Breathe: Give Us This Day

ROBIN STEVENS|GUEST “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). My kids love for me to tell the story about the time I stole another girl’s lunch money in 4th grade. They’ve heard it many times, but never fail to ask, “Why, mom? What made you want to take her money?” The truth is, I don’t even know! I remember her showing the whole class her new wallet. I remember the teacher sending us all to the bathroom right before lunch to wash our hands. I remember coming back and passing the girl’s desk, where her wallet was sitting on the corner. And I remember the urge to steal it coming over me, so I quickly slipped it into my pocket. I didn’t need this girl’s money; my parents gave me my own lunch money every day. And even though I no longer feel the urge to steal anyone’s money, I do feel the urge to look around me at what others have and want them for myself, despite the fact that God has never once withheld any need from my life. God’s Gracious Provision When I was growing up, my parents made sure we had everything we needed and more, even though we lived on a teacher’s and a secretary’s salaries. When I graduated from high school, I received a gift that enabled me to attend college at almost no cost. When my husband and I decided to get married in three months’ time, I was able to find everything we needed for the wedding without any compromises. When my husband went to graduate school and we had two very small children, we were able to pay for his classes and still have me stay home with the kids thanks to some money willed to us by a family member. When my husband broke his leg and was wheelchair bound for eight weeks, friends and family came out of the woodwork to help us. And when we discovered our home had been eaten up by termites, we were able to pay for all the damage to be repaired, thanks to the generosity of a friend. I could go on and on, citing numerous ways God has provided for us over the years from “We have some leftover pizzas; would your family like to take a couple home?” to “I know you’re without a vehicle right now. We don’t need this van anymore; take it for a very small fee.”  The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy (Ps. 126:3)...

Breathe: Give Us This Day2022-06-21T14:58:57+00:00

Breathe: Thy Kingdom Come

CHERYL MULLIS|GUEST Today was one of those picture-perfect days. Blue skies. White fluffy clouds. Bright sun. What a welcome change after several days of rain! The colorful flowers, gentle breeze, and vibrant sunshine filled my heart with gladness. It wasn’t long, though, before my gaze zoomed in on the weeds that had grown during the recent rainy days. In a moment, my grateful heart turned to a grumbling heart. Sadly, those weeds stole my attention and robbed my joy. Without a second thought I began to reorder the priorities of the day. Pulling out those weeds moved to the top of the list. But then an amazing thing happened. The heat of the sun beat down on me and I had to move my chair under the shade of the trees. From this new perspective, my gaze shifted from the weeds to the flower beds that my husband lovingly tended throughout the spring. In an instant, my perspective—and priorities—changed. My heart was filled with gratitude once again.  A Sovereign King  How quickly my focus shifts! One moment I am worshiping and praising God, creator of the universe, sovereign King over all, and then the next moment I am laser focused on myself and the weeds that entangle my life.   Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:10, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, make it clear that there is a sovereign King who rules His kingdom and accomplishes His purposes. And believe it or not this King is not me, or you. Often, I live my life as if I am in control. My will clashes with God’s will. There is a tug of war going on for control of my heart and life. What will it take for me to dethrone myself and acknowledge Jesus as the sovereign King over all? ...

Breathe: Thy Kingdom Come2022-06-13T13:42:52+00:00

Breathe: Honor His Name as Holy

MELANIE COGDILL|GUEST “OMG!” We have all seen that meme. It’s the ubiquitous cultural phrase to describe our shock or surprise and of course we say it means, “Oh, my goodness” or “Oh, my gosh.” But those are really replacement words for the casual use of God’s name in what is an expletive phrase or profane acronym that everyone (including many Christians) just tosses off casually or chuckles at. Christians do not consider regularly how they are to think about the name of God and how Scripture commands us to regard His name. A Name Worthy of Honor In Matthew 6 Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray in the Sermon on the Mount. He has just finished saying that God is to be addressed as Father—God is personal and intimately cares about His children. Jesus then goes on to say, “Hallowed be your name.” What is a name? A name describes a characteristic of the person, creature, or thing that bears a particular name. We choose names carefully whether it’s for a building, a beloved pet, or a newborn baby. Jesus is saying that the very name of God is to be hallowed—honored as holy...

Breathe: Honor His Name as Holy2022-06-13T13:52:50+00:00

Breathe: Our Father in Heaven

CHANDRA OLIVER|GUEST Heidelberg Catechism Question 120:  Why did Christ command us to call God “Our Father”? Answer:  At the very beginning of our prayer Christ wants to kindle in us what is basic to our prayer – the childlike awe and trust that God through Christ has become our Father… Over the years I have come to appreciate a well-crafted layer cake.  Looking at a frosted and decorated tower of yummy goodness is a stunning feast for the eyes.  Cutting into this tower reveals the layers; what was hidden by frosting is now on display.  Perhaps there are two, three, or maybe six layers!  The layers may be familiar flavors or something unexpected.  Additionally, the layers may be separated by any number of different fillings.  I can’t wait to taste these layers—individually and collectively. Approaching the first two words of what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer, is like approaching a layer cake.  Initially, we are familiar with the words and the background of the passage—but as we begin to ‘dig in’ the layers are revealed, and each layer enhances our understanding and love for the whole...

