31 January 2014

Prayers for a successful ultrasound

Chris, Avery and I finally will get to see Baby Pez on Monday afternoon! We thought it would be a pretty neat experience for Avery to join us for the big ultrasound. So the three of us will enjoy this milestone together.

I hope you'll join us in praying for these three things:

  • A happy, healthy baby.
  • A cooperative baby who is willing to reveal whether it is a boy or a girl.
  • Contentment with the results of the ultrasound. While we all will be happy whether Pez is a boy or a girl, there probably will be a little disappointment initially for at least one of us. And I definitely will cry, no matter what!

After we notify the grandparents, Aunt Karen and Uncle Casey, we'll post the big new here along with the ultrasound pictures. We can't wait to see our precious little one!

30 January 2014

28 January 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 16

In this chapter, Jesus reveals His mission to His disciples. He also reveals a special mission for the disciples.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees ask Jesus for a sign. They are plotting to kill Jesus and trying to trick Him. Jesus responds by refusing to give them any more signs. They had seen enough miracles, signs and teachings to know that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Then Jesus and the disciples leave. He tells them to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples are still preoccupied with their physical need of hunger and wonder why Jesus is talking about bread.

Jesus explains to them that the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees was their teachings. The Pharisees were teaching self-righteousness, and the Sadducees were teaching self-indulgence. (We also must be aware of false teachings today. A little false teaching can cause a lot of destruction.)

The disciples were self-indulgent because they were focused on the physical instead of the spiritual. And the Pharisees and the Sadducees were self-righteous because they wanted to be right and thus rejected Jesus.

Next Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” He is seeking a verbalization of their faith. Peter immediately speaks up and says Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

At this time, Jesus confirms He is the Messiah but asks the disciples not to tell anyone. It wasn’t time yet for Him to reveal His plan to the rest of the world.

Jesus still asks us today, “Who do you say I am?” It is the most important question you can answer. Do you know Jesus as the Son of God, as the Christ, as God’s anointed One?

Jesus tells Peter he has the keys to unlock the kingdom. Later the Christian church will be built upon Peter’s leadership when God gives Peter the courage and the words to share the Gospel message with both Jews and Gentiles.

God has given all believers a set of keys to unlock the kingdom. We do this by speaking and sharing the Gospel to others. By sharing the Gospel, we can help others be loosed from sin and judgment. If they reject the Gospel, they will be bound to sin and judgment.

Now Jesus reveals His mission to His disciples. Jesus will suffer, be rejected, die, be buried and be resurrected. Then Jesus reveals the disciples’ mission – to share the Good News, to suffer, to be rejected, to die to themselves and to carry their cross.

After his earlier high of claiming Jesus as His Savior, now Peter rejects the truth of Jesus’ suffering and death. Jesus rebukes Peter because Jesus recognizes that Satan is causing Peter to doubt Jesus’ words.

Things to Think About
  • Where in my life have I allowed self-righteousness or self-indulgence?
  • Jesus was teaching in front of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, but they were blind to Him. Am I blind to what Jesus is doing in my life and around me?
  • Jesus trusts me enough to give me the keys to His kingdom. How often do I use my keys? Do I use them as often as I use my car keys?
  • Am I willing to pray and ask God to bring people to me so I can share the Gospel with them?
  • Jesus calls all of His disciples to deny themselves, to take up their cross, to follow Him and to forsake the world for His reward.
  • Believers must carry the cross daily. It is not optional, it is personal and it kills all selfish desires and ambitions.
  • Are my hands too full of other things that I can’t carry my cross? Am I fully devoted to Christ and following Him?

24 January 2014

Spilling the beans

As Chris and I talked about sharing the news about Pez with everyone, we knew we would tell Avery first. And we wanted to make it a special event. So we decided to have a family pizza and movie night along with a conversation about God's newest blessing in our lives.

We recorded her reaction for posterity:

At first, Chris said, "Avery, what's something that you've always wanted but don't have?" I stopped him right away because I was afraid she'd say a puppy or a pony or something. And then she would be extremely disappointed to find out we were having a baby!

