Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jesus - Believing in Him With Strings Attached

Probably the most recognized and popular scriptures in America is John 3:16.  And it's a wonderful verse, so it's great that people do recognize it!  The problem is that America, for the most part, probably doesn't know the rest of the scriptures around it that put it in context with the thought.

“God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son. This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed. But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen.” John 3:16-21

And the end of the chapter goes along with it:

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. John 3:35-36

You see, it's really easy to believe in God.  I can say I believe in Him and mean I believe He is in Heaven, even believe He created the world and believe Jesus is His Son.  The Greek word is πιστεύω pisteúō, pist-yoo'-o....which means to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ):—believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.  (From blueletterbible.com).   It is more than just believe He is there.  There's faith, trust, and commitment involved.

Many want Jesus and His salvation, but they don't want the whole package.  The whole package includes Jesus' promises with strings attached.  "Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me," Luke 9:23.  And Matthew 7: 21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

See how believing includes obeying?  You can't have true faith in Him without having both.  It isn't possible.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

Reading the very first passage above, it says, "Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil....they don't want their actions to be exposed."  When I want my way and do things my way, without regard to God's Will or His Word, then I'm "loving" the dark.  When you and I act in ways that aren't in accordance with the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control - Gal. 5:22-23), I am "loving" the dark.  When you or I lie, gossip, slander, steal, cheat....any of those things you and I are "loving" the dark.  And dark separates us from the light.  JESUS is the light.  Sin separates us from Him.  We still BELIEVE in Him, but our actions say otherwise.  Thankfully, God is full of grace and love and He will forgive us when we ask Him.  There's a difference in messing up sometimes and deliberately choosing to walk in darkness.  Our lights may dim, but they are still shining.  We can get back on track and shine brightly like Jesus!

So believe in Him - YES! Absolutely!  But believe in Him enough to not only accept Him for who He is, but for what He has done for YOU.  And be willing to believe enough to allow the Spirit to change you and mold you into who He knows you can be.  Believe in Him with the strings attached. It's worth it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Happy 1st Birthday!

We have five little ones in our congregation who have celebrated or will celebrate their birthdays in the past few months.  Joe and I decided it would be fun to have them a 1st birthday party all together with the church family.  The planning was spur of the moment, although we had talked about it for several months.  A circus theme fit both the four girls and the one boy, plus I had a good start on the decor from events in the past.
An aunt to one of the birthday girls decorates cakes. She did a fabulous job on this adorable circus cake!!  I didn't want to see it cut into because it was so cute!! (Ha ha!)
The hard plastic balloons are ones that helped inspire this theme.  Those balloons have been and will be used for many occasions!  What a great investment!
The circus theme is a Fisher Price brand. I ordered items from a few different places, based on available products and the best price.  The little party hats were given to each birthday girl/boy.
The older siblings enjoyed playing in this little tent as much as the birthday kids!  It was a fun addition to the party!  We also had our PTO Bounce House set up in the garage for bigger kids.
We recently closed in the back porch and it will soon be part of the kitchen area.  It sure was nice to be able to set up several tables and chairs out there!  I teased that maybe we should just leave it as an "event center"! (Tempting, but no....)

I loved the bright colors of this party!
Here's another reason I chose the circus theme - this hanging tent.  I've had this thing for many years, but it sure makes a great addition to a party!
Most of these circus supplies were from past events, as well.  I love the real looking popcorn! I first bought that as a Bible class game.  You toss the popcorn into the little cups that are stacked together on the top shelf.  It makes a great decoration, too!

Our prayer for these little one year olds is that they continue to grow up and be healthy and strong and that their families continue to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 ) We know that they will and we are thankful that they will.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Aggies for Christ

A group of Texas A & M "Aggies for Christ" come work every January at Tipton Children's Home.  Usually we are tied up with basketball games, but this year since our youngest isn't playing, we had a free night.
 
