Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Admonish One Another

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“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:5-6

There is a lot of confusion these days about the function and design and purpose of the church. Let me clarify that when I use the word “church”, I am not referring to a building. We are the church. You and me. The church is the brethren of believers that are scattered here and there, meeting in fellowships nearby and around the world. So when I talk about the church here, I’m talking about God’s people. The Church of the Way, as it was called in early church history.

The Church has many functions, as described by the New Testament books. Yet, it seems we have all but abandoned certain aspects of, what the Word of God said, were important roles and responsibilities towards each other. You see, we are called to love one another, to build relationships, and to allow the Lord to knit us together into a beautiful woven, open and welcoming community. We are called into closeness and family…not Sunday morning smiles and empty greetings. We are called to something deeper and more real. Real church.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17, ESV

We are God’s chosen ones, and therefore we are called into a certain type of relationship with each other. Let’s make a list of some of the aspects of this calling as stated here in this chapter of Colossians:

  1. Compassion
  2. Kindness
  3. Humility
  4. Meekness
  5. Patience
  6. Bearing One Another’s Burdens
  7. Forgiving
  8. Loving
  9. Peaceful
  10. Thankful
  11. Teaching
  12. Admonishing
  13. Praising God Together

This is a great list, and we could do a study about each of these aspects, but today I want to focus on the one word on this list that people seem to really shy away from in the church: admonishment. Throughout the New Testament we see admonishment and yet in the modern church we rarely see it. I believe there are a few reasons for that: 1. People don’t often build the type of relationships in which it’s appropriate; 2. Many churches don’t make this Biblical practice a part of their culture and therefore people just don’t understand the importance and benefits; 3. Many churches are all about getting people in the door and less about the spiritual growth of the congregation; 4. People are not used to being confronted about their sin; and 5. People are unwilling to move past their comfort zone into all that God has for them.

Admonishment is not a bad word when you understand the meaning, purpose and benefits. The word “admonish” doesn’t mean to discipline someone. The actual translation is more like “a warning”. In other words, when you admonish someone you are warning them about sin they may not see and/or the possible consequences of that sin. It is not a harsh spiritual lashing, but a loving warning from a friend…an encouragement to turn away from a sin that is detrimental and in order to grow spiritually.

The benefits of admonishment are beautiful. When my husband and I first got married and lived in Scotland, we were part of a church that truly believed in discipleship and New Testament relationship. My pastor’s wife, a wonderful sister who encouraged me in so many ways, admonished me at times in my walk and in my marriage. While no one’s pride enjoys their sin being brought to life, I was open to her warnings and they ultimately brought me into a deeper relationship with God, a much better marriage and a more full church life experience. We are called to admonish one another for the sake of edification.  The scripture is full of examples and instruction in this way.

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” Acts 20:29-31

“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” 1 Corinthians 4:14

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you…” 1 Thess. 5:12

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

“Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thess.3:15

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Proverbs 19:20

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2

 

In order to build a community and a culture in which admonishment is  a normal part of life, we need to build close relationships. I know that as a believer I want my closest friendships in the body to be with others who want all of what God has for us. Therefore I want to build up relationships where speaking the truth in the love (even admonishment) is welcome and expected. We have to build relationships for this to happen. Admonishing someone you barely know is not always wise or expedient. We don’t run around warning everyone of their sin. This is an aspect of the church family that is found in close knit relationships, where iron sharpens iron (usually making a spark) and where the entire relationship is covered in love, prayer and truth.

Pray about it brethren. Pray about building relationships within the church family that are strong enough to be real with one another. Walking in love and unity, take on the call to admonish, confess, edify and help one another grow up into spiritual maturity. It’s what God wants. We know that from the scripture. We need this blessed benefit of the church family in our lives. We certainly do.

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I Want More

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What can I say? I want more. I’m not content with average….mediocre…just ok. I want more than what I’ve had. I want more than what I’ve experienced. I want more than what I’m able to achieve myself. I want more than what society will think is necessary. I want more and I’m going for it. I want more of Jesus.

 

I want more Jesus. I want to have Him constantly on my mind and in my heart. I want to be speaking to Him, sometimes loudly and sometimes in gentle whispers, but always all throughout my day in unceasing prayer. I want Him to be the first one I think about in the morning and the last goodnight. I want Him to be so much a part of my day that I never feel apart from Him. I want more.

