Tag Archives: faith

Grace and Mercy

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graceGod’s grace is likely one of the most esteemed and fundamental principles of the Christian faith.  As Christians, we have all been saved by the grace of God through salvation.  He promises us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Grace is an unmerited gift from the Holy Spirit; it frees us from our sins.  There is no other way to please God than by accepting His mercy and grace, and living and walking daily in His presence.

However, grace doesn’t stop here.  Grace and mercy go hand in hand and both are something Christians need to be practicing and extending to others on a daily basis.  Grace began in the manifestation of God.  The greatest appearance of grace was the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, born to the unwed Virgin Mary.  We believe in Jesus Christ and believe that He died on the cross to bear our sins.  He lived a sinless and blameless life yet was scorned and shamed.  He was whipped and pierced for our transgressions.  He was labeled a criminal and hung on a cross.  He died a cruel and painful death because of our sins.  Jesus hung from the cross, gasping for air and spoke, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  This is the saving grace of God.  Even as sinners, as people who mocked and rejected Him, He never abandoned His place on earth.  He went as far as to ask the Father to forgive us for the pain we caused Him as He hung and died on that cross.

We aren’t deserving of God’s grace and mercy yet we receive them and treasure them.  We put our faith in the heart of the Gospel that defines the true meaning of love.  And while we are never outside of God’s grace and mercy, as sinners we acknowledge the need for His merciful grace on a daily basis.

While we accept God’s grace and mercy, how well do we extend the same blessings to other people? Sin is sin in the eyes of God; our sin is no less than other peoples.  Are our family members, neighbors, and enemies beyond OUR grace and mercy?  Are their sins more grievous, is their lifestyle more sinful, is their life more in shambles than our own?  We all at one time or another reveled in our sins, and if some of us were to be honest, we may still be delighting in our sins behind closed doors.  We are all disobedient and we follow our sinful thoughts and desires.  We have all turned our backs on the Creator; we deserve our punishment for our wrongdoings.  But because God loved us unconditionally, because God is rich in His mercy and grace, we have been made alive in Christ Jesus.  It is by grace that we have been saved.  And yet so many Christians do not truly understand the meaning of grace and mercy.

What is your response when you see a person hurting?  What is your response when you see a person out of jail and looking for a job?  What about that homeless man asking for food or spare change?  What is your reaction to the LGBT community, persons from another faith, or people with a different skin color than you?  Do you offer up that same grace and mercy that Christ so freely gave to you?

The issue of extending grace has been heavy on my heart for years.  To be honest, it was not an easy lesson and one that I had to truly be mindful about.  It was too easy for me to look the other way, to ignore those who were different than me, or to simply shrug my shoulders at someone who was suffering the consequences for their own choices and actions.  What I learned through my lessons of grace was that I too could be suffering greatly from my own choices in life.  The difference was, that I accepted God’s grace for my life.  In the same way, we ought to be like Christ extending grace to others.  1 Peter 2:21 says this, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

This is our test of faith.  How well do we truly accept and appreciate God’s grace?  Do we offer grace to others for their choices, even if their choices hurt or wronged us?  Do we love our neighbors as we love Christ?  Do we love our enemies well and ask God to bless them? Do you show mercy and compassion for those who are hurting or struggling in life?

Grace is a gift to us from God.  Let us not dismiss the example of Jesus Christ lest we become like the Pharisees who knew their bible and yet missed the heart of Christ.  Let us begin to extend grace and mercy to everyone we encounter.

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4. Dating and Sexual Purity
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A Jesus Lovers New Year’s Resolution

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newyear2It’s the end of another year and the majority of us are eagerly awaiting the chance for new beginnings and blessings.  We certainly never look at the new year as a time for added stress, pain, or sickness.  In our anticipation and hope of new things to come, we tend to make new year’s resolution – to lose weight, cut out caffeine, go to the gym, work less, sleep more, find a new job, etc.

The question I ask of you as we close out 2013…. What does Jesus want from you?  He very well may be calling you to cut calories, lose weight, and exercise.  He may be tugging at your heart to work less and be at home with your family more.  But what does He want from your heart?  How can your life glorify His name in this coming year?  What changes does God want from you that will ultimately lead you to a closer relationship to Jesus Christ?

Here is a list of New Year’s resolutions all Christians need to work on in 2014:

Forgive more – As a forgiven sinner, you are required to forgive sinners.  Let go of other people’s mistakes and shortcomings, even if those decisions directly affected your life.  Satan will remind you of the pain others have inflicted on you but YOU are a forgiven sinner and are called to forgive the sins of others.  Remind yourself that you have not always been a Christian and that you too have hurt others.  We have all fallen short and we will all fail again.  Pray for those who have hurt you, that they are blessed by God and that those blessings change their lives.  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

