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Praying for Our Children to Know Their Deepest Need

Today’s guest blogger is Teri Lynne Underwood, author of the new book “Praying for Girls.”

“Mom, I need a new binder for school.” “Mom, I really need some new foundation.” “Mom, I need you to sign this permission form.” “Mom, I need this shirt washed for tonight.”

“Mom, I need …”

For a while, I began to think my daughter thought my name was “Mom, I need.”  If you have children, you can probably relate.

Our kids understand need in a far different way that we do as parents. They make very little (if any) distinction between needing and wanting.

How can we teach our children to understand what they really need can’t be found at Target or on social media? How can we help them recognize their deepest need in life is Jesus?

Praying for our children

Two of my favorite people in Scripture are Mary and Martha. Most women tend to relate to one of these sisters more than the others. Me? Oh, I’m a Martha. No doubt about it. I want to solve the problems, do the work, and get the right answers.

But Mary knew something Martha didn’t — and it’s something I want to learn and live in myself. Mary knew what she really needed.

In the familiar story found in Luke 10, we read Jesus’ words to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42 ESV).

One thing is necessary.

Some translations say one thing is needed. Mary understood the good portion, the better choice — she recognized her deepest need wasn’t what she could do for Jesus but time spent with Jesus.

And, friend, that’s our deepest need too.

How do we help our daughters (and sons) understand this truth? How do we point them toward the reality that without a relationship with Jesus, nothing else really matters?

3 Ways to Help Our Children Recognize their Greatest Need

I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But the following specific can guide them toward this vital understanding:

  1. Tell – Let’s share our own faith journeys with our kids. When we tell them of our need for Jesus, and the way He has sustained us, we help them recognize their own need for Him.
  2. Point – When our children face trials and difficulties, let’s consistently point them back to Jesus as the source of peace and comfort. That will lay a foundation of faith for the rest of their lives.
  3. Pray – for them to know their need for Him and seek Him above all. Praying for our children is an investment in their spiritual growth. Let’s pray that they will recognize their need for Jesus and seek Him above all else. And this sort of prayer helps us remember, we as moms can never meet the deepest need in their lives — only Jesus can!

Praying for our children to know their deepest need is Jesus is one of most important ways we intercede for them.  And it is a prayer we can pray with confidence and boldness, knowing God’s desire is for them to know Him and walk with Him for their whole lives.

How do you encourage your children to recognize Jesus as their deepest need?

Praying for GirlsTeri Lynne Underwood is a pastor’s wife, ministry speaker, and Bible teacher. As the founder of www.PrayersforGirls.com, Teri Lynne is a cheerleader for girl moms and the author of Praying for Girls: Asking God for the Things They Need Most.

About Praying for Girls:

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by concerns for your daughter, enjoy the peace that comes when you pray targeted prayers for her straight from the Bible. No matter your girl’s age, pray confidently about struggles she may be facing now and in the years to come.

Covering five vital areas of a girl’s life–her identity, heart, mind, relationships, and purpose–this easy-to-use book is ideal for anyone who feels intimidated or uncertain about what to pray for the girl they love. Rounding out the book are conversation starters and fun activities to help you guide your daughter into becoming a godly woman.

 

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I Don’t Want to Go Church Shopping

church shoppingMany of you know my husband and I recently moved to a new area and are now looking for a new home church. We are just a couple of weeks into the search, but I already have a bit of a battle going on inside me. The church shopping mentality threatens to take control. My desires are trying to push their way to the front.

I want a church that… I’m looking for a church that will… I’d really love for our new church to… Wouldn’t it be nice if…

I have this idea of the church I want. It combines the best of our past church homes. Incredible, worshipful music. Solid, engaging teaching. Believers that do life together. Heavenly involved in missions. Strong community outreach. Active women’s ministry.

And we could look for a church like that and probably find one. We could make a list of all the attributes we desire in a church and compare each one we visit to that list. Does this one meet the criteria? Does that one make the cut? Do we cross off that last church?

But Lord help us – and I mean that as a prayer – I don’t want to find our new church home that way. In fact, I will boldly say, God doesn’t want us to find our new church home that way. I don’t want to choose my favorite; I want to search for and find the church God has already chosen for us.

The term “church shopping” rubs me the wrong way. Yet, sadly, not only do many of us use it, but it also adequately describes how many of us look for a church. We shop for one like we do a car or a prom dress or laundry detergent. Honestly, it’s easy to fall into that mindset. Our consumer-oriented culture programs us to think that way.

