Wisdom Speaks to be released!

Coming Soon!


Wwisdom speaks coverresizedise counsel is like honey on the bread of life.  Wisdom is sweeter than the words of the crowd. Solomon said that wisdom is the principle thing.  What is wisdom?  Wisdom is the art of being successful in life.

No one sets out in life to fail.   No one puts failure on their bucket list. No one wants to be known as a failure.   Solomon said, seek wisdom.

Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square. Proverbs 1:20 

Wisdom is the key to success and she has a voice.

And your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” Isaiah 30:21a

Wisdom Speaks!

For more information about Kathy, her books, and her ministry, you can go to www.planpurposedestiny.org or email her at ksmith@vision.edu

 

“Awesome! Thanks Kathy! Your teaching on this subject matter has already been a blessing to us personally and our church. May many lives be blessed by this anointed work.”

 Dr. Calvin Sweeney
Senior Pastor at The Tabernacle–Toledo

 

 

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Wisdom Speaks

(This is the introduction to a new book I am working on, stay tuned for more details.)

Proverbs 1:20 Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square. NASB

No one sets out in life to fail.   No one puts failure on their bucket list. No one wants to be known as a failure.  Yet a certain amount of failure is inevitable. Failure is not who we are, but merely an unfortunate situation through which we must walk; it is a circumstance, not an identity.  We can choose to make set backs and mistakes a mere stepping stone to a successful and prosperous future.

Thomas Edison was said to have failed at least 1000 times before success was realized in the invention of the light bulb.  He did not consider the many setbacks as failures, but rather, each failed attempt took him one step closer to the solution.  He gained wisdom with each set back, and the wisdom lead him to success.

What if Lucille Ball would have quit after being dismissed from drama school for being too shy?  What if the Beetles would have given up after the Deca Recording Studio turned them down because they said guitar music was on the way out?  What if Walt Disney would have taken the criticism of a newspaper company to heart when they fired him for having no imagination and no original ideas?  What if Michael Jordan had thrown in the towel and pursued other interests when he was cut from the high school basketball team? What if Paul Young, the author of the best seller, The Shack, gave up after his book was refused by 20 different publishing companies?

Not one of these people gave up after initial failed attempts.  Just because we make mistakes, perhaps we have even failed a time or two, that does not need to be the final epitath engraved upon our gravestone. Rather, it merely means we have learned what did not work.  That takes us one step closer to our inevitable end, success.

Mistakes must not hold us back.  Rather, we can choose to use the information we have learned to catapult us into our expected future.  We can choose to use the wisdom we have gained to move us toward success.  We can choose to learn, even from our mistakes.  Failure is only failure if we choose to quit.

Don’t make that choice, do not give up. Don’t quit.  Take the wisdom and the knowledge you have gained from your mistakes and keep moving forward.   If it is something God has placed in your heart, then success is inevitable, that is, as long as you do not throw in the towel.

Wise counsel is like honey on the bread of life.  Wisdom is sweeter than the words of the crowd.  In all that you do, seek wisdom. Solomon said, the principal thing is wisdom.  What is wisdom?  Wisdom is the art of being successful in life.

Using knowledge and understanding to make wise judgements, then acting upon that wisdom to create a plan for life, we can reach the desired goal. We can complete our course, we can finish the race, we can hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant…”

 

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Your Life is a Journey, Will It Be Prosperous One?

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By Kathy Smith

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health,                     just as your soul prospers. 3 John 1:2

Where has your journey taken you? 

Prosperity is a relative term and it can be defined in a variety of different ways. It may be associated with financial assets.  Or it may be indicative of a prominent career, or a happy and healthy family life.  Others identify prosperity with owning a fancy house with a pool in the backyard and a sports car in the drive.  What do you think?  Is it related to fame, fortune, or notoriety?  What does prosperity look like to you? 

The word “prosper” in the Greek refers to having a prosperous and successful journey. As we know, life itself is a journey.  It is a journey we can take with the Lord, or without him.  The choice is ours.  We get to choose how we want to live it. The choices we make directly effect the outcome. Do we take time to consult the Lord?  Or do we plunge ahead on our own?  We know that God has a plan for our journey, and he intends to make it a prosperous one. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

God planned in advance for you to prosper.  God planned for you to have a future and a hope.  God’s plan for your prosperity starts with making him your source. He wants to fund your education in life, and your future in him.  Getting into the stream of heavenly provision requires that we align our own personal will to his. 

Many times we walk through life thinking that IF only I had a big bank account, or a highly successful career, that will give me security. Owning a home or having a business, making lots of money in real estate or having a highly lucrative career in law or medicine… these things will make me prosperous. 

They may give a false sense of security for a season, but security in the end is elusive.   The stock market can fail, or the housing market plummet, the business you work all your life to create can be stolen out from under your nose.   Then what do you do?   Where can you turn?  When you make money, fame, a job or career your source of security you only set yourself up to fail.  

Priorities

There is so much one can say in regards to prosperity, financial success, and security, I found myself grappling with where to begin?   As I began to pray, the word PRIORITIES came to mind. What are our priorities and how do they line up with God’s plan for our prosperity?  What happens when our priorities become misaligned?

