Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vigilance Against Sin - Part Two

Back to our "discussion" about being vigilant against sin...

Often times we allow ourselves to get into places where it is easy to fall into sin. Not only do we often place ourselves in situations, or among certain people, that bring with them temptation, but even our physical state can cause us to be more apt to sin. For example, when I become too tired or hungry, I am more likely to fall into the sin of angry outbursts (2 Corinthians 12:20) with my children or my husband. I have learned that my body needs certain periods of rest and regular food intake along with all of my daily activities to keep me from behaving in a way that is against every part of my Spirit, yet gratifies my flesh. When I act out towards those I love the most in anger, my Spirit recoils in shame and frustration, but for a brief nano second, my flesh cries out "Oh yeah, relief!"

As a younger woman I spent alot of time with friends having "play dates" with our young children. I now, for the most part, avoid these. Why? Because for me, they often lead to the temptation to sin in the area of my thoughts and/or speech. I learned a hard lesson years ago, when my oldest was little about getting together with girlfriends. The conversations often turned into gripe sessions about our husbands or just talking about other girlfriends who weren't present. We might not necessarily be discussing anything against someone else, but rather just talking about things that were really none of our business. The scripture does have something to say about that! (1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12; 1 Timothy 5:13 specifically refers to young widows, but applies here as well). Awful!!! But true.

Women in the workplace do the same thing (and I know that there are men who fall into this temptation as well, though not as frequently as we women I'm ashamed to say). How many times have you started a new job, only to find at least one person who will almost immediately ready to give you the "low down" on the other employees. Steer clear!!! Watch, lest you fall.

I could go on and on about the types of areas that can cause a person who loves the Lord to be tempted and fall into sin, but instead, let's look at what we should do to prevent that from happening. We are called to resist and flee from temptation (James 4:7; 2 Timothy 2:22), not to take it lightly, not to laugh about it, not to joke about it, but to RUN FROM IT!!!

Looking back again at the study I mentioned in the first part of this devotional writing, The Lord's Table, the author writes -

"Jesus Christ declared that He whom the Son sets free will be free indeed (John 8:36). And part of His work of making us free is to help us to be vigilant. May we not be as those who walk many years in victory, only to fall through lack of vigilance. Watch and pray. Here are some specific ways we can do this: Make sure to attend a Bible-believing church (Hebrews 10:25). The importance of this cannot be overemphasized.

  • Have daily accountability (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Hebrews 3:13)
  • Seek the Lord daily (Proverbs 2:1-5; Hebrews 11:6)
  • Drag every known sin, and even temptation (so sin) into the light. If you are struggling with something, humble yourself and talk to someone about it. (John 3:19-21).

We must be mindful of our weaknesses and careful not to expose ourselves to them as much as possible. When we are put into situations that we know cause us to be weak, we must be extra vigilant and watch for it, because it will come.

I am reminded that death to my self (flesh) is a daily process, not a one time experience. It is a daily responsibility for the Believer to crucify their flesh and to take up their cross and follow after Him, learning to pursue Him in EVERY area of our lives. (Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; Galatians 2:20; Mark 10:21)

Matthew 10:38

"And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."

Learning to die daily,

Friday, September 25, 2009

The "Radical Experiment"

Today's post is written by my precious husband, Todd.

He asked that I share this with you all, an email he recently sent to many on his email list.

As many of you know, we are members of The Church at Brook Hills, but are currently helping with a church plant in the Calera area. We continue to be amazed at the way God is working in and through the life of this Pastor and his amazing heart for Christ, and the poor throughout our World.

The Radical Experiment
Recently the Church at Brook Hills proposed the Radical Experiment; a one year proposal to radically change spending habits in order to benefit the poor and impoverished. After much prayer and discussion the decision was made to partner with Compassion International, a non profit organization that cares for the poor around the world for the glory of Christ. Before their trip to Compassion International’s headquarters the leadership at Brook Hills felt God leading them to focus their first efforts toward India, possibly the poorest, most impoverished nation on the planet, with almost half of its population living below the poverty level and less than one percent of its population being Christian.

