Proof Jesus was Messiah

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If you’ve known me any length of time you’ve probably received a phone call from me wanting to talk about God. I love to share the stories of things that He has done in my life. In my opinion, they are mighty miracles, too numerous to count and too unlikely to dismiss as coincidence. Being as this is the case, I feel absolutely compelled to speak to those I care about regarding God. After all, I know that one day we will all face eternity with Him or death without Him.  Daily, it is my prayer that all those I know would not suffer separation from The One who brings all good things to the Earth. Over and again the Bible says to repent and trust in God. We must turn from all that He says is bad and be humble and honest enough to admit that He is the living God. He does know best and we do not. We need Him. This life is not about the daily worries and ins and outs of society. It is about preparing an unholy people to meet a Holy God and for that we cannot be ready without His Spirit dwelling within us. 

My personal testimony is enough for me. But for those who don’t know me or that I am truly an honest woman who strives to not exaggerate, or in any way malign the truth, there is another source of God’s direction and revelation for us - scripture. 

The other day I came across a prophecy that both astonished me and secured my hope. I don’t know why it’s not preached in every church and sang from the rooftops but I wish it were. I am well aware of the over 300 prophesies that point to and predict various aspects of the life of the Christ but this one tops them all. Written in the book of Daniel which was translated into Greek approximately 300 years before Christ was born, the exact time of The Messiah is predicted. This is what the prophecy says:

“A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One —comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times.

After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end. The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.” Daniel 9:24-27 NLT

Okay, I know at first glance this sounds vague and ambiguous but stay with me here. First of all, in the Old Testament there was something called a “week of years.” This can be found in both Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34. In both of these God used days to represent years. In addition, the Hebrew word for week is “a time period of seven.” So, the prophecy in Daniel is referring to 70 sets of 7 years each - in other words 490 years total and specifically 483 years from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah.

The first set of 49 years (or seven sets of seven) refers to the time it will take to rebuild Jerusalem.  Then in 62 sets of 7 years each after the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the Messiah will come. The verse in Daniel is clear that this is not just the rebuilding of the Temple as began in the book of Ezra - but a decree to actually restore Jerusalem, itself, with streets, a moat, etc. This happened in the book of Nehemiah 2:1-8, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia. 

You remember Nehemiah was Artaxerxes’ cupbearer and when he (Nehemiah) learned about the disrepair of Jerusalem, that its wall had been destroyed and its streets were in ruins. Nehemiah prayed and fasted. Then, he went to the King and asked for help. King Artexerses issued a decree in 445 B.C. allowing and even personally providing to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” 

So, how long was it after that decree until Jesus came into the picture? Seven weeks and 62 weeks or 7 sets of 7 years and 62 sets of 7 years otherwise known as 483 years. Historically, the decree is thought to have been issued on the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan 445 B.C. This would correspond to March 14th on our calendar. (See explanation below.) Jesus first allowed the general public to recognize him as the Messiah when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey just days prior to his crucifixion. This was recorded in Matthew 21:5, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, 'Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey--riding on a donkey's colt.’" As he rode the people cried out, “Hosanna, Hosanna” or God with us. Jesus didn’t stop them. In fact, he said that if they didn’t cry out that even the rocks would declare Him as King. His time had come. This occurred on April 6th 32 A.D. which, using the Jewish custom of a 360-day year, is exactly 483 years to the day from the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. In other words, there are 173,880 days from March 14th 445 B.C. until April 6th 32 A.D. using the Jewish 360 day year. This is explained in great detail at the bottom of the blog entry for those of you who are a bit nerdy like me :-)

So, what about the rest of the prophesy? 

“After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple.”

This is referring to Jesus being crucified, “appearing to have accomplished nothing.” Then, the final part of the statement, “a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple” was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. 

 I know it takes a little bit of thought, but there it is, in black and white. The exact time - to the day - of the Messiah. Wow! What a loving God we have to spell things out so clearly for us. I do hope you will take it. Research it for yourself. And start the conversation around your dinner table. How do we know Jesus REALLY was the Messiah?

 

Longer explanation for my nerdy friends (like me!)

Artaxerxes Longimanus became king of the  Medo-Persian empire on July 465 B.C. The decree was given nine months into his 20th year which would have been in the Hebrew month of Nisan. This corresponds to March / April on our calendar. The day of the month was not specifically stated in the decree so this would mean, by Hebrew tradition, that it was given on the first day of the month (or March 14th).

So, how do we know that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on April 6th 32 A.D.? The Gospel of Luke says that Jesus was baptized during Caesar Tiberius' 15th year. Most scholars believe Jesus was baptized in the fall. So that would mean that Jesus was baptized in the fall of 28 A.D. Four passovers occurred during Jesus's ministry on Earth with the last of them being the day of His crucifixion in the year 32 A.D. Passover that year fell on April 10th, or the 14th day of Nisan according to the Hebrew calendar. This would make the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and first allowed the general public to declare Him as king was April 6th, 173,880 days after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. 

 

Posted on September 9, 2017 .

Meaning behind Memorial Day

This is a devotional written by my father-in-law, a retired captain in the Air Force. Would have been a bit more appropriate yesterday but what can I say I was spending the day with my family. Hope you find it interesting, insightful and something you just might want to share with your kids. Amidst all the barbecues and fun times I think it's good to remember those who paid all that we might go free (sounds a little bit like Jesus does it not). 

For many of us, Memorial Day has become a holiday to enjoy with family and friends, a week-end to enjoy auto cook-outs, golf, auto racing, etc.

