Monday, November 28, 2011

Lessons on Friendship

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I had a best friend through high school. We spent all our time together. It was an unhealthy relationship I now see because it was exclusive. We hang out with others some but spent most of our time consumed with ourselves and making fun of others. But we were tight. I was secure with her.

Then I started to make some other friends because classes kept us apart. I see it as a God thing now. He was protecting us from co-dependency what is so easy to fall into as a female. I made some good friends but my best friend stayed the same. I then found a boyfriend and that even took us further apart however we were still close. I thought. It was very difficult on her to see me get married. I was not going to let it change our friendship though. It was a hard time. As I made other friends as well she resisted this mostly as I could tell. I did not understand. I was not sure if I was betraying a friend in having other friends. I did not understand friendship.

Then as time went on she got married. Things were good. We had more in common both being married. But then I decided to have children. Though she loved my children it brought distance. She was not interested in children. And then our friendship ended. Circumstantially we lost touch. Our lives took different directions. This left a void in my life.

Facebook has been a good way to reconnect with other friends I had the opportunity to make in high school. I had such good times with them. I am so thankful for that. I am thankful I did not stay exclusive with one friend. So my concept of friendship seems more open. Yet I realize not everyone you think will be there for you when you need them. That is what kind of surprises you. But when trials come you get to see who really will be there for you. Who truly sticks close to you in friendship.

I am so thankful for those people who I know faithfully pray for me, leave me a kind word, text me, call me, bring me a meal, send me a card, drive me places, or clean my house. These are the people that can be counted on and can be called friend. All who serve in their different ways. They are the ones who are there and who intentionally care. I guess that is what friendship is. I am still trying to figure it out.

I do see examples though through the Bible like, Naomi and Ruth. Though the Bible does not specifically say it I bet Naomi played a big part in Ruth's life before Ruth served her so in her hard times. I see this clearly in some friends. Like Naomi I have thrown my pity parties and have had friends watch and pray and stick by me still. They are not afraid of my mess. They love me deeper still. That is real friend ship.

Or I also see the example of Mary and Elizabeth. How they were both going through the same thing bringing children in extreme circumstances in the world. A common goal. Learning from and encouraging one another. I see this in my special needs friends. We spur one another on in these special and sometimes extreme circumstances.

Then I see Jonathan and David. These are covenant friends who are there for the distance. These are the friends who are REALLY there. They will go the distance. They are the few, the proud, the marines of friends God provides. I mean the kind who are there for you when your father is trying to kill your bestie you warn them. That is true lasting friendship. These are the people who would take my kids into their homes when I am no longer around because of our deep and lasting friendship. I have a few of these. I can see. Through trials and time and distance you can see these are really true friends who really stick. A blessing indeed.

On Facebook we have many "friends" but who of those really care about you? Who are intentional? And if you do do you let them know? Otherwise it does not matter anyway. People need to know they are cared about. Don't save it for the funeral. Love deeply and love well. We do such a poor job with this. Let people know. Time is short. We do not have forever.

Any thoughts? I really want to understand friendship better. I am curious as to what it looks like to you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Life in the Kingdom - Part 8

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The princess had been in an ordeal! She felt as if she lost her mind. Literally speaking yet she still had it. Several she knew were chosen to go and live with the King in His palace where no pain or suffering was left. Oh how she yearned to be one of them. She was so jealous. She wanted to be in that place. But it was not her time. So she was left in her suffering, much of the time feeling all alone.

She learned many people do not like to approach suffering. She understood. She was not present all too often. She was driven out of the camp after all she was unclean. She could hardly walk. She was barely in her right mind. How or why would anyone want to be around her? But she craved the community. She wondered where were they?

However the Son of the King came and when He came He abolished the need for others to stay away from suffering of others. In fact He taught others to enter into it. No longer did others have to be cast away from the camp. There was no longer anyone deemed unclean if they were in HIM. Yet so many did not yet believe this. I guess that was the problem. She wondered how did she communicate this? How would people know?

Then the King came to her. She fell to her face. How in the world would the King come to a lowly, unclean, cast out peasant. She was so unworthy. So sinful. Yet He gently lifted her head. He took her chin and lifted it up until their eyes met. Immediately tears filled her eyes. Why was He with her?

He had some things to tell her. Some things she needed to know. Some things that can be said and others that are far too intimate. It would not help you to know because this King is a personal God. He has things to show each of His but they are personal. They speak to the heart of those who are HIS. No one else can understand those kind of intimate things. However, the things He shared that are open are below.

