January 26, 2015

Salvation and Testing in Exodus 15

Carrying on through Exodus, this week Chapter 15 really stood out to me. It is a great chapter of deliverance, happiness, and salvation (something we experience as God's children). But then it also reveals the weakness of unbelief and disappointment, the struggle we have even after knowing God's faithfulness to us already.

The people of God are finally let go from Pharaoh's harsh bondage of slavery over them. They are free. They can go and worship God and get on with their lives outside of the grips of the Egyptians. God has delivered them! And miraculously so! His deliverance included parting the Red Sea, making a clear path for them to follow, and destroying His peoples' enemies for them! They didn't have to fight this battle. Wow.

So after this, Miriam and Moses start singing. Brother and sister, get together and start praising and thanking God for the deliverance they just experienced. And then Miriam takes up a tambourine and all of the women follow her with their tambourines and start dancing while Miriam sings to them:

Sing to the Lord
for he is highly exalted
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea. Ex. 15:21

A beautiful picture of women in leadership, leading with a grateful heart, in a posture of worship, and by example.

Then things take a turn for the worst. Moses leads the people from the Red Sea into the Desert of Shur. And after three long days of travel they are thirsty and tired. The only water to be found, is bitter water from a place called Marah. 

So what do the people start doing? Grumbling

Shortly after their miraculous deliverance and beautiful worship service to the Lord, they encounter a challenge...and their first response, is not prayerful petitioning to the Lord. Nope. They complain. They grumble. They have forgotten the provision they just experienced barely 72 hours prior. 

Does this sound like cranky kids at the end of a really fun day you've tried to provide. 

The park, a picnic, playing games, giving them your undivided attention. You get home, and it's non-stop complaining about any old thing, (or in the Israelites' defense, a legitimate thing... but still)? And you may feel like harshly reminding your kids about the fun day you just spent with them, and to smarten up!  :)

Surprisingly, this isn't God's reaction to the Israelites in this instance.

the Lord showed him (Moses) a piece of wood. 
He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. Ex. 15:25

Not only did God provide a way out of this predicament, He gave them something good! Sweet water in a hot desert. A blessing to be sure. And after they grumbled, even!

Nevermind how ungrateful our kids can be after we love on them - how often do I carry on with my day, after having a fantastic time with the Lord in prayer and in His Word and the first crisis of the day catches me off guard and I'm grumbling! Already forgetting how God promises to provide a way. Yeah. Often.

But the Lord doesn't end this with provision of sweet water. He tests their sincerity and wants them to learn something important:

There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and he tested them. He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water. Ex. 15:25b-27

What does God want His children to know?

---Listen carefully to the voice of the Lord (Read the Word; get advice from other Christians we trust)
---Do what is right (apply what we read in God's Word; consider/listen and do the sound advice we receive)
---Pay attention (keep alert; never stop learning; down let the world drown out God's voice)
---The Lord is the healer (God is our deliverer; God is our provider; God is the one keeping us alive today)

January 19, 2015

Refocusing My Mind

Recently on Revive Our Hearts (one of my most favorite ministries), Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been highlighting, and not for the first time, the importance of Bible Memory.

This also has been a major priority for me and my children over the years. I grew up in Awana, joined Bible Quizzing as a teenager, and have always grown up thinking and realizing how important Bible memorization really is. Currently, I have my kids memorizing using Awana books of their own.

These three radio episodes aired on January 5th-7th, and they spoke so much motivation into my heart, fresh for a new year.

I hope you will take time to listen to these three episodes. Janet Pope (author and guest on the radio show) shares, so humbly, why and how she has memorized Scripture over the years.

It really hit home for me as she goes on to explain that her desire to memorize verses is not motivated by a sense of accomplishment or just another goal to achieve. For her it's not about just memorizing the Bible. She is motivated to memorize because she is forced to trade her thoughts for God's. She admits to being self-absorbed (as all of us humans are) and memorizing or meditating on God's Word replaces her selfish thoughts for His thoughts.

