Staying Grounded in the Word

Bible

I’ve been reading a great book by Beth Moore called “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things”. It’s not what I expected. I was thinking it was a book about how, as an innocent bystander, to deal with it when godly people do bad things. Rather, it’s about how godly Christians can be seduced by the enemy and led into sin and how we can avoid that happening to us.

She mentions several weaknesses that we may have that can be used of the devil to lead us astray. One of them is having spiritual passion but not enough grounding in God’s word. How true! There seems to be a lot of that in our world today. I got a letter from some missionary friends of ours in the Middle East who told about a new believer who was approached by Mormon missionaries. He was too young in the faith to know the difference. Thankfully, he was quickly informed of what Mormons actually believed and steered in the right direction.

I’ve also seen it in other scenarios where someone is convinced that the Holy Spirit has told them something or led them in a certain direction, but that direction is clearly against Scripture. The last thing I want to do is not give the Holy Spirit credit where credit is due. But the Holy Spirit will never lead us to do something or support something that is contrary to God’s word. Our hearts can easily deceive us and what we think is the Holy Spirit may not be. If the idea doesn’t line up with the Bible, out it goes!

The whole thing has been a wake up call to me to make sure that I am continually grounded in God’s Word. Regardless of how long we’ve been following Jesus, we still need to continually be feasting on God’s Word and staying grounded there.

Not only that, but I need to encourage my kids toward an appropriate balance of spiritual passion and a renewed mind in His Word. We don’t want the scale tipped too far in either direction – either all head knowledge and no passion or all passion without the head knowledge.

How do you best stay grounded in God’s Word? How do you make time in your day to spend with Him? How do you stay balanced between the two extremes?

The Voices in Our Heads

Stressed Businesswoman

Do you hear voices in your head?

I’m not talking about a serious case of mental illness (I don’t think so, at any rate!), but we all have voices in our heads. Call them what you will – negative tapes that play or our inner brat. It’s all bad stuff that bounces around in our heads, frequently without us even realizing it. I think they’re probably a combination of our own sinful nature and spiritual warfare. Regardless of the source, they mess us up.

You don’t have it all together.
You can’t do this.
It’s all a mess.
Nothing is working. 
You’ll never get to do what you want to do.
You’re messing them up.
They’d be better off in school. 
It will never all get done.
There’s no point. 
It’s all useless.

Been there? I’ve found myself spiraling into the pit of despair when there really isn’t a good reason. Things aren’t really going that badly. The thing I’m upset about isn’t that big of a deal. When I stop and force myself to form words out of what I’m feeling, I find that it’s the type of things I’ve listed above. Those words aren’t true or edifying. They’re paralyzing and extremely depressing.

Sometimes those voices feel like a warm blanket, as twisted as that sounds. It’s comfortable to wallow in despair, frustration, and depression. It feels like a worn out security blanket that’s a little hard to give up. Maybe it’s a prideful search for attention. Look at me and all I’m suffering. I’m so messed up…

That, of course, isn’t healthy or Biblical, either. And deep down, I’d much rather have peace and joy.

So what do we do? “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2b) We need to find replacement tapes to play, words to tell our inner brat when she pipes up her voice. “Set your mind on things above, not on things of this world.” (Colossians 3:2)

For me, the first step is to realize that I have these voices in my head saying not nice things to me. When I’m in the middle of one of those downward spirals, it’s hard to recognize it, but once I do, I can cry out to God for help. Writing down what the voices say is helpful, too. They sound so real and legitimate in my head but look fairly ridiculous on paper.

Once they’re out of my head and on paper, I can counteract them with specific Scriptures that remind me of what is true and good.

“I can do everything through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

“With Christ, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

For me, homeschooling with a crazy 3 year old running around, those two verses are great places to start.

How about you? Do you struggle with this? What are your favorite verses to remember when you hear negative voices in your head?

 

Finding Joy Through Biblical Celebration

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My pastor (@jasonesposito1) has been teaching through the book of Nehemiah over the past several weeks and it’s been very interesting. This week we finished off the series by learning about Biblical celebrations. I thought that with Easter around the corner, it would be a great time to share some of what I got out of the message.

