31 December 2013

First report card - December 2013

On Avery's last day of school before Christmas break, I was surprised to find a report card in her backpack. It never occurred to me that she would get a report card at preschool. But I shouldn't have been so surprised. We are so very pleased with her preschool, the staff and the curriculum.

As we expected, Avery seems to be on target for all of her learning milestones. It looks like we need to work on some of the letter sounds, buttoning her clothes and tying her shoes. But none of her shoes have shoestrings! Even though it says she doesn't know her address or telephone number, she certainly does. I'm sure she just didn't feel like repeating them when asked. :o)

I'm so proud of how well she is doing in school. Let's hope the second semester is a good one, too!

(Click on the pictures to see the larger images.)

27 December 2013

A perfect proposal

Ten years ago today, Chris blindfolded me and took me to a jewelry store lobby. He handed me this note, the last in a series of clues he had given me during the previous few days. Then he left the lobby. He returned, after what seemed an eternity, and sat next to me.

He read this note aloud to me and then said, "I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You've been with me through good and bad. I'm ready to start our lives together." Then he dropped on one knee, pulled out the most beautiful ring I've ever seen and said, "Will you marry me?" I immediately said yes. And we sat together, hugging and crying in the jewelry store lobby.

Chris, I love you more now than on the day you proposed. Thank you for choosing to share your life with me. Together we've created countless memories and a pretty awesome family. I love you! ;o)

26 December 2013

20 December 2013

19 December 2013

12 December 2013

10 December 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 13:1-30, 34-43

Now that opposition has grown against Jesus, He begins speaking in parables. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Parables compel listeners to discover truth while concealing truth from anyone who is too lazy or stubborn to listen.

Jesus taught in parables for three reasons:
  • The kingdom secrets were given to the disciples, not the crowds. The secrets were for the people in the kingdom.
  • The people were slow to respond to Him. They were not willing to listen to God’s truth.
  • To fulfill prophecy.
Jesus blesses the disciples. While the Old Testament prophets longed to see the Messiah, Jesus says His disciples are blessed because they see Jesus perform miracles and hear His teachings. Christians today also are blessed because we have the complete Bible and the Holy Spirit in us to teach us the truth, among many other benefits to living after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus teaches two parables during this section in Matthew: the parable of the sower and the parable of the weeds.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains different responses to His Word. The seed represents the Word of God. The different soils represent our hearts and our responses to God’s Word. The seed was the same in all four instances, but the responses were different. The seed was snatched away, was scorched, was choked out by weeds or produced a harvest.
  • The hard ground is a hard heart. The path was trampled on and was most traveled. Here the devil snatches away the seed.
  • The rocky ground is a shallow heart. These people hear the Word but fall away during trials and testing.
  • The thorny ground is a distracted heart. It is distracted by the world and its pursuits.
  • The good soil is a receptive heart. These people are willing to change and respond to what they hear.
Then Jesus tells the parable of the weeds. In this parable, an evil farmer sows weeds among his enemy farmer’s good seeds. The weeds are sons of the devil, and the seeds are sons of God. The weeds look similar to the wheat just like counterfeit Christians look similar to true Christians.

The devil plants counterfeit Christians in the church today. These counterfeit Christians believe a counterfeit gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), encourage counterfeit righteousness (Romans 10:1-3), develop a counterfeit church (Revelation 2:9) and produce a counterfeit Christ (II Thessalonians 2:1-12).

The counterfeit Christians will be revealed on the judgment day when Jesus will separate true believers from people who have rejected Him. The judgment day is real, and it is coming.

Things to Think About
  • Which truths has God revealed to me in the book of Matthew? How have I responded?
  • Which of the four soils represents my heart? If my heart is hard, ask God to soften it. If my heart is shallow, ask God to dig up the rocks and give me good soil. If my heart is distracted, ask God to narrow my focus. If my heart is receptive, ask God to continue to nourish and cultivate my heart to produce more fruit.
  • Am I an authentic Christian? Can others see this in the way I live my life?
That concludes the first part of this BSF year! I'll be back with more weekly lessons after the Christmas break.

