A Living Lighthouse

Living Lighthouses

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Lighthouses line our coasts from sea shore to sea shore and the interior of our Great Lakes and some major waterways. They warn ships of impending trouble lest they run ashore and among rocky coasts and  dangerous reefs beneath the sea. Lighthouses serve to guide ships into a safe harbor or urge them out to sea. So the message of the lighthouse varies from a cry of danger to this is the way. Therefore, lighthouses serve as navigational markers to let sailors and boaters know exactly where they are and where they do not want to go.

As Christ-followers, we are bearers of the light of Jesus Christ and the gospel message. We serve as lights in this dark world to point people to the Way, the Truth, and the Life found in Jesus Christ.

When we hold firmly to the teachings of the Bible–God’s Word which is the same yesterday, today, and forever–we serve as navigational guides to the lost and dying world signaling to them by the power of the Holy Spirit, this is the way, walk in it. Or warning them of impending doom if they do not turn from their wicked ways, repent, and follow Jesus.

If or when Christians decide they will bend to the moral tide of our culture, we darken our light, the light within us of the Holy Spirit, from shining as a beacon in the night. We forfeit our purpose, and our responsibility, to be the city on a hill Jesus taught about in Matthew 5. We no longer guide our fellow-men to The Light when we ourselves are cloaked in the darkness of the world.

The Christian opinion has never been the popular opinion; though a watered-down version of Christian teachings may have in fact been the popular opinion. No more; and, so be it, in order that our light may shine ever brighter until the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who are we shining God’s light to today? In what way are we acting as living lighthouses telling and showing the way toward Jesus Christ? May we live on mission in every area of our life pointing our fellow men and women to the Light of the World.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

John 1:6-7

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What Your Pastor and His Wife Aren’t Telling You

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Perhaps you are familiar with Ruth Graham’s book, In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. You may be quick to nod in affirmation thinking, I have often worshiped with a broken heart among a congregation and friends who are unaware of my hurts and circumstances, for one reason or another. However, it may surprise you to realize the broken or discouraged heart of a brother or sister may be your pastor or his wife.

My husband has served in ministry prior to and all throughout our dating and married years. For the last fifteen years, we have served together in a handful of churches under differing roles and responsibilities. We have enjoyed sweet times serving with fellow staff and lay leaders and the visible fruit of changed lives. Other times, we have served alongside those who, it seemed, viewed us as the enemy or a stumbling block to the way they envisioned ministry should be carried out.

We encountered a situation like that in one of the first churches we served in. The most active couple in the youth ministry was also the most vocal couple in opposition to the direction my husband was taking the students. It seemed no matter what he did, this couple wasn’t pleased and wanted to let everyone know. Months after we left that church, the husband became the youth pastor. It is hard to please someone who wants your job and thinks they can do it better.

Please come read Five Things Your Pastor Wants You to Know But Might Never Tell You over here. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.

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A Somber 4th of July

A Somber 4th of July

I can hear Lee Greenwood’s voice in my head and vividly remember the fireworks blazing over his head as I listened and watched him sing on a televised 4th of July celebration many, many years ago, ” I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I proudly stand up, next to you and defend her still today. Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the U.S. A!”

I can no longer sing that song with Mr. Greenwood. I couldn’t last year, and I certainly can’t this year. My Christian beliefs preclude me from asking God’s blessing on a prideful nation that has collectively turned its back on Him. The current President has downplayed American exceptionalism and crafted an environment fertile for a pluralistic republic. He declared that we are not a Christian nation early in his presidency and regretfully, we are moving further and further away from “one nation under God.” Instead, we have moved to one nation apart from God.

The Supreme Court’s decision to legislate from the judicial branch, an act which the Founding Fathers warned against and worked to prevent, has set the course for the nation’s undoing. We were heading that direction state by state, but the ruling by SCOTUS last Friday expedited the process and ushered in a new fight to protect our First Amendment rights, specifically the exercise of  religious liberty.