After meeting with Compassion International the Brook Hills leadership asked them what they could do to help in India, expressing they felt God leading them toward India. Compassion answered by explaining that they needed the most help with their Child Survival Program. Although Compassion has a Child Sponsor Program, the children have to be at least five years old to qualify. The problem is that most children who live in extreme poverty seldom make it to the age of five and if they do they are usually mentally and physically challenged due to starvation and preventable disease.
Thus for most by the time they are five it’s already too late.

Compassion explained that the Child Survival Program was put into place to care for these children during this critical time. The program provides for the basic needs of both the child and mother through nutrition and medicines they need to survive. They explained they had twenty one of these programs in place but often lacked sufficient funding. It takes about twenty five thousand dollars annually to operate just one of these facilities and often churches will work together to support one or more Child Survival Programs.

Ladies and Gentlemen give praise to The Almighty God because the faith family at the Church at Brook Hills has provided funding for all twenty-one of these programs for the year! Through a radical commitment to God’s word and a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the poor they alone have met this overwhelming need for all of India. So, if you think just one person or just one congregation can’t make a difference… think again!

I never cease to be amazed at what God can accomplish through the hearts of his people. I pray we would all follow the example of this faith family and give our resources and our lives for the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This is what the gospel looks like when somebody gets it right. (James 2:14-17)

By His grace and for His glory,
I (Lori) am reading through Howard Dayton's book Your Money Counts - Now More Than Ever and, as God would have it, today's chapter is on giving, and talks about our responsibility to the poor. Expounding on Matthew 25:34-45, he writes,
"In some mysterious way that we cannot fully comprehend, Jesus personally identifies with the poor. If that truth is staggering, then the reciprocal is terrifying. When we do not give to the poor, we leave Christ Himself hungry and thirsty."
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose."
Jim Elliott, martyred missionary to Ecuador
Abiding in His AMAZING GRACE!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vigilance Against Sin - A Devotional Part One

Yesterday I was reading the Bible Study that I'm currently working my way through. There were some important points I thought I would share with you all.

As Believers, we know that we are called to be vigilant to root out any and all sin from our lives. Do we continue to sin after we are born again? Yes. Does the Lord give us what we need to be free of a life of sin? Yes. Can we sin less? YES!!! But how?

In Matthew 26:40-41, Christ is addressing his disciples who had accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemane. He tells them, in verse 41, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Christ points out that although our Spirit is willing to resist sin, our flesh is weak against temptation. In order to resist temptation, He tells them to do two things: 1) keep watching 2)keep praying. For us to cause our flesh to work in cooperation with our willing Spirit (the Holy Spirit within us), we are to be vigilant.

The study I am working through is The Lord's Table, and in regards to these verses the author writes, "Watch against a developing chain of events that lead to a fall in to sin, and remove a link in the chain. Watch for familiar areas in which you are tempted, watch for the uprising of the flesh, watch out for when you are tired, watch out for when you have just had a high spiritual experience, WATCH. But don't watch only. Watch and pray. Pray that God will keep you from falling. Pray that He would give you grace to endure temptation without giving in. Pray for power from above to extinguish the fiery darts of the devil." and "The flesh is always weak, no matter how long we've been pure or how strong we are in faith. There is no saint alive who does not have weak flesh, hence the need to watch and pray against falling."

I know what my weaknesses are, and there are many. What areas of sin are you most tempted by? Watch and pray.

More on this next time...

Abiding in His Grace, and for His glory,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where Have I Been????

I have not posted in the last week because it has been one big busy one!!!

Over last weekend we were involved with a "Block Party" put on by the church plant we are working with in Calera. This wonderfully Reformed Baptist Church - 7 Springs Baptist Church, is a one of those kinds of small starting churches with such a wonderful spirit about it. The love of the Lord is so present that I just enjoy being with God's people there. This church is very missional in its focus, looking for things within and around the community and county for ways to reach out to the poor and needy within the area.

Todd and I are are preparing to work through the Crown Financial Ministries Program to become Certified Christian Financial Counselors through our church. Our desire is to be involved with the Food Pantry ministry that we don't have completely ironed out or up and running, but that is on the back burner waiting to be put into place. We would be able, certified through Crown and backed by our church family, to work with others to go through helping them to review their current financial situation, help them to come up with a workable budget for their family, and to teach them how to get out of debt, stay out of debt and honor God with 100% of their earnings, not just 10%.