05 December 2013

03 December 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 11-12

Doubt. We’ve all done it. Doubting itself isn’t a sin. God says when we doubt or question Him and His will for us, we should take our concerns directly to Him for honest answers. Jesus demonstrates this truth when He answers John the Baptist’s doubts in Matthew 11.

John is the prophet spoken about in the Old Testament. He is the one who pointed others to Christ and prepared the people for the Messiah. But John doesn’t see some Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled. And then King Herod puts John in prison. John begins to doubt God and question his part in God’s plan to bring salvation to the world. John has honest and sincere questions, so he sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He really is the Messiah.

Jesus answers by telling John’s disciples that the evidence is in the miracles they are seeing Jesus accomplish. And He also commends John’s faith and devotion. John only had partial knowledge. He was looking forward to the Messiah’s death. But believers today have the full knowledge. Believers now have a greater understanding than John did (Matthew 11:11).

Next Jesus speaks woe (grief, sorrow, regret, judgment) to the cities who have seen His miracles first-hand yet still reject Him. Then Jesus says to come to Him and get away from your heavy burdens. You will receive rest when you trust in Christ. Take His yoke, which helps us obey Him. Jesus never promises to take away our burdens, but He will walk beside us as we go through those situations.

The Pharisees keep attacking Jesus!

  • They think His disciples are working on the Sabbath when the pick grain. Jesus condemns this. The disciples weren’t disobeying God’s commands but the things the Pharisees added to God’s law.
  • The Pharisees are concerned that Jesus is healing on the Sabbath. Jesus condemns this. He shows mercy and compassion to a man with a shriveled hand. Jesus says it is right to do good on the Sabbath.
  • The Pharisees think Jesus receives His power from Satan. Jesus responds by saying He is the Lord of the Sabbath.
  • The Pharisees ask for a miraculous sign. They already have seen more than enough signs to prove that Jesus is who He says He is! But they reject Him.

The Messiah is right in front of the Pharisees, yet they refuse to believe Him. Instead, they plot to kill Him.

Things to Think About

  • What are my questions and doubts? Will I bring them to Jesus?
  • What consumes my thoughts? Come to Christ for rest. The alternative is worry, fear and anxiety.
  • Coming to Jesus is essential for this life and for the life to come.

28 November 2013

26 November 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 9:35-10:42

I apologize upfront if this post is a little convoluted. I was feeling really distracted while studying this lesson, so I didn’t get really deep into the applications.

At the end of Matthew chapter 9 and throughout chapter 10, Jesus explains the cost of discipleship to His followers. Being a disciple of Christ is extremely costly but eternally rewarding.

He sees the people as sheep without a shepherd. He not only sees the people, but He sees their hearts.

Jesus tells us to pray for God to supply the workers. And be warned that I may be the answer to my own prayer!

Next Jesus commissions his 12 apostles. While disciples are any people who follow Jesus, He appoints 12 specific men whom He chooses to represent Jesus to others. Jesus gives them the authority to heal people and cast out demons besides the power to speak the Gospel. This authority was the credentials they needed to prove their work was from Jesus.

Jesus also gives the apostles some specific instructions:
  • Don’t go to the Gentiles and the Samaritans.
  • Don’t take extra money, clothes or shoes.
  • Do go to the lost sheep of Israel.
  • Do proclaim Jesus’ message of repentance and the kingdom of heaven.
  • Do heal people and cast out demons for no cost.
  • Do be as shrewd as snakes (tough-minded) and as innocent as doves (tenderhearted).
Finally, Jesus prepares His disciples for persecution. Jesus calls His apostles (and us!) to endure to the end. He tells us to fear not for seven reasons:
  • We should expect suffering.
  • God will bring everything into the light one day.
  • We should fear God only.
  • God cares for His own.
  • Christ honors those who confess Him.
  • We cannot escape conflict.
  • We can be a blessing to others.
Things to Think About
  • Who is in my crowd of sheep without a shepherd? Who in my life is confused and walking around aimlessly?
  • Am I willing to be tough-minded and tenderhearted?
  • Stay committed in the face of suffering and even death. Jesus did not promise ease but warned of trouble in the Christian life.

21 November 2013

19 November 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 9:1-34

The people in this passage were trapped in sin and its effects, though they may not have realized it. But Jesus healed them and met their deepest needs.

