I allowed my daughter to go trick-or-treating last year for the first time, and it was the last time I'd do such a thing. I kept being nudged by the Holy Spirit that we were not glorifying God in word or deed by costuming up and joining others in doing so.
In fact, I felt that I had grieved the Holy Spirit by giving in to my daughter's peer-pressured begging to take her around the neighborhood. Sure, I knew most of the people she asked for candy, but not all of them. I certainly couldn't tell who was who behind masks and makeup.
That's the scary thing about Halloween: costume children up and let them loose to wander neighborhoods, going right up to just anyone's door -- even a sexual predator. No one knows who is who behind masks and candy-filled doors. But that's not even why God two-by-four'd me into not ever doing Halloween again.
It was this: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. [Philippians 4:8 NIV].
What is true about hiding behind masks and makeup, especially with the absolute evil-looking costumes available now? What is noble about begging for candy? What is right about taking kids to strangers' doors after telling them to never talk with strangers? What is pure or lovely about witches, zombies, fake blood, or anything else in stores' Halloween sections? What is admirable about telling children one thing in Sunday School then taking them out to trick-or-treat?
The answer to all those questions is one word: nothing.
Halloween is based in the satanic. It coincides with Samhain, which is the witches' new year for people who practice the pagan religion, which is also satanic. One particular website encourages pagan parents to blend Halloween with their rituals that honor their dead (which include communication to the dead) for their children.
For Christians, the fact that Halloween and Samhain coincide is all the more reason to put away their jack o'lanterns, spiders, bats, and other Halloween/Samhain symbols. Do we, as followers of Christ, really want to encourage the celebration of witchcraft to our children?
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (ESV) is very clear about witchcraft and communicating with the dead: "There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you."
Christians cannot think that they can ride the fence on this issue. We are to be in the world but not of the world -- and that includes Halloween.
Some might say, "What about Christmas trees? They're pagan!" The answer to that is a resounding yes -- and no. Like anything the world argues about, they serve up half-truths with their pumpkin spice lattes. According to The History of Christmas Trees:
"The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God."
Some Christians display evergreen trees in their homes as a way of celebrating Christ's birth. Some Christians don't. The difference between Halloween and Christmas celebrations is that there is nothing redeeming or holy about Halloween.
Like evergreen trees, some Christians and pagans use family altars -- one is to worship God, the other, satan. If you do not worship God, you worship satan: "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters," [Matthew 12:30 NIV] There is no in-between. There is no fence-riding.
This year, and for years to come, my daughter will not be trick-or-treating. Our porch light will be off and blinds closed. Is this a time to mix and mingle with other costumed folk as a way to share Christ? Perhaps. But with everyone hidden away behind masks and makeup, who can tell the Christian apart from the horde?
That, my friend, is the entire point. We need to be different than the horde.
(C) 2018 Terrie Bentley McKee
My little girl was diagnosed with dyslexia last year, but she has always struggled a bit. Learning spelling words has been an ordeal, which means I have to get creative with teaching her.
She was delayed with walking and talking as a baby, so it makes sense that she struggles with hearing sounds -- so when her teacher last year (her last year of public school) expected her students to learn words phonetically, she had a difficult time with it. She never received more than a 50 on a spelling test of 20 words.
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This year, knowing Laura learns best with hands-on activities, I decided to incorporate hands-on activities with writing, saying, and spelling words aloud.
Writing Three Times Each
Laura, in the third grade, admittedly does not do any schoolwork on a computer. Physically using a pencil or pen and paper, writing out spelling words or math problems, helps improve learning and memory. An 2013 article in Psychology Today quoted a professor at the University of Washington who stated that students "wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard." Interestingly, the article went on to add that "school systems, driven by ill-informed ideologues and federal mandate, are becoming obsessed with testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge."
Writing her words three times each, while saying them aloud, makes the connection between her brain and her hands in spelling the words correctly. Having her write the words neatly reinforces penmanship and intention on writing so that others can decipher her handwriting.
Laura loves -- and learns best -- doing hands-on activities. One of her favorite spelling word activities is using letter stamps and an (washable, just in case) ink pad to stamp the words on construction paper. I then have her write each word neatly beside the stamped word. This does two things: one, it helps her create words out of letters, and she makes the mental connection with handwriting.