Pray always – It’s so simple to say “pray more” but the thought of praying all the time can seem very daunting.  Rest assured, if you miss an opportunity to pray, you must not give up!  Begin by praying every morning or evening and slowly add in other specific times in your day devoted to prayer.  You will soon notice how your prayers shift from specified times to daily conversations with God throughout your day.  Make sure you also add a few minutes of reflection time to listen to what God says to you about your prayers.  “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Quit worrying – We begin to worry when we feel as if we are not in control.  The truth is, very seldom do we have full control over anything.    When we allow worry to seep into our lives, we are saying to those around us that we are helpless and have no one to turn to.  But as Christians, we must have faith in God and faith in His plan.  Find the good in every situation and be thankful for what God has already blessed you with.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Give more – Give more of your time, your money, and your effort.  Pray about this specifically and see where God wants you to give.  Does he want you to give more of your money to your church or a mission?  Does He want you to give more of your time and volunteer efforts?  Does He simply want you to give your family more quality time?  Whatever it is that He leads you to give, give wholeheartedly and give as if you are giving to the Lord.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

Go to church – Attending church should not be a Sunday morning visit when times are hard.  Church is a time for weekly reflection and an energy boost.  It’s a time for us to put aside the craziness of life and refocus on Christ and His will for our lives.  Church is a time for Christians to fellowship with other believers and together build the kingdom of God.  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Learn more – Read your Bible this year, start a devotional, or commit to reading that book your spouse has asked you to read.  If you’ve already read the Bible in its entirety, read it again to gain more knowledge.  You cannot go wrong opening your Bible and reading scripture!  But there is power when reading with other Christians and discussing life together.  “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15

Judge less – Learn how to judge righteously and ask God to show you when you’re sinfully judging.  Practice the art of judging the sin and not the sinner.  Find the good in every person and in every situation, even if it’s simply acknowledging that God will use that situation for His glory.  Remember that we have all sinned and fallen short in the eyes of God.  We will all stand on even ground before God one day; your sin is no less than any other man’s.  “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

Be more gracious – Again, find the good in every person and in every situation.  Treat others with kindness and respect.  Even if we don’t think they deserve it, they really do.  Don’t assume the worst in others, even if their track record shows otherwise.  Give people the benefit of the doubt, always.  Complement those who frustrate you, and add a smile.  Work on changing your heart towards others and people will begin to seem far less threatening to you.  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Plant seeds – Write down a list of people who are non-believers and commit to praying for them over this next year.  Make it your goal to talk to them about Jesus Christ and his unending love for them.  Invite them to church, offer to pray for them, connect with them regularly and allow them the opportunity to see how Christ is working in your own life.  The outcome is amazing to see how God uses YOU and your everyday circumstances to change the lives of others.  You plant the seed and watch as God grows new believers.  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Go on a mission – Your mission trip doesn’t necessarily need to be across the world to a third world country.  While that is definitely an incredible experience, your mission field can be right here in your hometown.  Your mission field is the path you drive to work and the places you run your errands.  To be on a mission for Christ is to tell others of Christ and bringing His Good News to non-believers.  Begin by asking strangers, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”  Spend time everyday preparing for your mission work and ask God to show you where your work needs to be done.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19-20

To put our focus on Christ rather than ourselves is ultimately what God wants for our lives.  He wants us to depend on Him.  When we do these things, our lives begin to take on a new meaning and good things begin to happen.  We will still suffer loss and heartache, setbacks and pain.  But life becomes bearable when we walk with our Savior and allow Him to lead the way.

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Does Santa Belong in our Christmas Celebrations?

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Many of us grew up believing Santa Claus magically whisked down our chimneys and left us gifts below the twinkling lights of our Christmas trees. Some of us have even carried on that tradition with our own children. There are also plenty of families who have opted out of the Santa Claus myth altogether refusing to lie to their children. Some families also remove Santa Claus from their families traditions because they fear this mystical character takes the focus away from the celebratory birth of our Savior, which is a valid concern.

So who is Santa Claus? The legend of Santa Claus begins with Saint Nicholas, a man who dedicated his life to serving God and giving generously to the poor. Saint Nicholas was born in a village in Patara, which is the village now known as Demre, Turkey. His wealthy parents died when he was a young child leaving him their full inheritance. Saint Nicholas obeyed Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:21, “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” His compassion and dedication to serving God eventually earned him the title of Bishop of Myra.

During this time, many Christians were being persecuted under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and Bishop Nicholas, along with other clergy and Christians, suffered greatly for his faith. He was exiled and persecuted but persevered through the persecution and was ultimately released. Saint Nicholas continued a life of serving God and others and doing good deeds to those who least expected it. He did all of these things without recognition and did so with a humble heart and a focus on Christ.

There are stories upon stories told over the years of Saint Nicholas charitably giving to others – the poor, innocent children, and even sailors. One extraordinary story tells of a poor ancient merchant who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters to be married. Without a dowry, the daughters were destined to be sold into slavery or prostitution. On three different nights, bags of gold were secretly left through an open window and found in a stocking or shoe that sat near the fireplace. These gifts of gold saved the lives of the merchant’s daughters.

