Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Is Jesus Away With the Manger?

What will you do with Jesus now that the Christmas season is over?  Maybe you will tuck Jesus away along with all of the Christmas decorations that come down after the 25th.  I urge you not to do that this year!  Really, we should be in awe of Jesus‘ coming to the earth as a baby boy every day.  We should be in awe because He came to offer every one of us forgiveness of sin.  
Forgiveness.  A complete cleansing.  A new life.  And it comes not through our own efforts to be “good enough” (see Ephesians 2:8-9)  We can never be good enough to measure up to God’s standard, which is perfection.  
This makes me think about the movie Mary Poppins.  (Another piece of evidence that I have young children!)  There is a point in the movie where Mary Poppins pulls a tape measure out of her bottomless carpet bag.  This isn’t any old tape measure; when she measures the children, each one “measures up” to an accurate description of personality and behavior.  When Mary is measured, it reads “practically perfect in every way.”  Imagine God’s tape measure: the standard is PERFECTION.  Only Jesus Christ “measures up.”  I won’t even tell you what my “height” would read!   Completely perfect in every way.  This is why we need a Savior!  None of us measures up without Jesus. 
The Creator of the world, the entire universe clothed Himself in human flesh and walked the earth (see Colossians 1:13-17).
The King of kings humbled Himself and left the magnificence of Heaven to become a servant and to give up His life for us (Mark 10:45).
The Ruler of all things came to the earth for one purpose: to be the final, ultimate sacrifice for sin, to offer us forgiveness of sin because without the shedding of blood sin cannot be forgiven (Hebrews 9:22).
This is just a sampling of what Jesus’ birth really means, and what those of us who believe in Jesus and trust Him as our Lord ought to celebrate at Christmas time and give thanks for every day of our lives.


Friday, December 2, 2011

24 Days of CHRISTmas

I love Christmastime! The lights, the decorations, the music, the festivities...I could go on!  But one of my favorite things about the month of December is the tradition that my husband and I started a couple of years ago. It is one we have enjoyed sharing with our children as well, and hope to pass it on to future generations.  
The 24 days leading up to Christmas is a perfect time to look at some of the Bible’s Old Testament prophecies and New Testament fulfillments concerning the Messiah (Savior), who we know is Jesus Christ.  Curl up in your favorite chair with a blanket and cup of hot cocoa and read through one grouping of the following verses each day from now until Christmas. Look at how the Old Testament describes Messiah, and watch how the New Testament describes Jesus Christ. (Just a note: this list of verses is not exhaustive!) If you ever wondered how we know He is the Messiah, you will discover the answer this month. 
  • Genesis 3:14-15 
    • (Luke 22:52-53; Galatians 4:4-5)
  • Genesis 12:2-3 
    • (Matthew 1:1; Acts 3:25-26;)
  • Genesis 13:14-16 
    • (Galatians 3:15-19)
  • Genesis 22:18 
    • (Galatians 3:6-9)
  • Genesis 49:10 
    • (Luke 1:32-33)
  • Numbers 24:17 
    • (Luke 1:32-35)
  • Deuteronomy 18:15 
    • (Acts 3:18, 22-26)
  • Deuteronomy 18:18 
    • (John 6:14; 12:49-50)
  • Psalm 2:7 
    • (Acts 13:32-33)
  • Psalm 8:4-6 
    • (Hebrews 2:6-9)
  • Psalm 45:6-7 
    • (Hebrews 1:8-9)
  • Psalm 102:25-27 
    • (Hebrews 1:8a, 10-12)
  • Psalm 118:26 
    • (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38)
  • Isaiah 7:14 
    • (Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-35)
  • Isaiah 9:1-2 
    • (Matthew 4:12-16)
  • Isaiah 9:6-7 
    • (Luke 1:31-33)
  • Isaiah 11:1-2 
    • (Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22)  
  • Isaiah 16:5 
    • (Luke 1:32-33)      
  • Isaiah 42:1-4 
    • (Matthew 12:15-21)
  • Isaiah 55:3 
    • (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25)
  • Isaiah 59:20-21 
    • (Matthew 1:21; Acts 2:38-39)
  • Jeremiah 23:5-6 
    • (Luke 1:32-33; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • Isaiah 35:5-6 
    • (Matthew 11:4-6; Luke 7:22)
  • Micah 5:2 
    • (Matthew 2:1-6)

