Don’t you wonder what Joseph thought when Mary told him she was going to have a baby? I can just imagine his shock at the news. I’ve always thought he must have been hurt and disappointed at first, maybe even angry. Matthew tells us that Joseph’s first reaction was to divorce Mary quietly. If Joseph had divorced Mary, how drastically different the story of Jesus would be! Once he accepted the news as God’s plan for a Savior, don’t you think he must have thought it was a strange way to save the world?
Have you ever considered that Mary might have had doubts about what the angel told her as well? Luke 1 says that Mary was greatly troubled at the angel’s greeting. And although she had questions for the messenger, she seemed to quickly accept what he told her.
Knowing our human penchant for questioning and doubting is one of the reasons I like this song so well. If I were Mary, I don’t know that I could have accepted the angel’s message as easily as she seemed to. But it seems to be part of her personality to reflect and carefully consider everything she observed concerning her son who would be the Messiah. (Luke 2:19; Luke 2:51).
May we all have a simple faith and an obedient trust like Mary did!
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the devastating floods in south Texas, let’s take a moment today to pray for those who have been affected by this storm.
As I watched footage of the floodwaters rising and the devastation in Houston and surrounding areas, this verse from Nehemiah came to mind. The Lord our God is mighty! He created an amazing, wonderful, awe-inspiring world. While it can be difficult for us to feel joyful in the midst of the storm, we can take comfort and strength that our God is bigger than any storm. All nature is under his control!
You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens,even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
Our God is Mighty!
In Psalm 29, David also writes of God’s might. This whole psalm creates a mental picture of God’s majesty and power. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel very small to know that God’s voice alone can shake the earth.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. 5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. 8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The last two verses reassure me of God’s care for his people. I find comfort in knowing that no matter what happens on this earth, our God sits on his throne forever.
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. 11 The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
Prayer for Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey
Lord, we pray for those who have been affected by the hurricane. We ask that you will calm the storms and cease the rainfall so that the floodwaters can recede. Father, we pray for those who have lost homes and possessions that their basic needs will be provided. We pray that their homes may be repaired or rebuilt quickly, so they can return to their lives.
Lord, we pray for those who have had to evacuate because of the storm and do not know what they will find, nor when they will be allowed to return. We pray that they will have peace as they wait to return home, and we pray for their safe travels.
Dear God, we pray for the first responders who risk their lives to save others. Please keep them safe and let the necessary resources be provided so that their jobs will be made easier. We also pray for the medical staff who have stayed at hospitals and clinics to care for their patients. Give them an extra measure of energy and strength to endure the long hours.
Father, we ask you to be with the families and loved ones of those who have perished in the storm. Comfort them as they grieve the loss of their loved ones. May your church reach out to show your love.
Lord, we praise you that you are in control of nature! We rejoice in your power as you sit on your heavenly throne. Help us remember to seek you when we are in the midst of the storm, whether that is a physical storm or a spiritual one.
In the One who calmed the wind and the waves–Amen!
In our modern culture, people often speak about having a bucket list. A bucket list consists of things you want to accomplish or experience before you “kick the bucket.” A quick internet search turns up dozens of books, blogs, websites, and even movies dedicated to ideas for bucket lists.
So what’s on your bucket list?
If you’re like most people, your list probably is composed of items like:
Travel to a foreign country
Swim with sharks
Learn a new language
Hike the Appalachian Trail
Meet someone famous
Write a book
Attend a professional sporting event
The list could go on and on, and each person could come up with an entirely unique list. However, most bucket lists usually share one thing in common: They’re composed of “once-in-a-lifetime” events or experiences.
Leaving a Legacy
Our minister recently preached a series about leaving a legacy. (You can watch or listen to the series here.) In his last lesson about legacy, he introduced the idea of a spiritual bucket list. When we have a list of spiritual goals we are working towards, we not only increase our own faith, we leave a lasting effect on those we come in contact with. Both individuals and churches should have a bucket list.
So what might we include on a spiritual bucket list? We might include things like:
Read the Bible all the way through
Go on a mission trip
Talk to a stranger about Jesus
Convert someone to Christ
Memorize a large passage of Scripture
Get involved with a new ministry at church
Support a missionary
Don’t these sound like wonderful, worthwhile challenges and opportunities? The difference between the typical bucket list and the spiritual bucket list is that the spiritual list doesn’t have to be–and shouldn’t be–a “one and done.” While a regular bucket list is designed to get shorter as items are checked off, I would suggest that a spiritual list should get longer as we continue to grow in spiritual maturity.
