4.21.2016

CHARACTER QUALITIES from a biblical perspective.

Every year, at our homeschool Promotion Night, each child receives a Student Achievement Award.
The award can be given in the areas of academics, extracurricular activities, sports, or character.
The students (especially the younger ones) LOVE hearing their name and a positive quality about themselves read on stage. It is a simple, yet personal, way to acknowledge their efforts during the school year and they are encouraged to know someone noticed their efforts.
Dennis and I always focus on character, because while academic pursuits are good, character lasts for a lifetime.

This year the leadership sent out a character chart to help prompt ideas for the award, and after reading through the list I thought, "We need to implement this in our home! This is excellent!"
I copied and saved it, and then printed it out to use as a measuring standard - for all of us.
Each month we can look through the list, discuss which qualities we would most like to focus on and improve, and then encourage one another in the pursuit of stronger and more godly character.

When Dennis was an inner-city high school principal he told his students every day
"Act like what you do matters - because it DOES!"
And now - he says the same to our own children.

This list is fantastic, and I especially appreciate that the qualities are defined with a biblical perspective.

Enjoy!
  1. Alertness vs. Unawareness
    Being aware of that which is taking place around me so I can have the right response to it (Mark 14:38)
  2. Attentiveness vs. Unconcern
    Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)
  3. Availability vs. Self-centeredness
    Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving (Philippians 2:20–21)
  4. Boldness vs. Fearfulness
    Confidence that what I have to say or do is true and right and just in the sight of God (Acts 4:29)
  5. Cautiousness vs. Rashness
    Knowing how important right timing is in accomplishing right actions (Proverbs 19:2)
  6. Compassion vs. Indifference
    Investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurts of others (I John 3:17)
  7. Contentment vs. Covetousness
    Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness (I Timothy 6:8)
  8. Creativity vs. Underachievement
    Approaching a need, a task, an idea from a new perspective  (Romans 12:2)
  9. Decisiveness vs. Double-mindedness
    The ability to finalize difficult decisions based on the will and ways of God (James 1:5)
  10. Deference vs. Rudeness
    Limiting my freedom in order not offend the tastes of those whom God has called me to serve (Romans 14:21)
  11. Dependability vs. Inconsistency
    Fulfilling what I consented to do even if it means unexpected sacrifice (Psalm 15:4)
  12. Determination vs. Faintheartedness
    Purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time regardless of the opposition (II Timothy 4:7–8)
  13. Diligence vs. Slothfulness
    Visualizing each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it (Colossians 3:23)
  14. Discernment vs. Judgment
    The God-given ability to understand why things happen (I Samuel 16:7)
  15. Discretion vs. Simplemindedness
    The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences (Proverbs 22:3)
  16. Endurance vs. Giving up
    The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God’s best (Galatians 6:9)
  17. Enthusiasm vs. Apathy
    Expressing with my soul the joy of my spirit (I Thessalonians 5:16,19)
  18. Faith vs. Presumption
    Visualizing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it (Hebrews 11:1)
  19. Flexibility vs. Resistance
    Not setting my affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others (Colossians 3:2)
  20. Forgiveness vs. Rejection
    Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me (Ephesians 4:32)
  21. Generosity vs. Stinginess
    Realizing that all I have belongs to God and using it for His purposes (II Corinthians 9:6)
  22. Gentleness vs. Harshness
    Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of others (I Thessalonians 2:7)
  23. Gratefulness vs. Unthankfulness
    Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life (I Corinthians 4:7)
  24. Hospitality vs. Loneliness
    Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those whom God brings into my life (Hebrews 13:2)
  25. Humility vs. Pride
    Recognizing that it is actually God and others who are responsible for the achievements in my life (James 4:6)
  26. Initiative vs. Unresponsiveness
    Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it (Romans 12:21)
  27. Joyfulness vs. Self-pity
    The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in fellowship with the Lord (Psalm 16:11)
  28. Justice vs. Fairness
    Personal responsibility to God’s unchanging laws (Micah 6:8)
  29. Love vs. Selfishness
    Giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward (I Corinthians 13:3)
  30. Loyalty vs. Unfaithfulness
    Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to God and to those whom He has called me to serve (John 15:13)
  31. Meekness vs. Anger
    Yielding my personal rights and expectations to God (Psalm 62:5)
  32. Obedience vs. Willfulness
    Freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely  appointed authority (II Corinthians 10:5)
  33. Orderliness vs. Disorganization
    Preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the greatest efficiency (I Corinthians 14:40)
  34. Patience vs. Restlessness
    Accepting a difficult situation from God without giving Him a deadline to remove it (Romans 5:3–4)
  35. Persuasiveness vs. Contentiousness
    Guiding vital truths around another’s mental roadblocks (II Timothy 2:24)
  36. Punctuality vs. Tardiness
    Showing high esteem for other people and their time (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
  37. Resourcefulness vs. Wastefulness
    Wise use of that which others would normally overlook or discard (Luke 16:10)
  38. Responsibility vs. Unreliability
    Knowing and doing what both God and others are expecting from me (Romans 14:12)
  39. Reverence vs. Disrespect
    Awareness of how God is working through the people and events in my life to produce the character of Christ in me (Proverbs 23:17–18)
  40. Security vs. Anxiety
    Structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away (John 6:27)
  41. Self-Control vs. Self-indulgence
    Instant obedience to the initial promptings of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:24–25)
  42. Sensitivity vs. Callousness
    Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me (Romans 12:15)
  43. Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy
    Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives (I Peter 1:22)
  44. Thoroughness vs. Incompleteness
    Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected (Proverbs 18:15)
  45. Thriftiness vs. Extravagance
    Not letting myself or others spend that which is not necessary (Luke 16:11)
  46. Tolerance vs. Prejudice
    Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity (Philippians 2:2)
  47. Truthfulness vs. Deception
    Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts (Ephesians 4:25)
  48. Virtue vs. Impurity
    The moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate from my life as I obey God’s Word (II Peter 1:3)
  49. Wisdom vs. Natural Inclinations
    Seeing and responding to life’s situations from God’s frame of reference (Proverbs 9:10)

