Archives For July 2011

By Lisa Cherry

I suppose my four year old, Josiah, has heard all the talk about gold lately.  Record high prices.  Gold being the standard even in the midst of economic disaster.  What on earth would go through a child's mind about these kind of big people issues?

Perhaps that is why he came tearing into my bathroom this week with a question.  "Mama! Mama!" he screamed, "Is this real gold?!"

He held out in his little hand a small, broken piece of pottery shaped much like a piece of an angel wing.  "What on earth was he thinking?" I wondered.  Until it hit me.  It was painted gold.  Well, at least part of it was anyway!

I hid my laughter as I gently shattered his hopes.  "Sorry son, that is definitely not gold," I replied sympathetically.

And then it hit me just how crazily vulnerable my children are.  He had heard of gold, but he was not able to recognize the real thing.  So he was sucked into hoping in a worthless counterfeit.

How many counterfeits will my kids encounter even just today?  Stars telling of their "new loves."  Movies showing a rebellious mess as the "good teen life."  Church folk who claim they serve Jesus but live just like the world.  How are they to recognize the difference?

Wow, that's my job as their mom.  I must show them the real deal so they have the right "gold standard!"  My words of description won't be enough.  Glittery paint on the outside of a fake Christian life will just confuse them further.  That realization is causing me to cry out even stronger for the Lord's help today.

How about you?  Are you the real deal for your kids to see...or just a glittery paint job?

Kid Worldview: The Cost of Debt

admin —  July 26, 2011 — 1 Comment

Image courtesy of Leonardini

By Beth Groh

Oh, that money was rolling in…

Week after week, the bank account was looking better as those paychecks were being deposited—and spending habits were being curbed.

That’s what our teenage daughter has been experiencing this summer, now that she’s working two jobs and learning the art of saving.

But that freshly expanded income stream has opened a new door for her—a chance to fulfill a common teenager dream of buying her OWN CAR.

The only catch?  She would need to borrow a good portion of the money.

Suddenly, a teenager dream required a grown-up calculation:
Which was worth more … The feeling of freedom she would gain by having her own car? Or the loss of freedom to control her spare time by working enough hours to pay for her car?

She came face-to-face with a biblical truth, as explained in Proverbs 22:7 – the “borrower is servant to the lender.”

Her new loan payment would become her “master”—and dictate how much she needed to work in order to pay for the car and other expenses.

In the end, she was willing to make that payment her boss. At least she did so with a full explanation of the trade-offs she was making.

So, thanks to this car issue, a biblical perspective on debt became a kitchen table topic in our family this summer.

Too bad it’s not being discussed that way in our nation’s Capitol!
D-E-B-T.   It’s a dangerous four-letter word in our national vocabulary right now.

By some calculations, each American citizen is on the hook for more than $46,000 in debt—and that’s before the ballooning wave of new benefit programs hits and the aging Baby Boomers strain (drain?) the already stretched Medicare and Social Security programs.

Our national debt has grown an estimated $3.84 billion a day since 2007.

When do we say “enough”?

And when do we, as a nation, turn to God’s Word to see His warnings about debt?

Forget for a moment all the detailed talk about the debt ceiling, the potential impact of our debt on our nation’s credit rating, the debate over raising taxes versus cutting spending or the failure of Congress in the last couple of years to even pass a budget, let alone balance one.

Instead, let’s zero in on the most fundamental issue relating to Proverbs 22:7. If our nation’s leaders continue to spend money that we don’t have, who’s loaning us the money?

Who’s our “master”? China? Japan? Europe?

God’s Word says “all of the above.”

Those who hold our debt, to a large degree, hold our future—our economic and national security.

Say, for example, China invades Taiwan…would we have much influence if they could threaten to sell off all our bonds? If Japan declared a trade war with the U.S.…would we have much leverage if they could flood the market with our Treasury notes?

God warned His chosen people about the dangers of being on the “servant” side of debt in the 15th chapter of Deuteronomy. His blessings would flow out of this promise: “[Y]ou will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

As our nation continues to amass more debt, we will continue to hand over part of our nation’s sovereignty to those who lend to us.

Even if we “finance the debt ourselves” by printing more dollars, we will all pay for it in the end by shrinking the buying power of each dollar. Ultimately, the most vulnerable in our nation would bear the heaviest burden because their limited dollars would buy fewer goods and services.

God’s Word provides clear guidance on borrowing money—Do so at your own risk, knowing full well that the lender becomes master of the borrower.

Sometimes as individuals we are willing to accept the terms of that agreement. Our daughter was, and is learning a grown-up lesson on responsibility as a result.

