Monday, June 24, 2013

Bible Time With Bob The Builder

I try ("try" being the key word) to spend a little time every day with the kids, focused on reading, memorizing and talking about God's word. Well, today, our Bible time topic came courtesy of Bob the Builder. Bet you didn't know Bob the Builder taught Bible lessons! Well, today he did. Today, he talked about how important it is to build on a solid foundation.

Well, being the quick, resourceful (trust me, this isn't all that impressive) momma that I am, I decided to turn that into a Bible lesson. I whipped out my iPhone, looked up the reference for "foundation" in my Bible app (yes, I had to look it up, because I didn't know off the top of my head where it was at-- it's OK moms if you don't know everything!) and quickly had 1 Corinthians 3:10,11 in my hand:
Because of God's grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have-- Jesus Christ.
We read that together and had a quick little chat about what it means to build your life on Jesus Christ. Then we prayed that God would help us do that. This took all of about three and a half minutes. And it was perfect for their little 2- and 4-year-old minds to grab hold of. We might even add on to our theme tonight at dinner, maybe reading Luke 6:46-49 (yep, had to look that one up too-- it really is ok to have to look stuff up) together as a family.

Is the thought of discipling your young children overwhelming sometimes? Do you struggle to find the best way to communicate God's truths to them in a way they can understand? Is it scary trying to figure out how to teach them the vital tools for living a Spirit-filled life, throughout all the days of their lives? Are you sometimes at a loss for where to even begin?

Maybe you've searched for the perfect Bible storybook with each day's verse, story and activity or song laid out conveniently for you. Maybe you've accumulated a hefty pile of how-to books for the Christian parent on your nightstand. Maybe you've even decided that this kind of spiritual education, much like an academic one, is better left up to the "experts" and have left your child's soul in the competent hands of his Sunday school teacher.

And while picture-filled Bible activity books, parenting how-tos and church kids' ministries are wonderful tools to have tucked into your belt, they are not always necessary and, often, insufficient for the job of "teaching your child in the way (s)he should go," as Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to do.

Since our newest little bundle was born, our two older kiddos have been following me around with their baby dolls, stuffed bears and bunnies or whatever critter they have deemed "baby" for the day in tow and have been playing mommy right along side me. When I nurse Nora, their little shirts come up (both Olivia and Patrick) and baby doll and bear get a meal as well. When I change Nora's diaper, their stuffed friends get their bottoms wiped as well.

They know just how to be "mommy" and "daddy" to their little babies because they have watched us do it every day. They have listened to us talk about it. They have asked questions. And they have practiced, themselves.

And it is in this exact same way that they will learn what it means to follow Jesus, what it looks like to trust even when it hurts, what it sounds like to pray without ceasing, and what it feels like to go throughout life with their Savior by their side.

Deuteronomy 11:18 and 19 tells us,
So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine... Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.
You simply have to live out what you believe, talk about it ALL THE TIME, and your kids will soon follow suit.

So, the next time you're out walking (or watching longingly through the window of your air-conditioned house) and you see a bird perched in a tree, ask your little one, "Who made that bird? And who made you? Did you know that God made that bird and God made you for his own glory?! How do you think can you glorify God? Do you think you can glorify God by obeying mommy and daddy?"

Your child's world is full of teachable moments. Take advantage of every single one of them! Well, at least most of them. Let's be realistic. Sometimes mom just needs a break. This is when Bob the Builder comes in. But after you've had a moment to breath, mom, jump right back in there! Because sometimes, even Bob the Builder can help you teach your kids about Jesus.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Aiming To Be The Worst

This weekend, Luke and I attended our very first homeschool convention. (Let the pencil-sharpening, curriculum-buying excitement ensue!) Don't worry, this isn't a post about teaching your kids at home, though I do highly encourage it!

No, this is a post about being the worst. That's right. I want you (and myself) to aim to be the worst.

One of the keynote speakers expressed his desire for this generation of homeschoolers to be remembered as one of the worst. And the reason we would be the worst is because the generation that comes after us would be a little bit better, and the next one a little bit better than that, and so on. It's not that he desired for us to aim to be "bad" teachers or to fail in any capacity; it's that he so longed for us to teach our children well and instill in them the desire to live out the same values that we treasure and that God desires, that they would carry that with them into adult-hood and then LIVE IT OUT even better than their parents did.

