31 December 2014

A brief year-in-review

Just like every year, 2014 was full of highs and lows, though I'd say there were more highs than lows. Here is a brief synopsis of how I will remember this year:

The Good – Chris and I celebrated 10 wonderful years of marriage. I still am amazed at how God brought us together...and keeps us together! Chris marked a lifelong goal off his list when he received his bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. At times, I know he thought that graduation day would never arrive. But he didn't give up, and all of his work paid off when he graduated summa cum laude. God added more sunshine to our lives when He blessed us with Damon Christopher this year, the happiest, smiley-est baby I've ever met. And Avery is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to all of the fun and learning she's doing in kindergarten. I couldn't be prouder of our little family.

The Bad – I unexpectedly lost my job last week. While I was blindsided by this decision, I'm doing my best to see it as a blessing in disguise. The future is very uncertain right now, but my prayer is that I will recognize, accept and submit to God's will...whatever His will is and whenever He reveals it to me.

The Ugly – As if losing my job wasn't bad enough, I also lost my oldest and dearest friend in the process. Losing both my job and my best friend in this way crushed my spirit. It will take some time to remove the bitterness that I built up in my heart, but soon I will forgive her and forget this most painful experience in my life.

So, I'm shaking the 2014 dust off my feet and looking forward to bigger and better things in 2015! Happy New Year to all of our family and friends!


25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6

As you celebrate the Saviors birth today, remember the reason
He came to earth. Look past the manger and see the cross!


18 December 2014

11 December 2014

09 December 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 35:1-40:38

This week, the Israelites build the Tabernacle, the place where God will dwell with them.

God instructs Moses to take a free-will offering from the people. Their offerings provide the materials needed to build the Tabernacle. The people give so many gifts that Moses must restrain them from giving any more.

Besides Moses, the Bible mentions two men who are filled with the Spirit of God to be craftsmen for building the Tabernacle. The Spirit gives these men wisdom, knowledge, understanding and skills to build the Tabernacle. Today, the Holy Spirit gives us these same gifts to help us serve God.

God gives skilled workers the ability to do the work of building the Tabernacle, and He gives them the willingness to do the work.

The Israelites build the Tabernacle just as the Lord had commanded. It takes the Israelites about six months to construct the Tabernacle. When the construction is complete, the Tabernacle is set up on the first day of the first month, exactly one year after the original Passover celebration. This is a way for the people to remember what God had done for them.

The Tabernacle and all of its furnishings point to Christ as our Savior. God dwelt among the people in the Tabernacle. Today, God’s people are indwelt once by the Holy Spirit at conversion and are filled over and over with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Tabernacle is placed in the middle of the Israelites’ camp. God’s presence in a cloud remains over the Tabernacle. When the cloud moves, the people move. When the cloud remains, the people remain. The Israelites must keep their focus on the cloud (God!) and be ready to move whenever the cloud moves.

Things to Think About

  • God’s purpose for the Israelites was to know Him, to love Him, to worship Him, to serve Him and to glorify Him. (We have the same purpose in our lives today!) Their purpose did not change because of their sin. Our sin and grief don’t change God’s purpose in our lives.
  • How often do I complete my tasks just as I was commanded to?
  • Am I doing my secular work according to His plan and purpose?
  • I am God’s dwelling place.

08 December 2014

04 December 2014

02 December 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 33:7-34:35

When we left the Israelites last week, they were mourning for their grievous sin against God – idolatry. Today, God shows His mercy and grace to His people, in spite of their sin.

Moses pitches the Tent of Meeting outside the Israelites’ camp. In this tent, he meets God. Moses creates this tent because God can not be among His people due to their sin.

Moses enters the Tent of Meeting to speak to God. Then he returns to the Israelites' camp. The people demonstrate their repentance when they expectantly watch Moses enter the tent.

While in the tent, God speaks to Moses "face to face, as one speaks to a friend." This was not a literally face-to-face conversation, but it was a personal, intimate conversation with God.

Moses asks to know God more. He wants God’s presence to go with the Israelites. Moses also asks God to show him His glory. But God says no one can see His face and live.

God instructs Moses to chisel two new tablets so He can write His law again. God shows His mercy and His grace to the Israelites by giving them His laws again. Mercy is not getting what we deserve (ultimately, this is eternal death). Grace is getting what we don’t deserve (forgiveness for our sins and eternal life).

Because God says no one can see His face and live, God passes in front of Moses. Moses responds immediately by bowing down to worship Him. Moses stays on the mountain with God for 40 days and 40 nights. When Moses comes down from the mountain, his face is radiant because he had spoken with God.

The Israelites see Moses’ radiant face and are afraid. They see God’s presence in Moses. They can see that Moses spent time with God. Moses met with God and was transformed by it. And the people recognized that Moses was in God’s presence.

Things to Think About

  • Do I earnestly seek God the way Moses sought Him through prayer?
  • To see God’s glory is to see His character. When we reflect God’s glory, we reflect His character. Can people see God’s characteristics in me?
  • God’s people are transformed by God’s presence.
  • How often do I spend quality, quiet time with God?
  • Do I see quality time with God as a blessing instead of a burden?

