Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Pics and Memories

We have had an enjoyable and pleasant few days celebrating Christmas. We were able to spend time with family on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day.
I thought I would take a break from my normal posts to share some pics with you!

On Christmas Eve morning the girls and I tried a new peppermint brittle recipe. Little Sister helped smash the candy canes!

After helping to finish the project, Middle Sister helped clean the bowl! ;-)

Little Sister came back to finish off what Middle Sister left behind.

(Notice the short sleeves combined with the winter hat. She is adjusting
to your typical Alabama winter weather. ;-)

Big Brother has been very proud of his "Sergeant York Rifle!"
(Don't you think those poka dots go great with the gun? :-)

Big Brother and Bigger Brother have had a blast with their
remote control tanks!

Big Sister was proud to match one of her dolls on Christmas!
(We're proud she still wants to! KWIM???)

We were also thankful to spend time with great-grandmother!

Thumb wrestling with Paw Paw!

Back home again, Middle Sister and Little Sister were excited to dress themselves and their dolls in matching pajamas.

We enjoyed our Christmas time, being with family and especially our children.

I am especially thankful for the gift the Heavenly Father gave us on that first Christmas night--the Gift of His own Son to be a ransom for many. Without that ransom, we would have no hope. I pray we remember His gift everyday, not just Christmas. *************************************************************

In the Heart of our Home,


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who's in the Boat?

Tough times come to everyone. They come in all shapes and sizes, and according to James, we should "count it all joy" when they come.

Where we look and where or in whom we place our trust makes all the difference in the world.

In Matthew 14, the disciples were in the boat on the water without Jesus. He had sent them ahead while he sent the multitudes away (Matthew 14:22). However, during the night the water became very rough as they were tossed by waves, "for the wind was contrary" (v. 24).

I notice that Jesus waited until the 4th watch of the night (b/w 3 AM and 6 AM) to go out to their boat. (He did not go running out on the water at the sign of the first big wave.) When He does arrive "walking on the sea," the disciples were afraid because they did not recognize Him. Instead, we see they have mistaken Him for a ghost!

When Jesus spoke, it must have been music to their ears!

"Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid" (Matthew 14:28)!

Of course, it is Peter who immediately responds to the Lord, asking to be called out to Him. Jesus responds with a "Come!"

Many of us know what happens next. Peter is miraculously walking on water with the Lord Jesus Christ, but as soon as he takes his eyes off the Lord and focuses on his circumstances and surroundings, he begins to sink.

Christians through the ages have learned so much from Peter's mistakes. But what grabs my attention this time is found after Jesus saves Peter and after the 2 climb into the boat.

"And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshipped Him, saying, 'Truly You are the Son of God'" (Matthew 14:33).

We know that we should always keep our eyes on Christ, even when the waves are rising around us. But do we think about how those still in the boat are watching?

Those other 11 disciples were watching and waiting to see what would happen! Notice not one of them followed Peter. They waited to see what would happen to him and what Jesus would do. Even when Peter failed, there is no indication that they criticized him or laughed at him. The entire incident brought glory to Christ! They worshipped Jesus and acknowledged Him as the Son of God!

In my own daily struggles or even when tragic circumstances arise, I pray I can remember not only to keep my eyes on Jesus but also that others are still in the boat. My desire is that I will focus on the Lord and bring Him glory (whether I am walking on the waves with Him or sinking and crying out for His help).

It's all about Him anyway!!!

In the Heart of our Home,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Householders of Treasures

How does it feel to know you have great responsibility of something or even someone? Often we may have a big responsibility, like being in charge of a committee or a team or even an event or large project, and it heaps great mounds of stress on us!

Perhaps we are entrusted with a valuable object, and we know we must take very good care of it (which sometimes adds stress, too!).

Often we are given the responsibility of people, like our own children and family or even someone else's children, even if only for a short time.

Usually with all these scenerios, which we have probably all experienced in some way or another, we feel the weight of the responsibility.

As Believers, we have a great responsibility. Jesus shared a glimpse of this assignment with His 12 disciples:

"Then He said to them, 'Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old'" (Matthew 13:52).

These disciples already knew many "old" truths about the kingdom from their knowledge of the Old Testament. Christ had just been sharing many "new" truths with them through parables: Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Parable of the Mustard Seed, Parable of the Leaven, Parable of the Hidden Treasure, Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, and Parable of the Dragnet (Matthew 13).

After asking them if they understood, they answered affirmatively (Matthew 13:51). It is then that He emphasizes their great responsibility.

The Lord points out what they already knew and what they have just learned and then gives them a call to action. They were to be responsible for this understanding and teach it to others "like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old."

Have you considered that we too are such stewards? We have the same valuable treasure with the added benefit of the entirity of the Scriptures! We have the great responsibility of knowing the Good News of Christ and His amazing grace, and we should not hoard it in the treasure house but bring it out to share it!

We have a great weight of responsiblity as a steward of such a treasure, but it is not a treasure to be hidden and saved.

I can't help but notice that the comparison does not say the householder should bring it out or might bring it out. Jesus says he does bring it out. (Reminds me of the use of "shall" in Acts 1:8.) Does this describe you?

In the Heart of our Home,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's our Anniversary!!!

Happy Anniversary
to my
dear hubby!!!
Just as I said in our vows several years back in that familiar church:
"Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me"
(Ruth 1:16-17).
I love you, husband! Happy Anniversary!
In the Heart of our Home,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Health and Wealth vs. Persecutions and Tribulations Part 2

Personally, our family sees it as very important to give our children an accurate understanding of the Scriptures, even in the area of persecutions and tribulations. If we do not, when we are hit with trials, it will possibly burst their bubble of a "prosperous Christian life" and possibly lead to doubts and struggles that would be unnecessary. The Christian walk has enough struggles without adding to it a false idea of that "bed of roses."

And if we think that we are forever safe and secure from religious persecution, we need to wake up. I believe it behooves ourselves and our children to understand the persecution of the prophets and the great tribulation and suffering experienced by the early Christians. We also need to continually remind ourselves and teach our children of the persecuted Christians who are burned, raped, kidnapped, plummaged, arrested, and chased into hiding even this very day. Why? Who is to guarantee it won't be us and our children just a little down the road?