As a nation, though, the perils of debt are far more profound.

At minimum, we indenture our children and grandchildren with a financial burden they must someday bear.

At worst, we forego God’s blessings promised in Deuteronomy for nations that avoid the debt trap. And, even more alarmingly, we empower other nations to lord over us, instead of submitting to the Lord’s will for our nation.

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski

By Beth Groh

Sometimes we just can’t resist when we read a teasing news headline.
“CHINESE FIND 55-FOOT SEA MONSTER. I had to see. Click.

Sure enough, there was a picture of people standing around gawking at a decaying sea creature—a 4.5 ton unidentified blob.

As parents, we’re sometimes confronted with our very own monster tales from our children.

Have you ever had to do a closet check, or an under-the-bed check, just to verify that, yes, the coast was clear? With three kids, I’ve run my share of reconnaissance missions over the years!

And each time I tried to run my answer through a “faith filter” to make sure my answer was biblically sound. That’s tough—especially when those questions can come in the middle of the night or when you’re distracted.

So let’s take a few minutes now to apply a biblical worldview to monster tales.

And if you turn to the book of Job in chapter 41, you’ll meet the Bible’s very own sea monster: leviathan.

What a strange creature! It defies any who would try to catch it or harpoon it: “Any hope of subduing him is false; the mere sight of him is overpowering.” (Job 41: 9)

The text goes on to say: “Who dares to open the doors of his mouth, ringed about with his fearsome teeth?” (Job 41:14) With its “chest as hard as a rock” and underside as “jagged potsherds”, this ferocious creature treats iron “like straw” and defies any spear, hook, javelin or club.

Yikes! I wouldn’t want him on the end of my fishing hook!

With our modern knowledge, we might be tempted to conclude that leviathan is a great white shark or perhaps some aggressive form of whale—that is, until we get to verses 18 through 21. Now, it sounds more like a dragon with smoke pouring “out from his nostrils” and flames darting from his mouth.

If that’s not perplexing enough, thumb back to chapter 40 in Job and read about behemoth.

Behemoth “ranks first among the works of God” (Job 40:19), with bones that are “tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron.” (Job 40:18) This grass-eating creature defies capture and is described as having fearless command of the fields and river banks.

Some Bible translations in the footnotes refer to behemoth as a hippopotamus. But, if you’ve ever seen a hippo or an elephant in the zoo—with their scrawny little tails—then that image doesn’t match verse 17, which describes a tail that “sways like a cedar”. (Frankly, that description sounds more like a dinosaur, but that’s another day’s topic!)

So clearly the Bible describes animals that have no logical match in a modern-day zoo or aquarium.

Now that doesn’t mean they reside under our children’s beds or lurk in their closets! But it does mean that our God is a BIG God and created all kinds of sea creatures on day five (Genesis 1:20-23) and land creatures on day six (Genesis 1: 24-25). Would it be any wonder that we, as mere men, don’t know them all?

That point is further driven home in the chapters of Job where the behemoth and leviathan are described. In describing those animals—and others that He created—the Lord is setting Job in his place, starting with chapter 38.

His point? God is God. And man is mere man.

His rebuke begins: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” And it continues for four eloquent chapters as He reminds Job of His sovereignty on earth and His creation.

So how does this help us, as parents, when we get the monster questions?

Well, this issue opens a wonderful opportunity for us to assure our children two things:

(1) God is a Mighty God who made all kinds creatures great and small (even strange ones like leviathan and behemoth). And …

(2) God repeatedly promises His love and protection.

So the bottom line on monsters? Welcome them as powerful object lessons of God’s might and His grace!

By Lisa Cherry

Image courtesy of Niels Timmer

I am most assuredly not gifted in horticulture.  In fact, I have been informally diagnosed as having a purple thumb.  But I have not given up hope.  Someday, I still believe I could crack the code on what many of my friends make look easy.

This summer I daringly attempted what I have always dreamed of:  an indoor herb garden.  Just the thought of harvesting those fresh herbs and instantly dropping them into my culinary creations makes my homemaker heart swoon.  So when I saw the little start-up plants of basil and parsley marked down on clearance, my fantasy pushed me to the check out line.  Never mind those annoying little wilted spots and the plants already pushing to flower.  With some careful transplanting and mindful watering, I was hopeful for a come back.

Today, I have faced my reality.  The plants are dead.  They succumbed quickly to the shock of new soil and atmospheric conditions.  Too bad.  I so wanted them to thrive!

As I mourned their demise, I was reminded of the other precious “seedlings” still in my house—my kids.  I had a new sense of respect for the concept of transplantation.