I challenge each of you to develop your own list of spiritual goals. Along with goals for yourself, consider creating a bucket list as a family. Develop a list with your small group or even with your whole congregation.
If the apostle Paul created a bucket list, I like to think that he might have added “win the crown of righteousness” to his list. After all, isn’t heaven the ultimate bucket list item we could ever hope to accomplish?
We’ve enjoyed sharing some of our favorite soup recipes with you over the past few months. Hopefully, you have found some new recipes to add to your own collection! Just in case you missed a few, here is a recap of our “Super Soup Series” and a link to all the soups featured over the last few months.
This slow cooker soup will adapt to milder palates or spicier preferences. It freezes well and you can even use leftover rotisserie chicken or Thanksgiving turkey to make dinner prep even easier. And if you forget to turn on the slow cooker, this soup also works great on the stove top!
Craving Panera Bread’s broccoli soup, but don’t want to leave the house? Try this recipe–it’s even better and cheaper than Panera! If you have picky eaters, this soup is great to hide extra veggies. The cheesy, creamy soup is a big hit with everyone.
Cold weather almost requires a pot of chili! Whether you eat it as a soup, Frito pie, or as a topping for baked potatoes, this recipe is versatile and a hearty meal on a chilly winter night. If you happen to have leftovers, it freezes well to be saved and thawed for another night.
This recipe is two meals in one! First, bake and serve the lemon-basil chicken one night. Then, another night, shred the leftover chicken, add some whole wheat pasta and a few other pantry staples, and dinner is served. The herbed flavor of the chicken really shines in this soup!
Need a vegetarian meal that doesn’t require soaking beans for hours? Try this vegetarian chili! Even meat-eaters will enjoy how hearty and filling this meatless chili is. It even works for vegan diets. Chances are, you already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. So why not try this recipe the next time you’re pressed for time?
While some people believe black-eyed peas bring good luck, you don’t have to save this soup recipe for New Year’s Day. Even those who claim to hate black-eyed peas may change their mind after trying this soup! Although bacon, potatoes, frozen green beans, and black-eyed peas sound like an odd combination, the flavors combine well to make a delicious soup!
Are you trying to eat more healthfully by cooking from scratch? Check out this creamy soup recipe with some surprising ingredients. Whether you use this recipe to replace canned cream of mushroom soup or eat it as a meal in itself, you’ll appreciate the clear instructions. Just be sure to double or triple the recipe because your family is sure to want more!
These days, we’re all trying to stretch our grocery budget a little further. One of the best ways is to turn the leftover roast chicken bones into a fantastic chicken broth. From one roast chicken dinner, you can get at least six more meals! How’s that for stretching a dollar?
Pumpkin puree in a beef and vegetable stew? Who would have thought that such an unusual ingredient could turn a regular soup recipe into a taste of fall? Served with warm beer bread, this recipe is perfect for those nights when the pantry might be looking a little bare.
Serve this soup to someone who hates mushrooms and they just might change their mind! You can even use some of your homemade chicken broth in this recipe, which makes it that much more delicious and healthy. If your family prefers firmer-textured vegetables, you can make this on the stove. Or, if you don’t mind softer vegetables, add all the ingredients to the slow cooker and let it simmer while you go about your day.
Lasagna in all its cheesy goodness is comfort food at its best. But when you don’t have time to prepare lasagna from scratch, try this soup instead. It has all the flavor of lasagna but is quick and easy to prepare. You can even bake a loaf of homemade french bread in the time it takes to heat the soup!
There are so many benefits to soup! It’s economical, feeds a crowd, and is simple to prepare. Why not pick a new recipe or two to bless another family with? Whether you invite someone into your home to share a meal or deliver a pot of hot soup to a neighbor, sharing food is a great way to share God’s love with others. We hope you’ve enjoyed our super soup series. Keep watching for more great recipes to come!
Maybe your child is not yet old enough for school, but the idea of homeschooling intrigues you.
Maybe the public schools aren’t meeting your school-age child’s educational needs.
Or maybe your child is being bullied.
Perhaps private school isn’t financially possible, and yet you want a Christian education for your child.
Or perhaps, you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you, calling you to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
Whatever your reason for considering home education, I encourage you to read as many books on the subject as possible. You’ll learn about the various educational philosophies, from unschooling to classical and everything in between.
When my oldest child was about three, my husband and I decided to learn more about homeschooling. So I began reading everything I could find about homeschooling. With each book I read, I felt more convicted that home education was right for our family. I also gained confidence in my ability to educate my daughter.
