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Archive | Spiritual Leadership

A Century Old Bible and a Legacy of Faith

BibleFor the last few months, my brother and I have been working to move my parents from Louisiana to Tennessee. Mom and Dad’s health took a nosedive last summer and they need to be closer to one of their children. I’ve been making regular trips from Houston to Shreveport to check on them on begin to go through the family home in preparation for the move.

Since our parents have been in the same house for almost 50 years, there is quite a bit of “accumulation.” Though much of it is regular household stuff like gift-wrapping supplies, long-lost Tupperware lids, and manuals for appliances they no longer have, we have also discovered a few treasures that reveal a family legacy of faith.

For instance, back in September, I shared a letter I found from my great-great grandmother to my great-grandfather. She wrote how she prayed daily for him and his family.

BibleI discovered another treasure this past weekend – a crumbling Bible given to that same great-grandfather, Howell Adam Shouse from that same great-great-grandmother Mary Dozier Cash. The inscription is dated March 7, 1910, more than 100 years ago.

Over the last few months, I have discovered several letters, Bibles, and other items that reveal the consistent and persistent faith of Mary Dozier. I’m not sure what Howell Adam did with her legacy, but I know that her name sake and my maternal grandmother, Mary Dozier Shouse Addington, shared her love for Christ.

My grandmother, Mary Addington, shared her grandmother’s name and her faith. And like her grandmother, she constantly talked about Jesus with her grandchildren. That legacy of faith continues with me – Mary Kathryn. I share my grandmother’s name and her faith. I pray I will continue that legacy of faith with my grandchildren.

How can we be purposeful in passing our faith to the generations that follow?

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6 Ways to Impact Your Children with the Truth of Christmas

A couple of years ago, while speaking at a ladies’ Christmas event, something significant happened. I had planned to read portions of the Christmas story from Matthew 2 and Luke 2. But as I began to read from my open Bible, I discovered I did not need it.

The words flowed from memory – KJV style. “Being great with child.” “They were sore afraid.”

Christmas truthHere’s the truly amazing part: I’ve never worked to memorize those sections of Scripture. The passages were embedded in my heart simply because my father read them to our family every Christmas Eve. My dad desired to keep our hearts and minds on the real meaning of Christmas. And God honored his commitment to impress God’s truth on his children (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

We can all have the same kind of positive spiritual influence on the children in our lives. Whether a parent, grandparent, aunt, babysitter, or Sunday School teacher, we can point them to Christ in Christmas with purposeful intent. Even in the midst of the commercialization of the season, we can help them see the important.

People over things. Spiritual over physical. Lasting over temporary.

6 Ways to Help Your Kids Focus on the True Meaning of Christmas

Although you can probably come up with a longer list, here are 6 ways you can help impact the children in your life with the truth of Christmas. We used them all with our own children!

  1. Tell the story of the 1st Christmas – And not just once! Let’s use various ways to share it with them again and again. For instance, do daily Advent devotionals with your family. For younger children, use a childproof nativity to tell the story and then leave it out for them to play with. And don’t forget the most basic way – read the biblical account to your family.
  2. Give to someone in need – It is so easy to get caught up in the “getting” of Christmas. But the season is the perfect opportunity to teach our children the joy of helping others. When our children were young we involved them in filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Since they’ve been grown, my husband and I have given in multiple ways including World Vision gifts, Angel Tree, and more.
  3. Sing the faith songs of Christmas – Most of our kids know Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, but do they know Silent Night and Away in a Manger? The “religious” Christmas songs tell the real story! Play these great songs of faith while baking cookies, driving to school, or making the trip to Grandma’s house. Carol on your street or in a local nursing home.
  4. Tell someone about baby Jesus – I used to have one of those “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” pins. And I wore it too. But I don’t remember anyone ever asking me about it. We must look for opportunities to tell others about the reason for the season!
  5. Christmas Eve Service – Taking the time to attend church on Christmas Eve sends an important message to our children. “Jesus takes priority.” “Christmas is about Him.” Plus, the time in worship and fellowship helps put our focus where it belongs.
  6. Birthday Cake for Jesus – We began this tradition when our children were little. They always looked forward to helping make the cake, singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, and of course, eating it!

I would love to hear how you help your children focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Please share your ideas and traditions with us in the comments!

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Are Christians Obligated to Vote on November 8th?