As my children are nurtured here in our family greenhouse, I am thrilled when I see fresh growth that indicates healthy roots.  But as each of them move through the inevitable process of growing up, transplantation to other environments must be handled with great wisdom and care.

Transplant them too soon, and their delicate, immature roots can be shocked causing them to wither.  Wait too late to transplant...and the plant can get pot bound and fail to thrive in its new larger habitat.

No doubt about it.  Expert gardening is essential for our children.  It is a good thing we have access to the master gardener!  So the tip this week:  BEWARE DEADLY TRANSPLANTS.  Consult your master gardener for wisdom.  Be willing to make an accurate assessment of your plant's strength and readiness.  Do not "follow the pack" just because Johnny down the street made the transplant in his life this year.  Your Susie may need another year of seedling growth!

As the new school year is just around the corner, I encourage you to seek the Lord for every new transition decision you will be asked to make.  Trust your heart as He leads you.  And remember, gardening is your anointed job.  Till your seedlings, water them, and fertilize them with the Word.  And God will bring the needed growth.

Image courtesy of Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Note from Lisa Cherry:  My Canadian friend, Tyler Rowan, hit another home run with this recent post at her blog Titus2:3-5!!  She graciously gave me permission to repost it here. Wow, what a practical and timely word for us Frontline Moms!

By Tyler Rowan

Being a parent can often feel like being a referee. Or a cat herder. Or a paramedic. Or a prison warden.

Parenting is a game of reaction. Something happens, then we react. We pray our reactions stop bad behavior, encourage good behavior, and help our children to grow into good and Godly adults.

I've been using this method for years with generally good results. At times, if I think my current reactions aren't getting the above results, I'll experiment with different types of reactions (aka new methods of discipline). Most things I try seem to produce the three results mentioned above.

The other evening, after a long, late-night conversation with one of my children about some stuff that child is struggling with (fitting in, bullying, lying, swearing, over-emotional reactions), I wrote these words:

My children are desperate to experience God as a reality in their lives. They need to see that Jesus works and He can truly help them in life's struggles.

With those words, my parenting goals shifted. I'm no longer solely focused on increasing good behavior and decreasing bad behavior, hoping that we all survive until they reach adulthood. My number one priority as a parent must be helping my kids experience a true and personal relationship with Jesus Christ in their everyday lives.

Sure, I'll still need to react and run interference. Discipline and encouragement cannot be abandoned. But there's a new element that needs to take precedence, and it cannot just be reactionary. I need to turn in my striped referee shirt and whistle for a t-shirt labelled "Coach."

We can't help our children experience Jesus personally with phrases like, "Do you think that Jesus would like the way you're treating your sibling right now?" That makes Jesus look like us - reactionary. We don't want Him to be a "watchdog" over our kids' behaviors; we want Him to be a resident of their hearts.

Teaching Jesus - at a heart level - needs to be proactive, planned, and interactive.

Proactive - Acting in advance rather than reacting.
Planned - Regularly scheduled.
Interactive - A dialogue or conversation rather than a monologue (commonly referred to as a lecture).

Here are three things we're going to try at home to help our children experience the reality of Jesus working in their lives:

1. Learning together. This week we will begin working through the Kids of Integrity curriculum (by Focus on the Family) together. Our first lesson (chosen by the earlier mentioned child) - honesty.

* On a little side-note, KOI is giving away an iPad 2 to those who sign up! Use my link to enter the contest, and you help increase my chances of winning. :)

2. Visioning together. Anyone who has ever led a team knows how much stronger the team becomes if everyone "buys into" the organization's vision. I think the same is true of a family (is there any team more important than family?). So I would like us to develop a family vision, mission statement, values, etc. based in Scripture.

How will this look in practical terms? We'll start with a family meeting, do some brainstorming, and go from there.

3. Following the Holy Spirit together. If I had to name one single thing that grew my faith, it would be the experience of "hearing" the Holy Spirit, listening, and then experiencing the results of that obedience. I want to be more intentional about sharing our obedience with our children, and inviting them to participate in it.

For example, the next time one of my kids wants to give away their favorite toy, I will not suggest they take some time to think about it. Instead, I will praise them for listening to God and help them obey immediately. Or when Pat and I feel led to do something for someone, we'll share the story with the kids over dinner. And when we're in need of provision, and God provides, our whole family will praise the Lord together.

What do you do to help your kids (or the kids you have influence on) experience a living and active relationship with Jesus Christ?

Or, like me, have you been stuck in reaction mode for too long? If so, what is one thing you could begin to do that would take you from reactive to being proactive, planned, and interactive?

Tyler also guest posted on Frontline Moms here.