The “Best of” Christmas Posts – Tips to simplify, celebrate, serve, cherish, and give

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I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of my most popular or favorite posts from the past Christmas seasons. Enjoy these over several days. I’ll be sharing new posts soon. Currently we are wrapping up our first semester of homeschooling. I have much to share with you on what the Lord has been working in my heart.

I pray your Christmas season is off to a beautiful start!!

18 Ways Your Family Can Serve Others At Christmas

The Christmas season seems to blow in like a blizzard and bury us with piles of to-do’s. The key for me is to plan ahead just a little. To determine before life gets too hectic what our family will do.

Give the Gift They Don’t Know To Ask For

“I have come to realize that my boys only retain a small portion of what I speak to them. My words are granted only a few seconds to slip in before the door of opportunity slams. Written words aren’t blocked by doors, they slide under the crack of the door. There they remain and can be taken in slowly over time and multiple times.

A letter from a parent to a child is a tool that plants words deep into the soil of the soul. Those words remain with them for life. When the words are most needed, they are waiting to be unearthed. Resurrected to life in the heart of the child.”

My Favorite Christmas TraditionA Father’s Blessing ( For single mothers and widows, a mother’s blessing is equally as powerful and life-giving)

It’s a gift slipped into the Christmas tree. A letter. Words. To be opened with care and treasured for life. A gift that won’t be quickly forgotten. A gift that might not hold the wow factor, but a gift that will give more than we ever actually realize.

When You Are Weighed Down By Getting it Right at Christmas

Christmas can be simpler than we make it. There is freedom in walking in simple ways. In our home some things we do every year, and some things change each year. A tradition is a gift when it is enjoyed, but when it ties you down, it’s no longer a gift. This post shares a few books and activities we enjoyed one Christmas.

How To Not Miss Christmas

“We’ve all had that kind of Christmas. The one that seems to rush by only for you to look back and feel you missed it all. The one that you feel you are on the Christmas treadmill, checking off the list, racing from obligation to obligation, panting for air.

Then you wonder, did you miss Christmas? Did you show your kids what Christmas really means?

Here’s the secret to not missing Christmas. The absolute certain way that you will not miss it.”

Fighting the Christmas Pressure to Impress

“When we fall to the pressure of our culture in our gift giving, it becomes about us.  The attention is taken from the gift recipient and placed back on us. We might earn favor or impress, but we lost our humility. Christmas is the greatest picture of humility the world has ever seen.

If we want to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, it starts with modeling humility.”

When Your Christmas Season Doesn’t Go As Planned

Sometimes when our Christmas looks nothing like we planned, we experience Him like we never imagined. Isn’t that the real gift of Christmas?

15 Non-Toy Gifts To Give At Christmas – a most popular post!! The title says it all.

When It’s Time To Break Tradition -Why The Wish List Needs To Go Away

“He came to do. He doesn’t need our to-do’s.

Instead of filling our to-do’s with finding the perfect gifts for our kids, planning magical surprises to delight, scouring social media for the latest, newest, creative expression of Christmas magic, turn it over to him. Let go of the pressure to create magic. The magic is here. Waiting to be found. Hunt for it rather than burden yourself with creating it.”

25 Advent Calendar Days of Memories and Experiences

I’ve found a secret to fighting this type of Christmas stress.

Simplify.

With our advent calendar, we have simplified our Christmas, while making our season more meaningful and intentional. It only takes a little extra planning the first year, then each year that follows, you will thank yourself for making your holiday less stressful and more memorable.

Gifts for the True Gift of Christmas

Room in the Inn of Our Hearts

Dear Boys, When You Compare What You Get For Christmas With What Someone Else Gets

“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.”CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

 

What Really Happens When We Flatter Our Friends on Social Media

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Proverbs 29:5

A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.

A friend does something nice for someone. It is posted on social media for the world to see. The “likes” abound. The flattery rains down. The person doing the nice deed is covered in praise and adoration. At first glance there seems to be nothing wrong with this, right? Or is there? Are we actively laying a net for our friend?

What is the difference between encouragement, praise, and flattery? Is there really anything wrong with publicly praising a friend? Possibly.

There is a secret part within us that craves approval. We want to be known, loved, and accepted. Social media intensifies this craving by feeding us likes and tangible approvals. It tells us we are loved, valued, accepted. We are cool, not different. We fit in, we are popular. When the likes pile up, we feel validated and accepted. We are given fake food for our soul. Our giftedness is displayed and recognized.

When we post praises in the form of flattery to another, we are actively laying the net for our friend. And in some cases, we are laying a trap for ourselves. In some cases, we aren’t truly praising out of the goodness of our heart. Rather, there is something hiding in our own hearts that finds its way out in an attempt to cover what is hiding in our hearts.

When I am on the brink of posting a public flattering praise of another, I must ask myself what my real motive is. Am I seeking attention for my own self by showing the world my goodness in encouraging the good in another? This might sound harsh, but upon examination of the deception in each of our hearts, we may be surprised at what we find hiding.

