Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Star Light, Star Bright

Star Light Star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
My daughters love to wish on stars. Before you jump on me for bad theology, just know it's all in fun. We also make wishes on birthday candles, turkey wishbones, and dandelions before blowing them. It's childhood fun.

The other night as I drove my ten year old to an activity, she saw a bright "star" in the night sky. "Is that a star or the moon?" she asked. I laughed as I answered, "Actually, its the light at the top of a cell phone tower so that airplanes won't hit it."

"I guess that means my wish won't come true?" she jokingly asked.

"Only if you wished for a cell phone!" I joked back.


Jesus tells us "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12). Darkness, in a spiritual sense, frequently refers to sin or to confusion about truth. Just as in life, the darkness can hide evil or distort what is real, in the spiritual world, it can distort truth and make it difficult to see or understand truth. When we have light, we can see things clearly.

However the Bible also warns us that Devil tries to fool us into thinking he is the light. 2 Corinthians 11:14 says, "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."

That night with my daughter I was able to distinguish the light as a light on a cell tower because I was familiar with the area. I'd driven it before during the day. Her inexperience made her unable to tell the difference between star light and man-made light.

In the same way, we must be familiar with the Bible, studying God's Word and "digging deeper" into the scriptures so that we are not confused by the false light of the devil. Psalm 119:105 confirms "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

Just as the light of a bright star led the wise men to Jesus, the light of the God's Word continues to lead wise men, women, and children, to Him today.

Kelly

Monday, December 28, 2009

Begin With The End



2009 is quickly coming to a close.  For me, I'm glad to end this difficult year and bring in new hope for a new and better 2010.  Regardless of whether your year was great or challenging, it is going to end in just a few days. 

Are you ready to reign in 2010?

Have you set any goals?

Setting goals is important to God.  He is a God of order and He set up the time and the seasons.  Why?  So there would be a time for everything under heaven, but more importantly, to establish order for us. 

Habakkuk 2:2-3 says, "And Jehovah answered me and said, 'Write the vision, and make it plain on the tablets, that he who reads it may run. For the vision is still for an appointed time, but it speaks to the end, and it does not lie. Though it lingers, wait for it; because it will surely come.'"

I love this verse!  It tells us that our goals (visions) are supposed to be focused on the END.  How cool!  We should be focussing on the end result, the end scenerio; and then we work it out (run with it) and we wait for it (for the appointed time). 

We need to set goals for our children, too.  What habits would you like to see changed by the end of 2010? Can you think of spiritual or practical goals for your children.  Lets say there are 12 things you want to change in your child or goals you want them to have.  Start by listing them and then write down the steps you can take to help them implement these changes over the next 12 months.  (Don't forget to review these goals often.) 

An example in my household would be:

My children have a bad habit of leaving their clothes on the floor.  We are implementing a very strict rule (Jan. 1!).  If there are clothes on the floor, they will lose all but 4 pairs of clothes.  Then, after a week of keeping them put away, they will earn back a few outfits. 

The above is one behavioral example.  There are many other goals you could set.  Let the Lord lead you.

Our children need to be taught by example, they deserve to have us help them by setting goals with the end in mind.  Remember to be patient, and to expect good results.  Make the goals and consequences plain to them, so there is no issue with communication. 

Make 2010 a victorious year.  Instead of allowing your lives to run you, set Godly goals and begin to run your own lives in a way that glorifies God - the God of order.

God bless you and your families as you bring in 2010!!


Sonya

Friday, December 25, 2009

Jesus is our LORD and Savior

During the Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of our savior. Christians embrace the idea of a savior. Do we also embrace Him as our Lord?

In the beginning, God gave man freedom of choice, however he never created us to be independent. He wanted us to be dependent on Him. Not because He is on some big ego trip, but because as our creator, He knows what we need and He loves us and desires what’s best for us to such a degree that He wanted to take on that burden for us. When it comes to the issue of independence, we really don’t have a choice as to whether we are going to be dependent or independent. Rather whether we recognize that we are totally dependent on God.

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Psalm 24:1

Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord and this is your kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. Riches and honor come from you alone, and your are the Ruler of all mankind; your hand controls power and might, and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength.” 1 Chr. 29:11-12

Do you see it? Everything we have belongs to him and He is control of everything! Really receiving this truth is central to our recognition of Jesus as Lord.

Thirdly, our recognition that He is our sole provider is very important. When we recognize who our provider is, are more apt to do what the provider says. This was made very clear to the Israelites through Moses in Deuteronomy, Chapter 8, when God said:

“ You may say to yourself “My power and the strength of my hand s have produced this wealth for me” But remember the Lord your God for it is he who gives the ability to produce wealth and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers as it is today. And then he gives this warning…”If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to the, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.”

The Christian life is impossible to do by our self. Although, nothing pleases Satan more than having us believe we can. Faith becomes totally unnecessary when we think we can do things on our own.

Handling money and finances is no exception to this. Faith comes when we finally realize that we can’t do it by ourselves.

I struggled with debt for many years. I would get myself in trouble and get myself out of it only to find myself in deeper than I was before. I knew the arithmetic of staying out of debt. Adding up all my income and making sure that the sum was greater than all of my expenditures. But knowing that didn’t keep me out of debt. I was a single mom for 8 years and during that time, I used credit cards to as a way to purchase what I felt my family needed. I didn’t see Jesus my savior, as Jesus, my Lord.

If I had, I would have approached my finances differently. If I saw him as the owner of everything I had (including my money), I would have sought him more as to how he wanted me to use what He had given me or whether He even wanted me to have those things I was buying at all.

If I had seen Him as Lord, I would have realized that He was in control of everything in my life and that included people and circumstances. If I had truly understood this, I could have faced tough circumstances and not said, “Why are you letting this happen to me Lord,” but instead asked, “What do you want me to learn from this situation?”

He uses circumstances, even the seemingly devastating ones, for our ultimate good. Everything that happens in our lives goes through this scrutiny on God’s part. He will not allow anything in our lives that cannot be used ultimately for our good.

“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.” Romans 8:28

Lastly, if I had seen Jesus as Lord, I would have worried a lot less, because I would have recognized Him as my provider. God promises to provide for our needs.

“Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be given to you. (Matthew 6:33.)

I suspect that around January 2nd or 3rd, people will be putting away their Christmas decorations and opening up their credit card bills. Some may open those bills and wish for a savior, but the reality is that to be truly “rescued” they will need their LORD! Declaring Jesus as your Lord comes with the recognition of WHO He is and WHAT He has promised. It also comes with a condition. Obedience to His word. If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

You see, we are independent in that we can choose our own paths. We can choose to live beyond our means. We can choose to let other people dictate our actions and our reactions to circumstances. We can choose to live in fear of not having enough. But in our independence, we can also choose to be dependent on our Lord by believing Him when he says he is in control and by listening to and obeying his instruction. If Jesus is my Lord, I will submit to do things His way. That means that we have to seek Him in both prayer and by knowing what He says in His word. Remember, “My people perish for lack of knowledge,” (Hosea 4:6)

I have found that by submitting myself to Jesus as Lord…by declaring my dependence on Him…I was not LESS free, but more free!

