On Boys and Bravery

By Hannah Benac

The word brave is really in right now. It’s painted on signs, printed on t-shirts, and plastered across all kinds of paraphernalia geared towards little boys. “I want my boys to be brave!” all boy moms would say in a heartbeat and yet I can’t help but wonder if our actions in raising these little men are matching up to the words out of our mouths or the signs we hang on their walls. Bravery is a very appealing concept until you actually think about how that might effect your parenting in everyday life. That is until we face the reality, as mothers, that teaching our kids to be brave also requires us to let go.

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Oh boys…always trying to save something!

The actual definition of brave is: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. Ok hold on, wait… did it really just say ready to face and endure danger? Or pain? On second thought, maybe I’ll pass on actually teaching my boys how to live a life of valor- I’ll just put a cute t-shirt on them that says “brave” and call it a day.

As moms we are protectors; our first reaction is to put a stop to whatever is happening if there’s any chance of someone getting hurt. Typically the two biggest things we want to protect our boys from are danger and pain and rightly so, this is part of our job as their moms. But, I’d love to challenge us on exactly how we are going about protecting. It seems to me there are two ways to help our kids navigate the challenges of life: you can hover over them or guide them through it. There are huge differences between these two: Hovering means following our kids around everywhere they go removing every ounce of risk that’s in front of them. Guiding is giving them the space to explore while advising them in wise ways to take on what comes their way. Hovering is always intervening; guiding is only intervening when necessary. Hovering always says you can’t; guiding says you can and here’s how.

Currently I am reading through 1 Peter and am struck by the bravery of the disciples and the early church. In Chapter 4 Peter writes to them, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

It’s interesting to me that Peter is not telling his audience to avoid suffering, he’s not apologizing for it or telling them to find ways to make it more comfortable; he does in fact tell them to rejoice in it, to endure it and expect it. Hmmm this is sounding very familiar- ready to face and endure danger or pain, showing courage. The early church is embodying bravery at its finest. Bravery is not looking for trouble but it is being ready to endure and stand against it when faced with challenge or opposition. If our goal is for our kids to follow Christ, they will face challenge and opposition and have to be prepared to stand up under it. They will need bucket loads of bravery to live the counter cultural life Christ calls us to. If we don’t give them opportunities to show courage now, how will they be prepared later?

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This picture pretty much describes how I feel with my boys all the time…they are 2 steps ahead and we’re hanging on to them for dear life

The experiences we give our kids now are helping shape character for later. Bravery is the foundation for so many things I want for my boys when they are grown:

  • I want them to take risks for the gospel (believing takes bravery)
  • I want them to marry women who believe in them. As their mom I am modeling a woman who believes in them in all the things they are trying as they grow. The more I let them try, the more their confidence grows and the more they learn their limitations as well.
  • I want them to stand up against what is wrong. This takes confidence in stepping into opposition.

In sum, boys are shaped by experiences. If we, as their mothers, only give them experiences of comfort and ease then more than likely they will either grow up to be the kind of man who walks the easy road and only looks out for himself or one who is ready to face a challenge but does not know how to navigate it wisely. Instead, lets ask Jesus to help us overcome our fears and grow up a generation of valiant, bold and heroic men. This is hard but we can do it…in fact, we have to do it for the sake of not only our sons, but the world they will one day impact.

 

Beware the Social Media Gospel

By Hannah Benac

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I know this may seem ironic because I am in fact writing this article on a blog of my own, yet it appears to me that the Christian community is taking far too much stock in what blogs, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts have to say when it comes to shaping our own beliefs about God, the world, and how we should live as believers.

The other day I received a text from a high school student I mentor through Younglife. She was confused about a recent post she had seem from a prominent Christian author promoting a social stance that did not match up with what the Bible teaches. I commended her for her sharp eye and we talked through the danger of statements like these being put out all over the Internet. We then talked about what was true in this situation and what God had to say about it. It became a great teaching opportunity for her and I but I couldn’t help but think of the thousands that read this and applauded loudly without thinking about the implications of the belief and worldview they just supported.

