Picking Your Path

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Weddings and funerals often make us think, don’t they? They tend to take our focus off of the temporal for a brief time and move our thoughts to the eternal. One thing I have really been thinking about with all of the weddings this past year is the fact that we all need to deliberately make a choice about what our lives are going to look like. When we grow up and leave home permanently we purposefully step towards the unknown and move away from the familiar.

If you are blessed with a wonderful family, leaving home can be hard. And yet you know that the bright future of your dreams isn’t possible without stepping out into the unknown and choosing the path, in this case, of marriage.

When we choose to get married, we are purposely choosing to leave our family homes (or our bachelor apartments) and live with someone else. Yes, there are risks and it is scary but we leave completely and start a new life.

If we would get married but still live in our childhood home, while our spouse lived elsewhere, it would raise many questions, wouldn’t it? Even when we, as adults, are forced to go back to our childhood homes for a brief period of time, we usually view it as a temporary setback. It is not viewed as our final destiny, but instead as a safe place to land during a difficult time.

As we wind up our reading of the kings of Israel in the Old Testament, I find myself thinking about the allegiance of these kings. If you have been keeping track –in your head or on paper– of which kings were evil and which were good, you will see that the majority were evil. No surprise there, as most men do choose the path of wickedness. You will also have noticed that some of the kings were sort of good, but chose not to serve God completely. And then you will notice that there are just a handful that served God whole-heartedly, removing the high places and re-establishing the temple practices.

When we look over all that was written about these kings, in particular, we can see that their works and success were directly correlated to their allegiance. If they served God, they were blessed. If they didn’t, they weren’t.

So back to my example of leaving home…

When we choose to get married, we must leave home. We can’t choose both paths. We cannot stay on our old path and get on the new path. It is physically impossible.

Why then, do we think we can choose the path of Christ, and yet stay on the path of the world?

This has been such a puzzle for me–these Christians that try to put one foot on the path towards Christ, while leaving most of their bodies on the path to destruction. The problem with this is that these paths are diametrically opposed and move further and further apart. Eventually, you can’t do the split that this requires and you have to pick a side.

If you are a believer, have you turned your back on the world? Have you denied yourself and decided to follow Jesus whole-heartedly?

We can see the destruction that occurred with the kings when they tried to live a life of compromise. And living a life of compromise at home would cause great problems, as well. Can you imagine your spouse telling you that they are headed to their parents each week for a sleep-over? Of course not. When we leave our homes to get married, we leave. To not do so is not normal.

So, why then, do we think we can live a life of compromise as believers? It goes against all that is not only written in the Bible but even against all that is logical. And yet many men of intellect inform us that we can– and some even tell us that we should–live a life of worldliness. They tell us we can be on both paths at the same time. That worldliness and holiness are not mutually exclusive.

But who are you going to listen to? Men who pretend to know what they are talking about or the Bible, which is very clear on this subject?

I can certainly understand the temptation to listen to the voice that is telling us what we want to hear. It is what so often gets us into trouble. One of the best things we can do is to hear the hard stuff from the Bible and then act on it in obedience.

I have absolutely no idea, as you read this, if you claim to be a believer. I do not know if you are straddling the fence right now or not. I have no way of knowing if you have pledged your allegiance to Christ but are living a life of great compromise, living for yourself instead of for the One who died for you.

What I do know is that to compromise is easy. To not compromise is hard. The only way to avoid it is to be consistently and purposefully living each day to serve God. This is why we are told to examine our lives regularly–

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. 2 Corinthians 13:5

Now for the really good news!

Sometimes, when we first trust Christ, we look back on our old lives with real longing. We think we are missing out on all of the fun and we long for the world. But this doesn’t last! The truth of the matter is that as we move towards holiness, we became much less enamored with the world. Just keep putting one step in front of the other towards the light and soon you won’t even miss the world.

 

 

 

Finding Normal

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It’s Monday morning and I find myself surrounded by wedding stuff that was thrown in boxes and stuffed in baskets after the big event, waiting to be sorted and organized. The last couple of years have flown by as we were always preparing for the next big event. Three weddings in thirteen months. And now all of them are over. Our three oldest kids have kissed us good-bye and traveled into their futures, holding the hands of the ones that we have prayed for since they were children. We are so thankful for each of the young people joining our family and feel so blessed.

But with these wonderful additions to our family comes change. Lots of change.

