Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Minute Stocking Stuffer or Gift Idea for your Spouse: 12 months of date nights

At our marriage ministry, we are always trying to get the couples to do two things:  get into the word of God and pray together regularly AND go on date nights--that is actually three things, but the first two go hand in hand. 
Well, in perusing crafting blogs, I found this darling date night printable template for a Christmas gift over at In Between Laundry.  So, now you have no excuse.  It is free (to make) and easy to create.  What spouse wouldn't love to see this in their stocking or under the tree.  You are showing your spouse you care enough to give him time and thought as you help plan some date nights throughout the year, and you are investing in your marriage.
Be sure to make these personal by changing the dates to include things you both like to do and activities that would bless your spouse.  (I googled a Double Doozie, and it is a cookie sandwich company--wish we had those here!)  Many of the ideas she has listed are great! Have fun, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse: Part 3: Your Time

My husband likes it when I give him my time.  I know this because when I don't, well, conflict comes along.  With Christmas crazy schedules, I haven't given him as much time as I should, and I know I need to pull him aside and ask for forgiveness and some grace.  How about your spouse?  What happens to your marriage when you don't make an effort to spend time with or for your spouse?  In this post, we'll chat about different ways to bless our spouse with our time.

Let’s look back at the example of our Excellent Wife in Proverbs 31. What does she do with her time? Well, she works for the good of others. She is up early (verse 15) and then stays up late still working (verse 18). We find that she seeks work to do and does it willingly (verse 13) and she is not idle or lazy. (verse 27) In an age where we have many distractions to pull us away from laboring for our family and, ultimately, for God, what is getting in your way?

You see, how we spend our time speaks volumes as to what we value. How many of you ask your husband daily, “How can I help you today? Is there anything I can do in my free time that would be helpful to you?” You are thinking, “What free time?” We have it ladies. If you are on Facebook, calling someone on the phone, watching any TV or reading anything for pleasure (such as blogs--ouch!), you have freetime.

Do you ask your husband if he wants you to attend a girls night out or even a ministry evening before you say yes? How you spend your time affects him, and you should prefer him when choosing your schedule.

Do you take time to thoughtfully plan how you can honor your husband? Like this excellent wife, do you get up earlier than you need to in the morning so you can make him breakfast or pack his lunch? Do you take the time to do laundry before he asks so his favorite shirt or uniform he might need is washed and ready? Do you ever take the time to plan date nights or nights away?  Organize a sitter, be creative and put time into making a nice evening for your spouse. My spouse and I take turns every other month planning the dates and scheduling a sitter.  It really makes the job of planning date nights easier and joyful when you can share in the workload part of it.  Once you are on the datenight, isn't it the best!? 

Do you simply take the time to tell your spouse you love him and are thankful for him?

Take a moment of your time to write down all the ways you have seen your spouse make efforts for your family and for you. Write it on a card and give it to him. Be specific and full of gratitude.

My husband and I get away once a year (again putting aside time) and make goals spiritually, maritally, financially, personally and as parents. Part of this process is telling our spouse what they have done well and what areas we see as opportunities for growth. One year at this goal session, Ryan asked me to not talk on the phone when I am in the car with him driving somewhere. You see, I was spending my “freetime” with Ryan catching up on my to do list and speaking to other people rather than conversing with and investing in my husband. I didn’t even realize this was a pattern of behavior for me, but I took notice and did what he asked.

When your spouse is talking to you, don’t divide your time between him and facebook, texting, TV, kids or the computer. Give your spouse your full attention. Show him you prefer him above all other worldly relationships and distractions with your time. I encourage you to ask your spouse how he feels about how you are spending your time. Have him pray and think about it and then come together to discuss what areas need improvement.  Let God work in your heart and your marriage.  It might not feel pleasant to be sanctified in this area, but it will be a pursuit of holiness well worth the pruning.

Our next post in this series will discuss how we can sacrificially love our spouse with our actions.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse Part 2: Your Attitude

I was holding off on doing more posts on this topic until I did my second teaching on this lesson.  Yesterday, I finished teaching to a group of young moms at a group called Navigating Motherhood.  If you are a mom with young kids and are looking for a free group where you do crafts, fellowship, get free breakfasts, have free child care and get speakers coming once a week to your meetings, check out this particular group.  It meets in Aliso Viejo and is amazing!

So, a couple of posts back, I laid the foundation for sacrificially loving your spouse.  If you haven't read that post yet, read it first.

Now let's role up our sleeves and get practical.  A big area of conviction for most of us is how we are loving (or rather disrespecting) our spouse in our attitude.  A great template for us to study in the Bible is the woman in Proverbs 31, the excellent wife.  Proverbs 31 tells us that she has willing hands, not obligated or resentful hands, and acts for the good of her spouse.  In addition, it says she labors with this loving attitude ALL the days of her life--her attitude of selflessness does not ebb and flow with her circumstances or her changing emotions.

This is a very hard and high calling, but the key to her success is in Proverbs 31:30.  It tells us that she fears God.  She understands God's place--high and holy, her sovereign Creator.  As a result, she obeys with joy, contentment and a proper fear of God--properly considering her spouse with a loving attitude. 

How is your attitude toward your spouse?  You might be externally preferring him, but you harbor some control and resentment in your heart.  This is sin before God.  If you act obedient JUST in appearances, you are seeking people's approval, not God's.  He knows your heart, which will expose your attitude.

One way we can check our attitudes is by considering the thoughts we think about our spouse.  Do we look forward to seeing him walk in the door from work because we love him and he is our best friend, or do we have thoughts that gripe and complain about where our husband fell short or what mistakes he made that day/week/or year.

We fall so easily into that second example.  We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and then immediately assume the worst in our husband.  We even get annoyed and resentful at circumstances that are out of his control--traffic that makes him get home late; a crabby, sick kid who you had to watch while your husband "escaped" to work; or the fact he can eat that dessert with no ill effects while you diet for weeks to lose 5 pounds. 

Instead of hashing out the things we can hold against our spouse, we should purposefully dwell on things our husbands do right, what they do well, and what they are doing to sacrifice for our families.

In our house, we keep a "thanks list" at the top of our stairs on the linen closet counter.  Throughout the week, we jot down specific things for which we give thanks, including things our spouse has done well.  Then, one night each week, we come together and read through the thanks list together.  We are able to pray thanks to God and voice appreciation to one another as well. 

Well, how about when your husband leaves your home in the morning? Are you frazzled and grumpy in the morning or do you smile and encourage your spouse before he goes to face his stressful day? If he asks you to do something that day at home or while running errands, smile with a happy heart and say SURE, thankful for the opportunity to serve. We ask our kids to obey us with happy hearts, but so often we struggle to comply with joyfully helping our husbands when they ask us to do a favor.
How about when your husband walks in the door AFTER work? You have dinner going, little kids are underfoot and older kids are doing homework. The stress of the day has peaked and you are fatigued. Instead of unloading your day on your spouse when he first gets home, wait to talk about stresses with him. He has been at a demanding job all day, has been driving home in traffic and has been looking forward to the retreat and sanctuary that home and family bring him. Have an attitude that reflects this support and rest for him when he is weary instead of heaping more trouble and stress onto his lap. Try smiling, making sure you look nice and keeping home clean and relaxing for when he walks in that door. Such actions sure would reflect a loving and thoughtful attitude.