 

I want more of the Father’s heart in my life. I want to love more deeply. I want to serve more selflessly. I want to pour more of myself into those He puts before me. I want to be more willing to cast aside my own selfish desires and thoughts. I want to be more of a witness to His glory, His love and His mercy. I want more grace to flow from Him, through me and spilling out into the world around me. I want more.

 

I want more of the Holy Spirit in my life. I want to faithfully use the gifts of the Spirit more as God gives. I want more discernment, more wisdom, more direction, more conviction, more comfort and more understanding. I want more….as much as the Holy Spirit desires to give, I want. I want more.

 

I want more of the church. I want more reality in the church. I want more purpose in the church. I want more teaching, admonishing, encouraging, edification, truth and above all LOVE in the church. I want to give more to the church and I want to be more actively functioning in the church. I want to see the church more alive and on fire than ever before. I want more revival. More gospel. More baptism. More movement of the Spirit. I want more solid doctrine. I want more courage, boldness and love. Yes, I said LOVE again because I want more LOVE in the church. “Faith, hope and love; these three remain, but the greatest is LOVE.” 1 Cor. 13:13

 

Oh Lord, this world wants more of me. It wants all of me. It pulls at me. The enemy wants to bury me in more of myself, self-love, selfishness, self-pity. No. I want more of Jesus. The answer to everything is more of Jesus. I’m not settling for less. I want more…as much as You will give me. I’m ready for more.

 

Thank You Lord that You give freely and abundantly of Yourself when we are ready to ask for more!

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When There’s Something to Complain About

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We are natural complainers, aren’t we? I mean, there are definitely those people who never seem to have a bad thing to say. They seem always content and at peace in any given circumstance. Nothing bothers them and they walk in serene peace and joy at all times. I’m not one of those people. I wish I was! I definitely know how to complain when I have something going on that’s worth complaining about.

When it comes to marriage, we all know that we tend to get comfortable with one another. We let down our guards. We are more open and real. That’s a beautiful thing. However, sometimes when we are comfortable we also allow ourselves to share whatever it is that’s on our minds at any given time…which can be ugly if what’s on our minds is a load of complaints and grumblings.

It happens so easily and we may not even notice it. Say, for example, Jenny and Jeremy are going through a tough time. Jenny is suffering from health issues and all the doctor bills are causing their budget to break under the pressure. Jenny is struggling with the stress and pain of her situation and she often gets frustrated with how Jeremy handles the various situations that come up, how he responds when she’s in pain and how he doesn’t seem to share her concerns. Her mind is filled with complaints, and why not? She’s going through some horrible trials. It’s natural for her to feel this way, but should she allow every complaint to flow from her lips to her husband’s ears? I think not.

You see, Jeremy and Jenny might handle the stress differently, but my guess is that Jeremy is doing the best he can. He is trying to bear the load. He is trying to help his wife. He feels badly about her health problems. He would do anything to come up with a solution. He may not do everything the way she wants him to, but he is trying. If all he hears from his wife’s mouth is complaint and criticism, it will really wear him down. it will crush him. He will become deflated and defeated. It will weigh heavily on the marriage.

Perhaps Jeremy really isn’t doing things well. Maybe he’s messing it all up and maybe he doesn’t care for his wife as he should. Should Jenny therefore have freedom to pour out her complaints all over her husband in hopes of it changing him? I think not.

Nagging and complaining is never a good way to make positive changes. The Bible warns of the ugly nature of a nagging and contentious wife repeatedly. It’s just not pretty ladies and it makes your husband want to hide under a big rock, or perhaps live on the rooftop instead of in the home with you. If Jenny is wise, she will not complain and nag at her husband to try and change him. She can make her concerns known respectfully and then leave it with God. Prayer is powerful. Nagging is destructive.

Perhaps you think I’m being harsh with Jenny. After all, she’s not well. Shouldn’t we cut her some slack and allow her some complaining? Look, I’m not saying there’s never a time to share concerns, pains, struggles, etc. I’m not saying you shouldn’t share with your husbands. A good man will want to know how his wife is feeling. Remember, we also have friends to help us carry our burden. We have family we can share with. I’m not saying to keep your pain in and let it boil inside.

