Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Beginnings

By Shelly Burke

“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

On this final day of 2013, what do you want to “remember not”?

·    Unkind words—said by you or to you
·         A broken relationship
·         Bad decisions
·         Persistent sins
·         Regrets

In these verses God assures us that He can do a “new thing” in us. My Bible study notes say that we should not forget the “former things” but instead focus on the future. We cannot (and should not) ignore the “things of old”—many, if not most of those things can teach us valuable lessons. However, we cannot perceive the “new thing” God is doing unless we change our focus to what is ahead.

No matter what you have done, God will forgive—all you have to do is ask. He removes our sin “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12).

And no matter what you are facing—an illness, financial stress, relationship troubles, a crisis of faith—even when there appears to be no possible path through it—God can “make a way in the wilderness.” He can do the seemingly impossible—like make a river in the dessert. Nothing is impossible with Him.

And most importantly remember that no matter how difficult the path, He is always, always with you (Matthew 28:20).

What “new thing” is God doing for you in 2014? 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

FREE 2014 Verse Card, "God's Promises to You" with gift subscription

A subscription to the "Nebraska Family Times" is the perfect gift for anyone who appreciates traditional values the old-fashioned way--in their mailbox! The mission of the "Nebraska Family Times" is "to inspire, encourage and motivate readers in their Christian walk." We cover local, state and national news from a Christian point of view, and every issue also includes devotional articles, Bible Study and much more! 

In the past year we've covered:
  • National news from a Christian point of view--including Miley Cyrus's behavior, the suicide of Arial Castro in prison (he was the man who held three women prisoners in his home for a decade), and the Boston Marathon bombing
  • Nebraska news--what the legislature did, what Common Core Educational Standards are and why they are damaging to kids; Nebraska is one of a handful of states who are fighting against adopting the standards
  • Local stories--Bruce Wall, the new director of Camp Luther in Schuyler, NE; Grace Knuth, a Lincoln resident, and her story of adopting a child with Down Syndrome from Bulgaria; Befriend Mentoring Program in Norfolk, Fremont and Columbus; the Global Passion Ministries-Nebraska team's fifth mission trip to Nicaragua coming up in February of 2014, and much more! 
A gift subscription to the "Nebraska Family Times" is perfect for anyone on your list including: 
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Give a gift of encouragement that will last all year! 

I will be at the Scotus Craft Botique in Columbus, NE, tomorrow! Stop by if you are there--I love to meet readers and if you don't receive the "Nebraska Family Times" pick up a free copy at the craft fair! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Warrior Open Golf Tournament

By Megan Phillips
Photos by Diana Swanson

United States military veterans, who have been seriously injured in combat since September 11th 2001, gathered in Irving, Texas in late September to participate in the Warrior Open Golf Tournament hosted by former President George W. Bush.  This was the third year of the annual tournament that is held to highlight the sacrifices and resiliency of veterans who have been wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The tournament kicked off with a practice round that was attended by professional golfers including Lee Trevino and Ryan Palmer.  The following two days showcased a 36-hole competition featuring veterans who have overcome devastating combat injuries like the loss of a limb, and others who are dealing with less-visible wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  These veterans have found that learning to play golf helped give them focus and positive challenges to conquer while recovering from their injuries.  They also shared the camaraderie and fellowship of other veterans who have had similar experiences. 

Wearing matching white caps and blue polo shirts emblazoned with the tournament logo, men who have faced enormous challenges since being wounded enjoyed competing as they mingled with their former Commander-in-Chief and completed two days of golf.  They supported each other as they played for a trophy that few could have imagined earning in the difficult days, weeks and months after suffering their injuries.  More than a few expressed some trepidation about teeing off in front of their famous host, who was always ready with good-natured teasing and encouragement.  Army Sergeant Timothy Gaestel made the first hole-in-one of his life during the first day of the competition.  “They’re willing to overcome serious injuries which is an inspiration not only to me, but should be an inspiration to everybody,” President Bush said. 

The purpose of the tournament was also to highlight various organizations that support veterans and their families.  Representatives from The Folds of Honor Foundation, which grants scholarships to children and spouses of disabled veterans, and The Fisher House, which provides temporary housing adjacent to military hospitals for families of the wounded, were among the organizations represented. 

In the end, the two-time champion of the tournament, Army Corporal Chad Pfeiffer pulled out another victory; he has now won each year since the Warrior Open’s inception in 2011.  All the more impressive, he did it in spite of losing his right leg below the knee, competing with the help of his prosthetic leg. 

