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He Is Perfect

"Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory." Psalms 24:10

My Lord, my God, perfect in every way.  Awesome in power and in majesty.  I come before you your imperfect adopted daughter, grateful for the cleansing you completed in me through your Son, Jesus.  Grateful for the work your Holy Spirit continues in me so that I can bow before you blameless and faithful.  Amen

One of my daughters suffered for a while with perfectionism.  She once told me that she got that need to be perfect from me.  I had to admit I played a strong part through my own need to always do things just right.  And that need stemmed from a hole in my heart.  A hole that needed filling with love and grace.  I worried if I “messed up” then I would lose respect, lose friends, lose love.  I’m sure my daughter felt the same.  And it grieved me I had passed that along to her.  I’m so grateful she had the courage to share her struggle with me so that I could remind her how much I love her – no matter what.  Thankfully, she sought out God and the healing power of Jesus sooner in her life than I did.

I have finally realized the truth behind the flippant remark, “nobody’s perfect.”  Well, there is one “body” who is perfect and that’s the Triune God.  Other than that, we all fall woefully short.  Can I get an “amen?”

" When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless (“perfect” KJV)." Genesis 17:1

When God had this conversation with Abraham, He wasn’t expecting this man to be sinless – an impossible goal for us to reach.  In fact, the word “perfect” is translated as “single-hearted, without blame, sincere, wholly devoted to the Lord.”  It’s not to say we aren’t to strive to mirror God’s perfect will but as our Creator He knows our weaknesses.

"I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
    and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is he."  Deuteronomy 32:3-4

In the history of our human existence there has never been another worshipped god that can claim this state of perfection.  The Greek gods fought amongst themselves and were jealous.  They required constant preening and begging to intervene in human lives.  And when they did, you didn’t know for whose benefit they would act.  The god of the ancients, Baal, also needed constant pleasing through child sacrifice and sexually immoral acts.  Fast forward to today and the gods we modern humans have created look a lot like ourselves.  We place our minds in the center of the universe and need to feed the god of humans through wealth and fame and accumulation.   All the while not being able to accomplish a tiny portion of what the One True God has done and will do.  

Yes, God wants our attention.  He wants our worship.  He wants our obedience.  But He doesn’t need any of it.  He is perfect without us.  That, my friends, is what makes His devotion to us and His love for us and His sacrifice of His Son for us all the more glorious!  What I say to that is thank you, Lord!  Thank you for your Holy Word, your promises to us, for justice and mercy and grace.  I give you all the glory you rightfully deserve!

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His Sacrifice

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

Gracious God this morning I rose thinking of the Son you sent to save us.  I remembered the pain He endured to show His everlasting and deep love for us.  You created this plan and He completed it.  In remembrance of that day I sit in awe and wonder at your glorious ways.  Amen

Over the course of 30 years a survey was undertaken asking high school and college students if they would first try to save their dog or a stranger.  I’m disturbed to report that 2/3 have always voted against saving the person.  In newer studies, adults now vote similarly.  How would you vote if asked the same question?

This study was posted online awhile back and I went to the comments section to see what people had to say.  I shouldn’t have.  It was more disturbing.  People condemning others for being “evil,” “cruel,” and “vile.”  Strangely enough, they didn’t put themselves in those categories!  The folks that would pick an animal over a human (now certainly there would be instances we all might do the same.  Say a person has just attacked you and your dog) fail to see their decision makes them complicit in devaluing human life.

What the surveyors have surmised is the lack of Judeo-Christian values in a person’s life or the watering down of those teachings increases making moral decisions based on our feelings.  In addition, a belief in God elevates human worth over that of animals.  Without that, we see the image of God brought down to having no more value than a squid.

“9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

Throughout the Bible we are reminded that humans were God’s special creation.  So special that He gave us dominion over the earth.  The earth serves us, not the other way around as some would say.  When this understanding of the world’s creation is thrown out the window it’s no wonder the people of this world have turned everything upside down!

A number of my Christians friends have struggled with the fact that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.  We either secretly or out loud say we hope God never asks us to do something so difficult.  Yet every day parents see their children in the military risk their lives for us.  Police officers, firefighters, lifeguards and others put their lives on the line for strangers.  Because they believe we are worth saving.