And how true this should be of every area of our spiritual lives!

I pray that my kids, my grandkids, my great grandkids (should the Lord tarry that long) would each be better prayers; better lovers of Jesus; better servants; better husbands, wives, mothers and fathers; better Christ-followers. I simply desire them to be better.

In Exodus 20:5, we hear God say,
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected-- even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.
There are real and long-lasting consequences for unrepentant sin in our lives. When we choose to live apart from God's love and laws, it doesn't just affect us; it has serious ramifications for our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and possibly beyond.


If we read on to just the next verse, we learn that the opposite is also true!
But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. Exodus 20:6
A thousand generations! I don't think God is saying that we should actually count out one thousand generations into the future and that that is the precise lifetime of this particular blessing. This is basically God's way of saying that for those who choose to love him and obey him, there is permanent, long-lasting, eternal blessing for them and for those that come after them. Our children must choose for themselves to follow Christ, but there are real and significant effects of being part of a lineage and a heritage of Christ-followers. What an honor to be one of those ancestors along the way, laying the foundation of discipleship for those who will come after us.

May we impart our love for the Lord to our children, and they to their children. May we never be known as the "best". May we be so highly surpassed in faith and obedience by those who come after us that we would be remembered as one of the "worst".

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lessons in James: When The Answer Is "No"

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
The crown of life-- what a treasure to look forward to! I've talked before on the blog about the rewards that God promises to those who love him and obey him faithfully throughout their lives. And there is certainly a great wealth of heavenly treasures that followers of Christ can joyfully anticipate as we wait to meet Jesus face to face. But the process of getting there won't be a bed of roses. No pain, no gain, right?

In fact, Jesus promised us:
Here on earth you WILL have many trials and sorrows...
But, thankfully, in the same breath, He also reminds us:
But take heart, because I have overcome the world! John 16:33
I doubt it's any great surprise to most of us that trials will come and (usually) go. We're all pretty accustomed to aches and pains, whether physical, mental, emotional, financial, or otherwise-- some much worse than others. We know what it is to suffer for a time. But I want to speak, today, to those of you who are facing the trial that will not end. Because sometimes, despite all faith, all prayer, all attempts to trust... that miraculous healing, that needed money, that answer from above simply does not come!

We serve a God who is able to heal, despite what the doctors say; is able to provide, despite an economy that predicts otherwise; is able to offer the perfect words of wisdom when no one else knows what to say.

AND YET, He reserves the right to simply say "no."

For those of you that have heard "no" far more times than you would like, take heart today! Know that if you are honestly seeking and obeying God's will for your life and are faithfully trusting in his provision, your plight is not a form of punishment or a product of sin. Sometimes, God simply calls us to carry a heavy cross, and sometimes for a very long time, perhaps even our entire earthly lives.

In my ongoing struggles with anxiety and depression, which I have talked about here before, I find myself believing sometimes that if my faith were just a little bit stronger, if my prayers were a little more frequent, then maybe I would be able to push past these feelings of panic and fear and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, simply overcome them and live a "normal" life in spite of them. And while that thought sounds great coming from an inspirational coffee mug, the truth is that sometimes, God just doesn't work that way. Sometimes, the life he has called me to live is just different from what others practice and seem to expect of me as well (at least in my head anyway).

And the thing I'm learning to accept is that that's OK! That maybe there isn't anything "wrong" with me. Maybe this is simply the trial that God has called me to, and that maybe, in fact, quite possibly, he has no intention of removing it any time soon, if ever, this side of heaven.

And in that acceptance, I am also learning to believe that despite my "failure", as a result of these struggles, to do the things, sometimes, that other Christians seem to do so easily, I am not a disappointment to my Father. I am not less of a Christian. And, while I certainly lack the grace and patience at times that God requires, I have pressed on in faith and trust, and will one day receive that crown of life!

So, sufferer, whoever you are, whatever your pain, know that you are not "broken" either; you are not being punished-- you are a treasure to your Maker (who made you exactly as you are), and you have a great treasure waiting for you, too!

I'll leave you with these precious words by Charles H. Spurgeon, which my husband so graciously passed along to me yesterday:
"You Little-Faiths, you Despondencies, you Much-Afraids, you Feeble-Minds, you that sigh more than  you sing, you that would but cannot, you that have a great heart for holiness, but feel beaten back in your struggles, the Lord shall give you his love, his grace, his favor, as surely as he gives it to those who can do great things in his name."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lessons in James: God's 401k

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. James 1:9,10 (emphasis added)
Poor = honored. . . Rich = humbled.