I have a number of magazines I like and subscribe to, but I struggle with what to do with them after I've read them. Using kid-sized scissors and a glue stick, Laura either finds her spelling words in the magazines and glues them onto construction paper, or she cuts letters out and makes the words herself. Writing the words again reinforces what she has done. This is another hands-on activity that she loves to do. After she's completely finished with a magazine, it goes in the recycle bin.
I like these kid-sized scissors that have a safety cap, just in case. For kids who are left-handed, try these lefty scissors.
Using stickers shaped like letters, Laura sticks these on construction paper as another hands-on activity to learn her spelling words (with writing the word beside the stickers). At first, I dumped all the stickers into a large bowl for her to rummage through, but this became frustrating for her and time-consuming. So I bought couple of organizers like the ones used for small parts, stuck one letter per drawer, and had her organize the letters in the appropriate drawers. It just keeps this activity organized, which is important when you have other subjects to attack besides spelling.
I think it's important that Laura not only learn how to spell words, but also know what they mean. We use a good children's dictionary for her to look up her words, and their meanings, and write both in her binder. It's important to use an actual, ink-on-paper book, and not a website, so that kids can see and understand their world is full of words -- and they don't just exist in the virtual world.
Lastly, we only learn 10 spelling words a week. Twenty was just too much for her. It's crucial to understand your child and their capabilities, and to stretch them without killing their interest in learning. These five methods have helped my daughter not only improve her test grades (her lowest weekly spelling test has been a 90 so far) but also greatly increase her thirst for knowledge -- which is an all-around better goal anyway.
(C) 2018 Terrie Bentley McKee
Children seem to grow up so quickly these days. One week, you're tying shoelaces and wiping jelly off faces; the next, you're explaining to your daughter has she must wear a t-shirt over a two-piece swimsuit at camp. I recently took my daughter on a mother-daughter retreat to facilitate important conversations in a non-threatening and quiet environment.
The two-night outing was so successful that I wanted to share how I planned a Christ-centered mother-daughter retreat, so that you, too, can have conversations with your daughter that lay the groundwork for future talks about purity, cleanliness, who they are in Christ, and the relationship both of you share.
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Granted, my daughter is eight years old, and you need to tailor the retreat's topics based on your own daughter. But first, the logistics. We went off for a two-night, three-day retreat, and that is important, particularly if there are other kids in the house. This is supposed to be one-on-one time, or if you have multiple daughters, consider bringing all the girls. But it is vitally important that girls get one-on-one time with their moms if at all possible.
We stayed in an Airbnb cottage that I have stayed in previously for a writing retreat. As soon as Laura walked in, she was immediately swept up in the thought that this was a sweet and special time for just her and I. Although she had her own room, she hung out in my room a lot. The Airbnb had a kitchen so we were able to cook together, eat with each other in the dining room, and talk about each others' hopes, dreams, and aspirations. When planning a retreat, look for an affordable get-away whether that's a house, apartment, or hotel room. It doesn't have to be hours away--check your city for any affordable Airbnbs, which eliminate the mileage anyway, and bring groceries from home.
To make this time fun for Laura, and so I could at least get some writing done, we stopped and bought a "friend" for her 18" doll, Ella. Although not from the expensive class of similar dolls, "Kate," Ella, and Laura had a wonderful time playing quietly, which is a rare occasion. It's important to mark this retreat with something special and tangible for your daughter so she can remember it with fondness. The doll and some accessories were the perfect complement to achieve that goal.
The material things aside, over a dinner she helped me make the first night, I started the conversations about purity by telling her that when she accepted Christ as her Savior last year, that very moment, she became a Child of God, a Daughter of the Most High King, and in that exact moment, Jesus gave her the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who immediately indwelled her. "What?!" she said. "You mean the Holy Spirit is inside me?" Quickly bringing me her Bible (for some reason she wanted to see the words in her own Holy Word), she said, "Show me where it says that!"
I turned to these passages and she read them, out loud, with a huge smile on her face:
"Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.' ~ 2 Timothy 2:14
"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?" ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16
"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." ~ John 16:13
"However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." ~ Romans 8:9
"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." ~ Revelation 19:11-16
"Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” ~ Mark 3:35
I told her that the moment she had accepted Christ as her Savior, she became a Child of God, a Daughter of the Most High King -- so, therefore, as a Princess, a Daughter of the King, I asked, how was she supposed to act?
Laura thought a minute and said, "Like Christ. Serving Him by serving others."
I also talked with her a little about purity -- based on her age -- but mainly kept it to the need to properly clean herself, health, and also, that she is to protect bathing suit areas. She is to sit like a lady (not like a boy who just hopped off a saddle) and to shine like the diamond she is for Jesus' sake.
