Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {April 17, 2015 edition}

As I type this, it is raining…again. They say that April showers bring May flowers. If that is true, everything in this part of the country should have a bloom on it next month. It has rained constantly, but all that is good and helps us appreciate days when the sun shines.

On to this week’s family links.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

Press On Moms: The Pew Training Battles {There’s an App for That}. Moms who bring children to worship and help train them are doing a great work. This post encourages them to keep it up!

Family Conversations around the Table {for the family}. We all know that talking around the table helps a family, but how can we make these conversations interesting for everyone? This is a practical post with some fun ideas.

Children and Arrows {The Morning Drive}. The imagery of Psalm 127:4 is powerful. In this post, Scott gives some practical questions to help us think through if we are really “aiming” our children as we should.

7 Things You Should Stop Doing to Your Spouse in Public {Mark Merrill}. I can’t tell you how much I like this post. This is needed by every husband and wife!

Don’t Let Gaming Ruin Your Marriage {Nurturing Marriage}. It may not be video game playing, but the principles of this post can be applied to a myriad of things that drain the intimacy of a great marriage.

How to Reward Your Child {Project Family}. A great post about how children need reward, but do not need to be rewarded for every little thing they ever do.

Our Week in Review

These posts were not necessarily written during the last 7 days, but they drew the most views in that time. (Original publication date in parenthesis)

#5: Who Are These People? (April 13, 2015)

#4: A Different Take on Being the Salt of the Earth (April 15, 2015)

#3: Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (July 5, 2013)

#2: An Open Letter to the 4th Avenue church of Christ (December 4, 2014)

#1: Singing the Dents (April 14, 2015)

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Episode 27: Husbands, Love Your Wives

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The month of April continues, and we continue to look at the book of Ephesians. This week, Adam and Leah discuss what it means for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. We hope you enjoy this practical discussion of a very important text.Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 4.39.55 PM

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Music Credit

Opening theme: “Josie Has the Upper Hand” by Josh Woodward

Closing theme: “Afterglow” by Josh Woodward

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A Different Take on Being the Salt of the Earth

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As Jesus began the Sermon the Mount, He gave that great list of beatitudes. In many ways, those short statements would be the foundation not only for this sermon, but for the types of people who would truly hear Him and follow.

After that list, the Lord gave one of the most famous word pictures in Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (Matthew 5:13)

That word picture has been written about, preached about, and examined from nearly every possible angle. Seemingly every use and application of salt in the ancient world has been spoken of, to show why Jesus would speak of these people as the salt of the earth.

But I want to take a different look at this comparison. At least, it’s one that is different for me. You may have thought of this before and may think I am as far behind in my Bible study as possible. Still, when this crossed my mind and I studied some more, it was eye-opening to me, and I hope it will be to you, as well.

Notice that Jesus did not tell those gathered that day “you will be the salt of the earth” or “you have the potential to be the salt of the earth.” Instead, the Lord emphatically stated, “You are the salt of the earth” (emphasis added).

Also, keep in mind that much of the teaching Jesus did was done with a Hebrew “structure” in place. By that I mean, we need to remember the cultural context in which Jesus was living, and the people to whom He was speaking. While this was not always the case, quite often Hebrew rabbis would write or speak using a structure that began and ended with the same concept. It may have been worded differently, but the same idea was emphasized at (or near) the beginning of a lesson and then again at (or near) the end.

With that in mind, consider the final words of this great sermon:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

If we are to consider the beginning and ending of this sermon to have the same emphasis, does that not add something to Jesus saying that those who were present were the “salt of the earth?”

They were the salt of the earth by the mere fact they were coming out to hear Jesus. They were the salt of the earth because they were willing to leave their regular life for a time to go out and listen to this Master Teacher share His message.

But, to remain the salt of the earth–to not lose their saltiness–they had to follow the teachings they were hearing.

Today, we are the salt of the earth when we open our Bibles or come to worship and hear what Christ would have us to do. We are the salt of the earth when we take time out of our lives to put Him first and to hear from Him through His Word.

But we become foolish; in fact, we lose our saltiness when we fail to do what we hear.

Be–and remain–salty!


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Singing in the Dents

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Several years ago on a Wednesday evening after Bible class, I was sitting with my young son Luke over in the wing of the church building. We were singing, and as we sang (he was still learning to read) we kept our fingers in the songbook in order to follow the words. I remember that he was picking the words up so quickly and I can recall feeling that there was no other thing that could please me more than to hear my child sing to the Lord.