What I am suggesting is that we not allow our mouths to be the source of constant complaining, grumbling and venting, even if that’s what’s in our heads all of the time. As much as Jenny needs to vent from time to time, Jeremy needs to be encouraged. He needs to hear that his wife appreciates what he’s trying to do for her. The home needs joy to flow through it’s halls. Your children need to hear good words and laughter.

I feel for all of my sisters who are struggling with pain and trials. I am too. I write this, not as a woman who gets it right all the time, but as a sister in the Lord who fails a lot. I fail. I complain. I have times when my mouth is filled with pessimism and criticism and ugliness. I see the pain and frustration it brings my family, and I don’t want to do that to them anymore. I want my mouth to bring words of encouragement and edification, even if every joint hurts and every task is challenging. Lord, help me to complain less and be more grateful!

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

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A Message About Love

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“1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I know a lot of clanging cymbals. I know plenty of Christians who are bankrupt in the love department. I’m sure that I’ve been one a time or two in my life. Yes, I’m quite sure that I have, but something has happened to me.

There’s been a change of heart here. You see, for so long I depended so heavily upon the apologetics and study of my faith and the Word of God (not entirely a bad thing), but I often failed in the love department. I failed to see people hurting. I failed in compassion but excelled in the “calling” of giving advice. I had a quick answer for everyone but not a heart of discernment as to when to share that advice and when to be a silent encourager.

As God has shown me to see His hurting people through His eyes, my heart has softened to the plight of the suffering and lost of this world. My eyes see more clearly now that there are people within the church who are in pain but suffer in silence for the sake of an obligatory smile on Sunday morning. Well-primped and properly-dressed Christians fill up the pews and all is right in the world….only it isn’t. Very little is right in this world because the enemy of our souls is constantly on the prowl, looking for whomever he may lie to, cheat, harm and break. Death and sickness plague us. Adultery and immorality are ever present. We rejoice in the Lord and His blessings, but may we never forget that this world is moaning as it awaits redemption and renewal.

With all the suffering that there is in this world, we need to be all the more abundant in love, compassion, grace and bearing one another’s burdens. We need each other. We need love. There’s no question that we need to study God’s Word and know His precepts also, but fellowship and love within the body of Christ must never be side-show attraction or a secondary concern in the body. Disconnected believers are easily brought down. Isolated Christians have no one to see when they are falling and no one to pull them up when the cares of the world pull them down.

Clanging cymbals. They do everything right, don’t they? They know the Bible. They live pure lifestyles and their tithe is 10.1 percent. The words on their lips are goodness and their homes are fortified. They do everything right….except love. They do everything well…except that which is most important.

“Faith, hope and love; these three abide, but the greatest of these is LOVE.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

We learn so much about love from this chapter in 1 Corinthians. My heart cries out to my fellow believers that we need to understand love more. We need to give it more freely. We need to be willing to get our hands dirty to wash the feet of those who have walked a thousand miles in pain and hardship. We need to love til it hurts. Love is sacrifice. Didn’t our Savior teach us that? We need to love like Jesus did….laying down our lives and giving all of ourselves.

Don’t be a clanging cymbal, dear one. Don’t excel at having all the right answers but fail at loving with a pure and dedicated love. Agape love. Unconditional love.

When I die someday, whenever the Lord wills that to be, I don’t want it to be said of me that I was a Christian who knew all the right answers. I don’t want it said to me that I was a good tither or had an excellent church attendance record. I cringe to think that my mourners would speak only about the Lord’s gift of music in my life.

Oh Lord, may they remember me as one who loved! Jesus, may I love so fiercely that people would never forget it. May my love comfort Your children and draw in the lost! May I love without reserve! May I love without bounds! May Your perfect love be perfected in me that I might be worthy of being called a Christian at all!

May we love deeply. May we love true. May our love be a sweet, sweet sound to the Father and may our love drown out the clanging cymbals.