Veterans Day is November 11th.  To find out how you can get involved in improving the lives of America’s veterans through national volunteer organizations, or to learn more about the Warrior Open Golf Tournament including video highlights and interviews with the warriors, you can visit the website:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Is Halloween Really that Significant?

by Albert Mohler

(This article appears in the November issue of the "Nebraska Family Times".)

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday.  Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

Well, Halloween is a big deal in the marketplace. Halloween is surpassed only by Christmas in terms of economic activity. According to David J. Skal, "Precise figures are difficult to determine, but the annual economic impact of Halloween is now somewhere between 4 billion and 6 billion dollars depending on the number and kinds of industries one includes in the calculations." 
Pagan Roots
The Halloween holiday is rooted in the Celtic festival of Samhain, which came at summer's end. Scholars dispute whether Samhain was celebrated as a festival of the dead, but the pagan roots of the festival are indisputable. 
How should Christians respond to this pagan background? Harold L. Myra of Christianity Today argues that these pagan roots were well known to Christians of the past. "More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits. Halloween's unsavory beginnings preceded Christ's birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking live evil spirits themselves." 
Thus, the custom of wearing costumes, especially costumes imitating evil spirits, is rooted in the Celtic pagan culture. As Myra summarizes, "Most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to the old pagan rites and superstitions." 

The Dark Side
The complications of Halloween go far beyond its pagan roots, however. In modern culture, Halloween has become not only a commercial holiday, but a season of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. Even as the society has pressed the limits on issues such as sexuality, the culture's confrontation with the "dark side" has also pushed far beyond boundaries honored in the past. 
 As Skal comments, "The Halloween machine turns the world upside down. One's identity can be discarded with impunity. Men dress as women, and vise versa. Authority can be mocked and circumvented, and, most important, graves open and the departed return." 
This fascination with the occult comes as America has been sliding into post-Christian secularism. While the courts remove all theistic references from America's public square, the void is being filled with a pervasive fascination with evil, paganism, and new forms of occultism.

For this reason, many families withdraw from the holiday completely. Some churches have organized alternative festivals, capitalizing on the holiday opportunity, but turning the event away from pagan roots and the fascination with evil spirits. For others, the holiday presents no special challenges at all. 
These Christians argue that the pagan roots of Halloween are no more significant than the pagan origins of Christmas and other church festivals. Without doubt, the church has progressively Christianized the calendar, seizing secular and pagan holidays as opportunities for Christian witness and celebration. Anderson M. Rearick III argues that Christians should not surrender the holiday. As he relates, "I am reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights of my childhood calendar to the Great Imposter and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his." 
Nevertheless, the issue is a bit more complicated than that. While affirming that make-believe and imagination are part and parcel of God's gift of imagination, Christians should still be very concerned about the focus of that imagination and creativity. Arguing against Halloween is not equivalent to arguing against Christmas. The old church festival of "All Hallow's Eve" is by no means as universally understood among Christians as the celebration of the incarnation at Christmas.

Making Decisions
Christian parents should make careful decisions based on a biblically-informed Christian conscience. Some Halloween practices are clearly out of bounds, others may be strategically transformed.
The coming of Halloween is a good time for Christians to remember that evil spirits are real and that the Devil will seize every opportunity to trumpet his own celebrity. Perhaps the best response to the Devil at Halloween is that offered by Martin Luther, the great Reformer: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him for he cannot bear scorn." 
On October 31, 1517 (what is now known as Reformation Day), Martin Luther began the Reformation with a declaration that the church must be recalled to the authority of God's Word and the purity of biblical doctrine. With this in mind, the best Christian response to Halloween might be to scorn the Devil and then pray for the Reformation of Christ's church on earth. Let's put the dark side on the defensive.

For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler go to www.albertmohler.com. Reprinted with permission. 
The "Nebraska Family Times" covers current events and issues on a national, state and local level, from a Christian point of view. We're online and in print! This article is representative of those you'll read in the "Nebraska Family Times" every month! For a FREE sample issue call (402) 750-3496 or e-mail shelly@shellyburke.net with the address to which you'd like your free issue sent. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Nebraska Family Forum Opposes Common Core for Nebraska's Children

(Editor’s Note: This article was edited, with permission from the Nebraska Family Forum blog. Please go to Nebraska Family Forum to read the complete article as well as information about other education policies in Nebraska.) 

