Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Mother's Vital Role

"A mother plays a vital role as the primary interpreter of a father's personality, character and integrity to their children. She can either help them bond together in love, or she can become a wedge that keeps them apart."

(Dr. Dobson in Parenting Isn't For Cowards)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April Date-Your-Mate Winners!

Big CONGRATULATIONS go out to Steve and Elizabeth Bates for winning April's Date-Your-Mate Giveaway!!! What did they do on their winning date? Went out for Brazilian food and shopping!

Steve and Elizabeth were college sweetheart, meeting at InterVarsity! They were friends for 2 years, dated for 4 years, engaged for 1 year and have been married for 13 years. Been making history together for 20 years!

In their own words:

Q. Elizabeth, what do you love most about Steve?

Elizabeth: I love Steve for his gentleness, trustworthiness, loyalty, love for God, compassionate heart, total ability to tear up easily and unashamed about it, which by the way, is one very attractive thing I find in him (once we were watching Homeward Bound in a movie theater, a story about dogs and cats who talk? Well, I had my head on his shoulder and suddenly, I felt 'raindrops' on my head. I looked up, there were huge drops of tears rolling down his eyes...awwwww...such a gentle giant, my Stevie); and not forgetting his good looks and his absolute unconditional love towards Judah and Sophia. The way he loves on our kids melts my heart every time and makes me fall in love with him over and over again.

Q. Steve, what do you love most about Elizabeth?

Steve: I love Liz for her tender heart and her selfless servanthood toward others. She's an awesome mommy for my kids, creative, and organized, which keeps me balanced and on schedule. She is my beautiful wife and a woman of honor whom I trust completely.

Q. What is your favorite kind of date? What do you do when you go out?

Elizabeth: Before kids, it was the non-crunch times where Steve just hung around me while I shopped, followed by dinner and a movie. I loved that. After kids, honestly? When the babysitter comes, I'm absolutely ecstatic to venture anywhere and do anything away from the kids for a bit, with my Stevie! =)

Steve: Dinner and a movie.

Q. Share at least one piece of marriage advice or encouragement.

Elizabeth: The humility to walk over to each other after an argument (even though you really don't feel like it), reach out and touch, muster enough sincerity to say, "I'm sorry (for whatever part you were responsible for). Please forgive me and I love you. We can talk about it again, but for now, let's move on, okay?" To me, those words and that humble act in and of itself draws in a spirit of reconciliation and peace. Easier said than done, but I'm a strong believer in it for any married couple! =)

Steven: Dying to self and giving up pride. Learning how to listen and being humble as a husband.

What did they win?

An autographed copy of Real Life Marriage by Tim and Anne Evans! We've recommended this resource in past (read it here) and are thrilled that Tim and Anne graciously donated it to our giveaway!

The Evans Family

From their website: "Life is about story. Take a retired Chicago-suburban fire chief, a nurse, thirty-plus years of marriage, six adult children, four grandkids, one dog and what do you have? The story of a Real Life marriage and family."

Please avail yourself to this great resource!!

We have some great prizes coming up next month as well. So, get out there and DATE YOUR MATE!!!! Time spent with your spouse makes you a winner every time! And you get a chance to win a fun prize from Eden Rock as well! (For the details on the giveaway, click here.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Love Is...Positive

1 Peter 4:8- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

One of the things I love about my wife is that she’s persistent. If she gets something in mind, she makes it happen. One of the things that irritates me about her is her stubbornness. What’s the difference between persistence and stubbornness? When she pushes her persistence too far. Or from my perspective, whether I agree or disagree with what she’s doing!
I can’t love stubborn people. If Karen’s vacuuming the floor, and I step in front of her to get a hug, if I’m not careful, I’ll get sucked up in the vacuum. She’s completely on task.
If I see that stubbornness (the negative characteristic) it becomes difficult for me to love her. If I focus on the persistence (the positive side) and remember that this is part of what I love in her, not only do I nurture and grow what’s positive in her, but I nurture and grow my character too.
How do we best do that? The apostle Paul tells us: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
We need to concentrate on things that are the best, not the worst.
Michael Systma in Marriage Partnership

Bonus Reading: 1 John 4:7-16, 20-21

My Response: One attribute or character trait I appreciate most about my spouse is…

I can relate to this story. My wife can also be persistent herself. When I got home from work this morning, I crawled into bed with my wife to cuddle. I laid there with her for about a half an hour, and when she woke up, the first thing she said was, “I got to do laundry”. For me I’m thinking about just sitting and sipping on my coffee, and enjoying talking with my wife. But I realize how she is wired. I know if she doesn’t start the laundry first thing, she will not be able to sit and enjoy her coffee. And by the way, I too have almost been sucked up by the vacuum. I know to just stay out of the way. If my wife’s thoughts were a computer screen, she would have multiple windows open, and she would be thinking about all of them at one time. As for me, I usually have one window open at a time, and if I have a second one open, it is usually minimized. So what I’m trying to say is that I used to get frustrated about my wife having to do some chores first thing in the morning, but I’ve come to appreciate how she takes care of things immediately. I’m a procrastinator, so I love that my wife handles things right then and there. And there are times that I could easily look at the negative side of it, but I choose to see how God created her, and it is amazing. And likewise, my wife knows how I enjoy our coffee time in the morning before anybody else wakes up, so she will do what she needs to do and sit with me so we can stay connected. So the next time you are irritated with your spouse, ask God to show you how to focus on their positive character traits. Imagine if God only focused on our negative traits.

