A Reflection – 7/7/15 – Taking Sin Seriously

“But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live.
And as I plan to do to them, so I will do to you.”
Numbers 33:55-56 

Right before the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the promised land, God gave them a few final warnings about what they needed to do upon their arrival. First they were to drive out all of the inhabitants of the land, and then destroy all of their pagan images, idols, and places of worship. Like many of us have done, the Israelites went in on fire to follow God’s instructions, but once they made it into the promised land, they got comfortable and didn’t follow through.   In the Israelites’ case they did not drive out all of the Canaanites from the promised land as the Lord had commanded (Joshua 23:7). At first their disobedience seemed to come without a cost, but The Lord had promised them on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho that they would eventually come to the same demise that God had planned for the Canaanites if they did not follow through.

Eventually the Israelites did meet the same demise that was intended for the Canaanites. After King Solomon died, the Israelites were divided into two nations – Judah and Israel. Division never ends well. Judah was conquered by the Babylonians (2 Kings 24:1-2) and Israel was conquered by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:5-6).   Although they were conquered by different people, both groups came to the same end. They were conquered by other kings and taken from the land the Lord had given them.

While I was reading and reflecting on the stern warning the Lord had given the Israelites, God brought my own personal walk to mind. I already knew that the Israelites would later choose to take the easy road instead of the hard one. They chose not to fight the hardest battles, allowing the Canaanites that were the deepest rooted to stay. Immediately, my personal “pricks” and “thorns” came to mind.

Do you have sins that you allow to stay rooted in your life? Ones that you try to pretend aren’t really causing clouded spiritual vision or a limp in your walk with Christ. I know I have a few. My response to them is much like the Israelite’s response to the inhabitants of Canaan. I have driven out the “big sins”, but those deep rooted “little” ones are taking much more energy than they’re worth. This morning, God showed me that the “little” ones that are the hardest to remove are much like a tick. They are slowly sucking life out of my relationship with Him, as well as depositing toxins into my walk.  As they suck the life, they are growing stronger and harder to remove without struggle.

A tick may seem like a tiny, harmless little bug. Yet, if you aren’t guarding yourself against them, they will attach themselves to you. They love to hide out, in the hard to see places. Once they have attached, rooting them out isn’t always easy. Just like the “small” sins that have attached themselves aren’t easy to root out of our lives. And just like unchecked sin, there are sometimes big consequences to letting a tiny thing attach itself to you. Ticks can leave behind disease. So can sin.

As believers we sometimes like to pretend that since our sins are now covered by the Blood of the Lamb that they are consequence free. That is not the truth. I believe many times that God allows the big consequences in order to get us back on the right track. Many times in our pride we think we have dodged a bullet, only to find out that it is going to nip us in the bud later, just like the Israelites. Don’t get me wrong, I also believe that many other times God allows us ample grace, more than we deserve, to keep us from the major consequences. Yet, there is no doubt about it, every sin brings spiritual death.  I believe that every time we sin, it pulls us further away from the Lord.

Many times our walk looks a lot like a dance – one step forward, two steps back. Sometimes it is the other way around – two steps forward, one step back. So how do we keep our walk looking like the second set of steps rather than the first? We repent and turn away from our sin. We root out the life sucker, and disinfect the toxins with Christ’s righteousness.

Are there any sins that you are allowing to stay rooted in your life? Since God has shined a light on the sins I have allowed to stay rooted in my life, I have definitely been able to show more mercy to those who struggle with sins that are different than mine. Christ may have saved us as soon as the words fell from our lips, but faith is a journey and Christ is a gentleman along the way. He desires to help us remove all of our sinful nature, but we have to allow Him to do it.

This morning I am going to pray for God to search my heart for the life sucking sins that I am holding on to. I pray that this week, you take the time to do the same. This isn’t a fun activity, but it is a life giving one. I pray God reveals things to you that you didn’t want to acknowledge were there, just like He has for me. I also pray He grants you the grace and strength to do battle with those sins that you have held on to the longest.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


Numbers 33:55-56

 

 

 

More Than You Say I Am

But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment,
And He will judge the world in righteousness;
He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
Psalm 9:7-8 (NASB)

Yesterday as I was flipping through the radio channels on the way to the grocery store, a lyric from a song I have probably heard many times stuck with me and it just didn’t sit right in my soul.   The song is “More Than You Think I Am by Danny Gokey. It took me awhile to figure out what song it was, because the lyric that stuck with me was not part of the chorus, rather it was nestled in a verse in the middle of the song. A few hesitations about this song came to mind, and they were forgotten shortly there after during the hustle and bustle of a shopping trip with two small “hangry” children at noon.
 (Hangry : a state of hunger that causes your temperament to go sour until you have something to eat)

This morning while I was reading Psalm 9, the words came flooding back.
“Rumor has it there’s a gavel in My hand, I’m only here to condemn,
But let Me tell you secrets you have never known, I think of you as My best friend”
The first line of this verse really got me. Rumor has it there’s a gavel in my hand… Wait a second, there is no rumor about it. This lyric is a figurative way of saying God is a judge, and He is. He is The Judge. And if you believe the Bible to be truth, it isn’t a rumor. A quick internet search will bring up at least 75 verses that describe God as a judge. Now even a new Christian should know that God is a multifaceted being who in His most “simple” state is a triune God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). He is all things at all times, which is hard for us to comprehend. He is more than we know!

