On Being a Mom to a Mom

Five Generations

Last weekend, our world changed forever. Our first grandchild came into the world and our lives will never be the same. Many people had told us just how wonderful this moment would be, but, just as becoming a parent truly defies description, so, too, does becoming a grandparent.

As I held this miniature human being in my arms, I couldn’t stop staring in absolute awe at the miracle of this new life (evolution is categorically impossible on just this one point alone). Staring at the tiny, perfect features of my first grandson, I felt blessed far more than I deserve.

When people would talk to us about becoming grandparents, most of the talk centered on the grandchildren (of course!) but one thing I didn’t really think about until this week is how this new life changes the relationship with my daughter.

We have been gently discovering this since her wedding a couple of years ago and have been learning to pass the baton on to the next generation. But with the birth of their child, it feels more official somehow. And I recognized that my husband and I are stepping off of center stage and are now moving into a support role.

It is a strange feeling and will take some adjusting for me and yet the time is so right. It is my turn to be for her what my mom has been (and continues to be) for me. She provided unwavering and consistent support as I took on one of the hardest jobs in existence: Motherhood. She provided godly counseling and sometimes just let me cry as she listened to my heartaches. And she rejoiced with me, almost as excited as we were when a baby started to walk or a child lost a first tooth. Oh, how I desire to do the same for my daughters and daughter-in-law as they take their turn at being a mother.

The picture above was taken over 70 years ago. The only person alive today is my aunt, who is the young girl in the photo. My grandmother is the beautiful lady standing on the left. At the time, she probably had two children. She went on to have two more, my mother being her fourth. When this photo was taken, she was experiencing the sleepless nights, the strong wills, the sibling rivalry, and the endless cleaning and cooking that comes with raising a family. It was her turn to face the challenges of motherhood. But time passed, the years went by, and it became my mom’s turn. And then it was my turn. And now, all these years later, it is my daughter’s turn.

As our roles are changing now, I have been giving a great deal of thought to how important it is for us grandmothers to find a balance between interfering bossiness and cold indifference. Somewhere between those two is the loving balance of being there when they need us and yet giving them lots of space to grow together as a family without our “two cents.”

I am starting to understand why some families have so much trouble. Some mothers are just not ready to step off of center stage and take their support role. This can cause a lot of stress in families where there is great effort in trying to keep “Mom happy.”

As I have been thinking on how to take on this new role, the little phrase I used to say to my kids comes to mind: Be a blessing, not a burden.

I want to not only love my grandchildren deeply and fully, but I want to do the same for my kids and their spouses. I desire to encourage with my words, rather than be the constant critic. I want to build up and offer support as they take on this new role of parenting, rather than fill them with self-doubt and frustration.

I recognize that our actions and reactions as grandparents can make all the difference in the world in our family dynamics. I want to make sure grudges and bitterness find no place in my heart. And that I love my in-laws with the same love with which I love my own kids, instead of making them feel like outsiders.

I won’t do any of this perfectly, of course. But this who I want to be. Who I want to become. 

And so time marches on and I am now in the grandmother’s spot in that photo above. I still have to shake my head a bit as I ponder it all. It feels just a bit surreal. But I am quite confident that I am going to like being the mom of a mom. Sure, it will take a little getting used to, but I am thrilled to watch my daughter and her husband with their little guy, knowing that he is in the hands of two people who love the Lord and love each other. I am deeply grateful in knowing that these new parents desire nothing more than that this child they have been entrusted with grows up to love and serve Jesus.

Really, how blessed can you get?

 

Socialism and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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It has come to my attention recently that there is a country that has been adopting socialism over the last number of years. At first, things looked brighter. But, eventually, in spite of the great promises this system makes to its people, it became very evident that this was not going to turn the country into utopia. In fact, the opposite is true. The people there are in dire straits. Socialism is tearing into shreds the quality of life the citizens of this country once knew. People die because they cannot get the medicine they need. People cannot meet their basic needs because the store shelves are empty. EMPTY. Even the food supply is scarce! Can you even imagine? I am not making this up. This is their reality.

And the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang just keeps coming to my mind. Have you ever seen it? When I was a young girl, this was my very favorite movie. I loved the crazy inventer, Caractacus Potts (played by Dick Van Dyke) and the Candy Factory owner’s daughter, Truly Scrumptious (played by Sally Ann Howes). I loved Grandpa and Jeremy and Jemima. I loved the car that could fly! And I loved the soundtrack and can still sing most of the songs by heart. And then there is the super scary part where the family lands in Vulgaria–where the Queen hates children and has locked every last one of them up in the castle dungeon.

Does anyone remember what happens next? I do recognize that I may be the only person on the planet who loves this movie! Anyway...

The “Childcatcher” comes looking for Jeremy and Jemima. He can smell them. He creeps around looking for the hidden children. But he doesn’t find them. So he tries a different tactic.

He decorates his jail wagon with brightly colored panels so that it looks like a candy store. He changes into a colorful outfit and walks around the village, shouting–

Gum Drops and Ice Cream! Lollipops! All Free Today!

Jeremy and Jemima hear him and come running. He promises them free candy if they come into his “store”. Smiling from ear to ear at the prospect of free candy they enter the wagon. In a wink, the door locks behind them, the sides fall away, and we see the children riding away clinging to the metal bars and screaming for help. They have been deceived. They were gullible and fell for his evil trick.

