Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spotlighting Jesus: Easter Ideas Day 3

Hi! Sorry I skipped yesterday. We have a new little boy from Safe Families in the house, and computer time was, well, not happening. :) I'm taking a break tonight, after they're in bed, to share a few more goodies.

Easter Ideas, Day 3: How about some hands-on fun?

COOKIES: Have you ever made resurrection cookies? Honestly, they aren't the tastiest thing in the world, but my kids thought they were cool.  They look like tombs and are empty (hallow) on the inside. Here is the recipe:  Resurrection Cookies.

EGGS:  Each Easter, my sister-in-law brings Resurrection Eggs, 12 plastic eggs filled with symbols that walk us through the narrative. We take turns reading the verse and opening the eggs. The last egg, of course, is empty! This site has some good ideas: Resurrection Eggs. I suppose you could do this as sort of a count down, opening a new egg each night for the 12 nights leading up to Easter.

LILIES: Two years ago, my daughter filled our vases with Handprint Easter Lilies.

For more fun and games, check out my friend Michelle's site:  HubbardsCupboard.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spotlighting Jesus: Easter Ideas Day 2

If you missed yesterday's post, we're spending this week finding ways to put the spotlight back on Jesus for Easter.

Here was yesterday's post:  Spotlighting Jesus: Easter Ideas Day 1.

Today's Idea: Memorize a passage of scripture as a family this month.

If you have young kids and haven't memorized anything together before, you can choose a fairly short verse. Or, for the entire month of April, you can choose to memorize a larger passage.

Tips for memorizing as a family:

  1. Post the verses in common locations through out the house like the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Before getting a snack or while brushing your teeth, encourage your family to read the verses.
  2. Keep the verses displayed on the kitchen table. Hang them in a picture frame or stick them to the wall with tape. At mealtime, review the verses as a family. This year, I'm going to put ours in the middle of the dining room table, in one of those clear plastic stand-up frames.
  3. Before bed, try to recite with the kids as much as you’ve learned.
  4. Take the verses bit by bit, talking about it as you go. Don’t try to learn the whole thing at once.
  5. Add motions! If you feel inadequate, have the kids come up with motions of their own. Use large gestures and let your silliness come out.
  6. Act it out. If you choose a passage that has different people talking, assign roles for your family members with one or two narrators. Practicing your “skit” will help commit it to memory!

Here are some suggestions for applicable scripture memory passages during Easter:

I Corinthians 15:3-4
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

Philippians 3:10-12
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." 

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

What other ideas do you have to keep Jesus in the Spotlight? I’ll share more thoughts tomorrow.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spotlighting Jesus: Easter Ideas Day 1

Imagine a dark stage. The heavy scarlet curtain is closed tight, and a man in black stands posed, ready to pull on the golden rope and display the performance.

Actors and props gather in hushed excitement. Grown men are dressed in bunny costumes with little pink bow-ties fastened around their necks. White sparkly baskets filled with fake green grass dangle on their arms. Little children in lamb outfits straighten their ears and refasten their fluffy tails. A large plywood circular sunshine squeaks down from the imagined sky.The stage manager makes his way through the cluttered maze, being careful not to step on the felt grass or large foam eggs.

Near the back of the stage, almost forgotten, a chain dangles from a purple, glittered tree. On the end of the chain is a seemingly insignificant gold cross, hardly the size of a dime. 

As the play of Easter begins this April, let's make sure that the cross of Christ is placed where it belongs. Let's talk about ways to swing the spotlight away from the pretend to the reality: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (I Cor 15:3-4).

For the next five days, I'll be sharing ways to guide your thoughts and your family toward Jesus, and I'd love for you to share what your family is doing as well!

Our family is reading a new book this year. Amon's Adventure by Arnold Ytreeide is a daily devotional that guides a family through Lent in story-form with discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Exciting and engaging, we are following a young boy who is trying to save his father's life.

This is a part of a series of books that Ytreeide has written. Last Christmas, our family read his book Jotham's Journey.

