Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lessen Your Chance of Dying?

A couple of nights ago I caught this teaser for the late night news, "Where you should live to lessen your chance of dying". Seriously? Really? Who honestly thinks they can lessen their chance of dying? Face it, like Nathan's new t-shirt says, "You're gonna die." We can't get out of it. It is a forgone conclusion to this life. Every one of us has a 100% chance of dying and that is all there is to it.

It made me wonder, though. Are we so afraid of dying now that instead of just not talking about it we are going to act like we can avoid it? Tonights news teaser is a new test that can tell us if we are going to live to be 100. Man, there is not much I would like less than having to hang around here that long. This is not my home and I am getting tired of the visit. Don't get me wrong. I love my husband, kids, friends,church, activities, the beach, Disney World, and a bunch of other things, but I am not going to miss any of it when I get home. I can't wait to spend my time glorifying the One who is worthy. It is going to be so awesome. I hope that you will join me there, even if I have to wait until you are 100.

By the way, just in case you are interested, you really can't lessen your chance of dying, but men have a long life expectancy in Iceland and women in Greece. Maybe keeping them separated has something to do with it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What Is Evangelism?

John Stott say that, "to evangelize... does not mean to win converts... but simply to announce the good news, irrespective of the results." That is it folks. Plain and simple. It is not our job to convert the lost. It is our job to tell the Good News that Christ died on the cross to pay the price for our sin and sits today at the right hand of God the Father offering forgiveness to those he chooses.

Too many see evangelism as an imposition. They feel that our goal is to bring others around to our way of thinking. The problem with this is that it is not my way of thinking. My desire is for others to see the truth in all its glory so that they may live a life filled with joy and peace and that God name will be praised throughout the world. It is not my way of thinking at all. It is God's way of thinking. It is the right way of thinking. It is the truth. I can not make someone become a Christian. I can not force them to believe. No matter how persuasive my arguments or eloquent my speech, no matter how entertaining my delivery or winsome my manner, I have no power to change the heart and that is what is needed for conversion. I only have power to proclaim a great and holy God who is creator, ruler and judge over the universe. A God who sent His Son to live a perfect life, die on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, and rise to conquer death for those he has chosen. Someday you will meet Him. That is the way it is.

And that, folks, is evangelism. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We don't need to gloss over our sinfulness, the pain and gore of Christ's death, or the fact that not all are chosen. We don't need to be awesome speakers or professionals. God uses the weak, foolish things of this world to accomplish His purposes. That includes us.

God used and old deacon filling in the pulpit one snowy Sunday to open the eyes of Charles Spurgeon. The message? " Look unto Christ! That's all you gotta do, just look unto Christ!" repeated over and over again. God used an Indian mother who could barely speak English, let alone read it, reading the chapter of John in the King James to a suicidal son to lead Ravi Zaccarias to himself. He even brought a mocker of Whitefield to repentance as he was mimicking Whitefield's sermon. God will win those He has chosen. The results are not up to us. We are called to be obedient in presenting the gospel. Let us get on with it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fruit Trees

When Amber was born Stan and I decided that we would plant a tree in the yard for each of our children. Her tree was a live oak which, 26 years later, stands tall and strong and shades a large part of our back yard.

Ten years later, we chose citrus trees for the twins. We planted an orange and a grapefruit tree in the side yard near the well. Both trees died within a year. This is not an unusual occurrence in my life because not only do I not have a green thumb, I actually have 10 black fingers. I kill much of what I plant. In spite of this, we decided to give it another try. This time we went to a nursery and bought larger trees. We got fertilizer, plant food and specific instructions for our trees. Within two years the trees produced fragrant blossoms that perfumed the whole yard. Soon tiny green fruit appeared. Unfortunately, we never got anything more than tiny, green fruit. It seems that when our house was built, the builder dumped all of the trash in the yard and covered it with a small layer of dirt and sodded over it. This meant that our poor citrus trees didn't develop the deep roots needed to produce the tasty fruit we were looking for.

