Hearsay

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Have you ever heard some really good news secondhand (or maybe even “third” or “fourth-hand”).  Sometimes I hear news that way that doesn’t really matter to me.  In those cases I am content to breeze on past the news and move on to the next thing that vies for my attention.  Other bits of news are so important that I am willing to stop everything to find out the truth.  That’s when Google becomes my “best friend.”  She has a woman’s voice on my phone, and instead of saying “google it,” my kids always say “ask google” when we don’t know the answer to something.

Imagine the Israelites telling their children about the wonderful things God had done in order to bring them into the promised land.  I can imagine the young children sitting on the edge of their seats wide eyed with wonder as they hear the story of the battle of Jericho.  The older kids jump in trying to tell the best parts before their father can finish the story.  The teenagers acting bored because they’ve already heard the story a hundred times, but secretly they are proud to know that their dad was one of the men who marched around the walls until they fell.

The next generation begins to tell these same stories to their children, who are just as captivated by the story as their parents.  Then, because the Isreaelites have been making friends with the nations they were supposed to drive out, some of the older kids begin to question their parents, “Did the walls really fall down after the seventh time around?  Balaam’s mom said it couldn’t have been that easy!”  or “Delilah said her god made the rain fall last week.”  and still another would say “Why can’t we get an Ashera pole for our yard? My friend’s parents got one!”

Joshua 24:31 says:

Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel

Some translations say “experienced” instead of “known.”  Telling our stories of how God has moved in our lives is important, but it is no comparison to actually experiencing a move of God.  Of course, we cannot make this happen, it is God who chooses when to show Himself to us, but we can pray for Him to make Himself known to us and to our children.  It is so important for us to be looking for Him to move in our lives.  We get so distracted by other things, wanting to have what those around us have and “fit in.”  God hasn’t called us to be like others, He has called us to love Him! Matthew 22:37 says:

And He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Just believing stories we’ve read in the Bible or heard from our parents and grandparents isn’t enough.  We need to have faith that leads us to love God and follow Him no matter what the cost.  How different things could have been for the Israelites had they set their hearts and minds on loving God instead of comparing themselves to the nations around them.  It may seem like God is asking a lot of us in following Him, but  I agree with Jim Elliot who said “Heis no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

I pray that God will help us to experience Him in such a way that we believe Him and love Him.  I don’t want hearsay!  Passion for God comes from knowing Him!

Unashamed by: Christine Caine

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We have so many good books at our house.  I have been making a point to read more for myself (not just for the kids).  It helps that my 3 older kids can all read very well now, so they are reading to the younger ones instead of everyone asking me to read all the time.  I think it was Joe McKeever who said that you should vary up the types of books you read.  Read one fiction book, then read a self-help book, and then read a biography, etc . . . I’ve been taking his advice this year, and it has been nice.

This week I finished reading the book Unashamed by: Christine Caine.  It really stuck a chord in my heart.  Christine tells a little bit about her story of being held back by shame – not feeling good enough.  She talks about the victory we have in Jesus and the struggle we have in our mind to believe that we are free.  In her journey, she has found that we have seasons that we are able to live in victory and then there are seasons when we are crippled with feelings of shame.  She gives scriptures and practical steps we can take to help us in those moments when we are struggling to see ourselves the way God sees us.

I think everyone has moments when they feel shame about some part of their past, after all, we are all sinners.  The problem is that God does not want us to live in shame.  He wants us to blossom in the reality that He has transformed us with His love through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Christine has been able to work through multiple layers of shame over many years of letting God show her the truth.  She has started two ministries. A21 is a ministry to help women escape human trafficking and find healing.  Propel Women is the organization she helped start that helps women learn and develope their leadership skills so that they can live lives of success.  Her story is an example of how God wants to use our deliverance from struggles to help others who are also struggling.  We aren’t meant to live our lives hiding our flaws so that those around us think we have it all together.  We are supposed to bear one another’s burdens.  Galatians 6:2 says:

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I hope that if you are struggling with shame as I do at times, that you will read this book.  It can really open your eyes to the truth of who you are in Christ.  May God get the glory as we move forward in sanctification!