First He told her, "My dear precious child, do not forget ever who you are. You are my child which makes you a princess. You are part of the royal court and no one can ever cast you out. You are completely secure in me. You bare my Name and you are My representative to the world."

But she barely uttered, "oh King, I am so weak. I am unclean. How can I be any of this? I will only fail you. I am afraid."

He replied gently and firmly, "My child I have chosen you before the beginning of time to be Mine. I have a perfect plan. Your life and your circumstances are not a mistake. All things are part of making you more beautiful than you already are. I am making you more like me."

He went on in His unexplainable kindness like none she has ever experienced, "You see you started out a very prideful and independent girl. Not uncommon to those who live in your land. They think they can do things for themselves. They get a thrill out of it. They are too arrogant to accept help. They are strong and they despise weakness. You were trudging down that path. I watched. I was at a distance because I oppose the proud yet I still loved you. Something had to be done. As I wooed you and you responded I answered your prayer to do whatever I had to to make you a reflection of me. It is still in process. I heard you ask to completely kill who you were yet your personality and your make up is who I created you to be, I am not looking for a robot. I created you with a wonderfully complex make up that is part of this plan in time and history. But I will continue to sand and burn off the impurities of you until my reflection is completed."

She was stunned, "How can you let someone hurt like that and remain so alone?"

"My child, I have never left you. I am near the broken hearted. I live with the lowly in spirit. You just have to open your eyes to really see me. I never let the fire get too hot for you to bare. Never. You have to trust this. You have a special place in this suffering. You will really never know the deep affects of it are more far reaching than you can understand. You must just trust This my child is the place of true and deep love that is mature."

Sadly she said, "Will I ever be able to re enter community?"

"Yes that is my plan for you. You are clean in Him. The kingdom you belong to is to minister to you as you have ministered to it. The problem is that often times people get too busy and lose that others focus. They forget others need things especially those in your particular situation. Uncleanliness in their eyes is too messy and they like to not be reminded of it. Remember how people pride themselves on being strong and taking one look at you makes them think of things being of the contrary. So rejoin. Work in the strength I will give you. Love well. Remember Judas was appointed to the twelve with Jesus and he was not of the kingdom. So it is in your kingdom. The wheat and weeds grow together. You will not know all the time who is who but you still must just love. I have given you a gift. You can now see needs that others would not. Your eyes have now been opened. Go love well, be my representative. Reflect me well. Love out of the love that you receive from me."

Still a bit confused she replied, "But how? How have my eyes been open? How have I been given a gift?"

He continued, "I am in control of all things. I have allowed you a constant weakness that no one can really see but me. I know your constant sacrifice in all things that you do. I see this. I take note. Others will not appreciate it. They cannot see. I will strengthen you to do the things I have prepared in advance for you. But you must only do those things. Your strength is limited and can only be drawn on me. In this weakness you get to personally see my power at work in an intimate way. Most miss this. You have compassion you lacked so long ago. You love stronger and better. You have passion for the weak. That is what I want from my children. Help others see. I will open eyes. Keep doing as I lead you. You are my chosen instrument.

You have been given the gift of a disabled child. Again, in a way no one else can understand or see clearly. But it gives you and your family a great compassion for others in similar situations. It helps you know how to pray and serve them. Even in your little strength you can educate others who are strong to do it. I have given you another child another gift with other issues. She is a gifted child, alot like you, again one that many cannot understand. These two together though their thinking and brains are completely different will make them into better people. It is not a mistake. You just do as I say and trust."

About to burst she blurted, "Oh but dear Father, I can barely stand it, why must I stay here. Why can I not come with you?"

Patiently He spoke, "You must stay to serve. I have given you a task to speak on behalf of those who are weak. Represent me well to them. Help them see me in it. Help them know they are chosen for a hard but beautiful task. Greater things are accomplished through it. Help them know to be patient because all will reveal itself in due time. I will come back for you. There is a time but it is not now. Keep your eyes on me child. Rejoin your community and live in your weakness. I will help you. I delight in you and love you. Don't give up. I will never leave or forsake you. You are my child. Go. Do what I have said. Trust."

After that and many other words were exchanged the King left. And off the princess left stronger than before in Him. Thus thwarting the plan the enemy had as he lurked hoping to use these things to destroy what belonged to the King. Now though as she went she was not well in physical body but much better in spirit for He was with her always. She headed in. They welcomed her though they did not understand. She loved still and served them. They did in return for this is covenant relationship. This is what community is to look like. Not perfect but intentional. They learned this together even with weeds among them. The weeds too had their purpose. Yet whatever happens covenant sticks together. Kingdom life is messy but is necessary. It is what the King desires for us and what makes us more like Him. This can only be accomplished together.