Saint Nicholas’ legacy has been carried on over the centuries by Roman Catholics as well as Christians and has expanded throughout many different countries. Many believing his model for serving Christ and his unselfish giving are worthy qualities to be remembered during this season. Whether you celebrate the Christmas season with the tradition of Saint Nicholas or not, we must all agree he was a great God-honoring man who served Christ with his whole heart. He gave up wealth and even his own freedom answering Christ’s call to serve others. Is there any real harm by bringing this man’s legacy into your Christmas traditions? It’s definitely not a sin to do so! After all, we remember many other remarkable people who have also served Christ and lived Godly examples of what it means to be a Christian.

I also want to add that if your reason for not allowing Santa Claus in your family’s traditions is because of the potential “lie” being told to your children, think carefully about fairytales and other fictional characters allowed in your children’s lives. Remember that while we may fully understand that princesses and superheroes are make-believe, our children may not understand this. I say this to make sure you are staying consistent with your beliefs about not lying to your children.

And for those who choose to carry on the legacy of giving anonymously as Old Saint Nicholas did for years, do so with a humble heart and not for recognition. When you’re children are old enough to understand the faith and history of St. Nick, teach them how to be meek and reverent when serving others as Christ served the church. There is also the option to carry on the tradition of Saint Nicholas and being truthful from the beginning of your child’s lives.

While Saint Nicholas was a great man of noble character and performed many wonderful good deeds, the Christmas season is not about Santa Claus or any other holiday character. It’s about Jesus. However you choose to celebrate, the focus of the season needs to be put on Christ and Christ alone. We can do many things throughout the year and even mimic the lives of other wonderful Christians, but we must always give thanks to Christ and ultimately desire Him to be our one true Guide.

We must also remember to be respectful towards others regardless of how they choose to celebrate Christmas. Let us not judge others for their choices to include or not include the tradition of Saint Nicholas. We are only called to judge others’ sins, and remembering the legacy of Saint Nicholas is not a sin and it’s definitely not worthy of our strife. Make your life a living example of how Christ lived and served and ask God for others to see His light through you.

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Testimony – God Had Bigger Plans for Our Family

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I was raised in a loving home with parents who cared for me and provided for me. It was not, however, what I would call a “Christian” environment. My parents both professed to be believers, but we rarely went to church.  If I did go it was either for Easter or Christmas or after spending the night with my grandparents.  We didn’t read the Bible or pray together and I was not taught biblical truth. Around age 10, my grandma sent me to pre-teen camp with her church and that is where I was “SAVED”. After camp I tried to get my family to go to church; we tried a few different churches but didn’t really connect anywhere.

For the next few years I became quite confused. I spent a few weeks every summer with a family member who belonged to a Unitarian Church which basically teaches that whatever you choose to believe in is okay.  The church openly studies all different religions believing none are right or wrong, just different. Not being told any differently, I began to agree with them.  Although I knew who Christ was and had accepted Him as my Savior, I also had the opinion that my life was MINE and I was capable of making my own decisions, without any consequences.

I began to spend a lot of time with my best friend at her house along with her older brother and his friends where there was NO parental supervision.  As a teenager, I was very interested in boys and with the lack of supervision this was not a good combination.  I began to find ways to get the boys to notice me.  And they did. I wore clothes that were too tight, too short, and way to revealing.  And they noticed. I began making out with boys much older than me hoping for love and acceptance. Not to say my parents weren’t around or didn’t care because they did, I just got to be really great at lying and sneaking around and they had no idea what I was doing.  This behavior eventually led to me deciding I was “grown” and, at the extremely misguided age of 13, I had sex for the first time. I had convinced myself that I could make my own decisions and lead my own life without the need for any adult’s guidance.  The guy that I thought cared for and LOVED me really didn’t.

When I was 14 my family moved to Greenville, TX but I continued down the path of bad choices and bad boys who were much too old for me.  I tried dating a guy my age and he was a really nice guy; he was a gentleman, treated me respectfully, and didn’t push me physically.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do with that!  I still was not going to church, not growing spiritually, and was living like a lost soul.

This is when God intervened. When I was 15, I met the guy I would eventually marry. His dad was a preacher and one of the conditions of dating him was going to his dad’s church.  Only one problem… it was all in Spanish!! I didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t know what they were talking about, and stayed confused most of the time. But I loved that guy!  Although not many changes were being made in my life, I began to learn Spanish and pay closer attention in church.

We were married when I was just 17 years old and had our first baby when I was 20. While we were still attending church with my in-laws, if we went at all, I just wasn’t being filled.  After I had my second child at the age of 22, we began the search for a new church. Once again God stepped in!  We found a church and got connected instantly; which is where we still worship today.  I began to crave more knowledge and wanted to know more about the Bible and live my life for God, not just for myself.  We had two more children when I was 25 and 28.  All four of our children were girls. Life was good. Although I had worked full-time on and off and part-time here and there, I was able to stay home majority of the time with my girls.

