Monday, December 31, 2007
Some key points from this devotional are:
~ Identify areas of ministry that need workers and find ways your family could be involved.
~ Are there areas of ministry or outreach that need to be started?
~ Can your family offer time, talents, materials or money to help start a needed area of God's work?
God has shown us that 2008 will bring about change in how our family serve Him! It is quite an exciting, yet humbling feeling both at the same time. One thing is for sure --- we are eagerly anticipating to see what God has in store for us!
"But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus — the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God."
---Acts 20:24 NLT
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Sunday night we got together with a group that consisted of family and friends. This group started with five young girls almost twenty years ago consisting of myself, my two sisters and two dear friends of ours who are also sisters. The five of us did almost everything together and really consider each other as sisters!!! At last count, including our hubbies, children and other family members, we have grown to twenty-six people plus one baby coming in April! Our get-togethers have now become events in and of themselves. One special tradition we started doing at Christmas is to have the children pack care packages for the homeless.
Monday night, Christmas Eve, we had hubby's family over to our home. We had a great time together --- we even got to meet some relatives for the first time! Of course, the highlight of the evening for the children was getting to play with their brand-new Nintendo Wii with their cousins all night!
Christmas morning, we were able to have a quiet morning --- just the four of us, before heading out to my sister's home in Missisauga for lunch. Before opening presents, we read the Christmas story together as a family, from Luke Chapter 2, and we prayed together. After which, we shared with each other our birthday presents for Jesus. My daughter's birthday gift for Jesus brought tears to my eyes --- she will obey God in whatever and wherever He chooses to lead us in 2008! --- said with so much maturity and conviction. Words could not express the joy that filled my heart upon hearing those words come out of her. Over the past few months, we have increasingly sensed God telling us that change is coming in 2008 in terms of how we serve Him as a family. We are eagerly anticipating what He has in store for us as He slowly shows us snippets of His plan. To hear my daughter being so open and excited about this upcoming change is really heartwarming and overwhelming for me at the same time!
Christmas Day celebrations continued with lunch at my sister's home where the little people continued to open more and more presents and the big people continued to eat more and more food. Seriously though, at this point, having been feasting for the past three days, hubby and I could hardly eat anymore! My sister's prime rib roast was irresistible though. Yummy! Upon coming home mid-afternoon, we realized that there was one more Christmas get-together to attend. This one was a spontaneous one --- hubby's cousin who is visiting from New Jersey wanted to get the families together for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. So off we went --- Christmas Day culminated with a sumptuous and delicious authentic Chinese meal!
We are now relishing a break with a quiet week just hanging out at home. Nothing is planned between now and New Year's Eve. Yay!!!
John 1:16 (NIV) --- From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
On Sunday, December 16th --- my daughter went through the waters of baptism! It was an unforgettable and memorable day, not only because of her baptism, but also because a huge snow storm came through our area blanketing us with more than 25cm of snow all within a 24-hour period. News reports have pegged it as the biggest snow storm in 60 years occurring in the month of December.
In spite of the massive snow storm, family and friends braved the weather and came out to the church to join us in celebrating this milestone in our daughter's life. As mentioned in my previous post, my heart is overflowing with pure joy as I give thanks to God for His work in my daughter's life.
Many people have congratulated us and credited this milestone to good parenting. Although we truly appreciate those congratulatory words, we truly do not feel that we can take credit for this milestone. Both my hubby and I feel that we are merely doing what God expects of us as parents, and that is to faithfully and consistently teach our children about God and His ways, and to model to our children what it means to live each day as a follower of Jesus Christ. It is purely because of God's grace that our daughter has come to a full understanding of God's great love at such a young age. And for that, we give God all the glory and all the praise! Although, I must say, that as a mom, my heart is beaming and I am extremely proud of my daughter for her willingness to walk in obedience to God. I can not ask for anything better!
Here is the text of her testimony:
Hi. I’m ***** ***** and I’m 10 years old. Ever since I can remember, my mom or dad would read my Bible to me nightly. They would also pray with me and explain what we read. When I was 4 years old, I went to my Aunt R’s church when an evangelistic group called “The Rubber Chicken Company” went there. They played games and told Bible stories. They told us about Jesus’ death and resurrection and presented us with the salvation story. At the end of the service, they asked if anyone wanted to pray and ask Jesus to be their forever friend. I went to the front and the leader led those of us who responded in prayer. I repeated a prayer after him asking Jesus to be my forever friend. After that, a counselor talked to me to make sure I understood what it meant for Jesus to live in my heart. I understood that I’m a sinner and that I needed Jesus in my life to help me live for God each day so that one day I could go to heaven and live with God for eternity. Since then I’ve been growing with God. So many people have helped me grow spiritually. My parents have helped me the most. They explain the Bible to me, help me through hard times and encourage me. My small group and large group leaders at Potter’s House teach me each week about how to grow with God.
