Category Archives: family

Soak up the SON

I feel like I’ve been in recovery for the last nine days.  March 10th came and went like a SHINEtastic whirlwind of emotion, exhilaration and exhaustion.  Ministering to over 500 teen girls and their mamas is no easy task, but so very worth it.

Every time I invest myself in planning and executing an event, really of any scale, I always learn more than I’m privileged to teach.  This time was no exception.  While I could carry on for hours about all God taught me through the process, I just want to focus on one really important, foundational thing.  It was point number one in my second session, SERVE, and the one point I’ve been stuck on and stuck to ever since.

Soak up the SON. 

My goal was to challenge the girls to get serious about learning about Jesus and being willing to do whatever that takes.  Go to church.  Get in a Bible study.  Download resources.  Use those resources.  Find a mentor.  Whatever it takes, just soak up more of the Son of God.  Why?

Jesus is simply the one and only.  There are SO MANY topics, issues, struggles, choices, and voices our children face.  Our culture is dark in many ways, but truly Jesus is the answer.  Sounds so —cheesy—churchy, cliché, underwhelming, understated, underestimated, too simple; but nothing could be more profound and more true.   You may be asking, “the answer to what exactly?”  That’s just it.  That’s the crazy thing.  Jesus is the answer to whatever it is you need.  Fill in the blank.  Whatever “it” is, if you get Jesus involved you’ll figure it out.  What we need most, what our children need most, what I NEED MOST is to soak up some more Jesus.  I need His truth equally in my heart and mind.  I need to know better who He was, what He did, what He said, how He lived and what it all means.

Then, BAM!,  suddenly He becomes THE answer.  He just is.

I just need Him.  More of Him.

So do you.

Jesus being the answer is easy to claim, but hard to learn.  Hard to teach and often even harder to convince others of.  So, how do we begin?  Or if you are like me, begin AGAIN.

Well, why not start here.  Answer these questions:

1) Do I think I need Jesus?  Like, really need Jesus.  Or do I pretty much have things/life figured out on my own?

2) How desperate are you?  So long as life is easy, smooth, COMFORTABLE, you won’t really seek Him and therefore, you won’t really know Him and therefore, the answer to whatever it is you’re missing will always allude you.

3) Do your actions match your claims?  This one gets me.  If I say I really need Him, what do I actually do to back that up.  Do I study His word, His life, His story?  Do I surround myself with the influence of other Jesus followers or am I too busy “following” everyone else and seeking to be “followed” myself?  I mean, all those LIKES and SHARES matter.  Right?

4) When I do learn about Jesus, does it matter to me?  Do I change?  Anything?

I hope you’ll take some time just to ponder these questions.  Take a deep look inside.  How is your heart?  Who sits on the throne?   The answers will come.

Perhaps it is time to consider something new.  Make room and then there will be room for THE answer to come.

Soak Him up.

Shine On.


While the Cookies Cool

Our sugar cookies are cooling.  It’s super fun to make cut out sugar cookies with two children and a toddler.  And by fun, I mean, possibly never again.  Flour and dough literally flying.  I’m not sure they understand correctly the concept of making the dough “go as far as possible!” I had to chase my nine year old son through the house and drag him onto the balcony for a cool down before the cool down, giggles all the way.  Don’t mess with mama.

Anyway, while I am waiting with great joy and anticipation for shenanigans surrounding the decorating part, I wanted to write a quick note of encouragement and share quickly what is on my heart this morning.  Simply this:

We have such a worthy Savior.

A couple of nights ago, I rediscovered an old journal I started writing in back in 2004.  As I reminisced page after page, I was blown away by the goodness and faithfulness of God.  Nathan and I were newlyweds and the entries took me through the ups and downs of our life together.  Crucial life decisions, financial stress, pregnancy scares, prayers for people God had placed in our lives for various reasons and time after time answered prayers.  I cannot believe how far God has brought us and how much He has changed me.  If you had asked me then, I would have thought I pretty much had my “Christianity” all figured out.  How wrong I was!  The truth is God, through His word, has worked miracles and moved mountains in my heart, broken me down and transformed my mind over these last twelve years, and even longer.  It almost frightens me sometimes to think of how much more work He has to do to make me like His son, but I want Him to keep working on me.  I grow more desperate for Him year after year.  Truly, life in progress is my anthem.

But, I’ll tell you, what He has done in me and for me is NOT why He is a worthy Savior.  He is a worthy Savior because of who He is.  That GOD HIMSELF would choose to come to this broken world, broken because of the sin of mankind, and suffer and die for us is completely unfathomable when you pause for five minutes and let it soak.

Let.it.soak.

He did not have to come.  He did not even need us.  God is God.  He is completely HOLY, separate from all that is mortal and flawed.  He needs no man.  He needs no Jaclyn Rowe.  The most amazing truth and why my heart so celebrates and worships Him — especially at Christmas — is that while He did not and does not need us, He chooses to WANT us.  He chose to want me.

Mind.blown.

AND HE WANTS YOU.

That’s what Christmas and the Bible is about.  God wants a family and He wants a relationship with YOU.  Not a relationship with you through someone else — like a pastor, priest, speaker, teacher, friend or family member.  He wants YOU.  All of you.  This year.  For Christmas.

And He is worthy of all that you are.  He has done EVERYTHING necessary to make that relationship and everything that comes with it; forgiveness, love, joy, peace, hope (blessing upon  blessing and grace upon grace) possible for you here and now.  The only thing between you and Him is a choice.  Leave your sin and turn to Jesus.  That’s it.  Receive His gift of salvation.  His death paid for your sin, but YOU must choose to believe and put your faith in Jesus alone, giving Him yourself.

From personal experience, I can tell you, there is nothing like doing life with Him because there is no one like Jesus.  No one.

Have such a beautiful Christmas my friends.  I pray your 2017 is like no other!

