Friday, February 24, 2017

Living with Teenagers!

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First, I must say, I love my family. I would die for any of them. They are the greatest gift that God has given me. They are the best gift I could ever get in this life.

However, great gifts don't always come without great difficulty. Our family dynamics are vast, interesting and intentional. Yes. I said, intentional.

God gives us everything, including our family members, in our lives that will be used to shape and mold us into Christ-likeness. He does this because He is a good Father. He has a foreknowing of what we need to stop being brats. He knows what it will take in our lives to cause us to lay down our lives freely, like Jesus. Then with the laying down of life comes real resurrection power and the life we were meant to live.

Jesus gave us the example and did not leave us alone to navigate the here and now. In fact, if we are found in Him, He lives in us! How amazing is that?!

Now with that said, I have to come clean about my attitude about teens. I love teens. I loved working with that age group before I have my own teens. It was my absolute favorite age group to work with. I mean, these are younger image bearers who are figuring out how they want to live their lives. It is awkward and messy and weird at times. It is frustrating at times but powerfully beautiful seeing them overcome the many obstacles of life in their generation. It is definitely an interesting and exciting time of life.

Yet, as much as I love working with teens, it is an entirely different thing when you live with teens. The full "24/7 in each others space" pressure that pushes the sinfulness out of our hearts kind of real is what we get in this phase of life. It is raw and rough at times. Think toddler hood, round 2. Except now these precious growing humans have an ability to freely express their minds.

Though, life is messy now, I love it. We have a great ability to reason with our teens that we didn't get when working with toddlers. Now, they are able to really understand the why to our rules. Also, we get to move more into a coaching role as we let them have more freedom and make more decisions on their own under our safe space.

However, while these precious ones are blooming into adulthood, most of us have aging parents to also think about. That adds more pressure to this stage of middle age. It really exposes you for who you are. You can chose to embrace it, repent, and rely on gospel grace or be grumbling and miserable. God is really shaping and molding us as these challenges come our way.

I don't like the typical teenager they cast for roles on television shows. I think they get it wrong. Teens don't hate their parents. They truly don't. They do crave attention and direction. They will seek this out wherever they are accepted and can find it. We can offer this in the home to them. If we don't then they will become distant. They need you now more than ever.

Think of it this way, they are seeing things in this world for the first time in a new lens. Part of growing up is figuring out who you are, what you want to do with your life, and who you are without your parents. This is incredibly stressful. It is a time of searching and introspection. We have the opportunity to influence that. We have the responsibility to help them grow into the people that God would have them be. Not who we want them to be but who God made them to be.

What is your biggest challenge with your teens? Or what have you observed and stereotyped? How can you help this next rising generation? What are your fears? What are you joys in this stage?

Monday, February 13, 2017

When you Grumble, You Are Forgetting God

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Life is hard. I get it. It is very tempting to grumble and complain. I must also make a confession, I really need to grow in this area. I need His grace. If you struggle like me, I hope this will help encourage you like it did me.

Romans 1 speaks about the wrath of God. Not a really fun thing to think about but apart from Christ's intervention, we all deserve this wrath. Yet, because Christ stood in our place and we find ourselves in Him, we are no longer in danger of this wrath.

Despite this truth, we live and place ourselves in the same kind of picture that those addressed in Romans experience. The downward spiral of the wrath of God.

They Knew God but Didn't Love God
First, in Romans, God makes Himself known to the people but they refuse it. They don't love God. So in a response of not loving their loving Creator, they live for themselves. Christian, we must guard ourselves if we believe we are in Christ. In Romans 1:21, it states two things, they knew God but did not honor Him as God and they did not give Him thanks but became futile in their thinking.....

Later in Romans, Paul is making an appeal to the people of God to live as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God because it is our act of spiritual worship (12:1). We do this by not conforming to the culture and renewing our minds (12:2).

God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die on our behalf to make us right with God. When we forget this, we start to walk in dangerous territory of disobedience to God. We hurt the others around us and don't bring God glory (Philippians 2:14-16).

Essentially we are saying, God is not good. God is not giving me what I want. God does not love me. It is the classic attack from the enemy in the garden. Doubting God's love and goodness. Then we grumble.




Grumbling is an outward expression of what is going on in the deeper recesses of our hearts.
 