How about this one? What is your attitude when your husband initiates intimacy with you? You are tired, the kids have been pulling at you all day, but your husband has been bombarded with sexy, physical messages and images all day. He wants and needs physical time with his wife. Are you going to respond with a thankful attitude that he is choosing faithfulness and desiring you, or are you going to give him the cold shoulder and get frustrated that he is even attempting sex this evening? How about honoring him and initiating sex with him even when you are tired? That is a selfless attitude where you are considering HIS interests first and more important than your own feelings!

Recently, I noticed a friend on Facebook was at home with her newborn eating a Trader Joe’s microwave dinner while her husband worked late. The focus of her post was asking prayer for her husband who was working late and sacrificing for his family. She didn’t even tiptoe into a pity party or grumbling session. Her focus was off herself. If you make an effort to practice activities such as these, liking your spouse best will be simple and straightforward.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you in this area of sanctification.  Pray that sin is exposed and repent.  Post verses around the house that will help you respond with joy and selflessness.  Have accountability and check in regularly.

We realize our attitudes are important--they expose the spiritual health of our hearts.  God sees them clearly and is not fooled by our hypocritical actions.  The key to improving our attitude toward our husbands is to properly fear God and understand our place before Him, to have our thoughts dwell on what our husbands are doing well and to take our eyes off of our own selfish needs and feelings.  Rely on God for strength and guidance as you pursue holiness in your attitude toward your spouse.

The next post in this series will focus on loving your spouse with your TIME.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Decrease and Increase

I have a lot of things I like to do around Christmas.  Ryan, growing up with many fun traditions, has a lot of things he likes to do around Christmas.  Needless to say, life can be busy in December.  I find myself juggling a list that involves crafting, family traditions, church fellowships, end of the year meetings for ministry, ministry Christmas parties, school parties for Carter, and then "normal" life obligations.

The list I have isn't a bad list, but I need to check that my motives are correct in all that I am choosing to do.  If I honestly evaluate my motives, some items can be confidently scratched off my list.

Christmas is a celebration of Christ, an opportunity to give God glory for His love, grace and mercy to those He calls to repentance and faith.  All that we do surrounding Christmas can either bring God glory or it can attempt to bring ourselves glory.  We need to choose carefully and correctly to deny ourselves and glorify Him.

Wives, some of what is on our list is for personal glory.  We WANT our house to look nice so we look like Holly Homemaker (not sure who she is, but it sounds good).  We WANT to attend every Christmas event on the calendar because we want everyone to LIKE US and ACCEPT US.  We WANT to put hours into homemade baked goods because we WANT everyone to Oooh and Aaah at our Martha Stewart skills in the kitchen.  We want our kids to be smartly dressed, our presents to be beautifully wrapped and our tree to be gorgeously trimmed.  If we search our motives, it is usually because we want to promote ourselves.

However, as Christian women, we should approach December differently than the world.

Let's take a time out for our stressed out selves, look at our list of to dos and purposely search whether each item is for God's glory or our own.  I think we will all find a few items to take off our lists.
As Christians, we need to exercise this strategy every day, not just in December.  Our lives are His, and we live to obey and honor Him, not to fatten our already obese self esteem.

John 3:30 is a great nugget verse to remind yourself of this truth.  "He must increase, but I must decrease."  This December, make sure your ego and reputation are of less importance than ever and purposefully choose to increase the amount of time you are seeking to glorify Him in word and deed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks Beyond Circumstances

This has been one of those weeks where I have received much bad news from friends.  Cancer, grief, miscarriage, death, moving, and health issues have all made unwelcomed appearances this week amongst people I know. 
My friends facing these issues are believers, and they are facing Thanksgiving with hard circumstances.  As Christians, though, God calls us to look beyond our temporal circumstances and live in thanks for the eternal state of our souls.  As we journey through valleys, we should be able to look up with an eternal perspective and secure hope to see the glory we will enjoy--an existence far beyond the dark, unknown valley we might currently traverse. 
Ephesians 5:19b-20 says, "Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
This verse reminds us that we are to thank God ALWAYS, even when life is hard and painful.  We are also to be thankful for EVERYTHING, as we know God is sovereign and allows circumstances in our life to grow us and form us into the image of Christ.
Christian ladies, as you sit around the Thanksgiving table tomorrow, you might be facing hard, painful trials--circumstances that bring us real tears and pain.  However, our hope is not gone or in vain.  We are still His, and He is faithful.  In the midst of trial, we should shine brightly amongst our non-Christian friends and family, who wonder how we can be peaceful, trusting, and THANKFUL in the midst of very hard circumstances.  What an opportunity to share the hope we have!
Abraham Lincoln wrote a proclamation about making Thanksgiving a national holiday in October 1863.  He called the nation to repent of sin and focus on God's goodness.  Lincoln was focused on thanks, praise and glory to God in the midst of a very painful and difficult Civil War.  In fact, in October 1863, Union forces were not doing well.  The Confederacy had just won several important battles: Vicksburg, Gettysburg and Chickamauga.  Success for the Union looked bleak.  Yet, Lincoln chose this very difficult period of life and presidency to point to God's goodness in the midst of the valley and our need to exalt Him.  He was living out Ephesians 5:19-20.
I encourage you, whether you are in a time of plenty or a time of need, to give thanks wholeheartedly and confidently to God.  Happy Thanksgiving--a day of thanks for the world, and a life of thanks to God to those who are in Christ.

October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sacrificially Loving Your Husband Part I: A Foundation

Well, I just finished teaching my first lesson at church--in front of adults.  Gulp.  I actually loved it--God put a love of teaching in my heart from a very early age.  This is strange for a shy introvert, but God loves to show HIS strength and power through weak people.  The great thing about teaching is that you gain such a deep understanding of the material because you have to understand it well enough to teach and explain it to someone else.  Personally, this means a big helping of conviction on my plate--a truly Thanksgiving sized plate portion.

Just like every woman who attended the workshop, I am a sinful lady with selfish flesh.  God's teaching me and growing me to love my spouse more and more like Christ loves me--sacrificially, but it is a long road, and it isn't easy.  It means less of me and more of God.  John 3:30 puts it well--"He must increase, but I must decrease."

The topic is SO important, I thought I would break down the workshop to small blog posts.  The workshop was called "Preferring Your Husband".  There were four main categories of practical application, which I can dive into one at a time on separate blogs.  Today, I thought I would just lay the foundation for the lesson.

The entire lesson was built upon the foundation of Philippians 2:3-4, which says, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."  You see, we are called to treat the general "others" in our lives better than we treat ourselves, so how much more should we be considering our spouse, our partner for life? 

