Raising our kids to love God.

easter 2019We have all heard it said, “God is more interested in our holiness than our happiness.” And personally I have indeed found this to be true. So often God allows difficult times, trials and problems to arise in our lives. Not because He doesn’t love us, not because He wants to be mean and just cause us problems. But because He is more interested in us becoming more like Christ, than in us being happy right now.

As I thought about this concept and applied it to parenting, the Lord showed me some similar guidelines and truths.

  1. I love my kids and want what is best for them, just as God loves me and wants what is best for me. However, my best for them  may not be their idea of “best.” Just as God’s idea of “best” is often different from my idea. And though they may get angry when their idea is not mine, in the long run they will understand. Just as we eventually we can look back and see what God was doing in our lives.
  2. I want my kids to understand that anything worth having in life takes work and is often not easy. But that God desires that in everything we do whether in word or deed, we do it as unto Him. God has given us every spiritual gift in Christ, and we have access to His throne of grace daily. Yet, God isn’t a genie who just gives us what we want, we have to work and do our part in seeking Him, in walking with Him and in being filled with the Spirit.
  3. I want my kids to be happy, but even more I want them to right with God. Nowadays there is a common phenomenon of giving our kids our very best, making sure they are keeping up with their friends so they aren’t left out, and being concerned that they are happy. Yet, I’m convinced that a child who grows up this way will be confronted with the real world one day too soon and will not know how to handle the obstacles thrown their way. Sure, I can make it easy for my kids, and make sure they are happy. But will they be holy?
  4. I want my kids to look to God. I’m like any typical mom and don’t want to see my kids hurt. In fact if I’m not careful I want to fight their battles for them, I want to fix their problems. Yet, if I do these things, they learn nothing of dependence upon God. Sometimes God will lead me to step in and do this, but first and foremost I want my kids to look to Him.
  5. I want my kids to desire Christ and love Him most. There is a real battle going on in our kids lives. A battle between what they have been taught is right and what the world says is best. If we are not careful the world will be their desire and they will love this world more than God. So I must find the balance by limiting what they can and cant’ do, what they can and can’t watch. Why? Because the enemy is just waiting to steer them away from God.

The list could go on, and yet I’m learning that this is what is most important that my kids know and learn. This doesn’t mean it is easy or that my kids are always happy with me. In fact, many times they aren’t happy. Like today, my kids envisioned a day of rest and relaxation, but this was interrupted when they found out that before playing, before relaxation, homework and studying was to take place. My husband and I’s idea of best collided with their idea of best… but even now that the work is done and free time is being enjoyed, they can see what we saw.

I have a looong way to go from being parent of the year, and by the world’s standards, I’m positive I would never receive such award. Yet, it is my desire that my kids grow up loving God with all their hearts, soul, mind and strength and loving others as they love themselves.

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The Importance of Children’s Ministry

In my 18 years of ministry, I have served as Children’s director and teacher in various churches, and ministry locations. Yet, I have found no matter the location (Arkansas, Tennessee, S. Korea, or Nepal) children’s ministry is a much needed and important ministry of the church.

Far too often parents place the Spiritual growth of their child upon the pastor, and or children’s minister. Many times falsely believing that once their child has recited a prayer and been baptized, that he or she is good to go.

Yet, in my years of ministry, I have found this is far from true.

Being a Bible believing Baptist, I do believe that once saved, always saved. Yet, many times children whom we assumed to be saved based upon a date written in their Bibles, are in fact lost.

Praying a prayer, being baptized, attending kids/youth functions, and being in church on a regular basis, do not save.

Jesus and Jesus alone saves. Not based upon what we have done or not done. But entirely based upon His own accomplishments.

I can’t tell you the number of kids I have taught over the years, who are now teens or college age who are no longer in church.

I also know this because it was true of me.

Growing up, I prayed a prayer, I was baptized, I rededicated my life at least twice. I was at church whenever the church doors were open. I went on all the kid’s camp trips, and youth retreats.

Yet, it wasn’t until I was in college, that I realized for the first time that God desired a personal relationship with me. It was then when I saw the sinner that I was, and that I was truly saved.