How foolish are we if we continually fill ourselves up with ideas of health and wealth and deserved prosperity and do not study the entirity of the Word to prepare ourselves for tribulations the Scriptures say will come.

Might I add how foolish are we if we do not prepare our children for the same.

To help you understand a little of how Americanized this "prosperity gospel" is, follow me to Central America and promise such things. If this is an accurate view of the Bible then why does it not apply in 3rd world countries?

At a recent pastors' conference my husband was leading in one such country, a faithful pastor who loved the Lord and exhibited a fervor and excitement for the gospel often not seen here would take rice from the lunch table and stuff it into his pockets. Why would he do such a thing? He told my husband he had 15 families in his church who were all hungry and probably wouldn't eat that day. Hmmmmm. . . . .try to take books on health, wealth, and prosperity to them.

What about poverty-stricken countries in Africa? Why are the very ones in persecuted countries of the world who are faithful to the Lord the ones who are martyred?

You see, these false ideas don't hold water when you look outside our culture.

It is the Word of God that stands true and can be applied universally. It is for all who believe, no matter how wealthy or poor or in what environment they live. Even no matter their circumstances.

Last week some friends were sharing struggles they were having with work and with family. Do you know what Scripture popped in my head? I shared James 1:2. Here is the context:

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [endurance]. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:2-5).

No promises of health and wealth here! Just a promise that the trials are good for us! :-) We should count it joy! It will produce endurance in us!

What would you share with someone struggling? What verses have ministered to you when going through trials? Please share!

In the Heart of our Home,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Health and Wealth vs. Persecutions and Tribulations

I am perplexed.

When visiting some close family members, several times over the past few years a certain kind couple--acquaintances--have dropped by for a visit. Their last visit has had me thinking.

These dear people are very nice and seem to love the Lord very much. During their visit they usually spend much time "speaking" words of prosperity to my close family members. They quote parts of verses that pertain to health, wealth, and other desirable blessings.

I wonder if I should be convicted and be more willing to share such verses with people in their daily struggles. I then wonder if this is another sample of the American version of Christianity--the "prosperity gospel."

I have been reading through the Gospel of Matthew lately and notice how much time Jesus spent healing the sick. He had so much compassion for those down and out, and I do see His desire to heal those in His path.

But then I notice in Matthew 14 when John the Baptist, Christ's own cousin and whom He heralded as "among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist" (Matthew 11:11), and who was imprisoned because of his faithful preaching of repentance, was beheaded at the whim of Herod's family.

John's faithfulness did not bring him wealth and health. It brought him death.

I think of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. What a mighty man of the Lord! He was chosen as one of the first seven to serve the widows in the early church, as he was a "man full of faith and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5). Later, he was described as a man "full of faith and power" (Acts 6:8). When falsely accused, Stephen delivered a powerful sermon to the religious Pharisees, but they being "stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears" (Acts 7:51), resisted the Holy Spirit. What happened next?

"But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 4:55-56).

Wow! Jesus is standing for Stephen! Surely, considering he is full of faith, power, and the Holy Spirit, he qualifies and meets the requirements of the prosperity gospel. Surely the Lord is standing to deliver to him the health and wealth many have now come to expect.

But, no. . . . .that is not how the story ends.

"And they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:58-60).

Stephen's faithfulness did not bring him wealth and health. It brought him death.

I think of James,the brother of John, who was one of Jesus' first 12 disciples. James was very close to Christ, often described as one of the 3 in the inner circle. He was one of the 3 that Jesus took with him on the Mount when He was transfigured, seeing Moses and Elijah talk to Christ, and even hearing the very words of God spoken from Heaven. James was even one of the 3 whom the Lord took with him into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray on the night of His arrest. Yet, these privileges did not seem to come into play when "Herod the king stretched out his hand to harrass some from the church" (Acts 12:1).

James was killed with the sword.

James' faithfulness did not bring him wealth and health. It brought him death.

I think of Paul. Where would I begin? He shared with the church at Corinth the following testimony:

"From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness--" (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).

Alas, one would think if anyone deserved the award of prosperity it would be Paul!

Nevertheless, Paul's faithfulness did not bring him heath and wealth. It brought him death.

I think of Peter and all the other faithful disciples. I think of the many unnamed Christians in the New Testament and the Old who were faithful yet suffered still.

"Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflected, tormented--of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:36-37).

Example after example of those whose faithfulness did not bring health and wealth. It brought them death.

So why all this focus on "us?" Why is the focus always on what we want Christ to do for us? Why are most of the books in the Christian bookstores about "us?"

Where are those who will say to their friends and family and teach their children that this life is not about us!? We should be more about dying to self so that we can better glorify Him!

So what is the right response to people who are struggling? Is it words of prosperity, health, and wealth? Or are there other verses in the Scriptures that give us a bigger picture and should also be on our mind and on our tongues?

More next time. . . . . . .

In the Heart of our Home,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Esteeming Others Better Than Yourself?

Little Sister always gives me something to write about. ;-) Of course, all our children are still in need of careful training, and we pay close attention to their behavior and the state of their hearts (which is usually evident by their behavior and/or attitude) because we love them dearly! Every opportunity, no matter how big or small, to train is an opportunity to teach them God's way.

However, Little Sister, who brings more joy to our family than I could describe, is still in a stage that requires careful, careful attention to opportunities for training. (Did I say that nicely? ;-)

Yesterday morning she grabbed a toy Middle Sister was enjoying and immediately fled with it. Fortunately, Daddy grabbed her mid-flight and immediately set her down for a heart-to-heart training session.

What did this heart-to-heart reveal about her own little heart? When he asked why she would grab something someone else was enjoying, she simply answered, "I wanted it."

Hmmmmm. . . .

I thought of Philippians 2:3-4:

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."