In the meantime, Seventh grade is going well for Anna, we are in about week 7 and she is flying high in math this year, which has always been a significant struggle.

My pain management doctor is currently trying to get me approved for some Botox injections in my back to relive the continued and constant pain that I am experiencing. It has been determined that I have permanent nerve and muscular damage from the shattered C6/7 vertebrae that was not removed soon enough. I live most days with very bad pain, and with usual windows of 3 hours or so in the evenings when I can rally long enough to try to get everything done (kids cared for, school work taught-reviewed-graded, home responsibilities tended to and company work done).

The Lord has showed me much in the last week as I studied through my current Bible study, but I've not had a good opportunity to write about these things. Hopefully I will get to them soon. They may come as several posts in a row.

Please be prayerful for us (Todd, Anna, and I) as we try to get it all done.
Abiding in His grace,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Why the McGuire's Homeschool

I've got a friend who is interested in possibly homeschooling her child(ren). She wanted to ask me some questions, and I am more than happy to talk with her - the same way so many did for me before we made this very monumental decision for our children.

I thought I would share with you all the "Why's" of why we (the McGuires) choose to do our children's schooling at home. This seems to be a timely post considering the many ways that the government seems to be infiltrating even more deeply the public education throughout our country.

I do NOT suggest that all Believers are called to homeschool. I will emphatically say however, that we will give an account for what we do regarding all things in our lives, and am hopeful that all Believing parents diligently seek God's design for their families. My concern is that we not just go along with what we did as kids, or what our friends are doing with their kids, or what's popular in your church or community, but that we all really be willing to seek God's desire for our children and our families in all areas, including education. When asked why do I homeschool, my usual answer is because the Lord led me to. May the Lord lead all of us according to His purposes and may we be aware of His leading so that He might be glorified.

So, here is what I shared with my friend...
Dear Friend:

Okay, I've got some time before I turn in for the evening so I thought I'd write about how I came to the point of taking our daughter out of a perfectly good Christian school and bringing her home. :O)

I knew before she started 2nd Grade that the Lord was beginning to do a work in my heart. She and I have similar personalities, so each time I would feel a prompting by the Lord I would think, "You've got to be kidding me Lord, we'll kill each other." During the Summer before her 2nd grade year, I had worked diligently to sign her up for EVERY possible activity under the sun to keep her busy over the Summer, and to give her plenty of opportunities to try out all sorts of things to see what she liked. Most of the things I was signing her up for were things I wanted her to try out, not necessarily things she'd shown an interest in. (Special note - At this point in my life, I would not even consider doing that, because I understand completely that the Lord has created her for a special purpose, and that her life should reflect her God given interests, giftedness, and her own personal calling. So, I seek God and then allow her to give her own input as to what she desires to do with her extra curricular time.)

Before our Summer actually began, I came across the following verses during my quiet time, Galatians 5:7-9, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."

The Holy Spirit immediately spoke to my heart through those words and I could see that I was very busy sowing to my daughter's corruptible flesh, things that really didn't matter in the long run. But, I wasn't spending even a tenth of that time sowing to her Spirit. I became convicted of this and immediately took her out of everything we'd signed up for that Summer, and began praying about how the Lord would help me to "sow to the Spirit" in her life during the few Summer months that I had with her. Over those few months we did some simple and fun Bible study together, spent hours together working on character issues - obedience, helpfulness, kindness, desire to serve others, etc..., and enjoyed lots of fun field trips, "pajama days" and more. I found that she and I were becoming very close once I really abandoned myself to training her in godliness to the best of my ability. By the time Summer was over, I was convinced that I was supposed to bring her home and was grieving losing her to school for such a large part of the day, but we'd signed the financial commitment with her school to return in the Fall. So, I did what anyone would do in my situation, I plugged my ears and began to say "La, la, la, la, la, I can't hear You. You must mean I'm supposed to do this next year Lord."

