Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Anything to Get the Kids to Read?

This seems to be a new mantra that has sprung up amongst parents and educators over the last few years. I've heard it many times-- said with an almost religious fervor --as though a child who doesn't read is in the same immediate danger as a child who doesn't eat.

And whenever I hear this statement made with such intensity, I can't help but think, "Anything to get the kids to read? Really? Anything?" Just how far are we willing to go for the sake of reading?

Most recently I heard this statement made in response to a topic on my local talk radio station. It seems a high school English teacher assigned his class a book to read that contained a significant amount of profanity. Parents complained. The principal intervened and the assignment was terminated. Many who disagreed with the principal's decision repeated the litany, almost in unison: "Who cares if there's profanity? The kids were reading."

On another occasion, a Christian father and I were discussing the new movie and book, Twilight. He was planning to allow his "tween-ager" to see the movie in hopes that she would then read the books. He had made this decision, not because he thought the subject matter of the books or movie would be good for her (in fact, he indicated that he had decided to allow her to see it against his better judgment of the content), but because he wanted to do something that would get her to read more.

Now, granted, I haven't read the book series or seen the movie, so my comment stems only from the several reviews and articles I've read about them, but has reading become so important even to Christian parents that they feel the need to OK a book/movie for their children that gives at least the appearance of nominal approval to vampirism?

Don't get me wrong, I think reading is very important. I'm an avid reader, as are my children who are old enough to read independently. I guess I'm just a little perplexed that in a country with freedom of the press, where we have access to a bountiful supply of good books, both Christian and secular, that don't contain questionable material, we are getting sucked into the mentality that the only way to get kids to read is to present them with books that contain and normalize profanity, occultism, gratuitous violence and gore, inappropriate and explicit sexuality, and any number of other things that we wouldn't want them exposed to in real life. Why choose books like that when there are so many other better choices?

There are better ways to turn your kids into readers of good books:

  • Start early- Read to your kids from the time they are infants. Make it a normal, habitual part of life. I used to read to my babies when I was nursing them. I just read aloud from whatever book or magazine I happened to be reading at the moment myself. (That was actually a lot more interesting than reading Green Eggs and Ham or Go Dogs, Go to them a zillion times a day!)

  • Make it part of the daily routine- Just as you set aside time for brushing teeth, naps, daily devotions, homework, etc., set aside time every day to read to your children, or require your older children to spend a certain amount of time reading every day. One thing I have found that works well with my children is to occasionally allow them to stay up fifteen or twenty minutes past their bedtime, but only if they will use that time to read.

  • Make reading something to look forward to- Several years ago, I began a practice of reading my older children a book series every summer. We started with the Little House on the Prairie books, then moved to the Narnia books and others. As we near the end of the school year each May, one of the things I have them do is start looking around the library and the internet for the book series they want us to read that summer. They look forward to this each year. Finding an appropriate author or a topic your children like and having them watch for the latest book to come out is another way to build excitement.

  • Reward reading- Because I love to read so much, it is hard to for me to imagine anyone needing a reward for reading; it's kind of a reward in itself! Some kids need a little more motivation, though. They might enjoy participating in reading contests such as Pizza Hut's "Book It" program. Also, check out the programs at your local library. Our library sponsors a reading contest for both kids and adults every summer. It allows the reader to set a goal for the number of books he thinks he can read over the summer and then awards prizes for those who reach their goals. Or, if your kid is dying to see a movie that is based on a certain book, make seeing the movie a reward for reading the book.

  • Set an example- Be a reader yourself. Find an interesting book and curl up on the couch with your kids while they read their books.

  • Limit the electronic pacifiers- This is a good idea even if you're not especially interested in getting your child to read more. Unlimited time in front of the TV, computer, gaming system, or hand-held video games is hazardous to your child's intellectual health. Conversely, having your child read in order to earn "screen time" can be a good motivator.

As with everything else, it's important to abide by Biblical principles when choosing reading materials for ourselves and our children. Reading is important, but not as important as filling our kids' minds with Godliness.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

I Chronicles 16:34

Thanksgiving is upon us. It's my favorite holiday. I get "time off" from my job (although as a stay at home mom, my "time off" looks a lot like my "time on"!); I get to go visit family; there's no mad rush of gift shopping; and, the whole holiday is centered around eating. What could be better?

There's only one thing I don't look forward to about the holiday I love best. I'm not happy with the way Christmas has begun to overshadow Thanksgiving. The radio stations started playing Christmas carols before Halloween. The stores put out Christmas decorations earlier and earlier every year. The commercials for Christmas gifts and sales have been prolific since October. You almost get a sense that, aside from the good people at Butterball, retailers consider Thanksgiving to be in the way. They know that Thanksgiving is the "Gentlemen, start your engines!" rallying point for most shoppers, and without it, they could probably push Black Friday back to September and combine it with their Labor Day sales.

But more than my own personal annoyance and my desire to gather up all the retail CEOs and the media in one place and shout at them, "Nobody puts Thanksgiving in a corner!", I'm concerned for all of us as a national community. With everything that's going on in our country and the world right now, do we really need to skip over being thankful?

We Americans are so blessed we've become numb and ungrateful. What a slap in the face to people all over the world for whom simply surviving another day is an almost insurmountable task. How often do we have to worry about having water to drink that's clean enough not to make us sick? How many of us are starving to death because we have no access to food? How often do we have warring factions marching through our front yards? When was the last time we secretly huddled together to worship, afraid that at any moment we could be arrested, tortured, killed?

In the mad rush of all that is going on in our day to day lives, maybe it's not such a bad idea to slow down and give Thanksgiving its due.

Thank you, Lord...

...that I can see, hear, move, think clearly, and attend to my own needs.

...that I live in a country that protects my freedoms.

...for the family with which You've blessed me.

...for the roof over my head.

...for enough to eat.

...for saving me.

Don't skip Thanksgiving this year. Don't push it over in a corner and treat it as though it's an interruption of your Christmas plans. Relish it. Wallow in it. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Superseding Authority: A Godly Response to Authority III

Now after my previous blog entry on authority, I know exactly what you're thinking: What about ungodly leaders who order us to do ungodly things? Are we supposed to obey them? Should German Christians during World War II have obeyed Hitler and turned in Jews? Should Christians today who are citizens of countries in which Chrisitanity is illegal be obedient to laws saying they cannot pray, worship together, or witness? What about the numerous instances in the Bible which show Godly men and women disobeying the ungodly orders of an ungodly leader?

Well, I'm so glad you asked. :0)

There is one instance in which we can, nay, should disobey human authority, and that is when a command or law issued by a human authority directly conflicts with a command or law given by God. The instances above are some good contemporary examples. There are also several examples of this in the Bible:

"But," you may say, "we already have some laws that conflict with God's laws. What about abortion? What about states in which homosexual marriage is legal? What if I live in Nevada or Rhode Island where some forms of prostitution are legal? Doesn't the fact that those laws conflict with God's laws give me the right to disobey the authority which enforces them?"