27 November 2014

25 November 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 32:1-33:6

While reading this week’s lesson, it was easy to point my finger at Aaron and the Israelites because they quickly turned from God and built an idol.  But there are many ways we can create idols in our own lives now.

An idol is something in creation that is inflated to function as a substitute to God. An idol can be an object, a person, an activity, an organization, an idea, a hobby and so many more things. When your loyalty to something or someone causes you to disobey God, you are in danger of idolatry.

In this passage in Exodus, the Israelites’ faith is weak because they can’t wait for Moses to return from his mountaintop experience with God. So they go to Aaron and request that they build a physical god. Aaron tells them to bring their gold earrings to him. He is weak himself. He uses the earrings to create a calf idol.

The people begin to celebrate and run wild. Translations of this passage indicate that this is a time of drunkenness and sexual immorality. The people are worshipping like the pagan nations around them, not like the holy nation God called them to be.

Later we will see that Aaron is to blame for the people’s actions. Moses and God put him in charge, yet Aaron didn’t stop the people and point them back to God. Instead, he gave in to what the people wanted.

On the mountain, God tells Moses that the people are misbehaving in his absence and worshipping an idol. God says He is ready to destroy them all. He calls them a stiff-necked people – they know idolatry is a sin, yet they do it anyway.

God tests Moses by offering to make a new nation out of Moses and his family. Moses doesn’t abandon the Israelites but pleads for the people on their behalf. God relents. He changes His action toward the people, but He doesn’t change His behavior. He let Moses pray and intercede for the people. Even today, our prayers combined with God’s determination make His will come to pass. He involves us in His will.

Moses comes down the mountain with two tablets of God’s law, written by God’s own hand. Moses hears the people shouting in their revelry. In his anger, Moses destroys the tablets and burns the calf. He shows the people that they have broken God’s law and that the idol was worthless and powerless.

Next, Moses approaches Aaron who refuses to accept responsibility for his sin. He blames everyone and everything else – he blames the nature of the people, he blames the people for forcing him to do it, he blames Moses for being gone for too long and he blames the fire saying the calf idol appeared from it.

More people need to be punished for this sin. Moses calls for everyone who stands with the Lord to come to him. The Levites obey. Moses commands the Levites to kill some of the offenders, including their friends and families. About three thousand people are killed. How could God call for us a harsh punishment? It is because God demands absolute holiness.

Moses realizes that a price must be paid for the people’s great sin. He attempts to atone for their sins by offering himself as a substitute. Moses asks God to take his life for the people’s lives. God refuses Moses’ offer because he is a sinner and can’t reconcile the people to God. We cannot atone for the price of our own sins. Instead, God sent His sinless Son to die for the sins of the entire world.

God tells Moses to lead the people to the Promised Land. God says He will not go with the people but will send an angel to accompany them. The people mourn for their sin, especially because their sin caused God to remove His presence.

Things to Think About

  • What in my life is in danger of becoming an idol? What is consuming my money, time and attention? Ask God to reveal these things to me and then get rid of them.
  • Am I so intimate with God that I can reasonably talk with God like Moses did?
  • For whom am I praying (interceding)?
  • Idolatry is disobedience to God’s command to love Him wholeheartedly and to worship Him only.
  • Self-centeredness drives idolatry. The opposite of self-centeredness is selflessness.
  • Where in my life am I more concerned with my own comfort or convenience than for the kingdom of God?
  • Which worldly practice am I making into a habit?
  • For which of my own sins am I blaming someone else?
  • Only God can give us the happiness, peace and joy that idols deceptively promise.
  • The Israelites were impatient while waiting for Moses and God. It takes faith to wait for God.

20 November 2014

18 November 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 25-31

This week we see a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ in the details about the Tabernacle, the place where God came to dwell with His people.

Through Moses, God gives instructions for the Israelites to build the Tabernacle. He told them to build everything exactly as God instructed. Why? Because Everything in the Tabernacle pointed to Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything foreshadowed in the Tabernacle.

God tells Moses to collect offerings from the people. These offerings are not to be forced or demanded. These are gifts given from an overflow of hearts that are grateful to God. The gifts are to be gold, silver, fabrics and jewels. This wealth was provided by God through the Egyptians, when the Israelites left Egypt. The Israelites brought so many items that they were told to stop (Exodus 36:3-7)!

God instructs the Israelites to make six furnishings for the Tabernacle:

  • The Ark of the Covenant – The ark was located in the Most Holy Place, the place where God dwelt. The Ten Commandments, a jar of manna and Aaron’s staff were inside the ark. The Atonement Cover (or the Mercy Seat) was on top of the ark. Once a year, blood from the sacrificial lamb was sprinkled on the Atonement Cover. The Atonement Cover pointed to Jesus’ death and the shedding of His blood as the atonement for our sins.
  • The Table of the Bread of the Presence – The table was located in the Holy Place. Twelve loaves of bread (representing the twelve tribes of Israel) were baked weekly and placed on the table. The table pointed to Jesus as the Bread of life.
  • The Lampstand – The Lampstand was located in the Holy Place. Seven lamps on the lampstand lit up the dark Holy Place so the priests could work. The lampstand burned all of the time and pointed to Jesus as the Light of the world.
  • The Altar of Burnt Offerings – Sin offerings were placed here. This altar pointed to Jesus as the perfect sacrifice.
  • The Altar of Incense – This altar represented the prayers of believers.
  • The Basin – This basin was for the priests to wash their hands and feet before approaching God.

