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Strength For Our Children

Strength For Our Children

By Jennifer Lynch

As a mother, you want to do everything you can to protect your baby. You take every precaution to keep them safe. But with everything that happens in the world, we can’t always protect our children. However, we can love them, snuggle with them, and help them understand what is in the world around them.

Over the past year, the world has been in an uproar. It has affected us all in different ways. The Lord tells us not to fear because He is with us. As believers, we look to that, but as fleshly humans, we have a tendency to question the fear within us.

As a child, we are just learning about relationships, spiritual guidance, and personal contact. Over the last few months, my child has struggled with this pandemic. She has adjusted to wearing masks and knows the rules about being six feet apart and not having close contact with people. As adults, we understand how to deal with unknown circumstances, but to most children, none of this makes sense.

Yesterday I was checking my daughter’s folder from school and noticed a drawing. Of course, I am always excited to see her thoughts out on paper. This time, it was a little heartbreaking. There on the paper were five stick people all standing by each other. She colored a big blue circle around them. The coloring page template was supposed to be a representation of what her dream would be. “That all of us can play together” was written in the upper right corner by the teacher. This struck my heartstrings. Her dream is to play with her friends and have contact with those around her.

I set the drawing aside and went about the day. I decided to do some crafts with both of my kids that afternoon—a DIY fairy jar. As we were reading the directions, I noticed that they were supposed to write down a wish and put it in the jar. Just a little extra piece to make the project magical. I handed it over to my youngest child to help her write her wish. “I wish that COVID would go away” was the wish. Again, my heart broke.

This pandemic has been affecting my child more than I could have imagined. We genuinely don’t think about the appreciation that a hug can make, a touch of a hand, or playing with the same toys. This pandemic is hard on all of us, but our children struggle even more. For a kindergartener learning how to build relationships in a world where you can’t interact in close quarters, it is very difficult and hard to understand. The Lord built us to love one another and to be close to others (John 15:12).

My daughter thrives on interaction. This goofy, fun-loving child now worries if she will get in trouble if she gets too close to someone. She worries that she will never be able to hug her teacher and play with her friends. This is the time our kids are learning to build relationships. They need some normalcy in all of the craziness of this world.

As parents, we need to keep our eyes wide open. We need to watch for these signs in our children. We need to be there for questions that may need answers. We also need to hold them close, hug them daily, and let them know that we are there for them. We don’t have the answers to what will happen next. We can only deal with what happens today. We can also pray with them to give them hope that Lord is walking with them through it.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 AMP.

Be strong for your babies. They look to you for guidance. Trust in the Lord through everything we face. Only He can walk us through it.

True Confessions of an Overeater

True Confessions of an Overeater

I confess….I have an addiction: food. I love food of all kinds. But I love it so much I’ve damaged my God-given shut-off alarm! However, if I’m truly honest, my addiction isn’t necessarily to food. No, my addiction isn’t food, but instead it is an addiction to “me”.

I want what I want. I want what I like. I want what stirs happy feelings and comforts me (however briefly). Yeah, I’m addicted to me, my flesh. I struggle resisting what I think I need and then struggle even worse when I try not to overeat.

Way too often I get in my own head and the hamster wheel of negative thoughts and feelings increases to 100 miles per hour. If I am feeling strong that day, I can use my tools (Bible reading, accountability, gratitude list) and calm the spin, or stop it completely. Well, for a while, that is.

One day, I woke up in a frustrated, defeated funk. My thoughts were sliding down a slippery slope and I prayed during my devotions, “Please Lord, transform my thinking today to positive thoughts!” I knew where my thinking would lead if it kept going in that downward direction. I had certainly been there before.

See, I had made a conscious decision nearly 30 days prior to work on my health by eating healthier and being more active. Did I want to lose weight? SURE! But even more so, I wanted to like myself again and continue to be around as my grandchildren grew up. Unfortunately, my typical pattern has been to go strong for 1 month. I experience victories, but then my addiction to “me” reawakens. Eventually, I give up.

On this particularly “down” day, I was approaching my 1-month mark since starting my commitment again. With my rut pattern of thinking, my brain (and Satan) reminded me and reared it’s ugly head, taking me back to a place of defeat again.

As I drove to work that day, my mind continued to slide into a pit. I tried brushing it off and putting it out of my mind. Thankfully, I work with people who care about me, know me, AND who call me out when I need it. After a grateful time of talking and encouragement, the Lord reminded me of a post I had put on Facebook the previous day. It was the verse found in 1 John 5:4, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”

I have to admit, my faith is often less than a mustard seed size, especially that day. But I realized it’s because I’m looking at myself to achieve these hard things. I’m reminded that only God can achieve true victory in and through me. My role is to just keep my eyes on Jesus!!

Today, I confessed my addiction to “me” and my fear of failure (again) to God; and now to you. God answered my prayer that day. I am trusting He will break this cycle of failure and surrender to defeat, because I surely can’t do it in my own strength!