Doesn’t this remind you so much of the Socialistic agenda? Outlandish, wonderful promises are made and, yet, if you look at this system realistically and historically, there is no possible way for the promises to actually be kept. In fact, if we take the time to truly think about it (rather than to let our greed for free stuff take over), we can see that it will destroy the country we love–and that it is just one short step to Communism from there.

I do not generally write about politics, but this scene from this old movie just keeps playing itself over and over again in my mind. How do we get people to see that their desire for free stuff is like Jeremy and Jemima’s desire for free candy? And that if we should ever take that step into the wagon of Socialism, it won’t be to receive free stuff but instead to be imprisoned in a horrible system from which there is no escape?

We have trained our young people to desire socialism. We have done this in a million ways–from training them to be self-absorbed and entitled to never training them to work hard and to think of others. Now let me assure you that I believe there are still many, many good families–both Christians and non-Christians– who have taught and are still teaching their children good morals and how to work hard. They are teaching them to think of others and to serve their fellow man.

But the fact remains that there are many who are not. And to these young people free equals good. They haven’t been taught to think through the consequences of their choices. Let’s face it, many aren’t even being taught to think at all.

But I guess many of us fall for a similar trick when we fall for sin. We see pleasure and easy money and fun and believe Satan’s lie that it won’t cost anything. But when we step through that door, the candy-coated walls fall away and we see the prison bars of addiction, debt, and obesity. Just to name a few.

Yes, we are all guilty of this to some extent. So it would be best not to be too terribly hard on our friends who think that Socialism is the answer to our country’s problems. It does look pretty good to anyone who hasn’t thought through how the system ends, looking at it both realistically and historically.

It’s important we think anything out to its inevitable end–whether it is a system of government or a choice to sit down at the gambling table.

Everything costs. We’d best remember that.

 

*If you are interested in reading further, here are two posts on two different countries and there Socialism nightmare: One article is here and another one is here.

What in the World is Going On?

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Yesterday, my daughter sent me a link to Target’s new bathroom policy. The liberal company feels so strongly about this issue that they even designed a temporary logo to go along with their statement. You can read about it here.

Now I could say I will never shop at Target again, but I guess we all know what little good that would do. And, honestly, to stop shopping at Target on principal would mean we need to also give up many other of our favorite stores and restaurants. Target is certainly not the only company with a radically liberal agenda. And perhaps I would be willing to make this sacrifice and perhaps you would, too, if we thought it would actually bring some kind of change. Unfortunately, when it comes to retail, the bottom line is that the majority of Christians will not stop shopping at their favorite stores.

But I am having an incredibly hard time wrapping my brain around this:

IF–

transgenders make up .3% of the population (Yes, you read that right– POINT 3)

AND–

Christians make up {supposedly} 70.6% of the population (46% claim to go to church regularly)

THEN WHY–

Do transgenders get preferential treatment and Christians get pushed and shoved around like we have no rights at all?

But I do have a theory about this. Tell me what you think of this–

First, the media is incredibly biased. We see this in mainstream outlets that present liberal viewpoints in a favorable light and conservative viewpoints as ridiculous. We see it in social media outlets such as Facebook and YouTube that censor or curtail the traffic that conservative, Christian, or pro-Israel pages and channels receive. If we watch a lot of news, it is inevitable that our viewpoint will become very skewed. I used to enjoy watching the Today Show. But several years ago I decided to stop watching it. It was like a bowl of really good soup that contained trace amounts of poison. It was a fun show but it was laced with liberal news stories and a clearly leftist agenda.  A few months ago, I came across a video that showed how, way back in the 90s, the news outlets carefully avoided showing all the news footage that surrounded one of the big stories of the decade. Certain parts of the reel were left out by all mainstream media outlets, completely skewing the story. Why didn’t they show the beginning part of this story? Because there was an agenda behind it. Bottom line: We Christians need to be very careful where we get our stories. Unfortunately, news does not equal truth.

Second, most people who call themselves Christians aren’t really true Christians. Instead, these people just take the name– probably for a variety of reasons: They desire fire insurance from hell or a golden ticket to heaven; or perhaps it is because it’s how they were raised; or possibly out of some sense of duty or tradition. But they have never repented of their sins and trusted Christ as their Savior. Most people that would take the label Christian do not believe in absolute truth or that the complete Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. So, in essence, they only carry the label but aren’t truly saved. This means that they are not going to stand and fight something that goes against God’s Word. And, honestly, they really have no reason to.

But that still leaves us with a decent percentage of real Christians in this nation, as opposed to transgenders. So what other puzzle piece do we need to solve this mystery?

Which leads me to my third–and most tragic–part of my theory: True Christians don’t know their Bibles and most don’t care even a bit that they don’t know their Bibles (which does lead one to wonder if they are a true Christian Psalm 1; Psalm 119; John 15). For years now, many have become biblically illiterate to the point of useless when it comes to knowing what the Bible teaches. The blame for this lies at the hands of pastors and church leaders who, over the past two decades, have dumbed down their sermons so much–supposedly to make the lost feel comfortable–that true believers in these types of churches only exist on milk and never move to adult food. Some aren’t even fed milk but are instead given a lethal combination of psychology and philosophy with a few Bible verses thrown in. Blame for this also lies at the hands of parents who have turned their passion from eternal things to temporal things, developing little interest in the things of the Lord in their homes. This lack of biblical knowledge has rendered us completely ineffective and apathetic to sin. We are like the proverbial frog sitting in a pot of water. The water we are sitting in is heating up quickly and, yet, most of us don’t care.