Now, pray for me as I go collect two children, a toddler, cookies, icing and sprinkles.  Lord, be near me now…

 


He is a Lying Pervert; Why America May Never Be Great Again

It’s a big day. We, the people, are obsessed with figuring out what to do, who to blame and how we will move forward together when this day ends. Our anger has been fierce, obvious and aimed in so many directions it has made my head spin. The amount of confusing information we have had coming our way — meant to clarify — has been overwhelming. Nonetheless, we have a choice to make today.

Like everyone else, I have an opinion and I have cast my vote; but today, my heart is surprisingly not consumed with election results (although I’m sure about 9:00 tonight, that will change).

Maybe traveling to the Middle East changed me more than I realize, because leading up to this historic election I cannot focus on politics. This is new for me. When I participated in mock elections as a kid, I used to try to figure out my own path to the White House. Seriously. In my early twenties, I was debating myself in the shower and determining the likelihood I could speak my way to a win in the Missouri House, then Senate seat, then Governor, then, yep! I should be on my way to Washington by now.

Ironically, by God’s grace, the current state of my mind and heart are driven by a need to fix my own house not the White House.

I, like most of you, am worried about my kids and their future. But, my obsession has become how to communicate to them that presidents are important, but they don’t dictate how we actually live.  We make those choices everyday regardless of who occupies capital hill.  How do I help people in my sphere gain a perspective that will change the way they view the political climate and ultimately impact their life on a real and personal level? I don’t have a perfect answer, but nonetheless, here are some things to ponder today. Maybe this will help entertain your mind between now and final results.

My choice today is to clarify whom the real corrupt, lying, pervert enemy actually is. He is a liar no doubt and has likely deceived you. And me. In fact, he is the chief of all liars. He is a pervert in the worst of all ways and his corruption runs so deep we cannot fathom its depth.

He takes things that were and are meant for our good, things that should be meaningful, beautiful and sacred and twists them into the very things that destroy your life, mine and threaten our children’s future.

For example:

The emotion of fear, a positive inner force meant to protect you from walking over a cliff, becomes a crippling emotion for which you now have to find a means to cope.

Medicine, meant to serve as an instrument of healing, becomes an addiction to cope with your…oh, I don’t know…fear?

Relationships, meant to give you support, accountability and earthly companionship, become a source of aggravation and stress.

Marriage, meant to be a picture of the redemptive love of Jesus, becomes a scene of jaded love and a “trap.”

Sex, meant to be the seal of a covenant and a commitment to another person of the opposite sex becomes a self-centered pleasure that knows no satisfaction.

Children, meant to be a blessing, become a burden.

Work, meant to be a task of fulfillment and purpose, becomes a curse.

Food, meant to nourish the body, becomes an obsession and a thorn in our side.

The body, meant to be a temple becomes a house of defilement, disease and distress.

A baby becomes a choice.

Freedom becomes bondage.

Shall I continue? Everything originally designed by our Creator in perfection and beauty is broken because of this enemy. What might happen if we, the people, identified him, exposed him — I mean I wish wikileaks would release some scripture about this or something — and united our efforts against HIM?

He can be identified.

He is Satan. Known as Lucifer or “shining one.” The devil. He is the known enemy of God. And he is real. Don’t think so? Look around for a few minutes. Consider it. It is pretty easy to see that there is good and there is evil. How do you explain that? If you think all people are good, look again. If you believe all things are bad, look again. How do you define good and evil? How do you know what is OK and what is not? These are big, important questions. You know it and I know it. The struggle is real.The war is raging. If you want to be angry, be angry with Satan. His desire is to find you, steal from you, lie to you and destroy you. He will stop at nothing. He will use every tool at his disposal to poison your mind and heart and to lock you into defeat. He will and has lied to you. You have been deceived. If you can’t admit your deceit reading this, then you can know it is true. He will do everything in his power to keep you from the only one who has defeated him.

Jesus.

Want to know why America may never be great? America doesn’t want to acknowledge the evil that exists in us and among us. America does not want to talk about sin or evil. (Unless of course it is the sin of someone we don’t like or don’t want to like, then we just can’t believe how awful he or she is.) Perhaps YOU do not want to talk about sin. I don’t need to explain to you what sin is. If you speak English well enough to have read this far, you know. Deep down, you know. You have experienced the struggle, the guilt, the pain and the effects for years, as have I.

We will never be “great” until we are willing to agree with God about what sin is and who is guilty. God does not ever wink at sin. Not yours and certainly not mine. He doesn’t brush it under the rug. He doesn’t accept it under some circumstances and He doesn’t ever agree to it. Rather, He exposes it. He brings it to light and He deals with it justly. In fact, He dealt with it fully.

I sincerely pray you know of the cross of Jesus Christ for it stands alone in history as the event that changes EVERYTHING.   The cross holds the key to our real victory. Jesus, God in the flesh, chose to die for us to satisfy the Father when we could not and to defeat the enemy and his power over us.   It is what Jesus did then and continues to do now that reverses the curse and the perversion. He redeems everything and brings real change in the lives of all people who have faith in Him.  Our government is meant to restrain evil, but only God Himself can defeat it.

Greatness comes through righteousness and righteousness comes only through Christ. Jesus alone takes what is broken by sin and sets it right. He makes it great again!

It’s a miracle and a mystery, but if you observe, you can see Jesus as clearly as you can see the enemy. Consider lives transformed by the power of Jesus. I know it is true, because He has changed me.

So, what do you want? What do you believe? Who do you follow? Who is your choice?

I’m choosing to focus on who the real enemy is. No, scratch that. I’ll not focus on him. I merely choose to identify him. I will fix my eyes, mind and heart on Jesus, for He is the only one and the only way in which America will ever stand a chance at greatness.


Why I Trust God Today

I should be working right now.  I have two keynotes, a personality training, three Bible classes to teach, a radio interview and serious preparations for a trip oversees in the next week, but, instead, I feel inspired to write.

