Raising Passionate Believers

It is that special season that brings tailgate parties, grilling, and gatherings of people.  Most of the country refers to this time of year as, “Fall”, but in Alabama, this is “Football Season.”  Even our outfit selections change to make sure our favorite team is represented by a logo, a color, or a pattern.  Let’s be honest, there is nothing natural about football season in the South.  Our allegiances, rivalries and dress codes are something that is taught to us from the start.  There is no lack of pictures on team-spirit Fridays from our Heritage babies! 

I mention this because a prayer of mine for our Heritage children is that the godly teaching they hear at home, church, and school is something that sticks more than our team allegiance.  Can you imagine what would begin to happen in the world around us if the next generation of Christians was as passionate for Christ, prayer, and the Bible as the state of Alabama is about football?  There would be needs being met, lives being changed, and souls being saved.  I pray for the Spirit of God to fill up our hearts, our homes, and the halls of our schools, so that our children will be more passionate for Him than anything else.

This week, our Heritage children will be learning about having a Teachable Spirit.  They will learn the importance of listening to others, because none of us knows everything.  I want to challenge us as parents to make our homes a Deuteronomy 6 home this week, and every week.  That we would model what it means to live a life that loves God with all of ourselves, and that we would speak about God at every opportunity.  God, help us to be a light in our homes, and help us to raise up bright-light children for you.  Amen.

Persevering By Faith

The old saying goes: Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  This saying is often used to encourage someone who is beginning or in the middle of a tough season of life.  The problem is, it is rarely encouraging because very few of us even like the idea of running a marathon!  Perseverance is a quality we all admire and need, but similar to patience, is something that is painful to develop.

In Romans 5, we learn that perseverance leads to something immeasurably valuable: hope.  Paul writes, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Going back to the marathon vs. sprint analogy, anyone can run hard for a short distance, but to go a great distance takes time, training, and a determined heart and mind.  When weariness hits, the urge we must fight is to stop moving.  The more you run, the longer you can go, and longer you can go, the further you will travel, and the further you travel, the more hope you have of reaching the end of the race.  Similar to an actual marathon, our spiritual life needs perseverance when times get hard.  Some seasons of life will be harder, heavier, and longer than others, but we must keep our faith In Christ through it all.  He did not go to the cross on our behalf to allow us to be crushed by hardships.  Remember His love and grace, and let it strengthen you to persevere.

This week, our Heritage children will be learning the importance of perseverance from hearing more of the story of Abraham.  Abraham had to keep faith when traveling through a new land, while waiting on a promised son, and while enduring family hardships and conflicts.  Abraham had moving stress, marriage problems, and was even faced with a test of having to sacrifice his only son.  Abraham’s faith strengthened him to persevere, and so will ours.  Lean on God this week, and may He carry you through it all.

Joyful Humility

Humility is rarely something we enjoy, unless it is happening to someone else.  Admit it, you love to see the arrogant character in a movie eat some “humble pie.”  If you have a boss or co-worker who is always being disrespectful and rude, you get too much happiness out of the moments they are on the losing end of anything.  Humility is too often linked to humiliation, and I think that is why we all fear it so much.  We know that biblical humility is a good thing, but we are not lining up to receive it.

However, I want to challenge us all, myself included, to start thinking of humility as a joyful experience.  Is there anything more humbling than knowing that there is nothing at all you could do to remove your sins and fix your relationship with God?  As Americans, we live in a country that celebrates and aspires to build better things out of broken originals.  When we fail, it is meant to catapult us to something bigger and greater.  But this thought does not relate to our salvation.  Our failures did not set us up for redemption, but for death!  Paul writes in Romans that the wages of sin is death, and that is the payment we deserve for how we have lived our lives.

Thankfully, the verse does not end there.  Paul’s entire thought was this:  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  The payment for the sinful work we have done in our life is death, but that is not the check we receive.  Instead, Christ took our “check” of death, and gave us His glorious inheritance, which is eternal life with God our Father.  This is a gift, not a reward.  We do not deserve it, but God, in love gives it to us.  This is so very humbling, but also joyfully good news.  Let this humbling truth lead you to rejoice and feel the joy of His salvation gift!