We assumed that Avery couldn't keep a secret. So we told her the big news on a Friday followed by the grandparents, Aunt Karen and Uncle Casey over the weekend. Then we told Avery that she couldn't tell anyone else until Thanksgiving. Luckily, she never let the cat out of the bag. She was close once. One Sunday morning, she ran out of her class at church, proudly shouting, "I didn't tell anyone about the baby!" I threw my hands over her mouth before she said "baby." It turns out that she is a good secret-keeper. She was quiet about Pez until Thanksgiving.

23 January 2014

21 January 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 15

This chapter depicts three distinct moments during Jesus’ ministry. And these three moments can be summed up in three words.

Hypocrisy is when our behavior doesn’t line up with our beliefs. Jesus had left Israel, but the Pharisees traveled at least 80 miles to ask Jesus why His disciples break the tradition of the elders. This was not a hygiene issue but a tradition issue. The Pharisees (and others) had added their own laws to God’s original laws. These people thought the laws would “help” the Jews be more obedient to God’s laws. But instead they were putting tradition above God’s Word.

The Pharisees were hypocrites themselves. They claimed to follow God’s command to honor their parents. But instead they were being selfish. They said they dedicated money to God, but they were using it as an excuse not to care for their parents.

Tradition is external, ritual, sometimes produces empty words and can cause you to miss the truth of God’s Word. God’s truth is internal, reality and should penetrate our hearts and change our lives.

Placing man’s teaching over God’s Word creates self-centeredness, self-righteousness and the need to serve ourselves.

Next, a Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter. She knows Jesus is the only one who could help her. She approaches Him as a Jewish person because she called Him the Son of David. She recognizes Him as the Messiah. She even kneels before Him.

Jesus tells her that He first came for the Jews and later for her (a Gentile). She demonstrates her faith that she would be saved by pursuing Christ. She did not give up. Jesus recognizes the woman’s faith and immediately heals her daughter.

The woman recognized who Jesus was, placed herself in the proper position, humbly approached Jesus and pursued Him until He helped her.

Last week we saw Jesus feed 5,000 Jewish men (plus women and children) with five loaves and bread and two fish. This wee, Jesus feeds 4,000 Gentile men (plus women and children) with seven loaves and a few fish.

What is amazing is that the group of Gentiles recognizes that Jesus is God’s Son. They worship Him as the Messiah.

Things to Think About
  • Do I put tradition above God’s Word?
  • We can hide our hearts from everyone except God.
  • Will I stop the hypocrisy in my life? Will I repent from the traditions that have led to self-centeredness, self-righteousness and self-serving? Will I ask the Holy Spirit to create a new heart in me?
  • How often do I persistently pursue an answer from Jesus?
  • Which situation am I humbly and persistently bringing to Jesus through prayer?
  • Jesus has compassion for all humanity. Do I show compassion for all humanity?

16 January 2014

14 January 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 13:31-35, 44-58; 14

Did you miss me? :o) We had an extended break from BSF since our class was cancelled last week due to the snow storm. So this week’s lesson is two-for-one.

We start out by looking at more parables spoken by Jesus to His followers (Matthew 13:31-35, 44-58). Why didn’t Jesus explain these parables? Could it be for our benefit today, that we would seek Him when we are confused about Scripture? There are multiple possible explanations for each parable:
  • The mustard seed could represent the church as it grows into a large tree. Unbelievers, false teachers and opposition (the birds) are mixed among the believers.
  • The yeast could be good or evil. A small amount of yeast goes a long way. A little bit of good goes a long way. With a small amount of faith, Jesus can transform your whole life. But on the flip side, a little bit of evil goes a long way.
  • The pearl could be Jesus or the church. The pearl is worth everything to the seeker. It cost everything for Jesus to purchase us as His church.
  • The new and old treasures could be the New Testament and the Old Testament or new and old experiences in the Christian life.
The people in Nazareth couldn’t believe Jesus had the authority to teach God’s Word. He was just the son of a carpenter. So Jesus didn’t do many miracles there because of the people’s lack of faith.

