Friday, May 31, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Curious


GUEST BLOG FRIDAY!
Written by Leah
 
Today we have the privelege of hearing the praying heart of my cousin Leah.  She is an incredible woman who sincerely loves Jesus and who strives to put Him first in all things. 
 
Like some of you who read this blog, Leah doesn't have children BUT she does have a ministry where she has opportunity to love and teach children.  Specifically, she has mentored a young (now 11 year old) girl for the past FIVE years.
 
I pray we are encouraged and blessed by Leah's wise and loving heart in regards to praying over the children in our lives.  And I pray more and more of you will be bold enough to share your praying heart with the rest of us. 

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When Madison (not her real name) was six, I began spending time with her every other week. We were matched up through a local mentoring program for kids who need extra attention and love.

Over the last five years, she has become a part of my family. There are plenty of weeks when I just plain don't want to go pick her up, but the big picture is that I love her and care deeply about her future.

Since Madison lives out in the boondocks, I spend a lot of time in the car on the our evenings together. Ride out after work, pick her up, bring her to town. Spend a few hours together. Take her back to her house, ride back to my town. Hours in the car, people. Hours.

But that car-time is precious to me. (It'd be even more precious if it didn't involve shoveling money into a gas tank.) I try to prepare myself for time with Madison by worshipping and praying in the car.
 
My most frequent & powerful prayer has been this:


God –

Make her curious.

Make her curious about You.

Make her curious about You in me.

Give her

questions to ask,

thoughts to ponder,

glimpses of You to whet her appetite.

Make her curious.

 
I get limited time with Madison. Aside from the foggy eleven-year-old details she gives me, I'm not sure what she deals with at school. I'm not sure what the nuances of her family relationships are. I didn't even find out until this year that she still sucks her thumb to fall asleep.

But I do know that Jesus wants her. And that for three hours every two weeks, I can answer her volley of questions and do my best to direct conversation toward God and how great He is.

"Will I go to Hell if I do the same wrong thing over & over?"

"How high up does God live?"

"God will punish those people for being mean, right?"

"Do married people have to have sex?"

"HE COULD DO THAT?!" (in reference to the resurrection)

God loves Madison's questions. He craves her simple, honest curiosity, however rough-around-the-edges it may be.
 
Here's how I know:

Luke 19: 1-7

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector [read: he was a cheater of the largest magnitude and everyone hated him] and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter,"He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'"

They end up having a nice visit in which Zacchaeus is so intrigued by Jesus that he empties his bank account, making abundant restitution to the victims of his cheating ways.
 
Jesus makes his love for Zacchaeus very evident:

Luke 19:9

Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For I came to seek and save what was lost."

Don't you love that? With everyone still nipping at Zacchaeus' heels, clinging to their bitterness and calling him a "sinner," Jesus affirms Zacchaeus, not just with His words but by spending time with him. By satisfying his curiosity. By changing Zacchaeus' thought-patterns.

That's the type of Jesus-encounter I want to see stem from Madison's curiosity.
 

Let's pray the following for the kids we love:

God – You love questions. Half the time in Scripture, you even answer questions with questions. I pray, I beg, I petition you to hear the questions of my kids. Prompt new questions in them. No matter how deeply they mess up, I pray that, like Zacchaeus, they would have an insatiable curiosity about You. Touch their spirit with Yours so that they just cannot get enough and absolutely must encounter You again. And again. And again. Affirm them, as You did Zacchaeus. And give me wisdom to answer their questions in the manner that You would. I pray that even today You would arrange a fantastic God-conversation for us. I pray it would not be forced but would flow out of their curiosity. Amen, Lord.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Uniquely Hand-crafted by God

"Mom, is there anyone in the world like me?" 

Grayden asked me this question in the car the other day and I've thought about it ever since.

It was such an honest and reflective question.

But had it been directed to someone else, who knows what the answer might have been.

Surely, there will be people in this world who will devalue and discourage our children, making them feel common or insignificant.

But there is not one of God's children who are common.

