Encouragement from the Word

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth"
III John 1:4

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Prayer of Thanksgiving and Adoration

Thank you Lord for moving me closer to you in my life over the years.

You have wanted me  to be in this place for so long but, you must have known I was not ready to be totally yielded to you. It took half a lifetime for me to give up trying to make my life and my family what I thought they should be. To give up my will, my desires, my plans... for your plans. You had to deal with, among other things, my pride, my selfishness and my desire for control.

I am so thankful for your peace...your contentedness...your joy...your hopefulness and your strength.

 I am thankful for faith, to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything is going to turn out O.K.

In the end...you win...evil is defeated...all are healed...relationships, too. Faith is a truly wonderful gift. It allows me to keep things in perspective here on this fallen earth and to deal with others with grace and mercy.

The little things we worry about won't mean a thing. We will be in the presence of God. What a great reunion day it will be when we join our beloved family members and brothers and sisters in Christ around the throne.

Thank you for teaching me that, when in doubt, I should err on the side of love.

Thank you for helping me to understand the importance of training my children in the Lord and for allowing me to grow a little in this area with each child. I have placed them in your hands and would not want them anywhere else, for you love them even more than I.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you with my gifts and talents.

Whatever little talent you have given me, I pray that you would use it...enhance it and bless it to your glory. May the ministries in which you have placed me be fruitful....bringing people into the kingdom and drawing believers closer to you.

I love you Lord with all my heart. I praise you for your wondrous works. I thank you for the ugly parts of my life that you used to teach me and refine me. I am truly overwhelmed by your goodness. May you urge me more towards holiness every day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spiritual Gifts: Do I Really Have One?

If you are a believer, then God has given you a unique spiritual gift (or two) that you are to use within the body of Christ (the church) to help it function according to God's design. Just as a body has many parts that must all function together to make the body work properly, so goes the church. Your gift is an important and necessary part of the kingdom of God.

How Do I Determine my Spiritual Gift?

 If you are not sure what your spiritual gift is, there are several spiritual gift inventories online that can help you determine that. Hopefully, this post will give you some insight into what your gift may be. Please take the time to prayerfully search this out and then talk to a minister at your church to see where you can begin to use your spiritual gift. You will be amazed how God will bless you as you begin to take an active part in furthering God's kingdom and building up his church.

In Romans 12: 4-8 it says:

 "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving; let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."

 I discovered many years ago that my spiritual gifts were teaching and leadership. Although I am a teacher by profession, people who are teachers do not always have the spiritual gift of teaching; nor do those with the gift of teaching always go into that profession. Having the gift of teaching, I really enjoy planning out lessons and pulling out "truth nuggets" and life application for the learners. I love the studying and preparatory aspect of teaching as much as the presentation of the lesson. It makes me happy when students learn something new and are moved forward in their faith.

As for the gift of leadership, I thoroughly enjoy planning and running events and have no problem speaking in front of a crowd. I have the ability to use a team well to get things done. I share my gifts with you just as an example and not to boast in any way. As a matter of fact, no gift is greater than any other. You can find more about spiritual gifts and particularly, the "body"analogy, in 1 Corinthians 12.

What Gifts are Mentioned in the Bible?

 Some of the spiritual gifts are listed below. As you read about them ask yourself if any of them sound like you, or particularly inspire you:

Service - These people enjoy helping with various chores around the church such as working in the kitchen, helping with custodial issues, doing yard work for older members, or helping with parking. It makes them feel useful and fulfilled to get their hands dirty, dig in and help. They don't mind (as a matter of fact, they prefer) being behind the scenes.

Giving - People with the gift of giving immediately reach into their wallet or purse when they see a need within the church that can be remedied with a little or a lot of cash. God has blessed them with the resources to help with things like purchasing a new sound system, giving to a missions project, paying for someones electric bill, donating a vehicle to someone who needs it. They are happy to share their money and resources with others.

Exhortation - Those with the gift of exhortation enjoy encouraging other believers to "keep on keepin' on". They often urge others to do what's right through advice and possibly, words of warning. They like to write letters and cards to people who are going through a rough time. Lifting people up lifts them up.