May this renew your sense of awe this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

People of Thanks-Giving

This is the time of year intended to slow us down and give us opportunity to share with one another what we are thankful for. And that “giving of thanks” really ought to be given to the One from whom all blessings come: the Lord God. But, as with any holiday, Thanksgiving can become invaded by housecleaning, hors d'oeuvres, and hosting hungry people! Instead of truly making it a day of giving thanks to God, we say a brief prayer and then proceed to fill ourselves with turkey, converse about anything but thankfulness to God, sit on the sofa feeling a bit bloated, and take a nap or watch football. At least this has been my experience in the past. It grieves my heart! Of all people, those who have found salvation in Jesus Christ should be most thankful, and here we have an opportunity to openly give thanks to God.
In my study of Isaiah, I read chapter 12 today. How very timely, just two days before Thanksgiving (as you will see). While the context refers to how the remnant of Israel will respond when God gathers them together, I was excited to see how this short chapter has great application for believers! Will you read through this seemingly lengthy blog so I can share with you what I learned from this chapter? I hope that you will be as blessed as I was, and ready to be a person of thanks-giving this week...and the rest of our lives.
Isaiah 12: 
“Then you will say on that day, ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord; for although you were angry with my, Your anger is turned away, and you comfort me”’ (v. 1).
  • Believers could say the same thing. The moment a person repents of sin and trusts Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, God’s anger is turned away. He moves from the position of Judge to Father (John 1:12; 3:16-18; Romans 8:15-17). What an awesome, awesome truth. Have you given thanks to God for this? Can you? Or do you need to come to Him through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ? 
“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation” (vv. 2-3).
  • Jesus Christ is our salvation. Those who trust in Him need not be afraid! “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). 
  • The blessings of being "in Christ" overflow (see John 7:38). Jesus is the Living Water. He satiates our deepest thirst so we will never be thirsty again, never again seek satisfaction in broken cisterns that cannot hold water (see Jeremiah 2:13).
“And in that day, you will say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; make them remember that His name is exalted’” (v. 4).
  • Believers in Jesus have so much to give thanks for! As you study the Bible, make it a point to look for things that you can give thanks to God for. If you are in Christ, the blessings abound! (If you are not familiar with the blessings of being “in Christ,” read Ephesians. Make a list of all of the things you can be thankful for.)
  • We also have the privilege to call upon His name and know that He hears and answers us according to His will.
  • We ought to make it known to others the “deeds” God has done: what He has done in, for, and through us. Talk about it this Thanksgiving; don’t hold back. Help them so see that His name is exalted -- lofty, esteemed, worthy of praise!
“Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (vv. 5-6).
  • Praise Him with singing and music. Proclaim the excellent things He has done, from the creation of the world to making you a new creation in Christ. We should be so humbled and thrilled by what He has done in, through, and for us that we cannot keep quiet about it.
  • And where is the Holy One dwelling today? Within believers! He is always in our midst (see Ezekiel 36:27; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
Now, what do you have to be thankful for? If I have any readers out there in cyberspace (and I hope I do!) please post a comment and share at least one thing you are thankful for. (Even if you are reading this in the spring time, I want to hear from you!) 
As we enjoy our Thanksgiving meal with friends and/or family, or even quietly alone, let us all make it a point to give thanks to the one to Whom it is due.
His Blessings Abound!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Are You Building or Demolishing?

