Friday, November 21, 2008

Living Authentically

I read a thought provoking article this week entitled The Culture War is Over: Thank God! Author Jud White made a challenging statement--we have lost the culture war and maybe it's a good thing. A good thing? White's premise is it's time to focus on living as Christ-followers in place of just labeling ourselves Christian.

The buzz word now-a-days is authenticity, but as White explains it's all about God's truth in our lives. How do you view God's truth? Are we teaching, sharing, extending it with love to unbelievers? George Barna in his book UnChristian shares shocking statistics that leave modern day Christianity looking less appealing than used car salesmen.

George Barna's results reveal that Christians have cheapened Christianity to church membership, denominational loyalty, and superficial Christianity. Just a tad harsh I think. Or, is it?

It would be easier to declare all this hog-wash if it wasn't that Barna's findings are based on research with those who do not call themselves Christian. That's right, unbelievers think of us in this light. Sobering statistics show that we are effectively losing the 18 to 41 age groups because of our lack of authenticity/truth.

We can blame it on culture. We can blame it on humanism. We can blame it on the mega church. We can even blame it on flaky believers reducing the Word to a feel good gospel that does not recognize the truth of hell. The fact is this is a sign of our times. Our enemy -- the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, angel of light, wolf in sheep's clothing, serpent, great deceiver--however you choose to address our adversary has been hard at work within our society. It's easier to blame losing the culture war on something or someone than to face the truth -- our authenticity before the world.

Living a life of authenticity begins with me. My life will not be judged according to what my society or culture thought was truth. I will face God based on the truth I know, share, and live according to God's Word. It comes down to me, God, and a relationship with Truth--Jesus Christ.

My late pastor, John Colbaugh, a gifted storyteller, had a way of taking a simple illustration and bringing it to life in light of God's Word. Here is one of his stories that illustrates our responsibility:

When we get to the end of our days and we're in line to stand before God we'll each be holding a paper bag. Some bags will be filled to overflowing, others will hold a few items. Still others will be empty. What do you want your bag to be-- filled or empty? I want my bag to be empty--completely empty. I want to stand in line with it thrown over my shoulder. When I stand before God I want to say here's my empty bag--I used every last gift and talent for You. I want to know that I held nothing back--I lived fully in Christ.

Are you living fully in Christ? Are you using all you have for the glory of God? Authentic Christians live a life focused on 'living dead to self, alive in Christ.' Our mission is to serve those in need -- reaching out and sharing the gospel one lost soul at a time. Saying the culture war is lost is not a bad thing. It means just like White said that we must put our focus on the true priority--living out the Gospel. As our world changes we need to recall Paul's words to the Philippians, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." (Philippians 1:27)

Is the world ready for this? I think so. A few months back my church did something unheard of in today's modern church. They went street witnessing. Nothing fancy, no door prizes or free food. No music, puppets, or street drama. Just a small group (15 to 30) for five days spreading out across town. Two Muslim young men were saved at an outlet mall, a man working on a car asked Jesus into his heart after a 14 year-old shared the gospel. A 90 year-old woman prayed the sinner's prayer for the first time in her life. Not one person, not two, but over 500 men, women, boys, and girls were saved in a six day period in August by just sharing the gospel. And, they were all saved outside the church walls.

It's past time to put away masks and living with one foot in the world. We must move past the thinking that says church work is within the walls of the church on selected days of the week. The world recognizes a fake and we should not fool ourselves. It really doesn't take a research group to tell us that we need to get back to basics. Unbelievers need to meet a Savior who has all the answers. We know Him. The culture war to me was lost when we began trying to become more like the world than just live out our lives as testimony. Unbelievers need to see a difference in our lives--in my life.

I'd like to encourage everyone to join me today in asking the Lord to reveal weakness and bring strength and truth to those areas. When I begin to look honestly at my own heart and submit to the Lord and the truth of His Word, then unbelievers will see the light in my life. It will not be a culture war but a revival of God's love. A revolution!

What is in your bag? What has the Lord gave you to share authentically with unbelievers and influence a culture / nation / world for Christ? When we share, teach, preach, and live the truth we become authentic. It's time to empty our bags and live alive in Christ!

Following is a simple video on building relationships and living out our faith.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thrifty Thursday

Blessed to Be a Blessing
Tonight at church I listened as a sweet sister in Christ shared how someone is providing her family with a Thanksgiving dinner. A man came to where her family is living and said the Lord impressed him to do this for her family. My friend is a stay-at-home mom whose husband lost his job about six months ago. The time since has been hard, but as she shared, God has meet every need and continues to be good. After losing their home and now living with another family her faith and trust in the Lord continues to shine as a testimony.