I have been reading through Exodus and I was baffled at how the children of Israel could grumble against God's goodness just 3 days after they escaped Egypt. They saw all the miracles against Pharaoh, crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, followed God who appeared as a cloud and pillar of fire yet, three days after they were finally free, they started complaining. Read it in Exodus 15:22-27.

God was still gracious to them. He continues this pattern over and over. He does things to test them. And testing is worthy of a new post. It is a good thing. It exposes the dark places of our hearts.

When I Grumble I Forget God
I should not be surprised at the children of Israel's grumbling, especially when I do it too. I have seen the greatest miracle, Jesus death and resurrection. I have the Holy Spirit living inside of me. I know that He is making all things new and coming back for us at the proper time. I know I am rested securely in God's love. There is no reason for me to grumble. But I do it.

God is still gracious and long-suffering when we complain. When we see this in our hearts we are free to repent and walk in the right direction again. There are a lot of strategies that God gives us through His word to help with this, worthy of another post. I am praying that God gives us the grace to stop our complaining and to remember God.

What do you often feel tempted to complain about? How do you deal with that? Have you even considered that grumbling is a sin?

Leave a comment, maybe we can help each other out by prayer and reminding each other to remember the goodness of God.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book Review: The Pastor and Counseling by Pierre and Reju

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Confession: I am not a pastor. I was simply curious about this book because I am passionate about the need for pastors to understand the basics of biblical counseling.

This book hit all the basics that it could in its short format. It is very easy to read and very practical in its application. I spent two years earning my biblical counseling certificate from CCEF (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation) and I think this book hits all the highlights of my education well.

It is not going to cover everything obviously but it is a great resource book when a pastor is unsure about counseling his people.

I highly recommend this book for all pastors. It guides you through the initial meeting and beyond. There are extra helpful resources in the appendix, including an information gathering intake form.

This is a good book. Even if you are in the field of helping people but not a pastor, this would be helpful for you to understand the basics of biblical Christian counseling.

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

You can get a copy of this book from Amazon.com here. (aff. link)

Book Review: Finding Your Voice by Grant

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I really like Natalie Grant's music so I was excited to take a look at this title. Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations. It felt like words/advice that were okay to be said but then those words were made to merge with Scripture. It seemed too forced and did not take Scripture at the level of seeing it as an entire picture of redemptive history. It instead was person centered instead of God's bigger picture centered. That is what made it hard for me to read.

This happens through out the book. I first noticed it in the first chapter when the book states, "In short, He believes in you, and He wants nothing more than for you to believe in Him and His beautiful creation--you" (pg. 31). This is a very cultural sounding statement that aligns with just believe in yourself. It is missing the richness of Christ. The only reason that God would believe in us would be because of His Son.

I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt here but Scripture was even used in this way. Regarding the story of Peter walking on water toward Jesus this application came about, "He gave each of us a voice and a message and was so convinced that we could fulfill the plans He has for us, He sacrificed His own Son so we could have a chance to see them through. Read that again. God believes in who you are--your accomplishments, values, and dreams--with such intensity that He sent His only Son so YOU might live abundantly and with holy purpose" (pg. 45). This is very ME centered. Christ did not die for my voice to be heard.

He died so, We would live for Him.
"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:15).

So that we could be restored to a right relationship with God.
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18). 

So that God's wrath would be appeased.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!" (Romans 5:8-9).

Now again, I think the author meant well. God did say He came so we could have an abundant life. But it must be centered on HIM and bringing HIM glory not ourselves. He gives us a voice to glorify HIM. He gives us dreams to glory HIM. This is where I think this book falls short. It does have good things to think about here and there throughout. My caution is that after reading it we are too self focused over being Christ focused. It can be a thin line. That is my caution on this title.

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

You can get a copy from amazon.com here. (Aff. link)

Book Review: Love, Henri by Nouwen

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Sometimes it feels a little like trespassing when reading another person's intimate letters. It makes me think about my own letters or emails and how I would feel if people were reading them in a book. That is a scary thought for me. However, if they could help someone learn to be more encouraging or a better friend, then it would be worth it. What an honor that we have a collection like this from a faithful saint.

This book is a small glance into the life of Henri Nouwen. These letters are helpful to us because they give us a glimpse of Christian fellowship and friendship.  They are authentic and real. They encourage others to follow the Lord.

Prior to each letter, there are explanations so you can understand why it was written. This helps the reader understand the context of the letters.

This was a book that was well ordered. The hardback is sturdy and made with thick paper. It was made with good quality.