As the years pass, I fear that many of us have lost the real meaning of this wonderful holiday and the sacrifices of those who this day was set aside to remember and honor.

After considerable research, I have developed the following as facts that I believe to be true.

Our Memorial Day is derived from an ancient tradition of many cultures where the tombs of fallen soldiers were decorated with wreaths and flowers.

In the USA, there are historical accounts that soldiers’ tombs and graves were decorated long before our Civil War began.

During the Civil War, there are accounts of many cities and communities setting aside a day to remember and honor their war dead.  This occurred in both the North and the South. Some of those cities were: Waterloo, NY; Columbus, MS; Macon, GA; Petersburg, VA; Richmond, VA; Boalsburg, PA; and, Carbondale, IL.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to honor the sacrifices of civil war soldiers by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. The date of May 30 was selected because that was the only day in May where there are no records of a major Civil War battle having been fought.

General Logan’s General Order No. 11 declared that:

“The 30th of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance, no form of ceremony is prescribed, put posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

During the first celebration of this Decoration Day in 1868, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

New York was first state to officially recognize this holiday in 1873. By 1890, all of the northern states recognized it. Most of the southern states refused to recognize it. Instead, most of the southern states recognized another day as Confederate Memorial Day. That tradition slowly began to change after World War I when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died in the Civil War to Americans who died while fighting in any war.

In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act to ensure a three day weekend for federal holidays. It designated the last day in April as Memorial Day.

Several southern states still recognize their Civil War dead on different dates. Among these are: Texas (Jan 19); Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi (April 26); South Carolina (May 10); and Louisiana and Tennessee (June 3 which is also Jefferson Davis’ birthday).

In some recent sessions of Congress, both the Senate and the House have offered bills to change Memorial Day to the traditional date of May 30 but none of them has passed.

As a youth, growing up in North Carolina, I well remember that many southerners still considered Memorial Day as a day to honor the northern soldiers. How sad.

I consider Memorial Day to be a somber, solemn, reverent holiday to recognize, remember, and honor all men and women of our great country who have made the ultimate sacrifice in combat. May they rest in peace.

 

 

Say Goodbye to Fear

Fear not.   If we are doing God’s work, we will face fear and discouragement.  In a house full of kids and teens, everyone can be happy one minute not so thrilled the next.  One moment you are ready to face the day and the next you are wrapped up in defeat.  This work is not easy.

The phrase “Fear Not” occurs 365 times in the Bible.  Apparently God knew we would need to be reminded of this on a daily basis.  “The only fear in the Bible is the fear of God.  Fear is the enemy of confidence.  Fear not means don’t run,” According to Joyce Meyer in Do it Afraid.

Why do I mention fear?  Fear causes us to quit.  Fear causes us not to even begin in the first place.   Why would God say “Fear Not” - because with fear we are paralyzed.  Fear is the enemy of victory and it is an enemy from within.  Not a true threat but a manifestation of our own self-doubt.  One of the greatest human fears is a fear of failure.  We must remember this as we discipline our children – that they share that same fear of failure.  Our home must be both a safe place to succeed and a safe place to fail.  We must discipline out of love and not from our anger.  I write this as much to myself as to anyone else.  I procrastinate out of fear.   I am a perfectionist out of fear.  I settle for less than God’s best out of fear. 

I think that Mark Twain said it best, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose application of the word. Consider the flea! — incomparably the bravest of all the creatures of God, if ignorance of fear were courage.” 

Want to know more about what gives me courage? Check out 4 Facts that Change Everything and By Faith.

What helps you say goodbye to fear? Would love to hear from you in the comments.

 

Posted on May 16, 2017 .

My New Checklist

I will run with perseverance the race that was set before me.  (Hebrews 12:1)

I will not stop until I have seized the victory that God has set before me.  (1 Corinthians 15:57 paraphrased)

I will acknowledge that Satan is the Father of Lies and is here to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 8:44 and 10:10 paraphrased)

I will not allow Satan to steal my joy, kill my spirit, or destroy my future.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)  We will serve the Lord win or loss, triumph or failure.

I will acknowledge that I cannot control my children, only influence them.

I will pray daily to be the godly influence I was intended to be.

Posted on April 22, 2017 .

From Death to Life A Personal Testimony

I re-read this post for the first time in over five years…my dad has now been cancer free for five years. What a God we serve. Dad went fromstage 4 cancer to cancer free in six months. What a God we serve. I know this isn’t everyone’s story and I know I won’t understand this side of heaven why it’s not but I do hope you’ll read on….

This morning , prior to writing this, I attended Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.  It is an amazing service as you can tell by the thousands of people who fight Houston traffic to come to church on a Sunday morning.   They could have slept in or spent the morning on the golf course but instead they are here.  Why?  Because in this church there is a feeling of anticipation, there is an excitement, a genuine expectation that God is about to do something great.  This particular morning, Dodie Osteen is speaking and what a testimony it is. 

In 1981 she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given two weeks to live.   She didn’t just survive, she is now 78 and telling her story to countless others in hopes that they might find the same healing that she did.  As I write this, my Dad is also diagnosed with Cancer.  We are all in Houston so that he may undergo chemotherapy and radiation.  I listen closely to the story.  It was around Thanksgiving when she was diagnosed.  She had dropped to 89 pounds and her skin had a tint of yellow.  She described herself as appearing with the body and face of someone well into her nineties.  When she went to the doctor they admitted her to the hospital where she spent nearly a month.  She went home on December 10th, 1981 with the doctor’s prediction heavy on her heart.  She wanted to be out of the hospital. She wanted to be at home but not just for two weeks.  She wanted to see her children marry, to gaze upon the faces of her grandchildren.  She wanted to live.  The doctors had a different diagnosis.  They said regardless of any treatment they tried, two weeks was the most she could hope for.  They couldn’t even find the main tumor her body had so many– so she went home. 