The retreat was only for two nights and three days, but the conversations we had were reiterated, prayed over, and talked about in various forms as we were at lunch on Main Street, walking though an antique store and other shops, and playing together at a playground. We prayed together. We hugged and snuggled and painted toenails and fingernails. She took delightfully long baths and enjoyed the soaking tub.
This will not be the only Mother-Daughter Retreat we will have. These retreats will be annually, and will build upon one another. Childhood is so fleeting these days--it's up to us, Christian moms, to grab those moments and nurture them, to tell our daughters they are worthy, beautiful, and important to us, to our families, and to Jesus.
(C) 2018 Terrie Bentley McKee
I'm ashamed to say this is the first post I've written in months. There is no excuse, but there is a big, ugly reason: depression.
Warning: depression and suicidal ideation triggers follow.
I have fought depression and anxiety most of my life, starting in the tenth grade of high school when my grandmother died. She had lived with us since my parents married, and was very much a second mother to me. She died on a cold January day as snow fell. It kept falling, creating an unprecedented 12" snowfall which shut down my area of the South. It meant no school, and being holed up in the house in which Memaw had lived; it also meant Memaw could not be buried for two weeks.
For two long weeks all we thought about was her empty room. As her nighttime caregiver, I found nights oddly quiet. No one rang a little bell to ask for help to go to the bathroom, or to say her heart was hurting. I was to give her a nitroglycerin tablet under her tongue, wait 20 minutes, and give her another one if it didn't calm down. If, after 10 more minutes, her heart was still hurting, I was to get my mom up and we'd call the paramedics for a midnight ride to the emergency room. It was a heavy burden with which to carry at sixteen years old. Then, after Christmas Day, when her heart hurt and the paramedics came, Memaw did not come home as usual. She died January 6, and two weeks later was buried.
A month after she died I began to write dark, dark poetry. I didn't know it at the time, but looking back on it, I should have been on an antidepressant. I should have been seeing a counselor. I was depressed, and thinking that I couldn't go on with life. I missed a lot of school. I couldn't sleep and when I finally did, I'd sleep all day long. I lost weight.
It was the first time I began to think that ending it all would be easier than living through it all.
I twice attempted suicide in the tenth grade. No one outside of my husband Greg (until now) has known this about me. I tried to hang myself; my big black Lab Major ran under me, bracing my feet up. Barking. My knot slid out and I fell to the ground. I felt like a complete and total failure: I couldn't even tie a proper knot. This is not supposed to be funny; I was so utterly lost with zero self-esteem and a very empty prayer life that I believed I was a failure in everything.
One night, while battling a summer cold, I took an incredible amount of pills. Whatever I could get my hands on. That night, as the room spun and hot puffs of air came through the open windows, my cat Jojo clawed her way through the screen, meowing, and jumped on me. She ran to my mom and dad's room, woke them up, and made them come to me. Mom held my head as I vomited.
I thought, if my animals love me so much, maybe I just ought to stop. I didn't have the faith to see that God was using Major and Jojo to save my life--twice.
I've been depressed on that level three more times since then. I put on a good fake face and went to work and church and no one was none the wiser. I've become an expert at hiding the screams for help on the inside. Still, my husband Greg and some more astute and observant friends have noticed, and have called me out.
But if there is one thing that I have noticed since my faith life grew exponentially since the 10th grade, it is this: there is a definite stigma of depression in the church. We don't know how to handle it, and by "we" I mean the members of the capital-C Church, the Bride, who should be among the first to use the anointing of the Holy Spirit to sense when someone is teetering on the edge. Have we become so callused with hitting "sad faces" or typing "Praying" on social media posts that we think those things are reaching out to people who are hurting?
If a person of faith is posting hints of depression on social media, there is hope. If you notice that a previously active person's social media activity has dropped off and they're not coming to church as often as they used to-- those are huge warning signs that depression has dug its heels in.
There's a stigma to depression in the church body. "How's your prayer life?" "Are you in the Word?" "Maybe you have unconfessed sin." "God hasn't moved; you have." The church is better equipped to handle divorce than depression. We don't know what to do with depressed people: what casserole should be delivered for being in a pit of despair?
Listen: sometimes life can be so overwhelming that it's amazing that one is not depressed quicker or sooner. I also know this: though people of the church, who should be on the lookout for each other, fail--Jesus does not. Psalm 40:1-2 (NIV) states, "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."