At times we use social media flattery to gain the approval and affection of the person in some way. I believe we do this not realizing it’s what we are doing.

Sometimes it’s our jealousy that drives us to publicly flatter a person. It covers our hidden jealousy and makes us appear better on the outside than we feel on the inside. If I’m stepping on your toes, I’m sorry. Everything I’m writing, I’ve done myself. I’m not writing in judgement. I’m writing from conviction. The Lord recently opened my eyes to what I was doing when I flattered friends and family rather than seek to encourage them.

At times we subconsciously praise another online because that is what we ourselves want. We desire the public affirmation and accolades. So we do what we want. We are in some way enticing others to praise us back.

Again, I’m writing out of the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my own life. Recently, I posted on Instagram and Facebook this happy birthday post to my husband. It was full of flattery words and sentiments. I meant every word. I don’t believe I held impure motives. However, did I not lay a net for him? Did I not feed the part within him that could crave more and more the attention and approval of others? Possibly.

A friend sent me a beautiful gift. I posted her praise as I boasted of my gift. What was my motive in that? Is there a motive in hiding? A hidden sin? Possibly.

Psalm 12: 1-3

Help, Lord, for no faithful one remains; the loyal have disappeared from the human race. They lie to one another; they speak with flattering lips and deceptive hearts. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks boastfully.

Flatter:

verb (used with object)
1.to try to please by complimentary remarks or attention.

2.to praise or compliment insincerely, effusively, or excessively:

She flatters him by constantly praising his books.

3.to represent favorably; gratify by falsification:

The portrait flatters her.

4.to show to advantage:

a hairstyle that flatters the face.

5.to play upon the vanity or susceptibilities of; cajole, wheedle, or beguile:

They flattered him into contributing heavily to the foundation.

6.to please or gratify by compliments or attentions:

I was flattered by their invitation.

7.to feel satisfaction with (oneself), especially with reference to an accomplishment, act, or occasion:

He flattered himself that the dinner had gone well.

When you read the definitions of flattery, it doesn’t leave a good feeling. Notice in definition 5 the use of the flattery – to get something from the other. Or in definition 1 to try to please. The use of flattery is usually manipulation in hiding or an attempt to gain favor or approval.

Satan takes what is good and twists it into something he can use. That is what he’s done with the rampant social media petting of others.

Social media praise, excessive praise of another, and petting and coddling of a friend’s goodness, generosity, and kindness is not encouragement.  It is flattery. The Bible warns us of flattery and flatterers.

The most loving thing we can do for that friend is to refuse to flatter them and feed an appetite within them that craves the applause of man and leads to a life driven by the fear of man rather than the fear of God.

Luke 20:20-26

20 They[a] watched closely and sent spies who pretended to be righteous,[b] so they could catch Him in what He said,[c] to hand Him over to the governor’s rule and authority. 21 They questioned Him, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You don’t show partiality,[d] but teach truthfully the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

23 But detecting their craftiness, He said to them,[e] 24 “Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?”

“Caesar’s,” they said.

25 “Well then,” He told them, “give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

26 They were not able to catch Him in what He said[f] in public,[g] and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

Please notice the use of flattery here. “Teacher, we know you speak and teach correctly and you don’t show partiality.” They came with an agenda, they began with flattery. Flattery was used to attempt to disarm Jesus. To make Him less effective. Jesus recognized their use of flattery as a means of manipulating Him into giving an answer that would trap Him.

You see flattery clouds our senses. Its perfumed words cover the intention in hiding. I’d go so far as to say the majority of us flattering others on social media aren’t even aware of our hidden agendas when we display this. But the Lord will reveal if you ask Him. He will poke and poke.

Romans 16:18 “for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.”

The spirit of flattery should be ripped to shreds. It’s a most powerful secret weapon of satan and my desire is to bring into light what is hiding in the darkness. The trap we are laying for our friends and the trap we are walking into ourselves.

Here’s where I have wrestled through this. One of my spiritual gifts is encouragement. How do I know the difference between encouragement and flattery? Along the same lines, another gift I have is discernment. There is a fine line between being discerning and judgemental. Similarly, there is a fine line between being a flatterer and an encourager.

Here’s a great article on the difference between encouragement and flattery.

Scripture on flattery:

1 Thessalonians 2:5-6 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness– nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

Romans 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

Psalm 12:2 They speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.

Proverbs 7:21-23 With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, Until an arrow pierces through his liver; As a bird hastens to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life.

I’m not suggesting we stop using kind words to build up our friends. Flattery is not simply kind words that build another up. Encouragement builds, flattery breaks.

Proverbs 16:4 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Sharing a kind word is offering a sweet gift. But a kind word shared in secret may protect our friend more than a public display of affection that starts a chain reaction.

Sharing a word of encouragement is crucial to the body. We should never stop building up others. But we must test our motives and our methods. Are we speaking the truth for the benefit and good of our friend with nothing to gain or advantage for ourselves? If so, we should encourage away. If there is the slightest twinge that we are flattering rather than encouraging, we should stop, pray, and seek the wisdom of the Lord.