We can borrow an illustration from anatomy and physiology; what does a misaligned spine look like and how does it affect the rest of the body?  Anyone who has suffered with a bulging disc or an out of place vertebrae knows the excruciating pain it can cause and how it affects the entire body, not just the spine.  Vertebrae that are out of line, even just one, can cause a loss of flexibility, pinched nerves, and even a decrease in blood flow to other areas of the body. It is so important to keep everything in proper alignment to insure that the whole body is functioning at the optimal level.  One part that is out of line can throw everything else out of order.   The whole body will suffer from one minor misalignment.   

Priorities that become misaligned or worse yet, were never aligned properly in the first place, can hinder the prosperity of the individual believer and their family.  We must make certain we keep our priorities in proper alignment with God’s word and his purpose for our life.  For instance, in the general sense we need to prioritize our overall life plan to make God first, family second, and job, church, ministry, and or career third.  You get them out of order, and you can expect a problem sooner or later. 

For instance, the workaholic often puts his job before his or her relationship with God or family.  If not corrected, this can have devastating results on family relationships, one’s relationship with a spouse, and even one’s own personal relationship with the Lord.   Those called to full time ministry can also fall victim to misaligned priorities, placing the ministry and the church before family.   Sometimes there is confusion over serving the Lord, and nurturing a personal relationship with him. Please understand there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving the Lord in ministry or doing work in one’s church.  Those things are necessary and the people who do them are to be highly commended.  We do need to make certain we do not neglect our own family or our personal relationship with the Lord in the process.

So, how does misalignment of priorities affect our finances?   Understanding God’s financial plan for our own wellbeing is highly important.   Keeping our financial priorities in proper order insures us of God’s provision.   For instance, what about the widow who had run out of food to feed her family in 1 Kings?  She gave part of her last meal to Elijah the prophet, and her provisions did not run out. 

Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14“For thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.’” 15So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke through Elijah. 1 Kings 17:13 -16.

She had nothing left, she was about to eat her last meal and die.  But God had plans to provide for her.  What was her part in the resolution to this dilemma?  Obedience and faith, they were paramount to seeing God’s provision. Would she put God first?  Often when we see our own provisions getting low, we are tempted to cut back on God’s portion.  This practice would be equivalent to eating our seed. 

How many farmers do you know that eat their seed?   A wise farmer guards his seed closely, for he knows that without the seed, there will be no new crop to harvest in the fall.   The cycle of sowing and reaping would come to a complete halt and the farmer would lack all future provisions.  When we make the Lord our first priority, he is good and faithful to provide for all of our needs. We may never be rich, but we will be cared for.  In God’s kingdom there is no lack of provisions. 

The Principle of the Tithe

Our heavenly Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills according to Psalm 50:10.  In actuality, he owns everything.  He allows us to keep 90% of all that he entrusts to our hands.   Can you imagine telling the financial consultant managing your investments to keep 90% of the proceeds?  I think that would be highly unlikely; however that is exactly what God does.   He says, here… just give me the first 10% and keep the rest.  

Those who do not know the Lord or his financial provisions may not understand the concept of tithing.   Deuteronomy 14:22-28 tells us we are to give the tithe to the Lord.  The word tithe in the Hebrew means tenth.   The bible says we are to give off of the top or the first fruits before giving to anything else.  The concept of tithing is introduced pre law, in other words it came before the Ten Commandments.  Many people try to discredit tithing as being a part of the old covenant and no longer applicable to those of us living in the New Covenant.  You know the concept, old things have passed away and all things have become new.  That may apply to the old man but it does not apply to tithing. 

Tithing is also a New Testament principal and it was taught by Jesus.   In Matthew 23:23 and in Luke 11:42 Jesus instructed the people to tithe.  So what is God’s promise to us in regards to tithing?  Obedience to all of God’s commandments holds the following promise.

Promise of Blessing in Deuteronomy 28:1-8

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.

The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

God promises to bless the remaining ninety percent.  As we see in the scripture above, those who keep God’s commandments will be blessed of the Lord. 

Often the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, or the parable of the pounds found in Luke 19 are referred to in teachings on becoming wise stewards of God’s gifts.  While some interchange the two due to a multitude of similarities, there are some remarkable differences.   One of the major differences can be found in the terms pounds and talents.  While the talents were dispersed in varying quantities determined by the Holy Spirit, the pounds were given in equal portions. 

The most significant lesson we can take from the two parables is this, God blesses those who are wise stewards of all God has given.  This is not in terms of our financial resources alone, but in all of the bountiful blessings he has entrusted to each of us. Those who use the blessings entrusted to their care wisely can expect a harvest and increase.

When you rob God, who suffers the loss?

Finally, in Malachi 3:8-12 we find the following discourse:

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.9“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. 11“Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts.12“All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts.

I do not think anyone wants to be guilty of robbing God.  However those who do not understand the significance of paying one’s tithe are doing just that.   They are robbing God, but not only God; they are also robbing themselves of the blessings he has promised. Faith in God’s provision and obedience to pay the tithe according to God’s financial plan, gives us the security of knowing that we will always be provided for, just like the widow about to eat her last meal.  Making God and his financial plan our priority insures of us of prosperity, in this life and the life to come.