The word rivalry, in verse 3, refers to selfish ambition or hostility.  We fall into this mindset when we think "I deserve this" or the famous makeup commercial motto, "I am worth it."  Also, when we start getting angry at our spouse for his lack of service or attention to us, we are adopting the "what have you done for me lately" mindset.  This is hostility against others (our spouse) in the interest of selfish ambition.

The word conceit in verse 3 means pride with no foundation or proper basis.  As Christian ladies, we know we have NO value in ourselves, right?  Our entire value and boast is in Christ alone.  There is no room, then for puffed up attitudes or thinking of ourselves better than others.  Therefore, we are forced to recognize that through God's lens, which is the lens of TRUTH, rivalry and conceit are SIN.

The answer is, however, found in verse 3 also.  It tells us, IN HUMILITY, to count others as more significant, or important to ourselves.  This is countercultural.  We are engrained to compete with others and believe in some layer of survival of the fittest.  Just look out at the freeway and the amount of people who don't want to let you over into their lane!  I am sure we have all heard the tune that says, "Make sure you are taking care of yourself FIRST so that you are happy enough and whole enough to help others."  These are lies propogated all over society by satan.  They are the direct opposite, the antithesis, to the message of Philippians 2:3-4. 

So if we believe the Bible is correct, we recognize we need to be considering our spouse more than ourselves.  However, this may be hard to swallow when he is sinful in his behavior.  First of all, we are called to humbly submit to our own husbands as to the LORD.  (Ephesians 5:22)  How are you doing with submission to God?  Are you pursuing holiness and listening to the Holy Spirit convict you in areas where you are in sin?  Are you using your talents and gifts for His glory and not your own?  See, if we are not exercising the skills to submit to God, it will bleed over into our marriage relationship too.  If you ARE making every effort to submit to God, the self discipline and self denial you are exercising will help you and benefit you as you seek to submit to your spouse.  If you aren't attempting to properly submit to and be humble before a perfect, faithful, holy and loving God, then how in the world do you plan to submit to your imperfect and sinful spouse?

Secondly, we can better understand how we sacrificially love our sinful spouse when we look at Romans 5:8.  It tells us, "but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Christ died a horrific, painful, humiliating death for His enemy.  God wholly loved and sacrifieced for us while we were hating, ugly, horrid, hurtful, hard hearted, selfish, prideful people.  We were His ENEMIES.  We were at WAR against Him.  We despised his authority over us.  Despite this, Christ died for us so we could be reconciled to God and forgiven our sins.

If we are Christians, we are called to love as Christ loved us. Since this is the case, we have no choice but to sacrifically love and honor our spouse.  I know our husbands have moments when they seem like an enemy--they can be hurtful.  God knows this and still calls us to obediently love them and respect them.

Common sense also tells us this fact.  If you pridefully withhold love and honor from your husband because of his flaws, you are in essence saying you are flawless and far superior in your behavior.  Really?  Have you never raised your voice?  Have you never been frustrated or annoyed and taken it out on your husband?  Have you never looked less than perfect in your appearance?  Have you never made a mistake in judgment?  Do you never require your spouse's attention when they are busy or tired?  I know we are all guilty of everything mentioned, and these are just examples of some imperfections.  So we have no choice.  We must, as imperfect wives, love and honor our imperfect husband.

In the next few blogs, we will roll up our sleeves and get practical.  We will look at four separate categories in which we can give our spouse sacrificial love and preference.  Until then, ponder what God has called you to do and pray that He grows you in humility and love for others, especially your spouse.  Make a list of what God has done for you, though you were undeserving.  With a better understanding and foundation, we can enthusiastically work on our Philippians 2:3-4 attitudes!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


II Corinthians 4:16-18 "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Ladies, I know we often struggle with contentment--contentment in hard circumstances, contentment with our kids, contentment with material blessings, contentment with our bodies, contentment with our spouse.  I was sinning in this area a few days back.  I was pouting about the injustice of some circumstance out of my control.  How is it that some of my friends never have to deal with this particular thorn in the flesh?  Hmph.  Well, almost as soon as the grumbly thoughts began, the Holy Spirit quickly thumped me over the head with some spiritual truths He brought to my mind.
First of all, do we really want God to be fair?  He is just, but He isn't fair.  He knows what we need to glorify Him best and to be sanctified.  Who am I to question what circumstances God allows in my life?  Romans 9:20 tells us, "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?'"
If I really want Him to be fair, why am I not complaining about the unfairness in the areas I have been given much more than others?  Why am I not griping to Him about giving me too many material blessings or giving me too much support in family and my godly spouse?  Others aren't as fortunate as me.  Why am I not pouting about the amazing church He has put in my life and the fact I have an inordinate amount of godly resources and people in my life?  What injustice there lies in the fact that I am healthy while others are sick, that I have intelligent kids while other kids have learning disabilities, that my family is filled with believers while others witness continually to lost family members, that my husband has a job and others are searching for jobs for months or years, that we just bought a house while others are losing theirs, that I live in Orange County and other people live in slums, and that I have access to the Bible without repurcussions from my government while others are imprisoned or die for their faith.  Other people don't have as much as I do in these areas.  You see, I don't want fairness.  I want an unfair advantage.  My flesh wants to glorify myself instead of Him.  Yuck.
Job is a good book of the Bible to study contentment.  Job 1:21 tells us that Job professes, "And he said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." This comes from his mouth after he loses his children, home, livelihood and wealth all in one day. Imagine losing your kids in a car accident, watching your house burn to ashes in a fire and being let go from your job all in one 24 hour period. Would your first reaction be godly--to even bless God in your pain? It should be.
You see, we have a temporal perspective instead of an eternal one. Ladies, we are meant for a different world. This is not our home.  Our temporal circumstances don't define us because, if we are followers of Christ, they don't affect our eternal salvation.  Matthew 6:20 encourages us to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."
We have decaying bodies, a fallen world, sinful husbands and kids, and selfish people all around us.  Yet God has chosen to pluck us out of our enmity with Him, give us hearts of flesh and place us in Christ!  Through Jesus, we have access to God in prayer at any time, we are forgiven of our sin, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and leading us in God's will, and we have an eternity of beauty and joy in Christ's presence in Heaven awaiting us.  These are eternal ramifications that will outlast the imperfect husband, the hyper child, the dwindling bank account, the recurring disease, the overweight pounds, the tedious job or the painful sin of others that we face daily. 
When life is difficult, invest all the more heartily in your eternal bank account.  Remember two important truths when discontentment seeps into your heart.  God is sovereign and allows circumstances for a purpose in those He loves.  This world is temporal and our pains are light compared to the weight of the glory and joy we will experience in Heaven--for all eternity.  With these scriptural truths meditating in our minds, we can more easily be like Paul when he proclaims, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Jesse Tree

