Halloween...it's a day that some really love and for others, a day they really dread! It has become an over commercialized holiday like so many of the others, but don't worry this is not a post about boycotting the day.
On Halloween, our family takes advantage of all the community events and our kids love the chance to dress up. To us, it's another opportunity to make Christ known. This one day that the world says is set aside for scary stories, costumes and decorations is no different than any other day that we are to be a witness for Christ. After all, "This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it" Psalm 118:24. He is the creator of everyday!
I remember the first Halloween that our daughter really started recognizing the scary costumes people would wear. She said, "momma, why would people want to look like that?" These are great teachable moments for our children. This was a great time for us to talk about our expectations of Halloween and how our family will be involved in it. Our prayer is that we use all worldly issues as times for conversation and pointing our children to Christ. We want to teach them that no matter what the situation, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" Matthew 5:16.
I am not sure how you feel about today and whatever your convictions are, I pray you stick to them. But, if you choose to participate in trick-or-treating tonight, can I challenge you?
Halloween is known for darkness, but it does not have to be a dark holiday. As Christians, we can let our light shine brightest, John 1:5 says, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." We have a huge mission field in our own communities, let's be His hands and feet.
I want to leave you with some fun things to do with your family that will also help your kids learn about Jesus.
Please leave a comment on how your family keeps Christ the focus on Halloween! We can learn so much from each other.
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids, part-time marketing director, loves hanging out in her community and building relationships...oh and loves to laugh!
Did He deserve my praise because of what He had done for me, or because He was God?
I think we all know the correct answer to this question, the church answer. But do we know why and do we truly believe that God is good no matter what our circumstances?
I recently had a serious health scare that landed me first in the hospital and then on an operating table. For several days (which seemed like an eternity), the “C” word (cancer) was used many times as a possible cause for the problems I was experiencing. I was transferred to a hospital nearby in order to have a surgical oncologist perform my operation.
If you'd like to read more about how The Lord walked with me through this difficult time, check out my post called, Spiritual Drought. But for now, He is leading me to tell a different story.
A couple weeks after the surgery I received the wonderful news that there was no cancer found. What an answer to prayer! Days later, I returned to church for the first time. During the worship, as we stood to sing and praise the Lord, I felt so truly grateful for the healing the Lord had provided. I was happy to be back with my people and to be feeling somewhat normal again. But a strange question shot through my mind, almost as if God Himself was asking. What if He hadn’t healed me? Was He still good? Did He deserve my praise because of what He had done for me or because He was God? After all, the lady in front of me buried her daughter just months before, and another friend her husband. A young boy standing nearby, who has since passed, was in the middle of battling his own life threatening illness right then. There were scenarios all around me and even circumstances in my own life that had turned out much differently than anyone wanted. So what did I make of this and what was true about God’s goodness?
I believe in the sovereignty of God - that He knows what is best and that He has a plan. James 4:13-14 reminds us that our lives are in the hands of God and we ourselves should remember that we aren’t promised another second. It is only by His will that we live another day. I also believe in the power of prayer. I know that it touches God’s heart when His people come to Him in desperation and plead for His healing power. 2 Kings 20 tells the story of King Hezekiah. God reveals to Hezekiah that his life is over and he needs to prepare for the end. But Hezekiah cries out to God and God answers, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” 2 Kings 20:5
As a side note, let me ask, why is it that we are so surprised when God answers our prayers? While I was in the hospital having tests run and waiting for surgery, I looked at Jordan and said, “I think something is wrong!” “Why? Are you hurting?” he asked. “No, I’m not having any pain and that’s not normal.” I told him. “Something must be wrong.” At this point, we hadn’t told many people that I was sick because we had no idea what was going on, but Jordan quickly reminded me of the friends and family we had asked to be praying. One of the main things we had asked them to pray for was that God would ease the pain. Instead of thanking God for answered prayer, I was questioning why it was happening. “Just rest and enjoy this answered prayer.” he encouraged. Praise God!
Was my healing God’s plan all along or was it because the prayers of His people? I am so very thankful that the Lord chose to heal my body and restore my health, but I don’t know the answer to that question, and probably won’t know this side of heaven. What I do know is that He is a good God no matter what the outcome and that He deserves praise because of who He is, not for the things He does that I agree with. Fortunately, when this question shot through my mind in church that day, I had already talked through the answers with God while in the hospital. I knew that no matter what His will revealed, because of His faithfulness to me throughout my life, that I could trust His plan, even if it wasn’t what I had hoped for.
