Investing in Eternity

 

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

(Psalm 1:1-3, NIV, emphasis mine)

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Investing in eternity. That’s what parenting is. We plant the seeds of God’s word, prune and trim our little saplings, and bring rain and sunshine with life giving words and consistent discipline. Indeed, there are days where our words pour forth torrentially, but most days are steady streams of sunshine mixed with necessary watering and pruning as the need arises.

Our second sapling, Joshua, turned six last week. Over the last six years, we’ve diligently laid down tracks we pray he will continue to follow in the future as we tend to and nurture the young warrior God has given us. One discipline that we wanted to initiate in his sixth year, and soon to be our daughter’s eighth year, is that of saving. We’ve preached and modeled giving to God’s Kingdom, then enjoyed encouraging their dreams of giving their money away. But we haven’t as consistently modeled saving money for future use or for unforeseen needs.

On Wednesday afternoon of this week, I taxied Emily and Joshua to the local bank to open his savings account. He decided to place all of his birthday money into the savings account, which I thought was a wise decision. As we waited for the banker that would be assisting us, the lead teller walked by and we told her of Joshua’s plans. She said, “That will make your money grow!” Joshua looked a me and said, “Really mom? Will it make my money grow?” I smiled and answered his question as simply as I could to a degree satisfactory to him.

Finally, our turn arrived to fill out the appropriate paperwork for Joshua’s savings account. We gave the banker the necessary documentation (for future reference, be sure and have your child’s social security number on hand, I had to drive home and get his) and waited for him to process the request. As the banker walked away to gather the account number, he too stated, “Are you ready to watch your money grow?” When he had left us, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to share with Joshua the ways in which we watch our money grow.

“Joshua, come here sweetie, I want to tell you something,” I coaxed as he hopped into my lap. “There are two ways to watch your money grow, one is to invest your money in a savings account or investments which will grow your wealth on earth. The other, is to give it away to missions, or the poor, and by doing this, you grow your wealth and rewards in Heaven.” He looked at me and nodded his head in understanding, I continued, “I am so glad you are starting this savings account, and I am also glad when you give your money away to God.”

As Joshua nodded and said, “okay mama, I understand,” I gathered that was enough of a money lesson for the time, but I could not ignore the weight of this teachable moment upon me as a parent. Each time we invest in teaching our kids about godly and biblical principles, we are investing in eternity. That moment it happened to be about finances, but it could have easily been something else to do with friendship, honesty, loyalty, or discipline. Each lesson waters the saplings our children currently are to enable them to become mighty oaks planted by streams of Living Water.

What are the teachable moments you have had with a young person or peer this week? How have you sensed the Holy Spirit prompting you to make a disciple? Please share your moment so that we can learn and rejoice with you.

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15 Action Steps to Take to Promote A Culture of Life After You Have Prayed


 

15 Action Steps To Take To Promote Life After You Have Prayed

Many of us are dumbfounded, to say the least, after viewing any or all of the 10 videos put out by the Center for Medical Progress which exposes the money making arm of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood and Stem Express are making money off the sale of aborted baby body parts. This news leaves many of us asking, what can we do to put an end to this barbarity? Here are 15 action steps for you to consider and take after you pray for an end to abortion, a defunding of Planned Parenthood, and a respect for life from conception to grave.

1. Give to and/ or volunteer at your local pregnancy center.

2. Call your congressman and senator to petition them to vote to defund Planned Parenthood and legislate an end to abortion.

3.”Adopt” a single mom and her kids.

4. Foster a child. The difference a Christian family can make in pointing children in need to Jesus cannot be measured in this lifetime.

5. Adopt. It is a slow and painful process and you are not guaranteed your child will walk with Jesus. However, you are committed to making a disciple and ending a family cycle of drug abuse, domestic violence, and a host of other problems that plague our society.

6. Vote your moral convictions and not your pocketbook.

7. Spread the gospel and let the seeds bear the fruit that they will. We will not reap what we have not sewn.

8.Make disciples within your church who make disciples. Moms and dads change the cultural fabric of our world one child at a time. For good or for evil.

9. Volunteer with children in the foster care system, a local school, or an orphanage. Mentors change lives by the power of Jesus.

10. Give to organizations like the Center for Medical Progress who expose the truth of abortion and the sale of baby body parts for “medical research.” Or, help fund a friend’s adoption. Many times families who want to adopt don’t because of the money.

