Holy Week

Day 2 Holy Monday

Happy Holy Week! Yesterday as we all know was Palm Sunday. If you want more activities for Palm Sunday please visit my post at http://www.tiffanyshepherd.com/palmsunday for scriptures, free coloring sheets, activities, crafts, puzzles, songs and more.

Today is Holy Monday, the second day of Holy Week. Todays post will be much shorter. I will try to post each day this week activities and scriptures for your family to celebrate!

Holy Monday is usually celebrated as the day that Jesus cleared/cleansed the temples.

Here are the scriptures and where else to find them:

When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words. Luke 19: 45-48 NIV

Matthew 21:12-16; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-16

I couldn’t find a picture but something we have done before is take construction paper, write, ” My house will be a house of prayer.” or the whole scripture. We took popsicle sticks and made a table turned over and glued coins to the paper.

Here are some coloring sheet links:

http://www.sermons4kids.com/cleansing_temple_abda_colorpg.htm

http://auntiesbiblelessons.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/jesus-cleanses-the-temple/

http://www.kidssundayschool.com/1483/preschool/jesus-cleansing-the-temple.php

I’ll be adding more tomorrow for Tuesday of Holy Week. Jesus teaches in the Temple.

Thanks and have a Blessed day!

Finding God’s Grace in my Laundry Room

to the working mom who feels she needs to keep it all together

I’m like most working moms of the year 2019. I feel so pulled to keep it all together. We are of the generation that women are able to have careers, children, homes, marriages but we feel that we must do these things like our moms and mammaws (if you are not from Eastern Kentucky- your grandmother) did before us. We feel like our house must be clean. Dinner must be prepared in some sort of a way, whether it’s a sandwich, home cooked for real or just carry-out. Our kids must be clean and all of their school work done. We must try to be a great wife and great mom to our kids. Juggling in our heads everyone’s schedules, deadlines and due-dates. We try to get to church services of some kind as often as possible and also serve our church when and where God calls us to serve. We want to be great at our jobs and not let being a mom and a woman hold us back. To be honest sometimes it’s very, very exhausting. I don’t think I could have ever imagined the amount of pressure I would put on myself to “keep it all together”.  

Some days I let things go and know that I will get to it later. The large amount of clean laundry baskets that I have hidden in the guest bedroom upstairs keep waiting on me. I reward myself by watching Hallmark movies as I do my least favorite chores. I work on them when I get a chance and know that one day I may finally get caught up. Some days I tell myself it doesn’t matter if everything is taken care of and then I find a way to make myself pull it together. I have to because I know I can’t let it go too long.  I think a lot of it is because I feel that deep down, I have to be able to do it all and have a career or I would have to admit that I can’t juggle it all. I want my girls to know that women can have it all, if they want. I try to explain to them that they can truly be anything they want to be when they grow up as long as they have prayed and asked God to show them what His plans are for them. That they need to use the gifts that He gives them. They live in a time when it is truly acceptable for women to have any career they want. They just have to work hard, study and understand they can mentally do any job that a man can do. I never felt growing up that I had that encouragement from society. 

 I could go a million different ways with this. I wanted to describe the above because if you are not like me you might not understand the pressures that some women put on themselves and why these things matter to them. 

This weekend our church will be putting on a Veteran’s Day tribute and a meal to follow for the veteran’s and for their families. I am helping with this but another working mom from church is taking the lead. We had planned on her coming over on Friday night for us to finalize the program details. 

I have had a normal crazy busy week. My washing machine decided to literally unlock its door and burst open when it was filled to the top with water (it had been having problems for a while and we put off buying a new one too long and it got the last laugh.) I had to use probably 20-30 towels and beach towels to clean up the mess. Followed up by our youngest getting a stomach bug for the second time in one week and me catching my own version to boot. Somehow, we had managed to have the house back in somewhat of a decent manner but it was still a wreck in my mind. My friend A and I texted back and forth and confirmed our plans. I tell her that my house is a wreck. All the while I’m trying to think of a game plan on how I can make my house not a wreck! I am somewhat crazy when it comes to the house getting back in order so I probably would have done this even if company wasn’t coming, it just speeded up the process. Please tell me you have been here before? I was at work and wouldn’t be home for hours but I knew the moment I got home I would have to pull it all together to make it presentable. When I got home from work my husband and girls were already home. My hubby had to leave and then I quickly made a deal with my girls that if they each helped me clean, they could play on their iPad when my friend arrived. Deal. Done. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I am completely not above bribing my kids in a healthy manner to get help when I need it. At least I am teaching them how to clean the house in the process I tell myself.