Now that’s what I call a savior!!

Stacy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Traditions

What are you doing in your home at Christmas that puts the focus on Jesus Christ? Is Jesus sharing the spotlight with something else or someone else?

Traditions are legacies that are passed down from generation to generation. Those traditions that are most strongly embraced in a family are most likely to be continued by the children and grand children and passed on to future generations. But as our children grow and get married, adjustments have to be made in consideration of the new spouse and extended family. Those traditions that had the least significance will likely be the ones lost. So from generation to generation your family traditions will change, but you can help determine the direction of those changes now by being intentional about choosing and creating your traditions. The more focus there is on Jesus in your celebration, the more likely that will carry into your future generations.

A number of years ago a close relative of mine passed away. She had three adult daughters, two of them Christians. At the funeral, as the pastor delivered the eulogy, I remember him saying that the one thing the girls remembered their mom for the most, was that she never stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. This was what was held to be a most precious and valuable thing to this woman, and through her emphasis in her traditions, it is the legacy that is now being passed down to her grand children. What do you want to be remembered for and what kind of legacy do you want to leave for your family? I want to be remembered for always believing in (trusting in) Jesus Christ, not a fantasy.

When we evaluate and prioritize our traditions we setting a course for our future generations to follow. If you're looking for some new Christ centered traditions to start in your Christmas celebration, here are some ideas. Please share your own ideas as you leave a comment, and remember, Christ centered traditions can be fun as well as have meaning.
  1. Jesus birthday cake box - I took a paper mache box and decorated it to look like a birthday cake complete with battery operated candles. Several weeks before Christmas I begin prompting my grand daughters to think about what they want to give Jesus for His birthday. As the day draws near, they will make a little craft or card or something for Jesus. On Christmas day, before we open presents, they will place their gifts in the Jesus birthday cake box and each of them will *light* the candle and place it on the cake. When the box is full I will pass it on to one of the girls and make another one until they each have their own (along with their Jesus gifts) to use with their family's.

  2. Instead of the birthday cake box described above, you can substitute a box decorated like a gift box.

  3. Sarah at God's Not Finished with us Yet said she purchases balloons for each of her kids to release on Christmas day to fly to Jesus as a gift from them for His birthday.

  4. Gather the family together and read the Christmas story from the bible. Talk about the events, what it would have been like for those involved, and the impact it has made on each of your lives.

  5. While I read or tell the Christmas story, the kids act it out with a play nativity set. Before Christmas, I setup the nativity set on a low table where the kids can play with it when they come over. I have a rule that they can't take any of the pieces off of the table where it is setup. That way we don't lose pieces and they can still play with it.

  6. For each ornament on the Christmas tree, find a Scripture verse, print it on a tag, and attach it to the ornament. Choose scriptures that give meaning to the ornament.

  7. If you have a large family gathering, retell the Christmas story with a full cast of volunteers. Dress in costume and make it fun. Get the dog involved. Instead of reindeer antlers or a santa suit, dress him like one of the animals in the nativity.

  8. Find an open basket, a crate and materials that represent hay, something that looks similar such as colored yarn, raffia, strips of paper, etc.  Trim into small pieces if necessary.  Put the “hay” in a separate basket from the one that will be used as the manger.  Each time someone performs an act of selfless service for another, or goes above that which may be expected of them, they have the opportunity to place a piece of hay in the manger.  On Christmas Eve gather as a family to discuss feelings about all the wonderful things that have occurred through the duration of the practice, and place a baby doll representing Jesus into His manger.

  9. Fill your Christmas tree with handmade ornaments with the Names of Christ. Each year add ornaments with the Names that you don't already have.

  10. Every year have each member of the family make an ornament with one of the Names of Jesus. Gather together as a family and let each member tell the Name they chose and the reason why that Name was chosen. Make the ornaments a thank offering to God for the Gift of His precious Son.
We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. Psalm 78:4,6

Have a most Blessed Christmas!

Rich Gifts Blog Designs and Graphics for Christian Ministry

Monday, December 21, 2009

Parenting Heritage

PARENTING HERITAGE

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention, and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, "Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live." —Proverbs 4:1–4

We become what we were raised to be. Much of the process is unconscious. It happens naturally as we grow up and go about life.

I like baseball and hunting. When I was just a boy, even before I was old enough to carry a gun myself, I went hunting with my dad, grandpa, and a couple of uncles. It was just something our family did. It was the same with baseball. My grandfather bought me one of my first baseball gloves. I used to go to his house to watch ball games. My dad coached my brothers and me for years. Little by little, without fanfare or awareness, I became an enthusiast for the woods and the ballpark. I have now passed on that same enthusiasm to my own kids.

Our parenting style is something we were developing when we were still little kids. We didn’t think about it, we didn’t reflect on it, and we didn’t consciously develop it. We became the parents we are today by the parenting style we were raised under when we were two years old, five years old, thirteen years old, and eighteen years old. We were parented to be parents.
Such a reality is at the same time both frightening and exciting. It is frightening because if the parenting style we were raised under was not sound, our parenting style won’t be either. If our parents were neglectful or abusive, there is a good chance we will treat our kids in the same way. On the other hand, if our parents’ style was healthy, then our style likely will be as well. If we were loved and nurtured, we will tend to practice that same kind of care toward our own children.
In Proverbs 4:1–4, when Solomon is passing on instruction to his son, he draws from his own experience as a boy and the parenting care he received from his mom and dad. When he refers to himself as tender and the only child of his mother, you can picture Bathsheba’s gentle care for him. When he refers to being a boy when his father taught him, you can see David sitting at the dinner table, saying, "Son," and then passing on some words of fatherly care and advice. Now, as an adult, Solomon draws from that experience and practices the same level of care with his own son.

When we become adults, we generally parent like our parents, but we don’t have to be locked into a certain pattern. If our parents had an unhealthy style, we don’t have to parent as they did, and we don’t have to engage our kids the way our parents did us. As adults, we can reflect. We can think and say, "You know, I like the way my parents handled some situations but not the way they handled others." We can decide to be more patient, compassionate or involved than we perceive our parents to have been.Dr. Phil McGraw says there are two common ways of reflecting the parenting style of our parents. One, we parent our own children just the way they parented us. If they hollered at the kids for any infraction, then we probably will as well. The second response is to react against the way our parents raised us. If we regard our parents as having been too strict, we may become overly lenient (Family First, p. 67).