Christians voteThe upcoming Presidential election creates a major dilemma for many Christians. Here’s the basis for our dilemma: Neither major party candidate exemplifies even the most basic Christian ethics and standards. Neither is worthy of the office of the President of the United States of America.

Some Christians believe the best course of action is to abstain from voting on November 8. Others feel they should cast their vote for the “lesser of two evils.” (Check out this helpful article by Russell Moore, “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?“) Which action is the right response? Could there perhaps be another option?

Let’s take a step back and briefly lay a biblical foundation for government and our responsibility as citizens.

First, God holds complete sovereignty in establishing, upholding, and removing all nations, rulers, and authorities (Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, Romans 13:1). He established government for our good, to suppress evil, and to prevent chaos. Government at all levels provides structure for the country and service to the people (Romans 13:1-7).

The Bible also establishes principles for a believer’s relationship to government:

  1. Intercede Faithfully – God commands us to support the government and our leaders with our prayers. In fact, regular intercession for everyone pleases God (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
  2. Submit Respectfully – Christians should obey the laws of our land and submit ourselves to the authority of our leaders. Paul goes as far as saying that rebelling against our government authorities is the same as rebelling against God. The Bible even says we should submit with a good attitude! (See Romans 13:1-2, Titus 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:13-17.)
  3. Fulfill Responsibilities – Believers are now and eternally citizens of the Kingdom of God. But while we still live in this world, we are also citizens of an earthly kingdom. As citizens, we have rights to enjoy and responsibilities to fulfill. More than once, Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:25-29, Acts 25:10-12). Jesus not only taught we should fulfill all our obligations to the government, He set the example (Matthew 17:24-26, Matthew 22:15-22). Note: Yes, government is subject to corruption because it is comprised of sinful men. And when forced to choose, we must always obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29). However this election doesn’t take us there.

How should these biblical principles impact my vote?

So, how do these principles apply to the upcoming presidential election? The United States of America is a republic. Citizens have the right and responsibility to elect the government officials who will represent us.

But this go around, that responsibility seems much heavier. I am struggling with this myself. I am praying and thinking about the right thing to do. I understand why many have decided to simply not vote at all. Yet, that won’t prevent a new president from being inaugurated in January. That won’t fulfill my responsibility as a citizen of the United States.

There is another option. One I am contemplating. We can fulfill our responsibility as citizens and not vote for either of “them.” There will be other candidates on the ballot. Or we could cast a write-in vote. Yes, we can exercise our right and vote our conscious.

Without bashing or endorsing any candidate, how are you dealing with this weighty responsibility?

Find out who is else will be on the ballot:

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A Legacy Prayer from My Great Great Grandmother

Legacy PrayerThe letter was dated March 26, 1914. I carefully unfolded the fragile, yellowed paper and struggled to read the faded ink. I found this letter and several others in an old metal box at my parents’ house. Addressed to Howell Adam Shouse, my great grandfather on my mother’s side, they were written by his mother, Mary Dozier Shouse, more than a century ago.

Much of the news was what you’d expect – who had been sick, who had gotten married, and how she longed to see her “dear son.” But one particular paragraph brought tears to my eyes:

“Oh how much I do pray for you every single morning and night. I pray mightily to the Lord that you Howell and your children may be convicted and converted and sanctified. Never a day do I miss. May God hear and answer my prayers and save us all in heaven.”

I was blown away. The letter preserved a family legacy prayer. Mary Dozier, my great, great grandmother prayed daily for the spiritual well being of her son and his children. She faithfully petitioned God to make her son and his children aware of their need for a Savior (convict); to draw them into a saving relationship with Jesus (convert); and to grow them up into the likeness of Christ (sanctify).

legacy prayerAs I read those words, I knew her prayers also covered me. Long before I was born, my great, great grandmother prayed for me and my eternal, spiritual good.

I do not know the spiritual condition of Howell Adam Shouse, but I do know his daughter – my maternal grandmother – loved Jesus. She consistently pointed me toward the Lord. And my mother has done the same.

This discovery this week both blessed and challenged me. I am blessed to know that my grandmother’s grandmother prayed for the spiritual condition of her descendants. I am also challenged to be just as faithful to lift prayers for my children and their children that matter for eternity.

Yes, I will continue to pray for their physical health and temporal struggles. But I will also recommit to pray for their spiritual health and eternal struggles. If you’d like to do the same, God’s Word is the best place to start. Check out this resource of 21 Scriptures as a guide to pray for your loved ones spiritual well being.

