Celebrate Easter

This Sunday, we will head to church to celebrate Easter. New clothes, pretty flowers, yummy food. All good things but what are we celebrating? Let's take a few minutes to focus on what the day really means.

Jesus died. The One who healed folks who couldn't see or walk. He even brought some back to life. The One who fed the hungry. The One who loved people to wholeness, showed them how to live. The One who said if we saw Him, then we had seen the Father.

This One, the Hope for all the world, died. And He said He had to. That it was why He came. To be the perfect sacrifice, required for the sin of the world. Can you imagine how His followers felt? Talk about grief and disappointment and confusion. I mean, really, they followed this Man and believed that He was going to change the world. Then He ups and dies. Certainly they must have had a few moments of doubt - if He were really who He claimed to be, wouldn't He have asserted a little Divine power and wiped out the bad guys??

Then, to the amazement of them all....even though He had told them...His body isn't in the tomb. He appears! Living and breathing! NO WAY!!!

He paid the debt we owe God . Sin is costly - it exacts death from those who commit it. And Jesus's voluntary death was the only means by which our debt could be paid. So He paid it. Mercy. Amazing mercy. Love beyond compare.

But then He did the impossible. He defeated Death! No longer would man have to fear Death because Jesus overcame it! Not only can our sin be paid for so that we can be acceptable to God, but we now don't have to fear Death. He conquered it! Because of His resurrecting Himself, He gives to us the promise of resurrection. To live forever, without sin or death. Oh hallelujah!

This year, as we celebrate Easter,let's focus on what His death AND His resurrection do for us. And ponder, just for a moment, that this same power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us. NOW. Is there anything in your life that could use some resurrection power? A relationship? A dream? Finances? Self-control? Joy? Hope? Because of Easter, that power, that Glory, can be present in our lives through Jesus. Those of us who are Christ-followers have resurrection power that enables us to live supernatural lives. If that doesn't describe you, do you want it to?

Celebrate Easter. For real.

Recipes for Easter Weekend - for kids (big and small!)

I am all about food.  Anyone that knows me knows that I spell "LOVE" - "F-O-O-D".  Absolutely!  The other thing most folks know about me is that I am a sharer.  That's my version of a teacher.  I don't know anything on my own but I love to share what I learn.  Ideas, tips, great sales, recipes, etc.  I love to share.  If I could, I would send out a worldwide email everytime I try something that works.  Whether it's a parenting solution or a new way to save a dime, if I'm excited about it, there is something in me that compels me to share. 

Here are a couple of easy recipes that not only spell "LOVE" my way, they also teach a story.  THE story.  Can't be anything better!

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/resurrection-rolls/

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easter-story-cookies/

Meanwhile, I'm gonna work on that worldwide distribution list..............

Parenting lessons from Judges

Same passage. Same Truth. Different application. (I absolutely LOVE how God’s Word is so rich and powerful that it contains layer after layer after layer of treasures for us to dig out and enjoy, don’t you?)

So we’re in that passage from Judges that we looked at last time. ‘ I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not. ‘ So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua. Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly) Judges 2:21-3:2

We already unpacked the context and gathered some treasure from this passage in last week’s Wednesday’s Word. If you missed it, just scroll down and check it out. Good foundation for today’s post.

When I pondered these verses, I thought about the situation of Israel. Then I thought about the application of truth to my own life.

But then God showed me more treasures and I dug deeper.

Parenting application.

Probably lots of them but I uncovered a couple.

First, parenting according to the principle of natural consequences.

Just as Israel experienced the consequences of disobedience and learned obedience from the things they suffered, so can I…and so can my kids. Instead of either meting out punishment or, worse, rescuing them every time, we need to let our children feel the pain associated with their actions. For example, letting them feel the pain of falling from that chair you told them not to climb. (Sounds cruel, right?) Or,instead of running that forgotten project up the school for the third time this year, let them get their grade docked….and accept the fallout from that consequence. (Oh, did I mention that oftentimes the parent has to suffer when these consequences ensue? :) In fact, I am pretty sure that avoiding our OWN personal pain is the #1 reason we rescue our kids so much!!) But this is how they will learn to adjust their behavior. Natural consequences. And the earlier we apply this principle in our parenting, the sooner our kids will learn on their own.

The other application that the Holy Spirit whispered to me was the importance of letting my kids learn how to fight. Wait, you say, my kids have that down pat! :) I don’t mean hand to hand combat or arguing with their siblings. I mean the kind of fighting you need to do in order to live a successful life. Hanging in there when things are tough. Battling through disappointment, failure, and rejection. Waging war against the natural tendencies not only to quit but also to cave to negative attitudes, victim-mentalities, and self-centeredness. Fighting to develop traits of responsibility, confidence, and maturity.

How do we learn how to fight like that?

By not having a picture-perfect life.

The bumps and curve balls of life are usually unpleasant but they are the very things that God can use to teach us to fight. The disappointment of not winning that championship. The feelings of rejection when there’s no prom date. The sting from the unfairness of a teacher or coach. The weariness of practicing untold hours and missing out on something fun in order to master that piano piece. The hurt when friends are disloyal. All those things are painful but the can be building blocks upon which God can build perseverance and compassion and confidence and discipline.