Do you have any family-favorite Easter books?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Filling the Easter Basket

Have you noticed that Easter Candy is entirely different than Valentine's Day Candy? The love-holiday is full of dark chocolate and roses, but the Bunny's stash is sugary and sweet. My personal favorites: Starburst Jelly Beans and the traditional yellow Peeps.

This year, if the idea of a basketful of candy gives you a toothache, consider putting something of more value into the baskets--something that will have meaning long after the chocolate bunny has been decapitated.

A Book! And not just any book, but my book, Duncan's Journey: A Little Lamb's Adventure through the Twenty-Third Psalm. (This is my blog, afterall, so I'm a little bias.)

Duncan's Journey is a 112 page devotional that leads you verse by verse through the Psalm, integrating the meaning of the passage with Duncan's adventures. When learning the phrase "I shall not want," Duncan complains that he is tired of eating grass. After biting into a juicy worm, he learns that the Shepherd knows best... and worms are not best. Each chapter ends with discussion questions, a Bible verse, and a prayer.

Duncan's Journey can be read aloud to younger children, but early readers will enjoy reading it for themselves. I know of a few nine-year-olds who are reading a chapter a night before bed. An eight-year-old girl told her mom, "I love this book. I think it is really helping me."

Easter, of course, is not about candy and bunnies. I know that, and as we move into April, I'll be giving suggestions on bringing the spotlight back onto Jesus. I love giving gifts to my kids, though--just as our Heavenly Father showers gifts on us every day.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

Buy Duncan's Journey from Becky personally if you're in Indy to save on shipping or click here:

Special Event: 
Purchase 2 books from Becky by May 1st
and get 10% off and be entered into a drawing for a FREE Kindle!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to be the wife of a happy husband

This was excellent. I highly recommend it!

Have a great weekend!

"Ding!" Time to go potty!

Every 20 minutes around our house, a timer goes off.

Every 20 minutes for a week.

Sounds fun, right?

"Why?" you ask.  Well, I'm potty training my two year old, of course!

It's the method I've used w/ my other three kids. I don't know where I got the idea, but for us, it works.

Basically, when I think he's ready, I put him in underwear and try to stay home as much as possible. While home, every twenty minutes, a timer goes off and I have him sit on the potty. He gets a jelly bean for trying. If he happens to go, then he gets two! And he gets to help flush it away. That is very exciting.

The first two days are, well, messy. He's learning what going potty is all about. It takes a bit of time to move from, "Uh Oh, mess," to realizing the feeling before he has to go.

I'm on day 3 right now, and it's going well. Last night, he was dry for about 5 hours straight!

Hopefully, by the first of next week, I'll stretch it to 40 minutes and he'll start to tell me, rather than relying on the timer. That's the goal, anyway.

And to be honest, the timer is really for me. I'm just too distracted with life to remember to have the little guy try! So the timer reminds me  that, "Hey, easily distracted mom, you're potty training, remember?"

What advice would you give someone who was potty training their child for the first time?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Home School in Pictures

Here are a few recent home school pictures.

Toddler likes to "help" Big Sis with math.
When did she get so big? A lot of her work is done independently now.

This is where I like to read too. In the sun.

Again, toddler is "helping" big brother with online reading lesson.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Win a Free Kindle!

For every 2 books you purchase from me,* either Duncan's Journey or Surrender, your name will be entered into a drawing to win a free Kindle!

Think Easter! 

Duncan's Journey is an adorable little gift that will last long after their chocolate bunny has been consumed.

Click here to see what people are saying about Surrender, a thought-provoking novel set in the early 1800's.

Can't wait to hear from you!

* Books must be purchased through me personally to be counted. Send me a note! We'll work out the details,

Must Read Children's Books

After speaking at a parenting class at church about Duncan's Journey, the new children's devotional through the 23rd Psalm I've had published, I was asked to provide a book list for other resources I found helpful.