I think the important thing to realize is this . . . we have a choice in the kind of parents we will be. With proper reflection, dependence upon the Word, prayer, and continued mentoring from and accountability to older Christian parents with a proven track record in parenting, we can incorporate the very best of our parents’ style into our own approach to parenting. We can enhance our parenting legacy with the instruction of our parents and the ongoing instruction we can receive from other Christian people God puts in our lives.

Warren Baldwin

(This essay is from Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wash Me In The Water Of The Word

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Ephesians 5:25-27

Husbands have a tall order to fill according to the commandment given in God's Word in Ephesians 5:25-27. Read today's key verse above again. Wow. Honestly, I am thankful I am the wife! Seriously, this scripture just hushes my heart in humility and thanksgiving to the Lord that He loves us so much to give this command. It also makes me pray more diligently for my husband, that God may fill him with His grace, purity and strength so he continues to honor God in his role as a husband.

"Cleanings her by the washing with water through the word" is the portion of today's scripture on which I want to focus.

My husband keeps me accountable to God's Word. He knows my heart's desire is to live according to His Word, and he takes that seriously. Whenever I have a "situation", whether big or small, Jim gives me counsel in accordance with scripture. He washes me in God's Word. Jim's commitment to the Truth is unwavering, and I am so thankful for that. It is bittersweet during times of conviction, but my ultimate desire is to yield to the Holy Spirit and God's Word. His Word penetrates my soul and gets to the attitudes of my heart. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

I will admit readily that sometimes I squirm and whine and want things my way, but Jim looks beyond my temporary hissy fit and keeps my eyes fixed on the Lord. He keeps God's Word as our standard. Oh how thankful I am for that. God's Word brings life. "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." John 6:63

When my heart is hurt or I am needing guidance or comfort, Jim will wash me in the water of God's Word. God's truth drenches my soul and I am renewed. I can know for certainly God's will in all situations as we look to His Word. "...be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2 The cleansing and washing we receive from God's Word is better than any spa treatment around! Our hearts and souls and refreshed and renewed. A husband who reads God's Word to his wife and holds her accountable to His truths therein is a precious gift.

Husbands, know how intrinsically precious it is to your wife when you wash her in the water of God's Word. How precious and sweet it is when a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, making her holy by washing her with the water of God's Word. Oh the joy of presenting her as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Wives, pray for your husband diligently. They have a tall order to fill! Build him up with respect and encouragement. Share your thankfulness for him when he washes you in the living water of God's Word. Tell him how important that is to you. If your husband is not at the place of washing you in God's Word, pray unceasingly and in humility for your husband. We will be praying for you, too!

May we all drench ourselves and our marriages in the eternal nourishment of the Living Water.

Sharon

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Act Like Jesus

Christmas is the one time of year I can imagine what it must have been like to be Jesus. Everyone wanted something from Him. Some wanted physical or spiritual healing, some physical or spiritual feeding, some wanted teaching, and some even wanted Him to be a earthly ruler over throwing the Roman rule.

I feel like everyone wants something from me this time of year. I'm meeting the "usual" needs, such as housekeeping, laundry and caring for the kids. Then I have the additional holiday needs at home, like decorating, baking, shopping and wrapping.

At school, I have two field trips and two Christmas parties to attend just this week, plus I am a room mom. Then the school is also collecting canned goods for the food bank, and gloves for the homeless shelter. My 5th grader "adopted" a grandmother who I also have to shop for.

At church, they're asking each child to bring in a wrapped gift for children in need, plus they too are collecting for the food bank.

My local county social services office is asking me if I could Christmas shop for the girl I usually support at Christmas. Even my Christian radio station is asking for money and gifts for those in need. I go to Walmart to pick up some gifts and there is the Salvation Army guy asking for my spare change! ACK!

I imagine that Jesus experienced this all year round. Crowds pushed closer to him. A woman in the crowd sought just to touch the edge of his cloak. (Luke 8:44) Everyone asking him for more and more and more.

Matthew 8:18-20 - When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Mark 3:7-10 - Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.

As I fight the crowds at the stores this season, I'm reminded that Jesus sought time away from the crowds. I should follow that lead. Taking a few minutes alone at home to rest, reflect, and regroup gives me renewed strength. Jesus also made a point to pray.

Mark 1:35 - Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Luke 5:16 - But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Luke 9:28 - About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.

If Jesus, who was one with God, needed to take time alone to pray, then certainly we need to follow that example.

During this busy season of year, as the crowds press into you and everyone seems to be asking you for miracles, act like Jesus. Meet the needs you can, but take time to rest and pray.


Kelly

Monday, December 14, 2009

Talk like a Teen

Do you have a teen or a tween?  I have one teen and two tweens.  Let me just say that I've noticed they don't talk the same as I do.  They are moody, and emotional, and sensitive at all times (Wait, I think my husband may see a pattern learned from me! LOL!).  They also want to stay up really late to just "chat" with mom and dad.

They have changed the way they want to communicate - So what's a parent to do?

2Timothy 4:2  Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (NIV)


 When I read the last part of that verse, with great patience and careful instruction, I begin to see the answer.  God knew that our children would be changing and growing and so He instructed us on how to handle these new situations - use great patience and careful instruction.

For this we need to be in the Word, continually in prayer and above all, listen for the voice of the Lord.  Look for opportunities to feed the Word of God into their souls in every situation.  If we aren't meditating daily on God's Word ourselves, we won't be prepared to feed it to our children.

Where does the great patience come in?  I've found that most of the time, they will not respond immediately to the instruction I'm giving them. I need to give them the space they need to "chew on it."  Instead of expecting immediate repentance, they need time to ponder and pray about it themselves.  When I've taken the care to give them space, it has always resulted in a change of heart.

I remember a recent incident where two of my tween/teen girls (I'll call them A and B) were bickering terribly with one another.  They were being down right cruel and I was shocked!  I went to my room (I too need space to have that patient heart!) and prayed. I asked for wisdom and felt the Lord gave me very wise instruction from the Word for them.

I sat them down and read the Word and then explained it to them.  NOTHING!  That's when I decided to just seperate them.  They went to their rooms for a time and then went on about their day.  Still no sign of real repentence.  I was distrought!  I called my husband and asked for prayer and just fretted for hours over their seemingly lack of love for eachother.

Then God gave me a nugget.  It was bedtime and as I walked passed one of their bedrooms, I heard the following conversation:

A says, "B, I'm sorry for the things I said to you today, you know, I really love you."

B replies, "A, I'm sorry, too.  I guess I was being selfish. I'm so glad you're my sister - love you too!"

With that I went to my room and wept (Both tears of joy and relief).  It was during this trial that I realized teens need to process themselves before they can experience true repentance.

It reminds me of planting a seed.  We can plant it, and water it and even give it light, but only God can cause it to grow (and growth usually takes time).  He is the life giver.

