Category Archives: Devotion and Faith Building

Casting Stones

“Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

Said by the wisest man who ever lived.

He is the living word of God, and his name is JESUS.

casting-stones

(photo source: Morning Star Ministries)

Over the years, I have heard many Christians say mean things about other Christians.  It is sometimes heart breaking to hear their judgmental reasons for choosing leaders, churches, politicians, based on who they think is a better Christian.  But the Savior himself said we are not to judge others, instead we are to forgive them.

I read an article about a young Christian man who made a serious mistake when he was young. At the time he made the mistake, he came forward and repented of his mistake and sought forgiveness and help from his church and family.  However his life and the lives of those he hurt was deeply scared by his actions.  Though several years had passed, and because his family is famous, he experienced more than his share of haters from the Christian community who had no understanding of the situation when they found out about his past.  The pressure on his life is intense due to their fame.  Even though he is surrounded by his family and many loving people of the Christian faith, his life will never be the same, and the public is ruthless, mocking, and unforgiving.  The crazyist thing about the whole “scandal” is the ungodly response of the Christians is worse than how the un-churched public treat him.  They do not act like Jesus Christ.  He had a problem, he confessed and was forgiven, yet the Christians accuse him of his past sin and of practicing fake Christianity.

Was Peter a fake Christian because he denied Christ 3 times?

Peter fell down in his faith and committed a terrible sin.  He denied the one and only son of God who had shown himself to him, his closest disciple.  If Peter, who was with Christ 24 hours a day for three years and saw everything he did from the beginning to the end, could sin and deny him, isn’t anyone capable of doing the same?  Jesus said to his followers: “If you deny me to others, I will deny you before my Father”.  Was Peter denied entry into heaven?  No.  Because when he repented of his sin, he was forgiven.  Peter was a true Christian, even though he made the same mistake three times, and Jesus Christ chose to build his Church upon the work Peter would do in sharing the gospel,

Let me ask you Christian…are you without sin?  Are there sins you have committed over and over?   Are you a closet sinner and hide the truth?   What is going on in your home?  Is there divorce, stealing, fighting, adultery, lust, pornography, lies, drug abuse, gluttony, hatred, cursing?  If Christians are divorcing at the same rate as the rest of America, and only 1 out of 20 Christian kids remain in their Christian faith after they grow up, then I believe this indicates a basic fact that there is a whole lot of ungodly sin going on in the lives of Christians today.

How many Christian families in church don’t even establish any boundaries at all for their teens?  From the article: “By 17 years old, 48% of teenagers have had sex. One out of every three teenage girls gets pregnant before the age of 20.  And it doesn’t count as consent just because you’re both under 18.  Another 26.5% of 15-19 year old girls are giving birth to kids – and those are just the ones that aren’t having abortions.”   Many of these kids live in Christian homes. Don’t tell me you don’t know. There are kids in your church right now that are sexually active and some are getting pregnant.   Let us take it a step further. How many teachers, leaders, and even pastors were sexually active before marriage? How many are guilty of other sins we overlook because they are in a position of authority, yet we don’t give each other grace for a similar offense?

Are you without sin?  Jesus said “He who is without sin, cast the first stone”.  No one is without sin, and no one should cast a stone at others.

Let us be careful how we judge.  Christians need to be mindful, because the same measure of grace and forgiveness we extend others, will be extended to us. God is not mocked.  Christians need to be mindful and careful of judging (stoning) others.  Jesus told us to say “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” when we pray to Father God.  He also told us to forgive 70 x 7 even when a person does the same thing wrong over and over.  He said we are to turn the other cheek and forgive them.  He also told us to pull the log out of our own eye before we remove the speck from our brother’s eye.  He wanted us to practice forgiveness in our daily lives and not let the sun go down before we had forgiven and let go of resentment and anger.

It is interesting that several spiritual heroes who sinned are listed in Hebrews 11. These people certainly wouldn’t get to speak at Christian conferences today, and they probably wouldn’t fit in at any of the local churches.  They would be seen a backsliders.  In fact, most of them would probably be straight up kicked out of church.

Abraham lied and sold out his wife twice.  He also committed adultery with his employee and got her pregnant.

Sarah scoffed in unbelief when God said she would have a son.

Jacob was a schemer and deceiver who completely ripped off his brother of his inheritance.

Moses was a murderer and was easily frustrated.  His unbelief kept him out of the Promised Land, though he helped free the Hebrew people from Egypt and did many mighty miracles for the Lord.  He still got angry and doubted God at times.

Rahab was a prostitute who slept around.  Yet she became the grandmother of King David.

Gideon was power hungry, and he built many idols of worship and led the kingdom of Israel astray after God helped him succeed in battles and free the Hebrew people from the Philistines.

Samson was a sex-addict and couldn’t control his anger against the Philistines and caused innocent people to die as well as his own imprisonment.

David was an adulterer and a murderer,

Eli completely failed to parent his sons and they became evil in the sight of the Lord and abused people.

And yet the author of Hebrews tells us to consider all of these people and imitate their faith.  To follow after God just as they did. To walk the same path they did.  Why?

Not one person is any better than the other.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.   Not one person is any better than this young man or Eli, or Sarah, even Peter, Jesus favorite disciple. They were just people.  They sinned.  Yet they asked for forgiveness from God, and God in his grace and mercy, used their lives in a mighty way to be a blessing, to strengthen our faith, and further the message of God’s Kingdom.

Be blessed!

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Before Anything Else

We took a ride late one afternoon and treated our kids to some fun playtime at the park.

on the road

While driving home from the park, two of the kids had a squabble on the back seat.  As we were trying to talk them through it and get them to settle down, I noticed there was a man walking along the side of the highway.  As we approached him, I felt a nudge in my heart to pay attention to him.  But the squabble in the back continued and I felt distracted.

Mathew 6:23

“But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.”

I caught just a quick glimpse of him as we passed him. I wasn’t sure, but I thought his side profile looked elderly, and he was carrying two packs, maybe duffel bags or back packs, in his hands.  He looked tired and as if he could barely carry them, and as if his strength was giving out.  He was walking very slowly.  He was in the middle of a rural area of farms and at least 15 miles from town.   He was headed in the same direction as us, but it would take him a long time to get there and it was starting to get dark.