Friday, November 25, 2011

James Week 7 - Walk It Out

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This is a great song a bit more alternative but about keeping our mouths shut.

"Hey I want you to meet my Sunday School Teacher", she said. Those words always make me feel weird. I am what she says I am but now that person will look at me differently. Do I want that?

I often shudder when I hear or read these opening verses of James 3, "Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1). Believe me I take this so seriously. When I teach you or write these studies it is a serious thing. It is not something that someone should just wake up one day and decide hmmm maybe I will teach the Bible. :) No instead it has to be something done in great faith knowing that God has given you the gift of teaching through His Spirit.

We all are given gifts to serve one another in. This one is one given me so I take it seriously in fear and trembling like we should whatever gift it is that has been given us by HIM. We do what we do to serve Him well. Not for show or to get rich and famous and sadly at that time many people were rising up to do that very thing. They were receiving glory not God. They wanted the glory for themselves. It can be a strong temptation for a teacher because often you are given an audience but a teacher must remember they are a mere servant and representative for God. That is all. God is the one who gets the glory.

Unfortunately today we see a lot of the same things with teachers. You must be careful that whoever you listen too they are teaching the true and full gospel of Christ. Otherwise they can lead you astray. When you are given influence there is a reason to take it seriously. Here the verse says there will be a stricter judgment. Commentaries reference Luke 12:48 here, "But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required."  It is a good parable to take the time to read in context however basically it states you are accountable for what you know. This is not an excuse to be lazy and stop learning either. Those issues are addressed as well throughout Scripture. However, God opens our eyes to things and when He does we are accountable to how we handle those. We must take this seriously.

Now, this first verse is a great lead in to the rest of the chapter because it addresses the tongue. Read James 3:2-12 Even if you are not a teacher you have been given influence with someone. Especially our families. How we speak to others has great impact on them. We must pay close attention to our words.

The next verse says we are perfect if we never stumble in what we say. This is the third time that word perfect is used. Again it means we are whole, and complete. Suffering aids in this process of making us perfect, God's gifts are addressed as perfect, and God's law is addressed as perfect all from James 1. Now we see it again in the context of if we do not stumble in speech we are perfect. I think we all know that this is an impossibility. We say things that are wrong or mean. We are people who do not love well. We do not use words well. We must own up to this. Otherwise if we can control our tongue then we can control everything else about us. No more sin. Interesting isn't it? Maybe it is because Scripture tells us what comes out of our mouth is a direct reflection of what is in our hearts (Luke 6:45). When something is in our heart then it is part of us. The things in our hearts are our beliefs.

v. 3 Says we can control a large horse with a small bit.
v. 4 says we can control a large ship with a small rudder even in strong winds.
v.5 says The tongue is compared to these things. It is a small thing that controls big things by making big speeches.
v.5b-6 speaks of the tongue being like a small spark that can set a forest on fire the tongue is similar. Words do hurt, long after they are spoken. We create tapes in our heads that will replay over and over like on a tape recorder if we let them. It is not true that words do not hurt. They do hurt.

Proverbs 16:24 states, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Proverbs 18:21 states, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

Based on these verses and what we have learned so far have you rightly understood the power of your words? Yes or No? Explain.

How can you improve your use of words? Another key I have learned is your tone of voice. It makes a great difference as well in addressing others. Again, do you really make time for people? Do you really listen? Do you really respond with kindness and love? How can you improve? We all can improve.

The Scriptures go on to state this because they state every kind of creature can be tamed by mankind but no man can tame the tongue. WOW! Can you imagine that? Think of being at Seaworld seeing those killer whales and how they are tamed by men yet we cannot even tame the very thing that we live with daily. In verse 7 it states about the tongue that, "It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison."

Verses 8-12 goes on to state why the tongue is a deadly poison. It states, "Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!"  Then it goes on to compare things that cannot be both.

How have you done this? Have you cursed someone and praised God out of the same mouth? Maybe even a moment after another? I have done this. I know I have come back from having a wonderful praise time in my car all alone then when I arrive home I have just yelled at my kids for something they have done. This should not be. Give an example of this in your own life.

