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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where's Your Wisdom?

We are bombarded with advice these days -- on TV, radio, Facebook, friends, magazines, books, you name it.  Where is the first place you seek counsel:
  • In decision-making?
  • In marriage concerns?
  • In relationship issues?
  • In parenting problems?
  • In personal growth and change?
With so many opinions swarming around us, can you and I truly say that we go to the Most High God for wisdom?  Or do we settle for those opinions?  It’s not uncommon for us to become drawn into other ways of handling life’s problems and questions...only to have those ways come crashing down.  I know I have done that, and I still do if I am not careful!  I encourage you (and remind myself) to make it our priority to seek the Lord first.  Here is a very simple way in which we can do this:
    • Go to Him in prayer.  Pour out your heart to the Lord and cry to Him for wisdom.  Believe He will give it to you, in His time and His way. 
“Cry for discernment...lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasure...For the Lord gives wisdom from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:3-4, 6).
    • Search out His Word for the solutions to our problems.  This is the challenging part, but it is also very rewarding when you discover that the Bible has the wisdom that you need!  (It may be helpful to seek some assistance from someone who can point you to the Scriptures that apply to your questions and / or situation.  Look for someone who can give biblical counsel rather than just his or her opinion.) 
“Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors” (Palm 119:24). 
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
    • At this point, we can run our ideas by others, again choosing carefully who we talk with.  Look for mature believers who will not be afraid to straighten you out if you’ve come a solution that is not quite right!  And who will encourage you when you know what to do. 
“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). 
“Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14).

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33)

May God bless your search for His wisdom!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bodily Functions

Have you ever tried to write with your toes? Maybe you have made such an attempt, even somewhat successfully! But what about smelling with your ears, or looking with your nose? I know, it’s pretty ridiculous. When we try to use the members of our body for tasks they were not made for, it just doesn’t work.
Sometimes we do this as Christians when we serve in a ministry that doesn’t really fit with our spiritual gifting. I have been there, trying to serve in a ministry just because there is a need even when it does not fit my gifting. A need does not necessitate a call. Sometimes not stepping up will motivate (or challenge) others who are gifted in that area to serve. Where are you in this spectrum? Are you willing to serve a bit too quickly, becoming heavy-burdened in the process? Are you letting others do all the work of ministry, while you are content to be idle?
Look at this excerpt from 1 Corinthians 12: 
“The body is not one member, but many...If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them in the body, just as He desired” (vv. 14, 17-18).
This passage goes on to explain that every believer in Jesus Christ is a member of His “body.” Each one of us -- including you fellow Christian -- has an important, vital role to play, just as each individual body part is vital to the functioning of the entire body. 
What spiritual gifts has God given you? (Be assured, if you are a born-again believer, you do have spiritual gifts!) What about other talents and interests, such as music or art? Are you serving the Lord with the gifts and abilities God has entrusted to you? Maybe you are one of those who is trying to write with your foot or smell with your ears. Don’t “become” the hand if you are to be the foot. Encourage others who have those abilities step up and serve. Everyone has something to offer, including you.
If you don’t know your spiritual gifts, the best way to discover them is to study what the Bible says about each one. Obviously, that takes some serious time and contemplation. In the meantime, consider where you enjoy serving, what you are drawn to do, and what others say about you and your gifting. Ask the Lord to help you know where and how you can serve Him in your church and community. Don’t let others try to take the place that God has for you in His body. If you are a foot, walk like one!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

These Days In Korea

I have been living in Korea for 10 weeks now (the location my husband was recently assigned to by the U.S. Army).  It feels like it’s been a whole lot longer than that.  We are still waiting on our “Household Goods” to arrive: furniture, books, toys, bedding, kitchen utensils, you name it.  I wish I could say it has been a freeing experience, but that wouldn’t be honest.  It is hard!  I realize that in comparison to the struggles and pain others are going through this is nothing, worthless, even vain.  But for those who have lived like this, “in limbo” for a while, you know that it is still not easy.  
I feel like I am living in someone else’s house.  Cooking in another person’s kitchen, using their cookware (except for the new pots and pans from my hubby!).  There isn’t a place for everything and everything is certainly not in it’s place these days!  I kind of feel like I am “on hold.”  I can’t seem to get into a routine.  I haven’t potty-trained my 2-and-a-half-year-old.  I am barely starting to introduce foods to my 7-month old.    The kids don’t know what to expect from one day to another, and neither do I! (Not that our lives were ever that organized...)  The point is, it really is difficult for me to live without my things!
I don’t want that to sound worldly, but I readily admit that my life is a lot easier with some simple stuff like a vacuum and trash cans.  This makes me more appreciative of what we do have right now, as well as what is coming (in our Household Goods)...and I will certainly plan a bit better for our next move, to include that vacuum and those garbage cans in the first shipment!  But this also makes me even more in awe of how some people can just leave everything behind and go to live in a foreign land with nothing but what they can carry in a backpack, all to preach the gospel of Jesus to those who have not heard it yet.  (Have you seen the guys on “Travel the Road”?  Truly, INCREDIBLE.)  That has to be a God-given desire and ability; there is no other explanation.  I used to wonder if I could do that.  I think I know the answer, at least at this point in my life.  
There are so many other lessons I am learning through this experience.  It hasn’t gotten me down or made me feel’s just easier to have our stuff.  And yet, doesn’t some of that “stuff” actually complicate life more?  Do we really need all the “stuff” we have coming?  
I’ll save those thoughts for another day!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Are You "In Love"? Part 3

We have come to the end of this brief series on what it means to be “in love,” according to several passages in the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 5:1,2 says this: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (emphasis added).
Once again, here is the picture of a child.  Children are like their parents.  I thought it was humbling to be married, until I had children!  In my experience so far in life, there is nothing more humbling than having a daughter or son.  They mirror us!  In them we see a reflection of ourselves: how we talk, what we say, what we do, how we think and react, even what we value.  As Christians, we are to “be imitators of God as beloved children.”  And one way we can imitate God is to walk (live a life) in love, the way Christ loved us.  
And just how did Jesus Christ love us?  He gave Himself up for us.
Jesus gave Himself up physically as the final sacrifice, the Lamb of God.  Obviously God does not require this of us!  But there are so many other ways He gave of Himself that we can walk in as well:
    • By giving others “our” time, rearranging a schedule
    • Considering others more important (see Philippians 2:3)
    • Putting the desires and interests of others above our own (Philippians 2:4)
    • Actively looking for opportunities to serve and minister to others
How about bringing this full-circle, back to Ephesians 4:2?  Every time we respond to others with humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance (all done for the sake of love), we give of ourselves in some form!  We do battle against our flesh any time we respond in ways that honor God rather than seeking our own honor.
So how is your “love life?”  Honestly, mine could use some improvement!  I continually see areas where I put my desires, my plans, myself above others (yes, again, especially my husband!).  I recognize that I do not respond with humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance as I ought to.  Praise God for His grace!  While my sin is great, His grace is far greater (see Romans 5:20).  Because of grace, God forgives me and doesn’t leave me where I am at right now.  He continues to change me and make me reflect Jesus a little more accurately (even if I don’t see it, I know He is somehow doing it!).  
May we rest in His grace to forgive, and walk in His grace to change.
Enjoy His blessings,