11. Educate yourself with the facts. Read and research for the truth. You will likely not hear the facts nor the truth on the evening news or in the New York Times.

12. Do for one mom, teen, child, or orphan what you would do for all.

13. Get creative! Use your artistic abilities of paint, pen, or graphic design to get people’s attention and point them towards life.

14. Include your kids in ministering to the poor, elderly, and the orphan. Developing compassionate Christ-centered lives starts early.

15. Run for office and be involved in politics. We need godly leaders in every area of local, state, and federal government.

What would you add to this list? I welcome your thoughts.

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7 Things to Pray for Right Now

Prayer

In this life, I most often feel like I am not measuring up. Like I have not given enough to the poor, have not kept first things first, I’ve said something I shouldn’t have,  or misused my time. Do you feel that way too?

This leads me to the topic of prayer.  Have I prayed about everything? The answer is a decisive no. I have prayed about many things, but everything is certainly not many things.

Most of the bad choices that I have made, or tend to make regularly, could be prevented with a right attitude which accompanies time spent in prayer.

Praise, confession, and petition are integral to righting my attitude between myself, God, and man.

Below are seven things that you can pray about right now that will refocus our worries, doubts, misappropriated attentions, and energies to God and His will. 

  1. Pray for wisdom.
  2. One home-front need.
  3. One news related story.
  4. One mission, pastor, or person in your church.
  5. One goal or dream.
  6. One friend.
  7. The lost and poor in your community, state, nation, or world.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them. “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Matthew 21:20-22, ESV

Today, let’s right our attitude when it begins to stray by taking every little thing to God in prayer. Use this list of seven areas to help you structure your prayer time with God. Also, consider reading through  these three other posts on prayer:

  • To Kneel or to Break (here)
  • Enter Here (here)
  • Of Our Crosses and Christ (here)

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The Spirit of Giving

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There is a joy that accompanies generosity…

A blessed intimate abiding between the redeemed and the Redeemer who never drops even meager offerings.

In the giving there is a birth which overshadows the death of temporary treasures.

Meager offerings may even be the Father’s favorite kind when we offer all we have. He loves to multiple the offerings of the humble. Consider the five loaves and the two fish. He used a young boy’s simple lunch to feed over 5,000 hungry men–besides women and children.

What if we chose not to give because we thought our offering too little or too simple to be of much use? 

What if instead of concerning ourselves with the size of our offering, we humbled ourselves to give our meagerness or our much cheerfully?

With eyes set on eternity, the cheerful giver cannot wait to drop her donation in the plate, her gift in the box, her package in the mail for she considers the smiles and prayers of thanksgiving waiting on the other side.

The cheerful giver woos man to draw near to Christ as she follows His commandments:

Feed, clothe, give, go, take care…

Knowing  that she cannot out-give the Father, for He has already given of His Son, the cheerful giver will share her abundance or her slight understanding that she is a mere steward and God is the ruler and controller of all things.

The cheerful giver has learned that it is in the opening of the hand, not in the clenching of the fist, that there is life.

May your hands be open and the gifts be plentifully given.

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Providing for the Poor

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As it pertains to responding to the requests of the poor and homeless, it seems we have questions as to the right way in which to respond. I wrote at iBelieve about one such positive experience I had. Please join me there today as we explore this topic approaching the Thanksgiving season when opportunities to give abound.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. ~Matthew 7:7

My family was eating lunch at a local restaurant amidst dark, black clouds threatening an approaching thunderstorm. I glanced out the window to survey the progression of the storm when I saw a man ride up on his bicycle. It was apparent he was homeless by his unkempt appearance and his beard that hadn’t seen a trim in many months, perhaps years.

I looked at this man and thought: what a hard life. Not knowing where the next meal will come from, not sure of where to spend the night or pass the time until storm blows over. I remarked the same to my husband and his response surprised me, maybe he looks at us the same way. I was stunned. What if my husband was right? Maybe the homeless man sees the unrealistic expectations that I cling to, the purchases I make and the hours that were necessary to work in order to make those purchases. Maybe he looks at my choices to take care of two children and prepare their three meals–and seemingly equal three snacks–a day and think: that’s too much work.

Please head over to iBelieve to finish reading this post and join me in the discussion. (Click here.)