I was truly happy with our family but knew something was missing.  I longed for a son and repeatedly prayed for one and pleaded with God that if that was not part of His plan for my life to take that desire from me.  Just three days after giving birth to our fourth beautiful baby girl, I became ill. I spent some time in the hospital with strep and went home not knowing that the illness had caused a blood clot to form somewhere in my body.  Two months later I returned to the hospital with a pulmonary embolism and was told that if it was meant to kill me, it would have done so already.  Quite a sobering thought but God had bigger plans for my life and our family.  A loving husband, three gorgeous little girls, a two-month old precious baby, two great parents, and an amazing group of friends were all there to love on me and take care of me. What more could I have asked for? God had richly blessed me! So why did I still have a need for more? Why was I still longing for a baby boy?  I had been told by my physician that I could not have any more children.  This was something my husband and I had already decided on our own since we had four girls (that’s expensive) but being told you cannot have any more children and having someone else make that choice for you are two VERY different things.  But life went on.

In the fall of 2008, we got a strange call.  My mom had called to give us the latest saga about a family member of ours.  His two children had been removed from his care by CPS. This was actually good news for the children since he really had no business raising these kids.  We had been praying for a good home for them and a stable family to come into their lives for quite some time.  My mom proceeded to tell us of how CPS was looking for a family member to place the boys with and they had asked my parents to be that family member for them.  My parents were in their late 50s at this point with 9 grandchildren.  Needless to say, they declined.

As my husband and I were discussing the situation and how outrageous it was for them to ask my parents, my husband tells me that God was telling him that WE are supposed to be the family for those two young boys.  Now wait a minute! I love my girls but there were times I couldn’t wait to get all of them out of the house for a few hours a day! I had the older ones in school and I just had the little one at home with me during the day and had been devising a plan to get her into Mother’s Day out program. I must say though, we had also always been open to the idea of adoption and after 4 girls we teased that it was the only way we would get our boy, but this seemed so sudden and we weren’t quite prepared yet.  We agreed to pray about it, made some calls and asked some questions, but made no commitments.

One October evening I received a phone call from a social worker and was told what the process would look like and got some general information.  By this time, our prayers had changed from “Are you sure, God?” to “If this is what you want, then we trust you will make this happen”. The very next day, we received another phone call from the same social worker, that there was an infant sibling, also in state care, and asking, “Are you willing to consider placement for him as well?” STOP IT! THREE KIDS! THREE MORE KIDS? We already have four children! I mean really, who has seven kids? Nobody! [Insert more prayer here.] We just continued our prayer of, “Ok God, this is ALL you.” We decided that they were all brothers and needed to stay together. How could we one day face the two boys when they are older and say “We knew you had a brother, but that would have been too much of an inconvenience for us, so we decided to say no thanks”? We simply couldn’t do it.

We had many talks with our girls and wanted this to be a family decision. We wanted them aware of the coming changes in our lives and not to feel this was being forced on them. We began to make the necessary arrangements and to have weekly visitations at CPS with the boys. The visits were intended to be for the parents, but they hardly ever showed. We didn’t want to cause any more undue trauma for these little guys and wanted them to at least be familiar with us before they came to live with yet another family. Our two oldest boys were placed with us at ages 21 & 31 months old in February of 2009. Our youngest daughter was 18 months old at the time and had been to most of the visits with us.

There was ALOT of adjusting for everyone and a move to a bigger house; it was quite stressful, exhausting, and emotional to say the least. The Mother’s Day Out program our daughter had attended a few years earlier, wonderfully “scholarshiped” us for about 4-5 months for my sanity. Then summer activities began in addition to parent visitations with their biological parents and fighting for our youngest to be placed with us as well.  He was eventually placed in our care in October 2009 at the age of 11 months.

Although I always felt led to homeschool, even before our oldest daughter started school, the timing had just never seemed right. Our three oldest girls were in public school and our oldest boy had just begun Head Start.  He was not adjusting very well to all these transitions including school and the addition of our youngest boy.  After another move, more home studies, and more waiting, our adoption was FINALLY complete in July 2010. After a CRAZY fall semester of five kids at two different schools, two at Mother’s Day Out, a child with a broken femur, and me feeling pulled in multiple directions, God was telling us it was time to homeschool.  We pulled them out of school in January of 2011 and started our bumpy and blessed road to homeschooling. Our oldest two children were NOT happy at the time.  The 6th grader had been in either public or private school since age four and felt we were taking away her life, the 4th grader was mad because we had taken away her friends, and our oldest boy in 1st grade didn’t really seem to care either way. Our oldest child will be in high school this next school year (September 2013) and when given the choice, she chose to continue homeschooling.  In fact they all did!

It is an adventure everyday to say the least and most days are completely nuts but we won’t ever go back to public school voluntarily. I’ll admit there are days I dream about how much I could accomplish with everyone gone for 8 hours a day, but what we’re building in them every day is so much more important than homework and completed projects. I’ve told them that it would be easier for me to put them in school and let someone else teach them, but life isn’t about doing the easy thing.  It’s about doing the right thing, which means obeying God. This is what God has called us to do during this season of our lives and this is what we are going to do. I love our time together and for our large family it works perfectly. We set our own schedule and are able to keep it extremely flexible. While we didn’t have problems with the school system or any of their teachers or schools, we didn’t do well with an ISD telling us when to be where at what time and am so happy we don’t have to deal with all the new rules due to current events or any standardized testing. When I hear other parents complain about school related issues, I feel complete contentment in my heart and hear God reassuring me we are doing what He has planned for us.

