Back to School Prayers

Clogged up parking lots. Fresh, clean backpacks. Crisp new clothes. Sharp pencils. Eager young faces… Yup, it’s back-to-school time!

No matter what form of education you choose for your child—homeschool, private school, or public school—we need to pray diligently through this season of life. The education process is indeed challenging.

I realize that many children are already in school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shift your focus toward school-time prayers!

 

Below are links to some PDFs with prayers for you, your child’s teachers and (of course) your children. Some of you have only one child in these situations,some of you have multiple children. Your child may have special needs. These printables are merely springboards to guide your thoughts. I have made three PDFs; one for homeschoolers, school-aged kids (for public or private school), and college students.

I welcome additional suggestions in the comments below!

For those of you teaching, may the Lord grant you a calm spirit, a heart of patience, and diligent hands. Thank you for your efforts to teach the children entrusted to your care!

For Homeschool, click here.

For School-Aged Kids (Attending Public or Private Schools) click here.

For College Students, click here.

I hope these are beneficial to you!

 

Edify: Building a Strong Generation

This article is part of the series “Raising GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.

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Edify comes from the Greek “oikodomḗ” meaning ‘the act of building.’ We often use this word as a reference to spiritual encouragement. Edification is more than perfunctory praise; it is the endeavor to construct something strong.

To date, we have covered the first 4 E’s of Raising GenNext—Engage, Exemplify, Equip, and Entrust. This next E—Edify—is a critical part of the process. There is nothing worse for a person than to put out the effort to do something challenging, only to be ripped to shreds with the knives of criticism.

The millennial generation stands accused of being coddled with superficial praise. However, I believe that many of them (and other generations) can distinguish between genuine encouragement and false flattery. If we truly want to edify our children, new converts, and current Christians, our encouragement must be authentic and constructiveContinue reading

Entrust: Involving Children in the Important within the church (part 2)

This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.

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image borrowed from greatschools.org

Somewhere in the past, someone concluded the primary reason children were leaving the church was somehow related to it’s boringness. There was a slow movement toward making entertainment more important than education and edification. And yet, in spite of the hyped up programs and entertainment schemes, kids are still exiting the church in droves.

One truth has become abundantly clear: Retainment by entertainment is ineffective.

If we want children and young adults to remain in the body of Christ, they need to be an integral part of it’s work. Continue reading

Do you want your children to follow in your footsteps?

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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Children are keen observers and imitators. Compliant children will try to do what their parents do in order to make them happy. Strong-willed kids amy try to be little rebels, but even they have a tendency to imitate their parents to some degree. They are always watching how we handle our circumstances.

What we do has a greater influence than what we say. Continue reading

Do people see Jesus in your life?

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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The next three posts in this series are going to address the second in ‘E’ in Raising Gen-Next Christians: Exemplify: Demonstrating how a Christian ought to live. Before launching into the mechanics of how to be an example to our children, new Christians and other believers, we need to address who our example ought to be.

Several years ago, there was a commercial on TV in which a young boy was following his father everywhere and attempting to imitate him in every way. Continue reading

Engage: Building Meaningful Relationships with our Children (Raising GenNext)

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Last week I kicked off a series on raising the next generation of Christians. (You can read it here). In this series, we will be covering the 6 E’s of raising Gen-Next Christians: Engage, Exemplify, Equip, Entrust, Edify, and Entreat. Each “E” will contain about 3 articles as we will address raising children, training new Christians, and helping each other grow. Today’s article will cover building relationships with children in our congregations.

A Barna Group study reported in 2013, states, “Seven out of 10 Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly nine out of ten never had a mentor at the church.” Furthermore, they report “Those who stay were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active). The same pattern is evident among more intentional relationships such as mentoring—28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor, compared to 11% of dropouts who say the same.”

As that study indicates, relationships are not a guarantee that children raised by Christians will remain in the church, but it is apparent that meaningful relationships influence that choice. Continue reading

GenNext: Raising up Christians who know the Lord

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STOP! Don’t skip this post—it isn’t just about raising kids!

For the next several weeks, we will be focusing on the importance of equipping children, new Christians, and current Christians to be pivotal members of the body of Christ.

The church is in crisis. The number of people identifying as Christians is dwindling. Pew-warmers seek entertainment, and feel-good messages rather than biblical literacy. Young people are leaving the faith in droves despite targeted “programs.” Church leaders are baffled.  Continue reading

Keep on keepin’ on. (Day #13 of the #encourage marathon)

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“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.”

2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to the halfway point of our #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.) **Please note, there is a typo on your PDF for today’s passage  it should be 2 Thessalonians 3.13 not 5.13**

Someone out there is wondering if all their hard work is worth it. It might even be you!