This is the only place you will find God encouraging you to put him to the test.  As one who has done so and proven that God’s provision is more than enough, I encourage you to take him at his word.  Prove him; see if he will not make your harvest so plentiful that you do not have room to receive.  He will rebuke the one who devours your seed and will bless you with more than enough.  Prove him for yourself, and you will see.  Test him, for he will pass the test, it is guaranteed.

I remember at one point earlier in my life, having nowhere to turn. My finances were in a mess, with threats of losing my home, having utilities shut off, etc.  It seemed I had no money to pay a tithe, and yet I did not have money to not tithe.  I needed God to make up the difference as I could not do it on my own.  The situation appeared hopeless.  So I prayed over the tithe and paid it first, then I did what I could with the rest.  What seemed impossible suddenly began to turn around.   I can honestly tell you that it was nothing short of a miracle, a miracle of God’s provision. 

I speak from firsthand experience that God is a miracle working God, and he wants to do a miracle in your life.  Trust God, be obedient to his word, and put him first in all that you do. Make God a priority in your life.  When you do, your prosperity is insured.  We are all on this journey called life together; let us make it a prosperous one.  God Bless!

 

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Fitting the Puzzle Pieces of Life Into God’s Plan

Plans, purpose, and destiny, hallmark terms used in conjunction with one’s search for significance.  Who am I?   Why did God create me?  What is the ultimate reason God placed me here upon the earth?   What is my assignment?  We often have more questions than answers, especially as new Christians.   While this treasure of truth may appear to be hidden, it is only hidden for a season.  The season will pass, and the truth will be revealed, to those who search for it with diligence.

Proverbs 25:2 reads:  It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.website static page

Uncovering God’s plan and purpose for life is vital to fulfilling destiny.   It is the impetus for which we run the race of life.  Running the course and fulfilling the call leads us to the ultimate finish line.  It is our destiny; to cross the line, to finish the race, and hear the words of the Father, “Well done!”    Let us begin the search for truth. 

A small child approaches you with a large sack full of various puzzle pieces and drops them at your feet.   He asks, “Can you help me with this?”  The puzzle box has long since disappeared in the trash, and you have no idea what the finished product even looks like. While a small puzzle may be a simple task, a large one with 500 or more pieces may be more daunting.  Having a clear vision of the expected end makes the whole process much easier.  What picture did the creator of the puzzle see before he created the puzzle pieces? The puzzle creator knew what the finished product would look like even before he or she created it.  So it is with God!

There is intentionality in all that God does.  He creates each of us with a plan, for a purpose, and an assigned place.  Just as the individual members of our physical body have a specific role to play, so do the members of the body of Christ. We often refer to this as our “calling.”  According to Jeremiah 29:11, we have an expected end.  God created each of us with our expected end in mind.  While God knows our end from the beginning, our personal vision of who he intended us to be, is often unclear and elusive. Finding our place and understanding our purpose, is not always easy.

As the teacher of numerous spiritual growth classes and spiritual gifts seminars, the one question I am asked more often than any other is this, “How can I know God’s plan and purpose for my life?”  Often people of all ages and sizes have no comprehension of what God’s intention is for their life.   The first question I ask my students is this, “What do you like to do?”  Not what you have to do to earn a living or satisfy the needs of your family, friends, or peers.   What do you like to do just because you can?  If money or circumstances were not obstacles, what would you enjoy doing with your life right now and in the future?

Another question I like to ask is this, “What are you passionate about?”  What stirs you heart, either in a positive or a negative manner?  Do your heart strings tighten just a bit when you see a homeless man on the street?  Perhaps you become passionate about the victims of abuse.   Are you a return visitor to the mission field?   Do you enjoy volunteering at the local soup kitchen or witnessing to the lost?

Some people love to search the scriptures and utilize the wisdom they gain to teach others.  Then we have people with the gift of helps.   They don’t care how large or how small the task may be, they simply want to help in whatever capacity they can.   Matthew 6:21 says this, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  What you are passionate about is a clue to who you are.  Who you are is a gift from God.   Your identity, or your purpose, is the gift God gave to you.  It is his treasure hidden in an earthen vessel, his vessel.  It is your spiritual DNA.

God Gifted You with a Purpose and Gave You an Identity in Him.

I remember even as a small child, longing to play the piano. I begged my mother for lessons.  Thinking this was probably a phase that would soon pass; my parents decided I would take dance lessons instead. They took my brother and I to tap dance lessons for 2 full years, until they realized that I had two left feet; and I still wanted to play the piano.

They finally purchased a piano and put it in the basement so that I could practice.   No doubt they were protecting their own ears from any offensive sounds that may come from my humble beginnings as a pianist.   However persist I did, and eventually they decided that this was no passing whim.   They purchased a much nicer piano and I graduated to the living room to continue practicing my musical assignments.  My dream of becoming a pianist was being realized.  I continue to love playing the piano to this day.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with finding one’s purpose and calling.  Well for me, it was the first small puzzle piece to my picture of life in Christ.   Another piece to the puzzle appeared when I was the ripe old age of eight.   I had an english assignment.  My teacher, Mrs. Gibson, insisted that the whole class write letters on a weekly basis to a classmate who was ill.  I did not know the classmate well, and had no idea what to write.   So, I wrote her a story each and every week.   Little did I know it would birth the craft by which I would eventually earn a living. By the time I advanced to high school, I had cultivated a passion for writing.    Creative writing was my favorite class.