If you're like me, you might have to repeat that a couple times to wrap your head around it. It's certainly contrary to everything that we are taught to believe, especially in America. Even as Christians, many probably believe that the "humble" thing to do, financially speaking, might be to sell all of our possessions and live a minimalist life, in essence to humble ourselves, to bring ourselves low, to lessen our status in the world. And yet, the Bible tells us that those who are the poorest are the most highly honored!

But why?

Proverbs 19:1 tells us, "Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool," implying that perhaps poverty lends itself to honesty and humility, while the opposite creates a greater propensity for foolishness, a quality that certainly won't merit you honor or praise anytime soon.

In Matthew 5:3, we read, "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs." Here, we are told that poverty and the ability to recognize our neediness go hand in hand, an acknowledgment that is absolutely necessary if we are to have any kind of meaningful relationship with the God who desires nothing more than to be the sole fulfillment of those needs. What higher honor could there be than to have the privilege of saying, "You know God, the one who created the universe, the King? Yep, I'm his kid. He pays my bills."

And in James 2:5, we are instructed, "Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?" How rich is your faith? Do you think your comfort level in life plays a part in that?

The amount of money you have in your bank account is certainly not a direct litmus test for your level of faith, your commitment to God or your dependence upon him. In fact, this doesn't even really have to be about money. More accurately, it is about where we are investing our time and efforts, financial or otherwise, in this life. In general, isn't it true that the more comfortable we get in life and the more we "accomplish", the more we begin to believe that, at least on some level, we have worked for it, have earned it, have created our own success, and that we deserve the blessings we have accrued and actually become proud of what we have achieved in life?

So, here's the lesson for today in the form of a sobering reminder: that pride comes before the fall!
The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements. James 1:11
If someone asked you to make a list of your lifetime achievements, what would make the cut? How will people remember you after you're gone? Even the most praised people throughout history, while they may have created a "legacy" for themselves that has lasted years beyond their time on earth, that legacy, too, will come to an end at some point. Eventually, Christ will return, this world, as it is now, will cease to exist, and ONLY what is on God's list of praiseworthy achievements will ever be spoken of again. Madonna Who?

On that glorious day, the blood of Christ will graciously and mercifully wash away all of our sins if we have put our faith in him. And, likewise, the "fire" will burn away the chaff and ONLY what is eternally of value will remain. How much of your life could fit into the dross category? It may not be sinful, it may not be "bad" per se, but is it dross or is it gold?

Will you live a life of "wealth" now, whether financial or otherwise, and reap a retirement plan of humility and brokenness, with nothing left to your name but... your name?

Or will you seize a life of "poverty" now, and enter heaven, honored, with your arms heaping full of a life's worth of spoils to be treasured for eternity?

What's your "retirement plan"?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lessons in James: The Ultimate "Expert" Advice

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you! James 1:5
If we need wisdom?! When don't we? Under normal circumstances, there are any number of situations in our lives that require thoughtful decision-making, some more difficult and long-lasting than others. And in today's world, with an economy that is threatening to fall apart at any moment, a government that seems to have long ago run off the rails, schools and offices that seem to be growing increasingly more dangerous for us and our children and a growing epidemic of apathy in the greater church, we are left with some very grave and weighty decisions to make about how we will live in light of these dangers.

Where will we work? Will we even be able to work? Should we both go to work and put the kids in day care? Can we "afford" for mom to stay home?

What should we do with the money we do have? Do we invest it? Where do we invest it? Do we hide it under a mattress? Should we just spend it?

Where should our kids go to school? Should they go to school, or should we try to homeschool?

The list goes on and on and changes with each and every unique family and individual. The questions are endless. But where do we go for answers?

Can we really go to the Bible? I mean, maybe for very general guidelines on how to behave, how to be a "nice" person, how to "make God happy". . . but certainly not for practical, relevant advice on how to answer these modern questions; the Bible is so archaic! Certainly, God can't expect us to use it today when it comes to making choices about our lives!

And yet, God is eternal! He is the Alpha and the Omega! Before time began, He was! And he has written the future! The Bible, the document itself, may be very "old" as we understand it, but our God is ALIVE, his Word is the LIVING word, and he is very much attuned to our complicated "modern" problems. All we have to do is ASK him!

