The Lord tests the heart

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold,
but the Lord tests the heart.” Proverbs 17:3

The fire of the crucible is never meant to destroy the silver. The intense heat of the furnace will not destroy the gold. Fire improves upon precious metals, refining and purifying them. Likewise, the Lord tests our heart.

He allows the heat of our trials to refine our character and purify our heart. Will You test our hearts, Lord?

A wrong has been done against our child and we are in the midst of a battle for justice.  We are his protectors. We are the voice for our special needs child when he is unable to speak for himself.

The world fights injustice by productive means, but its justice also has the tendency to act out with vengeance or silly lawsuits. We cannot get caught up in the actions of the world. On the contrary, we are vessels of Christ and He desires to shine His light into this darkness.

I am very certain He has a larger purpose in mind for the situation we find our family in. We are just along for the wild ride. In the pain and discouragement of events exposed, we are willing to do what He wants us to do.

The problem is we don’t know exactly what He wants to do with all of the details of the event. But we do know the Lord will direct our steps. And when He does make clear to us what actions to take then we act with bold faith. No matter how personally uncomfortable it is to tread upon unfamiliar territory, the discomfort cannot be our guide.

So please Lord, keep our hearts in check. We acknowledge our hearts can deceive us. When injustice is carried out against our flesh and blood mankind has the potential to go overboard in response. We have no desire to push people to their breaking point in the name of justice. And we absolutely have no desire to shrink back, sweeping the injustice under the carpet.

Help us act in just and purposeful ways which reflect Your heart and honor You without our flesh messing it up!  Test our hearts O Lord, and refine them for good.

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Proverbs Vitamin: Family Mission Statement

“Through wisdom a house is built,

and by understanding it is established;

by knowledge the rooms are filled

with all precious and pleasant riches”   Proverbs 24:3-4

What images are evoked when you say the word, “home”? Do you smile and laugh as your mind wanders back to happy childhood memories?  Does your stomach turn as you try to push away the painful moments in your childhood home?

Regardless of your own childhood experience, you have the opportunity to build a home environment which reflects the love of God. You have the ability to determine whether your spouse and your children reflect upon “home” with feelings of warmth and a smile as they approach the front door. It doesn’t happen naturally or overnight, but it begins with a Family Mission Statement.

A Family Mission Statement helps you define the values you hold for home life. The Family Mission Statement reminds you to focus on this vision as you build your house.

Our Christensen Family Mission Statement centers upon Proverbs 24:3-4,

“Through wisdom a house is built, by understanding it is established, by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

We placed these verses on the front page of our wedding ceremony bulletin in 1990, and it is written in a prominent place in our home 21 years later. Who doesn’t want a home full of precious and pleasant riches — A place of rest and peace and laughter and acceptance? But, many of us do not know how to begin creating a rich environment for our families. Proverbs 24 gives us a concise plan to carry out our family mission.

Through wisdom a house is built.  Wisdom begins through the fear of the Lord. Wisdom is Christ Himself, who supplies us with all we need for living.  Relying upon our education or the cultural trends of the day will not build our home.  Christ is the Rock on which to build our personal lives and He is the foundation to build our family relationships.

By understanding it is established. The Holy Spirit guides us into understanding right and wrong. We can talk with Him daily about our child-rearing, our conflicts and concerns. We can ask Him for wisdom when our kids are in the middle of a tantrum or our spouse has lost their job. He will guide us to understand the needs of our family in light of Scripture. This understanding will establish our home!

By knowledge the rooms are filled. Knowledge is the love and practice of the wisdom and understanding that has been revealed. It includes grace and joy and living freely within the love of God. Our speech, our finances, our self-discipline and the way we discipline our children are all effected when we put to practice the wisdom of Christ.

The rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.  Some people interpret these riches as material blessings. I have been in the most humble of homes and the poorest of countries, where material goods were not filling the rooms of the home. Instead, overflowing joy, laughter and generosity were pouring out from beautiful lives. These precious and pleasant riches cannot be given or taken away by the world. These are the riches of rest, unconditional love, spirits and minds at peace with one another because they are at peace with Christ.

This is the vision of “home” I hold for my family. It begins on the foundation of knowing Christ, it is established through understanding His ways. Through knowledge we learn practical ways to treat one another in the home, and our hearts and rooms pour out with blessing.

Allow God to help you form your Family Mission Statement. It will guide your family in purposeful ways and keep you on track throughout the child-rearing years.

Have you created a Family Mission Statement? Share your Mission with others.  Come back next week for specific and practical ways to apply your Family Mission Statement to daily life.

 

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What will you do with the poor?

Today’s Proverb vitamin is a sobering one, taken from Proverbs 21:13

“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor

Will himself call out and not be answered”

Throughout the Scriptures the heart of God is revealed for the poor and needy.  Caring for the poor is considered true religion in God’s sight, it is an act of justice and worship.  Often times our hearts are filled with good intentions, but we make gross oversights in putting those intentions to action.