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How to Build a Beautiful Body

I was seeking a place of solitude and rest. It was the end of the work week building houses in Honduras.  In the cool, dark confines of another house, I sat near the water cooler on one of the many scrap lumber piles in the main living room. Covered in sawdust and dirt, and drinking a cool bottle of water, I looked down to see this beautiful piece of wood lying at my feet.

The ink markings conveyed that this scrap wood had a designer. It had been intentionally used by a creator to speak a message to all who would read its markings.

Jennifer. I knew immediately which teammate had lovingly created this piece of art for one of the children who had danced and laughed and played around our team that week.

As I looked down, I found yet more…

As I marveled at the love etched on the pieces of leftover wood I thought, so this is how you build a beautiful body Lord.

What some would leave for scraps or the burn pile, He takes and make something beautiful and new. The One who created life and trees themselves also came in bodily form to stretch out His hands on splintered wood as the payment for my sin so that I, we, can become a new creation in Him.

This is how He builds His beautiful body:

…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (emphasis added)

Jennifer had the job of guarding our water supply to make sure it did not become contaminated. It was imperative that the 40+ workers on our site had clean water to drink or else our upset bellies would decrease our productivity. Jennifer took her job to another level by loving on the children as Jesus would while she also conducted the mundane, but important, job of guarding the water.

She was working with the mind of Christ.

When Christ saves us He gives us a new mind and spirit: his own. In this way, His body can be of one mind and one spirit and act in accordance with His will. Missions, both foreign and domestic, both intentional and invitational- that which God lays in our path each day- provides the present day church the opportunity to live as the early church did. To live this present life to the fullest.

Today I want to extend to you the opportunity to join a friend of mine, Stacy, in feeding hungry children in the Tampa Bay area. Stacy and  her two sons have made it a family goal to purchase and pack 5,000 meals through Feeding Children Everywhere. I have talked with Stacy on many occasions as she and her children have diligently worked toward making this missional dream a reality.

Please visit their donation page linked here to donate any amount. Ten dollars feeds 40 people! Your donations are appreciated and is far-reaching. You may also want to volunteer which you can sign up to do on the website (click here).

Choose “Make a Donation” on the left margin. The next screen should say, “Donate Without Sponsoring a Team or Individual.” Once you input your information, the donation will automatically go towards Joshua and Chase’s project. Thank you!

Thank you for building a beautiful Body in Christ.

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Because sometimes we need encouragement to go…

The day that I signed up for the trip on Student Ministry Essentials I knew there was no turning back. This mom of two preschoolers had come to a fork in the road and had perhaps taken the less traveled path. If Ron had not encouraged me 100 emphatic percent to travel to Honduras I would more than likely have talked myself out of it.

I had never been away from the kids for a full 24 hours. How would they do without me for 7 consecutive days?

This thought crossed my mind more than once. However, I trusted that God is the ultimate protection for my children and surely in the hands of my competent mother they would be more than okay without me for a few days.

This was indeed the case. My going provided an opportunity for increased discussion of missions in our home. The kids were involved in purchasing toys to send and putting boxes of toothpaste in bags for Dr. Traci to give to the school. Joshua was even persuaded to give up two of his cars to send to little boys I would encounter.

The week leading up to the trip Emily said, “Mom I don’t want you to go to Honduras.” I would explain to her that God commands us to go and preach the gospel, to care for the poor, and to make disciples of all nations. The final night I hugged her and said, “I must go Emily, God has asked me to go and other people have paid for my trip. How else will this suitcase full of toothpaste and toothbrushes get to the children at the school? One day God may ask you to go far away to do His work and I may not want you to go. I will want you to be obedient to God even if that means that I will miss you. I have to do the same.”

Photo taken by Tom.

 Laylee is a beautiful student at AFE; she won over our group immediately. Photo taken by Gabby.

Two other mommy teammates: Jen and Rachel. Photo by Gabby.

When we follow in the footsteps of Jesus to reach out in love to those in need, we will ignite in our children the sense that they are worthy to consider themselves part of the solution in meeting people’s needs. Patterns of ministry will naturally be caught as they learn from us and from Jesus a new and initiating love. In the process they will be inspired to give themselves in ministry, to become skilled and loving workers for his harvest fields.

~Sally Clarkson, The Ministry of Motherhood, p. 94

More than one time I missed my husband and children during the trip. More than one time I lifted up prayers for their safety, fun, and that they were not wearing out Nana too bad.