I did not like to speak in front of others, but instinctively knew that it was a fear that I would need to overcome.  I was determined to conquer the handicap.  I took speech and landed roles in most of the dramas performed in our high school.  I can’t say I mastered the fear of public speaking at that time; I did develop a healthy tenacity for doing it afraid.

The last puzzle piece I can relate from childhood was the desire to become acquainted with the mission field.  Even in junior high, I loved reading books about missionaries and their work.  I volunteered to work at a local migrant school and spent the bulk of two summers helping with the children of the migrants that worked the fields in my community.

Each of these became puzzle pieces pointing to the future that God had intended for me, even though I did not recognize them at the time.  As an adult, a desire to preach, teach and write eventually landed me a job at a Christian University, doing what?  Writing, teaching and preaching; among a myriad of other tasks that have found their way to my plate, but that is not the greatest miracle.  God moved me from a career as a nurse in Ohio, where I had lived all my life; to North Carolina where I learned the skills I would need to live life on my own in a big city.   Finally, he brought me to southern California where I am living out the dream.  I am doing exactly what God intended.

That is how the picture of my life began to take shape, one piece at a time.  So, what do your puzzle pieces look like?   What are your gifts, talents, and desires?   If you could do anything you wished to do and money were not an object, what would you choose to do?

What do people seek you for?   Do you have a talent or a gift that draws others to your side?  What stirs your heart and causes you to become alive with passion?  Whatever your purpose is, it is your ticket to a successful life. Success is not simply about money, but it is about living a fulfilled life.  Success encompasses finance, education, relationships, career, family, and more.  For one to fulfill God’s plan and purpose, a person needs to fully understand who they are.  It requires a sense of personal identity.

Habakkuk wrote in Habakkuk 2:2, “Then the LORD answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run.”  How can we run our race unless we have a clear vision of where the finish line is?   The finish line of life is our expected end.  A good friend of mine, Dr. Calvin .Sweeney says, “Run your particular race with purpose in every step, so that you can become whatever He’s called you to become.”

Special price this month $10 plus shipping and handling. Contact ksmith@planpurposedestiny.org

How can you uncover the truth of your calling and discover your purpose?  Experiment if need be, try a few things to see how they fit. Do you want to teach?  Try teaching some kids in the Sunday school or Children’s Church.   You will quickly fall in love with the kids and teaching, or move on to find something that suits you better.  Do you have a desire to help out with visitation of the sick or building projects?  Try it, see if it fits. If it does not seem to be your forte, then try something else.

Another valuable guide is your pastor and other church leaders.  Once they have an opportunity to get to know you, they can help you find your place, the place where you fit in best.   They can give you opportunities to grow and mature in your calling.  Don’t hesitate to get some training in the areas that interest you the most.  Studies on spiritual growth and spiritual gifts are helpful as well.

Find your place.  Run your race.  Fulfill your purpose. 

  Once more to quote Paul,

14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body”1 Corinthians 12:14-20 NASB 

We have each been created uniquely different, yet we all fit together to become one.  That is, we become one as the body of Christ.   But if the foot said, I want to be an eye, what good would that do?   The foot cannot effectively see any more than we can walk on our eye. I say that to say how vitally important it is to discover not only who we are, but where we fit in to the body of Christ.   We cannot be effective, successful, or happily fulfilled unless we take our place, discover our own identity, and run our race accordingly.

So what do your puzzle pieces say about you?  Who are you and what is your purpose?   What is your calling and destiny in Christ?   If you have not uncovered the truth of who you are, isn’t it time you did?

For more on this vital subject read the book, “Treasures of the Heart.” You can purchase the book at www.planpurposedestiny.org    Kathy teaches on this subject and others in seminars and workshops.  Contact her at ksmith@planpurposedestiny.org to schedule a seminar in your own local church.

 

 

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Raising Godly Kids by Kathy Smith

cheerleading

Many wonder how we can possibly hope to raise godly children in a world so full of hate and crime.  The nightly news seems peppered with reports of adults, teenagers, and even children committing heinous acts.  Many would say, “What has this world come to?  When will it end? ” They are alarmed with the magnitude of serious crimes being reported but wonder what can be done.  While we may not be in a position to change the whole world, or even our country, we can do something about the values and character our children see modeled in their own environment.  If we hope to see them become godly men and women, then we have an important role to play.

Today we are going to discuss three important steps in cultivating godly character in our children.     

  • Develop godly character and principles in my own life.

  • Model that character to my children and grandchildren.

  • Reinforce and encourage their progress as they become godly men and women.