Mark Soto

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Should Be A Father's Top Prioity?

Not every dad will agree on what belongs in the No. 1 spot, but I’m convinced that one goal should be near the top of every father’s list: modeling God’s character.
Many of our children’s ideas about God will be based on their relationship with us. If children grow up with an earthly father who is absent or emotionally distant, it will be much more difficult for them to view God as an actively involved heavenly Father. If a dad is overly harsh and rigid, his children will likely see God as a judge who is quick to punish their sins. On the other hand, if a dad is engaged and loving, his children will more readily put their faith in a God who cares for them.
Whether we like it or not, our fathering will create impressions about God for our children, and it’s up to us to make the most of our opportunities. We have great potential here. We can model qualities that will allow our children to have a more accurate picture of God’s character.
At first blush, this task seems impossible. After all, none of us come close to matching God’s perfection. My dad was not perfect either, but he made God vivid to me by how he treated me. He was not condescending or negative; I respected him, and I learned to respect God.
How can we show our kids what God is like? Consider the attributes of God: He is love. He is just. He is merciful. He is slow to anger. He is available. God protects and provides. Does that sound like the kind of father you want to be? No doubt, that’s the kind of father your kids need.
Make every effort to reflect the character of God in your life-which means you should get to know Him. Then you’ll be able to give your children a glimpse of who God is as their Father.

Carey Casey is CEO of the National Center for Fathering
and the author of Championship Fathering

I know it can be challenging to father our children in today’s society. It seems like we have an uphill battle. Every where we turn, we seem to deal with a world that wants to redefine what the family is. God created family, and God created us in His own image and likeness. And He created us as father’s to reflect and reveal who God is to our children. Like I’ve said before, He is not looking for perfect parents, or perfect fathers. He is looking for father’s who are after His heart and want to love like Him. To be just and merciful like Him. To protect and provide like Him. To be available to our spouse and children and to be slow to anger like Jesus taught us through His example.
Yes we will make mistakes, we will blow it with our kids, and we will put our foot in our mouths from time to time. It is O.K.; God doesn’t keep a record of our goof ups. But we need to learn from our mistakes and allow God to change us in those areas that we seem to repeat over, and over again. You can do it. I know I have and I continue to learn as a father, a husband, and as a child of my Daddy in heaven. So this is for all of us dads, whether you are a new dad, a seasoned veteran, or a dad to be. LET’S BE MORE LIKE HIM!
Mark Soto

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Learn To Take Advantage!

I’ve been learning to take advantage of the times my teenage daughter chooses to open up and talk. In the past I would make a comment of her lack of communication towards my wife and I. I so badly wanted to just talk to her the way we used to. When she was younger she would talk, and talk, and talk. I regret I didn’t take more advantage of those times in her younger years. My daughter is 14 years old now, and sometimes I wonder who this person is living with me. I would try to force a conversation or nag her to share her day, but I have come to realize that if I give her the space and time she needs, she will open up. I try my best to become a listener and just enjoy those moments. When I would try to fix her situation or make some comment, it would only shut her down. So now I have become a listener, and when the time is right I will give her some fatherly advice in a loving way. I truly have a peace about her teenage years. I know that God has a purpose for her life. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like she only talks on her terms, but when my wife and I give her space and time to open up it is so much more intimate and we connect more with her. There are times where I would wonder if I am doing a good job as her father. I know I am and I will make mistakes or say or do the wrong thing, but I have learned to humble myself and seek forgiveness with God and with my children. It was my birthday yesterday and my daughter wrote me a letter. It was very moving to hear her tell me that I am doing a great job and to keep doing what I’m doing. It brought tears to my eyes. So I know as we go through the teenage years there will be times my daughter may not want to talk or share what’s on her heart. But I do know if we as parents just ask God to give us grace and peace to just give them time to open up when they are ready; it will be well worth it. Even if is for a brief moment, it will bring you closer to your children and you will build trust with them. I have seen the difference in my daughter since I have learned to shut up and listen. There is a movie called the Notebook. It is about a love story of a man and his wife. The movie starts out in a convalescent hospital and then it goes back and tells the story of their life together. Well the later stages of their life the wife has Alzheimer’s, and she is in a convalescent hospital. The husband comes to visit her everyday even though she doesn’t know who he is most of the time. But she has moments where she regains her memory and recognizes her husband. They talk and dance and he just enjoys the moments with her before she forgets once again who he is. It is amazing how faithful he is, he doesn’t try to force his wife to remember. He knows if he does he will only push her away. He took advantage of those times when she remembered who he was. Now I’m not saying my daughter has Alzheimer’s, but I am saying that I do need to take advantage of those times when my daughter is ready to open up and share her heart with me. I want to be a faithful listener and studier of my daughter. I know as she grows and matures, she will open up more and let us in as parents. We have already been through the teenage years with our son, and we have a great relationship today. And I still have my little 6 year old daughter who just loves to talk. I appreciate it more than I ever did before. I know there are times when we are tired, pre-occupied, have chores to do around the house, or maybe involved in ministry, but I tell you to take advantage of those talking years. You don’t want to regret it in their teenage years. Your kids will go through some years of trying to find their identity, or independence from you, but hang in there. It will get better, and you can build a trust with them during these times if you are patient and learn to listen. It doesn’t mean they can do what they want, we still need to discipline, but we need to let them know we will be their for them when they need us. Hang in there and take advantage of those times when they open up and allow you into their lives. It will be an investment into your children that will always pay out.

