Matthew 6:9-13 “Our Father who art in heaven…” By Lisa Espinoza These are the first four words Jesus spoke in response to His disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” As we begin our journey through the Lord’s Prayer, we humbly ask, along with these Christ-followers so long ago, “Teach us to pray.” Learning to pray is a lifelong adventure in relationship. As a teacher illuminates new concepts in reading, math and science to his or her students, so God illuminates the countless facets of Himself as we sit at His feet…eager students in the hands of the Master teacher. During a spiritual retreat a few years ago, I asked a precious old Benedictine monk named Claude if he ever got bored doing the same thing day in and day out at the monastery. He looked at me, eyes asparkle, and chuckled, “My dear, how could one ever tire of God? You can never know all there is to know about Him.” If we settle into the reality that we are always beginners in prayer, we will find that God meets us in every humble attempt to become pray-ers. May we live each moment in such open relationship with our ever-present Lord that we find ourselves living out Paul’s admonition quite naturally to “pray without ceasing.” One way teachers help students learn is to give them practice exercises, homework if you will. As permanent students “with Christ in the school of prayer,” as Reverend Andrew Murray so aptly puts it, we can likewise learn and grow through the practice of spiritual exercises. Growing in Prayer Week 1 We carry into our relationship with God, our heavenly Father, the experiences we’ve had with our earthly father. If your relationship with your father has been loving and positive, write a prayer of thanks for this glimpse into the father heart of God. If your relationship with your earthly father has been negative or non-existent, write a prayer asking God to remove any obstacles in your relationship with Him that have resulted from these negative experiences. Ask Him to reveal the truth about who He is so that you can trust His father heart. Week 2 The Lord’s desire for us is that we approach prayer as a natural element of a healthy relationship, not as a daily transaction we must accomplish in order to earn God’s love and favor. We are already loved by God, and because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we already have God’s favor. We are free to “be” in relationship with God without the striving and guilt and fear of not measuring up. Just for this week, set aside your regular prayer list or routine and simply practice turning every thought into a conversation with God, even in the midst of your daily tasks. At the end of the week, write about your discoveries. Week 3 God speaks to us in so many ways—through His word, through people, through circumstances, through nature— just to name a few. This week practice listening. Begin each day asking God to open your eyes to the ways He communicates with you throughout the day. At the end of the day, answer these questions: “In what unexpected ways did God communicate with me today? How was my day different because I expected to hear from God?” Week 4 This week meditate on the heart of God as revealed in I John 4:9, 10: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Write this scripture on a notecard and put it in a prominent place you see several times a day…ask the Holy Spirit to work its truth deep into your heart.
By Jeannine Jilbert, MHCS Math Instructor Steve did it all in high school. He was a starter on the basketball team, pitched for the baseball team, was ASB President, editor of the yearbook, and competed on the debate team. Steve played the trumpet in a jazz band, the electric guitar in a rock band, and had a lead in the school musical. And he graduated with a 4.0 – the highest possible GPA in those days. A month after graduation, Steve died in a car accident. This true story that I share every year with my graduating eighth graders, now turns hypothetical. I believe that after entering heaven, Steve finally had that conversation with His Lord and Savior that he had been longing for. The conversation was not focused on his many awards or trophies, but instead I believe it went something like this: “I remember, Steve, when you wanted to cheat, but instead chose to act with integrity. How about that time when you wanted to give up, but kept on trying until you finally understood that pre-calculus problem! Remember that time when you had lunch with that new student that you noticed sitting alone? I really loved it when you encouraged the opposing team’s pitcher after they lost. Most importantly, thank you for telling Jeannine about my Son. Because of you, she now has the honor of sharing the Good News with her junior high students, and someday she will also spend eternity in My presence. Well done, my faithful servant.” Don’t wait to serve God. Make every day count for the Kingdom. I Timothy 4:12.