Now, to show grace, perhaps Mr. Gokey wants people to also think of God as their best friend, instead of only their judge. I get that, but these words could definitely be misleading to someone new to the faith. It is important that we understand all of the roles of God in our life. Yet, if we truly have a relationship with Christ, we know He is not here to condemn us with His righteous judgment. He, in the form of the Holy Spirit living within us, lovingly convicts us daily of the sin we are committing in order to lead us to repentance. We also know that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and I believe we should live our life with this knowledge ever in our mind.

Judges serve many roles in a community. They mediate between people, convict people and groups of people of crimes, and after criminals have been convicted of a crime they give a sentence for that crime. Judges serve an important role in the community. They are not the enemy, nor are they evil, regardless of what some people many push in their political agenda in our culture.

I agree with the Gokey that God is not only here to condemn, but if we are being honest about how this whole Christianity thing works – you will be condemned to an eternity in hell when Jesus comes again if you do not accept His offer to save you. That is the truth, and no amount of sunshine and rainbows teaching can get around that truth. God loves all people, which is why He sent His Son to die for our sins, but His sacrifice only covers your sin if you choose to follow Him. That means laying down your life, picking up a cross, and changing direction.

All this to say, be careful little ears what you hear. Be careful what ideas you allow to come into your mind and stay. Just because a song isn’t perverse in language and content, and just because it is on a Christian radio station does not mean it is complete truth. I definitely believe if it is not filled with complete truth, we shouldn’t be partaking in it within the Church. A little leaven (yeast) leavens the whole lump (batch of dough). 

This by far is not the only song with questionable lyrics on Christian radio. Just one quick thought brings the song “He Said by Group 1 Crew to mind. This song claims that God said “I won’t give you more, More than you can take, And I might let you bend, But I won’t let you break.” Interesting, but I do not recall any portion of scripture that says God won’t give us more than we can take. More often than I can count things have happened that would have broken me if I didn’t have Christ carrying my load alongside me. Christians are being brutalized and martyred as we speak in other parts of the world. Have our first world comforts blinded us to the fact that our world is not the world.  I believe the song is referencing 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says that we will not be tempted beyond what we can withstand. Temptation has to do with the desire to sin.

In these days where we have famous Christians, and people have 24/7 access to media where anyone can say anything and pretend it is truth, we need to be vigilant, as the Bereans were, and compare everything to scripture. Just because someone claims to be a Christian, doesn’t mean they know Christ or that they are speaking the truth. If they are saying things that “tickle your ears”, you should be leery and always take it back to The Word. That being said, no one is perfect in what they say, and we should definitely choose to show grace when needed.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


Psalm 9:7-8

 

A Reflection – 6/29/15

Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for I am pining away;
Heal me, O Lord,
for my bones are dismayed.
And my soul is greatly dismayed;
But You, O Lord—how long?
Psalm 6:2-3 (NASB)

I love when I read The Word and it is as if what I am reading was written from a place deep within my soul. I have been greatly troubled with what we are finding is a problem with my endocrine system, and it is draining every ounce of my energy and being. This morning as I read one of David’s Psalms, I could immediately relate.

My longing for restored health has my soul distressed. I find myself battling the want to question why God would let me have to endure two major health disorders. Oh how precious my quiet time is to me right now. How necessary it is to open the Scripture and read about how much God loves me – every single day.

While most days I battle to remain positive, there are days where I am thankful that I have this thorn in my flesh to remind me of my need for Christ daily. I know from my previous battles that when you are overwhelmingly aware of your need for Christ to make it through every single moment of every single day, you grow close to Him in ways that you could not otherwise. That is why I will remind myself every morning that this is just a beautiful growing pain.

If you are walking through a valley, just like I am this morning, I pray that you remember to talk with the One who is walking with you through it every single day. It will renew your strength, and oh how the Lord knows we need strength when we are in the shadows of the low places. Your trouble does not mean He has left you, or forsaken you, He is there with you. Let Him wrap His arm around you and lean into His embrace.

If you are on the mountain top, enjoy the rest. The mountain top is a beautiful place to rest and be thankful. Remember it does not last forever. Our life is a journey through varying terrain. Store up on the joy while you can, you will surely dip into your reserve on the days of drought that will eventually come. Soak up the sunshine, being on the top of a mountain is a precious place to be.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


Psalm 6:2-3

 

A Reflection – 6/27/15

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3

While reading the first Psalm this morning I really felt drawn to examine who I was “walking in the counsel of”. Who exactly does my life path emulate? Does my path emulate that of Christ and His righteousness or is it more closely related to the world’s wicked path? Whose opinion really matters to me?  Am I sitting in the seat of doubt in any area of my faith?

As I continue my path of reading through the entire Bible, I prayed this morning for God to strip what other people have told me about Him and for Him to reveal His true nature to me through His Word.   How many of us delve into the Bible with that attitude? I know that most of my days have been spent reading and reaffirming what I “already know”. How many of us have faith to kick mediocrity in our faith and pray for God to show us where we are wrong?

When I read the first Psalm I see who I should be, who I want to be. I want to be a person who is reading the Word and asking God for His opinion day and night. I should be planted next to His Word through out the day, which is like a stream of water, always fresh, renewing my mind. If I do these things, I have faith that I will be able to withstand the droughts, floods, and whatever else life throws my way. So what is stopping me?