This message is for you if you are a discouraged, unsure or insecure follower of Jesus Christ.  Yes, I realize we wouldn’t normally list those adjectives to describe our Christianity, but can we just be real for five seconds?  Listen, I have been there.  Hear me, I have done that.  But, what I hope to communicate to you so that you KNOW it with every fiber of your being, is that God IS faithful to what God IS doing.

Even if you don’t see it.

Seven years ago, I knew the Lord was leading me to teach a Bible class at my church for young women.  I was raised in church and had led many Bible studies.  I had been speaking at that point for five years before live audiences and had done years of television hosting and radio spots, so the “talking to people” part didn’t phase me.  Even the Bible part didn’t scare me then.  (Although, let me say, the more I study the Bible, the more I understand how little I knew and how scared I should have been and how little I still know even today!)

Nevertheless, a year later the class was launched for women 18 – 30 years old.  Just refer to a flyer posted around church!  Come one, come all!

Well, they did come, all two of them at first.

Over time, more women joined.  Some quit coming, some moved away, and one became a missionary, but several of them just kept coming back, again and again and again.  For the last six years, I have poured my heart and soul in to these girls.  It hasn’t been easy.  Consider all that comes with giving birth to two babies myself — totaling three dependents — traveling and speaking, writing a book, being self-employed with my man and building a house.  Life has been FULL.  I really cannot overstate this.  But, God made sure teaching these women was a priority.  In THIS season.  Now.  It made no sense to me.  There were many weeks I WANTED A BREAK.  A long break.  An I-will-do-it-when-my-kids-are-older break!

No such break was granted.

So, the journey continued and what a journey it has been.  Together, we experienced the joy of marriages, the ugliness in marriages, the progression of pregnancies, the blessing of babies, the exhaustion of child-care, the difficulty of parenting, the sorrow of great losses, the heart-ache of addictions, the diagnosis of life-altering illness, the sting of rejection, the mark of divorced parents, the hurt of past relationships, the sting of current relationships, the weight of conflict, the fear of cancer, the reality of cancer, the battle within decision making, the sacrifice of commitment and the weight of conflict.  I have laughed hysterically with these women, no doubt offended them, failed them, embarrassed them, wept with them, prayed fiercely for them, been scared to death of them, been frustrated by them and twice, nearly quit on them. (That will be a surprise if they are reading this.)  But, THROUGH IT ALL, God was miraculously changing our lives, changing us at our core, transforming us into the image of His son.  We will never be the same.  We have seen our God speak, work, move, heal, reconcile, restore, make new, set free, bring friendship, provide finances, comfort, teach, answer prayer, call people to His kingdom, promote people in His service and fill us with the power and victory of His Spirit! I am telling you, He has done what only He can do!  We have lived it!

And I am so grateful. Really.  Truly.  Grateful.

Yesterday — and probably the reason I had to get this into print and off my mind and heart today — it all came full circle.  At least for me.  I asked these girls, my sisters, to explain what this journey has been like for them.  To hear them share what God has done in them and for them and through them was rewarding, but more importantly humbling and glorious.  God is so so ridiculously good at what we does — REDEMPTION.  And then, by God’s timing, we celebrated together over lunch.  (A rare thing as all of us have multiple children!) But, we got away for the afternoon, high-jacked the church van and all!  Confession: I may have been the only one who actually knew a celebration was taking place, but in the private places of my heart, I was absolutely overwhelmed and overcome with joy and gratitude to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all He has accomplished as I looked around that table and thought of the others who could not attend.  I sit here still in amazement.  It took so long; but it happened so fast.

And while one journey seems to have come to a conclusion, I am so very excited for what He has in store.

You see, two weeks ago, I did quit.  Well, not really.  With God leading, I moved on.  He transferred my attention to a whole new group of women.  Younger women.  A new class.  A new group of strangers with fresh faces and fragile hearts.  I should have been thrilled, but I’ll admit, two weeks ago I was a discouraged, unsure and insecure follower of Jesus Christ.

But not now.

Teaching God’s Word, living on mission, investing in people, knowing and experiencing the one true and living God and making Him known, all of it works!  This is God’s plan.  This is discipleship.  This is the great movement of multiplication.  This is Christianity.  And this is what I live for.

As I stared into the faces of my new class, a group hand selected and chosen by God Himself, my heart smiled.  They have no idea what’s coming!  I’m excited for them because I KNOW God IS faithful to what God IS doing.

And, let me just convince you now, you want to be a part of it; because when it comes full circle, whether in six days or six months or six years, it is so very worth it!

 


4 Tips for Christian Parents with Public School Kids

Parenting is a tough job.  Throw in school, homework, sports activities, PTA meetings and extracurricular clubs and life can get wild!  It seems there are posts by the dozens for Christian parents who home school (as many of my friends do) and many posts about common core and all the issues surrounding education, but not much is out there encouraging the Christian parent who has children in public school.  So, these thoughts have been on my mind for quite some time, and I finally have a few minutes to share what’s on my heart to encourage you to stop living in survival mode when it comes to school and begin to thrive!

Here are 4 things to consider: (in completely random order)

(Massive Disclaimer:  I am so not even close to the perfect parent.  My son is starting third grade and my daughter is starting first grade.  So, I’m learning too.  I will say — so perhaps you’ll keep reading — that I have had the opportunity to speak to over 100,000 students and several hundred teachers in public schools throughout the mid-west over the last few years, so I have had a great deal of experience interacting with all kinds of different schools, administrators, counselors and students.  If that helps!)