Sonya

Friday, December 11, 2009

Frugal For Christmas





With the economy where it is this year, doing a lot of spending at Christmas time for many of us is either an impossibility if we want to avoid debt, or may just not seem like the prudent thing to do.


People are desperately seeking the "secret-formula" for having a fabulous Christmas without breaking the bank. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and I believe that to truly achieve this balance, we have to examine the way we think about Christmas. Who do you believe when it comes to Christmas?


If you believe in "Man's Economy" at Christmas time, you have probably had your ideas shaped primarily by the Advertising and Marketing industry and they are "selling" you a lot more than just merchandise! Man's economy has sold us an entire package of what Christmas is supposed to look like and I think we have bought it hook. line and sinker! Remember a few weeks ago when I told you about how torn I felt at Christmas time? That's because I was trying to live in Man's Economy and God's Economy at the same time! I think as Christians we all struggle with that because we don't realize how indoctrinated we have become to the world around us! It takes some pretty intentional effort to free ourselves from this thinking.


I would like to suggest that perhaps we choose to be "frugal" this year when it comes to Christmas.



Frugal is a misunderstood word. We often associate it negatively with "being cheap" or "less generous" perhaps. It certainly seems to be "restrictive." It certainly is not a word we often like to associate with Christmas. Frugal just sounds "Scrooge-like!"


In reality, the word "frugal" simply means, "avoiding unnecessary expenditure." It's about being a good manager. Being a manager is different from being an "owner." The resources you are watching over don't belong to you, so if you want to be evaluated as doing a good job, it is important for you to know how the owner thinks his resources should be managed.


Scripture is pretty clear about ownership.


Deuteronomy 10:14: "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it."


Everything belongs to God and he calls us to be managers or "stewards" of HIS stuff. That being the case, does anything change at Christmas time? Do we somehow assume the roll of "owner" for 30 days just because it's now December?


So, if we want to be "good managers," at Christmas time, wouldn't it be smart to look at the "Owner's Manual?" Scripture is our guide. So how then should Christmas look in God's Economy?


Well, if we look at that first Christmas, we wouldn't be see an example of over-abundance and luxury. We would see simple surroundings. No "pomp and circumstance." We would see God lowering himself to become man in the most vulnerable of forms...a baby. There was only one way that our Lord was extravagant and that was in His giving. He came to give us himself. His birth was meant to be the vehicle to pay off debt not create it.


So how might it look to be frugal this Christmas? Perhaps the question should really be, "how would Jesus like me to use HIS money?"


I think Jesus wants us to think with an eternal perspective.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matt. 6:19-21


It's not about getting everything we want. It's about having what we need and making sure others have what they need.


He tells us what is near and dear to his heart...


Matthew 25:40I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'


Proverbs 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.


This holiday is supposed to be about Jesus. We are HIS managers. Shouldn't we aim to celebrate his birthday in a way that would please him the most. To give and show love for those we love most and ALSO the ones who are dear to Him?


So being frugal isn't stingy at all. It's all about pleasing the only ONE we should be concerned about pleasing. After all it is HIS birthday.

(And check out my blog for money-saving ways to be "frugal" this Christmas!)

Stacy


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Forgive You

My church has been doing a church-wide study on relationships and one segment of that focused on forgiveness. Let's have a little pop quiz here on forgiveness. This is straight out of our study guide.

True or False?

  1. A person should not be forgiven until they ask for it.
  2. Forgiveness includes minimizing the offense and the pain that was caused.
  3. Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.
  4. You haven't really forgiven others until you have forgotten the offense.

All of the above statements are false.

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult lessons we, as Christians, have to learn. Part of the reason for that is because we don't always have the correct perspective about what it actually means to forgive someone who has hurt us, as demonstrated in the above questions. Once we gain and embrace a right perspective of forgiveness, then we can begin to make some progress in actually applying it.

One day after I had broken up another battle between my little grand-daughters and had sent them each to their own corners until the heat died down, we came back together to discuss the matter. Each of them recounted what had happened from their own perspective. I don't recall all of the details of the battle but it was very clear that one had wronged the other and left her hurting. The one who had committed the offense admitted her wrong and apologized for it. The one who had been wronged then said in response "It's okay." This was the typical scenario after a battle as it probably is in your home too, but this time it stopped me dead in my tracks.

It hit me that one of the obstacles I have to overcome when trying to forgive someone who has done me wrong, is the idea that forgiveness means minimizing the offense and the pain that it caused. It's like saying "It's okay to hurt me." That is a distorted view of forgiveness. It's not okay when someone hurts us. So here I was teaching my grand-daughters that it was okay. I stopped them right then and explained that it is was not okay, but God wants us to forgive so we will choose to forgive even though we are hurt. Instead of saying "it's okay" we now say "I forgive you."

I have had to apologize to one of them since then and I can tell you it's far more humbling when you apologize to someone and they respond with "I forgive you" than with "it's okay". Especially when those words come from the mouth of a child. I pray that this will help keep them from developing this distorted view of forgiveness.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38



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Monday, December 7, 2009

Like Digging For Gold

LIKE DIGGING FOR GOLD

My son, perseve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight. Proverbs 3:21

"Wes hit me." My daughter reported this incident about her brother with tears in her eyes.

"Did you hit Jenny?" I asked Wes.

"No, I didn’t," he said, with a look of total innocence in his eyes.

"Then why is she crying?"

"It’s not because I hit her."

Both my seven year old son and four year old daughter were either telling the truth (which couldn’t be happening) or were playing their roles so convincingly that I didn’t know which one to believe. Jenny was in tears so something obviously had happened. She convinced me that Wes had hit her. But Wes spoke with such conviction that he didn’t hit his sister I wanted to believe him, too.

One thing Cheryl and I learned with little kids is that you have to keep asking questions. At a very young age children learn the power of language. They can convince mom and dad they need ice cream and persuade grandma and grandpa they need seconds all with the power of words. Too young they develop techniques of manipulation that wrap us around their little fingers.

One of my two kids was working some of these techniques on me this day. Was it the one crying or the one declaring innocence?

From Cheryl I learned that you have to keep digging. Getting information from children is comparable to searching for gold in the side of a mountain: you have to dig, examine the evidence you unearth, evaluate it, and then dig some more, continuing to repeat the process. Over time, you may find some gold. And truth.

I felt like a prosecutor in the courtroom cross-examining a witness. I had some basic evidence and I had two eye witnesses, though they were giving conflicting testimony. I had to try a different tack.

Wes, why don’t you just show me what happened to your sister. Notice this wasn’t a question, it was an invitation to action. "Show me." Wes opened his hand and swung it through the air. "Is that what you did to Jenny?" I asked.

"Yes."

"That is hitting. Why did you tell me you didn’t hit her if you did?"

