01Jul

When people aren’t worth anything.

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God shows love sinners

My son made a comment today that made me sad. He said “bad guys aren’t worth anything.”

He is 5 years old, speaking from a sheltered world where villains are 2-dimensional characters on a piece of paper and not real human beings with feelings and souls. Either way, I set him straight. No, I don’t want my son personally reaching out to many bad guys right now. Particularly not the comic book villain variety. But I do want him to understand that the grace of God can cover even the worst of “bad guys” and make them a new creation just like that –insert snapped fingers.

Maybe it’s not a perfect explanation of regeneration, but it’s what my 5 year old could understand.

Then I came home and stumbled upon a facebook status posted from a local business establishment where this business owner and commenters basically said the same thing–some people just aren’t worth anything.

The “bad guys” in this case are drug addicts, but it could have been anything. We have lots of “bad guys” and we take pleasure in turning them into 2-dimensional characters without a soul or feelings.

It’s so much easier to judge and hate that way.

We don’t want to see that the drug addict has tried to quit, fallen down in the floor and cried out in desperation begging for something, anything that will help him overcome the darkness that threatens him every single day in the form of addiction. Addiction is a beast. Yes, it starts out as a choice, but it quickly overtakes.

Sin is like that.

Oswald Chambers says it much better than I could, “Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation. The first thing God does is to give us a thorough spiritual cleaning. After that, there is no possibility of pride remaining in us. I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.” (June 17, My Utmost for His Highest)

Created by God

We were handmade by God, every one of us. He made the least of these.

But we deem them not worth anything. We judge them and judge their families (I have a precious dear friend this is happening to right now). We sit up on our “high horse” as my daddy used to say and we look down saying we’d never fall into that.  I would never do that. No one in my family would ever do that.

And it really doesn’t matter what “that” is. The point is, we’re better than they are, so we’d never do it.

That’s a lie. Without the grace of God in my life, I am no better and neither is anybody else. I’ve been reading some great devotions about this topic recently in My Utmost for His Highest (you can read it online for free)

“The greatest characteristic of a saint is humility, as evidenced by being able to say honestly and humbly, “Yes, all those, as well as other evils, would have been exhibited in me if it were not for the grace of God. Therefore, I have no right to judge.” (June 22, My Utmost for His Highest)

Jesus Christ died for the least of these. He died for the vilest sinner. There is no one outside the reach of God’s grace. At the same time, no one is good without Him. No one.

Jesus gave a parable about two men who came to pray.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 8:10-14)

Which one of these men are you? Are you the one who looks around at all the “bad guys” and says “Thank you Lord that I’m so much better than they are?” Or are you the one who recognizes that you are a sinner and that any good in you comes straight from Him?

There are consequences to our actions and choices, of course. I’m not saying there aren’t or shouldn’t be. I’m not saying we should enable anyone in their sins. We shouldn’t endorse sin.

But we should love people enough to directly help them if/when we can, and pray for them fervently when we can’t. We need to recognize that this world has a sin problem, and that we are saved by grace alone.

And we don’t get to decide who’s not worth anything.

24Jun

Thriving Thursday 6/25

This post may contain affiliate links and/or sponsored content. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

It’s been a busy week here! First of all on Sunday evening, we found out that my hubby would be leaving for 3 weeks–he left at around 4:00 am Monday morning! It’s been a crazy week.

My Hubby is in Alaska!

You can read more about what he’s doing here:

Alaska nomex

I also shared a bit of my Salvation testimony this week, including some encouragement for those who’ve ever had doubts about their salvation. Just because you have doubts, doesn’t mean you’re not saved…and just because you don’t have doubts doesn’t necessarily mean you truly are. Seek Him!

Know Saved

 

In less serious topics, I also shared some ways to make reading fun this summer and beyond.

reading fun

What have you been up to this week?

There were so many FANTASTIC posts linked up last week and I can’t wait to see what you ladies have to share this week :)

Thriving Thursdays Link Up!!!