If we let Him.

The Spirit whispered to me that I must fight, too - I must fight my tendency to shield my kids from anything unpleasant. To counsel my Mama-Bear heart not to intervene every time I perceive my child has been wronged by someone else.To refrain from thinking that my goal should be to make their lives wrinkle-free.

As a parent, I need to let some “enemies”remain in the land (I don’t mean evil influences or activities! I mean the naturally occurring difficulties of life) so my kids can learn how to wage the war of life victoriously.

All from the book of Judges. Who knew!

This is a test....

I confess that I haven’t spent a whole lot of time hanging out in the book of Judges. But after discovering this gold nugget of truth, I’ve decided I need to! Hang with me while we unpack these few verses….

Beginning in chapter 2, verse 21, the Lord speaks…. ‘ I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not. ‘ So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua. Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly) Judges 2:21-3:2

Context first. When the Lord delivered Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, He led them into beautiful Canaan, the land He has promised to Abraham generations before. It was an arduous journey and a circuitous route, due to the on/off relationship to obedience of God’s people! But finally, they made it. They arrived at The Promised Land. But the land was not empty, just waiting for them to move in. Most of the areas God promised to them were already occupied by peoples hostile to the One True God.

So the children of Israel had to get those people out in order to occupy the land God had given them. The entire Old Testament book of Joshua details this conquest. Over and over, God encourages Joshua not to be afraid but to hold fast to Truth and to possess the Land of the Promise. And over and over, through many trials and miracles, Joshua leads the people in doing just that. God grants them victory over the heathen nations, driving them out in defeat and destruction. Great victories.

But also some setbacks. Some defeats. Some disobedience.

Judges 2:10 records for us what happened after Joshua died …and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. The chapter goes on to describe the on/off obedience of God’s people and how God let them suffer the consequences of their choices. That’s where we pick up…

The enemies of Israel had no right to be in the land. They were not only tempting the people to dishonor God, they were actually controlling them to the point of servitude. Instead of serving the Lord, His people were bowing to the demands of their enemies.They were supposed to get rid of these people…but they didn’t. I guess they thought it was just not a big deal to let these natives stay. Sadly, it turned out to be a very big deal indeed. Many times, God had shown mercy on them, rescuing them from their captors. But in the passage above, we see where God decided His people needed to learn how to fight. How to wage war on their enemies and subdue them. He let those enemies remain.

The rest of the book of Judges tells us the story of that journey. The children of Israel would cry out to the Lord in desperation; He would raise up a leader (a “judge”) who would lead them in war against their captors; the Lord would give victory; the judge would rule for a period of time; after his death, the people would fall back into disobedience and the ensuing consequences. The cycle repeated itself for generations until finally, God granted their plea for a king.

That is a portion of the history of God’s people in a nutshell. That’s our context for the verses we’ll unpack. What does God want us to learn from the passage about His leaving the enemies there to test them, in order that they might be taught war?

Probably lots of things. But here’s what spoke to me…

In this life - in yours and in mine - there are bound to be some enemies. Those enemies might be hanging around because I didn’t get rid of them like I was supposed to (sins, bad habits, and the like). Or they might be there because somebody else didn’t get rid of them and I am left to deal with them now. Either way, God could get rid of them.He could drive them out or just make them disappear with just a word. But He’s not doing that. Just like the situation with Israel.

And just like Israel, He leaves those hard things - those enemies - there to test me. Not the kind of test that gives me a grade. He isn’t interested in quizzing me to see what I know. No, this kind of test is more like an MRI. It’s to reveal (to me! God already knows!) where the problems are in my heart. This kind of test diagnoses the issues causing me trouble, lays bare the roots that are producing wrong fruit.

And once I see the results of the test, I am able to go to The Great Physician and seek His prescription.

One of the things I think this passage says He will do is to teach me to fight. How to wage war against the enemies. Once the test reveals the problems, I will learn that to fight means I must make no provision for my flesh (Romans 13:14). I must not grant any ground to my enemies - none whatsoever. I must fight them with divine warfare and drive them out of my life. I call it the “I can’t buy Oreos” principle. I LOVE Oreos. So much that I could eat the entire package! So I’ve learned it’s better for me to resist them in the grocery store than in my pantry where they call out to me all during the day - just a bite! Just a taste! Til I’ve eaten the entire package. I just can’t buy them. I must make no provision for my flesh.

Maybe it’s not Oreos for you. Maybe it’s certain online sites or activities. Maybe it’s a TV show or social media time. Something that might even be OK for somebody else. But for you, it is a temptation to dishonor God, to entrapment…even to enslavement.

Those enemies of our soul began as temptations to our flesh. And we have to get fight them intentionally if we want to live in the blessings of God’s promises.

This is a supremely beneficial lesson to learn. This is why God lets me experience the presence of the enemies….so I will fight them fiercely.

God showed me another lesson in this passage. This one has to do with parenting. But this post is already too long. I’ll cover that lesson next time :)