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Too Much Self-Love Going On

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Self-love is a modern-day cover up. It’s a scam. It’s a cheap imitation for the love that is supposed to be filling our hearts. You see, self-love isn’t all it’s hyped up to be. Sure, you’ll hear the talk show hosts and the psychologists and the self-help gurus go on and on about it, claiming that self-love is all one needs to have peace in this life. They will tell you that loving yourself is the first priority…

“You need to take care of yourself….”

 

“All that matters is that you like yourself….”

 

“At the end of the day, you only answer to yourself….”
“Do what’s best for you…”

 

“You deserve to be happy…”

 

“You can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself….”

I’ve heard it all my life, and I’m sure you have too. In fact, maybe you’ve said these catchphrases to others at times. Maybe you believe them sincerely. I mean no disrespect or offense when I say that you’ve been greatly misled. Here are some of the reasons why self-love is not our friend, but actually oftentimes our enemy…

  1. Self-love is self-focus and leads to self-centeredness and selfishness. Now that’s a tongue-twister! Self-love is basically a means of shifting all of the focus to yourself. Your focus is on loving yourself so you think about yourself excessively. Since when is your life all about you? I tell you what, the people I’ve known in my life who are the most well-rounded, joyful and peaceful people are those who think very little about themselves. They are too busy being a blessing to others to spend hours and hours, day after day meditating on themselves. In shifting their focus to serving others and seeking the Lord, they find peace and contentment. Self-love makes people believe that it’s all about them. That’s not healthy and not pretty. It can definitely lead to a selfish kind of heart.
  2. Self-love ruins relationships and marriages. That’s right. People who say that you have to love yourself before you can love others are wrong. The ONLY way to truly love others is to lay down your life. The ONLY way to love your husband in the way that God commanded is to be willing to put his needs ahead of your own. The ONLY way to be a good mother is to love those children more than you love yourself. When people focus on self-love, they will eventually come to the conclusion that they are not being treated good enough in their marriage or that they are not being appreciated enough by their kids. We see people committing adultery. We see mothers abandoning their children and running off with a lover. We see men and women filing for divorce like it’s the same as trading in an old car. These are the acts of selfish, self-centered, and self-loving people. They love themselves more than the people they should be giving their lives for, and the result is pain and suffering. In friendship, it gets real old when one friend is constantly talking about herself and never has time to listen, doesn’t it? Self-love destroys relationships and families.
  3. Self-love focus is anti-Biblical.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” 1 Timothy 3:1-5

 

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 16:24-25

 

Over and over throughout scripture we are told to love God, love others and serve. We are never told to love ourselves….not once! The truth of the matter is there is no need. It is assumed that we love ourselves because loving ourselves is part of our nature. When God commands us to love others as ourselves, He is assuming (and God’s never wrong) that we do love ourselves. So, you and I already love ourselves plenty. Why do I sometimes hate the person that I am, you may ask? Well, sometimes we hate the sin in ourselves, especially when we have received the Holy Spirit and are filled with conviction.

Sometimes we hate the circumstances of our lives…things that have been done to us or the situation we find ourselves in regarding health, finances, etc. We hate our lives but we don’t hate ourselves. Sometime we really honestly do feel hatred toward ourselves, but the truth is, if we didn’t care about ourselves we wouldn’t feel such strong feelings. We would be indifferent. See, hatred isn’t the opposite of love. Indifference is the opposite of love. The truth is that we love ourselves, and therefore when we hated the circumstances we are in or the person we have become, we feel it strongly.

Friends, there is enough self-love going on. It is leading to divorce. It is leading to worldly pleasures. It leads to people living lives of self-contemplation and missing out on the joy of taking up God’s great commission. We have so much work to do, sisters. We have a world full of lost souls who need Jesus. We have people to minister to. We need to stop looking in the mirror all the time and start looking around us. I guarantee you, when you start looking at others instead of yourself, you’ll be a happier person. In fact, when you let go of your need for self-love, and you focus on God-love and loving your neighbors, you are going to end up liking the person that you are in a true way. That’s the key.

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The Way She Looks at Us

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My daughter is five years old and she has this obvious draw to words of affection and affirmation. She is quick to remind us how much she loves us and delights in being showered with affectionate words. She also will often prompt us to give each other words of affirmation, smiling broadly as my husband and I tell each other that we love one another. I see this look in her eyes and it is like a window into her precious heart. It’s the way she looks at us when my husband and I communicate love and honor that shows us how important it is to her that we love each other.