They (we) are each uniquely hand-crafted by the God of this universe.

Grayden's question was worthy of a thoughtful and honest response.  AND it gave me a perfect opportunity to speak Biblical truth and encouragement into my son.

My response went something like this:

Grayden, there is NO ONE just like you because...

You were created in God's image...to be like Him. [Genesis 1:26]  And HE is valuable, worthy, righteous, and FULL of love.  So, as you grow in Your relationship with Jesus, He will make you more and more like himself. [Romans 8:29]

You were wonderfully made by God.  [Psalm 139:14]  I could not go into a store and find another YOU because God only made one of you.  You are unique, there is no other little boy like you.  So much so, that God's Word says you are wonderful.

You are valued and known by God.  You never have to be afraid that someone else will come along and replace you.  He knows you better than anyone in this whole world and you are worth so much to Him.  So much so, that He literally knows how many hairs are on your head. [Matthew 10:30] 

You have been given unique gifts to use for God's special plan for your life.  [1 Peter 4:10] 

ALL of our children need to know the answer to this question.

ALL of our children need to hear the encouraging words of Scripture that speak to their value and uniqueness.

Let's take time today to let our children know they AREN'T common, but rather that they are so incredibly unique and special both to us AND to the God who personally hand-crafted each of them.

Join me in prayer today:

God, I pray that my kids wouldn't feel common or insignifcant in this world.  I pray they would know and BELIEVE that You created them, in your image nonetheless, and that they are WONDERFUL.  And as a result, I pray they would trust that they are valued and known by You to the point of knowing how many hairs are on their heads.  I pray they would embrace the unique gifts You have given them and use them for whatever special plan You have for their life.  May they see themselves through Your eyes...a wonderful and unique creation, like no one else in this world.



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

So This Devil Guy Is Real?

When I see my children struggle to resist temptation to sin or, when I see them being deceived by worldly and corrupt desires...
 
I get angry because I am reminded that the same enemy who seeks to wreak havoc in my own mind and heart is also at work in their lives. 

"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."  Ephesians 6:12

One look at this verse and Christians can start to feel like we just stepped into a fantasy or horror movie.


Do we really believe we are in a spiritual battle with a devil who is vying for our souls?

Or is this devil of the Bible simply a made up fantasy similar to the likes of The Wicked Queen in Snow White?


Unfortunately, God's Living Word clearly teaches that there is a devil who is waging a battle for our souls.

He is described as a

LIAR...John 8:44
MURDERER...John 8:44
DECEIVER...Revelation 20:10
THIEF...John 10:10
IMPOSTER, one who masquerades as an angel of light...2 Corinthians 11:14
SCHEMER...Ephesians 6:10
SCAVENGER...1 Peter 5:8

Scripture is clear...the devil is sharp, shrewd, and cunning

Like a wicked queen, he masquerades as something he is not and feeds us deadly poison disguised as turkish delights. 

Like a lion, he roams and sniffs looking for easy prey to completely devour. 

Like a thief, he steals whatever he can get his hands on and robs us of all innocence and trust. 

Like a murderer, he seeks to destroy us.  

There is no limit to the extent he will go to deter us from walking with Jesus and enjoying a life based on grace, forgiveness, & love.

So we cannot underestimate his efforts toward wreaking havoc in our minds, hearts, and souls.

We must, like Scripture teaches, be ALERT and ready for BATTLE.

How do we do this?

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." Ephesians 6:10-18

Armor Implication
1Belt of truth 6:14aLiving a life based on what is true (God's word) and filling our minds with what is true (scripture) so that we're not being deceived by the lies of Satan
2Breastplate of righteousness6:14bBeing saved and pronounced righteous by God
3Feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel 6:15Stability from being pulled away from faith by having the peace OF God (through faith in the son, not works), and peace WITH God (by communication and prayer).
4Shield of faith6:16Having faith in God's promises so Satan's lies can't penetrate, its a protection against false guilt
5Helmet of Salvation 6:17aCertainty of our salvation
6Sword of the spirit, the word of God 6:17bKnowledge of and speaking scripture (both offensive and defensive)
7Prayer6:18Rely on God's strength to win the battle by speaking to God continually in all ways at all times

So...How do we protect our sweet babies from the devil's schemes?