Stubborn

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I have been amazed at how the winter has lingered so long.  Being from the south, I am not used to long winters.  Our yard no longer has dirt stained snow covering everything, the last of it melted a few weeks ago.  The piles of snow plowed up in the Walmart parking lot are still there though!  I don’t have a picture to share, but the piles don’t even look like snow any more, they are so covered with dirt, they look like giant sand piles.  We have been getting dustings of snow even though it is now March.  I would call this weather stubborn.  I don’t mind it too much, in fact, I would be happy for one more big snow so that my kids can play in it again.

I have been reading through Deuteronomy, and was struck by Moses’ confrontation of the children of Israel.  They are preparing to enter the promised land.  Moses has been reminding the people of where they came and of the laws that God has given to them.  Moses says in Deuteronomy 9:4,6:

Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, “It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,” whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. . . . Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.

Have you ever thought to yourself that God is giving you good things in life because you are living a good life?  I have.  In fact, many times I’ve been taught that if I am good (righteous), then God will bless me with good things.  The reality is Isaiah 64:6:

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

I think I’m every bit as stubborn as Israel when I get my eyes off of who God is and what He has done for me.  I may think I am living a righteous life, but if I am holding on to my idea of how life should be instead of surrendering myself to God, I am not really living for Him.  Instead of thinking I have it all together, I need to remember 2Corinthians 5:21

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Anything good in my life comes from God – so why am I so stubbornly attached to having my own way?  I think it has to do with lack of faith.  If I really believed that God had my best interests at heart, I wouldn’t resist what He is trying to accomplish in and through my life.  Our rebellion to the ways of God just accents how good He is to us.  Nehemiah 9:17-18:

They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that You performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.  But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

Praise the Lord!  He does not give up on us.  Lets strive to keep our focus on God.  He is wonderful!  Nothing else can compare with Him.  Lord, Please help us to believe You so that we will live in a way that honors You, without the stubborn rebellion that has characterized so much of our lives.  Thank You for Your grace, mercy, love and faithfulness!

All We Have is Now

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I was recently in a class for people who have questions about life and faith.  It was a new experience for me as I have grown up in Church.  Most of the teaching I sat under was to tell us all the “answers” – not so much to give us a chance to ask big questions.  It was so neat to talk with people from all different walks of life.  One lady in particular was very easy to connect with as she was the mother of 3 young children.  As we talked, I could just sense that her life was very much as unruly as mine at times.  She was so nice and encouraging to me!  I was surprised to later find out that she is an Atheist.  I have always thought that atheists were hostile people, standing up against the lifestyle and tradition that I hold dear.  She did not seem to fit this profile at all.

One of the things I learned that night is that there is really only one difference between the life of a lost person and my life.  That difference is Jesus!  A person can live a good life and be a citizen that contributes to the good in our world, but none of that matters if they don’t have faith in Jesus.  Have you noticed that some unbelievers live a life that is morally outstanding when compared to some Christians?  It is sobering to me.  And then I remember that being morally good doesn’t make me a good Christian . . . living a life of faith in God and dependence on Him is what sets me apart from other good people.

I learned that Atheists do not believe in life after death.  Many of them have the philosophy of life that “You only get one chance at life, so be kind!”  I was thinking about this later and was struck by the truth that we Christians also only have one chance at life.  Yes, we get to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus, but our life here on earth doesn’t have a “do over” button.  It is so important for us to walk with Jesus in a way that others will see Him in us.  John 13:34-35 says:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

I have been challenged by an Atheist to be kind because I don’t get another go at life.  May we all learn to show the love of Christ in all our conversations.  No hate filled talk!  Let others see Jesus in you so that they can experience the love of Christ and come to Him for salvation.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.