Being affectionate with your spouse isn’t just about you or how you feel. There is so much that we communicate to our kiddos without even realizing it as we hold hands, cuddle on the couch, or embrace when he comes through the door after work. Words and acts of love blesses our children in several ways, whilst also building up the relationship and keeping affection alive. Here are a few of the ways our “public display of affection” and words of affirmation bless our children:

  • Children love to see their parents in love with one another. They are blessed knowing that Mommy and Daddy love one another and are happy together. Happy children are usually raised in happy homes, where love, honor and respect flow freely and openly.
  • There is security in a happy marriage for the children. Seeing their parents in love gives children a sense of safety and stability. In a world where half of their friends will come from families of divorce, children need this reassurance. Words and acts of affection reassure them that their family is safe from the pain of separation and divorce.
  • Children are always watching and learning. Displaying a happy marriage, with hugs and kisses and hand-holding and words of affirmation, will set a wonderful example of marriage for the kids. By the grace of God, may they go on to be happily married in a God-centered home one day too.
  • The affectionate and loving couple are much less likely to be that couple that says unkind words to one another, especially in front of the kids. Children are often quietly observing as couples share harsh words in angry tones during times of conflict. This is confusing and upsetting to little ones, who love both Mommy and Daddy. Those angry words hurt children, even when they aren’t directed at them. Let the loving and kind words flow while biting back those harmful words and looks.

When my husband I speak words of love and cuddle up together on the couch, my daughter looks at us with such joy, peace and contentment. She is secure in our love for one another. She delights in our happiness and her little cup runneth over. Being affectionate with your spouse shouldn’t only be for the kids, but blessing them is certainly a good reason to keep words of affirmation and acts of affection a part of everyday life.

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I Resolve Not to Put God in a Box

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Resolutions. Plans. Goals. Commitments. New Year tends to bring us all to a place of reflection and re-calculation. We evaluate what we’ve disliked in the year(s) past and we vow to make positive changes. We resolve to conquer what we deem as personal failures and we make plans to correct those failures and/or add something new to our lifestyle. The problem with so many resolutions is that they are anything but resolute. They are hardly the solid, unbreakable self-contract that the word “resolve” describes. Most are over within a few months, weeks or days. That’s why so many people make a joke of it.

I don’t like failure. I’ve never been good at accepting my own mediocrity or weakness. If I don’t do something well right from the start, I usually want to quit pretty quickly. Therefore, with a great sense of commitment, I resolve to make only one resolution this year and it’ll be easy to keep because it really has little to do with me. Here it is…

I resolve not to put God in a box. I resolve not to project limits on His power and ability that simply don’t exist. I resolve not to expect Him to do things the way I perceive that He should, and to be open to leading of the Holy Spirit. I want to be more in touch with what He’s doing, even if it has nothing to do with my own plans. After all, His ways are far above my ways.

We believe God’s Word, don’t we? If we believe His Word, then we serve a God who created the heights and vastness of the universe with a spoken word. We believe He created everything we see and even us. We believe in His power to flood the world, deliver Israel from the hands of Egypt by parting the Red Sea, keep His servants from burning a fire, heal the sick and give sight to the blind, and die and rise again to glory. If we believe His Word, we believe that He sent His Holy Spirit, giving His children His power in spiritual gifts, opened prison doors and did many other signs and wonders. We believe it, don’t we?

If this is the God we believe in, what gives us the right to put Him in a box? Why do we claim to believe He has the power to deliver us from our troubles, use us to the reach the lost, empower us to minister to His people, give children to the barren and heal broken families? How can we believe in our minds and yet our hearts seem to grow more skeptical by the year? Want my theory?

We’ve felt let down. We’ve experienced loss. We’ve prayed for miracles and at times have not seen God work in the way we expected. There is pain and suffering, and we pray without feeling that assurance that He will really work in the situation. We put Him in a box and we go about our lives not expecting Him to burst out.