Everyday I was so very thankful to be on foreign soil. Everyday I felt what John Piper so eloquently pens, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I felt the satisfaction of God on this trip. I knew I was where He intended for me to be. I am blessed beyond what I can convey to you that my family was at a stage this summer where this mission was possible for me. Not all seasons are like this…

I am asking Him for such a stage next summer as well.

The fulfillment of world missions is God’s kingdom coming to earth. If God calls you and you have the blessing of your husband, then mother I urge you to step out in faith and take a mission for the Lord. Little footsteps will follow in time because they want to go where the authentic faith of mom and dad has led them. I believe it to be so and I pray it is so in the lives of our children and yours.  

In the faces and testimonies of the people I encountered I heard God longing, and fulfilling a bit of that longing, to pour out His love and blessings on His people.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

~Acts 1:8

Linking with Rachel:

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Reflections on Mission 3

A home is more than four squared walls with cutouts for windows and doors. A home is where lives are shared, bread is broken, and stories are told. Friends gather around tables and share in each others lives.

As our team ventured to Honduras, we went with the anticipation of building houses that would become homes for three families. Prior to the dedication of the houses these new first-time homeowners* lived in shelters. Structures made to keep out the elements and protect the families within as best they could.

Shelters, some houses even, are simply constructed and utilized for survival. Conversely, a home provides a sense of stability and pride.

The last day of our trip six sets of bunk beds were built, floors swept, and materials cleaned away. Then for the dedications of the houses.

Photo taken by James. Pictured here are Esperanza (top) and Rose (bottom).

 May the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

~Numbers 6:24-26

The Lord put a little girl on my heart and in my path the very first day on the work site. She was shy, sullen, and quite. I later learned her name, Rose. She was accompanied by her older brother, Juno. He sat and watched me hammer for a while. I would look at him and say, “hammer,” then “nail,” trying to engage him. He then began helping us carry wood and such.

The next workday was Monday and again Rose was there; this time with her sister Esperanza and mother Maria. Still no smile. In fact, my heart was broken even more as Rose tripped over a rock and fell to the ground. No tears, no comfort from mom. She laid in the dirt until her mother helped her to her feet.

Emily had chosen a necklace and bracelets to give as gifts and these I had kept in my tool belt all day on Tuesday hoping to see Rose. These gifts, with a little game of peek-a-boo, brought on the long awaited smile.

 

When I learned that this sweet family were to be the recipients of a house I knew that what we were doing was making a difference. We had been given the gift of delivering God’s present to a few of His people.

I lift my eyes unto the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth.

~Psalm 120:1

Angelica was the mom of the second family receiving a home. She is a prayer warrior and said she most looks forward to making her house a house of prayer. Angelica worked in the trash dump and lived there for 22 years. She has many children, perhaps 7, one son died and one lives on the street. She is married and her husband works on the trash dump.

From left to right: Pastor Jeony of AFE, Angelica, Poker of Student Ministry Essentials, and Austin of Orphan Outreach.

Angelica remembers her life void of hope. She says she ate at the trash dump, slept there, and was violated at the dump. She was very depressed and would lie in her makeshift bed. One day a missionary from the U. S. came to her and told her to “stand up to live. Stand firm in the Lord Jesus.” That day she did and now three years later she is a woman marked by prayer. During the dedication she kept praying blessings over us, the workers, and our family.

 Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

~James 1:17

The third house went to a family of 10. All the family members work on the trash dump. Only the mom could come to the dedication as all other hands were needed in earning a living.

The dedications were emotion filled as each homeowner was prayed over blessed, and presented with gifts including a signed Bible from the team.

At dinner that night I saw what I had glimpsed at the dedications: we are all alike. We are a created and loved people. We all become hungry, dirty, and tired. We each struggle and stumble and fall short. We cry, we laugh, and we live. Around the dinner table on Thursday night, were not Hondurans and Americans, we were family.

 

Brian, Esperanza, and Juno from house 1.

Angelica, her daughter and I.

 The family from house 3 along with my teammates Fisher, James, Pastor Jeony, and myself.

Angelica repeatedly told me of her appreciation and that she ate with us because she was happy.  I told her that we are sisters in Christ Jesus and she smiled and said, “yes.” She said she prays for all the world.

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

~James 2:5

I want to follow my sister, Angelica’s, example and pray for all the world on a daily basis. Perhaps the four squared walls that we call home could become a house of prayer providing a window of opportunity for a world in need. In this way our temporary home impacts the eternal.