There is a difference between these laws and the Biblical instances I've cited as well as the contemporary instances given in the opening paragraph. In the case of the latter, a law was laid down or a command given that required all people, or all of God's people, to break God's law or to stop doing something God had commanded.

The laws we have in the United States today legalizing abortion, homosexuality, prostitution and other sins are laws which allow, but do not require, people to do something ungodly. In other words, no one in the U.S. is forced to have an abortion or become a homosexual or a prostitute.

So, how do we respect the authority of legislators, judges, Presidents and other leaders who make laws allowing ungodly things? Do we bomb abortion clinics because they violate God's law? Do we just sit back and do nothing because we are to obey those in authority? Of course, neither of these extremes is a Godly way to act.

In America, we are blessed to have a form of government which allows us to legally try to change laws and leaders we believe are ungodly. At the very least, those of us who are old enough should be exercising our right to vote. And as I've said previously, we should be voting for the candidate whose platform matches most closely with Biblical principles.

Sometimes this will mean we will be voting for the candidate whose economic policies are less beneficial to us personally. I believe that's a sacrifice we as Christians should be willing to make. The Bible says that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), that we should deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24), that we should put the welfare of others ahead of our own interests (Philippians 2:3-4), and that we should help out the weaker members of our community (Isaiah 1:17, 23, Luke 10:30-37).

Other ways we can legally work for change include writing and calling our legislators and other leaders and asking them to vote in a Biblical direction, lobbying, working for the campaign of a candidate whose platform is Biblical, protesting (in an orderly and Godly manner), running for office ourselves, and let's not forget: praying for our leaders and our country.

Praying is the most important thing we can do, first, because God commands it:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth

I Timothy 2:1-4

God desires that our leaders come to know Him and govern in a Godly way.

Second, when we pray, we have direct access to the One who is in authority over all earthly authorities. God is the only one who can change or re-direct the heart of a leader:

The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1

A Godly response to authority may not always be easy, but it is fairly simple: respect authority; obey God; work for change; pray hard.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Christian Service Announcement

May I have your attention, please?

I am briefly interrupting this series for a worthwhile cause.

A friend of mine just made me aware of a great ministry called

(please click here for more info.)

This important volunteer ministry publishes Braille and large print Bibles and other Christian literature internationally in 120 countries and over 30 languages.

They are experiencing a financial hardship right now and there is concern as to whether and to what extent the ministry will be able to continue to function.

Please prayerfully consider donating to this ministry that needs a helping hand right now.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Trust God and Obey: A Godly Response to Authority- II

As we respond to authority, we need to internalize the fact that anybody who is in authority is only there because God allowed him to be there.

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Romans 13:1

For every person who is in authority, God has some reason for allowing him to be there. We may not understand how that person is part of God's bigger plan, but, really, is that anything new? God has always done things we don't understand and He'll continue to do so. He gets to do that because He's God.

Because God is the One who has given our leaders authority, we are to respect and obey them.

Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:2

If we reject the authority a leader has over us, we are actually standing in opposition and rebellion to God. If we refuse to obey, even if we harbor bitterness in our hearts and refuse to accept that this person is in authority, we are basically telling God He doesn't know what He's doing and that He made a bad decision. Not a good idea.

Notice also that this verse doesn't say we only have to obey leaders we consider to be Godly. It doesn't say "Godly authority", it just says "authority". Sometimes it's tough, but out of love and trust for God, we must respect and obey our leaders.

That thought shouldn't be a frightening one for Christians. One of the bedrock principles of our faith is that God has promised to take care of those who love and obey Him. We might experience some "momentary, light affliction" (II Corinthians 4:17) in the process, but in the end, whether on earth or in Heaven, everything is going to turn out ok. More than ok, fantastic.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day Aftermath or: A Godly Response to Authority- I

Well, the election is finally over and we have a new President. A lot of Christians are disappointed at the outcome. I'm one of them. But you know what? God's still on His throne, the sun still rose this morning, and there's every reason to look forward to the next four years with hope and anticipation of how God is going to work rather than with defeatism and despair...

God's people
who are called by His name:
humble themselves and pray AND
seek His face AND
turn from our wicked ways
This is the only way real change is going to occur, regardless of who sits in the White House. Notice that this verse doesn't say, "Once those ungodly heathens come around and get right with the Lord, everything's going to be great!" Nope, ladies, we've got some sweeping to do, and it starts with our own back porch.

There's a Godly way to respond to those in authority-- be it the President, our boss at work, or anyone else --that has nothing to do with our feelings about whether or not that person deserves his position of authority, and step one is to follow the instructions above.

As individual Christians, we need to be Godly. As a local church, we need to be Godly. As the body of Christ across the nation, we need to be Godly. We need to be on our faces in repentance and in seeking obedience to God. We need to take proactive and concrete steps to get sin out of our lives and out of our churches, and strive for holiness. Why would God address our concerns about straightening out the world if we're not concerned about straightening out ourselves?

Let's not mope or pout. That's unbecoming behavior for a Christian. It's also an indication of a lack of trust in a God who is much bigger than any earthly authority. Let's prepare our hearts and our churches so we'll be ready for the great things God wants to do in us, through us, and for us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Out the Vote!

Don't forget (as if anyone could!) to vote as God directs you today.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Performing a Sin-ectomy

Have you ever faced an issue of obedience in your walk that seemed so difficult you felt like you'd never get it right? Maybe it's something most would consider a "biggie", like pornography, gambling, or alcoholism. Maybe it's one of those heart issues that nobody sees except you and God, like racism, a critical spirit, pessimism, or bitterness.

Sometimes the sins we would consider to be "big" are, in a way, easier to deal with than the "small" ones. After all, it's a lot easier to avoid buying a lottery ticket or playing a slot machine than it is to prevent critical thoughts from jumping into your mind. You can take a different route home from work so you don't even have to drive past that convenience store or that casino, but we take our minds with us everywhere we go (although looking at the behavior of some people these days, you have to wonder! :0)

I'm working through not one, but two heart issues right now that are both really tough. (I'm not sure if God is piling on or being efficient!) I'm glad, though, that both issues finally came to a head in my spirit and that God is gradually working them out of me to make me more like Him. As I began the battle against these two sins, God sat me down and showed me some things I needed to know and do as I moved forward:

  • When God reveals sin in our lives, we can't just ignore it. We must face it and fight it no matter how difficult it seems. If we don't, the distance between us and God that was created by that sin won't just remain, it will grow. This is because we're now committing two sins, the sin itself, and the sin of refusing to deal with it and get it out of our lives.(James 4:17)

