Preparing a Child’s Heart To Know Christ

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I’m thrilled that gardening season is here!  Each day I enjoy going outside and tending to each potted plant, window box and flowering bed.  I pull off dead blooms, fluff the tender foliage so it will hang beautifully over the edge of the pot, and then give a gentle showering of water so it can soak into the roots, adding growth.  From time to time I also add Miracle Grow – a plant food that speeds up the growing process and makes sure the plants are healthy.  The results are beautiful!!

As we’ve talked all week about a child being saved, every one of the steps above, regarding tending a plant, could be applied to bringing a child to the place where they understand their need for Jesus Christ to be their Savior.  We need to harvest the garden of their hearts so it will be their early understanding that they are sinners who are in need.

Making the plant application, let’s look at a few practical ways that parents can help their children get to that point early on in life.

  • Pull off dead blooms – This involves seeing that something is in their life that shouldn’t be and literally “nipping it in the bud!”  =)  When they disobey, for instance, we don’t overlook it or redirect their attention to a “better option,” NO!  That sin must be dealt with in a biblical manner.  Even from the time they’re very young they should understand that obeying isn’t simply making mommy a happier person – obeying mommy means you’re obeying God!  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Galatians 6:1  Teach them that simple verse by saying it each time they disobey you.

    “Disobedience is sin.  Each time you disobey Mommy, you’re sinning against God.  But God loves you.  Let’s ask Him to help you obey.”

    Using God’s Word as your guide, teach the child that what they’re doing is sin that makes God sad.  “You needed a Savior so God sent Jesus to die for your sin!”  You don’t have to preach a message, just those simple statements about God’s holiness (you didn’t say it that way, but that’s what you’re teaching) and His love, points them to their need for Jesus when they sin.

  • Fluff the tender foliage.  Encourage any tenderness the child shows towards their sin.  Let them cry, but then comfort them and remind them that God loves them and so do you, and God wants to help them NOT sin.  Any time they want to move forward in an invitation, or they ask questions in family devotions, encourage that!  Listen.  Answer their questions. Be supportive!
  • Give a gentle showering of water to encourage growth.  Sprinkle truths about God, His Word and the application of it through everything you do each day.  It’s far more meaningful to see a mom live out the Gospel each day and share out of the overflow, than to occasionally get a “lecture” every now and then from an inconsistent life.  Consider:
    • Let thankfulness be in your words about God’s provision for your groceries, your home, your clothing…everything you have.
    • Point out the beauty of God’s creation when you are outside.  Speak Scripture – “The heavens declare the glory of God – Hey kids, how does that sunset tell about God’s glory?”
    • Speak about what you learned in your Bible reading and how it applies to what’s going on at that moment.
    • Whenever there is a need, stop and pray.  Show your child that you’re dependent on God in every situation. – If you see an ambulance or a car accident, why not pray for those involved? If they’re anxious about a test they’re headed into school to take, stop and pray before they get out of the car.
    • Be living out the Gospel by sharing it with others when you’re out, when people are in your home and at church.  Your children need to see your example of a Christian who is a follower of Christ.
    • Read Scripture with your child.  I love the idea of reading the psalm of their age every night of that year!  Most psalms in the early chapters are very short, so I imagine that both you and your child  will have it memorized before the year is out!
  • Add some Miracle Grow – Make sure your child is regularly in places where they will receive extra doses of the Gospel outside of your home – Sunday school, church services, revival meetings, Youth group, youth activities, and Christian camp.  Don’t send your child to church services – go with them.  Then send them on their way to the extra outings, praying that the Gospel will be proclaimed and their heart will be tender.

Tending to my plants is messy and daily.  My hands end up covered with dirt, and if I neglect their care, you can only imagine the ugly results!  The same also applies to the tending of our children’s spiritual needs.  It’s a daily discipleship that is often messy and inconvenient, but the results aren’t just for a summer of glory – it’s for eternity, and it’s such a blessing to be a part of that! This is our heart as parents, is it not? ~

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.  III John 1:4

God is the One who will bring the fruit.  We just need to be faithful to plant and water, then leave the results with Him.