4.18.2016

Why do I keep trying?

About every three days for the past six weeks, the Lord has dropped someone at our feet.
Someone in crisis.
Someone who is struggling.
Someone who has been wronged or abused.
Someone fighting to save a marriage that is barely holding together.
Someone who is battling for their health.
Someone who feels utterly neglected and alone.

Their trials are hard. Their brokenness and sorrow are real.

And we cannot help them.
We can listen.
Pray.
Encourage.
Support.
But we cannot FIX it. We cannot change the past. Undo the damage. Heal their hearts.

And I feel woefully inadequate.
I wonder why the Lord brings them to us when we are under-equipped to serve them.

And that is when the Lord steps in and screams in my ear, "It's not about YOU, Michelle! I'm not asking you to heal them! Just bring them to ME."

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:4,5

ABIDE!
There are only two ways to abide.
Drown myself in the Word of God, and PRAY!
Before they come. "Lord, prepare us for each other!"
While they are here. "Lord! Help me hear her - and give me the words to say - or know when to be silent."
Pray together before she leaves.

Apart from Him I can do NOTHING.

So why do I keep trying to do things in my own strength?
Without Him I can do nothing. But with Him? I can do ALL things!

Teach me how to be a better stretcher-bearer Lord. YOU are the great healer. YOU bind the wounds and heal the brokenhearted. YOU restore shaky marriages, and YOU minister to the lonely heart. You may choose to use me in the process, but the only thing I am supposed to do - is bring them to YOU.
May I be faithful, Lord.
Make me more faithful.

4.13.2016

They rescued orphans - and now they need us!

Last month the Lord grabbed the Eastmans by the scruffs of our necks and forced us to take a long, hard look at the way we spend our time. (Read the story here)
He also buried us in reality by exposing the intense need for orphan care, and continually (almost weekly) bringing us in contact with friends/family who have rescued orphans and need encouragement and support as they walk through the transition and trials that come with the rescue process.

Scriptures doesn't command every believer to adopt an orphan, but the Lord is very clear that we are to take care of them. Defend them. Speak for them. Rescue them.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless
plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:17

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 25:40

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

The Lord has not delivered an orphan to the Eastman home, but He HAS delivered orphans to people around us, and they are the ones He is asking us to serve right now.
Every time we talk to a foster/adopt family we walk away with one word ringing in our ears: SUPPORT. 
Foster/adoptive families need a listening ear. Encouragement. Compassion. Empathy. 

A baby surrendered to an adoptive family on the day of birth, or shortly thereafter, is a pretty seamless transition. The birthparents often choose the adoptive family, and the baby is safe from the moment he is born. Friends and family rejoice, arrive at the home to greet the infant bearing hot meals and gifts - and life goes on. Even with the trials and tribulations of life, the baby grows up surrounded by the love and care of parents and siblings - who wanted him. 
It is a beautiful picture of redemption and love.

But there is another side to adoption that is not as lovely.
Babies and children are abandoned - neglected - starved - abused - and exposed to horrific circumstances. Some are born with physical and/or mental disabilities - and tossed aside. Many are unwanted and unprotected.
Until ... someone steps in and says, "I want them! I will take them! I will love them, hug them, educate them, challenge and encourage them - and show them Jesus."
These people are not saints. They are OBEDIENT.
When the Father of the Fatherless says, "Go! Rescue My little one!" - they RUN.

That run often morphs into a crawl, however, when the reality of the neglect, abuse, and abandonment shows itself in the words, actions, and attitudes of the child. 
It can be overwhelming. 
It can become isolating.
People are afraid. They do not want to expose their own kids to the influence of children who have "issues." The parents cannot share openly and honestly with their peers about their struggles and battles because it makes others uncomfortable, judgmental and, magicians. They disappear.
At best, foster/adopt parents are deemed "saints" - and forgotten.
At worst, they are neglected and ignored.
But this is not how it should be! Especially in the church.

These rescued children did not choose to be beaten, molested, starved, left alone for hours at a time, or be born crippled. It happened TO them, and their precious hearts and minds were damaged and/or destroyed because of it.
They need to experience compassion - faithfulness - unconditional love - healthy affection - loyalty - consistency - patience - understanding - kindness - forgiveness - and GRACE.
And all of these things require time, energy, and commitment.
Often - more time and energy than any one family can give without a reprieve.
This is when the church can step in and live out the "one another's" of Scripture.

