Jesus that some people see.
Thought-provoking. Humbling. And something that should spur us on with a vigor to share the Good News about our Savior.
So how are we using our influence?
And yes, we all have influence.
If you are a parent, grandparent, employer, employee, pastor, author, speaker, grocery shopper, neighbor, singer, actor, business owner, medical professional, patient, teacher, student, blogger, or a social media user, you have a platform and a sphere of influence.
Everyone can make a difference for the Lord. We just have to be mindful of our actions, words, and deeds. Here are a few examples:
The parent. Raising children is one of the most important responsibilities we parents will be entrusted with. And the most important thing about raising them? Teaching them about the Lord and praying that they will surrender their lives to Christ. Each day, we set examples for them. Do they see us reading the Bible? Making church a priority? Praying often? Helping those in need? Do we read the Bible to them on a regular basis, or if they are older, spend time reading and studying the Bible with them?
The grandparent. Grandparents, you truly have no idea the impact you make on your grandchildren. Even if they don’t live nearby, you can still exhibit a heart for God. Sharing your testimony, reminding them of His love for them, texting Bible verses, and being there to talk through the tough times are just a few ways to encourage your grandchild in the Lord.
The employer. As an employer, you can show the love of Christ by being an honorable boss who makes your employees a priority.
The employee. Bosses know when they have an employee who stands out from the rest. Being reliable, punctual, dependable, loyal, and with a good work ethic can go a long way. Yes, a nonbeliever can have those traits as well, but as Christians, we should exemplify them. Do you stand out from the other employees? Are you the one who doesn’t resort to swear words or hateful rhetoric? Who takes pride in your duties, no matter what they are?
The pastor. Pastors, a majority of the people in your congregation on Sunday only hear about Jesus on that day during your sermon. Are you using that time wisely, to carefully explore the Bible in a way that pleases God? Or are you using those few precious moments for other less important matters or to further your own agenda?
The author/writer. Authors and writers, you have an invaluable platform. The written word reaches hearts and minds in a way that the spoken word can’t often do. You don’t have to write Christian novels to have an effect on your readers. Your bio and the things that matter to you are impactful.
The medical professional. Healthcare professionals who are Christians approach things from a different perspective. You have the awesome opportunity to pray for (and with if they are agreeable) your patients, to offer reassurance, and your calming presence can do wonders for someone undergoing a medical procedure or one who is scared about a painful diagnosis.
The patient. On the flipside of the medical professional is the patient. My mom has multiple health issues and is confined to a wheelchair. The chronic pain she experiences on a constant basis is often unmanageable. Yet, I have never seen anyone so strong in her faith, and that faith doesn’t stop when she visits the doctor. She has offered to pray for medical professionals (not one has turned her down), has asked them to join her in prayer when she’s about to undergo an excruciating procedure, and has praised the Lord for His goodness in their presence. Will my mom ever be able to do the things she once was able to do before an accident changed her life forever? No. But God is using her to make a mighty difference.
The blogger/social media user. Bloggers and social media users, we have a huge platform for the Lord! Where else can we share the love of Christ to people in multiple nations around the world? While not every post or update needs to be a Bible verse, (I blog on many other items including writing, homeschooling, humor, and movie reviews) our words can encourage someone having a difficult day or shine Christ’s light.
Realize your influence. Whether by visiting with the grocery store clerk and inviting her to church or as an employer treating your employees differently than the worldly employer, you can be the Jesus people see.
No, we won’t do this perfectly. Of this I can personally assure you. But with the Lord’s help, we can seek to share the love of Jesus and the life-giving Gospel no matter what our occupation or role in life.
Numerous verses from God’s Word serve as reminders of His steadfast comfort. Rest in Him today and be reminded He is there for us no matter what we are going through, and He is there to comfort us in those challenging moments life tosses our way.
Before you go, check out these other posts on this blog:
I recently heard someone say that they’ve experienced the thirty-day trial of 2021 and they’d like a refund.
The world has changed so rapidly in the past year. It is cause for concern, fear, and even grief, as we ponder the effects of those changes not only on ourselves, but also on our children and grandchildren. Our nation has been transformed in ways we don’t recognize and never thought possible – or at least never thought possible -in such a short amount of time. Things are chaotic, tumultuous, and turbulent.
For survivors of 2020, 2021 has started out much the same, and the struggle to put one foot in front of the other and forge ahead can be a challenge.
What can we do when things seem out of control? Here are some suggestions:
Pray often. Prayer is critical, and not a once-a-day event. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to “pray without ceasing”. The good news is that God is available to hear those prayers 24/7 without fail.
Immerse yourself in the Bible and hide His Word in your heart. If our Bibles were taken from us tomorrow, would we have enough of it hidden in our hearts? What if we made it a goal to dive deeper into the precious words of Scripture more often and more fully than we ever have?
Church is crucial. Fellowship with other believers is essential. Make both a priority.
When things are stressful and unmanageable, focus on God’s promises. (I will be posting another installment of The Scripture Series on God’s Promises in the coming weeks).
Cherish your family members. Love them well, appreciate them, cling to them, and realize they walk through the same challenges in this topsy-turvy world.
Be selective about which headlines and articles you read. Hibernating, avoiding all happenings in the world around us, or playing ostrich is never a good idea. We need to be aware of what is going on in our world, but not take it to the extreme. Read from sources you know are based on honesty, not on an agenda.
In addition, be vigilant about what you allow into your mind. Not everything you read or listen to is true. More importantly, not everything you read or listen to is pleasing to God. Practice discernment.
Engage, but don’t make it an idol. I am a firm believer that Christians should engage in politics. In a world that, among other things, seeks to attack religious liberties and deems the killing of the pre-born acceptable, we need to stand for the right to worship God and for the value of all life. And we need to elect those who will do the same. If something grieves our Heavenly Father, it should grieve us. Contact your local, state, and federal legislators about issues of concern. Run for office. Pray that God would place godly men and women in positions of authority. Just remember not to allow politics to consume you.
Avoid the lure of constant 24/7 social media. While there is nothing wrong with social media (I will be the first to tell you that I love social media and have accounts on several platforms), the key is not to allow it to become an idol or something that takes you away from the important things of life. Checking it a few times a day is fine. Being tethered to it isn’t.
Turn off the cell phone/computer an hour before bedtime. Finish nightly duties, then spend the remainder of your time before bed reading the Bible. I guarantee you will find peace.
Don’t suffer alone. Spend time talking with a mentor – a spiritually mature person who can pray with and for you and help you navigate the ongoings of this chaotic world with a focus on the Lord.
Spend time listening to godly podcasts. Several people have told me in recent weeks that they are hungrier than ever for godly counsel and Bible-based teaching (and many are not getting that need met). Bible-focused podcasts that put God’s Truth above all else provide encouragement and remind us in Whom we place our faith. Again, practice discernment.
Journal your thoughts, worries, and concerns – then turn them over to the Lord.
Take care of yourself. Do your best to eat healthy foods, get sufficient sleep, and find time to exercise. Go outside and soak up sunshine, even on a chilly day. It will do wonders for your mood.
There is hope. Our lives, while affected greatly by the world around us, are not defined by it. Rather, they are defined by the One who holds the seat of highest honor today, tomorrow, and eternally. May we not only continually and permanently fix our eyes on Jesus, but also rest in our Heavenly Father’s arms where peace reigns.