Heaven Has My Heart

I want to introduce you to my sweet Bronner. He was only two-and-a-half when he went to Heaven. I never say “died” because I don’t feel that he has. I truly see him as going on to another place. Bronner didn’t cease to exist. He has been transported to another land, distant and mysterious in that I have never been there before nor can I go there right now and haven’t even the vaguest idea when I might be able to go there, but also the most assured of places in that I am certain of the way and long for it like no place on earth.

Heaven has my heart, my citizenship, my baby, and my God. It is the Land of the Living and the Kingdom of Light. In contrast, earth is the land of the lost and of the dying. Bronner has been found and taken to the truest place, the best place, a place many will never find even though the Lord God specifically said, “Seek and you will find.” Many people seek God in a way that is only palatable to their own desires. They want God to be who they want Him to be, not who He really is, and so they never find the real, true God. Many people find God’s ways offensive, harsh, arrogant even. But, when you seek God for whoHe truly is, you’ll find that He is magnificent.

In times of tragedy, grief, or despair, some people grow so angry with God that they turn away from Him completely, but in the turning away, they are showing faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV, Hebrews 11:1) They believe in God, but what they are doing in turning away from Him is saying, “I don’t like you. I don’t like your methods, and I don’t want anything to do with a God who would… fill in the blank.” What they are doing is REJECTING GOD.

When my life’s great test came to me, I already knew God in an intimate way. I called Him my father, my savior, my teacher, and my friend. He had walked me through many lesser trials before. This time He was going to have to carry me, and I trusted Him to do that. Why? Because… I knew Him to be good. God’s goodness and mercy had already been poured out by the bucketfuls upon this wretched creature called me. By the time I stood in that baptistery at Lakeview Baptist Church in Oxford, Alabama at the age of 25, I already had a quarter century’s worth of sins to wash away, but as I stood there wearing a robe of white, I felt God’s Spirit moving upon me with healing in His wings. And, as Brother Jerry lowered me down underneath the water, my former life was vanquished. “Buried with Christ.” Hidden. Covered. Washed and cleansed of the former life. “Rising to new life in Him.”

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (ESV, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

I was a new bride at that time, figuratively and literally, having married my husband, Rick, just two months prior. I was also a new mom of sorts. Rick had been married before, for a short time, but it had been long enough to produce two children, Brandi and Blake. They were there at my baptism. They were five and six years old on that day, April 21, 1996. They were there again at that same small church when their little brother, Brooks, was being dedicated to the Lord. We all stood together in a circle as Brother Jerry anointed him with oil and as we all promised to help raise him in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

It was in that little church in the small Alabama town where Rick spent most of his childhood and where he graduated from high school that God would anchor Himself to our family, holding us and keeping us close to His bright shores. It was there in a Bible study called “The Mind of Christ” that I had been amazed at the discovery that the Bible contains ALL the answers. As a child, I remember looking up into the sky and wondering, “Where are you, God?”

I found out just how much. And, as our family continued to grow in the fear and admonition of the Lord, adding Brody, and then Bronner, my heart began to overflow with the joy of the Lord. I was soaring on the wings of an eagle. I had tasted and had seen that the Lord was good. He was very, very good.

And, then came January 19, 2008 shooting me like a shotgun right out of the sky. No more soaring. I wasn’t even standing. I wasn’t even on ground level. I was in a pit, deep and dark, but I was still holding on to someone’s hand. It was the hand of the ONE who had lifted me up out of darkness once before, the hand of HE who had HIMSELF knit me together in my mother’s womb, the hand who had spoon fed me the truth of John 3:16 but who was now going to feed me the meat and the bread and the wine of 1 Peter 4:1-2.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (ESV).

None of this was going to be easy. I had been torn from my baby. He was ripped away from me, and it wasn’t a clean break. After all that goodness, Lord, what are you doing? Why? We had been so happy! Our family was SO happy! And, we were doing all that you had asked of us! My goodness! Rick was speaking at a youth retreat when it happened! Weren’t we giving enough? Now, You’re going to take our baby?

The BABY?

MY baby.

I needed some answers, so I jumped in the ring and wrestled it all out with God. I wasn’t going to let go of Him until He answered me, until I could make some sense of this whole matter. Well, here I am, LORD, still standing in the ring, but instead of wrestling with You, I’m here to tell YOUR story. The story of how You took me deeper and higher and further with You than I ever thought possible.

