Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year 2011

My son had a friend over the other day, and I was reading a newspaper article to them out loud about New Year’s resolutions. My son’s friend said, “New Year’s resolutions don’t even work, do they?”

"No," I said. "January first is just a date. If it didn't work to try to change on July 15th, it isn't going to work to try to change on January 1st!"

We all agreed that, unless one becomes born again in Jesus Christ on January 1st, personal regeneration isn’t going to take place simply because one wills it on the first of the year.

For those of us who are already walking with Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the new year is like any other time of the year: a time to be renewing our hearts and minds in the Lord Jesus Christ, looking to Him each day to learn what He has to teach us. We come to Him and His Word in prayer and with a willingness to be made new each and every day through His conviction and grace. Praise be to God our Father that we walk in the newness of Christ 365 days of the year!

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4

Friday, December 24, 2010

Silent Night

Merry Christmas!

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2:8-11

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feeling "Home Alone" this Christmas?

Probably one of the best scenes in a movie ever!

If you're feeling any of the emotions this clip stirs up, and haven't yet given Jesus a chance to address those issues, a church is a great place to find yourself this Christmas. Of course, Jesus can be sought out anywhere. But if you're finding, once again, that the parties, festive food, alcohol, beribboned presents, Christmas bonuses, etc. etc. just aren't filling the void like you anticipated, then maybe it's time to mark Christmas by finding Christ in the holiness of a chapel. Don't worry about being a stranger or not fitting in or any other excuse people use to justify their absence from the gathered body of Christ. After all, the first order of business to settle when it comes to church attendance is to realize that it isn't about you or me. It's about God, His Holy Spirit and His Son, Jesus Christ.

I pray the redeeming love of Christ, who alone reconciles us to God and each other, will be received into each heart this Christmas.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" John 8:12

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another..." 1 John 1:7

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Carol of the Bells

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" Romans 10:14-15

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's Never Too Late...

This clip from "A Christmas Carol" to me depicts the victory we have in Jesus Christ.

It is never, I repeat never too late to allow God to finish the good work He began when He formed us in our mother's womb. It's never too late to start to become the person God desires us to be.

The fictional Scrooge does it by allowing a contrite heart to "bring him to his senses." Real-life human beings do it by allowing Christ to bring down the wall of pride (built brick by brick for many years), so that our contrite hearts are laid bare before Him with no place left to hide. Jesus Christ offers Himself as our "new sense," if you will; our new hope, new attitude, new conviction, new approach, new love and our new heart within us. As He promises in His Word, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."
2 Corinthians 5:17-21, 6:1-2

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Gift of Salvation

This Friday many people will once again enter the frenzy of materialism and validate spending time and money on what they see as expressions of love. Many will be unpleasant and impatient as they purchase these tokens of love (if a $2,000 big screen TV or mounds of presents under the tree can be seen as a token). Many will leave their children on one of the rare days they could spend together--without the distractions of work, school, sports practices and music lessons--to shop for presents to give in the name of a folk hero named Santa Claus. Many will stress the family finances to "buy memories" for their kids.

Lest one think I am setting myself up as better than that, I myself have played this game, even, one Christmas, receiving a "token" of love in the form of a motorcycle from my husband. So I personally understand and have not been exempt from over-the-top, present-focused, Santa-obsessed Christmas gift giving (I no longer have the motorcycle).

As my husband and I grow in our faith, our idea of giving gifts in the name of love has changed dramatically because our understanding of what love is has changed dramatically. Until we understood and became the recipients of God's love for us through Jesus, we had no clue as to what a real gift is or what real love is. We had no understanding of the meaning and purpose of Christmas (lest people reading this think I'm saying that God only loves some people--NO--God loves all of us. But not all people accept that love. They reject it and in rebellion go their own way, not being able to experience the love of God because they've chosen not to.)

So as I ponder my gift-giving this year, I'm thinking about the greatest gift I ever received--Salvation and New Life in Jesus Christ--and I'm trying to find resources God can use to bring that gift to others. The following message by Pastor Alistair Begg is one of the gifts some of the people in my life will be receiving this Christmas, along with my prayers that God will bless their hearts, minds and souls with the desire to know Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

You can listen to the message here:

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gettysburg Address

On this day in history:

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" Isaiah 58:6

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand

Laura Hillenbrand, author of "Seabiscuit," has written another book, this time about an Olympic athlete and World War II hero. The subject of the book, 93-year-old Louis Zamperini, is a born-again Christian. An article in the Friday, November 12, Wall Street Journal explains his conversion, which came about following his return to the United States after enduring 25 months in various Japanese POW camps:

