Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unwrapping the Gift of Humility

Most of us are busy preparing to celebrate Christmas next week.  Shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, addressing Christmas cards, planning visits, etc. take up much of our time and brain power.  Christmas is something to be celebrated!  Our Savior, came to Earth, and was born to save us.  We rejoice as we remember the miracle of Christ’s birth.

The aspect of Christ’s birth that really strikes me is the humility of it.  It really isn’t one that is focused on all that often.  We know the story so well, that maybe we forget just how amazing it really is.  When parents begin to raise their children, we want them to be filled with self-confidence and strength, but do we think about nurturing humility in them?  The world sees humility as weakness.  Who wants their child to be perceived as weak?  No one.  We teach our children and perhaps, even ourselves, not to roll over and play dead, but to stand up for ourselves.  While we do that, we are to be Christ like, and Christ was the epitome of humility on Earth.

Let’s look at some examples of this:
  • ·         Jesus had been surrounded by perfection and beauty in the presence of God, and yet he descended here to be born in a dirty animal feeding trough.
  • ·         His mother was young, and unmarried from an obscure town.  Mary was not a prominent citizen from a royal family.  Being  a child conceived out of wedlock was scandalous in that time.  Yet, our Savior chose to come in this way.
  • ·         When King Herod heard that a king had been born in Bethlehem, he killed all of the children there two years old and under.  This wasn’t exactly a peaceful situation that He chose to come into.

These are very different circumstances than the ones that detail the recent birth of the royal baby in England.  Why would the King of Kings choose this?  It’s baffling.  His humility continued throughout His life.  He chose to be a servant. 

Karen shares the following story:
I was the Director of Operations for a big church.  One morning I was at work at 5 am to set up for voting.  The night before, we had a stopped up toilet in the men’s room. Yuck!  We called a plumber and he fixed it.  I went to check on it that morning.  He had fixed it all right, but I found a mess.  He had sloshed the “contents” all over the walls and floor.  I had to clean it.  I couln’t ask someone else to clean, even if there had been someone else to ask.  I got out the rubber gloves and scrubbed someone else’s excrement from the toilet, walls, and floor…but I moaned, groaned, complained and whined the whole time. 
Then, BAM! Suddenly, God spoke to me in a way that made me laugh and then it made me cry.  On the floor, on my knees, I heard Him say, ‘Karen, if you are going to keep seeking the world’s definition of greatness, you are going to keep finding yourself cleaning up someone else’s “contents”.’

Humility isn’t being weak.  It’s being a part of a kingdom where our lives are not based on what we can do, but what God can do through us, and how we can serve Him and other people as we strive to show love. 

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, let’s remember the sacrifice that He made in coming here to save us, choosing to serve and continually cleaning up our messes.
Help us remember the miracle that You provided for us through the physical birth of Your Son.  Open our eyes to the joy of giving without receiving, the blessing of lifting up others in praise, the excitement of watching others succeed, the beauty in humility and the power in servant hood.

Passages to Ponder:
James 4:7- So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Matthew 20:28- For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.
I Peter 5:6- So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Kathy Derda and Kim McClure

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Learning Life Lessons

WHAT do you think of when you hear the word discipline?  For most, the word has a negative connation, but it yields positive results. 

WHO do you think of when you hear that word?  Is it a teacher from the past, your parents, your boss, or God?  It could be any or all of them.

The word discipline means training that corrects, molds or perfects moral character.  Those of us who have children know the burden of disciplining them.  Yes, I said it is a burden.  It’s hard.  It’s hard on us emotionally to do something that we know is going to upset our kids even when we know it has to be done.  There are many times when making sure that your discipline remains consistent with your children ends up punishing you too.  It’s immensely difficult to stand your ground. 

So, why not just give in?

We don’t give in because we love our children.  Discipline is one of the building blocks of love.  We are all born with the nature to do wrong.  We have to be taught what we need to do, and the difference between right and wrong.  This training teaches our kids respect, to have standards and to have self-discipline.  Ask any teacher and they can tell you easily which students have rules that are enforced in the home and which ones don’t.

Developing moral character in our children is the goal.

 The process isn’t about beating them over the head with what they did wrong over and over again, but getting to the HEART of the issue and instructing them how to handle a situation better next time.  We do it out of love and grace.  We push ourselves to remain consistent because the years of redirecting, and teaching pay off as our children grow up.  When we fail to do this, it sends the message, “ I don’t care either way what you do.”  

How sad would that be to feel that from God?