Proverbs 3:5-6

“With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.”

I don’t know how far up ahead we had drove before we slowed down and turned around and headed back to pick him up. By the time we made it back to him, another vehicle was stopping to give him a ride.

My heart sank.

I felt that the squabbling in the van had been a distraction from what was really important.  I was distracted from hearing what the Lord wanted us to do.  We had missed God’s divine appointment to help this elderly man get to his destination.

I knew without a doubt that God had a timing for this man to be picked up. It was as if he had been issued a “bus or taxi pass” for such and such a time at such and such a location.  He had caused us to be at the exact time and location to pick him up.  But I wasn’t listening close enough to hear that God wanted me to stop and get him and fulfill the “get a free ride pass” the Lord had issued him.  I was the taxi the Lord had sent him, and I missed the call.

Even though I realized the message moments later, I missed the divine appointment.   However, this man did not miss the appointment. God sent another laborer in my place.

Hebrews 13:21

“I pray that God will make you ready to obey him and that you will always be eager to do right. May Jesus help you do what pleases God. To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever! Amen.”

May we always listen to the nudges God puts on our heart before we listen to anything else, and may we always be ready to do His good will.

May you be blessed!

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Stand Up, Stand Out, and Shine Bright

Have you ever come under attack because you stand up for something?  Have you been critisized because your talents and skills cause you to stand out?  Be encouraged today, because God has placed talents and gifts inside you that are meant for you to stand up and shine brightly with them, expanding the light of his Kingdom, illuminating a dark world, and bring Him glory through it all.

shine

As I listened to the words of Jesus this morning in my bible study, I realized he is saying he wants you and me to Stand Up, Stand Out, and Shine Bright.   He wants you to do good and stand out so others can see his light shining from you. That is not boastful. That is not prideful. Those are the words of Christ Jesus.

Jesus told us to “DO” and to  “STAND” and to “SHINE”.

To “do”, to “stand”, and to “shine” are ACTION words.   They are the opposite of “take a seat”, “stay seated” and “you may be seated” words we hear spoken today.   I don’t think Jesus would have defined his followers the way they appear today, seated and asleep.

If you asked the average person today how they would define a Christian, most would say something like:  “A Christian is a person who follows a religious teacher named Jesus by going to a building with four walls on Sunday to sing about him, pray, and hear a bible story”.  Jesus NEVER ever said for his followers to live like that.   Jesus gave his followers an assignment to stand out, to do good, and to shine and illuminate the darkness.  He told them to go out two by two to heal the sick, cast out demons, feed the hungry, set captives free and preach the Kingdom of God in all the earth. Yet sadly, the “Christian life” amounts to sitting in a pew on Sunday for most believers of Jesus today.

If a person, or group of people, are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, then they will do what he did and obey what he said.  The churches who are doing, standing, and shining, are the churches we see growing exponentially today, just as the early church that Jesus created did. Miracles are happening as those believers pray for others, cast out demons, heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, raise the dead, and set the captives free, and thousands of lives are being fed, clothed, and transformed, and the Christian believer is a bright light in that city.

Christians, and their churches, that shine the brightest in a city, also take the most criticism from other Christians that don’t choose to shine.  They have let their lamps grow dark outside of their four walls of their buildings, and they criticize those who stand out and shine bright.

This happens constantly, but I will use this one recent example to illustrate this point.  I recently heard a pastor of a small church in a decaying city criticizing pastors of larger churches.  He often points fingers at them and puts them down in discussions with his congregation.   He says that these larger churches are not truly following God or else they wouldn’t have such large congregations of people.  He says that they are prideful to have musical instruments and singers on stage and putting on a show.  He says these pastors are misappropriating funds to have large budgets for their church to fly around the US and the World and put money into these large outreach efforts.  He says they are showing off and worldly to draw in large crowds.

Yet while he critisizes others,  his own church’s light is dying.  He has no impact in his decaying city.  Even though he stays busy going here or there doing this or that, he and his congregation contain no new life and no change or growth.   In the community and even within the four walls of his building, there is no opportunity for the followers of Jesus to shine, even though he states weekly that they are in the midst of “revival”.   They host revivals (evening sermon meetings that last from anywhere from 3 days to 7 days) monthly through out the year.  I have attend several at that church and other local churches, I have spoken to these pastors and their guest evangelists, and from what I can tell, these churches are not really in revival.    It is just a word that label their meetings that they host that are different than Sunday service.

Revival is basically spiritual CPR.  To revive is to breathe new life into a dying or dead situation. Their church and their city continues to die despite their efforts at “revival”.  It is not effective. There is no spiritual CPR happening in the revival meetings that I have seen for many years.  Many years ago in the 1970’s and mid 1980’s I did witness true revivals that changed cities. But after that, except for a few dynamic on fire churches, what I witnessed across this nation was a sleeping church who’s light grew dim in their communities.

Christians speak about revival, but many have become lukewarm in allowing God to be Lord in every decision.  They trade out God’s word about living: eating, raising children, marriage, healing and raising the dead, casting out demons, etc. instead for an acceptance of government guidance in regards to daily living, education of children, health care, jobs, morals, etc.  They enjoy a “tax exempt” status and follow the social / political rules.  They may get a pat on the back or their name in the paper if they do a good event, but sadly most churches, don’t bring positive change to their communities.  Though God is honored during the service on Sunday or Wednesday, God is not the Lord of their daily living decisions 24/7.   Instead the congregation often seems to hide behind the four walls of the church building, hides their gifts and talents that were purposed to expand the Kingdom within their cities, and wait…wait…wait…asleep…until Jesus returns…all the while they never realize their lamps ran out of oil and they no longer were effective to shine God’s light into a dark world.

I just want to shout from the rooftops “WAKE UP O CHURCH!  WAKE UP O BRIDE OF CHRIST WHO HAS FALLEN ASLEEP.  YOUR LAMPS NEED TENDING.  KEEP SHINING BRIGHT AND STAND UP AND STAND OUT”.