Little Sister's honest response reveals the root behind many problems seen throughout our whole culture. So often we want our flesh gratified, so we do whatever seems easiest and fastest to satisfy those desires. This type of servitutde to the flesh leads to financial problems, maritial problems, family relationship problems, and the list could go on and on.

As Believers, we must be willing to deny ourselves (our flesh) so that we can always be able to take up our cross and follow Christ. According to Philippians 2:3-4, we should "consider others better than himself." How easy is this?

Can I consider my husband better than myself? Other family members? The Salvation Army bellringer? The Wal-Mart cashier? The lady about to get in line with me at the grocery store? If I do, how can I show it? The Scriptures says in verse 4:

"Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."

If you have children at home, are you teaching them this principle? If they are going to develop a servant-heart, how much better and easier for them to learn it earlier than later. We see the fruit of this learning in several of our children, but in others around here it is making "slower progress." ;-) Soooo. . . . .we keep teaching, keep training, keep planting the Word, and keep trusting the Lord to bring it all to fruition.

And I keep reminding my own self of the same verses! How about you?

1) How do you teach selflessness to your children???

2) How have you seen this type of self-denial and servant-heartedness lived out (in others or in yourself)???

In the Heart of our Home,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I Will Give You Rest

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

Doesn't rest always sound good, especially at the end of a long day? Last night I lay on the couch thinking, "I could just stay here and not move if they would all let me . . . . ."

Then one of my sweet sons, Big Brother, began to scrach my back. "Ah, now this is the life!" But he didn't stop with a backscratch; he began to sing Silent Night to me! He sang 16 verses of Silent Night while he scratched my back! (He says he was trying to sing me to sleep. It almost worked. ;-)

After about 7 or 8 verses, I began to think, "I sure don't deserve these wonderful kids! Thank you, Lord, for such sweet blessings." Of course, I vowed to myself that I would never become impatient during math with Big Brother again!

Rest and relaxation always sounds good and feels good for a tired body. Yet, I wonder what the Jews thought when they heard Jesus teach them:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

I know those people were much more tired than I am at the end of a day! Imagine their workload compounded with the anxieties and burdens of being a repressed people.

However, I think Christ may have been talking about more than just physical, emotional, or even political problems. Consider the weight of legalism they were under thanks to the priests, Pharisees, and such. Not only did they have the Law of Moses to consider and obey, they had added religious responsibilities laid on them by their religious leaders. Talk about a burden!

People all around the world are carrying burdens of the same nature. So many religions offer hope, eternal life, and paradise to those who carry the burden of good works. In Central America, I spoke with religious people who were so faithful to their religion, but it did not offer them an ASSURANCE of salvation. . . .just a "hope so."

We all at one time were under the burden of sin. Most (Matthew 7:13-14) carry that burden their whole lives.

Why carry that burden when the King of Kings calls out that His yoke is available? His "yoke is easy" and does not require laws and legalism or continual sacrifices or the insecurity of not knowing for sure! His yoke changes us and gives us the power to become more like Him! It enables us to do and be what all those laws show us we cannot be on our own!

Is your burden heavy? Have you taken the yoke of Christ?

In the Heart of our Home,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Our Trip to the Nursing Home!

Yesterday we went with 2 other families to visit and minister at our local nursing home. Before hand we had made approximately 100 Christmas cards and enough cookies for all the residents.

It was such a joy to see the children preparing to serve others!

They worked about 2-3 months learning Luke 2:1-20 to recite for the residents and share the Good News through the Christmas story.

Several of the children played the piano, and they also shared the Gospel through singing.

Then they mingled with the dear people who live there, passing out the cookies and cards, hugging, and wishing "Merry Christmas." The residents were so excited the children were there. Many said they hardly ever get to see children.

The best part was sharing it all with a very special someone who lives at this particular home.

Our favorite great-grandmother!!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Suffering for Christ?????

Persecution for the sake of Christ is common in many (most?) countries around our planet. The relative ease we live out our Christianity in the United States is really quite rare. Many times, we are so unaware of the suffering our brothers and sisters in Christ endure, and this naivity is tragic.

When Paul was in prison and writing the church at Colosse, he reminded them, "Remember my chains" (Colossians 4:18).

Our family is able to remember and educate ourselves through the resources of Voice of the Martyrs. This organization is a tremendous asset to those suffering and to those of us who are not but would like to help and pray.

We should not be surprised that there is great suffering and persecution around the world for His sake but only surprised that we are not experiencing it. Christ prophecied these things were coming and gave counsel to his own 12 disciples on how to deal with it.

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you" (Matthew 10:16-19).

Christ evens warns them, "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake" (Matthew 10:22a).

The disciples would experience rejection from their own Jewish people (which would eventually bring the Gospel to the Gentiles), and we see this same type of persecution all around the world today.

On a personal level, this is one reason why we feel it so important to diligently train our own children in the Scriptures. I want my children to know what they believe, why they believe it, and, hopefully, to have as much as possible hidden in their heart. We are never guaranteed religious freedom anywhere except on a piece of paper that is already being chipped away and disregarded by so many. As a matter of fact, we should not expect it because the Word tells us otherwise.

Let us be encouraged by Christ's own words:

"And he who does not take his own cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:38-39).

Even when not in the face of persecution, we should pick up our cross and follow Him. . . .daily. Only His way will we find true life.

In the Heart of our Home,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Who is This?

When Christ finished His Sermon on the Mount, He came down from the mountain and spent day after day healing the sick, feverish, paralyzed, blind, mute, demon-posessed, lepers, and even raising the dead.

When He got into a boat with His disciples and a great storm arose on the sea, He showed again His great power by calming the winds and sea with only His words. The disciples were amazed:

"Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him" (Matthew 8:27)?

But the question comes to me: Who are we that we do not?

The demons obey, death and sickness obey, even the elements of the wind and waves obey the Son of God. Yet we have the audacity, even as His own creations, to turn a deaf ear to His Word, to ignore the parts of the Scriptures that we don't like, or to sometimes just put His admonishings off to a more convenient time.

Consider the Scripture in Titus 3:8:

"This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men."

