Friday, July 29, 2011

The Trip to the Psych Ward

Today Abby and I visited the psych ward.  One of my hospice patients, Darrell,*  had been transferred there last week.  Jeff was really wary about me taking Abby into the psych ward.  He had to relay a horrible story about a woman who yanked a baby out of a stroller, slammed him into a rail and tried to yank his arm off.  Thankfully the baby only suffered minor injuries.   I assured Jeff I would wear Abby in her carrier and wouldn't allow patients near her.  

I personally believe you are safest serving God where He has placed you.   If He has called you and your family to go into an inner city amongst drug addicts and street gangs, then you are safest serving Him there rather than holed up in a cabin in Montana.  The God who kept the fire from singeing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the God who shut the lion's mouths is still our same God today.  Now I do not believe in tempting God and purposely putting ourselves in harm's way just to test His power and our faith.

"And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your  God.'" Luke 4:12
Darrell has been a patient that I've really enjoyed getting to know.  We've visited at length about his military service, his career in the postal service and his love for his wife of 55 years.  I'm only a volunteer so I'm often not privy to medical information, but I surmise he was taken to the psych ward due to severe depression.  His one desire is to return home and his wife is just not able to care for him.  He cannot grasp this.  This one desire consumes him: he just wants to go home to be with the love of his life.  We've spoken about the Lord and I'm not certain what his spiritual condition is, although he considers himself to be a Christian.  I've reminded him that God has prepared a home for Him in heaven and that while he may never permanently return to his earthly home, the heavenly one is much better.  I've prayed with him and read scripture to him and each time I do, it brings him to tears.  He's mentioned that there's no medical cure for a "broken heart."  I try to remind him of the blessings he can be thankful for, but it's quite difficult for me as an untrained professional to deal with someone who is so depressed.  I don't want to say the wrong thing.  I know I can't "fix" him.  Only God can.

In a sermon regarding spiritual depression, John Piper comments: 

"On this side of the cross, we know the greatest ground for our hope: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and triumphant over death. So the main thing we must learn is to preach the gospel to ourselves:
Listen, self: If God is for you, who can be against you? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you, how will he not also with him graciously give you all things? Who shall bring any charge against you as God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for you. Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:31–35 paraphrased)"
So true. God's love for us remains unchanging no matter the circumstances. But this message is difficult to convey to hurting people who are wallowing in self-pity.  

*Name has been changed.

I'm linked up with:

Beholding Glory

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Loaded with His Benefits

"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation." Psalm 68:19
Will you try to think of the benefits which you have received, dear brother, dear sister? Turn them over now in your mind—the benefits that you have actually yourself received—not only read of, and heard of, and had promises of, but that you have received. Oh! the benefits of early education! Of being restrained from sin. Oh! the benefits of conviction! Of being enlightened and made to see the guilt of sin. Oh! the sweet benefit of being led to the Saviour! made to stand at the cross foot, where the blood speaks better things than that of Abel. Oh! the benefit of perfect pardon and of righteousness, which covers us and justifies in the sight of God! What an unspeakable benefit is regeneration! Who shall prize the benefit of adoption? Who is he that shall describe the benefit of daily education in the things of God—of preservation from falling into final, vital sin—of sanctification carried on from day to day? We have benefits that we know of, but we probably have ten times as many that we know not of. Some of them come in at the front door of the house; some of the richest of them seem to steal in at the back door. They are among the most precious bounties that fly in with so soft a wing that we hear them not when they come. Ye shall sooner count the hairs on your head, or the dust upon the sand beach, than you shall be able to estimate the number of His benefits.  - Spurgeon 

I am grateful for the blessing of my husband and little Abby. Abby turns nine-months-old tomorrow.  I've finally begun to share a little of her birth story.  It was an uneventful pregnancy followed by life-threatening complications post-birth.  Those details will follow in the near future.  Until then, here's the story of us learning God was blessing us with a child. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Heart Filled With Grace

I'd like to think I don't complain much.  I seem to accept the bigger challenges and disappointments in my life as I understand God's hand is behind them.  But I'm afraid I grumble too much about the stifling weather, the missing sock, the sticky spill, the noisy neighbors. 
A heart that is full of grace and goodness within will bear a great many strokes, and never make any noise, but if an empty heart is struck it will make a noise.  When some men and women are complaining so much, and always whining, it is a sign that there is an emptiness in their hearts.  If their hearts were filled with grace they would not make such a noise.
Source:  The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, pg. 77

"Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer."  I Corinthians 10:9-10

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Review: My First Hands-On Bible

My First Hands-On Bible contains 85 stories from the Bible using text from the New Living Translation.   Throughout the Bible there are small handprint icons notifying the parent or reader to stop and lead your child in the activity.  These activities help make the Bible come alive to them.  Each story ends with a prayer and a discussion question.  Two little cartoonish characters, Pockets, a kangaroo, and Cuddles, a lamb, have little comments they make regarding each story.   Each story also has an activity that reinforces the lesson found in it.  The Jesus Connection feature also points the child to Christ at the end of every story. 

I read a couple of stories to Abby (9 months) and she sat and listened to them.  This Bible is meant for preschoolers, ages 3-6 so the pages are not chew-proof.  I am not a big fan of the New Living Translation, but I found the version easy to read to a young child.  Using actual Bible verses is a plus as it would seem to help a child make the switch from a regular Bible storybook to an actual Bible.  This Bible does include the chapter and verse numbers, but it is an abridged Bible so it might be confusing for a child to follow along as a parent read from their NLT Bible. 

The activities included are relevant and fun.  They all seem to be very simple; a lot of pre-planning is not required.  
  • Activity Example:  Set up an obstacle course "Faith Walk" with pillows and chairs to teach your child about God keeping us safe when we put our faith in Him.  
  • Handprint Icons Example:  "Fringe is a stringy edge of a  piece of cloth.   Find a piece of cloth to touch."  
  • Jesus Connection Example:  "God prepared a place for the people of Israel.  Jesus is preparing a special place for us in heaven!"  I find this feature very helpful as it's sometimes difficult to explain to young children how Jesus can be found in the Old Testament too.    
  •  Prayer Example:  "Dear God, thank you for helping Esther be brave.  Please help us be brave and always do the right thing.  In Jesus' name, amen."
I do think the illustrations are very cartoonish.  I'm certain most kids would enjoy them in spite of a lack of serious detail.  The 85 stories included cover almost every major story in the Bible, 39 in the Old Testament and 46 in the New Testament. 

I would recommend this for parents and caregivers of preschoolers.  I plan on reading this with Abby in the next several years, in addition to several of her other Bible storybooks. 

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Project 64: Wisteria

Abby adores the pool and was a brave little soul when "daddy" took her down the water slide and water got in her face.   I must admit I wasn't too thrilled with this dangerous feat.  

Her expression isn't too happy here as she was so hot and I hadn't put her in the pool yet.  I think her swimsuit is a pretty good wisteria match.

For additional wisteria entries, visit Project 64. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Faith: Living Upon Things Unseen

Too often I'm irritated by the minor inconveniences:  the creaking floors, the messy diapers, the distance to the nearest mall, days that are humid and stifling, and the constant interruptions by little Abby.  In the midst of it, I wonder: When when all of this end?  When can I rest?  When can I feel I'm finally home?

And of course you know the answer as found in Hebrews 4:9-11.  We will rest when our work is completed.  Not here, but in the presence of God.  We're sojourners traveling to a Holy City, whose "whose builder and maker is God."   What I am given today is my ministry.  I must realize this, accept it and embrace it as such. 

Horatius Bonar in his book, Night of Weeping and Morning of Joy, says:
Shall the disquieting bustle of this restless life annoy us? Faith tells us of the rest that remaineth for the people of God—the sea of glass like unto crystal on which the ransomed saints shall stand—no tempest, no tumult, no shipwreck there. Shall the lack of this world’s honors move us? Faith tells us of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory in reserve. Have we no place to lay our head? Faith tells us that we have a home, though not in Caesar’s house, a dwelling, though not in any city of earth. Are we fearful as we look around upon the disorder and wretchedness of this misgoverned earth? Faith tells us that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Do thoughts of death alarm us? Faith tells us that “to die is gain,” and whispers to us, “What, are you afraid of becoming immortal, afraid of passing from this state of death, which men call life, to that which alone truly deserves the name!”