“Your eyes are like a window for your body.
When they are good, you have all the light you need.
But when your eyes are bad, everything is dark.
If the light inside you is dark, you surely are in the dark.”
Mathew 6:22-23

How do we keep our lamps supernaturally full and shining bright?  Jesus is returning for a Bride who is awake and her lamp is full of spiritual oil and she is shinning bright and doing good, obeying the commands of Isaiah 58 while she loves God with her whole heart and loves her neighbor.

Jesus said to becareful because you will fail at shining if your light goes dark.  That seems obvious.  But he made it very clear as if it were not obvious or like we might forget if not reminded.  As if we are like the man who looks in the mirror and steps away and forgets what he looked like in that mirror.  He is right.  We easily forget that we must not let our light go dark. Jesus said if your eyes are bad, and you let darkness into your life, you can not shine.   How can your eyes bring darkness into your life?  The eyes are the door that Satan uses to tempt you. When you follow through with that temptation you bring darkness into your life.  So it is key to remove the darkness and temptations from in front of your eyes and look upon Jesus and obey him.

Jesus said if you love him, you will obey him.  He said to shine bright, stand out, and beam as brightly as you can like a lighted city on a hill, and a lamp on a high stand in your house.   Think about that for just a minute.  Has your power in the house ever gone out and you had to light a candle or use a lamp for light?  I have had this happen many times in my life, and I put that candle or lamp on the highest table in the center of the room so that the room is lit up and I can see where to go and what I am doing.  That candle or lamp can shine so bright that we can even cook a simple meal, or play games by it’s light.   However, if I placed that light in a corner of a room, it would not light up the room well enough for us to see.

When we stand out and shine, we send forth HIS light that is in us so that God will be glorified. Others will give God praise when they see you doing good and shining bright. Christians who stand out, who shine bright, often come under attack from both other Christians and non-Christians.  It can be a hard and lonely choice to stand out, and would be much easier to hide, or sit on a pew and let others do the shining.  But to obey Jesus (not your denomination, not your pastor, not religious rules or traditions),  as a child of God, you must be placed on a high place and stand out so that everyone around you can see what is around them with the light that you are shining forth.  The darkness of their situation is transformed and lit up by the light you shine.  You are the lamp that must shine bright while you are doing good. Don’t get burned out doing good, don’t fall asleep, and don’t hide your light or let it go out.

Think about it.  If every Christian obeyed the words of Jesus and stood out on a high place and shined forth God’s light while doing good, surely this world would experience true revival.  It would look a whole lot different. Surely multitudes of people would come to Jesus and give God praise for the good they see you do and the church would truly experience a spiritual CPR revival and grow exponentially.

“You are like light for the whole world.
A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden,
and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot.
A lamp is placed on a lampstand,
where it can give light to everyone in the house.
Make your light shine,
so that others will see the good that you do
and will praise your Father in heaven.”
Mathew 5:14-15

 

O Church!

Wake up, stand up, and be the light of the world, giving light to everyone while we stand out and shine bright while doing good.

Be blessed!

 

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Raising Homemakers

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iWitness Review

I have another great homeschool resource to tell you about today!  We are reading the iWitness series of books by Apologia Educational Ministries in our biblical studies.  We were sent three of the books in this series to review: Old Testament iWitness, New Testament iWitness, and iWitness Biblical Archeology.

apologialogo

If you have questions about the bible, the iWitness series of books will help you find answers through the investigation and study of facts. The bibles says: “Seek and ye shall find.”

What is the bible? Who wrote the bible? Where did the events take place? What is the difference in the old and new Testaments? Is the bible fact? How do we know the events recorded actually happened?

Each book presents logical layers of questions, and also facts. They take you on a journey to seek and discover the answers about the bible. The iWitness series of books were written on an 11 year old reading level, so students 11 and older should be able to independently study them. But they are a good fit for all ages. You can read them aloud to younger students, and even adults will glean wonderful truths from these books too. I think they would be a great tool in a group bible study too.

My children and I enjoyed using these books. The books are colorful and full of pictures.  Each book is less than a hundred pages long, so it doesn’t take long to read through them, but you will want to keep them on your reference shelf and use them again.

I definitely see how these books will be used again and again in our home to refer back to who is who and who did what. I read these books to my kids, we discussed the information, and I was surprised by how much these reference books helped us. I think that associating a graphic with information helps you grasp it. It is no longer just some random piece of information, but instead there is a visual to associate with those facts.

Here is a little bit more details about each of these books:

iWitness

Old Testament iWitness

old-testament-iwitness

Softcover, approximately 72 Pages

Reading age range is 11 and older.

Retails for $14.00

I really enjoyed how the information is presented. Each page has lots of colorful “old world” graphics. Each of the writings on the pages are presented on a graphic of a scroll or ancient document.

I enjoyed learning about the different Prophets in the Old Testament. The books gives a lot of descriptions about who they were, when they lived, what king they served, and what their purpose was. Different prophets had different purposes.

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New Testament iWitness

new-testament-iwitness

Softcover, approximately 62 pages

Reading age range is 11 and older.

Retails for $14.00

Topics: Councils Of Hippo and Carthage; Cannon Criteria; Athenasius; Eusebius; Church Fathers; Cannons; The Gospel, Apostles, and much more.

IMG_3089

New Testament iWitness explains how the Christian church recognized what specific writings to include in the New Testament. It introduces the reader to Apostles and leaders in the church. It explains who wrote what and how the church made decisions. It also explains how the writings were copied. I didn’t realize before that the churches shared a copy with another church and they copied it and sent another copy on to the next church and so on.

iWitness Biblical Archeology

iwitness-biblical-archaeology

Softcover, approximately 64 pages

Reading range for ages 11 and older.

Retails for $14.00

Topics: The Flood; Noah’s Ark, Egyptian Chronology; The Exodus; Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus Judges, New Testament Locations, Shroud, and much more.