After the wall surrounding Jerusalem had been rebuilt, Ezra read the law. Initially, everyone was mourning and weeping because they realized how they had been falling short. But Nehemiah told them not to mourn.

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send to some who have nothing prepared. This day is scared to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'” Nehemiah 8:10

There are clearly times that it’s appropriate to mourn, but this wasn’t one of them. Everyone went home and ate and partied! Not long after that, they read about the Feast of Tabernacles, where they were supposed to live in booths or tents and have an extended time of feasting and celebration. It would be like camping in your backyard and having Thanksgiving all week long!

What was the purpose of all this? Why tents? And how can we apply it today? Celebrations have three purposes.

1. To look back. The Bible is full of admonitions to remember what God has done for us. The Israelites were to live in tents to remind them of the time they spent in the wilderness before God brought them to the Promised Land. God provided for them then and would continue to provide for them. We should also look back over how God has provided for us and allow it to comfort us that He will continue to provide.

2. To look around. Both the Israelites and we need to look around us and see how He has currently blessed us. Sometimes, when we’re going through difficult situations, we can get so caught up in what isn’t going well that we lose sight of all we do have and all that is good.

3. To look ahead. The Israelites were looking forward to the coming Messiah. We know that Jesus the Messiah has already come once but will return to make everything right. Whatever we’re going through, we know that He will fix it in the end. One day, maybe soon, He will return and there will be no more sorrow, tears or pain. Hallelujah!

We can find joy in all those things, regardless of our present circumstances. The joy of the Lord is our strength! God has provided, He is providing, and He will provide. He was, He is, and He is to come. Amen!

Close calls and living without fear

Blurred Winding Road Sign

We were driving home from church yesterday, heading down a curving, two lane road very close to home. We were getting close to a large curve when another car came from the opposite direction. It came to the curve and didn’t turn, but rather crossed into our lane and almost ended up in the ditch on our side of the road before the inattentive driver realized her error and returned to her lane. I pulled over and waited until she passed. She was still looking down as she passed us! It was terrifying to think about the results if we had been just a few seconds further down the road when she came around the corner. She would have slammed into us head on.

The older I get and the more life I experience, the more I realize how easily life can change in an instant. We’re not invincible. Far from it.

Each Sunday in church, I find myself scanning the congregation to see if anyone looks like he’s hiding a machine gun in his jacket. Even in my “safe” suburban neighborhood, there have been armed robberies lately of gas stations and restaurants. I stay extra cautious as I am out and about. We’ve chosen (so far) not to get flu shots this year, but I’ve been hearing about people hospitalized and even dying from the effects of the flu. It’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to lay in a hospital bed next to a sick child wrestling with illness.

The world is a scary place. There’s no denying it. In spite of how random things may seem, God IS in control. He is sovereign. He’s not a watch maker who set the universe in motion and then left it to run on its own. He is intimately involved in His creation and knows every hair on our heads. Not only that, but He also loves us passionately. His plan is best. He is good.

I could spend the rest of my life in fear, waiting for the next illness or injury, looking for the next shooter or random act of violence. But what good does that do? Does it help me to avoid any of that violence? There’s benefit in reasonable caution. Take the kids to the doctor, keep your eyes out for suspicious looking individuals, and be a safe driver, watching out for drivers too busy on their phones to stay in their lanes. Aside from that, I can’t live in fear. It doesn’t accomplish anything other than sucking the joy out of life. I can’t dwell on the “what ifs”. I’ll drive myself nuts! Instead, I choose to place my trust in my Maker and Heavenly Father. Yes, bad things still happen. But He makes all things work for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) One of my favorite verses on this topic is Isaiah 8:12-14a.

“Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear and do not dread it.  The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, He is the one you are to fear, He is the one you are to dread, and He will be to you a sanctuary..”

God is the only one we are to fear and He is our sanctuary.

What do you fear the most and how to you deal with it?

What I learned about my kids through playing Monopoly

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Friday night, Dad was going to be home late. We rented a movie, watched it, and put the 3 year old to bed. What to do next? The older two (9 and 11) begged me to play Monopoly with them. I bought them the game for Christmas last year, but I really don’t enjoy playing it so much. It’s so long and drawn out with such a vague ending point.