Today God dwells in believers with the Holy Spirit.

Then God calls Aaron and his sons to be priests. Some of the garments for the priests include an ephod and a breastpiece. The ephod had two onyx stones (six of the tribes of Israel were included on each stone). These stones remind the priests they’re carrying the burdens of the people. The breastpiece had 12 stones (one tribe on each stone). The stones remind the priests they’re carrying the people in their hearts.

The priests were consecrated and set apart for God. They represented God’s people before God. The priests pointed to Jesus as the Great High Priest.

Finally, God gave His Spirit to skilled workers so they could accomplish what He called them to do – build the Tabernacle and its furnishings.

Things to Think About

  • Do I ask God to make me holy because He is holy? What do I eat, drink, wear? What do I watch on TV? What do I read? What do I post on social media? How do I spend my time and my money? These are areas where I can live out God’s holiness in my life.
  • Because the Holy Spirit is in us, believers are God’s temple. We reflect Him. What area of my life doesn’t reflect God?
  • The most important part of the Christian life is what God sees – the inside of my heart.
  • Am I allowing God to use my skills and tasks to do mighty things for Him?

14 November 2014

Four-month doctor's appointment

I know it's hard to believe, but Damon's four-month doctor's appointment was today. Here are his stats:

Weight – 13 pounds, 14 ounces (between 10th and 25th percentiles)
Length – 24.25 inches (between 10th and 25th percentiles)
Head – 16 inches (25th percentile)

Once again, my main concern was Damon's eating. I'm always afraid he's not getting enough to eat. But since he gained more than two pounds in two months, I guess my fears are unfounded!

I thought it might be time to increase the amount of milk in his bottles or increase the time in between feedings. But the doctor said Damon is doing just fine for now. Since Damon sleeps through the night, there's no need to adjust his feedings...as long as he continues to sleep all night!

Damon is right on track with the developmental milestones. He's rolling both front-back and back-front, grabbing toys and cooing. The only thing he hasn't done yet is laugh! The boy is so happy and smiley that I can't believe we haven't heard a giggle yet.

The new thing now is that we can start feeding him rice cereal followed by vegetable baby foods. I don't think I'm ready for that yet. He's growing too quickly!

To end the appointment, Damon got two shots and an oral vaccine. He screamed during the shots conducted by our beloved Nurse Janie. But as soon as the shots were over and I picked him up, he gave a big toothless grin to Janie!

13 November 2014

11 November 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 21-24

Since their beginning, God called the Israelites to live differently, to live holy lives that reflected Himself to the other nations. Last week, God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites and all of humanity. These commandments are called the moral law. This week, we see God giving the civil law to the Israelites. The civil law is the application of the moral law.

The civil law explains how the Israelites should take care of their slaves, how they should handle premeditated and accidental personal injuries, how they should avoid sorcery and idolatry, how they should care for widows and orphans, how they should rest on the Sabbath and how they should worship God together at three annual festivals.

Many other laws are included in Exodus 21:1-23:19. Some of the themes of the civil law are:

  • The punishment must fit the crime.
  • There must be restitution, which is repayment and restoration, after a wrong.
  • God sees sanctity in life.
  • Do not be like the pagan nations and act like you are set apart for God.

After giving the civil law, God promises to send His angel to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. This angel is the preincarnate Christ. He protects the Israelites on their journey. God instructs the Israelites to pay attention to the angel and obey Him. God promises blessings, care and provisions. He also promises to defeat the Israelites’ enemies.

Next, God calls Moses to the top of the mountain along with Aaron, his two sons and the 70 elders. Moses writes down God’s laws and shares them with the Israelites. The people promise to do everything God asks them to do. Then Moses offers sacrifices to God for the people’s sins. Finally, Moses spends 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain with God.

Things to Think About

  • How well do I obey the Ten Commandments?
  • How well do I obey the civil laws, the application of the Ten Commandments?
  • How quickly do I make restitution when it is needed?
  • Do I obey out of convenience or out of love for God?
  • Do I obey when the obedience is painful?

09 November 2014

Brown Sugar Spiced Pork Loin

If you're looking for a delicious pork entree to serve up to eight people (which is a medium-sized dinner crowd for us), this is it! This sweet, juicy pork dish is perfect alongside potatoes, a salad and rolls, making it a great Sunday meal for your family.

Ingredients
Rub:
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloins, cut into 4 to 6 chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Glaze:
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili power and cinnamon. Coat pork with the rub. Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Brown the pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in the ovenproof skillet or transfer it to a foil-lined baking pan.

Stir together brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco sauce and spread the mixture on top of the pork. Roast on the middle rack of the oven until a thermometer inserted diagonally in the center of each tenderloin registers 140 degrees, about 25 minutes.

Let pork stand in the skillet at room temperature for 10 minutes prior to cutting it. The temperature will rise to about 155 degrees while standing. Slice on the diagonal and serve, spooning the sauce from the skillet on top of the pork.