When My Tradition is at the Expense of Another’s Family

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My sister told me a story that I can’t get out of my head. She was paying for her groceries at Wal-Mart. She began asking the woman scanning her groceries about her Thanksgiving plans, her work schedule, and the frenzy of shopping around the corner that would take place at Wal-Mart.

The woman began to share about her personal family situation- divorce, split families, a 44-year-old single mom. Because of the volume of business at Wal-Mart, she would be required to work over the Thanksgiving holidays. She would be working Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Her 14 year-old will sit at home by himself while she works Thanksgiving Day from 10-7. She has no other place for him to go. She requested off, she’s worked there 21 years. The answer was no. Mandatory for all.

I’m not upset at Wal-Mart, or any store for that matter. They didn’t create this. We did. Our materialism. Our focus on gifts. Our clinging to traditions. That is what has created a scenario for the stores that places them in a position to capitalize on the opportunity.

In my mind, I’ve created a picture of this woman and her son. I see her 14-year-old like I picture my Jacob and my heart breaks. God won’t let me shake this image I’ve painted. For this particular woman, maybe I’m off. Maybe I’ve romanticized her story in my heart. Maybe not. Regardless of this one story, I think God won’t let me shake it because our world is full of stories like this we fail to see.

I tend to live in my own little bubble at times. Thankful for my little world, focusing on the blessings that abound in my home. But there is a larger world outside my little bubble that breaks my heart when I allow myself to go there. It’s easier to live blind to the hurting world around us. I’m certain that is not the way of Jesus.

Right now I’m sitting in a cozy guest room at my mom’s house in Georgia. I’ve enjoyed days of lounging, laughing, and feasting, surrounded by the love of family. It’s easy for me to focus right here. To thank God for these blessings. But He keeps bringing back the picture of this woman and her son. He loves them as He loves me.

Thanksgiving Day on social media we will see feeds filled with beautiful family photos. The captions will say “Thankful” “Blessed” “Family”. I will love scrolling and seeing these beautiful pictures filling my feed. But there are others all around us who don’t have the picture perfect looking family. Many will feel thankful still. Many will not. Many will feel blessed minus the Rockwell portrait, many will not.

I was reading in Matthew this morning as I reflected on how thankful I am today. Thankful for my family near and far. I read this and then God brought to mind the lady I’ve never met from Wal-Mart.

Matthew 12:46-50

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

I don’t know if this woman is a believer or not. I don’t know anything about her. But I know that she has captured my heart.

Until 4 years ago, one of my favorite days of the entire year was Black Friday. Every year as long as I can remember I shopped on Black Friday. Either with my mom, sister, or friends. I rarely missed one. Thanksgiving night we’d scour the sale ads, make our strategic mapping of the course, then spend an entire day shopping.

Three years ago Seeking Christmas was published. I thought I was writing Seeking Christmas to help families discover the true magic of Christmas by giving tools to create traditions that focused on what Christmas really means. Today I look back and see that Seeking Christmas changed me. It was a pivotal turning point. The changing process wasn’t overnight. It’s been over years.

Part of why I wrote Seeking Christmas was to counter the commercialism and materialism of our culture. It creeps into our families in an effort to entangle us. While I’m a huge proponent of traditions, I also am a fan of breaking traditions and creating new ones. Sometimes we cling to something because we believe we can’t break tradition. It’s what we’ve done forever, so we must continue on. When we stay in that place, we miss out on creating more meaningful moments. The clinging to tradition can be stifling. It can choke out what might have been.

The year Seeking Christmas was published I attempted the traditional Black Friday shopping, but my spirit was unsettled. Each store I went into I saw all that is wrong with Christmas. The carts filled to overflowing with gifts, the maxed out credit cards, the pushing and shoving to make sure you get the item you came for with no thoughts to the others wanting the same item, the honked horns at stolen parking spaces. For the first year in my shopping life, I left Black Friday without buying a single thing. And I felt sad. I was sad at what had always been that I’d not clearly seen. I was sad that I spent my morning out supporting the very thing I hoped to change within families.

The year after Seeking Christmas was published, I broke my Black Friday tradition for the first time ever. The reason is that it didn’t coincide with the heart of my message. How could I write about celebrating what Christmas is truly about and then spend a day shopping and feeding the very thing that is wrong with Christmas? That year we created a new tradition instead of going out shopping, we would stay in creating. We crafted and made handmade gifts. Each year since has been a little different.

I thought I would grieve the giving up of Black Friday. I thought I would feel I was missing out. The opposite happened. It freed me. Over the past several years, we’ve focused less and less on material gifts. Yes, we give our kids plenty of gifts, but we give more experiences than toys. We give them gifts of opportunities, memories, and trips. These usually aren’t bought in the store.