Yes, I know it is September.  I am aware that many of you are not happy to see Christmas toys and decorations already thrown across half of Costco, but, in the interest of giving you time to create and plan, I am posting about a Jesse Tree.
I first found out about this Christmas tradition back in 2008, and I finally mustered enough creativity and energy to make my Jesse Tree in 2009.  It was worth the time and effort!
Instead of the traditional advent calendar, you make 25 ornaments that cover the Bible from Genesis to the birth of Christ.  The tree and the devotionals that accompany each day demonstrate the overarching Old Testament theme of mankind needing a Savior.  It then ends with the beautiful birth of Christ and the gospel message.  I highly urge you to consider this tradition in your own home.
As women, one of the joys of our homemaking is creating traditions for our family to enjoy and celebrate year after year.  My husband was pleased that I set up the backdrop for him to be able to do family devotions in such a fun and meaningful way in the month of December.  Perhaps your husband would love for you to be a helpmate by creating this activity for your home.
It isn't difficult to make, especially if you allow enough time to create each of the 25 ornaments by starting early in the fall.  I simply made my ornaments out of felt, glue and embroidery thread; and I bought a tree at Tall Mouse last year.  I found a book online that gave me patterns for my ornaments.  If you are highly afraid of crafty activities, just color the pattern for the Jesse Tree ornaments, cut the paper out and hang the paper ornaments on the tree.  The point of the activity is digging into God's Word with your family, not making fancy decorations.
Here is a website with ornaments you can buy and free devotionals and activities to use with your family:  If you google the Jesse Tree and look at Amazon for books and patterns, you will find multiple resources to help you.  Have fun!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do you Strive to Be Christ or a Clique in Your Christian Friendships?

I John 4: 7  "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."

Women and friendships--they are wonderful gifts from God.  As with so many blessings, though, they can be used to glorify Him and grow us spiritually, or, used incorrectly, they can create a bad witness to others and malign God's name.

As His daughters, He gives us the blessing of friends in order that we may build one another up, encourage one another in living godly lives, and admonish one another when we aren't doing what would please God.  We pray for one another, mourn with friends who are mourning, rejoice when they are rejoicing and step in to practically help when we need to be the hands and feet of Christ.  In God's eyes, the point of Christian friendships is growing our holiness and giving Him glory, not satisfying our own quest for happiness and comfort.

The problem occurs when we become self serving in our friendships and our relationships become cliquish.  When we start excluding others outside our circle because it isn't as comfortable to have them there or we make other people feel unwelcome, we are not acting becomingly, dear sisters.

This reminds me of a ministry I joined at a different church right around the time I was married.  Because it was a life stage ministry, many of the women were very close friends.   I had a terrible time forming friendships because a few of the women were resistant to anyone joining their inner circle.  They used their friendships as a power play over anyone new and unknown.  I was excluded from parties, outings and even conversations in which I was standing right there.  In fact, if it weren't for the godly efforts of ONE woman to include me in events and invite me to her home, I would have left the ministry in frustration. 

If we were honest, we all have excluded others, even at church, in the interest of our self promotion or comfort.  This cannot be a part of what identifies us!  We must have the church body strive for holiness in all areas.
Ponder your closest Christian friendships and ask yourself some questions.

-Do we make it a pattern to invite new women to join us for fun events out--even, perhaps especially, women who are not popular or easy to get to know?
-When we are together, do we talk about spiritually edifying topics, or do we sin in gossip and slander against anyone not in our "group"?
-Would we be resentful if another woman became a close friend to our mutual friend?  Can we share our friend's gifts, talents and time with others?
-Are you open to making new friends in your life or are you selfishly clinging to one or two sisters in Christ without meeting others?
-Do you admonish one another?  Would anyone in the friendship be resentful if she were admonished?
-Are you both inviting other women to join you at church?
-Would you be willing to be separated for the good of a small group or Bible study?
-Does your husband approve of your friendship?

Answer these honestly.  If you realize your friendship is leaving others out and not representing Christ well, then repent and talk to your friend about your conviction.  Make some measurable steps toward reaching out to other sisters in Christ with welcoming arms, a smile on your face, and no selfish agenda behind the friendships you form.  God will be glorified by your obedience to put others before yourself and to love them. Philippians 2: 1-4 says, "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."  Does this define you and your relationships with sisters in Christ?

This does not mean we won't have some friends who are closer to us than others.  However, always make sure you do not resent the presence of the new woman in the small group, the person asking to room with you at retreat, or the Christian woman who desires to make a new friend in you.  Though it does take effort, time and sacrifice, it is nothing compared to what Christ did for us--He died for our sin while we were still His enemies.  Be Christ, not a clique.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Spiritual Helpmate

I Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

Ephesians 5: 22-27 "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

Our church is taking sign ups for an upcoming Men's Conference.  The approaching weekend conference had me wondering how many wives responded to this event with excitement and encouragement.  How many ladies asked their husbands if they were going, told them how great it would be and explained to their spouse that they were happy to watch the kids that weekend and pray for them while they attended?

On the other hand, I also thought about how often wives might respond with frustration, dread and reluctance when their husbands miss a night or day at home for conferences, accountability, prayer group, Bible study, or quiet time.  I know I have sinned in this area.  On the weekends, it is so nice to have help with the kids after a long week at home with them.  I don't always jump for joy when my husband has a Partners discipleship meeting or a time of accountability on Saturday morning.  However, this is not a righteous response.  My priority should be my husband's spiritual growth, not my own feelings of comfort and entitlement.

Sisters, this is a very imortant calling.  We need to be encouraging our husbands' spiritual growth.  He is the leader of our home, and we need to have a healthy head of the family in order for our family to thrive in the Lord together. 

Here are some practical ways you can make sure you are being a spiritual helpmate to your husband and spurring him on in the Lord:

1. Praise him for any area in which you have seen increased obedience to God and spiritual growth.  Be specific and tell him how proud you are of his choices to grow in righteousness.

2.  Ask your husband questions you have about the Bible or Bible study.  This gives your husband respect and shows him you care about his leadership.  This also spurs him on to find out the answer and be knowledgable in the Word of God.

3.  Cheerfully send your husband out the door as he is on his way to accountability, prayer group, Bible study, conferences or other Bible programs.  Joyfully receive him home again and ask him how it went.

4.  Ask him what God is teaching him in his quiet time.

5.  Inquire of him if there is something you can do to make it easier for him to fit in quiet time or Bible studies.  (This is not meant to be nagging in disguise, ladies).

6.  Pray for his spiritual maturation.

7.  If someone must miss church due to an ill child or emergency, have your husband attend church and then come home and explain the points of the sermon to you.

8.  By your attitude and response, make it easy for your spouse to repent and ask for forgiveness.  Quickly forgive, love and encourage him so he can move forward.

9.  Have your husband lead prayer and family devotions.

10.  Submit to your husband and do not let your marriage relationship become a snare which satan can use to derail your husband's walk with God. 

11.  Honor your husband in front of others and be grateful for the gifts and personality that God gave specifically to him.

12.  Share your prayer requests with your husband and ask him if you can pray for him.

13.  Do not be overly scheduled with moms' nights out or even church functions to the point that your husband cannot be a part of his own Bible study or foster his own godly friendships.  Remember, our spouses often work all day in worldly settings and need time to grow relationships with other men at church.

14.  Pray together daily with and without your children.

15.  Be selfless and take on "extra" so that your husband can, for instance, attend those weekend conferences, go to night time Bible studies, help people at church move, and take someone through Partners (our church's one on one discipleship program).

