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Saturday, November 29, 2014

You Can Lead a Horse to Water . . .

Photo by: Rosen Georgiev

The old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” applies very well to Christian ministry.

As a pastor’s wife, I have the opportunity to be familiar with the inner workings of the church—and to participate in discipling Christian women. My husband teaches Bible Institute classes, disciples, counsels, and encourages. He spends many hours with the men of our church, helping them understand how the Bible relates to their everyday lives. We have one-on-one Bible studies, and we also seek to encourage our little flock during the church services.

How does a Christian grow?

Well, first, he must be born again. Jesus said, Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (John 3:7).

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2). What kind of “milk” do baby Christians need? Look at the verse! It’s the milk of the Word—the Bible! In order to grow, the Bible is the most important element for growth.

It's important for new Christians to start loving the Word, to dig in and see what’s there. Some have difficulties beginning, because the Bible's an unknown book. They need help. That’s what older Christians can do: help new Christians become familiar with the Bible, learn where the books are, learn the basic doctrines. That’s what we mean by the word “discipling.”

The baby Christian reads and studies the Bible. He begins to memorize and meditate on the Word. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:9, 11).

His life changes, and his friends notice the huge difference. The Bible begins the work of sanctification in his life. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17).

Some baby Christians begin excited about their new lives and, for some reason, they start to cool off. I don’t know if it’s because of discouragement or laziness or another reason, but it often happens.

Sadly, some baby Christians grow very little in the Lord. They are saved, yes, but they’re floundering or even worse, backsliding. They refuse—maybe that’s too strong a word—to stay in the Word so they can grow. They’re spiritually malnourished, and they’re getting skinnier and skinnier. They become spiritually stunted.

How can you prevent spiritual malnutrition from happening to you?
  • Eat regular meals. Stay in the Bible. Heed what it says to your heart. Learn to chew slowly and enjoy each spiritual bite.
  • Keep a receptive attitude. What can you learn? What does the Bible say about God? What does the Bible say to you?
  • Be prepared to obey. Have I learned something that will change how I live? How can I apply this in a practical way? Do I need to put away a sinful habit? Do I need to change how I act towards others? Does the Bible give me direction for the next step?

How can you help new Christians?
  • Encourage them!
  • Share what you’re learning from the Word. Be friendly and loving.
  • Encourage them to be faithful to church services.
  • Be open to them about your own spiritual growth. (We’re all growing!)

You can’t make a horse drink, but you can lead him to water.

You can’t make a baby Christian grow in the Lord, but you can encourage him to get into his Bible for himself.

Let’s encourage someone today!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Because . . . Four Reasons

Photo by: Evgeny Dinev

At Thanksgiving, we are naturally looking for things to be grateful for. (Isn’t that crazy in itself? As if we needed to look for them!) We’re more conscious of our family blessings—parents, children, grandchildren, grandparents, and extended family. We think about our material blessings—shelter, food, clothing, and transportation. We might even have in mind spiritual blessings—salvation, the Bible, the Spirit’s working in our lives, growth over the last year, our church family, and our pastor’s leadership.

I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving “backwards.” It’s about the blessings we have because of God Himself. Let me share some of this backwards Thanksgiving thinking with you.

1. Creation—From Genesis 1:1 on, the Bible proclaims the fact that God created the earth and everything on it. He made the stars, sun, and moon and hung them in space. He made plants, animals, fish, and birds. Everything was created because God would make a man and a woman and put them on the earth.

God planned all of creation for the benefit of the human race. Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded (Isaiah 45:11-12).

God planned every human being, too. The psalmist David said, I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works (Psalm 139:14a).

Did you know that the whole creation gives God praise? Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted (Isaiah 49:13). The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12b).

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD (Psalm 150:6).

2. Everything is God’s—The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).

Since everything in the world already belongs to God, we are only borrowing or using what is His. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7) The truth is, we don’t have anything that’s not a gift from God. And, anything we own is really God’s too. When we use what we have—money, talent, goods—we’re using something God has entrusted to our use . . . which leads us to the next reason to be thankful:

3. We are stewards—Stewardship means taking care of something that belongs to another. Since everything is God’s, anything we touch, anything we work with, anything we enjoy is His. From the first man, Adam, God gave people the responsibility to wisely take care of the earth, to manage it well, and to work hard. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:26-28).