The Bible is one of the most tested and proved documents in all history.  And God’s work is all around us to see proof of His ways.  There is little to no dispute that Jesus walked this earth.  Or even that He died a horrible death on the cross.  And whether or not a person believes He rose and ascended into heaven everyone should understand that He went to the cross that day for us.  He spoke over and over about the plan ahead for Him.  He didn’t die because He wanted fame.  He didn’t die to save the whales.  He didn’t die because of some terrible crime He committed.  The Father sent His Son to die to save us.  Because, thank God, He believes we are valuable. And just as our first verse reminds us, we aren’t saved just to be saved, but to spread the Word so that yes, even strangers are saved.

Friend, God in His glorious ways made us special.  I love my dog, Tucker, but he won’t seek justice for me and he won’t take up arms to protect me.  God made us in such a way that we can even ponder these moral thoughts.  He made us so when faced with difficult decisions we can decide on A, B or even A and B.  It depends on if you love God’s creation as much as He does.

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At Home With God

“Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.”  Romans 4:20

Holy God, everything I have belongs to you — my home, my car, my food, my marriage, my family. Help me to use them in service to you each day so I can proclaim Your glory and the wonderful work you have done in my life. Amen

I’d have to say one of the first obvious signs that I was submitting to God and giving Him authority over my life was years ago when my brother-in-law came to visit us and wanted to bring his girlfriend.  We had two small children and my husband and I decided we needed to model God’s morals by telling his brother that although she could come, they couldn’t sleep in the same room together.  He laughed, thinking we were joking.  But when we affirmed our decision, he asked how we could decide that when we, ourselves, had lived together before marriage.  It’s an easy answer actually.  We were now Christians with children to whom we were responsible for modeling God’s will.

Here’s the thing, Christian, it’s ok, even necessary in God’s act of progressive revelation, to change our minds.  To grow in our faith.  To set up new boundaries.  Especially in our own homes.  For Abraham, mentioned in our first verse today, he struggled to align his entire household with God.  He made bad decisions about his wife, he had to make peace among his family, he was faced with the prospect of sacrificing his son to the Lord.  But He kept moving forward in his faith.  With each step he learned more about God’s expectations of him and he guided his family and home toward God’s promises.  He set history on the right path by giving glory to God over and over. Joshua carried this forward when he assembled all the tribes of Israel.

"15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Our home spaces are the perfect place to glorify God.  Why? Because when we stand in our home, every blessing we can see belongs to Him.  The home, apartment, tent, condo, all belong to God.  The food in the cupboards, the furnishings, the beds, the indoor (or outdoor) plumbing – yes, all belong to Him and should be used in His service to glorify Him.

My two oldest friends are unfortunately not believers.  And over these last few years I’ve had the Holy Spirit convict me of my behavior when I’m around them.  I need to show them the work God has done in me.  When they are at my house, I must model God.  That means I shouldn’t allow certain behavior or speech within the walls of my house.  I fail at times when I let myself be pulled into the world of unbelievers.  Sometimes I forget to pray over our meal, I drift into outraged political discussions, and I gossip.  My first step was realizing what I was doing doesn’t honor God.  My second step is to be more consistent in application.

Friend, if the Lord has blessed you with a comfortable place to lay your head each night, a place to make a life for your family, a home to provide hospitality to others, we need to remember it was all given for a purpose.  If we struggle to honor God in our home, how can we be expected to receive further responsibility from Him outside our homes?  So today, stand in the middle of the place you call home and proclaim it is all for His glory.

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Not Me, Lord

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” Exodus 1:22

Whenever I picture Moses, Charlton Heston comes to mind.  For those of you too young to know that reference, Mr. Heston personified Moses in the blockbuster 1956 movie The 10 Commandments.  He was sweaty and swarthy and muscular.  He was bold and without fear.  Some of his final scenes show him standing fiercely on top of a mountain, wind blowing his impressive white beard and long gorgeous hair as he calls on the name of God.  A hero.  A rescuer.  A man not to be trifled with because God was with him.  As usual, the big screen skips over a few of the finer points of history for the sake of the storyline.  Like the fact that Moses, even though God Himself had been his rescuer many times, really didn’t want the job of Israel’s savior.  Of being the leader of the new beginning for an entire people.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11

That interaction alone might lead the reader to think Moses well, he’s just being humble.  But by my count Moses tries to turn God to someone much more suited, much more capable than him eight times!  I can’t! What if!  I’m not!  Why should I?  Sound familiar to anyone out there?

