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!

 

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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.

Resurrection Cookies – A Great Easter object lesson

Have you ever tried making Resurrection cookies? They make a fun project for your children’s class or even a wonderful devotional for a women’s meeting.

Here is the basic recipe with  the accompanying scriptures:

About 15 minutes before you begin, preheat the oven to 300 degrees to give it time to heat properly.

Place 1 cup of pecans in a baggie and crush them with a wooden spoon  then set aside – Jesus was beaten by the soldiers in the early hours of his crucifixion ordeal. John 19:1-3.

In a small mixing bowl, place 1 teaspoon of vinegar – Jesus was offered vinegar to drink on the cross when he said he was thirsty. John 19:28-30.

Add 3 egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs are used in the Seder feast at Passover to represent life.  Jesus gave his life for us. John 10:10-11.

Add a pinch of salt to represent the salty tears of grief shed when Jesus died, Luke 23:27.

Add 1 cup of sugar to the bowl and begin mixing on high speed for 12-15 minutes or until soft peaks form like a meringue. In spite of the sadness, Jesus death is sweet because it shows His love for us.  Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

The mixture will be light and fluffy white, similar to melted marshmallows. The white color in the Gospel story shows the purity of Jesus and how He washes our sinful hearts white as snow. Isaiah 1:18 and John 3: 1-3

We are now ready to make Jesus’ tomb. Carefully fold the crushed nuts into the fluffy sugar mixture. Drop by teaspoonful onto a cookie sheet which has been covered with waxed or parchment paper. The mounds will look like little white-washed tombs.  Matthew 27: 57-60.

Place the cookie sheet in the oven, shut the door and turn the oven off. The cookies must dry in the oven all night. If you are doing this with children, you may want to give them each a piece of tape to “seal” the oven door shut, just as the tomb was sealed by the Roman officials. Then send them to bed.  Matthew 27:65-66.

The next morning, take the cookies out of the oven. They will be firm, but fragile. Carefully remove them from the waxed paper and allow each child to have one.  They will notice that the cookies are firm on the outside and may have a cracked surface, but they are hollow inside! Jesus rose from the grave, leaving behind an empty tomb. Matthew 28:1-9.100_0290

Although this recipe has been around for years, the original author is not known. I found it while working on a devotional for our local Christian Women’s Prayer Connection and presented it as a witnessing tool for the ladies to use with their children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors. I suggested making a batch and wrapping them with the Easter story narrative to give out to  everyone.

Certainly, if you are making them as an object lesson in church you will want to go through all the steps and have a second batch already pre-made  so the children can see and taste the finished cookie.

Reach Out and Touch A Child

Life is precious…fragile. We never know how long we will have to reach out and touch someone with the Gospel message.

Yesterday  the father of one of my Children’s Church students was killed suddenly in a car accident on his way to work.Because of a tenuous family situation, the seven-year-old was suddenly alone, losing not only her dad, but her also her home.

She will probably be relocated into foster care and short of a miracle, we will not see her again in our children’s program.

My heart breaks for this little girl because children’s church had been a constant in her life. A caring neighbor brought her to church each week for the last several years and she accepted Jesus through the messages of God’s love she heard there.

Recently she stopped me after church to give me the project  she made that day. It was a plaque of praying hands cast in plaster, painted in rainbow colors. It didn’t matter that the hands were purple and black or that the background looked like it had been painted by some modern impressionist artist with no rhyme or reason. It was precious because of her smile as she told me about how much she loved Jesus and me.

Her words made me cry that day because I remembered another young child whose life changed dramatically because of the Gospel truth shared by a caring  Sunday School teacher. If that teacher hadn’t shared Christ;s love with me so long ago, I  wouldn’t  be the woman I am today. Her words brought life, comfort and healing to my hurting little girl soul during a time of tremendous emotional upheaval. And they made an eternal difference.

As the tears flowed yesterday for this little one, I have to place her in a loving Father’s hands, trusting He will hug her and keep her. I am grateful for the little slice of time during which my life touched hers. I pray  that God will hug her and keep her when I as her teacher cannot.

There have been many times when I felt like walking away from children’s church ministry. I wondered if the children really heard the message I shared week after week while they bounced off the walls with their ADHD energy or any other syndromes they might have been diagnosed with. I felt inadequate and ill prepared. But each time I felt that way, God reminded me of that one teacher’s influence on my life, sparking a renewed desire to love the kids and reach them for Him.

For those who are discouraged or contemplating giving up children’s ministry for whatever reason, I urge you today to reconsider if you can. We never know what an eternal influence we can have on a life, even though we only touch it for a moment of time. Our children are so precious and few are the workers willing to give up their time or energy to  touch their  little lives.

May your heart be blessed by the words of one of your students someday saying, “Thank you for giving your time and energy to teach me. Because you shared God’s truth with me, my life was forever changed.”

Growing in God – a Valentine devotional to share

God is calling us to grow and change– yes, each of us!