In the Fall of last year, 2 of our neighbours, Mrs. K and Mrs. J, my mom’s friends got baptized. As I watched their baptisms, I realized I had to get baptized one day. I asked my mom when I could get baptized. At that time, I thought that baptism was just for adults. She told me that baptism is for anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. Then I realized that baptism isn’t just for adults. I can be baptized too. So today I am choosing to be baptized because I want to follow Jesus’ example and I want to show publicly that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Please pray for me as I continue to grow with God and as I share God’s love with my friends, many of whom are not yet Christians.
If anyone here today has never asked Jesus to be their forever friend, I hope what I shared today has touched your heart. Baptism is to show that one is a follower of Jesus Christ, but it can not save you. Salvation comes from acknowledging you are a sinner and asking Jesus to be your personal Lord and Saviour.
In closing, I would like to share some of my favourite Bible verses:
1 Timothy 4:12 --- "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. Set an example for the believers in what you say and in how you live. Also set an example in how you love and in what you believe. Show the believers how to be pure."
Luke 2:10-11 --- "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.' "
John 14:6 --- "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.' "
John 4:13-14 --- "Jesus answered, 'All who drink this water will be thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give him will become a spring of water in him. It will flow up into eternal life.' "
Isaiah 40:31 --- "But those who trust in the Lord will receive new strength. They will fly as high as eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not grow weak."
The video of her baptism is posted in the blog entry previous to this one. It is her heart's desire that her testimony continue to touch people's hearts through this blog.
Philippians 1:6, 9-11 (NIV) --- "...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."
Monday, December 17, 2007
Philippians 1:6,9-11 (NLT) --- "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation --- the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ --- for this will bring much glory and praise to God."
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The greatest challenge for me as a mom during this very busy and festive season is to make sure my family is focused on why we celebrate Christmas --- to steer my children's attention away from the hustle and bustle of the season and towards the Baby in the manger!
My daughter is getting baptized this coming Sunday (this will surely have its own blog entry after the weekend, I can't wait!) and one of her favourite verses from the Bible which she has included in her testimony is from Luke 2:10-11. When I asked her why this is one of her all-time favourites, she said because without Christmas, there would be no Easter! So true --- that is precisely why Christmas is so significant!
As a family, we have a Christmas morning tradition. Before we open presents, we gather together in our living room and we read the Christmas story from the Bible and then we pray. After that, each family member gives Jesus a birthday present. This present comes in the form of words, where we each share with one another our desire of what we would like to do for Jesus in the coming year. It surely is a Christmas morning tradition that we intend to practice for as long as we possibly can!
"But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."
---Luke 2:10-11 NIV
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
God has been speaking to my hubby and me quite powerfully in the past few months. We are beyond excited, but at the same time greatly humbled, at what God has been showing us in recent days. It is always amazing to see God at work, as everything just seems to fall into place quite miraculously. But it is even more amazing to know that it is His desire for us to join Him in what He is doing in the here and now!
"I know when the Lord is speaking to me because literally the air around me changes. There is a stillness that settles all my raging emotions and questions and simply bids me to be silent, listen, and consider what I hear. And then it's almost as if it comes from the center of my being --- the answer, the revelation, the instruction and it is sealed in this definite place inside of me that I can't describe. I only know that I must do what I've been prompted to do. If I resist I can't breathe, but when I say yes and obey, the most incredible sense of knowing and peace overtakes me and the matter is settled once and for all."
---Michelle McKinney Hammond, as printed in Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer, page 104
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."
---Hebrews 11:6 NIV
Monday, December 3, 2007
I am a firm believer that a young child is indeed capable of making such a huge decision and fully understanding it. Both my children were also just a bit over four years of age when they accepted Jesus into their hearts. Each of their experience and process was different, but each decision was for eternity just the same. My daughter made her decision publicly at a children's evangelistic outreach event at my sister's church. She went forward during the altar call and never once looked back. As for my son, he first made his decision in the privacy of his own bedroom, just him and me, then he needed a few re-assurances over the next year or so before he was fully confident of his decision. At which time, he prayed the prayer a second time, also privately (in my home office), just him and me.
Making a decision for Christ is indeed the most important decision that parents can help their children to arrive at. It is quite amazing to experience God's grace at work even in the youngest of children. What an awesome God!
"He said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
---Mark 10:14-15 NIV
Friday, November 30, 2007
I was instantly drawn to this quote as I was doing the homework for Day 4 in Week 5. This quote demonstrates to me the fact that when God asks us to step out in faith and step away from our comfort zone, He is indeed asking us to trust Him fully because He is going to use us to achieve His purposes here on earth --- to advance us from faith to faith. Wow, that is a humbling, yet exciting thought!
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."
---Isaiah 55:9 NIV
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This week, I needed to hear that ---
~ Just like in Moses' life, God's plan is often uncovered while we are in the desert seasons of our lives; not while we are living in the palace.
~ While we are in the desert seasons of our lives, God is actually equipping us for His plan. For example, Moses was being equipped with dedication, direction and destination while he was tending sheep in the desert in order to prepare him to lead God's people out of Egypt.