I decided that I didn’t have a good excuse not to play and it would be a good way to spend quality time with them, so I said yes. I actually ended up getting into the game and found it a very interesting way to learn more about my kids and encourage good character.

1. I learned that my oldest son (11) has a specific plan in mind that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Flexibility when someone else foils his plan (i.e. buys one of the properties he likes to get and won’t sell it to him), is not one of his strong suits. I already knew some of his lack of flexibility, but it was interesting to see it in a different light.

2. I learned that my daughter (9) doesn’t like buying property. This is actually quite the opposite from her real life tendencies. Normally, she can’t hold on to money at all! She doesn’t seem to understand the idea of spending money to earn money. I’m not sure there’s a broader life lesson there, other than perhaps I need to take more time to explain things to her and not assume she gets it.

3. When my daughter shows that she is not paying attention, her brother makes fun of her. It didn’t seem to bother her, but it’s unacceptable. I corrected him about that, but then realized that I can be a bit too sarcastic with her at times, too. That is most definitely unacceptable and will change. I love my little girl to death. She’s very different than I am, and I’m trying to figure out how to work with that. I was very convicted when I realized my need to talk to her differently.

All from a little game of Monopoly!

What have you learned about your kids from playing board games?

 

How bumpy was your homeschooling road this week?

Snowy Ski Trail and Trees

It was the first week back to school after a long Christmas break. Christmas is over, the decorations are taken down, and the next break in sight in Easter. The temperatures for most of the country were literally colder than Siberia. Wow. What is a homeschooling parent to do to remain sane and patient? I’m not sure. Let me know if you figure it out.

How did your week go? We had days where two pages of spelling took an hour. And even then it wasn’t done. Siblings fought over which couch to read on, making me more than furious. Attitudes stunk and silliness or grumpiness ran rampant at times. From talking to my fellow homeschooling friends, I know I wasn’t alone.

I don’t have any magic answers. I’m building up a toolbox of ideas, some of which work sometimes with some kids. I tried adding more structure, using a timer, threatening, yelling, holding, hugging, helping, and praying. Add in some deep breaths, new schedules, rewards, and consequences.

We had some fun times, too, don’t get me wrong. I’m reading aloud (although somewhat inconsistently) The Secret Garden to my older two and everyone is enjoying it. My attempts at reading Yorkshire accents are quite entertaining.

My biggest take away from it all is that we need to keep on keeping on. Abide under it all. That’s what the Greek word for perseverance means – to abide under. Just because the kids have a hard time transitioning back to a schedule doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing anything wrong. They’re just having a hard time. This too shall pass. We need to keep going. Do what we can to make it work. It is indeed a bumpy road, but it’s a road going in the right direction. You’re investing in your children in a way many parents don’t  and it will impact eternity.

Pray a lot. Be creative and try to find solutions, but at the end of the day (and the beginning and the middle), just abide under it.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

 

Eating the Book?

Dog with Giant Bone

Have you ever read the Bible in a year? I did along with my hubby a couple years ago. It was a great experience and broadened my understanding of the Word. The problem was that it became very tempting to just read quickly through the passages so that I could check them off my list. There! I read my Bible for the day. Done! Is that really how God wants us to read the Bible? As fast as possible so we can cross it off our to do list? I don’t think so.

There are quite a few places in the Bible where it actually talks about how the book should be read. I had heard several of them, but had never made the connection that this picture was mentioned so much before my pastor at Crossway Church talked about it yesterday. The Bible says that we should eat it. Eat God’s word.

Revelation 10:9 “So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.'”

Ezekiel 3:1-3 “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.”

Jeremiah 15:16 “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.”

In Psalm 1:2, the Hebrew word for “meditate” is actually the same one used to describe a lion gnawing on its prey. We are to gnaw on the Bible like a dog gnaws on a bone.

The New Testament also calls Jesus the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and He is the Word (John 1:1). The Bible is also compared to meat and milk (1 Cor. 3:2). It’s great to read the Bible, but we need to slow down and really gnaw on it.