1) Set-and-Stick-to Realistic Boundaries – The idea that you and your children can “do it all” is a lie.  I am amazed by how many parents are running themselves absolutely ragged and nearly killing their kids in the process.  OK, that may be an exaggeration, but seriously.  We need to prayerfully consider each decision we make in terms of the activity level for our kids.  Is there time for homework?  Is there time for family?  Is there time for devotionals?  It’s our job to create margin in our schedules so that priorities remain priorities and our kids aren’t so exhausted they can barely function, much less learn well and excel.  So, how do you do that?  Well, in our house we set firm priorities and make decisions about our schedule based on those, usually seasonally.  For us, being at church and having time to study God’s word is A-number-1, so activities that would infringe are out.  If we are going to be too tired to attend, something has to go; but it’s not going to be Bible study or church attendance.  Time as a family unit is important.  If we are always split up running from activity to activity, something has to go.  Bedtime and sleep are important.  We know our kids and we don’t ignore the fact that they need downtime.  They NEED good sleep and un-rushed bedtimes to talk and read and pray and reflect.  It is our responsibility to make sure the schedule doesn’t prevent this from happening consistently throughout the week.  Don’t ignore your child’s limits.  They may be awesome, but they are still kids.  If you fail to set boundaries, you and your kids will both be overwhelmed and no one has any fun.  And that ain’t no way to live!

2) View School as a Tool – As a Christian parent YOU are instructed to teach your child.  You are responsible for their learning.  So, have a proper perspective about the role school and your child’s “teacher” has in the educational process.  I am so grateful for the school my children attend.  They learn like little sponges that can’t get enough.  My children have both had and are getting ready to start a new year with teachers who are amazing people and so, so good at their jobs.  I admire and respect what they are capable of immensely.  But, I’m not counting on them to make my kids smart.  I’m not counting on them to make sure they can read and write and do math and understand science.  No, no, no, I’m using them to help me.  (sneaky huh?) I’ll make sure they get it.  I’ll work alongside educators, as a team, to make sure my children are educated and educated well, but I won’t fall into the trap that THEY are responsible for my children’s success or failure.  That’s on me (and Daddy).  This makes relationships with teachers so much easier.  (They’ll love you for this.)  I encourage you to spend some time learning about the school your child attends.  Talk about amazing resources!  They have so much to offer your child; and, trust me, the SCHOOL WANTS YOU to be a huge part of your child’s education.  You’re not just turning them over to the system.  You are actively a part of what goes in each kid’s brain.  Teach.  Do homework together.  Read together.  Be hands-on and involved in projects.  Enjoy seeing your child develop and learn new things.  It is SO EXCITING!  Your kids will thrive as you grow and learn with them.  (And, hey, chances are they’ll even love school too!)

3) Live on Mission – A huge part of the decision to send our children to public school is this:  we are on a mission.  Public schools need Christians because people need Christ.  As a Christian parent you have a unique opportunity and command to BE LIGHT and to share the gospel as you go.  The best way to do that and to have influence is to BE INVOLVED.  Attend meetings when you can, volunteer when you can, go to the class parties, meet other parents and be known for your faith.  (Of course, your availability will depend on your success with number 1.) There are endless and countless opportunities to be light in a sometimes dark place.  So many children walk through those halls everyday who need a friend, who need a hug, who need a safe place and an adult who is honest, polite, warm and loving.  You can be that person.  You should be that person.  Be encouraging to the teachers and administrators.  Be positive.  Take time to have conversations that matter and build relationships.  Ask God to give you chances to talk about Him and to share His truth.  And at the same time, teach your child to do the same.  Our children are to be light as well.  Teach them, by example, to be an example.  As you instruct them at home on kindness and love and grace and service, they will have the opportunity every week to put those lessons into practice.  Talk about training ground!  Put your faith into practice by being on mission in school.

4) Pray like Crazy – Not one single thing about this is easy.  There ARE many challenges you and your child will face in public education.  Pray.  Pray for wisdom and discernment.  Pray for protection for your child. Pray that God would keep them from the evil one.  Pray that they will in fact remember those spelling words!  Pray. Pray. Pray. and then don’t worry.  Trust that God loves your child more than you do and that He is there, everyday, caring for them and meeting their needs.  Be in constant communion with your heavenly Father and experience the joy of seeing Him at work in the life of your child, in your home and in you!


Ignored Sins Part 1: Gossip

For a few weeks, I’d like to address sins that are extrememly common, and even accepted as “no big deal” within the church. None of these sins would ever be categorized by a preacher or congregant as nothing to worry about, but in practice they are largely ignored.

Most simply defined, gossip is disclosing information about others which does not need to be disclosed. The truthfulness of the information does not make the action any less gossip. Gossip might be the most common and openly practiced sin in all of Christianity, it is certainly one of the most destructive. Gossip, in-and-of itself is incredibly damaging, and it is what you might call a “gateway” sin.

Much like a “gateway” drug, gossip opens the door for even more sin to enter the church and family. In chapter three of his letter, the apostle James goes as far as saying that if one could control his tongue, he could control all of his actions. While I could go on with an “introduction” for pages, I’d like to list four ways in which gossip destroys:

1. It Undermines Biblical Teaching.

Point number one is especially important to parents. Have you ever gone to lunch on a Sunday after church and proceeded to talk about the preacher, sermon, teacher or another church member in a negative way? If you have, I promise your children have/will pick up on it and anything they might have learned in church that day might as well be canceled out. In fact, I fully believe it would have been better had you stayed home and remained silent rather than undermine what a child might have learned at church. Children can smell hypocrisy a mile away, and as teenagers and adults, they will see church as a joke or a place to go to appear holy. I suspect that many young adults who leave the faith even though they have parents who are dedicated church members that love the Lord and live a “moral” lifestyle might have been privy to gossip behind-the-scenes.

If you have a legitimate complaint against a pastor or teacher, handle it Biblically and address it one-on-one. Backbiting only seeks to get more people on your “side” and not the good of the church.