  • Only God can remove sin. We can try, through our own strength, to fix the problem ourselves, and we might even look successful temporarily, but ultimately, without His power, help, and strength, we wil fail. (Romans 7:14-25)

  • Prayer is absolutely imperative. Because we need God's strength and power, we've got to ask Him for it at least daily, and preferably continuously throughout the day. I have found that if I don't stay on top of these two obedience issues in my life by praying for God's help every single day, I start slipping back into my old ways. (Matthew 26:41 )

  • Commit consciously and completely. Remember the scene in the movie The Karate Kid in which Mr. Miyagi is talking to Daniel about committing to karate? He says something to the effect of, "You do karate "yes", safe. You do karate "no", safe. You do karate "guess so", get squashed, just like grape." Its much the same way with issues of obedience, except that the only safe choice is to "do obedience, 'yes'". It's important to make a firm and definitive decision to give ourselves completely to obeying what God has revealed to us, otherwise we'll be sure to waver when the going gets tough. Sometimes it is helpful to stand in front of the mirror and watch ourselves making a verbal pledge to God to obey, or write out our commitment on a piece of paper. (Galatians 5:1)

  • Take all the prayer you can get. While we should be discerning with regard to discretion, it's helpful to enlist as many people to pray for us as God directs. Not only will we have more prayers going up on our behalf, but we will find that being accountable to those who are praying for us helps us stay on track. (Colossians 1:9-10)

  • Be ready for the enemy's attack. If there's one thing Satan hates, it's a Christian who desires to be obedient to God. We have to realize that when we determine to set our feet on the road to obedience, he will attack. The obedience issue will suddenly become much more difficult; other things will pop up in our lives that have to be dealt with so we'll feel like putting the obedience issue on the back burner; depression or discouragement may come. Those things are all designed to deter us and keep us in sin, but we have to stand firm and keep moving forward in obedience. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

  • Get plenty of rest, eat right, and stay healthy. This is war. We can't fight off an enemy when we're tired and weak. Being in top physical condition when doing spiritual battle helps immensely. (Daniel 1:8-20, Mark 12:30)

  • Stumbling here and there is inevitable, but don't give up! When babies first start to walk, they don't just get up in the middle of the floor and walk perfectly from that day forward. They take a few steps and fall, then a few more steps and another fall. But, they keep on getting up and trying again. We're going to mess up when we try to obey, but we can't give up. We've got to keep at it. Eventually we'll get the hang of it. (Proverbs 24:16, Galatians 6:9)

  • Be vigilant and always on the alert for opportunities to practice obedience. The main hurdle I've been facing with my obedience issues is that I react automatically, quickly, and without thinking, to the stimuli that trigger my disobedience. It's almost Pavlovian in nature. I literally need God to change my mind and my thoughts. This has prompted me to pray two things: One, that God will help me to stop for a few seconds after a stimulus presents itself so I can think about my response before I give it; two, that every time I enter the presence of the stimuli, God will help me to be focused and alert to opportunities that arise to practice obeying Him. God has answered those prayers, and it has been immensely helpful. Looking for opportunities to obey has now become almost fun, like an Easter egg hunt. It is exciting to find that opportunity and know I'm doing the right thing for a change. (Romans 12:2, II Corinthians 10:5)

  • Be patient. If the sin we're battling is entrenched, it's likely gotten to that point over a long period of time (decades, in my case). It is probably going to take a while to eradicate it and replace it with Godly behavior. Although God sometimes sets us free from things immediately, usually with behavioral and thought issues He has us roll up our sleeves and do the hard work it requires to change. We just have to keep plugging away and remember that even if we only move an inch forward, we're still moving forward. (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4)

  • Keep score. Something I've found debilitating in the battle against disobedience is that at the end of the day I seem to remember only my failures and none of my successes. This is extremely discouraging and demotivating, so one of the things I have been praying is that God will help me remember what I've done right during the day. It has helped me to see my forward progress and reminded me to thank God for His help and give Him the glory for my successes. Additionally, as God has reviewed my successes with me, He has reminded me that He is cheering me on. He is always pleased when we get it right. (I Corinthians 13:5d)
  • Eyes on the prize. "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'" Matthew 25:21 "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." James 1:12 We do what we do for God's glory and the applause of Heaven.

Hang in there with God. It is worth it!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Your Vote Counts

California residents, please vote "yes" on Proposition 8. Florida residents, please vote "yes" on Amendment 2.

Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Worship: All about ME ME ME?

Take a look at this video. It's clever and it makes a good point. You almost don't know whether to laugh or to cry when you watch it. I'm not a big fan of Rick Warren, but he surely did hit the nail on the head with the first sentence of his book, The Purpose Driven Life:

It's not about you.

He's right. Life isn't about me. Worship shouldn't be either.

Naturally, in our churches we don't go around singing, "I Exalt Me" or anything else so blatantly ridiculous or blasphemous. (And if your church does, honey, RUN!) But, have you ever noticed how many of the songs we sing in church come from a "me" perspective rather than being "You" focused?

Lord I lift Your name on high

Lord I love to sing Your praises

I'm so glad You're in my life

I'm so glad You came to save us

I'm trading my sorrows

I'm trading my shame

I'm laying them down

For the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness

I'm trading my pain

I'm laying them down

For the joy of the Lord

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

I am a friend of God

He calls me friend

Who am I that You are mindful of me

That You hear me

When I call

Is it true that You are thinking of me

How You love me

It's amazing

Me-centered songs talk a lot about people and the benefits we get from our relationship with God, while You-focused songs concentrate more on extolling the attributes of God:

Lord of all creation

Of water earth and sky

The heavens are Your tabernacle

Glory to the Lord on high

God of wonders beyond our galaxy

You are holy holy

The universe declares Your majesty

You are holy holy

Lord of heaven and earth

Alleluia alleluia for our Lord God Almighty reigns

Alleluia alleluia for our Lord God Almighty reigns

Alleluia holy holy are You Lord God Almighty

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb

You are holy holy are You Lord God Almighty

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb amen

Jesus name above all names

Beautiful Savior glorious Lord

Emmanuel God is with us

Blessed Redeemer living Word

Now don't get me wrong, singing about our relationship with God is important. The Psalms are full of songs that talk about how we relate to God and how He relates to us. The 23rd Psalm is a great example. So is Psalm 103:2: Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits. I like all three of the songs I've listed as "me-centered" and have used them in church on several occasions.

But consider this-- when searching for the lyrics for the songs I've quoted above, I went to the CCLI site I use when planning music for my church's worship services. The site has a feature that shows both the top 25 songs and the top 100 songs churches have used in previous weeks and months.

I found the three "me-centered" songs in less than five minutes. Two were in last week's top twenty and one was number 26. For the "You-focused" songs, I had to go to the list of the top 100 songs. It took me forty minutes to search through most of the songs on that list looking for songs that contained only lyrics centered on God and His attributes.