How do we teach our children about the devil?

How do we teach them to PUT ON the armor of God?

We inform and equip them with truth from God's Word.

We pray "on all occastions" and wait for wisdom full of God's perfect timing and God's effective teaching & communicating.

We cannot let fear or uncertainty deter us from exposing the devil's schemes to our children.

Just as he is at work in our lives seeking to completely devour us, as scary as it sounds he is also at work in their lives. 

He will not stop trying to deceive and destroy their spiritual fervor and faith in Jesus.

This should fire us up and make us righteously angry.  Let's teach them to be STRONG IN THE LORD and to RESIST THE DEVIL!

Join me in prayer today:

Jesus, You came so that my children may have life to the fullest BUT the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy them [John 10:10].  I pray that You would grant me the wisdom necessary to teach my children about the devil's schemes AND how to resist them.  I pray You would empower their hearts and minds to see the devil masquerading as an angel of light in their lives.  I pray they would be strong in You and able to resisit the devil's schemes by putting on Your armor.  And I pray they would not fear the devil but believe and rest in the knowledge that You have already won the battle.





Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Sweet, then Bitter, Taste of Sin

Grayden's preschool teacher bought each student one of these "Lick-It Cricket" suckers.

And yes!  Supposedly the cricket is edible. 

Grayden's "Lick-It" flavor is BLUEBERRY and his "cricket" is a SCORPION.

I've had many conversations with friends and family as to WHO would have the guts to actually eat the scorpion. 

We quipped that as one would reach the insides of the sucker, his sweet blueberry licks would start to be interprupted by say a leg or a tail.  

Eventually most of the sweet licking would end and all that would remain is the funky, crunchy scorpion. 

And we determined that, for most of us, one crunch of that scorpion would result in spitting, gagging, and vomiting.  Ha!

I couldn't help but compare the experience of this sucker to our experience with sin.

Initially, sin is sweet to the mouth BUT eventually it turns funky in our stomach. 

Job 20:12-15 says it perfectly:

"Though evil is sweet in his mouth
and he hides it under his tongue,
though he cannot bear to let it go
and keeps it in his mouth,
yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
it will become the venom of serpents within him.
He will spit out the riches he swallowed;
God will make his stomach vomit them up."

Sin is hideous to God but appears sweet and attractive to our selfish nature and corrupt desires.

So, we taste of it.  

At first, the morsel of sin is sweet in the mouth and we might even hide it under our tongue to prolong the delicious enjoyment of it. 

Yet when it is swallowed, it turns sour and poisons our inner being. 

That which was sweet and delicious has now turned so repulsive and vile that we long to "spit" it out or "vomit" it up.

Like with the Lick-It Cricket sucker, our children mustn't be deceived by the initial sweetness of sin.  For just as the smooth blueberry licks turn funky-crunchy, so will the sweetness of sin turn sour and poison their hearts.

Join me today and let's pray that our children are not deceived by sin's initial sweetness.

Jesus,
I pray that my children are not blinded and deceived by the initial sweetness of sin in their lives.  I pray you would open their eyes to the poisonous venom it will be within them.  I pray they would strive for righteousness by tasting of Your goodness through faithful devotion to You and Your Word.

Job 20:12-15

Monday, May 27, 2013

Heavenly Patriotism

To my fellow Americans,
Happy Memorial Day!

Today is a day we REMEMBER.


We remember the sacrifices made by the men and women of our military.

We remember the rights and freedoms we, as citizens, are blessed to enjoy.

We remember the spirit of Patriotism:  A love of country and a willingness to sacrifice for it.

To my fellow Believers,
Let us Praise God for our Citizenship in Heaven!