All parents need refreshment. An hour alone with a Bible and a pen, or a night out to laugh and play - the Lord refreshes our weary minds and bodies so we can return to our families energized and ready to serve them with joy. Birth families and adoptive families ... each has sin to battle, and many have learning, mental, or physical health issues that create challenges, and even obstacles, that must be faced every day.
We all need support. We all need to be encouraged. We all need to be reminded that we are battling for the hearts and souls of our children - and raising them for eternity.

Foster/adoptive families are fighting an additional battle. They are desperately, tirelessly, and faithfully fighting to close the wounds inflicted on their child ... wounds that may heal but will leave a scar ... wounds that affect the child in many areas ... and they need us!
- Prayer.
- A long hug.
- A smile.
- An afternoon to get away and enjoy the quiet.
- A note of encouragement.
- Someone who will listen - to the beautiful and the horrific - and not try to solve it, but simply say, "I'm sorry. I know I can't do anything to change this, but I am here, and I am not leaving."
- Scripture to inspire and remind them, "Do not grow weary in doing good ... " - "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."

God has not commanded every believer to share their last name with an orphan, but He has commanded us to care for them. HOW we care will look different for everyone - and that's okay! As long as we do SOMEthing. Tangible action or prayer. Financial support or volunteer work. The Lord knows what we can offer - how we can support them - and how we can show His love.
The question is: When He gives us our orders, will we obey?
The ones who rescued the orphans were obedient.
May we - be like THEM.

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. Psalm 27:10

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 68:5

The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin. Psalm 146:9

4.12.2016

Are you in trouble? Then PRAY!

One of the things I like best about Scripture is that it has an answer for everything.
Every problem we have, every need, every trial, every fear, every struggle ... God has a solution.
Some solutions are simple while others require a little more study to find verses that apply to the situation, but either way - He always provides an answer!

During my reading through James 5, I came across this gem.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. (NIV)
Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. (NASB)
Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. (KJV)

What a GREAT response to trials! If you are in trouble - PRAY ABOUT IT!
Problem ---> Solution!

He does not say, "Is anyone suffering? Go talk to a friend. Go shopping. Eat. Watch a movie."
He says, "PRAY!"

Simple.
Logical.
Biblical.
Life-changing!


Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. James 1

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

4.11.2016

Read, Meditate, Know - GO!

Sometimes we make the Bible seem more complicated than it really is.
We think only pastors or theologians are able to fully understand the truths tucked inside the covers, and grossly underestimate our ability to read it, discern it, and apply it to life.
At its core, Scripture is quite simple. Straightforward. Logical. Applicable to everyday life, in every stage of life.

God did not inspire the writing of His Word to confuse man or make him feel inept when reading it.
He inspired His Word to be written so man might come to know Him and then - make Him known to the world!
We do not need to attend Bible college to understand it as adults, nor do we need to dumb it down for children.
God's Word is living, and powerful, and active and able to meet each person who reads it - where they are - regardless of intelligence, education, age, or maturity.
Look at what Paul says to Timothy:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. II Timothy 3

Everyone who belongs to God - will be proficient and equipped to live the life of obedience and holiness to which He has called us.
Not the just the educated and elite.

To be "proficient" in God's Word requires study and understanding, of course. But God has not called every believer to be a Biblical scholar.
The old widow with a worn-out, tear-stained, ink-blotted Bible in her hands is as godly and pleasing to the Lord as the man who has a stack of Bibles in every version and a wall covered in degrees.

We are challenged to study Scripture ...
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11
We are challenged to meditate on Scripture ...
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1
We are commanded to know Scripture ...
Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear ... I Peter 3



If we READ God's Word,
we can MEDITATE on God's Word,
and KNOW God's Word.

And when we know His Word, we can give an answer for the hope that is in us.
Just like the apostles did.
Our hope is Jesus Christ, crucified, risen again, seated at the right hand of the Father waiting for the day He is allowed to return and take us HOME.
HE is our hope!
Not the etymology of every text, nor the cultural and geographical setting of every story.
The apostles were unlearned men - and they changed the world for Jesus Christ!
Twelve men who did not go to university or seminary.
They were called by Jesus, they followed Him, they made a ton of mistakes, they left Him when He needed them most, they watched Him die, they saw His resurrected body, and they witnessed Him ascend into heaven.
They did not spend the next three years studying lexicons and commentaries.
They traveled the world telling everyone who would listen why they had hope. Jesus is RISEN! He is the Christ! The Son of God!
And they turned this world upside down.

Isn't that what Jesus told them to do?
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28
He did not command them to obtain degrees, open a seminary, or write a Bible study curriculum.
He commanded them to take what they knew about Him, and GO! "Make Me known to the world!"

READ the Word.
MEDITATE on the Word.
KNOW the Word.

If we are faithful to do this - and - if we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength - there are no limits on what we can do for the Kingdom!

With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments! 
I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Psalm 119:10,11