All of this combines to put Christians at a serious disadvantage in this country. Where does this all lead? Well, I have a theory about that, too.

I believe this sexual orientation thing is what Satan will use to drive the true church underground in this country. It’s coming. Can you feel it? The storm clouds that we saw in the distance a few years ago are just about overhead and ready to rain down the wrath of the world on anyone who is a genuine Christian. We have already been labeled “haters”, “narrow-minded”, “homophobic”, “unintelligent”, etc, etc.

Suddenly, verses like I Peter 4:12-14 take on a whole new meaning–

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.[d] On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

and John 15:18-19–

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

We have had it pretty easy in this country, but I fear that time is coming to a close. The silver lining to this dark cloud is that, finally, we will know who is a genuine believer and who is not. No fake Christian is going to be persecuted for their faith. Of course, the tricky thing is that many of the churches who preach a false gospel use the Bible and the names of God and Jesus. This makes things so massively confusing to so many.

How thankful I am that we can rest in God’s sovereignty in all this. We need not fear, for God is with us. He is living and alive and knows everything. God proves Himself faithful over and over again. He will guide us through these treacherous days and walk with us through the darkness. Our job is to study the Word, serve our King, and to be salt and light in the world.

I will leave you with Psalm 27:1–

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

 

Dear Christian Parent–

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Dear Christian Parent,

My heart aches for you as you try to raise your children for the Lord in a post-Christian country. Years ago, when I was a child, parents received some help from the culture. While most people were not genuine Christians, they did view the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule as truth to live by. This was what their parents had taught them and what their grandparents had taught their parents, repeating the pattern of many generations. The Bible was generally considered a guide for life and very respected among the general population. Of course, this changed forever about a generation ago.

This means that most of the advice you will hear currently on parenting will not be based on scripture, but instead will be advice that finds its roots in humanistic wisdom. This can be very confusing because the way you are being told to raise your kids is almost like night and day from the way your parents raised you or your grandparents raised your parents. How do we know what is the right way? As you might guess, I suggest we turn to the Bible for this. It teaches us the basics and then common sense fills in the gaps.

I have noticed a very disturbing trend among non-Christian and Christian parents alike: The kids are made the center of the family. Life revolves around these adorable little people. As infants, they decide when they will eat and sleep and even in whose arms they will reside. As they get older, for fear of squashing their “tender spirit”, many parents will let them choose what to wear, what to eat, and when they will go to bed. They will buy them everything they can possibly afford and rearrange their whole schedules around a child’s schedule. If what the child wants doesn’t line up with what Mom and Dad want, then cajoling and bribing will often take place. Most parents–and these are parents who want to genuinely want to do what’s right–truly believe that this is the best way to parent.

But have you given any thought to the possibility that it is not?

Before we can determine what is the best way to parent our children, we probably need to think about what our goals and hopes for our kids are. As Christian parents, our dearest hope should be to raise children who embrace God’s plan of salvation, walk in holiness, and grow up to honor and serve the Lord. If this is our goal, then this means that certain things need to take place to prepare the child’s heart for that choice.

First and foremost, they need to learn to live under the authority of their parents. God has set it up so that children first learn about living within boundaries at home. The problem is that few children have many boundaries anymore. From immediately answering the demands of an angry infant who cries the instant they are put in to the crib to cooking special meals for their finicky toddlers, Mom and Dad are actually living under the authority of their children.

This is how so many parent and, honestly, I don’t blame you at all if you parent this way. It’s what you have been told makes you a good parent by the world at large (and sometimes even by the church). But it doesn’t have to be this way. This type of parenting saps so much of the joy from family life because the parent is always tired and feels out of control. God never set it up this way. Proverbs 22:6 says that we are to train up our children. This means parenting is very intentional and not reactive. It also implies that the parent is in control, not the child. It is impossible to train a child who doesn’t first obey.

And, if we follow this pattern of parenting to its logical conclusion, we will realize that many parents today are training their children to be self-centered and demanding. This training will not magically dissipate when they become adults. No, instead, it is our job to start the process of godly training when they are old enough to start wriggling away from us on the changing table.

If you think through the obvious ramifications of child-centered parenting, I am sure that you will agree with me that when these children grow up they will become adults that —

1. Believe the world revolves around them. It will be a difficult transition into the real world when they realize that it doesn’t and I see many adults who can never quite get over this. They cause drama everywhere they go and think the world is falling apart when they don’t get their own way.

2. Believe that they are the final authority of their world and that what they say goes. Instead of turning to God’s Word in humility for life’s answers, they have been taught that they know best. They become prideful and arrogant. They are not teachable in any way because they believe they are always right. This is what Mom and Dad have taught them.

3. Believe they are entitled to the good life without working for it. These individuals sap the life out of society instead of building back into it. From Mom and Dad buying them a piece of candy in the store to keep them quiet to spending thousands on a club sport when they are a teen, many of these kids have never worked a day in their lives. Many don’t even help around the house with the chores. They have never equated material blessings with hard work.

I know parents don’t want this for their children. And it is downright hard to look into the eyes of a sweet, but defiant, child and demand that they obey you and then consistently provide consequences when they do not. It is especially difficult because magazines and morning talk shows and maybe even most of your friends tell you otherwise. And, yet to not do so, is a great disservice to the child. In fact, children thrive with boundaries. They actually are much happier when they have them. It is one of the most loving things you can do for your child.

Proverbs 29:17 Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.