Prior to these verses, Paul emphasized the mercy by which we are saved and how it is a work of the Holy Spirit. Then just a few verses later, he exhorts Titus to remember to "be careful to maintain good works."

Of course, this is important! If the demons obey the Son of the Living God, who do we think we are to slap down the grace card and just wink at sin?

We often forget Who it is who saved us. We forget His power, His authority, and His place in the universe, and we often forget ours. . . . .

We are just sinful people saved by His grace, and Paul even called Himself a bondservant to Christ. Do you love Him that much? Do you value His grace enough to obey Him? Do you recognize His authority in your life? The wind and the waves do. . . . .

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Theology in a Child's Favorite Song

Have your children ever had special, favorite songs they wanted to hear over and over? Perhaps there was a special tune or maybe a particular hymn that comforted them when they were sad?

I remember with our first child that "Amazing Grace" seemed to comfort her. I had sung it to her even before she was born, and when she was just a newborn and even older, I could sing it to her and comfort her cries.

Middle Sister seemed to particularly like "Oh, How I Love Jesus." We would rock and go through as many verses as I knew of that song, and she seemed to always love it. (Sometimes at bedtime, she still requests it! ;0)

When Little Sister was a baby, I didn't try any new tricks. I would sing all the old favorites of her brothers and sisters. However, somewhere along the way, she has developed an attachment to "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock." We sing it in the car, as we play, as we work, and especially at bedtime. And it is very important that we perform the accompanying hand motions, you know.

I must admit--I do get tired of it. And just when you are finished singing about the wise man, you have to start on that ol' foolish man! But she likes it, and I know she won't always want to sing this one. Besides, I hope one day she will understand the teaching of Matthew 7:24-27 through this song.

"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall" (Matthew 7:24-27).

The theology in these verses is pretty easy to understand. Follow Christ and His sayings/His Word, and when the storms of life come, you will be able to withstand because you are on the "Rock." For those who do not follow His teachings/His Word, the storms of life will beat you down.

I notice that these verses do not suggest "if" but "when" the rain, floods, and wind come. Life will throw troubles our way. The question is not "what if" but "On what will you be standing?"

In the Heart of our Home,

Monday, December 1, 2008

Little Sister's Pennies

Yesterday morning, as we were about to leave for church, the children were gathering their coats, Bibles, and offering money. Little Sister came around the corner with teary eyes and pouty lips.

When I asked her what was wrong, she held out our fist, unrolled her fingers to reveal 3 little pennies, and cried, "But I need this to buy toys!"

Oh, me. What selfishness our hearts reveal.

I explained how we give because we love Jesus and because we are so thankful for what He has given us. We thought together of all the blessings God has so generously bestowed upon us, while I am thinking, "Did Thanksgiving and all the many lists for what we are thankful just sail right over her head???"

When I reminded her of the importance of a "cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7), she quickly plastered an artificial smile on her face. I think for the 957th time, "Yes, we still have a long way to go with this one. . . . . . "

Of course, is this just 4-year-old thinking? As we begin the Christmas season and the commercialism and consumerism launches their attacks against us all once again, I can't help but see the same greed for "toys" everywhere I turn.

As I sat at my in-laws Saturday watching the Iron Bowl, I couldn't believe the low level to which some commercials stoop, trying to convince us all that life would truly be achieved if we just bought their products. (And perhaps this is not the appropriate post to address the Victoria's Secret previews. . . . )

Here's a news flash: We can't have it all. When we think we have bought what will truly make our hearts content, something new will be on the market. "Things" don't satisy. "Stuff" breaks, wears down, or becomes yesterday's news. It is a neverending game trying to acquire it all and satisfy ourselves with the things of this world.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).

Even with our children, what are we teaching them with the commercialism of Christmas (and all year for that matter)? What message do we send? Are we communicating to them that it is better to lay up treasures on earth or treasures in heaven? What do you communicate?

In the Heart of Our Home,

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Exceeding Righteousness???

The scribes and Phariesees were some pretty self-righteous guys. They prided themselves in keeping every little letter of the law and looked down upon those who did not. The audience of the Sermon on the Mount were accustomed to this type of legalism, so imagine their surprise upon hearing Jesus' teachings:

"For I say to you, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).

Had you been standing there that day, you might have thought, "What? How could I possibly be more righteous than Phil the Pharisee over there?!"

But as we have already considered in a recent post, Jesus was addressing issues of the heart. He begins to address some rather significant issues and at a deeper level:

* Don't murder, and don't be angry without a cause.
* Reconcile with your brother before giving a gift at the alter.
* Don't commit adultery, and do not lust.
* Do not divorce except in the case of sexual immorality. (Before they would divorce and only were required to give a certificate of divorce--the gospel according to the Pharisees. ;-)
* Let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no.
* Turn the other cheek.
* Go the extra mile.
* Love your enemies; bless those who curse you.
* Do good to those who hate you; pray for those who persecute you.

These principles penetrate our feeble attempts at outer obedience and once again address the attitudes of our hearts. Consider the humility and submission to Christ that the above teachings require. Give thought to the "dying to self" that is involved.

Now back to the verse at the beginning of the post--how does one attain a righteousness that "exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Phariesees?"

"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over sins that were previously committed to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and THE JUSTIFIER OF THE ONE WHO HAS FAITH IN JESUS" (Romans 3:21-26).

Thank you, Lord, for Your justification. Help me go the extra mile.

In the Heart of our Home,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and your faithfulness every night" (Psalm 92:1-2).

"Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations" (Psalm 100).

"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
In the Heart of our Home,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Issues of the Heart

Not long after Christ's 40 days in the wilderness, he began His ministry in Galilee. He began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Also, He called His first disciples.

I noticed their introduction to ministry with the Messiah included teaching, preaching, and healing. The people all throughout Syria brought Him:

" . . . all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them" (Matthew 4:24b).

It is after seeing these multitudes that He went up on a mountain to teach His disciples. I can only imagine their thoughts and perhaps confusion.

After all they had just seen and experienced following this Master, now He begins to preach a sermon that was so different from the approach of the Law.