This week, our Heritage students will be learning about humility.  They will learn about it by looking at the stories of the Tower of Babel the early years of Abraham.  Join us in this journey by reading through these stories in Genesis, and talk to your children about what it means to be loved by God purely because He chooses to love us.  We here at Heritage are praying you and your family have a blessed week.

Discerning God's Will For Your Life

There have been moments in all of our faith walks where we have questioned whether or not something was God’s will?  Some of these moments have involved life changes, such as, marriage, job change, moving across town/state/country/world, etc.  Other times we have questioned if something that was not happening was God’s will.  Maybe you struggled to get pregnant, or were single longer than you’d hoped, or just haven’t had an open door to get out of a tough situation into something better.  Discerning God’s will is a scary thing, but lately, I have been wondering why it scares us so much.

Here is why I question whether or not we should be afraid to discern and follow God’s will.  When you come to faith in Jesus, the Bible tells us that you have become a child of God; you are invited to call God your Heavenly Father, and He calls you His child.  In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about asking, seeking, and knocking on God’s door.  After He tells us that God will answer, be found, and open the door, Jesus speaks a word that should challenge and encourage faith in God.  Jesus asks which one of us, who are parents, if your child asked you for some bread, would instead give the child a stone to eat?  Obviously, we would not deny our child food, nor would we give them something harmful, like a rock, to eat.  Why does Jesus give us this silly analogy?  He explains in 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” 

This week, we will be teaching our Heritage children about discernment and knowing right from wrong.  When we consider how we want to live our life, that decision will impact every part of you, big and small.  Whether you are trying to decide how to treat a friend, or if you are seeking an answer on a big life decision, we can have faith that God love for us is like a perfect father.  He does not seek to lead you astray or do you harm, but desires what is best for you.  Trust in His will, follow Him closely, and trust and love Him like you desire your children to trust and love you.

Knowing "Why" Obedience Matters

Obedience; I do what I am told without grumbling.

Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

 

Obedience is a hard lesson to teach, and also a hard lesson to learn.  As parents, we tend to think of obedience as a character trait we desire to see in our children, which is a good thing to desire.  However, when we consider how hard obedience is for us as adults, it gives us more grace and compassion for our children who are fairly new to the idea of obedience to authority.

Anyone of us could be guilty of getting angry with an authority figure over us, be it your boss at work, or a cop flashing the blue lights at you, or the mechanic when they tell us what work must be done and the cost for that work.  It brings up all kinds of stress and emotions, and there is something in us that wants to rebel against these authority figures.  Our desire to rebel is more based out of our sinfulness, whereas our young children do not have a full, mature grasp of what obedience is and why it is important.

Understanding the “why” behind something is so important.  None of us ever feel satisfied giving or receiving the answer, “because I said so.”  Once we know why something is important, it becomes more important to us.  Why is obedience so important for our children to comprehend and practice?  Letting them know that our authority is meant to help keep them safe, teach them what is right and wrong, and give them a firm foundation to build their life upon.

This week, we will be looking at the story of the Fall of Mankind, and the role that disobedience played.  As we teach your children from Genesis 3, we will be talking about how important obedience is to God, and why it is important to obey our parents.  Our aim will be to teach our Heritage children the “Why” of obedience, and our prayer is that these biblical truths and character traits would take root in their heart, and be present all the days of their lives.

Stewarding Love & Care

Stewardship; I want to take care of the things that God has entrusted to me and use them the way he wants me to.

1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”

 

I love the weeks where we teach our children about stewardship!  Being a good steward is such an important lesson that we all must learn, and the younger we are taught this the better.  If your home is anything like mine, we “blessed” our children with a lot of toys.  Every time we went to the store, or a consignment shop for clothes, another toy was brought home.  Regarding our children, stewardship is pretty straightforward: take care of the clothes and toys you have been given.  Early on, the best thing we can do is teach our children how to respect their own property, and the property of others.

But for this blog, I want to challenge our thoughts on stewardship.  As we get older, and especially after we become parents, the principle of stewardship is not as straightforward.  For example, before our children entered our home, stewardship may have meant keeping your home clean and in order.  However, once children join us, we must be good stewards of them as well.  Sometimes, stewardship over our children takes precedent over our stewardship of our home.  Playing with your child may dirty up your home, but showing love to your child is better stewardship than keeping clean.