Breathe: Our Father in Heaven2022-06-09T18:27:21+00:00

Breathe: The School of Prayer

KAREN HODGE|CONTRIBUTOR Take a deep breath and exhale; refreshing, right? Breathing is very complex but is primarily a subconscious activity. Did you know an average person breathes in and out around 22,000 times a day? Oxygen is the body's life-giving gas. It is crucial to help boost our immune system and overall health. Our sensitive brains require lots of oxygen to think. Concentrating can be hard when our oxygen levels dip, and we get lightheaded. We often don't think about breathing until we can't catch our breath. Our family recently relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado. My home sits up at 7400 ft. The view of Pikes Peak is spectacular, but the air is a bit thin. I have struggled to breathe. My personal takeaway is this: breathing is essential. It is a matter of life and death. Learning to Breathe There is a danger in familiarity. This is especially true in our spiritual lives. We may become casual in our relationship with God, taking His presence for granted. Martin Luther said, "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." [1]Prayer is a lifeline for believers. It is the life-giving means God designed to build our relationship with Him and others. He created it to be an ongoing conversation which begins with His speaking to us through His Word and continues with our responding to Him in prayer. It would be ridiculous to think you would only need to breathe one hour, one day a week. Paul admonished us to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess.5:17). Prayer ought to be the natural overflow of our time in Scripture. These means of grace are as inextricably entwined as breathing in and breathing out. Cutting off these vital lifelines means we are more susceptible to the father of lies' schemes. But the good news is when we are in trouble, God is only a prayer away. We need only to cry out, "Help, Father!" Spiritual vitality begins with inhaling truth and exhaling prayers...

Breathe: The School of Prayer2022-06-09T18:17:14+00:00

In a Given Day: Giving Praise to the Giver of Days

SUSAN PYKE | GUEST What’s in a day? Every life has a first day. I recently witnessed that joyful day in my first grandchild’s life! And we all will have a last day. We can probably describe our happiest day, and our saddest. Days that felt like they would never end, and days that ended much too soon. We are anxious about upcoming days: the scheduled biopsy, a meeting with our child’s teacher, a presentation at work, or the day the rent is due. The simple truth that God gives us each day to live for His glory can quickly get lost in these emotions and anxieties. How can we remember to praise and trust God for today when our minds and hearts are filled with memories from the past and fear about the future? We can find help with this searching question in John 1:1-5. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. With these verses in mind, we can go through our day more intentionally aware of Christ’s love and life for us. In the morning, we remember that Jesus, who was there at the first morning of creation, abides with us today. At mid-day we remember his sacrificial, redeeming love for us. At the close of the day, we see his truth by the light of his life in our darkness. God’s design of the daily rhythm of any given day can remind us to praise the Giver of days.

In a Given Day: Giving Praise to the Giver of Days2022-05-04T00:25:35+00:00

John 14: Trusting the Way, the Truth, and the Life

MARIA CURREY|GUEST “Why do you think God needs you to go and potentially be in harm’s way?” Even while blasting my question, in my mind, I heard myself saying, ‘This is what he has trained his entire life and career to do and be,’ yet, my protective and possessive instincts wanted to keep him home and away from any potential danger. My husband answered me, “I know this is what God wants me to do and the way He is directing me. How about if you go and get alone with Him? Pray, and listen for what He says to you.” A late spring day fifteen years ago that seems like yesterday, the impact no less powerful. I slipped away, my husband more than willing to watch the kids; I thought I was taking myself for a walk, when actually, God directed my steps to a nearby lakeside bench. I cried out audibly to God, “Father, I know in my mind that You called Craig and me to this Army life decades ago and that this is truly his calling— to be a man after your own heart serving in the military. You called me with him to be messengers of Your light and life on this military mission field. But why, at this later point in his career, does he need to go into a completely hot war zone? —when our kids are college bound, eighth grade and fifth grade? They really need their dad! Isn’t there another option?” A selfish, hot explosion of prayer flew into the air. “God, isn’t there another WAY?”

John 14: Trusting the Way, the Truth, and the Life2022-05-04T00:34:51+00:00

Preparing to Meet Jesus

SHARON ROCKWELL|GUEST This summer some young women from my Bible study decided to make the long drive to visit our classmate— a woman who had recently moved out of the county to an assisted living home to be by her daughter. Her health had deteriorated to the point where she could no longer take care of her home or herself. She had been with my small group for many years, and she will be sorely missed when we start up in the fall. We were met with a flood of thankful tears when we arrived. Agnes’ new home was small but decorated with the things she cherished most. Family pictures were hung on the walls, as were a large cross and several plaques with Bible verses that were particularly meaningful to her. On her kitchen table was a large print Bible. I noticed a magnifying glass nearby, along with a pad of paper that was labeled “prayer requests.” After our tour of her new place, Agnes told us the details of her health condition, a recent fall, and the need for her walker now. At lunch, and after she was updated on all our personal news, Agnes asked how she could pray for each of us. She commented that she saw prayer as her only remaining purpose in living. Her body was slowing down, but her prayer life was expanding as she met the people in her new home. Still, she told us change was hard. I first met Agnes (name has been changed) when I randomly sat next to her in a fellowship hall more than ten years ago. She was in her 80’s then and told me this was her fourth time through the Bible series. Clearly, she had trouble seeing the text and hearing our lesson, so I asked her why she wanted to repeat the study again. I will never forget her answer. She said she wanted to be well prepared for when she saw Jesus...