We each started on our areas of the house. The trick is we didn’t need to clean the whole house. We just needed to clean the main area of the house. The areas where A and I would be working around.  I know I am not the working momma that invented this trick so let’s not judge please…

 After I cleaned up the kitchen, I started putting things I didn’t have time to deal with in rooms I knew A would not go into. I put stuff in the laundry room, office and my bedroom. As I was shoving some items in the laundry room it hit me. These things I put in there I felt were not important and would be ashamed of it they were left out. This is when God reminded me of His Grace. I love how He does things like that. Here I am shoving dirty laundry and a vacuum in rooms and He goes and reminds me of His love! Just like the junk that I was putting in rooms that would be closed off, my past that I too am ashamed of is locked away. With God’s Grace through Jesus Christ those things are as good as gone. It’s still a part of me and always will be. They are there. They have added to my life story and those trials have made the woman I am today. Some of those trials have made me the Christian I am today. God reminded me though, that, the difference between my past and the junk in those rooms is that He has forgiven me, locked the door and thrown away the key. Another reason I know that those things are still there even though God has locked them away by His grace is that the devil sometimes reminds me of what’s locked away in those rooms and wants me to go and unlock them. He wants me to let those things creep back into the rest of the house, my house. That’s when I tell him, NO!

            I also want you to see where in the craziness of me trying to pull it together I found a reminder of God’s Grace. It’s always amazes me of God’s sovereignty when He wants me to write about something. I usually never know how it will all piece together until I actually sit down to type. How the Holy Spirit guides me and slowly gives me what He wants me to write about. You see, recently the word Grace has been given to me many times in the last couple of weeks. It keeps popping up in different places. It has been appearing in Bible verses, in my thoughts and in different podcasts that I listen to. It all make sense now. I also feel silly now that I thought I needed to hide my junk from my friend A . I know that she wouldn’t have judged me or expected me to have a perfectly clean house. None of us are perfect and we all have problems, imperfections and junk in our laundry rooms. The only thing that truly matters is that we have God’s Grace. 

This is what I found last week when I looked up the verse in the Bible that defines God’s Grace: 

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace the he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7-8

I am blessed to have one of those Life Application Bibles with lots of extra explanations at the bottom of the page. I could not study without it. In the notes on this particular verse it has helped me understand why I can have God’s Grace even though I am not deserving. Here’s what is says, “Grace is God’s voluntary and loving favor given to those he saves.” (NIV Life Application Study Bible by Zondervan 2011)

He has saved me so I have received His grace. It’s as simple as that. 

There are lots of amazing verses in the Bible about grace and I hope that this inspires you to find some of God’s grace in your own life today.  I also hope that when you have days you feel you need to get it together that you can realize that you do have it together! We have all we really need and thats God’s Grace!

Have a blessed day!

Which school are you gathered?

Like most people one of my favorite vacation spots is the beach. Growing up we didn’t travel much for various reasons, which I think has made me appreciate it now more than a lot of people. I saw the ocean for the first time when I was 19 years old. I remember seeing the sea go on forever and being unable to comprehend its size. I also remember thinking that all of these people had witnessed the ocean before me and how lucky they were.

I know that there are still many people who have not seen the ocean and all of its glory that God has given us. I hope that each of them are able to at some point. Each time I see the ocean again it reminds quickly of our Creator and all of His power. I feel like there is no way to witness something of that magnitude and not believe that our Earth and everything on it was not divinely planned with a purpose.

Since I was 19 I have been blessed to have visited beaches and view the ocean from many different places: New England, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Grand Cayman, Bahamas, Mexico, California and Hawaii. I am not listing these places to brag but to bring you up to speed with my realization. The waters at these beaches are each very different. Some have very murky, cloudy and brown water and some have crystal clear water that is almost like looking through a fish tank.

Recently we got to visit one of these beaches. Its our favorite beach, because of its white sand and perfectly see-through water and waves. I think at this point in our lives we enjoy it so much because of its security and translucent nature. We can play with our girls and see easily that no dangers are lurking or that there are no predators. The other reason we love it so much is that we can see all of nature swimming through the waters. It’s like we get to play in God’s natural aquarium.

In God’s natural aquarium one of the most interested things to me is the way that the fish swim together. They swim in schools. Usually, it is fish that are all of the same species, but not always. Sometimes there are two groups of fish swimming together. Sometimes there are random fish of other kinds mixed in with the larger school. After some research I found that there are shoals of fish and schools of fish. The shoals are groups of fish swimming together for social reasons. The schools of fish are shoals of fish swimming together in the same direction. They see a danger and they move together as a group to avoid that danger. When you watch from above the water you can see the schools move and dart around your own body sometimes as a whole group. One of the reasons that fish also school is so that they look much larger to predators to deter them from bothering them. Maybe I’m a nerd, but I think these kinds of things are pretty cool. No one has told these fish to do this, but they know to do it. They know to gather together and not scatter themselves apart to protect themselves. (www.wikepedia.com)