Thriving Thursdays is a link up for family-friendly bloggers, who are choosing to THRIVE in their lives. It’s a place for us to encourage and inspire one another to live life to the fullest–in Jesus Christ. Link up your posts about thriving–in marriage, faith, parenting, homemaking, relationships, in the kitchen, in frugality.

Everything we do can be a ministry and worship to our Lord. Link up as many posts as you want, and I hope that you’ll take the time to visit some other participants as well.

I am so blessed by the posts you all share! I really look forward to seeing all of the encouragement shared here each week. Keep it coming! Sometimes I highlight posts here, and I also pin my favorites to the Thriving Thursdays Pinterest Board.



23Jun

Alaska, Wildfires, and My Husband…Oh My!

This post may contain affiliate links and/or sponsored content. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

You may have seen this on facebook, but I’m sharing a bit more in depth today.

Chad

We spent the day on Sunday celebrating my awesome husband. He’s such a blessing to us. He’s a great father who is actually engaged with his kids and present in their daily lives. He’s a great husband and leader for our family.

He is a strong man and a diligent worker. He’s quick to lend a hand if he sees a need.

This week, he left to go lend a hand in Alaska. 

A part of my husband’s job as a forest ranger is fighting wildfires. Before we were married, he used to go on Western fire trips every year. These trips mean that he uses up 3 weeks of vacation time and goes out west as a part of a fire crew (he is paid, but he must use vacation time from his everyday job in order to go).

They go where they are needed and work hard and live in primitive conditions for 14 days to try and help get these fires put out.

He hasn’t been needed to go for the last 10 years, but this particular time there was a big need. His name wasn’t officially on the list to be considered because he wasn’t planning to go, but they were having trouble filling the crews and he was needed. It was a bonus for him that he would get to go to Alaska as a part of this particular trip.

He received the call at around 5:00 on Sunday, and he left at around 4:30 am on Monday morning! Yes, we had less than 12 hours notice that he would be leaving us for around 3 weeks.

Craziness–my head is still spinning.

[In the photo below, my husband is 3rd from the right in the back row]

Alaska

It’s hard…but worth it.

Please don’t think I’m whining or having a pity party. I’m not. But, it’s tough to have my husband gone for 3 weeks straight. We aren’t used to this!

I miss him and the boys miss him. I know he’s in danger (we are coming up on the 2nd anniversary of a horrible tragedy that killed 19 members of a 20-man hot shot crew). And then there are the practical household things, and I don’t have family around to help.

It’s not easy!

Since my husband left yesterday morning, I’ve been following his progress, and sharing things on facebook for family and friends. The Kentucky Division of Forestry shared an image and some information about the teams that were heading toward Alaska. And it started to go a little viral on facebook…even the governor of Alaska shared it! Right now it has around 1000 shares and nearly 400 comments!

I got to read through many of those comments. Most of them were made by Alaskan citizens who were thanking these brave men and women for their sacrifice and dedication to go there and help out where they are needed.

Oh what a blessing and perspective changer that was for me! It was such a blessing for me to be able to read real comments from the people who live there, and who are grateful for my husband and the other men who are going to help.

I can tell you that I am one proud wife right about now! I always am, but my heart is just bursting after reading the comments of gratitude and getting to see firsthand the difference he is making, along with the other crews.

Why isn’t this on the news?

One of the comments that I saw on Facebook said, “Why isn’t this on the national news?”

The truth is, I’ve always wondered this myself.

Right now in Alaska, there are more than 200 wildfires burning! Some are large and some are small, but there are over 200 total.

alaska 4

For many people this type of thing is old news. There are those like myself who have family members who go on these trips or serve on hot shot crews. And there are people who live in the states that are constantly threatened by these wildfires.

But for the most part, no one else in the country knows about it. If the fires are very bad, you might get a little blurb on mainstream media.