Nebraska is one of a handful of states that has not yet adopted the Common Core State Standards. Our state has resisted efforts by the federal government to go along with these national standards, even though millions in federal dollars are being dangled as an incentive. However, the Nebraska Board of Education is now considering contracting themselves with the US Department of Education and adopting the Common Core. Here are the reasons the NFF opposes the Common Core:

What is Common Core?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of content standards at this time limited to English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. These standards, if adopted by a state, will replace existing state standards in these subject areas. There are other agreements the states make when they choose to adopt the Common Core State Standards including the new Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) that will be given twice yearly, and participation in the State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) which will store testing data along with private student specific data and share that data with other states, the Federal Government, and private interests.

What's wrong with Standards?

Nothing. Nebraska and every other state has standards, most of which are very similar, but Common Core State Standards were created by national non-governmental organizations in Washington DC with no public involvement.

Are Nebraska's students disadvantaged by not participating in CAT tests?

NO. Research on cognitive ability tests shows that adaptive tests, and paper-and-pencil tests lead to equivalent scores. Paper-and-pencil tests are also cheaper and the state has more control over the content of the tests and what they are designed to measure. It is nearly impossible for state leaders to provide oversight of CAT tests because no two students will see the same test, a grade-level test will have about 1600 possible questions, and it requires psychometrician professionals to interpret the results of such tests.

What information will they store in these data bases and why should I be concerned?

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the Common Core agenda is the data mining of our children's information outside of parental consent or knowledge. Stored in these data bases that were created as part of the "Race to the Top" grant program is highly personal student data such as social security number, health-care histories, learning disabilities, disciplinary action (from detentions for minor infractions to expulsions), attendance, homework completion, religious affiliations, and any educational or physiological data assessed through CAT. The NFF is concerned that if Nebraska adopts Common Core fully our children's personal and family information will have no protections under privacy laws.


There are a few simple facts about Common Core that make it a dangerous path for American education. (1) States who adopt Common Core lend their constitutional powers and responsibilities to oversee education in their states to the Federal government and move decision making over a child's education further from the hands of parents and communities. (2) There is no way to control the private interests who are highly involved with Common Core or to be certain they have our children's best interest at heart. (3) There is no way to be certain that very private data on our children and by extension our families won't be abused by the Federal Government or private interests with access to this data. And (4) There is NO evidence that further standardizing education and a new testing regime will result in better educations for our children.

Read more about education issues in Nebraska at www.nebraskafamilyforum.org

(This article appeared on the October issue of the "Nebraska Family Times." Our mission at the "Nebraska Family Times" is to "inspire, encourage and motivate you in your Christian walk." We cover national, state, and local issues from a Christian point of view--including issues regarding the education of our children. To receive a FREE issue of the "Nebraska Family Times" e-mail shelly@shellyburke.net or call (402) 750-3496.) 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nebraska Considering a Transgender Policy
By Al Riskowski

The Nebraska School Activities Association has announced that their board is considering a transgender policy that would allow students to participate in school sports without consideration of biological gender.
The board will consider the policy August 21 during its regular meeting.

“Placing the proposal on the August board agenda as an action item will eliminate any confusion on the transparency of the association or myself to formally address procedures for transgender participation within our board procedures,” Blanford-Green said in a news release.

Ironically, the policy, which originally had appeared on the NSAA’s website (but read the Transgender Policy here;  https://nsaahome.org/nsaaforms/pdf/transqa.pdf ), has been removed.

According to the original version of the policy, it would require students who want to participate in a sport with members of the gender opposite from their biological gender to prove their gender identity through the testimony of experts such as hormonal experts and psychologists.

Blanford-Green, executive director of NSAA, said she proposed the policy to the NSAA board because she wanted to establish an equity policy for transgender students before her appearance at a national conference on transgender student participation in sports.

If such a policy would be passed it would create an unfair advantage for transgender students, especially boys who ask to play against girls.

This type of policy can create so many difficulties for a public school in so many different ways, like locker room and restroom accommodation. It certainly seems parents should be involved in this type of decision that morally and economically affects schools and sports programs.

A policy of this type would also affect private and parochial schools because they compete against the public schools in various sports. For example, if a boy played for a girl volleyball or basketball team the home team would be required to accommodate in locker and restroom provisions. Schools would face difficult decisions on how to or if they should accommodate transgender student athletes and allowing boys and girls to share locker rooms and showers.

This issue is on the agenda for the August 21 meeting of the NSAA Board of Directors. It is not listed as an Action Item; it is listed as an item on the Executive Director Report. Thus, this proposal will be discussed at the August meeting but a vote on this policy may not be taken until possibly November.
The NSAA needs to hear from concerned Nebraska citizens who oppose the adoption of a transgender participation policy.
  1. Send an email to the directors. Copy the executive director and all board members in your email. For contact information go to www.nebfc.org
  2. Mail a letter to Rhonda Blanford-Green, Executive Director. Ask that she provide a copy to all board members. Mail to: NSAA Customer Service, P.O. Box 85448, Lincoln, NE 68501-5448
  3. Call NSAA customer service at 402-489-0386 and communicate your concern.