God wants us to be faithful, too. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). The word required used here means “sought for, expected.” God expects, is looking for us to be faithful. What a privilege! We get to collaborate with God in His work!

4. We get to let God use us—This is perhaps one of the most humbling facts of the Christian life: that God would use people. Why in the world would our infinite, all-powerful God choose to use lousy, good-for-nothing sinners like us? I don’t know, unless it’s another outpouring of His mercy. One of my favorite passages on this topic is this one: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:27-31).

Don’t you love how that passage ends? He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. That’s the message of Thanksgiving.

It’s not about us being thankful. It’s about God being great!

Let’s worship Him.

While I live will I praise the LORD:
I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

(Psalm 146:2)

Friday, November 21, 2014

When God is Silent . . . Is He?

Photo by: Evgeny Dinev

We’ve all been there. We pray, and we feel like there’s no one listening. We feel like there’s a copper ceiling a few feet above us, and we’re not getting through. We feel like God might not care about this little person down here, praying.

I read a quote that was found on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany, written during the Holocaust:

“I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Is God silent? Or do we only perceive so?

God hears a sinner who prays to God with a humble heart attitude.
  • Cornelius was a devout man who wanted to please God, yet he wasn’t saved. Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God (Acts 10:31).
  • When Saul was on the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him. Saul responded, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do (Acts 9:5-6).
  • The publican (tax collector) had a humble spirit before God. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted Luke 18:13-14).
  • For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).
  • The LORD is nigh (near) unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18).

God hears our prayers, and He answers them. We might think He’s silent when the answer is no instead of yes, or if the answer is wait. But, God does answer each prayer—in His time and in His will.

Is God ever silent?

I don’t think so, and this is why: 
  1. We always have God’s Word (the Bible). It is a living Book. For the word of God is quick (living), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12) It speaks to us. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It’s eternal. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35). For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89).
  2. God desires a relationship with us. He wants us to share with Him (prayer) and He with us (Bible). But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 9:24). Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20).
  3. God loves us. When there’s perfect love—like God’s love—there’s no “silent treatment.” He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14:21).

We have the full revelation of God in His Holy Word, the Bible. What a blessing that at any time we can hear God’s voice!

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, 
and a light unto my path.
(Psalm 119:105)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Do's and Don'ts or Grace?

Illustration by: 89studio

Where's the balance between grace and legalism?

The word grace is a biblical concept that speaks of God’s actions and favor toward undeserving people. Grace encompasses salvation (Jesus dying for sin and rising again). It speaks of provision and blessing.

Does grace cover every failing, every mistake, every sin?

Or, is God interested in His people following a list of do’s and don’ts? Is there such a list? If we need to do certain things in order to be “good Christians,” what happens if we mess up--when we mess up? Is that when grace kicks in?

When Jesus died for sin, He died for all the sins of the world. And he is the propitiation (payment) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). This means that any person can be saved and that Christ’s payment was sufficient.

When a soul calls out to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, he's forgiven, the Holy Spirit indwells him, and the Spirit begins the work of sanctification--transforming him to the image of Christ. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

God is working in this process of grace, helping us to grow day by day. Part of this work is His, and part depends on us. Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Jesus said, If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15). 

So, what about the supposed “list” and the grace of God in our lives? Are they compatible? Do we need a “list” at all?

Yes . . . and no.

God has given us clear guidelines for faith and practice: 
  • The Ten Commandments, God’s moral law. (Exodus 20:3-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21)
  • The new commandment in Christ: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34).
  • Sound biblical doctrine 
  • Church policies as outlined in the New Testament

Jesus warned against “Phariseeism,” looking at works more than on heart attitude. He told the parable about the Pharisee and the publican to illustrate that idea. (Luke 18:10-14). 

The believer’s works back up his profession of faith in Jesus. Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:17-20).

We demonstrate our faith by our works.