Mark Soto

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What Does A Healthy, Successful Marriage Look Like?

What does a healthy, successful marriage look like? It mirrors the love of God.Hosea 14:4-8.
For many people, the word commitment has such drudgery attached to it. They picture someone saying, "I'm staying in this marriage whether I like it or not!"
But the Book of Hosea shows a different kind of commitment. God's commitment is proactive. Even though he was rejected by Israel, God took the first step to heal the breach. What a combination of initiative and gentleness! When you disagree with your spouse, it may be difficult to be the first to let go of the anger and offer reconciliation. But this is how relationships survive and thrive—someone takes the first step, approaches the other, pulls the relationship out of a standstill, and moves forward.
And God didn't stop with just the approach. He also promised rewards if the people would turn back to him: that they'd blossom like lilies, spread with the span of an olive tree, relax in his shade, and enjoy the blossoms in a vineyard. Committed love pays attention to the rewards of married life—the beauty of brief words well said, the colorful depth of passion, the easy side-by-side of sitting on the porch at night, the sharing of a vivid sunset.
A healthy, successful marriage mirrors the full-service love of God. It searches out the loved one—and finds joy in the details of living together as a couple. (See also Genesis 2:18-23; Exodus 32:11-14; Song of Solomon 8:5-7; Acts 18; Hebrews 13:4.)

Good Words to Remember:
I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely, for my anger has turned away from him. Hosea 14:4

Today's Challenge:
Does your marriage resemble the full-service love of God? If so, how? If not, why not

Saturday, April 3, 2010

God's Master Plan

A while back, I was asked, "Who crucified Jesus?" Maybe the question should be, "Who didn't crucify Jesus?"The religious leaders played their part, as did Judas, Pilate, and, of course, the actual soldiers who put the nails in His hands and feet. Satan played his part too, but here's something else to consider—God the Father killed Jesus.The Bible says that "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him" (Isaiah 53:10 NKJV). This means the crucifixion of Jesus was not a mistake. Nor was it an afterthought.It was part of God's plan from the very beginning. Before there was a solar system, a planet called Earth, a garden called Eden, or a couple known as Adam and Eve, a decision was made in the councils of eternity that God Himself would come to Earth as a man and would go to a cross and die in the place of all sinners.Why? So that humanity could be put into contact with God. Jesus came to Earth to purchase back what was lost in the Garden of Eden. He came to buy back the title deed to Earth. He came to die on a cross for our sins.Humanity's worst mistake was, at the same time, God's master plan.The Bible says, "He suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:9 NIV). In His own words, He came to give His life as a ransom for many (see Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).In other words, Jesus was born to die so that we might live. The purpose of the Incarnation was for our atonement. The birth of Jesus was for the death of Jesus.As He prayed facedown in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew that Judas Iscariot was on his way there with the temple guard. He knew the physical pain that awaited Him. He knew they would punch Him, rip His beard from His face, and tear His back open with a whip. He knew they would nail Him to a cross.But worst of all, He knew he would have to bear the sin of the entire world. When Jesus pierced the darkness with his cry from the cross, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?"—meaning, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"—I believe that, at that moment, he was bearing the sins of the world: past, present, and future.He was dying as a substitute for others. The guilt of our sins was imputed to Him, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on our behalf.Why did this have to happen?God was punishing Jesus as though He had personally committed every wicked deed by every wicked sinner. And in so doing, He could forgive and treat those redeemed ones as if they had lived Christ's perfect life of righteousness.This is called justification. It is not just merely the removal of sin. It is the imputing of the righteousness of Christ to those who put their faith in him. That is what happened when Jesus hung on the cross.And Scripture clearly teaches there was a moment when the sin of the world was placed on Jesus: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24 NIV).So, as tragic as the death of Jesus was, on this day we remember that it really is, in effect, very good!Jesus was forsaken by God for a time that you might enjoy His presence forever. Jesus entered the darkness that you might walk in the light.
Greg Laurie

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good Friday Event!

Please join us tomorrow, GOOD FRIDAY, 7pm at Ambassador Auditorium, Fire Carpet!

We will be showing The Passion of the Christ, remembering together what makes Good Friday SO GOOD!

There will be activities and a separate movie for children--along with worship and a snack!  So bring the whole family!