In the first miracle, four friends of a paralyzed man take him to Jesus for healing. They carry the man to the roof and lower him through the roof to Jesus who was preaching to a crowd below. Jesus sees the friends’ faith and says the man’s sins are forgiven.

Then the Jewish leaders question Jesus. They think He is dishonoring God because they know only God Himself could forgive sins. But Jesus is saying He is God.

After giving the man spiritual healing, Jesus also gives him physical healing. Jesus sees that the man’s greatest needs is the forgiveness of sin. He needs spiritual healing more than physical healing. Jesus shows the man He has the authority to forgive and to heal.

Next, Jesus calls Matthew to be one of His apostles. Matthew is a Jew and a tax collector. Because of his job, he is despised by his own people. When Jesus calls Matthew, he leaves everything to follow Him.

Matthew hosts a party at his house for tax collectors and “sinners,” and he invites Jesus to attend. The Pharisees question this. How could Jesus spend time, especially sharing a meal, with such horrible people? But Jesus reminds the Jewish leaders that He was doing God’s will by showing mercy to the people who needed it most. The Pharisees were looking down on the people God was calling to Him.

Jesus wasn’t done with His miracles! Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, approaches Jesus. He kneels before Jesus, believing He could heal his daughter simply by speaking. In the midst of this conversation, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touches Jesus’ cloak and was healed immediately. She believes she could be healed if she simply touches the hem of Jesus’ cloak. What faith she displays! Then at Jairus’ house, Jesus raised his daughter back to life.

There are two more miracles in this passage. Two blind men ask for mercy and believe Jesus could heal them. And He does. Finally, some friends bring a mute, demon-possessed man to Jesus for healing. And He does. Again, the Pharisees are skeptical. They accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Satan’s power.

Faith in Jesus changes lives – the paralytic walked, Matthew could see, the bleeding woman was well, Jairus’ daughter regained life, the blind men could see and the mute man talked. How is your faith in Jesus changing your life?

Things to Think About

  • There is no power that enslaves us that is not subject to the power of Christ, which frees us.
  • Who am I bringing to Christ like the paralyzed man’s friends did?
  • Am I amazed by Jesus like the crowd, or do I doubt Him like the Pharisees?
  • Matthew hosted a party to introduce his friends to Christ. Would I do the same? Which evidence in my life shows I am not ashamed to be associated with Christ?
  • When God calls me to obey Him, will I do it with as much abandon as Matthew did?
  • Jesus has the power to forgive, heal, call and restore.

14 November 2013

12 November 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 8

After the Sermon on the Mount, many people began following Jesus. He was making some radical statements and performing some miraculous signs to prove He was the promised Messiah...no wonder so many people wanted to follow Him!

But Jesus didn’t perform miracles just to get people to follow Him. His miracles demonstrated His divine power and authority. Jesus’ miracles also revealed spiritual truths. They showed that He has authority over bodies, souls and worlds.

At the beginning of Matthew 8, Jesus first heals a leper. Leprosy is a terrible disease. People who suffered from it also were subject to religious and social laws that forced them to live away from their families. The Jews saw this disease as a mark of God’s displeasure and as a punishment of sin.

In this story, a leper kneels before Jesus, acknowledging that He was God. Jesus touches the man, and immediately the leprosy disappears. This miracle is a picture of how Jesus cleanses us from sin. Jesus does not become sinful by touching us, but we become righteous by touching Him.

Next, Jesus heals a paralyzed servant. A centurion, who was a Gentile and a ranking officer in the Roman army, came to Jesus asking Him to heal his ailing servant. The centurion had great faith and knew Jesus only had to speak a word for his servant to be healed. He knew that when Jesus spoke it was God speaking. Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith and healed his servant from a great distance.

Another way Jesus shows His authority over disease is by healing Peter’s mother-in-law. She is confined to her bed and is sick with a fever. Women did not have a high position in society at this time, yet Jesus noticed Peter’s mother-in-law and healed her completely. To show her appreciation, she immediately got up and served Jesus.

The healing of our bodies is wonderful, but the healing of our sinful souls is even more wonderful. Jesus’ authority over sickness points to His authority over sin.

