Teaching your Children to Fight

sword and shieldFinally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17

Today started out as just another routine morning here at our household. The kids were up reading, doing chores, making lunches along with the other normal morning stuff they do at our house while getting ready to leave for school. I was sitting here at the computer finishing up my own morning routine when I heard a little bit of sisterly banter going on in the kitchen. It was obvious that one of my daughters woke up on the wrong side of the bed and everything seemed to be offending her.

Now my kids are old enough and I usually try not to helicopter parent. I typically let them be to see if they can work things out on their own unless I see an urgent need to step in or if one of them comes to me asking for help to bring resolution to a situation. Before I knew it, one of my daughters comes marching in the room where I was and plops down on the couch with a bit of an extended lower lip. The demeanor on her face was obviously a mix of being sad and mad all at the same time.

I asked her what was wrong and she quickly responded, “nothing.” Ok, so that was going nowhere. So I immediately got up from my computer chair and went and sat down beside her and put my arms around her and told her how much I loved her. She didn’t respond so I then went back to my computer desk and retrieved a pamphlet that a dear friend had just given me a few days earlier. It was titled, “You are not Forgotten,” by April Simons. It was an array of encouraging words and corresponding scripture.

I then went over to my daughter and began to read aloud from the pamphlet the things written there. The first was . . . God Believes in You. I then read the corresponding scripture to her. The second was . . . God has great things in store for you. The third . . .that He Loves You. The fourth . . . He is looking out for you, and the fifth . . . He will fight for you. There were twenty-two points in all with some pretty powerful scriptures attached. By the time I was done my daughter got up from the couch and came and gave me a great big hug and said, “Mom I love you so much, thank you.” It melted my heart, and obviously the Word of God had done the same to hers.

As I was driving home after dropping the kids off at school, I was replaying in my mind all that had transpired this morning.  I was just flooded with emotion thinking of just what an amazing God we have, and how powerful His Word is. It was also a strong reminder to me of how we as parents need to be continually equipping our children and teaching them how to fight the good fight of faith and to ward off the attacks of the enemy with the Armor of God.

So often our children are led by their emotions. We serve them well to teach them that we must learn to use our emotions correctly. I just read a quote somewhere this morning that said, “Our feelings should be indicators but never our dictators.” We have Jesus as our perfect example. When he was led out into the wilderness to be tempted, He fought off Satan’s attacks by reciting scripture.  We as parents are not only to teach our children about the armor of God but give real life examples of when and how they can apply those truths and how to fight and win battles.  We serve a faithful God who not only loves us but is on our side and as we look to Him, He gives us the ammunition we need to be victorious in battle! 

Growing Up

growing up

I love to listen to people’s stories. God created each of us as individuals and each of our lives has a unique story. Often times when recounting an event in a person’s life, they will use the familiar line . . . While growing up . . . and then they will proceed with some great or funny story from their life.

My favorite type of stories are when people overcame difficult circumstances or when then learned some great lesson that caused them to make a profound change in the direction their life was going or where something that once was obstacle eventually become a victory.

In the same way, sometimes God uses difficulties in our lives to help us to grow up too. God’s plan for each of us as believers to grow up into spiritual maturity. If we are truly God’s children, he will cause all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Growing up spiritually should be lifelong process that we can either work towards or resist.

1  Corinthians 13 vs. 11, Paul states . . . When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind meSo how do we as believers in Christ grow up in our faith and put our childish ways behind us? The answer is really quite simple yet not always so easy to do. To grow into maturity we need to daily submit ourselves to God and to know and obey his Word. This only comes through a daily discipline of reading and ingesting God’s Word and putting it into practice in our lives. When we do this God will grow us and begin to transform us.

2 Timothy 3:16 says . . . All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Scripture is God’s instrument and the power that helps us along and aids in our journey towards spiritual maturity.When we submit our lives (meaning doing what is says, James 1:22) to the Word of God, it will begin to change us and help us to grow. Growing in Christ should be a lifelong process and if you’re not growing, you should be concerned.