Ever since my oldest daughter got engaged, I knew that my upcoming couple of years were going to be a real roller coaster ride of change. I was watching my oldest kids and realized that there was likely more than just one wedding in the near future and started pondering the months ahead. Over the course of the following year and a half, we had our oldest daughter get married, our son get married, and then this past Saturday, we had the wedding of our middle daughter. We had a gorgeous day, with just a slight breeze keeping us all comfortable on a hot July day and her chosen theme of sunflowers seemed to fit perfectly with the beautiful rural setting. Our family and friends have been so gracious to come to so many weddings, two of them being only six weeks apart. We are so grateful for their presence at these precious celebrations and appreciate their efforts to be there.

As I lived through the past couple of years, I had an urgency to prepare for the future, knowing that going from having four kids living in my house to only one would be a big change. But the weddings and all that goes with them were almost all-consuming. Along with the weddings came quite a few other dynamics that we could have never foreseen. They all worked together to make for a very challenging time for my husband and me. It’s certainly been stretching us and growing us, that’s for sure. And that means little effort has been given to preparing for our new normal. And, honestly, how do you emotionally prepare for a drastically reduced “nest”, anyway?

I know that this empty nest thing doesn’t affect most of you. But this is a good lesson for all of us, no matter what stage we are in. I think we want to– we try to-– find our normal. There is something so comfortable about routine and the familiar. But sometimes we are simply in limbo and it’s just not possible. Sometimes there is no normal to find because life just keeps changing and throwing us curve balls. We have to learn to flex and bend and yield our will to God’s.

For me, it has been the steady stream of kids leaving our home that is teaching me to yield my will to God’s. It is teaching me about myself. And it’s teaching me about God. But for you it may be chronic health issues or a shaky job situation. We are all in limbo at one time or another and any normal we ever find ourselves in is always tentative at best.

With this being the case, it is probably best to hold on very lightly to our “normals”. No one is more surprised than me at just how tightly I was clinging to my normal. I never had any idea that my purpose, my worth, and my very soul were so wrapped up in my kids. I thought I was a good Christian mom who loved her kids and tried to raise them to honor the Lord. I never realized just how much I relied on my role as Mom. Thankfully, I still have my youngest daughter at home, helping to make this transition a little easier, but it has certainly been a real eye-opener for me and has forced me turn to God for comfort and guidance. (His faithfulness through this time has been incredible. I will write about that some time soon).

Perhaps this is one of the main reasons are we are shaken out of our “normals”. Because when we are comfortably ensconced in normal we often don’t rely on God. It takes a good shake out of our comfort zones to remind us where our true worth and purpose lies. It also reminds us of just how weak we are and how desperately in need of a Savior.

And so I wait patiently for my new normal. I have no idea what that will look like. I do know it will be so much quieter and peaceful. It will be cleaner and neater. But those things aren’t as good as they are cracked up to be. (Are you listening to me, you moms who are surrounded by little ones?)

I do hope that in my new normal I grow closer to God, finally having the time to dig into the Word more. I look forward to getting to know my youngest daughter in a deeper way, now that she is stuck with just Mom and Dad at home. I hope that I can minister to and bless others, as my parenting and housewife duties have decreased substantially. And I guess I am most looking forward to loving the grandchildren that will hopefully join our family in the future.

But I know one thing– I don’t want to get stuck in status quo, growing lazy and satisfied with the unimportant and trivial. I want to use this time for God’s glory! Any normal we find should always have this first and foremost in mind.

And as life naturally brings the changes of new babies, graduations, marriages, adoptions, illnesses, financial difficulties, job pressures, relationship troubles, and death, our normals are constantly changing. And, yes, it can be very painful. But if we are humble and teachable, it will never be worthless.  For after it is all over, we can see how God used it to grow us and change us and make us more like Jesus.

 

If You Believe

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Disclaimer: I feel rather hypocritical even posting this. I try to share God’s Truth here at Growing 4 Life, but sometimes struggle greatly to live it. This time of my life, as my nest empties, has been a great challenge for me. I never realized that such great joy and such deep grief could reside side by side within my heart. But there it is. Feelings in complete opposition warring for my attention at almost all times. I tell you this to let you know that I am no spiritual giant. I am weak and pathetic and desperately in need of a Savior.  I hope this post encourages any of you who are struggling to continue walking through your dark place.

Sometimes we can get so discouraged. By the world. By our circumstances. By life.

I am not sure who is still reading through the Bible with me, but even if you have stopped or never started, please stick with me. This post is for everyone.

I know you are familiar with the well-known Biblical accounts–

~God creates the world (Genesis 1-3)

~God destroys the world and saves Noah, his family, and the animals in an ark (Genesis 5-9)

~God calls Moses to leadership and miraculously saves His people and then takes supernatural care of them in the wilderness (Exodus).