I confess that this has been me many times. I have prayed for healing and grown to doubt that God will ever answer that prayer. I have prayed for others without expecting it to do any good. I have asked God for wisdom but then not waited for wisdom to come. I have decided that anything outside of the box must not be God’s work and so I go on living as if I serve a God with no power…or that He has power but won’t use it on my behalf. I have allowed my wicked heart to deceive me so many times, trusting it’s disillusions more than I trust the promises of God. I’m ashamed of this weakness, and I’m not entirely free of it.

I don’t know what to expect for 2015. I don’t know what’s coming. I know God’s Word is true and that His ways are perfect. I know that my bad decisions have brought me pain and that God will work good through them. I understand that pain is part of this life, but I don’t know whether or not God will continue to allow such testing in our lives, or if a time of rest and comfort is coming. What I do know is that God is all-powerful, all-mighty, unparalleled and unfailing in His love and grace towards us. He cannot be contained in a box. He will do what He wills to do, and I know that I need to stop second-guessing Him, doubting Him and giving up on Him in my heart. I need to place this coming year in His capable hands and hang on for the ride, where ever it may take us.

I resolve not to put God in a box. I resolve to be open to whatever He wants to do and to trust that what He’s doing (or not doing) is right and good and perfect. I need to expect Him to work and move, because that’s what He does. If I want to be a part of it, I need to have my eyes open to the bigness and greatness of God. I lost sight of this. I failed. My New Year Resolution is to rip that box to shreds and be ready for what God’s going to do this year. I know big things are coming.

May your year be full of the unexpected and surprising bigness of God. May He fill us all with wonder as He works mightily in glory. May He bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you grace! God bless 2015!

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Comfortable Christianity is Mediocrity

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The title of this blog may sound a bit harsh, but the truth is I truly believe we, the church, have become all too laid back and comfortable in our Christianity, especially here in the United States. While we have experienced the goodness of Jesus and found our salvation in His incredible grace, so many of us have embraced the blessings of being a Christian without being willing to take on the difficulties and challenges that should inevitably come along with it….picking up our crosses and following Christ?

There’s nothing wrong with living a beautiful life in Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with comfort, joy, happiness, success and peace. In fact, we should all be experiencing many of these blessings as we walk with our Lord. Peace and joy are gifts that the Lord offers us at all times and in all circumstances. There’s nothing wrong with having an easy or a successful life as a believer. However, if that is all we’re experiencing, a life without challenge or discomfort at times, then we are missing something. Jesus said this world would hate us because it hated Him. He said we’d have troubles. He said we’d be persecuted. We see Paul’s life and it was one filled with pain and suffering as he took the gospel to the people, and we rejoice with him as he praises the Lord in joy even in prison.

I’m not writing this to condemn a life of comfort, but rather to challenge us all to something better – a life that sacrifices comfort for the sake of truly touching lives and serving others. You see, there are so many Christians (myself included at times) who are just content with enjoying the Lord’s blessing in their lives. They love the Lord and they enjoy their families. They praise Jesus and make Him the center of their homes. It’s beautiful. It’s lovely. It’s a blessing, but it’s not the end….it’s the beginning. The home fire has been lit and it’s warmth, God’s presence, is filing it up with joy, peace and love. Now it’s time to swing open those doors and share that light and warmth with others. It’s only the beginning, you see. That fire of home lights the way for you to take Jesus to your neighbors, the lost, the suffering and the spiritually dead. You don’t keep it inside all to yourself. You don’t sit by your own fire night after night, enjoying it’s warmth and beauty, whilst outside in the cold people are freezing to death.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

You know, we carry the light of Jesus with us when we go into the world to minister to the lost. Still, we can feel the cold out there, can’t we? We see and experience the suffering, don’t we? We look into the eyes of a child in poverty and our hearts break for them. We kneel to pray with a homeless man and our nostrils take in the scent of filthiness and decay. We venture into a home that is filled with darkness and we sense the presence of evil. Yet God is with us. Taking the light to the dark world brings discomfort at times. It brings suffering at times. It brings heartbreak. It brings physical pain and the risk of injury at times. That’s the ministry we are called to, isn’t it? We are all called to serve beyond what is comfortable, whether it’s serving food and the bread of life to the homeless or sharing the gospel with a neighbor whose lifestyle is far different than yours.