Five years ago you never would’ve convinced me I would ever give up Black Friday shopping. Like many things, when we feel the prick of God in our spirit and we act on it, He blesses us.

I’m not saying Black Friday shopping is wrong. But there are times God will poke us and He is calling us to something that will cause us to walk against the current we are living in. That is what He did in my life and continues to do.

God continues to poke me at things that others freely enjoy and He gives me the option of listening to Him or following what others seem free to do. I’ve found that my soul rests still when I listen to the poke of God. When I resist the poke and go along with everyone else, the gratification is temporary. And the poke comes back.

This Thanksgiving would you consider the lady in Wal-Mart who is required to work because the demand for store hours is such that she will work 3 straight mandatory days? If there is any way you can not shop on Thursday or Friday, would you kindly consider it? Our dollars send the loudest message of all to stores. When we spend, we tell them we like what they are doing. When we don’t spend, we tell them we want to see change.

Family is the heart of civilization. Family is the beautiful gift our Creator gave us. What is most important is family. And according to Jesus, our “family” isn’t only by blood or marriage relations, it’s by those who follow the will of the Father.

To honor family, we must honor all families. To cherish our own at the sake of another seems selfish. To spend our money on a day or days that others are forced to work when they should be home loving on their own family seems unfair.

If God has poked your spirit over Black Friday shopping, may this be the year you follow the poke? It’s only two days of prolonging the purchase. Waiting until Saturday. Delaying our desires for the sake of another. It seems small and insignificant. Like our few dollars make any difference. But they do. I believe God multiplies our offering of restraint to bless the families at work on these days from our spending.

Here’s a radical idea. Maybe a new tradition is going out on Black Friday, but not spending a dime. And all we do is go to the people, the ones working, and bless them in some way. Pray with them or over them. Hand them a gift, take them a plate of food, give them a gift card. If you love being out on Black Friday, but you have felt a poke, maybe it’s time to create a new tradition.

 

 

The Election Is Over, Now What?

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I have no idea what God is doing nor will I even attempt to understand His ways and His plans. But watching the coverage of the Presidential election left me humbled. God did what the world thought was impossible. How. like. God.

How like God to take an unlikely and move a nation. Don’t we see all through His Word how He loves to take ones we wouldn’t choose and use them for His purposes?

I found myself convicted throughout the process of the past several months. I began as a never Trumper. I was certain our candidate should look and act a certain way, to fit into my mold. I prayed against Trump, not considering God’s Will. Rather I wanted my will be done.

When Trump became the Republican choice, I began to pray earnestly. That is when God began to work in my own heart. He began to break my pride. That was step one. During this season of prayer, I had a dream one night. I was sitting on a back row of a press conference type gathering where Donald Trump was speaking. The room was filled with important people and I watched from the back with my critical eye on Trump. To my shock he was nothing like I had judged him to be. In fact he was kind, courteous, and gracious. In my dream, I said, “He is NOTHING like I thought.” Then I woke up. And I heard God whispering to my heart, “You don’t see what I see.”

During the campaigning a friend said to me, “They are beating Trump up over things he did and said a decade ago. I can’t imagine if anyone used things against me that I said 10 years ago.” That statement struck me. 10 years ago I was a young believer. Honestly, most of the time I didn’t act like much of a christian. I didn’t know my Bible very well. I knew I’d placed my faith in Christ, but I didn’t know how to live a godly life well yet. I did and said things now that grieve me. Then going further back into my past, I hate to think about the days before I knew Christ as my Savior.

Today you will read a great deal of words on the internet about thoughts on America. The majority of evangelical christians voted for Trump as he aligned with our christian values when placed against the Clinton platform. Regardless how today had turned out, our nation would be split.

You will see some Hillary supporters lashing out or passive-aggressively making comments. You will see some Trump supporters gloating. But let’s do neither. Let’s praise God. And let’s pray as fervently today and everyday as we did to get here.

I don’t think in history, christians have prayed as fervently and as united as we have over this election. A friend and I got on the phone at 5 am this morning to praise God together in prayer. She mentioned how Franklin Graham was pivotal in this process. His Decision America tours gathered us to unite in prayer to call out to God, to repent, to plead for our nation. I joined Franklin Graham’s live Facebook prayer. Chills covered my body as I watched the numbers climb and thought when in the world have believers ever had the ability or used it to unite like this in prayer. This is the power that changes history. This is the power available to us that we often fail to use.

Today, I challenge us to not let out a sigh of relief and sit back in our seat of complacency glad it’s all over. Instead let’s keep the pace of prayer we’ve held. Let’s pray without ceasing. Let’s continue days of fasting for our nation. And let’s be the people He’s created us to be in a hostile world.

Let’s pray for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Let’s pray for the Supreme Court appointments. Let’s pray for God’s cleansing of the evils of our country and the world. We can’t stop praying now. In fact, our prayers should actually increase now.

Let’s show the world love, grace, and kindness. As we watched the election coverage last night, one of my boys said, “I don’t like like this process because it makes me judge people. When I know people like someone that I think is against Christians, it makes me think less of them. And it makes me not really see their heart which is what I need to see.”