First, here are some excellent family devotionals:

·       Leading Little Ones to God by Mirian Schoolland
·       A Child's Book of Character Building, all volumes, by Rebekah Coriel

I also read missionary biographies to my kids. Here are my favorites:

·       Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime

I have also discovered and loved Lamplighter Books. These were written in the 1800’s and republished for our delight! Here are some you can't miss:

·       Helen’s Temper and its Consequences

Happy reading!! 

Monday, March 14, 2011

What is your image of God like?

What comes to your mind when I ask that question? Maybe you picture a far away God, creating the universe and then stepping back to let events unfold. Maybe you remember flannelgraph stories of God on the mountain giving the ten commandments in fire and smoke. Perhaps your view of God is more general, picturing a loving and kind spirit that lives all places.

What image comes to your mind?
Do you like it?
Does it make you comfortable?
Where did you get the data to form that image?

We do not get to decide who God is.

God is very clear in His letter to us, the Bible, that we are to not make for ourselves an image of God. (Deut. 5:6-10). When I tell others about Him, I am not trying to convince anyone about my idea of God. It's not my idea at all. I am simply presenting who God says He is in His Word.

So if you claim to believe the Bible, attending church on Sundays and listening to sermons from the Bible, then it is imperative that you read it to make sure the God you are worshiping is the One True God, and not an image that you have created. Make sure the Jesus you sing to on Sundays is the real Jesus, and not a 21st Century, non-offensive, stale image. Make sure you are worshiping the real thing.

Often, I do not understand God. 

I'm currently reading through Deuteronomy, and today I read about the blessings of obedience and curses for disobedience given to the Israelite Nation. Moses, speaking for God, said about disobedience:

"Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please Him to ruin and destroy you." (Deut 28:63a).

You might want to read that again.

Does that fit into the image of God that you have made and worshiped?

Maybe you are focused on social justice and prefer verses like, "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." (Deut. 10:18).

Or perhaps you like the idea that God loves the world and cling to verses like, "For God so loved the world." (John 3:16a).

Maybe you think that if someone is sincere, God will be ok with their image of Him, no matter how false it is, and you recite Romans 12:9a, "Love must be sincere."

I believe that God is a universal God. 

Let me define: I mean that He created the Universe, and He has a plan for all mankind. But at the end of the day, regardless of the image of God you have created, there is only one true God, a jealous God, and He has declared that He sets the rules for how He should be worshiped. (Deut 4:24).

The penalty for our sin is death. (Romans 6:23). Sincerity, Good Works, Kindness, and Love will not appease God.

For example, God says:

"Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places." (Deut 12:2-3).

"But wait," you say, "I worship the God of the New Testament!"

God hasn't changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8).

Jesus said, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41).

And Jesus said, "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:40-42). 

So I ask again, what image of God are you serving? 

Though I may not understand God all the time, I stand in awe of who He is.

Only when we are covered in the righteousness of Christ do we receive God's mercy and forgiveness.

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9).

Free Cursive Writing for Kids

Have you ever noticed that all the little home schooling workbooks start to add up? I'm always looking for ways to save money.

I had used "Handwriting Without Tears" for my oldest, but when my second daughter wanted to learn cursive, I looked for a way to do it free. (I also wanted her to learn a "prettier" form than HWOT.) Here's what I found, in four free, easy steps!

1. Teach them the basics with these free worksheets:

2. Then, create your own tracing pages here:
  • I like these pages because they have the dashed horizontal lines so the kids can practice the correct height of the letters with the middle line. 
  • This site is great because you can see what the pages look like in real time.
  • I spent 10 minutes copying and pasting 60 of the kids shorter catechisms into the space, printing a page at a time, and ended up with 30 pages of practice. That will last us 60 days! By then, she'll be more than ready for cursive copywork.

3. Create your own copywork documents with a cursive font. I like Learning Curve Cursive Font. (It's free!)  She writes this into her own notebook. (I move to Wide Rule Notebooks now.)