Later that evening when we went to bed, I was reading a Bible story to him. (This had become our custom every night right before he went to sleep). In the middle of reading Luke interrupted me and said, “Daddy, when I am big like you I am going to sing in the dents.” It took me just a few seconds, but I realized he was talking about the notes that follow the melody down in the bass clef when the sopranos aren’t singing. It takes a deeper voice that knows those particular parts of the song to “sing in the dents.”

As I get older, I think more and more about what legacy I may be leaving to my children. Trials of life and the uncertainty of the future keeps these thoughts ever nearer to my mind and heart. And even if it is something as simple as “singing in the dents,” it brings me great joy that when Luke wants to be anything like his father, it has do to with spiritual things. Incidentally, now that is he is fourteen he is doing a pretty good job down there in the dents.

Parents, please, please teach your children about God. Turn off your electronics and put away your phones for a while and open His word. Sing about Him and pray to Him with your children. Sing aloud in the assembly, whether you think your voice is good or not. Leave a legacy to your children that will reach into eternity in a positive way. Your decisions, though seemingly small, are the difference makers in your children’s future in the Lord.

The time that our children will be in our home is very short. Ask an empty nester. They could tell younger parents a great deal about the things that really matter. They know that the church of the future is counting on families to do a better job in emphasizing the spiritual aspects of our lives in Christ than what we have done in the past. Somebody once observed – “The reason why the church loses 50% of its young people to the world is because it has never had 50% to lose in the first place.” The point is simply that 50% of the parents have never been truly converted to Christ! If this is the case, what are we supposed to expect from the kids?

My heart is full when I see young people who desire to know the Lord. I am excited to see their parents bring them to Bible class, Lads to Leaders, Bible Bowl, and other events with the brethren. I understand what this can mean for them on earth and in heaven. And I look forward to the time when all the saints will praise God for eternity in everlasting peace with God the Father, Son, and Spirit. It is my earnest and fervent prayer, that others yet unreached by the gospel will also be there – where my son and I, by the grace of God, and according to our obedience, will be forever, “singing in the dents.”

“Time is filled with swift transition. Naught of earth unmoved can stand.

Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God’s unchanging hand.”

~ Jennie Wilson


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Who Are These People?

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Do you remember at all a man in the Bible named Bezalel? Have you already “cheated” and looked him up in a Bible concordance or some other source? Some translations render his name as Bezaleel. Does that help? Do you know who he is yet?

While you are at it, do you recognize the names of Oholiab (or again, depending on the translation, Aholiab)? Are any of these names beginning to sound somewhat familiar to you?

Whether or not we remember their names, without these men and apparently many others, the following words would not have been written in Exodus 40:33:

So Moses finished the work.”

The work under consideration was the constructing of the tabernacle, all of its furnishings, and the clothing which was to be worn by Aaron. It could easily be argued that, had it not been for “Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary” (Exodus 36:1), the tabernacle would not have been completed.

Did you read that carefully?

Did you noticed that, along with the two men we’ve already mentioned (and who are probably unknown or little known to a lot of people), there are also some unnamed men who helped in this work? Isn’t it interesting that, without two “minor people” and a number of unnamed people, we probably would never read about Moses finishing the work?

Please do not misunderstand. I am not at all trying to minimize the importance of Moses. All of this work took place under his oversight. He was, indeed, the one who would answer directly to God and would receive instruction from Him. It was his responsibility to pass God’s directives along to the people and to make sure they were carried out as God had intended.

Is this beginning to sound familiar? Am I the only one who sees a present-day application for this?

Is it not true that elders in the Lord’s Church operate under “…the chief Shepherd…(1 Peter 5:4)? Is it not true that, while they are the overseers of the local congregation, that congregation is not theirs? Doesn’t it actually belong to Deity (cf. Acts 20:28)?

Is it also not true that anybody who preaches and/or in any other way attempts to proclaim God’s word is also under a sobering obligation? It was Peter who was inspired to write: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:11, NKJV).

Anybody who knows me knows that I firmly believe that the health, strength, soundness, and vitality of a local congregation does not depend solely on who the elders happen to be or the identity of the preacher(s).

In my opinion, it cannot be stressed enough that the real “backbone” of any congregation are those who may be overlooked by some and unknown by others. They are the ones who quietly, humbly, and sacrificially serve, often in the background and out of the spotlight.

While they may be unknown or little known to some of us, they can rest assured that the One who really counts knows them, sees their service, and is preparing a special place for them. 

I am more thankful to God than I can express for the “Bezalels,” “Oholiabs,” and every other unnamed “craftsman” of our day. 

Who are these people? 