~ Burning bushes (supernatural markers) point us to God's plan.
~ The purpose of God's plan is to achieve intimate fellowship with us.
~ God's plan will change the course of our lives!
In life, when burning bushes come my way, it is often hard for me to step out in faith into the unknown. But I have learned over the years that if I choose not to obey, God's plan will still come to pass, except I have missed out on the blessing of being a part of it.
So, I will be watching and waiting for those burning bushes. I will strive to obey God and step out in faith when those burning bushes do come my way. Will you?
"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
---Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
So, as you can see, it is already Christmas at our house! We start putting up our Christmas decorations the moment we see November on the calendar. Christmas is our most favourite celebration of the year!
Isaiah 9:6 KJV --- "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
Friday, November 16, 2007
While I am certain that my daughter is secure knowing that I love her, last night I failed to demonstrate that love to her by a simple act of a hug and a kiss. I thought to myself --- I sure am glad that God is not like me! He does not ever forget to demonstrate His love for me, His child, each and every single day.
A loving family, a comfortable home, a friend's listening ear, a peace that transcends understanding, warm sunshine, birds chirping, snow flurries, coffee in the morning, provision of needs --- these are just a few examples of how God has chosen to demonstrate His great love to me lately. Wow, it is utterly awesome to know that the God of the universe whom I love and serve does not and will not ever forget!
Back to my daughter --- she is still at her friend's house and will be home just after lunch today. You can be sure that I will be hugging and kissing her to pieces the moment she steps in the front door!
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ..... Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
---1 John 3:1-3 NIV
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
As of this point in time, I am unable to share details of my 'change'. But I can tell you that this 'change' came totally out of the blue. It felt to me as if God threw me a curve! I was certainly quite comfortable where I was before all this came to be. Now, I am having to discern what God is trying to tell me through this situation. I am still not quite certain where or what He is leading me towards. One thing I do know is that God is up to something!
In my Bible Study 'Discerning the Voice of God' by Priscilla Shirer, I learned that when God wants to tell me something, He is persistent and His message will always be driven home by Scripture! This week, God clearly turned my attention to Isaiah 55:12 --- "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace..." and also to Lamentations 3:24-26 --- "I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."
These two verses together tell me that God is indeed leading me towards change, but at the same time, I am to wait quietly for His leading. Therefore, I will wait. I will anticipate with eagerness and I will hope in Him.
I will end this blog entry with a quote by Kathy Troccoli. This quote sums up my desire --- I hope to be filled with that supernatural peace in the weeks or months ahead when I finally come to the point where I have to make a decision according to what the Holy Spirit will have instructed me to do.
"I know God is speaking to me when, in spite of my initial struggle, an undeniable release and peace follows when I have obeyed His voice. When I finally do the thing He has been nudging me to do, whether it's letting something or someone go, or taking a step toward the unknown, there is a deep calm in my soul. Where my heart and mind were once filled with terrible angst, I am now filled with a supernatural peace."
---Kathy Troccoli, as printed in 'Discerning the Voice of God' Week 4, Day 3, page 73
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
---Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Before we had children, hubby and I packed two shoeboxes each year --- one from each of us. After our daughter was born, we did three. When our son was born, we filled four that year. But as the children grew and as we started to teach them about being selfless, God started to tug at my own heart. I began to see that there is indeed a real need to impact the lives of children in these impoverished countries for God. What better way to do this than at Christmas time with Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. And what better way to teach my own children a lesson in selflessness than to get them involved in this endeavour.
We started with a little chat involving the kids. We brainstormed ideas on how we can 'collect' as many items as possible throughout the year for the shoeboxes without breaking our budget too much. The goal is to fill as many shoeboxes as we can, not just our usual four! The kids came up with ideas such as giving up items they get in party lootbags, giving up toys they get in kids' meals or items they get as presents, making arts and crafts things throughout the year, and, buying stuff when we see them on sale.
We now have a 'shoebox bin' we keep in a closet where we accumulate items all year round. It all culminates around this time each year when we, as a family, go to the store to buy the essentials such as toothbrushes, socks, soaps and etc. and we come home to pack as many shoeboxes as our collected items allow.
For example, this year we were able to pack 20 shoeboxes. One particularly good year, we were able to pack 40! But really the important thing is not how many shoeboxes we end up with, but the heart in which the items came to be accumulated. You see, it wasn't all that easy for the children at first. When we first started this endeavour, more times than not there was reluctance when they were confronted with the choice of whether to keep an item for themselves or to put it in our 'shoebox bin'. This year, I am very proud to say that I did not witness an ounce of reluctance in either child at all. I think they have finally grasp the concept of being selfless --- pertaining to packing shoeboxes, that is!