“The wise woman builds up her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1
One of the ways that we can be either building up our homes, or tearing them down with our very own hands is in the way we relate to our husbands. (Of course, our children apply to this as well, but the husband-wife relationship is on my heart lately.)
Are you (and I!) striving to build up our homes by building up our husbands? Consider your words, your attitude, your actions toward the man God has given to you.
  • What kind of words proceed from your mouth more often: those that edify him and build him up, or critical words that tear him down? (see Ephesians 4:29)
  • What kind of attitude do you express most often: one of disrespect and disdain, or one of humility, gratitude, and lovingkindness? (see Ephesians 5:20-22; Philippians 2:5-8)
  • What actions do you demonstrate to your husband: are you self-focused or do you intentionally look for practical, meaningful ways in which you can show your love to him and put him first? (see Philippians 2:3-4)
I admit to you that my natural tendency is to be the critical, fault-finding wife. But the truth is that each moment I choose to live that way, I tear down my own home, piece-by-piece, with my very own hands. I cannot shift the blame to my husband. 
What about you? Are you making choices that will build up your home, or tear it down?
 If you are married, I urge you to ask the Lord: “Am I making a focused effort to build up my house, or am I somehow tearing it down with my own hands?” You can even go a step further and ask your husband this question (gasp!), or a close friend who sees you interact with your husband on a regular basis. 
As God shows you and I where we are guilty of tearing down our husbands (and therefore our homes), by the grace of God, let’s determine to do it no more. Instead, take those very areas and replace the sin with specific effort to build our husbands up. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, then you have the power to please the Lord: the Holy Spirit living in you. Tap into that power! “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh...if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:16, 26).
Blessings as you build up your home,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tell of His Wonders

If someone were to ask you, “What is God teaching you lately?” how would you respond? Would you take offense to such a question, or would you welcome the opportunity to share what God is doing in your life? Would you even have anything to share?

I have had just a handful of friends who faithfully ask me that question. Such friends are true gems! They ask me and genuinely want to hear what I am learning, and they willingly share with me as well. Do you have such a friend? Are you such a friend? Maybe it’s time to start asking that question of others, and being willing to share as well.
The question challenges us, don’t you think? Certainly, it may catch us off-guard at first, but then we have to pause and really ask ourselves, “What is God teaching me? Am I learning anything from Him?” In order for Him to teach us, we have to be teachable; we need a spirit of humility before the Lord, a heart open to Him and sensitive to the Spirit as He reveals sin in our lives (sometimes in painful ways!). We also need an attitude of meekness so we can talk about what He is doing in a way that does not come across as pious or prideful. 
If you are a child of God, you can be sure that He is always in the process of teaching you -- about Himself, about your relationship to Him and others, you name it (see for example Psalm 86:11; 119:33-40; 2 Tim 3:16-17). There is always something to share with others. If only we are willing. Are you?

If you do not think that God is teaching you anything right now, then join the psalmist and ask Him to teach you what He wants you to learn -- about Himself, His character, His will, etc. Then dig into His Word and be prepared, because this is a prayer He is certain to answer!
“I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:1)

Share His Blesssings!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who's Your Elmo?

I’m hoping the title to this post will provoke some curiosity. I know I talk about my kids a lot -- especially my 4-1/2 year-old, Eliana -- but who knew I could learn so much from a child? Today, in response to the question, “Don’t you think Elmo is a little annoying sometimes?” Eliana said simply, “No. He’s just the way God made him.”
Now, it’s true that I have to teach my daughter the difference between puppets and humans, but that’s not the point I want to make.
What kind of a difference would it make if we had Eliana’s point of view toward people we know? people we work with? people we come into contact with? 

Of course, I am not referring to tolerating sinful lifestyles and choices (we need to speak the truth in love! see Ephesians 4:15), but sometimes people with personalities that differ from our own can rub us the wrong way. Let it go no further. Remember we are all uniquely created by God for His purposes and His pleasure. Let’s try to appreciate the differences of others instead of being aggravated by them. 
After all, “He’s just the way God made him”...or her!
Blessings, my friend,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Look At It This Way