Second, we need to prepare our children’s hearts by teaching them the Word of God and then validating that teaching with how we live our lives. So often we want to rely on Sunday School and other church programs to teach our kids. But do you know how many children go to church and then end up walking away from the faith as twenty-somethings? Most of the kids that stay true to the faith are the ones that saw Christianity lived out vibrantly before their eyes. You see, anyone can take their kids to church. It takes humility to live according to God’s Word and transparency to set a good (never perfect) example of the Christian life. It takes dedication and hard work to have family devotions and/or to have family discussions about things like creation, abortion, sexual orientation, holiness, and sin. Teaching your kids to use the Bible as their grid for every decision will prepare their hearts to be obedient to God as they head off into their futures. Showing your kids that you use the Bible as your own personal grid when making decisions adds necessary validity to your words.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Third, make sure your kids know that there is nothing they can do that will keep you from loving them. Be an example of unconditional love to them, demonstrating– albeit in a very flawed and human form– God’s all-encompassing love for each one of us.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Fourth, find a family that has kids living for the Lord and find out how they parented. These families are getting harder to find, but there are definitely still some around. I know when I was a young parent, I learned so much from those that were a few steps or a whole lifetime ahead of me. These are the ones to listen to because these are the ones who have proven that their way worked! Anyone can write a magazine article or become a psychologist. Model your parenting after a family who has adult Christian kids who love and serve the Lord.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.

And fifth, and finally, dedicate to pray for the best thing. Academics, sports, and the arts are important enough. But, eternally, the best thing–the only thing–that will matter is the soul of your child. Be sure that you pray often and fervently for the souls of your children. I never cease to be amazed at how God’s grace covers the weaknesses of those who truly desire to raise their children for Him. My husband and I experienced (and continue to experience) that kind of grace in a myriad of ways. God is so faithful to those who pray for the souls of their children.

James 5:16b The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

In conclusion, I just want to encourage you to raise your children for the God who created them. Shut your ears to worldly counsel and study the Word of God. Immerse yourself in biblical child-rearing resources (you can find some that were helpful to me here). Godly parenting is certainly not easy but it is the best way–for your children and for you, too. Yes, we live in a crazy, mad world. Yes, things look bleak. Yet, none of this has surprised God. He is still in control. However, it does look as if your children are most likely going to have the opportunity to stand for Christ in a way that we did not have. Train them to do so! Instead of sending weak-willed, undisciplined eternal adolescents into this world, make it your goal to send your kids out as bold and strong soldiers for Christ!

Don’t lose heart!

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Isn’t the Bible Just Another Book?

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Have you ever tried to talk to someone about the Gospel, just to have them declare that the Bible is simply another book? Where do you go with this?

This week, my youngest daughter and I, along with my parents, traveled to visit my brother (Pastor Dean) and his family. The fact that John MacArthur was going to be speaking at my brother’s church may have had a little something to with the timing of our trip! On Tuesday night we had the wonderful privilege of hearing Dr. MacArthur preach and then to also hear him answer some questions. We learned a little about him personally and also a bit about his take on the current culture, as he shared his heart with the group there.

But the question (and answer) that impacted me most was this one: What do you do when an unbeliever says the Bible is just like any other book and full of errors and contradictions?

This does seem to be a very relevant question in this day and age, does it not? The authority of scripture has been so undermined that few people believe the Bible to be the very Word of God anymore.

Dr. MacArthur gave a two-part answer to this question that I found incredibly encouraging. I am conveying his general thoughts (not his word for word answer) and then sharing some of my thoughts about what he said.

First, we need to stop expecting them to believe the Bible is the Word of God. Of course, they don’t. And Scripture tells us that they can’t until God unveils their eyes and shines His light on their hearts.

You may be thinking– Wait! You mean it’s not up to us to shine the light on to their hearts?

We can present it. We can share it. We can try to persuade them. But only God can give the light of His knowledge to a searching heart.

Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:3-6–But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Unbelievers can’t understand until God opens their eyes. It’s impossible.

Secondly, if someone is challenging us about the Bible, he suggested that we ask them one simple question: Have you read the Bible?

If they say no, then suggest to them that this is a very strong statement to make about a book they’ve never read. If they decide to do their own study at that point, then let the Bible speak for itself.

Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

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

The Bible will speak for itself to the unregenerate, seeking heart. God may use us to help someone to find salvation but He doesn’t need us.

I found the answer to this very relevant question so freeing. I felt such great pressure to defend the Word of God and was always so worried I would never do it justice. I just don’t know all of the history and details and proofs pertaining to God’s Word and feel like I wouldn’t be able to defend it very well.

But the answer that Dr. MacArthur gave means that we don’t have to know all of that in order to witness. Of course, it is always good to study and to be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us (I Peter 3:15) but knowing that it is God who will grant belief and understanding of His Word to the soul that is seeking Him is such a wonderfully freeing concept. Doesn’t this give us a whole new insight as we seek to share Christ with the lost and dying world around us?

I hope this encourages you as much as it encouraged me! Have a great day!

 

Perseverance Pays Off

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A few years ago, I became very interested in making organic versions of products that we often use. Some of them were big failures–like the liquid soap!–but others were wonderful, working as well as (or even better than) the store-bought versions. One of these recipes I ended up calling “Magic Cream” because it was so versatile and wonderfully healing on all types of skin issues. From cuts and scrapes to blemishes to burns to super-dry skin, this stuff works like magic.