What are you doing today that will point your child more towards Christ? 

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It’s the Little Things That Help

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Ever heard that it’s the little things that count? It’s so true!

I look at people who spend an hour or more working out at the gym and I groan.  That’s just not my style of working out.  Instead, I choose to walk the country roads of my neighborhood.  I also do a 15 minute calisthenics routine in attempt to tone my muscles.  While I might not be making the fast strides that those folks at the gym are making,  those little times of working out do help

I don’t spring clean my house each week, but every day I do something.  I may dust or mop the floors, clean the windows or vacuum.  Also each night before I go to bed, I make sure that things are tidy and put away.  I might not clean everything all at once, but those little jobs keep my house in order every day.

Each morning for years I have read the Proverb for the day (there are 31 chapters, one that can be read each day of the month).  It doesn’t take long, but since I’ve made this a habit for so long, I can finish many verses before reading it.  Those little times of pouring God’s Word into my heart haven ingrained those practical truths into my heart. 

Memorizing Scripture passages takes time and I can only memorize one verse at a time.  I might only get one or two verses a week in my memory, but eventually I get the whole passage memorized by doing little bits, one verse at a time.

I attend women’s conferences twice a year and they are a blessing, but in order to help my spiritual growth, I create my own little daily “conference” by listening to Revive Our Hearts and Love Worth Finding.  That little time of hearing God’s Word while I get ready in the morning has probably done even more for me than conferences!

It really is all the little things that make my life richer – especially in spiritual matters.  It’s a reminder to me that I have no excuses for not doing what is right!  It doesn’t require BIG amounts of time (though when I can take more time, I want to take advantage of that!).  It really only requires making habits of doing little things consistently to have a life that is fulfilling and fruitful.  

When I look and see a tiny little bit more of a toned arm or a clean kitchen, I see how rewarding those little things were. But even more rewarding are the little things that push me towards being like Christ.  They all matter.  They all make a difference!

Are you taking time to do the little things?  If you’re not in the habit, pick one and watch the difference it makes in your life!

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Family Friday – The Most Godly Home

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This roller coaster of Foster parenting or (grand-parenting!) is not for the faint of heart!  You strap yourself in tight and keep your eyes Upward, knowing that a sovereign God will keep you safe and secure as you guide these little ones and pray about their future.

As I mentioned earlier, my daughter and son-in-law are foster parents to baby boys.  We don’t know what their future will be.  Who will be awarded their custody to care and provide for them all their lives?  Who will teach them of Christ?  Will anyone?  Will they be adopted by family?  Friends?  There are just so many painful questions.

One Sunday a friend left church and told me that she is praying about the future of these sweet little babies, and the way she is praying is this:

Let these children be given to the home
that will point them the most to Christ.

I told her that that was a perfect request!  That’s what we want for these little guys!

Later in the week, the babies were in my home.  I was caring for them.  And then my friend’s prayer request popped into my head.  It made me stop and ask myself, Is what I’m doing today providing right now so that this is the home that is pointing them the most to Christ?

What about you, Mom?  Pretend your child’s future was in the balance and someone was praying that request for your child.  Would YOU be awarded custody of them because of all you did yesterday to point them to the Lord?  Were your words so edifying and Word-filled that they couldn’t help but learn more of your God?  That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?

That thought made me “get my act together” that day!  I sang Bible songs, I quoted Bible verses while I fed them their bottles.  I even told them Bible stories, even though their ears can hear, but their minds can’t understand.  I wanted my home to be the most godly place in their lives!  That should be any Christian parent’s ambition and joy – whether or not their future is in the balance.  One Day we will give account for how well we taught and trained the children the Lord gave us.

Why not strive today to make your home the most Godly place!