Do you ever wonder what it was like to be Jesus?

There is an old joke that has floated around for years highlighting the challenge of teaching:

Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain and gathered them around him. And he taught them, saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who are persecuted. Blessed are those who suffer. When these things happen, rejoice, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

And Simon Peter said, “Do we have to write this down?”

And Phillip said “Is this going to be on the test?”

And John said, “Would you repeat that, slower?”

And Andrew said, “John the Baptist’s disciples don’t have to learn this stuff.”

And Matthew said, “Huh?”

And Judas said, “What’s this got to do with real life?”

And then one of the Pharisees, an expert in law, said, “I don’t see any of this in your syllabus. Do you have a lesson plan? Where’s the student guide? Will there be a follow-up assignment?”

And Thomas, who had missed the sermon, came to Jesus privately and said, “Did we do anything important today?”

And Jesus wept.

It’s funny because students actually say those things and Jesus’ disciples were known for missing the mark a few times.

I can only guess how frustrating it must have been for Jesus to teach his disciples for three years, only to have them say things like, ‘what’s going to happen to this disciple?’ or ‘Are you now going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ or ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’

I can’t fathom his disappointment in their lack of faith, their shortsightedness, and their forgetfulness. It could be one of things he prayed about so often. Parents who teach their children about good behavior, good habits and manners feel a similar frustration when their kids repeatedly fail to adhere to what they’ve been taught.

Are these efforts futile? Not in the least!

Of the 12 apostles, only one went rotten and betrayed him. The other eleven committed their lives to Christ—preaching the gospel, teaching the church, and remaining steadfast in suffering and death. During Jesus’ life, it seemed as though they would never get it right, but the teaching and training obviously stuck.

Likewise, as a parent, the training is a constant effort involving relentless repetition and consistency. It may appear to be futile at the moment, but someday it’ll sink in! Before you know it, they’ll be responsible adults. There is always the possibility that they’ll choose to ignore your teaching (that’s called free will, by the way), but your job is to keep on teaching and to pray earnestly for them.

In whatever way you serve—parent, teacher, preacher, elder, deacon, mentor, friend—do not grow weary in doing good. Remember that you are working for the Lord who will not despise your obedient effort. We may or may not get to see the fruit of our labor a here in this life, but we will see it in the next.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

~ Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Keep on keepin’ on. It’ll all be worth it someday.


I hope you’ll continue to join me on Facebook, Twitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share the image or verse reference on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

Make a little time each day to write down these verses. Studies have shown that the physical act of writing increases retention far more than typing or reading. When I was in college, I used to recopy my notes—cleaning them up, adding things I remembered, and placing emphasis on important facts. Because of this effort, I rarely had to cram for midterms or finals. I encourage you to make a practice of copying Bible verses, it really does help in the effort of committing the word to memory.

[If you click on the link in the passage at the top of the post, it will take you to BibleGateway.com. From here, you can click a link which allows you to share directly to Twitter, Facebook or send an email.]

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.

7 Marriage Principles We Should Teach Our Children

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Many parents squirm over the prospect of their children dating and marrying—and for good reason. We who have been through that stage of life are well-acquainted with the pitfalls, dangers and temptations. We have observed (or experienced) them and are more than a little reluctant to let our kids face that particular gauntlet.

Because we live in a society in which people choose their marriage partner, it is absolutely vital that we actively teach our children what marriage is and what to look for in a spouse.

#1: Dating/courtship is for the purpose of finding the right person to marry.

Dating/courtship is a vetting process like a job interview. Get character references (not necessarily in writing), get to know that person’s friends, learn how they behave in various situations. We need to remind our children that when they date someone, they need to closely examine that person’s character:

1. Do you they walk with the Lord or do they merely go through the motions?

2. Do they anger easily?

3. Do they have emotional imbalances?

4. How does a man treat his mother? How does a girl treat her father? Odds are they will treat you the same way after you are married.

4. Do they give in to vices—drugs, gambling, overeating, overspending, alcohol, etc.?

5. Are they lazy or hardworking?

6. Do they treat you respectfully or try to lead you into temptation?

7. Are they willing to wait until marriage to have physical intimacy?

Teach your kids these principles in any conversation about potential dating prospects. I saw an example recently in which a mother told her daughter to insert her boyfriend’s name in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 and determine whether he possessed some of the attributes (patient, kind etcetera). It was an eye opener for the young girl!

#2: Marry a true fellow Christian.

I am certain there will be many who disagree with me on this one.

I have seen 3 cases in which an unbelieving spouse turns toward Christ and becomes a strong, dedicated Christian. It is possible—all things are with God. However, it is a phenomenal risk. Do you really want to place the spiritual future of your unborn children on the line?