A little while ago a friend of mine expressed interest in the recipe for my Magic Cream as she thought it might help her with a skin issue she was having. I gave her the recipe along with a small tube of it that I had on hand. When I saw her a little while later, I asked her how she liked it. She hesitated a bit and then confessed that, while it was working, it was taking a lot longer than she had hoped. She had expected it to work instantly but that had not happened.

When she said that, it hit me how often all of us do this in life. We so badly want a positive change to occur instantly and when it doesn’t happen we grow discouraged and give up. This happens in any number of areas of life including weight loss, addictions we want to overcome, dysfunctional relationships, and growing in biblical knowledge. None of these things happen instantly, but we have been trained to want instant.

And, yes, instant is wonderful. No question about that. My last two children had to be delivered via C-section and both times as I lay there on the table being prepped, I experienced overwhelming nausea. Now that is one of the worst feelings in the world because you can’t even sit up. When I mentioned it, something was added to my IV and I instantly felt better. I have never had relief happen that quickly. I can still vividly remember how wonderful that was.

And some people–maybe even some of you–have had instant relief from addictions and other sins when you came to Christ. It does happen occasionally.

But most of us have to persevere and sweat a little bit to conquer sin, working with the Holy Spirit who empowers and enables us. Of course, there are a few sacrifices we need to make in order to actually change and grow in a vibrant and permanent way–

1. We need to give up our sin. So simple and yet so incredibly difficult. But unless we are intentionally “putting off” the old man, we will continue to struggle. Far too many of us live in a place of hopelessness and defeat because we aren’t willing to give up all of that old man.

Ephesians 4:22-24 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

2. We need to immerse ourselves in the scripture. Psalm 119 is just one passage of many that shows us the value of the Word in our victory over sin and our growth as a Christian.

Psalm 119: 9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.

3. We need to surround ourselves with godly people who will challenge us. Do our friends exhort us to live godly lives or are they encouraging us to live worldly lives?

Hebrews 3:13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

4. We can’t give up. Sometimes it is tempting to throw our hands up in the air and give up. And we can come up with a thousand reasons why it’s okay to live in sin in “just this one area” of our lives. But we need to keep trying. We need to keep running the race with 100% of our efforts. Sin slows us down. These verses from I Corinthians remind us that we are not running for some earthly prize (although there may be some earthly rewards that accompany our victories over sin) but we are running for an imperishable crown. Verse 27 of this passage also shows us that our testimony and Christian witness is reliant upon us not only running this race, but running it well.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Sin can be difficult to conquer. Some of us are trying to overcome sins that have been in our families for generations. But it is not impossible. It will take diligence and perseverance, along with filling our minds with scripture and much prayer, but it is not impossible.

And one day in the future–if we don’t give up– we will look back at the road we have traveled and see just how far we’ve come. And that will be a great day!

 

How Shall We Then Vote?

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In 1976, Francis Scheaffer wrote How Shall We Then Live? It was a book that took a hard look at the decline of the western culture and how, as Christians, we should then live in the society. Back then already, he was keenly aware of the breakdown of moral absolutes and what that would mean in the coming years for western culture. It has been forty years since this book was written. How fitting that the election this year symbolizes all that Scheaffer warned would come to pass.

I think there have been few elections in history that have presented such a challenge to voters than the current one. Some of us have made our choice for the primary and are pretty sure about November, weighing all the possible options. Some of us are still waiting and waffling, unsure of what is best. Others of us have just outright declared that we aren’t going to vote at all.

One thing I have noticed in this election, perhaps more than any other, is how many Americans are driven to vote for a candidate because of what that candidate will do for them. Character and integrity seem to matter very little in our desire to get more for ourselves– more economic security, more tax breaks, more free stuff. This seems to be what drives most voters as they make their choice.

In complete opposition to this, however, is what God’s Word says. Last Sunday our pastor gave us some great guidelines on how to choose the candidate who deserves our vote. In Deuteronomy 17, starting in verse 14, God gives Israel guidelines to use as they choose a king. From this passage, our pastor was able to pull out eight biblical (and practical) principles that should influence our voting. With his permission, I’d like to share them with you–

1. Seek God’s choice above your own. (v. 15)  We need to stop worrying about what we think is best for us alone, and think about what is best for the nation as a whole, according to God’s law and purposes.

2. Seek a candidate who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. (v. 15) Many politicians claim to know Jesus in order to get the evangelical vote. In order to know if its genuine we need to examine their lives.

3. Avoid self-promoting, power-hungry leaders. (v. 16) While these kind of men make lots of empty promises, their ultimate goal is the promotion of self and an increase in power over the people.

4. Seek one who has proven faithful in marriage. (v. 17) Aside from being one of God’s laws, faithfulness in marriage is also a good indication that the candidate is loyal and devoted to someone outside of himself.

5. Avoid one who is greedy for personal wealth. (v. 17) Think about someone you know who only cares about money. They live for it, they breathe for it, they don’t care who they hurt or trample on to get it. Is this the kind of person we want to run a country?

6. Seek one who learns and loves God’s Word.  (v. 18) Again, hard to know if the declarations of this are true. Their lives are our only test. If they live according to it, it is much more likely that they know it.

7. Seek a leader with a servant’s heart. (v. 20) How key is this! Think about all of the bosses you have had in the past for a moment. Which one was the best? I would guess it was the boss who wasn’t afraid to do the hard work alongside of you. It was the guy or gal that wasn’t condescending. It was the person who cared about you and considered you and your co-workers when making company decisions.  This kind of person makes a great leader.