When I looked at the top nineteen songs my local Contemporary Christian radio station (KLOVE) played last week, seventeen of them are what I would consider to be "me-centered" or "people-centered" (numbers two and four would be the "You-focused" ones).

Look at Revelation 4:8-11. How do those who are actually face to face with God worship Him?


Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. (11)

Should the majority of the songs we use in worship be from our perspective, about us, about what we get from God? Where is our focus? Who are we worshipping, anyway?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kissing the Face of God

A few Sundays ago as we were getting ready to go to church, I picked up my five year old, hugged him, and asked, "Are you ready to go to worship?"

He smiled and nodded, gave me a kiss on the cheek and then said something which he will never recall, but which I will never forget. He said,

"I just kissed you and God at the same time."

I'm not sure what he, in his five year old reasoning, meant to convey by that statement, but I have been thinking about what God could have meant by it ever since.

Because I'm a Christian, my body quite literally houses the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11, I Corinthians 3:16-17, I Corinthians 6:19-20), so in a way, what my son said was true.

The last part of I Corinthians 6:20 says that because the Holy Spirit lives in me, I'm to glorify God in my body. Everything my body says or does is supposed to point people to God, so that when they look at me, they see Him.

Wow. That's a pretty heavy duty responsibility. Am I doing that?

Unfortunately, the answer is "no" more often than I care to admit.

I want to live that way, though. I want people to feel God's healing in my touch, hear His kindness in my voice, experience His forgiveness in my embrace. Because I'm the only Jesus some will ever see, I want to be Jesus to them.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How Should Christians Vote?

Election day, November 4, is right around the corner. How should Christians vote?

First things first. Christians, especially Christian women, should vote. Not voting would not only be an insult to the sacrifice of the dedicated men and women who have given their lives in the cause of freedom and suffrage over the years that we might have the luxury of having a voice in our governance, but voting is a gift from God. Should we treat this gift lightly by failing to exercise it?

If you have never had the opportunity to visit a country, such as those in the Middle East, in which basic freedoms and women's rights are limited if in existence at all, I urge you to do so if at all possible. After I returned to the U.S. from a visit to the Middle East a few years ago, I realized just how much we take for granted what an enormous blessing it is that God has seen fit to place us in a land of liberty, abundance, and opportunity. When I vote, I see it as a way of returning thanks to God for the gift of freedom, and honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our liberties.

For whom should Christians vote? The Bible says in I Corinthians 10:31 that whatever we do, we should do all things for the glory of God. "Whatever" and "all things" includes voting. Christians should vote for the person they believe will bring the most glory to God. Considering the candidate options with which we're often presented, this, at times, seems an impossible task.

How do we know which candidate to vote for? Like all other decisions in a Christian's life, this one should be governed by God's leading through prayer and Biblical principles. Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) to make a Godly decision.

Study the candidate's platform and where he stands on each issue. Is he a proponent of anything that clearly conflicts with Scripture? Would he push to legalize or undergird things God calls sin? Can we, as Christians-- whose goal in life is supposed to be turning from sin and pursuing holiness --knowingly and intentionally disregard the fact that a candidate would stand in favor of sin rather than fighting against it, and give him our support?

Sometimes we lean towards voting for the candidate who would benefit us the most personally. Perhaps he has promised a tax cut for our particular bracket, or said he would improve the roads we use for traveling to work. In and of themselves, those are good things, but does his platform also include favoring things which would hurt others or be detrimental to the fabric of our society in general? In other words, should a Christian vote for something or someone who will benefit herself at the expense of harming others?

I don't believe we can do that and remain true to Biblical principles such as:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; Romans 15:1-3a

As is frequently the case these days, the person we vote for, believing he will make the most Christ-like decisions, loses the election. I don't know about you, but I'm usually pretty disappointed when this happens.

I try to keep it in perspective, though. It's within the realm of possibility that the person who won the election will get radically saved after taking office and make even more Godly decisions than the other candidate would have made. It's also possible that he will unintentionally make the decisions God wants him to make for other reasons, such as political expediency or pleasing a particular special interest group. The Bible says in Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. "

Not only should we pray before we vote, but we have a Biblical mandate to pray for the winner after the election is over:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
I Timothy 2:1-4

Above all, we must remember that, while the upcoming elections may determine who will sit in the White House, the Congress, or the State House, they do not, nor will they ever, determine who sits on the throne of the universe as King.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

God is NOT Running for Office

Everybody seems to have an opinion about God. Some love Him. Some hate Him. Some will swear He doesn’t exist, while others seem to have Him confused with Santa Claus. Many complain that He isn’t doing His job.

If you were to ask a hundred people who they think God is you’d get a hundred different answers. We all want God to be who we think He is. We want Him to fit neatly into the little box we’ve designed for Him so that—like the perfect purse or pair of shoes to our favorite dress—He doesn’t clash with our lifestyles, but rather, fits right in and complements what we’ve already got going.

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve heard or read statements similar to these:

  • I think Jesus was a liberal because He did X, Y, and Z.

  • I'm homosexual. God wouldn't create me this way and then send me to hell because of it.
  • I think God is much less concerned with (insert sin being defended here) than He is with people being nice to each other.

  • Please pray that God will bless me as I move in with my boyfriend.

  • I’ve decided _______ isn’t a sin.

  • We shouldn’t be preaching about this or that Biblical principle at church, because people might get offended and stop attending.

I’ve got news for all of us, myself included:

Who God is is not determined by opinion polls.

He’s not a politician who will change His personality or his stance on the issues to please us, because we are not His constituents—we’re His creation.

So just who is this God anyway? Moses had the same question when he was first starting out. In Exodus 3:13-15, God has just told Moses that He wants him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses, trying to wrap his brain around this unforeseen turn of events, says to God in verse 13 (my paraphrase here), “Ok, when I get there and tell the Israelites that God has sent me to them, and they say ‘Who is this God you’re talking about? What is His name?’ What am I supposed to say?”

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (14a)

This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. (15b)

God is who He is. Not who we think He is. Not what’s convenient and palatable to us. Not who we want Him to be. He has always been that way, still is, and always will be, as we see at the end of verse 15.

Alright, so we know that God is who He is. How do we go about finding out what “is” is? Well, if we want to know who a human being is, we spend a lot of time with that person, we talk to him, we listen to what he has to say, and we watch him in action.

It’s the same with God. We spend time with Him. We talk to Him in prayer. We listen to what He has to say about Himself in His word, the Bible. We observe the way He acted in the Bible and the way He acts around us today.