As believers we can come up with 101 excuses why we don’t have time read God’s word or spend time with Him. I personally know that truth because for years I did the same thing, but when we do this we are playing into the enemies hands.  Satan is the prince of this world and when he can keep a Christian from reading God’s Word or better yet, knowing the truth but not obeying it, he’s winning the battle. Without continual spiritual growth, you will not have victory in this life nor can you be effective in the purpose for which God has created you.

Another area that can keep us from growing spiritually is that if we read God’s word out of obligation or duty. The bible says . . . For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 God is not only concerned with out outward actions, but more importantly with what goes on in our heart and mind. We should read God’s Word with expectancy to hear what God has for us, and then be ready to apply what we hear to our daily lives.

As we come to know and grow in God’s word we become rooted and established “In Him.” Therefore, when the waves and difficulties of life come, we can stand firm on the promises in His Word. God’s Word is the Truth and the Holy Spirit (our helper) gives us the power to walk in and obey the truth. God’s Word helps wash our minds so that we may rid ourselves of anything that is not of Him. Also, it gives us the ammunition to fight off the attacks of the enemy. 

God created each of us for a purpose and he has a plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). When we begin grow spiritually, we begin to see God for who he truly is, our Creator and the Lord of our lives. As we begin to daily submit our lives to him and grow in our relationship with Him, we then begin to understand His plan and purpose for us.  Then we will begin to discover our God-given gifts and how to best use them for the benefit of others. I’ve decided that the best posture we can have in this life is one of continual learning, growth and leaning into Him to help us grow up in the knowledge and likeness of Him!

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your precious Word. Help me to daily submit my life to you and to let your word transform my heart and mind. Help me to let go of areas that I have been resisting and to always trust that your ways are so much better than my ways. Help me to grow up in you so that my life may be a reflection of yours. Thank you for dying for me and paying the penalty for my sin. Help me to live for you. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

Growing Together in Love and Grace

family shadowBelieve it or not, every now and then my kids will do or say something that literally makes me cringe. The reason I say this is because in that moment I see a reflection of either something they have heard me say or seen me do. 

A good and somewhat amusing example of this was once when we were eating out at a local restaurant, one of my daughters (who was four or five at the time) was talking with the lady in the booth directly behind us. In the middle of charming the lady with her cuteness, my daughter out of the blue exclaims, “You’re teeth are yellow and fuzzy, you need to go brush um.” As you can imagine I just about wanted to crawl under the booth. 

I immediately apologized to the lady and she very graciously went on to explain to my daughter that she does brush her teeth, but sometimes at her age they just don’t stay white anymore. Phew, I totally believe God gives us kids to help keep us humble. And yes, this is something I tell my kids as a reminder to go brush their teeth in the morning. I also tell them that nobody likes to look at yellow fuzzy teeth. I’m so glad my daughter chose not to include that part in her little speech!

The reason I share this is because it goes to show you that kids are directly influenced by what by what they see and hear.  They will often mimic the behavior they are most influenced by, both the good and the bad. It can be quite a sobering moment when you realize that they are more like little absorbent sponges than we tend to think about.

From the very beginning of time, God provided the framework of a family unit and he chose to use the family as a training ground for life. In Proverbs 22:6 we as parents are commissioned to . . . “Train up a child in the way he should go”. . .   So much of who we are as individuals is directly related to how we are raised. Throughout the bible we see the effects of parents actions on their children in both the good and the sometimes not so good ways. I’m so thankful that God gives us these examples in the bible so that we can learn from their lives.

Our homes should be a place of safety and respite from the world where we can put into practice the things which God teaches us in his Word. It’s a place to grow together and to learn how to effectively do life as a family by loving God and loving each other. Within the closeness and confinement of the family unit, God wants us to live out our faith in front of our children.

When our kids see us with a heart poised for following God, chances are they will follow suit. As we seek to walk in obedience to the things of God, we are training them to do the same. In James 1:22 we are told . . .But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. God doesn’t want us to be Sunday only Christians, he wants us living for him daily, hourly, moment by moment. God wants us walking a life surrendered to him and all that he has for us.