On December the 11th, she and her husband (father of Joel Osteen and then pastor of Lakewood) literally got on the floor on their faces in prayer before God.  He anointed her with oil and they prayed and believed together.  They prayed that the cancer would be cursed of God, shrivel up and die never to return again.  They prayed that God would grant her a long and abundant life of which cancer would no longer be a part.  Then she surrounded herself with pictures and reminders of when she was young.  She wrote letters seeking forgiveness for any harsh words she had said or wrongs committed.  Prompted by the verses “Let there be no unforgiveness in your heart” and “whenever possible live at peace with those around you,” she sought to forgive all those who had hurt her in the past as well.  She wrote a list of scriptures about healing and prayed them over herself each day.  Reading them reminded her of the promises of God that are available to us.  He is faithful to fulfill His promises.  However, just as we must claim the promise of salvation by confessing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we must also lay claim to these promises of health and abundant life through belief and confession of our words.  Our words hold the power of miracles in them, because God’s word not only holds the power to save but to heal on Earth as well.  It is, “A lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105 KJV) 

Why do I write about healing from cancer?  Because, it is about healing and we all need healing.  Our children desperately need healing.  Our families are desperately in need healing.  And Satan, who is here to steal, kill and destroy, would love nothing more than for us to live a life of defeat – a life as the victim not the victor in Christ.  We must remember that Christ has already won the battle.  We are only to claim the prize.  But so many of us, with our thoughts and words (myself included), speak defeat over our families without ever realizing it.  It is a self-fulfilling prophesy that we were never meant to live.  It is with these truths on my heart that I promise, from this day forward, to seek the Lord’s will diligently in prayer.  I pray that my family might live victoriously the life God has called us to and humbly ask that He rise up a nation of great warriors from the wounded youth of our county that my children will truly be a light in a world so filled with darkness.

Posted on April 15, 2017 .

4 Facts that Change Everything

Here are some thoughts from Josh McDowell’s Christ Up Close and Personal video series. May they strengthen your faith so that you may use them to strengthen someone else’s J

  1. The Bible was written over a span of 1,500 years by over 40 authors from every walk of life (kings, poets, philosophers, statesman) and was written in a variety of places (wilderness, dungeon, palaces, military campaigns) and written during both times of war and peace as well as in moods of both joy and sorrow.  It was written on three continents (Asia, Africa and Europe) and in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) and yet it covers hundreds of controversial subjects with harmony and continuity. 
  2. The Old Testament stated that The Messiah would be born of the seed of the woman, the lineage of Shem, the descendants of Abraham, the line of Isaac, the line of Jacob, the tribe of Judah, of the family line of Jesse and of the house of David.  And it’s a matter of historical record that Christ was of the house of David.  Not only that but Psalm 22 predicted in about 1012 BC that the Messiah would be crucified – His hands and feet would be pierced against a tree.  That method of execution was not started until 800 years after that prophesy was written – during the time of the Romains.  Psalm 41 and Zachariah 11 state that Christ would be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver that would be thrown on the floor in the Temple and be used to buy a potter’s field for a burial plot.  Micah 5:2 says that Christ would be born in the city of Bethlehem.  Bethlehem had less that 1000 inhabitants at the time of that prophesy.  Some 333 prophesies were all fulfilled in one individual.  Dr. Peter Stoner worked out the probability that only 8 of these prophesies could be fulfilled in any one individual and his results were confirmed by the American Scientific Association.  The results were 1 in 100000000000000000 for only 8 to have been fulfilled in any one individual.
  3. In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 11 caves near Qumran on the Dead Sea.  40,000 inscribed fragments were discovered and 500 books reconstructed.  All the Old Testament books except Esther.  They had been hidden there around 67 AD when the Romans were invading.  There was a complete Isaiah Scroll that dated back to 125 BC.  Many of the prophesies about Christ are found in Isaiah and we have a complete scroll that dates back well over 100 years before Jesus was even born.
  4. Think about the eyewitness testimony of the apostles.  Many people in history have died for a lie – but they believed it was the truth.  If the resurrection was a lie, the apostles had to know it was a lie.  And yet they died some of the most horrible martyr’s deaths recorded in history.  Up until their deaths they never waivered in insisting they lived with Him (Jesus) and ate with Him for 40 days after the resurrection.  Not only that, they began their ministry in what would have been the hardest place to convince anyone of the resurrection - had it been a lie.  They went back to Jerusalem where anyone could have refuted them if it wasn’t true.  In Acts 2:22, Peter (as did many of the apostles) appealed to the knowledge of a very antagonistic audience.  (They wanted to stone him.)  He said, “Jesus the Nazarene…attested to you by God with powerful, miracles, wonders and signs…which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know…”  Instead of stoning him, they yielded to him.  Acts 2:37 states, “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles – all who have been called by the Lord our God.”  That day 3,000 were added to the church.
Posted on April 7, 2017 .