~God destroys the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6), uses a boy and a stone that impossibly hits Goliath’s impenetrable armor in just the right place to knock him down (I Samuel 17), and, later, in the Syrian camp creates the frightening sounds of horses and chariots coming, causing the great army to flee (2 Samuel 7).

~God decides to keep Elijah from the experience of death and takes him up in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2).

~God keeps Jonah safe and sound in a big fish for three days and nights (Jonah 1-2).

~And we didn’t get this far yet in our reading, but we all know the courageous tales of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and Daniel in the Lions’ Den (Daniel 6).

Do we really believe these things happened?

And if we say yes, then do we honestly think any problem we may face is a challenge for God?

We serve such an awesome and mighty God. When we see his power and grace at work, we can’t help but realize that our problems are small compared to such circumstances.

God is sovereign. His way is best. As we study the scripture and grow to know God in a deeper and fuller way, it will grow easier to trust Him. Whether he chooses to refine us or comfort us, to stretch us or to give us a break, to rain on us or to shine down on us, we can take it all from His hand when we start to comprehend just how much He loves us. Life starts to make more sense when we really get to know our heavenly Father and understand His purposes.

Life is hard. There is no doubt about it. And some of you are going through really tough times right now. Today. Please don’t neglect your Bible reading during this time. This is how God has chosen to convey His great love for us. It’s what He uses to convict and challenge and change us. When we turn away from His Word during times of great challenge, we are ignoring the single most important tool that He has provided for our benefit and comfort.

I hope that you believe that God’s Word is literal, inerrant, and inspired (If you don’t, then I challenge you to really do some studying instead of just saying you don’t believe). And if you do, then keep reading and studying the Word of God. For from its pages, we receive our best hope and our greatest comfort. Scripture provides conviction, refinement, and, most importantly, Truth about the God of the universe and His plan for salvation.

 

For My Middle Child

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We have four kids. But since the second born is the only son in our family, there has only ever been one middle child in our family–0ur sweet daughter, Adrienne. Saturday is her wedding day. This Saturday! How can that be?

All of us moms have regrets about how we did things, but I think we have extra regrets when it comes to our middle children. Somehow they seem to get a little lost in the shuffle of things and end up not getting as much attention. I grow sad when I think of the cracks she fell through in my overwhelmed moments of being a mom.

Those of you who have more than two children may understand. With our first child every moment, every new milestone is full of wonder and excitement. With our last child, we pay special attention because we know that every time they do something new it is the last time we will have the blessing to watch from our “Mom” point of view. But those middle children, well, they can get a little neglected in the excitement of their older siblings’ “firsts” and their younger siblings’ “lasts”.

And, while I do think my middle baby always knew she was loved, I also think that she had the typical middle child experience. With that in mind, I write this post. I want her to know just how special she is and has always been to me.

As I was scanning old photos of the bride-to-be into my computer this past week, many special moments and precious memories came rushing back.

I remember when the ultrasound technician asked me if I wanted to know what I was having. I had guessed correctly with my first two and, assuming I was correct again, I told her I would love to know for sure, but that I was 99.9% sure I was having a boy. She told me that she was 99.9% sure I was wrong. I was so happy and excited to be having a girl! I had really wanted my oldest daughter to have a sister, since I had never had one.

When she arrived that hot August day, she was welcomed with great joy. She was such a calm and happy baby– until she was about 18 months, when, suddenly, she started thinking of things my other babies had never dreamed of! She explored the toilets and cabinets and climbed on dressers and got stuck behind sofas and under tables.

There was even the time we were vacationing at a cabin and we found her with some blue around her mouth. We figured out that she had eaten some mice poison she had found under one of the beds. I look back on those few minutes as some of the most worrisome of my life. What happens when a two year old eats mice poison? Thankfully, she didn’t eat enough of it for it to make her sick. But it was one of several frightening moments we would have because of her escapades.

But as she grew up, she became the child in our family who would give up the biggest piece of cake so one of her siblings could have it. She was our peacemaker and always wanted everyone to be okay. She thought of others and went out of her way to be kind.

In her teen years, those qualities grew quite dim and we struggled through all of the normal life changes. But how gratifying to see those qualities of her girlhood begin to shine again so brightly as she readies herself to begin her new life with her husband.

I am so thankful for all of my children. So very thankful. But I wanted to write this special post for my middle daughter. Today I have no deep spiritual lesson or challenge to grow to offer my readers. Just a few memories and a special message for one of my children–

Adrienne, you may have gotten lost in the shuffle on occasion, but you are loved deeply and our family would never be the same without you. I can’t wait to see how God uses you and your future husband for His glory.