Refresh your child’s spiritual heart,

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The Storm Will Pass

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An hour before I took the picture above, a real spring storm blew through our area. It blew in from a completely different direction than most storms. The winds were really whipping, causing debris, porch pillows and vegetation to blow and bow down.  Earlier in the day I had heard we were in for storms, but it seemed unlikely at the time, because it was lovely in the morning.  But sure to the prediction, they came in just as they said.  I was glad I had secured things outside, and I was especially glad that I was inside where it was safe and dry!

I went about the work I was doing, and kept an ear and eye on the outside, for safety sake.  It wasn’t long, though until I looked through the window and saw the clouds clearing.  Then I saw the sun hitting the backyard.  I stepped onto the back porch and everything was cool, refreshed, and though dripping with the drops of the precipitation, it was evident that the storm was over.

I know many people who are going through storms in their personal lives.  I would have to add, that the storm is in their personal Christian life.  It’s a storm sent by the Lord for His purposes.  As I watch, I see the pressures of the trial causing them to bow, just like the trees in my front yard bent as the wind pushed against its branches.  They are bowing with the ache and the pain of the trial, but they are not broken.  They are trusting the God of their life to do His work, and they are firmly planted on His Word, even when their hearts may want to waver or ask why.

We’ve all been warned that trials will come to us.  Maybe you’re one who is experiencing one right now. Perhaps your trial is just around the corner. It’s easy to get caught off guard because the “sun is shining” today and we can’t imagine that dark clouds may be ahead.  We must prepare now for the storm that will come.  Like my friends, we must anchor our hearts in the Scriptures.  We have to know God’s character because we know His Word.  His Truth will keep us from breaking.  Knowing the Sender of the storm will remind us that He is there with us. And though we may never know why God sends or allows difficulties to come our way,  we can be sure that they went through His sovereign hands before they touched our lives.

When we find ourselves in the storm, we need to also remember that they won’t last forever.  There will be an end.  If not here, for all eternity, there will only be peace.  We may feel like quitting and throwing in the towel, but we must endure so we can see the joy of the blessings of the storm. When I was waiting out the storm yesterday, it didn’t last for long, really.  I’ve been through worse spring tempests.  We need to remind ourselves of the truth that though it seems that this trial is going on forever, there is a day when it will be over.

Hopefully when the storm is over, we won’t forget the things we’ve learned.  The lessons will be like the water droplets on my roses – little reminders that the storm was there.  There will be a freshness, a newness, and even sunshine in our hearts afterwards if we prepare for the storm, endure the storm and remember the storm.  

It’s time to go sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.  The storm is over.  To my friends who are experiencing difficulties today, I say, your storm will pass and the sun will shine again and God’s presence will refresh your spirit through it all.  

This won’t last forever.

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Are you going through a storm?  I’d love to pray for you.  Just leave a note asking for prayer – no need to share about the trial – God knows.

Lovingly,

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Creating Meaningful, Inexpensive Wall Decor

IAMaI had the fun recently of attending a decorating class focused on home accessories.  The designer said,

Your home should tell your story.

That really got me to thinking.  I asked myself, “What is my story? It’s the Gospel!  That is the whole purpose of my life! How can my home share that by the decor?”  Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to have Bible verses plastered everywhere, but beautiful art that shares the Scriptures is indeed one great way to tell the story of my Savior.

I had a space on a wall in my living room that needed a picture and I had searched everywhere looking for the right size and design, all to no avail.  Then one day when I was working on a Bible study book I’m doing I noticed these “I Am” cards in the back of the book.  They were beautifully done and there were five of them.  It was then that the idea popped into my head that I could frame those and make a grouping for that needy living room wall.  Not only would the help tell our story, it would be an inexpensive way to fill that space perfectly.  So I had the picture part, now for frames…

Instead of going to the store to buy a frame, I went to a stash that I purchased at the Goodwill store last year.  There was a stack of frames – all sizes and styles marked down – way down!  I got all of them for less than $5 and I had a huge pile!!  The one below was .52 and it was perfect for holding three of my five cards.