The Law dealt with outward actions. We too can sometimes get focused on these external appearances. Our actions often seem so much easier to evaluate and to consider in our accountability.

Jesus, however, begins this Sermon on the Mount with such a description of someone who is righteous on the inside: poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (Matthew 5:3-10).

Actually, the example of the Sermon on the Mount is even more difficult to achieve than even the Ten Commandments and the demands of the law of Moses. Why? These are issues of the heart and can only be achieved when Christ has performed a heart-change through conversion. I cannot achieve these righteous attitudes of the heart on my own. Only through Christ and because of Christ can I hope for such inner righteousness.

You see, on my own, my righteousness is nothing.

"but we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isaiah 64:6).

Perhaps the Law and this opening of the Sermon on the Mount have more in common that one might first think. They both point to our sinfulness and reveal our deepest need: the need for a Savior.

Have you depended upon your own "righteousness," or have you been saved and changed by the Master?

In the Heart of our Home,

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spotting the Counterfeit

In my current reading of Matthew, I came across something new (to me) in Matthew 4. Ususally, my attention falls to the wonderful example of Christ's use of Scriptures in temptation. This helps me when tempted to sin and when tempted to believe the enemy's lies.

However, this time, I noticed Satan's mishandling of the Scriptures. When Christ responded to the first temptation with the Word of God, the devil then tempted Him again, but the second time, he seemingly quoted Scripture, too, but in an effort to manipulate the Lord:

". . .If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' "(Matthew 4:6).

Satan was quoting Psalm 91:11, but he left out part of the verse. Notice the Scripture in its entirity:

"For He shall give His angels charge over you, TO KEEP YOU IN ALL YOUR WAYS. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91:1-12).

(Satan did not want Jesus kept in all His ways!)

Of course, Christ immediately responded with more Scripture.

Hopefully, you and I realize the enemy is the Great Deceiver and the Father of Lies. He is in the business of twisting the Scriptures. If we do not know God's Word well, we will be even more vulnerable to this type of deception. In 2 Timothy 2:15, the KJV emphasizes the phrase "Study to shew thyself approved unto God."

Notice all the verse and even the verse following (NKJV):

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness" (2 Timothy 2:15-16).

We must be diligent, and we must study so that when the devil and/or (his) false teachers tempt us or even use God's Word in an inappropriate way, we can compare it to what we have studied and readily reject his lies.

Have you ever noticed the marker the cashiers use when they receive bills larger than $5's or $10's? They swipe it across the bill as a test to see if it is genuine or counterfeit. The Word of God is like that marker. It reveals whether what you hear and read is genuine or counterfeit. Use God's marker in your own life.

Can you spot the counterfeit?

In the Heart of our Home,

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Sweet Surprise

Last night after climbing the stairs once to spend time in prayer with each child and then to realize one probably needed some decongestant, taking him back to the kitchen for some "red medicine," and finally climbing the stairs to bed, I found a sweet surprise in my room.

I discovered the heating pad turned on and tucked under my sheets to warm my spot and 2 sweet notes from Big Brother and Big Sister. Both notes declared me "best mom" in the world, and one even thanked me for taking them to "music lessons today."

How precious. As I stood there looking at the notes, I realized anew how undeserving I am for these gifts from the Lord.

I recently read a comment on a favorite blog. The young mother was overwhelmed with the addition of her newest child and even questioned how children were really a blessing.

I understand the feelings of exhaustion (experienced that last night ;0) and feeling so overwhelmed that it is hard to keep one's eyes on the purpose and goal, especially when the little ones are so small.

But the blessings are there. They are in the smiles they give and the cuddles you receive when reading a favorite book for the 43rd time. I see it in the sparkles in their eyes and the warmth of their hands when they slip them into mine.

The cute things they say become cherished treasures as they grow and learn. The rewards become immeasurable as they soak in the things of God and began to internalize them and then actually live them out.

My children are not yet grown (Thank goodness! We have still so much to teach.), but I can already see how the blessings and rewards of children change as they age.

When they are young the joy comes from serving them. Last night the joy unexpectantly came when they chose to serve me. For me, the greatest blessing was that they were not told to do this or even encouraged in any way, but it came from a prompting in their hearts to serve another.

"After that, He [Jesus] poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded" (John 13:5).

Perhaps the greatest blessing may be to see them following Christ:

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 4).

This course of raising children in the admonition of the Lord is worth it. Sometimes the rewards are hard to see and even harder to "feel." Sometimes the Lord allows a glimpse into what He is moulding them, and the journey seems a might bit easier.

In the Heart of our Home,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Locusts and Honey

How much do we look like John the Baptist?

No, I'm not asking where your camel's hair clothing and your plate of locusts and wild honey might be.

However, I notice the prophecy he fulfilled (Isaiah 40:3) and that it was kind of like his job description:

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight'" (Matthew 3:3b).

John the Baptist served as Jesus' forerunner. We see in the Gospels how he preceded Christ in birth, ministry, and death. Also, if you are familiar with the Gospels, consider how his teaching was much different from that of the Pharisees and such. They emphasized ceremonial issues and over-strict law keeping. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance.

"Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father' [my family has always gone to church, I go to such and such church, I give to the needy, I am better than most people, I am not like so and so]. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" (Matthew 3:8-9).

I see several truths about John the Baptist that should parallel to us as the Body of Christ.

#1 The Church is the forerunner to Christ's second coming.

Just as John the Baptist was the forerunner to Jesus' first coming, we as Believers are to be the forerunner to His second coming. We should be "the voice crying in the wilderness." There is a world of people who do not realize the King is coming. As the prophet Isaiah said, we should also "Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight."

#2 The Church should preach a message of repentance, not life-enhancement.

This world can find life-enhancement on Oprah, Dr. Phil, and, unfortunately, even our Christian bookstores. The church should share the message of repentance. This type of message does more than merely enhance others lives; it helps to change people's lives! I know that my life, simply enhanced, would still be a big mess! But repentance (turning away from sin and self) and believing the Gospel changed me into a child of God! (Maybe I was one of those stones John was talking about!)