Teaching - A person with the gift of teaching has a burden to see people grow and learn through Bible study. They enjoy preparing and presenting Biblical truth in a logical and systematic way. They are usually pretty comfortable speaking in front of people, although it is not always a large group that they teach. Seeing the light go on when someone understands a Biblical truth for the first time really "floats their boat".

Leadership - Those who have the gift of leadership enjoy planning and organizing things within the church. They are good at delegating responsibility and leading a team of people to accomplish a task. They would probably do well as the Vacation Bible School director or as the head of another program in their church.

Mercy - A person who has the gift of mercy will show lots of caring and compassion for people who are hurting. They may like to do hospital visits or minister to people who have lost a loved one. When brothers and sisters in Christ are hurting, they hurt as well. They truly and sincerely care about people.

Prophecy - A person with the gift of prophesy is concerned with sin and the influence of culture on the body of Christ. They have a strong sense of right and wrong according to the Word of God. Within the church, they may encourage, admonish and influence believers towards a more godly lifestyle.

Faith - Believers with the gift of faith know that God is going to work everything out. They naturally have a peace in life that may seem unnatural to some. When others around them are distraught or in a panic, they strongly believe God. These people are often described as having a positive attitude about life.

Evangelism - Those with the gift of evangelism love nothing more than to share Christ with people. Their heart's desire is to see people come into the family of God. They will usually have tracks on hand to give to people they meet as they go about their day. My own father had the gift of evangelism and was an active member of the Gideon's organization for many years.

Discernment - Believers with the gift of discernment can quickly detect what is false and what is true. They can be a great source of wisdom and advice when situations come up in the church that just "don't seem quite right". They can usually determine whether or not someone's motives are pure, as well.

Don't  be a "pew sitter" any longer. Be a part of God's exciting work. Find out where you can help. I guarantee your church will find a place for you!

Please Leave a Comment

Have you discovered your spiritual gift? What is it? Are you using it in your local church? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Salvation: What's in it For Me?

S - Saved from the ultimate consequence of sin...an eternity in hell. (1)

A - Access to the power, strength and insight of the Holy Spirit. (2)

L - Life eternal in heaven with God after physical death. (3)

V - Victory over sin and death through the blood of Jesus Christ. (4)

A - Amazing peace through the trials and tragedies of life. (5)

T - Total cleansing of sin...past, present and future. (6)

I Infinite love and mercy from your heavenly Father. (7)

O - Overwhelming joy for what Christ has done for you. (8)

N - New sense of purpose. A unique place of service in the kingdom of God. (9)

(1)  "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."    John 5:24

(2)  "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will recieve the gift of the Holy Spirit.' "    Acts 2:38

(3)  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."   Romans 6:23

(4)  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."   Romans 5:8

(5)  " Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  John 14:27

(6)  "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."   Psalm 103:12 

(7)  "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

(8)  " I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."   John 15:11

(9)  "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."   Jeremiah 29:11

Broken Vessels...Mended Hearts: The Power of God's Forgiveness

I Then Shall Live

I then shall live as one who's been forgiven.
I'll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before my Father.
I am His child, and I am not afraid.

So greatly pardoned, I'll forgive my brother;
the law of love, I gladly will obey.
I then shall love as one who's learned compassion.
I've been so loved, that I'll risk loving, too

I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;
I'll dare to see another's point of view.
And when relationships demand commitment,
then I'll be there to care and follow through.

Your kingdom come around and through and in me.
Your power and glory, let them shine through me.
Your hallowed name, oh may I bear with honor,
and may your living kingdom come in me.

The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,
and may you feed a hungry world through me.

Lyrics by Gloria Gaither

As I listened to this song by Gloria Gaither at a recent Sunday morning service, I was deeply touched by the words. This beautiful song so eloquently portrayed my own feelings about what God had done in my life. I found myself  "singing" the words loudly in my heart along with the choir as an expression of gratitude and worship to the God who had forgiven me of so much. I especially loved the first stanza:

I then shall live as one who's been forgiven.
I'll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before my Father.
I am His child, and I am not afraid.