Up until this time it had all been pretense. I knew the lingo, I knew what was expected, but to me it was a sense of knowing and obeying the rules. Not a relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Too many kids have a similar story and understanding. Believing that church is something you “do” or a place you “go”. And they miss the relationship the Lord desires to have with them.

I know now that having our children pray a prayer and be baptized is not the ending point. It is only the beginning.

Paul tells us to be sure of our salvation. Our lives should display fruits and evidence that we belong to Jesus. And if they do not, then we are wise to question our salvation or the salvation of our children.

I have three children, all of whom have prayed asking Jesus to forgive their sins, and be their Lord and Savior. One is almost 17, one is 15, and one is 11. From the time of their prayers for salvation, and baptism. My husband and I have told them clearly, that if we see that their lives do not reflect the fruits of a Christian we would call them upon it.

And there have been such times, we have done so. Admonishing them as Paul admonishes the believers in his epistles, to make sure of their salvation.

This is why children’s ministry and family devotion is of utmost importance in the lives of our children. This is why we seek to establish a pattern of church attendance, daily devotion, and prayer in the lives of our kids.

So that eventually, these rules or things they do because their parents and teachers instruct them to do so become things they desire to do, out of their overwhelming love for their Savior.

One of my daily prayers for own kids and the children God allows me to lead, is that the Lord would become real and personal to them. I pray daily that the Lord would declare to them how vast His love is for them, so that they will be overwhelmed by His grace. Therefore, desiring to live for and follow after Him, not because they have to, but because they want to.

Yet, as children’s teacher and ministers, it begins often with us. Far too many children receive little to no instruction in the home. And though I do believe it is the priority of the parents to train their children in the Scriptures, we can not assume this of the kids in our ministries.

Children’s ministry is far more than babysitting. It is so much more than entertainment. It is the God given opportunity to teach and train the future generations.

Why is it that so many teen and college aged leave the church?

I’m learning that it is because they lack that firm foundation of God’s Word, and a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Fun kids and youth events certainly have their place, but they must not be our emphasis.

Our ministry to children must be Gospel focused, with its aim being life transformation.

It is also more than head knowledge. Many kids are good at Bible trivia. They know the stories, they have heard them a hundred times. Yet, even the demons believe and tremble.

Head knowledge is not enough.

Transformation must be our goal, seeking to see those we minister to changed into the likeness of Christ.

Obviously only the Lord can do such a work, yet He allows us to be His hands and His feet in this process.

Which is why Children’s ministry is of such importance.

May we see it as such, and teach in such ways to transform the lives of the children in our midst to reflect the life of Christ.

Remembering the Greatness of our God

When we forget whom we serve, we grow tired and weary. When we forget whom we serve, we have anxious and fearful hearts.

Yet, when we remember how great is our God, we are encouraged. When we remember how great is our God, peace floods our souls.

As I was reading through the Psalms at church today, I was reminded of the greatness of our God. I was reminded that He truly holds the whole world in His hands. He sees and knows our every need.

He is not limited by time or space. He needs not our assistance, nor our instructions in what to do. For His ways, His thoughts are far beyond our limited views.

“By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;Who establishes the mountains by His strength, Being girded with might; Who stills the roaring of the seas, The roaring of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy (Ps. 65:5-8).”

He answers our prayers not in accordance with what we think is best. He answers in awesome deeds true to His very nature. So much better than what we could ever ask or even imagine.

Why? Because He is awesome in all that He does. His greatness is beyond our understanding.

He is the trust, the hope, the answer to all peoples, even to the ends of the earth.

The Mountains were created and are sustained by His strength.

Even the vast, magnificent Himalayas were established by His greatness and for His glory.

And though the seas roar, they calm completly at His word. He tells them just how far they can go, and they obey His voice.

Through His amazing creation, His voice goes out into all the world, so that people as far as the farthest seas stand in complete awe of His wonders.

And as magnificent as the beauty of the sunrise and sunset are, they pale in comparison to the greatness of our God.

As I meditated upon these verses, I stood in complete awe of who God is.

I was undone by my limited view, my doubting heart, and my fearful spirit. I was ashamed at how often I think I know better, and how often I act as if He needs my help.

Yet,I  was also encouraged and strengthened. As I was reminded afresh and anew of how truly amazing He is. As I learned again that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.