If you haven’t walked with God for long or if you aren’t a believer, this may be puzzling to you. How could you believe that a God who would allow bad things to happen, could be good? When I first became a Christian, I didn’t understand this, and there are still many days that it’s hard to comprehend. But when I chose to believe Him and trust what His Word said was true, He slowly began showing me through my life circumstances how true it was. It’s actually been through the harder times that I’ve learned to trust Him more.
It’s like the pain I experienced through my recent illness. It was horrible, excruciating pain. I would have done almost anything to make it stop. But the doctor told us that the pain actually led us to discover the problem and the need for surgery so he could remove what was bad inside. Without the pain, we never would have known it was there and it could have created horrible problems. So many times the pain and problems in life show us our true need for God’s healing in our soul instead of our body. It’s only through trusting Him that we can truly experience His goodness in our lives. Our circumstances will by no means become perfect, but the condition of our souls will be changed forever and each day of life will become sweeter.
Here are some of the promises that I can lean on when it’s hard to understand or trust God’s plan.
Jeremiah 29:11 promises that God has a plan for His children, to prosper them and not harm them, to give them a hope and a future. This does not mean that nothing bad will happen in our lives. This does not mean that we will always get what we want. There will come a day in all of our lives that we will come to the end. But when you know The Lord, He has a future plan for us, even in death.
In Matthew 26:36-42 Jesus knows he is about to die a painful, humiliating death on a cross. He is praying, asking God if there is another way so that He doesn’t have to experience this. But then He says, “Father, not as I will, but as you will.” Even Jesus didn’t want to go through this horrible situation in His life, but He knew God had a plan and that God’s will was always best.
Job is a short Old Testament book, and such an encouragement when you are going through a difficult time. Life went horribly wrong for Job, and even though he didn’t understand why, He knew God was sovereign and His ways were right.
1 Corinthians 15:54-58 says, "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.”
Followers of Christ are victorious even in death because Jesus has defeated sin! The only reason to fear death is if you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord, because then in death, you will have to pay for your sins yourself.
Romans 8 is filled with verses of hope for God’s children. If you don’t have time to read the entire chapter take a look at these verses:
Verse 28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
So even the bad stuff that happens in our life, God will use it for our good.
Verse 31: What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
My future is secure in Jesus! No matter what anyone does to me or what happens in my life, God is for me and my life is in His hands. I have nothing to fear.
Verses 38-39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Take comfort with me today friend, that as God’s children, even in pain, even in heartache, even in death, we cannot be separated from Gods’ love!
Audra and her husband Jordan are called to ministry and he is the senior pastor at their church. They have two beautiful children who bring them tons of joy, lots of laughs, and on occasion new grey hair. She is a former teacher who still loves to teach, enjoys cooking and baking, and has a passion to lead other women to know Jesus and live out their faith in Him
Cowboys Football - Audra's pick
Our extended family has been pretty spread out over the past 17 years that Jordan and I have been married. And there are three sibling families that we have to consider as well. Needless to say, every Thanksgiving looks very different for us. But the one thing, no matter which family members we are with, that never changes, is that the Dallas Cowboys, “Our Team”, always play on Thanksgiving! We even plan our big meal around the game. Last year, we were so blessed to have someone invite our entire family, both sides, to the actual game. It was a Thanksgiving memory for the books!
Thankfulness - Laura's pick
Since my brother has been married, Thanksgiving on my side of the family has always been shared with my sister-in-law's family as well. As our two families join together at my brother's house, my sister-in-law has always allowed for a special time of thankfulness. She puts so much thought into the way we will share, it's always fun to see what she comes up with every year. I remember one year she gave each of us a little bag with three seeds and we were to tell three things we were thankful for. In our family's bag there were four! She added the fourth because our family had been praying that the Lord would give us another child and that was our reminder. I still have that seed and God did move that mountain! From joining hands in a circle and each of us telling something we are thankful for from the previous year, to tying paper leaves onto a tree limb where we write our thankfulness down, to my favorite...strips of fabric that you can purchase that have discussion questions about what you are thankful for, it's a very special tradition that has been created. I love Thanksgiving because of the simplicity of it; just family, food and fellowship.
Family Board Games - Rebecca's pick
My mom decided many years ago when our family started expanding with in-laws and grandchildren that we would have a set date for celebrating both Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. For Thanksgiving, it's always on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And, for Christmas, it's always on the Sunday after Christmas (so the NINETEEN of us can all go to church together). This was a stroke of genius because it has eliminated any hassle of juggling travel schedules and multi-family events. I especially like Thanksgiving because 1.) we eat yummy food and 2.) we always play board games after the meal. Some of the cousins play games upstairs while a few more cousins play with the adults downstairs. It's a sweet time of laughing and connecting. I absolutely love it!