A few months ago I woke up early one morning with a particular Bible verse on my mind. I had not read this verse recently but I believe the Spirit gave it to me in my sleep. I was not sure what I was to do with this verse until I recently observed these fish in their “schools” not scattering.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Matthew 12:30 NIV

This made me think about the times in my life when I was almost neutral about God. I believed. I had Jesus in my heart, just not in the front of my heart. I didn’t want to change my life or do inconvenient things to show God how I felt. I wasn’t completely for Him and I wasn’t against Him. Even now that I have given my life to Jesus there are times that my faith is tested or that I may not have the time to devout to my relationship with God. This verse has reminded me that I have to quickly get myself back on track when this happens so that I don’t “scatter”. Scattering from the “school” of trying to be Christ-like is very dangerous. This is when the enemy seeks us out more easily and tries to remove us from the school all together. He wants us to be left vulnerable.

The more I think about this verse the more direct the verse becomes. God is telling us very plainly we have to make a decision. We have to decide which side we are on. We can’t be neutral. We can’t think that just because we are not against God that we can feel safe and comfy in that decision. He wants us to gather with Him and His followers. Which school are you gathered with? Are you gathered with other Christ-followers or are you still swimming in a neutral school of fish?

There may be someone reading this that is not sure if they belong to the “school” of Christ. If this is you, please pray and reach out to someone that can help guide you as a new Christian.

This brings me to another verse that comforts me when I feel life is trying to scatter me from the school.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8:31 NIV

Isn’t this amazing? When we decide to side with God, God is for us. He is there for us. He is our protector from the enemy. He is our shoulder to cry on. He is our Heavenly Father. He will watch over us and guide us. Who can be against us? If we stay on track and we don’t scatter too far then we will finish the race set before us and will be rewarded one day my dear friends.

Have a BLESSED Day!

My Mother’s Day Wish

and how it made me realize the simple things God wants from us

First off I want to make it very clear that I truly loved every precious gift my girls, husband and parents gave me for Mother’s Day this year. My girls made me lots of cards and crafts. Some they did on their own here at home and others they made at school, the baby-sitters and at church. These are always my favorites. They put so much thought and care into making me something special and just from them. I especially love the things that I can save as keepsakes and withhold the the test of time. The hand written thoughts about why they love me or the shape of their little hands in this point of time are worth more than diamonds to me.

This year marked my tenth Mother’s Day as a mom. This holiday means so many different things to so many different women. I also know that as children grow the day changes. I have friends that have lost their mother in recent years and I feel their pain around this time of year. I have friends that have not been able to biologically be called a mom but mother children in many different ways. My first few Mother’s Day I remember feeling like it was a day that I deserved to take a nap and that was all I wanted. I don’t remember if I was ever able to “gift” myself with a nap or if I received it from anyone else even. Mother’s Day is usually a very hectic day for most families if they are fortunate enough to celebrate between church and visiting family members. So I gave up years ago wishing for this “gift” of nap-time. Im ok with this as I have grown to appreciate the day more and realize this is an un-realistic item to request.

As a mom, I feel like the title Mom, Momma, Mommy have started to define me so much that I feel like Mother’s Day has replaced its level of importance in my head more than my own birthday. I know this may seem strange, but stay with me. When I was growing up I would wake up on my birthday and it was an almost magical day. I felt that nothing could go wrong on my birthday; if it did – it would magically correct itself. On my birthday, that was my day! I felt like whatever I wanted to do or whatever happened revolved around me. I felt like people were nicer. I felt like I didn’t get in trouble as much. I felt like everyone knew it was my birthday (even though most people had no clue). Does anyone out there remember this sublime feeling of birthdays in the prime of our youth years? As adulthood kicks in, reality kicks in also. The world around us no longer cares that its our birthday. Work doesn’t care, our adult responsibilities don’t care, sickness doesn’t care, holidays happen, crying babies still cry and the world around us doesn’t care- as much… I know that it was a fantasy in my own head. As the magic was removed from my birthdays I think I transferred some of that magic to Mother’s Day.

As my girls have grown I think I started hoping that I could have one magical day each year on Mother’s Day. I started hoping that my girls would magically behave better, get along better, love me better, treat me better, respect me better and listen to me better. A little while before Mother’s Day this year, like every year, my husband started asking me for gift ideas. This year I came up with a few ideas. Some were way too expensive, but a girl can dream, right? One was something much more do-able. Then a few days before MD my girls started asking me what I wanted. I would tell them I wasn’t sure and then finally I told them what I really wanted. I wanted them to just get along, treat me like you love me and to listen to me for one day.

Do you think that some days this is all God wants from us?

That He wants us to get along?

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

John 13:34-35 KJV

Treat Him like we love Him?