I thought about that. There is truth in his words. We all pretty much think we are right. Our enemy wants to divide us over issues. We have a choice with what to do with today and each day after. We can let him win by allowing gaps in our relationships over views. Or we can decide that our relationships are more important.

One final thought. I want to go back to my first statement in this post. I don’t claim to know God’s purpose and plan. Trump might be an incredible President. He might be a horrible President. We don’t know. But it’s obvious that God appointed him as it is only of God that he is where he is. Trump is surrounded by godly counsel and wise men and women. Whichever way Trump goes, doesn’t mean God wasn’t in this. We need to pray for these leaders.

I’m reminded of a post I wrote last fall. I’m calling out to us to be rebels for God. I wrote these words last year and believe in them even more now:

“Do we believe God is full of compassion, abounding in love, and slow to anger? Yes!!! Do we believe that often God shows mercy when we show repentance and withholds His judgement? Yes!!!

What can we do? How can we change the world? It’s so easy. It’s so easy, yet we forget. We pray.

Tim Keller says in Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God, “Prayer has been called ‘rebellion against the world’s evil status quo.’”

It’s time we lead a rebellion against the world’s evil status quo. We can’t stand by and watch this nation fall under the hand of God’s judgement when He is in His great mercy giving us time to turn back to Him. He desires we return to Him.

Here’s how we can’t lead a rebellion. With words of anger or hate, with words of fear and condemnation, with violence. Our God has never shown us that as the example of bringing His people to Him. It’s His loving kindness that brings us to repentance.

Will you become a rebel with me? A rebel in a good girl’s skin? A rebel in a good man’s skin?

Our nation can’t tell its right hand from its left hand right now. We need to boldly proclaim a message of repentance. We need to show fierce love by pointing to the cross. But the very first thing we do is pray. We pray for God to change the hearts of our nation, for God to open up eyes and stir up desire to follow Him and His ways. Pray for God to reveal and manifest in ways to His people that draw them to Him. Pray for a turning back point where our nation honors God and follows Him wholeheartedly.”

Last night was a victory in many ways. But we can’t stop praying now. Pause, praise, pray. Pray without ceasing for this great nation. Pray for the lost to find hope in Christ. I still believe the end is nearer than we believe.

Because I love you I’m going to say this to you.

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Hearing the truth isn’t easy. Sometimes the truth stings, burns, and hurts deeply. Sometimes before healing begins, truth must enter the wound first. The wound is already there. The truth doesn’t inflict the wound, but the wound is secretly infected. So the truth must enter and purge out the bacteria. The purifying burns.

What I’m about to say will sting.

Let’s start with what scripture says…

2 John 4-11

Truth and Deception

I was very glad to find some of your children walking in the truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father. So now I urge you, dear lady—not as if I were writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk according to His commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: you must walk in love.[c]

Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.[d] This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves so you don’t lose what we[e] have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who does not remain in Christ’s teaching but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t say, “Welcome,” to him; 11 for the one who says, “Welcome,” to him shares in his evil works.

Jude 3-4

Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.

Jude 16-18

These people are discontented grumblers, walking according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage.

17 But you, dear friends, remember what was predicted by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.” 19 These people create divisions and are unbelievers,[h] not having the Spirit.

Truth and love must not be separated. Look at verse 6 again in 2 John before we go further: “ And this is love: that we walk according to His commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: you must walk in love.[c]

Love is walking according to His commands. This must remain at the forefront during the conversation that will follow. What is walking according to His commands? It is following Truth.

We are also warned about deceivers. We are warned throughout God’s Word to be on the lookout for deceivers. Is this unloving or judgemental? No, it is not. We are guarding our hearts so our love doesn’t run cold.

In this age of constant information, it’s easy to find ourselves worn down from the beating of the same drum over  a story. Our attention spans are short online. We’ve heard it and read it from 10 different viewpoints and we are ready to move on. This also leads us to a numbing of our senses. I imagine you’ve read many thought-provoking, disturbing, and heart wrenching articles on the Jen Hatmaker situation.

The Lord keeps pushing me towards writing about this and here is why. Truth and love go to together. The Word of God is being twisted and distorted. And I fear many of you will be deceived. I love my readers. I love this community. And there is this mama bear burning inside me that is flaming mad about the deception going on.

I believe the end is very near. As in nearer than we can imagine. I believe it is exactly why many Christians are feeling so fatigued and worn down. It’s not that evil has necessarily increased (though I think it has), it’s that a veil is being removed and we are seeing what has always been.

Jen Hatmaker has a ginormous following. This in itself is dangerous. When you serve a platform her size, standing for Truth in this culture is a most difficult task. (In fact, I will lose subscribers after this post. It happens every time.) This culture isn’t truth-driven. This culture claims to be love-driven, but it’s not. If we were love-seekers, we’d be truth-seekers. You simply cannot separate love and truth. To lead with lies is to hate.