Becoming selfless is indeed a lifelong lesson. We still have quite far to go! It surely isn't something that is achieved overnight although I would like to think that we are making some progress here, one day at a time! So, as another Shoebox Sunday comes tomorrow, our family start a whole new year of filling our 'shoebox bin' with items for next year's shoeboxes! :-)
"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' "
---Matthew 22:37-39 NIV
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
---Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
But God knows my heart --- more than I do so myself. On Monday morning, while I was still reeling from the news we heard at church the previous day, He answered a specific prayer of mine (with lightning speed too, I must say!). The answer came in such a way that I knew for sure it could only be Him! It was His way of letting me know that He cares, that I can trust His heart, even in the smallest details of my everyday life!
God also knows my tendency to gravitate towards music because He often ministers to me through the words of worship songs. Last week, I heard the song 'Trust His Heart' by Babbie Mason as I listened to my worship CD while I worked. I quickly emailed the words of this song to a friend as I thought it was perfect for what she's currently going through. Little did I know that those same words would minister to me just a few days after! Here they are:
All things work for our good
Though sometimes we can't see how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what's best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim and you just don't see Him
Remember you're never alone
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand, when you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand trust His heart
He sees the master plan
And He holds the future in His hand
Don't live as those who have no hope
While our hope is found in Him
We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry, He's weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him
He alone is faithful and true
He alone knows what is best for you
It is reassuring to know that I can trust His heart!
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
---Romans 8:28 NIV
Sunday, November 4, 2007
While I am still numb from the news, I know that some difficult days lie ahead for our church as we search for a new senior pastor. At the same time, I also know that my God is sovereign and He is fully in control. I might not be able to see His master plan, but I know that He holds tomorrow in His hands. That is reassuring!
While digesting this news today, the worship song 'I Will Worship You' kept coming to mind. Here are the words:
My God is faithful, my God is truthful, my God is boundless in all He is.
My God is wisdom, my God is righteous, my God is vision for all who seek.
So I will worship You in the beauty of holiness.
And I will worship You for the things You've done in me.
And when my life's complete I place my crown at Your feet.
And I will worship You on bended knee!
My God is power, my God is glory, my God is ruler over all that is.
My God is timeless, my God is justice, my God is mercy to the oppressed.
His name is love, His force is thunder.
His heart is tender, His hand is strong.
In a situation like today's, it is very reassuring to be reminded that my God is all that and more!
"It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes."
---Psalm 118:8-9 NIV
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Rewind to last night at around bedtime --- 8:30pm. Luke Skywalker so nicely informed me that it would be really cool if his costume came with a black hooded cape as that's how Luke Skywalker dressed like in Star Wars Episode VI. Hmmmm...I had a moment of thought right then and there. Do I want to give up my relaxing evening (for once, I was caught up with work) or do I want to spend all night sewing a black hooded cape?!? The answer came very easily. Of course, I would love to complete my son's Halloween costume for him! The look on his face as he laid down to sleep, knowing I was going to work on his cape, was just priceless. I wish I took a photo of that face --- it was a look that said: "I feel significant!".
I quickly sent hubby to Wal-Mart to purchase 2 metres of black fabric. He came home and I sat down and started to sew. Two hours later, the black hooded cape was a reality. Yay! Seriously though, I commented to hubby that it takes soooo little to make a child feel significant. It's just a matter of choice for us parents whether to put in that extra little effort or not.
To be quite honest, I don't know if my answer would have been the same if something I read just yesterday afternoon wasn't still so fresh on my mind. I am currently reading another one of Tim Kimmel's books, Raising Kids Who Turn Out Right. This is what I read:
"A legacy of love requires a commitment of time, a willingness to work unrewarded, and a readiness to sacrifice personal agendas for the ultimate good of people who may not always acknowledge our efforts.
The natural resources of the world are napping in a crib down the hall and hanging off the top bar of the swing set in the backyard. They're in the kitchen leaving the lid off of the peanut butter jar and in the back bedroom playing the stereo too loudly. If you're a parent, you're in the process of mining and refining. Sure, you've got your own needs for security, significance, and strength, but you must be careful not to meet yours at the expense of theirs."I am very thankful for these words of wisdom. If it wasn't for them, I would have surely thought that I'd deserved a night of watching TV and sipping tea after a hectic day. Surely, my son would be more-than-OK with a pair of black pants, a black turtleneck and a light-saber as his costume. He doesn't really need a black hooded cape as well, does he?
I am very thankful for these words of wisdom. Because of them, I was able to see the significance in taking the time to make this cape for my son. When he woke up this morning and saw the cape hanging on the hook in his bedroom, he quickly tried it on and came into my bedroom to model it for me. The look on his face was even more priceless than the night before! I tell you --- it truly made my day! :-)
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." - Colossians 3:17 NIV
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
We have always let our children participate in Halloween activities ever since they started preschool. We dress up in costumes, bring treats to school, go trick-or-treating on our street, and also go to our church's 'alternative' event. We even decorate our front porch with friendly Halloween/Fall decorations!