I have lived a very comfortable Christianity at times in my life, but I have also experienced what it means to step outside of my comfort zone and really touch people’s lives. I can tell you from my own experience, those times when I ventured beyond the comforts of my own safe Christian porch and stepped out into the darkness in faith and boldness, I returned home with more fire, more warmth, more Holy Spirit empowerment and more joy than those times when I stayed home, out of the storm. It’s in those times that I know my purpose in Christ. It’s in those times that I understand so much deeper the power of Christ to change lives. I never want to go back. I never want to live a life of Christian mediocrity. I don’t want to simply celebrate the life I have in Jesus, but I want to invite the dirty, the broken, the hurting and the lost to the party.

Let’s be willing to be uncomfortable, like Jesus did. Let’s be willing to touch the diseased and dirty, like Jesus did. Let’s be willing to dine and to spend time with sinners, like Jesus did. I pray the Lord would make His people bold, willing and selfless. I pray that He would help me to be less about me and more about serving others. I pray that my comfort never again becomes more important than the eternal salvation of that person He is calling me to minister to. Lord, make me willing and bold! Let’s take His light to the whole world!

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Tips on Having a Christ-Filled Christmas

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We love celebrating Christmas in our home. It’s quite literally my favorite time of the year…nevermind that my birthday is on December 23rd. I decorate the house. We have a special tradition of going to a lovely place in the hills to get a tree. We give and receive presents. We love it and we enjoy watching our daughter love it all too. Still, as much as we love Christmas, the desire of our hearts is to keep our eyes and hearts on Jesus. This is what I want my daughter to observe and learn; a Christ-filled Christmas being our number one focus.

So from my family to yours, here are a few tips for creating a Christ-filled Christmas for your family:

  1. An Advent Activity. Advent activities can be lots of fun for the kids, educational and spiritually-enriching. What we did this year was decorate advent envelopes, one for each day of December leading up to Christmas, and I filled the envelopes with three items: a scripture that had something to do with the birth of Jesus, a picture to illustrate the scripture (my daughter is 5 years old), and some sort of a treat/activity. Each day my daughter opens the envelope for that day, we read the scripture and talk about what it means. Super fun!
  2. Caroling. We love to go caroling, and I am the director of a Christian homeschool choir so every year we go caroling in our town. We sing songs that are glorifying to God and draw the attention to our Savior.
  3. Decorating. I love Christmas decorations. I have them everywhere. I have a lot of variety in my decorating, but we do love to have decorations that remind us of our Jesus. We have nativities. Our Christmas tree is filled with ornaments that tell the story of His birth. We have a sign with light up letters outside with the word “Hope”. We want to share the hope and love of Jesus with our neighborhood. Not all of our decorations relate to Jesus, but He is the overwhelming theme in our home for sure.
  4. Blessing Others. A great way to share the love of Jesus at Christmas is to minister to others, and there are many ways to do that. Serving at a soup kitchen or bringing food to struggling families is one way. We did a box for Operation Christmas Child, so we filled a box with gifts for a little boy that will be delivered to him. We also like to make cookies, wrap them up and take them to our neighbors with Christmas cards that talk about Jesus. Our neighborhood is a bit scary at times, but we know God has put us here for a reason and we are not going to pass up the opportunity to share the gospel when we can.
  5. Christmas cards. Sending out Christmas cards with a gospel message is great because people will read them. Even just a few words of hope can make a difference.
  6. Saint Nicholas. We love Santa Claus! No, he’s not a pagan. While we focus our eyes on Jesus at Christmas, we have no problem with the legend of St. Nicholas. He was a very cool man and one that loved the Lord. He was generous and selfless. We love to talk about St. Nicholas, learn the history and play Santa Claus.
  7. Birthday cake for Jesus. Tabitha and I started the tradition last year of making a birthday cake for Jesus. We usually do it Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning we literally sing happy birthday to Jesus. Now, before you get all scholarly on me please know that we are fully aware that December 25th is not likely the real birthday of Jesus Christ. However, we choose to celebrate it that day, so instead of ripping right into the presents, we fix our eyes firmly on Jesus and thank Him for being born, dying and rising again for us.
  8. Gifts from Jesus. While we love to talk about St. Nic, we encourage our daughter to understand that every gift we have is from Jesus. Everything we have comes from God and nothing is really ours. So, while we may joke about Santa bringing presents, she can tell you that every gift is from Jesus and we thank Jesus for all He has blessed us with

These are just a few ways we keep Christ the center of our attention during the holiday season. If you have any other tips you’d like to share, please do so below. I pray that your Christmas is Christ-filled and joyous! It’s all about Him!