IMG_3091

I enjoyed iWitness Biblical Archeology the most because of the amazing photos through out the whole book. There are so many amazing artifacts to learn about. The bible contains a record of history that is proven over and over with each artifact found, each community unearthed, and each scroll that was discovered.  Archeology is an amazing gift of proof in biblical facts.

Apologia Educational Ministries is a wonderful curriculum company with a mission to help your students education and your “family to learn, live, and defend the Christian Faith.” Be sure to check out their various curriculum and online class options and how they can benefit your homeschool.

You can follow Apologia Educational Ministries on their social media links for all the latest news and updates.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/apologiaworld

Twitter – https://twitter.com/apologiaworld

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/105053356034237782125/posts

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/apologia/

Click to read Crew Reviews

Be sure to check out what others on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using iWitness curriculum in their homeschool.

Crew Disclaimer

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Lego Adventures At Homeschool Coop

David and Goliath Lego Adventures at Homeschool Coop.

We had a great time learning about robotics, physics, faith, and retelling a story using Legos at homeschool coop.

David and Goliath with Legos

I chose the bible passage of 1 Samuel 17 for our lesson. This bible passage is about David going to visit his brothers who were in the Israelite Army. They were on the front lines in a battle against the Philistines. The Philistine Army had a warrior named Goliath. He was a giant of a man standing very tall and he was very strong and covered in metal plated armour, and no-one could defeat him in battle. He often said bad things to the Israelite Army and made fun of their God. He challenged them to a fight and if they could defeat him, his army would be their slaves, but if he defeated the Israelite who fought him, then the Israelite Army would be the slaves of the Philistines. David overheard this challenge and the horrible things Goliath said against God. David saw that everyone in the army was afraid, but he was not afraid and knew God would help him defeat the enemy of Israel and the enemy of God. David accepted the challenge to fight Goliath. He trusted in the Lord to help him. He chose five flat stones from a river bed and put one of the stones in his sling, swung it around, and let the stone go into the air. He had learned to fight off animals like wolves, lions, and bears that tried to attack his flock of sheep so he was very good with the sling shot. The stone hit Goliath in the forehead and killed him. David had trusted in God to deliver him from Goliath, and he defeated the enemy of Israel and the enemy of God.

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The kids used Lego’s to retell the story. We also set up a robotic Goliath with Lego WeDo. The Goliath robot is built with Legos, pulley gears, worm gear, lever, motor, axle, and movable joints. The kids programmed the computer software program to tell Goliath to stand up and to sit / fall down. They can time his movements and change the speed, as well as program sound effects. They had Goliath stand up and growl his threats to the Army, programmed the sound of David, and his stone hitting Goliath, and then also programmed cheering by the Army after Goliath is hit with the stone and falls forward.  It is really neat how you can program sound effects to go along with the robot’s movements.

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Everyone took turns manipulating the computer software and retelling the story with Legos.  They also take apart the giant and rearrange the location of motorized lever attachment to learn how placing this in different positions, and rearranging the software commands caused the giant to move (or not move). They could re-engineer the set up and try out different ideas. They also completed a coloring page about the battle between David and Goliath and a vocabulary word puzzle.

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We also did some physics science in the gym.  We used rubber bands for sling shots. We used a large basket placed several feet away on the floor as the target.  We took different kinds of balls (cotton, pompoms, foam, and rubber) to learn what materials would be more accurate to hit a target.  The kids learned about trajectory, mass, stored energy, kinetic energy, and how to aim at a target.  They learned that the more dense their ball was, and the further back they pulled their sling shot, the better and faster the object was able to hit the target.   The kids also spent time playing in the gym.  They played basketball, tag, hide and seek, and raced each other all around.  The gym is such a great place to do a variety of learning, skill building, and physical activities.

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Logos are a great teaching / learning tool that can be used in so many fun ways.  I love teaching and learning with Legos.  I have taught Lego and Robotics Academy Club and several workshops with homeschool and 4H kids in North Carolina for several years, and I have missed it terribly since moving last summer.  I hope in the near future I will be able to host Learn It Build It workshops again in the community, and also start a Lego and Robotics club again and perhaps eventually have teams that can compete in First Lego League.  But right now, started a new class called Lego Adventures and I am blessed the local homeschool coop has invited me to teach these great kids,  and we can learn about science-technology-engineering, and robotics, and use bible stories to build their faith in the Lord.  Be sure to check back each month for more Lego Adventures.

Be blessed!

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Blessings From Praise

Did you know that offering praise to God can bring blessing?

God inhabits your praise, and exchanges  your praise for blessings.

God inhabits your praise, and exchanges your praise for blessings.

We frequently speak by faith that Jesus said “where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there in the midst of them”.  We speak this forth knowing with confidence that Jesus is wtih us when believers gather together and he hears our prayer and intercedes for us.

But did you know that Father God also said that he inhabits (dwells/lives in) the praises of his people? God is there with you and he is physically dwelling inside your praise.

There is also an exchange that happens when we praise. An exchange is when you give something and receive something back. There is a promise of blessing according to Psalm 112:1 “The Lord will bless EVERYONE who praises him and gladly obeys his teachings.”

That is awesome! You can receive blessings today, right now!

There are at least 477 verses in the bible that mention praise. That is a whole lot and it is very clear that God wants us to know about praise and what pleases him.

My earnest prayer is that you will take time today, and each day, to give him PRAISE and be BLESSED!

 

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Praise

Did you know that PRAISE is mentioned in the bible 477 times?   Praise is very important to God.  The bible says that God inhabits the praises of his people.  Imagine that for just a minute.  God inhabits…your praise…

Webster’s dictionary says that inhabit means “to occupy as a place of settled residence” and it means “to live in”.  source

Webster’s dictionary also says that praise is an “expression” and it means “to glorify”; “to esteem”; “to express a favorable judgement, or to commend”; and that it is an expression of “love, thanks, appreciation, respect, in spoken or written form”. source

Praise is God’s home.  Let me say that again, just incase you missed it.  Praise is God’s home.  God dwells in praise. God lives in YOUR expression of praise whether you vocalize it (speak, sing, shout, pray, mutter, mumble, groan, hum, etc) or write it out.  How awesome is that ?!