You can learn more about this issue by contacting Nebraska Family Council toll free at 1-888-777-3191 or go on our web site, www.nebfc.org.
Al Riskowski is Executive Director of the Nebraska Family Council. 
The Nebraska Family Times publishes articles to "inspire, encourage and motivate Christian readers." You can receive local, state and national news from a Christian point of view for only $20/year by subscribing! Send your payment via check to Nebraska Family Times, 209 27th St. Apt #13, Columbus, Nebraska, 68601 or to shelly@shellyburke.net via PayPal. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A to Z Blogging: T is for...Thoughts

By Shelly Burke, Editor

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Corin. 10:5

My thoughts, especially in the middle of the night, can take me to scary places. “What if I lose my jobs—both of them…can’t get another nursing job of any kind anywhere in the whole state (or country!)… and I eat alllllllllll of the food in my cupboards….still don’t have a job so get evicted…and my Envoy breaks down….so I have to have it towed down by the river so I can live in an Envoy, down by the river…?(Like whatever that song is, about “ living in a van, down by the river”).

Or, even darker…”What if I can’t get insurance when our COBRA runs out…and then I get cancer (I’ve had two friends diagnosed with breast cancer in the last few weeks)…and I’m all alone…and NONE of my friends will take me to ANY appointments…and anyway I’m living in my broken-down Envoy, down by the river…”

OK, in the bright light of day, and even during the night, I realize how ridiculous these thoughts are. For one thing I am blessed with many wonderful friends who would help me out, just as I would help them.  But I think everyone has had those dark and racing thoughts at some point—especially during a time of transition and in the dark of night.

I think the devil likes us to have these thoughts—he wants us to live in fear, both to take away our joy of living, and to make us doubt what we know about God, and the promises that God has given us.

What Paul is telling us here is that we have more than just ourselves—our flesh—to fight these thoughts. We do not have to do it alone! We have the divine power of the Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word, the Holy Bible, on our side, to dispute these thoughts. We can look to His word and destroy the thoughts that are contrary to what we know of God.  

And what does God’s word say about His character and His promises to us?

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
     Deuteronomy 31:6

“And He will give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”
Psalm 91:11

“Cast all your anxiety upon the Lord because He cares for you!”
1 Peter 5:7

Pray to be discerning, to be able to tell when your thoughts are going into those dark places. When dark thoughts enter your mind, take them captive. Compare them to what you know about God and about His Word. Claim His promises. Accept His peace.

For FREE verse cards of the above verses, e-mail your request to shelly@shellyburke.net. I’ll get the verse cards in the mail to you, to encourage you when those dark thoughts intrude on the peace that God wants you to have, in Him.  

Would you like to read articles to “encourage, inspire and motivate you in your Christian walk”  every month? Subscribe to the Nebraska Family Times and you’ll find local, Nebraska
and national news from a Christian point of view, as well as devotions, columns by
Nebraska and nationally-known Christian authors, and much more, in your mailbox every month!
A one-year, 12-issue subscription is only $20! See the
right sidebar on this page to order, or e-mail shelly@shellyburke.net for details.
Shelly is also the author of the book “Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom’s Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home. Click to find out more!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A to Z Blogging: Catching up: L, M, N, O, P, Q, R and S

by Shelly Burke, Editor

What’s that line about the “best laid plans of mice and men”? (After looking it up to make sure I got the quote right I realized the tragic ending of the book it came from, “Of Mice and Men.” Why do so many “classic” novels have sad/disturbing plotlines and endings? Guess that’s for another post.)

Anyway, I knew last week would be busy; it’s the week of the month that I gather all of the articles and other information needed to put out the next issue of the “Nebraska Family Times” newspaper (if you would like a FREE sample copy of the paper, please e-mail your request, along with your mailing address, to shelly@shellyburke.net. I promise I won’t put you on any other mailing lists! My goal with the articles in the “Nebraska Family Times” is to “inspire, encourage, and motivate you on your Christian walk.” We cover local as well as state and national news from a Christian point of view.)

The previous Saturday, when I usually get a start on the paper, I spent shooting guns—as a part of the Citizen’s Police Academy. The CPA is a 14 week class for civilians. During the time we learned about many of the different things that the police force as a whole, does. I’m planning to write an article about the Citizen’s Police Academy in the June issue of the “Nebraska Family Times.” It was a nice day to be outside—we haven’t had many “spring” days in Nebraska yet—and I learned a lot about firearms.