How Busy People Can Memorize Scripture
You Can Memorize More Than You Think
You Need Hunger

January 16, 2015

God Shows Us His Power!

"I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them. That you may tell your children and grandchildren how I deal harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord. Ex. 10:1-2

Going through the plagues in chapters 7-10 is so confusing. "I will harden Pharaoh's heart" is spoken by the Lord over and over again. It is clear that the control Pharaoh seems to have over the Israelites is really orchestrated by God and completely in His hands. 

God always has a bigger plan.

He's looking at the situation with a zoomed out point of view. 

While we have our noses to the canvas, 
He can see the entire painting and what it looks like.

God is building a legacy of testimony for the Israelites. They will fall back on the memory of their captivity in Egypt generation after generation as they share the power of God with their children and grandchildren, just as God willed it.

God builds a testimony of His power in each of our lives as we focus on His work daily. Journaling through His Word, recording prayers, watching Him work in our friends' lives. 

 -----> This can all point us to Him and His bigger purpose: 

Displaying His glory and might among the people

What I find so amazing about this is, God doesn't actually have to do this. He is mighty, He is great, without having to prove it or show it to anybody.

But He wants us to know Him. He wants us to worship Him in awe. That is grace. He cares enough about His people, then and now, to show Himself to us in awesome ways.

Your ways, O God, are holy.
Who is great like our God? 
You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your might among the peoples.
Psalm 77:13-14 esv

January 14, 2015

Just For Fun - Backyard Science

Living where we do, it is super easy to get outside and explore plants and animals/insects around us. Every now and again my husband will find a chameleon, in the yard, or at his workplace, and bring it home to show the children. We will keep it around and observe it eating, climbing, sleeping, and pooping.  :) Recently, one of our chameleons shed its skin! It was fascinating to watch, and took much longer than I imagined it would. The process took a few days.

The other interesting bug we were able to observe, actually kind of terrifying for me, who is petrified of cockroaches and other creepy crawlies, is called a Giant Water Bug, or Toe-Biter--this bug was truly huge!

Yes, that's my toe in the photo. Appropriate?  :) This bug was at least 3 inches long. It was really yucky. Our cats were even scared of its enormously intimidating pinchers!

So there we have it. Just for fun, a little peak into some of our spontaneous science observations we have the opportunity to experience, living in Madagascar.

January 12, 2015

Juggling the Homeschool

Just a quick update to share what we are doing in our homeschool, or rather, how we are doing our homeschool presently.  I say presently, because it seems there's no end of tweaking, changing, re-working, dumping, implementing... maybe you get the picture. As much as I crave and strive for consistency in my home, for me the biggest learning curve to my homeschool is my willingness and ability to be flexible. Wow, I am not!

So, presently, this is how it's working.   :)

I am schooling three of my four children, grades 3, 1 and K. My youngest is 3 and a half and begs to do school as he sees the others. He can do some little things, but I have found it a struggle to involve him when the others just really need my help.

I try not to micromanage our time schedule. Rather, I loosely schedule the school day in hour-long chunks.

8:30 Bible
9:00 Language Arts
10:00 Snack & Math
11:00 History / Science / Read-Alouds
12:30 Lunch
1:00 Quiet Time
2:00 Piano Practice and Play Time
3 or 4:00 TV / Electronics for a set amount of time

To clarify, my kindergartener doesn't take an hour to do phonics and handwriting! I give myself an hour to get everybody's language arts done. This way I am able to spend some focused time with each of the three. It also allows plenty of breaks for the wigglers. The same goes for Math. My hope is that my young students would never spend an hour in their math books. How boring. But I give myself an hour to be available to each one. If I didn't have any other children, for example, my Kindergartener would easily complete all her lessons for the day in a single hour.

We fit in other things, as our schedule differs on each day of the week. If we have friends over during school time, things have to be changed, and it's okay once in a while. We try and keep things to this basic schedule though. I try and protect things like "Quiet Time". I need it, more than my children do. As well, it's difficult for our family to be motivated to finish school in the afternoons, so it's key for us to get it done first thing.

