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,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

From Larvae to Butterflies: Regeneration Part 2


Another interesting thing to note, the butterfly is so different,

NOBODY would mistake it for a caterpillar!

It doesn't look like a caterpillar,

crawl like a caterpillar,

eat like a caterpillar,

or even molt like a caterpillar anymore.


My husband is an evangelist, and we are serving in many churches throughout the year--often a different church each week. It is such a blessing to meet Believers from other cities and states and to be encouraged by each one's faith and walk.

However, in many (most?) of these church buildings, I see many caterpillars. They profess to be butterflies, but they don't look, talk, or bear the fruit of butterflies. I find this to be strange.

"Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (1 John 3:24).

"He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6).

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

We live in a country where 80-90 % claim to be Christians. Immediately, I see a problem with the statistic:

"Because narrow is the gate and difficult the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14).

In our own church buildings, many profess the good profession of faith, but few produce the good produce of fruit!

"You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matthew 7:16-17).

How does your fruit look? Does it look like the fruit from the grapevine or the thornbush? Do you look like the caterpillar or the butterfly?

If you profess to be a "butterfly" (born-again in Christ Jesus), then check your fruit! My husband often encourages churches to give heed to 2 Corinthians 13:5:

"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?---unless indeed you are disqualified."

If you are indeed a "butterfly," then you have been changed into a NEW creation! How incredible is that!?!

And once we have been changed, He keeps changing us! (Thank you, Lord!)

"being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

We can give God the glory for this transformation. We have left the caterpillar life behind and press on as butterflies and, hopefully, never to be mistaken as a larvae again! :-)

In the Heart of our Home,