I put a little video together from some of the old photos. I have to admit that I cried a bit while I worked on it. I am so happy for you but so sad for me. But this is the way of life. It is what we moms do. We raise our babies so they can go and live their own lives. Thank you, Adrienne, for being a woman who wants to honor the Lord with your life. Thank you for marrying a man who wants the same. We, as parents, couldn’t ask for more. We wish you the best as you move far away. While we will miss you so much, we know that the Lord will travel with you, keeping you and guiding you. I love you.

The Setting Sun (and a message of hope!)

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We are finally at the prophets in our Bible Reading Challenge. These are the books that gave me the greatest challenge when I was reading through the Bible last year. So far we have read Jonah, Amos, Hosea, and now we are in Isaiah. Prophets are what God used to speak to His people before Christ came to the earth. I do love seeing where each prophet fits chronologically. Isn’t it helpful to see what was going on in Israel when they prophesied? The hearts of Israel and Judah were turned far, far from God. They had sacrificed their relationship with the living God to prostitute themselves with the gods of the pagans. The books of the Old Testament prophets make so much more sense now.

But the prophets can be very hard to read. There are so many predictions of death and destruction and exile. God had had enough and judgment was coming.

And it did come. The sun was setting–at least temporarily–on God’s special people. They had chosen to worship idols and there were grave consequences for this.

The prophets weren’t a bunch of wild, long-haired guys waving their hands all akimbo as they preached to no one in the wilderness. They were real men with real messages from God. They took a lot of heat (and some even paid with their lives) to present God’s messages to the people.

I find myself wondering what it was really like in Israel when the prophets were giving their messages? Were there a faithful few? A remnant who still worshiped the true God? Or was it like in the days of Noah, when only Noah and his family were found faithful?

Unfortunately, if there was a remnant, those faithful few experienced the same judgment that the unrepentant did. They were exiled, they were attacked, they were in the land when judgment hit.

Isn’t this taking on extra meaning, as we enter the strange, new world that America has become? The faithful are shrinking quickly. Those who stand for the Truth are becoming smaller in number, as most fall away through the deception that is so rampant in this land. And while we don’t have prophets speaking to us, we do have God’s Word to show us what is to come. (By the way, if you have never done it, do a study sometime on the fulfilled prophecies of the Word of God–it will remove any traces of doubt you may have about the Bible).

So the discouraging message is that, if the Lord tarries, we will experience persecution against the church and we will also experience the judgment of the wicked. The sun is setting on America and her days are most likely numbered (barring a miracle–which is possible, of course!)

Many of us have been thinking about this in the back of our minds a lot in these past few years, given what’s been going on in America.

But there is also an encouraging message. If we experience persecution and if we are swept into the coming judgment, we are still God’s people. He will not desert us. I was reading the other day in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs of the horrendous atrocities that the Catholic church committed against true believers during the Spanish Inquisition. Torture that we can’t even fathom. And, yet, people sang during their gruesome deaths. They sang!

You may think why read of such terrible things? I read them because I want to be encouraged by their strong faith during such terrible persecution. I read because it strengthens my faith. God is real. And He will not desert us. If we receive a martyr’s death, we will receive a martyr’s crown.

Be not discouraged. He is faithful and will give His people the right amount of grace at just the right time.

I know this is easy to write, but as things start heating up, it will get harder and harder. Are we ready? How do we get ready?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she expressed her desire to memorize scripture because she just wonders how long we will be able to carry our Bibles freely. This is a great way to prepare for what is coming! Memorizing scripture and some of the great hymns of the faith rich with doctrine is a great place to start.

But even as we try to prepare our hearts and minds for what is coming, we can’t stop living our lives now. We can’t spend our hours in fear and worry of what is to come.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

We are in the care of the great God of the universe. We need not live in fear. No matter how this thing ends, we have so much to look forward to– like all of eternity!

So live joyfully! Extend love and grace freely! Share the gospel! And never, ever cower in fear! For we are told in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Now let’s go live these words!

 

Why Are We Losing Our Kids?

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One of the most frightening things about being a Christian parent is the big question mark that lies at the “official” end of our training time. The bags are packed, we say our good-byes, and we watch the car drive away while the question is ever-present in our minds, demanding attention. Will our kids follow Jesus?

And so often today the answer to that question is no. So many good Christian families are losing their kids these days. Over the past ten years, I have watched many parents grieve the choices of their teens and twenty-somethings. A few of these kids come back to the faith, but most don’t.