Leftover Turkey & Stuffing Panini - Tammy's pick
Growing up, the meal after the meal was one of the highlights of the day for us kids. All the leftovers would be pulled out of the fridge and placed on the kitchen counter. A loaf of bread would be added and then the piling would begin! Two pieces of bread, a spread of mayo, some turkey meat, a slab of Mom's homemade dressing (stuffing), and a healthy spread of cranberry sauce. Thanksgiving meal all in one bite! Yum!
Family Recipes - Rhonda's pick
My family's thanksgiving tradition is truly a T R A D I T I O N. Meaning it's been done this way forEVER. Before Daddy died, it was always Daddy, Mother, me and my family, sister Libby and her family, sister Lisa and her family and sometimes even another random brother-in-law or visiting college student. We gathered at my house for many years and then we started going to Mom's or one of my sons' house. Two years ago Mother was having problems getting around so we had our noon meal at her house so we wouldn't have to try to transport her somewhere else. This year she's in a nursing home so we have decided, once again, to have it at her house. Someone will bring her home for the day and we can have Thanksgiving at least one more time as we did in the past. Mother always cooked the dressing but last year, and I suppose from now on, that task will fall to me. Unless a daughter-in-law or niece wants to take over, and I will gladly pass the mixing spoon to her.
I am including my crock pot dressing recipe. This has been reprinted in several local church cookbooks but mine came from Old Friendship Baptist Church in Chester County.
CrockPot Chicken and Dressing
1 stick butter
2 eggs well beaten
2 C onion, chopped
1 can golden mushroom soup
2 C celery chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 large skillet of cornbread
2 C chicken broth
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp sage, or to taste
1 tsp salt
2 C cooked chicken
1/2 tsp black pepper
Saute onion and celery in 1/2 the butter. Crumble cornbread and mix all ingredients in crockpot, adding chicken last. Cook in crockpot on high for 45 minutes. Stir and continue to cook on low for 4 hours.
Note: I have found its much easier to mix all this in a very large mixing bowl, and I'll be honest with you - I use my hands! Then, pour it in crockpot. Very moist dressing! Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste.
It's Friend Friday and today's friend is a new friend! We met this fall when I was teaching a bible study in an art gallery. How fun is that?! Yet there was the instant Jesus connection, the type that knits the hearts of fellow believers together. When I heard she was a breast cancer survivor, I asked if she'd share her story for October's Friend Friday. I'm delighted she said, "Yes!" May your heart be encouraged as Rhonda shares about the faithfulness of God, especially in the valley.
Rhonda Robertson is a wife, mother, grandmother, quilter, writer, public speaker, and breast cancer survivor. She's active in her church and loves to cook and bake. She often uses her quilts and applies the patterns to biblical and spiritual truths in presentations to women's groups. She and her husband, Mike, are enjoying retirement and live in Jackson TN.
In my bible, Hebrews Chapter 11 is titled “By Faith.” I know it’s also been called Heroes of the Faith. But when I hear the words By Faith, I remember a song from an Easter musical our choir and drama team performed years ago. I had a short solo in the song and my lyrics went, “By faith Daniel entered the lions’ den and without a scratch he walked out again.” It was a fun song and had a powerful message.
I’ve never been thrown in a lions’ den but I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. In March, 2010, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma - breast cancer. It was discovered by a fluke, actually. My yearly mammogram showed a suspicious spot, I was called back in for a repeat test, then something else showed up so off to ultrasound. Ultrasound picked up the cancer in a different spot and the original suspicious spot was nothing. I went through surgery, eighteen weeks of chemo and a full year of targeted medicine, radiation, all the while participating in a clinical trial to test a new pill that was also targeted for the particular kind of cancer I had.
I was so sick; at least for six months of that year. The support of my family and friends and sometimes from people I had never met was overwhelming. As I look back on that time, a lot of different factors played into my recovery. Of course, the medicines - awful though they were - not only killed all the cancer cells but also anything else growing in my body, such as hair, fingernails, and I’m thinking anything else that could have made me sick. Over the years since I’ve had one cold in seven years! I guess the chemo got rid of every germ in my body. I don’t know, I’m just saying.