We hosted the Aggies in our home for Mexican food and boy, was that a special treat for us (and for them, I think! They love Mexican food!).  
 We had each of the 21 young adults go around and tell us where they were from and what they were majoring in. A few had already graduated, but just came back to work with the group.  I can't remember now, but there are approximately 250 of the "Aggies for Christ" group that were working at 10 or 12 different places during that last week of their Christmas break.
 We were so impressed with these fine young people! They were so polite and loved working here, but they especially like the fact that they are building relationships with the children here at the Home.  It is a blessing having them come, for sure.
One thing that impressed me was that the group didn't have their cell phones out. That's pretty amazing this day and age! I'm sure their college minister and group leader lays down guide lines for the trip, but it was still nice to see - or NOT see!
 One girl was celebrating her birthday. We were out of candles, but quickly found a skewer and lit it on her dessert for an impromptu birthday celebration!
We played a few games, heard their stories, and got to know them...and got to know some of them better.  I think we would have adopted them all :).  What a great group!

Thanks, Aggies for Christ! We look forward to you being back here next year!


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How to Be More Like Jesus

If you're a people-person like I am, it's really hard to understand those who are not. It's especially hard when you know that the actions, attitudes and words of others are hurting others, but they don't have a clue.  Not that people-people don't hurt others - we often do, too.  The difference is that when a people-person hurts others' feelings, we know it.  We may not admit it, but we know it.  Non people-people have no clue that how they come across is hurting someone.  They probably don't even take the time to think about it.

Jesus was a people person, so if we are going to be more like Him, then we are going to have to become that way, as well, whether it's our nature or not.

The scripture I gave our children for this week is this passage:  “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:3-6

Living as Jesus did is becoming more and more like Him each and every day.  Both people-people and non-people-people all have sin problems that need work.  Being more sympathetic to others is something we can all work on.  So how can we do that?

One study found that you can become a more sympathetic person in as little as two weeks simply by meditating on having compassion for someone in your life.  (via University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Investigating Healthy Minds).  That makes sense, doesn't it? By simply thinking about being sympathetic one can become more sympathetic?  Sure, it does!

So one way we can become more sympathetic is by THINKING OF OTHERS.

That's hard to do because most of the time we are selfish and only thinking of ourselves.  Our wants, our desires, our work, our schedules.  Who has time to think of others if our minds are consumed with our own lives?  That's why we must get our thoughts on others.  When we don't, we're being selfish.

It's great to become more sympathetic because it's a step in the right direction of becoming even more like Jesus.  Jesus wasn't just sympathetic, though, He was empathetic.  Sympathy is having compassion for someone, but not necessarily feeling their feelings. For example, if your feelings toward someone who is experiencing hardship are limited to sympathy, then you might have a sense of regret for that person’s difficulty but are not feeling her feelings as if they’re your own.  Empathy is understanding and feeling another’s feelings for yourself.  Putting yourself in their shoes.  Someone loses their job?  Imagine if you lost your job.  How do they feel?  What are they going through? What needs do they have? How can you help?

Becoming more like Jesus is opening our eyes, our ears, our minds.  We have to see the things around us.  We have to really listen - with the intent on hearing, not responding.  Too many times we're busy thinking about our next words instead of listening to what someone else is saying.  And opening our minds turns our thoughts towards others.  After using our eyes, ears, and minds, we can use our mouths for encouragement, and our bodies to serve.  Our hands and feet can make things happen.

A two week change to a better person?  Actually, you can make big changes in one day!  Today you can start by seeing the needs of others.   That's how to become more like Jesus. Take one day at a time and be better.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Learning from Nehemiah

A few weeks ago I founds something I had written in the margin of my Bible in 2 Corinthians 5-6 .  It said:

Good Leaders =
1. Reverence to God
2. Truly love people
3. Eternal reward

I'm not sure who said it or when it was written, but it really made me think about what we have taught and do teach our children in regards to being a leader.  I would always tell them, "Be a leader, not a follower."  That's good, but a good leader IS a follower!  A follower of GOD!  Unless a leader is a follower of God - a true follower, he/she may have earthly success, but not the success that really matters.