We love him, because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19 KJV

I’m sure you are wondering if I got my MD wish? The answer was a big N-O. I think I had set me expectations so high for this magical day for moms that I thought it would actually work. It was a normal Sunday of motherhood. My kids didn’t listen. My kids argued. My kids- one in particular-got in trouble a lot. At the end of the day I had a great and thankful day. I realized I had wished for something once again that was un-realistic.

What did I get? My most amazing husband did listen to one of my ideas and they all gifted me with a gift-certificate to have pictures made of my girls this summer. I honestly was more happy with this than the expensive in-practical gift I asked for.

I hope that each of you had a magical Mother’s Day in one way or another. Also, remember that your Heavenly Father loves you like you love your own children and like your parents love you. He forgives us and loves us no matter what we have done. Feel free to share your comments below and follow to receive future articles sent to your inbox.

Have a BLESSED Day! 

Finding Jesus in Springtime

Has He left His mark on you too?

Living and working in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains definitely has its ups and downs (pun intended). I spend several hours a day driving over these large hills and they really feel like home to me. I love to visit flat land but when I travel back to the mountains I have a cozy feeling of the mountains around me. They somehow comfort me and make me feel protected from the chaotic world outside.

Springtime here is for sure one of the ups of Eastern Kentucky living. God paints the hillsides with all different shades of green. The trees start out turning green at the bottom of the mountains, along the rivers and then work their way up the hillsides. The Redbud Trees start blooming with their ironically purplish blooms. Then as true springtime approaches my family’s favorite trees bloom: Dogwoods. They salt the sides of the mountains with long hanging branches of white blooms. When they appear, it’s as if a relief fills the air that winter is finally gone. They usually magically appear also within days of Easter.

Our last home was pretty far out in the county with several acres of land. In the backyard was a small and scrawny dogwood tree. Several winters we would think that the tree would not make it. Year after year it would bloom even though it seemed there was no way. That tree became very important to our oldest daughter after I shared with her the legend of the Dogwood tree. My mom had shared it with me and I have read about it now in several different places. There is no Biblical backing to this legend but I would like to share it with you in case you are not familiar.

Here is my summarized version of the legend:

The legend states that the Dogwood was not always a slender tree with lots of branches and a skinny trunk. The Dogwood was a large and strong tree and was used to crucify Jesus. The Dogwood was saddened by this and Jesus decided to bless the tree to never be used to crucify anyone again. The flowers that bloomed would be shaped like a cross and have dents in the petals that look like a nail had been driven in. From the nail dents the flowers appear to be stained with the blood of Jesus. In the center is a “crown of thorns”. I will also add that the flowers are white which I believe represents the purity of Christ.

Whether any of this legend is true there is no denying the similarities of the petals to what is described above. We do not know if the dogwood is the same type of tree that Jesus was crucified upon. It is extremely suspicious also that they bloom when we celebrate Easter.

The one thing that this legend reminds me the most of is it that Jesus has left His mark on these flowers. Maybe He has given us these flowers as a reminder each year of the true meaning of Easter.

This has made me think about my own outward appearance/actions to others. Is it evident that Jesus has left his mark on me? As a Christian do others sense this about me? I may not wear blood stained petals like the Dogwood Tree does, but do people realize that I believe in the power of His blood? I may not have nail dents, but do others fully know that I believe in His resurrection? I do not wear a crown of thorns in public like the Dogwood Tree, but do I present myself differently now that I am His?

I re-dedicated my life to Him several years ago. I have really had to work and continue to work on my relationship with Him. I hate to admit it, but when I first turned my life to Him I thought that was enough. I did the minimum amount of “Christian-like” things. I didn’t do this on purpose. I just thought that I didn’t need to put any work into being a Christian. Boy, was I wrong. These are things that the enemy wanted me to think. By God’s grace I made it through those years and finally decided to work at being a better Christian.

These blooms on the Dogwood have not only reminded me this year of what Jesus sacrificed for me but what I need to sacrifice to grow to be more like Him. The Dogwood naturally is a reminder to those around of His love. I need to continue to work on my own appearance/actions to show His love through me.

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

I hope that the next time you see a Dogwood you are reminded of Christ’s love and to show His love through you! Have a BLESSED day!

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Finding Peace among the Chaos

When everything seems to happen at once, can we find true peace?

I have always wondered what someone that does not speak English thinks when they hear words from our language. I have never been fluent in any other language but have taken courses in Spanish during high school. While on our honeymoon in Mexico I loved that I could understand this other language. When I was a very young girl we had a satellite dish that allowed us to watch programs from Canada. I would watch Sesame Street in French and then later in the day in English. Even then, I thought that words in other languages seemed so much more interesting than the boring words that I knew. As my faith has grown and my eagerness to study the “Word” my love for the Hebrew language has continued to fascinate me. It amazes me how scriptures when traced back to Hebrew or Greek can take on much more character. It’s like the words in English are black and white but when they are in their original form they have a million colors to describe the word.