I am rendering a very gloomy state of the Union. I understand. Many may stop reading and thankfully, you have every right to. Likewise, I currently possess every right to say what’s on my mind. Freedom of speech, also a right under the First Amendment.

Our First Amendment rights may be under siege, dear Christian, but our first allegiance to the Living God need not be.

As a pastor’s wife, a homeschooling mom, and an American grateful for the government set up by the founders of our nation, the men and women of our armed forces, and the firefighters and police officers who risk their lives for their fellowmen every day,  the ruling and ramifications of the SCOTUS decision greatly saddens me. I  have read the Bible, I watch and read the news, and I see the cultural road signs–we live as in the days of Noah. Sin is rampant, self-love is evident, and persecution of Christians is like unto the days of the Roman Empire. I’m not surprised, for Jesus foretold of such, but I must admit that I am deeply saddened.

We have often wondered why we Christians in America have not suffered persecution like our brothers and sisters around the globe. Well, our time may be at hand. We must cling to the document which bears the words of the Living God; it is the only firm foundation in a world of shifting sand. The Word of God is not tethered to one nation or one time period. The Word of God is for all mankind in every nation, forever. His joy comes in the morning and our work is at hand. Be strong in the Lord Jesus and stand firm.

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore,

with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace
In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.

Ephesians 6: 10-20, HCSB

Home is a place called Heaven,

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Riding the Waves-A Guest Post

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At times he would glance at me with those beautiful blue eyes and flash his charming grin as if to check and assure himself that mommy watched his feats of strength. Other moments, he would forget he wasn’t the only boy splashing in the ocean and though he was feet from the next child, would dive bravely into the next wave with the gusto of Alexander the Great. Then there were those moments that the wave came with greater strength than he anticipated and he would stand coughing and looking about as if, “What just happened here?”

Often we adults resemble the above description in reference to the challenges and opportunities that waves of life bring in peak, trough succession. Some opportunities in life we look at and think I got this. Other, more humbling opportunities, we stare in disbelief and wonder why we were chosen to ride this wave into shore. Sometimes we give it our best go and end up gasping for breath.

Where are you in the ocean of life right now? Please hop over to TheLaundryMoms.com and read the rest of my guest post over there! (Click here.)

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Preaching the Gospel Through Biblical Marriage

Today we await the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on the issue of the legalization of gay marriage. Will the Justices rule this is a state by state decision to uphold traditional marriage or will they decide to make gay marriage legal across the nation?  You can read more from both sides here.

For most of you reading this particular blog, you understand that the institution of marriage was initiated by God at the first marriage in history between Adam and Eve. Further, you have been taught in church, and  most likely from someone at home, that acting out homosexual desires is sinful by God’s standards. Unfortunately, the narrative towards people practicing a homosexual lifestyle has not always been one of love, nor driven by a desire to share the gospel. However, I believe that narrative has changed in the last year to be more in line with God’s views of people and their sins–at least within the teachings of the Southern Baptist Convention. You can view the recent Southern Baptist Pastors Conference Speakers, particularly Russell Moore’s message on Sunday evening dealing with sexual sin in general and homosexual sin in particular. (click here)

The SCOTUS decision and its political and religious implications aside, Christian, biblical marriages should preach the gospel like never before as they stand in such contrast to the cultural shift of marriages in our day. However, our own marriages need much work to paint the picture of Christ loving the Church and giving Himself up for her. How do we preach the gospel with our marriage? How do we build solid, sanctified marriages amidst our culture?

My husband has a new book filled with practical, biblical advice that I believe will point Christian marriages toward Christ and help them build loving and respectful relationships. It is available on Amazon and soon to be available on your Kindle as well.

I can wholeheartedly recommend Ron’s book because I know that he practices what he preaches. Ron lives a life of authentic humility and faithfulness to God. His background in mental health counseling, experience as a pastor, and time spent counseling couples and families have prepared him to walk in obedience to writing this book.  I hope that you will purchase a copy of Ron’s book for yourself, a friend, an engaged or newly married couple, or a couple that you know needs godly direction in their marriage.