This is all for now. It is a lot to think about. We must take it to heart. Proverbs 4:23 states, "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." How are you doing this? So my prayer for us this week is, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Fine Line - I Chose Him

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There is a fine line that appears at times in our lives. It is a time of decision. It is a time that can have drastic results. We are all prone to wander as the old hymn states. We know when and we can indeed feel it. Unfortunately many of us are not willing to honestly live being aware of this. We like things comfortable (which is an idol). However, we must be evaluating our hearts. The Bible calls this guarding them.

What road do I take? The question lies in front of us more than we may think. There are simple everyday choices that can easily lead us astray. But when we are more vulnerable these choices can be more drastic. It is a temptation to chose something in our lives that makes us comfortable, approved, or in control yet steer us away from God. These decisions are based on love for something. Either love for idols or love for HIM. We chose one thing or the other.

Today was a really hard day. The air touching my skin hurt. Can you imagine the very air the Creator made to give us life hurting you? Then the rain came down and it felt like knives cutting my skin. Can you even wrap your mind around what that would feel like? Then I had to get two teeth filled with cavities. One of them would not numb. Flat out not receiving the message to numb. There is so much pain in life that at times I want to numb out. I know that is why people get into drugs, alcohol, affairs, overeating, or whatever your choice sin may be. It is much easier to take the painful things of life while numbed out. I would never say I am above falling at anytime. I am a mere human and weak. I could easily fall. However one thing keeps me above water and it is HIS love for me.

My tooth would not numb out and that is what I want for my life. I want to be present. I got three shots then some harder core med that is not used unless they are desperate and through all of that I could still feel it. I had to endure the very present pain. Yet they looked and there was no seen explanation for it. Well, I know it is because my body is weird right now and there is no telling what Lyme can do. It is sad when the specialists have no idea. Honestly I am tired of dealing with all the complications that come with these health challenges. It is hard to live and do what is required and be like this. A time that would be easier numb.

On my drive home I battled very scary thoughts that would end my pain, at least temporary. Desperate times can be dark and scary. Thoughts kept running through my head about things I could run too.

However, He was ever present. He was there,He is not afraid of my pain, my raw honesty. He is near the broken. He brought my thoughts back to HIM and no matter what He will get me through this present trial. So my choice, I chose HIM. What keeps me from running to sin? My love for HIM. My love for Him comes because I know His great love for me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

James Week 6 - Walk It Out

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"Let's pack our lunches and go to the park to eat." I said as we got ready to go to meet our friend. At the last minute our friend called us to cancel but there was no need for us to cancel. We left with an extra lunch in tow. As we journeyed on our way we noticed a dirty man with a sign. As we got closer it read will work for food. We walked to the other side of the street to gracefully avoid him and kept our extra lunch for ourselves, after all he was probably a lazy bum.

What do you think when you read that story? Does it upset you? If you have been with us so far you will know this is crazy right? First we are being judgmental which we learned last week was not right. This is a human being who has a story. Who is a creation of God. But this next section that goes til the end of Chapter two talks of faith and works. If we have extra to give someone and with hold it that is sin. So let's dig in and read the Scripture for ourselves. Read James 2:14-26.



Focusing on verses 14-20
As my story above states, that is how James opens except his is better because it is the inspired word of God. It is ridiculous to say you are a believer but not live like it. We are to display the glory of God to the world. When we come to Christ, if we are truly believers, if we have real faith, then the Holy Spirit lives in us and starts to change us and starts to make us more and more into the image of Christ. When this happens we want to do things because we are compelled by love for God. We know He deeply loves us and we want to express this back to Him. We do this by our deeds.

We must be careful here though because there are many moral people who do good deeds because they think they will earn them right standing before God. They do them for the wrong reasons. That is not true faith. This is not what is being talked about here. This is something I see often in the south. Many people go to church because it is what you do but that does not make you a Christian. You may even go on mission trips, serve on committees, teach Bible studies, keep the nursery but that does not make you a Christian.

Faith in Christ alone is what makes you a Christian and because of that because God called you to Himself you respond. That is where true works come from. You are compelled to work because of love for Him. You are secure in your standing because you are His child nothing is to be earned because all has already been done by Him.

Then we go on to look at two examples of people who lived this kind of faith out in verses 21-26.

Read Genesis 22:1-18. It is the entire story of what James 2:21-24 is referencing.