Our curriculum is chock full of read-alouds, so we also work our way through novels in the evening when everybody is ready for bed.

January 7, 2015

Choosing God's Law, Over Mine

In Exodus 1, the Hebrew midwives chose to follow God's law rather than Pharaoh's, and God blessed the Israelites because of their courage and obedience. What does it look like to deny man's law and follow God's instead?

God’s law is really His heart, or nature. We could say that His heart is revealed in His law. Just so we can learn who God is, what He desires, what He loves, what is important to Him by studying His law, or His heart. We can learn the same about mankind.

What does the heart of man look like? Mankind’s law (or will, or nature, if you prefer) is really self-seeking, self-serving, and all about getting bigger or better somehow.

What happens when I choose to obey God’s law? To seek His will, to be thankful in all circumstances. (for this is God’s will for you, in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18)

When I deny myself, whatever that looks like in any given moment, whether it be, denying myself the first place, the shortest line-up, the spare time, the last cookie, the grumbling over an inconvenience.. when I sacrifice easy attitudes that come naturally, I am obeying God’s law.

When I deny the law of man, which is really all of those negative things mentioned above; proud, envious, self-seeking, keeping record of wrongs, and instead meditate on God’s law or ways and seek to follow them, He is glorified: we commune more closely together.  This is the ultimate blessing we receive—closer, more intimate communion with God.

As I have pondered on what God’s blessings can be, it is pretty eye-opening to realize that God’s blessings are not limited to happy-go-lucky circumstances, and material things we may have always dreamed or hoped for. God’s blessings come in all different shades and colours. In fact, in our feeble eyes the "blessings" may seem more like detriments and far from the "good things" we imagined God could give. But the common factor of His blessings is that we are brought together in closer fellowship.

December 11, 2014

We Don't Do "Family Devotions"

You know those cute book covers where you see the children quietly gathered around the father, Bible open on his lap, maybe a fire lit in the fireplace? Mother is sitting nearby with a contented smile on her face.

We don’t do family devotions like that.

Hats off to you, if it's happening in your family. Of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with sitting around and reading the Bible as a family.

But we don’t gather around the family Bible together and all listen quietly while Dad reads.

Does this mean our family is void of Bible teaching in our home? Absolutely not. In fact, some of our very worst moments as a family have been when we’ve force fed our children Scripture in the evenings. Now, there have been seasons when everyone receives it well, and it's nice... but normally my attempts feel fairly forced.

It has taken me, a fairly idealistic wife and mother, a few years to realize that reality is rarely the way it’s portrayed in books and paintings. You might be saying "Duh..." right now, but it took me a bit longer.  :)  The endless stream of family devotional ideas you can glean from all around (not all bad, by the way) can seem just that – endless. And it was essential for me to realize that the devil wants to discourage me by having me believe this idea that we are somehow doing our children wrong, or failing, if our families don’t look like this certain way.

A little while back I was challenged and encouraged by a friend who shared about a book she was reading that was mainly about being authentic in front of our kids. Growing children up in an environment where they are seeing Mom and Dad’s relationship with Jesus alive, not just hearing about it. I think we all want to see authenticity in the people we are around. Hypocrisy is a huge complaint un-churched people have against “christians” and part of it is due to their experience with those said-christians. They have heard the preach, but maybe haven’t seen it in action. How will our children feel if we are preaching to them, but they aren't seeing Jesus transform our own lives, daily?

In our home, we are talking about Christ. We are talking about grace and love. We are talking about our sin problems. We are sharing the Word of Truth with each other as Bible memory is rehearsed daily. But I have long given up the picturesque scene of children on parents’ laps listening to the Bible being read. Currently, in our house, it’s just not working like that.

I have stopped believing this “If Only….” form of a lie. Because that’s basically what it was for me: "If only we had regular family devotions, we would be so much closer as a family, or the kids would be so much better behaved".. or whatever your “if only” reason might be.

We are free from this. Our family devotions do not look like they do in the books, and that’s okay. We are loving our children, training them in real-life situations throughout the day, and living beside them speaking the Word into their hearts.