God is our Father.  As His children, He will discipline us.  God is molding us into what He wants us to be, and if He sees us going down the wrong track, He will set things in motion to teach us something valuable.  Being the child receiving the discipline isn’t fun either, but it is necessary.  The beautiful side of it is that we know that God loves us, because if He didn’t, He wouldn’t bother with trying to teach us something. 

God loves you with mercy and grace- He forgives and He FORGETS! My relationships would be so much better if I could get that "forget" part down.

God is slow to anger- but He does get angry! Just as we get angry with our kids, it’s usually because they have hurt us.  I think our Father above may feel the same at times.

God loves you with a love that never stops- There are no conditions to His love.  Whether we choose to obey Him or not, He is still going to love us.

As God shapes us into what He wants us to be, the process is painful, because we are fighting against our sinful nature, but the results are always good.  How awesome is it that He loves us enough to help us get up when we fall?  It would be much easier to just turn away and focus on His children that are “behaving” better than we are at the time.

Hang in there!  If you are feeling like nothing is going your way, God might be trying to teach you something.  Stop, find a quiet place, and ask Him what you need to know.  Then…LISTEN and allow yourself to learn.

Passages to Ponder:

Proverbs 13:24- Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.  Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

Proverbs 22:15-A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away.

Proverbs 29:17- Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Tammy Holtzapfel, Kim McClure, Marla McDonald and Kristy Tolley

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Time Is A Four Letter Word

Time is how we measure the existence or duration of something.  Our calendars are full of appointments with times next to them, we express our age based on a measurement of time, we describe our children by stating their year in school.  When you’re young, time drags on forever, and as you get older, it seems to zoom by leaving us to wonder where all of it went.  We often say “ I just don’t have time.”  The truth is, we all have the same amount of hours in a day, and we all must choose what to do with those hours.  When you prioritize your day to maximize the use of your time, is spending time in Scripture and praying at the top of your list, somewhere in the middle, or is it a flexible item at the bottom that can be skipped if need be?

First off, to quote my childhood preacher, “I’m preaching at me, and letting it run off on you.”  God wants to be in the center of my heart.  He wants to be in the center of yours too.  It’s interesting that one of the greatest gifts He gives women is to be a mother, and boy, do kids take up a lot of time.  It’s easy to give our children that coveted center spot.  We want to protect them, and we want them to be the best at everything so we schedule ourselves and them with lessons and practices and tutoring sessions until we hear ourselves saying, “ I just didn’t have time..”.  There’s nothing wrong with lessons or practices or tutoring as long as God still has priority, and we acknowledge Him as the giver of these children, as we humbly and lovingly accept the role as their protectors, teachers, and providers. 

Television is a big issue with time too.  I love sitting with my family and watching tv.  There’s nothing wrong with watching tv, but the amount of time I spend watching it compared to the amount of time I spend in God’s Word is embarrassing for me to even share.  If this speaks to you, let me go further.  There are several of us that have struggled with watching shows that we enjoyed, but knew they weren’t good for us.  If you feel convicted to turn it down or off when your kids come in the room, ask yourself why you’re watching it.  I, Kim, am speaking as a recovered addict of the Real Housewives of Everything.

If it isn’t television for you it might be Candy Crush, Facebook, or many other things…even ministry. Yep, that’s right.  Doing good things for the Lord can actually overtake the priority of studying His word and praying because “I just don’t have time..”  That’s a dangerous place to dwell.  It doesn’t feel dangerous, but that’s what make it even more so.  God isn’t honored when we work so hard for Him that we forget to read, pray, or when our family is neglected by our service.

A popular saying is that time changes everything, but God’s word doesn’t change. Ever.  People will tell you to “Get with the times”, well okay but we need to be in alignment with God’s word and that doesn’t change no matter how many kids we have, how many tv shows are created, how many games are downloaded, how many friends we keep up with on social media, or how many ministries we are serving in.

Somehow, we need to find a happy medium so that we can enjoy all of these things and still put God at the top of the list. 
  • ·         Talk to Him about your kids and their lives.  Ask Him to guide them and you as you parent them.
  • ·         Ask God to “nudge” you when the shows you are watching are sneakily harming your spiritual growth.
  • ·         Ask God to show you which ministries you should be involved in, and to help you examine your motives in saying Yes before you get involved.

There is no greater witness to others about your relationship with God than the way you invest your time.
If your calendar could talk, what would it say about you and your relationship with God?

Passages to Ponder:
I John 5:21- Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.
Revelation 2:3-4 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.  But I have this complaint against you.  You don’t love me or each other as you did at first.
Matthew 6:33- Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Catherine Caracio, Kathy Derda and Kim McClure