You can watch Ron teach from a few excerpts of his book, alongside our pastor, Willy Rice, here. This message is on your S.E.A.T. and how that affects your marriage.

SEAT- Ron Cooney

Christians must preach the gospel with our words and our actions. Biblical, loving and respectful marriages will stand out in a world of broken vows and empty promises by pointing to the grace and mercy found in Christ Jesus.

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What Another Year of Homeschooling Taught Me

Math and God

Homeschooling. It is not the educational path I would have guessed our family would take, but it is the path we most certainly feel led of God to walk.

Today marks the graduation of pre-kindergarten for my son, and first grade for my daughter. We have come so far this year and learned a great deal–both  in academics and character building. Certainly, I am referring as much to my own education as to our children’s!

I can’t say the end is easier than the beginning, nor that I have gained as much patience and understanding as will garner absolute success next year. I certainly can’t say that! However, we finished, and we finished strong. One willful, determined step at a time.

It is my joy and privilege to educate our children in our home. The number one reason that we choose home education is the call we feel toward making our children fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission commands us to go and make disciples in all nations and this call starts with the the two disciples that we call son and daughter. Can this purpose be accomplished in either private or public school options? Of course! My husband and I are both products of public education from grammar to graduate school, but we feel we have been called to home education for such a time as this and for our children specifically.

We choose to homeschool because we want to instill a complete Christian worldview into our children and equip them to be able to give an account for the hope that they have in Jesus Christ. We want them to see how all the liberal arts, the sciences,  and the three R’s reveal God and how He speaks through the study of each one.

Personally, one of the more challenging parts of homeschooling is the discipline required. I am a disciplined person in most areas of life…at least I aim to be. Being a home educator leaves no area in my personal life which I can, shall we say, grant the most weight of academic responsibilities to someone else. I feel a great pressure, and simultaneously a great joy, in seeking our children’s academic success.  Undoubtedly, it can be exhausting!

So, today we celebrate. We celebrate victories won and goals accomplished. We seal the books with smiley faces and stickers and victory hugs. As parents know, however, home education never ends. Occasionally, we simply let our kids think so! We are always learning and growing in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  Any work over the next six weeks will be extra credit and culminate in a prize. Thanks to Pinterest for pre-made charts and prize coupons!

To leave you today, I am linking to two of our new favorite resources that we discovered this year. I hope you will take a look and see if any of them are right for your family.

  • Jonathon Park -Great creation science teaching in action packed stories fun for your whole family. Visit Jonathon here.
  •  Jim Weiss Audio CD’s- Love these historical fiction and non-fiction audio books that teach timeless lessons and inspire the love for academics and literature. Visit Great Hall Productions here.

Always learning,

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The Meanderings of Motherhood

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The anticipated birth-day of each of our children come. Then as we are wheeled out to the car with our new little bundles in hand it is strange the feeling of surprise that there are no oaths to take or more papers to sign to take our child home and raise them. After all, foster care and adoption require nearly a left arm and two quarts of blood. Furthermore, many of us depart from the hospital with thoughts like are we ready for this?

I think those are feelings shared by most responsible parents when their children first arrive into the world from the safe confines of the womb. We count the days, weeks, then months of our children’s age to find that the years add up before we grasp the time with our minds, much less our hands.

As the years pass, the diaper bags are placed in the Goodwill or yard-sale pile. Next, the pack-and-play too finds a new home and the toys that we once tripped over have been replaced with big-kid toys we continue to trip over.

That’s the season of life we are in now. Legos have replaced teething-toys, and baby dolls and books have replaced boppy pillows and burp cloths.

I don’t carry a diaper bag anymore, but I rarely leave the house without a few snacks and a water bottle. Even though my children are five and seven, I think they still equate sight of me with hunger. Just ask my husband or the grandparents. The kids could have eaten minutes before I arrive home and one of the first sentences out of their mouths is, “Mom, I’m hungry.” Really?! It’s quite laughable.