 

A special thank you to all the 30 members of our team from Calvary and to the local Hondurans who worked side-by-side with us to make this a reality.

*The homes are not owned by the parents, but are deeded to the youngest child upon graduation from AFE. Until such a time 50% of the house is deeded to AFE and 50% to the family.

 

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30 Days Til Foreign Soil

 

This is our Compasion child who lives in Honduras.

This is our Compasion child who lives in Honduras.

With nearly four years since my last foreign mission trip my soul is surely in need of a reminding. A call to remember that though my surroundings may be plush and pleasant many live in poverty of spirit, soul, and body.

Thirty days from today I will be making the frightening landing in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I will be traveling with a team of around 30 members to build homes for three homeless families in conjunction with Student Ministry Essentials. The people who will occupy theses dwellings will be moving into their first home off the streets or out of the capitol city trash dump for the first time in their lives.

“Lord, thank you for the roof over my head.”

That was the prayer of one of the young men who moved into a home that our team built last year. Grown men wept or nearly wept over this prayer of thanksgiving as they considered how little we thank God for daily. Most likely not the roof over our heads or the mattresses we lie down on.

Matt, our team leader for the this trip, gave the team a 30 day scripture reading to prepare our hearts and minds for our mission. Today’s reading is Psalm 51. You can read it in its’ entirety here.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Psalm 51:10-13

Please join me in praying that my heart and that of my teammates would be renewed and made right before God. Pray that we will have the joy of the Lord’s salvation restored to us that we may teach transgressors His ways and that sinners will return to Him.

I spoke earlier of the gratitude of the people we served. This year we are seeking to do more…

We would like to leave the families with more to be grateful for than four walls and a roof over their head. We would like to leave them with furnished homes.

If you or someone you know would like to donate to furnishing the three homes that we are building with mattresses, sheets, and basic household necessities please make your checks payable to Student Ministry Essentials and write Honduras Furnishings in the for line. Then mail your check to the following address:  Student Ministry Essentials  3616 Harden Blvd.  Suite #362  Lakeland, FL 33803. We have received $400.00 to date with an expected balance remaining of $1,100 to make three furnished homes a reality. This is a cost of $500 per household.

To read more about what encompasses our mission please click here.

Psalm 51 is what I am reading this Wednesday. What about you?

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Remembering a Mentor in the Faith

Dear Dave,

It will be two years since I last saw you and two years that you have lived in eternal time with Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Does time fly in heaven as it does here on earth?

I am writing to tell you of your impact in the faith on my life. This letter comes with much forethought and tears many times I think of you. See, I cry here on earth because deep in my spirit I know I am not home yet. This truth sometimes is a distant knowledge of which I must remind myself. At other times, it is as close as a whisper in my ear.

Because of your work for Jesus Christ in planning our mission trips to Ukraine, much work continues to go forth. Joe is serving as a full-time missionary in Horodok. Merrie and some of the others continue to take summer missions and continue to plant and water the seeds of the gospel that you helped to plant for many years.

Ron and I are continuing in the mission minded path the Lord Jesus used you to pave in our lives. I will be returning to the foreign mission field for the first time since our Emily was born four years ago. Do you remember that last trip? It came just after our return from a winter mission you helped me plan.

You were content to let a 25 year old young lady learn the ropes of leading a mission team and allowed her to take leadership responsibilities. Thank you for your training! Because you were content to nurture my call to serve in missions, a winter trip to Ukraine took place allowing for us to get our feet wet teaching English as a Second Language as a missions tool to reach the lost for Christ. One of my favorite parts of this trip was the fact I was accompanied by my sister. Thank you for your belief in me.

Few people touch the lives of two siblings groups out of one marriage, but you did. You led trips to Ukraine where both Ron and his brother, Tom, and I and my sister, Julie were able to go. These are memories that Ron and I will cherish forever.

This July I will be going on a new mission with a different destination than our beloved Ukraine. Following in the footsteps of Ron last year, I will be traveling with our team to Honduras to build four homes for children and their families who live and work on the trash dump in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.  Our work partners with a Christian school and church lead by Pastor Jeony of AFE.

I am so excited to plant my feet on foreign soil once again!

Dave, I wanted you to know that you are not forgotten. That your spiritual legacy lives on and the work continues. I am so blessed to have known you friend, and I look forward to seeing you when I come home.

Love,

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