So why are we Christians losing our kids? While there probably isn’t just one answer to this question, I whole-heartedly believe that it does have a great deal to do with one thing, in particular.

Christians are having a love affair with the world.

We love the world. Oh, yes, we do. Ask any Christian these days what they are listening to, watching, and doing on the weekends, and you will see that many of them do the exact same things as the rest of the world.

In the old days, we would be taught that to love the world is sinful and that in order to be holy, we must love the things God loves and hates the things God hates. We were taught to separate ourselves from the world and to be different. We were to stand out among unbelievers in a noticeable way. These sermons, books, and lessons were based on the plentiful scriptures about the dangers of loving the world and the stark contrast of worldly and holy living: Romans 12:1-2; James 4:4; I John 2:15-16; John 15:19; John 17:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Titus 2:11-12; I Peter 1:14-16; I Peter 4:3-4; I John 2:16. And while people still struggled with loving the world, they knew it was wrong to do so.

Fast forward thirty or so years. Worldliness is not only not taught against, it is actually encouraged! We are told in many of our churches that we need to be like the world to reach the world (if you spend any time in God’s Word at all, you will recognize this for the blatant lie that it is). We are told that to have standards is equal to being legalistic. And that to not allow our kids to attend school dances or R-rated movies means that they will be too sheltered and won’t understand the world. As if somehow we will become better witnesses for Jesus by participating in the debauchery of the culture. We are told that things like bikinis and gambling and drinking alcohol and entertainment aren’t any big deal and that to have standards about these things is completely unnecessary.

And while we listen to this garbage that is surely found nowhere in scripture, Satan is stealing the hearts of our kids.

Think with me for just a moment.

If our kids are listening almost 24/7 to music that glorifies sex, drugs, and violence, should we expect them to follow hard after Jesus?

If our kids are watching horrid violence, sexual perversions of all types, and hearing abundant bad language on the screens that are before their eyes, should we expect them to have a vibrant faith?

If our children want to be like the world and we don’t discourage this (and many times even encourage them)– by how they dress, what they attend, and who they hang out with– should we really be surprised when they find holiness and reading God’s Word boring and unnecessary?

Really?

And I would add here that, as parents, we are often so tempted to want to be cool and hip to our kids. We don’t want to be that downer parent who doesn’t let our kids do what everyone else is doing, so many of us– even if we don’t really feel a peace about what is going on– will capitulate to the begging and the demands.

In fact, many of us take it a step further and in trying so hard to be the cool parents, we ourselves ignore God’s commands for purity and holiness. We wear immodest clothing, watch sinful movies and TV programs on a regular basis, and tune our radios to music that is anything but godly– all in the name of being “cool”.

And I get it. It is tempting. I have been the mother of teenagers. In fact, I still am. It is so very hard to stand your ground when all the world– and even most of the “church”– is telling you to relax and just go with the flow.

And if we Christian parents aren’t trying to be cool, we are often at the other end of the spectrum, burying our heads in denial. Look, I don’t care if your kids go to public school, Christian school, or are home-schooled, they are going to run into bad kids. They are going to be given pornography website addresses and they are going to be offered horrible, ungodly advice. They will have classmates who cut themselves, are addicts, or struggle with eating disorders. They are going to deal with threats, bullies, and unkind adults. They are going to deal with temptations and circumstances that we can’t even imagine. We need to help them! The need is urgent. Burying our heads in the sand at this moment could mean spiritual death for our kids!

Let’s teach them that we find our standards in God’s Word and this is what we base our life upon. Let’s live what we are teaching them. And then let’s be a safe place that they can go to share their worries and concerns. Don’t raise your eyebrows and and control your expressions of disgust or surprise. Many times our kids are facing really BIG problems and we need to be there for them.

I wish I could tell you that we did everything right. But, of course, we didn’t. It is truly only by God’s great and marvelous grace that our kids are living for Him. We had some rough, heart-breaking moments. We feared for their salvation and futures. We praise Him for His great kindness and mercy to us and give Him the glory!

Raising kids is a scary, daunting task. Especially for Christian parents. We so much want our kids to live for the Lord, but we can’t make the decision for them.

However, there are some things we can do to encourage them to choose Christ. The most important thing is to encourage them to love righteousness and hate evil. We need to show them that peace and joy are found in following Jesus– not in a love affair with the world. Teach them to obey Christ in all areas of their lives– not just the politically correct ones. (i.e. of course, we are told to help the poor, but this is just a small portion of what it means to be a Christian– it is certainly not the defining trait of a Christian, as we are being told these days by the mainstream church). We need to teach them by our words and by how we live that our worth and purpose is found in our relationship with God, not in the things of this world.