These are just a few practical suggestions to encourage your husband in the Lord.  In the moment, we often let exhaustion, frustration or selfishness keep us from allowing our husbands to flourish spiritually.  Let this not be.  Pray for God to strengthen you to be a helpmate in the most important manner--a spiritual helpmate.  Pray that you can encourage your spouse effectively so he may one day hear Christ say, "Well, done, good and faithful servant."

Monday, August 2, 2010

A New Venue for Christ: Social Networking and Your Words

Philippians 2: 14-16a "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life."
Ladies, if you are reading this blog, you have more than likely joined the ever growing population of Facebookers.  This relatively "newer" area of social networking has far reaching effects.  When we post a new status update, share a picture or comment in a thread, it is read by far more people than phone calls or face to face conversations ever affected.  Within seconds, people can learn about your day, your mood, your prayer requests, your needs, your questions, or your schedule.
With this new source of information and entertainment come responsibilities.  Being Christian women, our Facebook posts should look different from those of our non-Christian friends.  I have seen many uses for Facebook, and I want to explore some of the worldly and godly behaviors that result.  I pray this discussion will help all of us to think twice about what we portray, share and tell.

I Timothy 6:6  "But godliness with contentment is great gain."
First of all, many people can use Facebook to gripe or complain.  I am guilty of this.  If one of my kids comes down with something or I have a flat tire, I want to vent on Facebook.  I want everyone to know how truly horrible my day has been.  I believe that we can be real and share requests of challenges we are facing, but we have to check our motives and the attitude we are portraying.  If we are sharing practical needs, asking for prayer and seeking God's will in a situation, we should share away!  It is when we have a negative, discontent and frustrated tone that our post has wandered into sinful territory. 
This especially applies to what we share about our husbands.  If we are unhappy that our husband is late from work, don't write on your husband's wall, "Where are you??????  Dinner is ready."  You have effectively disrespected your husband in front of hundreds of people.  If you are telling a story in which your husband did something silly or stupid, don't post it!  No spouse want his wife to belittle him in front of others.  An example of this could be as simple as posting a picture of your lobster red son and the caption, "Johnny has quite the sunburn!  Jeff forgot to pack the sunscreen on our trip to the beach. Ouch!"  This sounds silly, but, for the sake of a laugh or chuckle, you have thrown your husband under the bus.  This is not godly, respectful or loving behavior. 

Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."
Besides griping and negativity, Facebook can produce feelings of jealousy and bitterness.  It sounds extreme, but, ladies, how many of you have seen a post about a girls' night out you weren't asked to attend or have seen pictures of a shower or party to which you were not invited and have felt sinful, selfish thoughts about how you have been treated?  I know there was a particular day that I was sinning in my attitude against my husband.  Of coure, satan jumped on that and all my friends seemed to post about how their husbands had bought coffee for them or let them sleep in.  Pictures of flowers "just because" popped up everywhere, and before I knew it, my bitterness and jealousy were in full bloom--fed by my sinful thoughts upon reading Facebook posts.  On the flip side of the same coin, do not use Facebook as a popularity contest.  Don't compare numbers of friends, post about every social outing you attend to make people see how "popular" and socially in demand you have become.  If you think a particular social event was limited and small, you might want to just thoughtfully mention you had a good night out with friends.  Name dropping and mentioning events so you puff yourself up in your own eyes is never becoming for a daughter of Christ.

Psalm 12:3 "May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue."
II Corinthians 10:17 "But, 'Let him who boasts boast in the LORD.'"
This is a great transition to discussing how we can sin through bragging on Facebook.  We should share in great things God is doing in our lives and rejoice with our kids or hubbies when they are blessed with success.  However, again, we must check our heart motive before we post anything on our status update.  Are all our posts about how Johnny and Jane got straight A's again and got MVP of their sports team?  Do we read most of our wall and realize they talk about praising our kids, sharing our spouse's job promotion and talking about all the ways we served at church that week?  This is a gray area, and many posts of praise and rejoicing are just purely sharing good news with friends.  However, it is a fine line between that and bragging--be careful how you are portraying yourself.  A great way to check your motives is to make sure your boasts point to God.  We can better share success if we give all the credit and glory to God, making sure we know that all our abilities, blessings and possessions are His and His alone!

I John 2:10 "Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble."
Finally, a fourth area in which we must tread carefully is our reputation.  There are gray areas that might be better left off of your public wall.  Facebook can be used as a witnessing tool and way to shine light to the lost world, so you have to be overly cautious when you put anything on Facebook.  Why would you post a picture of yourself in that skimpy bikini for all of the guys who you have as friends to view?  Why would that picture of you holding a beer at that birthday party make it onto your photos?  We know that there are many activities that are not spelled out to be wrong in the Bible, but we can stumble others by parading our freedom to do these activities.  Be careful!  Your effective witness could be tarnished by a simple post that forever sticks in the mind of an unsaved friend.

Galatians 5:22-25 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."
How should we behave?  Look at your recent posts and comments.  Are you sharing scripture?  Are you encouraging your spouse and lifting him up?  Are you encouraging a friend and strengthening her with Bible verses or sermon links?  Are you thanking the LORD for the blessings you mention in a post?  Are you, without a doubt, the aroma of Christ to those who are friends with you on Facebook?  Ladies, if we use Facebook correctly, it is one of the most wonderful opportunities to shine for God, encourage our spouse and build up friends!  Let us examine our hearts, and use Facebook, yes, even Facebook, for His glory!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Visible Sin

Numbers 12:9-12
9The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam—leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; 11 and he said to Moses, "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with its flesh half eaten away."

This Biblical account isn't warm and fuzzy in any way, shape or form. We have the story of Aaron and Miriam grumbling against Moses because he married a Cushite. Pride then enters their thoughts as they surmise that God had spoken through them as He had Moses, though the Bible clearly tells us that Moses had a special connection and privelege before God. Furthermore, Numbers 12:3 also interjects that Moses, "was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth." This is a striking contrast to the attitudes of Aaron and Miriam.
God punishes Miriam and Aaron's sinful pride and discontent by causing Miriam to break out in severe leprous sores. Aaron compares her appearance to a baby that is born dead and has been rotting away inside the mother's womb. This is an ugly, horrific picture. However, through this consequence, God gets their attention immediately. He moves the ugliness of their sinful hearts from the invisible interior to the very apparent and obvious exterior of Miriam. The result is they are deeply humbled and repentant.
Ladies, how many of us have invisible sin that we are allowing to fester in our hearts? We hold a grudge or harbor jealousy against a sister in Christ. Perhaps we have pride in the material gains God has given us or in how well our children do in school or at sports. We consider our sins "secret", "unknown" and "hidden", so there is no pressing motivation to change.
However, the end of verse two should cause our hearts to quicken and fill with sorrow. After Miriam and Aaron privately grumble and have prideful thoughts, it says, "And the LORD heard it." Are we not aware that our ugly sin is visible to our omniscient, holy God? Have we taken the time to meditate upon this truth and the obvious ramifications?
Imagine that every "hidden" sin resulted in an awful, horrible canker sore or large pimple on our face. Seriously, stop and imagine this. Would we be motivated to more quickly deal with sins of the heart and attitude? Of course we would! We care very much about what people can see and how we are perceived.
Why then are we not as concerned about what God sees and knows about our motives and hearts?
If we are daughters of the King, we need to take as much care to deal with our sinful hearts and infected thoughts as we do to cover up and heal any visible defects in our appearance. We need to use the Holy Spirit, prayer and God's Word to lead us to repentance when we are sinning in our heart. Then we can be sanctified and molded into the image of Christ, who is spotless, pure and beautiful.
Though God graciously does not always inflict us with exterior disease and marks to punish our sinful hearts, this ugly disease of "hidden" sin is visible and horrific to our holy God.  Use the example of Miriam to motivate yourself to flee from sin and to quickly repent when you do fall short.  Our sin is never invisible to God, and our appearance before Him is all that truly matters.

Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bridled or Burning: A Discussion on the Tongue

James 3:1-5 "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!"

James 3:1-5 gives us excellent instruction on using our tongue. Ladies, these verses affect us greatly, as we certainly love to use our words, don't we? James shows us that we can use our words under 3 influences. The illustrations begin positively and self controlled, while they end both undirected and completely sinful.
First, verse 2 uses the word "bridle." In Greek, this word means to be self-controlled. When we put on the Spirit led fruit of self control, we are putting our whole body under His direction, including our tongue. Notice the words that accompany the example of the horse in verse 3. The horse "obeys" and is "guided." Here, the example is of a productive, work-enabling horse. The bit, or tongue, is completely controlled by the driver, the Holy Spirit. The horse not only allows the driver to direct the bit, but his whole body as well. In this example, God's purpose is obeyed and the words spoken help to do God's will.
In verse 4, our tongue is compared to the rudder on a ship. It is a small, powerful tool that directs the whole vessel. Once again, it is driven by the pilot (Holy Spirit) to go in the direction the Spirit wills and intends, but, in this example, there are forces introduced that are working against the Spirit. The strong, powerful winds also move the ship. The winds do not have an organized, productive course, but they are haphazard and unpredictable. These are much like our emotions and fleshly, sinful impulses. Here, we are allowing sin to interrupt our course and not obey God's will for us in speech and deed.
Finally, verse 5 illustrates our tongue as an aimless, destructive, uncontrolled fire that destroys whole forests at a time. Here, there is no director, no course, no productive employ. Instead, only destructive forces reign. This is the tongue of one who does not have the influence or is blocking the influence of the Holy Spirit. God's will is not done, and He is scorned by sinful words and actions.
Clearly, our tongues are small, but powerful forces. Consider the three illustrations. Are you the Spirit led "horse" that obediently and patiently labors for the good of God in your words and deed? Are you the lukewarm ship that sometimes successfully stays on course with the "Captain of the ship" but, at other times, tosses to and fro with the wind and waves of emotion? Rather, are you most like the painful, destructive force of fire, continually eating away at others and destroying them with your careless, boasting and selfish words?
Christian wives, I think most of us sadly identify with the ship. We desire to let God lead our life, direct our course and influence our words and tongue. At many times, we do! However, our sinful flesh sometimes overtakes us like a sudden storm on a rough sea. We find ourselves lashing out at our kids in frustration, grumbling to our friends about a situation in which we are discontent, boasting to someone in a moment of selfish ambition, or slandering someone who has slighted us.
This is unacceptable for daughters of God. We should pursue holiness in our speech. Like the horse, we need to bridle our sinful emotions and impulses with the fruit of self control. We need to utilize the direction of the Holy Spirit and be saturated with the Word of God to influence our attitudes and words. As we die to self, the sinful winds will abate and the Captain of the ship will faithfully steer us through life as we traverse His path for us.
Sisters, our words will look like the command of Ephesians 4:29 as we seek to have our words like the bit of the horse--completely controlled by the Holy Spirit.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

Encouragement, loving admonishment and Biblical wisdom will cover every word and conversation. There will be no mistaking we are His daughters by the very words we speak! Together, let us bridle our words and give the reigns to our loving and faithful God. Let us confess when we sin in speech and thank Him for the direction and help He has given us in the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of His word.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tipping the Scales in Favor of Spiritual Growth

Proverbs 31:30 "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised"

The other day, I was lamenting the fact that, due to having a 4 and 1 year old, most of my mornings find me running out the door with wet hair and "mom" clothes. If I were honest, though, the fact I consistently appear less dazzling doesn't mean I still don't desire to be put together, have those cute outfits and perfectly coiffed hair.
Ladies, we all spend inordinate amounts of time on our appearance. You might shake your head no and insist you've never been one for makeup and clothes, but there are various facets of taking care of your appearance. Where do you spend your time: shopping for clothes, getting fresh makeup, painting your nails, going to hair appointments and styling your hair, pouring over fashion magazines, dieting, exercising, or even just unconsciously sizing up other women on what they are wearing or how they look? Even if this is all in balance and vanity is not a sin issue, we all must admit we enjoy looking nice.
However, as Christian women, what is more important--our exterior appearance or our inward character? Did you spend as much time in the Word or studying godliness as you did doing ANY or all of the above today? If we are honest, many women fall short of spending as much time on inward sanctification as they do on making their outward appearance beautiful.
We definitely need to take care of the bodies God gave us and look attractive for our husbands, but this pales in comparison to our need to pursue holiness before our Creator.
I thought of a silly illustration: Imagine I buy my husband a work shirt so he can look nice at work. I want him to look put together at his meetings and to be thought of as a professional by his bosses. What if he started obsessing about the shirt instead of his actual work? He suddenly spent inordinate amounts of time ironing, washing, resewing buttons, and smoothing his shirt. He even suddenly started working less on projects at work because he wanted to spend more time taking care of his precious shirt at work. What? That is just silliness and completely misusing the gift I gave him! In fact, it is taking away from the exact purpose of my gift--to be a professional, hard worker!
That is what we are doing to a degree when we take the gift of our bodies and spend inordinate amounts of time on fleshly desires rather than on the spiritual needs and purposes that God gives us. Our over-focus on the gift and not adequately doing our spiritual jobs is silly and misplaced.
In addition, as Proverbs 31:30 reminds us, when we become overly interested in staying beautiful and physically perfect, we are bound to be disappointed. As my pastor says, we are all bananas. We are unripe for days on end, beautiful and "perfect" in appearance for what seems a couple of hours, and rotting, ugly fruit going downhill for the remainder of our earthly time. The beauty fades, but time invested in sanctification and holiness will never be wasted or wane.
Ladies, don't necessarily stop spending time getting ready and put together each morning (though we can all double check how much of our time that encompasses), but make sure that your number one time and mind-set priority is delving into the Word of God and pursuing ways to do God's will for you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Holy