Busyness is the number one thing stopping me. What about you? Household tasks that I desire to have done now instead of later are my number one time consumer. I could write a book some mornings of the things that take precedence over my quiet time. Or if I am being really honest, at the time I prefer them over my quiet time. Whatever our task list may include today, I pray that we reprioritize and find time for God at the beginning and end of our days. He desires to be our first, our last, our everything, and our life path should reflect that. Christ’s path reflected that.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


Psalm 1:1-3
I borrowed this image from A Little Perspective.

A Reflection – 6/8/15

18 At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19 Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. 21 And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. 22 Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out.

Numbers 9:18-22
Read the whole passage here.

The Israelites were not exactly known for their obedience to the Lord’s commands, but this passage leads us to believe that they could follow visual directions on where they should be located, for the most part. This morning while I was reading this part of Numbers, I found myself longing for God to be this obvious in my life. If only I could physically see when to move and when to stay put. If only I could physically see where God wanted me to be, maybe I would be more satisfied. If only I could have more patience than the Israelites did while wondering around the desert. If only I would trust that God will raise the cloud and show me when to take the next step.

Time for some honesty, especially if it will help any other mother (or father) feel she is not alone. Although I know I am supposed to be home raising my children, I find myself longing for a job that shows accomplishment. By accomplishment, I do not mean receiving accolades for the job I do or ladder climbing, I mean looking back at the end of a day and being able to say I did something today. I want to mark “done” on something that I will not be repeating again tomorrow.

Parenting mostly shows accomplishment after months, sometimes years of work. And sometimes you go to bed thinking something was accomplished only to wake up to find out you were wrong! Repetition is the name of the game, and if you have a personality type like mine, it can be tedious. Plus, with every turn I find a new Pinterest pin or mommy blog post that increases my guilt for “not enjoying every minute of it, because it will be gone before I know it.” Believe me, I have already started my list of things that I will not miss, most of which revolve around bodily functions.

I find myself struggling with mommy guilt regularly, because sometimes I just do not feel cut out to be a ‘fun’ stay-at-home mom. Honestly, I feel like sometimes my kids would be better off in daycare, because they really enjoy being kept busy. This morning the guilt was heavy. Then God laid something on my heart, soothing balm for my soul. It is okay that my kids are not the center of my world. They were never meant to be, He is. My desire to do something more comes from Him. I deeply believe that He has carved out a plan for my life that ultimately leads to glorifying Him. It is also okay that my kids are not constantly being entertained; God did not create us for busyness.

Raising my children is part of my life path to bring the Lord glory. If my heart was really in the dedication and baptism of my babes, I am raising children for Him. They are not my life purpose, but an important part of my service to Him. (I am pretty sure some women out there would let out an audible “gasp” at just the thought of me feeling that way!) I love my children very deeply, but I love God more, and it is obvious in Scripture that God intended it to be that way.

As I am going on my second, “It is still mommy’s quiet time”, with Sister and I am waiting to hear Brother hollering at me to come get him out of his crib, I want to leave you with some encouragement. It is okay to be longing for something more, if that something more is related to our relationship with Christ. God created us with a heart that should always yearn for more of Him. I regularly pray for a renewed heart that continually longs for a deeper relationship with Him. We were created for something more than the ridiculous busyness of our modern life. So if you are feeling unfulfilled, it may be time to start praying for the next step to be revealed in your spiritual walk.

Side Note
I feel the need to encourage moms that it is okay to train your children that God comes first and they come second. My daughter knows that “mommy’s quiet time” is my time to talk with the Lord, learn more about the Lord through reading, and serve Him through my writing. It comes during our coffee/hot chocolate time and before everything else, including breakfast. And you know what? My children seem to survive and even thrive, because I put God first. 

Whatever your role is in life, if you find yourself frustrated with where you are at this morning, call out to your Travel Guide. Even though He isn’t guiding us with clouds of fire like the Israelites, He is guiding us with spiritual fire by the Holy Spirit. Ask for patience to enjoy the stage you are in without having to know the next step and ask for guidance on how to use everyday tasks to bring Him glory. I am going to be praying for strength to trust His guidance this morning, and trust that He will show me the next step when it is time. I am also going to ask for Him to renew the joy in my heart for the marathon that is parenting.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


 

Numbers 9:18

 

Sweet Forgiveness

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 8:3-4

Do you ever just wake up, look around you, and think – “Wow. I am blessed! God is good. But why me?” This morning I was able to spend my quiet time out on the deck listening to the birds, geese, and squirrels share their morning songs to The King and honestly I just felt small. Who am I that God loved me enough to have sent His Son to die on a cross for my wretched sins? Who am I that God has blessed me beyond belief with two healthy and beautiful children and a wonderful husband? Who am I that God blessed me with a house with a view that springs thankfulness every time I walk by our back windows? I know I do not deserve any of these things. I did not “earn” any of these things. Oh that my heart would ever remain humbled to the fact that God loves me in spite of me.

This past week the news has been bombarded with the atrocious acts of Josh Duggar. Unless you have been living under a rock for your entire life, at some point you have heard of the Duggar family and their flock of children. Many love them, many hate them, and regardless of where people land on that spectrum, hearing the accounts of Josh’s past indiscretions probably brought a mix of emotions. Disgust, disappointment, happiness for the fall of a too good to be true family, and the opinions just keep coming. Beyond the typical response to such horror, I found myself having a response that was atypical – gratefulness.