One thing that I’ve learned from being a parent over the last sixteen years, is that our kids see our actions so much more than they hear our words. If we speak one thing and then live another way, they pick up on the hypocrisy and are actually turned off towards the things of God. We have to work to be the change we want to see in our children.

Let me tell you I by no means do I have it all together nor do I claim to. I’m a sinner saved by God’s amazing grace and I fail daily, but with God nothing is ever wasted. When we have a heart to follow after him he uses all things for his glory. When we experience failures ourselves, these are perfect teachable moments where we can humble ourselves and teach our children to have a right heart attitude of repentance and then forgiveness and in doing so we are training them to do the same before God. 

The greatest lesson I am learning is that God is parenting me as I parent my children. God often uses my family to speak into my life and to show me areas that are needing work. The family unit provides us the framework to practice his unconditional love towards one another. Keeping a humble attitude before your spouse and children is a vital trait that keeps us humble before our Sovereign God.

God is the only perfect parent and as we seek to follow him and train our children to know and follow him, he uses the family relationship to show us more of who he is and his great love for us and most importantly the amazing grace he has for each of us as we continue to grow in love and grace together.

Father God I thank you for your amazing love for us. I thank you for providing the family unit as a place to know you and grow in our relationship with you. Thank you that you continue to teach us as we seek to teach our children your ways. Thank you most of all for sending your Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin so that we can be made right with you and for the amazing grace you so richly lavish on us. Help us to be the kind of parents you want us to be. We thank you for who you are and all you do for us. In your precious name we pray! AMEN

So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors. Deuteronomy 11:18-21

The Highest Goal

highest goalYes, I’m still on the topic of setting goals in the new year.  I know that not everyone is convinced that goals are a worthy aspiration.  I think that at some point or another everyone has at least tried set some type of goal another. Truth being that goals and or resolutions are extremely hard to keep. Sometimes after failure to attain any consistency in keeping goals, people completely throw in the towel and figure what’s the use, because they are left feeling like a complete failure, and who wants anything to do with that?

Last weekend at church, we were given a challenge by our pastor. During the message the question was posed to us, “What ONE thing will you do in 2014 that will make the biggest difference in your life one year from now?” Since I had already been thinking about goals for this new year, this question really challenged me because I had already had a whole list going in my head and coming up with just ONE thing was a bit troubling to me.

I had to take this home and chew on it a bit in order to come up with my one thing. I had to start thinking if I only had one goal, what should that one goal be? I prayed and asked God to help show me and then I remembered a scripture that I had posted on my Facebook page on the last day of the year. After listing out all of what Love is in 1 Corinthians 13, in chapter 14 verse 1 Paul goes on to say, “Let Love be your highest goal!” That was it, right there, love needs to be my highest goal.

Now that would seem to be a lofty goal for most of us. I know it is something that God challenges me with daily as I try to walk out my faith in life.  1 John 4:7-13 states it like this . . .Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

The bible is God’s incredible love story for us. God didn’t need us, but he desired us and desired a relationship with us.  Even after we failed him, he made a way for us to be made right with him by sending his son to die for us. This was the ultimate act of love, God’s sacrificial love for us.

We put feet to the heart of Jesus when we love others with the love of Christ. This is supposed to be the evidence of our faith. Is it always easy?  Absolutely not, especially when people act in ways that are hurtful or unloving towards us.  The bible says that when we only love those who love us, what good is that? God tells us to even love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. This is the kind of love God demonstrated for us and the kind of love he wants us to share with others.

To love as God loves is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. In and of ourselves this is something we are incapable of, because it goes against our natural inclinations. With the power of Holy Spirit as our helper and guide, we can pray and ask God to fill us with his love so that we may in turn love others as he does regardless of the circumstances.  We need to “put on the love of Christ.” This means it is something we must choose to do daily as we walk in the spirit.

In the Gospel of Matthew in the 22 chapter beginning in verse 34, the Pharisees began questioning Jesus and one of them, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with this question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

When we live to make loving God and loving others our highest goal, we fulfill all the other (laws) commandments because when we choose to love, we are choosing to be selfless, putting others well-being above our own. As we pray for God to fill us with his love and we practice loving others as he does, I believe it begins to transform our hearts and they begin to look a little more like his.