The word “cultivating” brings back memories of farmers with their tractors and plows making tireless trips up and down the expanse of dirt in the fields beside my childhood home, back in Ohio.  Often clouds of dust would surround the farmer as he broke up the fallow ground.  The dirt had become hardened by the lack of rain and the dormant season of winter, just lifting.  Soon the trees would be in full bloom, and the sights and sounds of spring would return; ushering in with it the hope of a bountiful harvest.  

Cultivating the dry ground is a critical step that is vitally necessary in the preparation of the soil for planting.  Without first loosening the soil, the seeds cannot take root and grow.  Jesus talked about the seed that is sown in the hard places in Matthew 13,

3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5“Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6“But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7“Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8“And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9“He who has ears, let him hear.

Cultivating godly character in our own hearts is the first step.  We must know and understand who God is and who he wants to become in our own personal lives. If you have never asked Jesus to become the Lord and Savior of your life, then you must begin there. Developing godly character begins with a personal relationship with him.  Above all else, it is the love of God that we allow to enter into our heart, that prepares us to receive.  The love of God breaks up the hardened ground and makes it possible for the seed of his word to take root and grow in our life.    

Step two is the renewing of one’s mind as spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:2. Proving what is good, acceptable, and perfect.   Transformation is the process that we must willing submit to for success.  It is a process that continues throughout life.  Renewing of our minds and the development of godly character comes as we diligently study his word.  We must then allow Holy Spirit to speak to our heart about changes that we must make.   The beauty of allowing God to transform one’s heart is that we then become an example to others. Becoming a role model, especially to our children, is vitally important. 

What kind of a role model are you?

If a child mimics the attitude and behavior of their role models, would the mirror image reflected in your child’s behavior be pleasing?  Or, would the stark reality staring you in the face, be one that brings displeasure and shame?  Our children learn a great deal through observation.  People they are in contact with on a daily basis serve as role models, and can greatly influence the development of their own personal attitudes and behaviors.   Role models can thereby shape the potential of a child’s future. 

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Recently, I heard a true story about three mothers and their daughters.   For the sake of anonymity, let us refer to them as Mom A, Mom B, and Mom C.  All were conversing in an amiable fashion.  Anyone looking on would have thought that the three sets of mothers and daughters were the best of friends.  All were talking, laughing, and seemingly having a great time.   At least to any interested bystander, that was how it appeared.  Presumably that is how Mom A and her daughter saw it as well.   

Up front, this appears to be a very pleasant and friendly conversation to the mutual satisfaction of all.   It was a very positive environment in which to nurture the relationships of all six young women.   That is, until the first mother and daughter exited, saying their good byes. 

That is when the tone of the conversation began to change.  As quickly as the first two left, the whispering and criticizing began.  Mom B began criticizing Mom A, and Mom C and their two daughters were immediately attentive to all that she had to say.  Then Mom C began sharing some other tidbits of gossip. She found first one thing, then another to spout off about, running Mom A and her daughter in the ground with her criticisms.   Not to be out done, the two daughters quickly chimed into the conversation with their own negative input.  Mom A and her daughter were the unsuspecting victims of a verbal attack executed through the vehicle of malicious gossip.

What had started out as a beautiful day for three mothers and their daughters, quickly took a turn for the worst.   Two mothers modeled a behavior that was quickly adopted by their own daughters. As parents, grandparents, and significant others, we have an important role to play in shaping the future of our children.  We can serve as role models influencing them for good, or evil.  What we choose to model in the presence of our children and grandchildren is up to each of us.  

So, what type of role model are you?   Are you cultivating godly behavior in your own life that can serve as an example to others?  Moms and dads have an important role to play in the future of our children.  The influence of one’s own behavior and attitude is powerful, but others that your child comes in contact with can have an impact as well.  It is therefore vitally important to exercise caution in determining what type of environment a child will be exposed to on a frequent basis.  Once again, children learn much by observation, so what will they observe in the environment surrounding them?  It is up to parents and grandparents to create a nurturing atmosphere in which godly character can be observed and developed.

So, if we are to train our children to live a godly life, what does that look like?  Obviously that is not what Mom B, Mom C, or their daughters were displaying by their behavior in our illustration.  While all four may know and love the Lord, their behavior would not serve as a good example.  Gossiping, criticizing, and fault finding are not fruits of the spirit.   At least not a godly spirit, we are all in the process of being perfected and therefore grace is to be exercised by all.   How can we shape the character of our children to become godly adults?  Let us attempt to define godly behavior. 

Godly behavior is simply living in a manner that reflects the very heart and personality of God.  James wrote in his letter,

You believe that God is one, you do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” James 2:19 NASB

He then goes on to state in the next verse that “faith without works is useless” or “dead” in the KJV.  Therefore merely knowing God is not sufficient, it is living by faith evidenced by our actions that perfects our godly character and makes us a living epistle of God himself.  We are ambassadors of the kingdom; therefore we do through our own good deeds and godly character model God himself upon the earth. 

The God that our children, our grandchildren, and all others we come in contact with should see is the God in us, through our own behavior and attitude.  We should mirror the very image of God.  Paul wrote,

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB

That image, the mirror image of God is created by our mindset, behavior, and actions, but evidenced by our fruit.  