But God doesn’t do things the way we do. The Bible tells us that God puts the body together like He desires (1 Corinthians 12:18). He places the people He has chosen into leadership (1 Corinthians 12:27-28). He determines the gifts to individual believers and selects their place of service (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-28).

God’s Word applies to my life today. He already has a church and places to serve picked out and waiting for us. I am determined not to “shop.” I want to seek His will and then follow it. May He help us do just that.

How does this biblical view compare with what we usually hear?

You may be interested in the following:

 

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Why Do You Read the Bible?

Why do you read the Bible? If you and I had coffee together and I asked you that question, how would you answer?

Why Do Americans Read the Bible?

A 2016 study by the Barna Group shows that about 1/3 of Americans read the Bible at least once a week. The same study also cites why people read the Bible. Here’s a quick rundown of the top answers:

  • Brings me closer to God (55%)
  • To receive comfort (16%)
  • To find direction or an answer to a problem (16%)
  • Because I am supposed to (6%)

Why do I Read the Bible?

As I write this blog, I’m thinking about how I would answer this question. I mean, honestly answer this question. And you know what? I think my answer would depend on the day. Absolutely I want to be closer to God. But, some days I do read it because I know I should. Other days I need some godly direction or an answer for a specific problem. And on tough days, I just need some comfort.

And you know what? I think all those reasons are legitimate. God’s Word does give comfort, offer direction, and have answers for life today. And yes, sometimes we really should read our Bibles when we don’t necessarily want to, because Christian life requires discipline and purpose. We must “train ourselves for godliness”(1 Timothy 4:7-8).

While all those reasons and more are wrapped up in why I read the Bible, there is another reason. One I desire to be my primary reason.

I want God’s Word to shape me. To refine me. To make me more like Jesus.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

And as it does, all those other things will happen too. My intimacy with God will deepen and grow. His constant presence will comfort and guide me.

So, now it’s your turn. Why do you read the Bible? Maybe your current reason isn’t what you’d like it to be. Or maybe you don’t read the Bible regularly now. The best way to create a hunger for God’s Word to simply to begin to read it. Once you get a taste… (Psalm 34:8).

Why do you read the Bible?

If you’d like to begin to read the Bible but you aren’t sure how to get started, check out my free resources page. It is full of helps, including quiet time tips and Bible reading plans! 

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Does it Matter What My Church Believes?

church doctrineJust last month, my husband and I moved to a new town. Yesterday, we began the search for the church God has for us. Our actual address may be small town Texas, but since we live on the fringes of the Dallas/Ft Worth area, church choices abound. We could visit for months – maybe even years – without attending the same church twice.

How do we begin? How can we narrow our search? Before we made the first visit, we narrowed the possibilities significantly based on what the church believes.

What? Doesn’t the preaching and the music and the programs and the community involvement carry a lot of weight? Does a church’s doctrine really matter that much?

Yes, a church’s doctrine is that important. Not only do the biblical truths and principles on which it stands shape its people and its ministry, but if what it believes does not align correctly with God’s Word, then the church is not following Christ.

I realize that’s a bold, brazen statement, but it’s based on the teaching of the New Testament. For instance, in Paul’s letters to the churches in Corinth and Galatia, one of his primary purposes in writing was to combat false teaching and to admonish them to cling to the truth of Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:6-9). Paul describes the warped gospel they were following as “no gospel at all.”

And in the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself called the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira to repent from following false teaching before they experienced God’s discipline (Revelation 2:14-16, 20-22).

Yes, what a church believes – and therefore teaches and acts on – absolutely matters.

I can hear wheels turning. Do you mean everything? What about the differences between denominations? Are you saying that only one denomination is right?!

Many differences between denominations and even individual churches within denominations are peripheral to the heart of God’s gospel. They do not impact key doctrinal truths. These kinds of differences can be held loosely. In fact, we can enjoy and even celebrate the variety within God’s church.

Things like style of music, order of worship, and areas of ministry focus broaden and strengthen the worldwide church. Even other beliefs like the role of women in ministry, the view of end times, and the structure of church leadership are not considered core essential truths. These types of areas are considered “minor doctrines.” There is room for differences.

But in other areas, those considered to be “major doctrines,” there is little if any room for difference. With these doctrines – ones that are central to Christianity and have significant impact on other doctrines – we must hold firm. These fundamental truths flow from the nature and character of God and His saving work.