The stench was almost unbearable. In fact, it led me to notice some of the other things surrounding me that seemed intolerable as well. Soon my mind was reeling with thoughts of the irritations, inconveniences, and petty nuisances I faced daily, not to mention the quirky practices of those around me. What a peculiar place I was in! Thankfully, the day was nearing an end and it was time to sleep -- which I had little trouble doing those days.
What relief I felt the next morning when I awoke to find myself in a completely different place. I immediately noticed the sun -- it was shining! What a happy, welcoming blessing we have in the sun. I felt the crisp, cool air, which lingered all day and provided ample opportunity to get outdoors with the kids. I thought of the blessings, opportunities, adventures, and new people we had yet to encounter. Gratitude sprang up inside of me for what God had provided and would do in that place.
Here is the strangest part about all of this: I was in the same place the whole time -- the same location, that is...but a completely different “place” in my mind. What a difference our perspectives make on life!
I once had a professor who said (almost daily!), “There’s power in our perspectives.” Now I know why he said that so much. He wanted it to stick with us (and it has for some 15 years!) because it is true.
A friend of mine recently said that she has heard, “Your perspectives become your reality.” The illustration above reveals the truth of that statement as well. 
Oh, how we need to seek to have God’s perspective on our life and circumstances. What is your reality right now, my friend? Does it look bleak, like my first outlook did (and I still battle it at times!)? Maybe we all need to check our glasses and make sure we are looking at life clearly, accurately, through the lens of God’s Word. Those glasses sure do get cloudy when we don’t keep them clean with His truth! And, as I have learned, they also get muddled when we have a negative spirit. A thankful attitude will go a long way in helping us have God’s perspective on our life and circumstances.
Blessings, my friend --

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Miniature Me

I had had enough.  The whining, complaining, ungrateful attitude was getting to me.  I tried to be patient and speak with love, but my annoyance was escalating.  Finally, my frustration came to a head: “That’s enough!” I said firmly (and a bit too loud), “I am really tired of your whining and complaining when you don’t get your way!”
I was speaking to my daughter, but as the words came out of my mouth I realized it may as well have been God speaking to me!  How often have I whined or complained when things don’t go “my way” -- either out loud, or in my heart and thoughts?  How often have I exhibited an ungrateful attitude because things are not happening the way I thought or desired?
Many times, I see in my children a reflection of me; I get a glimpse of my own childish attitude or behavior toward my Heavenly Father.  How thankful I am that “the Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness” (Psalm 103:8).  So unlike myself as a parent.  
I have personally learned that nothing humbles us (me) like being a parent.  But it also teaches me about the greatness of God, my Father: His patience, kindness, forgiveness, grace...  What a privilege it is to be called His child through faith in Jesus Christ.  Now, I better act like it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

True or False?

A woman in my Bible study class recently made a statement that made me think. She said, “If we are deceived, then would we even know it?” Hmmm...good point. I decided to look up the definition of “deceived”: to mislead by a false appearance or statement; delude; (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary); cause (someone) to believe something that is not true (New Oxford American Dictionary)
To be deceived is to be convinced that something other than “truth” is true. The very nature of deception is to delude us so quietly that we do not realize we believe a lie. It is sneaky...cunning...crafty. We learn from the Bible that people can deceive us, Satan can deceive us, and our own flesh can deceive us. Sin is deceitful (Hebrews  3:13). Our very hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9, emphasis added).
The most sobering aspect of this is that any of us can be deceived...and not even know it. You may study God’s Word daily, attend Bible classes faithfully, pray fervently, and still be deceived in a particular area. Or you may be on the opposite side of the spectrum and think everything I am writing is a bunch of hooey!  Yet you, too, may be deceived. 
These are some ways that you and I may be misled:
  • In our actions
  • In our beliefs
  • In our attitudes
  • In our choices
  • In our activities
  • In our marriage
  • In our parenting
  • What we allow into our homes
  • What we allow into our minds
The list could go on. My conclusion is that I need to pray.  I must ask God to open my eyes to the ways that I may be deceived. I need to ask Him what to do about it, and be willing to change.  I must pray that I am sensitive to His Spirit as He convicts me of sin and leads me into the truth through His Word (see John 16:8, 13; 17:17).