I do have to put in a little shout out here for Planes: Fire & Rescue, which was kind of about this. But, you know…it’s a cartoon with planes instead of people, so it doesn’t really count.

So, let’s spread the word

I want to do my part to help spread the word. Not just for my husband, but for all the men and women across the country who do this dangerous job that no one ever hears about.

And for the people who are affected by these fires–who lose their homes, and others who lose their lives.

This happens every single summer throughout the western US. It’s not a one-time thing. 

Some seasons are worse than others, but it happens every year.

Right now, there are 2 crews from Kentucky, 2 from North Carolina, and 1 from Virginia who are traveling to their respective destinations in Alaska, to help out with fires there. As far as I know, there are 20 people on each crew.

Here are some of the men boarding the plane to head out there.

Alaska 2

Prayers for Safety

As of June 23rd, there were 243 forest fires being tracked in Alaska, with new one still popping up. Many of these fires are completely unmanned and many are threatening entire villages. The weather conditions are perfect for the spreading of fire.

There are many crews throughout the state battling these wildfires.

These men and women are well-trained, but they are going into a potentially dangerous situation. Please pray for their safety, and pray for families–mine and others–who are missing them. And, of course, we pray for those who are directly affected by the fires.

More Information & UPDATES

Here is more information about hand crews and what they do. My husband is on a Type 2 crew. You can also see more information about the current large active fires here. I will update when I know which exact fire my husband has been stationed to work.

6/24 Update– The crew my husband is on will be heading to McGrath, AK. It’s not accessible by roads so they will be flying there. We’re told that communications will likely be very limited. I don’t have information for any of the other crews.

alaska assignment maps

Here they are in their Nomex, ready to go. I got very emotional today after talking to him one last time, since I likely won’t hear from him again for the rest of the 2 weeks.

Alaska nomex

And just for fun, my hubby said that being in Alaska is a new experience for most of them. He said that, officially he was told that the sun set last night at 11:30 pm and rose this morning at 3:30 am. I told him that’s good, because I had seen that it was even less than that, more like 12:30-2:30. He said it didn’t matter because it looked like daylight the whole time anyway.

23Jun

How Can I Know that I am Saved? {My Testimony of Salvation}

This post may contain affiliate links and/or sponsored content. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

Know Saved

How can I know that I am saved?

I know this is a question a lot of people have, so I wanted to take some time to share my testimony. I’ve been wanting to share this for a long time, but didn’t really have the words or feel like it was the right time…but this morning the Lord has put this on my heart with some urgency.

In many ways, I had a rough childhood, and I did not grow up in a Christian home.  Some families go to church only at Easter and Christmas. We went to church, never.

However, my grandparents went to church and they would take me with them sometimes.

My papaw was a fire and brimstone guy. He was fascinated with the end times and was always going on about the various types of trials the Lord could use to punish this world, for those who weren’t, “good enough.” I’m not sure if he emphasized works or if that’s just what my young mind latched onto, but I remember being heartbroken as a girl of 10 or 12 because even then I knew that I had a wicked heart. I was not “good.” And I knew that I could never be good enough to escape God’s judgment.

I know now that God’s word tells us that no one is good. (Romans 3:23; Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:3; Psalm 53:3, etc.)

I had heard the gospel, and some time after this, the Lord saved me. I wasn’t good enough. I could never be good enoughBut I didn’t have to be. Because He had made a way through His grace. Jesus had died in my place and paid the debt for my sins. I trusted in Him and turned my back on the things this world has to offer. I died to my old self and God saved my soul.

My Doubts

I’ve heard many people testify that once they were saved, there was never a moment of doubt but I can’t say that.

I’ve talked a bit here about my struggle with depression. I’m a very insecure person, and there are some things in my childhood and life that contribute to that. There have been times in my darkest moments over the past 20 years when I have doubted even my salvation. I have focused on the fact that I am not worthy, and cried out to the Lord anew, begging him to have mercy on me and save my soul.