These are just a few ways we keep Christ the center of our attention during the holiday season. If you have any other tips you’d like to share, please do so below. I pray that your Christmas is Christ-filled and joyous! It’s all about Him!

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How Will My Daughter Remember Me?

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The human brain is a funny thing. Sometimes mine works well and other times not so much. I’ve learned to accept that and just laugh at myself when my brain decides to malfunction. When it comes to memories, I have very little memory of my young childhood. I’d say most of what occurred in my home before the age of ten is something of a mystery to me. I have flashes of memories, but not much detail. My younger brother, however, has a very good memory and he can tell stories of his young childhood with vivid detail. Interesting how the brain works.

I may not remember much of my childhood, but I’d say I’m more on the uncommon end of the spectrum in this. Most children have memories from much younger than ten years old. The truth is, children remember what they see going on around them. They form memories and impressions very early in life. They are taking it all in visually and aurally much earlier than most of us realize. They are forming memories and associations with those memories perhaps even before they know how to express what they are seeing/hearing/feeling.

So why is this important?

I’ll confess that there have been times I’ve been very convicted about the way I spoke or an action I did in front of my young daughter when she was three, four or five years old. In times of weakness and in the flesh, I’ve made comments to others that were hurtful or even sinful with her in the room and I’ve very foolishly assumed she wasn’t paying attention because she was playing or because she was too young to understand what I was saying. I’ve criticized my husband in her presence. I’ve gossiped. I’ve flippantly made comments that were just silly and unedifying. She has heard me say these things, and though she perhaps hasn’t responded or reacted in that moment, she has taken some of it in. She has formed memories and connections based on my sinful words.

Now before you get all bent out of shape or start judging me, understand that I have repented of this sin and am forgiven. I thank God that we can be real and honest and open about our struggles with the flesh and with sin. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” I thank Him even more than we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. I have no problem confessing this sin because I know that God has offered me forgiveness for all of my transgressions, but why bring it up?

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deut 6:7

God tells us that we are to teach our children something here. What is it we are supposed to teach them? The answer is in the context.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deut 6:4-5

Our God is one Lord and that we shall love the Lord God with every part of our being. That’s what we are supposed to be teaching our children, but notice what God says about how we are supposed to teach them this. Do we teach it by simply reading this scripture and then going about our life in any manner we like? Nope. We are supposed to teach them by talking about the Lord in our homes, when we are out, when we lie down, when we rise up….basically we teach our children to love the Lord by talking about Him and loving Him ourselves at all times.

That’s pretty convicting. We need to remember that our children are always listening and watching. They may hear us proclaim Christ when we are in a good mood and things are going well. They see us smile and shout “amen” at church. They may even see us read the Bible from time to time. Is this sufficient? I’m convicted that the words of my mouth should always be glorifying to the Lord, and that while I speak and act out of love for Jesus, my daughter is learning how to love Him herself. Nothing is more important. Nothing.

Knowing the calling God has on me in this, and knowing what a failure I am in this way, I ask the Lord for Holy Spirit power to reign in my tongue and to make my speech and actions a constant reflection of my love for Jesus. I pray that the flesh would be triumphed over by the grace of God and His Spirit working in me. I pray most of all that my daughter would not remember a mother who only loved the Lord in some parts of her life, but rather a mother who was sold out for Jesus every day. I hope she remembers that, when I failed, I confessed and repented. I didn’t pretend to be perfect, but rather understood God’s grace in my life, thus compelling me to seek Him more.

Children remember what they see and hear from very young. Their young hearts are being molded even now. The things we say and do matter to them. While I may never be perfect on this earth, I pray that my daughter will remember me as someone who genuinely and deeply loved the Lord with all of my heart, soul and might and that she will love Him all the days of her life.

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