We understand the whole argument of the 'evil' or pagan origin of Halloween, but really, what happens at school and on our street, is hardly any of that. It is really just a day for children to dress up, get some treats and have fun. We’ve explained to our children the origins of Halloween and why that is bad, and we’ve stressed the importance of dressing up in 'fun' and 'happy' costumes because we want to stand out --- like a light in a dark world, as Jesus would have us do. This year, my daughter wants to hand out gospel notes along with treats to the children who come to our door. Some years, I have even made the kids’ costumes myself because we couldn't find anything good enough that they will stand out in. This year, my daughter will be a hula dancer (with full clothing underneath the hula skirt, of course!) and my son will be Luke Skywalker (the Star Wars Jedi from the light side).
Tim Kimmel's book Grace-Based Parenting starts up with 'Why Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short' in chapter one and I think it sums up our position on Halloween quite accurately. I was really glad to read this in his book. It gave me the reassurance that we are doing the right thing for our family. Let me quote him:
"Let me use some broad brushstrokes to categorize a few of the typical parenting methods I see in the Christian community - methods that have led us astray. The first one on my list is the most pervasive model that I see: Fear-Based Parenting. We're scared of Hollywood, the Internet, the public school system, Halloween, the gay community, drugs, alcohol, rock 'n' roll, rap, partying neighbours, unbelieving softball teams, liberals, and Santa Claus.
Our fears determine our strategy for parenting. I see it everywhere I go. I hear it echo in the back of a parent's concerns. The moms or dads begin their statement or question to me with the words "I'm afraid of..." When I look at how the standard evangelical family has formatted their strategy for parenting, most often I see fear behind the steering wheel.
If you took all the categories of advice that Jesus gave us in the Gospels, you'd find that the longest list is made up of verses where He says, "Don't be afraid." If we have put our faith in Him, we should be the last people afraid of just about anything! Fear-based parenting is the surest way to create intimidated kids. It's also the surest way to raise Christian kids who either don't have any passion for lost people, are indifferent to the things of God, or out-and-out rebel against their parents, their church, and the Lord."
We have always believed that as Christians, we should 'go into the world' and let our light shine. And that includes Halloween. On the whole, Halloween is a fun children’s event, a part of childhood that should really be viewed as such.
This year, we are discussing what the significance of going to the church’s 'alternative' event is. We are debating whether that sends a mixed message to the children. If it is OK to participate in Halloween activities at school and in the community, then why are we going to an 'alternative' event at church as well? We are still debating --- so it is 'status quo' for this year. We will be going to our church's 'alternative' event tomorrow night. Really, the explanation is more this: we are not going to the church event because it is an alternative, but because we want to support programmes that the church runs and offers. In my opinion, the church should really take out the word 'alternative' from its promotion of this event, because I think it sends a negative message to non-believers whom we are trying to invite to an event such as this --- it sends a 'holier-than-thou' message.
In our discussion/debate on whether we should attend the church's event this year, somehow the question of WWJD - 'What Would Jesus Do?' came up. My daughter summed it up quite nicely. She said that Jesus would be out and about in the community shining like a light in a dark world sharing about God's love, rather than hiding out in the church building attending the 'alternative' event in order to avoid what's going on outside. Now, that's some food for thought!
My devotional today was coincidentally about this very topic. Check it out here!
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."
---Matthew 5:13-15 NIV
Monday, October 29, 2007
This past week was a busy one. I didn't know I was on the worship band for Sunday until about midweek. So, I wasn't prepared and didn't clear out my week in order to practice. By Friday night, I was feeling overwhelmed by the music. I was feeling inadequate --- that the music was just too hard for me to perfect by Sunday. I turned to God and surrendered everything to Him. He knows my heart --- wanting to give only my best to Him. He also knows about my busy week and the lack of time to practice.
Sunday morning came and I was still feeling unprepared, but I had a calmness within me knowing that God is fully in charge. I sat down on the piano bench prayerfully as the youth choir started to arrive. As my hands went to start the intro for the choir song, it was like I was watching my hands churn out this music all on their own. It truly was not me! Praise God for He knows the desires of my heart. It was such a wonderful worship experience for me.
One of the songs on the worship package was 'Enough' by Chris Tomlin. Because my hands were just so at ease on the piano keys, I was able to focus my mind on the lyrics of this song. I've sang this song many times before but it touched my heart deeply this time. Here are the lyrics:
You are my supply. My breath of life.
Still more awesome than I know.
You are my reward, worth living for.
Still more awesome than I know.
All of You is more than enough for all of me.
For every thirst and every need.
You satisfy me with Your love.
And all I have in You is more than enough.
You’re my sacrifice of greatest price.
Still more awesome than I know.
You’re the coming King. You are everything.
Still more awesome than I know.
More than all I want. More than all I need.
You are more than enough for me.
More than all I know. More than all I can say.
You are more than enough for me.
I asked myself if I am indeed living out the lyrics of this song. Do I live each day acknowledging that God is all I need, that He is more than enough for me? The truth is I am still learning to live each day fully relying on God alone. Each day is progress. Each day is closer to glory. From glory to glory He's changing me...