Jesus asks for a commitment to following Him. Next, He challenges two men who want to follow Him. The first man wanted to make a commitment without understanding the cost. He was too quick to promise. He was not willing to make a sacrifice for Jesus.

The second man said he would follow Jesus after he buried his father. The man’s father probably was still alive because people were buried on the day they died. The man wanted to take care of family obligations before he served Jesus. This man was too slow to perform.

Jesus calls us to have a genuine faith. True disciples follow Jesus wherever He goes. Following Jesus is not always comfortable. Jesus doesn’t just want me to be happy, comfortable and fulfilled. He wants to challenge my faith in Him.

Next Jesus tells His disciples to get in a boat. He knew a storm was coming. As Jesus was sleeping, the storm hits. The disciples were afraid. They woke up Jesus and asked Him to save them. With just a word, Jesus stopped the storm.

The disciples were in the middle of God’s will, yet the storm still came. But Jesus was with them. Satan would love to capsize our faith, but Jesus is in the storm with us.

When they reached the other side of the lake, two demon-possessed men approach Jesus. They were violent, naked and threatening to other people. They knew who Jesus was and called Him the Son of God. Jesus casts the demons into pigs. And the pigs run off a cliff. This miracle should have drawn the people to Jesus. But instead the people reject Jesus and beg Him to leave their village.

Things to Think About

  • What am I willing to sacrifice to follow Christ?
  • Where is God testing my faith to get me to follow Him more closely?
  • Will I focus on the storm or on the Savior who is with me in the storm?
  • Only Jesus has the power to completely restore broken lives.

08 November 2013

Halloween festivities

Halloween seemed to be an extra busy time for us this year because we filled it with lots of fun activities.

Avery didn't have very many ideas for her costume. But when my mom showed her a pattern for a Little Bo Peep outfit, Avery was on board.

My mom made the outfit complete by covering her grandmother's cane and turning it into a shepherd's staff. The sheep used to belong to Karen and me when we were little. Now it's Avery's sheep.

She looked adorable, if I do say so myself. But I instructed my mom that future costumes should not have so many accessories. Chris and I ended up carrying the sheep and the shepherd's staff at all of our activities!

Mommaw and Poppaw helped Avery choose these two adorable pumpkins on a trip to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch. Since these pumpkins weren't big enough to carve, Daddy and Avery painted them together.

Avery's handiwork.

Can you guess who put IU and Colts art on his pumpkin?

Avery and I went with Mommaw to her church's fall party. I can tell the pastor really enjoys doing this for the kids, because he goes all out to make it a fun party.

There were several fun carnival-type games. Avery's favorite was this one. A sticker was hidden on the bottom of one of the objects. After they were moved around, Avery had to find the sticker.

I think she only missed once! And she played this game several times.

After she won a game, she got a ticket which she used to "buy" something at the prize table. She came home with so many treats, and almost none of them was candy. Fun things like a DVD, a new pair of sunglasses and a tiny toy tea set.

The kids also participated in a few group games. This was Avery's first official sack race, even though she briefly tried it out with Daddy last Halloween.

I was so proud of her for trying something new. And she led the pack for most of the race!

Next up was the pumpkin patch with Grandma and Grandpa.

This pumpkin patch has a hay bale maze.

I think she liked the swing the best!

After choosing our pumpkin, it was time to carve it.

Avery definitely doesn't mind getting dirty. It's hard to believe she's my child because I never liked doing this part!

Avery requested the sad face on the pumpkin.

Saying thanks to the pumpkin carver.

Our last Halloween celebration was the Fall Fun Fest at our church. Our church used to host a similar event but hasn't done one for several years. This year's festivities included food, boucehouses, games and lots of candy. We were so glad that we ran into our friends the Berkemeiers.

We had planned on doing just this event on Halloween night and skipping the trick-or-treating. But the severe weather in our area caused every local city to postpone trick-or-treating to the next night. That meant that every family in Johnson County was at our church! We had to stand in some long lines, but Avery got to play all of the games she wanted to. I hope a lot of these families are guests and will start coming to our church!

By far, Mike Ditka was my favorite costume (photo courtesy of The Daily Journal)!

