Read the Bible as much as you possibly can every day of your life. There you go, Ladies. You have my life’s ministry in a nutshell. That really is all there is to it. Just read your Bible, a lot.
Read it Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Read it on holidays, read it on vacations, read it when you are tired, read it when you are sick, read it when you are happy and healthy. Most importantly read it when you really, really don’t feel like it.
What about going to church, doing good deeds, witnessing, discipling, praying, preaching, and teaching, correcting, forgiving, and loving? Yep, it’s in there. If you are reading God’s Word faithfully as a follower of Christ the rest will follow. If you are making a daily habit of consuming the authoritative, powerful Word of the creator of the Universe, obedience follows.
Desire a better marriage? Want to know how to deal with your children? How to manage your money? How to deal with a person that drives you crazy? How to be better at everything? Yeah, it’s all in the Bible. Go find it.
Quit your complaining that you never got a handbook on how to live life in this world. Quit the excuses that you aren’t smart enough to understand it. Quit thinking that it’s some else’s job to read it and then explain it to you. Quit falling prey to the Devil’s schemes of easy excuses.
Oh, you don’t have time? You are too busy, I understand. Have you slept or eaten in the past 24 hours? Yes? Well then you had time for the Bible. Sorry, nice try.
Am I being hard on you? You bet I am. Whoever you are reading this, I love you way too much to be anything less. I care about your eternity as well as the fullness of your life on Earth and how it impacts others for Christ. I want you to live a life that points to God continually and brings him honor. You will never be happy otherwise, never.
Not sure where to start? Pick a gospel (the Good News about Jesus Christ), Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Mark is a nice, short and straightforward gospel; John is spiritually rich and a bit deeper. Luke has the beautiful Christmas story and Matthew the genealogy of Christ. Pick one, you can’t choose wrong. After learning about Jesus, continue on with the story in Acts and meet Paul. Learn about the Holy Spirit, discover the beginnings of the Church and read about Paul’s trials and journeys. Then continue on to read some of Paul’s letters that he wrote to Churches like in Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians and more. These words still apply to us today, if you belong to the family of God. Read them as if they were written for you and for your life today (they were and they are).
Why do I believe in the Word of God so much? It has changed my life. Without the Word of God, I walk in darkness and confusion. Psalms 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s the only way to illuminate my walkway of life.
Without the Word of God I starve and have no life within me. Matthew 4:4 (Deut. 8:3) “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” I need spiritual food that only comes from the Scriptures.
Without the Word of God I fall prey to my enemy, I have no weapon to fight with. Ephesians 6:17 “and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” I love to win, so you better believe I will have in my hand the mightiest weapon possible.
Without the Word of God I have no standard of truth. John 17:17 “Sanctify them in your truth, your word is truth.” I won’t settle for less than absolute truth. I want my life planted on the bedrock of Christ.
Finally, without the Word of God, I am doomed to suffer forever. John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the Word of God, receiving him brings me eternal life.
The Word of God can change your life too, but only if you read it. You can’t carry it around and hope to absorb it by osmosis. You have to open it up and read the words on the pages. Don’t believe me, try it and let’s talk. Need help getting started? Ask me, you would make my day.
I have had the opportunity to talk to several mothers one on one lately and in each conversation there seemed to be a common thread. It had to do with feeling the weight of responsibility for their children. Whether it be in their child’s decisions, actions or even appearances. One mother worried about how her actions today would affect her young children in years to come, another mother worried that her children were gaining too much weight and how that would reflect on her parenting, and still another mother worried about the decisions that her adult son was making and how it would affect his future.
As each of these mothers shared with me, I could feel the burden they were carrying; it was heavy. I understand this burden well; I have carried it many times myself. Mothers of all ages and stages feel this burden no matter how old their children are. We feel responsible for how our children behave, how they respond to others, and how they perform in life. We take the full credit when they do good and even more so when they do poorly.
Mothers, my advice to you today… lay the burden down. It is not yours to carry. Oh yes, we need to “Train up a child in the way he should go” as it says in Proverbs 22:6. And “… do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” as in Ephesians 6:4. Absolutely, God has given us the responsibility of raising these specific children. He has put them under our charge and into our care. That is a great responsibility that we need to take very seriously. However, the RESULTS are not on our shoulders. The results are God’s alone.