"No dad, that isn’t hitting, that is slapping. Hitting is if you make a fist and punch someone. I wouldn’t do that to my sister."

In the next several minutes my four and seven year old received vocabulary and ethics lessons. They were so young to learn the words ‘nuance’ and ‘semantics,’ but if they were old enough to play the game, they were old enough understand the significance of it. The ethics lesson was about truth and honesty, and not misrepresenting either by fancy play with words. This particular lesson was buttressed with some punishment.

This conversation was a great breakthrough for me as a father, because since this incident I’ve observed not only my three, but many other children, control a conversation through semantic play, withholding vital information, and playing ignorant. A parent need not panic if they realize this kind of competitive sparring is going on in conversations with their children. It is normal and natural. It means the kids are thinking through situations, are learning to use the language in creative ways, and are forcing their parents to parent.

You read that last line correctly. When children engage in language manipulation, they force us to parent. For the good of our children, for the integrity of the home, for the continued respect for our authority and role as dad and mom, we must engage the communication process with our kids. For me to have dismissed my two kids that day with, "Oh, just get out of here and stop it" would have left my daughter with a sense of injustice and my son with a sense of victory. Both kids would also have learned that with proper nuancing of terms and manipulative techniques they could by with anything. Respect for their mom and me would have diminished.

I had to enter the verbal contest, search for the nugget of truth, and act on the nugget I discovered. In the process I spent time with my kids and was able to teach them the value of purity of heart and honesty of communication.

When we slow down enough to spend time with our kids in these kinds of conversations, they learn something besides the topic under discussion. They learn that mom and dad will take the time to talk to them and reach the truth. They learn the value of integrity. They learn judgment and discernment. They learn how to behave properly. And they learn that mom and dad love them.

Warren Baldwin

Note: Thanks to Christina for sparking my memory and giving me the idea for this post with her very good article, "Wasn’t My Fault" on her blog, Change of Plans.

Friday, December 4, 2009

His Name First

"Abraham and Sarah..." Genesis 18:11


Wives, I'd love for us to share with each other some ways the Lord has put on each of our hearts to honor our husbands. Please leave a comment, and let us all spur one another on! "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24

One way I honor the Lord by honoring my husband is by always putting my husband's name first when signing cards, etc. This simple but meaningful act reflects my respect for my husband as the head of our home, family and me. "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." Ephesians 5:23


By always putting Jim's name first, it is a way of my showing my sincere reverence for him as my head. I want him to be honored.


For instance, when we sign birthday cards to our children, I always ask Jim to sign first so it is "Daddy & Mommy". When we are sending greeting cards to others, I always sign "Jim & Sharon". If we need to fill out forms and a list of family members is required, hubby's name goes first. No one else may notice it, but it is a small way of honoring Jim in my heart before the Lord.


Names are important. God's Word tells us that "He has exalted above all things His name and His word." Psalm 138:2 It also tells us that "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." Proverbs 22:1 Putting my husband's name first is a way of honoring him as the head of our home. It expresses my reverence for and submission to his God-given role and position.

"His Name First" is just something simple, yet very significant, that the Lord put on my heart. Wives, please share something you do to honor your husband as the head of your home, family and you! And husbands, if you are reading this, share something that your wife does that really shows her respect for you as head of the home!

Let's spur one another on and build up our husbands!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm a Who, Are You?

Have you started watching Christmas specials yet? One of my favorites is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The Grinch hates Christmas, so he thinks if he steals all the trees, gifts and food from the Whos of Who-ville, that he will stop Christmas. But Christmas comes and the Whos still celebrate even without STUFF. The Grinch says:

"It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages,boxes or bags!" And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought,"doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"

What does Christmas mean to you? Certainly all the trimmings add to the fun, but if some Grinch, such as unemployment, health issues, or other disappointments try to steal your Christmas, will you let them?

The Whos aren't just in Dr. Suess. Jesus talked about the "Whos" in the Bible too. Don't believe me? Here are some examples.

"I tell you the truth, WHOever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. WHOever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

"WHOever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who
loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21

Jesus isn't just for a select crowd. He came for WHOever will believe in him. WHOever follows him. WHOever obeys him.

As we move into the holiday season, I pray that I can be a Who. A Who that realizes that Christmas is about more than stuff. A Who that believes, follows, and obeys Jesus.

I'm a Who, are you?
Kelly

Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't Wait

Can you remember when your child was young and how they had a cute way of saying something?

My youngest, Tiffany, says the word SEED instead of SAW when she is talking.  It was really cute when she was younger, but now that she is in pre-school, I decided it was time to correct her speech.

The next time I heard her say, "Daddy, I seed a deer on the way home today!" I lovingly replied, "Tiffany, it's not seed, but we say, saw."

To that she said, "No Mommy, we say SEED!"

Ok, this was going to be more difficult than I had realized.  Perhaps I should have corrected this one some time ago instead of waiting because it was so cute!

Plan B - I tried reasoning with her, "Sweet heart, a SEED is something we plant, so the proper way to say it is to say, "I SAW."

To that, my husband chimed in, "Don't you use a SAW to cut down trees?"  AAAHHH!!  He was not helping! (Although he did have a valid point.)

Moving to plan C - Now every time she improperly says "I seed," I simply repeat it back and say, "You saw?"  It will take a little more work on my part, but I'm hoping that before long she will begin speaking properly.

What's my parenting tip in all of this?  Don't wait until a behavior has become a habit when correcting your children.  Even if it seems cute when they are young.

You know what I am referring to, remember when your toddler son threw something in anger and you thought, "Hey, Jr. has a great arm on him!"  Keep those thoughts to yourselves and think ahead to when they are older and if it will still be cute.  It's all about training, and the younger we can curb those bad habits, the easier it will be for everyone.


Sonya

Friday, November 27, 2009

Addicted to Spending?

Are Americans addicted to spending?

Well, if we consider the behavior in Washington these days, one would certainly think so! I suspect , however we could see evidence a little closer to home as well. Just hang out around your local shopping mall today (Black Friday!) and observe the frenzy. Still not sure what I'm talking about?

Consider this. When we think of addiction, we think of something being habit-forming or compulsive. Spending certainly fits the bill there. The more we spend the easier it becomes. In fact, that’s the way it typically works with addictions, they are not only habit forming, but we can develop higher and higher tolerances for the objects of our addiction as well, so over time we require more of that addictive substance or activity to get the same result. If you look at the Federal Reserve Data for household debt in this country over the past decade, you would see that Americans have more than doubled the amount of their debt. It’s as if to say if a little feels good, more is even better.

Addiction also involves an impaired, or possibly even a total lack of ability to control the behavior. How many times have you heard someone say, “I shouldn’t have spent the money, but I HAD to have it!“ A lot of times, the objects of our addictions go from being something we want to something we feel we actually NEED for survival, and depending on the addiction, that NEED can be emotional or even take on physical symptoms.