Will you pray with me that the Lord will remove the scales from our eyes and help us to know if we are being deceived in any area(s)? May we ask Him for the grace and help to follow His truth instead of the lies, whatever the cost.
Find Blessings in His Truth,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rejoicing, Not Regretting

We have all experienced trials or pain to one degree or another.  Sometimes we bring pain upon ourselves by poor choices.  (Particularly when we do not follow God‘s instruction book -- the Bible -- in our decision making!)  I think of a particular situation that has become my “thorn in the flesh.”  It was an unwise purchase that my husband and I made, and we are still experiencing the consequences of it 6 years later...and probably for some time to come.  I realize that compared to some, this trial seems ridiculous.  But it has been real for me.  It has been painful.  However, this trial has taught me many, many things.  
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”  (Romans 8:28-29)
In all trials, if you love God and belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, then He is working all things together for your good.  That is hard to imagine when you are in the midst of a trial, especially if you feel like you have brought it upon yourself.  The “good” that He is always working is to make you more like Jesus Christ; “to become conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29). 
The reality is that God is in control. 
  • He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (from Ephesians 1:11)
  • “No purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (from Job 42:2)
  • “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:1)
My purpose is not to address the sovereignty of God, but to encourage you that there are times in life (perhaps, many times?) when we make a decision, and it doesn’t turn out as we planned or envisioned that it would.  It may end up bringing us grief and pain. But God allowed it, and He has reasons for allowing it. He has good things to teach us in the process, maybe some things that we would not have learned any other way than to go through that particular trial at that particular time.
I have focused these thoughts on so-called “poor decisions,” even those we pray about but do not gather all of the facts or take the time and effort necessary to make a wise decision.  But here is another thought: Perhaps you have been faithful to pray, study, seek counsel, and confidently go forward with a decision that you were convinced God wanted you to do, and yet that decision has brought great agony and distress.  Remember that obedience to God does not guarantee an easy life free of pain.  Again, the Lord often uses pain or hardship to draw us closer to Himself and teach us lifelong lessons.  Just because things have not turned out the way you had hoped does not mean it was a “bad” decision.
Do you have regrets over any decisions you have made?  Is the regret over making a sinful decision, or because the situation did not turn out as you had hoped?  If it was a sinful decision, God offers forgiveness if you confess your sin to Him (1 John 1:9).  Once you have been forgiven, walk in it!  Either way, rather than living in regret, look at what God has done in your life, specifically through that painful decision.  Maybe even write it down (there’s that idea again!).  Share it with others.  Rejoice in the Lord instead of being a prisoner of regret.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This Season of Life

Seasons of life...there are certainly more than four! Sometimes it seems there are four hundred seasons in life. In this season of my life, I have three adorable children ages 4 and under, who FILL my days with singing and dancing, doling out peanut butter kisses (and fingerprints!), giggles and gurgles (dirty diapers, too) and lots of memories. This explains why I started this blog with gusto and it has dwindled to striving for 1-2 postings a week. But that’s okay -- I realize that this may not be my “season” to write. Yet there are things that God is doing in my life; just because this is a busy season at home does not mean God isn’t using me or working in my life -- He is! For one thing, He is tugging at my heart to be happy at home: to be a better example (for my children) of a wife who loves the Lord and respects her husband, to train and teach my children, take care of the many responsibilities at home (cheerfully), and PLAY with my kids! 
Some of my friends are in a different place in life -- unmarried...married without children...married with older children...etc. God has given them burdens or opportunities different from my own. It is unwise for me to assume that I ought to be  serving in the same ways they are, or involved in the same things they do. It is also unwise for me to become too concerned with how the Lord is using them and compare it to my own life. (Does that strike a cord?) Jesus addressed an issue along these lines with Peter, one of His disciples. 
When Jesus spoke to Peter about the way he (Peter) would die, Peter’s first response was an effort to compare: he wanted to know what would happen to John, another disciple. He wasn’t satisfied with focusing on God’s plan for himself. Jesus answered Peter by saying, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22). In other words, it is none of your business what I have planned for John. You follow me. I think He is still saying the same thing to many of us. 
What is God tugging at your heart to do right now, in your “season”? (Perhaps it is to start asking Him what to do!) Is it time you begin to give more? to leave it all behind to reach the lost? to pour yourself out for others in some way? to pray more? to invest in your children’s lives? to write a book? What is it? 
Rather than being caught up in comparisons, let’s focus on what God is teaching us individually, and what He is doing in our own lives. What a waste of time and energy it is to make comparisons or battle discontentment. It is exhausting! What life and joy there is when we blossom where He has planted us in this season, for this time.
Blessings as you blossom,