The Bible compares us to fruit trees quite a bit. We are told that you know a tree by its fruit. Sometimes we get excited when we see fruit start to appear only to find that it doesn't mature because there are no deep roots. Yes, we can show some fruit as baby Christians, and that is good. It encourages us all to see change come about because of the Word of God. The problem comes when the fruit never matures. We can not be content to produce inedible green fruit. We need to follow what God tells us in Psalms 1:2-3 "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither."

If we want to produce good, life-sustaining fruit, we need to be in God's Word. We need to spend time every day reading, meditating and memorizing what God has to say to us. We need to be in a church where we are continually refocused on God's revelation of Himself through the Scriptures. This blessed Word is better than all of the fertilizer and plant food you can find anywhere else. This is what will produce an abundant crop of mature, sweet fruit that will be a blessing to many. So, how is your tree doing?

Friday, May 14, 2010

If the house is dark when nightfall comes, there is no sense in blaming the house; that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is "Where is the light?" Similarly, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is not sense in blaming the meat; that is what happens when bacteria are left alone to breed. The question to ask is "Where is the salt?" Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked. The question to ask is " Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?" It is sheer hypocrisy on our part to raise our eyebrows, shrug our shoulders, or wring our hands. The Lord Jesus told us to be the world's salt and light. If therefore darkness and rottenness abound, it is largely our fault and we must accept the blame. - John Stott

I confess. Sometimes it is much easier for me to be around Christians than non-Christians. It is a safe place for me to move and I can almost be on auto pilot as I go through the day. But that is not what God has called me to. I am to be in the world just not of it. I am to take part in the activities and daily life that goes on around me. Most importantly, I am to be a representative of the Most Holy God before those who do not know Him. I haven't been doing as good a job as I should. It is hard. It is uncomfortable. It makes me nervous.

I am so grateful that Jesus didn't use those excuses. He was willing to leave Heaven and come to Earth in the first place so that there would be light and salt. I am sure that it would have been easier for him to hang around with the angels than with us sinners. It was bound to be more comfortable at the Father's right hand than hanging on a cross. But he didn't stop to think about what He would prefer, He was about bringing glory to God.

Salt kills the bacteria, preserves the meat and adds flavor to the dish. Light ends the darkness and shows the way. Neither one is comfortable. Salt stings. Light makes you squint if you've been in the dark too long. Being salt and light is not easy and does not bring you popularity, but it is desperately needed in this world. Stop shaking your head and shrugging your shoulders and get out there with the Truth.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Hole In Our Gospel

The title of this Richard Stearns book intrigued me. As far as I knew there was no hole in the gospel. Nothing was missing in my book, so I decided to read and see what he had to say. I confess that I usually look to see who has reviewed a book before I start reading. I don't read what they say, I just want to see who has been reading it. I shouldn't have done that with this book because it gave me the wrong impression before I started.

While I understand what Stearns is saying about a hole in the gospel, I don't really like the way that statement comes across. He is right. Too many of our churches, therefore, too many of our church goers are not getting the whole message, but that does not mean that there is a hole in the gospel. That means the church is failing in getting the whole message across. Our preachers are focusing too much on the Savior role of Christ and not enough on the Lordship of Christ.

Stearns encourages us as fellow believers (and even non-believers) to do what we can to help others. While he focuses greatly on the poor and HIV affected in Africa, he does remind us that reaching out to those in our own backyard is needed too. I really appreciate his desire to see the church mobilized to do great things for God's glory. I hope that many will read this book and be moved to look around and start utilizing their gifts to serve the Lord.

I think it is impossible to read this book without being moved. We who have so much need to be reminded often how much that really is. Even though I feel the book is misnamed, it is worth reading and acting upon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Patience Grows Slowly

I have to laugh every time I hear someone say they could never homeschool because they just aren't patient enough. I'm sure that God is getting a good chuckle out of it too. The reason this is so funny is that I am such an incredibly impatient person that if patience were a criteria for homeschooling, I wouldn't even be allowed to spell the word. I really dislike when things disrupt my plans. How can it be that my kids "don't get" Algebra? I read the explanation in the book and understand it just fine. How can they not have finished the 5 page research paper? They had a whole week to work on it (along with said Algebra, Literature, Science, Baseball practice, Spanish, and housework). Mowing the neighbors lawn while she is in the hospital giving birth is not on the schedule, but they are delighted to offer this gift to them.