We can’t fully cover all these major doctrines in one blog post. But here is a quick list of many of these essential truths:

  • The nature of God
  • The Trinity
  • The deity of Jesus
  • The authority of the Bible
  • The nature of mankind and our need for salvation
  • Salvation solely through faith in Jesus
  • The death and resurrection of Jesus
  • The return of Jesus

What a church believes about essential doctrines are deal breakers for me and my husband. For instance, if a church believes there is something more required for salvation than faith in Jesus – or that salvation can be found anywhere else – that one doesn’t make the cut. If a church doesn’t hold to the truth that God is one God yet three distinct persons, there is no need for us to visit.

Why are we so dogmatic? A church that does not hold to the essential truths of the Christian gospel is not following the gospel at all. Overall, as believers, we can be gracious in those minor doctrines, the non-essentials, but we must be hold tight to the essential truths of our faith.

If you aren’t sure what your church believes about the major doctrines, find out. Many churches have “statement of beliefs” on their website. (I even have one on this website!) If you aren’t sure what you believe, start studying! Of course the Bible is your first and primary source. But if you’d like some additional resources, check out the list below.

Do you know what your church believes about the major doctrines? Does it matter to you?

Suggested Reading:

 

 

 

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Fireflies, Family Fun, and Intelligent Design

Not long after we moved into our new home, we discovered fireflies like to hang out in our backyard at twilight. The sight brought back such good memories of our childhood we wanted to share the experience with our 5-year-old grandson Micah. So last weekend, we invited him to sleepover at Boss and Nana’s house. (Now that we live close, we can do that!)

First, we “had” to let him stay up way past his bedtime. Then we got to sit out back, watch the sunset, and wait for the lightning bugs to make their appearance.

fireflies

Micah wore his pajamas and his rain boots for the firefly escapade. (When he arrived at our house that morning with the thick red rubber boots on his feet I didn’t give it a second thought. After all, it was raining at the time. Later, when we were getting ready to go out to dinner, we found out he didn’t have any other shoes with him. His mom let him pack all by himself.)

Rain boots may not be the best foot wear for the Ponder Steak House, but they happened to be perfect for running around a muddy backyard snagging glowing beetles between your two cupped hands. By the time the “catching” was finished, Micah had collected about a dozen fireflies in his bug house.

Micah wanted to take good care of them and knew they needed food and water to survive. After some quick research we learned more than we thought we needed to know about fireflies. Here’s the top things we found interesting:

  • Fireflies are NOT flies, they are beetles.
  • There are about 2,000 different varieties of fireflies.
  • Fireflies eat bugs, like mosquitos, and nectar.
  • The primary purpose of the fireflies’ light is to attract a mate.
  • The firefly’s glow is a chemical reaction between two substances in the bug’s abdomen. The firefly itself triggers the reaction by regulating the flow of oxygen into it’s abdomen.

Our research triggered two actions. First, we filled a bottle cap with hummingbird food and placed it in the bug house so the fireflies wouldn’t starve before Micah released them at home the next day. (They actually drank it!)

Second, the firefly’s incredible design pointed us straight to the Designer. What a “glowing” example of God’s creativity and power. And He didn’t just create one kind of glowing beetle. He created 2,000! Isn’t our God amazing?!

What have you seen in the world lately that reminded you of the One who made it?!

 

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Let the Church Search Begin

churchFinally! No more boxes! (In the house anyway. The garage does not count.) Pictures even adorn the walls.

Our moving adventure hit full swing three weeks ago today. Now that we are able to function in the house it’s time to begin finding our place in our new community.

In 34 years of marriage, our family has moved 7 times. After unpacking boxes, our first priority has always been to find a new church home. Now it’s that time again. It’s time to find the church God has chosen for us.

Our family does not “church shop.” In fact, I really dislike that term. It implies that believers should look for a church like we look for a new car. That we find the one with all the desirable features. That we chose the one that will serve and suit us best. After all, we want to get the most “bang for our buck.”

But that’s not what the Bible teaches about a believer’s relationship to a local church. Sadly, many of us today have unknowingly allowed our consumer culture to shape our thinking about the church. We look for the church that will meet all our “needs.” Then when it doesn’t we move on down the road to the one with the more dynamic preacher or better youth program or better entertainment value. (For more on church shopping and church “hopping” check out this post and this one.)

I admit, this attitude affects me too. That’s one reason I want to share my “church search” experience with you here.  I pray that the transparency will keep me from falling into that trap.