Don’t get me wrong… I love a good blog! I get so many ideas from them that some days I wonder how people ever cooked dinner for their families without cooking blogs or decorated their house without Pinterest! However, my reservations begin to rise when I see people redefining what the church has believed for thousands of years in 140 characters. Here in lies the danger of ingesting false teaching when all we think we’re doing is checking twitter on our lunch break.

The Bible has warnings about false teaching everywhere. Notice Paul’s warning to Timothy here:

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV)

 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

 When Paul wrote this, he was speaking of false teaching coming primarily from prophets and teachers. In our present day, we have information coming at us from all angles, not only from teachers and pastors but also from multiple forms of media. Because of this, anyone can have a platform. We have seen this over and over again where any regular old Joe becomes a YouTube sensation overnight or amasses a large blog following; before long thousands of people tune in daily to hear what they have to say. Many times these authors choose to use their fame to speak on current events or social stances they are taking. While sometimes this can be a great thing we have to beware of the destruction it can also bring.

I’d love to offer up a way to filter information before we believe something to be true. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself while reading:

Who is the person that is saying this? What is their background? (ie: is it credible for me to believe something a food blogger just wrote that might change my Biblical worldview? This is dramatic but you get what I’m saying…)

What are the implications of this statement or article? If I take this belief to scripture, does it match up with what it says? Do wise people around me who are walking with Jesus also think this to be true? Think about what you read and ask questions

Where was this posted? Is it on a website with editors and a solid belief statement where a piece has to be read over by others before it is posted? In other words, is this person accountable to anyone else besides themselves?

Why would they say this? They may genuinely believe what they are writing but it may be written out of emotion or to appease the masses of the followers they have.

In sum, let us be followers of Jesus who know our Bible well enough to identify a false statement when we see one. Let us be thinking Christians who read with discernment instead of just inhaling everything we see and calling it Gospel. Let the first thing we read in the morning be God’s words to us instead of someone else’s. This is vital to our culture and our nation so that we might live in His truth, which leads to freedom, instead of man’s, which leads to deception.

P.S. Here are a few quality blogs that have accountability and a Biblical worldview in their writings:

www.desiringgod.org

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/

http://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/articles/

**Also let’s not forget about books! Books have to go through hundreds of edits and many eyes see it before it gets into the hands of the public. It’s still important we check the credibility of the author and content, however, it is typically planned, researched and thought through before publication.

Keeper of the Time

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By Hannah Benac

In the days of mothering young children there is a rhythm not a schedule. I wish someone would have told me this when I had my first baby. There are tasks to be completed but no deadlines. There is unending need but no accolades for meeting those needs. Your time is in no way your own. This concept of managing time has been hands down one of the most challenging things about motherhood for me. More times than not, I finish the day feeling restless and like I accomplished nothing. This used to frustrate me and often still does…how is it possible that I never sat down once today yet when my husband comes home and asked how the day was I can barely name one thing that actually happened?

Right in the middle of this question of meaning…of wondering if my days matter… is when the words from scripture invade (if I will let them) and somehow began to make the mundane sacred.

 Deutoronomy 6:5-9 says 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

 Slowly but surely God has been faithful to shed light on how to foster healthy rhythms in my home so that He is glorified. I have heard these verses many times and have always been challenged to teach my kids about the Lord but have never thought about setting up our days to allow opportunities for teaching these principles to naturally occur. Do you notice verse 7? It specifically names a rhythm to the day but does not name a schedule or list of things to accomplish. “Talk about them (the commands of God) when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” If I had to put words to the days with toddlers that pretty much sums it up…waking, feeding, walking, driving, sleeping and repeat (plus throw in lots of wiping and tantruming).  However these verses don’t just describe my days at home, they add eternal value to them. The five short years before my children get in school are the years I have the most say over how we spend our days. I am the keeper of time in my household. Some may hear this and feel pressure to maximize every moment of the day. Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t say this to add pressure to your days but to add freedom. Freedom to not have your days fully scheduled from beginning to end but to structure them so it allows for plenty of time together to teach the ways of the Lord. This doesn’t mean sitting them down for an hour to teach a theology lesson, I’m simply saying we allow time enough to be present, to hear and answer our kids questions. I’m suggesting we take time to point out things that God made when we are outside or make time in disciplining to teach a principle of how God desires us to live. In other words, we live with a vision to see teachable moments and capture them for kingdom purposes, and most importantly to be available to listen without distraction. As the keeper of the time I have the opportunity to build strong relationships with my children, to foster their relationships with each other and most importantly to teach them the ways of the Lord. These are the things that are lasting and the things I need to protect.