8. Seek one who respects and obeys the Lord. (v. 20) Even if they are not a genuine Christian, a candidate who honors God’s laws is the one for whom we should be casting our vote.

Obviously, few candidates are going to be a perfect match to these eight guidelines but isn’t this a helpful list? It’s a tool we can use to do the best we can in picking a candidate worthy of our vote. A big thank you to my pastor for his wisdom in pointing these out.

God bless you, my fellow Americans, as you do your part in these upcoming primaries and then again in November. For those of you outside America, I hope that these guidelines will prove helpful to you, as well, if and when you have the opportunity to vote in your own country.

No matter what happens in November, how thankful I am to know Who is really in control.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

Daniel 2:20b-21

Breakfast with Strangers

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For over 25 years now our family has been going to the same little beach town on the Atlantic coast for vacation. It’s one of my very favorite places on God’s beautiful earth. When we first started going we’d stay in a hotel and then in 1998 we bought a camper and we’ve been camping there ever since. Our trips there have become a family tradition that we all treasure but, still, each time I visit, my eyes are drawn to the quaint Bed and Breakfasts that line the streets. A long time ago, staying in one of these was added to the bucket list that I keep in my head.

My husband has been busy with shows this past month–three weekends out of the last four, so my youngest daughter and I decided it was the perfect time for a quick girls’ getaway and made arrangements to spend a night in one of the Bed and Breakfasts. Since this is not really my husband’s preferred type of accommodation, it seemed to be the ideal time to check this item off my bucket list.

We arrived on Friday night to the beautiful Victorian house that sat just a block from the beach. We were greeted by a friendly woman who told us everything we needed to know. I have to admit that as I stared at the precious glass and porcelain valuables that sat on every possible space around me, I grew just a bit nervous. I felt a little like a bull in a china closet and, after almost knocking something over with my bulky purse, I grabbed the bag close to my side and took extra special care as we carried our things to Room 3 at the top of the steps. As we entered the room, we felt much more at home. While decorated beautifully in Victorian style, it was very comfortable and there didn’t seem to be anything precious on the dressers and shelves to knock over!

The next morning, we headed downstairs to have breakfast with the other guests of the house. This was certainly a new experience for both of us. We sat down across from a couple who seemed to be in their late 50s or early 60s. They smiled and introduced themselves. We did likewise. A few moments later, a young couple expecting their first child joined us. The conversation was made up of a variety of topics but about fifteen minutes in it settled in on religion (of all things!) Believe it or not, I had absolutely nothing to do with this turn of the conversation. I found out rather quickly that the older couple were Methodists (with the husband a Roman Catholic before converting to Methodism) and the younger couple were passionate Jehovah’s Witnesses (with the wife being a Roman Catholic before conversion).

As I sensed the direction of the conversation, my heart started to beat a bit harder with trepidation. I told the Lord I would take any opportunity that He opened up for me and then waited expectantly. But it never really came. Other than one opportunity to state the Gospel as written in the Bible in three sentences or less, I spent much of the conversation either listening or adding a few sentences that any moral person could agree with.

After breakfast was over and we had said our good-byes, I wondered if I should have spoke more biblical truth. I said as much to my daughter. She replied with exactly what I was thinking–they wouldn’t have listened, anyway. They all thought they were right.

But, while I may not have been able to plant many seeds for the Kingdom during that breakfast, I did learn (or was reminded of) six very important things–

The only difference between true believers and everyone else is God’s Word.  True believers trust the Bible alone for doctrine, truth, and guidance. The Jehovah’s Witnesses would talk about the Bible but they’d also talk about the Watchtower Magazine that provides them with their doctrine. The Methodists relied on–from what I could tell–their own life experiences to form their opinions. The scriptures alone were not the source for their opinions about life and morals.

Sincerity and earnestness is not synonymous with truth.  It was fascinating to hear the Jehovah Witnesses’ talk about what their religion requires. The young husband and wife were quite earnest and dedicated to the church, telling us how often they go out on visitation and how the church is organized. And, yet, I saw them nod in agreement with me when I shared the gospel–even though I know they don’t believe in the same Jesus we do. We are both sincere and passionate about our beliefs and yet one of us is wrong. If we believers didn’t have the Bible to anchor us, I don’t know how any of us could know what is right and what is wrong.

Religious people believe that a lack of religion is the reason this country is faltering. It was very interesting to hear the Methodists blame the country’s woes on a lack of religion. Several times they alluded to the fact that this country would be a much better place if we could just get religion back in homes and schools. While I don’t disagree that this may help, I think it would be a very temporary fix without true revival: Transformed lives through true faith in Jesus Christ.

Most people care very little about anyone but themselves. You may question my wisdom at writing a post about these couples. But, honestly, they would never possibly be able to find it because they found out absolutely nothing about me or my daughter. While I asked what they do for a living, if they have a family, and every other impersonal and polite question I could think of to ask, few questions were directed to us. When we left the breakfast table, we knew a whole lot about them and they knew very little about us. This seems to be pretty typical these days. What struck my daughter and I as extremely ironic was the fact that, during breakfast, the older gentleman, a teacher, had bemoaned how self-absorbed his students have become over the past decade.