So as I push forward into the new year, I would pray that God helps me to make love my highest goal. I pray that God would give me his eyes and ears to see and hear the broken and hurting all around me and that he would help me to extend his love by loving as he does. And when I so often fail him and others, I am so thankful for his amazing grace that covers us. Thank you Lord Jesus for your amazing love and grace that was paid for with your precious blood. Help me to die to self, so that I live for you and help me to make loving you and others my highest goal. To you be the glory both now and forever. Amen

Do you have a plan?

goalsWell here we are in the new year, an exciting and refreshing time for new beginnings and new starts. Many have already taken off running with their new established goals, and yet others are still working on theirs with plans to implement them in the near future.

I am one of those still working on mine and I’m still in the working it out phase. Setting goals is not something totally foreign to me. But this year I am doing more that just having goals in my head. I making a game plan and writing them down along with the ways I plan to carry out my goals. I am also working on doing the same with my family.

In the past if you would have asked me if I thought this was important, I would have said, not really. But as I grow in my relationship with the Lord, I am beginning to see the importance of making life plans and writing down the ways in which I plan to implement them into the fabric of my day-to-day life.

I just finished re-reading the account of creation in Genesis. From the very beginning God was a God of order and direction. In his divine plan there was great order to his creation. First he created the world and all the living creatures in it, and then he created man. When he created Adam and Eve, he gave them directions for life, to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth. He then placed them in the Garden of Eden and told them to care for it.  He also gave them rules to obey in the garden and we all know how that turned out.

But this goes to show that God designed things with great order and in creating us, he has a plan for each and every one of us too. Jeremiah 29:11 details that for us . . . For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

We also see that God is a God of direction. He didn’t leave his creation to wander aimlessly (although that is a choice we make on our own sometimes). Here once again we see from the beginning that God was always guiding and directing his people, wanting to free them and bring them to a better place, just as he did with the Israelites. He directed them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Even when man’s poor choice separated them from God, he never left them on their own and he continued to direct and provide for their needs.

As a follower of Christ, God wants the same for us. He wants us to do more than simply get by, he wants us to succeed, to thrive, prosper and to begin to do what he has created us to do.  I believe to do that, we need to be intentional with our lives by making plans and setting goals for our lives because without direction or plans, we tend to wander aimlessly.

For each of us, our goals might look differently depending on where we are in our walk with the Lord.  I believe with prayerful consideration, that God can and will point each of us in the direction he wants us to go. Psalm 32:8 gives us this promise . . . I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. God promises us His guidance. He is our Emmanuel, God with us. The bible says that God speaks to us through his Word and the Holy Spirit, who teaches us and guides us into all truth (John 14:26).

God is powerful and mighty and as we look to Him and surrender to his will for our lives, he gives us the guidance and direction we so desperately need. As a child of God we have inherited all the promises of His word. That is so exciting because we can look to him to fulfill his promises to us. God wants us to enter into the abundant life he has waiting for us that only comes in a relationship with Him.

God doesn’t force himself upon us, from the beginning he has always given us free will to choose or reject him. He wants to be the Lord of our lives meaning he wants all of us, not just what we pick and choose to give him.  This happens when we surrender ourselves to Him and we seek to align our plans with His plans. This is how we begin to know and see His will for our lives.

It really excites me when I think on these truths. We don’t serve some far off God who looks down on us only watching. He wants to be actively involved in the everyday moments of our lives. His greatest desire for us is a daily relationship with himself and through that ongoing relationship, God revels who he is and all he has planned for us. As we come to know his plans and align ourselves with his will, this is how we enter into the abundant life he talks about in scripture.

There is nothing more fulfilling in life than a vibrant relationship with our Creator and being able to take part in the great plan he has for us! So I pray as we begin this new year, that you to would prayerfully ask God to help show you what he wants for you, and then with his guidance, construct a plan to carry out all he has in store for you!