Do you celebrate when you offer praise?  I noticed a key theme in researching the bible about praise.  It should be filled with celebrations!

Praise should include:  shouts of joy, shouts of praise for all that God has done for us, prayer, offerings, lift your hands to God, praise him by dancing, playing instruments, play the harp and the tambourine, trumpets, stringed instruments, and woodwinds, cymbals and clashing cymbals, new songs, thankful heart, celebrate God’s wonderful deeds and victories over evil and enemies, sing songs and praise his name every day and announce “He has saved us”, sing praises to God in every nation of the earth, and so much more.   If you don’t believe me, do a search of the bible’s 477 verses that contain the mention of praise and find out for yourself.

In addition to telling us He lives in our praise, He also offers us a promise.  He will bless us because we obey Him and because we praise Him.

“The Lord will BLESS everyone who PRAISES him and who gladly obeys his teachings”.                      Psalm 112:1

One of the most amazing leaders of praise and worship of the Lord God mentioned in the Bible is King David. David sang, wrote, danced, layed prostrate, prayed, and played instruments in his worship of the Lord.  The bible says that God was pleased with his praise and worship.  Even so much that when others mocked him praising God, they brought a curse upon themself.  His own wife mocked him one time when he sang loudly, clanged cymbals, and danced naked before Lord in public and she was cursed. God was that protective of David’s praise.  Wow!

My dad was a Praise and Worship leader most of his adult life.  I loved growing up watching him lead the assembly of believers in praise.  It was really special to be a part of the congregation singing praises to the Lord with him.  He was so gifted in music and could harmonize in any key.  He died when I was 25 and I cherish those memories of my youth singing with him in church.

I too have served the body of Christ as a Praise and Worship minister.  I joined a Praise team in Kansas City when I was just 14 years old.  I continued participating in church choirs, high school and college choirs, and served on Praise and Worship teams for most of my adult life.  It has been one of my greatest joys in life.  My heart was and is always to lead the assembly of believers into a place of true worship of God as David did. To sing and praise and please God in our worship of who He is.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He never changes.  His love for us never changes.  His mercies are new every day.  He is the beginning and the end.  The is the creator.  He is the author.  He is the provider.  He is the healer.  He is the king.  He is the warrior.  He is the savior.  He is the deliverer.  He deserves our highest praise everyday that we are blessed to take a breath.

Do you need help getting to a place of praise?  First of all, pray and ask God to help you in your praise of him.  Then spend some time learning about what God says about praise in the scriptures.  You will truly be inspired, and maybe even shocked if you have never praised him before, or if you have been part of a religious culture that has rules and limitations regarding praise.

Get encouraged by the example and testimony of other believers who are offering praise and worship to God…

One of the most amazing Praise and Worship Leaders I have ever witnessed in my lifetime is Rick Pino.  I was blessed to be in the crowd of Christian worshipers in August 2008 at Greenville, SC at a Youth Conference with over 5 Thousand people, both young and old.  That is OVER 5,000!  The songs we sang rang out to the heavens!  He led us for hours in the most sincere atmosphere of praise of Father God that I have ever experienced in my life.  His genuine worship of God was contagious and everyone caught it.

That must have been what it was like to praise and worship Father God when King David worshipped.  The bible says David was a man after God’s own heart.  God was pleased with David’s worship.

 

TRANSFORM YOUR PRAISE

Do you want an experience of praise and worship like that?  Do you want to be so overcome with praise of God that nothing else matters?  Do you know that if you don’t praise God, that rocks will cry out in your place?  He is that holy and deserving of our highest praise, that all creation including rocks will praise him!  AMAZING!

He longs for our sincere praise.  He longs for our hearts to worship him in spirit and in truth.  He wants to encourage “normal people”, you and me, to live supernatural lives, to receive supernatural blessings, and experience supernatural praise and worship of the only supernatural God.

My three favorite songs from Rick Pino’s albums I purchased back in 2008 at the youth conference are “Mighty Warrior” , “We Have The Best Dad” and “I Can Hear The Sound”.  I love these songs!  They truly transform your perspective and your praise.

Mighty Warrior: The Lord is with you mighty warrior, so rise, mount up, mount up on the wings of eagles, mount up, so rise, the Lord is with you mighty warrior”.

We Have The Best Dad: We have the best dad in the whole world!

I Can Hear Can Hear The Sound: This song is absolutely one of my most favorites. He sings in this song that he “can hear the sound of the river coming down.. its coming down…your sons and daughters will prophesy…it satisfies…come and drink from the rock…I can hear the sound.”

ABBA:  Abba, I belong to you…you wont leave us as orphans…Abba…I belong to you…

 

PIONEER: I love this song called Pioneer.   “There is a wilderness calling you, and you are the pioneer to keep pressing forward, only a fire (of the Lord) goes before you, your own frontier, you are a pioneer.”

 

You and I are pioneers on the path of life, telling those in our circle of influence (our wilderness) about God.  And if we don’t cry out with praise to God, the rocks will do it in our place.  Yikes!  I don’t want a rock to do what I was created to do!  God longs for me and for you to praise him.  He longs to dwell with us in our praise.

Are you ready?

When you transform your praise, and worship in spirit and in truth, you please the Father, He will dwell with you, He will bless you, and your life will be transformed through your expression of praise.

Give praise a try.  Lift your hands, lift your heart, celebrate, pray, worship the only true living God, and sing out…”Abba, I belong to you…”

 

 

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Memorial Day 2014

Today is Memorial Day.   It is a day to remember.

Memorial Day is national holiday when we remember those who have given their lives for our freedoms.  We give honor and respect to their memory.  

Families across the country celebrate this day in different ways.  Some have recently lost loved ones in war, and their wounds are fresh and more difficult to celebrate this day and we respect that.  For many families who celebrate, some host camp-outs, join parades, have picnics and outdoor games, and others plan large get togethers with friends and extended family.  

For our family this year, we planned a quiet day of rest at home.  Some years we have traveled and attended get togethers, but dad started a new job six weeks ago, and this was his first holiday off.  It is also the one year anniversary of our move back to Indiana. So we planned a day of rest at home together, thinking of loved ones who have served in the military for the freedoms we enjoy, and reflecting on the changes in our life the past year.  