I’ve heard people say that if you have doubts, you must not really be saved, because if you were truly saved you would never have doubts. Because of this, I had even gone so far as to fear that maybe I’m not one of God’s elect and that there is nothing I could do to be saved, even though I desire Him.

Having been in church my entire adult life, I’ve heard the gospel and all the steps to take toward salvation. I had done everything I could to fulfill those steps and if God hadn’t saved me already, maybe it was hopeless.

But that’s just not the way it works.  The Bible tells us that no one seeks God. It is not in my nature to seek God–He had to put that desire there.

The past few weeks, I have been diligently seeking the Lord and my own heart in this matter. God has ministered directly to my spirit, and also provided several different levels of confirmation for me–preaching, teaching, and some writings from my favorite devotional, among other things.

It all came down to a simple thing: trust Him.

Trust the Lord to fulfill His promises

There are some things in my past that make it difficult for me to trust. My preacher spoke last Sunday about fatherhood, inspired by the beginning of the Lord’s prayer, “our father who art in Heaven.”

People will let us down. Our earthly fathers will let us down. Seeing how my dad’s life has changed from the person he used to be is amazing to me. But it wasn’t always that way. He was an alcoholic, and he was abusive both physically and verbally. I remember one time I did something that was pretty much a normal childhood infraction, and he looked at me and said “You’re not my daughter.” I carried that with me.

My dad has changed so much that people who know him now could never believe or imagine the way he used to be at times. I love my dad dearly, and even in the bad times, he taught me so much about life and integrity. But that doesn’t mean that things from our past don’t have consequences and lasting effects.

As I was seeking God diligently, He brought all this to my mind. I was subconsciously comparing Him to the people in my life who hadn’t accepted me.

Through the things I mentioned above (prayer, teaching, preaching, devotional readings) the message the Lord gave me was loud and clear: when I doubted my salvation, I wasn’t doubting myself, I was doubting Him. I already knew that salvation wasn’t about me. I could never earn it or be worthy of it. My salvation is based on Him alone. God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice.

If I was doubting anything it was that the Lord would fulfill His promise and His word. 

And I had to repent of that. God is good. His mercies are new every morning. He is faithful and never changing. He won’t turn His back on His people.

It’s not about feelings.

One of the things that always plants a seed of doubt for me is listening to the experiences of other people. People who had this experience or felt that way and I didn’t.

But one thing that is very clear to me about the Christian walk is this–it’s not about feelings and emotions. First of all, we are all different people with different lives, and different purposes in the Lord. Our experiences won’t look the same.

Furthermore, our circumstances will lie to us. Satan will whisper in our ear. Sometimes our broken hearts may doubt. And sometimes the right thing doesn’t feel that great.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” We can’t follow our heart or trust our emotions.

We can’t be driven by feelings. We need to be driven by God’s word. God’s truth. I can trust in that no matter what else my circumstances seem to say.

Praise the Lord!

It’s about Evidence

Throughout my seeking, the Lord has brought to mind over and over the things that He has done for me throughout the years. The times He has spoken directly to me. The times He has provided for me and answered prayers.

He showed me over and over the things in my life that testify to my being His child. Don’t forget those things! I thought of the Israelite children and how quickly they allowed their circumstances to lead them to doubt God’s character. Don’t forget the things He has done.

It’s not about perfection

Another thing that lead me to doubt is the truth that in Christ we are made a new creation. Can I just be honest for a minute? Sometimes I don’t feel like a new creation. I let God down. I let my family down. I can see the wickedness of my heart and it saddens me. It grieves me. And at times, yes, it has caused me to doubt.

When praying over this, the Lord spoke into my spirit–a new creation does not mean that we are perfect. I will never be perfect. Even in the Christian’s life, there is a battle between the spirit and the flesh (Romans 7:18; Galatians 5:17), and we must fight it.