I felt grateful that it was not my sin being broadcast around the world. I felt grateful that I was not in a position to have the deepest, darkest secrets of my past laid on the line to be sniffed out by the media so they could have the latest and greatest story. And then something my husband said in passing hit me between the eyes. While discussing the events, he said that the family should have never signed up for the show knowing they had that skeleton in the closet. It hit me between the eyes, because I live my life according to that thought. I am fearful to ever really put myself out there, because the Good Lord knows that I have many a skeleton in my closet.

I say some, but not enough. I take risk, but nothing that requires me to totally walk by faith. I put myself out there, but not fully. I truly, deeply admire those who are brave enough to remodel their closet into a walk-in, sharing their testimony about how God saved them from all the ugly skeletons that are in there. Each of these skeletons is beautifully dressed with grace and each of them gives God glory. Now my closet is remodeled, my skeletons are covered in grace, but there are times where the door is closed, locked, chained, and pad locked. I do not want the world to see my past. I want them to see the redeemed me, not the woman that was in desperate need of redemption.

The most important thing that I took away from the Duggar situation is there is freedom in sharing our tests. Satan wants us to keep things in the dark, because he knows that The Light is the best disinfectant. He plants fear of our past being revealed. Unfortunately, Josh’s test was not his alone, so I believe he did not have the full freedom to be transparent. My heart goes out to his victims who have to relive something publicly that they probably thought was over and done with.

I do believe now that this is in the light, God can work it for His glory and if Josh truly has a heart set on Christ, I know God will use even this insidious act to draw people to Him. Satan may think that this will knock people away from Christ, but the truth of the matter is that people should see that Christ can and will redeem even the darkest of pasts if we only seek Him.

This story actually gives me hope. Hope that I can one day share what Christ calls me to share of my testimony. It gives me hope that I can look The Accuser, who calls me by my sin, in the face and say, “Yes, that is who I was, but I am a new person in Christ. He has redeemed all those scarlet sins and washed me white as snow.” 

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
Isaiah 1:18

I am just overflowing with thankfulness to Jesus for His forgiveness today. I am thankful that He came to save the darkest sinners among us of whom I am the foremost. (Don’t mind me as I steal words from the mouth of Paul.) If you find yourself without Christ today, if you find yourself feeling unworthy of forgiveness, please do not be dismayed. Christ knew what He was purchasing on that cross. There is no sin that His precious blood can not redeem. No matter what the world would lead you to believe, I am convinced that Christ’s blood covers every sin, especially the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad ones. All you have to do is ask.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


Isaiah 1:18


 

 

 

 

 

A Reflection – 5/11/15

Good morning, friends!

If you have spent any time reading the Book of Leviticus, you understand me when I say that it can be a bit monotonous. Although it is monotonous, I completely understand that it is necessary.   My heart is compelled to feel sorry for the Israelites, because the weight of the law is obvious when you read through the pages of the Old Testament.   My mind just can not wrap itself around how many sacrifices were needed and how many ordinances had to be memorized and followed. All I can envision is blood flowing from the Tent of Meeting to cover the numerous sins of the people. How wearisome it had to be to go through so many ceremonies and rituals day and night, all requiring the killing of animals.

I know all these sacrifices point to the One Beautiful Sacrifice to come, but as far as I can tell, at this point in time the Israelites did not know that. Although we give the Israelites much grief for all the falling away they did, would we have been much different? We have the benefit of having a personal relationship with God, because of Jesus’ sacrifice. We are able to taste the sweetness of freedom.

We love to believe that if had witnessed the plagues that ravished Egypt or the parting of the Red Sea that we would never fall away. How could you when you see the awesome power of God first hand? I wonder if the Israelites were able to witness the post resurrection Church, whether they would think we were crazy for ever doubting. I mean, we can approach the Lord day and night, whenever we please! He answers us directly.

As I continue trudging through the law, trying to understand its ins and outs, I am sure my appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice is going to deepen by the day. I guess the point of all of this is to share that even though many of us like to stake out in the New Testament and only venture into the Book of Psalms or Proverbs for tidbits of wisdom, we need to remember that God gave us the entire scripture so we would read the entire thing. Not just the parts that are entertaining, or easy to read. He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us understand. Even if it feels overwhelming, let Him guide you through it. Every piece of the Bible points to Jesus. It is not always clear, but He is the overarching theme. Every chapter and verse is important. We can not just take other people’s word for it. It is very difficult to justify our defense of our belief if we have the opportunity to read the book that it is founded in and haven’t bothered to.

I am so glad that I started my journey through the Old Testament, and I encourage each of you to if you haven’t yet. After years of just putting it off and reading bits and pieces, I am seeing why it was weighing heavy on my heart. I have learned so much and have been drawn closer to the Lord day by day.

I guess all of this leads up to a very simple point. If you seek Jesus in His Word, He will be found. Just this morning a verse from Leviticus scream Jesus to me.

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Leviticus 17:11 (NIV)

Jesus gave His blood, His life, to make atonement for us on the cross. He sacrificed Himself so we would no longer have to line animals up for slaughter to cover our sins. He gave His life to buy us grace and mercy for our sins, and all we have to do is believe.   How beautiful is that?

