Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Are You a Fan or a Follower: A Devotional

I had never thought about it before, but when I read the excerpt below, it made me really stop and evaluate my heart. 

Am I a follower of Jesus or just a fan?

What's the difference, you ask? Well, Kevin Idleman makes an interesting and compelling distinction. I shudder at the idea of being only a fan.


“It may seem that there are many followers of Jesus, but if they were honestly to define the relationship they have with him I am not sure it would be accurate to describe them as followers. It seems to me that there is a more suitable word to describe them. 

They are not followers of Jesus. They are fans of Jesus. 

Here is the most basic definition of fan in the dictionary: “An enthusiastic admirer.”

It’s the guy who goes to the football game with no shirt and a painted chest. He sits in the stands and cheers for his team. He’s got a signed jersey hanging on his wall at home and multiple bumper stickers on the back of his car. 

But he’s never in the game. 

He never breaks a sweat or takes a hard hit in the open field. 

He knows all about the players...but he doesn't know the players. 

He yells and cheers, but nothing is really required of him. 

There is no sacrifice he has to make....

And I think Jesus has a lot of fans these days....But [He] was never interested in having fans. When He defines what kind of relationship He wants, “Enthusiastic Admirer” isn't an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following Him....

They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.” 
(Excerpt from Not a Fan by Kevin Idleman).

Are you a fan or a follower?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Devotional: Surrendering All to Receive All

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." - Matthew 16:24.

Here we have the words of Christ which tell us in order to live, we must die. 

We must surrender our life, our way, our dreams, our will. 

Lay them at the cross. 

Give all to Jesus. 

And in so doing, we will find life, peace, joy, fulfillment - everything we really, truly desire. 
In giving our life, we find it. 

It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but that's God! 

He turns our thinking and understanding upside-down so that it is right-side-up.

Here is an excerpt of C.S. Lewis' writings that talks about this very thing.  I hope it is a blessing to you. And I hope it gives you the willingness to give all to Christ everyday. What safer place is there?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Angst, Anxiety & Attacks of Panic - My Way Out

Have you ever experienced a panic attack? I think it is the worse feeling in the world. For a brief period of my life, when I was almost 30 years old, I experienced them almost on a regular basis. The attacks would come upon me with no warning, suddenly, and voraciously. It would take over and leave me a victim of its unreasonable, uncontrollable possession. I thought I was going crazy. I thought I was going to die. It was terrifying. I would have anxiety about when the next attack would come upon me.

My Story

I was newly married, and these attacks terrified my husband. He didn't understand what was happening to me. I would be lying in bed for the night, waiting for sleep to come upon me, and that is when the attack often struck. I would have to leave the bed. I couldn't lie there while my heart was racing and my breathing elevated. I needed to walk around, to move, and pace about aimlessly hoping that this attack would end quickly.

My husband found a Christian counselor for me. She was well over an hour's drive away, but we drove the distance to get the help for which I desperately longed. The counseling was mostly digging into my past and trying to find any unresolved relationship difficulties. My parents, siblings, and my spouse were top suspects on the list to investigate. But I really didn't have much dirt to dig up there.  Sure there were some minor issues, but they were issues that I was at peace with and had handled and not hid.

One major life event which had effected me deeply and caused me much distress and emotional trauma was a close friend who had taken her life. She was 26 years old, or so. Her grandfather had abused her as a child, and the horrifying emotions had been boxed up in her mind until recently, when the lid had opened and memories started to return. She couldn't deal with the shame, the pain, the inability to forgive her grandfather who was no longer living. Overcome by emotions, she had jumped off a bluff on the Mississippi River ending her life. I struggled over her salvation, over the horror of child abuse and its soul damage to the victim, and over my guilt as to why I hadn't reached out to help her more than I had. I brought this up to my counselor, but she didn't have any answers for me. Those I had to find myself.

The attacks continued. My counselor recommended some anxiety-cancelling drugs, and though it would bring instant relief, I didn't want to become dependent on them or have to deal with any potential negative side-effects. I wanted to be truly rid of the attacks, not cover them up with medication. (Note: I do believe their are situations when medication is the best route to take for some with mental disorders/sickness. I am not saying that avoiding medication is what is always best.)

I tried different methods to relieve my attacks. I am a very reserved person, emotionally, and keep a pretty even keel externally during episodes of high stress. I reasoned, if the nervousness was the outcrop of an overflowing internal emotional system, I would force myself to vocalize my sadness, disappointments, and anger as much as possible. I allowed myself to cry a lot - many times for no apparent reason at all. Though this exercise did seem to help in part, the panic attacks did not seem to be effected. They were as chronic and persistent as ever.

Help At Last

I cried out to the Lord, "Why is this happening to me? Please, take this away from me!" I feared greatly having to deal with this all my life. Then one day, as I was getting ready for bed and had poured my heart out to the Lord, a quiet message came to me. I'm sure it was from God. It simply was that I had the power to stop it if I chose. I had the power of my will to choose what was happening to my body. I could choose to not allow these attacks to come over me. That simple.