David wrote in Psalms 1:3 a

And he will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season…

The preceding verse talks about delighting in the law of the Lord.   In other words, as we spend time immersed in his word, we begin to become what he is.  We begin to reflect who he is, his character is formed in us, and the evidence is in the fruit we bear.  What fruit?  Galatians 5:22 -23 states that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

Our final point is this.   We must encourage and celebrate our children’s successes.  As they make wise decisions and exhibit godly behavior we need to point that out to them.  Reinforce godly behavior when you see it, encourage it.  You can even counsel your child when difficult situations present themselves.  What would Jesus do if he were in this situation?   That is always a valid question for discussion.   If uncertain, search the scriptures for an answer.   Help your child develop his/her own time for bible study and prayer.  Lead by example.   Smaller children need to be guided in their learning of biblical principles.  Perhaps a family time of study would work well for the young children and teens alike.  Make it a practice to pray with them. 

If we have any hope at all of changing the world, we must begin somewhere. Somewhere begins with me.   Step one is to change ourselves.  We must choose to live godly lives both in word and deed.  We must choose to model that behavior and lifestyle for all to see.  We must also choose to become involved in our children’s’ lives and encourage them to develop godly character in all that they do.  Who knows what God can do through the efforts of a multitude of parents, all dedicated to raising godly kids?  Spring is upon us, and it is time that we who are about our father’s business begin to cultivate godly behavior.  Raising godly men and godly women for the generation to come, could change the world… one child at a time.   

This article first appeared in Faith Filled Family Magazine in March of 2015

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Health, Hope, and Happiness

blindfoldDo you remember as a child playing pin the tail on the donkey?   Or blind man’s bluff?  Or try to break the Piñata?  In each case the player is blindfolded and even though the player cannot see, he/she can rely on their instincts and the assistance of a trusted companion to get them where they need to go. 

Sometimes we walk through dark places in life, and hope seems illusive.  The proverbial “glass half empty” thought process creeps into our thinking.  If we dwell on negative thoughts they begin to grow and multiply.   Paul knew this, that is why he wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NASB)

What we dwell on grows. 

Negative thoughts however, bankrupt us of our hope; and when we lose hope, our heart becomes sick.  (Proverbs 13:12)  Paul knew this.  That is why he told us to dwell on the right things… for they too will begin to grow and multiply.  We can choose to focus on the good things and the truth of God’s word, or we can choose to abandon our hope and dwell on negative circumstances.  We control the thoughts we think.  We can choose to dismiss negative thoughts the moment they enter our minds or take ownership of them.  We get to choose.

 How can you know what thoughts to focus on and which ones to dismiss?  We must stay focused upon the positive, for what we feed will grow.

Once again, Paul wrote, in Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 Knowing God’s word will give us the foundation upon which to judge each thought and circumstance.  How does the thought line up with the truth we find in the bible?   One can only know the answer to this question by knowing what the word of God says.

 I am reminded of a very dark time in my life, when it seemed I had no hope at all.  It was dark because I was focusing on what I did not have, instead of what I did have.  I had embraced the “glass half empty” concept.

I remember crying to God saying, “I no longer have my own house, my own car, or my own furniture… I don’t even have a steady job!” It seemed that I had lost every possession of importance.  God allowed me to wallow in my negative thinking… for a while, but not long.  Once I was done complaining, these questions came to mind.   Do you have a warm bed to sleep in?  Do you have plenty of food to eat? Do you have transportation and a loving family? I had every need fulfilled, and then some.  I lacked nothing of necessity. There are many others that are far less fortunate, sleeping under bridges and foraging for food in dumpsters. I got the point.  I was truly a very blessed woman.

Later as I was walking along the beautiful Greenway in Raleigh, NC where I was staying with my family, I realized this. There are many treasures that God has awaiting our discovery each day, like flowers along the path.  We can choose to look for them, or close our eyes and focus on our circumstances instead.   The choice is ours.  Like flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, we cannot go back to retrieve the blessings we leave behind. Like Peter, who took his eyes off Jesus for just a moment, and began to sink.   We need to keep focused on the right things, those things of good report, otherwise we begin to sink in our own self-pity.

What are you focusing on?

 When the seasons in our life change, we cannot go back.   I was blessed with a loving family and plenty of time to spend with my grandchildren.  I had the opportunity to create memories that will remain in my heart forever.  These were treasures indeed.  Treasures that I did not want to ignore.   Today the seasons have changed, as life always does.  The opportunities of yesterday are now nothing more than a memory of days gone by. .  Fortunately, the memories that I gathered along the way will remain in my heart forever; like flowers in a bouquet.  They were treasures from God, and I chose to take time to discover them.  I gathered them instead of ignoring them. I looked for them.  I stopped focusing on the negative and begin to look at the positive, at what God had blessed me with.

 My cup was not half empty, it was half full. What about yours?  Are you dwelling on the negative circumstances, or on the positive promises of God? What you think on, what you focus on, will grow.  When I began to focus on the positive part of my life, it began to overtake the negative. I forgot about what I did not have and I begin to sun myself in the many blessings that I did have. Because I changed my focus, my circumstances changed as well.