“Although Mr. Zamperini came back to California in one piece, he was emotionally ruined. At night, his demons descended in the form of vengeful dreams about Mr. Watanabe. He drank heavily. He nearly destroyed his marriage. In 1949, at the urging of his wife, Cynthia, Mr. Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where he became a Christian. (The conversion of the war hero helped put the young evangelist on the map.) Ultimately Mr. Zamperini forgave his tormentors and enjoyed a successful career running a center for troubled youth. He even reached out to Mr. Watanabe. ‘As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment,’ Mr. Zamperini wrote his former guard in the 1990’s, ‘my post-war life became a nightmare—but thanks to a confrontation with God…I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you.’” Steve Oney, writing in The Wall Street Journal

The Mr. Watanabe mentioned above was a guard in one of the POW camps who incessantly punished and humiliated Mr. Zamperini, and who was ranked seventh, according to The Wall Street Journal, among Japan’s most wanted war criminals.

To read Steve Oney’s full review of Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” go to

Needless to say, I’ll be reading “Unbroken,” an incredible testimony to the new life available in Christ.

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Monday, November 15, 2010

Foolish Chatter

Last week, my son and I visited a Bible college that my son is interested in attending after high school. While there, we sat in on a Freshman Spanish class. The professor explained how, in America, we talk casually and don’t really think a whole lot about what we say or how we say it. However, in the Hispanic culture, according to the professor, speaking is much more formal and not nearly as cavalier. In short, they just don’t whip out responses. They think before they speak, and they speak much more succinctly.
In the days since our visit, I’ve been thinking about what the professor said. His illustration has motivated me to curb my own talkiness, for lack of a better term. For instance, I’d like to stop speaking off-the-cuff and thinking out loud. I’d like to consider first and verbalize last, if at all. And it's not so much about putting my foot in my mouth, although that does occur with regular frequency. It’s that I often make mindless comments or contribute my two cents worth where it isn’t needed, which aggravates situations, clutters conversations or results in gossip.
The Bible makes it clear that we will be held accountable for every word we say—every single word (Matthew 12:36-37). So doesn’t it make sense to hold our tongue more? It surely pleases God and I’m sure will please others when we talk less, observe more and realize that not everything requires our instant perceptions and running commentary. And then when we do finally speak, perhaps we’ll actually have something to say.

copyright Barb Harwood

“He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.” Proverbs 10:10
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” 2 Timothy 2:16

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Going Forward Under God

Yesterday, as I voted and watched the election results, I wondered if America is perhaps at a point in time where the newly elected politicians and the people already in office are finally ready to sit down and act like the grown-ups they are and do the work they are elected to do (while checking their egos, party, vendettas, power-plays and future election goals at the door). I'm praying they will govern in humbleness and an attitude of being teachable. And I’m praying that the Christians in office will seize this opportunity to be the salt and light we so desperately need in the leading of this country.

I believe the words of two of the founding fathers below provide excellent wisdom on how politicians and citizens alike can best proceed:

James Madison:
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]

Benjamin Franklin: | Portrait of Ben Franklin 
“God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787 | original manuscript of this speech

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Early Public University Profs Prayed

This is from the October 23-24, 2010,
Wall Street Journal:

"The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which formally opened in January 1795 with a single professor, Rev. David Ker, was the country's first public university to admit students. One of the duties of the school's early professors was to perform morning and evening prayers and examine students on the 'principles of morality and religion.' By the end of June, 41 students had enrolled."

Now that's Higher education!

Regrettably, our public universities no longer petition God's assistance or rely on His wisdom in setting parameters for moral behavior, which leaves public universities sorely man-centered, falsely liberated and secularly narrow-minded. They've exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25).

"Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith." 1 Timothy 6:20-21

"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

"My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:1-6

Friday, October 22, 2010

Consistent With God

One of the things that is making life easier is my recent decision to assign God to be the only one I answer to, as opposed to myself or the person I’m talking to. With tendencies toward amiableness (which I like to call being a chameleon), I can easily agree with the reasoning or opinions of those around me. So if I’m with A, their way of seeing things might make sense, and then if I’m with B, their reasoning might make sense. Now, this might not seem like such a bad thing. Oftentimes, the world likes to call this being “open minded” or a “peacemaker.” But there’s a saying that says if we’re too open minded, our brains will fall out. And that’s how it feels sometimes when I try to accommodate everybody’s thoughts and opinions, including my own. Trying to placate everyone is not a peaceful feeling, and, I’ve found, it creates anything but peace in relationships.