The Church is God's Farm

We have noticed a trend as we have listened to quite a number of pastors preach throughout the course of our search for a church home.  It seems most of the sermons consist of pastors lauding their personal accomplishments and recounting numerous personal anecdotes.  If this turns my stomach, how must it make our Savior feel?  And we are visiting the proverbial "cream of the crop."  We have avoided churches we know are definitely not Bible-centered and doctrinally sound.
"For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake." II Corinthians 4:5  
Matthew Henry comments that: "Self was not the matter nor the end of the apostles’ preaching: they did not give their own notions and private opinions, nor their passions and prejudices, for the word and will of God; nor did they seek themselves, to advance their own secular interest or glory. Their business was to make their Master known to the world as the Messiah, or the Christ of God, and as Jesus, the only Saviour of men, and as the rightful Lord, and to advance his honour and glory."  Source:  Commentary by Matthew Henry

As I was doing a bit of digging into II Corinthians 4:5 I came across this lovely gem by Spurgeon entitled Farm Labourers.  He uses I Corinthians 3:6-9 as his text.  Here is just a brief excerpt regarding man seeking to steal God's glory:
"This farm [the church] is, by choice, by purchase, by enclosure, by cultivation, by preservation, entirely the Lord's. See, then, the injustice of allowing any of the labourers to call even a part of the estate his own. . .  Shall insignificant nobodies rob God of his glory? Remember how Paul put it: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?" "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" The entire church belongs to him who has chosen it in his sovereignty, bought it with his blood, fenced it by his grace, cultivated it by his wisdom, and preserved it by his power."

Project 64: MacNCheese

Here is my entry for MacNCheese.  No red fire hydrants can be found here in Beloit.  I thought the orange color is a fairly close match for the MacNCheese color.  I've also included a shot of the lovely stained glass window found at St. Elizabeth's church in Kansas City. 

 Be sure and check out the other entries for this week's color at Project 64!

Congenital Compass Not Activated

Last week Abby and I made the long journey north to Iowa to visit family.  Flooding along the Missouri River forced me to take an alternate route.  I couldn't travel at maxed-out high speeds on interstate, but was forced to take mostly state and county roads.
In the middle of Nebraska, Jeff called to see how I was doing.  While I was on the phone with him I failed to realize the highway I was on went north, but I continued driving straight east.  After just a few miles I realized my error upon seeing the highway signs indicate I was no longer on 15 (or whatever highway I was supposed to be on).  I pulled over to look at a map and told Jeff what had happened.  I knew it was no big deal as I could just head north and intersect with the highway I was supposed to get on.

When I pulled over I happened to be at an intersection and the road was the highway number I needed to get on.  The sign didn't indicate which direction I was going, but I started off on it anyway.  Jeff asked if I were headed north.   "I don't know which direction I'm going," I told him.  "How do you not know which direction you're going?" he asked with some frustration and disappointment.  I'm so easily confused when traveling these "back roads."  They have curves and turns and I get turned around because my congenital compass has not been activated.  Apparently Jeff thinks there's some switch I can just flip and suddenly I will thereafter forever know which direction I'm going. 

I told him where the sun was and he informed me I was headed south.  Yes, I do know the sun goes down in the west and rises in the east, but it was nearly straight overhead at this time.  Regardless, with the help of my long-distance navigator I eventually headed north and reached my destination. 

The moral of this story?   Don't drive without your human or electronic GPS system.   I'm thankful God blessed me with a husband who has that inborn sense of direction. 

In life I don't want to rely on my fallible sense of direction, but on God's direction book:  His Word.  "Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end."  Psalm 119:33

How can I expect to know where God wants me be if I'm not studying His guidebook?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Should Christians Boycott the News?

How important is it for Christians to keep up with the news?  Should we stay abreast of what is happening on the world, national, state, and local level? Or should we boycott the news?

I realize there are Christians who have jobs that require them to be informed, but this is currently not my case. I find it disheartening to hear the gory details of sinful depraved man.  When I check a news website once or twice a day I learn enough from the headlines themselves; I don't need the information overload presented in the actual stories.  I don't have time to watch the news on TV and I don't miss it. 