I received a copy of this book at no charge for the purpose of an honest review.

You can get a copy of this book from Amazon.com here. (Aff. link.)


Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review: Different by Clarkson

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I had the privilege of reviewing this book through the publisher, Tyndale. I was thankful to read it because we live with special needs in our home. I am always curious to read the stories of others who have walked this road before me.

The book is structured in the format of a son and mother telling their personal stories. I found this insightful because the actual struggler (Nathan) was sharing his own internal experiences with us. After that, his mother (Sally) would share some things too.

They were both authentic and honest in their writing. They both spoke of how they experienced God in their personal stories. I found great encouragement in that.

This, by no means, is an instructional book about working with your child's special needs but it is a book of encouraging stories from which we can learn. It is written as if we are sitting across from them while we are drinking coffee and asking questions. This style also made this extremely easy to read for the busy mom.

Though the special needs that were dealt with in this book were different from the ones I deal with daily, there was enough similarities to make this book helpful and hopeful for me. I do recommend it for encouragement.

You can get a copy of this book from Amazon.com here. (aff. link)

I did receive my copy of this book at no charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

When God Takes You the Long Way.....

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I hate grief, big emotions, and pain. I hate tears. I wish God would just shock me in order to help me grow quickly instead of having to go through the often painful growth process. Yet, in His wisdom, God made me one who feels deeply. Because of this I go through all these things that I hate most daily.
And this is good.

Yes, good, because if I don't go through the process, I lose the opportunity of experiencing Jesus at a deeper level.

Paul was convinced of this so much that he tells us that he wants to know Christ by sharing in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).  

Why?

The text tells us that it is in order to become like Him in His death. He goes on to say that "by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3).

How can we appreciate and fully understand what Christ has done for us unless we share in it? When we get the opportunity to suffer, we get the opportunity to share in Christ's suffering. And in that, we get to experience the power of the resurrection that lives in us by His Spirit.

By this power we can move forward in suffering. He gives us grace that is sufficient in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). We can do all things that we need to do in Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). Not only will we experience that now, but we will also experience that final resurrection from the dead when death is fully defeated in the end.

Suffering helps us grow in these things. The school of suffering is confusing to us because we cannot see the full picture now, but we can entrust ourselves into the hands of God who knows all things and works for our good. We are being conformed into His image through these trials (Romans 8:29).

I was recently reading through Exodus and again it hit me. God did many amazing life-altering miracles to free His people from Egypt. They saw first hand His power and might. Yet, when God freed them, He made them travel the long route to their destination intentionally.  

Why?

We are told that God did this because, "Lest my people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt" (Exodus 13:17). God knew His people. He knew their weakness of heart. He knew that even though they saw these amazing miracles that freed them from Pharaoh, they would still be afraid. So they had to travel through the wilderness. This wilderness would end up being a long training exercise in God's faithfulness.


Why Is God Taking Me On The Tough Route?


God knows our frame. He knows exactly what is needed in our lives to conform us most into His image. These are the things that will grow us, shape us, and enable us to know Him more and more. They are the things that will bring Him most glory as we learn to trust His guiding hand through them. This is where we learn that He is enough. So the lesson is, enjoy the long route. Don't rush it. God has a plan with it, even if you cannot see it yet, and His plans are always good. Period.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Book Review: 90 days in John 14-17, Romans, James by Keller and Allberry

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This is an excellent Bible study resource. I will give you some brief points as to why:
1-A habit can be formed in 30 days. If you stick to this book, you will be in the habit of daily reading your Bible.

2-Each day in this book takes a close look at Scripture. It helps you break it down piece by piece to really ponder what the writer is actually saying.

3-There is practical application daily as to how to live out this Scripture or how you are to be challenged by it.

4-The daily work includes space where you can write notes about what you are learning and studying. It is really helpful in using the Inductive method of study.

5-The daily work is not too hard for the beginners of Bible study but is enriching enough for a more experienced student as well.

6-The structure of this book is a hard back cover. It is durable and well made.

7-The book includes a built in ribbon bookmark which is helpful to keep your page marked.

8-Because this is not a dated study plan, there is no pressure if you miss a day. It is easy to just pick back up and start again when you can.

I do recommend this book for anyone desiring to study the Bible. Personally, my church is going through the book of Romans this year and I have found the section on Romans to be quite helpful for that. I am thankful for good tools like this that help you faithfully and correctly study the Bible.

You can get a copy of this book from Amazon here.

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