I would love to hear some of the ways you pray for the spiritual well being of your friends and family!

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Mug Monday: Are You a Good Example?

Mug MondayIt’s Mug Monday! Join me each week through the summer to see the featured mug (some mine, some yours, & some borrowed). We will seek to make some sense out of the wisdom or humor written on its side. Pull up a chair and join me in a cup of coffee!

People are watching you. Oh, yes they are! As a Christian, you are setting an example. The question is – Are you a good example or a bad one?

Many Christians don’t want to be an example. We point to Christ and say “There’s our example. That’s who we follow, not another person.” Ah, yes, that let’s us off the hook. Let’s take the humble route and say, “Don’t look at me. Just look at Jesus.”

Good exampleToday’s wisdom from the side of a coffee mug reflects this “humble” stand with a bit of sarcasm.

There’s just one problem with that. It isn’t biblical.

Yes, our ultimate example is Jesus. In fact, the Holy Spirit is constantly working to conform us to His image. But God wants to give us flesh and blood, in our face examples too. The apostle Paul knew those first century believers needed that and he strove to be a Christ-like example for them.

To the believers in Corinth, Paul wrote: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Those folks were surrounded by a plethora of bad examples. They needed someone who could say, “This way. I’m following Jesus, so you can follow me.”

That’s the kind of Christ follower we should be. We should be following Christ so closely that others could follow us and be going the right direction.

It’s not that we’ve gotten things perfect. Even though we still have a ways to go, we can still guide others in the right direction. Hear Paul’s words from Philippians:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus… Join with others in following my example, brothers and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” Philippians 3:12-14, 17

Did you hear that? Paul did not consider himself perfect. He was still learning and growing spiritually. But he was running hard after Jesus and that made him a good example. Others could follow him and be headed in the right direction.

What about us? If others follow us will they be headed in a Christ-ward direction? What does it look like to “strain ahead” and “press on toward the goal?”

 

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How to be Devoted to God’s Word

Devotion to God's Word

 

One of my biblical heroes is Ezra. He lived in the 5th century BC, a Jew born during Israel’s Babylonian exile. He was a “scribe” and a descendent of Aaron, a priest of the Most High God. Ezra was a “teacher well versed in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6). He was far more than a casual student of God’s Word. He was a skilled teacher who knew it backward and forward.

The book of Ezra also tells us five times in two chapters that “God’s gracious hand” was on Ezra. And it also tells us why:

“For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

This Jewish priest had never set foot in the land of Israel. But God called him to go and teach His Word to God’s people who had returned to Israel. Ezra obeyed and God graciously protected, guided, and provided for him every step of the way.

I want “God’s gracious hand” to be on me. What about you? Then let’s commit to be devoted to God’s Word. In Ezra 7:10, “devoted” means that Ezra was firmly established in and committed to God’s Word. For him, it was an enduring, life-long pursuit. But what does that look like day in and day out?

We are told exactly what Ezra’s devotion looked like in Ezra 7:10.

3 Characteristics of Devotion to God’s Word

1. Study – The Hebrew word translated as “study” or “seek” means to “tread a place frequently, with care, consult, inquire of.” Our study of the Bible should not be haphazard or casual. Every believer should take have a plan that gets us deep into the truths of God’s Word on a regular basis.

2. Obey –  Ezra didn’t merely devote himself to the study of God’s Word, he was also committed to observing what he learned. Our study is not simply to know more about the Bible. Our goal should be application, obedience, and transformation.

3. Teach – The Hebrew word translated as “teaching” in the NIV includes not only the idea of educating (teaching information) but also training & application. As growing believers we should teach, mentor, and disciple other believers.

Want to be devoted to God’s Word? Which one of these 3 characteristics do you struggle with most and why?

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Family Vacation Devotional Guide

family devotional guide

 

Getting away with the family this summer? This 7-Day Family Devotional Guide, developed just for the family, is perfect for car trips and lazy days on the beach!

Each day features a Scripture passage, brief comments, and questions to get family discussion about God’s Word rolling! Read the passage and the commentary, then ask your family the questions and encourage them to share. Close in prayer!