Next we move on to a story about John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12). Remember from previous lessons that John was Jesus’ cousin, and the one God selected to prepare the way for Jesus. John was put in prison for speaking against Herod’s adulterous relationship with his sister-in-law. John obeyed God completely yet found himself being persecuted.

The Herod in this story is Herod Antipas. He is the son of Herod the Great who attempted to kill baby Jesus. Later Jesus sees him while on trial before His crucifixion. Herod is deceptive, selfish and ambitious. He is intrigued and puzzled by John the Baptist’s teachings but never changes his actions. He divorced his first wife to marry his sister-in-law. John spoke out against Herod’s sin.

Herodias is the granddaughter of Herod the Great. How incredible that she involved her daughter in a terrible crime and her own grudge against John the Baptist.

Herodias’ daughter (named Salome) was possibly between 14 and 16 years old at this time.

Herodias sends her daughter to dance for Herod at his birthday celebration. He is pleased and tells her he will give her anything she asks. Salome asks Herodias what she should request. Herodias tells her to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod complies in order to save his reputation among his party guests and his kingdom. Herod shows us that it’s never appropriate to choose to save face instead of doing what’s right.

Following John’s death, Jesus reunites with His disciples. They had just returned from their first gospel-spreading journeys. The disciples want to be alone with Jesus, so they get in a boat. But a crowd of peoples meets them on the other shore. While the disciples are tired and hungry and jealous for time with Jesus, Jesus has compassion on the people.

The disciples want to send the people away so they can eat. Jesus asks them what they have. The disciples find a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus instructs the disciples to have the people sit down in groups. Jesus blesses the food and feeds 5,000 men (plus women and children). There are 12 baskets left over -- one for each disciple!

Then Jesus sends the people away because they realize He is the Messiah and they want to make Him their king by force. After Jesus tells his disciples to get in a boat and leave, Jesus prays alone with God. Late in the night, Jesus sees the disciples on the lake in the midst of a storm.

Jesus walks on the water to the boat. The disciples are afraid. Wouldn’t you be afraid, too?! Peter asks to walk on the water with Jesus. But while he’s on the water, the wind distracts Peter. He takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink. Peter cries out for Jesus to save him. Jesus reaches out and holds Peter’s hand to help him get back in the boat.

Things to Think About
  • Do I value the kingdom truths, unlike the people of Nazareth? How does my life reflect this?
  • Is Jesus my greatest treasure? Jesus has devoted Himself to me; how devoted am I to Him?
  • Like Herod, am I allowing pride or fear of embarrassment to stand in the way of obeying God?
  • How do I respond when people point out my sin?
  • Am I nursing a grudge against someone?
  • Bring what little I have to Jesus, and He will make it abundant.
  • Have I lost eye contact with Jesus? Am I sinking in my circumstances? Jesus will save me.

09 January 2014

04 January 2014

03 January 2014

13-week appointment

Today was my 13-week appointment. It's hard to believe I'm already through the first trimester! This pregnancy seems to be going much faster than Avery's.

We finally heard Pez's heartbeat. It took a minute for the nurse to find the heartbeat. But once she did, we heard a strong and healthy "woosh woosh." The nurse said everything is great, except I actually lost a couple of pounds since my last appointment. I haven't had much of an appetite lately, so I guess it's affecting my weight a little. But the nurse wasn't concerned about it. I'll definitely be gaining weight soon!

The big ultrasound is scheduled for Feb. 3. While we enjoyed Avery being a "surprise" baby, we've decided to find out the sex of the baby this time. We think all three of us will need time to prepare – whether it's a boy or a girl! Chris and I want a boy, but Avery is convinced Pez is a girl (and that we're naming her Abigail). Chris and I will be happy with another girl, but Avery will be absolutely devastated to get a brother. She said she doesn't like boy babies!

We're thinking about doing something special to reveal the sex of the baby to the grandparents and Aunt Karen, but we haven't landed on an idea yet. (We'll make a special Skype call to Uncle Casey and family.) So don't be surprised if we don't reveal the baby's sex right away!

02 January 2014