It is a life-long lesson --- one day at a time.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain."
---1 Timothy 6:6 NIV
"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."
---Psalm 37:4 NIV
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
As I tried to wake up, I started my morning prayer time. The great time of fellowship at my Bible study last night was still fresh on the mind. We were on the topic of the Holy Spirit. The worship song by Hillsong "Holy Spirit Rain Down" came to mind:
Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down.
Oh, Comforter and Friend, how we need Your touch again.
Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down.
Let Your power fall, let Your voice be heard;
Come and change our hearts, as we stand on Your word.
Holy Spirit, rain down.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard;
No mind can know what God has in store.
So open up heaven, open it wide;
Over Your church and over our lives.
How refreshing! Rain is indeed good. It is now mid-afternoon and the rain is almost gone. Some coffee would be good for me right about now... :-)
"Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants."
---Deuteronomy 32:2 NIV
"He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth."
---Psalm 72:6 NIV
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Last night's lesson was about 'attitude'. A lot of people complain about their children's bad attitude, but don't realize that it is actually stemming from their own bad attitudes. The children are merely practicing what is being preached! We learned that an attitude adjustment in today's families is greatly needed as attitudes are contagious.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) says --- "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." God's will for families is to be joyful always. According to this verse, joy is achieved by prayer plus having a thankful attitude in all circumstances. If we adjust our attitudes from worrying into thankfulness, it becomes easier and easier to be thankful at all times, even in dire circumstances. The best result in this shift of attitude is that our children will catch it and practice it themselves!
So...one of the in-class activities was to practice 'thank therapy' by writing down 10 specific reasons why we are thankful for our family. Here's my list:
I am thankful that...
~ each person knows Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.
~ each person acknowledges that every blessing and provision is from God.
~ hubby is a "man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in His commands." Psalm 112:1 (NIV)
~ my children are generally happy and content.
~ my daughter has a very giving spirit.
~ my son is all-boy, energetic and strong-willed.
~ my children love to learn --- my daughter is identified as being intellectually gifted and my son is naturally very inquisitive and is finally getting the hang of reading! Yay!
~ our home is a peaceful place.
~ we have lots of fun together, and,
~ we are a household of faith!
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
---Matthew 6:25-33 NIV
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
---Philip Yancey (as printed in Discerning the Voice of God, Week 2: The Holy Spirit, page 31)
Yesterday, God's Word spoke to me from Psalm 34:4 (NIV) --- "I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears." It reminded me of what God wants me to know! Praise God.
You see, yesterday, I received the skin biopsy result that I have been waiting for. The results showed a benign skin condition that can be chronic, but is not harmful. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father who has graciously answered not only my prayer, but also the prayers of many others who were praying alongside me.
As you might have already guessed from the Philip Yancey quote above, I am on week 2 of my Bible study Discerning the Voice of God, and it is on the Holy Spirit. The author compares the Holy Spirit to a control tower. The control tower can see the big picture that the pilot of a plane can not. So, the pilot must fully trust the control tower for the plane to fly safely and reach its destination in one piece. Similarly, "the Holy Spirit sees the whole picture and may want to reveal something beyond what our physical senses can comprehend. As we put our attention on the Spirit, something miraculous takes place. Not only do we more clearly distinguish God's word to us, but the desires of our bodies and souls begin to fall in line with God's."
"...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
---Philippians 1:6 NIV
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, we did something new this year for Thanksgiving. We donated food items to the Daily Bread Food Bank. I am quite embarrassed to admit that this is our first experience doing this! I can't believe that it took us this long to find out about this huge need and it is right here --- locally, literally right outside our doorstep. Not to offer an excuse or anything, but I think this is the drawback of living in the suburbs. We are less aware of the poverty that surrounds us because we are so far removed from it all.
So, on Saturday, we headed off to the grocery store. While I shopped for groceries for the family, my hubby and the kids ventured off to do the shopping for the food bank. Pushing a cart and armed with the list, the three of them was quite a sight to behold! :-) You see, the three of them do not have much experience with grocery shopping as I grocery shop mostly on Monday mornings while the kids are in school and while hubby is working. Despite of the lack of experience, they did manage to get everything that was on the list. Quite impressive!
On Thanksgivig Day, we headed off to the food bank's main drop-off and sorting centre in the city's west end. The whole experience wouldn't have been as complete if not for the person who accepted our donation that day. When this staff member saw us walk in with the children, he immediately approached us. He wanted to make sure that it was the kids who dropped the food items into the huge box, and not us. He also took the time to show us the food sorting area and told us about opportunities to volunteer there four times each year.
I love it when people are passionate about what they do. It is contagious! I truly believe that it is because this man was so enthusiastic that my kids now see why we need to volunteer and donate. We are now looking into the possibility of volunteering to sort food items this Christmas season, not to mention now donating each time there is a food drive. Awesome!
I must say that this was a positive experience, not only for us, but most especially for the kids --- it was most definitely one of those teachable moments!