Have you ever been acquainted with a word and then all of a sudden it seems to start popping up all around you? It may be that you have never taken notice and its always been there. Or, it may be that God is placing this word in your life so that you will take notice. I have recently had this happen to me and the word has literally brought me “peace”.

A few days ago I was reading a reading plan in my Bible app. The word shalom started to appear to me in all sorts of ways. I am very familiar with this word but wanted to remind myself of its meaning. This beautiful Hebrew word is used many different ways. In English the simplest translation is peace. As you get to know the word more intimately it means so much more. Then, today, I was listening to a radio program during my lunch hour. I was sitting in my car, alone, eating a salad, and the preacher on the radio starts a whole sermon on shalom! I know what you are thinking. That’s just a coincidence. Let me tell you why I think not. Everyone goes through peaks and valleys in their life of trials. Right now, my little family is in one of the valleys. Sometimes we have obstacles that come and go. I feel like the valleys sometimes are so hard to get out of because the trials are not alone. It seems they are usually accompanied by other trials. Sometimes they can all even be equally large trials all happening at the same time. We are in one of these times. The amazing thing is that I have felt a supernatural peace during it all. Several years ago if I would have experienced this amount of trials I would have felt like my life was in total CHAOS! As this word kept appearing I know it was God letting me know that the peace I felt was not just any peace, but– Shalom.

Wikipedia describes Shalom as a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.

http://www.wikipedia.com

I have prayed and been praying about these different obstacles. These are things that I really have no control over. In my past I used to worry and struggle with things that I really had no control over. I would work myself into a hot mess and tear my stomach to pieces. As my faith has grown, I have realized that some things in life we do not have control. The only one that has control in these times is God. I have learned to pray and fully trust God within these times and know that He has a purpose and a plan. This is another one of these things that is sometimes easier to say than to do. But I try my best to “do”. One of my favorite verses comes to mind when thinking of these times. Actually, I have this on the wall in my dining room. My sweet momma pointed it out to me this weekend, as it spoke to her also during these trials.

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 NIV

If you have read any of my other articles you know that I have found comfort in different names for God. During this time I find comfort in the name Jehovah Shalom. Because He is the God of Peace. He is the Lord in Peace. He is the Lord our Peace.

In closing, I hope that the next time that you feel stressed or when things are out of your control, instead of giving into the chaos, please pray and know that we can have peace. We can have peace when we trust in the only one that is the God of our Peace.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20 NIV

God bless and Shalom

Prepare your heart for Easter

7 ways to prepare your heart for Easter. Is your heart ready?

The signs, songs and even smells of Christmas start before Halloween candy is handed out. One of my favorite stores starts setting up for the season before school supplies are stocked. By the time that Thanksgiving rolls around we are all making our decorating plans and have already started making lists of presents to buy for family and friends. Hopefully among all of the festivities we find time to celebrate the real reason for the season. Even though Christmastime is most likely the most hectic time of year for most families I would hope to think that most find ways to prepare their hearts and their family to remember the reason that we celebrate. We find different ways to open our hearts and give more freely to the needy than other times of the year. We find more cheer and joy as the holiday approaches. We find ourselves putting ourselves in Mary and Joseph’s shoes and wonder how it must have been for them. We study the miraculous encounters that they had with angels and how God protected them and baby Jesus before and after His birth. It truly is a time for celebration. We can appreciate the wonderful gift of the baby Jesus to the world and all of the blessings in our lives.

Growing up I suppose I preferred Christmas over Easter because of the obvious reasons. Now, as my faith has grown so has my love for the Holy Holiday of Easter.  Being very honest there was been years that Easter seemed to come out of nowhere and I wasn’t prepared spiritually or mentally for the special day. I would say that I am not alone. As we grow in our faith and our age we grow to appreciate the true meaning of Easter and all that it stands for. No matter which church, denomination or affiliation we have in Christianity we all have Jesus as our Lord and Savior in common. We are all Christians because of what happened during Passover over 2,000 years ago. it wasn’t for Easter, we wouldn’t have our religion. If it wasn’t for Easter, we wouldn’t have Christmas to celebrate either. Without Easter there would be no promise of salvation.

Seeing Easter through the eyes of my girls and being able to teach them the importance of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday has also given me a different appreciation for the celebration. My husband and I have tried to make sure they understand the religious side of Easter much more than the other stuff that goes along with the holiday. The last several years I have tried different ways to prepare my own heart for Easter. We as a family do different things to prepare ourselves for Christmas so why not do things to prepare for Easter? Slowly, we are starting to incorporate new Easter traditions to make the season more religious in our home.