We won’t be perfect, but we need to show them what it means to be going the right direction and growing as a believer.

It’s not about perfection, it’s about direction.

And, finally, pray. Pray often and pray hard for the souls of your kids. Pray that they would hunger for God’s Word. And that they would love righteousness and hate evil.

Satan will try to trick you into believing that your kids are a lost cause–that it is impossible to raise godly kids in this culture and in this era, but don’t you believe him! It is not impossible– not when God is on your side. And God has provided His precious Word as a guide.

Yes, it will be extremely hard and require much courage.

And, yes, it will take sacrifice.

You will probably lose a few friends through the process.

And, yes, there will definitely be frequent moments when your kids and their friends will think you are uncool.

But keep your eyes on the goal. Don’t let them stray. You have a job to do. You can’t afford to get distracted. God will guide and direct you. You will make mistakes, but His grace and mercy will cover them. Stay humble and stay teachable.

And, finally, give up your love affair with the world. Because if you don’t, it will cost you. A lot.

 

A Walk Through the Lilies

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I have this fascination with flowers. And my two favorites are lilies and hydrangeas. I tuck varieties of these two plants in any empty space and corner I can find in my backyard. When I took a walk out back the other evening I realized that the lilies are in full bloom. They are just so beautiful that I had to share a few photos of them here. God’s creation never ceases to amaze me! The lilies are such a wondrous display of our Creator.

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The Creepy Strangers

The one thing about living next door to your business is that people seem to think they can just stop any old time. We have quite the stories of strangers who knock on our house door, simply because there is a business next to it and that somehow makes it okay. This happened the other day. But it was an unusually frightening occurrence.

It was an ordinary Saturday. We were taking a quick break for lunch before continuing our work outside. We were talking when we suddenly heard a voice from our mud room. We assumed it was someone we knew, as most strangers do not just enter a house without knocking. I walked to the door expecting a familiar face.

However, what I saw was a toothless, unkempt old man who reeked of cigarette smoke. In his hand he held a newspaper. He pointed to an address on it and asked for directions. Something about him made me uneasy.

At that point, I had one thought: I need to get this guy out of my house.

So I tried to quickly tell him the simplest directions to the city which was on the newspaper. He told me to follow him outside to his friend, where I found an even creepier guy waiting in an old station wagon.

This new guy got a little frustrated with me as I tried to give him directions. He said I was taking him to the wrong side of the city. I told him I couldn’t help him then and walked quickly away. Honestly, I really wondered if they would try to abduct me. They were that creepy. I couldn’t wait to get back inside my house.

Thankfully, they backed out of the driveway and I have not heard from them since.

I find it interesting that there was something inside me that told me that these guys were bad news. Inside each of us is this little piece of our brain that flashes “danger!” when we should feel fear. This is helpful in a myriad of ways, as long as it isn’t working overtime.

Sometimes, I wish our brain would have that same response to spiritual things that are dangerous. For instance, wouldn’t it be nice if we heard the word “danger!” when we picked up a book or chose to watch something or listened to a podcast?

Unfortunately, most of the spiritually dangerous things are so subtle that we view them with no fear at all. It reminds me a little of a murderer who is the normal guy. The one that isn’t creepy and doesn’t raise the hair on our necks when we are with him. He is no less dangerous just because he looks normal. In fact, this may make him more dangerous because we aren’t wary in his presence.

I wonder if things that are labeled “Christian” aren’t sometimes more dangerous because we don’t have the normal discernment and hesitation that we would have if it was something secular?

The good thing is that we can train our brains to look for clues. We can do this when we are with people who may be dangerous and we can do this when we are presented with something labeled, “Christian.” Just because it is in a Christian bookstore does not make it biblical. In fact, I would venture to say over half of things labeled Christian these days are unbiblical.

I don’t think we used to have to be quite so skeptical. When something was labeled Christian it probably was. But those days are so long gone. And we have to remember this as we hear of the latest, greatest “Christian” series, movies, books, and speakers. We can’t just assume that they are based on God’s Word, anymore.

Let’s work at increasing our sense of healthy wariness for the spiritual things that come our way. It is so important that we be discerning and get unbiblical philosophies out of our lives– as quickly as I removed those creepy strangers from my driveway!

A Flick of the Wrist

canvasMy family’s latest craze is Kan Jam. If you’ve never heard of it, it is a game where you try to throw a Frisbee into a can. So simple, right? So when we decided to have a tournament on our camping trip over the weekend, I said I’d like to join in. After all, I used to play ultimate Frisbee in college. Isn’t throwing a Frisbee a little like riding a bike? How hard could it be?