By Faith

Why build faith in your family?  Because we need power.  We need the never ending, always present, sustaining, transcending, redeeming and everlasting power of the Almighty God.  This job is not easy.  We cannot do it alone.  There was a time in my life when I felt formulas and strategies were enough to be a good parent.  Oh, I went to church, I prayed, I volunteered, I helped, I loved but as much as I sang about His power and I thought I felt His power, I knew nothing.  I was a dead, stale Christian living a dead, stale Christian life.  It wasn’t until my life got really tough and my circumstances got really bad that I was able to begin – and notice I said begin – to tap into the power of the Living God.  My friends, this life is not easy.  Being a parent is not easy.  And we cannot do it alone.  We cannot do it without Him.  For “with faith all things are possible.” (Philippians 4:13)

The following is Hebrews 11:-40 taken from The Message

1-2The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

 3By faith, we see the world called into existence by God's word, what we see created by what we don't see.

 4By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That's what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.

 5-6By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. "They looked all over and couldn't find him because God had taken him." We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken "he pleased God." It's impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

 7By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn't see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.

 8-10By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God's call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.

 11-12By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. That's how it happened that from one man's dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.

 13-16Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

 17-19By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God. Acting in faith, he was as ready to return the promised son, his only son, as he had been to receive him—and this after he had already been told, "Your descendants shall come from Isaac." Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could raise the dead. In a sense, that's what happened when he received Isaac back, alive from off the altar.

 20By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.

 21By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph's sons in turn, blessing them with God's blessing, not his own—as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.

 22By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.

 23By an act of faith, Moses' parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child's beauty, and they braved the king's decree.

 24-28By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God's people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah's camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff. By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king's blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going. By an act of faith, he kept the Passover Feast and sprinkled Passover blood on each house so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn't touch them.

 29By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.

 30By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.

 31By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

 32-38I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more— Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets...Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn't deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

 39-40Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

 

Why do we need Faith?  Because faith has the power to save – to save a person, to save a family, to save a generation.  How do you have faith?  Begin with a simple prayer.  The Bible says if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.   So begin with Lord, I know that I’m a sinner and I need forgiveness from you.  Come into my life.  I make you my Lord and my Savior.  As your Savior He redeems you so that you will one day go to heaven.  As your Lord, you willingly place Him in charge of your life.  Then you must believe - not a wavering belief based on your circumstances, not a faith defined by who you are or what you can do.   But you have a faith that is defined by who He is and what He did on the cross.  Read the Bible daily, pray daily – literally pray verses from His word.  And then believe.  There is a Beth Moore Bible study Believing God that I would highly recommend.  In it she says to write your own Hebrews 11:41.  By faith, (your name)…

 

Posted on April 3, 2017 .

Family Devotionals

Family devotionals are an area that we have done a great deal of experimenting in, re-evaluating, and then trying again. I knew that I wanted to ensure that the family had a time when they could share and talk to each other without the TV on. I also knew that I wanted the children to know that God is a good and loving God. I hoped that the children would develop a true relationship with Jesus — not only trusting in Him as their Savior but as a friend they can turn to. In addition, I knew that each child had come from a very turbulent background, and I must teach each of them that God does not make bad things happen. He wasn’t punishing them. He loves them even more than I do. However, we live in a world where God has allowed us to have free choice and sometimes people make choices that are harmful or hurtful to themselves and others. This was no small undertaking but well worth it. We must have faith to get through the tough times in life and to become the people we are meant to be. This life is more than doing dishes and going to work each day. I knew that I must teach the children that there is hope, and there is something better than this world as we know it.

My mother passed away in 2008. My faith in Christ is the only thing that has gotten me through. I want my children to have the same kind of faith. So, how can you nurture an environment where faith

may grow?

We made several attempts that didn’t work. Below is a summary of what did work:

We began to do what are called “family nights.” This is another idea that I got from Heritage Builders. I purchased a book called Simple Science Family Nights Tool Chest by Jim Weidmann and Mark DeNooy with Kurt Bruner. This method is based on hands-on activities children can do that have a Biblical or moral lesson built in.

One of my favorite devotionals was designed to teach the children about lying. Basically, for this particular lesson you would get a large blanket and spread it out on the floor. Then, you would tell the kids that you were going to have pizza that night for dinner. You would place several large pizza boxes on the blanket. Gather the kids around with plates and drinks ready to eat. However, when the kids open the boxes, they are full of carrot sticks. The kids are disappointed, and you talk about how they felt when someone lied to them and why it is wrong to lie. There are Bible verses to talk about, additional activities, and discussion ideas that relate to lying as well. When you have finished teaching and talking, have real pizzas hidden in the oven and share them as a family.

 Another idea they had that I liked related to Jesus. This would work for a family with a two story house or a stepladder could be used if needed. Essentially, the parent would stand at the top of the stairs and the children would be at the bottom. The parent would tell the children if they could get up the stairs but not touch the stairs or the railing, the whole family would go out for ice cream (or anything else fun). The kids think and eventually figure out that although they can’t get up the stairs on their own, there is nothing preventing the parent from coming down the stairs and carrying the child back up on their back. Then the children would be taken up to the top of the stairs but would neither touch the rail or the stairs in doing so. This is related to Jesus. We can’t get to God on our own because we have all messed up and are sinners. God is perfect and cannot be next to sin. Therefore, the sin has to be punished, forgiven and forgotten so that we can be with God one day in heaven (represented by the top of the staircase). Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. When He died on the cross for our sins, He essentially took our sins and us upon His back and brought us up to God. The picture of the child trying to reach the top of the staircase but being unable to do this on their own is a picture of our needing Jesus to be “carried up” to God. We can’t do it on our own, but with Christ, we can be made right with God.