That being said, there are so many ways to prepare our hearts also for Easter. There is no right way and no wrong way. You or your church may already have traditions that you do to prepare. You may have started your own traditions. You may be like me a few years ago and are feeling the need to try something new this year. We are still a little less than one month away so its not too late. When studying scriptures recently it occurred to me that He has so many teachings already outlined for us to help us prepare. I have selected a few that I feel would be beneficial. Here are 7 teachings from Jesus, Himself, found in the scriptures that will give you a great start:

#1: Salt of the earth

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Matthew 5:13 NIV

As Christians are we trying to fit in with the world? Are we trying to appear to be no different than other people? Jesus wants us to stay “salty”. If we lose our saltiness then we are not trying to change or influence others around us to follow Him. During this time before Easter ask yourself if you are “salty” enough. You are the salt of the earth. So, be salty.

#2: Light of the world

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

Matthew 5:14-16 NIV

These verses just make me smile. I remember the first time I read these verses as an adult and realized they were the inspiration for the song I have sang my entire life! Are we going to hide our “light” under a bowl or a bushel? I hope the answer is “No!” What better time than the weeks leading up to Easter to let our lights shine. This should be the easiest time of year for our lights to shine. Spring is almost here and in my opinion the most important Holiday of the year is approaching. We should be beaming with light! Let our good deeds make us shine and our love for Him light our way. Jesus doesn’t want us to be ashamed of our faith. He wants us to put it up where others can see it. Try to be more BOLD and see how you are rewarded.

#3: Anger

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Matthew 5: 21 &22 NIV

This is a subject that Jesus obviously took very seriously. In some Bibles the heading for this teaching is actually titled “Murder” instead of “Anger”. He considered these two things to be very similar. There are many scriptures in the Bible that references controlling our anger. After studying these verses, this is something that I, myself, will be sure to spend more time in prayer about. Hopefully the closer we get to Easter the less anger we all will have in our hearts. My heart feels more ready just thinking about it.

#4: Loving our enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5: 43-48 NIV

This is another subject that may be easier said than done in certain circumstances. Jesus knows that it is easy for us to love others that love us. That makes perfect sense. The people that we have the hardest time loving are those that don’t share those warm fuzzy feelings for us. Sometimes these are the people we feel like no matter what we do it never gets any better. When we have tried our hardest and get no where with them, this is where He wants us to start praying for them. If you have never tried this before I highly recommend it. It can be hard to do at first but trust me. Well, trust Him. I have tried it and it really is amazing. When we pray for someone it does magical things for the way we feel about them and they way they start treating us. Give it a try..

#5: Give to the needy

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6: 1-4

If you love to give around Christmas time then this should be as easy peasy as lemon squeezey for you! It’s also a great time to do some spring cleaning and find a way to give it to someone in need. The tricky part is to keep it secret. Yes, usually someone has to know because that’s how the transaction is made. Outside of that lets see if we can get away with not telling anyone…extra. I know this one is difficult to understand because if we are trying to be a “light” by letting others see our good deeds then we need to tell someone if we give to others, right? This is a hard test. Let’s try it and see what blessings He sends our way.

#6: Prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:5-8 NIV

How happy do you think it makes our Heavenly Father when we simply just pray? How happy does it make us when we take the time to just pray and He blesses us? Jesus loves for us to do stuff in secret and He proves it again in these verses. He already knows our heart. He already knows what we are going to say. So just say it, in prayer. To help prepare our hearts let’s see if we can spend more time in prayer. Pray in secret. If you need an example He gives us a great one to get started with:

After this manner therefore pray ye:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Matthew 6: 9-13 KJV

#7: Asking, Seeking, Knocking

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7: 7&8 NIV

These verses can apply to several different aspects of your life at different times. If you are thinking of giving your life to the Lord, this applies. If you have already given your heart to the Lord then this applies also. It is a lesson on persistence. We have to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. He wants us to keep doing these things. How else can we grow our faith and our knowledge? If we become a Christian and then never seek to understand what He wants it will be hard for us to find out. He wants us to keep learning and to stay curious and interested in the Word and His teachings.

I hope that you have been inspired to prepare your heart before Easter is here this year. I tried to keep the teachings of Jesus within the same book of Matthew. I did this on purpose. Most of these are found in other books as well. My hope is that you will open your Bible and read these as well as His other teachings. He would love for you to continue to “Seek” and find these teachings in Mark, Luke and John as well.

If you have enjoyed this please like, share and follow below. I hope that you have your most amazing Easter yet and are able to pass some Easter inspiration along to others in your life.

Have a BLESSED day!

 

Impressions Part II

Why is it we can judge others, but it’s so hard to judge ourselves?