We are not “better Christians” because we do everything on a list. We are not “worse Christians” if we have a different list. 

But . . . 

We are better Christians if we strive to follow the Bible and try to obey what we know the Bible commands. We are better Christians if we’re actively in the process of transforming our minds through the Word of God. We are better Christians if we’re praying without ceasing. We get to know God better as we learn more about Him and communicate more with Him. As our relationship with God becomes more intimate, we grow spiritually. When we feed ourselves on the Bible, we grow spiritually. When our actions add up with our profession, we are living as God wants us to.

What does the Bible say? Jesus said we’re to keep His commandments. So did the Apostle John, For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3).

We’re accountable to God for what we do. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36). So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12). Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Lists of do’s and don’ts aren’t helpful. Many times, they include traditions and preferences instead of biblical commands. Here are a few examples: eating organic, grinding your own flour, abstaining from caffeine, rearing children a certain prescribed way, homeschooling, specific styles for modesty, not cutting women’s hair . . . . The “list” goes on and on! (You have Christian liberty to choose how you want to live and eat. These things are all fine, but they’re not specifically prescribed by the Bible.)

The Word of God is our guidebook. The Bible will teach you each day. For the word of God is quick (living), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). It’s a living Book!

Throw away the “list,” and get into the Bible! When your heart desires to please God, your life will show it. 

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, 
and that seek him with the whole heart.
  They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 
(Psalm 119:1-6)

 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, 
and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, 
but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
 (James 1:25)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Wonders of the Mute Button

Photo by: Ambro

Robert Adler and Eugene Polley, engineers with Zenith Electronics Corporation jointly invented the television remote control, complete with a mute button.1 We owe them our gratitude! In our house, we really use our mute button. We mute obnoxious ads, rock and discordant music, and unpleasant news that we don’t care to hear. We mute so often that our son-in-law teases us that we must lip-read!

Did you ever want a mute button to use on people? Oh, I have! Blah, blah, blah, blah or worse: gossip, or its relative, negativity.

Long ago, we were flying across the ocean, and a woman behind us was speaking very loudly with a strident voice. She told the person next to her—and the whole plane—everything about her children. I mean everything—too much information. She talked about her marriage, about her husband and his job, and about the trip she was taking. The 100 decibel talk went on and on and so very loudly that anyone who understood English would have gotten the low-down on every single detail of their lives. Her children were with her and running all over the plane. She would take a breath to call their names. One was “Mary Belle.”2 (We’ll never forget!) I rejoiced that this woman finally got quiet (for a little while) when they put the movie on. Whew! What I would have done for a remote control for her, back then!

“Did you know that so-and-so did such and such?” “No, and please don’t tell me about it.” Gossip. It doesn’t help the subject, the teller, or the listener. It’s a lose, lose, losing situation. Wouldn’t it be great to have a zapper for gossips? Press the mute, and they can’t say a thing! Terrific! I wish I could get one for Christmas!

Since we can’t mute people, second best is to tell the person spreading gossip that you don’t want to hear it, thank you. If you’ve already heard a juicy detail, don’t spread the rumor. When people say negative things about others, it reflects on the teller’s character. Not good! Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell (James 3:5-6).

It’s great to live by the Golden Rule: Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them (Matthew 7:12a). How do you want to be talked about? That’s the way to talk about others—if you need to at all.

Much of what people comment on is none of their business in the first place! Do you need to voice an opinion on the subject? Probably not. Is it someone else’s business? You don’t need to comment. Were you asked to express an opinion? If so, in answering, will you be helping someone? If not, it’s better not to respond or to respond in a very general manner so as not to really say anything.

Negativity. “How are you, Mrs. Smith?” “Oh, my arthritis is killing me. My back has never been worse. My kidneys are acting up, and I could swear I have carpal tunnel in my right hand. Awful, just awful.” Sorry you asked.

The negative person might be a complainer like my fictional Mrs. Smith, or she may be someone who finds the dark side of every issue. Everyone is against her. Every happening is a conspiracy. Every detail of her day is bad news. Poor her!

