Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring Peepers





With spring comes a return to biking around Sheboygan County. My route often takes me through marshes and wetlands that, this time of year, resound with a chorus of frogs. Not a herpetologist by any stretch of the imagination, I can make out what I think are the steady high-pierced chirps of Spring Peepers, accompanied by the throaty harrumphs of Bull Frogs. I often stop to listen, and it's as if every molecule of air is filled to bursting in crescendo.

It's just another joy that God puts in our paths. In a time of year when we grouse over the weather or lament the rain, God has set His glory in an out-of-the-way place; a free concert for all to enjoy and to marvel once again at His creation. I hope you'll take the time to listen to the video clip I've posted here. I specifically picked one that doesn't offer much to see, but is high in audio quality. So sit back, close your eyes, and listen to the sound of spring!

"Faithfulness springs forth from the earth..." Psalm 85:11

"The year's at the spring,
The day's at the morn;
The morning's at seven;
The hillsides' dew-pearled;
The larks' on the wing;
The snails' on the thorn,
God's in his heaven;
All's right with the world." R. Browning

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wiping Out Malaria


Today's Wall Street Journal has an encouraging, hopeful and motivating piece on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Author Peter Chernin writes:

"How do we know this investment will work? Because we've already seen results beyond all expectations in some places in Africa. In the mid-2000s, Zanzibar blanketed the country with bed nets, attaining a 90% coverage rate, and provided its citizens with access to free, top-line medications. Together these efforts produced a 75% drop in malaria-related mortality in children under the age of five, and a 77% drop in malaria-related hospital admissions. In Rwanda, a national roll-out of top-line antimalarials and 2.4 million insecticide-treated bed nets resulted in a 66% decline in child deaths. It's worked in Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya and Ethiopia as well, all with financing from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Many Americans don't know about the Global Fund's important work. It is the world's largest financier of malaria programs, and more importantly it believes in all the things any good business should -- accountability, transparency, and a strong and continuous return on investment. It's a shining example of performance-based funding. We can be glad to know that our support for the Global Fund is done in partnership with other countries; for every dollar we Americans put into the Global Fund, the rest of the world contributes another two."

Read the entire article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124052884270250343.html#mod=djemEditorialPage

Peter Chernin is a member of the board of directors of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (http://www.theglobalfight.org/) and is chairman of Malaria No More (http://www.malarianomore.org/). He is also the president and chief operating officer of News Corporation.

"Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stanger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:34-40


Thursday, April 23, 2009

An Audience of One


This morning I read in the Book of Isaiah where an ailing Hezekiah was told by the prophet Isaiah that he would not recover from his sickness. Hezekiah, wrought with despair, says this prayer to God:

"Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in thy sight." Isaiah 38:3

To learn what happens as a result of Hezekiah's prayer, you'll have to read the rest yourself. What struck me here is the prayer. It made me think, what if I prayed for that? What if I prayed to live as if God were the only person I walked before? What if I put all my faith and 100%--not just a portion--of my heart before God and focused as much as possible on what is right in His sight alone?

Think of it this way: what if everybody around us was blind and deaf and the only person who could ever hear what we say, or read what we write, or see what we do, is God? What if we narrowed it down to, as a Christian song so aptly puts it, "an audience of One?" Because God does see and hear everything we do, say and think. It's just that, on our end, we often throw Him into the mix as being just one of many, or as not being around at all. We so easily get distracted and diverted from a faithfulness and total heart commitment to God. We forget that, when all is said and done, God--the only One who matters, observes it all.

This isn't about a guilt trip, or living in fear of a "big brother watching you" type of God. Jesus reconciles us to God through His death on the Cross. We will continue to sin even after accepting Him as Lord and Savior. God will not forsake us even when we fall short. But what if we tried not reacting and responding from the hip, and instead committed to looking to God first in order to "be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2).

To me, this is liberating, sobering and convicting all at once! No doubt I have my work cut out for me. I think I'll begin with prayer.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14

"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trustees, not Owners


On Sunday I witnessed a baby dedication at church. The mom and dad stood up front with the pastor, and the baby, given to this couple by God, was now dedicated--or given back--to God.

This ceremony reminded me of how, when I wasn't a Christian, I saw my kids as MY kids. Whether they failed or succeeded was a reflection on me. If they misbehaved, I worried people would judge me. If they didn't receive accolades for their artwork or play acting, I felt affronted. If they got praise from the teacher or won a special award, I felt pride in myself.