I believe Jen Hatmaker and her husband have been deceived and blinded by satan and this breaks my heart. We each must guard our hearts from deception. How? By knowing the Word of God. When we know truth, we don’t believe lies.

When Jesus spoke of the end of the age in Matthew 24: 10-14, he said, “Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony of all nations. And then the end will come.”

When I read Jen’s original interview, my heart literally sank. It was so full of theological error I felt my head spinning. How could she possibly be a follower of Christ and believe these lies? Not only believe but take a bold, public stance. She is a leader, a teacher, she is held to a high standard.

You simply cannot be a true believer, a true disciple of Christ and believe and teach what Hatmaker is teaching. (Refer back to 2 John 9).

All I could think about as I read her words were how many women follow her that don’t know their Bibles well enough to realize she is speaking against the Word of God. If Jen Hatmaker says it, they will take it as truth. This should never be. We should test everything against the Word of God. Don’t take my word for anything I’m writing. Take it to scripture. Test it there.

Satan has done this same trick from the beginning. He takes God’s Word and manipulates it. So it carries some truth in it so as not to be obvious, then he twists it in order to deceive us.

If you don’t know your Bible, you will read the Hatmaker’s words and think they made a decent case for their position. Reading our Bible is crucial in these days. The end is nearer every day. We have to know our Bibles!

When I read the words of Brandon Hatmaker, my mouth hit the floor. Here’s a sampling of these shattering words.

“To be clear…

Jen and I are 100% on the same page regarding her recent interview about our love and hope for the LGBTQ community. This is a journey we have been on together. We both believe a same-sex marriage, as a life-long monogamous commitment, can be holy before God.”

Holy? He called sin holy?

He goes on to talk about the pain and suffering in this world and their journey to “help”. Well, how about we start with the gospel? That’s always a great place to start. Love and truth. The gospel. Love poured out.

He continues, “We’ve seen so much pain among the LGBTQ community: Suicidal teenagers. Divided families. Split churches. So. Much. Pain.” Again, how about using truth in love? You know why there is so much pain, suicide, split families and churches in this community? It’s because they are living separated from Christ. Christ is the bridge the Hatmakers need to be preaching. They love to talk about healing by building bridges, did they forget about the bridge of the cross? It’s been built, but we have to choose to walk across that bridge. The consequences of sin is death. Yes, living a life of sin will bring pain, death, and heartache.  They are leaving out the cross and trying to find a new solution to a problem that arose in the garden. It’s called sin. God gave us the solution already. But the deceiver is spinning us around the issue so we can’t get to the root and ultimately the solution.

Sin brings death. But the gift of God brings eternal life. What the LGBT community needs is christians to pour love on them with the truth. We love them by treating them as created in the image of God. We love them by telling them they are living apart from Christ and the way to Him means we must deny ourselves. The best thing I read on the internet last week was this article. Please take the time to read it. Written from a former lesbian who gave her life to Christ and realized she had to walk away from that lifestyle in order to receive Christ.

The Bible tells us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross. To deny ourself is to lay down the sins we love so that we can pick up the cross. That cross represents true grace. Unmerited favor. When we accept Christ, we don’t continue in our life of sin. Yes, we will stumble. Yes, we will continue to sin. But we don’t remain in our known sin patterns. The beauty is that when we surrender to Christ, we are given a Helper, the Holy Spirit.

What was impossible now becomes possible. All things are possible through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13) Without Christ, we can’t fight sin. With the Holy Spirit living inside us, He gives us strength to walk away from our sin. It’s beautiful. It’s love. And it’s truth.

The Bible is clear that when we come to Christ for salvation, we first repent. We can’t become a christian without a turning away from our sin. A confession, a surrender of the sins we love, and a commitment to let God give us the strength to walk in His light, which is away from sin.

It’s no different than a thief. Say they’ve lived a life of stealing. They see the light, they want Christ. They confess, ask forgiveness, and repent. They turn away from a life of stealing. They can’t be in Christ and continue to live a life of stealing.

An adulterer, same philosophy. A murderer. To come to Christ for the forgiveness of sins, we must turn away from those sins. It’s only in the homosexual conversation that we are now saying, “It’s ok, you don’t have to turn away from your sin. You can still be in Christ and continue in your life of sin.”

This is why what the Hatmaker’s have done is so devastating. There is no gray area in scripture about homosexuality. It is a sin. God calls it sin. What satan has done so brilliantly is to begin to tell us that it’s not sin. We are born that way or it’s “holy” as the Hatmaker’s believe.

I believe the reason God is pressing me to write on this topic is because of the strong allegiance I’ve seen to the Hatmakers. Her supporters are clinging to her for dear life. They are waving their support banners and believing every word she says. You know the most loving thing we can do for our christian brothers and sisters? It’s to reveal the lie, proclaim the truth, and pray for the deceivers and the deceived.