07 November 2013

05 November 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 7

This is the last lesson about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Last week, we saw Jesus talk about giving, fasting, prayer, treasures and worry. This week, Jesus will continue by talking about judging others, discerning God’s truth and building our lives on Jesus, the one true Foundation.

“Do not judge... (Matthew 7:1)” Many people take this phrase out of context and believe it’s a blanket statement. Actually, it’s a call for God’s people to be discerning and not negative. God tells us it is appropriate to judge certain things: when a Christian sins, when someone alters the Gospel message, ourselves, wickedness.

Jesus tells us to judge with the right heart. We shouldn’t have a judgmental attitude or a critical spirit. We should build people up instead of tearing them down.

We shouldn’t focus on the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye without focusing on the plank in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). When we try to help others while having our own issues, we inflict undue pain on them because we are unwilling to cleanse ourselves first.

Jesus also says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” The dogs and pigs are people who have heard God’s Word but openly reject it and openly scorn God. They have hard hearts toward God. The sacred things and the pearls are the holy things of God. We should discern what we say to certain people because someone who rejects God will mock our Christian doctrines.

How do we gain this discernment? We ask, seek and knock...continuously. Ask means we call on God for an answer. Seek means we search for the answer in God’s Word and through more prayer. Knock means we persevere and persist in prayer. God always will answer believers’ prayers. The answer may be yes, no or wait. The answer will come in His time and in His will. But God always answers our prayers.

Next Jesus addresses the path to God. The narrow gate and the narrow road lead to life and God. But the wide gate and the broad road lead to destruction and hell. Just as in Jesus’ day, today people say there are many ways to God, but that is not true. There is only one way to God – through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

How do we know when someone is teaching correct doctrine? We must look for the fruit in their lives. Our fruit shows whether our faith is genuine or counterfeit. Look at teachers’ lives, listen to their words, look for the fruit of the Spirit and test everything they say against the Bible to determine if they are teaching the truth. And ask God for His discernment to reveal these things to you.

Following false teachers and their teachings is like the foolish builder who built his house on the sand. When the storm came, the house collapsed because it was not built on a firm foundation. But the wise builder built his house on the rock. When the storm came, the house stood firm because it was built on the rock.

The foolish builder lacked a relationship with Christ and trusted in other things and people to get him to God. But the wise builder trusted in Christ and built his life upon the Rock. The wise builder applied Christ’s words to his life.

Next week, we’ll see Jesus begin healing people with miracles.

Things to Think About

  • Is it easier for me to magnify the speck in someone else’s eye than to address my own issues?
  • Am I willing to remove the plank from my own eye before helping someone remove the speck from his or her eye?
  • In which relationship do I need God’s discernment?
  • Which road am I traveling?
  • Which fruit am I producing?
  • Am I building my life on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ, His work on the cross and His Word?

31 October 2013

29 October 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 6

Between the sermons at church and my weekly BSF lessons, it seems like God is really trying to speak to me and change me to become more like Him. The lessons in Matthew 6 are no different. And there were so many application questions this week that really struck me. So get ready for a long list of “things to think about!”

In Matthew 6, Jesus is still giving His Sermon on the Mount. He continues to teach His followers about His high standard for living the Christian life.

Jesus starts by telling us not to give, pray and fast for others to see us. Instead, He tells us to give, pray and fast in secret. Giving includes sharing money, clothes and time with the needy. Am I giving only so I’m noticed by other people? Why do I give? Would I still give if no one ever knew I did it?

Jesus says we shouldn’t pray for others to see or hear us. Instead, we should go to a quiet place to pray. He tells us not to be like the hypocrites. They prayed their personal prayer requests aloud in public places, such as synagogues and street corners. The hypocrites also prayed while standing instead of acting reverently toward God. Am I praying only so I’m noticed by other people? Why do I pray? Would I still pray if no one ever knew I did it?

Next, Jesus discusses fasting. Fasting is giving up food to study the Bible and pray. It is a self-discipline that was required only one day a year for the Jews until Jesus was born. Fasting is still acceptable today when done with the proper heart attitude. Just like giving and praying, our fasting should be done silently. Am I fasting only so I’m noticed by other people? Why do I fast? Would I still fast if no one ever knew I did it?