Our days are hard but oh so valuable. Lets take moments today to look for opportunities to impress the ways of God on the hearts of our children and pray fervently that the result would be that they would love the Lord their God with all their heart. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14), He will be evident in our homes if we invite Him in.

CHRISTMAS RESOURCES

Christmas is the perfect time to take full advantage of pouring sweet truth into our littles. Plus there are some amazing resources out there to take advantage of so don’t reinvent the wheel (unless you really want to). I know there are so many more but here are some things our family has loved. P.S. Most of these we have received from my mom so a huge shout out to Grammy for keeping us up to date with the latest materials!

Favorite Children’s books: lane-christmas

The Christmas Promise by Alison Mitchell (This one’s my favorite!)

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

God gave us Christmas by Lisa-Tern-Bergren

The Jesus Storybook Bible- “He’s Here”

The Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt

Family Advent Guide by the Village Church:

http://www.thevillagechurch.net/mediafiles/uploaded/a/0e2647561_1386956127_advent-guide-2013.pdf

  • Advent is something both our families did growing up and a tradition we have continued with our own kids now. Its the perfect way to stop every Sunday and reflect on what this season really means as a family. These are easily some of my favorite moments together leading up to Christmas.

Music to Listen to:

‘Behold the Lamp of God’ by Andrew Peterson

  • If the Behold the Lamb concert is coming anywhere near you, drop everything and go see it…unbelievable
  • 100% recommend this CD- it gives an overview of all that happens in the Bible leading up to Jesus’ birth in the most creative way. I have a hard time listening to any other CDs at Christmas

DVDs:

Owlegories Volume 4: The Christmas Gift and The Star

  •  https://www.amazon.com/Owlegories-Vol-Christmas-Gift-Star/dp/B01LZMIESF/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1480737938&sr=1-2&keywords=owlegories+dvd

Veggie Tales: St. Nich

  • https://www.amazon.com/Veggie-Tales-St-Nich-Story/dp/B002FOFX6U
  • How we chose to approach Santa in our house is by telling our kids the true story of the saint he really was! He was a Christ follower who gave gifts to those in need on Christmas. This Veggie Tales CD helps explain that. Mostly we love to talk about how Santa remind us to be generous, not that he’s the magic man that will give us whatever we want.

Old Christmas Cartoons on Netflix or Amazon Prime

  • I’m talking about the old school Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph cartoons amongst others. We just watched some of these and although the animation is outdated, the messages are fun and mostly morally sound. I was shocked watching these at how packed with materialism our modern Kids Christmas movies are and I didn’t even realize it!

Activities: There are SO many great activities you can do with your kids so I’ll just give you a few:

The Kindness Tree

  • Cut out a Christmas Tree from construction paper and tape it on any wall or window at eye level for your kids
  • complete acts of kindness for family members, friends or people in the community
  • each time you do something kind write it on an ornament and tape it up. Work to fill your tree by Christmas
  • Here’s a couple of examples: fill a shoe box for operation Christmas child, make treats and cards for neighbors, challenge your kids to do something kind for someone at school that day and come home and tell you about it, write notes to daddy telling him how much you appreciate him working for our family, make bags for the homeless to put in the back of your car and hand out when there’s a need- the possibilities are endless!

Go see a Live Nativity

  • Especially for small children this is so significant for them to see with their own eyes. Usually there are churches in the area that will do these for free!

Act out the Christmas story

  • We do this every year when my whole family gets together and its hilarious and wonderful all at the same time. This is NOT fancy and we seriously prep like 5 minutes before. My dad narrates by reading the story of Jesus’ birth from a children’s Bible and we grab sheets and wrap them around the kids. We then help them through the story as it is read. From beginning to end it takes 20 minutes but it’s so much fun and really solidifies the story for your kids.