The slimy pit of depression is slippery and oozy; the shifting mud moves with each passing grumble of the earth below and around it. Isn't that like depression? It's highly environmental and tediously curcumstantial, growing with each passing issue and problem until the murk and mire weigh us down. But the Lord God, Who see us and will deliver us when we call on Him, will not just set our feet on a steady rock of unmoving truth and a firm place on which to know His goodness and grace, but He will "put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him." (verse 3).
He will not just deliver us from depression but put a new song of praise in our mouths! God will use the time of depression, after one has been delivered from it, to encourage other pit-dwellers and people longing for deliverance. Each and every time the Lord brought me out of a season of depression, my faith soared and people were encouraged tenfold. I am delirious with the thought of what He's planning to do in the season of faith coming up.
Why, then, scoffers and doubters will say, why then doesn't God just keep you out of depression? Christians who don't yet have their Resurrection bodies are still prone to the uncertainties of this world. We are not perfect; forgiven, yes; but not perfect. I believe with all my being that God, who made all of creation out of His spoken word, can take seasons of depression and use them for His glory and to share His Gospel. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (my life verses) state, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."
Don't you see? When God brings you through the mountains, He is planning on using the moments spent in the valleys just as much, if not more, than the mountain-top experiences.
Listen, though, beloved: if you are in a church body, pay attention to those around you. Don't let people off the hook who answer "Fine" to the question of "How are you?" Dig a little deeper. Pay attention. We as the Church need to dismantle the stigma of depression among our pews and reach out to each other. Who knows? Maybe you can be like a certain large black Lab or calico cat, and bring someone back from the edge.
If you are reading this and have been contemplating suicide, I urge you to please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's talk. Or, visit your pastor and tell him of your plans, or go to the nearest emergency room. You are loved.
(C) 2018 Terrie McKee
There have been so many times in my life where the devil has tried to take something from me and you may feel the same way. Whether it be joy, a relationship, a desire for God; Satan is always trying to steal something from us.
When walking through our journey of being a Christian we can sometimes feel alone. We may look around and see all these other believers in our community and in our church, that seem like they have everything together. They may look like they have all the energy in the world and you’re tired. They’re over there laughing with everyone and you can’t seem to find joy.
John 10:10 tells us that “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy…” At times, this seems more relevant than others. We can’t seem to find that spark that keeps us going. It may feel like our fire has burned out. There are times where we feel scared and anxious about what life holds.
In Matthew 26:36-39, we see Jesus facing something similar. His soul is troubled and he’s sorrowful over what life is about to bring. When reading this passage, it’s hard to imagine Jesus feeling this way. However, we’re not promised an easy life. John 16:33 confirms that we will have tribulation.
But what makes the Christian life worth it? Is there even a hope for us?
John 10:10 doesn’t just stop with what the devil can do; it finishes with what Jesus did do. The rest of the verse says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” We have a victory in Him and through the love that he showed to us that day on the cross.
Yes, the devil does come to steal, kill, and destroy but we serve a God that cancels out that evil and replaces with it a never-ending love and ultimate victory that we have through His Son! He has risen and forever will be! Today, don’t let Satan take that joy from you. Don’t let him steal your energy and hope. Do not allow him to burn out that fire you have for Christ.
“But take heart; I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). The veil was torn, the earth quaked, and the tomb was rolled away! We no longer have to live in sorrow; especially if you’re a believer! Our Savior is risen and is not still laying in that tomb. The devil did not win; our God did, has, and always will! Jesus has taken back what the devil has tried to take from us.
Philippians 4:4 tells us to rejoice in the Lord always! God has taken it back!! So, rejoice in knowing that He has won and the devil is defeated.
Abby Jarrell, 18 years old, is a freshman at Liberty University, majoring in graphic design. She blogs at Prospering in Peace.
Evangelist Billy Graham was laid to rest today at his eponymous Library in Charlotte, today. He grew up on a dairy farm just a couple miles from where I grew up in Charlotte. While I was riding with my husband and son to a wheelchair basketball tournament in Nashville, we listened --intently-- as our favorite radio station aired from Mr. Graham's funeral. The Name of Jesus was lifted high and glorious in his celebration of life: even in death, Mr. Graham was reaching people for the cause of Christ.