Advent is about waiting, anticipation. It is never easy to wait. Whatever it is on the other end, we want it now. Our driver’s license renewal, our In-N-Out burger, our turn to see the doctor, the notification that we’ve been accepted or passed the test. For us, it’s about the end result. God doesn’t see it that way. To God, the waiting is part of His process in our lives. In the waiting, we are reminded of our great need for whatever it is we are waiting for. We come to more fully appreciate the object of our anticipation. Right about Labor Day, it seems, our local retail establishments begin reminding us that Christmas is on its way. The waiting begins. The closer to Christmas we get, the more anxious we become about the waiting—and it all centers on “doing” Christmas well. Gift lists, rising credit card balances, decorations, preparations for houseguests. Maybe doing Christmas well means waiting well. Maybe carving out a few minutes each day to be quiet would help us wait well. In those few minutes, we could think of all we are grateful for. We could sit with a hot cup of coffee and enjoy the lights on the Christmas tree. Or maybe we could take a walk outside and breathe in the gift of air God brings us each day. We don’t have to wait forever. Christmas will come. He has come already. In this Advent season, we get to remember what it feels like to wait, to long for more than we are in and of ourselves. We get to anticipate a greater Hope, a deeper Peace, and a fuller Joy than we could have imagined if it were up to us. And then, when Christ appears… We celebrate.
By Dr. Mike Foell, Care Pastor, The Bridge Church; Campus Pastor, Mission Hills Christian School Yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino is yet another reminder that our world can be a scary place. These kinds of events are all too common, and try as we might, we cannot shield our children from their unpleasant consequences. What is the appropriate response as a parent when events happen that beg for an explanation from the parental voice? First, recognize that your own emotional state communicates volumes to your child. If you are anxious, frustrated, or allow your anger to find an inappropriate avenue of expression, that will be “picked up” by your children. Remain calm and communicate in an age-appropriate manner, remembering to pepper your comments with reminders that our trust in these moments needs to be in the LORD. Second, there is evil in the world that has cast off its moral and spiritual foundations, and our children need to know that the actions of terrorists and other evil people is not pleasing to the LORD. This is the appropriate time for us to teach them that good overcomes evil and that in the face of tragedy, history records that it is often the church’s finest hour as we reach out to help, to instill hope in the face of adversity, and to point people to Jesus. Third, assure your child that their protection, safety, and well-being is always at the forefront of your thoughts and actions as a parent. Remind them of all you do to keep them safe but that their ultimate safety is wrapped up in the arms of a loving Heavenly Father. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Assure them it is alright to be a little frightened by things we cannot control but that Jesus is there to listen, to comfort, to remind them of the truths of Scripture, and to walk with them through any storm they may encounter throughout their lives.
By Cameron Montefu I can’t believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner– and who doesn’t love this time of year?!! This is when we make it a point to count our blessings. Here at Mission Hills, our goal over the Thanksgiving season is to be purposeful in showing God’s love to others. We focus on giving. This year my fifth graders have taken on the responsibility of making blessing bags for families at Mission Hospital (through Ronald McDonald House Charities). I’ll be honest, the first thing they did was chuckle when I told them what organization we were partnering with. All those fifth grade brains initially took in was “Ronald McDonald”…ha! But what impressed me the most was how serious they became when I began explaining what it was about and how we were going to use this opportunity to serve the families of hospitalized children. My students became silent, wide-eyed, and instantly attentive. Sick kids? Exhausted and hurting families? That was an attention grabber. Throughout our conversation, I watched young hearts begin to break for people they’ve never met or even seen. The empathy in the room was palpable. My kids were counting their blessings. Chatter quickly began over what they wanted to donate and how cool it was going to be to do the project. Mission accomplished! When an act of service is a “have to,” a joyful opportunity is clearly missed. When it becomes a “want to,” we’ve tapped into the heart of it all. I often refer to the words from one of my favorite worship songs and make it my prayer. I encouraged my students to do the same: “Heal my heart and make it clean Open up my eyes to the things unseen Show me how to love like You have loved me Break my heart from what breaks Yours Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause As I walk from earth into eternity” Don’t we all want our eyes opened to what breaks the Father’s heart? To see opportunities to be the arms of compassion to the hurting, lonely, and unsaved? We are blessed to be a blessing, and the joy of serving others is immeasurable! When these families receive a blessing bag, they will find it filled with small comforts, encouraging words, Bible verses, and prayers. The love of Jesus. Every part of this project is a small seed being planted for the kingdom of God — in the heart of each student and each recipient. We don’t know who is meant to receive each one, but God certainly does, and I believe with all my heart that He can do great things with one little bag covered in prayer. Are you looking for ways for your family to serve? Try getting plugged into ministries, community outreaches, or global missions through your church. Think about getting involved in organizations like Ronald McDonald House Charities, Jessie Rees Foundation, Orange County Rescue Mission, or Samaritan’s Purse. Seek out your local food bank or a soup kitchen. You can even participate in walks or races that support foundations for cancer, autism, and other worthy causes. Just say yes and watch God do amazing things in and through you.