Candy Bars, Checkers, and Pepper

“What is your favorite candy bar?” I asked the very tired-looking, aging checker at the grocery store where we shop weekly. She paused from passing the food in front of the scanner for several seconds, looked at me with a little suspicion, and replied, “Three Musketeers.” I gave the nod to one of the children and off he went on his mission. Momentarily he returned and slid the named candy bar onto the conveyor belt. After it had been scanned, another child grabbed it before being bagged and looked at me. I smiled and nodded. Mary, holding the candy bar out in her hand, said to the checker, “Here, we would like you to have this.”

For a second, the tired face had a puzzled look, but in a flash it was exchanged for a bright smile as she exclaimed, “That is so kind. Thank you! You just made my day.”

We had driven down to load the moving truck my dad had rented. We stopped to eat before heading to a motel and bed. When the waiter came to take our order, Nathan (our oldest son) spoke to him. Nathan said that we would be asking the Lord to bless the food in a few minutes and was there anything we might pray for him concerning. The waiter was a bit taken aback, recovered, and then said that his girlfriend’s father was in the hospital with serious heart difficulties, and they would appreciate prayer for him. The waiter was clearly moved and grateful that we had asked. I told Nathan how thankful I was for this idea and example because I was looking forward to asking others this same question in the future. Nathan explained that he had been with someone who had done this, and he had purposed to do it when he remembered.

When Jesus was asked about whether it was right to pay taxes, He responded with, “. . . Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). What a startling thing for Jesus to say. The Romans were harsh and cruel to the Jews. It would have been reasonable for Jesus to have said, “This government is as corrupt as the Pharisees. Don’t give them even a penny.” But He didn’t. He said give Caesar what you owe him. Israel was under the control of a wicked and ruthless government. Jesus was telling them to pay the taxes that were required. It would be certain that some of the money would be used to pay troops who would commit horrible crimes against Jews. Yet Jesus said to pay the taxes. The money Jesus was instructing them to render to Caesar ultimately would pay the soldiers who would crucify the Lord of Glory.

The Jews were seeking a political and national savior who would free them from Rome. We can understand that all too well. It was easy to be caught up in the emotion surrounding the 2004 Presidential elections. However, have you noticed, when listening to Christians discussing politics, that it sounds like they too could be looking for a political savior? It is as if a righteous leader can change the country. Now, don’t get me wrong, I want a righteous leader; however, a righteous leader will not make righteous citizens. As the morals of the general population slide, we can expect it to become impossible to elect godly men.

What, then, can be done? “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). “. . . Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). The only reason believers make right choices, when they do, is because they are obeying the Lord Jesus. Then why should we be surprised when lost people make the choices that they do?

The long-term answer to the real need of our country is Jesus Christ. How will they know unless they are told? “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:20) bringing the Good News of eternal life. We are to be salt to a decaying society. “Ye are the salt of the earth . . .” (Matthew 5:13). We are to be light exposing sin and leading others to the Savior. “Ye are the light of the world . . .” (Matthew 5:14).

Jesus’ time on earth was spent waging war for the hearts of men, and that is what He has called us to also. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). Are we any different from our fathers before us who had little impact in their society for Christ? Even worse, by our example we are infecting our children with the same lifestyle—a cozy, comfortable, complacent walk with the Lord. If that doesn’t sound lukewarm, I don’t know what does.

Brothers, are we willing to own our failure to reach the lost? Will we repent? I say that in general as I’m confident some of you are faithful in sharing Jesus every chance you get. From my experience, though, it may be one in a thousand or even fewer who have a passion for telling others about Jesus. Are we embarrassed to hand someone a tract or to ask them where they will spend eternity? “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

I read a pastor’s comments after he had visited Christians in Africa. He said he was amazed at how much the African Christians had done with so little materially. He was also amazed at how little the United States Christians have done with so much materially.

Our decisions for how we use our time and money document our priorities and theology. We will spend our time and money on what is most important to us. We can tell ourselves witnessing is important, but if we aren’t actively doing it, frankly, it really isn’t important to us.

Sarah shared with the family something she had just read about D. L. Moody. Now there is someone who had significant impact on those around him. Mr. Moody had made a commitment to the Lord to share Christ with someone every day. One night he was lying in bed about to go to sleep when he realized that he had not shared Jesus with anyone that day. So he got up, dressed, and went out to tell another about Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father, may I be that serious about other men’s souls.

For years I have sought to share my faith frequently; however, the Lord has shown us that we really haven’t been passionate for the souls of men. I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember the last time I wept over someone’s lost condition. Our family desires revival in our hearts so we will be “. . . instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:13). Would you even now pause for a moment to pray for my heart and those in my family? Pray that our hearts would be broken for the lost. As Jesus was approaching Jerusalem during His triumphal entry, He broke down and wept over the city. “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Jesus was looking at a people who would reject their Savior and choose a convicted criminal instead of the Righteous One. May my heart be broken as well.

Our next-door neighbors have a small mixed-breed dog that is a “people magnet.” Everyone in the neighborhood loves Pepper. Since Pepper’s backyard runs next to the street, anyone walking by can see the dog. On spotting someone, Pepper repeatedly leaps vertically in the air almost to the top of the fence, with her tail furiously wagging. It looks as if Pepper has springs on her feet as she boings up and down showing her intense love for any morsel of time you might “cast” her way. Once she has won your heart and you reach over the fence to pet her, she presses her head against your hand, whines, and tries to lick you. It makes you feel like you are the most important thing in her life. People can’t resist her because of the love that just flows from her.