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


5-11-15

 

 

The Trifecta of Parenting
(Parenting 101 – Part 3)

Finishing up my series on parenting has been a struggle. I kept remembering there was one part left to write, and then in the next minute I would feel drawn to write something else. In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to finish it up!

If you need a refresher, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2. Previously, we discussed how God intended the family to look and function. We also discussed how grace covers where the ideal is lacking in our family situations. Today we are going to wrap it all up with what I call the Trifecta of Parenting.


Parenting is a tag team event. We are all gifted differently and so are our spouses, so I am going to steer away from our cultural definitions of what a mother or a father should be and direct you right back to what the Bible says a parent should be.

A parent is something we choose to be. I choose to be a mother. A mother or a father is someone who cares for a child physically, mentally, and spiritually.   Those are the three key ways we parent – The Trifecta of Parenting.

We will start with the role of taking care of our children physically.  In 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 Paul alludes to how parents take care of their children. It should not be the burden of a child to care for a parent, but parents should save up and be spent for their children. This is the design. Parenting requires sacrificial love when it comes to providing for our children. There is no tired like the tired of a mother or father who gives their all to the household each day. There is a reason women can not have children after a certain age! Mothering requires vast amounts of energy and strength. (As does fathering, except many times it is a different kind of energy and/or strength.)

Titus 2:3-5 describes the role of a godly woman and it includes physically taking care of the household, which is one of the many ways we physically care for our children. Genesis 3:17-19 describes the future of all fathers that started with Adam, to be the provider for the family. Hebrews 12:7-11 describes the father as the disciplinarian as well. Does this mean that a father can not help with the household responsibilities and a mother can not provide financially or discipline? No. As I said earlier, we are all gifted differently, but I think it is wise that we should not ignore the importance of the biblical structure for families. Believe me, stay at home soccer mommy isn’t coded in my DNA, but God gives me the grace to stay home and care for my children day by day, because He has called me to do it.  

Although physically caring for our children seems clear cut, we need to be mindful that how we care for them has an effect on them. We need to make sure we are serving out of love and not just obligation. Even though we may not verbally express it, children can sense whether you are doing something because you want to or because you have to.

The next area that we will discuss is the mental care of our children. I would say caring for our children’s mental health means more than just making sure we do not cause them to be under unnecessary stress or that we do not intentionally hurt them emotionally. Mental health also includes how we view the world around us. One of our roles as a parent is to help mold the way our children view the world around them. We want to ensure that they view it through the lenses of godliness, with as few scratches from our shortcomings as possible.

The most important priority in the mental care of our children is that we ensure they know without a doubt that we love them. As Proverbs 10:12 says, love covers a multitude of sin. Love allows our children to have a healthy world view.   Not only do they need to know that we love them, they also need to know that God loves them. Often the cause of rebellion with children is that they feel unloved or rejected. This does not only include by parents, but if they are not healthy in their mentality about how God loves them, it can include Him, and/or other close people in their lives. Feeling secure in who we are leads us to make better decisions in life, and we want to give our children the best chance possible.

Molding your child’s world view also includes regular correction and discipline as needed. I believe Psalm 23:1-4 does a great job of showing the difference between the two.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)

In Psalm 23:4 David says that the Lord’s rod and staff bring him comfort. A rod is a large stick or club that a shepherd uses to defend the sheep from attacks. A staff is the long stick with a hook on the end that the shepherd uses to correct the sheep. The staff would be symbolic of how we correct our children. This would be the talking through of things or physically redirecting their actions.

The rod is symbolic of discipline. I feel like discipline is a touchy subject. There are “opinions” everywhere you look about discipline, but the one opinion that holds weight is God’s and the Bible is very clear that if we love our children, we will discipline them. I do not know your families or your children personally, so I am providing a variety of scriptures about discipline at the end of this post.  I believe that discipline can take a variety of forms.  In our household, depending on the transgression and child, we use time outs, we take things away, we use positive reinforcements, sticker charts and we spank. I do feel that is important to have a variety of tools at your disposal. Every child is different.

If I could give one piece of advice that I gathered from teaching and my few years as a parent – being proactive is way better than being reactive when it comes to discipline. If you are proactive you are going to be much less likely to discipline out of a place of anger than if you are reactive. Ephesians 6:4 is directed to fathers but applies to mothers as well.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

We always want to make sure we are parenting in love, and we should discipline because we love our children, not just because they are upsetting us

The last area I will discuss when it comes to parenting today is the area of spirituality. Contrary to popular belief, children are not born innocent. They may be awfully sweet, but they’re not fully innocent. Job 15:14 says “What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?” When two sinners come together, what we create is another sinner. The sooner we accept this truth, the sooner we can be better parents.   I would hope that none of you have stiff armed your spouse, ripped something out of his hands, and screamed “Mine!” at the top of your lungs. Or thrown yourselves on the floor in a fit of desperation when you didn’t get your way. But I guarantee all of you parents have a child who has done one of those things.

As much as we would love to believe this is learned behavior, it is not. It is innate. Yes, children gain bad habits from other children, but just like the rest of us, their real struggle is against their own flesh. That is why God gave them parents – to physically provide for them, teach them self-control, and to guide them towards Him. That is it. We are not here to guarantee their salvation or control their lives. We are here to help prepare them for the works God has in store for them.