Once school began, about two weeks in, I was in misery!! The Holy Spirit was absolutely convicting me to the point that I could not stand to continue in what I knew was disobedience. I had discussed NONE of this with Todd throughout the Summer, and was afraid he would think I'd lost my mind if I told him about all of this. Finally, I went to him and explained what was going on in my heart, how I felt led, what I thought the Lord wanted me to do, and how I saw my focus changing and my heart really turning towards being with her more and teaching/training her the way we wanted her to be raised.

I went to our area's most well known Christian school, was raised in a Christian home, and never "got it" until I was 20 and the Holy Spirit did a work in my heart. I did not want our daughter to be 20, with years of regrets, before she "got it". Todd said, "Pull her out and bring her home. If you know that's what the Lord has told you to do, I will not stand between you and the Lord."

So, that's what I did. I remember crying in the Principal's office, as though I were the student, trying to explain to her why I was bringing Anna home, and feeling certain she would be thinking I had lost my mind. Surprisingly she was very supportive. We'd made the financial commitment and felt that it was the right thing to do to gladly pay that which we had promised. But, man was I glad when that year was up!!!

So, moving along, my "Pros and Cons List" looked something like this - Keep in mind that some of this was listed because we already knew a good many others who homeschooled and had begun to be influenced by what we were seeing in their families, the behavior of their children, as well as the growth we'd seen in Anna over the Summer. As a general rule, most Christian Homeschoolers do so because they believe it to be their responsibility to educate their children, or feel led (by God) to do so. Obviously, the same was true for us.

This was my list of Pros and Cons before starting to homeschool.

* More opportunity to study closer those things of personal interest to her and focus on her areas of giftedness. Giftedness and Interest we believe is placed in heart by her God.
* Opportunity to focus on areas of difficulty for mastery. (Math was moving too fast and she was having trouble keeping up. At home we could slow it down until it "clicked" which is exactly what we did once she was home.

* More one on one opportunities for character training with Anna.
* More individual attention than she will ever receive in a classroom.
* More control over what she's learning.
* More control over how she is learning (meaning that I could adapt it for her learning style, taking into account her strengths and weaknesses).
* Less peer influence, more parental influence during the most impressionable years of her life. (Although Anna has a strong personality, I found quickly (in Kindergarten) that she was a follower of whomever she thought was "cool" and it really concerned me. Often the "cool" was not worth following if you know what I mean. I felt sorry for her, I didn't want her blindly following around the "cool kid" and not really even being herself.)
* More opportunity to spend time with other friends who were already homeschooling.
* More relaxed learning during the early years (through about 5th grade).
* Less stress from driving to and from (The drive was about 45 minutes one way - 4 times a day for me, , which didn't make for a very nice momma.) I was constantly yelling, "Hurry up!!"
* Savings of about $5,000.00 a year (in future years at home).
* The chance to school more "year round" to prevent forgetting things and losing momentum over the Summer months. (We do usually take off a good 6-8 weeks for our "summer" though. I use this time to research curriculum for the new year, pray through and what for the Lord's direction in those areas, and reorganize school supplies and area.)
* Able to spend more time with her dad, because of his hours often spent in the office at home. It means occasional lunches with dad at home or out, that wouldn't be possible in school.
* The opportunity to travel to see the things we were studying about throughout the U.S., and now, even into other countries!!

(Now entering our 6th school year, I could add dozens more "PROS" to this list now that we're actually living it.)

* Scared to death!
* Worried about what family and other will think (especially concerned about my parents because we lived next door to them). Instead, they became some of my greatest supporters.

The only real con I could come up with was FEAR!!
I finally decided that I was more afraid of being disobedient to God's call on our lives as a family, than I was of what anyone else would think of it. And, I made up my mind then that I would never - not do something - because of FEAR!!!

So, there you have it, this is a description of the beginnings. We've begun our 6th year at home, and Anna would have it no other way. She loves being home, she loves having special outside opportunities to spend with friends (science labs, drama classes, competitive dance, and church activities). They are opportunities that are handpicked and bathed in prayer. Hmm, living in God's call for us has brought us great peace.

As always, In His grace,