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I didn’t like the dark frame, so I painted it white.  Here it is, on its side while the paint dries…

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My encouragement to anyone needing a picture or two on their wall is, don’t limit yourself to just purchased art, which can be really expensive.  Look for smaller things you can frame, like cards that are themed and would help tell your story.  They could be note cards, cards you receive in the mail, postcards, etc.

Then look for frames at yard sales and Goodwill.  They may be scratched or the wrong color, but a little paint will cover that!

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The John 14:6 sign was purchased several years ago, but I didn’t have it hanging up anywhere. I realized it would be perfect to add to this grouping.  I still need one more something to hang on the right side so it will be balanced with the other side of the fireplace.  I’ll show you the finished look when that part gets completed.

In the meantime, I hope this inspires you to seek to tell your story, then be creative with how you do it.  Decorating can be done frugally with a little creativity!

If someone asked you, what would you say is the story you would want your home to convey?

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When Your Life Bumps Into Sin

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Bumper cars are one of the carnival rides at Dollywood’s amusement park near us.  The fun of the ride is doing exactly what its name says – bumping – into another car, into the walls and the poles around the structure.  The cars are equipped with soft bumpers so the “crashes” don’t hurt you or anything you hit (Wouldn’t that be helpful at those drive-in’s where scratches and bumps are inevitable?!). Anyway…

It’s fun to go in with a group and get an eye on your target car and head for them as quickly as that little electronic car will let you travel.  Their car goes reeling and you speed off, laughing that you got the first “hit!”

That fun scene isn’t so pleasant when the “bumping” happens when your life crashes into a situation that is sinful.  I recently had an alarming experience when I slammed right into a lifestyle that is not only different from anything I’ve ever been close to, but one that the Bible renounces.  I didn’t know how to respond.  I was blown away.  I was burdened for those involved.  And honestly, I felt offended by the bruise it gave my soul.

For days I could not shake the disturbance this scene caused.  I prayed about it.  I pondered my response, and then I turned to God’s Word and dug in, looking for what God wanted me to learn.  If I wanted to know how believers are to respond when their life bumps into sinful situations, I needed to be reminded of how Jesus responded.  I turned to John, Chapters 2 and 4.

In John 2 we find Jesus overturning the tables of the money-changers in the Temple.

In John 4 Jesus meets the Woman at the well – the lady who had been married multiple times, and was now living with a man to whom she was not married.

The way He responded to the sins of both of these people taught me how He expects me to respond as well.

When my life bumps into sinners ~

  1. Consider the location
    • At church – Sin shouldn’t be practiced in this place.  The money-changer was selling in the Temple, the place where worship and the teaching of God’s Word was to occur.
    • In the world – We should expect it!  There’s no reason to be surprised by sin here; these dear people don’t know the Redeemer (yet!).
  2. Consider the person
    • Money-Changers sold for a religious occasion out of a greedy heart.  They were making merchandise of this Holy custom.
    • The Samaritan woman married five times to fill a void in her life.  She knew no better!
  3. Consider the need
    • The Money-Changers were making a living by abusing the Passover.
    • The Samaritan Woman lived this way due to her sinful nature.  She didn’t know better (yet!).

Application for you and me:

  • Sin is never to be overlooked, ignored or tolerated.  That sin that I bumped into was in the world, a place where I shouldn’t be surprised at seeing it, but that doesn’t mean I can accept it – it’s still an offence against a holy God.
  • Sin should be answered through the Scripture.  We mustn’t  argue or debate the truth – we share it with the love that Christ showed the Samaritan Woman.  We engage in the sinner’s life and ask good questions that will give us the opportunity to give God’s Word as the answer their hungry hearts are seeking.
  • Sinners should be introduced to Jesus – John 4:29
  • Share and live the Truth, then allow sinners to make up their own mind – to turn to Jesus or not. John 4:42
  • My response – 
    • In the world:
      • Love the sinner
      • Point to Jesus
      • Live out the life of a believer
      • Go my way looking for other sinners.
    • In the church:
      • Remember your own sin first!   If it were not for God’s grace, we, too, could be overcome with sin.
      • With a humble heart, point out the sin to those that claim Christ.
      • Use God’s Word, not my standard.
      • Ask questions.
      • Pray for change and then let the Holy Spirit do the convicting (we cannot change anyone).

