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Do Not Grow Weary

imagesThree weeks left until the end of the semester… and it can’t come fast enough. This stretch of homeschooling has proved to be much more demanding than I had anticipated, and as a consequence, has extracted a lot of blood, sweat and tears from my kids… and from me.

You know, I don’t really mind the hard work and pulling alongside with the kids to get the job done, but I can’t help but think that every now and then it would energize me and give me a little boost on the tougher days to know that someone noticed and appreciated my efforts. Unfortunately, the energy I put forth to get us all through another school year seemingly goes unnoticed, and thus, the motivation to keep moving forward can sometimes be elusive.

As a Christian, have you ever felt that way?

We know what the Word says, but sometimes it’s easy to wonder why it’s so important to struggle, to live righteously, to invest in the lives of others, and to obey the Lord in all things. Maybe if you or I had a visible platform to teach or preach, it would seem different. But most people labor behind the scenes, interact with their families, attend a few social functions every now and then, and that’s about it. For us, it can seem like this week was like last week which was like the week before that, with only birthdays and holidays punctuating the passage of time. Having noticeable impact for eternity seems to be such a distant concept that it might make it easy to rationalize ‘minor’ disobedience. After all, what’s the real harm in cutting corners on your job, holding a grudge against your family members, or having a facebook conversation with that old flame. No one really knows, and certainly, no one cares.

But such an errant attitude about godliness and its function misses the real purpose of our lives. Our days aren’t intended to be spent striving to get by and to end with amassing as much as possible, all the while hiding and hoping that God won’t actually notice our disobedience and as a result, let us slide on the consequences. However, if we have even a slight understanding and appreciation of what Christ has done for us through His life, death, and resurrection, it should make us less interested in our personal agenda and in seeking the recognition of our peers and more motivated to be clean vessels offered to a holy God so that He can draw others to His life through us. This perspective should give a revived motivation for obedience and godliness.

So, as I finish this blog and head back to the books with my kids, my desire is to encourage you to hang in there. Be bold. And be strong. What you do –and what you don’t do- matters more than you think. God intends to use you in ways you don’t know and can’t yet imagine. So even when no one appears to notice, continue to “walk in a manner worthy of your calling” (Eph 4:1). Renew your strength and commitment daily by remembering the encouragement and the promise given in Galatians 6:9. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.“

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Warning Signal

Living in a large city has a lot of advantages, but it does come at a price… traffic! That means that I have to use my GPS a lot. Even when I know where I’m going, I often plug my unit in just to make sure I don’t need to take an alternate route to avoid an unforeseen traffic tangle. And though it has been ‘generally’ reliable, not too long ago I decided it was time to finally heed the persistent reminder that said it was time for a map update.

map_screen_tomtom_1But after I finished the download and plugged my unit in again, I realized that along with the updated maps came a new warning feature. Whenever I exceeded the posted speed limit, the number indicating my current speed flashed red. This new function quickly became distracting, and eventually annoying, as my attention was frequently drawn to the pulsating red section of the screen whenever I was even going one mile over the legal limit.

But you know, that upgrade was installed a few months ago and the ‘red light’ doesn’t bother me anymore.  What was once highly noticeable and even irritating, no longer even registers.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. – Hebrews 4:7

exclamation-24995_1280You know, when believers exceed the limits of God’s laws, the Holy Spirit sends a warning signal called conviction. That prick in our spirits alerts us that we’re speeding into in a dangerous situation. But rather than acknowledge our error and reduce speed or change our course, unfortunately, our tendency is to continue at the pace we’re going and treat the Spirit’s warnings in a similar fashion as I did with the alert on my GPS. But when we repeatedly ignore His warnings and press forward, we’ll eventually find ourselves unmoved by His promptings at all.

That’s why we need to pay close attention when God speaks and throttle back on our pursuit of worldly pleasures and self-centered desires. Because how we respond to truth will map the course -and ultimate destination- of our lives, both now and eternally.

So… next time you are tempted to write that angry email, invite an unhealthy relationship, choose an edgy book or movie, or fold your arms in unforgiveness, remember, that even if others are recklessly speeding ahead, it’s always wise to slow down and heed the Spirit’s warning signal. God has a better way and will redirect you around potential hazards, if you will listen and obey.

 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:21

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Jesus In The City

We’re heading toward the end of the first semester in this year’s journey through home schooling.  And while teaching at home definitely has its pluses, there are some days that are, shall we say, difficult. Knowing that the domestic stress level usually rises about this time of every year, Clif usually asks me to send him a daily “status update” text so he knows what’s going on with the kids.