  1. An overabundance of negative news leads to callousness.  I become a bit cynical when I'm inundated with generic bad news.  I would rather learn of the difficulties affecting individuals I know and keep them in my prayers.  
  2. All this negative news leads to a depressing outlook.  It begins to seem like the world is not a safe place to be and I should just purchase some bulletproof glass and never venture outside my house.  Instead I must realize God has a purpose for my life and it includes interacting with unbelievers and fellowshiping with a local church.
  3. I don't want my daughter being exposed to information she doesn't need.  We are born with depraved hearts so why would I purposely allow my daughter to learn of sinful details she just doesn't need to know?  I don't plan on insulating her completely, but there's no need to hasten her exposure to certain sinful practices. 

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.Philippians 4:8  Do the news channels we watch, the web sites we visit and the magazines we read violate this verse?  I have found it necessary to hide the news feeds of several friends on Facebook as I don't need to know certain details about them.  Ephesians 5:11-13 "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light." 

I know each person must follow God's leading when it comes to personal convictions.  I must say that I try to choose to be exposed to the Good News if I have a choice between it and listening to/watching what is happening in this fallen world. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Prayer Prompts

Abby and I just returned from a trip to Iowa to visit family.  I intended to update my blog while gone, but this obviously never happened.   We had a lovely visit in spite of the heat.

Last night I had eight hours of driving in order to get home.  Quite a long drive with a nearly nine month old in the back seat.  Abby slept the first couple of hours and then awakened to complain loudly about being trapped in her car seat.

I needed to focus on something so I decided to find prayer prompts as I was driving. Have you ever tried this?  As I was driving I searched for items to remind me of someone to pray for.  For example, a wind sock reminded me of a dear elderly friend who loved to fly in his younger days.  I prayed for his health and the spiritual condition of his children.  A pro-life sign reminded me to pray for the friends and family members who have lost babies and are struggling to bring a child into this world.  An item that was bright yellow reminded me of my late grandpa as this was his favorite color.  I then prayed for the health of my grandma who has been languishing in a nursing home for several years.  The hours quickly passed and eventually we arrived home.

What techniques do you use to help you pray more frequently?  

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.  Colossians 4:2

Today I'm linking up with:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: Why God Won't Go Away

The September 11th attacks birthed the New Atheism movement.  A select group of atheists believed 9/11 confirmed that  "religion was dangerous precisely because it was irrational, and when it failed to win arguments, it resorted to terror instead." (pg. XII)  "New Atheism" was a foreign term to me.   This term refers to those who advocate atheism and condemn religious beliefs and cultural respect for religion.  (pg. 4)  Former atheist, Alister McGrath traces the trajectory of New Atheism in this his latest work, Why God Won't Go Away:  Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? 

What is the book about?
The book is divided into three sections.  In the first section, Alister outlines the perspectives the four "representatives" of New Atheism offer in the books they published in recent years:  Sam Harris with The End of Faith (2004), Richard Dawkins with The God Delusion (2006), Daniel Dennett with Breaking the Spell (2006) and Christopher Hitchens with God is Not Great (2007).   As I have no desire to read books produced by atheists, I found this book quite insightful.    McGrath explains how the blogosphere has been a huge factor in perpetuating the spread of New Atheistic ideas.  Blogs and forums provide some semblance of anonymity therefore the vitriol, prejudice and hate can be rampant.  This is precisely what the New Atheists claim to hate in those who cling to religion.

In part two, Alister focuses on the three core themes of violence, reason and science.  He reveals the myriad of flaws found in the New Atheistic position.  "The New Atheism, in scapegoating God for the rational and moral failings of human beings, is hoping that nobody will notice the blatant incoherence in its own worldview.  Everything that's wrong with the world, it assures us, can be blamed on God.  But if God is an invention, a fictional character, then the blame has to be laid firmly and squarely at the door of God's human creators."  (pg. 91-92)  For the atheists, science and reason becomes their god.   Who needs God or religion, they argue.  McGrath notes efforts to quell religion have failed miserably.  Where true Christians have been persecuted, even martyred, faith as blossomed.  How can this be? 

In part three, McGrath asks "Where does the New Atheism go from here?"  He notes the downward spiral of the New Atheism.  "Atheist blogs now regularly feature agonized reflections on the failure of the movement to gain the intellectual high ground."  (pg. 136)  September 30, 2009 was declared to the the first  ever "Blasphemy Day" by the Center for Inquiry  This was a day set aside to "insult religions and religious people."  (pg. 138)  It sounds like a day to insult God.  The question these atheists need to ponder is not "What do you think of God?" but rather "What does God think of you?" 

