Preserving the Harvest Through Prayer – A prayer gathering idea

I recently became prayer coordinator for a local Christian women’s organization. As prayer coordinator, I am responsible to  plan monthly small group prayer gatherings or “prayer coffees” where the ladies pray for personal and community needs as well as supporting the larger community luncheon meetings with prayer.

Here is the meeting plan I used for November:

Theme: Harvesttable-setting-and-cake
Decoration ideas:  anything fall that relates to the harvest – apples, pumpkins, home canned goods.

Refreshments

Coffee, assorted teas or cider. Some kind of harvest type food.
I served a vintage apple cake recipe circa 1940 from my aunt called Jewish Apple Cake One of the attendees also brought a great caramel dip for sliced apples or crackers/ pretzels.

mason-jar-prayer-cardPrayer cards:

I made prayer cards which the ladies could use to write down the requests. These cards could be hung on the fridge or slipped into their Bibles – anywhere they would see them often and remember to pray through the month. For this meeting I made the prayer cards in the shape of canning jars about the size od a3x5 index card. One of the ladies jokingly said she needed a quart jar for her requests, rather than a pint sized jar. LOL!

Devotional:

Preserving the Harvest Through Prayer

Let’s do a little word association game today. Think of a one word answer and say the first word that pops into your head

Black Friday.
Crowds.
(Encourage the ladies to share their words and why they chose those words. My ladies associated  “crowds” with an unruly group of fans that recently destroyed property in their excitement following a college football game where their team won.)

Think about those crowds of people. How do you see them? (Greedy, jostling, pushy, impatient, impolite, tired angry, single-minded)

Now, how do you think Jesus sees those same crowds of people?

 Matthew 9:36. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (NIV)

Jesus had compassion on those crowds of people. He looked at them and saw their individual emptiness, their needs, their shame, their hurts. He saw their hearts!

Now think about those crowds of people and look at them the way Jesus did. What do you see now? – a tired mom with a toddler in tow, a dad worried about losing his job before the holidays, a daughter whose mom isn’t expected to make it through the holidays…. They become individual people with needs.

But if we continue to read that passage in Matthew, Jesus saw something else in the crowds.

 Matthew 9: 37 and 38. “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Pray to the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Here he saw more than just a crowd of people, he saw souls that needed to be harvested.

But he also saw something that saddened him – there weren’t enough laborers to gather that harvest so he told his disciples to pray over the harvest that there would be enough workers.

The devotion for today is called Preserving the harvest through prayer. Looking at the home canned food on the table we understand preserving – it’s the process of putting food into jars and preserving it so it lasts until we’re ready to eat it.  (One of my guests suggested that prayer is like the glass jar – it surrounds the person and helps to preserve them as the Lord works in their lives to bring them to himself.)

Prayer is our #1 tool to preserve the harvest! Let’s use it.Here’s several suggestions for usingthe tool of prayer to preserve the harvest:

  1. We can pray  for the individuals in the crowds.
    You might strike up a casual conversation while waiting in line at the check out. Something that is said may give you an inkling into the needs of that person so that you can pray for them.
  2. Blanket the crowd with prayer, targeting issues they may be facing.
    Example – With divorce rates over 50%, there will be at least 5 people out of ten in a room filled with people who have gone through divorce. You can pray for the Lord’s touch on those who have experienced divorce or any other life issue like domestic violence, abuse, etc.
  3. As Jesus directed us, we need to pray that the Lord will send people to minister to the people in the crowds.
  4. This is where it gets personal – Pray that you will have the right words, the right attitude, the compassion of Jesus as you are out in those crowds to be an influence in someone’s life each day!

End in prayer for wisdom and courage to become a prayer warrior and a worker in the harvest field.

Take prayer requests, having the ladies write each one on their prayer card. Take time to pray for each request and remind the ladies to put their prayer card somewhere they will see it often as a reminder to pray.

Please feel free to use this devotional, but if you do, be sure to leave a comment below and let me know how things went!

 

Just for one

Would you still teach Sunday School or Children’s Church if you had only one student?

Many weeks of late I have grappled with this question. I had a class of 5-6 teenagers, but several of them graduated in the last two years until it shrunk to 2 youth. We still have a small handful of children whose mom was their teacher so I stepped back into the elementary age bracket to give her a respite from teaching.

However, I have also been dealing with some physical illness issues for the past two years and trying to keep on teaching each week. Several times I have become discouraged and tempted to give up teaching, but each time I feel a strong nudge from the Spirit of the Lord, urging me to continue – even if there’s only one child there.