The major factor in my recovery was my faith and more specifically, My God. A cousin gave me the devotional book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It and my Bible were never far from me. Dying from cancer never crossed my mind. My go-to verse, and the one I claimed during all that year was Psalm 131:2: But I have stilled and quieted my soul. I just knew, by faith, I’d come out of this valley alive and well.
And I did. I prayed on the good days, “Thank you, Lord, for letting me have a good day.” I prayed on the bad days, “Please, Lord, just let me feel better today.” I prayed every day, “Thank you, Lord, for my husband, my kids and grandkids, my mother, my sisters, my friends, my church family. Thank you Lord for my doctors and nurses and even for this old medicine that’s making me so sick because I know it’s going to make me so much better - one day.”
And as I slowly got over the effects of the medicine, and as my hair grew back – hair is another story for another day - and as I gained my weight and strength back, I was able to say, “I walked through the valley of the shadow of death and I feared no evil” Psalm 23:4. I was comforted. I had faith. By faith, I walked through cancer and by faith, and God’s grace, I was healed.
Thank you, Father God.
How to be a World Influencer
Parisian. That’s the look I was going for that Halloween when I first started dating my man. We were going to a Halloween party, and "What on earth am I going to wear?" was the question of the hour! I already owned a beret, so when I found the cutest bell bottom pants with the Eiffel tower on them at the Goodwill my mind was made up. I would go as a cool Parisian girl and catch the eye of the cute Peruvian boy.
For some reason, back before eyelashes were all the rage, I decided to wear false eyelashes to complete the look. I’m not a big make-up girl, so carefully peeling the eyelashes off the plastic container and sticking them on my eyelids right at my eyelash line was no small production! When I finally succeeded, I felt like a bird with big wings every time I blinked. Swoosh! Swoosh! The lashes tickled my cheeks and eyelids. I felt marvelous!
Thinking back, I’m not sure what made me decide to wear false eyelashes. After all, it was Halloween, and what I didn’t normally wear seemed fair game for my outfit. It was fun and something different. Nothing wrong with that. I didn’t cross any lines and didn’t soil the sweet name of Jesus with those false eyelashes.
Yet, with Halloween right around the corner, I’ve been pondering, "How does a Jesus girl choose a fun and different outfit for all her Halloween festivities in today’s world?" The world will tell us to be daring, to push the envelope, to explore any and all options. But is that healthy and wise for our hearts and minds? More so, does it bring glory to the Lord?
Therefore, when trying to decide "What (Not) to Wear" I resort to my tried and true wardrobe questions:
I know the world is going to hate my list of "What (Not) to Wear" questions. They’re going to say it’s too narrow and restrictive and prudish and backward. But I don’t answer to the world, I answer to the King of the World, Jesus. May He smile and be pleased as I laugh and play in whatever Halloween costume I choose to wear this year, with or without false eyelashes.
Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors.
Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong,
they will see your honorable behavior,
and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
1 Peter 2:12
So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
fully pleasing to Him:
bearing fruit in every good work
and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Confidante. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, deep talks, lively laughter, and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
The Armor of God Series – Part One
It is said that the number one rule in warfare is this: Know Thine Enemy. As Christians, we are well aware that we are in a battle. This battle rages on day after day. There is no cessation of fire and certainly no times of peace. It is a full-on fight against an enemy who is as calculated as he is cunning and as ruthless as he is destructive. He seeks to advance on our territory inch by painstaking inch.
The Bible clearly identifies who our enemy is:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10-11
His name is the devil. Or, in the original Greek language, his name is diabolos – The Slanderer. His attacks are well-coordinated and designed with the intention to hinder, hurt, and ultimately destroy. This diabolical devil entraps 2 Timothy 2:26, deceives Revelation 20:10, tempts Luke 4:13, prompts John 13:2, masquerades 2 Corinthians 11:14, accuses Revelation 12:10, lies John 8:44, incites 1 Chronicles 21:1, and controls the world 1 John 5:19. He is a strong foe indeed!
In order to fight him well, we have to know exactly who we are up against. If he studies our ways, we need to study his ways. If he specializes in tactics, we must specialize in tactics. If he has a battle plan in place, we must have a battle plan in place. In simpler terms, we must know thine enemy and be prepared for him! But, how do we do that?
Peter helps us out here:
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
In one figure of speech, we collect some very important intelligence on our enemy:
1. Our enemy roars.
Lions roar to communicate between members of the same pride, to show how big they are, and to mark their territory. By doing this, they are able to ban together and keep other lions off their home turf. A lion’s roar is so powerful that not only do you hear it, you feel it, too. The closer you are, the more its vibrations tremor through your body.