Most of the time my reply is just a list of facts about who needs to do what by when. But occasionally, he’ll get a reply from me that usually goes something like this:

I’m running away and taking the dogs with me.

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Girlfriend Getaway!

He’s pretty good at translating “mom-speak” and knows that I really mean: The kids are driving me crazy. I need a break! He’s very supportive when I need refuge and ask for a little time away with my friends for lunch, or more recently, a girls’ weekend away.

You know, God knew that His people would need a place to seek refuge from things much more serious than a bad day of homeschooling.

Then the Lord spoke to Joshua. He said, “Tell the people of Israel to choose the cities to go to for safety, just as I directed you through Moses.  Anyone who kills a person by accident can run there for safety. ~ Joshua 20:1-3

If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog you may have noticed that for some time now I’ve been working through the book of Joshua. I love it because it contains so many fascinating stories filled with vivid and dramatic accounts of God leading His people as they possession of the long-awaited Promised Land. However, by the time you pass chapter 13, the ‘action’ diminishes dramatically. Thinking that you’ve hit the doldrums of another Old Testament book, you might be tempted to skip on over to Judges, assuming that there’s little to learn from the remaining chapters which seem to be chiefly dedicated to explaining how the new land is to be divided up among the tribes of Israel. Kinda like the reading of a will (who gets what…) Not very dramatic stuff!

But looking a little deeper into the establishment of the Cities of Refuge explained in chapter 20 gives us a unique and often unnoticed picture of Christ. On a civil level, these cities were established to provide protection for people who unintentionally committed manslaughter. Since this was long before CSI teams, lawyers and rights of due process, retribution was often carried out by the victim’s family or mob well before officials could hear about the incident, interview witnesses, hold a trial, and decide on proper punishment according to the Law of Moses. These six strategically-located cities provided a person accused of an accidental death a place of safety from those who sought to kill him.

Spiritually speaking, Christ is the City of Refuge for all mankind. He stands ready to provide protection from the enemy whose intent is to track and hound us until we are destroyed.  (John 10:10)  A quick look at some of the characteristics of these cities shows us a clear parallel to a relationship with Jesus.

Accessible – The six cities of refuge were strategically located throughout the Promised Land. This assured that if an accident occurred, the guilty would never be far from a haven of safety. Jesus is always close. You don’t have to go to church to find Him. You don’t have to talk to any religious leader to get an introduction. There are no business hours, and you’ll never be put on hold. He is only as far away as your next sincere prayer. Psalm 145:18 assures us that “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.  

Unobstructed – Once the Cities of Refuge were established, the leaders of Israel were careful to keep the roads clear from debris and overgrowth so that no one would be hindered or lose the path in finding the way to safety. Today, some religions make access to their god complicated.  A parishioner may have to follow complex rules, do the proper rituals, or say the right words in order to be sure that they will be heard and accepted.  The way to Jesus is different. The way to Him is cleared of legalism and ritual. All it requires is faith in His work on the cross. Once you accept His sacrifice on your behalf, heaven is open to you and freedom is yours.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. ~ John 10:28

Secure – The only place a fugitive could find safety was within the walls of one of the Cities of Refuge. He could be genuinely sorry for his wrongdoing, and clearly explain the circumstances of the incident, but none of that mattered. If he ever left the city limits, revenge could be taken upon him, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. In the spiritual realm, we don’t get to make up our rules either.  A person can be sorry for sin, and genuinely want to do better, but if he or she chooses to live outside a relationship with Jesus, then at the time of judgment, there will be no protection available.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  ~ Acts 4:12

Welcome -Joshua 20:9 made it clear that the Cities of Refuge were open to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The same protection and provision was made for everyone, regardless of who he was, where he came from, or what his family affiliations were. The New Testament gives us the same assurance. The sacrifice Christ made is for the whole world. A glimpse into the throne room of God from Revelation 7:9 assures us that through faith in the cross, people from “every tribe, tongue and nation” will be welcomed into heaven. When you think about it, such mercy and grace is almost overwhelming.  So often, other religions or aberrant denominations imply that “God is on OUR side, not YOUR side,” but the truth is that God’s mercy is open and available to ALL. Equally! Eventually, everyone will be judged by the same standard, but for now His shelter stands wide open to anyone who will choose to seek refuge in Him. So… it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done or how long you’ve done it, safety and protection from the enemy and the coming judgment is available to you! Jesus says, simply “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, ‘everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ ~Romans 10:12-13

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Scarier than Halloween

It’s finally the end of October! That beautiful time of year filled with pumpkins, colored leaves, and cool, crisp evenings. It’s also the time of year that we as Christians are inundated with blogs, ministry programs, articles and hallway conversations at church all centered around the reoccurring (and far too divisive) question: “Should Christians let their children participate in Halloween?”