So how do we prepare our children spiritually? Well, this is one of the easier explanations. We teach them to seek God in His Word, through prayer, and through Praise and Worship. We try to be a living example. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 makes it very clear that our love for the Lord should be seen in everything we do and mentioned consistently.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Parenting is a tough job.   When God told Eve in Genesis 3:16 that she would have much pain in bringing forth children, I believe He meant for longer than just their actual physical birth. Raising a child is painful at times, but it can be so rewarding. Eve became familiar with that pain all too well when her son Cain killed her other son Abel. Even though it ended tragically, I am sure Eve still found her children to be a gift. I am sure she even still loved Cain regardless of the pain he caused her.

We know that children are a beautiful gift, formed in the womb by God. Our children are a made to order gift. While God was creating them, he saw all their days.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)

While God was creating us, He saw all of our days as well. And as those two stories intertwined, He wove in His perfect plan. He didn’t make any mistakes. He gave you who you needed as a child and who your child needed as a parent. I believe with all my heart that God uses our children to help develop us spiritually, and His plan is to use us to develop our children spiritually.

I will say it again – parenting is a tough job.  It is also a lifelong job. Parenting also has lifelong repercussions.

Although there is a lot of responsibility on our shoulders, I do want to offer comfort for those of us that have given our all and still have children that have rebelled and gone wayward. I was one of those children in the past, and I can say with all my heart that even though my parents made mistakes, they did the best they could with what they had, and I own the mistakes I made.   The Bible is clear that our children have their own free will. You will be responsible for your actions, and your children will be responsible for theirs.

I will conclude with a piece of wisdom from Proverbs 22:6. It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”   One way I have heard this interpreted is “Start a child in the opening of the course of life and when he grows up he will not lack direction.”   I love that interpretation.

We can offer our child a road map to life. We can train them how to read the map, and give them their own genuine copy, with their own personal trail highlighted by their Guide. But it is up to our child whether or not they ever use it.

I pray that God grants me the grace of seeing my children following the path He created for them. I pray that He does the same for each of you. What a blessing that will be.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


Scripture on Discipline

Whoever spares the rod hates his son,  but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him  (Proverbs 13:24)

Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.  (Proverbs 19:18)

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.  Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.  Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  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 3:20-24)

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11)

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother… Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. (Proverbs 29:15,17)

 Do not withhold discipline from a child;  if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod,  you will save his soul from Sheol.  (Proverbs 23:13-14)

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,  but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)


Psalm 127:3

 

 

 

Honest Prayers

There sure is a lot going on in the world right now. We have stories about the riots in Baltimore, Christians being brutalized in the Middle East, and the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Nepal flooding our daily news. Those are just the more recent tragic happenings through out the world, and they do not even begin to touch the surface of the looming darkness. All this darkness starts to weigh heavy on one’s soul if you really take some time to reflect on what is happening around the world.

After my husband returned home from a business trip Wednesday night, we had a late dinner and some of the big news stories came up in our conversation. I expressed to him how I felt so helpless, and at the same time ridiculous for having anxiety and stress over the things I do. People make jokes in our society about so called “first world problems”, as if they are actually problems. We fret over the most preposterous things. One recent local example that came to mind were people who were complaining about missing a bit of their live television show, because the station was putting out warnings for tornadoes and other horrible weather in our area. Seriously?!! People in this country really care more about missing 90 seconds of their television show than the safety of people who live around them. There are no words. Although I do not understand it, I do know I have been just as self-centered before.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

It has been heavy on my heart that there really is nothing physically that I can do to combat this darkness, especially the one attacking my brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East. I can send funds to one of many organizations, but I do not trust that the funds are always used appropriately. As of now, I do not feel called to leave my two little ones to go to these places; after all, I do not believe it is wise to go somewhere perilous without God leading me there. I am already praying, but there are days when I feel prayer just isn’t enough. There are days when I feel this draw on my heart to get out and be hands and feet for Christ. There are days when James talking about faith without works echoes in my head.

“But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”
James 2:20 (NASB)

I recently wanted to scream at one of my favorite writers through the computer screen about her blog post on Iraq. I agree with her on most things, but she had written a post that pretty much summed up what she believed to be the Christian’s answer to the situation in the Middle East, and I definitely disagreed. Summed up, her solution was for people to pray for God to rain down peace and to pray for these war criminals to find Jesus. An image of God waving a magic fairy wand that sprinkled pixie dust and rainbows over these depraved people and them instantly turning into smiling, Bible bearing Christians entered my mind. As quickly as that image came, it went, as I shook my head in disbelief. I desire everyone to know Jesus, everyone, even those who have hurt me and my family. Even those who seem to be without hope. Even those who have destroyed and taken lives. Everyone.   Yet, my prayers for these people are not filled with fantasies of rainbows and pixie dust.

When I read things like this woman’s post and all the comments that are filled with the same sentiment, I wonder what happened to the God given boldness that we see so often in the Bible. I know He is still handing it out. I know that Jesus himself used force when He turned over the money-changer’s tables in the temple, because He knew their intentions and disapproved.   Why do so many modern Christians focus on certain comforting aspects of faith and not the big picture? Of course I desire peace, but I am pretty sure scripture points to the fact that we will not see the world filled with it until Jesus comes again. Why look forward to His return if we can get it together without Him? News Flash: We can’t! The book of Revelation also makes it clear that Jesus is not coming on a rainbow surrounded by all things cute and furry. 