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”  Exodus 4:1

My BSGs (Bible Study Girls) and I have embarked on a new study by Shirley Giles Davis called, God. Gifts. You.  In our first week we were asked: “Where are you hearing God, but your excuse for delaying sounds a lot like “Lord, I’m afraid.”?”  Moses afraid?  Not that guy.  God saved him from death as a baby.  God placed him in the care of royalty.  God gave him incredible opportunities for gaining knowledge and physical strength.  He saved him from capture.  There’s no way Moses was afraid of yet another challenging new beginning, right?

Eight times.  Standing in front of bush that was talking to him even!  I don’t know about you but if I told my husband when he walked in the door from work that one of my bushes in the yard was on fire and speaking to me about going to the governor’s office demanding, “let my people go!” he’d be very, very concerned.  In fact, this was a point of discussion with my BSGs.  Not burning bushes mind you but whether or not God still speaks audibly to us.  And if he does, do people think we are crazy?  It’s an unfortunate state we are in that some pastors and biblical teachers try to assure us that God doesn’t speak out loud to us anymore.  We must discern His word in other ways.  And while I agree we need to use God’s character, gleaned from His written Word to verify the voice we hear I completely disagree that we no longer hear His audible voice.  I know.  I’ve heard Him.  Some of my BSGs have heard Him.  To me the real question is now that you’ve heard Him, what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to accept the challenge of this new beginning or find another excuse?

Moses, although a pretty amazing and instrumental piece of God’s plan, stumbled even with God’s past provisions clearly given to him and the promise of God’s presence and help spoken to him.   Moses, sometimes called the “Lesser Jesus,” is so often seen in parallel with the Messiah.  Their birth stories are almost identical with a king demanding their death.  Moses was to rescue people from slavery.  Jesus from the slavery of sin.  Moses led the Israelites through the parted waters toward the promised land.  Jesus is our living water giving us the promised land.  Moses was tested.  Jesus was tested.  So, where’s the problem with his hesitation?

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13

If you remember from Noah or even Abraham when called they went.  And in Isaiah 6:8 Isaiah raises his hand proudly and says, “me Lord, send me!”  It’s hard for a lot of people, I believe to relate to those guys.  We regular folks sometimes are more like Moses.  We list our reasons God’s plan won’t work.  We aren’t smart enough, strong enough, likeable enough, talented enough.  But like with Adam, if God wants us in His service He won’t let go.  He wants us to be part of a new beginning.  And so, he nudges us to the right people and places.  He puts other saints in front of us to help open doors.  For Moses?  He said, “Fine, I’ll give you Aaron to use as your spokesperson.”

But here’s the thing.  Even though Moses is the one remembered and exalted, it was Aaron that got to wear the priestly, holy robes.  It was Aaron that was allowed into the most holy place.  Think if Moses had responded like Isaiah – “Me! Me! I can do it Lord because you have rescued me so many times!”  Moses would’ve been allowed into the whole glory of God, the first priest of Israel.  True, his relationship with God was pretty amazing.  But God clearly wanted even more for him.  

His new beginning, as Moses led the Israelites toward the promised land, would require him to call on the Lord for strength and rescue many times.  I find it interesting that Moses had to listen to all the people constantly complaining to him about why he took them down this path.  Do you think he occasionally thought, “That sounds a lot like I was with God.”? 

Friend, whether it’s a nudging or a clear directive from God I want to urge you to step up in faith and raise your hand.  To use all your resources (prayer, scripture, pastors, teachers) plus God’s past intervention in your life to discern what He is asking of you.  In your new beginning when you step out in faith you can then say “I overcame my fears and allowed God to take my weakness and turn it into strength.”  This blog and podcast was my big step. Let Him work a New Beginning in you and He will let His glory shine brightly through you!

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Family

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” Genesis 21:6-7

As I write this we are about four weeks away from the Thanksgiving holiday celebrated in the United States.  And already I’ve heard from a few anxious friends concerned about gathering with family. To be fair, they are all worried about their spouse’s family!  But what makes holidays potentially stressful – dealing with the various personalities and their idiosyncrasies – is also what brings us such joy.  Our families.