Christmas Lights

  • I think most people take their kids to see some sort of Christmas lights but take this one step further and tell them how lights at Christmas remind us that “Jesus is the light of the world”. It is in fact a tradition that was started when Christians put candles on their trees to remind their families of this message.

 

FILLED WITH HOPE

Image result for hopeBy Drew Benac

We are called to walk by faith and teach our family to do the same.  The Bible says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for being certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1).  Seems simple enough but what exactly does that mean? Pastor Jonathan Scott brings this thought to life as he connects the ideas of faith and hope in this statement:

Hope is having a faith filled focus on the future fulfillment of God’s promises.”

There are many times in the life when the future may seem uncertain. During these transitional times all we have to hold fast to is the promises of God and the assurance that God’s faithfulness in the past will stand true again today. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 reminds us of this truth, “The one who calls you is faithful, he will do it.” He will…I have experienced this time and again in my own life as God has taken care of our family each step of the way. It didn’t matter if we were moving across town, across the country or to the other side of the world.  It didn’t matter if we were changing jobs or leaving friends and family behind; he provided for our needs, for our family, for our marriage and for our kids.  “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13) God does not let his children go.  There are times when the uncertainty has been great and the risks substantial yet each time God provides, keeps his promises, expands his kingdom and makes much of his name.

Before we can lean on the promises of God we have to know what they are.  Spending time in the Bible and with other men or women who know and love the Lord is the best way to keep the truth of what God has promised in the forefront of our minds and on the tips of our tongue.  What is it that God might be calling you and your family to today?  Are you prepared to walk by faith, in hope and with love to meet those placed in your path?

Check out lyrics from Shane and Shane below that remind us of the hope we have in all things. 

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MAKING PLANS GOD’S WAY

By Drew Benac

In his heart a man plans his course, but it is the Lord who determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

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This has been so true in my life.  Hannah and I were talking at lunch the other day about how often our good plans have been replaced by God’s great ones.  Here are a few examples:

  • I had plans to be a college basketball star….instead I spent must of my career frustrated and on the bench.  I learned the truth about humility, the value of teamwork, and about the glory of God in all things.  Ultimately, my mediocre basketball career led my to my wife and to a career in medicine.
  • Now in medicine I had big plans to be an orthopedic surgeon.  I did research, networking…the whole nine yards.  That’s such a cool job, especially if you’re a dude. Currently, I am about to finish my training as a gynecologist.  Not so cool by most people’s standards.  Ultimately, my choice (or rather God’s choice) in medical specialty has allowed our family to impact families in our community and overseas that never would have been possible otherwise.
  • Currently our family is preparing to move. Following my training I had planned to take a job in a familiar Texas town….instead we are heading to an unfamiliar place where we will start all over…again…for the 8th time in 10 years.

God’s ways” truly are “higher than ours.” (Isaiah 55:9). Recently I have found Romans 8:28 to be especially true.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

It is imperative we do not forget that second to last word. It s His purposes that prevail…every time…for our good and for the glory of His name.  Lord I don’t know what you have next, but I know it’s gonna be good!

A Holy/Terrible Night

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By Drew Benac

“The Lord is with you…do not be afraid!” – Luke 1:28,30

We talk about a lot about the angels, shepherds and wise men this time of year.  We talk about the birth of Jesus, as we should, and the significance that his birth, death and resurrection bears on our lives.  We talk about Mary and Joseph and how there was no room for them in the inn but we seldom think about what that night was really like for Jesus’ parents.

Mary didn’t have her mom nearby, no one to hold her hand or help with the baby.  She was a first time mom, clueless and alone.  She had no doctor, no midwife, no bed, just a barn.  She was exhausted from travel, had been in the same clothes for days, and had likely had little to eat in the weeks leading up to her delivery, yet, it was these conditions that God chose for the birth of his Son.