4. Once she's mastered copying cursive to cursive, I have her start "translating" from a regularly printed text. From here on out, everything she writes is in cursive.

This brings up the question: How do I create my own copywork, and why do I need it?  Here are a few quick points, but I'll go into more depth in a later post:
  • I create my own copywork at the beginning of the school year of Bible Passages I'd like them to learn and other texts that relate to our history subject.
  • Here's a free link to the copywork document I created for Early American History. This is a standard font. However, when I print it for my kids, I use a font that matches their age. (Learning to print: Primer Print. Learning Cursive: Learning Curve. Older Children: Any font works.)
There is so much more I can say, but this should get you started.  Enjoy your free cursive lessons!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Fantastick Experience with Carmel Repertory Theater

"I am special. I am special. 
Please God, please! Don't let me be normal!"

As a fifteen year old naive girl, I had the thrill of playing Louisa in the Carmel Repertory Theater's presentation of The Fantasticks at the Carmel Gazebo back in 1994. Having never had a lead role in anything, this was a huge step in my life! It's a key that turned a lock in my heart that shouted, "I want to do this forever!"

"There was a girl."
At the time, I didn't really comprehend the meaning of the musical, but when my dad appeared yesterday morning with a fresh DVD in his hand of my show, I had the opportunity to re-live the experience. You see, we were going together to see The Fantasticks again that night, 17 years later, at Carmel Rep, and it brought back memories of my own happy nights as "the girl."

My daughters loved watching the DVD of their young mom on stage, but as I sat explaining to them the meaning behind the lines, I realized just how true of a play it really is. One daughter would ask, "Why would they love their radishes more than children?" and I'd reply, "Because they're predictable." And "Why would she like the bandit? Isn't he bad?" I'd laugh and shake my head, "Because he's new and exciting."

Why didn't I understand it when I was in it? Because I truly was "the girl," as so many of us were. Naive, full of hope, and dreading, more than anything, to be normal.

The show last night was enchanting! 

Carmel Rep has come a long way from the little play on the gazebo, but those special times of a theater that was just getting started carved a way for others, like myself, to continue in the arts.

Ben Davis
Last night, the man who was El Gallo in my production, Ben Davis, was there fresh from Broadway to sing a few songs. Larry Creviston, the director of this show as well as the one I was in, whisked me backstage to say hi. My goodness, he hasn't changed! Still a handsome, dashing bandit, only now he's a Tony Award Winner! I asked him after the play while we were taking a few pictures, "Seriously, you've worked with Bernadette Peters?" His eyes sparkled, betraying the adoradion he also has for the actress, and he showed me a picture of them together on his phone. Can you say "Wow?"

Two of the actors last night were also in my production. Ron Creviston and Dick Davis were hilarious! I was rolling. I think Ron's antics added at least ten minutes to the show.

It seemed like the boy and girl had just stepped off of a Disney set. They were so cute! Even though I might have been grading the girl a bit harder, I still give them both an A plus. Actually, come to think of it, I might give them just an A simply because they weren't even born when I was in The Fantasticks. That was a tad bit hard to swallow!

The new Studio Theater in Carmel is the perfect black box stage. When Ben was singing without microphones, he was heard loud and clear in his deep voice, singing "Stars" from Les Miserables. The ticket prices are inexpensive, making theater affordable and available. Really, try to get over there to see it. You will walk out warm and happy, filled with memories of simpler days, that weren't really so simple after all.

When the dance was done,
When I went my way,
When I tried to find rainbows far away,
All the lovely lights
Seemed to fade from view:
They were you.

To be honest, in so many ways, I still feel like "the girl." 

I'd like to take a week - or two - and never do a chore. I like to wear my hair down. And, still to this day, I pray, "Please, God, please! Don't let me be normal!"

Try to remember...