On the agenda and menu for today:

Agenda: REST

Menu:
Breakfast Brunch: 
Scrambled eggs, with bacon, cherry tomatoes, and sauted veggies.
Raspberry Danish
Milk
Chamomile tea with sourwood honey
Black Coffee
Late Lunch / Early Supper:
Lemonade
Hamburgers
Hotdogs
Dill Pickles
Coleslaw
Peanutbutter Chocolate Pie

Snacks if desired:
Popcorn (with butter and sea salt)
Oatmeal cookies
Raw Carrots
Strawberry Lemonade 
I sat outside this morning and enjoyed my breakfast on the front porch.  I loved listening to the birds sing, and appreciating all the blessings I have in my life, they are many. The kids finished their breakfast and headed out to play.  They were riding their bikes down the hill in front of me, running around in the yard, and enjoying the beautiful day too.  



They enjoyed going barefoot, playing tag, and riding bikes in the morning.


Then kicked a soccer ball around the yard, and tossed around the football in the afternoon.  They all took their shirts off in the afternoon while tossing the football.  I have no idea how much sun they got by the end of the day as they were in the shade then in the sun off and on through out the whole day.  They tossed that football around for hours with short 20 minute breaks, then would go out and toss for another hour.  I think they are going to be really worn out and sleep good after a bath tonight. 


About 7:30 pm the temperature cooled down a little as the sun was going down, though it was still another two hours until dark.  We were glad for a break in the temperature by evening.  It got humid and hot today and around 87 degrees or higher.  Dad got out the hoe and worked in the garden.  There is a whole crop of weeds coming on after all the rain we have had the past two weeks and they are already one to two inches tall.  So he got busy and he hoed the weeds around the peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and onions for about an hour.  I hope to get back out there tomorrow and get some more weeding done before the next rain storms hit.  Every thing we planted two weeks ago has sprouted.  The beans and peas are about two inches tall already too.  A few tomato plants have bloomed, and there are big green strawberries on several plants. The spring onions are already four inches tall.  It wont be long until harvest season will begin.  Yeah!

I also thought about a lot of hurting people today.  There are people hurting all over this country and this world.  Some are hurting for loved ones that fought in war abroad and died.  There are children of men and women who lost their life, who can not celebrate with their parents today as our children did.  There are parents who lost their grown son or daughter in the military, and they are not there together today, instead they decorate their grave today.   Some families are hurting just as bad because of random violence in our own country that has taken the life of their loved ones too.  Many streets in our inner cities have war torn areas plagued with violence, drugs, and crime.  And then there are the random things, violence that just erupts and that leaves so many hurting. There was a massive shooting yesterday in California and seven people died, including the perpetrator, and at least seven more were injured.  And there are many more places in this world that are not at peace today.  Wars are being fought, and soldiers from many borders are dying.  My heart goes out to them, and I pray for their families.  I pray for peace.  Most of all, I pray their families can forgive.

There is a great song that was on my heart today.  It is called “Forgiveness”.  I hope you will take a minute and listen to the words.  I hope it will be a blessing to you.

But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Mathew 6:15
Jesus said: Don’t judge others, and God won’t judge you. 
Don’t be hard on others, and God won’t be hard on you. 
Forgive others, and God will forgive you.
Luke 6:37


I really enjoyed this day, a quiet day of rest.  I spent a lot of time contemplating, thinking, enjoying my family.  While the family played and tossed balls around, I quietly sat on the front porch and watched the wind as it gently blew the American flag in the front yard. I contemplated what this day means.  I thought about the freedom we have because of those who gave their life for the cause of freedom, justice, for the right to practice my faith, pursue my goals, achieve my dreams, and for peace.  I don’t take these freedoms lightly.  I cherish them.  Many members of my immediate family have served in the armed forces during times of war and times of peace.  I salute my Uncle Earl, Uncle Rick, Grandpa James, Grandpa Albert, Great Grandpas, Mother, Brother, Nephews, Cousins, and more.  I appreciate you.  Thank you for your sacrifice and service.
I remember.  
 
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Preparing For Easter


How do you prepare for the Easter holiday? 




Usually preparations around here involve praying and seeking God for a closer walk with him, locating the bible verses we want to focus on during the week before Easter, a menu plan for lunch on Easter Sunday, cooking food to share, doing a few Easter crafts that focus on Jesus, watching an Easter movie like Passion Of The Christ and perhaps a Veggie Tales Easter movie, going to Church on Easter morning, and some years we have joined in on a fun egg hunt with neighbor kids or in years past at extended family gatherings (those kids are grown now and family moved away).  

I have a few crafts planned out for this week, and a few Easter themed snack foods that will be fun to make.  We will make some of the same snacks we made a few weeks ago that focussed on Easter.  At Thanksgiving our church gave us a turkey and a neighbor gave us a turkey so I baked one then, and froze one to save and make for Easter Sunday lunch.  I will add a few additions to the turkey meal.  We don’t have plans to go anywhere that day other than to the church service up the road, then we will come home and eat.  I won’t be able to buy gifts or things for the kids for Easter, but we will enjoy our day together in other ways.  If it is a nice day, we might fly kites in the back yard, and if it is raining, we will play board games indoors.  Either way, I hope it will be a special day together.      


Finding a Balance

Things have changed somewhat for me as an adult versus how I grew up.  When I was younger, one side of my family used to make a big deal about Easter.  They spent a lot of energy on what to wear on Easter, a big deal on coloring eggs and holding an egg hunt, decorating the house and yard, Easter baskets filled with candy and toys left by the Easter Bunny, and a huge big deal for extended family get togethers right after church.  The other side of my family did not do these things.  These extreme differences were confusing as a kid, but it definitely helped me learn how to balance the truth of Easter as an adult and get rid of the things that were not true. 