08 November 2014

07 November 2014

There's no crying in basketball!

At Avery's basketball practice last week, I noticed that she seems to prefer playing defense instead of offense. She was very attentive to her assigned opponent and even used proper defensive stances to guard him closely. I was anxious to see how this translated into action at her first "real" basketball game last weekend.

She did not disappoint! She was very good about defending her opponents. In fact, she was so intense about it that she often forgot to turn around and help her teammates when they were on offense...something she'll need to work on!

She was tightly guarding one boy, scooting back and forth on the floor with her hands out in front of his face. Not in an obnoxious way, just being a good defender. (Never mind that it was her team's turn on offense!) Then suddenly I saw Avery's opponent crying. He was standing on the side of the court looking into the stands at his mother. Then he ran into the stands to be comforted by Mommy, leaving Avery alone on the court. She stopped her stellar defense and looked a little confused. Her mad defensive skills sent her opponent crying for his mommy! I was proud of her commitment on defense, but at the same time I was a little mortified that my little girl caused someone to cry. Then Chris assured me that Avery didn't do anything wrong. She's just a good defender!

After the game, Avery was rather pleased with herself. I think we need to work on being humble, too!


06 November 2014

04 November 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 19:1-20:26

In our passage today, God gives clear instructions (in the form of the Ten Commandments) to the Israelites. He calls them to  holy living, and then He tells them exactly how to do this.

Before giving the Ten Commandments, God renews His covenant with His people. The covenant promises three blessings if they obey God. They will be His treasured possession, they will be a nation of priests and they will be a holy nation. But God promises curses if they disobey. The people respond by promising to obey God. But we’ll see later that they can’t keep this promise.

Then God prepares the people for His appearance. He instructs the people to prepare themselves to see God’s holiness. He tells them to be cleansed, be pure, be careful and be listening.

God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses, who then shares them with the people. The Ten Commandments are God’s moral law. They are universal laws for the whole world, not just for Christians.

Commandments one to four show us how to live in our relationship with God, while commandments five to 10 show us how to live in our relationships with other people:

  1. Do not have other gods before God. Put God first in everything. No object, person or thing should come before God.
  2. Do not worship idols. God is jealous. He wants the exclusive rights to our love.
  3. Do not misuse God’s name. The name of God represents the nature of God.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. The Sabbath is for God not me. Don’t treat the Sabbath like the other six days of the week.
  5. Honor your father and mother. Speak about them with respect and courtesy.
  6. Do not murder. God considers life to be precious.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal. Do not unjustly take what belongs to someone else.
  9. Do not bear false witness against someone. No gossiping, no lies, don’t twist the truth.
  10. Do not covet, which is wanting what someone else has.

Later, Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments in Matthew 22:37-39:

“‘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 neighbor as yourself.’”

The Ten Commandments are the standard for everyday life. But they also reveal God’s character. He gave us these rules so we know how to live holy lives for Him. Obeying these commandments does not bring salvation. Obeying these commandments is living out our gratitude to God for saving us from eternal death.

Since our own sinfulness is revealed in the Ten Commandments, we realize that a holy and righteous God cannot be approached by sinful people, except when we are given His righteousness through Jesus’ death. The commandments convict us of sin and reveal how much we need a Savior.

We might look pretty good when we compare ourselves to others. But we always fail when we compare ourselves to God. So God provides Jesus, who kept the law perfectly. He makes us right when we accept that Jesus died as the substitute for our punishment. When God looks at believers, He does not see our sins but Jesus’ righteousness.

Things to Think About

  • You see your own sinfulness when you see God’s holiness.
  • Am I too casual in my approach to God?
  • Which of the Ten Commandments has God convicted me of disobeying? Ask God to help me be obedient.

03 November 2014

Dedicated to God

On Saturday night, we had the joy of dedicating Damon to God at our church's baby dedication ceremony. It was an extra special occasion because Avery joined us on stage. Damon received a tiny New Testament and a special certificate commemorating the event. We also were blessed to have all of Damon's grandparents and Aunt Karen attend the ceremony.

It's been so much fun to teach Avery about God and to hear her memorize truths and Bible verses about God and his character. I know it will be a pleasure to teach Damon all of these things, too. I am praying that both of them realize all that God has done for them and that they choose to become His children.


02 November 2014

Elsa and Olaf

As you might expect, Avery chose to be Elsa for Halloween this year (along with a million other little girls around the country). And then Avery suggested that Damon dress up as Olaf. So Grandma Hromada was presented with a challenge. I knew the Elsa dress wouldn't be a problem. But I was curious to see how she would handle the Olaf outfit.




Well, Grandma came through as usual and made an adorable costume! Damon made a very cute Olaf.




Avery was a beautiful Elsa, complete with an Elsa wig.









Here Avery is doing her best imitation of Elsa's ice powers.




Once again this year, we spent Halloween evening at our church's Fall Fest. Avery was one of a hundred Elsas, and there were several little brothers dressed up as Olaf, too. But no one had costumes handmade with love!