About 7 years ago I got involved in a Women’s Bible study, and about 2 and a half years ago God put it on my heart to get involved with the youth.  God has been telling me to use my past mistakes and experiences to mentor young girls and help them from making the same mistakes I made as a youth. Seeing as I now have seven souls in my care, I am very passionate about teaching them God’s plan for sex and marriage.  I want them to know what I didn’t know then.  God gives us guidelines to follow in all areas of our lives for our benefit.  He knows what He is talking about. Sex is a BIG deal, it DOES matter, and it does change things!  Sex is not something you can undo.  Even though God offers forgiveness and grace, there are consequences for our sinful choices, and some can be life-long costs. I’m now trying to help young ladies to see the lies the devil is telling them and to know that the attention they receive from dressing “cute” is not the right kind of attention they really want. I truly believe that most girls don’t understand what guys are thinking when they wear certain things. Please hear my heart on this… I know from personal experience, if you don’t wait until you are married to have sex, you WILL regret it.  I don’t want that for anyone!  Sex is meant to be a special gift from God for a husband and a wife. My hope is that we can drown out the constant barrage of lies from our culture and raise-up a generation who treasures purity, a generation who is proud of their virginity and not ashamed of it, and a generation who will follow God’s plan for their lives. My hope is that we can raise a generation of Christians who can change the world for Christ.

I hope my story can help someone on a similar path. May God richly bless you as He has me!

-Lany

It Starts at Home Book Review and Giveaway

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Tools_Books_It_Starts_At_HomeChurches worldwide are seeing a decline in the attendance of children who were raised in the church and have made a decision to walk away from their Christian roots.  Bill Hybels is quoted saying, “If the local church is the hope of the world, then we must take seriously the church’s responsibility to call couples, parents, and grandparents to create God-honoring homes.  Only then will we see the tide turn on declining generational faith transference.”

Authors Kurt Burner and Steve Stroope who both serve as ministers at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, have shifted the focus of the church towards helping parents reclaim their duty and responsibility to raise their children in a Godly home where biblical principles are not only taught but also witnessed through daily application.  Together they have written It Starts at Home: A Practical Guide to Nurturing Lifelong Faith, a book that proves the purpose and lasting success of intentionally raising children, families, and marriages where Christ is at the foundation and center of all homes.  Home is where the family lives and breathes; it makes sense that the home should also be the central location for spiritual development and where growth should continually be occurring in all members of the family.

The book presents strategies and goals for intentional couples, parents, grandparents, as well as church leaders.  It’s imperative to recognize that parents and families should not be waiting or expecting the church to teach their children but that faith formation begins at home.  Included in the book are parent report cards and tips and activities to building strong faithful families.  There is also a 120-day challenge for intentional marriages, parenting, and grandparenting that will inspire you to cultivate the faith of the future generations.

Christian home leaders are challenged to restore their homes and step into their God-given role to strengthen their family and become the central point for Christian growth.  It Starts at Home is a must-have for all family libraries.  It’s not a quick one-time read but a lifelong program about being intentional and strengthening the home.  The book is scripturally sound and full of biblical truths and at-home applications and strategies that families can easily apply to their everyday lives.

The Judgmental Christian was blessed with the opportunity to give away one copy of It Starts at Home.  What a blessing to be able to share this inspirational book to one of our faithful readers!  Thank you Lake Pointe Church for this unique opportunity!

Click HERE to learn how you can enter for multiple chances to win a free copy of this book.

This book can be purchased online at the Lake Pointe bookstore.  There is also a coupon online for 20% off any book or Bible.  It Starts at Home was donated to The Judgmental Christian and I was not compensated for my Review or Giveaway. 

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk
along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands
and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Dating and Sexual Purity

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LoveSexual purity seems like such a foreign concept in our current society but really the issue of sex, purity, and even dating needs to be talked about more often and even to every generation.  Sex has become so casual that we now see it boldly displayed on TV, in movies, plastered on billboards, in our hands on mobile devices, and even carelessly mentioned in songs that we sing.  The temptation to have sex before marriage is becoming more and more prevalent as images constantly infiltrate the minds of us all.  It’s past time we get back to the fundamentals of our biblical standards for sex and relationships.

Here is what the Bible says about purity:

1 Corinthians 6:18 – Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Hebrews 13:4 – Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Matthew 5:28 – But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Colossians 3:5 – Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Proverbs 6:32 – He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.

