Monday, January 31, 2011

Going About Our Business

If it is the business of the church members to fill the church, then the question is, "How do we go about it?" Do you find yourself inviting people to your church and saying things like, "The praise band is awesome.","You should check out the kids puppet shows.", or "Our new coffee bar has the best cappuccino around."? Is your philosophy "just get them through the doors and let the professionals take over from there?" Is that the way Jesus wants us to "do church"?

What about investing your life in your neighbors, fellow PTA members or kids on the soccer team? Are you living your life with the lost in such a way that they see a difference in you? Are you joyful, peaceful and contented no matter what the circumstances? Do you give willingly of your time, money and talents? Do you do all things without complaining or grumbling? Is the gospel evident as you live before others? Maybe if we Christians started living with our faith in a sovereign God on display for all to see all of the time, we wouldn't feel the need for so many gimmicks in order to fill the seats at church on Sunday.

As those around us notice that we live our lives differently, they will begin to ask "why?' Let us be ready with an answer at all times. Know why you believe what you believe and be ready to share it with others. Then, you can invite them to join you at church and hear your preacher go about his business of proclaiming the Word to God's people. We, the church members, need to keep inviting others to fill the seats and trust God to keep them there through the work of the Holy Spirit and the words of His representative, our preachers.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Voices of the Faithful

As the old year ended, so did the devotional I had been using. I was very excited to start using Voices of the Faithful. I have never done a Beth Moore Bible study, but so many of my friends have and have loved them, so I was sure this would be an awesome book to use.

I really love the layout. There is a Bible verse and missionary devotion story each day of the year. The stories are from those out on the field and can be thought provoking, uplifting, and encouraging. Each month focuses on a different topic. Witnessing, spiritual warfare, God's grace and compassion are just a few of the topics covered. The daily devotionals are just so-so in my opinion. They are quick and easy and probably fit well for overly busy young moms who only have a couple of minutes before the tots begin to get into trouble. They can read through the days page and meditate on the devotion during the day. I find that I want my daily devotions to take me deeper into the Word than these do.

I think the best part of the book is Beth Moore's introduction of each topic. She takes a couple of pages at the beginning of each month and does a great job.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Eyes Are the Windows to the Soul

Have you ever sat by a campfire at night and noticed that your eyes are getting uncomfortable? They get itchy, then painful and finally start watering. We all know that is from the soot from the fire. Even though we can't see those little particles, they can affect our vision and cause us pain.

Sin is kind of like that campfire. We don't necessarily see the little sins in our lives. We are proud, self focused, and envious. We look at ourselves and others instead of continually seeking God. Our eyes become gritty with the filth of sin and it soon affects our vision. We find it harder and harder to see God and the truth. That is, until we experience the pain. When it starts to get hurtful, we cry. Those tears can help wash away the dirt that harms our ability to see clearly. Sometimes only tears can cleanse our eyes enough so that we can see. And as our vision clears, we see that God is right there with us, leading us through the pain to His glory.

None of us likes those difficult times. Sometimes it seems those trials are just too much to bear. Cry out to God. Use that pain to get closer to Him. He is there. He is working. As your vision clears, you will see Him holding you up through it all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm So Pretty

When a homeschooled student won the National Spelling Bee I heard all about it from many homeschooling families, but when a homeschooler won Miss America, all was quiet on the homeschool front. Why is that? Are we just a bit ashamed? Are we worried that the world will now see us as vain and self-absorbed because she won a beauty pageant instead of an academic award? I would hope that is not the case. (Yes, I know that Miss America must be talented, poised, and intelligent, but we all realize she doesn't have a hope of making on stage if she isn't pretty too.)

Consider this. Our magnificent God created a beautiful world for us to enjoy. He made beauty and gave us the capacity to appreciate it. Not only that, He made us beautiful. Just try reading Song of Solomon. When we look at a gorgeous sunset or the majesty of the Grand Canyon do we shy away from commenting on the beauty and splendor of the view? No, like our Maker we appreciate that which is beautiful.

Yes, we are a youth and beauty obsessed culture, but let us not swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. It would be just as sinful to deny the beauty that the Lord has placed here on earth for us to enjoy as it is to worship it.

Let us congratulate this young lady on her achievements. Let us appreciate the way the Lord has created her (and all of us) in His image. Let us remember to pray for her; that she use this gift that she has been given to glorify Him and not herself.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mulligans and Meditations

I can not tell you how many times that I have thought, "I should have done this instead". From actions to food choices to things that I have said, I have often wished that I could have the last 10 minutes back for a redo. I should have played a game with the kids instead of sitting in front of the tv. I should have eaten an apple instead of a candy bar. I should have said that in a gentler way. It would be nice if life were like golf and we could have mulligans.