In the two weeks since his death at 99 years of age, there have been numerous television news accounts and specials about Mr. Graham's life from a North Carolina farm boy to a globe-trotting evangelist, becoming the Pastor to Presidents. His death and celebration of life have given Christians an opportunity to share the Gospel with people who ask, why the celebration? He's dead, isn't he?
His body, yes; his soul -- oh no!
Conversations will happen. This world is so broken, so starved for hope, that when hope and joy even in death are put on display, questions will be asked. As the Bible says, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil," [1 Peter 3:15-17 NIV].
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. For we do have hope. We do have joy. We know that this bleak and hard world is not all there is. While we may be sad that Mr. Graham is no longer with us, we rejoice in that he is now in the Presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory! What phenomenal things he is seeing! What wonder! Seeing the face of Jesus!
We as Jesus' followers also have this hope of heaven. We need to be prepared to tell it. What do Christians have? We have the understanding that these earthly bodies are but tents ["For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands," 2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV] and that our souls, if we accept Christ as Savior while in the tent, will go on to be with Him in paradise. Some people say, "I'm a good person, I'll go to heaven." You can not buy your way or act your way into heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," [John 14:6 NIV]. Jesus is the only way to approach God the Father.
Because Jesus took our sins upon Him and did a substitutionary death in our place, as the sentence for sin is death, we are clean through the blood of the Lamb of God. God won't remember our sins after Jesus has made us His through His grace and atoning death—all we have to do is accept it and believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior.
Accepting Christ's death on the cross and rising three days later from death's grip means that He makes us new creations. All sins are gone, all shame is gone. We are new! 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" When I was younger I used to get hand-me-downs from my older cousins, and while I appreciated the clothes, I loved it when I received a new outfit. We can not hand down our faith to our children; they have to come to a new faith in Him and accept Him for themselves. Faith is a legacy but not a hand-me-down.
Faith in Christ gives us hope and a purpose that this life is not all there is. He makes His will known to us along with a promise in Matthew 28:19-20, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” He commissions us to go throughout the world and share the Gospel, and baptize in the Trinity's name, and teach others about Him. He promises that He will be with us as we do these things. We cannot fail when the Lord God is in the midst of the purpose and the master of the promise. So many these days are floundering, looking for a purpose in their lives. As Christians, we have a purpose that is made up of all active verbs: Go, Share, Baptize, Teach, Hope.
Because of His promise to always be with us, and that these earthly tents are not all there is to life, we live with Kingdom Vision that allow us to see past the sad death of a 99 year old man dying in his bed, and experience the glory this servant of Christ Jesus saw when called Home. Because of Kingdom Vision, we answer the question of "Where was God when all those children died a week before Billy Graham's death at that Florida school?" with this: Because of man's rebellion against God, sin entered the world. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that sin has wide-reaching ramifications. Other people get hurt and die because of sin, even the sins of others. Where was God? He was protecting the large majority of children who did not get injured. He has been providing peace and funeral monies for the families of the children that were caught in the gunfire of the sin-filled student's aim. He was crying along with the students in the grassy areas. Throughout millennia and even today, humanity has consistently told God through actions and words that they have no use for God. They have made other things and even themselves their own gods.
Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me," [Revelation 3:20]. Jesus is a gentleman: He will not barge into someone's life. He will come in when the door is opened or when He is called. Humanity has made the decision to not need God, then question where was He when something went wrong? Maybe —just maybe— this world would see massive improvements and heart-changes if revival and a great turning toward Christ would happen.
Christians love but this love is not how the world loves. We love others too much to agree or affirm their sin-filled lifestyles, no matter what that encompasses. We love them too much to see them doom themselves to hell, so we share the hard things, the things they don't want to hear: that Jesus is the Only Way to God the Father and heaven. If they don't accept Christ as Savior, they will die and go to hell, to sit in judgement before God and have all their sins laid out before Him.
Christians will have this done to them, too: all their sins spread out before God and everybody, but then—from the right hand of the throne—comes Jesus, pouring a vast bowl of blood over the spread-out sins and saying, "Father, I have covered their sins with My Blood, they are no more!" And God forgets those sins. God, who knows everything, wills Himself to forget those sins because of what His Son did on the cross.
Christians do not want anyone to be separated from God, and that is what sin does: it separates you from God. God loves us so much that when His Son breathed His last breath, God Himself tore the veil separating the common area where the people gathered from the Holy of Holies in the Temple, where God traditionally lived, top to bottom. In one moment as Jesus died, God tore that veil separating His people from Himself. Jesus is the one Who made communion with God possible, through His death. We don't have to be separated from God because of Jesus.