Ben Davis as El Gallo - Round and Round
Ron Creviston and Dick Davis

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I'm in the middle of a walk. Care to join me? We're walking down a path called memory lane. I was pushed into the path by a sudden impulse my husband had to clean out the garage. In his great cleaning plan, the 7 giant tubs of photo albums and memorabilia did not have a place, so onto the path I was shoved, to clean out and discard 32 years of memories.

I started by scanning in the photos from the yellowed and sticky pages that captured my school days. (I've made it through high school, and the scanning only took 7 hours!) That was pretty painless, and as I'm throwing away the pictures, I'm telling myself that it's better for them to be digital, where I can access them whenever I want, than to be stuffed in tubs in the attic, never to be seen.  I will not feel guilty for throwing away pictures. I will not feel guilty for throwing away pictures.

Now I'm looking at scrapbooks of things that mattered back then as a young girl. My daily Bible Reading Plan from 1992, with every day checked off. The tags from my favorite leather jacket. Autographed pictures of Bob McGrath from Sesame Street and Kirk Cameron, my heart throb. I found a poster of him in the box and hung it in the office. My heart still beats a little faster when I look at it. My husband did a double take, and it sort of disturbed my kids. My friends are jealous though! Ok, I'm taking it down, but I think I'll still keep it.

Some of the stuff I kept is just silly. I have stickers, like with a ghost saying "boo," stuck to post cards with the names of who they were from. A bag that held the rubber bands from my braces. Random programs and concert ticket stubs. All my report cards. Old Valentines that I titled, "Bribe Stuff." Ha ha ha. And a picture of me in 1985 when I was in the "no cavity club." I can't say that anymore. I can part easily with most of that.

I am only scratching the surface though. I have an entire tub full of journals I've filled, stories I've written, and letters given to me. What to do with this? Will I ever read them again? Probably not. Maybe if I'm famous someone might read one or two after I'm dead. It seems silly to hang onto them for someone to read when I'm dead. My kids might venture to read a little, but an entire tub worth of thoughts that scrambled in their mom's mind? Not likely. These, however, are harder to part with than old Valentines. In fact, they might go back into the tub, and I'll find space for them in the garage somewhere.

You know what I can say goodbye to? All the letters from friends that I've saved all of these years. I've kept some letters from Lee, but the rest? They're outta here. (Deep Breath). Gone!

So, my momentos have been reduced to just one tub.

It feels pretty amazing.

It's sort of what my blog's all about anyway. Reading Ahead.

Occasionally, it's fun to look back at the path of memories and see where you were, but then turn back around look forward... reaching ahead.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Phil 3:12-14

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What makes you laugh?

When I used to work in an office, I loved Dilbert. I had the daily comic on my desk and laughed and laughed.

I really do love laughing. A funny movie that makes me laugh usually makes it's way to the top of my list, even if is has a marginal plot line. (Date Night was a recent one for us!)

When I was a kid, I loved Calvin and Hobbes. Especially when he would walk outside in the snow, sniff a few times, and then ask, "Don't you hate it when your boogers freeze?" That one got me every time.

It's been almost 10 years since I had a desk job, so I'm a little distanced now from the Dilbert Comic strips. I suppose Family Circus fits my life more, but they have never really made me laugh. They're too true. Like the "Not Me" ghost. Yeah, we have one here, and those ghosts are frustrating, not funny. Maybe in 10 more years I'll look back at them at laugh.

Now a days, I read funny blogs to laugh. There isn't a particular comic strip that really gets me giggling. Jon Acuff's blog, Stuff Christians Like, is one that really makes me laugh. I talk about it so much, you'd think he's paying me. (But he's not.)

Sarcasm is funny, so I like watching House. The episodes always wrap up nicely and I can just get a quick 45 minute fix online whenever I want.

Probably the best laughter is when I'm rolling on the floor with my toddler.  Now, he REALLY gets me laughing. I'm going to miss this phase. A toddler laughing is priceless. It's so unhindered and free.

Ok, I'm going to sign off and find him. He's almost always up for a good tickle fest, and I could use a laugh too.