-Hebrews 9:27-28

Heavenly Father, please help us to live lives of humility and love.  Remembering that we are not better than those who believe differently than us, we are only sinners who have been rescued from eternal punishment.  Please place people in our paths that we can share Jesus with so that they too can experience His loving forgiveness and redemption.  Amen!

When God’s Plan Seems Delayed

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Do you ever find yourself wanting to rush to the next season of your life?  It is hard to rest and be content in the place that we find ourselves.  The world tells us if only we had different weather, life would be better. So they sell lots of vacations to beaches or to ski resorts depending on what type of weather a person is trying to escape.  Often times we rush around moving on to the next thing without slowing down to soak in the moment that we are experiencing.  I definitely relate to this.  With six children, life is busy!  I seem to always be rushing to get things done – rushing through life trying to get to the next thing.  I rush my day along: “Lets get done with breakfast so we can start school.” and then: “Hurry up and finish what you’re working on so we can have lunch!” “You need to finish lunch so we can finish school!””Go play so I can get supper done.” Then we rush through supper so that we can have some family time and then rush off to bed!!!  I want to hurry up and finish the school year so we can enjoy leisurly summer days . . . but then in the summer I’m sure that I will want to rush through that too because there will be an empty promise that getting to the next season will make life better!

As Christians, we do the same thing.  We come to Christ, asking Him what He wants us to do.  When He shows us something, we try to make it happen as fast as we can.   Kevin and I moved up to Chicago following the plan that God set before us.  It took much longer to get the family moved up than we had anticipated.  I believe that it was just what we needed in order to grow and fulfill the purpose God has in our lives.  Our goal is for Kevin to get his PhD in Old Testament Hebrew, and we thought we should get busy accomplishing that so we could move forward with doing God’s will.  What we are finding is that God’s timetable is different than ours.  Kevin has been out of school for more than six years.  That coupled with the reality that Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is much more thorough in their languages studies than the program Kevin studied in previously has shown us that getting into the program is going to take longer than we had originally thought.  Kevin has been accepted to the school, but he was unable to pass the Hebrew proficiency exam.  He will have to take some classes to learn the Hebrew more thoroughly before he can begin studying toward his degree.  Understanding all of this has been disappointing.  Our limited perspective causes us to think we have messed up or at the least, we are falling behind. We think we should have already accomplished so much.  That is the world’s thinking creeping into our lives.  God still has a plan.

I’ve been reading through Genesis again, and it has been just what I needed for this time in my life.  There are so many instances in the Bible where people heard from God and began to follow Him only to find that things aren’t going to happen on the timetable that they thought.  Genesis 12:1-3 says:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Abram obeyed right away!  I’m sure that he thought God was going to give him many children, and he probably thought he and Sarai would begin having them right away.  They were up in years already, so they didn’t have time to loose!  Ten years passed, and still Abram and Sarai had no son.  Sarai became impatient, and in Genesis 16:2 we see her solution to the problem.

And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children.  Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.”  And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands and had a son through Hagar.  This was not God’s plan, and it caused lots of heartache for Sarai and Abram.  But, they thought they had obtained a son to fulfill God’s promise.  Then, 13 years later, God appeared to Abram again.  In Genesis 17:15-21 God shows Abram His plan.

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her.  I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?  Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”  And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”  God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.  As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.  But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

Abraham was shocked to learn that Ishmael was not the son who would fulfill the promise that God had made.  God unfolded His plan at just the right time.  Nothing Abraham or Sarah did could speed it up or change it.  Think of their delight and faith in God when they saw the promise fulfilled at Isaac’s birth (Genesis 21)!  God uses unlikely circumstances to show us that He is the One doing the work.  We cannot take credit for His work.  It is impossible for us to do His will without His hand working through us.

After reading all of this and pondering it’s application to me today, I cannot give up because God’s plan hasn’t unfolded the way I thought it would.  I cannot rush the plan either.  I just have to rest in Him and remain obedient to what He has put before me to do today.  God’s plan for my family and I will unfold at the right time.  He alone knows what the future holds.  Until then, I pray that God will strengthen our faith and help us to be faithful to Him.