The Bible addresses this very issue when it says to not be double-minded (James 1:7). The way not to be double-minded is to look to God first for His take on every opinion, worldview, situation and decision. That means we replace wanting to please or appease others with obedience to God.

In my marriage, as I’ve been answering to God first, my husband and I have been growing spiritually because there is much more accountability to living Biblically, as opposed to selfishly. With my kids, I am allowing God to guide or admonish, as the case may be, and find that I am relating to them on a much steadier and confident level. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

With friends and extended family, I am practicing speaking honestly (as God directs) and am no longer hiding the fact that I’m a Christian. The result is that the resentment I used to feel after family visits disappears because I’m no longer beating myself up for once again denying my Lord.

When it’s God’s perspective, arrived at by being quick to listen but slower to answer so that we can give things over to God in prayer (even just a quick “God, speak your words right now”), through reading the Bible, and taking time to discern what He would have us say or do, everybody wins. Even if our answer or decision isn’t what the other person wants to hear, when we back it up with how we arrived there through God, it’s pretty hard to argue with. Then we must all trust that God will bless the decisions and situations in His way and timing.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” James 1:5-8

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Train Up a Boy With Quality Books

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal has an excellent article titled "How to Raise Boys Who Read" by Thomas Spence. Spence cites a recent report from the Center on Education Policy that says more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test, going as far back as 1992. Spence writes, "The male-female reading gap is found in every socioeconomic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents."

Spence goes on to name some of the ludicrous titles of "books" that are promoted to young boys; boys who supposedly have lost the love of reading once held by previous generations of males. Titles that pander to bodily functions, Spence points out, are replacing quality writing as a way to "just get 'em reading," as one school librarian justifies it. (Mark 8:36 comes to mind: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?")

The real culprit, however, behind the demise of boys wanting to read is video games and the parents who allow them to replace a good book. Video games are more popular with boys than girls, explaining the reading gap between the two. Spence quotes Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, who found that boys with video games at home spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers.

Unless parents remove or don't allow video games in the first place, or closely and authoritatively monitor their use, this trend is bound to continue. That means parents must actually be the adult that a parent is supposed to be and say "no" to kids who want to keep playing on the computer or PlayStation. And that means parents also set a good example and get off the computer themselves.

Reading has been a major part of my life and my sons' lives since all of us can remember. I read Dr. Seuss to my sons as infants, and read to them out loud long after most kids were done being read to (if, in fact, they were read to at all). And when my sons began reading on their own, they didn't need dumbed-down bathroom humor books to entice them. Every boy I know who has been exposed to C.S. Lewis books has loved them.

Mr. Spence also makes a comment near and dear to my heart when he points out, in the last paragraph of his essay, that "there is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls."

Read Thomas Spence's entire essay here:

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sojourner Truth

One of the ways our faith is emboldened is through reading about how other Christians who came before us stood strong in their faith.

One of those people is Sojourner Truth, a woman born into slavery in 1797 in New York who went on to be one of the first, if not the first, black women in America to ever win a court case (when she sued to win her son back from slavery).

One has to read her story to fully appreciate the hardship and terror she experienced as a slave and an abolitionist. Yet her Christian faith in God never wavered, even in the face of personal ridicule such as the time a white man said to her that her anti-slavery speeches wouldn’t do any good and that “I don’t care any more for your talk than I do for the bite of a flea.” Sojourner’s response was to laugh and say, “Lord willing I’ll keep you scratchin.’” Such was her focus on God and His grace that she was able to turn the other cheek and not answer reviling with reviling.

Sojourner visited personally with President Abraham Lincoln, which her biography describes like this: “He showed her around his office, pointing out a Bible a group of Baltimore blacks had presented to him. She held it in her hands and traced the big gold letters—THE BIBLE—with her finger. Although she couldn’t read it, she knew the words in it by heart.”

Sojourner’s biographers show how she lived her life to counter those who misused the Bible to support their own agendas. She relentlessly pressed forward “to do battle using God’s own truth.” Though she suffered unimaginable physical and mental abuse and horrific separation from family members sold away from her in slavery, she came to know Jesus Christ and let Him sustain her and guide her words and actions. If ever there is victorious Christian living, it can be seen in Sojourner Truth.

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Time Things Will Be Different...or Will They?

“Ideals are always difficult to translate into reality. For that reason, many attempts to make real life fit an ideal seem to end in compromise.” The editors of “The American Experience” text series

We all do it: get a vision in our head of what the new job, house, marriage, city, car, school, committee, etc. will be like. And for most of us, the expectations we hold are positive--which is a good thing--but also a bad thing when our high expectations aren’t met. Then we feel let down, frustrated and wanting to either cut and run or give-in, throwing conviction and integrity out the door.