As we get to know a person better, we may discover some things about him that we don’t like or don’t understand. Maybe he puts ketchup on his eggs (ick!), or roots for the wrong football team (anybody who plays against LSU), or—horror of horrors—puts the toilet paper on the roll so that it comes out from the bottom rather than over the top (We all know that’s the wrong way, right? It goes over the top. :0)

As we discover things we don't like about a human being, does our dislike or lack of understanding about one of his particular quirks or habits change said quirk or habit? No.

Again, it's the same way with God, and even more so, because while a person might be willing to change some of his ways to please another person, God is not. And if we think about it, why should He? And would we really want Him to bend to suit our fancies even if He were willing to do so?

Imagine you bought an over the top, fantastic new car and had the opportunity to meet the car's designer. At this meeting, he tells you all of the things you should do and not do to keep the car running in tip top shape. He even gives you a detailed owner's manual reiterating everything he's just told you. Would you believe what he says about taking care of the car?

How much more should we believe and obey what God has to say about the way we should live? He designed us. He knows exactly how we work and what is good for us and what isn't good for us. Moreover, He loves us and always wants what is best for us. We didn't design us or anything in our environment. We don't know everything. Lots of times we don't even want what's best for ourselves because we don't know what's best for ourselves. Who are we to tell God how He ought to run things? (Job 38:1-42:6)

When God says something is a sin--harmful to us and an affront to Him-- it is. When He says something is good and holy, it is. End of story, no discussion, period. You and I don't get to change those things to suit ourselves. When we try to, what we're ultimately saying is that God is wrong and doesn't know what He's doing. That we know how to handle things better than He does. That we are more qualified for the job of being God than He is.

This is the absolute antithesis of Christianity. Jesus said, "...If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24) There is no such thing as a "Christian" who willfully, purposefully, and continuously decides to immerse himself in, and pursue, a lifestyle of anything God calls sin. Becoming a Christian requires that we put ourselves, our opinions, our feelings and our impulses aside and submit to the authority of Christ. Salvation does not take place until we embrace the fact that He is God and we are not.

When we refuse to bow to who God really is, who He says He is in the Bible, and start redesigning Him according to our own opinions, according to what's popular, or according to what is politically correct, what we have done is to set up an idol, a false god, to worship. Take a look at Exodus 20:1-4, and notice that in the middle of verse 4, it says we are not to "make for [ourselves] ... any likeness of what is in heaven above". While we may not be carving a literal statue of stars or planets to worship, which is the context of this passage, we frequently figuratively carve out our own likeness of heaven's God.

God is who He is. We can take Him or leave Him, but we can't re-make Him. We were made in His image, not He in ours. He isn't going to formulate a platform we'll like so He can earn our vote. He already holds the office of King, and even though He's frequently opposed, He's not going to be deposed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Church of Oprah

If you're a Christian who watches Oprah, you need to see this clip from her after show discussion time, as well as this clip from one of her webinars.

Although she was raised Baptist and often uses pseudo-Christian vernacular, the mish-mash of religion she is a proponent of right now is neither Biblical nor Christian.

Be aware and be wise.

Monday, September 22, 2008

God Goes to the Movies

Be sure to go see Fireproof this weekend if you get a chance. I've seen a lot of the promotional materials and clips, and it looks like it's going to be good.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An open letter to my friends who are struggling...

Dear Friend,

I know you have been going through some rough times lately. Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one. Maybe you're ill with a serious disease. You might struggle with depression. You could be watching a loved one battle cancer or another terminal condition. Your marriage may be close to breaking up. Or maybe, just maybe, you're simply sick and tired of the way your everyday life is going. That the world is going to hell in a hand basket and you're getting sucked right down with it.

I've listened as you've poured out your heart. I've walked with you as you've struggled. I've held your hand and prayed with you. And while my heart breaks for you because of the circumstances you're going through, what crushes me even more is the despair, the hopelessness I hear in your voice. That there's no way out. That it's impossible to deal with the pain. That there's no one who can really help you.

But there is. And that's what I desperately need to tell you.

I haven't told you before, because when everything was going fine for you, you didn't want to hear it. But sometimes people just get to a point in their lives where things are so bad they're willing to try anything.

And so, I'm asking you to try, just try, one more thing. If you've already tried everything else, and nothing's working, what do you have to lose?

Please try Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He cares about your pain and your struggle. And He's the only One powerful enough to actually do anything about it.

I'm not talking about simply bowing your head and asking Him to get you out of the horrible situation you're in. I'm talking about bowing your life to Him. Giving up. Surrendering. Letting this King you've been doing battle with all your life conquer you for your own good, sit on the throne that rightfully belongs to Him, and set up His rulership over your life.

This King doesn't desire to reign over you so that He can tyrannize you. He's a freedom fighter. He has already made the ultimate sacrifice to set you free from the oppressive regime under which you've been living: you. All you have to do is renounce your throne and become one of His subjects.

What does this mean in practical terms? You set aside a little uninterrupted time to talk it out with God. You recognize that He is God and you are not. You admit to Him, and to yourself, that you have sinned.

"Sin" means to break God's laws. You know the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), right? At least some of them? Have you ever lied, stolen something (even something small), dishonored your parents? Then you have sinned. And by the way, your opinion on whether or not something should be a sin doesn't make a hill of beans of difference. When you can create the universe, heal the sick, walk on water, and rise from the dead, maybe you'll get to make the rules. Until then: God's turf, God's rules. And you've broken them. All of us have.

What happens when you break a local, state, or federal law? Well, if you get caught, there's supposed to be some kind of punishment. If you speed, you have to pay a fine. If you steal, you go to jail. If you murder somebody, depending on where you live and whether or not you can get the verdict overturned on a technicality, you get the death penalty.

There's punishment for breaking God's laws too. James 2:10 tells us: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." In other words, if you've broken one of God's laws, you've broken them all. So, since we've all committed the same crime against God-- breaking all of His laws --we're all destined for the same punishment. Hell.

Yes, there is a hell just as surely as there is a heaven. Once again, your opinion on whether or not hell does exist or should exist matters about as much as your opinion on whether or not the sky is blue or whether or not it should be a different color. Your opinion does not change the facts.

The good news is that God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, has already taken the punishment for the crime that we committed. Have you ever heard of a completely innocent victim of a crime volunteering to take the death penalty for the perpetrator for no other reason than that he loves him? Me neither. But that's exactly what Jesus did for you and for me. And believe me, it was cruel and unusual punishment.

But Jesus didn't just die in our place. He did away with the eternal death of hell by coming back to life after three days in the grave. And He's willing to share that victory over hell with anybody who wants it badly enough. It'll only cost you your life. Not your physical life, of course, but your spiritual life.

After admitting to God that you're a sinner, the next step is to believe with your whole heart that Jesus died and rose again to take the punishment for your sin (Romans 10:9-10). You gratefully tell God that you accept that Jesus did this for you. You ask Him to forgive you, and make a commitment to Him and to yourself that with His help you're going to turn away from a life of sin and serving yourself and turn to a life of serving and obeying Him. (This turning away is called "repenting".)