#3 The Church should look very different from everyone else.

Obviously, John the Baptist had a different look to him. He didn't "fit in" with everyone else, and he didn't seem to think he needed to blend in just to share his message. Nonetheless, the crowds still came.

"Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins" (Matthew 3:5-6).

We too, the Body of Christ, should not look like the world. We should not talk like the world. We should not act like the world. We should look, talk, and act differently because we ARE different! A Believer has been changed into a new creation!

What a great deal to learn from one man's ministry. Thank you, Lord, for your life-changing message. Thank you for saving me!

In the Heart of our Home,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lessons from Joseph

I have begun reading in Matthew, and usually when reading the story of Christ's birth, my admiration falls upon Mary who so self-sacrificially accepted the Lord's assignment for her life. However, this time, my eyes kept coming back to the Scripture in Matthew 1:19:

"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly."

Joseph had every right, under the Jewish understanding of the Mosaic Law, to make the divorce a public matter. However, he chose to "put her away secretly."

Imagine how Joseph would be feeling. Imagine how you would feel. He must have experienced devastating feelings of betrayal and loss. Even consider the slam to his ego and self-confidence.

Many would strike back in anger and revenge, so blinded from the hurt and from the sting of embarrassment.

Yet Joseph was "a just man."

We can tell from this one little verse that the Lord God had chosen a gracious and humble man for the earthly father of His Son. When Joseph could have opted for anger, maliciousness, revenge, and pride, he submitted to graciousness, kindness, and humility.

How we can ever apply this in our own lives. How many times do we react in the flesh to seemingly unfair life circumstances instead of humbling ourselves like Joseph and showing graciousness and mercy?

No, at this point Joseph did not have all the facts, but when he did receive the revelation from the Lord, he responded in faith and obedience:

"But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins. . . . . . . .

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS" (Matthew 1:20-21, 24).

How incredible for Joseph to be apart of God's redemption plan! I can't help but think of a verse my children and I memorized when learning Proverbs 3:

"The Lord mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble" (v.34).

I pray that today and everyday I will be gracious and humble enough for the Lord to use me as He sees fit.

What about you?

In the Heart of our Home,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Promises of God

The other night, it began to thunder and lightening just before bedtime. Middle Sister and Little Sister asked if they could please get in our bed. (I think Big Sister would have too if there had been room! ;0) While getting situated, Little Sister continued to say that she was afraid.

Middle Sister began to counsel, the older sister that she is. . . .

"Jesus is always with us. You do not need to be afraid."

Little Sister still was not convinced.

"Look, who's in here?" Middle Sister put her hand over her heart.

Little Sister put her own hand over her own heart and then began to move her little hand around her chest as if searching for something. Finally she answered, "I think I scared Him away."

(I guess we still have a lot of teaching to do with this one. . . .)

For those of us who do know the Lord Jesus and have the assurance of His salvation, isn't it good to know that we can't "scare Him away!"

"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death or life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor thing to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39).

God always keeps His promises!

"For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 1:20-22).

Praise the Lord!

"For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5b).

How blessed we are to serve such a faithful God. One Who bestows mercy upon us when we do not deserve it. One Who bestows grace upon us when we are so unworthy. One Who loves us when we are so unloving. One Who forgives us when we feel so unforgiveable. One Who is always God when we are always so human.

Thank You, Lord for your faithfulness. I'm so glad You aren't scared away.

In the Heart of our Home,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Seasoned Speech

I awoke this morning with part of a Scripture on my mind: "Let your speech always be with grace. . ." I couldn't remember the rest of the verse or where it is found. After pulling out my handy, dandy noteb. . .er. . .Strong's Concordance, I found it in Colossians 4:6 and was very surprised at the rest of the verse, especially considering our time spent on "saltiness" this week.

"Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with SALT, that you may know how you ought to answer one another" (Colossians 4:6).

I notice 3 things of importance in this verse.

#1 speaking with grace
In our everyday routines, surprise circumstances, time at home, or time away, our speech should be with grace. In my life experiences, I do not see how this way of speaking can be conjured up or brought about in our consistent lives by our own doing. Truly, this "habit" of always letting your words be seasoned with grace comes from the Holy Spirit. I know this is an area where I regularly submit to the Lord and ask His help in giving me words of grace. I want the words I choose and the way I say them to be covered in the grace of the Lord. Unfortunately, when I speak impulsively out of the flesh, impatience and irritation seem to season my words instead of the grace that so richly flows from the Spirit. (I do think there is a connection between this byproduct of the Spirit and the byproduct of "the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" over at 1 peter 3:4; no, I won't be touching that one today or the day after or the day after. . . . :0) Lord, help my speech always be with grace; help me honor You.
#2 seasoned with salt
Isn't it interesting that the Lord refers to speaking with grace as "seasoned with salt." We know that in Matthew 5:13 and Luke 14:34, Christ encourages us to consider the worth of salt and its purpose. Our saltiness (also compared to a light) fulfills its purpose when our works or deeds glorify the Father:
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
Therefore, how we speak, if seasoned with grace, is just as important for a testimony to our Lord as our works or deeds.
#3 how you ought to ANSWER
Often, it is our reactions that get us in trouble more than our actions. Here the Holy Spirit is emphasizing "that you may know how you ought to answer each one." We should be careful and sensitive to the Spirit in our answers and reactions to others. Of course, this is not always so easy.
*Just mopped the floor and Little Sister drops a cup of milk.
*Middle Sister stumbles over the same words we've gone over and over and over. . .
*Big Brother begins to whine AGAIN about the silliest math problems.
*Bigger Brother plays ball in the house and breaks another light (2 days in a row)!
*Big Sister tells the details of the 13 hundredth dream this week (ok, I'm exaggerating a little).
All of these scenerios are simple, and a rational person would know OF COURSE the reaction should be patience, understanding, and grace. However, when we react in the flesh instead of in the Spirit we hear something other than speech with grace.
In addition, the preceeding verse in Colossians 4:5 refers to walking in "wisdom toward those who are outside," indicating non-believers. Remember, others are always watching, always listening. Many are suspicious and even eager to catch the Christian in another hypocrisy. Others are genuinely curious, wondering if we are the real deal.
We should be prepared to a be a witness for our Lord with our words, carefully measured and seasoned with grace.
In the Heart of our Home,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meeting the Enemies at the Gate

Yesterday we considered the importance of "saltiness" in a Believer's life. I believe it is the parents' jobs in the lives of their children to encourage the same type of "saltiness," which requires diligent discipleship.