This week, in our Bible time, we are learning about God creating all things.  God demonstrates wisdom, creativity, and love as He shapes and forms His creation.  God cares for us and this world, and He demonstrates to us holy stewardship.  Life may get messy at times, but God is faithful love and instruct us.  His perfect, fatherly love is stewarded over us perfectly.

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

It is a bit ironic that most of people we think of as peacemakers are often living very un-peaceful lives. The reason for this is not their fault, because to be a peacemaker is to be involved in chaos and seeking to resolve it in a healthy, beneficial way for all people involved. To do this, they must put themselves in harms way. To be a peacemaker is a very high-risk, high-reward opportunity. The risk is in pat due to the uncertainty of the outcome. You may have sound logic, empathy, compassion, and say all the right things at the right time, but if one or more of the people involved are unwilling to accept it, then all of your efforts will be for naught.

As I thought about this verse and biblical peacemakers, my mind went to Joshua and Caleb. These two were a part of the twelve spies that Moses sent over to check out the Promise Land before Israel moved in. All twelve spies spoke highly of how bountiful and beautiful the land was, but all but two of them spoke of the frightening giants who were waiting to crush Israel like grasshoppers. The two who tried to speak peace and faith in God were Joshua and Caleb.

These two spoke of the great deeds God had done for the people, and they knew that a few giants and fortresses were no match for the God of Israel. They tore their clothes and pleaded with the people to be courageous and trust the Lord. Sadly, the fears of the ten were heard more than the calls for peace and courage of the two. Israel suffered greatly as a result of their lack of faith, but as for the two men who spoke for peace and faith were blessed to remain and enter the Promise Land forty years later. These two became sons of God because of their faith. They did all they could to keep peace between God and Israel, but Israel refused. 

Your success as a peacemaker is not determined by the responses and actions of others, but by the words and actions that come out of your heart. Have courage to speak and fight for peace. Although you may not succeed, and you may not feel the peace in the middle of the chaos, you are doing the work of God. To be God’s children means we desire and work for peace with all people. Have faith that God sees your work for peace, and that He is honored in your efforts.

Blessed Are The Pure In Heart

Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

This Beatitude always causes me to pause and be amazed at its promise. Those who have a pure heart will see God. Of all the Beatitudes, none of them cause my heart to stir like this one. From our earliest years of learning about God, to our numerous years in the Christian faith, nothing has been more mysterious or exciting as the thought of seeing God. There are so many stories of seeing God, such as Moses being hidden in the cleft of the rock and being allowed to see the train of God’s robe, and of Isaiah standing in the temple of the Lord, and the disciples at the Transfiguration, and last, but not least, the book of Revelation. All of these stories stir up this desire to see God.

What is so beautiful about Matthew 5:8 is the entire Gospel message. Only the pure in heart will see God, but who among us has a pure heart?  

The answer is: None. Not one person has a pure heart. The psalmist and the Apostle Paul remind us that none are good, not even one. Our hearts have been stained and dirtied by sin and pride. If we stopped here, we would feel disheartened and hopeless. But thanks be to God, that is not where the Bible stops! We read of a Savior who laid down His life to save us from our sins. Through His atoning death, every guilty stain of sin has been washed clean. With Easter coming, this is the time of year we reflect on the beautiful gift of salvation that God gives to us. As you think on the cross and the empty tomb this week, I want you to remember and rejoice at the sweet promise of God from Matthew 5:8

Only the pure in heart will be blessed to see God. Who are the ones who are pure in heart? Thanks to Jesus Christ, all who believe in Him have hearts that are made pure. Thanks to Jesus, if you have faith in Him, you will be blessed to see God.

Blessed Are The Merciful

Bible Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” 

The parable of the unmerciful servant is a challenging one. It is not challenging in that it is difficult to determine the meaning, but difficult to face. When we read the parable, we like to identify as the man with the lesser debt who is mistreated, and we often do not put ourselves in the place of the man who lacks mercy. But that is precisely why this parable is so important! All of us have suffered harm because of others. They may have said or done something that hurt our feelings, or they may have attacked our character with gossip and lies. Whatever it may be, these people are hard to forgive and show mercy to. If we are not careful, we can quickly find ourselves in the same place as the unmerciful servant.