Do you know the easiest form of judgement? The answer is really simple. I hope you are ready for the answer: It’s judging others. Whether we are five years old, nine, thirty-five or ninety-five we all can find the flaws of others and somehow not see our own flaws. Even if our own flaws/sins are what would be considered much worse by any standards.

Have you ever had that feeling of realization after you have said something really stupid? The feeling when you realize you have stuck your own foot so far in your mouth it can no longer see daylight? I know I sure have. Many, many times. That’s probably the feeling we should have when we have judged someone else. When we have judged someone else and we are committing sins that are so big they cast a dark shadow on their little sin. Why in the first place are we even judging their sins? Are we God? Are we a Saint? Are we Holy by any means? I can answer that for us all. No.

It’s all the same, no matter how young or innocent, this is part of being a human. This is where the five year old and the nine year old comes into the story. Our girls love to judge each other. They of course, usually, have no idea that is what they are even doing. If I am trying to correct one of their behaviors for good reason: safety or to not appear they have been raised in a barn; the other sister is the first to call them out on it. Sitting in a “feet on the floor” and “tail on the chair” position has been a recent struggle for our oldest daughter. M has developed this horrible habit where she cannot sit the correct way for any meal or even at school during her work. We have been trying to correct this for a while, especially when we are eating dinner as a family. I’m sure you will never guess who the strictest member of our family is on M? It’s little T! She worries about M’s posture and if her feet are on the floor much more than I could ever notice. It’s as if she watches her the whole meal until she slips up! She is so hard on her. The worst part is, T doesn’t always sit the correct way herself. This can happen to a thirty-five year old and ninety-five year old and any age in between. We just usually tend to judge in a different way.

In the first part of this series on judgment I wrote about judgements that come from more of a physical/lifestyle stand point. We are now talking about Christians judging other Christians. We are now talking about adults judging other adults for their character/spiritual flaws and sins.

Scriptures and specifically scriptures from Jesus himself guides us the best when it comes to matters of judging.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-6 NIV

Jesus was so wise, wasn’t He? We are so excited to see how wrong other people are living and how bad other people act. We forget that the only person that we are truly responsible for is – ourselves. I believe this is one of those subjects that we will work on until the day we go home to be with this wise man. The closer we grow in faith and in our knowledge of the Lord the more difficult it is to not find faults in others.

When little T is so quick to tattle-tale on her older sister, I am always quick to remind her that she needs to worry about herself, her own actions and not her sister’s. Do I practice what I preach to her? Sometimes, but I am no where close to perfect with this.

We can all use a big dose of self-evaluation. Myself included. I try to do this ever so often. Not as often as I should. After I really look deep down in myself I’m usually not that happy with the findings. After the feeling of my foot being shoved down my throat is over, I usually feel better. If we really take a good look at our own lives, our own flaws, our own sins, our own weaknesses in our faith, this is when we can find ways to free ourselves of this restraints.

Unless we make a very cognitive and prayerful effort this is something we all can struggle with. Imagine if we spend more time judging ourselves as opposed to our family, friends and colleagues how much more energy we would have to grow our relationship with God. Imagine how much more pleasing to the Lord we would be if our judgements are mostly reserved for ourselves in an attempt to be more like Him.

I’m going to leave you with the last verses in Matthew 7:6. This verse ends Jesus’ lesson on judging others. I wanted to share it with you because of the very creative metaphor that He uses. If it interests you, I encourage you to research the meaning.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:6 NIV

I pray that you have found this useful in your own life. I pray that you will be slower to judge others and use that time to look deep within yourself. If you enjoyed this article please like, share and follow below to receive new articles when posted.

Have a BLESSED day.


Impressions

We all make judgements. Can we find peace in making them?

Why is it when we first see someone we instantly judge them? I know that we don’t mean to judge them. Our brain instantly analyzes the clothes they are wearing, their hairstyle, their face/attractiveness, if they look friendly, too much make-up or not enough, how they are standing, the words coming out of their mouth and so many other things depending on the situation. We take in all of this information to make an instant assumption about the individual.

It is a well known fact that when we see someone for the first time we make up our opinion of that person within seconds. I don’t know about you but this makes me wonder how people perceive me. It also makes me feel awful for some of the wrong judgements I have made about other people. I feel awful for some of the thoughts that have went through my head. They were things that I hate the Lord heard me think.

A few years ago I really struggled with these bad thoughts. I would see strangers out in public and immediately categorize them into not-so-nice stereotypes. Finally, one day I realized that I had a problem.