You can either use the guide straight from here or download and print the PDF

 

 

Day One: Follow Me                                                                      

Genesis 12:1-9

God called Abram to move away from the only home he had ever known. It meant he would have to leave his father and other family behind too. God had an exciting plan that would help all the people on the earth. But Abram had to obey to be part of it. So Abram obeyed and followed God. And he didn’t even know where he was going!

  • Have you ever moved from one town to another? How did you feel?
  • Has God ever asked you to do something you didn’t really understand?
  • Abram obeyed God quickly. Do you sometimes have difficulty obeying God right away?

Day Two: Get Out Fast!                                                                 

Exodus 12:31-42

God’s people had been in slavery in Egypt for 400 years. He promised to bring them out and lead them safely back to the land He had given Abram. Pharaoh did not want to let them go, but after God sent 10 terrible plagues, he finally told them to “get out!” Hundreds of thousands of people had to pack up everything and leave in a hurry.

  • What are some of the things the Israelites took with them from Egypt?
  • In what ways did God provide for their long journey ahead?
  • Has God ever provided for you during a trip or vacation? How?

Day Three: Two Spies on a Mission                                            

Joshua 2:1-16*

After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the people of Israel are about to enter the Promised Land. Their leader, Joshua, sent two spies on a mission to gather information about the first city they would fight.

  • How did God protect the spies? In what ways has God protected you?
  • What had Rahab heard about God?
  • Do you ever tell others about God’s works? What could you tell them?
  • How did the spies get away?

*Note: Parents, depending on the age of your children, you may just want to skip the description of Rahab in verse 1!

Day Four: Long Way to Go to Have a Baby                                  

Luke 2:1-20

It was about 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Even though we see pictures of Mary riding a donkey, there’s no mention of one in the Bible. They probably walked the entire way and it would have taken them several days. That’s a long, tiring journey.

  • What’s the longest trip you’ve ever taken?
  • What exciting thing happened while Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem?
  • Why did Jesus come? How can you spread the news like the shepherds did?

Day Five: Detour to Help Someone                                             

Luke 10:25-37

Jesus told many stories, called parables, to help people understand things about God. This parable shows us that if we truly love God we will also love other people. Real love isn’t just words. Real love helps others who need help.

  • What dangerous thing happened to the traveler? Who didn’t help him?
  • What did the Samaritan do to help? How did that show real love?
  • Do you know someone that needs help? What can you do to help them?

Day Six: Quick Trip                                                                           

Acts 8:26-40

After Jesus went back to heaven, His followers began to tell people everywhere about Him. God sent Philip to meet the man from Ethiopia on a road so he could learn about Jesus.

  • How did Philip know who he was supposed to talk to about Jesus?
  • Has God’s Spirit ever guided you like He guided Philip? How?
  • What decision did the man from Ethiopia make?

Day Seven: Shipwreck!                                                                  

Acts 27:13-42

Paul was under arrest for preaching about Jesus. He was being taken to Rome to stand trial when the ship got caught in a terrible storm. They battled the sea for two weeks before it finally sank!

  • What was lost at sea? What was not lost?
  • In what ways can you see God at work in this seemingly hopeless situation?
  • How did Paul use it to tell others about God?
  • How can you use difficult times to tell others about God?

 

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7 Signs She Might Make a Great Bible Study Leader

7 Signs leadershipI have a soft spot in my heart for women’s Bible study programs. When I was a young first-time mom, I attended my first official women’s Bible study. That’s where my love affair with God’s Word began.

Bible study is one of the most important areas of any church’s women’s ministry. But it can also be one of them most difficult. From scheduling to childcare to leadership it often consumes your time and sanity. For instance, the thought of recruiting a few new Bible study leaders may cause you to sigh heavily.

But dear leader, hang in there. Providing an environment where women of all ages come together to study the Bible and grow in God’s truth is well worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears! And today I’m offering you a bit of help.

Maybe one reason recruiting new leaders seems like a daunting task is because you aren’t sure what to look for in potential leaders. You can provide training in some areas like guiding discussion and dealing with different personalities. But other qualities cannot be so easily taught.

Look for these seven signs in potential new leaders. Although not a sure thing, they are strong indicators that you could have a great leader in the making!