The statistics of hunger in our own communities unveil the poverty crisis.  In my state of California, there are 6,053,473 individuals who are considered food-insecure.  To consider our national statistics, and those of starving people around the world, it is both devastating and overwhelming.  (You can learn about your local state’s statistics at www.feedingamerica.org)

I have shared many opportunities shoulder to shoulder with youth; feeding and serving those in poverty in local cities throughout California.   But, I will never forget the day my eyes opened to a new face of poverty.  Working together with beautiful high school students in a soup kitchen; we were seating and greeting people as they came to Loaves and Fishes for a good hot lunch.  These weren’t the homeless folks I had rubbed shoulders with before, instead they were working people.  Construction workers, builders, many others who were in their work clothes, coming to eat for their lunch break.  They are the working-poor.  This is sobering to me.  In fact, the 2010  U.S. Census Bureau states there are 21 million people who live in working-poor families.

The face of poverty includes the working poor, Senior Citizens, and children.  Feeding America  explains new findings on child hunger:

“Child hunger hampers a young person’s ability to learn and becomes more likely to suffer from poverty as an adult.  Scientific evidence suggests that hungry children are less likely to become productive citizens.”

Wait, don’t turn the channel!  Instead, consider how to turn your grief and good intentions into action.  You can easily incorporate these actions into your lifestyle:

  • Check out Food for the Hungry or Feeding America.org.  Both organizations can lead you to local opportunities to assist the poor in your community.
  • Make a Google Search for Food Bank’s in your city.  Find out where the nearest food collection truck is in your neighborhood.  If there isn’t one, ask what you can do to help them out.
  • Put your heads together with your children, their school or church, and organize a food, coat, or blanket drive.
  • Make Fair Trade purchases at your local store to help assist global poverty and keep those most vulnerable to selling themselves into the slave trade, working!  Check out Free2Work.org for a smart phone app which helps you identify Fair Trade items in your stores.
  • Make a simple plan to buy 5 extra cans of food or baby formula every time you grocery shop.  Let your kids pick the food and help deliver it.  This will instill a lifestyle for your children of serving others in need.
  • Call your local soup kitchen and schedule a date with your family, Bible Study group, or friends.  (Note: soup kitchen’s get a lot of volunteers during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season; so plan ahead or schedule your day for the new year).

You may be a little nervous at first, but I guarantee, it will be one of the best things you’ve done all year!  Because you  are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), I know you will feel blessed in your practical act of worship.  You may even hear your kids ask, “When are we going to do that again?”

Serving the poor is serving Jesus Himself.  In the words of Jesus:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me,I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.”  Matthew 25:35-40

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Daily Proverb vitamin: Proverbs 17

Have you made any goals for your family lately? Do your goals include keeping up with your busy schedule, planning vacations, Christmas lists or fixing up the house?

Don’t lose sight of the most priceless goals for your family.  These may include a peaceful home, laughter and understanding.  Consider today’s Proverb:

“Better is a dry morsel with quiet

than a house full of feasting with strife”  Proverbs 17:1

What are you willing to do to create invaluable qualities in your family life this week?

 

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A woman’s potential to build or tear her house down

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.  Proverbs 14:1

This one verse packs a powerful punch!  Have you ever been struck by the potential you hold as a woman to build or to tear down your home?   I hold a picture in my mind’s eye of what a Christ-honoring and loving family looks like.  This picture is painted with strokes of Scripture and years of desire to grow a family who represents Jesus in all aspects of our lives.

Proverbs 14:1 is  pounding at my heart’s door today.  What am I doing to wisely build or foolishly tear down my own home?  How dreadful to consider I have the potential to tear it down with my own hands!  Am I willing to sit still and consider it?  This is the work of Scripture and the Holy Spirit; to pour light upon any darkness in the corners of my life, and give me the opportunity to clean house!

Have you considered what your bottom-line desire is for your family?  I encourage you to give it serious thought, then write those values on a piece of paper and tuck it away in your Bible or post it on your wall!  Do you desire a peaceful home, a rich and healthy marriage, children who are growing in wisdom and compassion? Do you desire your husband and children to have softening hearts to the Lord and others?  What are the foundation-values for your family that will keep your home from crumbling?  These are the timeless characteristics which battle against the daily lifestyle you may have created.

Brick by brick sister, we build our house with our words, our touch, our investment of time and money, our actions and reactions to people and daily trials.

Day by day we hold the ability to tear our house down with our nagging, laziness, impatience, outbursts of anger, or bitterness.  Oooh, this is getting uncomfortable.  Our vanity, strife, sensuality, or waste of family resources can tear down that which we hold dear.  Matthew Henry states the woman who tears down her own house “indulges her ease and appetite”.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about a vain pursuit for a perfect family.  I am talking about a life pursuit of lining our lives up with Jesus. The mortar we use to hold the bricks together is the fear (reverence) of the Lord.  It is He who gives us the insight into our families need. It is His Spirit who causes the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22) to grow within us and spill out into our homes.

Will you exercise the God-given wisdom to build your home today? Celebrate the great building blocks you have already created and make new goals to put an end to any destruction.  Invite the Holy Spirit into your home to shine light on those areas which need renovation.

Dear Jesus, will you search my heart?  Will you show me any hurtful way in me and lead me into the ways which honor You?  You know my heart’s desire to grow a home; a family who loves and serves You.  Please don’t let me get in the way.  I pray You keep my heart searching after You and help me be a wise and Spirit-filled woman You can use to build this house.

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