One thing we could all agree on was that the country is in shambles and this is in large part due to the departure from absolute truth. When you think about it, those who come from a background that taught the ten commandments and God’s moral law lead happier, more successful lives. They believe that they must work for what they get and they understand that life isn’t always fair. Those taught basic moral truths (even without Jesus or the Bible) believe lying, stealing, and being unkind is wrong. However, belief in absolute truth and God’s law is quickly eroding away, and we now have a whole generation that feels entitled to get something they didn’t work for; who believes that lying, stealing, and being unkind are only wrong if it hurts someone. They believe that truth is  more about what makes them happy than it is about some Higher Being– and that truth can be whatever they want it to be. Seriously. This is the caliber of students that are spilling out of the high school and college campuses and into our work force. There are great ramifications to this and we are starting to reap the fruit of this now.

And, finally, I learned during that breakfast how important reading is. While I don’t deny that my college education was helpful, I have learned a whole lot more by reading on my own. I was surprised as we talked about things how much of what I have read about the Bible and history and life has seeped into my brain and was ready to be shared in a situation like this. It reminded me of the importance to read not only the Bible but solid, biblical works by authors like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and A.W. Pink. It also reminded me of how important the study of history is to the place we find ourselves in today. Reading is our window to changed thinking. Reading books by godly men with a biblical world-view leads to not only changed thinking but to biblical thinking.

 

And, so, our breakfast with strangers was not only entertaining but was also enlightening. And while we thoroughly enjoyed our Bed and Breakfast stay, my daughter and I decided that camping is still our preferred way of travel!

Have a great Monday!

 

2016 Hospitality Challenge: April

Host a Pizza Night with Old Friends (and a March Recap)

Hospitality Challenge

March is past and we are now into April. Although around here, the weather isn’t cooperating very well and today feels more like a March day, while March, with its very warm, sunny days felt like spring had already arrived. Alas, March offered false hope and now cold, dreary weather has returned to stay for awhile. Which has absolutely nothing to do with why I am writing today! I am actually writing to see how your March Challenge went and to provide a new challenge for April!

Last month’s challenge went really well for me once I was able to work up the courage to invite someone. It’s funny, but that is, by far, the hardest part for me–extending an invitation to someone who is not in my normal circle of friends. But, so far, I have found that those that I have invited are not only gracious, but also seem to actually appreciate being invited.

For the March Challenge, I encouraged you to invite a single person (single, divorced, widowed) for coffee or a meal. I chose to invite an acquaintance who is separated from her husband. I had had a few casual conversations with her in passing and always enjoyed them, so I decided to reach out to her for the challenge. This past Monday we met for lunch at a local restaurant and enjoyed getting to know each other just a bit better. We had wonderful conversation about our families, our life situations, and the Lord. We both have some things going on in our lives and promised to pray for each other as we parted.

It was a great experience and I just wish I could convince more of you to join the challenge. I just know you would be so blessed by this. A few of you have shared your stories with me from the past three months (either here on the blog in the comment section or to me personally) and I am pretty sure that you would agree with me–this challenge has been a blessing! It does take some of us out of our comfort zones but it is so worth it! I hope that you will consider joining for April, if you aren’t already taking part.

Does anyone have an experience to share from April? I would love to hear your stories!

Now onto our next challenge! Ready to go?

APRIL CHALLENGE

I want you to invite a family you do not know to go along on your summer vacation! Pick a fun spot like the Caribbean or Europe and enjoy getting to know one another as you navigate unknown areas while in a culture that speaks a different language!

 

Okay, that’s not the challenge. But I couldn’t resist. It’s April 1 and I just couldn’t resist. April Fool’s!

Here’s the real challenge for April:

Invite a family or two from your past for a pizza night. It may be someone you just haven’t made time to see in a while or it may be an old high school buddy or a college friend. It may be someone you used to hang around with when you were dating or when the kids were little but time took over and you haven’t seen them for ages. Whatever the case, call them up or email them or Facebook them and invite them over for pizza! Pizza is easy and cheap and you can make it or you can buy it. If you feel stressed about having someone in your home at this time, then meet them at a local pizza shop. I hope you have fun with this challenge!

 

 

A Vast and Irreconcilable Difference

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Meditation has become quite the buzz word in our current culture. In both sacred and secular circles this word has come into frequent use. We are told that we need to meditate in order to succeed at life, to conquer bad habits, and to experience peace.

But biblical meditation as spoken of in scripture (Psalm 1:1-3) is very different than what the world–and even many churches–are promoting. Just what is the difference? And why does it matter?

My brother, Pastor Dean, taught a Bible Study on this subject a few months ago and he graciously shared his notes with me. I love when someone else does the research and all I have to do is write a blog post about it! It certainly saves me a lot of work. So, using his notes and some of my own observations, let’s look at this word meditation from a variety of perspectives.

Let’s first start with Biblical Meditation, so that we set our grid properly in place and have a standard by which to judge the other types.

Purpose: The purpose of meditation as described in the Bible is always to help us understand God’s truth (as written in His Word), to give us a heart of obedience and wisdom, to increase our awe of the Lord, and to renew our mind (Joshua 1:8; Proverbs 2:1-6; Psalm 119:11; John 17:17; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Hebrews 4:12).

Method: We meditate in a biblical way by first preparing our hearts and minds. How do we do this? We do this by humbling ourselves and by prayer, asking God to show us the truth of His Word. We then read scripture, memorize scripture, and pray over the scripture.

Result: We are filled with the spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Notice that biblical meditation always has a purpose and it is always related to scripture. If you do a study of the word meditate in the Bible, you will find that God and His Word and His Works is always what one is meditating upon. This is an important and critical difference between biblical meditation and unbiblical meditation.