In the parable, the first servant is forgiven a debt he could not possibly have repaid, even if he had lived 1,000 years. It was a large debt that shows he had not made wise decisions and put himself in a position where there was no way out. Had the king not shown him mercy, this man’s life would have been doomed to imprisonment and death. But when mercy is given, he is set free to have life again. However, this man did not learn from the king, because with his new found freedom, he lacks mercy for others.

The message is clear: God, the King of kings, forgave us the debt of our sins through sending His Son. We could never have paid off this debt without God’s mercy. But thanks be to God that we have been set free and given a new life! We must learn from the King’s mercy, and imitate Him by showing mercy to others. We must recognize the great weight of mercy God has shown us, and let that transform your heart. Knowing we have been forgiven such a heavy price, how can we now not also show mercy to others, who have done far less than we have? 

Application: When God goes about working in us and making us into His perfect, holy image, He teaches how to live like Christ. Indeed, you could say God is making us all into little-Christs in this world. That being so, we should show mercy to others. Our sins cost God’s Son His life upon the cross. It will not cost us nearly as much to forgive offenses others have done to us. Let the mercy of God take root in you, and let it set you free to forgive. When we learn the power of mercy, then we will be set free to live this new life God has blessed us with in Christ.

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger & Thirst

Bible Reading: Matthew 25:14-30

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Jesus’ parable of the talents is a familiar and popular one. Three servants receive different numbers of talents to put to work, and two of them work diligently to double their number of talents, whereas the third servant feared losing his master’s talent and hid it away. As I was reading through this parable recently, God gave me pause, and told me to rethink this parable. I have come to know the story so well, that I do not listen for Jesus teaching through it anymore. I assume I have the complete answer, and then I move on reading. I believe God would rather us pause and sit to learn from Him rather than assume we have mastered portions of His Word. God still has so much He wants to teach us, but we must be willing to humble ourselves to listen and learn.

When I reread the parable (a few times), I began to think about the efforts of those two servants who doubled their talents. They were willing to risk what their master had given them by putting the talents to work. We do not know what work they did, but it must have been something they put themselves fully into in order to double their original amount. They were dedicated and diligent workers for their lord, and they were greatly rewarded for it.

The first two servants can be described as courageous, devoted, and hard-working. The third servant, however, could be described as fearful, lazy, unambitious and unloving. He feared his master more than he loved him, which is seen in the words he speaks to his master. We are left to think about these three servants and determine what kind of servants we want to be for our Lord. Whether He gives one, two or five “talents” to work with, our response and devotion will determine the work of our lives. 

Application: As I began to think about them, my heart began to burn with the desire to be one of the servants who worked diligently and doubled the talents. In order to do that for my Lord, Jesus Christ, I would have to be willing to throw myself fully into the work He has called me to. I would have to be dedicated and diligent to “double” what He has entrusted to me. The most important thing I took away, though, was that this would be hard work, but it would be worth it. Those who desire righteousness will seek to honor Christ with their life. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for Christ Himself will fill them up.

Blessed Are The Meek

Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 1:1-2:10

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.“ 

The opening chapters of 1 Samuel tells us of a woman named Hannah. She is one of the wives of Elkanah, and she seems to be his favorite of the two women. Elkanah has children through his other wife, but Hannah remains barren and childless. The other woman taunts and teases Hannah until she is angry and bitter with tears. The Bible is relatively silent on Hannah’s attitude during this, but she seems to be very meek. We don’t read of her making a fuss or stirring up trouble. She appears to be teased to tears, and then shuts down from others so she can weep. Her heart is heavy with sadness, yet she doesn’t appear to fight back. Hannah could have returned fire by boasting in being the favorite wife of Elkanah, but she doesn’t.

As we read the story, the only place Hannah is able to find peace is when she has poured out her heart to the Lord. Her prayer is not heavy with words, but actually empty of words. She prays from her heart and through her tears. As we read, we find our hearts warmed and joyful when we read verses 19-20, “And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son…” God remembered Hannah pouring out her heart to Him, and at the right time, God blessed her with a son. This child, Samuel, will grow up to play a significant role in Israel’s history, and rightly so! He is born to a woman who appears to have been meek and devoted. She humbled herself before the Lord, confessed her weakness and bitterness to Him, and she was blessed by God because of it. In her weakness, God was strong. In her meekness, God blessed her greatly.