Therefore, when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord our lives, we are no longer alone in this world without hope. We have Jesus and His Spirit to guide and lead us in all things. We have His protection, His power, His peace, and His presence. We have His provision.
Through Mr. Graham's death, we too can reach hundreds and thousands more for Christ in sharing the Gospel message he preached and Christ commissioned us to share. Let us not squander this opportunity Christ has given us to share His Name.
(c) 2018 Terrie McKee
I’ve made banana nut bread for a long time. This dense bread is made using baking soda, which helps it to rise a little. Yeast is used in fine breads like hot buttered rolls and croissants that are light and fluffy. It’s the yeast in these types of breads that make them rise, therefore: light and fluffy.
During the Jewish celebration of Passover, according to the Law laid out in Exodus, there is to be no yeast whatsoever in the home for the seven days prior to the feast. There was to be no compromise in preparing for Passover: all the yeast had to be eliminated from every storehouse in the home in ritualistic cleaning.
A biblical metaphor for sin, a little yeast can make a whole bowl of dough rise. Jesus warned His disciples to “be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, “ [Matthew 18:5 NIV] regarding their teaching. He warned them because He knew the false teaching taught by the religious leaders was hollow and unsubstantial, yet, like yeast, a little false teaching would go a long way to getting the disciples off-center in their relationship with Christ.
That’s the way with sin. Once we ask forgiveness and repent of sins, we are not to intentionally bring sin (yeast) back into our lives. As we prepare to walk with Christ on a daily basis, any compromise of sin takes our focus off Him. A little bit of yeast can affect a lot of dough.
Any compromise of listening to false teaching leads us down a road that gets wider and wider, making more room for more sin to enter in.
What does this look like? Going to churches that embrace socially acceptable practices but are anything but biblical. Listening to pastors, themselves wayward in their walk, talk about what “their” god accepts — which is not the God of the Bible. The prosperity gospel, which says that Christ will bless you financially and make you successful, is false teaching that tickles our itching ears.
Christ Himself, the Son of the Living God, was poverty-stricken while He walked this earth. He did not have a home to sleep in, yet there are pastors who preach God wants you rich.
Buttery croissants may taste delicious, but they are not filling – just like false teaching that tells you what you want to hear. But bread without yeast, like solid and dense banana nut bread, will sustain you, like the Bread of Life, found only in Jesus Christ.
God wants you to rely on Him. God wants you to realize that He is the Provider and the Provision. He is the blessing.
Money is not.
Sin, like yeast, won’t just expand in one spot of the dough. 1 Corinthians 5:6 states, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?”
When we boast in ourselves, we are having a pride-attack. We owe Christ everything--our skills, our talents, our resources. When we think highly of ourselves, that’s opening the door to compromise and sin.
Just as yeast puffs up dough to make bread, so does pride. Scripture states, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind,” [Colossians 2:18 NIV, emphasis added].
Nothing can damage a congregation more than pride. A little bit of pride and a little bit of sin can corrupt an entire church. What does pride look like in a church body? Collecting glory for the congregation instead of God. Saying, “Wow! What an awesome church!” instead of “Wow! What an awesome God, working through the church!”
Just as yeast puffs up bread, so too will pride puff up a church, and make it seem better than what it is. Christ, the Son of the Living God, didn’t do this. Philippians 2:3-8 states:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death--
even death on a cross!"
Do we have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, Who was God, yet did not use His Godship for His own sake? Should we then serve in His Name but point the glory back to Him?
What defeats yeast?
Do you know what defeats yeast? Salt. Salt has a “retarding effect” on yeast, meaning it slows its leavening rate; too much salt, and it kills it altogether.
What did Jesus say we are to be? “You are the salt of the earth,” He told His followers [Matthew 5:13a]. If followers of Jesus are truly the salt of the earth, there will be no yeast-sin in our churches.
The problem therein lies in the yeast of pride that puffs us up, making us think we’re in charge of God instead of the other way around. When we compromise on the Word of God, distort what it says, twist Scripture, and make God in our image, that is when churches are destroyed: because there is very little salt left to impede the yeast.
So, in preparation for this upcoming Passover—traditionally around Resurrection Day—let us throw out all the yeast-sin that exist in our homes, churches, and lives. Let us prepare to wait in eager expectation of Jesus’ will for our lives. Let us breathe in the sweet aroma that is Christ Jesus, and place on the altar our praises to His sweet Name.