They are special. They are the ones who deserve much more praise than they receive. While they may or may not receive that praise in this life, they can look forward to this promise being fulfilled in their lives: 

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” (Revelation14:13, NASU)


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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {April 10, 2015 edition}

Spring has sprung, and pollen is everywhere! The beauty around us this time of year is so wonderful. Blooms and buds are so wonderful, the garden is starting to have some plants break through, and the grass is getting really green.

How could anyone look at the beauty around them this time of year and not contemplate how wonderfully creative and powerful God is? “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), and the Spring plants echo the same message!

On to this week’s family links. Since we skipped posting last Friday due to Lads to Leaders, we have a huge number of family links for you to enjoy this weekend!

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

I Wish Someone Would’ve Warned Me about these Big Feelings {The Today Show}. When a family brings home a baby, there are all sorts of “big” things that accompany that, but this post shares the one you do not really know how to expect: big feelings!

How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship {Mark Merrill}. Big or small, there are there going to be breaks in trust at times in relationships. But time does not heal all wounds by itself. This is a very important post for any relationship, but especially husbands and wives.

2 Reasons I Hate the Phrase “Just a Stay at Home Mom” {Jon Acuff}. Whether you are a stay at home mom or not, this is a very thought-provoking post!

A Needy Family or Not {The Morning Drive}. This simple post shares the idea that every family has needs, and every family has some of the same basic (but HUGE) needs.

The One Thing You Can Do for Your Kid Who Sabotages Family Time {We Are THAT Family}. This is a great suggestion if you have a child who keeps trying to take over family time, especially family devotional time!

4 Tips to Spring Clean Your Marriage {for the family}. This is another simple post, but a great take on “spring cleaning.” Every husband and wife should read and think through this article.

Marriage is the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done {Nurturing Marriage}. This is not a negative post, as the title might indicate. Instead, it is an eye-opening and honest post that needs to be read by every spouse, and (especially) those thinking of getting married one day.

The Solution Isn’t Just Bigger Consequences {National Center for Biblical Parenting}. It’s so easy to just “up” the consequences for some wrong action by our children. This interesting post helps us realize that doing so is not always the best answer.

One Simple Way to Guarantee Relationship Success {Jackie Bledsoe}. I really don’t want to give away the “one thing” of this post, but it is interesting. Just go read it to find out!

For Those Hit-and-Miss Days of Marriage {We are THAT Family}. Do you ever feel as if there is just something not connecting in your marriage? This post is a wonderfully simple reminder that such is normal, but can be overcome.

Our Week(s) in Review

These posts were not necessarily written during the last 14 days, but they drew the most views in that time. (Original publication date in parenthesis)

#5: An Open Letter to the 4th Avenue church of Christ (December 4, 2014)

#4: 5 Steps to Family Financial Freedom (April 8, 2015)

#3: I’m Adopted (April 1, 2015)

#2: Hymn Reflection: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (July 5, 2013)

#1: Where the Grass is Greener (April 7, 2015)

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Episode 26: Wives, Submit to Your Own Husbands {Podcast}

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In April, we are thinking on the podcast about the book of Ephesians and what an “Ephesians home” looks like. This week, Leah joins Adam for a short discussion on one of the more controversial passages in the Bible. Paul told wives to submit to their own husbands. What does that mean? How can that be done? Listen in on this important conversation in this week’s podcast.

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Music Credit

Opening theme: “Josie Has the Upper Hand” by Josh Woodward

Closing theme: “Afterglow” by Josh Woodward

(Photo credit: Pixel Pro Photography on Creative Commons)

5 Steps to Family Financial Freedom

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Do you ever feel like your money controls you instead of the other way around? If you are like most Americans, you probably have felt that way (and many of you probably still do).

Handling money is not easy. Oh, it sounds easy, but actually doing it properly takes both focus and discipline. Trust me, I may be writing this post, but that does not mean I/we are perfect at any of this stuff! This is one of those “I need it as much as anyone else” type articles.

You are not going to read anything in this post that will turn a light bulb on in your head. Everything here you have heard before. However, actually doing these things will help you walk toward real financial freedom. It may take time, and there will certainly be roadblocks along the way, but these 5 steps are necessary if you want to take control of your money, and do so for God’s glory, over time.

1. Have a Detailed Monthly Budget. One of our most-viewed posts ever on this site deals with writing a budget (you can read it here), but those who think about each month and pay attention for that month–every month–are more likely to win over time. Some months will be tight, while others will be easier, but treat each month as a separate entity and you will see some progress over time.

2. Spend Less than You Make. We all know this, but how many of us just do not follow it? There are so many ways to overspend, and many of us figure we can out-earn our spending. Instead, just do what your grandmother said: Live within your means. Then, be wise with the extras!