BUT! And here's the lesson for today: We need to make sure that in our asking, we approach God with the heart and attitude that He requires:
But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:6-8 (emphasis added)
What does it look like to be divided between God and the world?

It looks like picking up the phone to call my mom, my best friend, three other friends and the girl I just met to ask their opinions or "vent" before consulting the One who made me on the matter.

It looks like picking up my iPhone to Google "wise investment strategies for 2013" rather than consulting the One who provides every penny I possess.

It looks like perusing the bookstore for "expert" authors, the internet for "expert" speakers and even the church for "successful" Christian models in hopes of gleaning "wisdom" from their experienced minds rather than running to Scripture and to prayer for an answer to my query.

It looks like praying and studying God's word first, only to grow impatient when an answer does not come as quickly as I'd like or one comes that I'm not excited about, and then seeking "counsel" from people who I know will tell me what I want to hear.

We are not guaranteed a lot of things in this life, even by God. As a Christian, we are guaranteed our salvation when we put our trust in him, but beyond that, he does not promise health, wealth, prosperity or even physical safety. But there are some things that he promises to give us, if we obey him and if we ASK for it! Wisdom is one of those things!

Ask Him, beloved, and he WILL answer. It may not be according to your timeline. It may not be the answer you were hoping for. But if you come to him and humble yourself at his feet, he WILL give you the wisdom you desire and need. And this expert advice will never fail you!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lessons in James: Power in the Pain

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
"WHEN troubles come..." Lesson: troubles WILL come! They cannot be avoided.


Each and every one of those troubles, trials and temptations contain within them the "opportunity for great joy!"  Lesson: The pain in our lives carries with it the potential for great joy. I emphasize potential and opportunity because God does not promise that we will find joy in each of our trials; he only offers the hope that joy is there waiting for us if we are willing to take it! The way we react to our circumstances will determine whether the experience is a joyful one or an excruciating one. The choice is ours!

When my kids scream and yell, when everyone is sick, when parenting with patience seems like an impossible task, when my own struggles with anxiety and depression seem to black out any chance at joy I could ever have again, I MUST remind myself of this warning and this promise. I have to honestly ask myself, "Am I trying desperately to avoid 'trouble' in my life and reacting with anger and bitterness when it comes anyway? Am I missing the fact that God may be giving me these trials for a purpose? What opportunities am I missing when I clam up and attempt to just shut my eyes and 'make it through' with clenched teeth and white knuckles, rather than opening up and allowing God to work in the midst of the pain? Have I asked God to give me joy through it, not in spite of it, but because of it!?"

And not only are we offered JOY, but we have a great opportunity for GROWTH through the struggles in our life, growth that is necessary in order for us to become "perfect and complete" as Jesus is perfect and complete!

What it really comes down to is, how much do I really want to be transformed into the image of Christ? How badly do I want to be like him? To please him? Do I want it badly enough to honestly say, "Whatever it takes, Lord!"? Or do I only really want to grow as much as my comfort will allow?

The Christian walk is an Olympic marathon! It takes great endurance, great focus, and honestly, great pain in order to be done right and done well! But, oh, it is a pain with a purpose, loved ones! Don't run from these precious opportunities in your life! Opportunities for JOY and for GROWTH, that ultimately fill your life with POWER, the power of a great and mighty God who KNOWS what it is to hurt as you hurt.

Take comfort in that truth, beloved, and keep your eyes fixed on the day when we will all finally be "complete, needing nothing!"

Friday, January 18, 2013

Coming Soon: Lessons in James

It's been a while since I've blogged. Probably a bit too long of a while. I've missed it, and have tried to come back a few times, but just have not felt like the Lord was really trying to speak through me. There are a lot of reasons to choose to write a blog, but I pray that mine would never be just for the sake of blogging. I never want to write just to write. I choose to write when there is a specific message that I feel God is asking me to communicate, even if I am the only one that reads it and learns from it. I simply want my words to have purpose, not earthly, selfish purpose, but eternal purpose and significance. And that is exactly what I believe this next little "series", if you want to call it that, will have!

I have been reading through the book of James, not with the aid of a study guide, but simply using Anne Graham Lotz's "3 Question" method, and the truths God has been giving me through this honest reading of his Word have been life-changing!

I hope to soon share some of those lightbulb truths with you!