Matthew 6: 33-34
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Recently, Pastor Philip De Courcy came to our church and shared a story from Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian who lived in Holland and concentration camps during World War II. Corrie tells a story of when she was a little girl and told her father she was afraid to die. Her father smiled at her and asked her something like this, "Corrie, when you take the train with me, at what point do I hand you your ticket?" "Right before we get on the train, papa" she answered. "God is the same way. He gives us the grace to face trials at the time that we require it--not long before or after. He gives us the grace right when we need it. When He calls you to death, He will then give you the grace to face it." (my summary of the conversation)
Christ speaks to us about a similar topic in Matthew 6: 33-34. He reminds us that we need only to deal with the trials of the day we are facing. The future is not in our control and we are not to worry about it. Are we to be wise, plan and be mindful of God's will for our plans? Yes! However, the topic and emphasis here is worry. We know from many passages in the Bible that anxiety and worry are wrong. Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." This passage leaves no wiggle room for excuses--do not worry about ANYTHING.
As women, we are experts at worry, aren't we? We worry about our kids--where will they go to school? Who will be their teacher? Will they have friends? Are they getting sick? We worry about our husbands--Are they doing well at work? Will they get the house project done without trouble? Are they giving us/the kids enough attention? We worry about ourselves--Do we look as thin as we would like? Did we make a good impression on that person? Will our doctor's appointment go well and will we stay healthy? We worry about where we live. We worry about the economy. We worry about money. We worry about health. We worry, worry, worry. When our emotions run awry and sinful, the Bible should always be our first stop to calm our nerves and shed light on the truths that are deafened by our anxious thoughts.
God makes it clear that He is with us and gives us tools to face today with holiness. Our main tool, in fact, is to seek His kingdom and righteousness. When we are grounded in Him and Biblical truth, we are prepared for trials we face. However, so often we try to take the controls, solve the problem and slip some Bible study or prayer in the little crumbs of time throughout the day. In effect, we are starving ourselves from the Biblical knowledge and godly wisdom we need to receive peace in our turmoil and valleys. Our lack of a proper Biblical foundation leads to worry, and the cyclical problem continues.
We must choose to purposefully repent of worry, stop doing the "what if" games in our mind, and to take the day we are facing and weigh it in the truth and light of God's Word as problems arise. Yes, we will have trouble. Read the end of Matthew 6:34 carefully. Christ says, "Each day has enough trouble of its own." God knows life isn't easy. He is aware of the difficulties we have. He doesn't promise to take trials away and make life easy, breezy and beautiful. We live in the cursed world of Genesis 3. He won't necessarily heal that disease or mend that relationship. However, He will give us the truths to give us peace and faith in those trials. Philippians 4:7 is not quoted as often as 4:6, but it says, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Despite our circumstances, we will find peace, joy, hope, and trust. It is beyond understanding, but He will give this to us when we seek Him and rely on Him each day. Even though the trial remains, we only have to deal with today, and His grace is more than enough to succeed.

Ladies, he won't always solve the trial or take the pain away, but He will comfort and encourage us with truth and peace as we face what He allows, as He conforms His Christian daughters into the image of Christ. Let's not worry or be anxious about tomorrow. Let's face today with confidence that, if we seek Him and His righteousness, He will provide all we need to get through today. His grace is enough.

Friday, May 28, 2010

There is a Friend

Proverbs 18:24 "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

As women, we know that friendship is an important part of our lives. We are blessed to know that the Bible has much to say concerning friendship and those we choose as friends.

Not surprisingly, the Bible is concerned with our holiness and God's glory, not with our popularity or self promotion. This flies in the face of the goals of the world, where ladies dress, speak and act in ways that will allow them to be accepted by the most people.

Proverbs 18:24 says, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." It reminds us that the secret is not to gather as many friends as possible, but, rather, we are to find a true friend who will be a friend through all seasons, a friend who sticks closer than a brother. A true agape love of sacrificial consideration will be the foundation for this friendship--a Philippians 2 type of mentality.

Most of all, though, this friend needs to primarily love God and seek His glory above all else. Even our choice in friends needs to be rooted in righteousness and wisdom. Philippians 12:26 explains, "A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." We all know that we are affected by the words and actions of those closest to us. God reminds us that a righteous man cautiously chooses with whom he will fellowship, but sinners haphazardly befriend whomever comes along, being led further astray by the other sinners with whom they party, gossip and "hang."

How do we know if our friends truly love God and want to glorify Him? Proverbs gives us some insight into their actions and words.

Proverbs 27:6 tells us, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." The idea of a friend wounding us doesn't sound very, well, friendly; but what the Word of God is saying is that a friend will tell us truth and admonish us. We need to find friends who use scripture, not opinion, to encourage, counsel and correct us. On the other hand, God tells us that "friends" who flatter us time and time again, even when we are sinning, are our enemy! They cannot be trusted because they are not concerned with the righteousness of God. If your friends are not confronting you in love, you are not growing and they are not spurring you on to be like Christ.

Proverbs 22:4 explains further, "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered." Are we all going to have moments where we sin in anger? Unfortunately, we are. I pray we are all growing in this area. However, the Bible warns us about befriending someone with patterns of anger in them. Do you have a friend who is always put off, offended, feeling slighted, bitter or holding grudges? Like a hot-tempered person, this type of friend is concerned about themselves, not God. When we see patterns of sensitivity, bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, we know that an individual is concerned about her own feelings rather than God's commands. She needs a good dose of humility and repentance before she will be a righteous and fruitful friend.

Finally, Proverbs 27:9 says, "Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel." Earnest counsel means telling the truth when advice is being given. As Christians, we define truth as Biblical truth. Are your friends giving you opinions or looking to God's Word to give you wisdom and answers? There is no other compass to follow than the Bible. If a friend is steering you by popular opinion or feelings, then this is not a friend who gives earnest counsel. In God's Word, we see what a disaster bad counsel can bring when Solomon's son, Rehoboam, leans on the opinion of his young, foolish "friends" rather than the wise, tested counsel of his father's elders. (I Kings 12) This lapse in judgement of his friends ulimately caused the separation of Israel from the tribe of Judah. The counsel you receive is very important, so do not underestimate the effect your friends' words have on your behavior.

Ultimately, ask yourself this, "Do my friends put God first in their lives? Do I see fruit in their actions and speech? Do I constantly feel guilty and ashamed or edified and built up in God when I leave after time with my friends?

Is there a place for non-Christians in our lives? Of course there is! We are to have aquantainces with whom we can share the gospel. Our time spent with them should primarily be just this--sharing the gospel and witnessing of their need for a Savior. They should not be our best friend, and we should not be walking into sin with them so we can "be their friend" in hopes of one day bringing them to Christ. Just as "missionary dating" doesn't work, having good friends who are lost in their sin never pans out either. You, as a Christian, are living for and serving God. You are an alien of this world. They are children of darkness and living for themselves. They hate the light and find little issue with sin. How can we be so unequally yoked? The truth is, we can't without compromise and sin on our own part.

It might seem a bit daunting to shake up some of your friendships and seek out godly ones who desire righteousness for themselves and you. It is vital, though. The Bible urges us to seek out friends cautiously because it is so important. Desire a love for God, righteousness, love, faithfulness and humility in your friends. If you seek God's wisdom and leading, you will find there is such a friend waiting to meet you.