Over the next couple of years before we officially began homeschooling, I estimate that I read at least three dozen books related to homeschooling. Although I found nuggets of valuable information in each book I read, a few stood out to me and quickly became my favorites.
So if you’re considering home education, I recommend these books as a starting point:
When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul, Jr.
The author’s premise is that God calls Christians–even commands, perhaps–to educate their children at home. Although I disagree with his assertion that all Christians should home school, I appreciate the clear reasoning Sproul uses to advocate for home education. For those who feel God’s calling in their lives to home school, this book will help cement that decision. For those who might have some reservations about the parent’s role in education, this book may help convince you that the public school system hinders parents from instilling biblical values in their children. Sproul quotes John Milton, saying, “The end of learning is…to know God aright, and out of that knowledge, to love Him, to imitate Him, to be like Him.”
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
On the other side of the spectrum from Sproul is Gatto’s book. Gatto was an award-winning, highly respected public school teacher. Yet he came to the conclusion that the public school does not truly educate children or teach them to be independent thinkers. Rather, it indoctrinates them to be obedient cogs in a machine. This book will open your eyes to the messages public schools send our children–don’t be different than your peers, don’t question, don’t care about anything more than passing the next test. Again, while you may not agree with the author’s assertions, it is a worthwhile, insightful read about the problems of the public school system.
For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
This book is a good introduction to the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, which is rooted in the belief that education begins at home. Charlotte Mason encouraged parents to find joy in spending time with their children, respecting them as unique individuals with opinions and ideas.To this end, Macaulay invites parents to provide a rich environment for learning and finding joy in the education process.
Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson
What struck me most about this book was how family-oriented home education could be. Throughout this book, the authors focus on strengthening the relationships between parents and children, as well as sibling relationships. This book is a good blend of the “bigger picture” of home education, which is discipleship, and practical tips, tricks, and methods. One of my favorite aspects of this book is how the Clarksons share how they have worked to cultivate a warm, inviting home where education isn’t relegated to one specific room. They have set up small areas throughout their home to encourage children to discover, investigate, read, and learn no matter where they are.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
According to the classical model of education, there are three general stages of learning. In the elementary grammar stage, children readily and easily absorb and memorize information. During the middle school logic stage, children begin to think more analytically. The final stage is the high school rhetoric stage, when students begin to articulately express and defend their own ideas. Understanding these stages helps a parent tailor their child’s education based on the child’s stage of development. The authors also outline a four-year history cycle and offer curriculum suggestions for all stages.
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie
This book is a relative newcomer to the homeschool scene, but it is an instant classic. As homeschooling mothers, it is easy to get bogged down in the daily checklist of “getting school done.” We tend to let worry and anxiety override our desire to have a peaceful, enjoyable home education experience. Mackenzie reminds homeschooling parents that we must find our own rest in Christ before we can pass that on to our children. This book is a great mix of inspirational and practical advice and one I plan to revisit each year.
102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Each Child’s Learning Style by Cathy Duffy
Once you’ve decided to homeschool, how do you decide what curriculum to use? Cathy Duffy explains the four types of learning styles and how to identify which learning style fits your child. She also helps the parent identify which style of teaching fits their personality. In my opinion, this section alone makes the book worth reading. Duffy reviews 102 curricula of various subjects, noting which learning styles are most compatible. (For example, a kinesthetic learner will do better with hands-on project-based learning. A visual learner might prefer a workbook or textbook-based option.) The book also notes whether the curriculum is religious or secular, the prep time involved, and whether the material is teacher-intensive or more independent. As a newbie to homeschooling, I found her advice invaluable. Even today, as a seasoned homeschooler, I refer back to her reviews frequently!
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
The title for this book is based on Proverbs 16:24: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” From the idea that some of childhood’s fondest memories are of books, Hunt provides lists of the best quality children’s literature. In this book you will find suggestions for all ages, from babies to preteens. (A sequel, Honey for a Teen’s Heart, provides recommended reading for older children.) The author focuses on the need for parents to provide an environment that promotes reading and encourages family read-alouds. You won’t find any books with objectionable content listed here; the author chooses both enduring classics and more recent publications but all have a common theme of wholesome entertainment.
If you’re considering home education, I hope you will research and determine if homeschooling is right for your family. While this list isn’t an exhaustive list of the numerous resources available, it should get you started and keep you busy reading for a while. May God bless you as you seek to provide the best education for your child!
Do you have a favorite homeschooling book you’d recommend? I’d love to hear which books have impacted your decision to homeschool!