What did I do about it? I started praying.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

1 Timothy 2:1-6 KJV

I realized that our “enemy” had been encouraging me to have these thoughts. Before I realized it I was thinking thoughts that probably shaped my thoughts for the rest of that day. I prayed a lot. Then I prayed some more. Finally the bad thoughts turned to empathy and compassion for strangers. I found peace from this curse that the devil placed in my mind. I’m sure that he was devastated when I realized his plan, turned to prayer and God took the heavy judgment from me.

I no longer let my mind think bad thoughts about others, instead I felt love. I felt love, because they are also one of God’s creatures. I felt peace, because now I could see that deep down these people are like me. I felt grace, because I could be in that situation. It reminds me of how blessed I am to not be in their situation. I find myself praying for them now instead of making unfair judgements. When I am out in public now, my mind is filled with much more pleasant thoughts.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8 KJV

Now, let’s turn the scales a little bit. Let’s think about what others opinions of us can do. Our impressions are so important for many different aspects of our lives. Our impressions with work situations can mean the difference between favor with our leadership, our colleagues, our customers, and the public. Our impressions with family, friends, and church members can mean the difference between relationships, event invites and so much more. Praying for the discernment of others can play a large hand in how others perceive us.

Let’s pray that when we meet someone our first impression leaves them knowing that:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV

If we accomplish this then we know that they will trust us, feel our love for them, feel our empathy for others, know we are kind and above all else they will know we must be a Christian.

I hope that you enjoyed this post and that this inspires you to think differently when we see strangers or are meeting someone for the first time. If you are experiencing problems with judgement similar to what I had, I hope that you can turn to prayer instead of giving in to what the “enemy” would want you to think.

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Have a blessed day.

TiffanyShepherd-41_Fotorscriptures

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in a name?

Finding comfort in a name, or two



We all have one. We each have a unique name. Some names are passed down from generation to generation. Some names are chosen because they are very out-of-the-box. Some are common names but the spelling has a twist. Whatever your name is, or however it is spelled is a part of who you are.

When we first meet someone their name helps us make certain judgments, assumptions and predictions about who they are as a person. This really isn’t fair. We don’t choose our names or have much choice. Which we do know that our Heavenly Father knew our names even before our parents would. If the person shares a name with someone you already know, things can get weird sometimes. I will admit that I have met people with the same name as someone I already know and I feel like I already know them. Sometimes this is a good thing. Sometimes this is a really bad thing.

When my husband and I were choosing the names for our girls we put a lot of thought into their names. With our first daughter we picked a name that we liked and felt was not very common. Because we weren’t around a lot of young children at the time, we were wrong. Her name isn’t extremely common but let’s just say there are two other sweet young ladies at our church with the same name. She thinks that this is very cool and loves it.

Fast forward four years to our second daughter and we were a little more selective. Since we had attended tons of little kid birthday parties by then we knew much more which names were common. We also had to be careful because my husband is a high school teacher. This made things a little tricky as well. I would find names that I loved but he would have a strong opinion about the name. This was especially true if the name was associated with a student he had in the past. We chose a name for her that is a little different but now suits her personality better than we could have imagined. When people hear her name its usually the first time they have heard the name. I have grown to really like this because they get to know her first and then make the connection to her name. I will leave the story about her middle name for another day. It is an entire story on its own and a testimony in itself.

I had been praying that the Lord would give me a message for this post. Today, after I met someone with a very different name God almost immediately gave me this message:

What’s in a name?

Our Heavenly Father is known by many, many names in the Bible. He has so many names but the amazing thing is He is always the same. Even though these many different names are all translated to mean a variety of descriptions, He is the one and only God.

During different seasons of my life I have found it very comforting to find scriptures that speak to me. In these different scriptures God is usually described with words other than “God”. The Bible has an almost endless supply of names to call our precious God and Savior. Not only do I love finding these different names but I also love finding the original Hebrew names for God as well. One in particular has gotten us through many hard times in our little family. Once again, a story I will share another day.

Whatever season of your life you are in right now I encourage you to choose one or two of these names for God, use it to comfort you. Please use these names when you pray. Use these names you lay your shoulder on and let Him comfort you. That is what He wants us to do. He wants us to come to Him with all of our troubles. He is there to help us and guide us. No matter what name you decide to call Him during different seasons. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:8 KJV

No matter what your name is. No matter how it is spelled or how common or rare it is. The only thing that matters is that you have chosen for your name to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life because you have made Him your savior forever.

He is not only my God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. He is my: redeemer, prince of peace, supplier, refresher, friend of sinners, ruler, hope of glory, the Great I am, chosen, Jehovah-Jireh, overcomer, potter, bread of life, physician, unchangeable, unmovable, divine, Jesus, King of Kings, hope, power, foundation, all reigning, Eagle’s wing, messiah, truth teacher, authority, silent shield, sovereign, always there, alpha, only begotten, precious, merciful, son of man, debt payor and He is the name above all names.

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Have a BLESSED day!