Sometime after becoming a Christian, I had an epiphany that changed everything. I can't retrace the steps or Bible verses or Godly witnesses that brought the epiphany about, but one day, it clicked: my kids are not my own! They are entrusted into my care by God Himself! Wow! I felt privileged and humbled at the same time; Privileged that God would trust me enough to raise two of His children, and humbled at the thought that I'd been doing it all backwards.

Realizing my kids are God's kids did several things: First, it made me immerse myself in God's Word so that I could parent the way God intended me to. Second, it took some of the pressure off. One day I heard a radio pastor discussing how even Adam and Eve disobeyed the only parent they had, God Himself! I realized that my sweet, thumb-sucking, stuffed-animal-loving, sandcastle-building children were sinners! And when they were naughty, they weren't doing it to personally attack mommy: they were acting out their sinful nature. Not that I could let that behavior off the hook! But I could now discipline objectively, because I understood the foundation for their misbehavior, and that it might not necessarily be tied to anything I did wrong as a mom (In situations where my parenting was/is to blame, God convicts and teaches through His Word where I--not my kids--need to change).

Dedication works for other relationships as well. When I was beginning to live the Christian life, I became frustrated that my husband Brad wasn't also coming into the fold. I was fearful that he never would. One afternoon, I sat down in the living room and just gave my husband to God. I told God I was washing my hands of the whole thing and that Brad was all His. And I meant it. I never un-dedicated my husband. I continued to focus on my own growth in Christ and to pray for my husband. It wasn't too long after that that he accepted Christ. It was as if God was saying, "Barb, I was just waiting for you to give up ownership of Brad."

Our parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, etc. are not ours. Who can we let go of and give, through prayer and obedience, to God? Who can we guide, not in ownership, but as a trustee of God?

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:13-16

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." Colossians 1:16

Friday, April 17, 2009

From Prison to Pulpit













Last night my husband and I had the pleasure of sitting with 550 other people at the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry Spring Banquet held at Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan. The guest speaker was Pastor Eric Earhart of Upper Room Assembly Church in Gatesville, NC.

Eric told the story of how he began using marijuana at age 12, and then, because his Dad was out of work, began stealing things like food for the family. His life quickly spun out of control through more serious stealing, vandalism, drinking, and finally, drug using and dealing. This went on and on, with numerous violent episodes involving other people, before he finally got caught in a drug deal and was sentenced to prison.

While out on bail and awaiting his sentence, Earhart had an opportunity to flee the country with his brother. But he didn't. Instead, one night, feeling total and complete despair, he dropped to his knees and cried out to God. He didn't ask God to let him off the hook, or to keep him from going to prison. He simply wanted God to turn his life around so that he could finally do something good in the world.

Eric served 4 years in prison. It was there that his faith blossomed. One thing led to another, and when he was released from prison, he immediately began doing outreach at a local church. That led to his becoming pastor at a new church plant, the Upper Room Assembly, where he is now. But that might never have happened if it were not for the Christian mentors who visited him in jail, guided him, studied the Bible with him, and were waiting for him when he got out. And that's what Good News Jail and Prison Ministry is all about: changing hearts from the inside.

What I'm writing here cannot do justice to Eric's testimony. At times during his presentation he trembled at the recollection of his dirty deeds. He stopped when it got difficult to speak and softly said "Thank you Jesus." His gratitude is overwhelming. His humility for what God has done in his life is sobering and genuine.

To watch an 8-minute video of Eric sharing a condensed version of his story, go to http://nothingstoohardforgod.org/forgiveness/

If you watch the video clip of his testimony, there is a button you can click at the bottom of the page that says "What Do I Do Now?" If you have not yet made a commitment to Christ, or aren't sure what that entails, this is a beautiful, plain-spoken explanation of what it means to become a Christian. I encourage you to share this with friends and family who might not yet be experiencing the joy of walking with the Lord.

For more information on Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, go to www.goodnewsjail.org.

The local ex-inmates that testified last night about Good News Jail and Prison Ministry repeatedly said that "prison ministry works." In the words of Eric, it allows inmates to see that they are slaves to sin and in need of Jesus to set them free. The same can be said for all of us.

"Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:6-7

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Come to Me...


I heard a pastor give his testimony on Good Friday and it is the kind of testimony I believe the world needs to hear more often.