 

Application: Meekness is often associated with weakness. This is not the case! It is much more accurate to match meekness with humility. Meekness is not trusting in your own strength and knowledge, but in trusting the Lord to fight for you. We are all very defensive of areas we are weak in. We may overcompensate to distract from our weakness, or we may point out obvious weak areas in others. Meekness means handing your weakness over to God and trusting Him to be strong for you. After God answered her prayer, Hannah prayed this in 1 Samuel 2:9, “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail.” It will not be the strength, knowledge and creativity of man the grants success, but the presence and work of God. Do not be afraid to be meek before the Lord. In your meekness, He is strong.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Bible Reading: John 11

Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."“ 

John 11 is a wonderful chapter to describe the power of our Lord. He is able to turn tears of mourning into warmth and comfort. In John 11, Jesus receives news that a friend whom He loves, Lazarus, has fallen ill. Jesus waits two days before going to visit Mary and Martha, who were the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus knows that the illness has killed Lazarus already, but He goes in order to bring comfort as only God can.

When He arrives, Jesus is met by Martha in the streets outside her home. She knows that Jesus could have saved her brother from sickness and death, but she still has faith that Jesus will raise Lazarus to life, if only at the resurrection on the last days. Her faith in the salvation and resurrection God has promised gives her some comfort, but Jesus offers her full comfort in His response. John 11:25-26 reads, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Martha believes Jesus, and follows Him as He leads hr and Mary, her sister, to the tomb of Lazarus. It is here that Jesus brings Lazarus back to life, even though he had been dead four days already.

Martha, Mary and Lazarus are reunited, and their outlook on life and eternity is forever changed. Their hope for the resurrection has gone to a depth that they had never known before, and now they had hope and comfort in the face of inevitable death on earth. Jesus had turned their mourning into dancing, and their sad tears were now tears of joy. Those sisters who were mourning were now blessed and comforted. Jesus Christ is able to give perfect comfort to all people who seek Him during their mourning.

Application: All of us reading this knows what it is like to lose someone you love. Maybe you have lost a parent, a grandparent, a child, or a close friend. We have heard of death’s that made us sad, and some have almost crippled us with mourning and shock. Death is something we all fear, and when we are confronted by it, we are not sure what we need to move on. I believe we learn from John 11 that we all need comfort, and that perfect comfort can only be found in Jesus. He is life, resurrection and eternal life. He has defeated death and conquered sin. If you are mourning anything in this life, and there is much to mourn other than death, then I urge you to look to Jesus. He is able to give perfect, complete comfort to all who seek Him. I pray He gives comfort to you at every hour of need.

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Bible Reading: 1 Kings 17

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

When reading through the Beatitudes, some of the teachings of Jesus tend to jump out. Write at the start, the very first Beatitude seems unusual and, to be honest, undesirable. Who wants to be poor in any sense of the word? Especially when it relates to your own spirit, being poor is something that does not seem enjoyable. Yet Jesus says that those who are poor in spirit will be blessed to dwell in the kingdom of heaven.

Many of us are familiar with the story of the prophet Elijah. He appears to the wicked King Ahab and foretells of a three-and-a-half-year drought, and then he flees to live in the wilderness. 1 Kings 17 details all of these beginning stories of Elijah’s adventure, but Elijah is not the focus of this blog post. Instead, I want us to look at the Widow of Zarephath. This woman is left to care for her son, and life has not been easy. She is a single mother, which at this time in history made life very difficult, if not impossible without help. She has nobody and nothing when we meet her, expect for just enough oil and flour to make a small cake. After this meal, the widow plans for her and her son to starve to death.

It is in the midst of this anxious and horrifying time that Elijah wanders into her life, and asks her for all she has left, the small cake. This widow, who is poor in body and in spirit, does as Elijah asks, and shares the small cake with him. Her generosity is startling, to me anyways. Even though she was poor in spirit, evidenced by accepting her fate to death, she still was willing to show kindness to a stranger and foreigner. God blesses this widow and her son greatly as a result of her kindness. We do not know how the widow’s life goes once Elijah leaves her home, but for this time, we see one who is poor in spirit be greatly blessed by God.