You can also talk about how this makes Christianity different from any other religion because it is the only religion where God lifts us up to Him instead of our trying to earn our way to God (to be good enough), which is impossible for any of us to do. It is also a good time to talk about guilt with the kids. Many foster kids have so much guilt for things that they can neither help nor change. You can talk about how God doesn’t want us to feel guilty. He just wants us to do our best, and when we mess up, try to do better the next time. He is a God of forgiveness and love. When we commit our lives to Jesus and ask Him to forgive us for what we have done wrong and save us, we are forgiven for everything we have ever done wrong and everything that we are ever going to do wrong. There is no need to go around feeling guilty, only to keep trying and doing our best even when we mess up. If the child has never prayed to commit their life to Christ and would like to do so you can lead them in a simple prayer such as this:

 

Jesus please forgive me for all I have done wrong. I believe that You died on the cross for my mistakes and You rose again. I believe that You are the only way to heaven and I need You. Please come into my heart. I trust You as my savior. I commit my life to You.

If you have never prayed to commit your life to Christ, you can pray the same prayer:

 

Romans 10:9-10 says:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. (NLT)

 

This is the reason that we should have a time when we tell God that we believe in Jesus and need Him to be saved. Yes, of course, He is God and already knows our hearts, but He wants us to have a time when we reach out to Him, admit that we are sinners and that we need Him. That’s the point of praying this prayer. It is the moment when you know that you are forgiven, saved and one day will go to heaven to be with Christ. Just know (and tell your kids) that you must really mean the words to be certain that you are going to heaven. It’s not the words themselves that save you. It is the fact that you are trusting in Jesus alone to go to heaven, admitting that He is the only way and that you need Him.

The hands-on family nights are so much fun and memorable for everyone. There are devotionals for practically every topic and struggle a family might have. In addition to the books, sample devotionals can sometimes be found on their website at www.heritagebuilders.com or in their newsletter.

In addition to occasionally doing the family nights listed on Heritage Builders, we have integrated another step in our system. Often at night we get together for a quick devotional. We gather around and one person asks, “Does anyone have anything they want to pray about or anything that they want to thank God for?” The kids often like to lead, so I keep a running total of who gets to go next. If they don’t ask to lead, I don’t ask them to. It’s their choice. Then everyone that has something to pray about or thank God for shares his or her thoughts. There is no particular order and if you don’t want to say anything it is okay. There is also a lot of talking and laughing during this time. I let things float off topic because we are relating to each other as a family and enjoying spending time together, which was one of the goals from the beginning. Next, we go around and each person prays for or thanks God for something that we had just listed or anything else on their heart. This really helps the younger ones who often like to pray but just don’t know what to pray for. It gives them ideas but still lets them think on their own. Then we read a page from Kids’ Book of Devotions by Mark Littleton or any Bible passage the child leading selects. The devotions are only one page long and have a simple Bible verse and description that kids can understand and relate to. There are 365 devotions included in the book and they focus on doing the right thing or encouraging children to keep going during tough times. I think the messages are perfect for foster kids.

This may sound like a lot of extra effort when you are already tired, stressed and short on time. I can assure you, though, these are the times when your family is bonded together and you learn to love and relate to each other so that when the tough times come there is a relationship to work from instead of only rules.

Posted on October 6, 2014 .

Building Resiliency in Children

Faith.  This single word beautifully summarizes the entire chapter.  I would apologize to those of you who I am most certain I will offend but I honestly do not believe any apologize is necessary.  I would, however, caution you to lay aside your personal prejudices and stereotypes long enough to trudge through this chapter of the book and glean whatever insight possible.  After all, regardless of your personal opinion, one attribute upon which we can all agree is that our children, our foster children, our adopted children desperately need resiliency. 

It is interesting that my mother, who was a licensed professional counselor, once wrote and spoke at a national level about building resiliency in children whose parents are incarcerated.  I can remember sitting in the front row of her session, proud that she was my mother, but with little, if any acknowledgment, of the magnitude of her words.  Now, I sit in my living room struck by the fact that her words have come full circle.  How ironic.  To those of you who have a fear of in-depth Bible based studies, beware.  But before you skip this chapter.  Please understand, my degree is in engineering.  I am analytical.  Scientific.  Unemotional.  And blatantly honest.  I believe there is a high probability that macro-evolution is the means by which God created the universe.  I believe that the Big Bang Theory has all but been confirmed.  I believe that women should have an extremely important role as leaders in the western church and anything less would be hindering the Gospel. I believe that Paul and Peter both spoke of the leadership role of the man in the home to only conform to the Aristotelian order of the home that was made popular (by Aristotle) in the 4th century BC and later became re-popularized in the 1st century BC when women began asserting their independence by doing such heinous acts as taking a lover in the midst of their marriage. (Things men had been doing for years.) I believe that both Paul and Peter encouraged believers to adhere to this hierarchy “for the sake of the Gospel” as stated in Titus 2:5 and 1Peter 3:1.  After all, any household not adhering to the Aristotelian order of the home would have been considered immoral in 1st century AD which would have greatly damaged the credibility of their witness.  This did not mean that they were negating “For there is neither, Jew nor Greek, male nor female...” (Galatians 3:26-3:29) On the flip side of the coin, I believe that abortion is destroying an innocent life and that homosexuality along with every other form of sex prior to marriage, and all forms of sexual sin are not only wrong but a root cause of the breakdown of our families and hence society as we know it today.  I do even, dare I say...vote republican.  Now that I have adequately offended and disengaged my audience, the two remaining readers (who most likely I will be spending Thanksgiving with this year) and I shall continue.