Preparing to Meet Jesus2022-05-04T23:28:54+00:00

From the Basement to the Throne Room: The Power of Hearing Your Name

ALICE KIM|GUEST In the spring of 2020, my parents were planning a road trip from Toronto, Canada to visit me and my family in Virginia. Then COVID-19 suddenly halted their plans, putting an indefinite pause to our reunion. Now, it’s been almost two and a half years since we’ve seen them; we’re still eagerly anticipating their visit. During this in-between time, phone calls and texts serve as substitutes for face-to-face interactions. Memories of my parents   have moved to the forefront of remembrance and reminiscing, including those of my mom and dad praying. My Parent's Prayers After twelve plus hours of being on their feet, preparing meals at their local eatery or punching the cash register at a one-stop convenience store, my mom would prepare one of her go-to, from scratch meals: a Korean stew, a pot of steaming rice, and an assortment of staple side dishes. My dad’s footsteps would echo past the wooden hallway, down into the basement. He would find a spot on the carpet. Without restraint, a roar started from within his chest then reverberated down into his stomach. On his exhale, he cried aloud, “Lord!” “Lord!” “Lord!” in Korean. His pleas of utter dependence were balanced with moments of silence. He made room for tears to express his gratitude and grief. And as his voice carried through the air vents leading up into my room, I laid over the edge of my bed, leaned in with my ear inches away from the ground. I just listened. My mom on the other hand, was less pronounced. I would call out for her, “Umma” and find her in the walk-in closet with her back facing the open doorframe. She didn’t budge and break focus; she continued. The top of her foot and knees kissed the ground as her body rocked rhythmically back and forth. Each word bled into the next and created a harmonious alto hum. If you paid close attention, you could hear the distinct groans, desires, and thanksgivings. Rather than retracing my steps back into the hallway, I lingered. I listened for my name. It’s been a long time since my dad’s booming crescendos and mom’s soft murmurs contributed to my daily concert of background noise, but it doesn’t take much imagination to hear them once again. And when they tell me, “I’m praying for you and your family,” I can see them praying for me as they did when I was a child...

From the Basement to the Throne Room: The Power of Hearing Your Name2022-05-04T23:24:44+00:00

Prayers for Our Children

KATHLEEN NIELSON|GUEST Editor's Note: The following article includes excerpts from Prayers of a Parent (P&R, June 2021), used with permission. Praying for the children of the church is a church-wide job. Congregations often stand up and promise to help parents nurture a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord—and that includes praying for that child. I look back through years of parenting and see the church continually and prayerfully flanking our family, and I thank God for his people all along the way. We believers can help one another in praying for our children. That’s one reason I wrote the volumes of Prayers of a Parent: simply to encourage fellow Christian parents in Bible-based prayers for the various aspects of our children’s lives, in every different stage. I needed that encouragement from others, and still do. We can join our prayers together in a chorus for the generations coming after us. They need our prayers. Shared Words of Prayer Why write down our prayers? I often think of the prophet Hosea’s call to the people of Israel: “Take with you words and return to the Lord” (14:2). It’s easy to pray without giving our full attention. It’s easy for many of us to pray inarticulate prayers that are something like floating clouds of scattered thoughts. Sometimes it’s just a quick, muttered “Thank you” or “Help me,” and God surely hears and understands such prayers. But when we read many of the prayers of Scripture (the psalmists’, for example, or the apostle Paul’s), we learn the beauty of prayers developed in thoughtful, intentional words. Now, we can use Scripture’s prayers to pray; that is one of God’s gracious provisions in his Word. What a gift—perfect words that help and teach us to pray. But the Bible’s prayers also teach us the good pattern of prayer: taking regular time and effort to put the praises and petitions of our hearts into words that we bring into God’s presence, in the name of Jesus our Savior. We can help each other practice this good process, with spoken and written words shaped by his Word. Shared Benefits of Prayer Practicing together this process of articulating prayers, specifically for our children, is good for our children and good for our own souls. Christian parenting, as we all know, involves a lifelong releasing of our children into the hands of our Father in heaven, who made them, knows them, and loves them perfectly. As we offer words of prayer to our Father, our hearts trust him more and more, and our hands loosen their grip to give our children into his perfect providential care. Sharing our prayers is not a quick or casual process. And of course everyone uses words differently; that’s part of the beauty of coming together with diverse voices that blend, instruct, and encourage. The Spirit and the Word bind us together as we pray, because we share faith in the living Lord Jesus who took our sins, died in our place, and rose from the dead, as the Scriptures tell us....

Prayers for Our Children2022-05-04T23:15:46+00:00
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