How does that work? Once you have prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to teach you, here are some ideas on how to eat the book:

1. Use your senses: When learning or studying anything, the more senses you use, the more likely you are to remember it and understand it.  Write it down, look at it and say it out loud.

2. Keep it with you: Write it down on a 3×5 note card that you can keep with you.  As you learn more verses, you can punch holes in them and put them in a small binder or put rings through them to keep them all together.  Take your cards with you as you go about your day and pull them out when you have a minute of down time to think about them.

3. Be creative: If you’re an artistic person, try drawing out the verse in pictures to help it sink in.  Or, if you’re more musical, make it into a song.  I don’t know much sign language, but sometimes I will add hand motions when I teach my youngest child verses. Works for us big people, too. It helps me to really think about what the verse says.

4. Write it out: Try writing the verse or verses out a few times.  If the verse includes a list of things, write them as a list.  For example, you could write 1 Peter 2:9 this way:

“But you are

a chosen people

a holy nation

a people belonging to God

that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

I like words and grammar and such, so I like taking those long, complex sentences that the Apostle Paul writes and breaking them by phrases.

5. Think it over: What does the verse mean?  How does it apply to you?  The point isn’t to just say the right words, but to understand it and really know it.  Ask questions about it.  Say you’re working on Ephesians 1:3.  “Praise be to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  What does it really mean to be blessed?  Where are the heavenly realms?  What are some of the spiritual blessings the author is talking about?  What does it mean to be blessed “in Christ”?  Pray about things that don’t make sense and don’t be afraid to talk to someone else to help you understand a verse.

What about you? What helps you really absorb God’s word into your life?

Don’t Be A Wind Chaser

Tornado

 

“Our house is so small. If only we could move to a bigger one, then life would be better. I wish my car had a GPS, seat warmers and a DVD player for the kids. If I could find a way to make more money…” We always want more, don’t we? The Bible tells us that we should be satisfied with what we have. Unfortunately, contentment can be so elusive!

Always Wanting More

What’s the root of the problem? Why do we strive for more? Why do we long for that cell phone or those shoes or that car? We may not want to admit it, but somehow we think those things will make us happy. If I only had a bigger house, I’d be happy. If I only had nicer clothes or newer gadgets or more money or a nicer car, then I would be happy. How about food? That piece of chocolate cake or those dark chocolate M&Ms (my personal weakness) – those would really make me happy! If my husband was more understanding or more romantic or… It never works. The more we look longingly at what we don’t have, the less happy we are. We will always want something else and it will never satisfy us.

What Did Solomon Discover?

King Solomon discovered this experientially more than anyone who has ever lived. Ecclesiastes is a wonderful book of the Bible that is seldom discussed. Chapter 2, verses 1-11 talk about how Solomon set out to find happiness and purpose in life. He tried wine (vs. 3), he built houses, gardens and parks (vss. 4-6), and acquired wealth, singers and slaves (vs. 8). He also had all the women he could ever want (vs. 8). Verse 10 says, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.” Can you imagine getting everything you’ve ever wanted? I would have a new car, lots of high tech gadgets, a big house set off in the woods (complete with maid service and a great wifi connection), an in-house coffee barista, unlimited spending money and lots of chocolate. Would it make me happy? Solomon got everything he ever wanted. Did it work?

The very next verse says, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” His happiness didn’t seem to last very long. If we think a new flat screen TV will make us happy, we should look at Solomon and think again. He had everything he wanted and it still didn’t satisfy him for long.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 says, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?” Trying to make ourselves happy by getting more stuff is like eating junk food. It tastes good for a little while, but then it leaves you fat, crabby, and wanting more. God alone is the “bread of life” that truly satisfies and the “living water” that will never leave us thirsty. We can only find true happiness and purpose in life through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

So what’s the solution? Be happy with what you have and find joy in following God. “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.” Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

What does that look like? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be thankful for what you have. Perhaps a perspective change is in order. Spending some time visiting the poor or taking a missions trip to the slums of Mexico or India will definitely adjust your view of what you have.
  2. Find satisfaction in what you do every day. Brother Lawrence learned to worship God even while washing dishes. Invite God to walk with you throughout your day and add significance to your everyday, mundane tasks. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
  3. Look for ways to find renewed joy in what you already have. Try painting a room, rearranging the furniture or detailing the inside of your car. Sometimes a fresh look will help you appreciate it more.