God has a specific plan and path through life for your child to follow. Jeremiah 29:11, “ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” No one can change God’s plans or put their child on what we feel to be a more “appropriate” path to follow (or a more socially acceptable one). Remember God has already written out your child’s entire life for eternity and he knows what is truly best for your child. Plus, (brace yourself for this one)…God loves your child MORE than you do (see Romans 5:8 and 8:38-39). I remind my children of this often. Do you think that this would confuse them or worry them? No way, they know how much I love them and for them to know that the Almighty Creator loves them even more – how awesome! It is wonderful that they (and we) can rest in the assurance that God loves them and is in charge of their everyday life and their futures.
To assume that we are to take the credit when our children excel or the blame when our children experience a failure is putting ourselves in the place of God in their lives. That is not where we are supposed to be, he alone can be King. We can teach them to eat healthy and engage in physical activities with them, but God determines their body type and what he wants them to look like. We can set boundaries and provide godly discipline as they grow, but we are not responsible for every bad (or good) decision they make when they are grown.
I realize that it is no easy task to let go of this burden of how our children “turn out”. We cling to it like it is a part of who we are, but it’s not meant to be that way. So take a deep breath and release it to God. Take reassurance that God welcomes your burdens and instructs us to give them to him:
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalms 55:22
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
Keep your focus on raising your children to love Christ and his powerful Word. Guide them with godly discipline and train them up in the way they should go, but understand, their final destination and how they get there is up to God.
If you live in a life like mine, you understand what I call domestic craziness. Ladies, stick with me here, I really do think you will be able to relate to this. Domestic craziness is the normal “hum” of our home lives. It is not negative, just busy and active with a certain noise level that is normal for our families. I call it craziness because no matter how “normal” we think our lives should be it always seems slightly crazy. Or slightly “not normal”, which is more normal than our idea of normal is. So being “not normal” is truly normal for today’s families, which means we usually live in slightly crazy homes. I have either lost you or you are nodding your head saying this doesn’t make any sense but I totally understand what she is saying!
Some days the normal craziness spikes up a few notches and things can get hectic. The normal hum of your home starts to sound more like a freight train. In my house it could look something like this: the boys are wild with one screaming “Woo hoo!” while trying to lasso the dog like a cowboy, the other is dancing around the house with a red popsicle, my teenage son is running late, looking for his misplaced work boots again, the phone keeps ringing, the place is a mess (despite me picking it up all day), I’m stepping on Legos that are scattered on the floor while trying to catch the one with the red popsicle and my husband walks in asking where supper is. Feel your stress level rising yet? Can you relate? I’m guessing you can.
I used to really let times like this get to me. I would get angry and ask, “Why me!?” The stress would build until I was upset and frustrated with everyone in my family and a dark cloud settled over my head. I would yell at the kids to behave and have snide comments for my husband. Yeah, I was a real treat.
So what changed? Did I finally gain control and shape up my house, husband, and kids? Haha, that’s a good one! No… I changed. I have learned that when I have problems (with a situation or a person) I need to look at myself first to see if I am the one who needs to shape up. Now, I’m not able to change my own heart, but when I give it over to God, he can. The Bible tells us when we receive Christ we are a new creation and that we need to look and act more like Jesus. Ephesians 4:31 - 5:1-2 tells us:
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
What a great reminder that I can forgive anything since Christ has forgiven me so very much! I want to be tenderhearted and kind towards others (including my family) not filled with the ugliness of anger and bitterness. What a beautiful mind picture when told to “walk in love as Christ loved us,” even sacrificing himself for us. It puts it all into perspective now. We need to imitate Jesus.
How do I do this when placed in a situation like described above? I breathe in Jesus. That is what I call it when I take a deep breath and remind myself of the scripture above and so many more like it. I dwell on Jesus and all he has done for me and that my true life is with him. He brings peace beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7) and fills me with forgiveness and patience. This makes me sound pretty holy! I can assure you it has only come from experience and practice (19 years as a mother) and I still fail often. Praise God that he is faithful and patient with us!