I love the references in it that are pointing toward to Christ to come. Immediately Abraham got up and obeyed this strange request. He believed and trusted God. Just as Christ had to carry the cross up to His place of sacrifice, Isaac had the wood for the sacrifice placed on him. The request, his father was to sacrifice his one and only beloved son. Then God provided the sacrifice of the lamb stuck in the thickets for the sacrifice instead of Isaac. The Perfect Lamb of God would become our final sacrifice. And through Abraham (Isaac) all the nations on earth will be blessed because it is his seed that will bring Jesus. In Christ all families on earth will be blessed. Christ is our salvation.

True faith is acted out. God told Abraham to do something and he acted. When we know the right thing to do and do not do it it is sin. We must learn to walk out our faith. Because of our great love for God we should desire to do what He wants us to do.

Read Rahab's account in Joshua 2 that is referenced in James 2:25-26.

Rahab's fear of God was bigger than her fear of her king or country. She opened her heart to God and acted in faith to help these men of God. This changed her life. She is credited several times in Scripture for her faith because of this. She acted. Faith worked out. 







Sunday, November 13, 2011

Answered Prayers

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***Please excuse any typos because my eyes are not at their best right now.

I do have a confession to make. Though I hate it, it is good for me to be laid low. There I said it. I am a prideful, self-sufficient, bratty, three year old. When I am laid low I have to be dependent on others. It is the only way. I am thankful for it. I must be broken. Pride is a horrible thing. Something I think humans will always struggle with it on this earth.

Anyway, I cannot do much outside the house or chores inside the house on my own now. Or at least without must rest in between. I am pretty dependent. Yet it is in this place that God teaches me the most. It is in this place that God let's me experience the most security, and love in HIM. Strange huh? It is because His kingdom is an upside down kingdom. He is a God who "opposes the proud but is near the humble".

I know that God hears me. I know He hears every prayer I utter. I know this because we are in relationship. And in relationship God listens. He really listens to us. Sometimes He says no to our requests. Honestly this is for our protection. When your three year old asks to drive the car do you let them? God can see the bigger picture and it is good for Him to say no to us.

At times we must wait or endure. Like now during my illness I am mostly having to endure. God is giving me enough strength to do the things I must do. But I must be wise. Take note it is the things I must do not things I want to do. Now I must really prioritize. Things do not look the way I may want but God gives me enough strength to accomplish the important. It has given me time to really reevaluate and really talk it over with Him.

Then Sometimes God will give us an immediate yes. It has been a long time since I have experienced this. I am sure it is because I have not been paying attention. When people are able to do most things on their own they really lose sight of God in the little things. But the truth is God is in every detail of our lives. He in control. He loves us that much. Do you stop to pay attention to that?

In the past 24 hours I got three immediate yes answers to prayer that I know of. First I was so very thankful to God that I was in tears that I could make my children PB&J sandwiches. It was a great accomplishment with how tired I have been and with how much pain I have been in. After I had served them my stomach started hurting pretty bad. It was the medicine, apparently I did not have enough on my stomach. But after all I had just done I was too weak to do anything about it. I cried out to God.

Immediately I got a text from a sweet lady. It said, "I am in a hurry I am bringing you lunch now." I was in awe. This is what I needed. Something on my stomach but I was too weak to do it myself. An answer. I ate it and was fine. Now the girls could have done something for me but God really wowed me here.

Next I had a babysitter coming and needed a few items from Walmart. I was fretting a bit because the trip is so much on me and thinking about it makes me nervous. Will I be able to make it? I really need help but I did not know who to call then. I was not sure if I should chance it. It was the same day I was just talking about. It was a hard day in the first place but it was the day the baby sitter was coming. As soon as I posted a prayer request my friend called me and said hey I am going to Walmart can I get you something. I started crying. She said what is wrong? I proceeded to tell her the story. She had no idea. She was off that day from work because it was Veterans day. Amazing. We went together and she helped me. Without her I could not have done it.

The next morning I was very weak but my daughters were invited to a birthday party. I wanted them to be able to go so decided to get the stamina to do it as a whole family. My husband would be there to drive. He is so good to help me. My daughter lost the card which was the present as we were going out the door. She kept searching frantically around the house for it. Then said mom can you please help me find it. I could not. I was too weak so I told her. Honey I cannot help you but God knows where it is we can ask Him. I prayed. He gave me the thought of under the microwave. She looked and it was there. It had slide under somehow. Again an immediate answer. I love when God does that. But we need to acknowledge we need Him. How often do we do that?