Then Jesus addresses our treasures. He tells us not to store up treasures on earth and not to have double vision. Instead, we should store up treasures in heaven and have a single focus. We store treasures in heaven by obeying God. And double vision is seeking praise for both God and myself, while single vision is seeking praise for God alone.

Finally, Jesus talks about worry. He instructs us not to worry about life, food, drink and clothes. Instead, we should seek His kingdom and His righteousness. We don’t need to worry because God knows what we need. He is a responsible Father and will meet our needs. Worry will not add any time to our lives. Worry is showing that I don’t trust God. God promises to take care of my needs.

Things to Think About
  • Do I privately give, pray and fast?
  • Is God receiving the glory when I give, pray and fast?
  • If I give, pray and fast for the praise of men, I will not receive anything from God. If I do it in secret, God will reward me.
  • If everything was taken from me, would I still love God? Is He my most treasured possession?
  • The same God who created my life can be trusted with the details of my life.
  • When worry creeps in, consider: God loves me. God cares for me. God sees me. God knows my need. God knows when I need it. My job is to trust Him.

25 October 2013

Hooked on phonics

Thanks to the skills she's picking up at preschool, Avery is quickly learning the letter sounds. Not only that, she's also learning how to put the sounds together to create words. Maybe she'll be reading sooner than we expected!

24 October 2013

22 October 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 5

Did you miss my BSF post last week? Did you even notice that I was gone? :o) Chris, Avery, my parents, my sister and I were enjoying the warm sandy beaches of the Bahamas, so I missed my BSF class last Monday night. Here’s a brief recap. Last week, we studied the beginning of Matthew 5. In this chapter, Jesus began His famous Sermon on the Mount. He was teaching His disciples about a variety of topics, and a large crowd of people listened to these teachings.

The teachings in the Sermon on the Mount show us that God calls every believers to display Christ’s characteristics. Through this sermon, Jesus taught His followers a new way of living life and a new way of dealing with sin. He emphasized heart attitudes and motives in addition to actions. This week in the rest of Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to beware of the warning signs so we don’t fall into sin.

This chapter begins with Jesus testifying that the Old Testament is true and useful. Many people today might not agree with that, but let me explain why the Old Testament is valid. The Old Testament includes the moral law, the civil law and the ceremonial law.

The moral law was the Ten Commandments. These are direct commands from God, and we still must obey these laws today.

The civil law was laws for daily living. Some of the Old Testament civil laws don’t necessarily apply to our daily living today, but God still calls us to obey the civil laws our local, state and federal governments have established over us.

The ceremonial law was worship laws that pointed to Christ’s coming. These laws no longer are valid because Jesus came to earth to die for us. But by observing communion, believers recognize Christ’s fulfillment of the ceremonial law.

Jesus said that He did not come to change the Old Testament but to change the extra teachings the Pharisees added to the Law. The Pharisees were seen as the holiest and most religious people. They knew the truth and taught the truth to others, but they did not let the truth reach into their hearts and change their lives. This is the same for us today...we also need to live God’s truth in our lives, not simply know the truth in our heads.

We cannot gain righteousness through the moral law, the civil law or the ceremonial law. The only way we can gain righteousness is through the righteousness of Jesus (Galatians 2:19-21).

The Pharisees taught that righteousness results from words and deeds. Jesus taught that righteousness centers around our hearts. The Pharisees saw sin as outward action. Jesus saw sin as the attitude of our hearts.

In the rest of Matthew 5, Jesus gives six illustrations about Christians and the Law:
  • Anger – Jesus said anger toward someone is the same as murder. When I recall something, stop everything I’m doing to be reconciled with someone. Whether I was wronged or whether I did the wrong, I should be the one who takes the first step to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • Adultery – This is not a brief glace at someone. This is looking with the intent to fulfill my inner sexual appetite. When this red flag appears, take drastic measures. Do not allow this to infect your life.
  • Divorce – Divorce is not from God. God hates divorce, but He does not hate divorced people.
  • Vows – Let your yes be yes and your no be no. If I have to say “I mean it,” that means I everything else I have said are lies. Your word reveals who you are.
  • Revenge – Leave room for God’s wrath. The law in Leviticus was focused on fairness, not paying more than what the crime was worth.
  • Love your enemies – Love the people who hate you. Pray for the people who hate you.
We can’t do any of this on our own. We need God’s help.