Toward the end of the book, McGrath notes how "God can no more be eliminated from human life than our yearning for justice or our deep desire to makes this world a better place."  Well, I'm afraid making the world a better place is not on the forefront of everyone's mind.  He goes on to share an excellent quote by Augustine:  "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you."  (pg. 145)

What did I learn?
The new atheism is antitheist as they oppose any form of religious belief and practice (pg 36).  Their secondary focus is their belief that there is no God. (pg. 37)  During the height of the New Atheism movement only 4% of Americans called themselves atheists. (pg 41)  Could it be that most people pursue some form of religion since "from the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."  Romans 1:20

It was frightening to learn how bold and blatant those who hate God and Christians can be:
  • Sam Harris contends that religion generates violence and hatred thus it could be ethical to kill religious believers (pg. 10)
  • Dawkins believes that God is a virus of the mind (pg. 17)
  • Dennett asserts that religion should only be studied and evaluated by those whose minds are unclouded by an religious commitments (pg. 25)
  • Christopher Hitchens believes that people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction (pg. 26) 
Yet I must point out that the sins of these four men are not greater than my sins.  God's grace is sufficient to forgive the sins of Christopher Hitchens just as it was sufficient to forgive my sins.   Oh, that these men and all who consider themselves part of the new atheist movement might by regenerated and converted.  

The author
I must note that while the author considers himself a Christian and now believes in God, he provides no insight into a conversion experience.  He does note that "Christian institutions need repeatedly to call themselves back to reflect on the core ideas and values of Jesus." (pg. 70)  He does "concede that Christianity can generate violence." (pg. 72)   While I'm certain McGrath is lumping anyone who believes in God into the "Christian" category, I would disagree and say that anyone who is a true believer is not a violent individual.  They may be called to protect their country through the military or kill in self-defense, but a true converted follower of Jesus will be bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26),   As Christians we are not called to destroy and eradicate evil individuals.  Ephesians 6:12 states:  "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."  Also, note that McGrath makes it clear that he is not a creationist. 

In Conclusion
Man can never reason his way to God.  Convincing an atheist through eloquent arguments that there is a God will not convert Him.  The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is required.  This can only occur after an individual has grasped what the Gospel is.

I would recommend this book to those who have a desire to grasp a better understanding of atheists and to anyone interested in apologetics.  This is an informative book, but not necessarily one that will captivate and inspire you. The length is about right with just under 150 pages of material to read.  McGrath also includes a section for further study, extensive notes and an index.

Disclaimer: Thomas Nelson Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

From Water to Wine

I'm often saddened to see how people respond to loss of health, dependence on caregivers and grief.  Those who have no hope typically become bitter and angry at God.  Most of my hospice patients are in nursing homes.  Some resign themselves to their fate and realize they will never return to live in their earthly home.  Others fret and complain over their lot in life.

As I've noted before the Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is an excellent book.   I'm only getting a few pages read at a time, but it's a book one must digest slowly. 

Author Jeremiah Burroughs writes regarding contentment:  "It is not so much the removing of the affliction that is upon us as the changing of the affliction, the metamorphosing of the affliction, so that it is quite turned and changed into something else."  (pg. 49)  Burroughs continues this thought with:  "God has given a Christian such power that he can turn afflictions into mercies, can turn darkness into light.  If a man had the power that Christ had, when the water pots were filled, he could by a word turn the water into wine.  If you who have nothing but water to drink had the power to turn it into wine, then you might be contented; certainly a Christian has received this power from God, to work thus miraculously.  It is the nature of grace to turn water into wine, that is, to turn the water of your affliction, into the wine of heavenly consolation."  (pg. 50) 

Inspiring words from a man of God who lived hundreds of years before my time.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tiny Clenched Fists

Yesterday Abby and I visited our hospice patients at the hospital.  After the visit I walked over to the bird aviary so Abby could watch the birds.  She is just fascinated with them.  Typically other patients are nearby and our stop at the aviary can lead to conversations with them.  Abby is an excellent conversation starter.