Like the meandering path of a river, winding, bending, and curving its way to the sea, so too parenting is not a straight course. Sometimes our children will seem to be independent and free of their need for us in certain categories of life, only to need us greatly in similar categories once again. Occasionally, our well-developed children will hit a bump in the road and need us more than we anticipated at different points throughout our lives together.

I think about the choices my children will make as they grow. These are the easy years–I’ve been told, and I agree. The decisions they make at five and seven are far less reaching than at 12, 16, 18, 21, and even 35. Jesus wisely knows that as the course of our lives wind and bend to our final destination, that we will be prone to worry–not about the bend in front of us, but about the possibility of a twist in the rivers flow a few yards, or even a mile, down. He guides our worry with these words:

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:34, KJV

Prayer and praises to Jesus today, and prayer and praises to Jesus in the morrow. So the saying goes, and is good advice based on Matthew 6:34, One day at a time, sweet Jesus.

Prayerfully, our faithfulness in this day reaps rewards in the days to come. Therefore, we need not face this day with worry for the next that has not dawned.

The most precious gifts I have been given in this life are a result of one of the best choices I made in marrying their daddy. I am so grateful for the choices that led me to Ron and for the gift of being a mom to two of the most remarkable people I have ever met.

Happy Mother’s Day to each woman with children of your own and to all women of spiritual children in which you have invested love, prayers, and guidance. May this be a blessed Mother’s Day for you.

Take heart and fear not the morrow,

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Liberty, Freedom, and Love

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For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed  that ye be not consumed one of another.

Galatians 5:13-15, KJV

Liberty…freedom.

These words provoke feelings of patriotism in U.S. citizens, moreover, they elicit relief and celebration in Christian brothers and sisters. For those who live in free countries their hearts can swell at the mention of liberty, but how much more so those who have been set free and liberated from sin and death for all eternity?

This week’s protests in Baltimore and surrounding major U.S. cities have evoked different responses from citizens, news correspondents, and politicians alike. One will cry oppression and the next thug. Next the two will mull over the meaning behind the words and continue to put forth his or her views and, if we are lucky, actual facts concerning the situation at hand. Meanwhile, vandalism escalates and police are told to stand down and forget their training which would provide protection to the private citizens and business owners. Gang members gather and pursue face-time as the press seeks to bring us the latest on the breaking news in Baltimore.

Liberty…freedom.

Liberty and freedom ring loudest when the citizens are self-governing their moral and ethical obligations to their neighbors from a contrite heart who knows that it bears the image of God. The Imago Dei. Further that they will give an account of all their actions to their Creator.

Our society has fallen so far off the Biblical path that we are ignorant of the fact that we are created by a Someone, for a purpose, with an eternity after death. Insteadwe have a society largely comprised of people who believe they came from nothing, are going nowhere, and are held to no one’s standards or moral code than the one they choose for themselves.

Liberty and freedom are found at the threshold of obedience and discipline, not the scattered remains of crashed windows and looted goods. 

Government funds and legislation are not the answers to the problems in Baltimore, nor across the U.S. God is the answer to the problems. Once each neighbor realizes that he or she is created by God, bear His image, is held to His standards, will be judged by His premises, and can be saved and liberated from sin by His grace, then prayerfully,  they will live for His glory and obey His commands.

Our response as Christians to all the headlines of today’s news is evangelism and disciple making. Simply put, we are to fulfill the great commission and be ambassadors of Christ in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our places of work. We are to bear the image of Christ and spread His message on all street corners of America and the world.

The inner men must be changed before the outer actions of man become civil and just. Good Christians make for good citizens and good leaders. We must love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves, live within the law, and spread the gospel to stop the biting and devouring of one another in our country.

Another pertinent matter for prayer: in June, the Supreme Court of the United States will make a ruling concerning same sex marriage. Please be in prayer for the upholding of the biblical definition of marriage. You can follow the story from a much more knowledgeable source on legal matters than myself, Dr. Russell Moore, at his website (click here).