So what do my prayers sound like? Well, my prayers are founded in the fact that God is unchanging. I believe the God of the Old Testament that protected His people is still a God who will rise up warriors to defend them. I believe that my God despises depravity. He detests sexual immorality, which would include the rape and brutalization of women and young children. I believe he hears the cries of His children. I believe Jesus is personally welcoming those who are being beheaded home and embracing them. I believe the Holy Spirit is embracing hearts of those still in the clutches of this despair with peace and courage and boldness that words can not describe.   My prayers reflect these beliefs. I will be honest, they aren’t always pretty. I share many of the dark places in my heart when I am talking with God. No point hiding them, He knows they are there, and He is the only way to remove them. That being said, I also believe the Holy Spirit picks up where I am lacking.

My prayers beg God to relieve the burden that my brothers and sisters in Christ have to carry, however He sees fit. I pray for the protection of those in harms way in the mean time. I pray that God is stirring the hearts of political leaders and that they will send military help in to abolish these strongholds. I pray that God rises up a force, as only He can do, that will show these people that He is King and He will protect His children. That there will be no question that it is Him saving His people. That is what I pray, day in and day out. That is what I will continue to pray.

I may not be one of the warriors meant for this conflict, (And we’re kidding ourselves if we say it isn’t a physical conflict just because we aren’t fighting back), but I hope those who are called listen to the stirring in their own hearts. I pray that I will listen to God’s call in my heart when my next chance to enter battle, whether physically or spiritually, comes. I pray that God opens the eyes of His Church and that we realize that Church wasn’t intended to be a hobby for Wednesdays and Sundays. It wasn’t meant to be an activity. Being part of the Church is a way of life. I pray that those within the Church start spending less time within their safe walls and more time building up the actual Church.

Let’s quit warming our church pews and our classrooms, and do something! We do not have to go to a foreign country to find the broken and abused. They’re in our backyard, and they shouldn’t have to come find us on Wednesday or Sunday or at a special event that we plan to use to lure them in with the promise of fun or physical items. We shouldn’t have to plan to share Jesus using something else as bait. The best thing to draw people in with is the Truth.  We should be in such close relationship with Christ that talking about Him just flows right out of us like talking about our spouse or our children. The Truth should be living in us.

I pray, most of all, that God starts with me. I firmly believe that we lead by actions, not just words. I am praying for God’s guidance on how to step out in faith. For too long I have sat on the sidelines, comfortable within my own little bubble, writing a check here and there. I have given my time and effort to the “easy” things, only to discover that they aren’t fulfilling. Why? Because the “easy” things never are! God did not call us into relationship to cruise down Easy Street. He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.

Please join me in continual prayer for our brothers and sisters that are being brutalized through out the world, as well as those whose world was just destroyed by the earthquake that ravished Nepal. Also, join me in praying for all believers to hear the call of God and to follow. God didn’t stop calling people to be brave and do courageous things once the Bible was completed.  He doesn’t just call some of His children to take up the cross.  He calls all of us.  There is nothing in the Bible that tells us to blindly follow our local church leaders and just trust that they hear His call clearly for all of the church. God calls each of us to stand up and listen to His direction. He calls each of us to pick up our own cross. He isn’t going to tell someone else His plan for you. He will tell you if you take time to ask, though! We are here to support one another as believers, to build God’s Church, not follow someone else’s call or dream or to build our individual congregations.  There is One Church, One Body in Christ. We are here to follow One Man and that man is Jesus. Let’s stop admiring the courage and boldness of the people within pages of books and on the screen and start being those people. Let’s quit praying for someone else to answer the call, and let’s start answering the one God has given us. None of our callings are easy, but Jesus promised to help carry that burden.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


 

Articles of Interest

What does the Bible say about protection?

What does the Bible say about self-defense?


C.S. Lewis

 

 

Break Every Chain

 

I love when I have “That is totally me” moments while reading the Word. Last week I was reading in 1 John and a commentary piece describing the apostle in my Bible really hit home. It was commenting on how John is called “The apostle of love” because he used the word “love” so frequently in his writing. Ironically his first nickname was “Son of Thunder”, and it was given to him by Jesus.   John was passionate, to say the least. He wanted people to know Jesus. Sometimes his approach was not the best, as in wanting to call down fire from heaven on unresponsive villages during his time ministering with Jesus, but with time he would be known as someone who was all about the love of Christ.

When I think about John’s thundering personality, I see myself. I am boisterous at times, and even though it is with the best of intentions, it isn’t always the right fit for the situations I find myself in. I do know God has gifted me with this personality. I need to learn to use it for His glory, just like John did.

John was outspoken about his feelings towards enemies of the gospel. In 1 John 2:18 he calls them antichrists. (Ouch.) In 1 John 2:22 he calls them liars, and in 1 John 3:10 he calls them children of the devil. (Double ouch.) John was pointed with things he felt needed to be addressed with full sincerity, and I appreciate his forwardness. It isn’t always easy to step forward and call a spade a spade. God has been working with me to start speaking out when necessary. Speaking up used to not be an issue for me, it was how I spoke up that was the real problem. I would always lose my temper, make it personal,, or use inappropriate language when things got really heated. Unfortunately, my message would be lost the second one of those things would happen. Even if I was right, I was wrong. So the Spirit took me on a journey of remaining silent, even when I wanted to scream.   Now God is leading me in the opposite direction, but this time it is with a toned down temper and better language! I feel He is calling me to master this part of my flesh.