What about you? What makes you laugh?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Do Christians Persevere?

It’s Theology Tuesday, and my NANC Counseling Question today is:  

Do Christians Persevere? How does this impact counseling?


Before I dive into this, however, I should briefly discuss the definition of “Christian.”

Recently, a friend was offended when my daughter asked why she didn’t want to be a Christian. She asked, “What makes you think I’m not a Christian?” In the suburban middle class culture we live in, many people call themselves Christians.

Is a Christian a nice person who is kind to others? Or someone who grew up in Sunday School? Or someone who visits church on Easter? Maybe a Christian is someone who owns a Bible or knows about Jesus or prayed at summer camp when they were twelve.

A Christian is essentially a “little Christ,” one who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that by believing on Him they have life in His Name. (John 20:31).

I just asked my nine year old why she thought she was a Christian. She recited the verse, "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9).
Persevere to the end, my friend! To the end of life, and to the end of this long post.


In short: Yes, Christians persevere. Once a man has been re-born, he does not go back to being as he was before.

Perseverance means: “All those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.” (Grudem 788).

Jesus told us what would happen to those who believed in Him. “For this is the will of my Father that every one who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” 

Earlier in the same passage Jesus said, “I should lose nothing of all that He has given me.” (John 6:38-40). The argument could stop there, since Jesus Himself said that that if the Father gave Him something, He will not lose it. However, there are many other similar passages that press home this point.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29).

We are in the hands of Jesus, and covering His hands are the hands of the Father, and no one can take us out! Even we ourselves are a part of that “no one,” meaning we can’t choose to jump out once the Father has given us to His Son.

The third member of the trinity also has a part in the perseverance of the believers. “In Him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance...” (Eph 1:13-14). If we have the Holy Spirit within us as believers, we have been promised eternal life. (John 3:36).

We know that no one seeks after God, and that we only love Him because He first loved us. We also read that He will complete the work He began in us, faithfully completing it. (Phil 1:6). He started the work in our hearts to draw us to Himself, and He will be faithful to see to our perseverance. So yes, we persevere, but not based on ourselves, it's still a gift of God!

Though this is a comforting thought, there are strong warnings that go hand in hand with it. 

For one, nonbelievers can show many signs of being a true believer and not persevere to the end, thus indicating that they were never born again to begin with. Take Judas, for example. Jesus knew that he had never been a true follower when he said, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). However, Judas must have blended right in because when Jesus mentioned His betrayer at the Last Supper, the disciples were unsure as to who it would be.

Many people will say to Him “Lord, Lord,” at the judgment, having done all sorts of good works, but He will cast them out and say He never knew them. It isn’t that He knew them but then they left Him. He never knew them. (Matt. 7:21-23). These are sobering words!

We have been encouraged to “continue in the faith,” “continue in My word,” “endure to the end,” and “hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm to the end.” (John 8:31-32, Col 1:22-23, Hebrews 3:14). The purpose of these warnings, however, is to warn those who are thinking of falling away or have fallen away that regardless of their “testimony,” they might not be believers at all.

The implications for counseling are huge! 

It is vital to determine, to the best of our human understanding, the counselee’s position before God, for if he does not know Christ, that is the first step to be taken. 

There are a few evidences of true conversion that can be looked for, understanding that God is the only one who knows the heart. We are told to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard.” (Col 1:23).  

Does she still believe the gospel? Does she confess today, and not just twenty years ago when she walked the aisle, that belief in Jesus is all she needs for salvation? Or is she relying on her own works?

Is the Holy Spirit at work in his life? The Holy Spirit is said to bear witness in our hearts that we are God’s children, and He leads us in paths of obedience to God’s will. (Rom 8:14-16). The evidence of the fruit of the spirit should be growing, and his life should be producing other fruit that builds up the body and doesn’t tear it down. (Gal 5:22-23, Matt 7:16-20).

Does she accept and obey the sound teaching of their church and pastors? Constantly rejecting major doctrines of the faith is a warning sign. John said, “Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us.” (John 4:6).