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Follow HIM Fully

I have recently finished studying the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament. I am in awe of all that God taught me through these books! Jehoash (also shortened to Joash) is on my mind today. “Jehoash?” you may be saying, “I don’t even know how to pronounce that name, much less have anything to say about him!” I understand! And don’t worry about the pronunciation -- most of us louse up the Hebrew names anyway (which are beautiful when pronounced correctly). I will do my best to give you enough detail to share the lesson the Lord taught me, and maybe whet your appetite to study him as well if you haven’t already.
Jehoash had a blessed beginning: 
    • He was hidden and protected from the evil and destructive Athaliah who wanted to secure the kingdom of Judah for herself (as queen) by killing the royal line, to include Jehoash (2 Kings 11:1-3).
    • He grew up in the house of the Lord. His formative years were spent there (7 years).
    • He was raised by Jehoiada the priest.
    • Became king of Judah when he was 7 (yes, seven!) years old, and reigned 40 years.
At first glance, it’s easy to conclude “Wow! With such a beginning, he must have been a strong man of faith when he was older.” But there was a problem with Jehoash. Scripture tells us: “Jehoash did right in the sight of the Lord all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 12:2, emphasis added). In other words, as long as Jehoiada was around, Jehoash did what was right. 
Once Jehoiada was no longer around to demonstrate godliness and be a positive influence, Jehoash was swayed by the negative influences around him:
“But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them” (2 Chronicles 24:17).
The result was that the house of the Lord was abandoned and the people followed after idolatry. God eventually sent Jehoiada’s son Zechariah to bring a warning. Look at the surprising response: “[Judah] conspired against him and at the command of the king [Jehoash] they stoned him to death” (v. 21).  How heart-wrenching, all because Jehoash succumbed to ungodly influences! 
It is very possible for a person to do right only because of the influences around him or her, and not because it is truly in their heart to love and please God. 
“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Proverbs 29:25)
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
Are you like Jehoash? Do you need to step up your trust in God and do what is right even in the face of potential rejection, criticism, humility, or whatever you seem to stumble over into fear of man? Ask the Lord to help you seek His favor rather than the favor of men.
What about your children? I know I have been writing a lot about and for mothers recently, but that is the chapter of life I am in! Pray for our children NOT to be like Jehoash, but to be so solid in their faith and love for God that they will do what is right even when faced by ungodly pressures.
Blessings as you seek to follow HIM fully--

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Do Battle for Your Brood!

The chronicles of Israel and Judah’s kings given to us in 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles are sobering as a mother.  God-fearing and God-honoring men had sons who committed great evil (i.e.: Jehoram son of Jehoshophat; Manasseh son of Hezekiah; Jehoahaz son of Josiah).  It is true that once in a while it was the other way around -- an evil king had a son who did love the Lord, but I think the message is clear: We cannot assume our kids will grow up to love the Lord just because we do.  
This anxiety-provoking, anguish-inducing thought can either paralyze us with fear, or motivate us to do battle for our children’s souls.  Rather than being apathetic, take action!  Here are some ways we can do this:
  • PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for our children -- for their hearts to be soft and pliable toward God and His Word.
  • LIVE a real (genuine) life of faith, complete with seeking forgiveness from our kids and the Lord when they see us fail (through our own actions, attitudes, words, etc.).
  • TRAIN them in the ways of the Lord.  Address the heart and not just behavior!  I cannot emphasize the importance of that enough. Take time to be with them, to study and train them and teach them the way God intended:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
  • DEVELOP a relationship with them by being with them.  Play with them when they are young, support their endeavors as they grow, show interest in their interests, befriend them as adults...
  • PROTECT our children from ungodly influences.  This takes wisdom and discernment -- and courage!  Moms, we need to be aware and beware of what our children are watching, listening to, where they are going, who their friends are, etc.  Do not be fooled: these are the things that shape our children’s worldview, beliefs, choices.
  • CRY OUT to God on behalf of your child, and on behalf of yourself for wisdom in raising them.
  • TRUST God with the end result.  Never stop praying, even if our greatest fear and sorrow becomes a reality: a child who does not love the Lord and walk in His ways.  Never stop praying.
“Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and it will be open to you” (Matthew 7:1)

Jesus Himself taught with parables “to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (from Luke 18:1).
This list is in no way exhaustive.  If you have ideas you would like to share, add a “comment.”  Please share the wisdom God has given you.  I would love to hear from you!
Blessings to you and your “brood,”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

God Is Good...Or Is He?