It is our desire to be like that little dog. I would like others to feel our deep love for them and be drawn to us on every encounter we have with them. When I speak to them about their souls, I hope they would sense a sincere love, a love that only Jesus Christ can give. I don’t believe I have ever pleaded for those receiving the Corners to pray for us like this before, but from the depth of my soul I’m asking now.

There are limitless ways to be salt and light, to show the love of Jesus and proclaim His name throughout each day. Just this morning someone had dialed a wrong number and left a message on our phone. Instead of hanging up, they left a most beautiful message proclaiming the goodness of God and inviting us to know Him if we didn’t already. We have found that buying candy bars for checkers, to show them we appreciate what they do for us, and by asking people how we can pray for them, we have purpose in every outing and trip. We have found a source for tracts that are very captivating, and we are learning how to share them effectively. (If you’d like to find about more information about these tracts, please visit:

We have heard some former waiters say that they dreaded the Sunday lunch after-church crowd. They felt that Christians were the most ungrateful, cheap people they had to serve. How can this be? We should be the most generous, grateful people on the face of the earth. Instead of a good testimony and chance to share Christ, a bad taste for the name of Jesus is left in the waiters’ mouths.

It all starts in the heart, which is why I ask you to pray for us, and we will pray for you on the Corners list. There is no other reason that I don’t weep for the lost than having a cold, hard heart. Please pray that the Father would pour out His Spirit into our family and give us abundantly of Himself. I know I’m being very vulnerable in asking this, but that is okay because it is the deepest desire of my heart. That is why I feel led to ask for your help. Together may we be used of the Father to share Christ with our nation and the world.

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:14-15).

Praying for Our Children

As Steve and I continue down this parenting path the Lord started us on twenty-eight years ago, we become more and more convinced of the necessity of prayer for our children. Reading through the New Testament recently, I was reminded of the example Paul has set for us in his prayer life. I believe we can learn much from Paul that will apply to us as moms praying for our children.

Paul prayed constantly for the churches and individuals to whom he wrote. Please bear with me in reading through all of the following verses, because I believe they powerfully show us the heart and passion of a man committed to his spiritual children as we want to be committed to our natural children.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:8-9).

“Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16).

“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3).

“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).

“I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3).

“I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers” (Philemon 1:4).

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6).

Paul knows that his example is a positive one: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Yet, look where his dependence remains in his heart’s desire for his spiritual children to grow in holiness and godliness. He is continually lifting his churches and converts to Jesus in prayer. He isn’t relying on his own wisdom, strength, or example. He knows his total dependence on the Lord and the dependence his “children” will need as well. It would seem to me that of all teachers, Paul would have had the least need of anyone to spend that amount of time and energy in prayer. However, he was completely aware of his weakness and the weakness of those he loved. He was continually crying out to the Lord for those “children.” Isn’t that true in our lives and our children’s lives as well—aren’t we all weak and needy?

Strong’s Concordance tells us that “without ceasing” means exactly that: “without intermission, incessantly, without ceasing.” “Always” means “at all times, always, ever.” To me these verses and words indicate a mind preoccupied with prayer. Are we praying for our children when we wake up in the morning, when we are working, when we are with them, when we are doing school, when we are in the car, when we go to bed at night, when they are struggling, when they are disobedient, when they are unkind, when they are peaceful, when they are helpful—without ceasing?

My tendency is to make excuses for my lack of prayerfulness. I am too busy. I can’t do school and pray for the children at the same time. I have a one-track mind. Am I busier than Paul was? I don’t think so. Wasn’t he always preaching, ministering, and serving in addition to working as a tentmaker? Paul was a busy man. My excuses are nothing but excuses. We do what is truly important to us.

As I have evaluated in my life how to make continually praying for my children a reality, three things have stood out to me. First, I must make this a prayer of my heart, acknowledging my need for help in this area and asking God to strengthen me for the task and to bring my children constantly to mind for prayer. I want Him to put on my heart what I should pray for my children as well. Second, I want to feel the urgency of the necessity of never-ceasing prayer for my children. Have you ever had a dear friend or loved one diagnosed with cancer? What happens to your prayer life in regard to that person? In the same way, as I truly see the importance of prayer for my children, it comes more naturally to my heart. Third, I should develop the discipline of prayer. I have discovered that my mind easily gravitates to simply thinking rather than to prayer. I have to make a conscious effort and decision to bring my thoughts around to prayer when I realize I am just thinking rather than praying.

After praying always for my children, the next challenge Paul gives me is to fill my prayers with thanksgiving, just as his prayers are filled with thankfulness for his spiritual children. Look back at the verses we read. How many of them have the word “thank” in them? Here are a few more.

“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren . . .” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Think about what gratitude to the Lord for our children does as we pray for them. Thankfulness springs from a joyful heart. If we are continually thanking God for our children, it is hard to feel unhappy or angry with them. It prompts us to see our children in a positive light. It gives us hope for the areas of their failure and places their needs before the Lord. Spiritually, gratitude puts our thoughts where they ought to be—on the Lord rather than on anything negative about our children or ourselves. Being thankful for our children allows us to be in a place of rest and contentment concerning them rather than dissatisfaction.

Perhaps as we are challenged by Paul’s example of praying without ceasing for our children, our praying for them will be the most important step we can take in the turning of our hearts toward those children. It will be a true focus on them, and the best investment we can make in their lives. It may also be the most significant gift of love and sacrifice we could give to them. Will we be mothers who choose to pray without ceasing for our children? Will our prayers be filled with thankfulness for each of them?