Does he have an on-going relationship with Jesus, abiding in Him? This can show itself in worship, prayer, and praise. Jesus also said that His sheep follow Him and walk as He walked. Is her life showing a pattern, though not perfect, of obedience to God’s commands and of a growing love for others? “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” (I John 3:14).

So what does this mean?

A counselee who can gain assurance from these things can boldly approach God for help and healing, knowing that when God looks at Him, He sees the perfect righteousness of Christ. A counselee who is broken by the list can be brought to the cross for forgiveness, and God will meet Him there with open arms.


This is part 3 of a series on the doctrine of Salvation. 
See Part One Here: Justification
See Part Two Here: Sanctification

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pages 788-807

Monday, March 7, 2011

Getting a Shot that Lasts Longer Than a Moment

I just finished reading The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever. It's a quick, powerful read that gives you a good shot in the arm.

Shots don't usually feel good at the time. My two year old is way behind on his vaccinations, a topic that I don't really care to get into now--but regardless, when we decided the time had come to start giving them, it wasn't a very pleasant experience in the moment. However, after a brief cry of pain, the distraction of the band aid calmed his soul like it never happened.

However, the shot I received from reading this little book--well--I don't want it to be forgotten as though nothing happened.

Take this passage for example:

"What are your circumstances right now? Trust the Lord to use you in them instead of seeking for new ones. Don't let the passing permanence of your world or the lulling tedium of certain long hours and minutes make a fool of you. The days are "evil" (Eph 5:16) in the sense that they are dangerous and fleeting, and we must redeem the time and make the most of every hour. So we say with Paul that, in view of a certain judgment, Christ's love compels us to tell the good news to others (see II Cor 3:10-15). We must be honest not only about the cost of repentance, but also about the expiration date of the offer. Such honesty compels us to urgency." (Dever, p 58-59)

What moments of tedium do you face? For me, it's the endless pile of dishes and loads of laundry that stare at me day by day. It's the question of "What's for dinner" and "Can I have a snack?" It's the carpet that looks dirty again hours after I've vacuumed.

So I often look to the next fun thing. Like reading a new blog. Writing another story. Going out with friends. I try and fill in my tedium with fun.

Some fill their tedium with food. Or TV. Or sporting events. Or working out. Or church activities. Or... what is yours?

I don't want to just fill in the time. I want it to have purpose. I can use those moments by the sink to pray for the lost. I can teach my children the truths of Jesus while we fold towels. I can make an extra meal for someone along side my own.

I can do these things.

But will I?

Will you?

What are you thinking about?

What do you think about abortion?
What do you think about homelessness?
What do you think about the end times?
What do you think about the environment?
What do you think about organic produce?
What do you think about social networking?
What do you think about dogs?
What do you think about using paper plates?
What do you think about saving for retirement?
What do you think about internet dating?
What do you think about the middle east?
What do you think about immigrants? 
What do you think about the new American Idol Judges?
What do you think about hybrid cars?
What do you think about the weather?

What do you think about?

Because what we think about matters.

My next vacation. My checking account. My dinner. My laundry. My plans.

~ What do you think about when you are NOT thinking about God? ~

Why do I ask? Because it's a good think to think about.


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philipians 4:8

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.Hebrews 4:12

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Golden Friendship

We ran a lot of errands yesterday, and at one point in the car, my 5 YO boy randomly said, "Mommy, if I ever get a golden trophy, you know, a gold trophy, for maybe winning a race or something, I will give it to Joey. He's my very best friend, and would want to give it to him."

After telling him that I think it's nice to be kind to his friends, he said, "Yes, well, Joey did give me Silly Bands, and that is really special."

Silly bands, golden trophies. It all means the same thing. Special friendships are, well, special. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's not about me at all. A good reminder.

Theology Tuesday!