The Christian life, however, affords a way to bring our expectations into proper perspective by first checking our motivations with God by whom we can test everything. That’s so important when we’re dealing with people and building relationships. When we check our motivations, ask for our sins to be revealed, seek encouragement and ask for discernment from the one and only source of wisdom and truth, we become equipped to manage expectations and bring them in line with God’s will. For instance, we can determine whether the new venture is something we should even be involved with; we can see the new boss or mother-in-law from God’s perspective; we can pray about a weakness we ourselves have as well as pray for others; and we can daily read God’s word that will shed light on the fact that we will indeed have tribulation, regardless of our situation, but will also have guidance on overcoming and recovering from it.

Ideally, we’d never have to be patient or long-suffering. Ideally, it would never be ourselves that is the problem. Ideally, the new job, house or city would provide a fresh beginning with none of the problems of the past. Many people feel downright entitled to these ideals. But since this sort of perfection has never been the case for anyone in life, it won’t be the case for us, either--no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves.

Jesus Christ and His Word can grow us into spiritual maturity so that we can humbly yet confidently go forth realistically, knowing that life most certainly will throw the usual strife our way, but we can remain joyful, patient and true to God through a steady trust in Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Remembrance

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Friday, September 3, 2010

How Do People "Know" God "Isn't" If They've Never Given Him a Try?

This quote came to me yesterday afternoon, and goes along nicely with yesterday's post about spending time with God. It's from Tony Evans of the Urban Alternative:

"Faith is about believing that the One you believe in is believable. The way you find out if the one you believe in is believable is by knowing and experiencing Him." Tony Evans

Read the rest of Evans' short devotional here:

Many people have ideas--even strong opinions--on the Bible, Jesus, Church and God but have never read the Bible, met Jesus, attended church (or more than one church) and never taken the time to even discover truthfully who God is. They just repeat things they've heard since childhood, accept the secular humanist non-belief of liberal college professors or make up their own conclusions so they can justify how they are living their life. I should know, as I've done all of these things.

Until I decided, like journalist, Christian author and apologist Lee Strobel, to: pick up the Bible with a mind seeking honest answers; attend Bible-believing churches that were completely different than my childhood "church;" objectively see that my university had a huge agenda in shoving its unbelief down my throat; and finally answer God's call to be born again in Jesus and get to know Him and who I could be in Him--before I did all these things--I was walking around with unfounded opinions that I had never taken the time to investigate. I had never experienced True, Biblical Christianity. In the words of Proverbs, I was a fool.

"My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1-5

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly." Proverbs 15:14

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What Will We Give Up to Spend Time With God?

Yesterday marks the beginning of my favorite four months of the year. But for many, September through December are months of busyness: kids back in school, end-of-year budgets at work and Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Pastor Charles Stanley has some words regarding busyness:

“God loves you and wants you to experience the peace and freedom that come from knowing Him intimately. But that can happen only if you spend time with Him. You can’t hear the Father’s voice when you’re rushing from one place to another…It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the things we think we have to do today. But trust me, spending quality time with God is the most important. There is no substitute for this. And when you make the conscious decision to put away all of the gadgets and worries that distract you and then focus your whole attention on the Lord, He will bless you beyond measure. He is ever-present in every circumstance and will bring His light of wisdom into your heart when you seek His guidance. You simply have to slow down and listen.” Charles Stanley

The devil and/or our sense of self-importance will attempt to put the notion in our heads that we “don’t have time” to be in Scripture or to pray consistently. Don’t buy it. It’s like I told my son, when he was considering not being in the symphony this year because he “didn’t have time” to practice his clarinet. I said, “If you want to practice, you’ll make time for it. Get up an hour earlier, socialize an hour less in the evening, or eliminate time spent watching YouTube. If you want to play clarinet, you’ll make time to practice.” My son must spend time with his clarinet if he wants that symphonic relationship to bear fruit. Likewise, we must spend time alone with God so He can bear fruit. Nobody can do it for us.

Do we truly thirst after God? Are we letting TV, idle chatter on Facebook and Twitter, surfing the internet (guilty), and bumming around stores (guilty) get in the way of meeting one on one with God? Are we substituting committee and volunteer work (been there) for an intimate prayer life? Do we let politics and causes keep us from personal time in God’s Word? (done that). Even other pursuits, like working-out, gardening, cleaning the house or reading newspapers mustn't replace time spent in prayer and the Bible (I often pray while I bike, or worship God as I listen to Christian music while I run or walk. But I still need that daily time with God through His Word, and to be honest, I find that some prayers must be said in stillness and quiet.)