You may think you’re pretty good as you are, but the truth is that there are areas in each of our lives which need to change. He sees something special in you  that He wants to refine to make you shine.

But why does He bother?  Because He wants to use you to touch the lives of others.  There will always be someone walking behind you on life’s journey, watching your life and in need of your particular, special wisdom..

So He  works with us and trains us so we can lose the plump, caterpillar body we waddle around in to become butterfly models of overcoming to those around us.

God sends mentors to help you grow

Read Joshua 1: 1-9 from the translation of your choice.

Joshua spent most of his younger life in the shadow of Moses. He learned how t lead by watching the example of Israel’s greatest leader. He also learned about God at Moses feet. Yet he still lacked confidence when it came time for him to take the reins of leadership. God had to tell him 9 times in that first chapter to be strong and very courageous!

Think back to the Christians who helped you in your journey. God placed them in your path to teach and guide you.He even encouraged you Himself through the Scriptures. When you’re ready, He will place you in the path of others to teach and guide. It’s the way He works.

He disciplines us to bring out our best

Read Hebrews 12: 1-12

God continually  works with us, training us and disciplining us so we can become strong. Usually strength comes from adversity. Look at the butterfly – it is through its struggle to get free of the cocoon that the fluid is forced out of its body and into its wings making them strong and sturdy enough for flight.

In the same way, He uses the struggles of our lives to strengthen us. No one likes to go through pain, but struggles are a part of life. Everyone has them. How we deal with them will make all the difference. When we lean into Him and work through them, we change like the caterpillar until we are no longer emotionally chained to the struggle. We learn to soar. Then others see what God has done in our lives and  will desire it too. Without even realizing it, we are beginning to mentor them in their spiritual growth process.

He motivates us with His eternal love and life.

Read 1 Corinthians 9: 22-27

The truth is, if we are comfortable in our struggles, we will never change because change hurts! Growth hurts.And we will normally try to avoid hurt at all costs.. But when we hurt so bad we can’t stand it in our struggles, He shows us a better way, giving us hope and the will to change.

“How does one become a butterfly?” she asked. “You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
Anonymous

***

Butterfly

I found this beautiful interactive Butterfly Valentine by Marilyn Scott Waters AKA the Toymaker. Click here to download a copy either for an illustration or to give  as a reminder of the devotional. Put one together as a sample to demonstrate how the wings flutter.

Close in prayer of dedication.

.

 

Christmas Devotional for a ladies meeting–

As Prayer Coordinator for our local Christian Women’s group, I have to give a devotional at each meeting. I was never content to simply read a devotional because I know that people remember only 10% of what they hear. But by combining other physical senses in with the presentation, the lessons God wants to share with us will stay with us beyond the moment. 

For that reason, I love object lessons, because they  incorporate not only hearing, but sight, taste, touch and smell in the presentation. Not only will your group remember what you presented for a longer period of time, they are more interested during the presentation. Anticipation of what will happen next helps to hold their attention.

In our December Prayer Connection meeting. where we pray for our upcoming Christian Women’s luncheon, I chose a devotional by Mary Southerland of Girlfriends in God, called “Happy Birthday Jesus.” you can find it if you visit their site and check out the Devotional archives for December 8, 2010.

In her devotional, Mary shared four gifts that those around Jesus gave to Him at Christmas along with a scripture verse for each gift:

  • God’s gift to us – Luke 2:8-12
  • Mary gave the gift of trust – Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Joseph gave Him obedience – John 14:15
  • The shepherds gave a gift of praise Psalm 50:6
  • And the Wise Men gave the gift of sacrifice. (No scripture noted here)

I added   Romans 12:1 to the Wise Men’s section of the devotional and added one more  short points to the devotional since it was our Christmas prayer meeting.

  • Prayer is our gift to others this Christmas season – James 5:16

To set up the object lesson, I printed out each portion of scripture and tucked each one in a small box. The boxes were wrapped and placed randomly around the tables before the meal so they appeared to be decorations. During the devotional time, I instructed the ladies sitting nearest each gift to unwrap it and read the verse inside for each point of the devotional. This helped the lesson to be more visual and interactive.

As we readied our hearts for prayer – I shared that prayer is a gift we can give to  those around us – praying for salvation for those attending our luncheon; for our speaker’s words to be infused with the Spirit’s power; prayer for the needs of our friends, neighbors and others in our community.

I placed a “favor” at each place for decoration as well as a reminder  to pray. I used
Tea bag holders with a poem on the front:

Prayer Reminder
When I sit down with cup of tea
May I the needs of others see.
And may I lift those needs in love
To my Father up above.
~Bonnie Winters 12/10 ~

 

A tutorial for making the tea bag holders is at http://www.splitcoaststampers.com/resources/tutorials/teabagholder/

You could also use a small treat box for mints or candies as a favor and make up your own rhyme.You can find a wide variety of small treat box templates online as well by googling “treat box templates.” 

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