As we stood to sing, my heart rejoiced in praise to the Lord. My spirit which was weary grew strong. My heart that was anxious became calm.

Simply by remembering the greatness of my God.

Where are you today? Are you tired, weary, and worn? Is your heart anxious and afraid?

Then I encourage you to take time to remember the God you serve. Meditate upon His greatness, sing His praises, and watch how the burdens you now face become so small as you look upon His greatness.

We truly do serve a mighty, and awesome God!

Praying for your Teens

I don’t know how it happened. My little boys who use to make mud pies, drive cars through the dirt, and wear cowboy hats and boots, have become teenagers. These boys who use to love being wherever I was, now long to go hang out with their friends.

It is the natural way of life. Yet, I have found that the older they get, the harder I pray. For when they are young, they depended so much on me and their dad. Yet, as they grow older they must learn all the more how to depend upon the Lord.

So I pray regularly for them, not that they’d be a success in the eyes of this “world”, but that they would be pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.

10 things to pray for your teens:

1. Pray that they will have their own “real and personal” relationship with the Lord.  One that is not based upon what they have been told, but rather what they have experienced in their own lives with the Lord.

2. Pray that they will desire the things of the Lord more than their own way, and be willing to follow hard after Him. 

3. Pray that they would seek the Lord and His wisdom first before making decisions. Being willing to wait upon the Lord and His perfect timing.

4. Pray that they would seek and desire after a godly mate, and that God would bless them with a wonderful marriage.

5. Pray that they will remain pure until they are married.

6. Pray that no matter what God ask, no matter how big or how small, they will walk in obedience to His leading in their lives.

7. Pray that their lives will reflect their walk with the Lord, that others will see Jesus when they look at them.

8. Pray that they will never become so successful that they depend upon themselves rather than the Lord.

9. Pray that they will raise up their children and your future grandchildren in the ways of the Lord.

10. Pray that they will always know how much they are loved, how special they are, and that “in Christ”, they are perfect.

As a mom we want our kids safe, we want them successful, we want them to have friends, to experience love, to enjoy life….but I’m realizing that more than all of that, our greatest desire should be that they truly love the Lord their God with all of their hearts, mind, and strength.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

3 John 1:4

Lessons from Genesis

You are the God whose ways are best (Genesis 15:5). Your ways, and your thoughts are greater than my understanding. Though I can see only now, you see tomorrow, next week, and next year, so you know best. And thought I don’t always understand, I must trust you, rather than try to “help” you, which always leads to trouble.

You are the God who sees me (Genesis 16:13). You see everything going on in my life. Your concerned with every detail, and what matters to me, matters to you. Nothing is hidden from your sight. You see the burdens on my heart, you see the problems both big and small. You see, and you know.

You are the God with whom all things are possible (Genesis 18:14). No matter what is happening in my life, you are bigger. No matter how difficult a situation I find myself in, nothing is too difficult for you. When things seem or feel impossible, I know it is a small matter to You.

You are the God who keeps His promises (Genesis 22:1-2). What you say, that you will do. It may not be according to my time-table, it may take many years, but I can know and believe that it will happen. For you are always faithful and true, and you can not deny yourself.

You are the God who provides (Genesis 22:14). No matter how big of a need I have, you can fulfill it. You provide just what I need at just the right time. You are able to provide what I need for today, tomorrow, and all the days of my life.

You are the God who whispers to my heart, “Do not fear, for I am with you (Genesis 26:24).” You see, You know, and you care. Yet, despite whatever is taking place in my life, I need not fear. For you are with me. No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing.You are with me, so I need not be afraid.

“You are the God who never forgets me and who hears my prayers (Gen. 29:22).” Though sometimes it feels like you have forgotten me, I am never forgotten. You remember me and my request. For you are the God who hears the cries of my heart, and knows my desires. And though things don’t always happen according to what I think is best, you are at work, and will bring about the request of my heart in your perfect time.

Thank you Lord that though I don’t always understand, and sometimes you feel so far away. You are always there with me, you see and know my heart, and you care about everything that matters to me.

A Changed Name

who i am in christHe was known as deceiver from the time of his birth, and lived up to this name. Jacob deceived or tricked his brother Esau into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. Then later with the help of his mother, deceived his father into giving him, Esau’s blessing.