For Joseph, the scene was no less frightening.  He had little money to his name, no place for his family to stay, was the subject of social scorn, and had no clue if his wife or his baby would make it through the night.  (Scholars believe maternal  and infant mortality in Jesus’ day was in the neighborhood of 20-30%).  The conditions that night were nothing short of terrible and I’m sure Mary and Joseph were terrified.  I would have been. Perhaps they were second guessing why the God of the universe would pick the two of them and such trying circumstances for the birth of the Savior?

The Lord is with you…do not be afraid!” These were the angel’s words 9 months earlier (Luke 1:28,30), and it was these nine words, and nothing more, that Mary and Joseph held onto tightly that night.  The Lord would have to be enough, there was no other way.  He would have to get them through.  For Mary, parenthood was a labor of love.  For Joseph it was a leap of faith. Life had not been easy for them and that wasn’t about to change.  The circumstances that night were especially difficult. But God was with them and his faithfulness and his provision were enough.   We can find great comfort in the lives of these two parents because our Savior, the one born that terrible yet holy night, is both unchanging and changed everything.  He will be faithful, he will provide, he will be enough and we can experience rest and peace as a result.  Regardless of the struggle or the sweetness that surrounds your life this Christmas season, regardless of how wonderful or wicked the current circumstances are I hope that you will not be afraid…the Lord is with you. That is why he came.

Post inspired by Andrew Peterson’s song “Labor of Love”. CLICK HERE to listen

 

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT TRIALS

By Drew Benac

 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 

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Sobering to think that Jesus spoke these words to Peter, a beloved disciple, and one of his closest friends.  Not even Simon Peter was immune to the trials and testing that God has promised to us all (Matthew 6:33). It is this doctrine of trails and our ability to willingly accept the circumstances God sends that will ultimately determine our ability to find and experience true rest this side of eternity.

Peter was all too familiar with  the reality of “various trials” (1 peter 1:6).  The words spoken above from Luke 22 come moments before Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, and ultimately the crucifixion of Christ.  This was only the beginning for Peter.  Amidst the birth of the early church due in large part to his vision and leadership came Peter’s imprisonment, numerous beatings and then his own death..upside down on cross in Rome.

Why did God’s son allow his good friend to suffer so greatly?  How could He allow you and I to suffer the way we do.  Cancer, death, financial distress, dejection, rejection, failure, hopelessness, despair…these words describe seasons of life for so, so many of us.  If our belief is in a God who is is all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present, how can this be?

Perhaps He allowed Peter to suffer because He was bigger than Peter’s circumstances.  Perhaps His plan and the big picture for our world and for Peter’s soul is more valuable than Peter’s comfort or happiness in any single, solitary moment.  Perhaps God knew that in Peter’s imprisonment, torture and death the Gospel would ring out like never before. Perhaps the Lord hoping to do the same with you and I. As a point of comparison, the Apostle Paul had similar way of thinking when he wrote, “My circumstances (imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks,etc) have turned out for the further progress of the gospel.”  Coincidence?  I think not.

Over time Peter realized what God was up to .  He grew to accept God’s sovereign plan and cherish the Lord’s presence regardless of his circumstances. Most importantly though, Peter remembered Jesus’ words from the Lord’s super in Luke 22, “I have prayed…that your faith may not fail.”  Peter knew that while it was the good Lord who allowed his trials (Satan must ask permission to test us remember) it is also our good God who sustains, provides, upholds and strengthens his children.  He does not let us go. No matter what.  John 10:28 reminds us of this, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” Yes God allows struggle and hardship but he is forever faithful.  As we are repeatedly reminded throughout the scriptures, he does so “for the sake of his name” (Psalms 100:6).  Or in the words of Isaiah, “I have refined you…I have tired you in the furnace of affliction. For my own name’s sake, I do it” (Isaiah 48:9-11)

Ultimately, the acceptance of God’s sovereign plan and unwavering belief in the promise of His presence led to great PEACE and REST in Peter’s life.  This is evident through the words in his writing:

Therefor let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful creator.” (1 Peter 4:19)

Humble yoursleves, therefor under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxieties on Him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Peter knew that his future was safe in the hands of a faithful God.  He could accept God’s provision and relinquish anxious living because he knew that God was mightier than whatever he was about to face that day.  Can you?