The pastor told how he came to Christ, not as a result of an addiction or other dramatic event in his life, but as a normal, ordinary man. He had a job, a good income, a family and a solid marriage. He made the point that, in cases like his, coming to faith must bust through an immense self-sufficiency and independence. In his mind, he was quite able to take care of himself. His need for God was not readily apparent. But the day finally came when he did accept Christ, acknowledging that he, like all of us, are broken and in need of a Savior.

I love this testimony because, quite frankly, I don't hear it very much. How common, I wonder, is it to come to Christ this way? I also love it for the power of redemption it speaks to those who think they've got life and the future all squared away and nailed down. I've often thought that it is easier to carry the Gospel over miles of ocean and through corrupt governments and have people accept it than it is to break through the comfort of a 3,000 square foot house, dual five-figure incomes and German engineering parked in the heated garage. We all are broken and in need of a Savior. For some, it just appears to be more obvious than for others. But the need, on all fronts, is equal. This became patently clear to me as I recently walked through the Titanic exhibit: monetarily rich and poor alike; those in first class and in steerage, died together. Death shows no partiality.

And neither does Jesus. He will break through addictions. He will break through criminality. He will break through promiscuity. He will break through infirmity--all things through which people tend to more readily see their brokenness and need for Jesus. But Jesus will even break through the stronghold of self-pride that says, "My life is good. I don't have any need of a Savior." Jesus, as this pastor testified, can break through even that.

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:22-24




Sunday, April 12, 2009

He Reigns




"but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen." Acts 10:40

"The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice." Psalm 97:1

Friday, April 10, 2009

Amazing Love






"He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows,
and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised,
and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him,
and afflicted.
But he was pierced
for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace
was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:3-5

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Adam Lambert



















John Lennon, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Prince,
Peter Furler (Newsboys), Mac Powell (Third Day) and now Adam Lambert-- American Idol's reigning contestant. What these artists all have in common is something much greater than themselves. And that greatness is that they don't (or didn't in their lifetime) focus on their greatness, but on living out their art because they must.

The heartening thing about each of these artists is that it isn't about them. They have no choice but to do what they do because their art is in their heart, mind, body and soul. It's called performing, but for these artists, it's the very fabric of their being. It's no act.

What these guys possess is a drive that takes them so beyond themselves that they are able to connect with their audience time and time again, building a bridge between their emotions and ours. They've tapped into and are living out (or did live out) the very essence of who God made them to be. They may not have been or may not be people of faith. But God created them just the same. They aren't perfect, just as you and I aren't perfect. ("for all have sinned..." Romans 3:23) But Adam Lambert has joined a contingent of those living out (or who lived out in their lifetime) the very thing our Creator created us to live out: the gift He gave us to experience and share joy and be a witness to the glory of God (whether we believe in Him or not). And for the artists I've mentioned here, even though I don't know where all of them stand or ever stood in their faith, I see that they do understand one thing: they know to be humble with this gift.

Adam Lambert is a living example of someone completely in tune with God's anointed gift. For Adam, it's clear that to stop performing would be to stop breathing. It may be hard to believe, but each of us has that same kind of gift: it doesn't look anything like Adam's because no two gifts are the same. But every person has been given a gift for the purpose and call of God (again, whether we believe in Him or not). God wants so much for us to discover, develop and unselfishly use that gift.

Maybe watching Adam has motivated us to look to God to find and use ours.


"I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." 1 Corinthians 14:15


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Newsweek Headlines Deceiving


The April 13, 2009, Newsweek proclaims on its cover: "The Decline and Fall of Christian America," with the inside feature article titled "The End of Christian America." I checked the byline to make sure it wasn't written by Chicken Little himself.

The article, written by Jon Meacham, is, in actuality, more about Christianity at a crossroads and Christianity and the political order more than anything. In fact, very early in the article Meacham states, "Let's be clear: while the percentage of Christians may be shrinking, rumors of the death of Christianity are greatly exaggerated." Maybe he should re-think the title of his article then, if that's what he truly believes and the facts prove.