 

Application: Elijah is undoubtedly the main character of this story, but this widow has much to teach us as well. None of us desires to be in such a desperate and dark place in life as she was, but most circumstances are out of our control. However hard life may become or how dark a situation may be, we can control how we respond during it. This widow, though poor in spirit, chose love and kindness. May we too choose love when hate is easier. As we spend more time as children of God, we should be growing and developing the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ chooses love and kindness when the spirit is feeling low and poor. May God’s Spirit work in us and through us to walk in God’s blessings, even when we are feeling poor in our own spirits.

Fearlessly Teaching Faith

Faith; I believe God will do what he has promised.

Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

Faith is one of my favorite character traits to teach to our Heritage children.  Faith is the root of our existence in Christ.  When we released the new logo for Heritage Preschool, my favorite part are the roots spreading out into the earth.  The further those roots spread, the stronger the tree is.  The same can be said of our faith in Christ.  The further those faith roots extend into our heart, the stronger we are in this life.

Teaching this to our children can be hard to explain, but is always fun to watch them wrestle to understand.  They often times do not comprehend the meaning of faith, but that is okay.  The important thing is that we are sowing seeds into their hearts and leading them in the teachings and words of our faith.  There are times even as adults we struggle with our faith and what it looks like in a certain situation.  We do not need to be afraid to teach our children about faith.  We can get so focused on making sure we do it, “right,” that we end up not teaching them.  Do not let the fear of “messing up” faith cause you to shy away from the amazing gift.  God has given us.  God has blessed you with your children, and He has given you the precious privilege of leading them in the way of Jesus.

Application:  Your children will learn a lot about God and Christ here at Heritage, and they will hopefully be learning a lot about our faith at church also.  This is a wonderful blessing!  But children learn more from their parents than anyone else.  They are following you and giving everything they have to be just like you.  We must set them an example of faith in Jesus.  Don’t be afraid to talk about God and the Bible.  If we are humble and joyful when we talk about God, so will they.  Let’s show our children that God is great.  He is a good Father, and He has invited us to sit at His feet and learn from Him.  Let’s bring our children along on this journey of faith!

Purposeful Diligence

Diligence; I work hard to accomplish my responsibilities.

1 John 5:3, “This is love for God: to obey his commands.”

Diligence is an admirable quality to have in the work force.  Employers love it when their workers are hard-working and striving to better themselves and the business.  Many businesses offer incentives like promotion opportunities and bonuses in order to encourage diligence among the employees.  As good as it is to be diligent as it relates to your work, it can cause us to not be as diligent with our families and faith.

Your body and mind can only accomplish so much in a day.  Each day we must prioritize our tasks in order to get the most important things done.  If we are diligent, we will get them all done, from the greatest in importance to the least.  I am very guilty of making productivity an idol.  Lately, Christ has been challenging me through His Word in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”  What does it matter if we get everything done on our lists of family, home, and work projects, if we neglect our own souls and the souls of our family?

Application:  2019 is a busy time to be a parent.  We all feel an unspoken pressure to advance our careers, enroll our children in multiple extracurricular activities, have weekly date nights, and keep a showroom ready home.  That is a lot, if not impossible, to accomplish.  We must keep our hearts fixed on Christ, and do not allow ourselves to follow the idol of productivity.  Keep God as the first priority of your life, and lead your family in that example.  With God first in your heart and home, everything else will fall into its proper place.

Determined to Pray

Prayerful; I can talk to God about anything.

1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”

Prayer is such a sweet gift God has given us.  When I pause to think about what prayer is, I can hardly imagine how amazing it is.  God is holy and powerful, and He created all things that are seen and known, and those things we have not yet seen and known.  He is the God of the universe, and yet He offers us a chance to talk with Him through prayer.  We can talk to God and He listens!