People who are addicted to something also tend to persist or relapse into the behavior, even though they recognize the evidence that it is harmful. You’ve probably heard a smoker say, “I know smoking is bad for me, but I just can’t quit.” The same is true when it comes to spending. People experience extreme amounts of stress due to the debt that results from over-spending. They are physically and emotionally exhausted from working to payoff the debt, yet they find it difficult to get off that treadmill. You probably know people who have gotten totally out of debt and then allowed themselves to get back into the very same predicament again, usually worse than the time before. Why? Because they treated the symptom. They paid off the debt,but never dealt with the behavior that got them there-the addiction itself -or more accurately, the root of the addiction. When it comes to spending issues, the questions we might ask ourselves to get to the root of the matter might be, why am I spending this money the way I do? Am I believing that I am receiving something by obtaining these things that it is conflict with God’s word? Am I allowing myself to go into debt out of fear? Am I not trusting God to provide for my needs and taking that burden on myself?

One sure way to detect whether something is an addiction or not is to take that something away. Addicted people tend to become dissatisfied or very irritable when that happens. They develop intense cravings and can develop emotional and physical dependency on the focus of their addiction. As crazy as it sounds I have seen this with an individual that I would argue was a “shopaholic.” I actually witnessed this person going to great lengths to fit in a weekend shopping excursion. Then, when she arrived at the mall, she had a very perceivable "heightened" sense of anticipation. I watched her move quickly and seemingly desperately from store to store for some time. After making several purchases, she reported back to the group and said with a heavy sigh, “I feel better now!” As if not being able to buy was making her physically uncomfortable! I kid you not!

Research has shown there are many causes that contribute to forming an addictive behavior. When it comes to chemical dependence, heredity can be a factor surely, but by and large it has been found that some of the things addicts tend to have in common is that they tend to be sensitive to peer pressure and possess low self-esteem. They might also come from environments that support their addictive behaviors either positively or negatively, and they tend to have a lower tolerance for stress.

I am hard-pressed to come up with an example where excessive spending wasn’t rooted in one or a combination of these causes. Think about it. There is a lot of pressure in our society, primarily created by the advertising and marketing industry to convince people that they need certain things to be considered valuable. People buy things and get into debt to keep up with the Jones’ all the time. Teenagers feel like they need those $200 athletic shoes to fit in and by the time those teenagers become adults the stakes are higher. Expensive homes, expensive cars, expensive wardrobes... all to keep up an image and be accepted or admired. We surely live in a society where debt is now so mainstream that people think you’re odd if you don’t use a credit card or have any debt. Go back a couple of generations and that just wasn’t the case. Most baby boomers and younger were raised with a different mentality about spending. For one thing, buy now pay later wasn’t so readily available before that. Our culture has done a lot to remove the guilt and social stigma that once was associated with overspending and debt. Advertising slogans like “You deserve a break today” and “Priceless” are aimed at making consumers feel that spending equates to doing something GOOD for yourself.

Once again the world’s economy sells you one bill of goods and God’s economy says something different. In fact, God says debt isn’t good for you at all. Proverbs 22:7 tells us its slavery. The borrower is servant to the lender. Earlier, I mentioned that addiction could be defined as lacking control. The addict not only loses the power to control the addiction but the addiction can ultimately control them as well. How many people are totally controlled by their spending habits? It's not just the inability to stop spending, but the bondage of trying to continually work to pay for the spending. We become like those little gerbils running on one of those exercise wheels. Working, working, working...and never getting anywhere. Sounds like slavery to me!

Addiction can also come from having a low tolerance for stress. We use "things" to cope with the many difficult situations that crop up in our lives. When it comes to spending, many people find themselves in situations where they know they don’t have the money for something but feel like they really need it and so they don’t hesitate to pull out that credit card. The credit card is an "easy fix." In fact, many people who come in for financial coaching fall prey to this. “I had to do it” they’ll say about their recent credit card purchase. In most cases, however, upon thorough examination, the item was either not really something the truly needed or as some people now can testify, God would have found a way to provide that thing for them if they had they given him the chance. Many times our stressful financial situations are tests to see if we really trust God or not.

So, hopefully I’ve convinced you that spending truly can be an addictive behavior, but just as in all other addictions, there really is hope. We can be rehabilitated from spending and debt if we want to be. It is not God’s will for us to be enslaved by anything of this world because we belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:23 tells us “You were bought at a price, do not become slaves of men.” We have to do our part, but we also have to trust God to do His.

For a long time, I didn't see my spending or debt as anything more than a bad habit. But when Jesus truly became the Lord of my life, I realized that I couldn't continue in that behavior and still live in God's economy. It robbed me from living the abundant life that Christ died to give me. He died, to set us free from all bondage so why would we choose to enslave ourselves? Debt hurts us financially and it destroys our witness to the rest of the world. God has called us to be lenders not borrowers. He intended for his people to be blessed and for that blessing to be evident to the world around us. We are to be the salt of the earth, a beacon of light, a city on the hill. It is to God’s glory that we are free from the bondage of "man's economy" and be blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.


Stacy


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks




This is my Apple Pecan Braid. It's a recipe I created as an alternative to apple pie. My daughter, my grand-daughter Word Girl, and I all love it. The little ones, Miss Personality and Computer Girl don't have the same opinion. I hadn't made this in quite some time so I decided to make it one Sunday while the girls were over. I knew the little ones weren't fond of this but I had something else they could snack on so I went ahead with it. Being the oldest, Word Girl takes a back seat to the little ones a lot. I'm really very proud of how well she handles it too. So sometimes I try to consider her first when I'm making these decisions and she was thrilled at this decision.

Miss Personality hung out with me in the kitchen while I made it and happily stole apple slices from my stock as I worked. We talked about the ingredients and she confirmed that she loved them all except the pecans but that she could pick them out. So she was sure she would like it and she wanted a piece when it was done.

After it came out of the oven I let Word Girl drizzle the icing on it. Now the icing was something they all loved. About that time Computer Girl came to watch. She knew she didn't like the braid and had a look of disappointment on her face but didn't voice any complaints. I let her taste a little piece of the crust with some icing on it and her eyes brightened up so I asked her if she would like a piece from the end where it is mainly crust with icing and she liked that idea.

As we were all enjoying our pastry and each other's company, Computer Girl looked over at me and in her sweet little voice said "Thank you Grandma." That one little expression of gratitude said so much. For one thing, it said that she felt loved. It also said that she was content with what she had been given. We both knew that it wasn't what she would have picked if she had been given the choice, but still she was content with it and freely offered an expression of gratitude without any prompting. That expression melted my heart and made me very proud of her.