When Sarah was gifted a child in her advanced age the Bible doesn’t talk about all her worries.  Although I could imagine there might have been a few.  Instead, what the focus is on is laughter and joy.  God’s creation of man included the eventual creation of family.  And there’s something about family that always feels so different than friendships.  We are bonded by some mysterious force from the heavens.  The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly in our families stays with us forever unlike a forgotten friend.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

The command to honor our parents is the first command telling us to do something for another human being. It stands to reason that God puts family pretty high up on his list.  And while there are those whose parents have made honoring them difficult due terrible sin and lack of repentance, for so many of us we must remember God’s love for family and how He wants us to love them.

I love my whole family, those of blood and those my rolling stone has picked up along the way.  Some I must work harder to obey the command, while others it comes easily.  I thank God for all of them — because I have benefitted from them all while in this crazy, mysterious union. 

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Sojourners & Exiles

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4

We Christians are sojourners and exiles.  This is not where our ultimate allegiance lies!  

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

We certainly aren’t lacking in opportunities to engage in political discourse these days.  From mask wearing to vaccine mandates and budget crises to abortion laws the world around us is in quite a turmoil.  But when, as Christians, are we to engage?  When are we called to join the fight and stand resolutely in our faith?  These next two posts will look at our life as Christians and the political realm.  First, starting with what role the church, and therefore Christians, play in our common citizenry.

But let’s back up a bit.  For those of us living in the United States we’ve seen a serious deterioration from our Christian-held values over the last 70 years or so.  Not long ago almost all businesses were closed on Sundays and you certainly couldn’t by alcohol on that day.  Now, a business that makes the decision to not be open on Sundays because of their beliefs is vilified.  I’ve heard different arguments about whether or not the United States was a special project by God.  Whatever stance you may take on that we can be certain that every single nation was formed by God.  Every single head of state has been placed in their position by God and therefore is subject to His expectations and final judgment.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17

That the United States was founded with God and the idea of His sovereignty at the forefront should not, however, be in dispute.  Besides the federal founding documents, all state constitutions, except one, reference God and His oversight of said government in the beginning of those documents.  It was then left to the citizens, as it has throughout the history of the world, to maintain that stance.

When you get deep in to C.S. Lewis’ great Christian apologetic book, Mere Christianity, you’ll find the concept of a Moral Law.  Through every empire, every phase of human existence we turn to this moral law for guidance.  We know what basically is wrong (ie: killing another human for gain or pleasure) and what is right (ie: helping a widow or orphaned child).  And, as Mr. Lewis argues, no matter your faith or lack thereof those concepts have been placed in our hearts and minds by someone.

But as a society drifts further away from a common faith, as in the case of much of Europe, North America and South America, we create new ways of working around what we know to be right and wrong.  We bend the moral law to fit the desires of our flesh and we seek to be accepted by the world.

You cannot make men good by (man-made)law; and without good men you cannot have a good society.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

And so, as Christians we watch as one of the last bastions of religious freedom, the United States, which also built upon that with many other freedoms, begin to crumble.  And we can so easily misplace our fears on our elected officials and the laws they create. 

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:8-9

At the time Paul wrote this letter to Timothy the Romans ruled with an iron fist.  Anyone that did not submit to their laws was imprisoned, tortured, killed, or pushed out of everyday society.  And Paul reminds not just Timothy but all of us who read this message that we have one commander to whom we must be most concerned – God and His son Jesus Christ.  We are set apart to be holy and live a holy life.

We are reminded that our role in this world is a sort of dual citizenship – to the country we call home and the home that waits for us.  It’s a balancing act that the disciples knew all too well.  We are to obey the laws of our government as good guests yet remembering we have limits based on God’s expectation of our adherence to His moral laws and knowledge of the final judgment.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles,to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12

It may come as a surprise to many Christians in the United States but it isn’t our role to create a “just society.”  It is our role to seek justice for those in need in our communities but we can’t right every wrong.  We need to be comforted that God is in charge and we can, as individuals and corporately do His good works.  But Jesus, time and again, never sought regime change.  He sought heart change. He sought obedience by His followers to God’s expectations.

Being a sojourner did not require isolation from surrounding societies.  Abraham seems to have understood the need to exercise prudential judgment about how, when and with whom to share common activity.  One approach did not fit all cases.