At the end ofJob’s struggle with the LORD, he said, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you…”

Through suffering, Job learned. He grew. He saw God in a new way, the way of reverence and awe. When we come face to face with the POWER of the ONE who created all things and through Whom all have their life and breath and being, we begin to see things as they really are, not through those rose-colored glasses I threw away long ago.

TRUTH. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I got. That’s what I have to tell.

God has always taught us through stories, through the lives of ordinary human beings. Here’s mine. It isn’t tidy or fun or sweet or cute. But, it’s mine, and it’s Bronner’s. Someone might say he “died” for this story. I hope it will mean something to you.

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photo compliments of Heather Durham

photo compliments of Heather Durham

Sherri Burgess is the wife of nationally syndicated radio host Rick Burgess of “The Rick and Bubba Show.” They are both sought-after ministry speakers and marriage conference hosts.

 

A former news anchor turned author, Burgess is also mother to two teenage sons at home and two adult children. She currently serves on the school board where her sons attend, leads a girls’ Bible study, and volunteers with various organizations. Her heart is deeply committed to living out God’s will for her life and helping others do the same. While her family may enjoy football, she enjoys her family. She also enjoys gardening and going on short-term missions trips. Her prayer is that the loss of her youngest son, Bronner, will continue to produce fruit for God for many years to come. The Burgess family calls Birmingham, AL, home.

Learn more about Burgess at burgessministries.com, and follow her on Facebook (SherriBurgessAuthor) and Twitter (SherriBBurgess).

Teaching Kids About God

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“Let the little children come” is a very familiar verse of scripture and a key topic in many parenting sermons. But what does it mean today to “let the little children come?” The Apostle Matthew records the story in his Gospel of people bringing their little children for Jesus to lay hands on them (Matthew 19:13-15). The disciples rebuked the people and wanted to send them away. Perhaps they thought the children were bothering Christ; he had more important things to do. Jesus corrects them saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (NIV, Matt. 19:14).

Of course, we think to ourselves. How could anyone think Jesus doesn’t want to see the kids? Sounds like a pretty dumb mistake to most people. But what does it look like to bring our children to Jesus today, now that he is gone back to heaven? How do we apply these verses to our growing families? How do we make sure we are not making the same dumb mistake the disciples did in our families? Let me give you three important ways to bring your children to Jesus.

First, we should share our testimony and the story of our day-to-day encounters with God with our children. Jesus may have gone to be with his Father in heaven, but he sent his Spirit back down to live with us. Twice in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ. Jesus makes it clear that he and the Holy Spirit are one when he promises to send the Spirit to the disciples. This is what Jesus says after explaining that he is going to the Father to prepare a place for them.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:18-20 ESV)

Jesus is not describing the second coming here. He is describing how he, through the Holy Spirit, comes to live with each of his children. So you see, Jesus has remained here and lives within the heart of everyone who believes.

It is amazing how many parents keep their interactions with the Spirit of Christ to themselves. How are our children, who do not yet believe, supposed to meet the Savior you never talk about your relationship and how he helps you? When the Spirit of God convicts you, don’t just confess your sin; let them know that God, by his Spirit, brought conviction.  Share the testimony of how Jesus made your once dead heart alive again.

Second, take your children to church every Sunday. The church is the new temple of God; it is a living temple (2 Corinthians 6:16, 19). God’s people are the living stones (1 Peter 2:5) that make up this new temple, and Jesus is our Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). He is the head of the church, and we are the body (Colossians 1:18). Every believer presents a living illustration of God’s saving work. It doesn’t take long in a vibrant church, full of faithful believers, for our children to recognize how different they are to the unsaved community around them. That helps them grow in their desire for Christ and become a part of God’s redeemed community.

Did you ever notice how often our children listen to strangers better than they listen to us? The impact other believers can have on your children to introduce them to Jesus should not be underestimated. When the church reinforces what you’ve been teaching at home, it validates the discipleship of your children and helps protect them from the lies of the world. So don’t just attend the Sunday service, throw yourself and your family into the life of the church.