That brings me back to the childhood games we talked about in the beginning. The blind folded player needed a sighted guide to lead the way, someone worthy of trusting. When the circumstances of life get dark, when we can’t seem to find our way, when we lose hope for our future, we have a companion we can trust.  He will guide us through the darkness and give us hope.   His name is Jesus.

 The Bible says that Jesus came that we “might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NAS).

 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  God delights in giving you the desires of your heart.

This article first appeared in Faith Filled Family Magazine in January of 2015 where I was recently added to the staff as the Features Manager.  I am a regular contributor to the magazine.  I am also employed by Vision International University.   

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Mary Did You Know?

nativity

Picture by Cindy Hasz used by permission.

 A teen named Mary found favor with God. She was a young woman with a bright future and a destiny.  Her parents had promised her to Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth.  The course for her life was set.  However, those plans were about to be unraveled by one simple act of obedience.  This humble servant, a virgin, agreed to be impregnated with the very seed of God. What price would she pay for the honor of bearing God’s son?
The customs and culture of Nazareth in the days when Mary was growing up would have been far different from anything we have experienced today.  A brief look at the historical documentation would suggest that they typically lived in small one or two room homes with dirt floors and flat roofs.    Much of everyday life was lived in a centralized courtyard outside the front door.  Typical tasks such a laundry, cooking, etc. would have been more public than what we experience.  Keeping in mind that everyone probably knew their neighbor’s business creates a whole different picture of what it might be like to live outside the accepted norm of the day.
 Unlike today, pregnancy before marriage would definitely not be acceptable.  Joseph would have been  within his rights to put her away.  The shame could have been significant.  She could have been shunned by all of society.  She faced possible rejection from all that she knew, and yet she did not hesitate.   In the recorded discourse between Mary and the angel in Luke 1: 38 it reads, “And, Mary said, Behold the bond slave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.  And the angel departed from her.”
 Did she take time to count the cost to her personally before coming into agreement with the plan of God?  We do not know, however we do know that she chose to accept the will of God for her life as an act of obedience to her Lord.  I am reminded of the lyrics to a song written by Mark Lowery:
 Mary Did You Know?
“Mary did you know that your baby boy will someday walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
Oh Mary did you know
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am”
What we do know is that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had the favor of God upon her life.   Sometimes that favor comes at great personal cost.  How could she possibly explain her pregnancy to others, was she to tell them that she was pregnant via the Holy Spirit?  Who would even believe her?  Scandal, criticism, and rejection all potential threats to this simple act of obedience and yet, she said yes.  She was willing to sacrifice her personal plans and goals, her personal safety and acceptance by friends, family, and society itself, for the honor of bearing the son of God.  She will be honored for all of eternity as the mother of Jesus.
Let us not forget the role of Joseph in this whole scenario.   He too must have faced tremendous struggles as the espoused of Mary.  Society would have said, “Put her away.  You are not responsible; it is not your child.  She has shamed you.  Let her pay the price of betrayal.”  Yet we know that he did none of those things.   He too had a part to play in the birth of Jesus, and in rearing him as his own.  When he contemplated all that had happened and what he should do, an angel of the Lord appeared to him as recorded in Matthew 1:20 saying, “… Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”  So we can see how Joseph faced an important decision regarding his fulfillment of God’s plan for his life as the earthly father of Jesus. 
There is no doubt that Joseph had to pay a price for the honor of rearing the son of God.  Personal sacrifice, shame, ridicule no doubt very real in his life.   Nevertheless he agreed to play his part.  He agreed to pay the price for the favor of God that was also upon his life. 
What was it like to be the earthly parents of the son of God?  No doubt much of the honor which they were due did not come within their lifetime on earth; however their obedience had eternal rewards.  Those rewards are available to each of us that say yes to the Lord.  The honor of accepting Jesus as our personal Savior may come at a price, but the reward is eternal.  Are you willing to say yes to Jesus? 
(This article will also appear in the December issue of Faith Filled Family Magazine.)  

JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH NEW JEWISH

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Rocky Seas

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Building a Secure Life

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easter 2011 nc

Walking out the journey of life. ( Durham, North Carolina 2011)

When I was a small child, I had the unique opportunity of helping, as much as a small child can, in the creation of not one, but three homes.  That is right, my mother and father built not one, but three separate homes for our family.   I was an infant when the first one was  built, but the second home saw me through most of my elementary school years. Both homes were on the same rural road, and on the same side of the street.

Finally, my parents decided to build a third home.   Of course, that was perhaps out of necessity since my father promised to sell the house we were living in to a co-worker.  I was just a child, so perhaps I do not have the facts straight, but I seem to remember that my mother may have been consulted after the agreement was made.   Nevertheless, the two came into agreement that a third home would be built.   This time, we actually built across the street from the first two houses.

With this third home, I witnessed the process of construction, up close and personal.  The securing of the plans, and the pouring of the foundation.  I remember  the brick layer, I believe his last name may have been Robinson.   I watched intently hour after hour, as he explained the fine art of brick laying.  The completion of the inside of the house was no small matter either.