The account of Nehemiah is fascinating.  Nehemiah began as a cup-bearer to the king. He saw a need and asked permission to do something about it.  The wall of Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt.  When he arrived in Jerusalem he became a contractor and a labor manager, then was appointed to be the governor of Judah.

Nehemiah was a good leader.  In a little different order than I had written, we can see these attributes of Nehemiah.

1. He loved people.

Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. 15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people.  Nehemiah 5:14-15a

2. He had reverence for God.

But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land. Nehemiah 5:15b

3.  He was looking towards the eternal reward, not earthly fame.

Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people. Nehemiah 5:19

Nehemiah was a good and successful leader because he had those three attributes. That was what motivated him.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are you a leader?
Are you a good leader?
What motivates you?
Do you love people?  Truly love people? If not, why would people follow you or accept you as their leader?
Do you revere God? In what way?  How do you show your reverence to God? How do others see that you revere Him?
What is your goal? Earthly wealth or fame?  An eternal reward?  What would others say about you?

Nehemiah is an example for us.  His example can cause us to become good - even great - leaders, as well.

Challenge accepted?  You can do it!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Let It Go

That popular song title from the movie, "FROZEN", was the theme for a youth rally we attended at the Faith Village Church of Christ in Wichita Falls yesterday.

Trying to "let go" of whatever it is that is keeping us from being in a closer relationship with God/Jesus and keeping us from staying on the straight and narrow path definitely needs to go.  But sometimes it's hard to let it go. Sometimes we want to cling to it.  It's not that we don't want to follow Jesus.  It's not that we don't want to be in close connection with God, it's just that we want the pleasures of the world sometimes, too.  We want it both ways.  We want to ride the fence, so to speak.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  Revelation 3:15-16

God would rather have us either way - for him or against him - than to have us be lukewarm and indecisive and not fully committed.  When we are lukewarm, we really aren't doing anything to help his cause, anyway. In fact, we are only hurting it. 

After the first speaker was finished yesterday, the youth had a card that they were to write on listing something they needed to let go of.  Afterwards, they threw their card into a fire and watched it burn. It's not that easy to let go of a problem, but the illustration of it being burned on paper surely encouraged the teens to at least work on letting go of their issue.

This scripture goes along well with the "Let It Go" thought and happens to be our scripture for the week: For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths.  Proverbs 5:21.  Knowing that God sees everything should keep us on the straight and narrow.  A healthy fear of the Lord is important!  But sometimes we forget that He is all-knowing.  He examines and He knows, but He also loves and cares for us. He wants us to love Him for who He is and for what He has done - and we should.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Gifts and Kindness

Homemade Christmas gifts are a tradition on my husband's side of the family.  This year our get-together was quickly planned, so I did something really quick and easy.  I made room fresheners and Thieves Cleaner (using Young Living Essential Oils) from recipes I found at mamanatural.com.  I also added a other oils to make some new scents. I found the bottles on Amazon from a store called Everything4Oils.  The amber glass spray bottles can be used for many things.

Another homemade gift was a little ramekin filled with coffee beans and a tealight candle.  When you burned the candle, the heat made the coffee beans' aroma fill the air.

My mother-in-law gave us homemade apricot jelly (my husband's favorite) and plum jelly (my favorite, plus a bag of pecans.

Another sister-in-law made cute shadowbox frames that had scrapbook paper backgrounds, foam/glittered balls in them with a wintery saying.  I can't remember what mine said at the moment and I packed it away yesterday, but the sticker letters were on the outside.  It was so cute!  Another one she did had jingle bells in it and the letters said "Jingle all the way".  Very cute idea!

Speaking of gifts, gifts show kindness.  It's customary to give gifts at Christmas, for birthdays, and other holidays and occasions, but some are just random.  I love the idea of random acts of kindness, don't you?  It doesn't have to be a special time to be kind.  Being kind can happen any day of the year.  That's what makes them special.