I can speak to this issue personally as I believe that in this area, my parents are good examples to emulate. It was not until adulthood that I ever realized that there were times that my father had his disagreements with our church’s pastor or youth pastor. As far as I knew, he was always on their side and I was to listen, learn and recognize my teachers as authority figures. If a father and mother acknowledge a pastor or teacher and what they have to say with respect, their children will, too.

2. It Feeds Upon Itself.

Gossip is fun and contagious. Get a small group of friends together and start talking about someone who isn’t there and you will see a conversation grow into a big session of group-think. By the end of the gabbing, your little group will be absolutely convinced that you have all the answers and the world/church/your friends would be a whole lot better if they were just like you.

Indeed.

3. It Feeds Your Ego.

The sin of pride will get its own week in this column, but it is both the cause of and is fed by gossip. Gossip is often all about comparisons. No matter how imperfect you are, you can always talk about someone else’s problems. As long as there is another person who, by your estimation, is a little less perfect than you, you will worry about their sin instead of your own. In fact, it will make it more difficult to recognize your own sin and repent thereof.

4. It Justifies Itself as Something Good.

Most perverse of perversions, gossip is often disguised by phrases such as “I’m telling you this so you can pray for so-and-so.” No. Just, no.

You can pray for so-and-so and God will honor your discretion. It is not our job to bring anyone’s secret sin into the light for all to see. Broadcasting such sin under the guise of being a concerned, holy prayer-warrior is just as wrong as whatever it is the prayer-receiver has done. I am not saying that you should never request prayer for the lost or a believer trapped in a lifestyle of sin, but the details should be kept at an absolute minimum. And if someone has confided in you with a secret struggle, then they are obviously repentant or they would not have confessed. Do not share it with others; not even your spouse. 

It is a shame that we often define wholesome speech as essentially “not cussing or telling dirty jokes.” If only that were true! Never has a church split or a child walked away from the faith over a stray curse-word spoken out of a heated moment; especially one apologized for. But gossip causes damage that can’t easily be reversed. It’s like trying to catch a bunch of feathers that have been thrown into the wind.

Let us all think before we speak of the personal matters of others. If it is not going to be helpful, regardless of whether or not it is true, then why say anything at all?


When Naaman Went Home

*Disclaimer: My featured image for this post has nothing whatsoever to do with my content.

If you’ve ever heard a sermon on the story of Naaman (found in II Kings 5) then you’ve probably come away with a great lesson on humility, trusting God’s command or avoiding greed — unlike Elisha’s servant, Gehazi. If all of this is unfamiliar to you, please read the passage. It’s great.

Naaman was a commander in the army of the king of Aram (Syria). Moreover, Naaman was at the head of the Aramean army when they defeated Israel. He was a mighty man, but he was also a leper.

Through the testimony of a captive Israeli servant-girl, Naaman learned that he might be able to be healed by Israel’s prophet, Elisha.  After a journey to see Elisha, some quibbling over the method of healing and having to eat a plate-full of humble pie, Naaman was healed of his leprosy. But that is not my favorite part of the story. 

While listening to a sermon by Tim Keller, my attention was pointed to two verses I had never noticed nor remember being emphasized. After Elisha refuses to be paid for the miracle the Lord performed, Naaman says this, “…please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter” (II Kings 5:17-18 NASB).

After experiencing the work of the living God, Naaman knew he could never go back and continue his old life as if nothing had happened. However, as a high-ranking official in the Aramean kingdom, he knew that he still had to go back to a world that did not know God.

Is this not the same paradox that Christians in the 21st century face?  After conversion to belief, a decision to complete surrender or simply living as a disciple from day-to-day, those who follow Jesus do so in a world that is mostly hostile to his message. As I see it, in America there are two major temptations that we, as disciples of Christ, must avoid:

1. The temptation to privatize our relationship with Christ. In a multicultural society that has largely embraced the idea that “what’s true for you is good for you and what’s true for me is good for me,” we are told that people ought to keep “religion” to themselves. Your religious beliefs should remain private because no one can possibly know what is true and so it is offensive to share your faith openly.

To privatize your faith is to live in the world, and perhaps not participate in certain immoral activities, but never speak of your faith nor for its validity in the world. Privatization often leads to compromising or neglecting values set forth by God in order to avoid conflict.

This is not an option for the Christian because if you are a believer then your entire life in every aspect — your very identity — is Christ.

When Paul went to Athens, he went to the marketplace to talk with people about the gospel. Athens was the cultural center of the world at that time, and the marketplace wasn’t just for physical goods, it was where you had to go to learn about religion, philosophy and other ideas. There was no mass media back then, and so the “marketplace of ideas” was literally the marketplace. Paul essentially took the gospel straight to the equivalent of what would be Wall Street, Harvard and Hollywood all rolled into one place. He did not set a good example from a distance and hope people would be curious enough to come ask him “what’s so different about you?”

2. The temptation to withdraw from the “world.” It is tempting, for the sake of living a “righteous” life, to try to avoid all non-believers and secular culture as much as possible. This might mean quitting a job where you have an unbelieving boss or wild coworkers. For some, it means unconditional avoidance of the secular education system. For others, it means never associating with non-believers unless it is in a purely “outreach” context.

This approach, too, causes problems. It is hard to be the light of the world when you’re doing your best to avoid any contact with the world. Jesus prayed not that his followers would be removed from the world, (by God) but that they would be “kept from the evil one” (by God).

Naaman set a great example of how to be “in the world but not of it.” As a symbol of the truth he had learned about God, he took dirt from Israel back with him to Aram to create a place of memory where he would sacrifice to the true God only. He went back to his old job, but he would never do his job the same way again. Naaman knew that his boss, the king, would not convert, but that did not stop Naaman from being an example. Naaman did not disassociate with the people in his life nor demand that the unbelievers convert immediately or he was out. 

Is it possible that we, as Christians, need to stop overthinking every detail about how much of the world to be “in” and just be Christians where we are? If we will be Christ-focused and trust and listen to the Holy Spirit, He will guide us and we won’t have to put so much human effort into determining exactly what our life should look like. 