I mention the above dissertation not to polarize the minimal audience remaining but to highlight the apparent paradoxes in my Biblical beliefs.  But perhaps, it would be better to more specifically cite them as cultural paradoxes.  After all, it is our job as believers to sort out the “traditions of man” from those things which are truly Biblical. 

What does this have to do with building resiliency in children? Everything. Faith is the number one cited reason for sustaining oneself through great hardship.  How do we give our children a legitimate faith?  We do this by giving them a faith that is well-balanced, grounded in historical accuracy and seeped in the knowledge that modern science will only accentuate their faith not disparage it.  We give them a faith that holds firmly to Biblical standards without compromising reality.  We do not give them a faith with its head firmly planted in the ground out of fear that at the slightest confrontation it will crumble.  We do not give them a faith comprised solely of disjointed fairy tales and moral parables accompanied by the occasional praise song.  How do we give them a real, vibrant and culturally-aware faith?  We must first experience it for ourselves.  How?  By hard work and fervent study.  If you think you don't have time, think again. This will pay dividends  in the end – both in time and in the lives of your children.  

I would suggest starting with some of the work of David Instone-Brewer.  Instone-Brewer is a senior research fellow at Tyndale House through Cambridge University.  His doctorate is in Rabbinics (study of the 1st Century Judaism) and how it relates to the New Testament.  He has authored over 40 publications and was on the team of translators for the New Living Translation of the Bible.  That said, much of his work is not only enlightening but quite witty with a dry humor of which only the British are most capable.  Some of his research can be found at http://www.visualsermons.co.uk/ in a user-friendly and easy to follow format.  Many of these online papers have been modified to a group study format and linked to videos as well as discussion question at www.Godandsciencecollide.org. His primary web-page at Tyndale House is http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/index.php?page=david-instone-brewer where there are links to not only the visual sermons web-page listed above but to several other websites and publications as well.  This is just a starting place.  There are numerous excellent resources from which to study the Bible.  Search for those that are grounded in history, science, and apologetics so that you might have real answers for the questions your kids will inevitably ask.

My point is this, the faith of our parents is no longer viable for our children.  We live in the information age and the church appears to be the only common establishment that has not manifest signs of coming to terms with this reality.  I state this as an evangelical woman, who spent the vast majority of her life in some form of Christian denomination (Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist) thinking that she knew all there was to know about the Christian faith.  Then, I began to ask that pesky question that our children have asked for years.  Why?  What I came away with was a faith much stronger, more vibrant, and genuinely real.  Be proactive enough to begin answering that question of “why” for your children now before the answer is a bit too little, too late.  Sure, go ahead and do the fun family nights and devotions (several are listed in this book as well) but please don't stop there.  Give them more to hold on to than a catchy song or team building activity.  Give them a Savior – a Savior who is as real, and as relevant today as He was over 2000 years ago.  Give them something to hold on to.  Give them resiliency.

Posted on September 29, 2014 .

Redemption

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It is difficult to know where to begin as I tell my story.  There are so many intricate details each helping to shape the woman I have become today.  Some tragic, many beautiful but all essential pieces in the puzzle that illustrates my identity. The children for which we care have an equally unparalleled, 3-dimensional, symphony which resonates a melody all their own. It is impossible to place into words all that one would need to know to adequately meet all the needs of a child in care.  For each child is different, and their needs equally unique.  As I parented, I learned that to be a good foster parent you must essentially turn your world upside down. Often, to make progress you must make a conscious decision to do the exact opposite that one might with a biological child.  How so? Find the root cause and you will find the source of the behavior.  With a child who has been properly nurtured since infancy, behaviors indicate a need to test limits and assert one's own unique personality.  With a child from trauma, their source is often entirely different. When I was a new parent, it became undeniably clear that I was extremely inadequate and unprepared for the task ahead of me.  So, I read books and watched parenting videos.  Typically these were well-respected materials designed to be used in a the average home environment. I applied the techniques and had somewhat mixed results.  When the kids were in my home, they followed rules, completed chores, used a respectful tone of voice, did their homework and stayed out of trouble in school.  But I noticed a trend.  When they turned 17 they had a deep desire to leave home. And when they did leave, it was often accompanied by drug use, premarital sex and a whole host of other things I would never have wanted for them. Although, they had lofty goals, they struggled incessantly with completing them. They would get a job, then lose a job all within a weeks time.  I wondered what I did wrong.  Granted, I understand both we as a family and they in their lives prior to living with me suffered from tragic circumstances.  But still, why do some prevail and others remain a victim, as though they feel destined to not rise above current or past defeats?  Why do some drag their guilt, shame, heartache, anger, hurt, malice, depression, resentment, low-self esteem...with them as though it is a cross they must bear and others are able to nail it to the cross and move forward?  Why is that? I don't know if I have the right answer but I think I might have a glimpse into what one might consider insight. 