30 October 2014

29 October 2014

Phographic proof that Damon exists

Because Damon is deprived in the photo department and because I needed a good picture of him for a special event this weekend, he and I had a few photo shoots over the past week. He's usually a very smiley and happy baby, but he was a little stubborn with his smiles for me. Still, I managed to get a few good pictures, so I had to share them with you...ya know, to reassure you that he is still living here! I hope I can get in a better routine of taking his picture more often because I need more photo memories of this cute face!







 



28 October 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 15:22-18:27

Just three days after crossing the Red Sea, we now see the Israelites complaining about bitter water. They trusted God to help them cross the Red Sea and defeat Pharaoh. But now they grumble and complain. God tells Moses to put a piece of wood in the water. Moses obeys. Then God uses the wood to make the water sweet.

Then in another 27 days (30 days after the Passover), the whole Israelite community grumbles again. They are hungry and thirsty. They wish they had died in Egypt!

God again provides for them, this time through manna. He instructs them to gather one omar (two quarts) per person, per day and a double portion on the sixth day. If the people keep any leftovers, they are spoiled and become maggots.

God promises to provide for the people every day. God provides daily bread to us today through His Word, the Bible. We must feed on the Word of God every day.

The grumbling and complaining are not over. (This is a pattern that the people will repeat several times during our study this year!) This time they complain about not having water. Once again, Moses intercedes for the people, and God answers Moses’ prayer. God instructs Moses to strike a rock with his staff. Water comes out of the rock for all of the people. The rock is a picture of Jesus, and the water is a picture of the Holy Spirit.

The Israelites don’t recognize their sin of putting God to the test, and they don’t repent. But God continues to show His goodness on their lives. Our lack of repentance doesn’t change God’s character, but it changes how God looks at us. We must repent to make our relationship right with God.

Next, the Amalekites attack the Israelites. Joshua leads the Israelites on the battlefield, and Moses leads them on the battle hill. God brings victory when Moses raises his hands during the battle. God uses both Joshua and Moses to win the battle. Both of them have equal jobs, and they depend on each other. This story shows that prayer and action go hand-in-hand.

At the end of this week’s lesson, we see God using Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, to give godly advice to Moses. Jethro hears how God is delivering the Israelites. So Jethro visits Moses and praises God for His deliverance of the Israelites.

Jethro sees Moses settling disputes among the people. Jethro tells Moses that he is working too hard and will wear himself out. Jethro gives advice to Moses and challenges him to confirm this advice with God. If someone gives me advice, I must check it against God’s Word and prayer.

Jethro tells Moses to seek help and delegate his authority. He suggests that Moses find capable men who fear God, are trustworthy and hate dishonest gain. These men will sit as judges for the people. But Moses can judge the biggest disputes.

God uses Jethro to mentor and encourage Moses. Jethro helps Moses focus on his main purpose, which is representing the people before God.

Things to Think About

  • When God tests me, He reveals what is in my heart. When is the last time God tested me? How did I respond?
  • When is the last time I tested God?
  • Moses prayed to God for help and then immediately obeyed when God gave him instructions. Do I question God or immediately obey Him?
  • How often do I move immediately from praising to grumbling?
  • Complaining shows a lack of trust in God. Complaining can lead to sin. When I catch myself complaining, choose to stop and pray.
  • God is with us on the battlefield, whether we’re fighting or praying for those who are fighting.
  • When God calls us to do something, we must give it our best prayers, energy and time.
  • We can do good, better and best activities. What “good” or “better” thing do I need to stop doing so I can be fully devoted to the “best?”

27 October 2014

25 October 2014

Trying a new sport

After getting a taste of soccer, gymnastics and ballet, Avery tried a new sport this week -- basketball. Well, it's not exactly new, but it's new to her in that she's playing it "competitively"...as competitively as 6-year-olds can play! Once again, we signed her up to participate at our church. We love how our church combines learning sports with learning about God and good sportsmanship.




Here's the outfit Daddy and Avery selected together -- Nike headband, Pacers T-shirt and wristband and IU pants. She definitely looked like she belonged on the court. As I said on Instagram, no matter how she plays, at least she looks good!




Look at this -- Avery's team has six boys plus her. If she was boy crazy, she would love this situation!





See how all of the boys' balls are bouncing every which way? Now look at Avery. Calm, cool and collected...thanks to the pointers Daddy has been giving her!




This picture is a little deceiving. Avery was able to shoot the ball high, but it never got close enough to go in the net.




For Chris, making the basket isn't as important as using the correct shooting motion. She is really good with the mechanics, so we know eventually she'll get stronger and the ball will get in the basket.





Besides dribbling, the team also worked on bounce passes. These are two techniques that Daddy coached her on before the first practice.







She loved taking turns shooting the ball with her teammates. And she didn't care that she never made a basket. It's a good thing she isn't easily discouraged!

I loved watching her try something new. But the most challenging part was sitting next to Chris. Under his breath, he gave the coach some pointers. I think it was difficult for Chris to sit on the bench! At one point, the coach asked for an assistant, and the mom of one player stepped in to help. Chris wasn't pleased with how this mom instructed Avery to shoot the ball, so next time he might have to volunteer to help the coach!