Jean, one of the patients, stopped and admired Abby and we struck up a conversation.  She noted that Abby had her fists closed tight as her little head swiveled around watching birds and the people around us.  Jean mentioned that the "old-timers" used to say these clenched fists meant she would be a smart one.  "Oh?"  I responded as I had never this saying.  "She'll always hold tight to her money so she'll be rich someday,"  Jean explained.

At home I recounted this old wives' tale to Jeff with some amusement.  He commented that he hoped Abby wouldn't hold on to her money, but would be always be giving it to others.  His comment reminded me of my propensity toward stinginess.  I love any ministry where I can serve others.  I'm willing to give of my time and skills to help those in need, but I find it difficult to be giving when it comes to money.   I'm all for tithing and giving an offering above this, but I find it difficult to be a spontaneous giver.  I'm very frugal with my money and like to have that extra padding in savings just in case something might go wrong.   I realize these things are not wrong, but sometimes I begin to trust in our paltry savings to get us through the difficult times instead of relying on God's provision.  When God prompts me to give I shouldn't even consider how this affects our savings account, I should simply obey (no, I don't give money away without my husband's knowledge).    I don't want to have clenched fists when God tells me to open my hands to those in need.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so. Proverbs 3:27 

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,  and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  James 2:15-17

I'm linking up with

Beholding Glory

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Storm Clouds

On my way home from Salina I spotted a storm in the distance.  I pulled over at a rest stop to take a few pictures with my little point and shoot camera.  I love watching storms, especially at a distance.  God's power is amazing and reminds me how insignificant and helpless we truly are.  Technology is amazing yet man cannot create any shelter or building that is truly invincible. 

"The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way In the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet." Nahum 1:3

Monday, July 4, 2011

Contentment: A Sweet Inward Heart-thing

I'm slowly making my way through "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" by Jeremiah Burroughs.  This evening I was flipping back through the chapters to re-read some portions that really spoke to me.  This book was initially published in 1648, but it contains wonderful truths regarding contentment that I am attempting to learn and apply.

Psalm 62:5 says "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." (KJV)  Jeremiah notes that this could more correctly be translated "My soul, be thou silent unto God. Hold thy peace, Oh my soul."  He comments that: "Many may sit silently, refraining from discontented expressions, yet inwardly they are bursting with discontent.  This shows a complicated disorder and great perversity in their hearts.  And notwithstanding their outward silence, God hears the peevish fretful language of their souls.  A shoe may be smooth and neat outside, while inside it pinches the flesh.  Outwardly there may be great calmness and stillness, yet within amazing confusion, bitterness, disturbance and vexation."  (pg. 20)  

The words may be in the old English vernacular of bygone years, but the message is clear and convicting.  Contentment  is a sweet inward heart-thing.    It's source must be a godly heart that submits to God's sovereign will.  Burrough's apt definition of contentment is this: "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition." 

True contentment is not dependent on outward circumstances.  So am I genuinely content or quietly seething inside with that "fretful language of the soul"?

Today I'm joining

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Oh Church, Where Art Thou?

Another Sunday spent visiting a church and we both agreed that we don't really think it's the one.  (I've certainly prayed that God will give us both peace when we find the church home He wants us to be a part of)  We enjoyed the music and the people, but the preaching was . . . well, so-so.   Honestly, it was shallow. The pastor read about three verses total, not passages, verses.  It was very topical and very standard for the type of church we visited, but one can hope there might be a pastor who doesn't follow the status quo.  So are we just being too picky? 

I recently discovered an article written by a Steven Lawson entitled the "The God-Driven Church."   I don't know anything about Steven, but I thoroughly enjoyed his article.  When reading it, I was mentally "Amening" several of the point he made.  He divides modern day churches into several categories:  consumer driven, culture driven, needs driven, purpose driven, and of course, God driven.   His list of marks found in the model church include: 
  • Converted hearts
  • Changed Lives
  • Clear Convictions
  • Convicting Preaching
  • Christlike Walk
  • Courageous Commitment
  • Contagious Faith
  • Complete Repentance
  • Confident Hope
He ends by stating that "man can build a booming church, but only God can build a biblical church."   I encourage you to visit the link and read the article for yourself.

There is such a dearth of biblical churches.  And sadly, so few "Christians" who even care.  They show up on Sunday morning and perhaps also on Sunday evening, and then live the remainder of their week without any regard for their Father's will. Could it be many have never truly been converted?  Have the goats infiltrated the flocks of sheep?