There’s nothing wrong with a new car or a nice house or some chocolate every once in a while. God provides good things for us to enjoy. The problem is when we begin to look to those things to bring us happiness instead of looking to God. The Bible calls that idolatry. It’s dangerous ground to tread on.

Pray that God will give you His joy and happiness. According to 1 Timothy 6:6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Seeking anything more than satisfaction through Him will leave you dry and empty, like chasing after the wind.

What do you find yourself chasing after that never seems to satisfy?

Are You a Woman of Valor?

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I posted a little while back about how Jews view the Proverbs 31 woman. Here’s the link. I’ve been thinking more about how those verses look for us here today. I don’t personally make my own clothes, much less weave the cloth for them, nor do I even grow my own food. I’m sure some of you do those things, to varying degrees, but many don’t. What does it look like for moms today to be a Proverbs 31 woman? A woman of valor?

Here’s my paraphrase of what it might look like if it were written today to someone in our culture:

A woman of valor and strength – who can find one? She is worth far more than gold or diamonds. Her husband relies on her and trusts her. She helps him excel and succeed in life. She helps him and builds him up each and every day and doesn’t tear him down . She shops carefully and without complaint for the food and clothing her family needs. She looks for ways to make the most of her family’s finances, even finding ways to contribute to the family budget herself. She plans ahead for whatever the future may hold. She is willing to work hard and is wise in all she does. She is generous with the poor and needy. She is clothed in strength and dignity and she smiles at the future. She doesn’t fear the days to come because she knows she has done all she can to prepare her family. She is wise and kindly teaches others. She keeps herself busy. Her children and husband love her and trust her because she has created a healthy, happy home for them. Beauty doesn’t last very long, but a woman who fears God is worthy of praise. Let her reap what she has sown and receive the praise she deserves.

What do you do each day that earns you the title “Woman of Valor”? I rented a carpet cleaner and cleaned our carpets (that hadn’t been done in 13 years – ugh!). Woman of valor!

Did you change diapers that smelled like nothing you’d ever conceived of before? Woman of valor!

Did you hold a sick child until he fell asleep? Woman of valor!

Did you make dinner even though it was the last thing you wanted to do? Woman of valor!  

Clean the bathroom? Meal plan and shop for your family? Make lesson plans for the next semester of homeschool? Kiss your hubby? Choose kind words over harsh ones? 

Woman of valor!

 

Acts of Kindness

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Christmas is a time of giving gifts and showing kindness to others, but it’s so hard not to get caught up in the commercialism of the season. I find myself obsessed with myself, my kids and their gifts, and how I’m going to stay sane in the midst of Christmas parties and snow storms.

A friend of mine had an excellent idea for how to remind herself and her kids what Christmas is supposed to be about. She has been doing 12 days of random acts of kindness. I think this is the coolest idea! Here’s her list of what she’s been doing:

1. gave banana bread to the mailman

2. gave hot chocolate and cookies to the Salvation Army bell ringers

3. taped quarters to gum and candy machines at grocery store

4. bought coffee for the car behind me at Starbucks

5. mini garbage can filled with caramel corn for the garbage man

6. made chicken soup, bread and pie for sick friend and his family

7. spoil the kids day: clean all their rooms and have popcorn and Christmas movie after school

8. make cookies with a person you care about but don’t reach out to often

9. spoil the husband day: take him on a surprise date

10. be kind to yourself day: take a nap, get a pedicure, window shop, read a book. Rest.

11. spend the amount you would spend in a month on coffee and buy non perishables for a food pantry

12. wrap 5 bibles in Christmas wrap, write “you are loved” on them and slip them in random mailboxes in your neighborhood. God will lead you to the ones that need them!

I was inspired and left some cookies for my mail lady today. Any ideas to add to the list? What random acts of kindness can you do with your kids today?