Meacham does do a good job of interviewing and including quotes from Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, throughout the article. Mohler, although sounding a bit hopeless in some places, takes a thoughtful stand for Christianity and boldly proclaims, in the last paragraph, "Jesus Christ promised that the very gates of Hell would not prevail against his church." You can read the entire Newsweek article at http://www.newsweek.com/id/192583/page/1

Another take on this story appears in today's Wall Street Journal. Written by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, the article looks at the founding of our country and how "betting against American religion has always proved to be a fool's game." They take a closer look at the new poll numbers and see something a bit different than the Newsweek folks: "A significant number of Americans are becoming more godly, not less so: The increase in the number of atheists is going hand in hand with ever more conservative Christians and Pentecostals."

Read the entire WSJ article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123906081768295037.html#mod=djemEditorialPage

"...on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Matthew 16:18

"Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood." Acts 20:28

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why Worry?

















The above photo is a picture of the grass I stood over this morning while I sipped my coffee. It's the same grass that should've been covered with three to six inches of snow: the very snow that people began buzzing about Friday night. I was on a field trip to Chicago over the weekend and frequent weather updates and text messages were coming in on various cell phones regarding the incoming storm, which was, as usual, now sounding a bit more like a blizzard than the three inches of your typical Wisconsin spring snow flurry! So when I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I had to laugh. It made me think how God is once again testing us to see where we're at on the worry meter. As my son put it, "All that worry to no avail."

But what about the big things in life: worrying about an addicted loved one, an impending divorce, a job loss, the car breaking down or our child getting hurt? What's going on when we worry about these things? Many people think that if they don't worry they are being cocky, smug or nonchalant. Some people think that to not worry is to not care. But that's a worldly perspective. From God's perspective, worry is absolutely worthless because it accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Instead, God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). One of the ways we can renew our minds is to replace worry with a trust in God. This is an intentional, active trust that is never uncaring or lazy. It was probably one of the most difficult things to do when I was a new Christian because I had not yet experienced the results of trusting in God. It's like going off the high dive the first time. We're terrified because we've never experienced the exhilaration and joy that comes with jumping off a high dive. But as soon as we do it, we're climbing the ladder to do it again.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” If we are a new Christian, we must not lean on our understanding of how we dealt with things in the past. And those of us who have walked with Christ for a long time must be careful not to trust God on a limited basis and only in certain situations. Trust is our only joy and hope in the midst of tragedy, misunderstanding, uncertainty and loss. Trust is what gets us through every time. Worry is a dead end.

We can worry and the snow may come—maybe even worse than predicted. Or we can worry and the snow doesn't come at all. And God asks, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:27; Luke 12:25)

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Zeitgeist Online Film


WorldNetDaily
reported last week on an internet film that's been promoting false teaching and leading some away from Christianity. The film is titled "Zeitgeist," a film WorldNetDaily says documents "the close ties between ancient pagan religions and today's Christianity" and which "is 'antichrist' in nature, destroying the faith of believers by combining some astonishing truth with plenty of error."

The WorldNetDaily article features a video of a portion of the film, in which author and narrator Peter Joseph says, "Let's examine the most recent of the solar Messiahs," Jesus Christ. To Joseph, Jesus is just one of "numerous other sun gods."

WorldNetDaily writes that Joseph's film "concludes Jesus of Nazareth is merely a fictional character, a combination of many fabled solar messiahs." Watch the clip and you'll see that this is indeed the claim being made.

But Richard Rives is providing excellent Truth to counter Joseph's claims. Doing what the Bible calls all believers to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Rives has tested everything that Joseph is falsly promoting as truth. To learn what, in fact, the Truth is, you can watch a video, also found in the WorldNetDaily article, that Rives has created to counter these claims. A link to Rives rebuttal website can also be accessed there.

Rives makes an excellent point in the article when he says "If [traditional] Christianity does not start telling the truth about the fact that many Christian traditions never had anything to do with Jesus, the antichrists will continue to claim a substantial victory."

What he's referring to is things like the fact that Jesus has nothing to do with December 25, and the false links that Christian theologians have promulgated regarding Easter and the supposed "three wise men." Read the Biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus and the wise men to find out the Truth and what it is that the Bible actually says (and doesn't say).

You can read the entire WorldNetDaily article, view the Joseph and Rives video clips, and access all of the resources at

http://wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=92903

This movie and accompanying Zeitgeist movement (Joseph is now taking his show on the road in the form of seminars) is just another reminder that we must always be fulfilling the call in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 which says, "Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil."

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." 1 Timothy 4:1-2

"If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing." 1 Timothy 6:3-4.

"Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene." 2 Timothy 2:16

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4