Teaching Purity

Two weeks ago, I was in Magnolia, Arkansas speaking at a purity conference for teen girls.  We had a great time and I was so blessed by the women there and their hearts to serve, lead and mentor their youth.

I have literally had months to study the topic of purity and to ask the Lord to reveal His ideas and His ways for teaching it.  I’ve been angered, convicted and overjoyed all in the same breath as He has shown me what purity really is and how we live it out.

While I could probably write a book, I’d like to share just four key things that may help you as you address purity in your own life or in the life of a young person in your care.

1) Purity is not a program.

I am a conference junkie.  Hello, I am a conference and retreat speaker!  I think programs can be great tools, necessary and highly effective.  I even teach an abstinence program through a local pregnancy resource center called CARE (Center for Adolescent Relationships Education) in public schools.  However, perhaps our modern approach to teaching purity needs an overhaul.  In the early 1990’s, the True Love Waits program was launched.  This program taught abstinence to Christian teens and encouraged them to make a pledge to remain a virgin until marriage.  It didn’t take long for musicians, church leaders and youth pastors across the nation to grab hold and the program caught fire.  Rings, jewelry, t-shirts, books, Bible studies and even more programs were born out of the True Love Waits movement.  Yours truly was right in the middle of it!  I remember where I was the night I signed my pledge card and I don’t regret that decision for a moment.

But, here’s the problem:  abstinence and purity are not the same thing.

For two decades, Christianity has been screaming this theme.  Ask a teenager.  They will tell you if they don’t have sex until they are married, they have remained pure.   Wrong.  There are so many other ways to be impure.  On the flip side, if a teen has had sex already, they assume they are no longer pure and never can be again.  I won’t even go into the implications of that belief on victims of abuse and rape.

In my experience, most “purity” conferences and programs largely focus on providing tools for remaining pure (or for abstinence).  You know, the DO’s and the DO NOT’s.

“Do believe you’re beautiful and worth waiting for, so…”

“Don’t be a flirt.”

“Don’t dress like a floozy.”

“Don’t watch R rated movies.”

“Don’t compare yourself to supermodels.”

“Don’t be alone in the back seat of a car with a boy.”

“Do stand up to peer pressure.”

“Do go on group dates”

“Do make sure your parents approve of the guy.”

“Do wait until you are sixteen to date.”

“On second thought, don’t date at all.  Kiss dating goodbye.”

And the list goes on.

While the intentions and motives behind providing this advice and instruction are usually very good and while the information and setting of boundaries can be great, this approach is not best.  Giving students tools without foundational truth is a band-aid approach.  The minute they find them-self in a heated situation where lust, hormones  and emotions are ignited the only thing they will be kissing goodbye is that pledge card!  So, purity is not achieved through a good program.

2) Purity to God is ONLY achieved through Christ.  No amount of good choices will EVER make someone pure.  Walking the aisle on your wedding day wearing white and having intercourse for the first time that night does not make you pure.  The fact that Jesus Christ came to this earth and offered Himself as a pure and sinless sacrifice is the only hope you and I have for purity.  The fact that God, in His sovereignty, love and GRACE chose to allow us to claim the righteousness of Christ by faith, is the ONLY thing that makes you or me pure in the eyes of a holy and righteous God.  Period.  Nothing else even comes close.  So, stop teaching purity as morality through a program for good behavior.  Teach purity from the perspective of the gospel.

3)  Purity in behavior is a TOOL for promoting the gospel.  Because God desires to have a relationship with us and with others, He works through the Holy Spirit and His word to make our behavior pure so that He can use us to show His glory and spread His gospel to others.   He gave us a body, just as He did Christ, so that we can accomplish this purpose.  That is why, teen, you were born with a body.  Your body — no matter its shape, size or ability — is a tool for promoting Jesus and His work on the cross.  (see number 2) This is why we don’t go straight to heaven when we become a believer.  God desires to use you here for His purpose.

4)  Purity is corporate and purity is personal. The Bible teaches that the body, both the body of believers (1 Corinthians 3) and the individual body (1 Corinthians 6), are to choose purity.  Why?  Because God decided the body —your body — is a temple.  A study of the old testament temple and the new testament descriptions of the body (this is where a book could come in!) lead us to three important facts:

  • Like the pre-Christ temple, your body and the church body are to be used as instruments of worship to Jehovah God.  Want to live a life of purity?  Live a life that focuses on using the body as an instrument of worship, Monday through Sunday.  Nothing made Jesus’ blood pressure rise more than the day He approached his Father’s house (the temple) and it had become a den of thieves!  (John 2:12-23) So, learn to worship.  In other words, put your love for God on display everyday.  Don’t feel like you love God enough to really do that?  Go back to the gospel.  Learn the gospel. (see number 2) There is NOTHING more important.  You have a body for the very purpose of worship and this is the method by which God will use you to reach others.  When your focus is on worshiping God with your body, making healthy and smart choices about how to use it suddenly become quite simple.  Don’t you think?
  • Like the pre-Christ temple, your body is a house for the Spirit of the living God.  The very presence of God dwells — lives — in you. (Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 3, 6)  I know when I finally, truly understood this it gave a whole new power to the word CONVICTION.  I couldn’t watch, listen to or allow anything impure into my mind or presence without feeling the grief of the Holy Spirit.  Teens need no other motive for purity than this; to understand the living God is present in their body.  He’s in the classroom, in the movie theater, on the couch, in the back seat of the car, at the restaurant and at the party.  He is not hanging around outside the body hiding somewhere in the shadows, watching from a distance.  He is right here, IN you.
  • God has the right to use your body as His house and for His worship because He owns you.  Gaining heaven means losing your rights.  For the believer, it’s not, “well, it’s my body and I can do what I want with it.”  If you want a relationship with God; if you want entrance into His kingdom, then you give up your body to Him.  The word teaches that you were bought, purchased, and redeemed at a price.  It cost Jesus His very life with the Father in glory to save you from your sin and to rescue your body from death and total destruction.  You did not one thing to deserve this.  He freely offers you the gift of this miraculous salvation.  He freely offers you life.  It comes free to you, but it was not free for Him.  True Love didn’t’ wait.  True Love died on a cross for us long before we knew Him.  If you desire purity, you surrender all to Him because He is worthy of nothing less.