© 2018 Terrie McKee
My heart raced as I ran through the streets during the depth of night, dust flying in my wake. I was out of breath, chest aching, but I knew I couldn’t stop. What if I made eye contact with him? What if another stopped me to question?
“How could I do such a thing,” I thought. In fact, I was pleading with my heart and soul to answer this question so emphatically that I didn’t know if I had just thought this question or if I had just spoken it out loud. I was supposed to be the one that never fell away, the one who always remained steady. Weakness of the human existence became real to me in that moment. You would think that falling into the sea after moments of walking on waves would have been a wake-up call for me, but here I am. Why can my heart not trust?
I saw the lame men healed, the children brought to life, the ear of the soldier look as if it had never been cut off, but I still struggle to believe. Another gust of guilt overwhelmed my emotions and brought me to my knees. Tears streaming down my face, I knew that it was over. Any hope of an eternity absent of sorrow and pain was gone, ridden when I claimed to never know Him. I wept as I continued my journey home.
I tried to sleep that night, but the sorrow was unbearable. I desired that morning never come because I would have to face the questions of my friends and admit my denial. Flashbacks of conversations scrolled through my thoughts. I remembered my initial meeting with Jesus. I looked back on the promises I had made to never fall away and always remain faithful. Eventually, after many hours, I fell asleep, though I tossed and turned restlessly most the night.
A while later, thoughts of the pain I inflicted on Jesus still churned in my memory and all I wished was to see Him. To talk with Him. To beg Him for forgiveness and listen to His Truth. “Please, Lord. Reveal Yourself to me once more,” I said aloud.
Just then, Mary Magdalene and Mary, Mother of James, burst through the door with an energy and radiance that I had only recognized before as being in the presence of God. Through cries of joy, they screamed that Jesus was alive. They had seen the tomb and both repeated in awe, “It’s empty. Nothing there but the cloth He left behind!” Before I could run out the door, Mary Magdalene grabbed my robe and whispered, “The angel told us to tell the disciples and Peter. He mentioned you by name, Peter.”
Tears clouded my vision as I sprinted down dirt paths, leaped over stones and climbed through brush that seemed to endure for an eternity. My name. He called my name. The two most beautiful words in all my existence spoken just for me. As I arrived at the tomb, I entered to see only linen strips of cloth and a hollow tomb. Jesus left behind grave and death, resurrecting His own life and bringing us (even me, the one who fell away) the most precious gift to be given and treasured: renewal.
Mary-Gwen Williams is a follower of Christ, wife, first grade teacher, worship leader and blogger from a tiny town in North Carolina. She has a passion for teaching children and young women how to dive deeper into the Word of God. She spends most of her time at church, shopping every aisle of Target, sipping Dunkin Donuts or crying while watching This Is Us. You can check out more of her writings and thoughts at abidingandflourishing.blogspot.com.
What is God calling you to give up for Lent? Is it chocolate, or social media? Perhaps watching television? Is God calling you to do something, like placing an item of clothing for each day of Lent then donating the bag?
God called Abraham to sacrifice his beloved and much-prayed-for son, Isaac. Isaac was a child of promise: all of Abraham’s God-given promises lay on this boy, and God called Abraham to sacrifice him upon an altar of sticks in Moriah. Reading this makes giving up chocolate irreverent.
The passage in Genesis 22 is heartbreaking: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about,” [verse 3 NIV].
God told Abraham to go the region of Moriah. Israelite tradition indicate that God showed Abraham to sacrifice his son on the tallest point of the Moriah range—a place that, hundreds of years later, would be called Golgotha.
Abraham told the servants to wait. He placed the wood for the altar upon Isaac’s shoulders and “he himself carried the fire and the knife,”[verse 6]. Seeing that there was wood, and a knife, and fire to light the altar, Isaac asked where is the lamb for the burnt offering.
I cannot imagine what emotional turmoil Abraham was feeling as he replied, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” [verse 8]. What faith! Abraham knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, based on God’s promises that had already been fulfilled (hello, Isaac!) that God would provide.
As Abraham raised the knife to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped him. Abraham looked up, Scripture says, “and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son, [Genesis 22:13]. The ram, which was caught by its head in a thorn bush, was sacrificed in the place of Isaac.
Abraham called that place “The Lord will Provide.” Scripture says, “And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided,” [verse 14].