On Saturday afternoon we began setting up for a book signing for my friend Deb Burma’s new book “Stepping Out: to a Life on the Edge.” You can read more about her book on her blog, Fragrant Offerings and an excerpt a Stepping Out  . The book signing was Sunday afternoon and we had a great turnout! A lot of people put a lot of work into arranging the signing and it was nice to see things come together. Deb’s talk left people encouraged and her book will too. (I already read it when I did some editing and proofreading back in September, before she sent it to the publisher).

As well as putting the paper together and working on the book signing event I worked at my nursing job on Monday and Wednesday morning. I work at Columbus Surgery Center and we do cataract and other eye surgeries (OK, “we” don’t do the surgeries, the doctor does, but “we” –the nurses--get patients ready for surgery and care for them during and after surgery). I only started at the end of January but I really feel like I’m learning my jobs—and loving my jobs—and all of the people I work with (on Mondays I’m the circulating nurse in the operating room; I make sure patients are ready for surgery, take them to the operating room, help as needed with medications and supplies during surgery, and take them to the post-op area after surgery, and on Wednesdays I’m one of the pre-op nurses who gets patients ready for surgery).

On Tuesday I spent the entire morning in a police car! It was fun to post that as my status on FaceBook—I try to be a “good girl” so I think it shocked some people! I spent the morning in a police car as part of the CPA.

Being busy is not an excuse for getting behind on the A to Z Blogging—but as we all are, I’m doing the best I can! Here are my thoughts on the letters I missed:

L – I am loving my new job and thanking God for it!

M-Morals.  I had a great devotion, about morals, planned for the A to Z Challenge. It’s based on 1 Corinthians 15:33, which says, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” This is a good lesson for our kids—and for adults too. (I’m still planning to write the devotion!)

N-names in the Bible. It struck me last night how many are so strange—like Aristarchus, Agrippa, Lycia and Cauda (the last two are locations)—and how many are still used today, thousands of years later—like Paul, Rachel, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and right here in Nebraska—Syracuse!

O-Opportunities. I’m so thankful God has given me so many, with the “Nebraska Family Times,” writing, friends, job, etc. What opportunities are you thankful for today?

P-Citizens Police Academyone of the most interesting, most fun things I’ve done in a very long time. Many cities hold their own Citizen’s Police Academy—check it out in your city!

Q-I am so thankful for the quietness of the last few days…after some really busy days, and having a cold, I needed them!

R-I was going to blog on Resisting Sin for the blogging challenge. I’ll still write the devotion, but for now I’m going to share the verse it was going to be based on—James 4:7b “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Thankfully James also gives us some suggestions as to how we can do this—with God’s help. Immediately before this verse he says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God…” and right after he tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

S-is for the stuffy nose and cold I picked up last week! Thankfully it’s going away…but slowly…

Ecclesiastes tells us that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Eccles. 3:1). Last week, my time didn’t go as I had planned…so today is time for catch-up. Come back tomorrow when the letter for the day is “T”. On the “Nebraska Family Times” blog the devotion will be based on “thought” and on the “Home is Where the Mom Is” blog I’ll give you my thoughts about teaching your kids about “temptation” and what they can do about temptations in their lives.

God’s blessings to you today! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for…Knowledge

By Shelly Burke, Editor and Author, Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom's Guide

The Bible tells us that God’s knowledge is omniscient—He knows all things (Psalm 139), including the “secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21b) and “the thoughts of man” (Psalm 94:11) As the saying goes, “knowledge is power” (usually attributed to Sir Francis Bacon). I enjoy learning new things and frequently  check out books from the library that cover topics I know nothing about—like caving—or that explore in depth issues like lying, memory or the science behind cooking. There’s no end to the interesting things to learn in the world!

Our most valuable knowledge, however, comes from knowing God, His Word, and His will.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Prov. 9:10

In the context above, the word “fear” can be translated “standing in awe” or “reverence”. How can we be reverent of someone, or in awe, if we do not know them? Through Bible Study we learn “knowledge of the Holy One”, which provides insight as to how we should strive to live. Of course we will never be all knowing, as God is, but through the Bible we see that He is fair, just, compassionate, and so on. We also learn that He never compromises what is right, for what is “easy” or “popular.” As you read the Bible, consider marking or writing down passages that give you insight into the characteristics of God.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Phil. 1:9

Here Paul is speaking to the Philippians, telling them of his prayer that they will, among other things, have knowledge and discernment of what is pleasing to Christ. When we have knowledge of Christ we can discern what is pleasing to Him, what is excellent, and how we can live for Christ. Again, the Bible is our source of knowledge of just what that is.