You see, although I grew up in a Christian home, was saved at an early age and spent all of my childhood and teen years very involved in church life, I have not always walked closely with the Lord. There was a brief time in my life that I wandered away from Him seeking after the things of the world and living very much for myself. Those few years away from the Lord were marked by self-centeredness, stubborness, arrogance and pride. I've often likened that period of my life to the story of the prodigal son who left the loving environment of his father's house to squander his inheritence and finally ended up living with the pigs. I had my own "pigpen" experience so to speak.

Friday, March 16, 2012

10 Terrific Tips for Dads

1)  Talk to your son about what's going on in his life. Talk about something other than sports or what chore he didn't get done.

2)  Tell your daughter you are proud of her. Compliment her on a character trait that she exhibits. ( helpfulness, cooperation, kindness, etc. )

3)  Teach your son how to build, fix or paint something. You're the one who must teach him these practical skills. His wife will thank you for it someday.

4)  Take your daughter on a date. Do something she likes to do. Buying her a rose would be a nice touch. Make her feel special.

5)  Be present with your family when you come home from work. Don't be preoccupied with work, the computer or your cell phone. Hang out at home and interact with them.

6)  At dinner time, share a verse or passage form the Bible. Ask your kids what they think it means. Briefly share what the verse means to you.

7)  Hug your wife and tell her you appreciate her in front of your kids.

8)  While driving in the car or at dinner time, share with your kids how God has blessed your family this month or provided for your needs. Say a prayer of thanks with them.

9)  Take your kids along to meet the needs of someone less fortunate than you. Let them see you serving someone who cannot pay you back.

10)  Take your kids to church...don't be a "stay at home" Dad on Sundays.

If you have other great tips for Dads, please write them in the comment box. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Bible: Lesson Plan for Life

The Bible is an inherently practical book. It gives us instructions on relationships, attitudes, priorities and facing adversity. It tells us how to live. When we read the Bible we are not left questioning what we need to do to please God. It's right there in black and white.

 Some of my favorite verses are those that summarize concisely how to live a godly life. For example, Micah 6:8, which is the theme verse for my blog, says, "He has shown thee, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." My prayer each day is that I would, in the power of the Holy Spirit, be able to live this verse out.

Another passage of scripture that is full of practical advice for living is Romans 12:9-13. "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."  To me this reads like a lesson plan for living. Could it be any more clear and direct? I don't think so. When you get a minute, take the time to read the entire 12th chapter of Romans. It is filled with wisdom and direction on how to live a life that pleases God.

Ephesians 4 is a chapter that talks about putting off the old self and putting on the new self, created in Christ Jesus. It says we are to live as children of the light for we are no longer in darkness. Verses 29-32 speak specifically about our tongue, which tends to get us in so much trouble! It says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God for whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:29-32

Monday, March 12, 2012

Homeschooling...the Classical Adventure Begins!

 I have been homeschooling my daughter for two years now after our wonderful Christian school closed it's doors due to the recent downturn in the economy. The Lord has truly blessed us during this time and it has been such a rewarding experience. Homeschooling has given me the opportunity to get to know my daughter again in a relaxed and unhurried setting. In addition, I have had plenty of time to model and instruct her in the areas of relationships, courtesy, home-making and service. Children can soak up so much from us when they have sufficient time with us for this to occur. Children who are in school full time are often hurried, stressed and just plain tired. It has been such a blessing to have my daughter at home where we can take life at a slower pace and "stop and smell the roses" every once in a while.

Another benefit of homeschooling is that there is plenty of time for music lessons, art enrichment classes, sports, etc...as these can occur during the day instead of always right after a long day of school. Due to the large amount of time we spend together, there is no question that I am the primary person of influence in my daughter's life right now, which I believe is biblical. That is not always the case when students spend 40 hours or more a week at school and in extra-curricular pursuits. They can be heavily influenced by teachers, coaches and their peers. ( I realize there are many Christian teachers and coaches who are wonderful influences on students, but, I believe parents should be the primary trainers of their children.) The opportunity for biblical training is another major benefit of homeschooling. Maybe even the most important benefit as we are instructed in scripture to train our children up in the Lord.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

So...You Wish Your Husband Would Change?