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

So does this mean we shouldn’t try and affect our government’s choices or laws?  No, it’s just remembering who we serve first, resolutely.  It’s remembering the difference between violently protesting a wrong and speaking out within the framework of how God wants us to act.  It’s figuring out where God and the church stands on an issue (ie: abortion) and where something may not be biblical at all (ie: the federal budget).  It’s making sure our heart and mind set firmly with God, not the world.

Believe me, I’ve struggled with these issues a lot.   I’ve stood on street corners waving my country’s flag and promoting a candidate.  I’ve stood up to politicians who have demonstrated a lack of moral character. Neither of which are wrong for a Christian.  I vote in every single election. Which is, in a way, expected as a Christian. But as my faith progresses, I’m taking a new view of my place on this big blue planet.  When I firmly set King Jesus as my authority, as my hope, as the Lord and Savior not just of my world but of every single human that has existed and will exist, my perspectives change.

As Christians we cannot continue to say we trust God, we know God will judge in the final conflict and still scream in outrage at people who disagree with our political opinion.  That message speaks loud and clear to non-believers that we don’t trust God.  That we haven’t set Him as our authority. That we have no concern for eternity. 

It’s time, fellow sojourners, to pull out our passports and remind ourselves of our future travel plans.  To stand resolutely with the one King that will judge everyone for all ungodly acts.  He has not appointed us commissioners of that judgment.  Yet, we are also not called to be passive in our worldly citizenry — sitting back and watching the world fall around us. He has appointed us as soldiers to exhort others to follow Him before it is too late.

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Walking The Talk

The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness. Isaiah 38:19

I have a confession to make.  I wasn’t an intentional Christian parent.  Church was often relegated to the backseat during softball season (which pretty much lasts 9 months).  I didn’t make sure my kids were involved in Christian youth groups.  When we did pray at dinner we prayed the same prayer each time until it became almost meaningless.  We didn’t talk about the Bible, we didn’t talk about our faith.  I don’t think I’m alone in this confession.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in saying there was a price paid for our “Christian-lite” stance.

I am thankful that, when my younger daughter went off to college, she was drawn to a Christian athlete organization and then a local church.  Through that program she learned what we had failed to teach – the truth about our Savior and how much God loves us.   My older daughter?  She’s probably like a lot of our twenty-somethings.  She believes in God but beyond that it gets murky.  

“The single most important factor of shaping children’s religious lives is their parents – not society, not youth leaders, but their parents.”

Christian Smith, Handing Down the Faith

In other words, if you model faithfulness, if you live out what you say you believe on Sunday, the chances of your child being a devoted follower of Christ is increased exponentially.  And if, like I did, you lead a lukewarm faith life you’ll most likely create the same fruit. Even worse, if you act or speak hypocritically you may get no fruit at all.

A few weeks ago, our pastor taught on Genesis 18:16-19:29.  An overarching theme in these verses is the concept of being or having an advocate.  Someone who will hold us up and speak for us to God.  Abraham wrangled with God to save just a few people from the sin-filled cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In the end, his pleas saved his nephew, Lot, and Lot’s daughters.  It’s a beautiful foreshadowing of the ultimate Advocate – Jesus.  As you can see in these two verses.

Then he (Abraham) said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”  He (God) answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  Genesis 18:32
Jesus: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John 17:15

How many of us, as parents or grandparents or even aunts and uncles, see ourselves as “advocates” for our children?  See being in that role as possibly one of the most important ones we will ever have?  How many of us have prioritized our faith over the sparkling lights of “after school activities?” Their very souls are what we are talking about here.  I’ve heard so many parents grieve their adult children’s faith.  And so we pray as their advocate.  How about we also live as one too?

Abraham was able to plead directly with God.  A back and forth conversation.  How?  From the beginning of his relationship with God, Abraham obeyed and worked to be a faithful servant – with a few hiccups along the way.  What does that look like as modern parents today?  How can we be resolute in not compromising our children’s eternity?

In my next post I’ll talk about opening our eyes as parents to our everyday decisions.  Are they of the world of the flesh or of God’s will?  I recently listened to author Christian Smith about the research he has done in the area of youth and faith.  His current book is titled, Handing Down the Faith.  Here’s few great nuggets from the book.