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Parting Words: At the Tomb

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“Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ “

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:16-18)

Mary Magdalene was soaked with sadness as she approached the tomb. She had come to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, but could not cease her weeping as she mourned the loss of her Lord and Teacher.  Finding the stone rolled away and his grave empty, Mary knelt in the tomb anguished and assuming someone had taken Jesus’ body. Imagine what overwhelming joy was hers when she saw and recognized the risen Savior as he called her name, “Mary.”

Isn’t it comforting when someone close to you calls you by name? When someone you love and, or respect calls you by name without asking something of you, it prompts a feeling of being known and valued. Mary must have felt such feelings a hundred times over.

However, as Mary undoubtedly embraces Jesus, the Lord asks her not to cling to Him, but go and tell His disciples that Jesus is returning to the Father. Oh…and she also tells them that He is alive!

There are multiple opinions by theologians and scholars as to what Jesus meant when He asked Mary to refrain from clinging to Himself. I encourage you to go and study those for yourself. However, what the text is not saying is that Jesus was a spirit at this point. He was fully risen with a new human body–his resurrected body–which bore the marks of his crucifixion. As accounted in Luke 24:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace, to you!”  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” …“Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.(Luke 24:36-39, 41-42)

Jesus had risen in the flesh and Mary Magdalene was the first of over 500 that he would appear to. Mary, overcome with joy and emotion, wanted to worship her Savior and Lord, her Teacher and friend. However, Jesus wanted her to spread the word to His disciples because the mission was just beginning, and the advancement of the Kingdom was at hand.

May this Easter find you accepting Jesus’ words to the disciples and to Mary Magdalene: Peace be with you…go and tell.

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Parting Words: Jesus to Judas Iscariot

Parting Words: Jesus to Judas Iscariot

 

Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me; one who is eating with me. Mark 14:18

Friend, do what you came to do. Matthew 26:50

Judas was proactive in his betrayal of the Son of Man. (See Matthew 27:3-10)

The betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot reminds me that we will only be betrayed by someone in close proximity to us. We don’t call malice from an outsider betrayal; only that from someone close.

Jesus ate, slept, traveled, taught, and ministered beside Judas. Why would we think that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen to us? If it hasn’t happened to you, the probability is high that it will. If it has, then would you like to respond even more like Christ the next time? Me too. Additionally, I would like to see the warning signs earlier so that I don’t open myself up to as much hurt in the future as I have endured before. (See this great post here via iBelieve.com.)

For those of us without omniscience, which is all of us, we may have entertained the Judas unknowingly. That is, until the moment our betrayal was at hand. We may have postured for a Jonathon’s embrace only to be met with a Judas’ kiss. On the other hand, we may have simply been reluctant to see the warning signs and forged ahead with toxic relationships, that upon their end we wished we had never begun.

Christ knew that He would be betrayed by one of those closest to him. For him, it was only a matter of time. Yet, he chose to invest in Judas anyway. Why? What can we learn from that? What were his parting words to Judas?

  • Jesus parted without malice. We see no record or indication that Jesus slandered Judas or cast judgement on him. He warned him, however, that it would have been better for him that he would have never been born. (See Mark 14:21)
  • Jesus spoke the truth over the situation. (Mark 14:17-20)
  • Jesus’ omniscience ensures that he fully expected and anticipated betrayal and accepted that as the path towards the fulfillment of his life’s purpose.
  • Jesus continued to call Judas friend. (See Matthew 26:50)  Judas’ final act did not negate or erase the relationship that Christ had with him up until that point.
  • Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus, being fully human and fully God, hurt just as we do when someone hurts us. His heart was not protected from pain any more than ours. Yet he did not retaliate against Judas.

When someone with close, intimate proximity to us stings us with their malice, acts of betrayal, or apparent apathy, we can rest assured that Christ empathizes with us, sees our pain, and will one day bring justice to the situations we experience. Further, Christ provides an example of holiness for us to pattern with our parting words.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will. That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. ~Reinhold Niebur

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