When hubby was reading Monday's post, he commented on the latter part of Psalm 127:5. After considering his comment, I believe there is great help hidden in that verse to guide us in discipling our children and strengthening their focus on the Lord:

"They shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:5b).

Notice the families described in these verses dealt with the enemies at the gate. The enemies were stopped at the gate and not allowed in the city. The families were diligent and on watch, knowing the enemies could steal, sabotage, destroy everything they hold dear, and possibly kill or take their loved ones captive.

Oh, how we could learn from this. Do we as American Christians even realize there are enemies to our souls and enemies to our children's souls? Do you know that the thief comes to "steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10a)? Do you know that our #1 enemy would like nothing better than to steal the souls of your children and the very life they have? He also wants to steal your diligence and your watchguard care so that he can more easily snatch their hearts. He wants to steal your influence so that any discipleship you try would be overshadowed by the discipleship they already receive from someone or something else.

What enemies does our #1 enemy have lurking outside our gates? Did your family meet those enemies at the gate, refusing their admittance? Or did you leave the gate open and remained unattentive or complacent?

The world's culture is at the gate. It beckons to come in and draw your children into this humanistic society. It longs to encourage the "me-first" attitude of selfishness and self-love. It will instill in your children an idea that undermines the absolute of the Scriptures and the authority of the One True God.

The pride of life is at the gate. It lures with temptations of power and popularity. It opposes the humility taught in the Word. It counters the Biblical principals of meekness and dying to self and raises arrogant, sarcastic, mocking individuals to their feet.

Idols of this world are at the gate. They long to become your children's first love. They come in the form of media entertainment, sports, hobbies, and even self. They want to draw your children's devotion away from Christ to the temporal things of this world.

The lust of the flesh is at the gate. It too comes in the form of television, internet, books and magazines, even Mama's catalogs. Stop them at the gate! Protect your children! Teach them to look away. Even teach them to turn the magazines at the checkout. ;-) And train your daughters in modesty! With the lack of selection on the racks, this too takes diligence, but is oh so worth it. Their hearts are too important for you to rest.

There are many other enemies at your gate even today. How many have you already let in through ignorance or even laziness? Inventory your home. Have you allowed scoffing into your home? (Do you mock your husband or your children? Do you notice the spirit of scorn among your children?) Have you allowed fear in your home? What about pride? Selfishness? Bitterness? When these sneak in and then take prevalence, they become false gods in your home. Cut them at the root with the sword:

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Drive these enemies out of your home, and do not let them in the gate again!

Why is this so important? The very souls of your children are at stake. God has given you as parents the responsibility to train and disciple your children. He did not give it to the neighbor, the grandmother, the sitter, the school teacher, or even the Sunday School teacher. But the enemies are at the gate and want to steal your children's hearts and your influence as their discipler. They want to undermine what God's Word says to them (and all of us) by offering them lies, deception, and alternate ways.

Meet the enemies in the gate. Your children are worth it.

In the Heart of our Home,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


My friend Mama Hen and I had a conversation last night that brought the following verse to mind:

"Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 14:34)!

We all know the significance of salt for flavor and for preservation. Even today it helps make so many yummy dishes even more tasty. I have a somewhat impaired sense of smell (which often has its benefits :-), which affects my sense of taste, so I tend to give generous dashes of salt to my own plate. How thankful I am for salt! (Much to my sweet husband's surprise, I still have a low-normal blood pressure. ;0)

Of course, what good would it be if it did lose its flavor? Evidently, the salt of Jesus' time would lose its strength. We all know that a salt that has lost its flavor would be useless. It would no longer be fulfilling its purpose in life.

What about you and me? As Believers, what is our purpose in life?

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Friends, it seems quite simple. We are to honor and glorify the Lord with our whole life. Our main goal should be this. Not prosperity, not more programs at church, not even advancement for ourselves or our children. Our main goal should be to glorify the Lord, and He often mentions we will do this through our works.

(O.K., I'm not proposing legalism here. Remember, this is not a discussion on salvation; this is a reminder that Believers are the "salt.")

How do we lose our saltiness? How have you seen factors in your own life affect your own saltiness? What can we do to guard against it?

In my life, I have found staying in the Word to be #1 in helping me to keep my focus on my true purpose. If I keep the Bible as my standard, the wisdom of the world seems more and more foolish.

Guarding against worldly influences has been beneficial. We know the temptations are there ("the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" 1 John 2:16), but with a focus on Jesus, these lures become less appealing.

One verse that helps me remember the point of our focus is 2 Corinthians 4:18:

"while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

This helps explains why many do not understand your choices and may consider some Christians' lives to be radically different from others around us. When some friends and family do not understand why we make certain choices for our lives and family, we are simply focusing on the eternal. The benefits of this world may seem obvious to some, but they are only temporary. The benefits of following Christ and giving Him glory with our whole lives requires a lot of focus on Him and His Word, but the benefits are eternal!

Finally, on the subject of what helps keep my focus on my true purpose, 2 Corinthians 9:8 sums it up!

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).

It is Him and His grace and mercy.

More on "saltiness" and our children tomorrow!

In the Heart of our Home,

Monday, November 10, 2008

Valuing God's Gifts

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:3-5).

We are humbled by the Lord's graciousness and thankful to announce that He has blessed us with another gift. We discovered a few weeks ago that the Giver of Life blessed our womb.

Approximately 13 years ago, we became aware that God is in control of the womb and opens and closes it as He sees fit. We submitted our desire to control the size of our family to Him and were blessed the first 3 years with 3 little children.