I found out quickly that I had definitely not remembered how to throw a Frisbee. My poor game partner (my husband) not only had to endure a lack of points, but also had to chase the Frisbee as it would soar off to the right or left. One time I even let go too late and hit someone watching the game! This was not going as I had anticipated. Now let me remind you here that I am no athlete. I’d like to be an athlete, I wish I was more of an athlete, but some things are just facts and that is one  fact I have had to face. But, come on– this was just a Frisbee!

At any rate, we lost that first game (obviously) and I sat down by the campfire to await the next game, which would surely be our second loss and finalize our elimination in the tournament. As I sat there, my dad offered some advice.

“You need to flick your wrist.”

“What?”

“I was watching you and you need to flick your wrist. You are trying to use your arm.”

Hmmm.

So next game, I changed it up a bit. And, wow. I did so much better. In fact, so much better that we won! And then we played another game and we…lost. But it was close! This flicking of the wrist thing really did work. And while we didn’t win the tournament, we at least did look respectable. And what more could an middle-aged couple playing with a bunch of “young-uns”ask for than that?

This incident came to my mind when I was doing my Bible-reading yesterday. I am a few days behind and so I read about King Joash in 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord but did not remove the high places. And so this King, while not a horrible King, wasn’t anything great and eventually met with defeat and disappointment. He allowed Zechariah, the son of the priest who had been so good to him, to be stoned to death in the temple courtyard because he didn’t have a pleasing message. Assassination by a couple of his servants was Joash’s dismal end.

So we find that Joash sort of wanted to please the Lord and do what was right, but he only made a half-hearted effort. He wasn’t willing to remove the high places or to stand up for a man who gave a tough message from the Lord. He was weak.

I know what you are thinking. What in the world does this have to do with a Frisbee. So I’ll tell you–

I can play the game and never win. Joash was a King who did what was right, but only sort of, and paid dearly for his half-hearted efforts. We can be a Christian and not live a blessed life.

When we offer half-hearted efforts to a game or don’t know how to play properly, we are never going to win. We can play a game but never win at it. When my dad offered his helpful advice, I followed it. And it benefited me greatly. Instead of another miserable loss, we actually won.

When Joash became King, he did do what was right. But he never wholly did what was right. And his end was miserable. He paid dearly for his pride and unwillingness to give 100% to God.

As believers, we can be in the game, but until we are willing to submit to God in all things in our lives and humbly follow the commands laid down in His word, we will not be blessed.

I see a lot of half-hearted believers around me. They want to experience blessing in their lives, but they want to define what that means. They like their worldly entertainment and fashion. They enjoy their trips to the bar and their partying. They hold on to anger, pride, or gluttony like it’s their job. They make sports more important than church. Or they gossip, slander, and lie. And, most importantly, they almost always have in common their lack of desire for the Word of God.  And, while I don’t believe this will keep us out of heaven, necessarily, I do believe it keeps us from experiencing a life of blessing.

The blessed Christian life can only be lived when we submit our wills and desires to God.  This is a choice we need to purposefully make every day. It is like paddling a canoe upstream. If we stop paddling, we start heading downstream immediately. And so it is with our Christian life. If we are not purposefully obeying, we are probably disobeying. It is so easy to start moving the wrong direction.

But if we do things the Lord’s way, we will start winning at life. Now– don’t get me wrong– there are no promises of physical wealth or health or anything like that. The blessings I am referring to are children and grandchildren who follow hard after God, people who are influenced by the gospel because of us, seeds planted in the hearts and lives of our family members, co-workers, and friends because of the conversations we have with them. Peace that passeth understanding and joy in the midst of trials. And inexplicable love in our hearts for the lost and for our enemies. These are the indestructible fruits that no man can take away. The only things that will matter in eternity. This is true blessing.

We can play the game but never win. But doesn’t that seem pointless? If I am going to be a Christian, I want to be the best Christian I can be. I want to please the Lord with all of my life–not reserve a bit of it to please my fleshly desires. I find this so easy to write, but so very hard to actually do. I guess it will be a lifelong journey of paddling upstream. But the blessing makes the work so worth it.

Changing direction can be done at any time. If you are a Christian, start living a life of obedience today for great rewards tomorrow. You will never be sorry.