Now, here’s an interesting thought.  Sometimes (though not always) we use the phrase, “God was good!” when what we really mean is, “God did what I asked Him to do!”  
Most of us have probably said something like:
“The weather looked threatening and we thought we would have to cancel our trip, but God was good!”  

How about this one:
“We almost didn’t make it to the hospital in time to have the baby, but God was good!”
I know that I have been guilty of saying this (and I may have even used that second phrase!), with an honest intention of giving God the glory for what He did in my life at that moment.  But there is one small problem.
God is always good and always doing good, even when we do not get what we want...or when we are given something we never wanted.

“You are good and do good...” (Psalm 119:68)

“For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5; see also 106:1 & 107:1)
Perhaps we need to be a bit more cautious about using this phrase.  It may set us up for failure when we do not get what we asked the Lord for because, if you think about it, it seems to indicate that He is not good in that case.
What if the weather did turn bad and the trip had to be canceled?  Is God still good?  
What if the baby came before the hospital?  Is God still good?  
We know in our hearts the answer is “Yes!  He is still good.”  But how we respond reveals what we truly believe about God at that moment.  Maybe we need to remind ourselves a little more often of the fact that God is good all the time, no matter what happens -- and what doesn’t.
I’m not trying to “major on minors,” but it is some food for thought, is it not?
Delight in His Blessings,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Intentional Encouragement

“Encourage one another, and build each other up...” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  What words of advice.  I sometimes wonder how much less I might say if I would consistently heed these words...and then again, how much more I could say as well!  Recently I have been thinking about how this applies to those of us who are moms.  Are we encouraging one another and building each other up specifically as moms?  When was the last time you told a fellow mother, in all sincerity, “You are doing a great job”?  
Sometimes we “encourage” other moms by giving unsolicited advice, and that may actually have the opposite effect and come across as if saying, “You aren’t doing the right thing.”  Now, if another mom is sinning in something she is or isn’t doing, that is one thing, but more often it is a matter of personal preference or opinion that we are quick to give input about.  What works for others may not work for us, and vice-versa.  Consider a few popular heated topics:
    • Sleeping through the night versus waking to nurse or take a bottle
    • Breast-feeding versus bottle-feeding
    • Potty-training
Obviously, as a mom of young children I am thinking primarily of the younger years, but I know that with every stage come issues about which moms have strong opinions.  How about asking each other, “Is that working for you?” instead of being too quick to offer that unsolicited advice.  Or ask, “Would you like me to share with helped me with that?”  If she doesn’t, determine not to be offended!  People are more important than preferences.
As moms, there are many times when we question if we are doing the right thing, making the best decisions in raising our children.  (At least I do!)  If we are Christians, we are usually diligently praying for God’s wisdom and help for this most challenging task.  Let’s strive to encourage one another along this journey of motherhood, which feels like a journey into the Twilight Zone from time to time.  Here are some ideas to get you started thinking about how to encourage your mom-friends:
Encourage moms who feel frazzled with the baby stage that they have an important job, even when it feels like the only thing they can accomplish in a day is changing diapers, feeding baby, and hopefully getting a shower.  It will be worth all their effort.
Encourage moms who are exhausted with toddlers to be consistent with disciplining those little children and a reminder that playing with them really is more important than cleaning the house.  And keep a sense of humor!
Encourage moms busy with other children to cherish the days and moments with their kids (especially during those busy school years) and that God is faithful to those who ask Him for wisdom to handle the challenges that seem to come with every parenting “season.”  Make memories that will last a lifetime -- for mom and kids.
Moms with children of every age -- from infancy to grown adults -- benefit from encouragement.  There are moms who have children at every age and stage of life -- all at the same time!  Be encouraging -- and then when a friend and fellow mom really does want some advice, she will probably come to you because she knows you are a safe place for her to share her struggles and concerns; someone who is right there with her, learning and growing as a mom after God’s own heart.