A few years ago I stumbled across a man of God by the name of Paul Washer.  Here is a video clip of him discussing "Churches Using Carnal Means."  In it he states:  "If you use carnal means to attract men you’re going to attract carnal men and you’re going to have to keep using greater carnal means to keep them in the church. So, what has happened is this; we have these large churches filled with many unconverted carnal people, but in those churches we also have this small group of people that honestly want Christ and they honestly want his word and they honestly want to be transformed. They don’t need anything else all they need is true worship of the true God and scripture being preached to them and lived out before them. That’s what they want." Hear hear!

While we're not searching for the perfect church, we're not interested in a spectacular praise and worship teams, a lavish drama department, and lots of creative programs for the kids;  we just want to be fed. 

Later this evening I scoured the web again and found another promising church to visit.  Perhaps it will be the one for us.  I don't want a church merely for our own spiritual benefit.  I want one that God can use to stretch us and develop our spiritual gifts so that others might be blessed. 

I praise God for the freedom we have to attend church in this country!  At least we have the option of trying many churches before choosing one to become a part of. 

Project 64: Red

A drive through rural Kansas led us down a gravel road that turned into a sand-covered road that finally became dirt.  A couple of farm implements were parked on the edge of a recently harvested wheat field.  This truck was sitting there waiting to be photographed.

View more of the entries for this week at Project 64.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sunday's Hymn: God's Decrees

God's Decrees
by J. Ryland

based on Ecc. 3:1-8,17; Psalm 31:14-15

Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise;
All my times are in thy hand,
All events at thy command.

His decree who formed the earth
Fixed my first and second birth;
Parents, native place, and time,
All appointed were by him.

He that formed me in the womb,
He shall guide me to the tomb:
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by his wise decree.

Times of sickness; times of health;
Times of penury and wealth;
Times of trial and of grief;
Times of triumph and relief;

Times the tempter's power to prove;
Times to taste the Saviour's love;
All must come, and last, and end,
As shall please my heavenly Friend.

Plagues and deaths around me fly;
Till he bids, I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit. 

Selection taken from Gadsby's Hymns, a pamphlet printed by Chapel Library.  If you haven't discovered them, check them out.  They reprint wonderful articles and books produced by godly forefathers in addition to the quarterly Free Grace Broadcaster.  Excellent resource.

Oh, Beautiful for Spacious Skies

Last night a trip to a neighboring town for a patriotic concert ended sooner than expected.  We arrived late after grabbing supper at a drive-through and then the band only played for another 15 minutes.  How disappointing.  But on our drive home we saw God's handiwork in the skies. 

A decrepit limestone house.

Project 64: Goldenrod

My goldenrod submission features my collection of lemons.  Yes, they are fake ones.  They must remain packed away as Abby attempts to eat them if they are out. 

View more of the goldenrod entries at Project 64.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reaching for What I Want

Abby is eight months old.  She's crawling and cruising.  This presents daily challenges.  She loves to explore, as all babies do.  While her toys are strewn throughout the house, all within arm's reach, they aren't good enough.  She's always reaching for the items I don't want her to have.  Like the remote.  My phone.  A glass of sweet tea or coffee.  Important paper documents.  Electrical cords. She doesn't comprehend that when I move items out of her reach, it's for her own good.  I don't want her to injure herself or the item.  As I was watching her reach for items this morning I was reminded of the many times I've reached for possessions, jobs, relationships, and God continued to move them beyond my grasp.  At the time it's frustrating.  "I almost have it," I think and then it's unattainable. 

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"  Matthew 7:11 

God as our gracious Heavenly Father does not withhold good things from us.  It's that our definition of what is "good" and what He knows to be "good" differs.  He may provide us with the gift of cancer when all we wanted was our health.  He may give infertility when our desire was for a child.  He may wipe out our savings when we were preparing to retire.  In all of this God is good.  God's sovereign plan is accomplishing something beyond our comprehension.  Perhaps God is refining us or seeking to glorify His name.  It is not ours to know here on this earth. 

Am I willing to accept the desires He does not permit to be fulfilled and say "Not my will, but yours, Lord"?  Can I become so satisfied with Christ that in everything that occurs I can humbly state, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away [or withheld]; Blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 21:1
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