Since do overs are not possible, it is even more important for us to decide ahead of time what our actions will be. We can make plans to help us avoid some of those situations where we find ourselves regretting our decisions over and over. We can unplug the tv (or even get rid of it) and carry healthy snacks with us when we are out and only stock them in the house. The best way that I can think of to prepare ourselves to make the wisest choices is to meditate on the Word of God. His word is truth and life to those who will listen.

If that is the case, knowing the Bible inside and out can only be beneficial to us. Of course, meditating is more than just knowing what the Bible has to say, but knowing the words is a start. Considering them, figuring out how they apply to our life, praying over them, and memorizing them are all steps that follow. If I know what God has to say about my thoughts and actions and how He feels about my choices, I just might start taking them more seriously and thinking ahead a little more often.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dumbo is Behind the Castle

My kids and I went to the "Laugh All Night" show at First Baptist of Orlando last night. Taylor Mason had us in stitches as usual. He is such a very talented man and a joy to listen to. The other comedian we heard, Kenn Kington, had me doing some serious thinking.

Kenn was telling us about his first trip to Disney World with his 5 and 6 year old boys. First, they enjoyed breakfast with the characters. This was a huge hit with the boys, especially when Mickey Mouse came out. In fact, when breakfast was over and it was time for them to head over to the Magic Kingdom, the boys just wanted to stay at the restaurant with Mickey. Dad kept offering the joys of Disney World, but the boys were happy with their pal Mickey. Dad finally spotted the monorail and the enticement of a train ride was enough to move the pair to the park gates.

At the entrance, the boys once again balked wanting to stay on the train and not go to Disney World. Dad dragged them through the park gates against their wishes only to have the tears stop when they caught sight of the castle. When Dad explained that Dumbo was on the other side of the castle and the boys could actually ride on Dumbo, they were off. Of course, he again faced their lack of enthusiasm for the unknown after the Dumbo ride was over. Dad finally sat them down and explained that he had been to Disney World before, he knew plenty of things the boys would enjoy there, and if they would just trust him, he promised that they would have a wonderful time and lots of fun. The boys did finally decide to trust Dad and enjoyed their time at the Magic Kingdom.

Many of us have had that experience with young ones on their first trip to Disney. We find it hard to understand what we have done to them in the past that would make afraid to trust that we have something great in store for them. But aren't we like that with God? How many times have I told God, " No, that is okay. I'll just stay right here where I am safe, comfortable and happy." God gently takes us by the hand and leads us on to the bigger and better displays of who He is and what He has done for us. Even in our most difficult and trying times, He is walking with us and giving us the strength to go on. Next time I am tempted to tell God, "No thanks." I am going to try to remember a trip to Disney World. Maybe I will be a little more willing to put my trust in the creator of the universe. After all, He knows a lot more about the glory and joy out there than I do.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Promises, Promises

"Pinkie Swear?"
"Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye."
"Swear on a stack of Bibles."
"On my mother's life"

Oh the things we say to make others believe that what we tell them is the truth. How could they possibly doubt our ability to keep our promises? After all, would we have promised in the first place if we didn't intend to follow through? Unless, of course, a better offer comes along, it gets too difficult to follow through, the cost is greater than we planned, or they do something to make us mad.

The Bible tells us to let our "yes" be yes and our "no" be no. Yet we feel the need to add to these simple words as if they aren't enough. Probably because we know that we are a sinful people prone to speak before we think and to take the easy way out in life. It can't really matter if we don't take our kids to the park this afternoon. Things got busy and we can always go another day. It is okay to be late to set up for the church dinner. Other people signed up too, so there will be plenty of help. If we had known ahead of time that mortgage rates were going to go up so much so quickly, we never would have bought the house, but now it is just too hard to pay that each month so the bank can just take it back.

We press on toward the perfection that God calls us to, but the slope is great and slippery. We excuse one small infraction and pretty soon our words are meaningless so we add to them to enforce the meaning. Let's work on following the example set by our Lord and Master. No matter how seemingly impossible the promise, God always keeps His word. Sarah and Abraham laughed when He said they would have a son. They knew that they were too old and it was impossible. God kept His word anyway. Mary knew she was a virgin, but God made her the mother of Christ. Everyone knows that they fall short of the holiness God requires for salvation, but God gave his only Son to redeem His people. Sometimes it is difficult, uncomfortable, and costly, but it is always worth it in the end.