This week as we go into the home stretch to Thanksgiving it is the perfect time to purchase items to give to others in need. Dinner rolls, vegetables, baking supplies, and turkey are just a few of the foods that will be on sale. Invite a family facing hard times to Thanksgiving dinner and send them home with groceries. Try something fun such as leaving groceries on the front porch, ring the doorbell and run. Of course make sure they are home so the food doesn't sit out too long and melts or spoils.

It's easy to think about basics, but also include cookie and cake mixes, chips and such for a nice treat. Fresh vegetables and fruits are especially good. When money is tight fresh foods are often overlooked in exchange for cheaper canned goods. Find out what their favorite soft drink is and include it.

Another idea is to purchase some fall decorations for the family you will bless. Wal-Mart has marked all their fall decorations down by at least 50%. Pick up a beautiful wreath for less than $10 or maybe some fall napkins for $1. Little things such as napkins or seasonal paper dessert plates can add festive note.

Over on Mentoring Moments for Christian Women we have an Abundant Living page. Some call it being thrifty others may say frugal living. I think it is truly living in abundance. All we have comes from God. We are a blessed nation with riches that those in some countries can only imagine. I have always believed we are blessed to be a blessing financially in our communities and world. Living abundantly is about living within our means so we have resources to bless others.

This week be a blessing!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thrifty Thursday ~ Keeping Coupons Organized

Keeping Coupons Organized
Kellie Renfroe

Most coupon organizers are too small and wear out quickly. Putting coupons in my purse makes a mess and I end up with a bottomless pit of crumbled coupons I can't find when needed. The manila file folder I used to keep coupons in was big, bulky, and ugly. What's a mom to do?

This summer friend Lori Lauth shared how she transferred all retail store coupons to a business card holder to keep in her purse. While I did not have a business card holder, my day timer did have an clear plastic page with a zip closure. Putting frequent shopper cards, restaurant coupons, and sale coupons in this quickly brought organization to my purse.

Next came the mountain of grocery coupons. Using a plastic accordion style file folder with velcro that I already had on hand gave my coupons a home of their own.

The tab dividers have been labeled for each of the coupon circulars found in the weekly newspaper. Smart Source, Red Plum, a tab for loose coupons, entertainment coupons, restaurant coupons, and the last tab is blank for current week sale flyers, scissors to cut out coupons, and weekly grocery list.

This is an old file folder bought at Wal-Mart about five years back for around $4.88. Now these types of folders can be found in decorative colors. I especially like the way it closes up--nothing falls out.

To keep my coupons up to date I spend about 10 minutes weekly doing coupon housekeeping.
* I clip all the restaurant coupons from new circulars and put either in file folder or holder in my purse (if I know we will be visiting soon).
* Write the date on the front of the circular (found on its spine) and file. I put the current week circular at the front.
* Throw out all the junk pages in the new circular as I look through it. You know the pages--labels, dolls, support shoes.
* Throw out last week's grocery sale ads and put in new ones.

Keeping my coupons organized as been a source of frustration over the years as system after system failed. It seems I've finally hit on a keeper! The folder is kept in the mini van so it is always available. I get it out once a week to make out our grocery list.

If you are wondering why I write the date on the front of the circulars and even keep them intact instead of clipping favorite coupons then you need to visit Abundant Living at Mentoring Moments for Christian Women. I use an online site,, that matches up weekly sales with newspaper coupons. Besides deep discounts, items can even be had for free using this method. Another great site is The Grocery Game. Visit Abundant Living to learn more about this method of literally cutting your grocery bill in half.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Building our Home Library

Building our Home Library

We have relied heavily this year on our local library for books. When we began homeschooling in June I quickly realized our home library was lacking and needed to become focused on learning versus just for entertainment purposes. It has been a challenge to add quality books without spending a fortune. The Lord has truly been wonderful in opening doors of opportunity to attain good materials.

The best books we've purchased have come from our library. They consistently offer books for just a quarter that cover a wide spectrum of subjects. Just today I added the following books to our library:

* Zig: The Autobiography of Zig Ziglar (hardback)
* The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw (hardback).
* A Field Guide to Homeschooling by Christine M. Field (trade paper)
* The One Year Book of Devotions for Kids #2 (trade paper)

And our two great finds today:
* The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees
* The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders

For $1.50 we added some good books.

My daughter found a spider this afternoon and proudly announced it was a termite according to our new field guide. Praise the Lord she was wrong on that one! The books are already a hit and the kids can't wait to get outside tomorrow and begin naming trees and bugs.

Our library also sells paperbacks by the bag for $1.00. Most of the books offered are of no interest to me. What I plan to do is buy a few bags and trade them in at a local used book store where I receive credit for half of the book's value. In exchange I can add to our library with books of substance without breaking the bank.

Lastly, tonight I visited which offers books lists for those building living libraries in the Charlotte Mason style of home educating. While we do not teach Charlotte Mason, I do appreciate the site and plan to use it to compile a list of books to add to our library.
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