Since I got married twenty three years ago and created a family of my own, the Easter Bunny is not at all a part of our focus, though we have occasionally joined in with others to do an egg hunt.  Also a special outfit never was a priority, as my husband just doesn’t think it is necessary to go out and spend money to show off a new outfit at church.   And he is just as happy eating a pizza if there is no family get together for a big meal, either way is just fine with him.  I was ok with skipping a new outfit as it can get quite expensive, but it took me a few years to accept skipping out on a big Easter meal, but eventually I let go of the “have to have a big get together and fancy meal on Easter” and accepted “what ever will be will be, don’t worry about it”.
Honestly our children enjoy the festivities of any holiday, spending time having fun, and getting lots of candy when either we or others offer it to them.  It has been challenging to teach them the true meaning of holidays as holy days, when faced with conflicting messages in our culture. A few years ago, we joined some neighbors in North Carolina who did an annual egg hunt.  It was fun, but a few days later our kids discussed with their kids that we don’t believe in Santa Claus or that he leaves presents under the tree at Christmas.  That mom marched right over to my house and yelled at me to never let my kids tell her kids that Santa or the Easter Bunny wasn’t real.  Her kids were 6, 9, and 14 years old.  You have got to be kidding!   I say this not to be mean, but only to make a point about our culture and it’s impact on our life.  I am not trying to put her down, but only show that the values of the current culture can control a Christian’s life and one can be blinded to the truth.  She was upset that my 9 year old told her 9 year old that he did not believe Santa was real and she wanted to continue her holiday tradition of them leaving Santa and the Easter Bunny letters the night before and getting gifts the next morning on those holidays.  I was sure that her kids had probably already heard at church and in their school from other kids who knew the truth, but it was shocking even still to hear a grown woman talking like this.   I was more determined that ever to help my kids understand the different beliefs about the holidays.
We spent the first 9 years of our marriage unable to have children of our own, though we did foster care.  We had all of that time to really look at what we believe and how we want to raise our kids to believe the truth and escape some of the “have to…” with celebrating the holidays.  So I have had to learn to find and teach a balance in all these things.   

Well anyway, here we are in a new place, new community, and at a new church trying to learn new customs blended with old customs.   Still trying to balance the truth of our faith with the pressures of our culture.  Where do we stand?  We believe Easter is about a risen savior and not about a pagan easter bunny or a goddess of fertility.  How much “culture activities” do we allow our children to participate in?  Thankfully, we live in a free country and we don’t have to accept or participate in things that contradict with our faith.  


We have found a few fun ways to celebrate this holiday with our kids.  Besides fun crafts and Christ centered movies, we recently reviewed Egglo which is a cool glow in the dark plastic egg to use for egg hunts that points the way to Jesus as the light of the world and not to an Easter bunny.  
Today I also heard a pastor say that an egg itself testifies of the deity of God.  God is three in one, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, likewise and egg has three distinct parts and it reminds us of God’s creative power (egg shell, egg white, and yolk) and this was a good visualization to share with the kids.  This process is a balance we are still trying to walk out in our life and this isn’t the only holiday we find ourselves deeply considering these things.


Heart Preparation And A Song

This year my heart is drawn toward the love Christ felt for mankind.  “For God so LOVED the world, that he gave his only son, that who ever would believe in him, would have eternal life.”  John 3:16



The love that pushed and compelled God to come to this earth in physical form, to endure the human walk, to bring hope to those he met through his message and miracles, and then to walk down the road to his physical torture and death on a cross. The love that overcame Man’s free will to choose life or choose death.
I have recently been asked to prepare a song to sing at church for Easter Sunday. Wow.  It is a huge honor and responsibility!  I am thrilled, and at the same time shaking in my shoes.  I prayed for an opportunity to sing for the past few years.  I longed for a church to ask me to sing for so long it has almost become a lost dream for me. 

If you know me, you know I love to sing.  But when we moved to North Carolina and didn’t know anyone, and then attended a mega church that was an hour drive away, and life happened with more and more children, I realized I was needed to care for them and singing in public became less and less a priority.   It has been 6 years since I stood before a crowd and sang.   This seems odd to me because I spent over 30+ years singing, ever since I was a young girl.  How could I let my desire to sing die after so many years being so passionate about it?   I honestly have been praying earnestly for these past 6 years for God to re-open that door.  Now we have moved back to Indiana and I have been given the opportunity to go before a group of people that I only just came to know the past six months of going to church there and do this for them, and bring glory to the King of Kings with my voice.  My only prayer in this is that it will be a blessing to them. 


The Road Of Suffering
For the past several weeks, since I was asked to do this, I have earnestly prayed about a song that I could prepare to sing for Easter.  I kept drawing a blank for weeks! Though I prayed daily about it, and sang in the shower to the Lord, I could not hear him speak about a song for Easter.  Instead I heard him speaking into my life as I sang praised to Him.  

During that time I wanted to search out and prepare a song, but instead I was bombarded by life events beyond my control.  I learned I was pregnant; my husband’s job of only 4 months came to an end; then we found out he didn’t qualify for unemployment payments because he did not work in the state during the qualifying period; then the stress caused him to develop a digestive imbalance and gout in his feet making him bedridden for a couple of weeks and unable to work on anything around the house or take on a side job while he waited for a new job to open; and we ran out of money;  I had to do a lot more for him;  the stress of no income was devastating while sending out resumes and job applications; then he got several interviews and three job offers each a week apart, but they didn’t pay enough to meet the bills;  then I started spotting and went through a miscarriage; and then the next week he got a job offer that would meet the bills, but had to wait another week to start, and then he won’t see a paycheck for another three weeks.  We are just barely holding on.  Why GOD?  We have had to tell the kids to wait to get their animals for 4H projects, wait to do this or that, wait to get shoes they need, etc.  There just isn’t any money to buy things for this Easter holiday celebration either.  If I don’t have it on hand, then chances are we won’t be able to go out and get it.  I tell you, I drew a blank about what to sing at church for Easter with all of this going on in my life.
But last Sunday, after the opening prayer and just as the singing during praise and worship began, I closed my eyes and prayed again something like this “Lord, I only have two weeks from today left to get something prepared to honor you on this holiday and share with these folks.  What do you want me to do?” and he answered me with a vivid vision of Christ walking down the middle isle of the church carrying the cross.  