"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'."
---Acts 20:35 NIV
Friday, October 5, 2007
As I reflect on what Thanksgiving Day is all about, I remember reading somewhere about the Parliament of Canada making some sort of proclamation about Thanksgiving. So, I did a quick search, and here it is: On January 31, 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the second Monday in October."
What a difference 50 years can make! I don't think that we would see a proclamation by the Canadian Parliament worded like that in this day and age. Sad, but true. The reality is that we live in a society today that has increasingly embraced pluralism. On the flip side of this, I do think that pluralism is a good thing. In my experience, I notice that people today are more open to listen to what I have to say about my faith because of pluralism. People who are willing to listen is really all I need, the Holy Spirit will do the rest!
In Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV), it says: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
So...where was I? Yes, giving thanks. So it is the Thanksgiving weekend already. What have we planned for the family? Let's see...for starters, we will be working on filling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes which we do every year around this time to get them ready for shipping overseas. We will also be having Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's home on Monday. Aside from that, we are starting something new this year. Tomorrow, we will take the children to the grocery store. They will fill the shopping cart (on their own) with food items that the local food bank has requested, then we will make a trip downtown to drop these items off.
We are so blessed in this country! We have so much to be thankful for. Everyday should be Thanksgiving Day! That is what we are instilling in our children. Each night when they pray, we encourage them to think of three specific things that happened that day for which they can thank God for. At first, it was a bit difficult to think of even three things without repeating the ones from the previous night, but once they got into the habit of doing it every night, it became easier. One night not long ago, my son announced to me that he kept going and ended up with five things to be thankful for.
I look forward to the day when my son comes to tell me that he's lost count of how many things he's thankful for from one single day! That will be such a blessing!
"I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving."
---Psalm 69:30 NIV
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
From some of these devotionals came the discussion on the topic of dressing modestly. My daughter and I have talked about what it means and we have an understanding of what we are to look for when we go shopping for clothes. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my previous blog entry, we have found it increasingly difficult to find decent clothing for preteen girls these days.
Today, the clothes marketed to preteen girls fall into one of these categories: pants that are way too short or way too tight or having waist lines that are way too low, tops that are hugging the body or are cropped, tank tops with straps that are way too thin, or tops with graphics that are just not acceptable. We call these graphic t-shirts 'attitude shirts'. The one that tops the list, which my daughter and I still laugh about to this day, is a t-shirt we saw with the following printed on it: "saw it, wanted it, had a fit, got it!" I won't even start describing the styles of the dresses that are out there these days!
So, a question --- who decided that these styles are 'in' anyways? Seriously, they must not be a mother! So, what's a mother to do? Sew every piece of clothing that her preteen daughter will ever wear?!? No...I am not that domestic. Haha! Don't get me wrong --- I love sewing but I just don't have all that time to sit and sew! What I have done though is take some time (actually, a lot of time!) looking for stores that carry preteen clothing lines that are modest, yet not boring. Know what I mean? Clothes that my daughter can wear in order to stand up (for modesty) and also stand out. You'd be surprised to know which store fits this category (as of this moment, that is) --- it is La Senza Girl. Can you believe it? This is a good example of 'don't judge a book by its cover'! :-)
Sadly, this is the reality of the society in which we live. It is a society that does not promote modesty and purity. You don't need to go shopping for preteen girl clothing to notice this trend. Just look around --- this trend is clearly evident on huge billboards, on bus shelter advertisements, in magazines, on television, just to mention a few.
This is one of the many reasons why we, as parents, need to be even more intentional in keeping the communication lines open and the dialogue going with our children because it is very easy to lose them to the 'pattern of this world'. We need to instill in them the importance of offering up their bodies as living sacrifices to God, a spiritual act of worship.
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. Set an example for the believers in what you say and in how you live. Also set an example in how you love and in what you believe. Show the believers how to be pure."
---1 Timothy 4:12 NIrV
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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 12:1-2 NIV
Monday, October 1, 2007
Much to my amazement, nothing fits my daughter anymore! She grew quite a bit over the summer months. A closet inventory is in order --- YAY! I love to organize things so this is actually a chore that I enjoy doing. So, of course, I could not stop after my daughter's closet was done. I had to do my son's closet, the winter coats and the footwear as well. Well, now, piles of children's clothing and footwear occupy our upstairs hallway --- a pile for goodwill, and piles to pass on to cousins and friends.
Over the weekend, the children and I embarked on a shopping run to refill their now-empty closets. I couldn't believe how hard it is to find decent clothes to buy for a preteen girl these days, but I'll save that topic for another day and another blog entry!
Now back to what I'm writing about today --- closet inventory. As I was cleaning out the closets, I couldn't help but parallel the process of inventory to life. I thought to myself: are there things in my life that I continue to do just because I've been doing it all along; just because I'm comfortable where I am; just because it's expected of me. I'm referring to things like: programmes our children are involved in; ministry involvement at church; community events we participate in; family routines and traditions we do year in and year out.