And these verses are just to name a few!  The Bible is very firm on the commandment to remain pure and abstain from sexual immorality and lust.  Not in ANY verse in the Holy Bible will you find a divergence that allows for sex outside of marriage, for an approved opportunity to lust, or for the exception to adultery.  Purity is a commandment from God and we must adhere to the standards God has placed in our lives so that we may live righteously and pleasing in the eyes of God.  It’s the path best made for us, why would we not want this for ourselves?

Sex before marriage HAS and CAN ruin lives.  So how do we steer clear of the temptation and desires that society is persistently throwing in our face?  The best way to stay pure is to keep our hearts wholesome and avoid situations that make us think about taking that next step in a relationship.

For our family, this starts at dating.  We’ve remained very clear on our stance of dating in our home – if you aren’t looking for a lifetime spouse, then you should not be dating.  Simple solution!  The sole purpose of dating is to find a spouse and when you enter into a relationship, there our physical and emotional boundaries that will need to be set beforehand to guard to your heart.  If you always remain in a cluster of friends, these boundaries are never a factor to be considered.  Relationships are about commitments and our youth should not be making any sort of commitment to anyone, other than to God.  And even as adults, our first commitment is still to God, then our spouse.  Our hearts need to be mindful on living a Christ-like life and pleasing to our Father.  Matthew 5:8 reads, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  We must trust God with ALL of our lives and ALL our hearts and when He sees fit that you are ready for marriage, He will show you the perfect helpmate.  Really, dating is not ever necessary if we fully rely on God and have faith that He will bring the perfect person before you.

We must want purity and clean hearts for our children.  We must talk about it, teach it, and live these same standards for the younger generations to see.  We teach our children to not put themselves in any situation where they will have to decide which path to take.  We teach our children that they were created in the image of God, that they are enough, and that they do not need to seek the approval of anyone other than Jesus Christ.  We teach our children that satan is real and he will use every opportunity to hinder their walk with Christ and want nothing more than to lead them down an ugly path and away from Jesus.  We teach them to rely on Christ daily and in all circumstances.

Passion and sex is a beautiful thing, no question about it.  It is a gift from God… but to be used with our spouse.  This does not just imply sex, but emotional attachments as well.  Any attachment made to a person outside of marriage, changes your life and satan will use these past experiences to haunt you and tempt you as an adult.  He has used this tactic for centuries and you will not be exempt from his schemes.  He isn’t creative!  He simply twists God’s truths and we continue to cling to those lies with excuses – God wants us to love others; God created sex; What if this person I’m dating is the right one; But we’ve setup boundaries; etc. If you have to “guess” if someone may be the one, then they aren’t.  Have faith in Him.  Trust God with your life and follow His prompting to remain pure in heart, mind, and body.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  When you are tempted, stop and listen to the direction God wants for you.  Your body is a temple for God, treat it with respect and pleasing in the eyes of our Father.

For those who have already made this decision, you need to accept God’s grace and redemption for your life.  We all fail; we all attempt to walk a path that we think is best for us.  Christ came for us and died on the cross for our sins.  He shed His blood for all sin.  God knows we can’t walk this life alone and sometimes He allows us to make our own negative choices so that we can fall and come to see our need for Him.  While He doesn’t want us to fail or see us hurt, He allows us free will so that we can recognize our need for a Savior.  You can tell your testimony and be a light to those who are struggling.

Psalm 119:133 – Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

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2. Value Life
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4. Christians and Modesty
5. Honor Your Parents

Furious Love Review and Giveaway

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Furious-Love-Home-Page-Design

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked
with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. -Mark 16:20

While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts
of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. -Hebrews 2:4

So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness
to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. -Acts 14:3

The amazingly raw and incredible films, Finger of God and Furious Love, both created by Wanderlust Productions, set out to reveal modern day miracles through God’s mighty power.  But more than just miraculous events happen; God’s heart for His people is exposed as well as the war between good and evil.  The films prove the hand of God in everyday action and the amazing love He has for each of His children.

The Furious Love Event Collection is a documentary response to these two films with the sole purpose to inspire churches worldwide to spread the Gospel through the amazing wonders and love of God.  The speakers from the hit films came together in April 2011 with the intent to inspire and charge the church to “love radically, love excessively, and, above all, go and be the hands of God.”

The inspirational speakers include:
Heidi Baker
Rolland Baker
Shampa (Shanti) Rice
Robby Dawkins
Philip Mantofa
Angela Greenig
Mattheus van der Steen
Greg Boyd
Will Hart

Who doesn’t want to be inspired by God?  And who doesn’t want to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ?  Within just minutes of hearing their testimonies, you too will be completely inspired to set out within your own community and travel throughout the world to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  Your heart will be forever changed and empowered to prove God’s love for all of humanity time and time again.  Your mind will be transformed as you take a deeper look into the realms of good and evil.  Your mission for Christ will become so stimulated that you will ache to spread the word of God immediately!

You can order each individual event separately or you can order the complete 11 box set online for just $114.89.  Other products from Wanderlust Productions include the original films Finger of God, Furious Love, and the most recent Father of Lights.  Additional products include books, music, and video downloads.

The good news….