Many people say that the Bible cannot be understood, that it’s just a story for people of long ago and doesn’t apply to our lives today. Study of the bible, however, will show you that it is clear about what is right and wrong, and the principles laid out in the Scriptures thousands of years ago do, indeed, apply today. (Some of the practices laid out in the Old Testament—sacrifices, for example-- do not apply to us today, but it is no mystery why not—the Bible clearly tells us that through Christ’s crucifixion He took away the need for those sacrifices.)

Rather than reading self-help books, which often mislead (even some so-called “Christian” books and Bible studies are not Biblically sound), I challenge you to spend time reading…your Bible. Consider a study Bible, which has notes that will clarify passages and give insight as to cultural practices and other factors and deepen your knowledge of Scriptures. Be sure to choose a literal translation (which
is a literal word-for-word translation from the languages it was written in, Hebrew and Greek). Tools like a Bible dictionary, maps and commentaries will give you additional knowledge.

Finally, ask God to give you the desire to read, study, and understand the Bible, so that you can gain the most valuable knowledge-- of Him and His Word.

Lord, please create in me the desire to read and study Your Word. I want to gain knowledge of You, so that I can live in a way that is pleasing to You. Please bless my study of Your Word. Give me insight and understanding. Amen.

I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is. Today’s post is also about “knowledge” specifically how to talk with your kids about the importance of knowledge and knowing God.

Would you like to read articles to “encourage, inspire and motivate you in your Christian walk”  every month? Subscribe to the Nebraska Family Times and you’ll find local, Nebraska
and national news from a Christian point of view, as well as devotions, columns by
Nebraska and nationally-known Christian authors, and much more, in your mailbox every month!
A one-year, 12-issue subscription is only $20! See the
right sidebar on this page to order, or e-mail shelly@shellyburke.net for details.
Shelly is also the author of the book “Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom’s Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home. Click to find out more! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for…Joy

By Shelly Burke, Editor, Nebraska Family Times and Author, Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom's Guide

I was trying to define “joy” (it’s one of those words that is hard to describe—to me at least) and finally decided to go to my Bible dictionary, which defines joy as the “State of delight and well being that results from knowing and serving God…the fruit of a right relation with God…not something people can create by their own efforts.”

The first thing that hit me was that I don’t have to—in fact, I cannot—create joy by my own efforts. This is good, because it would be pretty hard for me to create my own joy in the context of some of the events in my life and some of the Bible verses I found for this devotion.

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

I have wept during many nights, and I’ve been with friends who have wept during dark times of their lives. I could not have found joy in the morning in those situations and I think they would have said the same. Yet all of us, at some point, had a sense of well being or at least peace in the situation, and that could have only come from God. When we know God and are right with Him, we know that He has a purpose for everything that happens—even in terrible circumstances. We might not know or understand for many years, or we may not know until we get to heaven, but we have faith that there is a reason.

Jesus said, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22

In many cases the word “joy” is at the end of a verse that talks about sadness. How can we so quickly move from sorrow to joy? Again, this is something that we cannot do by our own efforts. In the verse above Jesus is talking about His death and resurrection.  I think God is reminding us that  even though we don’t always have “happy endings” here on earth, we can be sure that in heaven we will be with the Lord and all of the other believers we knew on earth.

Another part of this verse that I like is the end; “no one will take your joy from you.” Just as no human can create joy, no human can take it away. I can claim—and keep—my joy no matter what. This is part of the gift of a “right relation” with God. When I know Him through the Bible, church, and Bible class, when I communicate with Him through prayer, and seek to do His will, I will have a right relationship with Him and the joy that is a result of that relationship.

Thankfully we do not have to be perfect in our relationship with God; He forgives us through His grace—and He takes joy in doing so! “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor the fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

Here, Habakkuk is warning readers that Judah’s faith would be tested—but he is convinced that they can rejoice despite circumstances. I think we could all make this verse our own, substituting the negative events in our lives for what Judah would face. Though we face broken relationships, troubled children, financial problems, illness and disease, vehicle breakdowns, and more, we can still “take joy in the God of {our} salvation.”

Thank You so much, Lord, for the joy you give me in spite of circumstances. Amen.

Would you like to read articles to “encourage, inspire and motivate you in your Christian walk”  every month? Subscribe to the Nebraska Family Times and you’ll find local, Nebraska
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"Stepping Out: To a life on the edge" Book Signing Event

I'm so happy to announce the publication of my good friend Deb Burma's new book, "Stepping Out: To a life on the edge"! I was blessed to read it as she was editing it this fall and it is a wonderful, encouraging book! She shares so well how we can "step out", with God's strength, to serve Him in whatever He has in mind for us. 