Finally, you put your money where your mouth is and act on what you've just committed to. You spend time reading your Bible and praying in order to get to know God better. When opportunities to sin arise, you turn away from them. As you grow in your relationship with God, you discover what He wants you to do with your life, and you follow that path.

This last step is a very important one that, all too frequently, gets left out. Simply mouthing a prayer and then going back to business as usual ain't gonna cut it. In fact, if you are able to go back to living the way you always have, with no discernable change of heart or behavior, at least a gradual one, you probably aren't a Christian. If you've truly given your life to Christ, you're going to be a different person. You're going to have an aversion to sin, and a love for God. Your attitudes towards other will change. Your priorities will change. Your beliefs about right and wrong will change.

Simply SAYING you're a Christian doesn't make you one. I could sit here all day long and tell you I'm a doctor. Sure, I've taken some biology classes, and I do have some medical knowledge, but I didn't go through medical school, I'm not licensed, and I don't treat patients. If I wanted to become a doctor, I'd have to fulfill the requirements of being a doctor. It's the same way with Christianity. If you want to become a Christian, you have to fulfill the requirements.

If you've stuck with me this far through this seemingly interminable article, you're probably thinking back to my very first paragraph and saying to yourself, "This 'giving your life to Jesus' stuff is all well and good, but my husband is dying/I can't find a job and my house is about to be foreclosed/my mother just died/I'm on the brink of divorce/etc. That's all I care about, all I can think about right now."

That's precisely why I told you about Jesus. When (and ONLY when) you give your life to Him, He helps you through your problems. You want peace when you're struggling with a rebellious child? Comfort after the death of a loved one? Strength when your body is in pain? Joy instead of sadness? These things, and many others, are just some of the "fringe benefits" you get from being a Christian. But you only get them as a result of giving your life to Christ. There is no other way.

Thanks for allowing me to get this off my chest, Friend. I just couldn't go one more day telling you that I'm praying for you to have peace or strength or healing without telling you how to get those things. And so I'll urge you just once more: try Jesus. Or as the Bible puts it (Psalm 34:8):

O taste and see that the LORD is good;How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Please keep those of us who are in the path of Hurricane Gustav in your prayers. Thank you.

Update (9-18-08):

Thank you for your prayers. Although my family was without power for 7 days, we were very blessed not to have had any damage to our house.

Please continue to pray for those who are still recovering from the extensive damage of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Wretch Like Me...

If you get the TV channel FamilyNet, be sure to check out a great apologetics show called Wretched. It is hosted by Todd Friel (who works with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron on Way of the Master radio), and discusses issues relevant to the church and Christianity today.

More info. at this link: http://www.familynet.com/site/c.rwL5KhNXLtH/b.3975515/k.6B0A/Wretched_with_Todd_Friel.htm

For those of you who live in my area, it comes on channel 17 at 12:00 - 12:30 a.m. (so you might want to DVR/tape it!).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- X

Thou shalt love.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

Loving our children isn't something that just happens. It also isn't just a nice fuzzy feeling. It's a duty. A responsibility. A command from the lips of God Himself.

"...if God SO loved us..." What does that "so" mean? It's talking about the way God loves us.

  • By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (I John 4:9-10)

God loved us enough to do what was best for us even though it cost Him that which He held most dear. He loved us sacrificially and unselfishly.

  • But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Even when we were living in outright rebellion against Him and didn't care that he wanted what was best for us, God loved us.

  • For whom the LORD loves He reproves; Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:12)

God loves us too much to allow us to continue our self-destructive behavior, so He disciplines us.

  • But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us (Ephesians 2:4) Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

But, even as God disciplines us, in His mercy he forgives us when we repent of our sin.

  • The steps of a man are established by the LORD; And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong; Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)

When we're holding God's hand and walking in His ways, He delights in us!

  • He who has clean hands and a pure heart; Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood; And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD; And righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:4-5)

When we're living in obedience to God, He blesses and rewards us.

Do we love our children the way God loves us? Do we...

  • love them sacrificially and unselfishly?
  • love them enough to want what's best for them?
  • love them enough to do what's best for them even if they fight us every step of the way?
  • love them enough to disicipline them?
  • love them enough to forgive them?
  • love them by delighting in them?
  • love them by blessing and rewarding them for doing well?

It's a huge challenge. Our kids are going to drive us up the wall, rebel, pout, whine, and at times, break our hearts. Just like we do to God. But if He so loved us, we ought also to love our children.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- IX

Thou shalt be forgiving.
“bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Col. 3:13

Imagine a home where there was no forgiveness. Anger and bitterness would reign supreme. Old wounds would be nursed and rehearsed. Grudges would be held tightly as treasured friends. Is this kind of home healthy for anyone, let alone children?

Of course not. In our homes, the place where we are most inclined to let it all hang out, forgiveness is even more vital than in any other venue. If you have a husband and/or children, you know that the people who live in your house are going to screw up. Royally, at times. And guess what? So are you.

How will you want to be treated when you mess up? I'm guessing that while you'll understand your family will be disappointed in you, you'll still want them to find it in their hearts to forgive you once they work through that disappointment. In obedience to the "Golden Rule" (Luke 6:31), therefore, you've got to extend forgiveness when your husband or children offend you.

When we forgive each other, we paint a picture of God's forgiveness. Just as God does not condone our sin when He forgives us, the forgiveness we extend on the human level does not mean that the offender's actions were ok. It is merely a way of saying, "I'm going to let this go instead of continually holding it against you."

God deeply values forgiveness. It is the entire reason He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth and allowed Him to be brutalized to death. Jesus endured all that pain and degradation so that each of us could be forgiven for offending God. And, if God could go through all of that to forgive us, how could we ever refuse to forgive our loved ones?

Monday, June 30, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- VIII

Thou shalt set a good example for thy children by thine own Godly behavior.
“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,” Eph. 4:1-2

Do what I say, not what I do.
Monkey see, monkey do.
Actions speak louder than words.
Practice what you preach.

Which of those maxims seem to ring true when it comes to parenting? For years, every childrearing expert who has come along has reminded us that modeling the behavior we want our kids to exhibit is one of the most effective ways of shaping them. Of course, if you're a mom of a child who is old enough to walk and talk, you already know that modeling works, because, for better or for worse, you've already heard your own words fly out of your child's mouth or seen him imitate you at some point!

Your kids will imitate you. My kids will imitate me. How do we use that knowledge to pour Godliness into them? The Bible tells us that we are to be imitators of Christ (I Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1-2). We need to strive for Godliness in our own lives until we can say to our kids, as Paul said to the Corinthians, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."