Is your husband a Christian whose life doesn't seem to be bearing much fruit? Is he saved but not growing in his faith or showing any excitement for the things of the Lord? Or... are you in a marriage with an unsaved spouse?

 The above scenarios can be troubling to Christian women, especially when they are experiencing a season of spiritual growth in their own lives. When women are growing in their Christian walk through Bible studies, prayer, personal quiet times, and encouraging relationships with Christian friends, they often have a longing and desire that their husbands would grow along with them. The problem is, we often try to help this process along, employing all the wrong tactics.

If you are a woman who would like to see spiritual growth in her husband or to see him come to know the Lord as his Savior...just stand on faith and...believe.

Believe...that God has the power to change your husband from the inside out. Remember, the Bible says, nothing is impossible with God. He's worked on some hard cases before...Jonah? Paul?

Believe... that God loves your husband infinitely more than you do. He sent his only son to die for him and he ultimately wants the very best for him.

Believe...that although you are one in marriage, your husband has a distinct and personal relationship between he and the Savior. You cannot have that relationship for him.

Believe...in the life-changing power of prayer. Pray for your husband daily.

Believe...that God can use your life and example to change your husband's heart. Do your best to show him love, mercy, patience and grace.

Believe...that the Holy Spirit can communicate directly to your husband and does not need you to be his mouthpiece. You cannot guilt him into a stronger relationship with the Lord...it will backfire! That being said, there are times when the Lord does lead us to share ideas and opinions with our husbands and when that happens, by all means, do so.

Believe...that God has a plan and purpose for your husband and it may not be what you think it should be. Trust the Lord. His ways are not our ways. He sees the big picture.

Instead of trying to change your husband, which always leads to frustration and disappointment, spend more time in the Word and in prayer. Focus on your own relationship with Jesus. Walk in humility and submissiveness in your home and see what God will do.  Maybe he'll use your husband to change you!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ten Tips For Parents of Teens

1) Support...don't smother. I have seen too many well-meaning parents over-protect and over-parent their teenagers. By the time they are  teens (older teens ), your children should be able to navigate everyday life pretty much on their own. That includes things like turning in assignments, relating to peers, interacting with teachers and other authority figures when neccessary. Remember, you are training them to be independent, confident young adults who will be well equipped and ready when they leave the nest.

2) Allow teens a measure of freedom that is in line with their level of maturity. It's important for teens to know that you trust them. That is, as long as they have done nothing to break that trust. Remember though, that your job is to be their parent not their best friend.

3) Encourage your teen in areas where they have special talent or apptitude. For example, help them find a teacher for music lessons, go to their sports events and tell the coach you are willing to help, tell them why you think they would make a great class president...help them make posters! You know their strengths sometimes better than they do.

4) Have regular family time where your teen can relax and feel loved and accepted. Teens still enjoy family time whether they will admit it or not. Have a family game night, go out to a favorite restaurant, go putt-putt golfing...just spend time together as a family.

5) Physical touch is still important after your child becomes a teen. Continue to give hugs and pats on the back. (just not in public!)

6) Encourage your teen to have friends over. Be polite and welcoming to them...feed them! Make your home the gathering spot.

7) Pray with and for your teen. Be involved in your local church and take your teen with you! There they can build Christian friendships, study God's Word and grow spiritually under godly teachers and youth leaders.

8) Capitalize on those rare one-on-one times with your teen.Find out what is going on in their life. Do more listening than talking. Be prepared to put down what you're doing and listen when they want to talk.

9) Help your teen plan his or her future, whether it's college, technical training or the mission field. They may need you for practical help in this area. Be excited as you talk with them about their future and what God has in store for them. Point them to God for direction and guidance.

10) Treat your teens with respect. Be fair, consistent and patient with them. We, as parents, need to model the behavior we want our teens to display to others.