That night as I was lying in bed hoping for sleep to come quickly, my heart started to pick up its pace. The attack was coming on. I rolled over and said, "No!" I don't think it was an audible command. But I did say it very strongly and authoritatively in my mind and I was addressing the attack. Amazingly, the attack subsided. However, not long after, my heart began to race again. Immediately I said very forcefully and resolutely, "Go away! I don't want you!" It stopped. Every time the attack began I met it face on with my mental assault and blockade. And every time I won. I was so amazed. I was so relieved! I was so unbelievable thankful and humbled that God had helped me.


After that, things got increasingly better. The next night I had a smaller struggle with the anxiety nemesis. Then it didn't rear its ugly head for another two or three days. At every battle, I refused entry. It was another week or two when I faced it for the last time. It has been over 20 years now since I have had my last panic attack. Praise the Lord!!!  I know that what He has done for me, He can do for you too.

I believe that if I had not gained the victory over my attacks by personally dealing with them in this way, it would have grown and absorbed me. Medication would have been a necessity for my ability to function normally. By God's grace I had "nipped it in the bud" while the attacks were still relatively new to me. (I dealt with them for less than a year...each month the attacks coming more often and stronger.)

The power of the will is something that God has given each one of us. It is still a mystery to me as to how it works, but I believe it is what gave me the victory over this powerful psychological plaque. It is something I want to do more research into and understand better.

Have you suffered from panic attacks? What has been your experience in battling them?

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Training Them Up: A Family Devotions Guide

The Bible says:
 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6.

Who should train them up?
The father and mother, primarily. Well, the father and mother... and the Lord.

Training up children is ongoing. It's 24/7. And one of the best, most important ways to train them up and lead them to Christ is to have family devotions. Many years ago, the Lord was convicting my heart about the need for it. I wanted to do it.

But I struggled with the "how". I had never experienced family devotions.
What do you do?
How long should they be?
How often should we have them?
How do you DO family devotions?
This was my struggle when I was a baby Christian raising baby boys.

Up to that time, I had been reading Bible stories aloud every day since the boys were babes. We would cuddle on the couch and enjoy reading My Bible Friends and look at the large, beautiful illustrations. After a story or two, they were ready to wiggle down off the couch and head to something else. And unbeknownst to me at the time, we were having age-appropriate family devotions! We were spending time together learning about our amazing God, and it was all they needed.

It wasn't until they were a little older - I think my oldest son was around 5, that I felt the call from God to take the next step with family devotions. So, prayerfully, almost 15 years ago, I just decided to step in the waters by faith asking God to lead. 

We started with singing songs. We sang the songs they had been learning in Sabbath School - "Jesus Loves Me", "The Trees are Gently Swaying", "Happy, Happy Home", and others. They love to do action songs, so we did as many of those as we could. Then we would work on a memory verse. At this age, the verse was short and in a children's version so they could easily understand it. We then read our Sabbath School lesson story. We read the same story every day for a whole week. Young children enjoy repetition and it really helps them to learn it. I had a set of Betty Lukens Bible felts, and my children loved to see the story presented with the colorful felts. As the week progressed, they could help tell the story and put the felts up. Sometimes we might even act out the story.
At the end of our devotions, we would have prayer.

As my sons grew, our family devotions changed with them. We started memorizing the books of the Bible in order. (Hint: start with the New Testament it's much easier! Find a song you like that will aid in the memorization process. We also started memorizing larger pieces of scripture - even chapters! One activity we really enjoyed was making memory verse booklets. We stapled several blank sheets of paper together, and the boys had to write the verses out on one side and draw an illustration on the other. This works great for learning the Ten Commandments, Psalm 23, or something similar. We also used scripture songbooks which made it fairly easy to memorize a whole psalm or chapters like 1 Cor. 13 or Isaiah 53. 

The pre-teen and teen years have brought more discussion into our devotional time. We cover our basic beliefs again and study them out from the Bible. As their reasoning skills develop, it is crucial they not only understand what we believe, but where in the Bible it supports our beliefs. They need to be able to defend their beliefs from Scripture. We occasionally review previously learned skills, such as the order of the Bible books, by recitation, or by doing Bible drills (seeing who can find a certain chapter/verse first). We also keep singing the Bible songs and hymns. 


>> Family Devotions Ideas by Age <<



Children's Bible stories on your lap

Toddlers - Age 4

Bible stories with felts
Simple memory verses
Learning to pray

Ages 4-7

Bible stories with felts
Longer memory verses
Saying prayer

Ages 7-11

Bible stories read from Children's Bible
Acting out the story
Memorizing order of books of the Bible
Memorizing 10 Commandments
Memorizing chapters and whole psalms
Make scripture booklets for memory work
Learn scripture songs and hymns

Pre-teens and Teens

Bible drills
Fundamental beliefs study
In-depth Bible studies
Acting out the story
Singing hymns and scripture songs
Leading family worship

I've learned that devotions are a spiritual observance - a meeting with God in His word, in prayer, in song, and in worship. A critical aspect for family devotions is to HAVE FUN! Learning about God and spending time with Him should always be an enjoyable time. As for how much time to spend, it will depend on your children. Don't make family devotions a drudgery. It should be kept fresh, lively, and not too long.

This is how our family devotions have evolved over the years. Do you have devotions with your children? What has worked well for you? I'd love to hear about it!

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