Jacob gets a taste of his own medicine, when his father-in-law Laban tricks Jacob on his wedding night. Giving him Leah as a bride rather than Rachel.

Later Jacob’s sons learn his ways, and deceive the men of Schecum, when Schecum takes Dina against her will. They claim they will intermarry with this nation, but only if they will be circumcised. Yet, after their circumcision, the sons of Jacob strike them, and plunder them.

Then one day, God who is rich in mercy, changes Jacob’s name. No longer will he be known as deceiver, he will be called Israel, meaning God will prevail.

As I thought upon this today, I was reminded that Jacob did nothing deserving of this new name. Yet, God in His amazing grace, gave him a new name, a new beginning.

And God does the same for each of us.

It matter not what our past is, God makes us a new creation.

Though we may have once been known as sinner, unrighteous, unforgiven, unholy, enemy of God.

When God saves us, He changes our name.

Now we are called forgiven, righteous, redeemed, holy, and child of God.

Yet, it wasn’t enough that God gave Jacob a new name. He desired that Jacob no longer live according to his old name, rather, he was to live according to his new name.

Likewise, God desires not that we continue to live according to our past, to who we once were.

No, He desires that we live in accordance to who we are in Christ!

We do not deserve this new name. We need not do anything to earn it. Yet, God supplies it by His grace.

No longer does He want us to lived defeated, empty lives according to the god of this world.

He has changed us. We are new creations. The old has passed, behold the new has come.

Therefore, may we lay aside all that entangles us, and may we run the race to which God has called us. Living as children of God, who are forgiven, redeemed, righteous, and holy.

I challenge you today to listen not to the enemy who wants to call you by who you once were. Live instead in the grace of God, according to who you are now in Christ.

 

The Who’s Who of Matthew 1

Family-Tree-of-JesusIf your anything like me, you probably come across the genealogies in the Bible and rush through them, or skip them all together. I mean how much can you really get out of a list of names which you can’t even pronounce?!

That is how I felt until one Christmas many years ago when a lady I worked with at Bellevue taught this passage, and suddenly I learned so much.

Now, I love to read the genealogy of Christ because through its reading, I find hope.

Hope because if God could use some of those listed there, He can use me.

The people you find in Christ genealogy are quite surprising, especially the list of women.

Tamar who tricked her father in law into sleeping with her, so she could have children.

Rahab who was a prostitute, yet who hid the spies, and believed God.

Ruth a Moabite (an enemy of God), yet who was willing to follow and care for her mother-in-law, and trust God to care for her.

Bathsheba who had an affair with David.

Mary, a simple peasant girl, yet, no one special.

Then in the list of men, we find, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Manasseh, just to name a few.

David who plotted and planned the murder of Uriah so he could have Bathsheba as his wife.

Solomon who had 700 wives and 300 concubines, who all led him astray.

Hezekiah whose pride and self-sufficiency led to his downfall.

Manasseh, who according to the Bible did more evil than any other king, and who sacrificed his children to other gods. He was downright wicked.

But God…

In each of these lives and all the lives of those listed, God showed up.

Changing and using the least of these to bring forth His Son, the Messiah.

God adores using those the world thinks are useless. He delights in taking the weak, the rejected, the least, and using them to do great things.

For when this happens, He receives all the glory.

Many times the enemy would have us believe God can’t possible use us.

He whispers lies and says we aren’t good enough, we’ve sinned too much. We aren’t qualified, we don’t know enough etc.

But God says, no one is good enough, but we are made righteous and holy through Christ.

God says, our sins are removed from us from as far as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more.

He says, in Christ we are qualified, for we have every spiritual blessing in Christ.

And God’s Word says that when we don’t know what to say, He will give us the words to say through the Holy Spirit.

We mustn’t believe the enemy… he would love for us to quit, to believe the lies, because then we are no threat to him.

But we must remember that if God can choose and use those listed in the genealogy of Christ to bring forth the Savior of the World.

He can and He will use you and me, when we surrender to Him.

As Christmas draws near, may we never forget why Jesus came. May we not lose sight of His purpose. And may we surrender afresh and anew to the Lord, and how He can use our lives for His glory.

“For He alone is worthy, for He alone is worthy, for He alone is worthy, Christ the Lord.”