Fast forward through a long journey filled with many lessons and here we are in April 2015. Two weeks ago I was picking my daughter up from school and I overheard the “R” word coming from a conversation between two adults. It didn’t sit right in my heart, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak up and say something. After all, I had used the word before. Eventually this lady would find a better vocabulary set to describe things that frustrate her, right? Then I came across this video several times in my Facebook feed. Yep, even those in “worldly” media are standing up against this. And then I thought, shouldn’t Christians be leading the way?   We preach love, but when it is tough, do we show it? Do we defend people who are not able to defend themselves because they aren’t present or aren’t able?

The next day my family and I were out shopping at a local store. Our trip was going great, until we reached the door.   That is when I overheard a couple bullying the man at the entrance for doing his job. At this store you have to present a receipt to verify your purchases before leaving, and he asked one question to which they responded with complete aggression. The gentleman couldn’t exactly defend himself. The nudge came as I watched the situation unfold. As the couple exited, only to storm back in and make a scene, saying they were going to speak to the manager, the nudge turned into a push.

As we were walking out to the parking lot, I was still trying to get out of standing up. I knew I didn’t want my children to see the situation if it turned ugly, so I asked my husband whether he wanted to go back in and leave a name and number or whether I should. After the kids were buckled in, I knew it had to be me. God was calling me. I couldn’t walk away from the situation or pawn it on someone else.

So I turned around and walked back into that store thinking I would just leave my name and number for the manager to contact me, so I could share that his employee was not rude and only doing his job. God had other plans. While I was waiting patiently at the customer service desk, listening to the man berate the manager and customer service employees, I rehearsed what I would say to the manager in my head. I watched the rude customer’s behavior, and wondered why they were so offended. Right when I thought the man was going to turn to leave, he asked for the number to the corporate office so he could call in his complaint as well. A young woman behind the counter shared it, and he yelled at her that he wasn’t talking to her.

At that moment, I knew my patience was gone and as I would later see while reflecting, it was as if the Spirit took my muzzle off and filled me with the courage to speak up. I waited a moment to see if the manager would step in to defend the poor girl and he didn’t. Finally the push became an obvious shove and loudly, without negative words, I stepped in and spoke up.   I came to the defense of the poor girl who was now tearing up behind the counter. I defended the man at the door, and I called out this couple’s behavior. Did they just stand and take it? No. At one point, I asked to have the police called because the woman threatened me. Was I super eloquent? No. But the point was made. I did what God called me to do.

Of course, I know it was God because the couple was silent after I mentioned the police and they left without incident or another word to me. As I filled out the incident report in the manager’s office, I thought about how God had used every experience in my life to lead me up to this point. Before I was saved I had spent many nights partying with people who had character of a lower quality. God had carried me safely through it, and along the way gave me discernment about which people were truly evil and which ones were just lost. That discernment served me well in this situation, because I knew these people were just lost. They were looking for a fight, but they were actually cowards; which is why they chose to bully the employee they did.

I am pretty sure the manager thought I was crazy, and when I came home and looked at my makeup free, tired face in the mirror I thought I probably looked it. Yet, God showed me the importance of removing the “Soccer Mom” mask. Walking in the Spirit isn’t a performance where we are cast for a role, but it is improvisation when the Spirit nudges (or shoves in this case).   I didn’t need a pretty face to get my point across. I didn’t need to be dressed for success. I just needed Jesus.

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished by the devil. As soon as I got home, fear came knocking. What if those people had been carrying a gun? What if they had waited and followed us home or approached my family in our vehicle in the parking lot? Was it really the Spirit giving me courage to be bold or was it my temper? Would God protect me even if I had heard Him wrong?

The Lord answered me, loud and clear, in my morning quiet time. He led me to the following scripture in my devotional. He also brought the words of Jesus in the Book of Matthew to mind.

Psalm 144:1-2
Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

God had trained me through big situations, as well as fine tuned my abilities through smaller lessons. I was prepared for this battle. He loves me with a steadfast love. He will protect and deliver me. He will subdue the enemy.

God is watching over the birds of the air. How much more does he follow my every move? When it is my time to go home, my time will come, so there is no need to worry. My life will be much fuller if I follow His call.

Matthew 6:26-27
Look at the birds of the air:
they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

It seems like the world is getting darker by the minute. Just this week on the news I watched a story about an ESPN anchor bullying a woman at a towing company, and after watching the video, I wondered why the woman waiting in the background didn’t step in and tell her to stop.   It takes light to push back the dark. It takes people stepping up and saying, “Enough!” It takes more than coming home and complaining about it on Facebook, or posting your onlooker video. Instead of filming, why don’t people step in and stop it then and there?

As I was listening to worship music this week, a lyric from “Break Every Chain” by Jesus Culture stood out to me. “There is an army rising up to break every chain…” I am ready to join this army, even if it is with shaking hands and knocking knees, because I know the One living in me is greater than any evil in the world. Are we all called to be sons and daughters of thunder? Absolutely not, but the darker it gets in this world, the more power even the smallest amount of light has. Let Christ’s light shine. Let Him redeem and use your past for His glory. Step out and have faith to walk on the stormy waters.

All need grace and all is grace, friends!


Break Every Chain

Photo credit.