The only thing I could understand from this vision was love.  It was love for all people that carried that cross.  It was love made manifest in a human form.  His love is strength that goes beyond human understanding.  It goes beyond being mistreated, beaten, laughed at, wrongly accused, injustice, hostility, war, being robbed, intolerance and indifference.  His love goes beyond a job loss, income loss, the death of a child, sickness, disease, and heartache.  His love for you and me gave him passion to see it through, to carry the cross even as he bled, to reach calvary and complete his mission, his mission to save mankind from eternal damnation.  His love pushed him to be slaughtered as an innocent lamb and offered as a sacrifice to God.  His love that was completely pure and free from sin paid the price for my sin on the cross.  His love gave him strength to suffer and die for my sake.  He knew the truth.  He knew the end from the beginning.  Through love, He would defeat sin, eternal damnation, and Satan.   Through love, He would redeem mankind to God.  Knowing the outcome, he could continue on through the suffering because of love.  

God spoke to my heart and said it is when man understands this love, that is when their heart chooses to believe and accept Christ’s sacrifice, and their heart is redeemed to God. 

God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us,
even though we were sinful.

Romans 5:7-9

As I looked at the man carrying the cross in the vision, I saw love. Then I saw another soldier forcing him to walk and carry it, and then another soldier.  Then I saw Marry, Christ’s mother weeping.  I saw love continue to carry the cross.  I heard in my heart “the road of suffering”, “love will overcome evil”, “love will bring knowledge of one’s sin and need for Christ’s sacrifice to bring redemtion to God”.  Then I heard in my mind a voice singing the Sandy Patty song “Down the Via Delorosa” the road Christ walked to calvary called “the way of suffering”.  I knew then it should have been called the “Road Of Love”. 

I was so excited through out the rest of the service to finally know the song I was to sing. I leaned over and told my husband that the Lord had spoken to my heart the song I must learn and prepare for Easter Sunday.  I asked him if he would be able to build me a cross to use as a prop if needed.   As soon as service was over I shared this news with the pastor, and the music leaders.  I told them about the possibility of involving the young people to carry a cross down the isle and also to play part of the movie “Passion Of The Christ” perhaps without sound, just pictures only.  I just wanted the folks to view the video of the moments that Christ carried the cross and the suffering he went through. The music leaders said they had a cross they had used as a prop many years ago that it is still around and I would be welcome to use it, and they would see if they could find a video they could use with their equipment.  The details are still being worked out and I don’t know for sure how all of this will come together.  But my heart is overwhelmed with excitement that preparations are in the works and something wonderful will transpire no matter what it is.
Then today, I went on a search online to see if I could find the soundtrack for this song. It has been many years since I heard this song (could it be 20 years?), and I don’t even know if it is around anymore or how hard it will be to find.  While searching, I came across some YouTube videos.  One video is of Sandy Patty singing this song in the 1980’s.  Another is a video is only 4 minutes long, and is of someone who used the movie Passion Of The Christ and added Sandy Patty’s song to it to use in ministering to their church in China.  This was amazing, because it was a confirmation to me that what I had felt I was supposed to do, God has also inspired others to do similar things to reach people with this message.


There are also some amazing videos interviewing the actor, Jim Caviezel, who played the role of Jesus in the film, Passion of the Christ. This is amazing to me as it is one of my son’s favorite actors.   He played in a movie called Madison which is a true story about Madison, Indiana.  He also played in other movies and TV shows.  It was encouraging to watch the interview with my son and learn how much this role in the movie really impacted Jim’s faith.  Only God could have made this happen, for my son’s favorite character to be a man who truly loves God and acted in the role of Jesus and found his character through learning about the very love Jesus had for humanity.  It was another confirmation that this is the message I am to focus on and to share for Easter.



  
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and
all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by
Christ Jesus.”   Romans 3:23-24

What is important to you this Easter holiday?  What message do you hope to convey to your children, your extended family, and your community?  

As Easter Sunday approaches, I hope to be prepared to lift up the banner and point the way to Jesus Christ and God’s love for mankind. 

I knew the Lord since my earliest years when I was a young child.  I sang for the Lord in church and sang a few times on Christian radio too.  Just before a life threatening spider bite, I was baptized at the age of 8 and loved the Lord with all my heart.  He helped me overcome the suffering of the spider bite, and has helped me daily through out my life.   When I was 13, I went a Billy Graham Crusade and rededicated my heart to Christ.  It was then that God placed in me a passion to sing for him, and he gave me a song based this scripture and I wrote it down and I have never forgot it: 

“People of Jerusalem, open your gates! Repair the road to
the city and clear it of stones; raise a banner to help the nations find their
way.”   Isaiah 62:9-11
 
The actual song he placed in my heart:
“Prepare, prepare the way, lift up a banner for the people.  Cast up, cast up the highway, gather up the stones, lift up a banner for the people.”    

May HE be glorified through it all.  Amen.
 


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Happy Spring 2014


Happy Spring!

Can you believe it is finally here?  I was beginning to wonder if …

This has been one of the longest winters I can ever remember.  I am so glad the new season is here, and new life, and new hope can spring forth once again.



These are the first of my flowers to bloom.  They are so beautiful!  They are a tribute to an awesome Creator.  They are full of such promise for new life and such courage to defy the wintery cold weather that has continued to linger and hold them back.  Just look how they have pushed through all the dead debri from the previous year, pushed through the soil, to reach above it, and grab the sunshine, and bloom in all their magnificent splendor!  

Like these lovely beauties, I too am ready to bloom.  I am ready to spring forth into this new year with courage and defy all the hardships that have lingered and have tried to hold me back this past year.  Hardships I am currently walking through will melt away as the snow and ice melt when the sun shines forth.  Grief that I can hardly bare from this season will have to move aside as I push up and push through.  I am ready to defy winter’s death grip and emmerge from its hibernating hold.  I have survived.  I am ready to rise above, and bloom where I am planted and bring glory to my Creator.
May your Spring and New Year be filled with promise and purpose!
Be blessed!
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