  1. She cares about and actively serves other women (Romans 12:9-13).
  2. She is passionate about God’s Word and is committed to its study (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
  3. She takes discipleship seriously and is growing spiritually (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
  4. She is a woman of strong character with a good attitude and integrity of speech (Titus 2:7-8).
  5. She demonstrates faithfulness and reliability in her current commitments (Proverb 31:27).
  6. She is humble and teachable (James 3:13).
  7. She is a woman of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

These signs will help you identify possible new leaders. Come back next Monday for a strategy to help train these new leaders you find!

What would you add to this list of characteristics?

 

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3 Steps to Encourage Holiness in Others

holinessAre the women in your church living holy lives? Are your Christian friends and family members striving to be holy? More than half may not even be trying. God can use you to encourage holiness in the lives of those you influence.

A Sad State

According to a survey by The Barna Group, 54% of American Christians either don’t think God wants them to be holy or simply don’t know.

This statistic merged with real life a couple of years ago when the novel “50 Shades of Grey” hit the NY Times bestsellers list. Women – Christian women included – gobbled it up. Women in my church and your church were reading and talking about a book classified as erotica.

In fact, the wild popularity of erotica books and movies with young moms and housewives coined a new term – “mommy porn.” And many Christian women bought into it all.

Many Christians don’t even think it’s a big deal. In fact, you may be wondering if it really matters.

Why Holiness Matters

Over and over in the Bible, our holy God calls His people to holiness. “But, just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” 1 Peter 1:15. This call is echoed through numerous New Testament writers to God’s people throughout history. We must not only heed the call, we must encourage others to heed it as well.

This call is for our good and God’s glory. A holy life not only sets us free from the bondage and consequences of sin (Romans 6:22), it also paves the way for deep intimacy with God (Psalm 15:1-2). As we live holy lives, reflecting God’s character to the world, we become bright lights pointing a dark world to Christ (Matthew 15:14-16).

Three Steps Toward Holiness

Those of us in leadership should be leading the charge to holiness, urging those we influence to live holy lives. How can we do that? Here are 3 steps in the right direction.

1. Tell Them Why – Tell why they should be holy and why they would want to be holy. Teach about it in Bible study. Use what’s happening in our culture and current events to bring it into everyday conversation. For instance, the movie of version of “50 Shades of Grey” will release in February 2015. This event will provide a great discussion starter.

2. Show Them What – As leaders, let’s model holiness. Show them what it looks like in a believer’s daily life. “Holy” doesn’t mean self-righteous or judgmental. Just set a humble, but holy example.

3. Teach Them How  – Instruction in holy living should be an element of every discipleship, mentoring, and accountability relationship. Teach them to identify sin in their lives and get rid of it. Help them spot areas of weakness and vulnerability so they can protect themselves from temptation.

If you are a church leader, women’s ministry leader, mentor, teacher, or parent the holiness of God’s people under your care is your responsibility. Tell them why, show them what, teach them how. For their good and God’s glory.

Is holy living emphasized in your church? If so, in what ways?

 

Kathy’s newest book, Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence, helps readers discover a deeper intimacy with God through a life of holiness. This six-week, interactive Bible study explores why believers should pursue holiness and guides readers through practical steps to pursuing a holy life.

 

 

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7 Signs She Might Make a Great Small Group Leader

7 Signs great leaderThe fall semester of women’s Bible study is now in full swing. You managed to round up enough leaders, but you certainly didn’t have many – if any – extras! And before you know it, January will be here and it will be time to secure small group leaders all over again!

Does the thought of recruiting a few new small group leaders cause you to sigh heavily? Maybe you have no idea where they’ll come from. Maybe you even secretly hope you won’t have as many ladies sign-up for Bible study.

Hang on just a minute! Don’t panic! If you have groups of women studying the Bible together, then you have groups of potential leaders. You just need to know how to spot the best candidates.

You can provide training in some areas like guiding discussion and dealing with different personalities. But other qualities cannot be so easily taught.

Look for these seven signs in potential new leaders. Although not a sure thing, they are strong indicators that you could have a great leader in the making!

  1. She cares about and actively serves other women (Romans 12:9-13).
  2. She is passionate about God’s Word and is committed to its study (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
  3. She takes discipleship seriously and is growing spiritually (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
  4. She is a woman of strong character with a good attitude and integrity of speech (Titus 2:7-8).
  5. She demonstrates faithfulness and reliability in her current commitments (Proverb 31:27).
  6. She is humble and teachable (James 3:13).
  7. She is a woman of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

What other characteristics do you look for in a potential leader? What qualities can be taught and which cannot?

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