I was so afraid we would have a dozen children before I could blink and constantly needed to re-submit my trust to the Father. I was still learning to see children as God sees children--a heritage, a gift, a reward, instead of the way the world sees children--a burden, an inconvenience, and sometimes (as those in politics and those the likes of Planned Parenthood would say) a "punishment."

After those first 3 children, 22 months later came another. Then it was 3 1/2 years later before #5 arrived. By then, I had come to better understand the precious value of children and that they were the blessing God says they are, and any thoughts or comments to the contrary were really disguised from the Father of Lies.

Our fifth little blessing is now approaching her 4th birthday, and God has had a lot to teach me in these past 4 years. I learned it is not enough to simply trust Him with the day to day of raising the ones He has chosen to give us. I must also trust Him when He chooses to say no.

I have learned that in contentment there IS great gain and that there is no better place to be than where the Lord puts you.

So now that we have discovered God has chosen to gift us with this incredible little life, we feel totally undeserving and are in awe at His mercy.

We do not know how many arrows He will see fit to give us, and we hope they will include some adopted arrows one day, but we will gladly receive what He offers and love them and value them for what they are--God's gifts.

In the Heart of our Home,

Friday, November 7, 2008

No Wobbling, Please!

Last year, Middle Sister began taking violin lessons. Accustomed to the piano in this house, the violin has been very different and unique. Even though there are only four strings, the importance of body carriage and posture has been much more of an emphasis than in the piano journey. (Also, anyone with piano questions can ask Older Sister; when Middle Sister has violin quandries, she only has her mama to ask. . . and her mama can only play. . . . . . .the radio. Well, I did learn with her last year--due to the Suzuki Method--and can proudly play. . . "Twinkle.")

As I said, posture is very key in playing the violin. Training the head, right arm, right fingers, right elbow, left arm, left fingers, left elbow, and both feet to all follow their assignments while remembering the notes and rhythmn can take a while and certainly a lot of hard work. One aspect that our violin teacher emphasizes to Middle Sister is to keep her feet firmly planted and to not "wobble." She refers to it as being strong and unmovable like a tree.

Isn't it interesting that we as Christians are to be firmly planted in Christ? When we are planted in Him, we then are less likely to "wobble!"

"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6-7).

What dangers lurk around that threaten our planting? Why is it so important to be so firmly rooted?

"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

More of this swaying is mentioned in Ephesians 4:14-15:

"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things unto Him who is the head--Christ."

Isn't it interesting how being "rooted and built up in Him" helps to guard against the world's philosphy, empty deceit, tradition of men, the basic principles of the world, false doctrine, trickery of men, cunning craftiness, and even deceitful plotting, yet it FREES us to WALK in Him!

How "unnatural" is the wisdom of the Word!

How firmly are you planted?

In the Heart of our Home,


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sacrifice of Praise

As I finish reading Hebrews this morning, a verse continues to stand out on the page:

"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15).

I notice four particular truths in this verse.

#1 by Him
The preceeding verses discuss the sacrifices of the Old Testament and Christ's sacrifice with His own blood. It is only because of His sacrifice that we are told to offer the "sacrifice of praise." Without Jesus' sacrifice, the animal sacrifices would still be necessary and we Gentiles would still be outside the gates!
#2 continually
The word "continually" denotes "recurring regularly and frequently." We are to offer this sacrifice of praise regularly. For some, this may require a change of attitude. It may require you to open your eyes and see the goodness of God's blessings all around! Recognize the little things God has placed in your life that deserve praise, and don't take the people in your life and your other blessings for granted. If you consider that you do not deserve ANY of God's blessings (and we don't), you may begin to recognize His mercy and grace in your life more frequently.
#3 sacrifice
I notice the Word uses the term "sacrifice of praise," which indicates to me that we should praise the Lord even when it is not easy. It is not hard to praise Him for good weather, good financial blessings, good health, good children, and good food! But when it becomes a "sacrifice of praise" is when we "continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God" when life doesn't go our way. Can we still praise Him when loved ones are sick? Can we still praise Him when the money in the account is low? Can we still praise Him when we see our sin? Can we still praise Him when life in general doesn't roll the way we had hoped? Those are times when we can evaluate whether our trust is in ourselves, our circumstances, or our God.
#4 His name
Finally, the Lord tells us to give praise and thanks to His name. We know that any grace and mercy in our lives is a result of Him. We would have no hope without Him; therefore, it is by His name that we offer this sacrifice of praise. This brings to my memory Philippians 2:9-11:
"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
His name is the only worthy name. He asks for a sacrifice of praise. Will you comply?
In the Heart of our Home,

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Joyful Chastening???

"Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful, nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).

Truly, chastening our children seems not to be joyful for them or for me. Of course, it is not pleasant for them (which is why it works so well ;-), and I clearly remember the dread I felt as a child as I anticipated my own discipline.

Often, it does not seem to be joyful for me as a parent, but I understand that every opportunity for training I see in my children is an opportunity to teach them the ways of the Lord and "the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6). Now this should bring joy!

In Hebrews 12:11, we should take note of the result of Biblical chastening: "afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

We should expect the peaceable fruit of righteousness!

Now while in context this Scripture does teach us these spiritual applications, notice the primary intent of the passage:

"If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live" (Hebrews 12:7-9)?

We as Believers are chastened by God. Not only should we expect it and endure it, we should "much more readily be in subjection to the Father." Does that sound unreasonable and a might bit odd? (The Christian walk IS often the opposite of natural thinking. . . ) Notice the difference between our "human fathers" and our Heavenly Father in verse 10:

"For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness."

Our parents, just as we, can only discipline with the knowledge that we have and without the benefit of omniscience, unlike God, who can see the end result! He disciplines us with this finished product in mind. The trials and discipline we endure from the hand of the Lord have our good purpose in mind (Romans 8:28). He is fashioning us into the holy people He has called us to be!

Yet another reason to "count it all joy" (James 1:2)!

In the Heart of our Home,