I think it’s interesting to contrast the negative person with someone filled with the Spirit. The Christian who is walking with the Lord is full of praise. His situation might be the pits, but he is joyful. The Apostle Paul is a great example. He was in prison, deprived of comforts, yet his soul was rejoicing in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:4, 6, 11).

Did you know the Bible speaks of a “mute button” for our mouths? For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile (1 Peter 3:10).

Need some “batteries” in your remote? Get Divine help. Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).

And, what should we speak about? And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11).

  1. Associated Press, February 17, 2007, obituary of Robert Adler.
  2. Not her real name, to protect the child.

Friday, November 14, 2014

When We Cry Out, God Hears

Photo by: stockimages

Psalm 34 is one of my favorites. It was written after David acted like he was crazy in front of King Abimelech (also called Achish, King of Gath). David was thrown out of the king's court, and it saved his life. (1 Samuel 21:10-15)

As we know, David was a man who walked closely with God. This is what David says when he was in danger for his life: I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears (verse 4). 

He sought God. The word sought means “seeking or enquiring.” David was going to the Lord in prayer! 

Notice what God did for David:
  1. God heard him.
  2. God delivered him.
God’s same response is repeated in verses 6, 17, and 18:
6. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
17. The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

I would imagine that not many of my blog readers are in danger for their lives, as David was. I would also imagine that everyone has some kind of a need for God to act on his/her behalf.

God hears when we call. He saves and delivers.

Our very first call should be to God for salvation. Knowing we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), we know we need a Savior. The Bible says that the Son of man (Jesus) is come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11). When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price of our sins. We have only to call out to Him for salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

We can’t work our way to salvation. It doesn’t depend on us. It’s by God’s grace when we put our faith (trust) in Jesus Christ to save us. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

God saves His own children. In Psalm 34, we also find this encouraging verse: The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate (verse 22).

Here are some more uplifting verses from Psalm 34:
  • The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them (7).
  • O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him (8).
  • O fear (respect) the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him (9).
  • The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing (10).
  • The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry (15).
  • Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all (19).

God is interested in our problems. He wants us to share them with Him in prayer, and He will meet our needs.

Praise Him!

O magnify the LORD with me, 
and let us exalt his name together. 
(Psalm 34:3)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Perfect Family?

Photo by: photostock

As you know, our children are grown and away from home. They are wonderful (their mother speaking, you understand), and they married great people. They are both serving the Lord. Since they grew up, I’ve heard through the grapevine that some people think we must have been perfect parents, and that our kids are perfect.

Pardon me while I die laughing!

Nothing could be further from the truth!

I personally made enough parenting mistakes to fill a fat dictionary—in small print. My husband made fewer mistakes than I did, but he made some, too. We were parents who relied on common sense and the grace of God. We prayed a lot, laughed a lot, rolled our eyes, cried, and sighed a lot.  

We did the best we could. We gave it our best shot with the poor maturity we had. We did our best to invest our lives in our kids. We tried to teach them the Bible and good values. We answered their questions—and they had lots of them! We loved on them. We fed them nutritious food. We encouraged them to learn and to work. We did special activities with them—like taking them camping in Europe, in the rain (so many times!) to see educational sites like castles, Normandy, and the Alhambra. Our children helped us in the church ministry and evangelism from the time they were very small. We homeschooled, enabled them to take music lessons and learn French, and we tried to make sure they could develop their many interests, be with friends, and enjoy life—while being protected by Mama and Daddy.

My husband and I enjoyed every stage of their growing up. They were not perfect kids, and we were not perfect parents, but we were/are a happy, close family.


There are no perfect parents.

Parents are two people who have children. Being a “people” means being imperfect—a sinner. Two sinners bringing up little sinners. (Kids aren’t perfect, either!)

Parents make huge mistakes, all the time. Parents can be good; it’s true. But, I have yet to meet one that came anywhere close to perfect.

Every parent needs help.

The good news is that help’s available.