God didn’t transform my thinking immediately, nor did He do it in the way I perceived in my head, but He did do it that day! I will need to pray this promise from Him often as I struggle with negative thinking. For now, I can go back to that day in my mind (and my prayer journal) and remember how He honored my prayer. God loves me and I am forever grateful!

I believe there may be others of you, like me, who have patterns of defeat. You begin strong but ultimately give up. Your addiction or struggle may be very different from mine. As the patterns are repeated, you get frustrated, anxious, depressed, and scared because you believe you know what’s coming. However, I encourage you to stop living according to a faulty belief. Use the lies and truths outlined below to identify what you’re feeling right now. Then look up the Scripture indicated and pray, pray, pray! It is very powerful to insert your name into the Scripture and pray it out loud.

By Karen Grotler

In The Power of Christ

In The Power of Christ

In The Power of Christ, Mom and Dad, Take a Stand!

By Luanne Botta

A year ago I was teaching a group of high school girls at a Christian school. We were talking about the sexual culture we are living in and their greatest concern was, “How in the world do we navigate between the voices of the world and the truth of God’s Word?” They were so hungry to hear answers on how to walk out their remaining high school years with integrity and character in one of the most vital areas…sexual integrity.

We spoke about how the entertainment industry lures their generation through the selling of desire, making it confusing to both them and their guy friends on how to handle the sexual onslaught coming at them on a daily basis. Once they understood their value as young women of God and their true worth, we had an amazing breakthrough in this area of their hearts.

“Despite what the culture says, self-control – not self-indulgence – frees you from a broken heart, shattered emotions, and spiritual detachment. Unfortunately, many Christian teens have been deceived and bought the lie that they don’t need to control their desires for sex but to indulge them. You are told, “You’re just being a kid,” or Who cares, it’s no big deal,” or “What’s wrong with you?  It’s a natural thing, what are you waiting for.” (Young Hearts. Pure Lives./Chapter 2 – You Are Worth Waiting For.)

May I speak to you directly as parents? The Lord has gifted you with your children. He has given you a calling and commitment far beyond any job you will ever have. You are undoubtedly faced with the challenge to bring them up in today’s culture that is spinning out of control and it can be exhausting. However, it is imperative that you are closely involved in your child’s life, staying active in what they watch and the friends they choose. You are their greatest influence and they will respond to what you allow or don’t allow.  

I want to assure you…this is NOT a losing battle! We are in a battle where Jesus is Lord!  “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Psalm 127:1. He has your family in His control and He is crazy about your kids! 

I have been in youth ministry for over 25 years and I have had the unique opportunity to minister to hundreds of high school teenagers, both guys and girls. I have seen first-hand that they want to understand and emulate true love’s design including respect, honor, value, commitment, and deep intimacy.

If I can give you one major tool as a parent in this culture it is Be A Watchman! A watchman stands watch, sounds an alarm/warning and guards the home. You are in the fight for your family and you are your child’s greatest role model. You are not their friend; that will come once they start their careers and their own families. Parent them now, that is what they need to navigate this culture that is attempting to deceive them. 

Please understand that your prayers move heaven and you set the tone for your home. You are stewarding unto the Lord and you will find that His Word is a powerful guide. Specifically, the book of Proverbs is a wonderful tool to give you wisdom and direction to lead your teen through this journey.  

It is so easy to let the entertainment industry raise your kids, especially when you’re exhausted, but it is important to always be on-guard. I highly recommend no TV’s in the bedrooms, otherwise teens will retreat to  their “cave” and be influenced by the culture rather than parents. Another suggestion is to not allow cell phones in the bedrooms when going to bed. The almost guaranteed negative influence can happen fast without detection.

A problem parents are currently voicing across the globe is how much time they should allow their teen to spend on social media. It is a balance that is needed. Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok…these influences don’t come without consequences. And particularly with the overwhelming onslaught of human trafficking coming through social media, it needs to be monitored and balanced. Yes, parenting is demanding, but your children need you so much in these years, even if they act like they don’t want your opinion or rules. They are desperate to feel safe and your rules make them feel safe and make them feel loved, no matter how much they challenge you.

“He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.”  Proverbs 13:18

You are their watchman at the gate. Take your stand against this cultural onslaught and love them through truth and boundaries. You are not alone in this fight: there are thousands of parents just like you. Pray for your kids and over your kids. They ultimately belong to the Lord. He will guide you through all of the joys, rebellion, heartache and victories.  

I want to cheer you on and encourage you to stand! Then, keep Standing! Run to the Lord and He will give you the wisdom you need to raise your child. This is a promise.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

In all her years of experience with teenagers, God compelled Luanne Botta to author two books for high school students: one for girls and one for guys. Both books contain many topics that teen deals with through their high school years, including the media selling of seduction, wisdom in friendships, the battle of sexting, importance of a personal quiet time, a godly character and sexual integrity.  A professor from Regent University in Virginia Dr. Rick Nugara described the books like this: “There has never been a generation more at risk nor has there ever been a more timely message.”

For resources to help your teen, visit the author’s website at luannebotta.com.

Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enemies

“But I say to you who hear, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs form you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But, love your enemies, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

– Luke 6:27-36

I think these may be some of the hardest words Jesus spoke. Even as I typed them out, part of me wanted to skip some parts. Part of me wanted to change my mind and not write about this at all. What Jesus says here is radical and, in many cases, may seem impossible. How can Jesus expect us to love people who hurt us? How can He tell us to turn the other cheek when we are struck? What does He even mean by that? Are Christians supposed to be pushovers? Are we supposed to let people abuse us and hurt us and just sit there and do nothing about it?

 

Loving Your Enemies and Setting Boundaries

 

Well, I want to start by saying, no. Jesus does not expect us to be pushovers. If you are in a situation where you are being abused in anyway, Jesus does not expect you to just sit there and let it happen. You are a child of God, He loves you, cares for you, and wants to set you free. And if you have been in a situation like that or have just been hurt by other people, whatever that looks like, what Jesus says here does not mean that Jesus doesn’t care.

In fact, He cares very deeply. If you read through the Gospels you will see how much God hates sin. His love and grace don’t excuse sin or make it ok or no big deal. He hates sin, all sin. When other people sin against us and hurt us, He hates that. It is good and right to set both legal and personal boundaries. It is possible to love your enemies and still have limits. You can forgive someone for what they did to you without continuing to have a relationship with them.

One example I think of is one summer a few years ago. I was volunteering at a summer camp for children in foster care. At one point in the camp we asked the kids to come up and say one thing they wanted to pray for. Almost every kid in that camp asked to pray for their parents. Many of these kids came from abusive situations. Their parents had hurt them, and yet in spite of that they still loved them and prayed for them. Of course, for most of those children it would never be right or safe for them to return to their parents. Most of them had to stay in foster care or be adopted into another family. For their safety boundaries had to be set. But, in asking for prayers for those who had hurt them so deeply, they showed the kind of love Jesus asks all of us to extend to people who hurt us. Loving your enemies can be as simple as asking God to have the same mercy on them that He had on you.

When God calls us to love our enemies, He does not call us to take their sin lightly or to treat ourselves poorly by staying in an unsafe situation.

 

Love Your Enemies: Look to Jesus

 

Loving our enemies is hard. And there is only one way we can truly love our enemies the way God calls us to.

We look to Jesus.

One thing God has shown me as I have read through the Gospels is that Jesus never gives us a command that He has not accomplished Himself. Here when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, He is not asking us to do something that He doesn’t know anything about. Jesus is not just some teacher who gives vague commands without understanding the depths of what He is asking. He knows even better than we do what it means to love enemies. As Jesus hung from the cross, He prayed for God to have mercy on those who killed Him. As He died the most horrific kind of death in all human history, He cried out for forgiveness for those who murdered Him.

And, He loved you and me. I sometimes forget that I at one point in time was an enemy of God. Romans 5 says that even though we were enemies of God, because of the death of Jesus we were reconciled to Him. God had mercy on us and extended forgiveness to us even though we rebelled against Him. I don’t deserve mercy any more than anyone else who has sinned against me. Jesus knows how hard it is to forgive those who have sinned against us. He knows what it is like to be sinned against. He knows what it is like to be betrayed, to be hurt by people. So, as He calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us, He is not doing so without any understanding of what He is asking of us.

If we want to know what it looks like to love our enemies, to love difficult people, we need to look to Jesus. We can’t do what He is asking on our own. And, He doesn’t expect us to. He shows us how to love others in His death and resurrection. And He comes alongside us to help us love others, even those who seem impossible to love.

Exploring Grace: The Divine Paradox

Exploring Grace: The Divine Paradox

By Pastor Ben Hill (Reproduced with permission)

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30

Think back to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Do you remember how the massive pile of rubble, molten steel and unrecognizable human remains became a focal point of terror’s evil? Remember President Bush ascending a rubble pile with a fireman, and with bullhorn in hand proclaiming for the world to hear our Nation’s resolve, our determination to bring to justice those who were responsible for that horrific attack? That section of destroyed land was referred to over and over again as “Ground Zero”.

What is a ground zero? It is a place of origin, an established point of beginning. Can you think of the “ground zero” moments in your own life? For the Child of God, the ultimate “ground zero” moment happened over 2,000 years ago on a hill called Mt. Calvary!

God is perfectly holy, and His justice demanded punishment for sin. The complete wrath of God was poured out against the rebellion of man, at the cross where Jesus suffered and died for OUR sins! It was there that the justice of God was satisfied through the Lord’s sinless sacrifice.

This is where we see the divine paradox of the cross. In that very moment, God unleashes His unbridled punishment of sin but He also reveals His greatest expression of love, mercy, and grace! (Romans 5:8) God the Father gave His Only Son to die so that we don’t have to… this is grace defined! Yet grace is further revealed in the reality that Jesus was not an unwilling sacrifice. He freely laid down His life to pay your death sentence and mine!

O, what a Savior! We are redeemed by the blood of The Lamb!

The ultimate Ground Zero: Jesus died once for all who will surrender to Him.

Pray that you might fully appreciate the divine paradox of grace and that we all might share the love of God everywhere we go.