We should give no man, or woman, our unhindered devotion. That is idolatry. And that is what is happening here. People love Jen Hatmaker so much, they have set her up on their altar of worship. Instead, we should love her enough to pray for the deception she is under. To pray she sees the truth and turns back to the Word of God. And pray for those under her influence.

When we know Truth, we won’t be deceived. Guard your heart from deception. Unfollow those who you know are deceivers of Truth, don’t applaud them. Pray for them to see the truth. Pray for your brothers and sisters living in an age of deception. And look up. He is coming soon!

I know many of you are going to walk away from this post angry. You will believe I’m judgemental and harsh. And I’m sorry if that is how you leave this conversation. God did not give me this platform for myself. He gave it for His glory. And when I see this dividing our christian community, and I see the Word of God trampled in this obvious way, I can’t remain silent. Because I love you too much. And love holds hands with Truth. If I didn’t love you and only cared about my readership and platform, I’d keep my mouth closed so as not to offend or step on any toes. Like I tell my kids all the time, dealing with hard issues is only worth it in the eyes of love. If I don’t love you, I don’t care about entering into a mess. I’ll stay away because I don’t really care about you. But love insists I enter into this.

 

Why Our Family Doesn’t Celebrate Halloween

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Today’s post is not for everyone. I’m writing with a very particular reader in mind- the parent who feels unsettled about celebrating Halloween and is looking to hear from others on the topic. If you love Halloween and have no conviction and have decided there is nothing wrong with Halloween, today’s post is not for you. I am not writing to convince anyone that my thoughts are right and yours are wrong. I’m simply sharing the conviction I had over Halloween and the path our family has taken. I have to get that out there because I’ve written on this topic before and had a storm of opposition.

I didn’t want to write on this topic again but God had other ideas. I tried ignoring Him. He wouldn’t let up. So here goes.

I grew up loving Halloween. I trick or treated until I was much too old to go door to door. We didn’t celebrate evil. It was good clean fun. We’d set about our neighborhood with friends and family, spending hours combing the neighborhood. Sometimes a Halloween party. Games, costumes, laughter, friends. Nothing harmful. We weren’t casting spells and summoning the dead.

Fast forward to adult life. We began celebrating Halloween with our children giving no thought to evil. After all, we weren’t doing Halloween that way. We were dressing as lions and firefighters. We were having bonfires with friends. We were laughing and strolling the streets doing our wholesome thing.

Then.

God convicted me. Jacob was about 4 years old, I was driving and a sermon came on the radio about why christians should have no part of Halloween. Initially, I listened and scoffed. How ridiculous. Halloween is evil for some but not for my family. I turned the channel.

Another sermon on Halloween. This one a bit darker, more eye-opening. This one about the satanic worship that goes on that night. I listened then went about my business. That is for people who have dabbled in the occult. That isn’t for me and my family. We aren’t doing Halloween this way. But something kept gnawing at me.

I began asking myself some questions. I spend my time telling my kids not to take candy from strangers, now I tell them go to that stranger and take candy. I’m taking my kids out on a night that truly there are those offering human sacrifices and worshiping satan. It’s real whether we want to admit it or not. We live in a time that I don’t trust walking down the street with masked people. Really am I ok with surrounding myself with people in costume in this day and age? I have my kids gather candy only to throw it away when they aren’t looking. What is the point really? Those were side gnawings, the rolling over in my spirit though was the darkness I was placing my kids in. The mingling of dark and light by choice.

God wouldn’t stop. He began to bombard me with articles, testimonies of friends, and sermons. I shared with a friend that I felt convicted about Halloween and thought God was trying to get my attention. She laughed and said, “Oh it’s just that time of year. Of course you will see so much out there about the dangers. That’s not God getting your attention.”

I don’t know about you, but when God wants me to get a message, He is pretty persistent. It comes at me from every direction. It didn’t stop. Then I received the transcript of a sermon from someone that God used to open my eyes in such a way that we stopped Halloween and never turned back.

I wish I had that sermon to share with you. If I find it, I’ll update this post. He explained the history of Halloween and how christians began celebrating it. When you have knowledge about something, you can’t un-know it. When you know, you know. At that point, you are responsible for the knowledge. God brought me knowledge. Now that I knew, what would we do with that knowledge?

You can research Halloween and form a solid case on either side. I mean a firm, solid case. I did just that. I’ve also had the debates with friends in the early days. I’m not interested in debating this topic because it’s settled in my heart. I know God wanted our family out of Halloween.

I had friends argue about Christmas and say if we didn’t celebrate Halloween we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas. They both have pagan origins and demonic practices attached to it.

Spend about 5 minutes searching if Christians should celebrate Halloween and you will be convinced on both sides of the argument. Kirk Cameron is a huge proponent of Halloween. I couldn’t disagree with him more. I agree we should be reaching out to our neighbors with the gospel, but why does it have to be tied to Halloween? How about a non-Halloween block party any other time than Halloween. What happened to being ok with not being in the world?