I’m praying God will use this approach to purity in the lives of many youth and adults.  I’ve personally spoken to nearly 90,000 teenagers over the last decade and from my experience, sometimes I think we (adults) don’t give them enough credit.  We think there is no way they can “get this.”  So, we apply band-aids and hope for the best.

Will you just trust the Father?  Trust the Holy Spirit to work.  Boldly teach your children the truth and allow Him to do the rest.

I know from my own life, I am so thankful that my decisions as a teen (not that I always made the right ones!) were not based on, “what will my parents think?  or what will my friends think?”  but on “what will my Jesus think?”  And, although I often failed Him, I was always confident in His love for me and I knew my relationship with Him would win because He was always faithful to pursue me again.  This is only true because I was rooted in His truth.  I was taught His word and HIS WORD WORKS.

 


The Ripple of Ferguson

As I sat watching the news coverage of the events in Ferguson, MO last night, I had mixed emotions and many thoughts.  Although I am not directly affected by the chaos, I asked the Lord to show me what I can learn and how I could be used to help — if that is even possible.  I want to share with you what He spoke to me.  You may not like it.

I really don’t want to address the death of Micheal Brown.  Yes, it is very, very sad.  However, I do not know what happened.  I was not there and the reports have not been released.  So, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The issue I want to address is the issue of authority.  Where does authority come from?  Why do people really dismiss it?  And how does this include me?

As with everything else, the Bible has clear answers.  From the very beginning, the issue of authority has been at the forefront.  In the garden, Satan used the issue of authority to attack Eve and the chaos of sin entered the world.  Her creator had commanded she and Adam not eat of a certain tree.  The enemy planted a lie in her mind that went directly against what God had said.  Satan was really, really good at deception then, and he is really, really good at it now.  Eve usurped the authority of God and chose to be her own authority, as did Adam.  And therein lies our every trouble.   Virtually every problem you can imagine in this world stems from this event and this issue.  That is a huge statement, let it sink.  When Satan has his way, we always care more about ourselves than we do about God.  We always think our way is better for us and we are convinced we somehow deserve what we want regardless of what He says about it.  We usurp the authority of our creator and the enemy wins a battle in our life.  The Bible calls this sin, caused by our own pride, self-centeredness and unbelief in His truth.

Turn on the news and you will see the battle raging.  Satan has planted lies in the hearts and minds of people.  God’s word, truth, says this:  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”  (Romans 13:1-2)  Check out the next two verses: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”  In other words, if you do good, you won’t have any reason to be afraid of the authorities.  Really! Gee, should we be surprised at the Bible’s wisdom?   I’ve never in my life been afraid of getting shot by a cop.  Why?  Well, I’ve never been a trespasser or a thief and I would never show an officer disrespect.  If I have been the one in the wrong — like the time I ran a stop sign and the time…okay, times…I was speeding — I knew I had rightfully earned my tickets.  (Although, generally, I don’t get a ticket because I have also learned to earn favor and forgiveness by being extra sweet when policemen approach my window. :))

Now, I know some of you are saying, “what if the authorities are bad?”  Bad how?  Like if they begin to agree that robbing someone’s house is no problem and you should get away with it?  Okay, that is a bad cop.  Like if they allow your husband to beat you and your children, allow people to cook meth on your street and men to abduct and sell girls into the sex trade?  Okay, that is corruption.  We should rise up against it because the Bible never agrees with supporting and upholding sinful behavior.  But, if authorities are working to stop the bad guys and keep the good, innocent guys safe, submit to their authority.  They have reasons for what and how they do things.  Submit because they’ve gone through training and you haven’t.  Submit because they have the good guys interest at heart.  Submit because God, your ultimate authority, SAYS YOU SHOULD.

So how does this apply to little ole’ me.  Two ways:

1) I am a parent.  Are you?  This issue of authority begins early.  Do you remember when your child hit that 18 month mark?  (I realize you’ve tried to forget.) Do you remember telling them NO, them looking you straight in the eye and proceeding to do the bad thing anyway?  Did you teach them what it means to submit to your authority then?  As parents, we are the ones who instill this in our children and ultimately in our society.   I can’t fix what has been done in Ferguson, but I can fix what happens or doesn’t happen in the Rowe house.  I will, as my parents did, teach my children what it means to listen to and respect authority.  My first grade son just left for school less than an hour ago.  He knows it is his job to obey his teacher, to follow the rules and to submit to the authority of his principals.  Every rule in place is for his safety, protection and learning.  If I didn’t agree with the rules, then my child would not attend or I would work to help get the rules changed.  But, I won’t encourage disrespect or lead my child to believe they can act out because they are part of a “messed up, corrupt system.”   Whether I am with my children or not, they understand that they are children.  Being a child means you are not the boss.  They know that if I have entrusted their care to someone else, they can trust that person and that person has authority over them whether they are at school, church or in the big slide line at the fair.  Teaching children obedience is far from easy.  There are days I feel like I am talking to a brick wall and I have to pray the Lord will guard my mouth and give me patience to not lose it!  (Can I get a witness?)  But, I know this issue of authority will translate to their adult life.  If my husband and I, with the Lord’s help, can pull this off, our children will be able to work peaceably under a boss, they will be able to learn from those who know more than they do and they will be able to succeed.  MOST IMPORTANTLY, above all else, my prayer is that they choose to submit to the ultimate authority of God in their life.  They will heed to His word and His will because they will understand that they are not supreme.  The world does not in fact revolve around them.  They are not number one.  He is.