Though I didn’t especially enjoy the bumper car experience when I banged up against sin in the world, I’m so thankful for what God taught me after the crash!  I pray that my response will be biblical, both in the world and in my church from here on out.

Oh, and if I ever see you across the arena of the Bumper Car course, look out!Image result for emoji images

 

Have you struggled with how to respond to blatant sin in the world?  How about at church?

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The Resale Value of Your Christian Life

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After over 200,000 miles on the road, even a favorite automobile has to be laid to rest and replaced with newer wheels, a stronger engine and less numbers on the odometer.  That is the story of our dearly loved and used Toyota Highlander.  It served us well, but there were issues that needed to be addressed – and so as we prayed, we began looking for its replacement.

No matter what we chose, any car we sat in was definitely going to be an improvement. We would never choose one with more miles than our Toyota.  The upholstery would be newer and the accessories in the dashboard would surely be an upgrade, maybe even including a back-up camera or navigational system!  But the blessing was that Toyota Highlanders seem to hold their value and have a good resale.  So, we had planned to trade the car in, which would, of course, help us purchase a car that was a newer/better model.

When most people shop for a car, they’re looking for the real deal – something that will be dependable and road-worthy.    However, if I’ve learned anything, I have come to understand the importance of buying one that has good resale value (I’m a typical girl-y girl who usually goes for what looks good! I’m learning!!).  Resale is really important in the long-run.  If others want what you own, it will profit you and them!

That is also true in the life of a genuine Christian –  a person who has put their complete trust in the cross-work of Christ on behalf of their sins.  A Christian should be like a “New model” of the “old” sinner they were.  Like that old car, they have gotten an upgrade!  Old things are passed away and all things are become new!

People will look at that kind of Christian and want what they have because:

  •  They don’t do the things they used to do.  Their motivation is eternal rather than temporal.  Their longing is for a heavenly reward, rather than the praise of men.
  • They don’t grind away at their job, complaining and grunting their way through their day!  They work hard.  They serve others with a smile and a sweet spirit.
  • They have purpose now – they’re living with the Holy Spirit of God inside them, and longing to be more like their Savior every day they live!
  • They’re constantly being changed by the conviction of the Spirit of God.  Though they fall, they will rise up and keep going, with God’s help.
  • Their life has purpose and meaning.  Even though the tears may fall in times of trial, they have an inner peace, because they know the One Who is triumphant over sin, death and the grave.

A true believer who lives out the Christian life makes others want what they have!

Does that describe you?  Can the world tell the difference between you and an unsaved person?  There are many Christians “on the lot” that are just your standard, no-frills-added believers.  They “got saved one day” but they:

  • Don’t tell others about Jesus, or about their own salvation.
  • Don’t live out the Gospel in their every day life.
    They fail to ~

    • Love people – especially the “hard to love”
    • Forgive those who hurt them
    • Serve as Christ did
  • Don’t separate from the world.
    • They do what everyone else does.
    • They succumb to peer pressures and the World’s philosophy.
    • They look and act like everyone else.
      • This doesn’t mean you have to wear culottes and tennis shoes!  Nor does it mean you can be careless about necklines and hemlines.
      • If the world says ballgames are on Sunday, they go!  If teams have practice on Sunday, they practice.  If they’re too tired to attend services, they listen to their flesh instead of depending on the Spirit to help them.
  • Their lives look just like everyone else on their street.

Friends, I’m not talking about us being perfect Christians any more than I think we’ll ever find a perfect car.  But what I’m begging us to consider is, Do others want our life as a Christian because they see its value, its power, and its transforming work going on in our lives every day of the week?

It’s time for each of us to be the best model of a Christian so that others will look at us and know that what we have is what their empty hearts need, too!  Let’s live up to the precious resale value that we truly possess!

How are you living out your Christian life today in a way that makes it desirable to others?

Lovingly,

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