I didn't get into homeschooling because I was a patient person. Our family started homeschooling because we felt it was the best choice for us. Homeschooling allows us to grow together as a family. It gives us the opportunity to make attitude adjustments immediately. It helps us to teach our children that character counts and part of that character is patience. I didn't start this journey as a patient person and I'm still not there. Patient is not a word that anyone I know would use in their top 10 words to describe me, but I am growing. Not only am I growing in patience, but my children are getting to see an example of God working over a long period to make us more like Him.

Will I ever be a patient person? At the rate I'm going I'd have to live to be 300, but that is okay. God is patient with my impatience. I must go to Him constantly repenting, asking forgiveness, and begging Him to help me grow. You know what? He does. Much of the time He uses my kids and homeschooling to do it. Don't let a lack of patience keep you from considering homeschooling your children. God has enough for both of you, and if you work with Him, yours will grow.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Real Toughest Job

Anyone who has had the job knows that motherhood is the toughest job in the world. It is 24/7/365 with no monetary compensation and very little praise for a job well done. There is no training manual and very little opportunity to learn from past experience because each situation and child are so very different. In spite of all that it is the very best job anyone could have, but I don't think it is the real "toughest job in the world". To me, that title goes to the single moms out there.

My mom was a single mom when they were a pretty rare breed. My dad died when I was in fifth grade and that made her the only single mom that I knew. I didn't appreciate the difficulty of the job as I was growing up and probably still don't fully. She never got time off. When she had a tough day at work, she still had to come home and do all the house stuff. She didn't get to sit down and relax a bit because there were kids to feed, homework to go over, and laundry to be done. She is the one who had to figure out what to do about the leaky pipes, funny noise in the car, and loose railing on the stairs. She was always in charge of discipline. No one ever backed up her decisions on curfew or acceptable parties. Everything rested on her shoulders. All of that without any friends who could really understand the situation, any support groups, or any family closer than a two day drive. That is really the toughest job in the world.

Today is Mother's Day. We all know at least one single mom struggling to do her best to provide for her family, take care of the home, and raise her children all by herself. Let us all make a choice starting today to come alongside these heroic women and help them out. Make her a casserole they can eat now or freeze for later, send your teen son over to mow the lawn one Saturday, offer to babysit one evening so she can have some down time, or just give her a hug and tell her how awesome she is. These ladies deserve our repsect, love and support. Remind them that they have it.

To all of you, Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thanks For The Drudgery

A few years ago I heard the story of a prison camp during WWII that was very effective in breaking prisoners. It seems that the prisoners job all day every day was to move a huge pile of stones from one end of camp to the other. When they accomplished this task, they then were to move the stones back to the starting point. This went on over and over. Working hard is one thing, but working for no purpose will break a person. As Mother's Day approaches this story came to mind.

Today I want to thank every SAHM of young children that I know. I've been there, and I know that some days you feel just like those prisoners. You feel like you wake up to make the breakfast, referee a quarrel, make beds, dress children, referee a quarrel, pick up the Legos, fight the baby for the bug she wants to munch on, put in a load of laundry, referee a quarrel, clean the sticky stuff off the floor that nobody spilled, sweep the crumbs off the counter, and on and on. This is your life day in and day out. It seems like you are busy all day and nothing gets finished. You are wrong.

Let me share with you what some of us see from the outside. We see a woman who has put aside her selfishness to focus on others. She feeds and cares for her family. She patiently teaches her children to resolve differences in loving and kind way. She serves the "least of these" in so very many ways and never asks what's in it for her. She is the hands and feet of Christ, serving, loving and praying for others. I, for one, am blessed to see her in action. While you think you may not have accomplished much during your labors for the day, I see a woman who encourages a future generation to follow the Lord WHEREVER He may call; home, workplace or foreign country. Your work is not in vain. Your labors are seen and appreciated. Your service blesses us all and blesses God. Press on in the daily grind. This too shall pass, and as you view with the clarity of hindsight, you will realize that your work was essential for building a mighty kingdom.

Thank you all from all who benefit from your committment.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Do You Want To Be Popular?