We must acknowledge to that even the no answers are good for us. If we believe God is sovereign and in control of all things which I do otherwise what kind of God would we serve? Then we must trust His no in a situation. We must trust the things we do not understand. I know all the horror of Chronic Lyme disease. I know what a miracle it was for Him to heal me 7 years ago from it with such a small amount of treatment. I may not understand why it came back but I do trust He is in control. However it plays out I know that me and my family will be better off for it. So take heart God loves you. He is a loving Father who desires the very best for you and can see the bigger picture. You may not be able to understand but He does. He is good.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book Review: Heaven Is For Real For Kids

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I received a copy of this ebook free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of review.

I have been skeptical of this book for a long while so I thought it would be a good time to do a review of it. First because it is a best seller. Second because it is written for kids. People these days are very interested in the supernatural and Heaven but when it comes to Jesus they seem to turn their noses up. They want to get into Heaven but when it comes to the One way they start to get defensive.

One good thing about this book is that it does have Scripture references on each page to go along with what each page has said. Each page is also beautifully illustrated. However, this book has to be treated as fiction because it is based on one child's experience and not on the authoritative word of God. Because of this some things can be faulty. We error as humans and make mistakes. Being weak and sick our imaginations and memories deceive us. Being a child at the young age of three can mean things could easily be miscommunicated. Now getting past all of that, I like that the parents documented the experience their son had and how it has given other people hope.

At the very end the book does include Jesus telling Him the most important thing about how to get into Heaven so it does present the gospel for kids here. I do think it does give kids a hope for Heaven. It looks like a fun place and that is what it will be. It did describe Heaven in a way that matched with the Biblical description in some places then added things in other places. We can only speculate really. But again it was a child's experience. I am glad he had that personal experience. However, the main goal of our lives is to bring glory to Christ. Does this book do this? Well, it is on the best seller's list. People are wanting to get to Heaven. Maybe in it they will be introduced to Jesus and see their need for Him. This is only the children's version of the book so overall it was adequate. I have no idea how it relates to the adult version.

Book Review: Just In Case You Ever Wonder By Max Lucado

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I received a copy of this ebook free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of review.

This children's book was a sweet story of a parent's love for a child. It was well illustrated with great pictures. It also reflects how a parent will always be there for a child as they grow. There was one picture in it my eight year old autistic child was uncomfortable with but other than that she enjoyed the story. It is definitely a Christian book because it assures that a parent will go to Heaven along with the child which cannot be guaranteed apart from the blood of Christ. So it would not be true if a true Christian was not reading this. Overall though it is a sweet children's storybook. In faith we can hope that our children will have their eyes opened to Christ and accept His invitation as well though. That is what any Christian parent would desire for their child.

To get a copy of this book from Amazon go here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Review: When God Created My Toes

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I received a free copy of this book at no charge from the publisher for the purpose of review.

This book is a sweet, easy-to-read children's book. It has very well animated pictures. For me it was an ordinary book. I liked it okay. However because it is a children's book my opinion should not matter as much as the opinion of a child right? I gave this book to my 8 year old daughter. She has clung to it ever since. She has thanked me over and over for getting this book. I asked her what she likes the best about this book? She said because it talks all about how God made her. Now that is the opinion that should matter.

It is lovely to see a child embrace a book. I do think it is a nicely done book. It is based on Psalm 139. Theologically is it the best written? No. However it is a children's book. I think it is a good teaching piece to use with your children. We don't know how God knitted us together exactly but He did. I do think it is a joy to see your child excited to see that God chose her. He loved her enough to create her and send Jesus for her (the part about Jesus is not in the book but she knows this and it all going together is exciting to her). You can get a copy at Amazon here.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Review: The Abundant Life Day Book By Nancy Guthrie

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I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of review.

This is a 365 day devotional book. It is a beautifully designed hard covered gift book. It is a good quality book. It also has a satin book mark ribbon included which is a good feature for a book that takes you through each day of the year. For each day you have a short devotional. The format is a short Scripture verse then a paragraph or two that is written as if it is Jesus speaking to you followed by a short prayer. It is a very handy devotional that would come in very helpful when you are in a season of life when finding time is difficult.

An example of this would be if you are a new mother and you find it difficult to do a deep Bible study. Or if you are in a deep time of grief and you find it hard to read your Bible. This devotional would be perfect for those times. Even though these passages are short they are meaty enough. They get to the important stuff in life. I really liked that. Words are important especially when you only have a few to use to get your point across and the author chose her words well here. This is a good little devotional and would make a good gift for someone finding it hard getting into their Bible.

You can get a copy of this from Amazon from the link here.

Book Review: Behind The Veils of Yemen By Audra Grace Shelby

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I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of review.