  1. Teens are actually paying attention to you.  That might come as a shock to many.  He found that even into their 20s our kids are actively noticing how we live and what we “preach.”
  2. Just saying you are a Christian (Buddhist, Jew, etc) isn’t enough.  Kids are learning both positive and negative faith examples.
  3. We aren’t just counteracting world views but some church ones as well.  Many Christian youth programs teach what he termed, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – act morally, be a nice person, and don’t judge.   That’s great when life is easy.  But as our kids age and the world comes crashing down it causes them to fall away.
  4. Be authoritative – demand expectations, standards, with an abundance of warmth and support.  Note: not “authoritarian.”
  5. Talk routinely about religion.  While your faith doesn’t need to be the subject of each discussion your faith should be woven in and used for handling conflict and decision making.
  6. Walk the talk.  If you live a life of service, humility, forgiveness and worship your kids will have the best example they will ever need.
  7. Channel “internalization.”  Or in other words place your child in situations where they will be influenced positively in your faith by others such as youth groups, religious schools, etc.
  8. Know the Word.  A good teacher is only as good as how well they know their topic!
  9. Play the long game.  None of us are wholly responsible for anyone’s faith and salvation.  But the building blocks you instill are certainly a great cornerstone!
  10. Pray.  And pray some more.  Pray for knowledge, pray for discernment, pray for your children and your spouse. Pray for doors to open for conversations and then walk through them!

I may have missed the opportunity when my kids were younger to instill Jesus into their lives.  But to be fair, He wasn’t deeply rooted in mine either.  Thankfully, how I’ve allowed Jesus to change me and use me is also a great lesson for my adult children.  Until this Age of Grace is over, it is never too late for God to work in our familys’ lives.  As a changed follower I’m asking for His help, so that I can stand resolutely and faithfully in being my kids’ advocate.  

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Back to Bethel

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. Genesis 13:3-4

I heard a great sermon the other day about Genesis 13.  I love how God lets us view people in the Bible with an almost cinematic touch.  We reach deep into their thoughts, their trials, their sins, their joys.  We can sit back and know they are about to fail or conquer.  But like any good director, God places seemingly insignificant artifacts and occurrences into the story that, in order to get the beautiful breadth of the story we need to look again and dig deeper.

That’s the advantage of being in a church which hosts a good teaching pastor.  They find the nuggets and carefully remove the outer layers, revealing the gems.

And so, I learned the other day about Bethel.  About coming home.  About retracing my steps to bring me back closer to God.  Two little sentences in the Bible showing me where to go when I feel lost.  When I have gone off track.  I praise God today for Bethel – for His welcoming home.

Many years ago, I wrote a short poem for my mother in law.  The gist of the poem was that like a bird finds its comfort in a beautiful birdhouse, so I find my home with her.  A lot of people feel that way around her.  She brings you in and gives you rest and comfort.  In Abram’s case, after he had made some disastrous decisions while in Egypt, he made the wise choice to go back to God’s house – Bethel.  It’s where he had built the first altar to honor God.

He didn’t just show up there, he entered back into communication with God.  And he was surely welcomed.  

Our human nature is to grow up and out of our parents’ homes.  To plunge into the world of adulthood, seemingly going it alone.  But for many who come from loving, healthy homes they know they can always come back for advice and aid.  

Our relationship with God is unique.  He wants us always tethered to Him.  He desires to be constantly asked about who to marry, where to work, how to handle difficult relationships.  He wants us to join His home gym, giving us strength to make it through trials and tribulations.  He longs to have us sit around His dinner table sharing our day – our joys and our pains.

And when we wander too far away, we need to remember to retrace our steps.  We need to follow our hearts back to Bethel.


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Unswerving Faith

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we 
profess, for he who promised is faithful.  
Hebrews 10:23

We sing songs about God being our Rock.  We hear sermons about not living as though on shifting sand.  And yet so often I find myself having days where my faith feels more like something I’ve placed in a box to access at a later date and time.  I rush about “doing life,” not as a Christian but as a citizen of the world.  I let go of my Rock and hold on to my to do list.

But what do we, as Christians, really want to accomplish in our lives?  If it’s simply completing to-do lists every day, we miss out on some of the greatest human qualities God gifted us – the ability to dream and grow and have hope. 