Not all parents operate this way.  MANY, by example, teach their children to disrespect authority.  Many teach their children that respect is earned and that they don’t have to respect or listen to people they don’t like.  This is a lie Satan has planted.  We should be teaching children that respect is not dependent on how others treat us, but on how we have determined to treat others.  As a speaker who has spoken to over 85,000 students, I assure you, disregard for authority and disrespect are a problem.  I’m trying to tell you this problem begins in the home and ultimately with the parent’s position and belief about a higher authority.

2)  I need to check my own life.  What God reminded me last night, is that I need to refresh my commitment to teaching respect for authority in my home.  I need to support my husband as he parents our children. I need to check my own heart and surrender my own pride.  I need to be the example by continually submitting  to the authority of God, knowing His great love for me and recognizing that He has my safety and learning on His heart.

So, I guess the question is this: Do YOU have an issue with authority?

The truth is, Ferguson impacts us all.


The FABRIC of Family

Monday night I had the fun opportunity to speak at a Mother/Daughter banquet in my hometown.  Hometown speaking gigs are intimidating to say the least!  I’m happy to have made it through.  The theme of the night was family and since today is Mother’s Day, family life is heavy on my heart.  Here are the six things I introduced to weave or thread into the F.A.B.R.I.C. of your family.

F – a Firm Foundation

If there is one thing I can be certain about in this life it is this: things change.  The world is moving at a fast pace.  Ideas, research, and theories seem to shift like the sand along the seashore.  One phone call could literally change my  life as I know it. Any day, anytime, everything can change.   What can we trust?  Is there anything solid to hold on to?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus spoke about people who live their lives based on His teachings.  He compared them to a wise man who built his house on a rock.  Though strong winds, heavy rain and flooding would come, the house built on the rock would stand.  Jesus promised.  (Matthew 7:24-25)

Is your house built on a firm foundation?  There is one thing I have found I can count on, now and forever.  One thing that is not subject to the restraints of time nor the decisions of man.  I find great comfort, confidence and security in knowing that the nature and character of God has not and will not change.  God is unique to that truth.  Because I can trust His unchanging character, I can build my life according to His ways, His design and His plans.

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must build our house on a firm foundation.

A- Attitude of Gratitude

Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing,”  Really, ALL things?  Without complaining.  What a challenge.  Here is a great quote by Charles Swindoll I heard years ago.  This quote was the core of one of the first speeches I ever gave in high school.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.

As my mother says, “Be thankful for every normal day.”

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must have an attitude of gratitude.

B – Bond of Peace

We have all been hurt by our family.  Somewhere along the line, in some way, whether by something done physically or something said, no one goes through family-life pain free.  No one.  However, if we want to keep our families together, happy and productive, we must forgive.  Let it go already.  Have the talk.  Send the e-mail.  Get it on the table — if necessary — and let it go.  Romans says, “if possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

The best way to learn how to forgive is to make a list of all the mean, hateful, selfish, prideful and wrong things you’ve done and been forgiven for.  When you see the grace that has covered you, it becomes much easier to forgive others.  I am so thankful that a perfect and holy God extends His grace to me.  Who am I to withhold forgiveness from another?

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must desire a bond of peace.  We must forgive.

R – Respect for Differences

Aren’t you glad we are not all the same?  If my husband and I were just alike, one of us would be useless.  God is so creative.  I admire His artistry as I look at the people in my life.  All of us are unique and made for purpose.  Rather than assuming differences are flaws, we should respect and admire what makes us different.  In Proverbs, there is a famous verse that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older he will not depart from it.”  For years I thought the core intent of the verse was teaching us to train up a child in THE WAY.  I agree that is a solid plan.  I will do that.  But, actually, with a bit more research and learning, I have found that the intended emphasis is on the word he.  “Train up a child in the way he should go.”  Interesting.  We should raise our children in keeping with who they are and who they were created to be.  Of course, they should live within the bounds of right and wrong, and it is our job as parents to teach them the boundaries; but in terms of their personality and interests and passions, we should support and encourage them to go their way.

I am so thankful for parents who got this right three kids in a row.

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must respect and even admire our differences.

I – In Tune with THE Mission

The mission that matters is simple; know God and make Him famous.  Life is short.  It really is like a vapor or a flower that blooms and then withers away.  Much of what we do day in and day out is in vain and is temporary.  The entire Bible is about God’s desire to have a relationship with mankind.  He wants to be known by us, now and for eternity.  Unfortunately, we are usually in the way of that relationship or distracted by our relationship with this world.   I want my family to be on mission with God through Jesus Christ to introduce the world to Him.  I want us to be a part of His team.  Not team members wearing jerseys and sitting in the stands, but team members on the field and in the game.  Why?  Because in the end, God’s team will win.

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must be in tune with THE mission.

C – Commitment to the Cost

Commitment is a thread that has been unraveled in our society.  We scoff at the thought.  We are so conditioned to freedom, convenience, flexibility and disappointment, that we struggle with commitment.  I want my family to be committed to truth, to the mission, to God and to each other.  Just because something is hard, does not mean it must be wrong.  We will not walk away just because we are uncomfortable, inconvenienced, unappreciated or misunderstood.  Commitment is hard.  Life is hard.  We must consider today what it will cost to be committed rather than waiting until things are a mess to figure it out.  I want to raise a family that will finish.

For my family, I will show them and teach them and thread through them this truth; we must understand commitment and stand strong no matter the cost.

For those of you who come from or who are living in the midst of a family whose fabric has been unraveled, I have great news for you:

God can sew.No family is perfect.  Mine certainly is not!  But God uses imperfect people and messed up families all the time.  He is a master at healing hurts, correcting wrongs, putting people and families back together and working things together for our good and for His glory.

We are all a life in progress.

 

 


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