We MUST remember the sacrifice of Jesus, His death and resurrection, which grants us LIVING HOPE and promises an inheritance that "can never perish, spoil, or fade."  One that is being "kept in heaven for you" (and I & our children). [1 Peter 1:4] 

We MUST remember our true citizenship "is in heaven.  And we eagerly await the return of our Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." [Philippians 3:20]  Therfore, we must consider ourselves aliens and strangers on this earth.  We are to "long for a better country--a heavenly one." [Hebrews 11:13-16]


We MUST remember the rights and freedoms we, as citizens of God's Kingdom, are blessed to enjoy.  We have been delivered from the dominion of darkness and been brought into the Kingdom of the Son in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sin. [Colossians 1:13-14]. 

We are promised a "new heaven and a new earth," where Christ will sit on His throne and dwell with His people "as their God." 

We are granted the freedom of eternal life with Him where He will "wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore." [Revelation 20:1-4] 

And we MUST remember the spirit of Heavenly Patriotism.  Just like our earthly country, we are called to have a love for our heavenly country and to be willing to sacrifice for it.  While on this earth, we are to be living sacrifices, holy and devoted to God. [Romans 12:1] 

No matter your city, country, or continent, if YOU are a follower of Christ then you are a Citizen of Heaven!  And with that citizenship comes freedoms and blessings here on this earth and the promise of eternal life after you leave it.

My heart's cry is that my children spend their entire lives LONGING for their heavenly home where they will dwell with their God forever and ever.  Amen!

Join me in prayer today:

Jesus, I praise and thank You for Your death and resurrection, for without it we would not have the inheritance of citizenship in Heaven with You.  I pray that my children will love You and long for their better, heavenly country.  I pray they would remember the spirit of Heavenly Patriotism and have a love for their heavenly country so much so that they would be willing to make sacrifices for it.  I pray, here on this earth, they would be living sacrifices who are holy and devoted to You.  And I pray they would always remember that as followers of Jesus their true citizenship is in Heaven!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Helping Others


Lately, I've been blessed by the help of others. 

 The grocery bagger walking me to my van to HELP me load.

My sister and her husband sacrificing their Sunday evening to HELP me get ready for Grayden's birthday.

My husband mowing the lawn after the kids go to bed in order to HELP me rest.

The random woman at Kohls who helped me save money by giving me her 30% off coupon.

My babysitter changing her plans in order to HELP watch Cole & Allie so I could go to Grayden's last day at Preschool.


Simple sacrifices, which result in extending a helping hand to someone in need, please God.


Hebrews 13:16 says,

16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Simple sacrifices also demonstrate and pour out the love of God on others.

1 John 3:17-18 says,

17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I desire that my children's hearts are in-tune to the needs of others and tender to their plight...no matter how big or small it might be. 

I desire that they be willing to make sacrifices in order to do good and to share with those who are in need, thus, demonstrating the love of God in deed and ACTION.

Let's teach our children to help others...those in their family, neighborhood, school, city, country, and the world!

We can lead by example

We can point to others who extend helping hands. 

We can help create opportunities for them to extend their own helping hand.

And we can tell them the two positive consequences of helping others that Scripture teachesGod is pleasedGod's love is poured out.

Join me in prayer today

Jesus, Your life on earth was complete sacrifice in every way, shape, and form.  And every sacrifice You made was to meet our need for salvation.  I pray that my children would follow your example of making sacrifices in order to HELP meet the needs of others.  I pray they would love others through action.  May they do good and share with those in need.  May they look for opportunities to help others and have the humility and courage needed to meet their needs.  And may You be pleased and may Your love be poured out as a result. 

1 John 3:17-18
Hebrews 13:16




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Solving Problems

When confronted with a problem in life, A believer recently said to me...

Our FOCUS should be on our response to the problem rather than FIXATING on the problem itself.

I've thought about this statement often ever since.
And I've had to ask myself if I'm prone to fixating, even obsessing, over problems in my life rather than putting forth a determined effort to focus on the appropriate response.

I certainly am guilty of fixating on my kids problems rather than my response to them.  Especially when they are at the challenging age of 4.