When I was in high school, I wanted to be an astronaut.  I met with Air Force recruiters who were enthusiastic about me joining up.  But when I sat down with my parents, they immediately discouraged me.  They thought I couldn’t handle the rigor and discipline of training.  I had two choices – to ignore them and join anyway or give up my dream.  Had I a strong prayer life, I could’ve lifted up this quandary to God.  And then be guided by Him.  At each roadblock I could’ve held fast to the knowledge that He put me on that path.  But I’m sorry to say, I neither prayed nor kept my dream alive.

This verse today harkens back to Abraham and Sarah’s unswerving faith in God.  They went through terrible trials in which it would’ve been understandable had they given up on God’s promises.  We see throughout the Old Testament when the Israelites did give up hope.  They grumbled to Moses and set off in directions which brought death.  And who can forget Lot’s wife – looking backward rather than forward to God’ promise?

How often do we pray for help from Jesus, knowing that He answers prayers, and then after things get a bit tough or we feel the wait is too long we give up on our hopes and dreams?

Blessed is the one who perseveres under 
trial because, having stood the test, 
that person will receive the crown of 
life that the Lord has promised to those 
who love him. 
James 1:12

God never breaks a promise.  It’s always us.  It’s us that needs to take our faith out of the box and place it at the top of our list each day.  We need to hold fast to the knowledge that God is working for us and not against us.  Whenever we are tempted to give up or get discouraged about our dreams, we need seize the promises that God has shown us.

Here’s a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek that might help you, through faith, “hold unswervingly” to your dreams!

Lord, I am well aware that events will occur in life that will tempt me to release the dream You put in my heart.  So right now, I ask You to fill me with the courage I need to refuse to let go of my dream.  Even though my mind and the circumstances around me may send signals that the dream will never come to pass, I know that You are faithful to what you have promised.  Help me wrap my arms of faith around your promises and never let go until I see them come into manifestation!  I pray this in Jesus’ name!  

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His Lifeline of Love

In a surge of anger I hid my 
face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah 
would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry 
with you,never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken 
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will
not be shaken nor my covenant of 
peace be removed,” says the Lord, 
who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

I recently stumbled upon these verses while doing a study of Genesis. As you read above, verse nine discusses “the days of Noah” and recounts the covenant God made with Noah after the flood waters receded. Noah then built an altar in remembrance of all from which God had delivered him. In witnessing Noah’s obedience, God established a covenant of peace with Noah, promising him that never again would he wipe out all of mankind in anger (Gen. 8:20-22). 

When God called Noah to build the ark and spared his family from the worldwide destruction, God extended Noah a lifeline of love. Because he had compassion on Noah and truly loved mankind, God created a way out of death by giving Noah clear guidance for surviving the flood.

God showed Noah that while yes, sin had entered the world and man was disobedient, that He still loved His creation. We often get caught up on God’s wrath by sending the flood in the first place. Mass destruction and death seems a bit harsh. But if God was so harsh, then why did he save Noah? He could’ve wiped out all of mankind on Earth and started over, but His steadfast love for Noah and his offspring prevailed. God showed Noah that no matter how bad things got on Earth, His lifeline of love would always be there for those who trust in Him with complete obedience. 

That lifeline shown to Noah, is Jesus. When the Lord states, in Isaiah 54:10, that his steadfast love shall not depart from you – He is talking about His son Jesus. You see, from Noah until now, we as believers all still hold on to the same lifeline that Noah, Abraham, Moses and David held onto.

The covenant God established with all those men was the covenant of His Son. The promise that one day, there would be complete restoration of all sinners who call on His name and that those holding on to the lifeline of His steadfast love, would all be brought into the glories of heaven. 

Though 2020 has seemed like a worldwide disaster – think again. There will be the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord because of the power of God they see all around them. God’s steadfast love for us believers never expires. We have the eternal hope of God’s love forever – into eternity. 

This is love: not that we loved God, 
but that he loved us and sent his 
Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10

Until then, we hold fast to His lifeline of love. Hold fast to the God that established His covenant with ordinary people like Noah and Abraham and you and me. Through His son Jesus Christ, he once again established his eternal love with us – until the day we see him again. 

God’s love is abundant to those who trust in Him. He cares for us and loves us as His children – are you resting in that truth today?  Have you accepted your side of the covenant?

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Isaiah 43:4