The Judgmental Christian has been blessed with the opportunity to offer this COMPLETE 11 box Furious Love Event Collection to one of our readers for FREE.  What a blessing to be able to share these inspirational and spiritual films to one of our readers!  Thank you Wanderlust Productions for this unique occasion.

To enter the giveaway, click HERE to learn how you can enter for a chance to have this box set.

Thou Shalt Not Steal

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stealAnything taken by you that does not belong to you is a firm definition of stealing.  If it belongs to someone else and you take it (accidentally, purposely, or with good intentions), it is stealing.  God knew this would be a problem in all of society and spoke this as one of the 10 Commandments.  In Exodus 20:15, the Bible reads, “Thou shalt not steal.”  Plain and simple!  He doesn’t even give us exceptions to stealing.  If it isn’t yours, you should not EVER take it.

We acquire things through WORK:

Ephesians 4:28 – He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 – For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

Proverbs 14:23 – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.

1 Timothy 5:8 – If anyone who does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

We are commanded to work.  The Bible is clear that if you are physically able to work, you must work.  It is NOT acceptable to sit back and do nothing and expect things to be given to you.  Nobody owes you anything!  If you are freeloading at home while your parents are working, you need to move out and get a job.  If you are floating around from one place to the next mooching off of others, you need to get a job.  If you are the person who is allowing your child to sleep all day and do nothing, you are enabling them and creating an environment for them to sin; they are stealing from you, and worse, they are stealing from the person who could really use your help.  We are commanded to work so that we can not only provide for ourselves but also provide for others who are truly in need.  It is not okay for you to freely acquire things from someone else’s earned resources.

We acquire things through PRAYER:

Matthew 21:22 – If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

James 4:3 – When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

There are things we acquire by working, but there are things God withholds from us that we cannot acquire by working.  The only method we can acquire these things is through prayer.  God knows what we need before we ask Him but asking God for these things draws us closer to Him.  Blessings are available to each person and family and some are only available if we ask.  God will definitely send blessings down on us when we least expect it.  But what Father doesn’t want to give His children extra blessings when we go to Him in prayer?  We do need to be mindful about our prayers though.  God will not drop money in our laps when we intend to gamble, quit our job, or waste it away at nothing.  However, God would LOVE to send you blessings that you will turn around and use in His name.  Blessings given by God to be used for His glory are the most desirable and promising blessings available.

We acquire things through GIVING:

Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

The Lord wants us to give to His kingdom.  He wants us to use our blessings to give to others.  This isn’t just about our finances, but includes our time and energy as well.  If we give a little, we receive a little.  If we give much, we will receive much.  This doesn’t mean that the person who makes more money and gives more will receive more.  It is proportional giving and giving from the heart.  Are we giving of our ‘first  fruits’ as we are called to do?  Are we giving all that we can?  Are we giving until it hurts a little and ultimately makes us lean more on God?   Take a look at you bank statement and your calendar – they tell a story and say a whole lot about our giving.

As humans, we’ve come up with some fairly creative ways to steal.  Sometimes we completely seize items that do not belong to us; we take what we want, when we want it, and completely ignore the owner’s emotions attached to the item.  Sometimes we use deception to steal.  We deceive people into taking what rightfully belongs to them or we deceive ourselves and convince ourselves that because we have given of our time and efforts, we deserve something when it truly doesn’t belong to us.  And then there are times we simply withhold information or items to make ourselves look better or to avoid trouble.

-Have you ever stolen a car or someone else’s bicycle?

-Have you ever stolen a piece of candy or forgotten to pay for your drink at the store?

-Have you ever eaten a banana or grapes at the grocery store before purchasing them?

-Have you spent time on Facebook while on the clock at work? Or reading the most current sports reports when your time should be spent doing the work you are paid to do?

-Have you withheld information on paperwork so that the end result benefits you most?

We steal because we simply don’t trust God to provide everything.  But hasn’t he always provided everything we’ve needed?  So why do we continue to withhold our giving to God and others?  We like to think we are in control of ourselves, our circumstance, our surroundings, our futures, etc.  This may be a little news flash… we are not in control – but God is!

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

We’ve all taken something that does not belong to us at one time or another in our lives.  And today, we must open our eyes to our deceitful nature and begin to use our time and resources more effectively for His glory and His kingdom.  If we look ahead with heaven in view rather than the world in view we may find it is a little easier to give and give according to how God has called each of us to give.

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You might also like:
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3. No Other Gods
4. Homosexuality and the Bible
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Why Go to Church?

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6a0133f0b2fdc2970b0177440bf370970dThere seems to be a growing number of people who proclaim to be a Christian but seldom, if ever, attend church.  Church has always been a necessary component of the Christian faith, so why have we allowed satan to convince us that church is not important and can be pushed back another week, another month or even to the next holiday?  Why have we lost sight of the focus of church and the importance of a community of believers?  Let me clarify before we go any further… Church is not the building we gather in rather it is the Community of Believers that gather on a consistent basis.