I have personally been on both sides of the discussion. When my first kid was a toddler, we didn’t participate in Halloween at all, and didn’t even answer the door to the neighborhood kids. But as our family grew and our children got a little older, my husband and I rethought the topic and decided that with careful explanation and guidance away from the dark side of Halloween, there was little harm in allowing them to dress up and get candy for a few hours one night a year, and would have no more lingering effects than a princess tea party or a super hero-themed birthday bash.

But, this post isn’t for the purpose of debating whether ‘to costume or not to costume.’ (There are plenty of other blogs on that topic.) Instead, I want to take this opportunity to point out a few things that really should be of more concern to believers than a door-to-door dress-up day once a year.

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I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 1 Tim2:9-10

Decking out in a costume and pretending once a year seems to be fairly unoffensive to most, but far more damaging is a lifestyle of immodesty that doesn’t represent who we are in Christ. It’s not uncommon to see young (and ‘not so young’) women in churches, Bible studies and Christian events wearing skirts that are way to short and shirts that are cut way to low. Even girls as young as 8 or 9 can be seen wearing clothing that is far too suggestive. I’m aware that not all who attend such events or populate Christians schools are believers, but it’s sad to realize that you usually can’t tell the difference just from appearance!
I’m not suggesting a return to Puritan-like drab attire of the past, but I am saying that modesty, decency and appropriateness are virtues that seem to be rapidly disappearing from today’s Christian youth culture, and if not individually corrected, this trend and these attitudes can easily become the gateway to far more damaging behaviors of immorality and sin.

Young woman whispering something to her frind.Spooky Speech –

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm19:14

“Trick or treat…Smell my feet… Give me something good to eat.” My friends and I used to giggle and laugh at that silly rhyme in our primary school years. However, the speech and language heard today in the hallways and back rooms of most Christians youth (and adult) organizations is nothing to laugh about. Paul warns believers to be careful about the words they use and specifically names “obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking” (Eph 5:3-4) as being at odds with a life of faith. We should take careful inventory of the words we (and our children) use and replace any unholy speech with words of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. Remember that inability (or unwillingness) to purify our speech may indicate deeper heart issues.  Jesus Himself reminded us that “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matt. 12:34)

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I will set before by eyes no vile thing.” Psalm 101:3.

What would have to change in your life if you decided  to actually follow the pattern that the psalmist penned in the verse above? More insidious than the ‘evil’ of Halloween is the true evil lurking no further than the closest screen. Your television, computer, smartphone or local movie theater is all too often a conduit to the worst corners of the kingdom of darkness. Parents who might keep trick or treating at arms length often sit down and ingest a steady diet of sex, violence and twisted evil scenarios that are often presented on the most popular shows and movies with the justification, ‘well there’s just a couple of bad parts.’ Perhaps we ought to condition ourselves to not just to ignore the “bad” parts of our entertainment, but instead to choose to eliminate them all together… with the realization that even a tiny amount of evil is still evil.

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Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. ~John 17:17

A lot of what goes on during Halloween is designed to trick people into believing what isn’t true. But in everyday life, we have what amounts to the same kind of trickster living inside of us… that is, we all deal with the deceiver called “emotion.” Too often, we determine in our minds what is true, based chiefly on how we feel about it. But allowing feelings and perceptions to trump facts and faith unintentionally sets us up for a life of volatility.  Feelings usually morph and change based on any number of things like external circumstances, attitudes, prejudices, fatigue, presuppositions, hormones, and personal history. Because so many factors sway us, it’s imperative that we be firmly anchored to, and believe what is true, which is reliably found in the pages of God’s Word.

Deadly Doctrine –

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. ~ Eph 4:4-6

One the most prevalent oppositions to Halloween is the fear that participation will somehow confuse children and lead them away from true faith in Christ. More often, confusion for kids (and other seekers) comes directly from professing Christians who say and do things that are in clear opposition to what even many unbelievers know scripture teaches. Perhaps that’s because there is a lack of clarity on the essentials of the faith in many of today’s churches.
Every believer should know what he or she believes about God, about Jesus, about the Bible, the church, about sin, righteousness and the way to heaven. And be clear upon what those beliefs are based. But once those teachings are established, they must be linked with a consistent way of living. James 1 reminds us that knowing what is right and just is not enough. His simple and clear instruction exhorts us to follow through with obedience. Verse 22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Without firm grounding in the truths of God and a commitment to obey, we can never hope to stand firm and defeat the influence of the real evil that is always present in this world which chiefly intends to destroy our faith in the trustworthiness and love of God.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…
Ephesians 6:11-13

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