Chris and I were pleasantly surprised at how well Avery played. We may have found the sport she likes the best! But I hope she enjoys being the point guard, because that's just about the only position she will be able to play!


24 October 2014

23 October 2014

21 October 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 11:1-15:21

This week’s lesson is one of my favorites during this year’s study. Today we will see God deliver His people from the plague of the firstborn and from Pharaoh and his army.

Chapter 11 is a flashback. It fits in earlier when God revealed the other plagues to Moses. We see Moses obey God again as he boldly approaches Pharaoh for the last time. Moses shares God’s message to Pharaoh: God promises one final plague on the Egyptians, the plague of the firstborn. Every firstborn Egyptian, even their livestock, will be killed. Pharaoh again refused to listen to God’s message through Moses.

In chapter 12, God gives instructions for the Passover to the Israelites. This is how He will save them from the plague of the firstborn.

God instructs each Israelite family to select a male, 1-year-old lamb without defect. They should care for the lamb for four days. On the fourth day, they should slaughter the lamb, then use a hyssop branch to spread the lamb’s blood on the door frames of the family’s home. This is the sign that Israelites dwell in the house, and the angel of death will pass over the house.

Then God tells the Israelites to roast the lamb’s meat and eat all of it. They also should eat bitter herbs (representing the bitter slavery they endured) and unleavened bread (representing the speed with which they must leave Egypt and also sin and hindrances, which they should leave behind in Egypt). They should eat the meal rapidly, with eagerness and with anticipation for how God will deliver them from the plague. They should eat the meal with their outer clothing and sandals on, ready to leave when God calls them. God also instruct the Israelites to plunder the Egyptians of their silver, gold and clothing.

The Passover lamb is a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ, our sacrificial Lamb. We must believe that he died for us, and then we must have faith that He will save us and “apply” His blood to our sins, just like the Passover lamb. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, God sees Jesus’ blood over our sins and “passes over” us, giving us eternal life.

When Moses shares God’s instructions with the Israelites, they bow down and worship, even before anything happened! They trusted that God would do what He said.

Some foreigners left Egypt with the Israelites (slaves from other nations, Egyptians who chose to believe in God, etc.). God instructs the Israelites that no foreigners may eat the Passover meal because it wouldn’t mean anything to them. But if foreigners choose to be identified with God’s people and are circumcised, then they may participate in the Passover Feast.

The Israelites obeyed all of God’s instructions, and God fulfills all of His promises. He sends the angel of death throughout Egypt and kills all of the firstborn, including Pharaoh’s son. But the Israelites are saved.

Then God calls the Israelites to leave Egypt. He leads them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God’s visible presence was with the Israelites.

But God does not take them the shortest distance to the Promised Land. They appear to wander. Then God directs Moses to circle back around to move the people between a mountain and the Red Sea. Pharaoh thinks the Israelites are confused. So he follows them with his army, hoping to attack them and bring them back to Egypt.

When the Israelites see Pharaoh and his army approaching, they cry out to God. Then they turn to Moses and complain. (We will see a lot more complaining throughout this study!) The Israelites think it would have been better if they had remained in Egypt.

Moses tells them, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:13-14).”

God instructs Moses to raise his staff to divide the waters of the Red Sea so the people can cross on dry ground. Then God destroys Pharaoh and his army when he allows the waters of the Red Sea to swallow up the army. This miracle causes the Israelites to put their trust in God and in Moses as His servant. And in response to God’s power, protection and provision, the Israelites break into song and praise God.

Things to Think About

  • After receiving the Passover instructions, the Israelites worshiped God even before God fulfilled His promise. How often do I praise God before I see Him work?
  • “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:13-14).”
  • If God has called me to something, even if it’s a battle, He will fight for me.
  • When is the last time I broke out into song as a praise to God?

16 October 2014

14 October 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 6:28-10:29

Until now, God has been preparing Moses to meet Pharaoh, to trust in God alone and to walk in faith. God once again commands Moses to speak the same message. Pharaoh still has a hard heart, but now God intensifies His judgment, especially on Egypt’s gods.

Again, Moses is discouraged and asks God why He is sending Moses to talk to Pharaoh again. God reassures Moses that His plan hasn’t changed. He has chosen Moses to lead His people out of Egypt.

Moses and Aaron obey what God commands them to do. They approach Pharaoh. To prove that God sent them, Aaron throws down his staff, and it becomes a snake. But Pharaoh’s magicians replicate this miracle. Then Aaron’s staff swallows up the magicians’ staffs. This shows Pharaoh that God is more powerful than the Egyptians’ gods.

After seeing this sign from God, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, and he doesn’t listen to God’s command through Moses and Aaron to let the Israelites leave Egypt. So God determines that He will send 10 plagues to demonstrate His power and authority. We’ll discuss the first nine plagues now. Next week’s lesson will cover the final one.

Through the plagues, God shows both the Egyptians and the Israelites that He is the one true God. There is none like Him. He also demonstrates His wrath. Here are the first nine plagues:

1. All water in Egypt turns to blood and all fish die
2. Frogs fill the land
3. Gnats
4. Flies (with this plague and the following ones, the Israelites are not affected)
5. Livestock in the fields die
6. Boils on people and animals
7. Hail (some people begin to heed the warnings)
8. Locusts devour remaining plants (Pharaoh’s officials beg him to let the Israelites go)
9. Darkness for three days

After some of the plagues, Pharaoh recognizes and confesses his sin. Sometimes he even offers to let the Israelites leave but it’s never on God’s terms...only on Pharaoh’s terms. Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses to let the Israelites leave Egypt.