Finally, teach your children theology. Theology, simply put, is the study of God, and Jesus is at the center of that study. Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When we study the truth of God’s Word with our children, we are giving them Jesus, who is the Truth.  A careful study of scripture reveals that the whole story, from Genesis to Revelation, points us  to salvation in Jesus. When it comes to theology, some parents make the same mistake the disciples did. They think children are too young to learn theology. Which means their children don’t learn all they need to know about Jesus. Don’t make that mistake.

Don’t be fooled. We teach our children theology every day. When you get angry at the guy who cut you off driving your family to the store, your life is teaching them theology – that God is not in control. When you watch TV programs that go on for hours, never mentioning God, you are teaching them theology – that God isn’t that important. When you live your life day in and day out without prayer, you are teaching them theology – that you can work things out yourself. Proactive theological instruction helps us counteract the poor theology they receive.

So, while we strive to live godly lives, we need to take time to teach our children the truth about God. Who he is, where he came from, who they are, why they sin, and how they can be saved. All that is theology and learning those truths will lead them to Jesus.

Share what God is doing in your life with your children, take them to church, and teach them good theology. Remember, all you have to do is introduce them to Jesus. He is the one who works to transform their sinful hearts.

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Marty Machowski

Marty Machowski is a family life pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA, where he has served on the pastoral staff for more than 20 years. As leader of their children’s ministry, he has worked for many years to develop kids’ Bible curriculum and devotional material that connect church and home. His passion is equipping families to understand the Bible as one gospel story and help them share that with their children. His latest release is The Ology.

 

Machowski's The Ology

Bringing Faith into Family Time

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bring faith into family time

We see the statistics about how the family is struggling. The divorce rate for both Christian and non-Christian homes is now about the same. Our children are facing their own hardships, whether it be bullying, drug abuse, cutting, or even suicide. The world in which we live in is compromised by evil. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What can we do? Where do we start? Where is God in all of this?

God gave us these words of Paul from 1 Timothy:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Then hope starts to return. Yes, we are in a battle, but we’ve been called to fight the good fight. And with the Lord’s help and guidance, we can indeed turn back the tide on the depressing statistics. Here are a few ideas for starters:

Try to eat a meal together three times a week: Statistics show that the likelihood of drug abuse, depression, and even struggling in school is drastically reduced in homes that participate in family mealtime. Don’t stress about what the meal is, just that it happens. Running late? Pick up a pizza or rotisserie chicken. If you have a little more time, a frozen lasagna works well. Crockpots are also great because they create a welcoming, delicious aroma as people walk through the day after a busy day. When you sit down together as a family, you are making a commitment to spend time together. This is your time to connect after the day, a time to pray together, a time to talk together, to feel that we are in a place where we belong and where we are heard.

At my table, we often go around and do “best” and “worst” parts of each of person’s day. We support each other in the low times, and celebrate the high times together. Just being in the presence of my family keeps me connected with them. They might not be able to tell me what’s going on, but I get a much better sense just by looking around at their faces.  

One of my son’s friends joined us for dinner and was surprised that we said the Lord’s Prayer together in unison before eating — and that we actually had a kitchen table. This friend had an extended countertop in the kitchen where the family put together meals, but then they would go to various rooms to eat—downstairs, bedrooms, living room. A missed opportunity, and sadly, this person has struggled with major depression and in school.

Have a bedtime routine: Even though my kids are older, I make a commitment to connect with each one of them before they turn in for the night.  Sometimes it’s having a cup of hot tea together or listening to the “drama” of Instagram and friends. Other times, it’s just sitting on the end of the bed and being present. Regardless of their age, this is a time where kids can relax and prepare for rest, however, it’s also a time where anxiety can spike. She is worried about her test tomorrow. He is concerned someone will want to fight on the bus tomorrow. What about that teacher who might not accept late work?

Bed time is also a great time to for praying. I emphasize the fact that not only do I care about them, but God also cares about them. Many times I get surprising answers about things I never would have known about just by asking, “How can I pray for you?” A beautiful result is that they are beginning to model that question back to me.

Make a commitment of going to church: Even if the family is sick, and we can’t physically get to church, we will  watch a service on TV, do a family devotion, or listen to an audio Bible storybook. The point is to set aside time to God, at least once per week.