May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

-Romans 15:13

Book Suggestion: Street God

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I love to read!  I haven’t had much time for leisure reading for myself lately.  Most of my reading is done for an audience of children who are full of questions. I did get to read a really good book this week though!  It was a great way to start out the new year.  Kevin got the book Street God by: Dimas Salaberrios after hearing him speak at Church one Sunday.  Kevin doesn’t go on and on about books very often, but he couldn’t help but tell me things about this one.  I thought he might as well just read it aloud to me.  He didn’t, so as soon as he finished reading it, I read it.

Dimas tells of his life on the streets, and his determination to become a drug boss.  I had never read anything like this before.  It opened my eyes to the realities that so many children face every day.  As I was reading this book, I was especially aware of  the things we saw in New Orleans while living there. At the time, I had no idea how things worked on the streets.

Jesus delivered Dimas from a terrible life and gave him a new determination.  It was a joy to read of his deliverance from drugs and crime.  I am amazed how God can take a person who has so much against them and transform them into a light that shows His love to the world.

Reading this book confirmed in my heart the importance of our prayers for the lost around us, and the importance of obeying when God prompts us to do something.  God is not done working in our midst.  Don’t be fooled by the statistics on declining Church attendance and the reports of Churches across the country closing their doors – God is still moving in hearts of people today.  He is working miracles.  I would venture to say that if we are not experiencing God in this way, it is because our prayers are half-hearted and our obedience is lacking.  I am challenged to devote myself to praying for others more and to seeking God with renewed faith that believes in the impossible!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

-Ephesians 3:20-21

Christmas Lull

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We put so much planning and preparation into each Christmas season.  2016 was no exception.  I worked for weeks trying to get everything ready.  The anticipation in our house caused an undercurrent of excitement that made every day full of questions.  I didn’t get started on the homemade gifts soon enough, so my kids are still anticipating more gifts, but the Christmas lull has set in just the same.  The excitement that comes along with the mystery of a pile of gifts has spent itself.  All the children are busy playing and fighting over each others’ toys.  In the meantime, I am trying to figure out how to reorganize everything so that the new toys aren’t scattered all over the house to become broken or lost.  I am leaving the Christmas decorations up a little longer because they are so pretty, plus, it seems wrong to take them down and cause Christmas to end so abruptly.   Continue reading

Thanksgiving Leftovers

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This year for Thanksgiving it was just Kevin and I and the kids.  We missed being with our extended family, but we didn’t let that put a damper on our celebration.  True to my upbringing, I planned a huge dinner.  Kevin and I worked together fixing everything, including a huge 20 pound turkey that we soaked in brine the night before.  It was delicious!  I tried so hard, but I did not acheive perfection . . . but I think what we acheived was better than perfection.  I got dinner on the table later than I planned and forgot the mac-n-cheese (which wasn’t completely set the first time I took it out of the oven – it didn’t burn, thankfully).  The house was a mess, the kids were wearing whatever they wanted, and we did not get to do all the activities we had planned.  Now for the “better than perfection” part of the story:  I didn’t lose my cool about all of it!!!  I was able to acknowledge my disappointment and move on without letting it ruin my evening.  We ate dinner and talked about the things for which we were thankful (which included Jesus, people who cover their mouth when they cough, food, God, being together as a family, and restored joy).   Continue reading

What If?

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Naturally I’ve been thinking about the direction our country is headed.  There are so many things I would change if I could.  If only people could see how destructive all the hateful talk is to everyone around.  We cannot continue to put down one group of people in order to make our own group more powerful.  What is going to happen tomorrow (or whatever day the votes are finally tallied)?  What if the candidate we don’t want to be in power becomes the next president?  Are we going to continue to put down certain groups of people?  Is our nation going to remain divided? Continue reading