Cole has frequent "breakdown" moments when he can't do something...like take his shirt off, turn the water on, buckle his seatbelt, close the door, wash his hands, make his bed, etc.  

He groans in frustration, flails his limp body to the floor, and usually starts crying ALL while telling me what he "can't do" at that given moment. 

His focus is completely fixated on the problem, so much so, that he is crippled by it and unable to see past it toward a solution. 

Even if I calmly and gently tell him how to respond in order to solve the problem, he resists the response and remains fixated on obsessing over the problem itself

As a result, growth and maturity are stifled and he repeats this exact behavior the next time.

And to add fuel to the fire, I am guilty of fixating on this parenting problem rather than focusing on how God wants me to respond to Cole. 

When I fixate on the problem my fleshly response is coated in anger and impatience and driven by thoughts like, "Uggghhh, this kid is exhausting and completely frustrating."

But on those occasions where I STOP fixating on the problem and START focusing on how God wants me to respond, love and grace AND wisdom drive my response.

As parents, our BEST response to parenting problems is to seek God's Word/Law for answers. 

I was encouraged by a fellow believer recently to read through all 176 verses of Psalm 119 and to make a list of ALL THE BENEFITS of God's Word/Law

Here are a few from that list that I find particularly encouraging when faced with parenting problems.

His Word/Law...

Counsels me (v.24)
Strengthens me (v. 28)
Comforts me (v.52)
Makes me Wise (v.98)
Give Light & Understanding (v.130)
Sustain me (v. 175)

His Word/Law are...

Trustworthy (v. 86)
Full of Knowledge & Good Judgment (v.66)
Steadfast (v.89)
Boundless with NO limits (v.96)
A Lamp to my Feet & A Light to my Path (v.105)

Bottom Line...My focus for each parenting problem should be on my response rather than the problem itself.  And there is no better way to focus on HOW to respond than to seek God's Word/Law for answers because its BENEFITS are rich.

Similarly, we must encourage our children to focus on their respone rather than fixating on the problem itself.  And we must teach them the BENEFITS that God's Word/Law has for those whose response is to seek its pages for a solution.

And "May those who fear you rejoice when they see [my children and I], for [we] have put [our] hope in your word." Psalm 119:74


Join me today in prayer,
 
Father God, I pray you would reveal to my children the danger of fixating on their problems rather than focusing on how You want them to respond.  With a problem at hand, I pray they would cling to the benefits of Your Word trusting it to be a light to their path, to give them understanding, to counsel & strengthen them, and to sustain them.  And I pray that others would see them put their hope in Your word and rejoice!
 
Pslam 119
 


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Available to His Service...Regardless


Lord, how do you want to use me today?

This is a question we should be asking God every day.


No matter what circumstance, environment, state, or situation we find ourselves...God wants to use us. 

I was struck recently by the life and ministry of the apostle Paul.  In everything, his focus remained steadfast on the ministry of testifying to and preaching about the gospel of Christ.

Even in prison.

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."  Philippians 1:12-14

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he saw prison as yet another opportunity for God to use him AND others.

He never used prison as an excuse or reason to STOP working on completing the task Jesus had given him.

"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."  Acts 20:24

While in chains, he even asks for prayer that he would continue to declare the gospel "fearlessly."  Ephesians 6:20

Chained up and in prison, I'm certain he prayed the words...

"Lord, how do you want to use me today?"

How else would the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon have been written? 
 
Doesn't this encourage you?

No matter your circumstance, environment, situation, or state God WANTS and CAN use YOU.

And the same is true for our children

If prison didn't exempt Paul from ministry, then nothing in their lives currently nor in the future can stop God from using them.

Let's spend today praying that our children would desire for God to use them on a daily basis AND that they would not let ANY circumstance, environment, state, or situation deter them from His service.

Jesus,  I pray my children would look at each day as a new opportunity to be used by you.  May they ask, "Lord how do you want to use me today?"  I pray that no matter their circumstance they would see it as an opportunity to fearlessly declare Your gospel.    And may their difficult circumstances in life serve to advance Your gospel.