God doesn't always give us what we want but He never discounts our desires. We can choose to complain about what we don't have or we can choose to be thankful and content with what is given. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, and throughout our lives, may we melt His heart and make Him proud.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Psalm 118:28



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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Listen, My Son

LISTEN, MY SON

"Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching." Proverbs 1:8.

Twenty-six times Solomon writes, "my son" followed by an exhortation such as, "Listen my son," or "My son, do not forget ..." Solomon is offering some concrete instruction to bolster his son’s insight and moral conditioning. There is a great emphasis in Proverbs for a son or daughter to listen to what Solomon has to say. His advice is right in line with what Christian parents today tell their kids. There is an emphasis here for children to listen to their moms and dads and to apply the lessons they teach about love, marriage, hard work and honesty.

There is an important lesson for the parents here as well. It is as important for the parents to teach as it is for the children to listen. Our kids can’t listen and they can’t learn if we are not actively instructing them. I think we parents make two grave mistakes when it comes to teaching lessons of life to our children.

One, we think they will pick up the important lessons from us by observation. Many lessons they will. "More is caught then taught" is often true. But not always. They may catch our behavior, but what about the mental processing behind our behavior? My children were not there when I picked their mother to be my wife. Why did I pick her? Was I attracted to her looks? Was I more attracted to her values and morals? Did I know before we married that she really wanted to be a wife and mother? The answer is "yes" to all these questions. But my kids can’t know that apart from me telling them. I have told them, many times. I want them to know the critical issues involved in selecting a mate for life, for choosing moral behavior, for working hard. These things are too important to be left to chance!! They must be taught. By teaching them, we equip them to make wiser choices than they would have made on their own.

Two, we think we can expect obedient behavior "because we say so." That is parental authority, and it works great when the kids are little. They wouldn’t understand detailed explanations anyway. But, what about when they grow older and begin making decisions on their own? Or when they are away from us? What is it that internalizes our values into their hearts? There comes a time when "because we say so" must give way to "this is why I say this" or "this is why we want you to do this." As they mature, let them know the reasons we expect certain behavior. Once they know and understand and it gets into their hearts it belongs to them.

"Bobby" is an example of a child who was drilled with "because I say so" but was never schooled in the reasons. Bobby’s crowd began drinking. His mother "freaked out" and assumed an authoritarian posture. "If I catch you drinking and driving I’ll make your life miserable!" Mom was acting for the good of the boy. She was the parent and had the right to insist on more mature behavior from her son. But she failed to internalize the lessons so the boy understood. She never explained to him the dangers of drinking and how it could lead to further irresponsible behavior, loss of control and even an accident or death. Bobby thought he was old enough to make his own choices. One night he too much. Fearful of his mother finding out he decided not to call her. He tried driving home on his own but didn’t make it. The mother and young child he hit were severely injured. (Phil McGraw, Family First (New York: Free Press), p.167).

Contrast this story with another teenage boy whose dad did school him in the reasons for not drinking. He still experimented. He drove home from one teen party with a beer in his hand. Thinking how it would hurt his mom and dad to see him with that, the boy opened the window and threw the beer out. Sure, he littered, but he did honor his dad’s instruction. "Listen, my son."

Dads, our kids do listen. Let's teach.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Husband Is My Brother in Christ First

"How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!"

Song of Solomon 4:10

One thing the Lord impressed upon my heart early in our marriage was to always remember that my husband was and is my brother in Christ first. Jim and I are God's children first. God then brought us together beautifully as husband and wife.

This true perspective of our relationships with God and each other brings an immediate reverence for God and for my husband. If I look at him only as "my husband", I can become entitled and self-righteous. Tapping my toe with hands on hips, I could begin to make selfish demands, spoken and unspoken. This is damaging. I genuinely love and respect my husband deeply, yet my sin nature can be destructive if my heart is not yielded to the Holy Spirit. I want to be the wise woman who builds her house, not the foolish one who tears it down with her own hands. "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." (Proverbs 14:1 NIV)

When my heart is postured according to God's alignment, I am humbled and thankful acknowledging that Jim is my precious brother in Christ first. Self-righteous entitlement falls away. I am more gracious, more merciful and readily able to speak the truth in love as Jim's wife, seeing him as God's son, my brother and my husband. I serve him with joy. My toes stop tapping and my hands go from being on my hips to hands outstretched to God.

When Jim is loving me as God's daughter, his sister in the Lord and his wife, his words are more gentle, he is able to compassionately point me to Jesus when I falter, and he more readily loves me as Christ loves the church.

Being brother and sister in Christ is a unique, beautiful and faithful foundation in a Christian marriage. As we desire to honor God with our marriages, let's remember that our spouse is our sibling in Christ first. As we care for our spouse and marriage as unto the Lord, He brings blessing, fruit and growth.

To read 1 Thessalonians 4 ("Living to Please God"), click here: Bible Gateway.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ...for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26, 28

Congratulations to DAWN, who is the winner of the Love and Respect Book from the November 6th post titled "Love and Respect".

Sharon

© 2009 by Sharon Sloan. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Busy?

B.U.S.Y -- Being Under Satan's Yoke. That is the acronym that was posted on a church's sign board. In this time of multi-tasking that we live in, is it really a sin to be busy? Let's read some Bible verses and see what we can dig up.


"Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool."Ecclesiastes 5:3 (NLT)

"For the fool speaks folly, his mind is busy with evil." Isaiah 32:6 (NIV)

"But Martha [overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me [to lend a hand and do her part along with me]!" Luke 10:40 (Amplified Bible)


"Too much," "busy with evil," and "too busy" all seem to yield poor results.

But what about these verses?


"Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both." Ecclesiastes 11:6 (NLT)

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:3-5 (NIV)


These verses indicate being busy is good. However the individuals are to be busy doing their work, that is making a living and keeping their house. I think this last verse sums it up.


"We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies." 2 Thess 3:11 (NIV)


Being busy is good, if you are busy at the right things. Doing God's work, making a living for your family and keeping your home for your family. We are not called to be idle or lazy. However, we are also not called to be overly busy, which often results in neglected our family, and neglecting God. (Too busy to pray?) We aren't to be minding everyone else's business at the expense of our own.

As a mom, I feel very busy keeping up with housework and children's activities. But I know I am doing the work that God prepared in advance for me to do. Wisdom comes in knowing what to say "no" to, so that we don't become overly busy.

It is important to take on and complete the work that God prepared in advance for us to do*. Be discerning. Remember, just because it is a "good" thing to do, doesn't mean it is a "God" thing to do. Be busy working for God, but don't take on any side jobs from the devil.

Kelly

*Ephesians 2:10 -- For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Feeding their Consciences

When my children were young I remember how simple it was to discipline them.  For example, if they were to take a piece of candy out of the candy dish even though I had told them not to, I would simply discipline them and tell them, "I told you no," as my explanation.