Stanley says, “God’s deepest desire is that we would desire His fellowship above everything else.” And that’s important, because I’ve found that the more I’m with God, the less of me there is. And the less of me there is, the less “busy” and more productive I am through the power and grace of God working in me.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” Philippians 3:8-9

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Giving Truth Wings

On August 24, 1455, the Gutenberg Bible was printed. Johannes Gutenberg wrote of this momentous feat, "Let us break the seal which seals up holy things and give wings to Truth in order that she may win every soul that comes into the world."

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's Okay to be Sad

It’s amazing to think that one year ago today I watched my son enter into a new chapter of his life: a student on a university campus. As I hugged him, said goodbye and drove away, I remembered the words of John Mellencamp who, singing about death said, “I always knew this would happen, but I was hoping not today.”

Now, a year later, I am thanking God almost hourly that I am not the mother holding back tears at Freshman orientations taking place across the nation this weekend. I am thanking God that I am not coming home to a more-empty house for the first time. I am thanking God that I am a year past the pain. And even though, as I drove my son back to college on Tuesday and at one point reached over and tousled his hair and got choked up, I swallowed hard, kept driving, and the lump in my throat subsided as the highway miles sped by. It still hurts in short bursts, but not as much and not nearly as all-encompassing as before, because I have come through the other side. And the only way I got here was to go directly through the experience of being sad.

There’s a children’s book I used to read to my sons called “Going on a Bear Hunt.” It tells the story of an imaginary bear hunt and the obstacles along the way. Be it “long, wavy grass,” “a deep, cold river,” or “thick, oozy mud,” the mantra of the story is “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!” There are no shortcuts through the pain of life events, nor should there be.

Next week, a close friend will go through the same thing I went through a year ago. Just as she was there for me, I am there for her now, reading her tear-filled emails and ready to meet with her for coffee after she drops her son off at college. I’ll meet with her, not to make her feel better, as I know I can’t. But to sit smack dab in the middle of her pain with her, listen, commiserate and support her in our mutual belief that the only way out of this feeling is through it.

The world never wants us to be sad, and pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money telling us we don’t ever have to be sad. But sadness is just as much a part of life today as it was for David. And David lived in and got through the pain (I don’t want to say “embrace” because that makes it sound as if our sadness should be glorified and that we can somehow gracefully waltz through our pain in a Zen-like obliviousness. I did not embrace my pain a year ago and wearing sunglasses around the clock to hide blood shot, puffy eyes and sniveling over dirty socks was not graceful.)

Crying out to God, in silence or in real words, is where Grace comes in: His grace. At the feet of His Grace is where we fall disheartened. That’s where we scratch out an existence in the wee hours of our pain. In His Son, Spirit, Word, power, strength and perseverance we come out on the other side.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Monday, August 16, 2010

Church According to a 19-Year-Old

In my August 14th blog, I wrote that I would post an email my 19-year-old son wrote to me from New Mexico this summer about the church he attended while working near Santa Fe. Here's his email (printed with his permission) in which he conveys his thoughts about this new church he found:

"When I got there, I first thought it was going to be like one of those emergent new agey kind of churches just because its built in an old warehouse and its really modern looking and such. They have a really nice cafe next door also. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised when I heard the sermon. Basically, the guy would just take a passage of scripture and explain it really in depth. It was SO biblically based and both weeks I went, the pastor pretty much preached the gospel about Christ as salvation but used different topics to do it. The other thing that was impressive is that he didn't water anything down and he blatantly told it like it is. What really stood out to me the first week is what he said about "seeker sensitive" churches (i think you will like this :D ) He said that a lot of churches teach that everyone is seeking after God and they have a hole in their heart shaped like a cross and people just try to fill that hole with money or sex or material possessions or whatever, but thats a lie. The truth is that, quoting Paul (I think it was Romans) "no one is good, NO NOT ONE." Which means that NOBODY seeks after God. So basically, churches that cater to "seekers" are basically catering to humanity's fallen desire for sin. Which is not good. The only way we can get to God is if God somehow leads us to him, whether it be by a friend or something. He also said there are only two kinds of religions in the world: the human accomplishment religions and the God accomplishment religion. Christianity is a God accomplishment and all the others are based on the accomplishments of humans. There were a lot of other great things he said (which were just taken from the Bible and somehow made more obvious than before) so if you have time I would really recommend listening to the sermon from July 4th and 11th. Those are the only two I have heard, but both were fantastic and really rich. So yeah, thats all :D I'm excited to be home! I'll see you soon."

"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Luke 10:22

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:23-24

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me." John 6:44-45