I know this is nothing new to any of us, but we must never take prayer for granted.  I forget who, but someone once said that prayer for the Christian should be the same as breathing.  Without breath, we would die.  Likewise, without prayer, our souls will die.  We all know prayer is valuable, but it seems to me that we are all so busy that we often neglect prayer.  We are busy with work, caring for our children, and just trying to take showers and brush our teeth daily.  Our days are loaded down with responsibilities and activities, and prayer often gets pushed down the priority list.  We must tell ourselves, and I mean daily preach it at our reflections in the mirror, that we are far too busy not to pray!

Challenge:  This week, I want to challenge us all to pray like never before.  If you pray in the car, continue to do so.  But I want to challenge you make a time to shut out all distractions and pray.  If that means kneeling beside your bed at night, or sitting in the middle of your living room floor, make some time to be totally devoted to God.  C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The body ought to pray as well as the soul.  Body and soul are both better for it.”  We need our Lord with us all the time.  Make some time to sit at the feet of Jesus, and give Him your body, mind and soul in prayer.  I believe that if we begin to do this, we will find strength and peace in Him that we desperately need to lead our children in godly living.

Leading In Compassion

Compassion; I feel bad when my friends feels bad, and I want them to feel better.

1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.

Compassion is not the absence of hatred and apathy, but is the presence of caring and love.  For example, Mother Teresa is not remembered for all the people she did not show love in caring for, but for those she did love and serve.  If we desire to be defined as compassionate people of God, then we must show compassion to others in a God-honoring way. 

Having compassion, you see the hurt and pain of others, and you are moved to help.  Seeing and recognizing someone is in need will not make us compassionate, but only makes us observant.  When we are move to help that person in need, then we are compassionate.  Compassion is one of those character traits we teach here at Heritage Preschools that legs to it.  When we teach it, we always give examples of ways our children can show compassion to their family, friends and strangers.  God bless them, our Heritage children are very compassionate and eager to help someone in need.  I pray they would grow to be the most compassionate generation the Church has seen in a long time!

As usual with these blog posts, I aim to put the ball in our court as parents.  There is not one of us that would say we do not want our child to be compassionate towards others.  But what are we doing to show them the beauty of compassion?  When they watch your life, and they are watching you, are they seeing compassion as something they should want to do?  These are hard questions that we each must answer. 

Application:  I want my daughters to see me being compassionate and being blessed while I do it.  It is an amazing feeling to know you have done something that pleased and glorified our Heavenly Father.  Showing compassion to all people is one of the things that pleases God.  Take time to tell your children about how wonderful it is to please God.  When we show compassion towards those who are hurting, and we work to serve and help them, it makes God smile.  Let’s be role-models for compassion!  Together, we can raise up a generation of Christians that will desire to make God smile while they show compassionate love and serve others around the world.

Learning Forgiveness

Forgiving; I don’t hold grudges against my friends.

Colossians 3:13b, “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Forgiveness is one of my favorite traits we teach here at Heritage Preschools.  I believe it to be one of the core character traits of the Christian life, and one of the traits that will be tested and used the most.  We need God’s forgiveness and help daily, and we also need to be able to forgive and go forward with those who harm us.  Forgiveness has the power to set people free; both the one who is forgiven and the one who is forgiving.

It seems that we go to great lengths to teach our children not to do harm to others, but not as much when it comes to forgiving those who harm them.  We explain to them why we do not hit, push, snatch, take without asking, or say mean words to people, but when those things happen to them, we quickly tell them to say, “It’s ok.”  I do not think this is wrong, but I do believe there is more we can do.  I say this because if my parents still stepped in and said everything was ok now that I’m an adult, I would interrupt them and say, “No, it’s not.  I’m hurt and I need them to know why.”  Sometimes, I forgive because I know I need to, but it takes me a while to deal with the offense in my mind and move past it.  This is all normal, but I was not taught this until much later in life.

As I said earlier, forgiveness is so powerful because it brings freedom to the giver and recipient.  Anytime you are handed something powerful, like a power tool, for example, the person tells you to be careful how you use it.  We should also be careful when we explain forgiveness to our children. 

Forgiving someone does not take away the pain the person caused, but it will set you free to begin healing. 

Forgiveness does not make the relationship great again, but it does lay the ground work for rebuilding trust. 

Forgiveness does not mean everything goes back to the way it was before the offense, but leads to a new and better normal.