“Am I a dog,” Goliath roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick? And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” he yelled. 1 Samuel 17:43-44
David not only heard Goliath’s roar, he felt it. The booming voice of the enemy sent shivers down the spines and vibrated the weak knees of the entire Israelite army prompting them to run for cover. His echo reverberated throughout the valley, paralyzing even the toughest Israelite soldier. But, David was no stranger to the lion. He had already killed one with his bare hands 1 Samuel 17:36. As a result, Goliath’s roar was unimpressive to David. David knew that the roar held no power. Instead, he replied to the roar by saying:
I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the LORD will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. 1 Samuel 17:45-46
BOOM! Mic drop. David responded to the roar by telling the enemy just WHO He was messing with – The LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
2. Our enemy is on the prowl.
The Greek word for prowls around is peripateó and it means to walk around in a complete circuit (going “full circle”). Merriam-Webster adds extra meaning to this with its definition of prowl: to move quietly through an area while hunting; to move through a place or area especially while searching for something often in a quiet or secret way.
When it comes to hunting, one word best describes the lion’s style: covert. The lion encircles its prey, studies its ways, and finds its weak spots over a period of time without any detection whatsoever. After all his intelligence information is gathered, the lion calculates the best plan of attack. Then, he waits until the opportune time to pounce. Luke 4:13
Lions are incredibly good at hiding and phenomenally patient. Hunting is a quiet sport for them. There is no roar. The well-timed attack is always sneaky, subtle, and surprising and usually done under the cover of darkness where lions can stalk their prey without the threat of detection. However, the intelligence gathered before the attack is done during the daylight hours while the lion appears to be lounging, almost as if he’s sleeping, all while keeping close watch on his prey.
3. Our enemy is hungry.
Another accurate word to describe a lion would simply be stalker. He lurks around, studies his prey while licking his lips without the prey even knowing he’s there. If he is spotted, he will sit up and stare nonchalantly into the distance. All the prey has to do at this point is stare long and hard at the lion as if to say, “I know you’re there. You’re not fooling me. Don’t even think about it,” and the lion will leave it alone. Why? Because a lion’s prey has one distinct advantage over the lion – speed. Prey can outrun and outlast the lion on any given day. That’s why the lion has to be so quiet and ever so sneaky.
Knowing this, it’s understandable that prey animals are most afraid of lions when they can’t be seen. It’s the unseen lion who is a threat. Therefore, the lion has become a master of disguises.
“For Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14
Like a chameleon, our enemy, the devil, is able to change his outward appearance, blending in and adapting to our environment without as much as a double take from us. For the lion, this means he may appear as if he’s sleeping or disinterested or laying down low in the thicket. But, no matter what deception he is trying to pull off, one thing is certain – his stomach is growling.
Once the lion attacks, his ravenous hunger is unleased. He goes for the jugular or mouth first in order to choke his hapless victim. Then, he goes for the bowels. Then, the organs. The lion will consume as much of his prey as he possibly can. He gorges himself into oblivion. He comes with one purpose – to destroy John 10:10 – and does exactly that.
However, if a lion misses his target on the first run he usually abandons the chase. All the prey needs to do is fight hard through the first round. Run hard! Stand strong! Defend! If the prey can outlast the predator, the lion will realize he has seriously miscalculated his opponent and turn back to recalculate his next attack.
The same is true for our enemy, the devil. He is calculating. He longs to devour us. He watches and waits for just the right time. His roar intimidates and shakes us up. It quickens our pulse and temporarily paralyzes our faith. His roar marks his territory, staking his claim on our very lives, and sends out a call to his troops to ban together. But, we know the roar itself is POWERLESS. The roar cannot harm us. And, neither can he…as long as we know how to fight him.
So, how are we to stand against such a vicious beast? In spiritual terms, how do we stand against our calculating, stealthy enemy who is hell-bent on our destruction? How do we not tremble at the sound of his voice – whether a loud, earth-shaking roar or a sinister, sneaky whisper? How do we defend ourselves when he creeps up in the dark of night? How do we recognize him when he’s all wrapped up in light?
The answer to these questions is simple – we must know how to fight him. Let’s learn how to take him on! But first, in order to go toe-to-toe with him, we have to know where he’s going. Where is his target?
Next Wednesday, we will discuss the battlefield – the place where the lion is heading. And, I’ll give you hint…it’s not the jugular nor the bowels.
Read The Armor of God - Part Two here.
Read The Armor of God - Part Three here.
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural, an even 50/50 split of introvert/extrovert, and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
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