So the next time you find yourself in a moment of extreme domestic craziness remember to breathe in Jesus. Take a deep breath and calm yourself in Christ’s love and the forgiveness found in his Word. Remind yourself to imitate Jesus and let his peace envelop you. This life is so very temporary; don’t allow moments like this to bring that dark cloud over your head. Clear it away with the powerful Words of God. I encourage you to always be prepared with a memorized piece of scripture. That is the only true way to do battle! Need help finding one? Message me, I would love to help!
I recently took my two young boys, ages 7 and 9, to Eagle Point Park in Dubuque. It is a beautiful, historical park with overlooks of the Mississippi River, Lock and Dam #11, and the tri-state river valley. The nice views were not the reason for our visit this day, however, but the Fish Pond. More specifically the limestone rock walls all around that pond.
My two boys, like many others, love adventure and the feeling of accomplishment. Neither is what I would call “fearless”; they never jumped into a pool before they knew how to swim as toddlers or hopped on a bike without training wheels without first being encouraged and held up by an adult. They have a healthy fear of risk and potential injury (I am thankful for this). This being said, God still made them boys, and God made boys to be inquisitive, brave and eager for a challenge. I want to encourage this as their mother, physically and more importantly, spiritually.
So on this day at the park after shoes were tied and bug spray applied I let them loose with instructions to work on their bravery - to climb walls, jump over crevasses, and discover new trails. I watched as they started out cautiously and little by little gained courage to try something new: scaling a higher wall, jumping off a rock to a nearby tree, walking down a path that was dark and crowded with greenery. I held myself back from calling out too many reminders to “be careful” or to hold out a hand to help them do something they should do on their own. I prayed as I watched them; yes, I prayed for their safety but also so much more. I prayed that God would transfer this learning over to their walk with him and make them increasingly bold for sharing his Gospel and proclaiming Christ in their lives.
We need to do this same thing in our walk with Christ. We need to continually push ourselves to be more like him. We need to be intentional in our continued growth. This comes by giving ourselves spiritual challenges. If we do the same things over and over, year after year, like attend church, go to an occasional Bible study, attend a special event here and there, we can’t expect spiritual growth like we need. We have to push ourselves further; we need to dig deeper.
If you are a follower of Christ, this should be a fairly intense and natural internal desire. You should feel a need to learn more about Christ and to do more to bring him honor. It is a byproduct of a close relationship with your Savior.
As Christians we often pray for courage to share the message of Christ; we ask for boldness to proclaim the Good News to the lost around us. Why do we feel the need to pray this? Because we lack it in our daily lives, many times we are riddled with fear and keep our faith hidden away. Boldness is the antidote to fear and praying for boldness is Biblical. In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John had just been released from prison and joined the other believers in prayer. Verse 29, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” Despite the real threats all around them they desired to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. God answers their prayer just a few verses later in a powerful way.
Paul also prayed for boldness despite how “naturally” bold he seemed to be on the outside. He was often beaten, sometimes to the point of death and yet he got back up and went straight back to preaching the Gospel. Ephesians 6:19-20, “and [pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Paul needed courage and boldness just as we do today. He prayed for “words to be given to me in opening my mouth”. Many times that’s the hardest task simply opening our mouths to share Christ with someone else.
So what does it look like to give yourself “spiritual challenges” to help you grow more courageous in Christ? It will take different forms for each person depending on where you are at in your walk, but here are a number of possibilities: inviting someone to attend church with you, attending church regularly yourself, offering to pray for someone, praying out loud before a group, starting a Bible study in your home, going on a mission trip, reading a chapter of the Bible every day, reading the entire Bible in a years’ time, inviting friends from church to your home for dinner, asking another lady for coffee to talk about Jesus, witnessing to a friend or coworker, sharing your testimony, saying grace before a meal in public, praying with your spouse, or praying over you children. The list goes on and on, but to be sure it will be something that throws you out of your comfort zone and into a position of trusting God.
Someday I hope to take my sons rock climbing and repelling, but if I had led them to a steep mountain to begin their learning on the fear may have been overwhelming and the challenge too discouraging. So I introduce them to challenges that push them farther than they have gone before. It is okay to begin small in your journey of courage, but the key is to make continual progress toward Jesus.
So begin to flex your courage muscles and allow God to bring larger and larger challenges into your life to grow you. After all, it is truly God doing this work, not us, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13. Take that leap over the crevasse to get closer to Christ today.