Pharaoh tried to get Moses to compromise. He wanted the Israelites to worship in Egypt, he didn’t want them to go as far as God commanded them, he wanted them to take only the men and he told them the Israelites cannot take their flocks. But Moses stood firm and refused to compromise. He was bold, courageous and powerful in speech and action.

Through all of this, Pharaoh has a hard heart. A hard heart refuses to accept God’s Word and to submit to God’s will even with clear evidence that God is at work. A hard heart is a result of stubbornness. Stubbornness toward God is rebellion against Him. God pursued Pharaoh and gave evidence that He is the true God. But Pharaoh rejected Him. Then God allowed Pharaoh to go his own way and harden his heart.

Next week we’ll see that after the final, terrible, tenth plague, Pharaoh finally relents and releases the Israelites.

Things to Think About

  • There is one true God, and He will prevail over evil.
  • God gave Pharaoh some verbal warnings before sending His judgment. How is God trying to warn me or get my attention?
  • All authority and power are in God’s hands.
  • We cannot negotiate with God.
  • Which evidence is God showing you to prove that He is the one true God? What are you doing with that evidence?

10 October 2014

09 October 2014

07 October 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 5:1-6:27

Now we see Moses taking his first step of obedience to God – he goes to ask Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery.

Together Moses and Aaron make a request of Pharaoh on the behalf of God. Pharaoh said he didn’t know who God was. Pharaoh and his people believed he himself was a god.

Moses and Aaron make a reasonable request of Pharaoh. They ask him to let the Israelites leave for a few days so they can go worship God in the wilderness. (Moses is not lying to Pharaoh. If Pharaoh would have let the people leave, God more than likely would have encouraged the Israelites during their trip and they would have returned to Egypt.) Pharaoh doesn’t see this as a reasonable request. He sends the Israelites back to work.

The Israelites feel hopeless. So the Israelite overseers approach Pharaoh, asking him to end the oppression. But Pharaoh instead calls the Israelites lazy and takes away the Israelites’ supply of straw (an essential ingredient to making bricks). But he also demands they meet the same quota. The Israelites continue to suffer greatly under Pharaoh’s oppression.

Why did the Israelites go to Pharaoh instead of God? What did they expect him to do? Moses and the Israelites forget that God promised to rescue them. Instead, they focus on their doubt and unbelief.

In his doubt, Moses returns to the Lord (5:22). Moses is frustrated because he obeyed God but Pharaoh did not listen. So Moses honestly seeks the Lord. God responds with compassion and grace. He once again promises to do what He said He would do. And He reminds Moses that He is God.

God refreshes Moses, so he in turn goes to encourage the Israelites. But they do not listen because they are so discouraged and oppressed. They look at their problem instead of God. Then God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh again.

This lesson ends with the genealogy of the tribe of Levi. This genealogy is important because the Levite family will lead the Israelites in worshiping God.

Things to Think About

  • To whom do I turn when I’m looking for relief? People or God?
  • How do I respond when my obedience brings more oppression instead of relief? Do I give in to discouragement instead of trusting and obeying God?
  • Sometimes hardship comes from obeying God.
  • During hardship, focus on God’s character and His promises. Remember that God’s timing is not mine. Anticipate the great things He will do! Honor God in my present situation and wait for Him to unfold His plan. This really spoke to me as I am waiting for God to do something special in my life!
  • The Lord listens to us even when our perspective is wrong and our faith is weak. Both of these describe my heart right now.
  • Will I take my honest requests to God and look for His responses as I spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study? How often am I reading the Bible long enough to hear from God?
  • Our big problems are the perfect opportunities for God to answer in big ways. Moses took his big problems to God, and God answered in big ways, as we’ll see in the coming weeks.

02 October 2014

30 September 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 3:1-4:31

In today’s lesson, God calls Moses to free His people from slavery in Egypt. Moses responds how many of us respond to God’s call on us today. Moses gives several excuses, culminating with, “Send someone else!”

While Moses is tending his father-in-law’s flocks, God gets Moses’ attention with a bush that is on fire but is not burning up. Moses goes to investigate this strange phenomenon.

Then God calls out to Moses from the bush. God tells Moses to take off his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. Moses’ sandals represent our sin, which we must leave behind when we approach God. Moses is in God’s presence. He fears, respects and reveres God.

God tells Moses that He has heard the cries of His people and has seen their oppression. Then He tells Moses that He has chosen him to save His people and bring them out of Egypt. God allows Moses to talk (and even argue!) with Him. Moses gives five excuses for why he can’t obey God’s command:

  • Who am I?
  • Who are You?
  • What if they don’t believe me or won’t listen?
  • I cannot speak very well.
  • Send someone else!

God promises to be with Moses and promises him a victory.