Let me share some encouraging parenting verses from the Bible:

  • The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). Respect for God is the primary thing. That alone will help you to begin to be wise and understanding.
  • If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering (James 1:5-6a). When you need help, pray. Go to God and ask Him to guide you.
  • Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we don’t understand, we can lean on the Lord. He will make our path straight!
  • And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7) What are you supposed to teach your kids? It all starts with you. When you love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, then you can teach your children God’s commandments. How? Well, it’s an all-day process. You talk about what God wants in the morning, at home, walking along, and in the evening. You pour your own love and respect for the Lord into your children.

What’s the child’s part?

  • One of the Ten Commandments says, Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee (Exodus 20:12).
  • They’re also to obey. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth (Ephesians 6:1-3).
  • My kids knew these verses well: My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck (Proverbs 1:8-9).
  • This is our goal: Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old. Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice (Proverbs 23:22-25). That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace (Psalm 144:12).

I truly believe that God fits children to their parents and parents to their children. Our kids aren’t always what we might have dreamed up for ourselves, but God gives them to us for a reason.

I learned as much from my children as they did from me—if not more! I believe our very strong-willed child taught me much about rearing children and loving them as they are. I believe my husband and I learned as we went, and we’ve also learned a lot since the kids grew up. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have children when you have the energy of a twenty-year-old and the wisdom of a person in his fifties? It doesn’t happen that way; God wants us to rely on Him.)

Which brings me to my conclusion: there are no anything-near-perfect parents.

Christian parents must rely on the Lord every single day for training their non-perfect kids.

If children turn out well, it’s due to God’s work in their hearts and their willingness to obey Him. If a child turns out badly, it’s because the child rebelled against God—but there’s always hope for him to humble himself and change with God’s help.

Parents cannot take credit for anything except trying the best they could. Period. (Neither should we say, “You are such good parents” or “It’s your fault Joey’s a drug addict.” Parents are responsible before God to do the best they can to obey Him as they rear their children. But ultimately, how a child turns out is due to his own decisions, good and bad. Has he trusted Christ? Does he walk with the Lord? Does he obey the Bible? He has to choose.)

Perfect parents? Perfect children? Perfect family?

I’m rolling on the floor laughing! (Now, if I could only get up!)

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thanksgiving, Missionary Style

Illustration by: debspoons

Thanksgiving isn’t even a holiday in Spain, of course. It’s just another day. Work, school, play. No special foods, no giving of thanks, no special emphasis, and certainly no fall decorations.

Thanksgiving for your missionary (anywhere) requires big-time effort. 
  • I've never seen cranberry anything in Spain.
  • Turkeys aren’t sold until the following week--for Christmas.
  • No sweet potatoes, either.
  • No pecans, for sure.
  • Pumpkin, yes thankfully, whole. We bake it and puree it ourselves. They're the best pumpkin pies ever!
  • No Crisco shortening. We use real butter for pie crusts. 

Sometimes, we get together with other missionaries for a big, traditional feast. Each person makes something delicious, and for one day, we’re Americans again.

Sometimes, the missionary is all alone, in his home. Sometimes the children are in school. The homeschooling missionary family takes the day off, teaches the children about Pilgrims and Squanto and Jamestown and uses the unique foods as an educational opportunity.

You see, here, a meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and whatever you add to them is extremely strange . . . especially the pumpkin pies! Our kids only see those things when Mama makes them. Spiced cider? No, thank you. Pumpkin spice anything . . . hmmm, let me think about it first.

While Mom and Dad are chowing down on the rarest delicacies (including the prized cranberry sauce, brought overseas in valuable suitcase space for just such an occasion), the children sit wide-eyed, wondering why such fuss. After all, the neighbors . . . .

We try to have a real Thanksgiving on the foreign field. It’s fun, and we laugh and enjoy our time with family and friends. But, let’s face it: it’s foreign. Only ex-pats and missionaries will understand how important it is to us. Only they will understand the gratitude. Only they will understand our heritage. 

Thanksgiving for the missionary is maybe even more special. 

It also rips our hearts out. 

Our families are all together--without us. They are having a crazy time around the table with enough food to feed a small army, while we tried to make a chicken look like a turkey and served it with our hoarded can of cranberry sauce. They probably miss us, but they got used to it--twenty years ago. How we’d love to hug our parents, siblings, children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren (including a new one), and grandnephew! How we’d love to be included in the family photo, crammed around the table with all the others!