Ready for Part Two of the Soteriology exam for NANC? (Read Part 1). Soteriology is the study of Salvation, and today's question is:  Sanctification is said to be past, present, and future.  Discuss, including the idea of “union with Christ.”

(But first I have to say, I was so excited after studying justification that I was a little afraid the rule book would be slapped down on me for Sanctification. Do not fear. There is hope ahead in this long post.)

Sanctification is the process of becoming like Christ.  Once we are justified, we are fully accepted based on Christ’s righteousness, and sanctification is what He does progressively through us.  This isn’t a one-time event in our past.  It changes us daily and will continue to change us until we are perfected at the coming of Christ.

When we accepted Christ as Lord, He washed us and we were sanctified.  (Acts 20:32)  It is clearly something that was started when He replaced our heart of stone with a heart of flesh. (Ex 36:26). Grudem says, “the initial step in sanctification involves a definite break from the ruling power and love of sin, so that the believer is no longer ruled or dominated by sin and no longer loves to sin.” (Grudem 747).  Paul says, “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus… for sin will have no dominion over you.” (Rom 6:11, 14). 

Although God, at that moment, viewed us as having the righteousness of Christ, the act of sanctification wasn’t completed on-the-spot.  He continually works in us to love and good deeds.  We have been predestined for something: to be conformed to the image of His Son.  (Romans 8:29). Our goal as Christians is to grow more and more like Christ. We are to “press on” and “not let sin reign” and “strive for holiness” and “be renewed.”  Sin still exists in us and in our world, but it does not need to control us. 

“Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.” (Romans 6:19). 

We are not left to our own power to accomplish this.  Quite the contrary!  Without God, we could not grow in this grace.  We have been given the Spirit of God to guide us into all truth and should let Him lead our lives. (Romans 8:14). God put His Spirit within us to cause us to walk in His ways.  (Ex 36:27).

In this world, we will have trouble, but we can be encouraged:  Jesus has overcome the world!  Though we will never reach perfection here on earth, for there is no man who does not sin, (I Kings 8:46), and we all make mistakes (James 3:2), we can be encouraged that He is returning, and when He does, our sanctification will be complete.  Only then will we be made perfect.  I Corinthians 15:49 says that we will “bear the image of the Man of heaven.”   When we go to the presence of the Lord, we will be “men made perfect.”  (Heb 12:23).

Jesus is the author of our faith – Justification – and the perfecter of our faith – Sanctification.  (Heb 12:2). Union with Christ is the understanding that apart from Him, we can do nothing.  He has given us His righteousness, He is working out our sanctification, and He has redeemed our lives from the pit.  “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (I Cor 1:30-31).

"Since all we do has mixed motives and we seldom if ever love others as we should, we can confidently say that we do not bring anything of additional worth to our relationship with God. He is fully satisfied in Christ." (Hendryx).

John Calvin said: (This is long, take time to digest it.)

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. 
If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him’ [I Cor. 1:30]. 
If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. 
If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; 
if purity, in his conception;
if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [compare to Heb. 5:2]. 
If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; 
if acquittal, in his condemnation; 
if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13]; 
if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; 
if purification, in his blood; 
if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; 
if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb;
if newness of life, in his resurrection; 
if immortality, in the same; 
if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; 
if protection, if security if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; 
if untroubled expectation of judgment; in the power given to him to judge. 
In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from the fountain, and from no other." (2.16.18.)

Fixing our eyes on Jesus means that we are constantly looking to Him for help and grace, always full of thanks for who we are in Him. We take our eyes off of our own good works and efforts and check-lists and disciplines, where we get stuck trying to gauge our own progress and how far we’ve come.  We instead look to Him until we completely forget ourselves in comparison to His love. We see Him as He is and love Him for it, asking that He will fill us with that love, which spills out on others and results in a life that looks more and more like Him. 

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face,
and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” Lemmel, Helen H.  1922
Hendryx, John “Sanctification via Union with Christ.” Reformation Theology.  April 21, 2006. Accessed 1/25/11.               
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pages 746-752.


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