This is a riveting story of one missionary families journey to Yemen. The stories were very heart wrenching and evidence of the need that missionary families have for others to partner with them for support. You can do this through financial contributions but more importantly through your prayers. Have you ever thought about that? A simple thing you can do is take a moment and pray for your missionary families who are in foreign countries serving on the front lines. Prayer can help them in ways you cannot even begin to know. Have you thought about this?

This book is a wonderful read for you to see this. It is very informative. It shows how partnership in prayer does indeed help and is needed. It also gives you a good glimpse into one families life in the middle east. There are tons of families serving abroad. Tons. Do you take the time to understand what challenges they are facing? This book would help you to see this in the middle east especially Yemen. It gives a good insight into the Muslim culture and people.

I really recommend this book. It is worth your time and was very well written. Most importantly all the way through out it continually pointed you to Christ. You can get a copy of this book from Amazon at this link.

Friday, November 4, 2011

James Week 5 - Walk It Out

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"I really liked him," excitedly stated my husband about a guy we just met who we would be doing some ministry work with. I answered curtly, "why?" You see this man was covered in tattoos. I was so distracted by them that I failed to see his heart. My husband on the other hand saw how this man was of good character. My husband did not judge. If it was not for my husband I would have missed out on working with an amazing person. I judged. I did not give it a second thought and I would have cut this person off if it was not for the mercy and wisdom of my man.



Listen for preparation. Appropriate for our study.

James warns us of this behavior. James 2:1-12 is our passage for this week. Again I recommend you just read it every day take it in slowly and just really think about the passage. Ask who it is talking about? How it can apply to your life? How your life needs to agree with it?  This is how Scripture is alive and active to change us and make us more like Jesus.

We ended last week by learning real god-fearing worship is taking care of those who are weak and keeping ourselves from being stained by the world. Chapter two starts with a question that helps us with this further. Remember this is a letter and when James wrote it it did not have chapters and breaks. The question that opens this week is,
"My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?"

That is a question that makes me say ouch! I am not sure if I know anyone who has not ever favored someone except Jesus. It is a good question to make us evaluate our hearts. Then readjust them. Do you have an example to share with the group like my example above? If so please share and how God changed you.

Then James goes on to give an example about people coming into a meeting and how we judge and treat them. That this is evil motives when we have favorites. (Read James 2:2-4).

Looking at both of these photos of women you could meet on the street. Would you invite both of these women into your home? Would you take the time to get to now either? Why or why not?

Then it goes on to state how the poor are blessed. Remember us discussing this in James 1:9? James 2:5 says, "Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?" Interesting too that Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount that blessed were the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3).

Essentially the poor of this world have more opportunity to trust than the rich. It is really easy for someone who is rich to think that they have earned their own way. It does not facilitate the dependence that being more needy does. A humility comes with that and in it a dire need for God. It is indeed a blessing. I am finding this to be true in my personal weakness. People will often look at me and think what good can come from this chronic illness? However I believe I have been chosen by God to be dependent on Him in this way. I experience more intimacy with Him this way so if this is the best way for this I would not change a thing. I am surrendered to Him.

Then in contrast James goes on to say about the rich, "But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?" James 2:6-7. Remember what we spoke about in James 1:10-11 regarding the rich?

The rich man's heart can often be divided and drawn toward money. Because of this even though they have lots of money they will still sue and wrongly treat others for more of it. They cannot get enough. They will chose money over other things like relationships. It can easily become an idol in their hearts. A great reason not to favor the rich over the poor. Everything boils down to matters of the heart. How is someones heart on the matter? There are rich people whose hearts love God more than money. The meaning of this passage is do not judge based on outward appearance.

Then he goes on in verses 8 and 9 to admonish something good that may be used as an argument for treating the rich better than the poor however he stomps it out quickly because if you love your neighbor as yourself it will not only be your rich neighbor you love but your poor one as well. Not only those who can do things for you but those who cannot repay you either.

It is important to keep the Scriptures which are the royal law because we are children of the high King. However just because we are children of the king of the universe it does not give us the right to favor some over others. We are only what we are because God has called us. It has nothing to do with us. If we show favoritism to some over others the word says we are actually committing sin.You are breaking God's law.

(Regarding vv10-11) Have you ever thought, well I have done all things right but this one little thing so I am okay. Or I have kept all parts of the law but have stolen this one thing so I am ok. Or I only told one lie so I am okay. This is not true before a holy God. Sin is sin. Before a holy God none can be justified. All sin has a price that needs to be paid. Of course Christ came to pay that price so in Him we are made clean. We are justified fully if we trust in what He has done for us. So take His law seriously. Not legalistically or licentiously but seriously in love. He has finished and paid that debt.