Is it time to do an 'inventory' of these things? The answer is YES! Just like I clean out the closets every year, it is good practice to re-evaluate every now and then why we do the things that we do. To take out things that don't fit anymore, keep the ones that still fit, and to make room for new things that are needed. Basically, to sit back and to refocus. To ask whether or not this is still where God wants me to be at this time. To ask whether this is still where God can use me the most.
Re-evaluation and refocusing are often difficult because the result can involve change. I think that God has been gracious in allowing me to do the Bible study 'Discerning the Voice of God' this season for this specific reason --- to help me in my re-evaluation and refocusing. I am eagerly anticipating to see what He has in store for me in this Bible study.
"If you want to hear God's voice clearly and you are uncertain, then remain in His presence until He changes this uncertainty. Often much can happen during this waiting for the Lord. Sometimes He changes pride into humility; doubt into faith and peace; sometimes lust into purity. The Lord can and will do it."
---Corrie Ten Boom (printed in Discerning the Voice of God, Week 1 - Anticipating the Voice of God)
"In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch."
---Psalm 5:3 NASB
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
As I marvel at how the landscape changes ever so rapidly during this time of the year, it parallels the changes in routine for our family that comes with the Fall season. The change happens oh-so-quickly and 'just-like-that' --- school is in full swing for the children; music lessons and extra-curricular activities occupy the children's spare time; business and work pick up for both my hubby and me; different church programmes we are involved in charge full steam ahead; our Bible studies start up and my prayer group meets again.
Families today are busy, busy, busy! Sometimes it is hard to pick and choose which programme to attend or which activity to do, but I do believe that limiting the number of activities we do is a necessary decision to make in order for the family to stay healthy, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.
My Bible study group started studying 'Discerning the Voice of God' by Pricilla Shirer. As I did my homework for week one, I couldn't help but be drawn to this truth: to 'be still and know that I am God'. This truth caught my attention more than a few times as I studied God's Word this week. Could it be that God is trying to get my attention? I am most definitely a task-oriented person and I can not sit still! BUT, as the Fall season started this year, I have increasingly felt the need to 'slow-down' my pace (and my family's as well) in order to recharge and to refocus.
As I pondered on the truth of 'being still' before God and waiting for Him, these lyrics (from the song 'Power Of Your Love') came to mind:
And as I wait; I'll rise up like an eagle;
And I will soar with You; Your Spirit leads me on;
By the power of Your love.
Only when we are still and when we wait patiently can we hear (and discern) the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. What powerful truth!
"...the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!"
---Isaiah 30:18 NIV
Friday, September 21, 2007
While sitting there and praying with the group this morning, it amazed me how we have been praying together for five years now. The oldest of our children used to be little boys and girls just starting out in Kindergarten, and now, this group of children is in Grade 5 already! How time flies!!! I truly think that what makes this group tick is the encouragement and support that we provide each other through prayer, words of comfort and words of wisdom.
Why am I blogging about this today? I guess it is my way of giving thanks to God for orchestrating the formation of this group. It truly is a unique group because I don't think every Christian parent would necessarily have the opportunity to form a support group such as this in their own neighbourhood or community. It is truly a comfort and an encouragement for me personally to know that I will always have the prayer support of this group through Christian friends who truly care for my family.
"...let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another --- and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
---Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I prayed and asked God that morning that my daughter would get some interest when her friends see these tags dangling from her neck. I feel such joy knowing that my daughter is doing something about her faith; that she is living it out for her friends to see. It has actually been a great reminder for me --- that I need to be more intentional in my approach to sharing my faith with others!
The dog tags came with a 'Certified Junior Evangelist' ID card and this is what appears on the backside of it: As a member of the Dare To Be A Daniel Team, I purpose in my heart to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with:
My hands, as I serve Him;
My feet, as I stand firm for Him;
My eyes, as I look to Him;
My ears, as I listen to His commands;
My mouth, as I speak His truth.
That is my prayer for my daughter today. I pray that she will continue to 'Dare To Be A Daniel' and will forever look to her Heavenly Father for the strength to help her live out her faith on a daily basis!
You go, girl! I am one proud mama! :-)
"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."
---Mark 16:15 NIV
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
---Matthew 5:14-16 NIV
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Here's a little bit from the last chapter:
"You have been singled out to do a favor for God. He is asking you to be His representative to a small but vital part of the next generation. He needs someone to be His voice, His arms, and His heart. He chose you.
When they (parents) realize that their job is to raise up children to love and serve God, they wonder how on earth they will do that. The answer isn't on earth. It's found in heaven. It's sitting on an eternal throne. He has many names, but among my favorites is 'The God of Grace'. You wonder: How am I to raise up children to love and serve God? The answer is actually not that difficult. You simply need to treat your children the way God treats you. If the only thing you get right as parents is His grace, everything else will be just fine."
What an encouragement! What a great tool we have --- to parent with God's amazing grace in mind and to pass on that great legacy to our children.