Another thought: it is much easier to pull someone down than to lift somebody up. The relationship between a husband and wife is one of the strongest, most intimate earthly bonds. How can two walk together unless they are agreed? You will each keep trying to pull one another down disparate paths, leading to contention, separation, or one side caving to the other. I don’t care how strong you think you are, you set yourself up for a troublesome path if you choose to marry someone who doesn’t love the Lord.

Lastly, just because someone says they are a Christian does not mean they live like one. Observe their conduct both in worship and when surrounded by worldly people.

#3: Marriage is a lifelong commitment.

Our society has been eroding this concept for decades. The homosexuals didn’t destroy marriage; heterosexual married couples beat them to it. Divorce rates have been high since the 1970’s, with the result that marriage is—to quote Mary Poppins—a “pie crust promise, easily made, easily broken.”

Emphasize the importance of commitment to your kids. If your children promise to do something—no matter how small—hold them to it! If they fail to keep appointments, show up for jobs, fulfill agreements  etc, let them suffer the consequences. If they learn to be committed to their word, they will carry this over into their married life.

#4: Husbands should love their wives.

Duh.

This may seem obvious, but it’s often neglected.

Husbands, take the initiative to set up a date night with your wife away from the house. Show your wife affection in front of your children. I’m not suggesting that you be inappropriate about it, just give her small tokens of affection such as coming up behind your wife to give her a hug, holding her hand when you’re out walking, opening the car door for her when you get ready to leave, or  giving her a kiss whenever you part from each other. Women crave romance and affection, no matter what their love language might be. Random acts of romance are great too!

One last thing: praise her often, especially in front of the kids. They need to see that their mother is cherished and appreciated by their father so they will model it in their own relationships. They need to know that women are not doormats, nor are they goddesses—they are a valued partner in the marriage relationship and ought to be treated as such.

#5: Wives should respect their husbands.

I was surprised to learn that Aretha Franklin’s hit song “Respect” was written by Otis Redding—a man. It wasn’t meant to be a feminist mantra; it was a husband’s plea to his wife!

Just as women crave affection, men long for respect. Our culture has gone out of it’s way to demean men in an effort to promote women. This isn’t equality, folks, it’s selfishness. Why do you have to tear someone else down in an effort to build yourself up? Men should show respect to their wives, but wives should also respect their husbands.

Wives, do NOT demean your husband behind his back or to his face. Speak civilly in front of the children. Find the good that he does and praise him behind his back and to his face. Ask his honest opinion and consider it without rolling your eyes. Build him up, don’t tear him down. This makes a huge difference for your children as well. If a wife disrespects her husband, the kids will also disrespect him. If there is really something irritating you, take it first to the Lord in prayer and then communicate it to your husband privately once you’ve considered the best way to approach it.

#6: Married couples should be a team.

I think two of my three children have tried the “daddy-said-no-so-ask-mommy” routine (or vice versa) at least once. They quickly learned to discard this tactic. If we disagree about something with the kids, we do it behind closed doors. In front of the kids, we are a united front. They’ve learned that we aren’t to be manipulated or turned against each other.

#7: Married couples may disagree, but they do it respectfully.

Have discussions, not arguments in front of your children. I’ve heard people say that kids should see married couples argue so they know that “it happens” and doesn’t mean the marriage is over. I’m not so sure about that. I recommend discussing things (in a civil manner) in front of the kids. Children should see that spouses disagree (it’s reality), but that it can be done without resorting to anger. (Remember:  don’t argue about your kids in front of your kids—keep those discussions private!)


We cannot force our children to choose good partners or to have good marriages. Even in good marriages, there may come a time in which one spouse is lead away by temptation or crumbles under pressure.

Here is what we can do: 

  1. Pray for your child’s future spouse—daily.
  2. Actively teach these principles
  3. Be an example of the above principles!

What if I’m a single parent?

If you are widowed with children at home, you have a challenging job dealing with grief and caring for children. Pray diligently! Seek out families with good parents that your children can spend time with so they can observe good marriages. If you choose to remarry, tread carefully and make sure to do your due diligence in researching that person.

If you are divorced, you have a tough mountain to climb, depending on the age and maturity of your child. Don’t spend all your time running down your ex. You cannot control that person or what they say; you can only control what you do with the time you have with your child. Love them, teach them, and point out the pitfalls of divorce—they see it firsthand though they may not grasp it. Be an example of steadiness and stability. Above all, pray ceaselessly for your children—divorce is hard for them to handle too!

If we want to see stronger marriages, we need to start by strengthening our own and teaching our children these principles.