Weave faith into your everyday life: We have a tradition of praying in the car before leaving on a big trip. We ask for the Lord’s presence with us and that He will give us safe travels and protection. We also pray whenever we see an ambulance or Life Alert helicopter. We live near a hospital, so this is a regular occurrence as we drive around town doing errands. I love how my kids initiate it now when they see these visual reminders to pray for others.

I think that we place a lot of pressure on ourselves as parents and grandparents to teach our children about faith. It certainly does feel overwhelming sometimes. However, I have learned so much about faith through the eyes of children, my own, as well as others. Jesus talks about how strong the faith of a child is, and that we all should seek that depth kind of faith (Isaiah 11:6; Matthew 19:4).

God is with us on this journey of parenthood. He knows our heart, hears our prayers, and is with us every step of the way through life’s journey. He wants what is best for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and we can trust in that.

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Catherine DeVries has written 20 books for children, including the bestselling The Adventure Bible Storybook and Let’s Learn about the Lord’s Prayer, the first in the HeartSmart series which focuses on learning scripture through story and song. As associate publisher of Children’s Resources at David C Cook, she leads product development for The Action Bible collection.

Devries cover

Life Lessons I Learned from a Friend

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Written by Jill Lynn Buteyn

My friend Kara Tippetts was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of thirty-six. She recently flew away to heaven at the very young age of thirty-eight. Typing those words feels surreal. I still can’t quite fathom that she’s gone. But to state her life in two sentences simply does not work. She was instrumental in changing many lives during her battle with cancer and blogged regularly at MundaneFaithfulness.com. She became known as Kara Tippetts—the dying woman who wrote the letter to Brittany Maynard. But she was much more than that to those of us blessed to know her in life and the many that followed her words before that letter.

Kara had the gift of creating community and beautiful friendships. She wove people together and made it look easy. She believed in loving big, in pulling more people in even when she was weary and tired and fighting cancer. She was wise, often able to pinpoint a solution or speak into a problem without judgement. Throughout the time I knew her, she spoke into my life and the lives of thousands of others. Here’s a few things I learned from her that I’ll always hold close.buteyn pinterest

Kindness matters. “Love is kind” is scrawled on a chalkboard in my kitchen. It’s my reminder that when I’m at my end, when I’m weary and exhausted as a mother, wife, even just as a person, that how I act toward others in those moments are not excused. I’m not saying I never fail at this. Just that I strive to be kind even when I don’t feel kind. I’m learning to listen to my kids, to take the extra moment to explain why. Again, I’m so not perfect in this area, but Kara greatly impacted how I think about parenting and how I act toward others.

Love big. Kara often talked about big love. Recently, someone asked me, what exactly does this mean? I would say it means letting other people into our lives, our homes, even our hard. I easily come to the end of myself—my limits. But loving big is extending beyond what we feel capable of in loving others. Leaning into God and the love he has for us and our people. This doesn’t mean you have to start spouting your innermost secrets to the next person you see. But you can move toward people, grow relationships, and find some havens for your heart while in turn being that for someone else.

When fighting anxiety or fear, go to the worst case scenario. When I’m overcome by fear and anxiety, logic flees. My mind runs ahead, coming up with all kinds of scenarios. Sometimes pretty crazy ones. Kara and I were talking about this once. She told me she liked to go straight to the worst case scenario. Name it: what is the worst thing that could happen? Go all the way there. To the scariest of the scary. Sometimes just naming it takes away some of its power. Then ask yourself, would God be with me through that? Every time, I find the answer is yes. It doesn’t always make the fear vanish, but it helps me realize I’ve been running ahead, assuming God wouldn’t be present when that is nowhere near the truth. Just knowing he would be with me, no matter the trial, is such a relief.

Most days, one, if not all of these life lessons cross my mind. Kara was a great example of doing what she preached. How easily she could have hidden in a dark hole as her earthly life was slipping away. But she didn’t. She continued to point others to Jesus, to kindness and love and grace until the last days of her life. And because she obeyed, we’re blessed to have her words and her wisdom with us still.

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Jill Lynn Buteyn is the co-author of Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together, written with the late Kara Tippetts. Buteyn is also the author of Falling for Texas, an inspirational novel, and a recipient of the ACFW Genesis Award for her fiction work. Buteyn lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children.

Just Show Up - PK

Learn more about Jill Lynn Buteyne and Just Show Up at www.jill-lynn.com and on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.