We end with a powerful verse. Verse 13 states, "There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you." In the ESV version the verse is stated like this, "For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."

These are some hard verses. In the context we have just been talking about favoritism and giving rich people a break over the poor. God really dislikes this. If you read the full counsel of Scripture you will see over and over again God is for the underdog. He protects them and calls them blessed and takes them under His wing. When the strong take advantage of the weak it is not ok. Here God is calling people to show mercy. Remember this letter is written to the underdog. People who have been dispersed. People driven from their comfortable homes. People under threat of persecution. Yet still God is calling for mercy. He is still saying mercy is better than judgment. Earlier on too we learned that our anger never brings about the righteousness of God. God is the only true and righteous judge. We must trust Him at His word. So how do we live mercifully?

1-For these people it was probably a relief because to them they were judged pretty harshly and this was probably a sense of justice for them knowing God sees and God is the judge and He will take care of all the injustice done to them.

2-They were not to take judgment into their own hands. Living it out "mercy" which is better actually means - kindness or good towards the miserable or afflicted, joined with a desire to help them (blueletterbible.org).

This teaching was also not new because Jesus also taught this concept in the sermon on the mount. Matthew 7:2 states, "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." Honestly, why would you go about judging other people when there is so much in your own life that you need to work on? Maybe those who do so much judging are actually afraid to look into their own hearts. Either that or their hearts are hardened. I am not talking about an occasional judgment I am talking about those people who habitually judge others.


Also, one last thing Jesus did also tell us to love our enemies. This is indeed an upside down kingdom. Only by His supernatural power can we love that way. Look to Jesus. Follow His ways. Let His Spirit that dwells within us who are His guide us in this for nothing is impossible with Him.


1-Where are you prone to be judgmental of others? 


2-How has God made you dependent on Him alone?


3-We all have kinds of personalities that are hard to love. How can we pray for you in this?


4-Where have you involved yourself in ministries of mercy toward others? Would you share with the group? An example is instead of judging a homeless person for sitting on the street you volunteer at the homeless shelter. Mercy triumphs judgment. We don't know that persons story and even if they are lazy they still need the love of Christ. They still need mercy.


5-Practice extending mercy this week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Submission is A Lot Like Riding Shot Gun

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As the raindrops hit my window I shivered. I was abundantly thankful I did not have to make this trip. I hate driving in the rain. Yet though I know I have a trust worthy accident free driver guiding us along I still find myself cringing often. You see I would like to critique or maybe even criticize him. If I was driving I would not get as close to that car or I would have stopped sooner there especially in this rain. It goes on and on, yet I have a perfectly good leader in the drivers seat. Why is it I think I could do any better? Especially when I do not even want to be the one driving in the first place? (The answer for this could be an entire other post. But the quick answer is sin.)

You see I need to respect the fact that he is the driver. That is his role. I am the passenger. He is getting us to where we need to be. This is a lot like how submission in marriage works. In marriage only one person can drive or lead. God gave that position to your husband. As a good and wise servant leader it would be to his benefit to ask your opinion for suggestions as to how to get to your destination. However, in the end ultimately he is the one accountable before God for how he leads you. Wouldn't you like to make it easy on him?

Our role and what we are accountable before God for is how well we submit to our man. What kind of a passenger are you? He will be a much better leader if you make it easier for him to lead you. If you are on your journey and question every route he tries to take then it does not help his confidence at all. Be his cheerleader even if you have to backtrack. You are in the same car on the same team on the same route. Make it a smooth ride together. It is your role. There is only room for one driver.

So to satisfy this on our real soggy drive when we get to a place where I am nervous and think he is driving poorly I close my eyes and bow my head and silently ask God to help me trust. After all He gave me this man as my husband. If I do not trust him to lead me I am ultimately not trusting God. In that moment when you want to cringe, whisper a prayer to the One who understands. He will give you the ability to trust. That is what failure to submission really boils down to anyway--A failure to trust. A failure to release control to the One who has all things in His hands.

Marriage after all was designed to reflect a picture of Christ and His church. Don't you want to reflect it well to the world? You can by doing your part. Submit. Respect. Love. This will shine a bright reflection of Christ to a dark and dying world where the beauty of marriage has been trampled. It is a covenant. Play your role well.
 
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