What marriage principles are you teaching your children? What would you add to the list?

4 things to do before age 60

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”

~ Ecclesiastes 12.1, ESV

 

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When we are young, we think we have an abundance of time. After all, our parents and teachers tell us, “there’ll be time for that later,” or “not until your older.” We spend the first 18-20 years of our lives waiting until we are “older” to “do” things.

There is one thing we should never put off: serving God.

I remember asking my father if his hospice patients (those who were not Christians) tried turning to God near the end. They had lived their lives the way they had wanted—perhaps profligately—and now, with death staring them in the face, surely they’d want to make a change. He looked rather sadly at me and replied, “Once people get to that age, they’ve resisted God for so long that they have lost all desire for Him. Deathbed conversions occur once in great awhile, but it’s far more rare than it is common.”

It was an eye-opening statement, and one that has remained planted in my mind. We need to fix our desires, mindsets and habits now, before we do not have strength.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. 

By youth I mean anyone who is under the age of 60 not plagued by dementia or alzheimer’s. Even 70, if you’re still in great shape. Just because a child is 1 or 2, doesn’t mean you can’t start teaching them about God. Today is all we’ve got—make the most of it. I have sadly heard too many parents put off “church-going” because they think their kids won’t remember or “they’re too young.” They are more aware than you realize.

So, while we are still “young” we need to work on the following:

#1: Practice Forgiveness.

This should be a top priority. As I mention in this post on forgiveness, failure to forgive results in firmly rooted bitterness. We need to emulate Christ who forgave even his torturers. He also forgave us.

#2: Meditate on the Word.

Daily.

Don’t rely on Sunday sermons to fill you for an entire week. Even reading once a day isn’t meditation.

Meditating is not simply reading the Bible—it’s reading and pondering.

Here are three different ways to meditate on the Word:

  1. writing: keep a journal.
  2. walking alone: Some of the best thoughts come to me on my walks when I have time to think about passages I’ve read and sermons I’ve heard.
  3. talking with Christians: I love those kindred spirits who happily discuss biblical topics with me and allow me to think things through with them out loud.

#3: Pray Daily.

Again—daily. Multiple times per day.

If you are not in the habit of praying, start with meal-time prayers. After you get that set in place, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier get out of bed (this is important so you don’t fall back asleep) set the timer for 10 minutes and pray. After awhile, you may discover that 10 minutes isn’t enough!

Having regular communication with God while young will give us a stronger connection with him when we are old.

#4: Cultivate Joy.

This is one of my biggest challenges, especially as someone who is inclined to be a “brooding Irish” type. Joy does not equal happiness. Happiness is a momentary feeling swayed by circumstance; joy is a determined attitude.

There’s a few things involved in getting a joyful attitude:

  1. Know your home.
    This life overflows with uncontrollable circumstance. All that waffle about being the “captain of your destiny” is absolute rubbish. Most concentration camp survivors will tell you they couldn’t get out by their own power. A few succeeded in escaping, but most were stuck, plagued by illness or simply too helpless. The only thing you can control is your own mind. Knowing that there is an eternal home beyond the vicissitudes of earth is a source of joy for the Christian. We look to what Shakespeare calls, “The Undiscovered Country.” I long for that country which has been discovered by my brothers and sisters in the Lord who have gone on before me.
  2. Refocus the mind.
    If you are a long-time reader, you know that I have dealt with depression for many years (you can read more here). I still do. It is a daily fight to stay upbeat. I’m not always strong enough to keep my head above water, but God is! When this mess called life begins to weigh on my heart I have to recenter myself and focus my thoughts on what I know to be true.

    This is my constant aim:

    Finally, brethren,
    whatever is true,
    whatever is honorable,
    whatever is right,
    whatever is pure,
    whatever is lovely,
    whatever is of good repute,
    if there is any excellence
    and if anything worthy of praise,
    dwell on these things.

    The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    ~Phillipians 4.8-9, NASB

    Bring the mind back into focus. Let it dwell on the things listed above. For more on this, read here.

  3. Pray.
    As I mentioned in the previous point, I know I’m not strong enough to fight the weight of the world. I need help. Only God is powerful enough to pull me out of the stormy ocean of emotion and circumstance. Fix your eyes on Him. I have always treasured the account of Peter stepping out on the water toward Jesus. He walked on the water (which is physically impossible) as He looked toward Jesus. As soon as He took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the raging waters he sank like a lead weight. What did he do? He cried out to the one who could save him—and Jesus reached out and pulled him to safety. You can read the full account here in Matthew 14.

    When life threatens to crush your joy, cry out to God. He will lift you up.

Serve God today while you still have breath and mental clarity. For while there is life, there is hope.