Now my children are older and this tactic no longer suffices.  You see, as they mature, they move from just being action controlled to needing their own moral reason why.  But I am a busy mom and taking the time to give that moral reason why can be challenging.  I tend to fall back into my old ways of parenting for convenience sake, unfortunately, it doesn't work well.

God has created each one of us with a conscience and a need for moral boundaries.  In order to be an effective parent, I need to take the time to research my scriptures, and pray, pray, pray for wisdom from the Lord as I discipline my older children.  God knows their hearts and He also knows the right way to teach each one of them.

One thing that stands true is God's Word.  If we feed this to our children regularly, then they will have the truth to fall back on when they are standing on the fence with a moral decision. 

Another tactic that works with my older ones, is to defer punishment to a later time.  This gives both of us ample time to ponder the situation, not to mention giving me time to cool off if I'm particularly angry about a wrong decision they've made.

Philippians 3:14  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What is the goal for our parenting?  To raise up children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  If we keep our focus on that goal, then the time it takes to be effective parents will be worth the effort.

Sonya

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thinking "Right" about giving gifts this Christmas

I'm finding it hard to believe that Thanksgiving is right upon us already and with that being the case, Christmas is just around the corner! As I have struggled over the years with spending, the Christmas season always stresses me out! It has always been like being pulled in two different directions.

The worldly side of me wants to buy my children everything they want and make my house look like those fabulously decorated houses I see in magazines. The perfect Christmas in my "worldly" mind is one where I give all the "right" gifts, have all the "right" foods, all the "right" decorations and spent time with all the "right" people. This type of Christmas means lots of stress for sure, but if I pull it off well, I can be sure to impress all the people around me.

The more spiritual side of me longs for a Christmas with LESS stress and more time to spend doing the things that REALLY make Christmas special; baking cookies with my children, doing "Christmasy" things with the family like going on tacky light tours or seeing a Christmas production and buying gifts for families who can't afford them. Most importantly, the spiritual side of me wants to focus my mind on the true reason for the season-Jesus!

The balance has varied from year to year. 20-80, 40-60, 50-50...

However, I still find myself yearning to get over the halfway mark and plunge into a more spiritual Christmas season. Every year about this time, I try to get intentional about how to bring this about. Being intentional gets me closer to the goal. It all begins for me, by examining my thoughts---being brutally honest with myself---and seeing if those thoughts line up with God's.

In my prayer time today I was addressing this and God reminded me of when my children were little and they would make me a Christmas gift at school. The most special ones were the gifts that were like "little pieces of them." You know the ones I mean; the plaques with the handprint on them, the silhouettes of their little faces with the hair sticking up just the way it always did! The gift didn't have value because it had cost a lot of money. The gift had value because we loved the giver and we understood the heart that went into giving the gift. Our little ones had used the resources they had; their two little hands, some art supplies, the ingenuity of a teacher perhaps, to make something uniquely from them. The gift wasn't the perfectly wrapped one under the tree by any means! But, it was always fun to open it up and see what was inside. Mostly, it was fun to see their eyes light up in anticipation as you opened the gift and how they beamed all over when you told them how much you liked it. The gift was given with love and we received it with love.

It wasn't just about the gift in itself It was about the giver and their heart.

Compare that with a lot of the gifts that are given today. We buy things for people out of reciprocation, perhaps obligation. We go into debt buying things we can't afford so that people will think more highly of us. We order gifts online, have them sent and sometimes never even put our own hands on them at all. Often we don't even see the person when our gift is presented!

When we do this, obviously it is because we think it is all about the GIFT.

Think about it. If it was about the giver, we wouldn't really look so good compared to our little darlings described earlier, would we? There is nothing personal involved. When we give in such a way, do we give with the same heart as our little child? Do we give a little piece of ourself? Are we more excited about actually giving the gift, or crossing it off our "to-do" list?

God surely shows us what it is to give GOOD GIFTS. He certainly gave from His heart. He gave us the most valuable thing HE had-His son-a saviour to reconcile us to Him and allow us a way to be with Him forever. God's gift came with a great deal of thought. He prophesied about it to us for hundreds of years before He sent it! It came at great sacrifice. He gave us Himself!

It's not about the gift or what it looks like. Jesus didn't come to us in "impressive package." He was born in a manger. Sometimes the value of the gift has as much to do with how we receive, as how we give. That's why God tells us to "Prepare our hearts." This requires that we take the time to look beyond the obvious. That we look beyond the material.

This Christmas I'm going to try to focus less on the gifts I give and more about the heart I give them in. I will give from my heart so that I can experience the joy that true giving brings. It's all about relationship. How many times have I knocked myself out running around for the "perfect gifts" and then was totally grouchy by the time I actually gave them? I had made it about the gift.

The world says it's all about how much you give and what the gift looks like. God says it's all about the heart. If you don't give with a loving, joyous heart, your gift has no eternal value. Let's try to care more about what God thinks about our giving this season!

Let's try to give more of ourselves.


Stacy


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Precious Gems

When my seventeen year old daughter told me she was pregnant, one of the first things I said to her was "I am not raising your child." I told her it was her responsibility and that I would help her, but I wasn't going to be her built-in babysitter or allow her to push her responsibility off on me. I was sincerely trying to instill an acceptance of the responsibility and consequences for her actions. What I didn't realize was that I had adopted the self serving way of the culture.

Soon after my grand-daughter's birth, God began showing me that being a grandparent carried much more responsibility than this culture would have us believe. It's not just fun and games and give the kids back when the fun is over. Lets look at these key phrases: "I am not raising your child" and "I am not a built-in babysitter". These are what I refer to as culturally correct phrases, but what do they say about who I am living for and who I am living to serve? God did not put me here to live for myself, but to live for Him and to serve others.

Yes, parents do have the primary responsibility to raise up their kids. But grandparents have so much to contribute to the lives of their grandchildren. Even if it means taking on some added responsibility. In some cases that may be what is necessary to protect the child or it may be the only opportunity the child has to learn to know and love the Lord.

I'm not suggesting that grandparents take over the role of the parent, nor am I suggesting that we become enablers. What I'm saying is that we do have a responsibility to contribute to the teaching and training of our grandchildren, to the extent that God will allow it. Grandparents have a big impact on the lives of these precious gems and we need to use it for Kingdom purposes.

From the time my first grand-daughter was born eleven years ago, you could hardly get her out of my arms. I was always praying over her and singing "Jesus Loves Me" to her to comfort her. Now I have been blessed with three beautiful grand-daughters. Three precious gems that I intend to polish so that the light of Christ shines brightly from them. I have purposed in my heart that I will do all that I can to teach them to know and love the Lord with all their heart, mind and soul.

I hope you will join me every other Wednesday as I share some of the lessons my grand-daughters and I are learning together, as well as some lessons God has taught me over the years about the impact of our actions for generations to come.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9



Edie