Ephesians 5
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be partners with them.

8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
"Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."

15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A New Focus for Mother's Day: From me to Him

James 1:17a "Every good and perfect gift is from above"
Philippians 2: 3-5 "Don't do anything only to get ahead. Don't do it because you are proud. Instead, be free of pride. Think of others as better than yourselves.
4 None of you should look out just for your own good. You should also look out for the good of others.
5 You should think in the same way Christ Jesus does."

It is Mother's Day. We are bombarded with advertisements for jewelry, displays of flowers, and stories of breakfast in bed. The holiday has the godly intention of having husbands and kids show appreciation to their wives and moms. However, in the world's eyes, it sometimes morphs away from a simple holiday of appreciation and thanks to a day dripping with expectations of serving mom, treating her like a queen and knocking her off her feet with expensive, owed-to-her gifts. In worldly circles, woe be to the husband or kids who fall short in meeting their wife's or mom's expectations. Moms, this viewpoint of "It better be a special day or else" has the spotlight on you. It is me centered.
As Christian moms, we take James 1:17 to heart and realize today is the day we point to God in thanksgiving. We thank Him for godly mothers we have been given, for each blessing that He has given us to rear for His glory, for mom friends who help encourage us in the trenches, and for His Word which guides us on this journey. God certainly loves to bless us for our hard work as moms, but there should be no expectation for our family to jump through hoops.
As a Christian mom, we know that we serve as mothers every day because God has called us to this and we labor unto the Lord. Every ability we have as a mom is given to us by God. He prepared these good works for us to do in advance, and He has given us the motivation and heart to do this.
Yes, being a mom can be difficult and taxing, but we are not owed this day of thanks. As Christians, we love to hear and give encouragement and praise, but we never should be angry or disappointed if we don't get it. Our satisfaction and identity are in God. Today should be a day we fix our hearts to be focused on Him in gratitude and dependency as we joyfully and gratefully accept whatever means of appreciation we receive.
Surprise your husband and kids with a huge thank you for the opportunities to be blessed with labor for God as a mom and wife. Remember, enjoy the day and, by all means, gratefully accept the love and appreciation of your family. However, do not sin with resentment and expectation if someone falls short in making this the picture perfect, Hallmark holiday. Focus on your blessings and the amazing gifts God has given you! Mother's Day is a day of thanks all around!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Word of Gratitude

Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

When was the last time you intentionally said thank you to your spouse? I am not talking about a simple "thanks" as he passes you a plate. I am talking about actually thinking about how you can encourage your spouse, picking a time when he can focus on what you are saying and telling him how much you appreciate him for doing x, y, and z.

Ryan and I have a list of thanks on our linen closet that we fill out each week. The thanks is both to God and some to our spouse. I get so encouraged when we read it during our Bible study together and Ryan has specifically thanked me for something I have done around the house or with the kids. It acknowledges my hard work and helps me to feel appreciated. Though I should do my tasks as unto the Lord and not expect a thank you, it sure does spur me on to do more when I know Ryan has noticed my labor.

I am sure we all have plenty of requests and suggestions for our spouse. Make sure you punctuate the day with meaningful thank yous to him as well.

Proverbs 12:25
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A New Attitude

I'm packing this week, and I came across an old praise tape I had as a kid--yes it was a tape, circa 1980, so I was happy it was still working. We have great praise music CDs, but for nostalgia's sake, I made a point to put the tape in my car and have my kids listen to it as we were driving. I found myself singing along, praises pouring out of my mouth and heart to God--all to the tune of kids' music. Shortly into the drive, I heard my son's sweet little 4 year old voice picking up the chorus and joining in the song. We smiled, clapped and sang as we drove, arriving at our destination with joy and praise in our hearts. My singing and happy attitude initiated a great morning for my kids.

We've all heard the phrase, "When momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Despite it's grammatical flaws, it is sadly true. Proverbs 21:19 puts it this way, "Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife." Women, we have a profound influence on the mood and temperment in our home. We can choose to be purposeful in our praise, thankfulness and kindness; or we can choose to be surly, stressed and annoyed. We can reflect the righteousness of our Heavenly Father or the corrupt and rotten desires of our sinful flesh. Either way, our mood vastly affects our husband and kids. Proverbs 15:30 tells us that even a look can affect others. Studying positive influences, it says, "A cheerful look brings joy to the heart."
Considering this, I recently noticed that my mornings were often rushed, frantic and crazy. The problem was that I was trying to get myself ready at the same time that I was getting my four year old and one year old ready for the day. Inevitably, something would go awry, we would end up running late, and the morning would be punctuated with my sighs, frustration and complaining. We would finally get in the car to rush to where we were going, and my kids would both be sulking and quiet in the back of the car--casualties of my impatience and annoyance.

In an effort to adjust my attitude to be righteous and pleasing to God, I decided to get up earlier to fit my quiet time and shower in BEFORE the boys got up in the morning. This has been decidedly helpful. With less rush, I have sinned less in my attitude and words.

Is there a time every day when you find your attitude is habitually unrighteous and affecting your family in an ungodly manner? Do you need to adjust your schedule or make sure you have a time of prayer before a stressful part of your day? Do you need to confess some sinful attitude to an accountability partner or memorize some scripture to help replace a bad attitude with righteous behavior? Have you asked your spouse if he notices a trend in a time of the day or schedule when you are prone to sin in your attitude?

Be purposeful and proactive in dealing with this particular venue of sin. Let's strive to be helpmates with attitudes that reflect the character of our Lord and Savior.
Proverbs 31:12 "She brings him good, not harm,all the days of her life."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Helpmate: The Kickoff

Deuteronomy 11: 18-20

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your
hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking
about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates"
The birth of this blog has been long coming. I have had a blog for a couple of years now, and I alternate between posts of Biblical lessons I am learning and personal antecdotes and news on my kids. It is a little scattered and lacks a central purpose. As I have gotten busier and had two kids, I find that most of my posts have become updates on my kiddos, which, honestly, most people probably don't need to read. Occasionally, when I find a rare moment, I'll sneak a Bible related blog post onto my page, but I always feel the topics are, well, scattered.
Ryan and I have led the Thrive Marriage ministry with Scott and Heather Gilmore for a few years now, and each year we try to stretch ourselves and what we can do to help people properly live out their biblical role in marriage. As I grow and learn myself, I love to disciple women in this area, and since I like to blog and write, I thought, "I'll do a blog specifically dedicated to discussing Biblical roles in marriage!"
I can't promise that I'll have time to blog all the time, but I sure am excited to begin this blog and grow with others in my knowledge of being a godly wife and mom. This is the good stuff--the Bible and how it relates practically and specifically to our lives! Yes, it does! As Deuteronomy 11 states, we are to meditate and read the Word constantly so we can live our lives in step with God's will. It is the inerrant Word of God, and if we use the instructions and directions it gives, we are going to better glorify God in our lives and marriages.
So, here we go! Let us thrive in our role as God-fearing wives and mothers!