Please join us: 

This coming Sunday, April 14th, at
Peace Lutheran Church, 2720 28th Street, Columbus, NE

2:00-2:30 PM, special "Stepping Out" message from Deb
2:30-4:00 (or later!) refreshments and book signing!
Bring a friend! 

Books will be available for the special price of only $12 for this event only.

Deb's other books, "Treasured," "Beautiful Feet," and "Chocolate Life" 
will also be available. 
For more information, call Shelly at (402) 750-3496

(if you are unable to attend, you can check out the books at www.cph.org)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for…Instruction

By Shelly Burke, Editor and Author of Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom's Guide 

Do you ever wonder why the narratives in the Old Testament were recorded to be read now,  thousands of years later? (Our pastor pointed out that calling them “stories” can imply that they’re fiction; in our denomination we believe that all of the events recorded in the Bible took place as written.)

What is the relevance today of the book of Judges? Or the Psalms? Or even the record of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years? What about Nehemiah, and the minor Prophets?

Romans 15:4 tells us, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4. This verse refers specifically to Psalm 69, quoted in the verse previous to this one. But we know that every word of Scripture—Old Testament and New—is God’s Word to us, and therefore of value to us today.

I think about the twisted family narratives in Genesis. Cain and Able. Sari and Abram (later Sarah and Abraham) trying to force God’s promise of a child, by bringing Hagar into the picture. Esau selling his birthright for a plate of food and Jacob deceiving his father and receiving his father’s blessing. Laban deceiving Jacob and forcing Jacob to work for 14 years to get the woman he loved. Dinah being defiled and Jacob’s son’s killing and plundering for revenge. Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.

Why are these recorded? I think for several reasons; one, to reassure us that dysfunction as a result of sin has been part of the world since Adam and Eve first sinned.  As well as reassurance that we are not alone if we live in a dysfunctional family, the narratives also serve as a warning and show that there are consequences, sometimes severe, of not following God’s will and instructions.  

Many of God’s people in the Old Testament are great examples for us: Noah’s faith was demonstrated when he built the ark. Abraham’s faith shown by his willingness to sacrifice his son.  Joseph kept his values and during his years in slavery, which  resulted in Joseph being able to save his family years later during a famine.

And that is all in Genesis!

Exodus gives us the Ten Commandments,  applicable to our lives today.

Judges shows us the pattern of the people trusting in man rather than God…turning from God to idols…being suppressed by different people…turning back to God…asking for forgiveness…and repeating the cycle.

Nehemiah teaches us lessons about priorities and focus. (Click here to read "Lessons from Nehemiah" one of my posts from the A to Z Blogging Challenge last year.)

The book of Esther contains one of my favorite verses in the Bible: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)  Esther is also a wonderful example of the “bad guy” getting what he deserves.

What about the poetry of the Psalms? How can we use that today? When I was going through probably the most difficult time in my life, I could not focus enough to read anything but Psalms. Every day I found a Psalm that expressed what I felt and reassured me of God’s love for me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found comfort in that book.

Proverbs offers us wisdom for many “real life” situations.  

A large part of the Old Testament is prophecy of what will happen either in the New Testament or later, or is yet to happen.

There are difficult verses, chapters, and books in the Old Testament, but there are always examples of God’s love and forgiveness for those who are truly repentant, and His promise of a Savior Who will save each and every one of us if we accept His gift.

I encourage you to read the Old Testament. It is fascinating—mysteries, drama, history, sex, violence, faith, forgiveness, and evidence of God’s hand. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathes out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Would you like to read articles to “encourage, inspire and motivate you in your Christian walk”  every month? Subscribe to the Nebraska Family Times and you’ll find local, Nebraska
and national news from a Christian point of view, as well as devotions, columns by
Nebraska and nationally-known Christian authors, and much more, in your mailbox every month!
A one-year, 12-issue subscription is only $20! See the
right sidebar on this page to order, or e-mail shelly@shellyburke.net for details.
Shelly is also the author of the book “Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom’s Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home. Click to find out more! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for…Hope
by Shelly Burke, Editor and Publisher 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

What are you hoping for today?

Enough rain to break the drought? A new job? A way out of financial troubles? A relationship repaired? A new home? A new baby? A disease cured?