The Bible commands believers to commune and gather together.  Hebrews 10:24-27 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left”.  We are warned that if we do not follow this commandment, the charge to attend church with our fellow believers, that we are sinning.  This is not a judgment of believers but a fact based on scripture.

Going to church is our outward visible appearance that we love and worship God.  Jesus says in Matthews 10:32-33, “’Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.’”  It is a public gathering of people who confess they are sinners and need the redemption of Jesus Christ.  Church is not about receiving blessings but returning our blessings, giving thanks, and praising our God.  Attending church is the least we can do for our God who gave His ONLY Son to die on the cross for our sins!

A time of fellowship with other believers is extremely important to Christ followers.  The Bible tells us in Matthew 18:20 that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  It is true that God is always with us, even outside of the church walls, but He tells us there is special time of the Lord’s presence when communities of believers come together in His name.  And who doesn’t want to experience this extraordinary visitation from the Lord?  We are also called to hold our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable for their transgressions (Matthew 15).  The same must be true for us; we need to also be held accountable for our wrongdoings.  We must live life with our church members and learn to love, forgive, and cleanse each other from sin.  Your church will be the people there when times get tough and they will be the hands and feet of Christ when satan attacks you and your family.  Likewise, you will be given opportunities to bless those inside the church and build them up as believers, serving each other as Christ has called us to do.  John 16:33 reminds us that this life will not always be easy but we will find peace in our Savior who has overcome the world.  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  It is when we are gathered with and surrounded by other believers that we are challenged and strengthened to be the best that God has called us to be.

Attending church regularly also builds your spiritual strength and knowledge.  Every day we will fight the enemy and stand firm in our faith.  Sermons, lessons, music, praise and worship, offerings, and a community of believers is your weapon against the enemy.  Ephesians 6 tells us about the armor of God – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  We must always be ready for battle, to fight the good fight.  If we slack in our time with God and other believers, we won’t be fully prepared to do His work.

We must also remember the commandment in Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”  While the Sabbath is often recognized to be Sundays, we are free from the bondage of this old law.  Your Sabbath may not be on a Sunday, but you do need to acknowledge God’s standard and set aside a specific day for your Sabbath.  There is no wrong time to attend church and remember our God.  But there is a consequence for NOT keeping this commandment.  We are called and expected to remember the Lord’s Day in worship and prayer.

Yes, Christians should go to church.  We have nothing to lose and yet everything to gain!

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Homosexuality Q&A

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What-The-Bible-Says-About-Homosexuality-300x2251. What about when people say they “are born this way”?

The Bible is very clear about this issue.  In Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  God is perfect in all ways and He made us in His OWN image!  We are born of perfection; sin is what makes us unclean and imperfect.

2. Times are changing, surely God would be okay with everybody just being happy and getting along versus fighting over the way some people choose to live?

What God wants is for His children to live in obedience to His word and live with a purposeful heart to spread the good news of the gospel.  God gave us commandments and principles to make our lives better and He promised us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  God knows the human heart, after all He created us!  He knows we fall subject to sin but He also provides a way out of sin.  We too often choose to go our own way in life thinking it is easier.  But God tells us in Proverbs 3:6, “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  God wants obedience, He wants us to long for and rely on Him, He wants us to have faith in His ways, and He wants you and me to have victory in Christ.

3. Why should we care how other people live their lives if they aren’t hurting anyone?

Everyday Christians should be on a mission for Christ.  We should be seeking and saving those who are lost.  Acts 22:15 says, “You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.” Someone at one time took the time to reach you, to preach to you the good news of Jesus Christ.  We should also be doing the same for others.   We are also called to rebuke fellow believers when they are sinning.  James 5:20 reminds us to, “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  As Christians, we need to know when we are sinning so that we can repent and turn from our evil ways.  Sometimes we don’t recognize when we are sinning and even when we do we need to be held accountable to our fellow believers.

4. But what if you have feelings for the same sex?

We are all sinners just as it says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  However, as Christians we must recognize our sins and change our mindset to praise God.  While we are born of perfection, we are subject to sinful thoughts and actions.  This sin is no different than an alcoholic struggling to not drink, a mother struggling to keep her voice down, a father fighting the urge to work late, or any person fighting any sin that keeps him away from giving God glory.  We need to recognize our sinful thoughts and ask God to change them.

5. Can a person repent of their homosexual activities and inherit the kingdom of God?

Absolutely!  We are all sinners and are all in need of the redemption and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 10:9-11 reminds us, “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. For with your heart you believe and are put right with God, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’”  To be truly repent means to turn your back on sin completely.  You must believe in ALL the Bible and praise God in all circumstances.

6. Is it possible to be a Christian and be gay?

This is a question that is best left between each individual person and God.  I believe that as a Christian we should turn our back on ALL sin.  We cannot justify our sins to please our desires of the flesh.  As a Christian, we should strive to be like Christ in all that we do, in every way, and every day.  To knowingly sin and continue to sin, is not a true repentant heart aiming to serve God in every way.

You might also like to read Homosexuality and The Bible.