Things to Think About
  • Am I allowing God to help me put His Word into action in my life?
  • Am I surrendering my will to God’s? Am I soaking in His Word? Am I serving wherever He calls me
  • My thoughts and heart are not hidden from God.
  • Temptation is not sin. But willfully placing ourselves in the way of temptation eventually may result in sinful acts.
  • God’s boundaries keep us aligned with Him. Where have I stepped outside of God’s boundaries? Will I ask for His forgiveness and return to living inside His boundaries?

17 October 2013

11 October 2013

10 October 2013

09 October 2013

The family jokster

Avery loves telling jokes. Too bad she makes up most of them on her own. Don't ask me to translate because I don't understand them either! I don't think she has a future in stand-up comedy.

08 October 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 4

Last week, we saw Jesus experience a “mountaintop” moment when He was baptized by John the Baptist. This week, we see Jesus go from the mountaintop to the valley where the devil tempts Him three times.

Satan tempted Jesus to turn away from God. But Jesus resisted the temptations. To do so, He used the same tools available to us today – the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

Jesus defeated the devil in His humanity. He didn’t use any godly powers or miracles. He simply withstood the devil the same way He asks us to. And because Jesus was victorious, we also can be victorious.

Temptation 1 – The devil said, “If Your Father loved You, He would feed You. So take these stones and turn them into bread.” Jesus could have done this, but then He would have sidestepped God’s will. When we put our physical needs above God and His will, we sin.

Temptation 2 – The devil said, “Your Father won’t let you be harmed. So throw Yourself down and see if the angels will come to protect You.” Jesus could have done this, but he refused.

Temptation 3 – The devil said, “I will give you all of these kingdoms without suffering on the cross.” Jesus knew that God sent Him to earth with the ultimate purpose of dying on the cross for our sins. It was God’s plan for Jesus to suffer for all humanity.

If Jesus had given in to any of these temptations and had sinned, it would have broken God’s plan of redemption.

We all are tempted in these ways. The devil tempts us to ignore God’s will, to do things for ourselves and to ignore suffering in the Christian life. But remember I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Jesus resisted Satan’s attacks and rebuked Satan with Scripture. We also can resist and rebuke Satan with the Bible.

After His temptations, Jesus began His public ministry. Remember that John the Baptist was the forerunner for Jesus. Jesus didn’t change John’s message. Jesus carried on the same message. He proclaimed the good news.

Jesus met Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John and called them to follow Him. Immediately, they left their fishing nets and families and followed Jesus. He called them to be fishers of men. He wanted them to fish for people and bring them to God. Following Christ requires sacrifice, sometimes leaving things behind.

Things to Think About
  • No temporary pleasure will outweigh the satisfaction of obeying God.
  • Believe that what God has allowed me to have is good, even if I want more. God is enough for me.
  • Believe that God’s will is right for me, even if it seems crazy.
  • Which situation in my life is causing me to doubt God’s goodness and sovereignty?
  • Am I equipped for Satan’s attacks? Am I using the Holy Spirit and God’s Word like Jesus did to resist Satan?
  • What am I willing to give up for Jesus? Time? Money? Pride?

03 October 2013

01 October 2013

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 3

It’s always interesting to see how God uses our families and our childhoods to prepare us for the Christian life. The same is true for the men in our lesson this week. Both John the Baptist and Jesus were born to godly parents. God used their families and their early circumstances to prepare them for their service later in life.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth like any child of that day and age. But not much is written in the Bible about the 30 “silent years” at the beginning of His life. Luke 2:52 tells us, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” He grew in wisdom in both earthly and spiritual things. And He grew in grace. He always was obedient. God’s grace kept Him from sin. Jesus also grew through temptations, which we’ll see in next week’s lesson. Jesus learned real obedience through temptations.

John the Baptist introduced the world to Jesus. John was the first prophet Israel had after 400 years of silence from God. John was a fulfillment of prophecies in the books of Isaiah and Malachi. John didn’t want the attention on him but was simply the messenger about Jesus’ coming. John understood his role and accepted it. He lived a life of self-denial. He spoke the word of God fearlessly. He prepared people’s hearts for the arrival of the King.