Last night our family (all six of us) and one of our nieces were headed to a basketball game. We left early so that we could eat Mexican food at one of our favorite places - a special request by our oldest son who wanted to eat there before he heads back to college Saturday.  When the time came to leave, my husband asked for the check.  The waitress said that our meal had already been paid for!  It was such a surprise to us because we honestly had no idea who might have paid for it!  A special act of kindness done randomly (or perhaps not randomly for the nice person who did it, but for us it was very random.).

Be kind to someone today.  Find a way to give of yourself to others.  It doesn't have to be huge - like paying for seven meals at a restaurant.  It can be something small.  Just take the time to do something for someone.  You'll be glad that you did.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Christmas Break...Happy New Year!


It was a great Christmas break for our family and we hope that it was for your family, as well!  Our college boy came home a few days earlier than the two youngest got out of school, so that was nice. We met the college girl in Oklahoma City for a surprise planned by my husband.
The first surprise was eating at KD's restaurant at Bricktown in Oklahoma City. All of us had been wanting to try it and we were very pleased with the experience.  The food was delicious! Not healthy, but delicious!

The next surprise was going to see "The Christmas Carol". It was GREAT!  We loved it!

After having Christmas with my side of the family in Texas, we enjoyed spending the whole break being at home this year.  We were gone the entire time last year, so it was a treat (until after Christmas, as you'll see below).  The kids decorated their gingerbread houses.
We even had a Facebook/Instagram contest for them.  #4 won, despite the wreath being upside down!
Buddy the Elf was a nightly visitor again this year.  We enjoy him visiting and figure he'll visit our home every year. The night before Christmas Even, he took lots of selfies!
Joe has so many different vehicles and keys that sometimes it's hard to keep up with them all, so I had planned to get him some sort of key finders.  One night I asked for advice on which one to get on Facebook.  I had narrowed it down to two and couldn't decide.  Not 30 minutes later, Joe said his secretary had sent him an email about of those key finders!  It was so funny because he had no clue I was planning to get him those for Christmas.  I went with the one in the email and hopefully they will be very helpful!  You'll notice how many he got.....That may not even be enough!  He's got lots and lots of keys!
This was only the second time in our family (the first time with all four children being born!) to have Christmas dinner with just the six of us.  It was so nice!!  No one had to get ready...we just wore whatever we wanted to....nothing fancy.
We even ate on paper plates and used the pretty silver plastic cutlery! (You can SEE THROUGH IT, we found out! Ha ha!  Pretty neat!).  I started to use the pretty real plates, but then I thought...WHY?  Why have more dishes to wash???  Joe kept up the dishes for us while Zachary and I did most of the cooking - with some help from the other kids.
Our daughter made us a special thing for Christmas.  It shows our hometowns and where we met, along with our wedding date.  Pretty sweet!  I'll share more homemade gifts (from my husband's side of the family Christmas) on another post this week.
And then just a few days after all of the wonderful Christmastime celebrations, an ice storm came! I had prayed for snow.  Joe had prayed against it!  Tyler wanted a white Christmas and it came a few days late.
What none of us wanted was an ice storm that causes a huge catastrophic problem for the electric companies and resulted in power outages that lasted from a few days to many days (200 people are still without power).  We used some neat ideas we had seen to light up the room - flashlights on top of gallons of water.  It really worked!  We also used little terra cotta pots and candles to make heaters.  They worked and helped, even with the fireplace.  We cooked on the gas grill outside and even on the fireplace fire a few times, but also drove out of town where there was electricity to eat, too.  It also gave us time to recharge our cell phones.
We played LOTS and LOTS of games during the power outage. Our oldest son dug out his old K'Nex sets and made up this amazing basketball coliseum! He even had a hanging scoreboard in the middle!
As soon as the electricity came on, it was back to normal.  Well.....somewhat normal.  The youngest got something for Christmas he never thought we would allow him to have....a first for our family: a game system.  He got a few sports' games to go with it, and it's actually more fun to see the kids playing together like this than to have them wanting to just watch TV, so it was a wise decision to get it for him/them.
And the end of the break was the beginning days of the new year.  We celebrated quietly and with all of us here - something that will end within the next few years, I'm sure.  

These times are special.  Memories were made and will be cherished forever. 
 
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