I couldn’t understand why I felt so strongly about being there  for those kids. I mean, after all, most people retire to let others take over when they start getting older and especially if they are dealing with illness. But then I read this verse today in my daily devotions:

[ Psalm 116 ] I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:1-2 NIV

All of a sudden it hit me. I don’t want to give up teaching because I was 8 years old when a Sunday School teacher told me about God’s love for me at a time when I was struggling with some pretty nasty issues of abuse in my life. Her words helped me to call on Jesus one night. I ran into his arms and he has been my Friend, Comforter, Savior and Guide ever since on this journey.

In my heart I  know I must keep teaching and sharing that message of the love of Jesus as long as I can – even if there’s just one in my class and even if I’m having a rough day physically.

Jesus took time to minister to me –  one hurting scared little girl and it made a difference in my life. How can I do any less? What about you? Would you continue to minister to just one child?

How God Speaks to Us – A Christmas Lesson illustrating God’s ways of communicating to us

MP900433113We know the Christmas story – but did you know that it provides us with a great picture of how God communicated and still communicates with people today?

1. God speaks directly to people through angels and his Holy Spirit.

He sent an angel directly to Zachariah about John the Baptist’s birth and to Mary with the message that she would bear a son named Jesus. Luke 1:5-25 and Luke 1:26-38 NIV

Gabriel appeared to the priest Zachariah while he ministered in the temple and told him he and his wife would have a son. This was a one-on-one encounter where God spoke directly to a man through an angel. Zacharaiah was able to communicate with the angel because he expressed his doubts about the message and was punished for it by losing his ability to speak until the baby was born. That must have been a long 9 months!

The same angel went directly to Mary with the message of Jesus’s birth. Again there was interaction when Mary asked the angel how it was going to happen – not expressing doubt but needing clarification. The angel responded by telling her what she needed to know. Her last words to the angel were words of acceptance of the message.

In  Luke 2:25-35 God spoke to Simeon, a devout man who lived in Jerusalem. Simeon had been praying for years about the coming of a deliverer. The Bible tells us the holy Spirit was on him and God told him through the Holy Spirit that  he wouldn’t die until he had seen God’s son Simeon recognized Jesus right away through the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit and gave a special blessing to the child and his parents.

Has God ever spoken directly to you through his Holy Spirit or through an angel How did you know it was His voice?

2. In the Christmas story God speaks through dreams to Joseph. Matthew 1:18-24 and Matthew 2:13-15  Joseph had 2 separate dreams from God with important instructions – the first time telling him about Mary’s pregnancy and that he was not to divorce her, but to marry her. the second time, he was warned to take the baby and leave for Egypt so the baby would be protected.

Has God ever communicated with you through a dream? Did you believe it? how did you know the dream was from God?

3. God spoke through preaching. The angels proclaimed Christ’s birth to the shepherds on the hillside. Luke 2:8-20 Even though this is a direct revelation to the shepherds by angels, it it different. The shepherds did not interact with the angels – they weren’t allowed to ask questions – it was more like a lecture or a sermon.

Has God ever used a preacher or a sermon to minister to you  or to speak to your heart?

4. God spoke through signs in the Christmas story. Remember the wise men? They came searching for baby Jesus because they saw his star in the east. They were astronomers who watched the sky for important events. We aren’t sure what they saw exactly – a conjunction of planets, a nova or a comet, but they sis see something – something that they interpreted as being a herald of the birth of a great king.  Because of what they saw, they came and worshipped. Matthew 2:1-2

God can use events and circumstances to speak to us today too. There are no coincidences with God – just everyday miracles where God is in cognito. looking back, can you identify times where God used events and circumstances to speak to your heart?

5. God used his Word to speak to people that first Christmas. For years there had been prophets speaking and teaching about the coming of the messiah. Isaiah was one of the most prominent. Isaiah 9:6-8All of the men in Israel would have known that prophecy.

When the wise men  came to Herod asking where the King of the Jews would be born, Herod had his advisors check God’s word.  Matthew 2:3-8 they found the references in the scrolls, the written words of the day,  that a ruler would come out of Bethlehem.

Today we have the Bible which is God’s recorded word. He uses that Word to speak and illuminate our hearts. We can read it a dozen times and each time we see something new. We can be going through something and  be reading God’s word and suddenly a verse will jump out at us that has a direct bearing on something we are going through. Has this ever happened to you?

he  uses these same ways that he did in the Christmas story.   Through his Holy Spirit, through his word, through circumstances, through others. But, he also always confirms his message through one or more sources.