Moses asks who he should say sent him. Moses wants a personal name for God. God tells Moses that His personal name is “I AM.” This is translated as Yahweh and the LORD. The name I AM shows that God is eternal and unchanging.

God tells Moses to assemble the elders and tell them what will happen. God again promises to go with Moses and then gives Moses three signs to demonstrate that he is sent by God.

God promises to give Moses the right words to speak. He also sends Moses’ brother, Aaron, to go with him and be his coworker in this effort.

Moses takes his wife and two sons back to Egypt. As they travel, Moses realizes that one of his sons is not circumcised. God tells Moses that he must circumcise the son so Moses will be fully obedient and committed to God.

Finally, Aaron and Moses reunite in the desert. Then they meet with the Israelite elders in Egypt. The people listen to Moses and Aaron and see God at work in this plan. Then the people worship God.

Next week, we will see Moses and Aaron bravely confront Pharaoh and ask him to free God’s people.

Things to Think About

  • God is holy. There is no one like Him.
  • How reverent am I toward God? Am I exalting Him and approaching Him with the awe He deserves?
  • God called Moses, and Moses obeyed. What has God called me to do? Am I responding with obedience?
  • If God calls me to a job, He will equip me to do it.
  • Even though Moses brought his concerns (and excuses!) to God, he didn’t use his past failures as a reason not to serve or obey God. God will use me, in spite of my past failures.

26 September 2014

Kindergarten parent-teacher conference

It's hard to believe that next weeks is Avery's ninth week of kindergarten! That means that the first grading period ends, and she'll be getting her first kindergarten report card. The end of the first nine weeks also means it's time for parent-teacher conferences.

This was new territory for us. I was a little nervous about what Ms. Kidd would tell us. While we know that Avery is a good girl, we just didn't know how she acts at school! Our main concern is that Avery seems to be a follower. This isn't all bad...except when she follows a child who is misbehaving!

Ms. Kidd assured us that Avery is well behaved. She even said Avery is "a calming influence" in the classroom. She is sweet, kind and has befriended a fellow student who needs a little extra help. She follows directions well, talks at the appropriate time and completes her work on time.

Academically, Avery is off the charts. She recognizes letters, words and numbers and knows the sounds of the letters. In several areas, she already is at the level she is expected to be at when she finishes kindergarten. While this is encouraging, we don't want her to get bored. So we'll continue to encourage her to keep learning. Ms. Kidd wants her to focus on "popcorn" words, the words that "pop up" when we read. She wants Avery to know them so well that they are automatic, instead of stopping to think about what the word is. Ms. Kidd also wants Avery to be comfortable asking questions and seeking help from her.

We are so proud of the way Avery has acclimated herself to all-day school. We're so glad that we decided to put her in preschool last year. There's no way she would be this far along in her learning and her work habits if she hadn't gone to preschool!

And by the way, we haven't discussed any of this with Avery. We don't want her to get a big head about this!


25 September 2014

23 September 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 2:11-25

Last week we saw Moses’ adoption into Pharaoh’s family. Forty years pass between Exodus 2:10 and Exodus 2:11. Now has an identity crisis. He was born in a Hebrew family, lived a few years with them and then lived as an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s palace. Then God calls Moses out of Pharaoh’s palace to lead His people.

At age 40, Moses goes out to look at the Hebrew slaves. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Moses kills the Egyptian and buries his body. The day after killing the Egyptian, some of Moses’ fellow Hebrews reveal that they know he murdered the Egyptian. Moses’ sin is exposed, and he becomes afraid.

Moses inserted himself into a situation where God did not want him. Moses risked his own life to save a fellow Hebrew’s life. He had a right motive but wrong actions.

Moses escapes to Midian. His life is a wreck, but God is still active in it. Midian is about 200 miles from Egypt. In Midian, Moses meets seven women at a well. He rescues the women from some bullies. Moses cares for the women and their flock.

The women’s father gives one daughter, Zipporah, to Moses in marriage. Moses names his first son Gershom, which means “I am a foreigner in a foreign land.” It’s clear that Moses doesn’t feel at home in Midian.

Moses spends 40 years in Midian, learning how to be a shepherd. God will use this experience to help Moses be a shepherd for the Israelites. Moses also lives in and learns about the land where the Israelites later will wander for 40 years.

While Moses is in Midian, the Israelites still suffer greatly under Pharaoh. They groan and cry out to God for help. God heard them, remembered his covenant, looked on them and was concerned about them (Exodus 2:24-25). But He didn’t respond immediately. Eventually, God will send Moses back to rescue them.

Things to Think About

  • How do I respond when my sin is exposed? Do I acknowledge the sin, confess it, stop sinning and accept the consequences?
  • Moses experienced 40 years of God’s refinement. God was sanctifying Moses and getting him ready for the work He had planned for him.
  • Even when Moses sinned and made bad choices, God did not give up on him. God will not give up on me either. I shouldn’t think that my past failures will prevent God from using me.
  • Two-thirds of Moses’ life was spent preparing him for God’s work. It’s never too late to be used by God if I surrender to His will.
  • God’s rescue doesn’t always come when we want it, but it comes when it is the best time for Him to act.
  • God’s schedule is not my own.

20 September 2014

18 September 2014