They need to see us studying our Bibles and spending time in prayer. They need to see us resist temptation. They need to see us set aside our own desires in favor of serving others. They need to see us exhibit love, humility, kindness, patience, forgiveness and mercy. They need to hear us building others up instead of criticizing and gossiping. They need to see us work through problems with our husbands, families and friends in a Godly way. They need to see us admit when we're wrong and seek forgiveness.

So, in the spirit of that old children's song:

Oh, be careful Mommy's mouth what you say
And be careful Mommy's feet where you go
And be careful Mommy's hands what you do

Not only is "the Father up above...looking down in love", but our little ones are looking up at us too.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- VII


Thou shalt consistently and lovingly discipline thy children.

Proverbs 13:24:

Those who don't correct their children hate them. But those who love them are careful to train them. (NIRV)

A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them. (MSG)

He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early. (AMP)

These kids today! Every generation since Adam and Eve has probably said it. Certainly today, you can't throw a rock out the window without hitting half a dozen ill-behaved brats. We've all cringed at the temper tantrum-throwing child seated at the next table in the restaurant, or watched a mom in the store tell her little sweetie "no" a dozen times, only to finally give in to his demands. Heck, most of us have probably been that mom on occasion.

Hundreds of books, both Christian and secular, have been written on the topic of how to discipline children, but much rarer are the writings about why we should discipline them. As always, the easy answer to that question for the Christian is: "because God said so". But why does God tell us to discipline our children? Because discipline teaches our children that we love them.

The most important way we can love our children is to lead them to salvation. Learning obedience to parents teaches them the concept of setting aside their own behavior in favor of submitting to the authority that has been placed over them. This has direct application to the spiritual construct of salvation. Salvation does not take place until we submit our wills to the authority and Lordship of Christ and commit to follow and obey Him.

I John 4:20 says: "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." I really believe this general principle applies to obedience as well. One of the things I tell my kids when I discipline them is that, although I don't enjoy punishing them or letting them suffer the consequences of their actions, I have to do it because I want them to start learning, through obeying me, how to obey God. I'm flesh and blood standing right in front of them, clearly telling them what to do and what will happen if they don't obey. If they can't obey me, how in the world are they going to learn to obey God, whom they can't see or hear with their eyes and ears? Conversely, if a child has been lovingly and consistently disciplined, how much easier will it be to introduce him to the concept of submission to God's authority?

Another vital spiritual principle that discipline helps teach is an understanding of sin, its consequences, and punishment. A child who has been disciplined knows what it means to be guilty of breaking the rules. He also knows that because he has broken a rule, some sort of undesirable consequence will follow swiftly. A child who has not been disciplined believes he does no wrong and that the world around him should be catering to his wants and demands. Which child will be able to grasp the idea that he is a sinner in need of salvation? Which one will understand contrition, eternal punishment, and eternal reward?

Teaching obedience also teaches our children that we are concerned about how they fare with others. My children have come to me in the past and told me that they don't like being around certain friends of theirs who constantly misbehave. On these occasions, I very carefully (to ensure that they don't become critical or develop an attitude of superiority) explain to my children that this is one of the reasons Daddy and I teach them good behavior. We don't want them to experience the sadness that misbehaving child is sure to feel when he realizes that people don't want to be around him. We teach them that we love them enough to want others to delight in them.

Discipline shows love for our children through concern for their safety. If my child doesn't obey me when I tell him not to run into the street, he could be killed by an oncoming car. If he runs into the street and then stands there and argues with me when I tell him to get back on the sidewalk, he could also be killed.

Many years ago, when I was teaching school, a kindergarten student of mine was killed in a house fire. He didn't die because he was unable to get out of the house. He was rescued, unharmed, and was told not to go back into the house. This little boy, notoriously disobedient, went back into the house. He died as a result of lack of discipline.

I have told my children these stories on occasion, not to scare them unnecessarily, but to show them just how serious the consequences of disobedience can be. All the spiritual principles in the world won't matter if a child isn't alive to learn them.

"Love your children by disciplining them." Show them love through their physical safety; show them love through their social well-being; and show them love through their eternal security.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- VI

Thou shalt teach thy children to pray.
“pray without ceasing;” I Thessalonians 5:17

When my kids were toddlers, I knew that there was no way they could wrap their little undeveloped brains around the abstract concept of God. It is certainly true, though, that God has made Himself evident within each of our hearts (Romans 1:19), because when the kids and I would pray together or talk about God, none of them ever once asked me who God was, even though they couldn't see, hear, or touch Him. Teaching our kids to pray fans that little spark of knowing God into flame. Start from birth, and help them to make it a lifelong discipline.

I'm not a big fan of "Now I lay me down to sleep", "God is great; God is good" and other memorized prayers. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with them, and they do contain some spiritual truths, but in my own experience the more familiar, rote, and repetitious something is, the less meaningful it can become over time. I think it's important to teach kids that prayer is an actual dialogue with God that should have meaning for our lives. We talk to Him. He listens. He talks to us. We listen.

When we teach children to pray, they need to know that they don't have to use "thee's" and "thou's" and a bunch of fancy language in order to be heard. There are millions of people all over the globe who wouldn't know flowery speech if it smacked them upside the head, and yet God listens to them just the same.

It is also essential that we teach them that while God is indeed our friend, He is also holy, and must be addressed with reverence for that holiness. When we recognize His holiness in our prayers by acknowledging Him as Creator of all things in the universe, listing and proclaiming His attributes (such as goodness, mercy, justice, grace, love, forgiveness, etc.), and humbling ourselves before Him, it puts us in the right spiritual attitude for doing business with God.

Another vital distinction to make is that God is not Santa Claus. He's not sitting up there waiting for our wish lists, granting them if we've been nice and denying them if we've been naughty. Kids are naturally self-centered, so it helps them to take that focus off the self if we teach them to thank God for the things that they already have, to pray for others, and to confess their sins.

Jesus gave us a great example of how to pray in the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13):
  • Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. We humble ourselves before God, recognizing His position and submitting to His sovereignty and authority.
  • Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We intercede for ourselves as well as others. We ask that God's will, not ours or anyone else's, be done in each situation, and that He will receive the glory in every circumstance.
  • Give us this day our daily bread. We ask for God's provision for our needs and recognize that it is only by His hand that we have anything.
  • And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. We confess and ask forgiveness for our sins. We ask God to help us forgive those who have sinned against us.
  • And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We ask for God's protection and the strength to obey Him and resist temptation.
  • For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. We again recognize God's sovereignty, give Him glory, and leave all of our requests with Him to deal with as He sees fit.