There was the initial framing,  plastering and painting.  Hardwood floors to lay in the bedrooms.  What a wonderful lesson for me to take away from my childhood.  I learned the importance of building on a firm foundation, and using wisdom to build upon it.   Not with cheesy materials, but using some of the best that the budget could afford, produced a home that would stand the test of time; and prove to be a home that anyone could be proud of.

Once the construction was complete, we were able to move in our possessions and take up residence in this new home.  The home still stands today, in the same location, and all I am going to tell you is that it has been around for a very long time.  If you know how old I am, then you can figure out how long the house has been standing.    It was built well, and has withstood the test of time.

As I contemplated the scripture in Proverbs 24 this morning, I meditated upon the fact that wisdom and understanding are required in the building process.   Without it, the home is not secure.   Indeed the parable about “building upon the rock” from Matthew 7 comes to mind.   Those who do not build wisely are as those who build upon the sand.  Any small wind is likely to make it fall and the work is lost.

Now the lessons taken away from the building of our physical home can be applied to life itself.  It is important to build our lives upon wisdom, and establishing the work with understanding.  Without it, any crisis or catastrophe can become a viable threat to our personal well being.   But those who wisely choose to build upon the foundation of Christ, and use their understanding of God’s word, will establish themselves in a very secure place indeed.

By wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
And by knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.

A wise man is strong,
And a man of knowledge increases power.
For by wise guidance you will wage war,
And in abundance of counselors there is victory.  Proverbs 24:3-6

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Where is Life Leading You?

 

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road into mountatinsI was on my way to Wal-Mart one day, but was in unfamiliar territory.   The road I chose after exiting the free-way, brought me to a dead end.  I had a decision to make at that point. I could choose to give up, turn around, and go back home — or I could choose to find another way.

I chose to reset my GPS. I drove my car in the direction I wanted to go, and eventually arrived at the point of my desired destination, Wal-Mart. Sometimes we find that the path life has placed us on does not lead to where we wanted.  Knowledge is power.   We can choose to use the knowledge of who we are, and where we want to go, to reset our compass.  

Many choose to walk the path of life, trying to make the best of the circumstances surrounding them.   Others choose to take the helm, live life by intention, and make decisions that lead them to their desired destination.  We were all birthed into a predetermined family.  That family may be high functioning, successful, socially adept, high achievers, or not.   It would be easy to simply sit back and say, this is the lot life dealt me, I can only make the best of what I have.  

We Do Have a Choice, and Choice is Power

You cannot choose your siblings or where you were born, or even the social status of your birth family.  You do have choices however.  You can choose to resign yourself to remaining in your current state and accepting the present circumstances; or you can choose to forge a new path and march to the beat of a different drum.  You have the ability to change;  it is through the power of choice. 

For instance, the decision to take creative writing in high school helped prepare me for the career that I now have as a writer and teacher.  The choice to give up dancing lessons as a child, and take piano lessons, was vital to where I am today.   A dancer I am not, but music, especially playing the piano, is my forte.  

There are circumstances over which we have absolutely no control; but that is exactly where the power of choice becomes most crucial.   We can choose to become bitter, resentful, and angry over life’s challenges; or, we can use the circumstances to advance ourselves to new heights.  No one chooses to lose their life savings to an economic downfall, or fall victim to a cunning criminal.  No one chooses to be victimized by an abusive husband or wife.  Nevertheless, bad things do happen to the nicest of people.  Life can throw us a curve ball when we least expect it.  

We Can Choose To Get Up Again

While we may have no control over our circumstances, we do have control over how we react to those circumstances.  We can choose to allow life’s challenges to beat us down into a helpless, hopeless, lifeless state of withdrawal; or we can choose to get back up, dust ourselves off, and rise above it.   When we make the choice to get up, God will send us the help we need.  Help to create a new beginning, and forge a new path.   It is a path to something far better than we ever dreamed possible.   In this latter case, God restores what the enemy took from us, in multiples.  

Take Job for instance, God not only restored what he lost, but restored him to a far greater state. God does not get even, he gets better.   He will restore to you what the enemy has stolen, if you will hold steady, trust and believe.  If you refuse to give up, God will reward your faithfulness.  I know, because he has done that for me.   He took me from my home in Ohio, to my daughter’s home in NC.   Then with nothing more than a few suitcases of clothing  and a shipment of books, I came to California, to start again.  I might add that I was no “spring chicken” at the time either.  Most would say I was far too old to start over. In God’s eyes, we are never too old to start anew.    cropped-IMG00004-20110927-1430.jpg

I can tell you from experience that God is faithful, and he will sustain you through the difficulties.   If you refuse to give up, he will guide you through each storm of life to the promised land on the other side.   I can also tell you that the promised land is more blessed than you can possibly imagine.  That reminds me of a song we used to sing years ago, perhaps you know it, the refrain goes like this…

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Where has life led you?  Is it where you wanted to go?  Are you where you wanted to be?   If not, it is never too late to reset your compass and realign your path.  You have the power to choose where you will ultimately end up.  The power is yours, if you choose to live life intentionally. greenway6

Perhaps you need a helping hand to help you get up again, hope again, believe again.   I am here to help, and so are others.  Write to me at www.ksmith@vision.edu.   Or leave your questions here in the comment section.   Would love to hear from you!  

 

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