It’s also very important to remember, as we explore other types of meditation, that faith is what separates true believers from unbelievers. The object of true faith is Scripture / Christ as revealed in the Scripture. Faith does not seek an experience or need an experience. Faith believes, trusts and obeys the Word it comes to understand (cf. Heb. 4:2; Heb. 11:1, 6-10; Heb. 10:22). Mysticism takes hold where true, simple faith is absent. This is a point of great import, which you will see as we continue to examine meditation in the light of scripture.

Let’s first take a look at Eastern Meditation. This has worked its way solidly into our culture and is the type of meditation that most secular magazines and talk shows refer to. It has also found solid footing through yoga. In fact, google the word yoga and you will find this definition: a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation. As widespread as yoga is now in this culture, it isn’t hard to understand how the way for eastern meditation has been prepared.

Purpose: To enter an altered state of consciousness and to overcome the desires of the material body. To attain a state of tranquility and spiritual enlightenment and to become one with the universe (or, in other words, to experience “godhood”).

Method: To banish rational thought and open up the mind through mantras, yoga, breathing techniques, and visualization (these words are red flags to help us spot ungodly meditation, avoid them like the plague).

Result: Mystical experiences that defy logic; and demonic oppression–often seen as an experience of light and joy, at first. Remember Satan often appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

It is amazing to me how this has taken the American culture by storm. Oh, it’s taken about fifty years for yoga and meditation to become mainstream (anyone remember the flower children and searches for meaning in the 70s?) but it has done so and done so in a big way!

Now let’s take a look at Medieval Roman Catholic Meditation. This particular type is the kind we hear of frequently now in churches, on our Christian college campuses, and will find on the shelves of our local Christian bookstores. It has brought subtle, deadly changes to the Church.

Purpose: To practice the “presence of God” and to enter the “silence”, which is where we purportedly meet God and receive the impressions of the Holy Spirit. It is in this place that we supposedly experience peace.

Method: We do this by asceticism (denying worldly pleasures and practicing self-discipline) and fasting; But, even more popular and what we hear about most often today, we do this by solitude and through praying in a specific way.

Result: We have mystical and supernatural experiences and visions; God “speaks” words personally to us.

This type of meditation is not biblical meditation. It does not fit through the biblical grid we established above and yet many, many believers have started to practice this type of meditation. In fact, to speak against it is to almost be accused of heresy. Do you agree with me that this type of meditation bares an eery and rather obvious similarity to Eastern Meditation?

Now, on to one final type of meditation: New Age Meditation. This is really just the same old, same old packaged in a way that has become acceptable to the modern world.

Purpose: Personal wellness, tranquility, to relieve stress, and to overcome anxiety; to reach spirit guides and to channel higher beings in order to receive divine guidance and help.

Method: Same as Eastern Meditation.

Result: Mystical experiences, demonic oppression, and unity across religions (ecumenism).

We can see from this short study that Eastern, Ancient Catholic, and New Age Meditation are, in essence, all the same thing, wrapped up in a slightly different package. The goal is always to grow passive and to experience something supernatural. It is in stark contrast to active and intentional biblical meditation, which is always focused on the Word of God and never has us “emptying our minds” or waiting for a spiritual experience.

Now, on to a few practical helps for us. My brother gave a list of authors, practices, and buzz words that should be considered red flags for anyone who desires to honor the Lord in this area of meditation–

Authors to Avoid: Richard Foster, Matthew Fox, Thomas Keating, Sue Monk Kidd, Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Basil Pennington, Dallas Willard. I would add: Larry Crabb, Phillip Yancey, Thomas A Kempis, Eugene Peterson, Tony Campolo, and Brother Lawrence.

Practices to Avoid: All secular forms of meditation, all forms of yoga (including so-called “Christian” forms), breath prayers, mantras, prayer labyrinths (and circles), lectio divina. I would add centering prayer and spiritual formation.

Buzz Words to be considered Red Flags: Abyss, ancient-future worship, authentic spirituality, centering down, centering prayer, dark night of the soul, God encounters, interspirituality, multi-sensory worship, sacred space, solitude, spiritual disciplines, spiritual formation, the silence, theosis, transformational, visualization, vintage Christianity, and missional.

These lists are far from comprehensive. In fact, new names, practices, and words seemingly are added on a daily basis. This is literally flooding modern Christianity and has become quite mainstream.

If you read this post with a heart that desires to discern truth from error, my prayer is that what I have written here will be of great help to you. One thing we have to understand when we do this study of meditation is to remember this: Satan is working towards a One World Religion (Revelation 17). How will he do this? There is only one way and that is to absorb all religions into one over-riding religion. I firmly believe that he is using meditation to accomplish this purpose.

This is a lot to take in. I surely do know it. There is a vast, and quite irreconcilable, difference between biblical meditation and the way we are being told to meditate from secular sources, as well as from many Christian sources. Some Christians are promoting this and are quite unaware of the grave danger and ramifications of doing so. Others are purposely working to meld the church into the coming one-world religion. We can’t know the reasons why certain Christian authors and speakers have chosen to promote unbiblical meditation, but we should certainly be actively avoiding it and encouraging others to do the same.

We need to pray for discernment in these last days. Whether these “last days” last another five years or another one hundred, we can certainly see the world moving towards One-World everything. It’s fascinating–and just a little frightening–to behold. I believe that unbiblical meditation is part of this move towards One-World religion and that it is, without question, in our best interest to avoid it at all costs.