 

 

50 Reasons Why I’m Still Thankful To Be An American

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Yes, America is going the wrong direction. And, yes, it is coming quickly. But I thought it might be a good idea to remember why America is still a great place to live— at least right now. Some of these things will change sooner rather than later. Hopefully, many of these things will never change. But, whatever happens, for this day…for this moment…we have so much for which to be thankful! Let’s not get so caught up in all that’s wrong that we miss the blessings that are right before our eyes.

And so I thought of 50 things for which we Christians can still be thankful. Yes, I know this is not a list that fits everyone. But if you can’t relate to some of mine, then think of some of your own that you have in your situation and then add them in the comment section below. I am sure I forgot some obvious ones. Please add them, as well. Here is my list–

1. I can count on the roads to be passable and safe.

2. My children have access to a good education and to higher education of their choice.

3. I can still go to any church I want to.

4. I can go to a mall and see Latinos, Asians, Indians, Middle-Easterners, African-Americans, and Whites all shopping peacefully together, without incident.

5. I can grow my own vegetables and fruit in my garden.

6. I can still share the gospel freely wherever I go.

7. I still feel safe when I jog, bike, and walk in my neighborhood.

8. My grocery store shelves abound with food of all kinds and varieties.

9. If I can’t find what I want at my grocery store, I can travel a short distance to a Farmer’s Market, an Asian Market, or a Specialty Food Store to find what I am looking for.

10. Our judicial system is not completely and utterly corrupt and full of bribery, like many other countries.

11. I can go to the beach or to the mountains or to the city for a getaway.

12. I can blog about anything I want without fear of being arrested or shut down.

13. I have a variety of specialists that I can go to to meet almost any medical need I have.

14. I can afford a reliable vehicle to take me where I want to go.

15. The general public still obeys traffic laws.

16. We can still buy, sell, and distribute Bibles and other Christian books.

17. We can not only count on getting a paycheck if we have worked, but we can also count on the bank being able to cash it.

18. We don’t have trash on the sides of our roads.

19. We don’t have people living in the city dumps, trying to make a living from people’s trash.

20. We have heat in the winter and AC in the summer.

21. We can freely travel throughout all 50 states without fear of interrogation and danger.

22. I have good dental care available to me. I can go to the eye doctor and afford glasses.

23. Most of our policemen are still good men with a heartfelt desire to serve the public.

24. We have a wealth of tests and tools available to diagnose our illnesses and keep us healthy.

25. I can sit on my porch to enjoy the sunset without fear of attack.

26. I can communicate with someone I love across the world without charge because internet access has become available almost anywhere–even in many public places.

27. Instead of the wild, foraging dogs that are so rampant in many countries, we keep dogs as faithful companions and protectors.

28. There is still an outpouring of love and generosity when someone is in need in this country– no matter their color, race, or sex. Americans have a wonderful sense of empathy and generosity. It is truly a beautiful thing.

29. We have faithful men in this country who are still dedicated to teaching the truths of the Bible.

30. The sermons and lessons of these men are available freely through podcasts and internet stations.

31. There is still the possibility to be successful in this country if you are willing to work hard. The American Dream is still a familiar concept to most of us.

32. I can still find wonderful Christian music to listen to online and in iTunes.

33. I have a multitude of good, wholesome entertainment available for my family through the likes of DVDs, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

34. I have a plethora of fun activities to choose from for my children. So many, in fact, that I am forced to choose only the best ones.

35. If I choose to lose weight or rid myself of any other unhealthy habit, I can find programs and websites to help me– many which are free.

36. I can trust that when I cross a bridge that it will hold the weight of my car.

37. I don’t have to worry about wild animals mauling me.

38. I have fresh, drinkable water pouring from my faucet whenever I want it.

38. I look out my back window and see beautiful, green grass and colorful plants.

39. I have electricity available to me 24 hours a day.

40. I can choose to eat organic or to not eat organic. It’s my choice.

41. We can get in our car, on a plane, on a train, or on a bus, and go almost anywhere in this world if we really want to.

42. Our church can hold Bible School and picnics and festivals without fear of government censure or intervention.

43. I have ample amount of leisure time to spend as I choose.

44. We have a yard with plenty of room for picnics and activities.

45. We have affordable –and even downright cheap– clothing available to us. This is not the case in many countries.

46. Gasoline is far less inexpensive here than in almost any other country. Ask a European if you don’t believe me.

47. Even the lowest income person in this country has more than the average poor person in other countries.

48. We have vast sections of forest and natural resources that have been protected from greedy men.

49. Our kids can play or be involved in almost any sport that is known to mankind. If there is a will, there is a way.

50.  We can still enjoy a 4th of July celebration with our families!

 

Now will you please take a moment and add to my list in the comment section? And then go have an awesome 4th of July!