Relevant Magazine has a very interesting article that uses a condescending, belittling tone to those who question the celebrating of Halloween. I’ve read John Piper responding to Halloween as if it’s no big deal. You can find whatever you want out there and make your case. From people you respect and admire and agree with mostly.

Churches have embraced the world’s holiday. They host trunk or treats.

I would urge you to lean only on God. He will make clear to you if you are in the place I was in.

The sermon that really changed how I viewed Halloween said if you remove something, you should replace it with something better. In other words, if you take away Halloween, replace it for the kids. That is what we did. We take the kids out to eat, we rent a family movie, make popcorn, eat candy, and spend the evening together. Doesn’t sound exciting but our kids love our tradition.

I have other friends who don’t celebrate Halloween and early on I asked if their kids rebelled against that. Not only did our kids never fight us on it, they embraced our convictions. We shared honestly what Halloween represents, the realities of what happens on Halloween around the world regardless of how one chooses to celebrate it. And we read from the Bible what God says about witchcraft, occult practices, etc. We talked about how we are instructed to love what is lovely and praiseworthy. We discussed that the Bible tells us we are like aliens. We will not always fit in and be popular, doing what the world does.

Our family isn’t new to making choices that are unpopular with the world. Satan would love for us to make decisions that help our kids fit in the world. But God is good and He honors our convictions. We don’t explain to our kids in a way that makes us feel we are missing out (because we aren’t, we are actually gaining something). Instead we share the why’s behind what we do. We share our hearts with them. When they understand the heart and passion, when they see that we live out our convictions, something happens in them that is pretty amazing. They begin to make decisions based on God’s Word, convictions of the Holy Spirit, and principles. They are growing up being ok with being set apart, which is what I hope for them anyway.

This isn’t legalism, which is what some argued. We’ve shared with our kids that God convicted our family, but we are not to judge others. God speaks different things at different times to people as they are ready to hear it. Sometimes people operate out of lack of knowledge or lack of conviction. We don’t judge their decisions. Some of my best friends adore Halloween and disagree with me completely. I still love them and don’t change my opinion of them or think them less of a christian. Not at all.

This is a good article – What is Halloween and Should a Christian Celebrate?

We found a book at the christian bookstore when our kids were little that we read every year. Mommy, Why Don’t We Celebrate Halloween?

We’ve been made fun of, called legalists, laughed at, but it’s ok really. I know without a doubt God asked our family to stop celebrating Halloween. I don’t try to convert people to join the non-Halloween camp. God can do that. When people ask if we celebrate Halloween, I share a simple, “No, we don’t.” If they want more, I offer more. Usually, they look at me strangely and quickly change the subject.

If you have felt a gnawing in your spirit over Halloween, don’t ignore it.

When we settled on our decision to step away from Halloween, we realized that choosing not to partake is something we would never regret. When I step into eternity, I’m not going to look back and say, “Man I wish I had dressed my kids up and gone trick or treating.”

Do we have freedom in Christ to participate in Halloween? Yes. Does it mean it’s good for us? Not necessarily. I have no regrets from our decision. At 13, 11, and 7 our boys don’t either. They don’t feel they’ve lost anything. They’ve had family, movie, treats, and memories. What more would they want?

God Never Asked Me To Be His Assistant Holy Spirit

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The words in my head are itching to make their way out through the pounding of my fingers on the keyboard. I find myself constantly saying, “I have no time to write anymore.” Actually, I have no time for anything it seems. I have no time to take a run or a long walk. No time to write. No time to answer emails. No time to think. The more I feel this way, the more the anxiety builds up. I begin to notice something going on around me when I get this way. I rest less in Him, I try harder in me.

I sat down to write a post this morning, and the Lord brought to mind one I’d already written on this topic. I thought it fitting to share it with you today.

You can ready the original post here – I am not the Holy Spirit.

Of course, I know I’m not the Holy Spirit to my family. But you wouldn’t know it by how I act far too often. The less effective I am to change their hearts, the harder I try. The harder I try, the greater the frustration and anxiety. Because I’m powerless to change a heart. Not only that, it’s not my job. I’m taking the role from God.

Last week, I read an article on Desiring God. One sentence reached into my heart and squeezed with all its strength. Paul David Tripp wrote, “God has tasked parents with many things, but nowhere in his word has he tasked you with the responsibility to create heart change.”

It was the light bulb moment where God likely says, “You know this. You’ve walked this. You wrote this very thing. But you’ve forgotten and I want you to know this because it’s for your freedom and your good.”

I’ll stop here because I’ve said all that needs to be said in my previous post I am not the Holy Spirit.

This is resting in God. Tucking under His wing. To let Him be God. To trust in His every way. To soak in Him in order to be wrung out on the ones He’s woven you with.

For your weekend, I pray you will allow His love to rush over you. To refresh and revive your heart. To fill you with so much of Him that it pours out on the ones who fill the seconds and minutes of your days. To remember that He never asked you to be the Holy Spirit. To grasp the freedom in that.

Happy Friday!