We can’t be there, and at Thanksgiving time, we celebrate our blessings from afar. We do our best to make it a happy, special day for our little family here, and we are truly thankful that we made this choice, this sacrifice.

Because it’s for Jesus. 

This life we chose is because we wanted to serve. We wanted to make a difference for eternity where we are. We want others to know Jesus as Savior. That’s more important than anything.

Even though our native holidays cannot be the same, we make an effort every year, because it’s important to set aside a day for Thanksgiving.

Your missionaries thank God for:
  • Their families, many miles away.
  • Technology (Skype, FaceTime, etc.) that helps them feel closer to their loved ones.
  • The churches that support them, without which they couldn’t be where they are, doing God’s work.
  • Their home country, wherever they’re from.
  • The young churches on the field and new believers.
  • Faithful Christians.
  • The Holy Spirit’s working in their own hearts.
  • Material blessings (including the hoarded can of cranberry sauce).
  • Thanksgiving Day itself--a day set aside for reflection, for a special meal, and for thanking God for blessings, including our unique mission field.

 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. 
O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. 
(Psalm 30:12)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fiction Reviews: The Vengeance Squad Goes to England, Murder at the Art and Craft Fair

Photo by: samuiblue

The Vengeance Squad Goes to England by Sidney W. Frost is an entertaining adventure. The Vengeance Squad is a group of friends that got together on their first task together in Sidney Frost’s first book by that title. In this sequel, the Vengeance Squad is the same, but the goal is to capture a criminal, not exactly wreak vengeance. 

Normally happy and hugging Liz is depressed. She realizes her boyfriend Virgil isn’t what he seemed. She believes he has somehow made off with the funds put aside to buy a new bookmobile. Many thousands of dollars are missing. There are quite a few hilarious adventures, including one with a homemade drone and surveillance gone wrong. Over the course of the book, the entire Vengeance Squad ends up in London, England.

There are several fun threads: Chris’s romance with Angela and his photographic memory, Angela being a spy, Tex and his wife, disguises, and chasing down the thief with a very conspicuous bookmobile.

There are a few things I don’t endorse: one of the women is a fitness competitor and Christians drink wine.

Otherwise, it’s a fun, light read. Personally, I liked The Vengeance Squad (first book in the series) better, but there’s nothing wrong with this one. It’s the kind of book that’s just plain fun.

Murder at the Art and Craft Fair by Steve Demaree is delightfully different. It’s the style! It’s so quirky and funny that it had me laughing out loud throughout. The narrator, Cy, is a retired police detective. He’s well over fifty and retired--except when he’s needed on a case. His best friend, Lou, is also over fifty. Both are overweight bachelors (Cy’s a widower), avid readers, and have girlfriends who feature throughout the book. 

The way Cy and Lou relate to each other makes the book, in my opinion. Their friendly joshing and silly dialogues are delightful. The murder plot doesn’t begin right away, but the fun surely does. The bachelors are roped into going to an art and craft fair--a place they would only go for a few minutes, if they had their choice. They end up enjoying it and buying way too much. By Saturday night, someone is dead, and they go to work.

Cy and Lou spend a whole night together in an outhouse, Cy’s car is towed away, and they end up eating food they shouldn’t while working on the mystery. Who killed Thomas Kincaid? Why? Plenty of people were mad at him, but none of their motives seem serious enough for murder.  

Of course, in the end, the murderer is revealed and locked up, and peace returns. 

I loved the style of this book because it’s so funny. You can hardly believe some of the narrator's statements. Hilarious! Then, there’s the humor of the two older detectives together. Their girlfriends are ditzy and not developed, which is fine. The couples kiss a lot, which I also found humorous in a book about people my age. But, this is no heavy breathing book, and I didn’t find all the lip contact too distracting (though it’s not my own idea of how to date maturely). This isn’t a page turner. It goes slowly and deliberately, but for once, I didn’t mind. All told, I will be reading more of Steve Demaree’s books when I need a chuckle--or two or three. Five stars.