Over and again as I read books written by Cloud and Townsend, they stressed the integral need we have as humans to connect with God and each other. They insisted that it was only within the womb of a loving and safe relationship, safe meaning a person who both loves you unconditionally and holds you accountable in a non-critical way, can a person grow.  They insisted this was unparalleled in helping to overcome depression, guilt, shame and a host of other battles. A natural introvert and typically unemotional person, I trudged through their suggestions, hoping to overcome some of my own struggles and begin to lay down my self-inflected, masochistic tendencies. I sought out what I felt were “safe” people in whom I could confide. And, I risked their rejection as I confessed my failures as a person and a parent. To my surprise, not only did they not reject me but they embraced me and in-turn confided that they had similar shortcomings – struggles with anger, inadequacies as a person and a parent.  In a brief period of time, I came to understand that one of the greatest tools Satan uses to keep us in defeat is silence. When we face our fear of the rejection of man and force ourselves to confess our failures – true failures, not some sugar-coated version of, “Oh, I struggle with being late or I tend to gossip too much,” but those gut-wrenching failures that break our heart on a daily basis, we begin to heal.  Satan can no longer impress upon us that our failures are greater than anyone elses.  He can no longer convince us that we are without hope, unable to take action.  It is in those safe relationships that we begin to have the courage to grow.  We are given a mirror to hold in front of ourselves and if we don't like what we see, we can change it.  We have the strength to change it.  We are no longer alone.

By “safe” relationship, I do not mean someone who doesn't hold you accountable.  It is really quite the opposite.  It is someone you respect, perhaps even admire, but someone who loves you unconditionally and gives you an element of grace coupled with the much needed truth.  They take your hand and walk with you.  They give you time to grow and a support system to which you can cling when you are still too weak to stand on your own.  Simultaneously, I purposefully avoided intimate conversations with individuals who were inclined to be critical.  In other words, I shielded myself from undue blows. I am subconsciously drawn to those individuals who have a critical nature.  Like a moth to a flame, I seek out their approval only to be disappointed when I inevitably fall short.  Quite a few psychologists have written about this tendency from Dr. Sigmund Freud on.  It seems that the older, less developed part of our brain stores our most primitive childhood memories.  This older brain, evolutionarily speaking, acts out of impulse, subconsciously.  It is the only brain that lizards and very basic creatures posses.  However, we don't have to operate in this “old brain” mentality.  We have the “new brain” or part of our brain that is responsible for rational thinking and logical decision making.  It prompts us to choose our relationships carefully and based upon meeting legitimate needs (such as support, love and affirmation) instead of succumbing to the subconscious demands of the old brain which typically seeks out relationships with people who have the positive and negative traits of our parents with a particular affinity for those individuals possessing the negative traits of our parents.  It is thought that the draw of the old brain to these individuals is so we might re-create a self-imposed version of negative childhood experiences allotting us the opportunity, in essence, to “get it right” this time.  In other words, our less developed, subconscious feels an unmet need from childhood – such as approval.  Instead of seeking approval from well-grounded, compassionate individuals we seek it from those least likely to give their approval – individuals with highly critical natures. 

This insight allows us to peer not only into our own psyche and motivation for doing things but that of our children as well.  It explains why women who have come from abusive backgrounds are drawn to husbands who perpetuate the cycle.  It explains why, often times, after a few years of marriage we look up only to declare, “I married my father / mother.”  There is a whole host of analogies and applications that we could construct. However, for the purpose of this book we will keep things fairly simple. If we as adults, have an innate need to recreate what we believe were the “failures” we experienced as children or to seek out individuals who share the negative traits of our parents so that we might attempt to fulfill the unmet emotional needs of our infancy and early childhood, then our children likely have a propensity to do the same.  In order to help them achieve growth and move past the surface level changes I noticed during my first few years as parent, we must teach our children to form genuine attachments with “safe” (compassionate, caring, respectful, accepting) individuals.  In order to do this, first, it is necessary to teach our children to bond or form attachments in-and-of themselves.  Then, we must teach them to consciously seek out safe people with which to form these attachments. If they rely solely on the “old brain,” subconsciously they will be drawn to befriend or form relationships with individuals who possess the negative qualities of their birth parents thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse they experienced as a child.

So what does this have to do with how we discipline a child? Everything. If I have only one goal, it is to help my children learn to form attachments.  For it is in these attachments that they learn to connect with God and with others.  It is what we were created to do. If my method or means of discipline undermines that, I must find a new method. This was once explained to me by the following illustration.  Imagine that you have a prefect lawn (a feat of the imagination around our house) except one weed that keeps springing up.  You get a lawn mower and cut down the weed but no matter how many times you cut it down, it continues to resurface.  A larger lawn mower will in no way help rid your yard of this weed.  You must find the roots – sometimes they might be directly below the surface but often-times they are deep within the lawn and difficult to uproot. When raising children who haven't experienced trauma, the lawn mover approach might be quite affective. And sometimes, a larger lawn mower might be necessary.  But for children whose lives originated seeped in trauma and void of attachments, it is not only ineffective but often harmful.  Just like that lawn mower created only surface level changes.  Discipline that fails to uncover and uproot the cause of the behavior will create only surface level  changes as well.  When the child is no longer within the structured confines of your home, the “progress” will deteriorate and regression will occur.