I want to seek and find the church God has already chosen for us. The church where He already has a place for us to serve. The church where the body needs us and the gifts God has given us.

3 key truths the Bible teaches about a believer’s relationship with God’s church

If this way of thinking about church is “new” to you, maybe these points will help.

  1. God wants me to use the gifts He has given me to serve a local church (1 Corinthians 12:4 and following) – My God-given gifts and talents are not for me. He intends me to use them for the good of other believers – particularly in committed relationship with a local church.
  2. God has a particular spot for me in a particular body (1 Corinthians 12:21-27) – Which church and which place of service is NOT my decision. God has already chosen it. It’s my task to discover His will and obey it.
  3. God works through the local church to grow me up spiritually (Ephesians 4:11-16) – I cannot be everything God intends for me to be without being vitally connected to a local church. God matures me and strengthens my faith within that context. He has designed faith to be a corporate experience. We cannot adequately follow Christ on our own.

I miss our church in Houston. But I am also excited about what God has planned for us here. Over the next few weeks, I plan to share that journey with you and talk more about the church. I’d love for you to share your thoughts with me too!

Are you actively connected to a local church? If not, why not? If so, what led you to that specific church?

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Friends Don’t Divide, They Multiply!

We are moving this week. In fact, the movers are scheduled to arrive this morning. If things go according to plan, there will be two days of packing and loading here in Houston, then we will unload at our new home just north of the Dallas/Ft Worth area on Wednesday.

If you’ve ever moved, you know that carries a lot of implications. New utilities. New doctors. New church. And even some new friends.

What’s wonderful about the friendship thing is that even while you get new local friends, you can keep the ones you move away from. Physical distance does not have to divide friends. Instead a new place means additional friends. Friends don’t divide, they multiply!

 

friends

We have moved seven times during 34 years of marriage. We have made new friends each time. Although we don’t regularly stay in touch with all of them, we still count them as friends. We can easily reconnect. In fact, this has happened multiple times. We may go years without speaking to an old friend, then life brings us together again and we discover the bonds of friendship remain.

friends

And then there are others. Friends we have “carried” with us from one place to the next. Both of us have made the effort needed to stay in regular communication. To work out face-to-face visits. These relationships have actually grown, deepened, over time.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9, NLT

friends

All these friendships reveal God’s great grace and sweet love to us. He knows we need connections to others. He knows we need others in our lives to encourage, strengthen, exhort, and comfort us. And He knows they in turn need us. He designed us that way. As relational beings. And He created friendship to meet those needs.

friends

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friendProverbs 27:17, NLT

Although it is bittersweet to move away from local friends, I can anticipate the new relationships God has in store for us in our new town. And I pray I may be the friend they need.

How you experienced friendship that survives time and distance? In what ways do you foster these relationships?

 

 

 

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3 Ways to Encourage Others

encourageEarlier this week I got to teach at my church’s ladies’ summer Bible study. It was a bit bittersweet because it was the last time before we move next week. And ironically, the summer Bible study topic is friendship. I admit, a few times I had to hold back tears.

I taught on the friendship of Barnabas and Paul, specifically the way Barnabas encouraged Paul. What I learned from studying their relationship was enlightening and I thought you might get something from it too!

“Barnabas,” which means “son of encouragement,” was a nickname given to Joseph the Levite by the apostles (Acts 4:36-37). You can guess how Barnabas earned this endearing moniker. He was well-known for encouraging others.

Barnabas and Paul’s relationship began with Saul the Persecutor returned to Jerusalem for the first time after his saving encounter with Jesus. He tried to join the believers, but they fearfully rejected him. “But Barnabas…” (Acts 9:27).

3 Ways Barnabas Encouraged Paul

  1. Barnabas Extended Friendship (Acts 9:26-30) – Barnabas did not act foolishly. He listened to Paul’s story and then with spiritual wisdom and discernment he became an advocate for Paul with the Jerusalem church. Barnabas opened the door for Paul into the fellowship of believers.
  2. Barnabas Fostered Paul’s Gifts (Acts 11:22-26) – When the new, thriving church in Antioch needed leadership, Barnabas brought Paul to work alongside him. Barnabas knew the church needed Paul’s gifts and that Paul needed to grow and develop his leadership skills. Barnabas acted as “matchmaker!”
  3. Barnabas helped Paul reach his spiritual potential (Acts 13:1-13) – In the middle of their first missionary journey together, Barnabas recognized God’s call on Paul’s life. Without any signs of jealousy, he humbly stepped back and let Paul take the lead.