Paul’s letter to the Romans tells them (and us) to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) How can we rejoice, when our hope is that a hopeless situation won’t turn out in the way it seems destined to? How can we be patient when our world seems to be falling apart around us? For me, being “constant in prayer” is easy when I’m struggling. Thankfully God doesn’t require fancy phrases or the “right” words—I can just plead, “Lord, help me endure this! Show me what to do! Be with me!”

We can rejoice in hope because of what Psalm 39:7 says: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Our hope is not in earthly things like money, or banks, or a new job, or a relationship, or even an earthly cure for a terminal illness. Our hope is in the Lord, and in the gift that He has given believers, of eternal life. We can rejoice in hope because we know that even if our hope is not realized here on earth, it will be in heaven.

Many times our hopes will be fulfilled here on earth. God answers our prayers, often in ways we do not expect, in ways that seem to be impossible. We thank Him for those times.

While we are in that time of waiting to see how our prayers will be answered, we can pray that God will fill us with joy and peace in believing in Him, and that through the Holy Spirit we will continue to have hope.

Lord, you know what I am hoping for today. I do not know what Your will is regarding this situation, although I pray that you will answer my prayers. While I wait, please enable me to rejoice, to be patient, and to fill me with joy and peace. Amen.

Would you like to read articles to “encourage, inspire and motivate you in  your Christian walk”  every month? Subscribe to the Nebraska Family Times and you’ll find local, Nebraska
and national news from a Christian point of view, as well as devotions, columns by
Nebraska and nationally-known Christian authors, and much more, in your mailbox every month!
A one-year, 12-issue subscription is only $20! See the
right sidebar on this page to order, or e-mail shelly@shellyburke.net for details.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for…Gift

by Shelly Burke, Editor and Publisher 

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…”
1 Peter 4:10

(Google Images)
God has given each of us unique gifts. Every one of us has something to offer.  

Paul told the Corinthians, and by extension, us, that as there are many parts of a human body that must work together to make it function, so are we all part of the body of Christ and all necessary for it to function.

What is your gift? What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at doing? Do you feel like if you find a task “fun” it’s probably not what God wants you to do? God loves you—don’t you think He would give you a gift of doing something you enjoy? Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 tells us that “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” While we know that what we do here on earth will never bring us complete fulfillment, God does want us to use and enjoy the gifts He has given us.

No matter your age or physical ability, you are a part of the Body of Christ and therefore have a purpose. I saw this last year when our church hosted its annual salad luncheon. Several of our members are elderly and don’t like to be out and about; they offered to make phone calls from their homes. One lady gets around with the help of a walker and can’t stand for more than a few minutes. She offered to take money at the door; she sat at a table to do so. One lady has painful arthritis; she volunteered to wash dishes as the hot water eased her pain. Those who enjoy cooking made several salads; those with good organizational skills oversaw the whole event.

You, too, have a gift to share, not only in church work but in your work, in your family, in your community. I enjoy writing and don’t mind talking in front of people, so I occasionally write blurbs for the bulletin about upcoming events, and talk to Bible Study groups about them. I enjoy teaching so volunteered to present new things to the nurses at work.

A friend of mine is great on the computer, so she creates posters for events. I know several people who are shy in large groups but great in small groups, especially brainstorming about new ideas. Another friend remembers the details of everyone’s lives and asks about the new grandbaby, or how college classes are going, or how tests turned out.

To figure out what your gift is, just ask yourself what you enjoy doing, and what you are good at. Pray for God to show you your gift, and how He wants you to use it. Every gift can be used in some way. If you feel your gift is minimal, remember that Jesus served others by washing their feet. Even the least-seeming gifts are important and useful.

If you’re asked to be part of an organization or help with an event, consider saying “yes” even if it’s something you’ve never done and don’t know if you’ll enjoy. You might discover a new talent!

On the other hand, if you’re asked to do something for which you don’t have a gift, it’s ok to say “no.” While I enjoy teaching adults, I’m not good at teaching children. When asked to teach Sunday School I simply replied that that was not one of my gifts, and offered to bring snacks instead.

Remember—God wants you to enjoy your life here on earth. Honor Him by determining what your gift is and how you can use it for Him.

Lord, thank You for the gifts You have given to me. Please show me how You want me to use them.  Amen. 

Would you like to read articles to “encourage, inspire and motivate you in  your Christian walk”  every month? Subscribe to the Nebraska Family Times and you’ll find local, Nebraska
and national news from a Christian point of view, as well as devotions, columns by
Nebraska and nationally-known Christian authors, and much more, in your mailbox every month!
A one-year, 12-issue subscription is only $20! See the
right sidebar on this page to order, or e-mail shelly@shellyburke.net for details.