Becoming new in Christ means that we are awakened to spiritual things. We are no longer dead. We are alive. But we still have to fight against our flesh. We are commanded to walk in the spirit. Yes, there is an immediate change, but it is also an active and ongoing thing. We must be filled anew with his spirit over and over.

I may not ever be perfect, but I can go against my sin-nature.

Why am I sharing this?

This is all very personal and vulnerable, so why am I sharing?

I’m sharing because the Lord put it on my heart to share and I want to encourage someone who might be struggling with doubts occasionally, or who may need to realize that they have never accepted the Lord Jesus as their personal savior.

This is not meant to be a teaching, but simply my own testimony. If you would like more information, here are a couple of resources.

Also, I would like to add a caution. If you’re having doubts, there is only ONE who can answer if it’s planted there by the enemy, or if it’s conviction from the Lord that you haven’t truly been saved. And no amount of articles can truly give you the peace you seek–only seeking the Lord directly can do that.

If you, too, have struggled with doubt about your salvation, here is a good article from John Piper, “Am I Saved?”

If you still have doubts, or know that you are not saved, you can go here for a clear presentation of the Gospel of Christ.

23Jun

Brand New Educational Workbooks from Dover {with Giveaway}

This post may contain affiliate links and/or sponsored content. Thank you for supporting Serving Joyfully.

 

Dover

Last week, I shared with you about an awesome website for books and educational products. I have found so many treasures there to supplement our homeschool with the fun learning activities that we love–you know, the ones where your kids don’t even realize they’re doing school? Those are our favorites!

Today, I’m sharing about their newest series of workbooks. Sometimes the school needs to be a bit more obvious, but it can still be fun!

New Educational Workbooks from Dover & Education.com

Because I was so excited about Dover’s products, I reached out to the company and found out that they have partnered with Education.com to offer even more educational resources that released earlier this month! Here are just a few of the titles they are offering.

Dover Workbooks

These are great fun-filled workbooks for ages 3-11 (grades K-5). The workbooks are available in the following subjects and they are affordably priced at $7.99 each:

  • History
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Writing

Each workbook has a variety of worksheets and fun activities, with most having around 96-128 pages.

Dover sent me the following workbooks to check out:

dover 4

  • Nursery Rhymes & More (Kindergarten)
  • Adventures in Writing (1st Grade)
  • Count It (1st Grade)
  • Fun with Nature (2nd Grade)
  • History & Me (2nd Grade)
  • Write Away (3rd Grade)
  • Math Mania (4th Grade)
  • All Sorts of Science (5th Grade)

We all loved the variety of activities throughout the books. These books have been reviewed by teachers, and are more advanced and thorough than many of the other educational workbooks I’ve seen on the market.

Here is a sample page from the inside of one of the books. This is the first page in the 1st grade Adventures in Writing book.

dover 3

Both my boys enjoy school and learning, but for my youngest, it’s his “best thing” which for my boys means it’s their favorite–what they like best. so he was especially happy when our box of new school workbooks arrived.

dover 6

And, here are some more photos of my boys enjoying their workbooks:

dover collage

Rewards Program & A Discount Code

A few things worth mentioning for my fellow bargain hunters:

Earn Rewards on your purchases. Dover has a rewards program and you can earn 1 point per dollar spent on purchases. You also get 30 bonus points just for signing up, (bonus points may not credit on mobile devices–use a laptop or desktop to be sure you get your points) and it only takes 65 points to earn a $10 egift certificate.

Coupon! Through 9/1/15, you can save 25% on your entire purchase. Just enter code WHBD at checkout! And, you get free shipping on orders $50 and over.

FREE Samples & Coloring Sheets. Head over to their site for your free samples and printable coloring sheets.

Sale & Clearance. Be sure to check out their huge sale & clearance section while you’re there.

Giveaway!!

Dover is generously providing a giveaway package for one lucky winner. The winner will receive the same workbook set that Dover sent me–8 workbooks, valued at $63.93

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

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