3. Get Out of Debt. How much money would you have if you weren’t paying a car loan, student loan, home equity loan, and credit cards? Now, is debt sinful? No. But to load yourself down with debt is unwise. The best way to handle debt is to avoid it if at all possible, and to get out of it when you have it as quickly as possible. We recommend Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball,” but the key is to have a plan that frees up those debt payments to do other things, and then to follow that plan relentlessly! (It worked for us!!!)

4. Be a Generous Giver. It seems counterproductive, but those who truly win with money know how to be generous in their giving. If you are generous, you may never be super rich, but you will truly be free with money because you will have the proper attitude toward money. Additionally, it is quite amazing how so many times, those who learn to give also become recipients of more. That should never be our motivation, but it does happen quite often.

5. Save before You Spend. Save for emergencies. Save for big purchases (cars, furniture, vacations, etc.). Save for retirement. Save for college. Before you do any spending with your money, set some aside for the future. This helps you plan for the future while also keeping your spending more in check.

As we said, none of these is all that deep. You know all of them. Doing them over time, though, is what will help you and your family know true financial freedom, whether you ever have a ton of money or not. You see, real financial freedom is not a dollar amount; it is an attitude toward the financial blessings God has given.


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Where the Grass is Greener

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If you have been married for any length of time you have had moments of unhappiness. Remember, your vows predicted it: in SICKNESS and in health, for richer or POORER, for better and for WORSE. Every marriage is going to be a struggle. Sometimes when the struggles are prolonged people began to think about getting out.

Across the fence they see pasture, that is, greener grass. They see a friend or co-worker of the opposite sex who listens to them. They see this person in all their good moments. They don’t see their bad attitudes. They don’t have to live with their bad choices. They don’t see them when they are unattractive. They only see them in the sunshine.

If it is not another person that people see, perhaps it is the peacefulness of the field. No more fighting. No more rejection. No more animosity. Married folks began to think that no spouse would be better than a spouse they have learned to loathe. They think the peaceful field is easy. They don’t see the forest just beyond that field which they must later pass through. They forget how much they need someone to hold their hand.

If you are married, I want you to know that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. You made a commitment before God and many witnesses that God wants and expects you to keep. Your co-worker or close friend is not your spouse. Though different, they have just as many problems and weaknesses. If you hop the fence you will find the ground muddier than you thought it would be.

The grass is actually greener on your side. If it is not, it is because you have not cultivated it as you should. Think about it. You can only work the ground on your side. You can only plant anew on your side of the fence. God will help you to grow what you have sown. He can change the soil. He can do what you think is impossible in your field if you let Him.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that married couples are one flesh, and that they should nourish and cherish their relationship. This means submission to one another in the fear of God. This means learning to be unselfish. This means making sacrifices like Christ made for the church. This means the washing of water by the Word.

If we will search deep within ourselves and look at our spouse again in the love of our vows, we will remember where our happiness has its brightest hope. We will remember why we said, “I do,” and we will find even more reasons to say, “I still do.” In reality, marriage has nothing to do with the grass being green. Marriage is more about knowing that there is something special happening underneath the soil that only a husband and wife can see, and that something involves the power of God. And as I recall, there has only ever been one Shepherd who knows where the green pastures are, and He alone knows how to lead us to them.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…” ~ (Psalm 23:1-3a)


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Leading from the Front

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I’m one of those weird people who like “talk television.” I like to at least hear interviews, press conferences, etc. from time to time. I may not watch all that closely, but I do enjoy what I hear.

I recently ran across something I wrote about one of those experiences several years ago. I think what I wrote then still has some application today.

After all this time, I do not remember his name, but I do remember that he had served as a Major General in what we now know as Operation Desert Storm. As I remember it, he was describing with a sense of pride how those under his command had performed. 

When the conversation turned to his role, he was asked an interesting question. The interviewer wanted to know why this Major General flew dangerous missions himself, instead of merely giving the orders and sending others into harm’s way.

I thought his answer was classic. He just simply said,

“You lead from the front.”

He went on to say that those under his command needed to see that he was willing to do what he was ordering them to do. He thought they needed to see that he was willing to risk his own life if he was going to order them to risk theirs. 

I believe that leaders in every walk of life could learn a lesson from this man. Even (maybe especially) in the church people need to see that effective leadership is not a matter of assigning tasks and receiving reports. Effective leadership is a matter of encouraging others to follow the one(s) who are getting the work done. Hopefully, those leading the way are, in fact, those who actually have the God-given responsibility to lead.

An effective leader will not say, “You go get the work done.” Instead, he will say, “Follow me and we will get the work done.”


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