Challenge:  Forgiveness is a powerful, meaningful character trait in the life of a Christian.  As a parent, you are tasked with explaining and modeling godly forgiveness to your child.  I want to challenge you to go above and beyond with forgiveness.  What are some ways you could take your teaching to a higher level?  Maybe it means taking longer to discipline your child because you explain to them the pain they caused, and how you love them anyway and always will.  Maybe it means talking to them about the hurt they feel when a friend hurts them.  Help them forgive and process their forgiveness.  They may be tiny and young, but their hearts are a book that they are filling with all the knowledge and truth you can give them.  Be courageous in your parenting, and prepare them for true, godly forgiveness.

Walking the Walk of Sincerity

Sincerity; I don’t try to trick people.

1 Timothy 1:5, “Our goal is love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

As Christian parents, we have a great challenge and a great privilege in teaching our children to be sincere.  The privilege, of course, is to raise up people who mean what they say and practice what they preach.  The challenge, however, is how to teach the importance of sincerity when people constantly doubt whether or not someone is being sincere.  Sadly, many of us are concerned by if people are being genuinely sincere with us.  What if they are deceiving us?  What if they are planning to use our answers to hurt us or scam us?  These are all threats that are too real, but should not deter us from being sincere.

Whenever I think of sincerity, I always think of Jacob.  As we read through his story in Genesis, we begin the story by not liking the Jacob, but as he grows and matures through his life and experiences, we see him become a better person.  He transitions from being a trickster into being a sincere man of God. 

It baffles me how in reading a few chapters of a man’s life can so easily change my thoughts about him.  The same is true in real life as well, even though it takes longer to see the changes.  You may can think of someone you interact with whom you do not trust, and you do not believe them to be sincere.  Be careful with what you trust them with, but always stay gracious and open to the work God is doing in them.  They may not be sincere today, but God can lead them there.  Pray for them.  Let your sincerity and character serve as an example for them.  Lord willing, sooner rather than later, they too will become a sincere, loving child of God.

Application:  Even as you are reading this, your young child is forming their opinions on sincerity.  At such a young age, our Heritage blessings are absorbing information like tiny human sponges, and they are determining how they will view the world and people.  This is why it is so crucial for us to do what we say we are going to do.  Us, as parents, have the power and responsibility to set an example of sincerity for our children.  I pray we would take this seriously, and that we do well at being sincere.

Setting a Generous Example

Generous; I give what I have to others because I want to and it makes me happy.

2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart…for God loves a cheerful giver.

“It is better to give than receive.”  I could not remember who coined this phrase, but I suspected they were incredibly wise.  After asking Google who first spoke this phrase, my suspicions were confirmed.  Acts 20:35 tells us, “and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Jesus all to well knows how costly it is to be generous.  He laid down His life, and all He received in return was us!  Even so, this is further proof of the truth of His words. 

When thinking about how generosity can be shown by God’s people, my mind naturally jumps to financial charity and gift giving.  But that is not what I wanted to focus on with this blog post.  We are well aware of the ways we can give of our money and materials to bless and help others.  But have we ever thought about how generous we are with our respect and compassion?  Most of the time, I fear, we are more focused on how much respect we receive rather than how much we give.  Likewise, we tend to think more about the compassion we experienced instead of what we showed.  If we are going to imitate the generosity of our Savior, we must learn to think more on what we are giving than what we are receiving. 

Even as I write this, I understand this is much easier to say than carry out, but that may be even more reason why we need this.  We will never be perfectly generous like Christ, but with hearts determined to glorify Him, we will become more generous as time goes by.  As we grow and mature in our faith, we begin to be less concerned with ourselves and more concerned with others.  This transition will not take place overnight, but if we are purposeful, we can learn to be generous with Christ-like compassion and respect.

Application:  As with all of these character traits, we want our children to understand them.  Understanding comes through knowledge and experience.  Whenever you have an opportunity to be generous to or in front of your children, take some time to explain to them how you are being generous and why.  It seems strange to pause and “spotlight” our generosity, but remember why you are doing it.  You are not looking to score brownie points with your child, but helping them understand the purpose of generosity.  Be generous this week, and let your children play a part with you.