Your 5 year old's prayer, encompassing these areas, might look something like this:

Dear Lord, Thank you for being good and loving. Thank you for my family and my dog. Thank you for making the park so I can play there. Thank you for the food we've eaten today, and please give us the food we need tomorrow. Please help my friend Jason to feel better and get over the flu. I'm sorry I hit my brother this morning. Please forgive me and help me to be kind to him. I love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Of course, he probably isn't going to come up with all of that on his own. The best way to teach kids to pray is to pray with them. You might go first, praying a simple prayer, and then have him pray, or you might want to try what I call a "ping pong" prayer. You pray one sentence, and he prays the next, and so on, until you're done. For example:

Mom: Dear Lord, thank you for being kind.
Kid: Thank you for being forgiving.
Mom: Please help the Jones family because they're sad that their cat died.
Kid: Please take care of our missionaries in South America.

One of the ways we can teach our kids to listen to God is to keep track of His answers to our prayers. At our house, I was concerned that, while we were all praying together, the kids were not making the connection between their prayers and what God was doing in our lives. I decided a good way to help them make that connection would be to keep track of answered prayers as well as blessings we hadn't thought to ask for, and other ways God was working in our family.

It was as simple as a trip to the dollar store. I bought a piece of posterboard and entitled it "What is God up to?" It now graces one wall of our breakfast room. Every time we have an answered prayer (even if the answer is no), an unexpected blessing, or an obvious move of God in our lives, I write it down on the poster. It has really helped the kids to see where God is moving. I can tell, because now they are the ones to remind me of an answer to prayer or something else that needs to go on the poster!

It has also helped them to learn that our prayers don't just bounce off the ceiling. God does care for us. He does want to hear from us. We can bond with Him by spending time talking to Him. Those are priceless precepts for kids and parents alike.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- V

Thou shalt train thy children in the words of
the Scriptures.
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deut. 6:6

My children are involved in a wonderful program at our church called Awana. (More information for starting Awana at your church here: http://www.awana.org/) They do lots of fun activities, and everything revolves around memorizing Scripture. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent listening to the kids recite verses so they can progress through their workbooks. I'm certain my kids have more Bible verses memorized than I do.

Training our kids in the words of the Scriptures starts with reading Bible stories to them, praying with them, and teaching them to memorize Bible verses, but it doesn't end there. The fruition of Biblical training is learning to apply those verses and Biblical principles to the situations that arise in our lives. If our kids never make the connection between the words of Scripture in their heads and how those words should affect what they do, we might as well not be training them at all.

Times of disobedience bring great opportunities to talk about the way God wants us to behave. We teach the kids the importance of praying and asking God to forgive them for their sins, as well as asking forgiveness from the person against whom they've sinned. It's also a good time to talk about Scriptures that should have (and should, in the future) governed the child's behavior. Some well-worn verses at our house include:

  • Ephesians 6:1 ~ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (NASB)
  • Philippians 2:14 ~ Do everything without complaining or arguing (NIV)
  • Ephesians 4:32a ~ Be ye kind, one to another (KJV)
  • Luke 6:31 ~ Do to others as you would have them do to you. (NIV)

TV shows, news items, other people's behavior the children witness, and the example we as parents set, whether good or bad, can provide other opportunities for discussion about the Scriptures.

If we want our kids to live lives of Godliness, we've got to take advantage of every opportunity we have to help them make the connection between, "What does God say about this?" and, "What am I going to do about it?" Not a bad thing for us parents to meditate on either!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- IV

Thou shalt make a pro-active decision that thy household will be a Godly one.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;” Ps. 127:1

When you build a house, you don't simply wish it into existence. You have to have plans drawn up, buy the right materials, find the right place to build, and actually get out there and start sawing and hammering.

The same is true of having a Godly household. It doesn't just happen by virtue of the fact that you and your spouse are Christians. You have to sit down together and make a definite decision, preferably before you even get married, that your home will be run in a Godly way.

Where will we attend church? How often will we have family devotions? What is our understanding of what the Bible has to say about what is and is not acceptable behavior for us as spouses and for our children? How will we respond when one of us sins or when the children are disobedient? What will we do if one of us feels that God is calling us to a new location or a new career?

Naturally, you can't foresee every scenario that might come up in the future, but if you lay a Godly, Biblical foundation from the start, you won't have to re-invent the wheel every time a new situation arises. You will have developed a Godly "policy and procedure" for facing life.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- III

Thou shalt have a Christ-centered marriage.
And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. Eccl. 4:12

There are so many little details to attend to when you're planning a wedding. Will the guests throw rice or blow bubbles? Will the bouquets be wrapped with pink ribbon or white? Will the groomsmen wear bow ties or regular ties? For someone like me who has to see absolutely every option available to her before making a decision, it can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Such was the day I sat down to pick out napkins for my reception.

Before I undertook the planning of a wedding, I never would have guessed that it would take more than about 30 seconds to choose napkins. You just pick out some napkins that go along with the color scheme of the wedding, right? Au contraire. There are huge ring binders (yes, that's binders, plural) chock full of hundreds of napkins in every imaginable color, size and texture. Once you nail down those preferences, you have to choose what you want embossed on the napkins. There, too, the choices are nearly endless.

So, I flipped through page after page of embossment designs, finding them either too corny, too plain, or otherwise unacceptable. Finally, I came to a very interesting one that I eventually chose. It quoted the second half of Ecclesiastes 4:12, "A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart, with a picture above the verse of a cord of three strands wound together. The ends of the outer two strands were tied to wedding rings, and the end of the middle strand was tied to a cross.

I had never noticed this little verse before that day, but thought it was a beautiful picture of a Christ-centered marriage. When a person is alone, she can quickly become overwhelmed. A spouse can help to bear the burdens of life, but the strength of a marriage of only two people pales in comparison to a marriage strengthened by adding a third partner- God.

Study after study has shown that children do best in a home where their parents are married to each other. They are physically and emotionally healthier, do better in school, are less likely to commit crimes, etc. When you add in the component of spouses treating each other in a Godly manner and striving to set a Godly example for their children, the quality of the home environment rises even higher. Just as putting God first in our own personal lives makes us better parents, so, putting Christ first in our marriages benefits us and our children exponentially.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Parenting- II

Thou shalt put God first in thine own life.
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Deuteronomy 6:5

It's kind of like having your car in the proper alignment. When you're a Christian and you're striving after God's heart for your life, even when problems arise, things tend to go much more smoothly and peacefully. If you're a Christian living in the flesh, there is going to be an undercurrent of feeling out of whack, like you're spinning your wheels. You're likely to be more irritable, fearful, and confused.

From which of these spiritual places do you want to come when relating to and rearing your children? Which is more beneficial to you and to them?

When you're in right alignment with God every day, He is working in you to fulfill all the potential He placed inside you from the moment He breathed life into you. He's making you a better daughter to Him, a better wife to your husband, a better mother to your children, a better friend to those around you, a better employee to your boss.

It's the Army's slogan, but I think it fits Christianity so much better: "Be all that you can be." Do it in Christ....for your own good......and to better serve your family.