Unfortunately, finding the root to a problem is a difficult and tedious process. However difficult, it is the only path by which lasting growth can occur.  This is accomplished through intentionally creating opportunities from which a relationship may grow such as utilizing the five love languages approach (outlined briefly in Part Two of the book), family activities, game nights, vacations, and being an active listener.  Observation of your adolescent's behavior patterns while prayerfully seeking God's direction will also prove indispensable.  Another route by which some adolescents achieve healing is through the process of Theorphostic Prayer Ministry.  This approach was formulated by a licensed professional counselor who was also a Baptist minister. He was disheartened by the lack of lasting progress he saw in many of his clients and developed a more prayer-based, introspective approach to counseling.  Many churches offer this free of charge.  The “public membership” link under the membership tab at www.theorphostic.com lists providers in each state.  I first learned of this ministry from Mike Walton, who is currently the director of Benchmark Family Services in Lubbock, Texas and was previously a houseparent for the highly therapeutic cottage at the Texas Boys Ranch.  Upon his testimony regarding the numerous lives permanently changed for the better by this ministry, I encouraged some of my children to take part.  I can personally attest to the positive impact this can make in a child's life, particularly those that have not been able to find healing in the more traditional counseling methods.

So in the meantime, do you simply give up on consequences altogether?  Absolutely not, be firm but kind and administer consistent and fair consequences tailoring the discipline as close to the offense as possible whenever feasible.  But, do not make the mistake I did and believe that you are actually changing any core behaviors.  No, true change comes from discovering the roots.  I think of it much like a case of strep throat.  Of course you administer cough drops as needed, but you never assume that cough drops do anything to rid the child of the infection.  It takes antibiotics and time for a case of strep throat to be healed.  It takes a proper diagnosis of the problem followed by intentional treatment for emotional healing to occur as well. This happens most readily when a parent has been proactive in their attempt to help the child begin to form attachments and does not let an emotional reaction to the symptom (negative behavior displayed by the child) serve to further barricade the child within themselves.  This is, of course, easier said than done.

In addition to creating opportunities for relationship to development, it helps if we understand the cycle from which attachments form.  It is not a great abstract concept far outside the grasp of common man.  In fact, it is rather simple, almost intuitive. When an infant is born, they rely solely on their caregivers to meet every need. This is a beautiful catalyst to the forming of attachments.  You see when the infant is hungry, expresses that need and then finds their need met by a nurturing parent, attachment begins to develop.  Over time, as their needs are consecutively met in a caring and consistent manor they learn to trust, rely on, and attach to that caregiver.

 

However, when their needs are frequently and intentionally ignored or met in an abusive manor, the opposite occurs and the child begins to develop, to some degree, an attachment disorder – no longer sensing a need to connect with those around them.  In this, empathy is stagnated and a self-focused, sometimes to the point of narcissistic, self emerges.

In this cycle, we find encouragement.  What can be defined, can also be replicated. Recent developments in in neuroscience suggest a great aptitude for neuroplasticity.  Our brain, once thought to be a static organ after early childhood, has been found to actually have an amazing ability to change throughout the life of an individual. This can occur at both a physical level that encompasses the structure or anatomy of of the brain and at a physiological, or functional level. It is impossible to encapsulate all of the previously unforeseen opportunities for growth. If we can replicate this cycle, we may be able to re-activate a child's ability to form attachments. Another bit of encouragement is that the cycle does not have to be triggered by a need in the literal sense of the word, a perceived need may be equally advantageous to perpetuating the cycle of attachment. As the caregiver, we must meet as many needs or perceived needs as possible to simulate the pattern that should have been established during infancy. This is strategically different that an approach one might use with a child who grew up in a traditional home environment and is developmentally capable of forming appropriate attachments. In other words, if a child who has not experienced neglect in early childhood has a perceived need, we may or may not meet that need so as not to solicit an attitude of entitlement.  If a child who was neglected early in life expresses a need to a caregiver, even if it is only a perceived need, it is typically in the best interest of the child to meet that need to the best of our ability.  This does, of course, take some degree of discernment, but if no harm will come from it, often it is better to invest a bit of time, money or energy so as to begin to drudge a path by which attachment will occur.  Although simple, this can be a painstakingly slow process.  Each need perceived by the child should be seen by the caregiver as a potential for further excavating the path to attachment.

One universal need we all experience is that for validation.  This can often occur in the context of actively listening to a child. Although, it does take both practice and additional effort on the part of the parent, practicing active listening is a deliberate step toward emotionally connecting with your child. This process consists of stopping what you're doing, making eye contact, rephrasing what your child has relayed to you, asking if there is anything you misunderstood or that they would like to add, empathizing with their feelings and asking questions.  It is not assuming that you know how they feel or giving unsolicited advice. This is difficult. And I am speaking to myself as much as to anyone else, but it helpful. It should also be out of a genuine concern not appear rehearsed or forced. It is odd, but as I was writing this paragraph, my teenage daughter, who knew I was working on the book but was unaware of the content of the chapter stated, “You know what would help foster parents, if they would stop and listen to kids, get to know them as a friend, before they try to provide structure. Then, they would actually know what was going on.  Because, then they (the child) could start to attach.  You can't attach to someone you don't trust.” Honest to goodness.  That's what she said.  And perhaps she said it much better than I can.

In summary, what does all of this mean? Healing comes through intentional activities designed to promote growth and implemented within the safety net of a compassionate relationship.  To accomplish this, we must first spark the innate proclivity toward attachment found within each person by reactivating a developmentally appropriate attachment cycle – acknowledging and meeting both perceived and legitimate needs. Once adequate time and opportunities for relationship have been established, attachment will begin to develop. With this advancement, the child will be within the proper catalyst for growth to occur during, but certainly not limited to, such activities as counseling, support groups, theosophic prayer ministry and intentional active listening on the part of the caregiver. Although the journey to attachment is often wearisome, it must be the ultimate goal of any foster/adoptive parent.  After all, it is the ability to connect to God and each other that brings with it the ultimate victory – redemption. 

Posted on September 22, 2014 .