That’s how we can tell it’s his voice – The things he says always line up with the Word and are always confirmed by other sources.

Breezy Bulletin Board idea

Looks like Punxsutawney Phil may have been wrong! The winds are blowing but the temperature is a lot milder than it normally is at the beginning of March. Anyway, it made me think of hanging my own laundry out in the breezy sunshine. So here is a fun bulletin board idea for March.

I used  recycled paper grocery bags for the wooden wash tub, opening up one and drawing the tub on the plain side. I added the wood grain with black marker and brown dye-based ink which I swiped right on the paper from the ink pad.. Then I drew the black bands around the tub with marker. You can’t see it here, but I added some black brads for texture. The “water” is red pigment ink blotted on the  paper and filled in with  red marker. I added a little clear embossing powder to give it a wet look.

The bubbles were fun to make with vellum paper and a bit of clear embossing powder to give them a wet look too. On the  right, the washboard is actually folded with alternating mountain and valley folds – again for texture with silver crayon marking each valley fold to make it more visible. I put the words, “tough love” on the top of the washboard.The grass and clothes are made from construction paper.

The verse is printed on the clouds using letters printed from my Cricut Jubilee cartridge, but you could print them or stencil them in by hand.On the front of the detergent box it says, “Blood of Jesus – extra strength,”. and on the side of the box, the fine print reads, “Cleans all kinds of sin. For all stubborn sins, apply as often as needed.”

Happy March!

February conversation heart bulletin board

I just couldn’t resist using these cute Conversation Hearts from About.com for my February Bulletin Board. They have them in color or black and white – with words or plain.  I used the plain, colored hears and wrote one word of the verse per heart, sprinkling in a few extra as needed.

The verse is paraphrased from 1 John 4:7 “Dear Ones, let’s love each other for love is from God and all who love are born of God and know God.”

You Gotta ♥ Valentine;s Day

Valentines Day really has a lot of great applications for children’s ministry.

How about some “Conversation Heart” Bingo?  Using the sayings from a (clearance) bag of candy hearts, make up some Bingo  cards.  Then pick one heart from the bag at a time and call out the saying until one of the children has a bingo. Whoever wins, gets the hearts that were called. Tie this game in with a lesson on Christ’s love  – any time of the year.

Speaking of Conversation Hearts,  About.com has a free printable page with conversation hearts, in color and black and white. There are even some blank hearts which you can customize for your lessons, activities and games. Too cute!

Kevin Savitz also offers free printable Valentine items from games to cards and even candy box patterns you can use for your children’s class. He offers a family safe free resource.

Clearance sales after Valentines’ Day offer a great time to stock up on little items for treasure chests and prizes. And you can purchase boxed valentines to give to the children the next year or to use for craft projects.

Stuffies with hearts on them make great prayer reminders:

  • Attach a prayer card with the name of  a person or situation that needs prayer to each stuffie and send it home with the child as a reminder to pray for that person or situation.
  • Or use them during prayer time in class by lining them up across the front for a month at a time. Have each toy represent one prayer need.
  • Play a memory game associated with the prayer requests to see if the children can remember  what prayer request each stuffie represents.
  • You can also pass them out during prayer time and have each recipient pray out loud for the request associated with his stuffie.
  • The animals holding little hearts are a great reminder that Jesus loves. others. Use them to pray for the salvation of loved ones.

According to Jennifer at Clip With Purpose, these after holiday sales are a great time to pick up shoe box items for Operation Christmas Child too. Don’t forget, not only will valentine candy, trinkets and stuffies be on clearance, so will winter hats and mittens which make great shoebox items. (or gift items for your class for next Christmas).

 

Free Valentine Craft book and a coupon money maker!

I recently found a blog called Clip With Purpose which has all sorts of ideas year-round for filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Kudos to Jessica for doing that – it’s such a great resource.

But her blog can also be a good resource for children’s ministries on a tight budget as she features some “extreme couponing” and a variety of other things. Yesterday Jessica featured a “money maker” where you can buy several products using coupons and store deals along with a rebate and end up making $5! I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that one. But if you’re interested,  see Jennifer’s blog hereIf you try it, let me know how it works LOL!

Today on her blog, Jennifer  had a link to a free downloadable Valentine Craft e-book. Now who doesn’t need free craft ideas for their children’s ministry class?????

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