"When the desire for popularity with men, or for success in human terms, tempts us to water down the gospel, to make it palatable, then only if we love God will we stand fast by his truth and ways." So says Mark Dever in Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. This is hard for us as fallen people in a fallen world.

We have fallen so deeply and passionately in love with God that we want everyone that we know to realize how truly awesome He is. We know, however; that there are those who will not like that the God we love so overwhelmingly calls them sinners or allows evil to rule on earth or requires that they live differently. In our desire to get these people "on board" with the whole Christianity thing, we gloss over the hard parts or choose to ignore pieces of the Bible or just give them the day to day living stuff that will help them be better parents, workers, or citizens.

Following God isn't easy. The Bible is full of hard truths. God chooses to love some and not others and we can do nothing to change that. People are sinners and as a result of our sin bad things happen in this world. Christians loose their jobs, their savings, their health, and their lives just like the non-Christians. Yet, in the midst of all the sin and destruction of this world, God has a plan for His people. He has called out a people to worship Him and enjoy Him forever. This gives us a future and a hope. Let us share that message with the world. Give them the whole truth and let the chips fall where they may. Let them count the cost and listen to God's voice if He is calling them. If He isn't, no amount of watering down or culturizing the scripture is going to make them a Christian.

Popularity with the world is not our goal. Glorifying God is. Christians in the West today need to make sure that they are focused on the right goal before moving forward. Even being a little off course today is going to make you miss the mark by a lot down the road. Make sure that you and your church are about pleasing God and not man.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fear Not

I have some silly fears. I am do not like driving over bridges when I can't see the whole bridge laid out in front of me. I have this fear in the back of my mind that all of a sudden part of the bridge will be missing, and I will drive right off into the water. I know this is a ridiculous fear, and it doesn't keep me from driving across the causeways where we live to get to the beach, but every time I do, I have that thought in the back of my mind.

Through most of my married life, my husband has been in business for himself. I can not tell you the number of times when he started out that we would be in the last week of the month with a pile of bills and no way to pay them. Every time we ended up with enough to cover our needs. That doesn't mean we didn't scrimp and pinch every penny. It doesn't mean that we weren't late on payments a few times, but every time God covered our needs. My fears about our ability to pay bills were just as unfounded as my fear of the disappearing bridge.

Our fears will bind us and keep us from the very best that God has for us if we let them. A fear that your neighbor won't like you may keep you from making a great new friend. A fear of stepping forward to volunteer may keep you from discovering or developing a talent. A fear of man will keep you from sharing the good news with others. Sure we may fail and people may laugh, but what good is a life spent doing only the safe and comfortable? How can you be useful that way.

Remember Isaiah 41:10 tells us "fear not, for I am with you: be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Those are some tremendously powerful words. As you step out to conquer your fears, God is with you. He's got you covered. When God has your back, there is no reason at all for us to fear. The beaches are worth the trip over the bridge.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lies, Lies, Lies

A friend lent me the book Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe. As I read, I realized that I have fallen for every single one of these lies more than once. I also realized that they had nothing to do with my homeschooling journey, but rather with my job as mom. That is why I highly recommend this book to every mother that I know. It is a very quick, easy read, but so very worthwhile. It won't stop you from falling victim to the lies, but you will recognize them and know how to combat them.

We all realize that we fall way short of perfect and Satan uses that to drive a wedge between us and the Father. We need to fight back. No, we are not perfect. We fail all of the time, but God is sovereign. He is able to overcome our mistakes and brings about His will using us. It is a blessing in our lives to have a loving merciful God who directs our paths. My youngest daughter often says to me, "You are the perfect mom for me." I love hearing that. It is a reminder to me that God chose these particular children to be mine. He knew my faults and sins. He knew when and where I would screw up, but He gave me these children because no one else would raise them and teach them as I would. When we get that nailed down, we are freed from tremendous guilt and pressure. We are free to do the best that we can with who and what we are.

Do you find yourself thinking that everyone else's kids are better, home is cleaner, meals are healthier, or marriage more fulfilling? Do you think their quiet time is more spiritual, or they are more capable? If any of those thoughts have crossed your mind in the past two weeks (and I'm pretty sure they have), get hold of a copy of this book. You will be glad you did.