John’s message was to denounce the people’s sin. And he called for the people to repent of their sins or face judgment. Repentance is a changed thinking and a changed life. It’s turning from sin and turning toward God. True repentance requires seeing my sin for what it is and confessing it; having sorrow over my sin; and hating my sin enough to turn from it.

John also called the people to confess their sins to God and to submit to the symbol of baptism. Confession is agreeing with God about how sinful I am. John’s baptism was a preparation that was symbolic of the desire for a changed mind and life. John’s baptism simply introduced people to the coming King. John knew Jesus was the only one who could baptize people with the Holy Spirit. Today, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit at the moment of our salvation. And water baptism is an outward demonstration of the inward change of our hearts.

Jesus Himself asked John to baptize Him. Jesus didn’t need to repent and confess His sins because He was perfect and sinless. Instead, Jesus’ baptism announced His arrival as the Messiah and marked the beginning of his public ministry. Through His baptism, Jesus identified Himself with our sin and became our substitute (Isaiah 53:12). His baptism was a sign that He was consecrated to God and was approved by God for His work on earth.

Following Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and remained on Him throughout His ministry, giving Him the power to heal and speak. Today when we are saved, we receive the Holy Spirit, which identifies us with Christ. The Holy Spirit helps us live a holy life for Christ. He helps us change our minds and our actions. We are anointed to serve, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do that.

God prepared Jesus throughout His childhood. And now Jesus is entering into His public ministry to claim God’s people for Himself.

Things to Think About
  • What temptations am I facing right now? What do I want more than anything but I know it’s wrong?
  • Am I pouring out my heart to God and asking him to help me withstand these temptations?
  • How can I remove obstacles for others to hear God’s message? Am I willing to get out of the way?
  • Am I always lifting up the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • We always talk about the person we know and love the best. What is in my heart comes out of my mouth. When people are with me, are they left thinking about Jesus instead of me?
  • If the identifying mark of a true believer is a life that has repented from sin and bears fruit, what kind of fruit am I producing?

28 September 2013

A super duper awesome bedroom

We finally have the house back in order. Avery's new purple bedroom is done!

The night before the carpet was going to be installed, Chris and I cleared out Avery's new room. That meant we had even more furniture sitting in the rest of the house. We also wanted the carpet installer to re-stretch the carpet in the living room. So the living room furniture was in the kitchen.

Mommaw and Poppaw Clark graciously offered for Avery to spend the night with them. They thought it would be easier on me and the carpet installer if Avery wasn't around. It's a good thing she did because there wasn't any room for her to get to her bed!

Here's the newly painted room with the 1980s mauve carpet. (The white specks on the floor are glow in the dark star stickers, which covered nearly every square inch of the ceiling.)

And after an hour, here is the new carpet!

Don't you love the way new carpet feels on your bare toes? Now every time Avery takes someone to see her room, she politely asks them to remove their shoes and socks so they can feel the carpet.

As we moved everything back into the room, we purged and sorted all of her clothes and toys.

I got a few hugs and kisses as a reward for giving her a new "big girl" room.

When Avery first asked for a pink and purple bedroom, I cringed. But then I remembered this quilt that my Grandma Hromada made for me when I was a kid. Avery loved it as soon as she saw it, so I knew we had to use it on her new-to-her bed.

While we tried to keep the new room a little grown-up (instead of being covered with princesses), Daddy couldn't resist buying this for a subtle girly touch in the room.

Next up, we had to paint the AJ letters my Aunt Ann gave to Avery for her first Christmas. Don't worry...I asked Aunt Ann's permission. I felt terrible covering over her beautiful artwork with purple paint. But I knew this would make Avery happy. And Aunt Ann wasn't offended!

I lucked out by finding this simple white and pink valance, which goes perfectly with Avery's theme. Avery chose the curtain rod. In case you can't tell, the finials are butterflies.

Here's one more personal touch in the room. My Grandma Hromada also made this needlepoint of DeGrazia's "Flower Girl." I always marvel at Grandma's needlepoints. I'm so glad I found a place of prominence for this special piece of art.

I think Avery approves of her new room. After she spent her first night in there, we asked her what she thought. She said the room is "super duper awesome." That's good enough for us!