Listen: Jesus, the Lamb of God, wearing a crown of thorns, carried the wooden cross up to Golgotha to be sacrificed as God’s only Son, instead of us. God provided the ultimate and last Lamb to be sacrificed on the very place Abraham named “The Lord will Provide.” The Lord God provided the sacrifice—His only Son—in our place.
We are all Isaac.
Right before Jesus was to be crucified, Pilate gave the people a choice: release Jesus or release Barabbas, a known terrorist and murderer. It is interesting to note that in the Jewish culture, the surname Bar- meant “son of.” “Abba” means “God.” Barabbas means “son of God.”
So here we have two men: Jesus, the Son of God, perfect and without sin, and Barabbas, or “son of God,” who, like Adam was also called “son of God” was wicked and sinful. Romans 5:12 and 14 state, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—…Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.”
Certainly Barabbas, walking down to Pilate, couldn’t hear Pilate’s loan voice asking the people who he should release to them. All Barabbas heard was the screams of the people yelling his name. He couldn’t hear Pilate asking the crowd what he should do with Jesus; all Barabbas heard was “Crucify him!” [Matthew 27:11-28]. So all Barabbas heard was “Barabbas…crucify him!”
Imagine his confusion when, upon arriving before Pilate and this horridly-beaten and bloody Man, he was released, and the bloodied and thorn-crowned Man was sentenced to die in his place. Barabbas was deserving of crucifixion: a sinner among sinners.
We are all Barabbas.
This is what Lent is about: acknowledging our sin and our deeply-seeded need for a Savior. Understanding that Jesus did not die in place of Barabbas, but in our place as well. Understanding that the Lamb of God, like the ram caught in the thorn bush, was a substitution: Instead of Isaac, the ram; Instead of Barabbas, Jesus.
Lent is so much more than acknowledgement of our personal debt we cannot possibly repay to Christ; like Advent, it is a time of preparation for Passover, when we remember when the Israelite slaves adorned their door posts with the blood of a perfect lamb to prevent the Angel of Death from killing their first-born sons. It is a time of preparation to remember that God Himself gave the Cup and the Cross to His only Son to bear.
Lent is a time to remember and reflect on the great love God had for us, that He sent His only Son to die a horrific death so that we may be cleansed of sin, and to celebrate the empty tomb three days later.
© 2018 Terrie McKee
The most important gift I can bestow upon any of my children is not found in any store. The most important gift I can give is teaching them about Jesus—Who He is, and who they are in Him. For our daughter, especially, that means intentionally teaching her the truths that are found in God's Holy Word.
While the world will tell her she's not pretty enough, or smart enough—we are teaching our daughter that she is "fearfully and wonderfully made," [Psalm 139:14 NIV] and that God has made everything beautiful in its time [Ecclesiastes 3:11].
We teach her that Jesus so loved her that He died for her and rose again three days later so that she may live in Him.
We pray with her, leading her in prayer to teach her that prayer is communicating with her Lord Jesus. We help her find Scripture passages as she sits with us during church, and stress the importance of reading and studying the Word for herself. Just as she enjoys spending time with her friends, Jesus enjoys spending time with her. We share with her the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord: one that is reverent, built on faith and love for Him.
We teach her to be thankful.
We are teaching her to be modest in clothing and talk and how she sits. We teach her that there is room yet in this world for being a lady of character and renown. We are teaching our daughter to be a woman of faith in Jesus Christ, and that means being sure of who she is in Him: a Child of God, a Daughter of the Most High King.
We are teaching her that one day, she will meet the man that God has chosen for her, and they will complement each other in word and deed. We are teaching her, through example, that a wife is to respect her husband and a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church [Ephesians 5]. We are teaching her that Christ comes first, then her husband, next—her children, then home, and work. We are teaching her that women can work outside and inside the home, and most usually, both.
We are teaching our daughter the truths found in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12. "Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."
The world with its evil desires will come after her, but she will have a strong foundation on which to build a strong and mighty fortress of faith and love for Jesus, serving all in His name. Already we see the fruits of these things as her little hands clasp in prayer and as she shares Jesus with the children in her second grade class.
It is our job as Christian parents to protect and love our children, to guide them to a relationship with Jesus, to lead them to Him. Christ tells us to go into all the world, sharing the Gospel and teaching about Him—shouldn't that start within our own homes, with our own children? For if we don't teach them about God, the world will teach them about satan. We cannot leave it up to the children to learn these important things on their own.
(c) 2018 Terrie McKee
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