3 Ways We can Encourage Others Like Barnabas

After studying Paul and Barnabas’ friendship, I cast a wider net to see what the rest of the New Testament teaches us about encouraging one another. Both the noun and verb forms of the basic Greek word mean “to call to one’s side; to comfort, exhort, encourage, and console.” After reading numerous examples, I condensed them to these 3 specific ways we can encourage other believers.

  1. Comfort the suffering and hurting (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) – When tragedy hits, when troubles rage, our friends need more than our prayers. They also need our presence. They need us to come to their side. To cry with them. To serve and help in practical ways. And they need to share about times God has helped us in similar circumstances.
  2. Strengthen the weary (1 Thessalonians 3:1-3) – Sometimes believers just get tired. There isn’t necessarily any one specific trial, we are just bone tired. Or discouraged by life in general. We need some refreshment. We can encourage each other by helping with the load. By sharing a laugh. By bringing ice cream!
  3. Exhort the spiritually lazy or those tangled in sin (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12) – This is the form of encouragement we lack the most today. We don’t want to “meddle” in others’ lives. We don’t want to “judge.” But all that is merely an excuse to ignore our biblical responsibility to each other. Scripture commands us to call other believers out of sin. To push them toward holiness. And in doing so, we may save them much heartache.

Who needs your encouragement today? Is there someone you know right now that needs an advocate? How can you build a bridge for them into your local fellowship? Is their a weary friend who needs refreshment? What tangible thing can you do today to encourage them? Is there a friend caught in a harmful cycle of sin? How can you bravely intervene? 

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In the Midst of Change, the Best Remains the Same

I feel as though my life is all boxed up, but change is coming…

Literally, our life is in boxes. My husband’s retirement in December started it all. He had planned to work another two years, but when his company offered an early retirement opportunity, we knew it was time. We decided to move our plan forward – to sell our home in Houston and move to the Dallas area where our daughters and their families live.

After the holidays we began working to get the house in top shape. Power wash the driveway. Weed the flower beds. Paint some walls. Then came all the staging work – pack away the family photos, take the animal heads off the walls, and pack up the “extra” decor.

The house officially hit the market April 20th. We really expected it to take a few weeks at least. But we received three offers in the first three days. The biggest problem was we had no where to go. So, we took a quick trip north to find a new home.

We closed on the new place last Wednesday and minor renovations began the next day! The movers come to help us make the actual move next week! All our stuff should be inside the new place by mid-June!

In the meantime, I’m packing. And packing. Selling a few extra things and donating some others. Everything else has been put on the back burner. That includes blogging! But I wanted to work this one in to give you all an update.

Oh, and in the middle of it all, I received a contract from my publisher for a new book! That project is at the top of my list – right under “unpack boxes!” (Watch for more about this later!)

I’m in the midst of a lot of change right now – husband’s retirement, moving away from a church family that I love, selling one home and buying another, changing cities, and moving my elderly parents from Louisiana to Tennessee to be near my brother (that’s a whole other story!) But the best of it all remains the same. My husband has been consistently at my side for almost 34 years. Our family still loves and supports one another.

And, most importantly, my God is the same faithful, all-powerful, gracious Father I’ve always known. He is the same God in Dallas that He is in Houston. Or New York. Or Mozambique. We will find a place among His people in our new home. And He will have work for us to do there. I can’t wait!

 

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Family Devotional Guide for Your Summer Vacation

family devotional guideWhen our kids were young we did a lot of cross-country driving. Combine little money for airfare with living far away from grandparents and you’ve got at least two long days in the car – one way.

It’s not easy to keep 3 kids under 10 restrained in the back seat for hours on end. I did everything I could think of to keep the kiddos occupied. Lots of snacks – healthy and not so healthy. Games like I Spy and 20 Questions. Books and toys.

While vacations offer adventure, rest, and relationship, they can also be opportunities to teach our children more about God. Travel time, whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, provides a captive audience! But we must be prepared.

While you’re packing the swimsuits, sunscreen, and car snacks, grab this 7-day family devotional guide to use during your family vacation. You can use it in the car, on the beach, or around the campfire.

Each Scripture reading is about a biblical journey. Questions are provided each day to get your family talking together about the truth presented in each story. Family Vacation Devotional Guide Print it off and pack it. It won’t take up much space!

Would love to hear from you! What do you do to keep your kids occupied during long car trips?

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